Death in Iraq

The 20th Century saw unprecedented violence, crimes of war, and deliberate genocide on a scale never before seen. Thanks to George Bush and all those who supported his invasion of Iraq, it seems the 21st Century is starting out in the same tradition. Last year the Lancet published this article from researchers at the John's Hopkins School of Public Health with the following findings:
...data from 1849 households that contained 12 801 individuals in 47 clusters was gathered. 1474 births and 629 deaths were reported during the observation period. Pre-invasion mortality rates were 5·5 per 1000 people per year (95% CI 4·3–7·1), compared with 13·3 per 1000 people per year (10·9–16·1) in the 40 months post-invasion. We estimate that as of July, 2006, there have been 654 965 (392 979–942 636) excess Iraqi deaths as a consequence of the war, which corresponds to 2·5% of the population in the study area. Of post-invasion deaths, 601 027 (426 369–793 663) were due to violence, the most common cause being gunfire.
Forgetting that many American soldiers jingoistically volunteered to fight in Iraq, American propaganda outlets regularly report on the number of US soldiers that have been killed in the invasion of Iraq while rarely reporting on cumulative death tolls among Iraqi civilians. Meanwhile, the United States accepts less than 100 (figure awaiting confirmation) Iraqi or Afghan refugees every year. The mass genocide and crimes against humanity that have been caused directly or indirectly by the US Government with popular support need to be acknowledged, taught, and remembered alongside the numerous atrocities of the previous century. The politicians complicit in an immoral, illegal, and unjustified invasion including Senators and members of Congress should be tried before an International War Crimes body. The removal of a single tyrranical ruler and his imaginary war machine could have occurred with a single bullet or missile. The neoconservative experiment to impose a peaceful democratic system of government on an unwilling people by force and at great expense in money and lives has failed utterly as any informed and thinking person could have predicted. Never again.


Urban Liveability

Economist Intelligence Unit has ranked world cities by liveability. Unsurprisingly, Canadian, Australian, and Swiss cities rank highest.



The legendary torrent site Suprnova, down for several years, has been resurrected with the help of the PirateBay. Warning: Users of such public torrent sites in areas vulnerable to copyright enforcement tend to be more exposed to monitoring and legal threat. Private sites like Demonoid, BitMe, BitMeTV, and UKNova tend to be safer because of their requirements for upload ratios and their exclusivity.


More Screens

Most people still use one monitor 17-19 inches for their computing display needs. Quality large screen monitors with good resolution such as the Apple 2560x1600 Cinema display still run an unreasonable 1800 USD. A good solution to increase productivity and ease of use is to add 200 USD 19 inch flat monitors to your display. Going from 1 to 2 monitors yields a vast improvement. My workstation consists of a 8 x 19 inch monitor grid powered by 2 x NVIDIA Quadro NVS graphics cards physically supported by 2 x Ergotron DS 100 Quad monitor desk stands for a combined 10.4 million pixel display for around 2700 USD, or 3800 px/USD. Considering the Cinema displays run at 2275 px/USD, my setup, though somewhat excessive, provides good bang per buck.

When using several monitors in Windows, the programme Utramon (torrents) is an indispensable addition. It extends the task bar to every monitor and adds several other simple but effective multiple monitor utilities.


Cosmic Variance

Cosmic Variance is a highly regarded web log for those with a particular interest in Astronomy and Physics but do not necessarily hold graduate degrees. It is authored by seven different contributors, experts in their field.


Blog Recommendation: Charles Kenny

Charles Kenny has a blog about Development and Welfare Economics.



Scitalks is a Web video site which links to interesting scientifically relevant material.

(Unfortunately much of the content is in RealPlayer or streaming Windows Media format)


Virgin America Inaugural Flight

For too long, American air travel has been dominated by behemoth, union-dominated, subsidised monsters which offer generally poor service all around including flight attendance. Even State airlines from socialist countries are consistently better. Virgin America gives great hope to the future of domestic airline travel in the United States in terms of both quality and competition. The San Francisco based airline has taken its inaugural flight as documented by Engaget.



