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The other day a prominent international NGO released its Top 10 most underreported humanitarian stories of 2005.
According to Andrew Tyndall, publisher of the online media-tracking
journal The Tyndall Report, the 10 stories highlighted by MSF accounted
for just 8 minutes of the 14,529 minutes on the three major U.S.
television networks’ nightly newscasts for 2005. Natural disasters like
the south Asia tsunami and the war in Iraq dominated international
reporting. But in a year that Tyndall said had an unusually high amount
of international coverage, only 6 minutes were devoted to DR Congo and
2 minutes to Chechnya. The remaining stories highlighted by MSF were not covered at all. The AIDS crisis received 14 minutes of coverage, none
of which, however, was devoted to the lack of R&D.
For a list of the winners, check here.
Richard Germain is in critical condition after his bike was hit by a truck Thursday morning. Mr. Germain was stopped in the middle of the street, possibly to turn left. The truck driver says he did not see Mr. Germain.
These situations trouble me. Should the driver be punished? On the one hand, I think not. Accidents—I mean genuine accidents—happen. Accidents may justify civil action, but not criminal punishment. That may be what applies here.
On the other hand, if Mr. Germain was behaving legally (e.g. he was in the proper lane and his bike was equipped with the proper reflectors and lights), how is it not criminal to plow him over at 35 miles per hour? Is it not the driver’s responsibility to see and avoid him? Mr. Germain was hit at 13th and D. Both of those streets are relatively major and, in my experience, are lit well enough to see large objects (like a bicycle) in the middle of the street. Heck, it’s possible to see objects in the middle of the street in my neighborhood, and we have horrible street lighting. And that’s without the benefit of headlights!
I don’t want to pick too much on the driver here (which is why I’ve not posted his name). This accident may truly have been accidental and unavoidable. But even if Mr. Germain was wearing all black while sitting on a black bicycle with no lights or reflectors, he still should have been visible from a vehicle with headlights at 13th and D. Shouldn’t he?
I’m not saying bird flu isn’t an important topic, or that we shouldn’t try to halt its spread. But crap like this is nothing but propaganda and irresponsible scare tactics:
“We assume this [mutation, which allows the virus to bind to a human cell more easily than to a bird cell] could be one small step in the virus’ attempt to adapt to humans,” said WHO virologist Mike Perdue.
What the heck kind of virologist is this guy? Viruses don’t attempt to do anything, and they certainly don’t “attempt to adapt to humans”. Viruses don’t even know humans exist. A virus’s job, it’s only goal, is to make copies of itself. Along the way, some of those copies are imperfect. We call those imperfections “mutations”. But mutations are accidental, not guided by some diabolical plan to take over the world. (Unless, of course, they are diabolical, in that the Devil himself is guiding the mutation process.) When a mutation a) doesn’t kill a virus, and b) allows it to reproduce, that mutation sticks around. Otherwise, it disappears. That’s all there is to it.
It is unforgivable for a scientist to engage in this sort of pandering to the public’s paranoia about and ignorance of the mutation process.
I am wary of the proposal to red tag houses which have been the site of nuisance complaints for things like noise or litter. It strikes me as a feel-good Band-Aid solution rather than a real solution, not unlike Mayor Seng’s proposed 1,000 foot rule for sex offenders.
I’m not defending folks who keep an unruly house. You’re more than welcome to do whatever you want in your house, right up until it harms your neighbors. The college students (and, to a lesser degree, others) targetted by this bill won’t get any sympathy from me if their shenanigans get them in trouble. I just don’t think that red tagging houses will do much good, and I think it masks some of the real problems that need to be solved.
One of those problems is summarized at the end of the article:
[Ed Caudill, a 21-year North Bottoms resident and neighborhood activist] said two encounters with police — who rebuked him for calling the police so frequently — were the last straw.
I see two problems there. First, and most obviously, Lincoln’s police officers cannot be rebuking citizens for calling the police to report crimes. If Mr. Caudill’s accusation is true, it should be investigated and the officers involved should be punished. Second, one wonders why Mr. Caudill has to call the police so often in the first place. If there really is that much crime in the neighborhood, LPD needs to step up its patrols and its enforcement of the law. Granted, the offenses committed in Mr. Caudill’s neighborhood are probably mostly nuisances, not violent or dangerous crimes. But they are, nonetheless, crimes against others, and therefore they need to be squashed.