Rumours abound regarding the development of a Google Phone. Certainly it makes a great deal of sense in light of their continued development of applications for mobile devices as well as their recent bid commitment for 700 MHz spectrum with the caveat of open access for mobile devices. A new rumour suggests the Google phone could be built upon the Open Source Linux openMoko phone currently under development and due to be released this fall. The openMoko has all the potential in itself to be a dominant device or at least force other commercial phones (ie iPhone) to open themselves up more (VoIP, etc). Creating an open source, add-driven phone would probably be the wisest business decision for Google and surely would highlight everything that is good about the company.



From The Insider - Heroin on the NHS (torrent):
15 years ago the Swiss had one of the highest rates of drug addiction and AIDS in Europe. They decided to radically change their drug laws. To combat the spread of the disease 6000 clean needles were dispensed every day in the Zurich park. In this safe zone, addicts could shoot up openly. Shocked by the thousands of addicts who came forward, the government swiftly took control of the illegal market. They stopped criminalising heroin and made it a medical issue instead. Clinics were set up where addicts, now patients, were given as much heroin as they needed. The results have been astonishing. Drug crime and deaths have gone down dramatically, and addiction has gone down by 90%. Prescribing heroin has almost eradicated the Swiss drug problem. Addicts can now lead normal lives and because heroin is no longer seen as cool and rebellious, far fewer young people are drawn to it in the first place.
Criminalising drug use is a formula for social disaster be it alcohol or even heroin. Drug regulation through taxation, registration, or controlled usage may be beneficial to a society, but the focus of any law should be in maximising the welfare of everyone affected. At the end of the day, what a person does with their own body is their business so long as others are not negatively impacted.

Heroin by the Velvet Underground.

Missile Defence

Under the Bush administration, in 2002 the United States withdrew from the anti-Ballistic Missle Treaty and began to pursue an ABM system. According to a Congressional Budget Report, the total estimated expense of the system by 2024 could be as high as 247 billion USD. In the Cold War, an ABM system would have been quite an advantage given the Nuclear Missile Technology of the 20th Century. I put forward the idea that if a legitimately recognised Nation State possessing nuclear weapons did wish to deliver them to a target, 21st Century technology including unmanned subs and UAVs will make the delivery of such devices far easier to deliver than launching a Ballistic Missile. Even using 3000 year old technology such as shipping the nuclear device covertly in a standard shipping container would have a high probability of success. Subverting an advanced technology is always much cheaper than the technology's development.

A regular criticism of the US military is that they are constantly fighting the previous war rather than looking ahead. The money spent on Missile Defence will be completely wasted. The United States in developing this technology continues to alienate its allies, a cost which is high but difficult to quantify. Imagine if instead the $247 billion were either never spent at all or rather spent on basic scientific research grants or technological competition such as the DARPA Challenge.


Yesterday I played Wii for the first time. The game was Mario Strikers Charged, which should be called Mario Football. A motion sensitive vibrating pointing wand adds a completely new dimension to human-machine interaction. It reminds me of the leap from keyboard to mouse. In itself, it is just a toy, but one which demonstrates the advanced creativity and ingenuity of the Japanese and foreshadows future technology interfaces.



PBS recently produced a 4 hour documenatary series about the Mormons (torrents). An accurate and fairly respectful work, it does gloss over some of the stranger sides of Mormon theology. Mormonism is in many respects an American Muslim styled religion although this parallel is completely ignored by the documentary and probably most Mormons themselves. South Park had a very good episode "All About the Mormons" from Season 7. Given that Mormons now even have a US Presidential candidate, they are worth understanding.



The new BBC 4 documentary, Atom, hosted by Jim Al-Khalili, is one of the best documentary series I have seen this year. It focuses on the development of the modern theory of the atom and quantum physics. Available on the usual torrent networks.