On a very minor point, the notion that it takes “a gallon of gasoline and a razor blade” to remove the signs also bothers me. The police should not be damaging citizens’ homes. If they’re going to be causing damage, why not just spray paint a giant letter A (for “assholes live here") on the side of the house?
I have other niggling concerns about the proposal, but ultimately I think it’s an inefficacious solution to only a portion of the problem. Nuisance houses are a problem, but there are better and more complete solutions available. I won’t settle for short-term feel-good ordinances.
Since the gov just gave his “State of the State” address, covered so well by our own Mr. Wilson I thought I would give you the “State of Nebraska Basketball.”
I read Governor Dave Heineman’s 2006 State of the State Address (PDF) today over lunch. Some thoughts:
- He spent a lot of time tiptoeing around the term limits issue. I think he did a reasonable job steering a neutral course among the issue’s potential landmines.
- He said “I am enthusiastic and optimistic about another opportunity I to work with you in the best interests of Nebraskans, because we have accomplished so much together in so short a time.” He missed an opportunity to tell Nebraskans what he has accomplished. Generic “I did good” comments won’t fly far in the campaign.
- What is it with tax relief pledges? Heineman has proposed “more than $420 million in significant relief over the next three fiscal years.” Why don’t politicians ever say anything like “I will spend as little of your money as possible, as efficiently as possible, while providing the services your government is obligated to provide to you and to your fellow citizens.” Now that would be a relief. (And it would total a heckuva lot more than $420 million over three years!)
- FYI, $420 million over three years is about $88 per year for every person in Nebraska. That does not factor in the portion of tax relief that will go to businesses.
- Heineman prioritized the sex offender issue. Oh goodie, a session filled with sex-related hysteria and hyperventilating. I can’t wait. Sex is one topic that, when discussed in the political realm, is rarely discussed rationally.
- He also prioritized an evaluation of the foster care system. From what I’ve heard from folks who would know, that evaluation is long overdue.
- Heineman got some digs in on Omaha, but his execution was sloppy and simplistic. I’m sure he didn’t make any friends with any Senators from Omaha.
- “...[A] key issue that I believe compels legislative action in this session involves the long-term supply of our state’s most precious natural resource”, but he doesn’t offer even a single solution or recommendation. Thanks for the help, Gov. If the issue is really that important, and if he really wants Nebraskans to believe he’s an effective leader, oughtn’t he suggest something?
- “Be assured that as long as I am Governor, Nebraska will never forget that our priority is agriculture and the needs of our agricultural producers nor will we ignore the needs of our cities.” You’re such a panderer, Governor. It’ll take more than that to stomp Coach Tom in the 3rd District, though. Much, much more.
- If agriculture really is our top priority, we need to stop living in the early Twentieth Century. Nebraska needs to promote innovative crops, innovative cultivation methods, and innovative agricultural manufacturing technologies and products. To a small degree we do that with ethanol, but that strikes me as a product with limited long-term sustainability. How about getting agricultural biotechnology companies to invest big bucks in research centers at the University of Nebraska (Lincoln or Kearney)? How about easing stifling regulations on small producers of economically valuable niche plant and animal products? How about facilitating, rather than squashing, investments in potentially big money crops like hemp?
- There is not one single unique, innovative, or creative idea. Not one.
- My overall reaction: meh. Governor Heineman is going to have to do much better than this if he wants to retain the governorship. His speech is drab, uninspiring, and poorly organized. Maybe it sounded better in person. Maybe he’s a fantastic speaker and, with the force of his personality behind it, the address was actually quite moving. But I doubt it. I don’t think even Martin Luther King, Jr. could have earned more than courtesy applause with this address. If you have any Heineman stock in the race for governor, you might want to start thinking about selling.
Omaha, like Lincoln, is considering streetcars for its downtown.
Streetcars ride on rails embedded in existing streets and are usually powered by overhead electric wires. They move with the traffic flow. Streetcar systems tend to cost less to construct and require less disruption than light-rail projects.
Well, yes, but you know what costs even less? A bus, or any other vehicle that doesn’t require substantial changes to the downtown infrastructure. If Omaha goes with streetcars, I fear that Lincoln will feel even more compelled to get streetcars of its own. But Omaha has a lot more money and opportunities for economic expansion than we do. I hope we don’t follow suit just to keep up with big brother.
I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that so many people want to rebuild New Orleans. Those who lived there want to be able to go “home”, while many others just want to get plastered again come Mardi Gras. What bothers me is that those people want me to pay for it, to the tune of billions (and billions) of dollars. Kiss my grits, Basin Street.
The rebuilders are deluded. Consider this:
Doug Meffert, co-chairman of the sustainability subcommittee, said it also will be essential that homeowners can be bought out at fair market value. The subcommittee will recommend that the corporation buy out properties at full value minus what insurance pays out.
Fair market value for many, if not most, of the damaged and destroyed properties is about six bucks. But that’s not what Mr. Meffert means. He doesn’t want property owners to be bought out at “fair market value”, he wants them to be paid the replacement value for their property. And not the current replacement value, but the replacement value as it existed prior to the storms. In other words, he wants to free property owners from all responsibility for their property and to pay them many times more than what their property is actually worth.
Ironically, Doug Meffert is co-chairman of the sustainability subcommittee. There ain’t nothin’ sustainable about a government that frees property owners from all responsibility for adequately insuring their property.
It gets better:
Commission members were invited to think big when dreaming up ideas, with little regard for the price tag. That will be dealt with later, when New Orleans and other parts of the Gulf Coast divvy up the $29 billion in federal aid designated for hurricane recovery and reconstruction.
Some audacious ideas being considered are re-creating a long-gone jazz district, building a network of bike paths and commuter rail lines, and establishing a top-flight school system.
You can’t make up this sort of bizarro thinking. Irresponsibility first, responsibility later is not the way to plan a city, and it’s certainly not the way to plan for the use of $29 billion in other peoples’ money.
Another idea is to use tax credits to re-create Storyville, the city-backed red-light district that operated for 20 years until it was shut down in 1917. It was later razed.
The idea is not to bring back the sex trade, but rather reclaim the district’s musical legacy. Many jazz pioneers—Jelly Roll Morton, King Oliver and Manuel Perez among them—played in the district’s bordellos.
They’re not rebuilding New Orleans, they’re building Disneyland—a quasi-authentic artificial version of reality that can never replicate the charm and character of the original, like those Cheers bars in airports.
Rebuilding New Orleans based on a longing for the past, rather than on an honest assessment of the present and future, is likely to be the one disaster that will cause more damage to the U.S. than the hurricans.
Today the Council of Europe came out with one of its few major public statements about the status of detention centers maintained under KFOR jurisdiction. The story has been bubbling for a few months in European media but the recent disclosures stateside about alleged CIA prisons in Europe (and culpability for European host governments) have blown the whole thing wide open, both for harms caused by failing to secure munitions, as well as alleged abuses of detainees in detention, by NATO.
I . my grammer are neet.
Annoying as heck, isn’t it? According to the feds, since I intended to annoy you and I posted this under a pseudonym, I’ve just broken the law:
Whoever...utilizes any device or software that can be used to originate telecommunications or other types of communications that are transmitted, in whole or in part, by the Internet… without disclosing his identity and with intent to annoy, abuse, threaten, or harass any person...who receives the communications...shall be fined under title 18 or imprisoned not more than two years, or both.
He comes across as a bit snarky and unserious, but Peter Katt’s new LPS bond issue blog should be required reading for every Lincolnite. I’m not encouraging every Lincolnite to agree with him, mind you. But every good public entity needs its vocal critic, and Mr. Katt fulfills that role for the Lincoln Public Schools.
I’ve just begun reading the blog, and I only made it to the second post before I laughed out loud:
First, I went to schools that did not have air conditioning and managed to survive somehow as did most people my age. [Emphasis added.]
See what I mean about him coming across as unserious?
Oftentimes naysayers’ visions of doom and gloom don’t come true. However when it comes to Lincoln’s living wage ordinance, again and again the naysayers are being proved correct.
When I walked in to Scooter’s this morning the guy behind the counter was practically in tears—hysterical tears, that is. So I asked him, “OK, what’s up?” And so he tells me this story:
Well, this lady just walked in, right? And she says, “I’ll take whatever’s free.” I said, “Excuse me?” And she repeated, “I’ll take the free drink.” I told her I was sorry, but that we didn’t give away free drinks. She says “Your sign outside says you have a free drink.” I said, “I’m sorry ma’am, but I’m not sure what you’re talking about.” She was agitated at this point. She insisted I give her the free drink that the sign promised. Finally I said, “Ma’am, you’re going to need to show me this sign, because I’m not sure what you’re talking about.” So we walked outside, and she pointed to the sign. Sure enough, there it was…
I took apart my mini today because I need to change the battery. After a little over a year the playtime on my 1G iPod was only lasting about 4 hours. Getting it out was actually easier than putting it back in!
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