Aglassis writes: Eurogamer has reported that famed D&D and computer game designer Colin McComb is working on a spiritual sequel to Planescape: Torment. The game will be set outside of the Planescape campaign setting due to an inability to come to an agreement with Wizards of the Coast. The lead designer on the original game, Chris Avellone, has apparently given his blessing.
Aglassis writes: It appears that the emergency pollution control efforts instituted by the Chinese government for the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing are failing. Despite significantly reduced pollution levels over the weekend due to a rainstorm, the pollution levels in Beijing have once again climbed upwards. Kenneth Rahn, a professor emeritus at the University of Rhode Island, has noted that pollution levels in Beijing are highly dependent on meteorological cycles and that a significant amount of the stagnant pollution in Beijing that comes from the provinces south of the city has to be periodically flushed out by Mongolian cold fronts, which occur unpredictably. IOC medical commission chairman Arne Ljungqvist has stated that the quality of the air in Beijing is safe and that the haze over Beijing is "mist." There has been no comment yet from the IOC on recent pollution readings (PM10) as high as 432 micrograms per cubic meter, over 8 times the World Health Organization air quality target of 50 micrograms per cubic meter (the Chinese target for the Olympics is 100 micrograms per cubic meter).
Aglassis writes: The US Senate and House recently passed a $50 billion global health initiative that will spend $41 billion for AIDS relief, $5 billion for malaria relief, and $4 billion for tuberculosis relief in high risk locations around the world. This bill is an expansion of the $15 billion President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) that was authorized in 2003. Supporters of this bill have noted that it may save 5 to 7 million lives and train 140,000 new health care workers in the affected areas. Senators John Kerry and Gordon Smith also succeeded in removing HIV restrictions in the Immigration and Nationality Act which will allow HIV positive individuals to travel to the United States. An amendment to name the bill for the recently deceased Senator Jesse Helms was also defeated with the final name being the 'Tom Lantos and Henry J. Hyde Global Leadership Against HIV/Aids, Tuberculosis, and Malaria Reauthorization Act of 2008.' President Bush, an initiator of the original PEPFAR plan and a strong supporter of its reauthorization, is expected to sign the bill which has been widely applauded by human rights and AIDS advocacy organizations around the world.
Aglassis writes: The US Senate recently passed a $50 billion global health initiative that will spend $41 billion for AIDS relief, $5 billion for malaria relief, and $4 billion for tuberculosis relief in high risk locations around the world. This bill is an expansion of the $15 billion President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) that was authorized in 2003. Senators John Kerry and Gordon Smith also succeeded in removing HIV restrictions in the Immigration and Nationality Act which will allow HIV positive individuals to travel to and from the United States and to attain citizenship. An amendment to name the bill for the recently deceased Senator Jesse Helms was also defeated.
Aglassis writes: Professor Edward Lorenz whose discovery that minute changes in the initial conditions of some non-linear dynamical systems can lead to large divergences passed away on Wednesday at the age of 90. The coiner of the "butterfly effect" discovered in 1961 that a computer model of a weather system displayed seemingly random behavior when the initial conditions were perturbed by small amounts even though the system was deterministic. This discovery resulted in the foundation of chaos theory. Another contribution Professor Lorenz made to chaos theory was the discovery of strange attractors. In being awarded the Kyoto Prize in 1991 it was said of Professor Lorenz that his discovery of chaos theory "profoundly influenced a wide range of basic sciences and brought about one of the most dramatic changes in mankind's view of nature since Sir Isaac Newton".
Aglassis writes: The Electronic Frontier Foundation noted that in the recent declassified Pentagon memo (PDF: pt 1pt 2) that claimed that military interrogators are excempt from criminal laws against detainees (such as assault) since the President's authority as Commander-in-Chief overrode those laws, there is an interesting footnote. It reads on the bottom of page 8:
[The Office of Legal Counsel for the Department of Justice] recently concluded that the Fourth Amendment had no application to domestic military operations.
Is this another attempt by the Bush Administration to dull the essential Constitutional protections of detainees such as the much criticized comments on habeas corpus by Alberto Gonzales?
Aglassis writes: NASA investigators have determined that a software update performed in June of 2006 may have doomed the 10 year old spacecraft. Apparently the software error caused the solar arrays to drive against a mechanical stop which then forced the spacecraft into safe mode. Unfortunately, after that the spacecraft's radiator was pointed at the sun which overheated the battery and destroyed it. Contact was lost with the Mars Global Surveyor spacecraft in November of 2006. NASA will form an internal review board to formally determine the cause of the loss of the spacecraft and what remedial actions are needed for future missions.
Aglassis writes: On Nov 7, 2006 at about 4:30 p.m. several United Airlines employees including several pilots observed a 6 to 24 ft diameter flying saucer-like object above Chicago's O'Hare International Airport. After hovering for several minutes without displaying any lights it then shot straight up and punched a hole in the 1,900 ft cloud ceiling. No explanation has been given nor did the air traffic control tower detect the purported craft on radar. One controller did note that "to fly 7 million light years to O'Hare and then have to turn around and go home because your gate was occupied is simply unacceptable."
Aglassis writes: The governent of the UK is opposing a propective European Commission directive (PDF) (an amendment to the Television Without Frontiers Directive) that would require sites such as YouTube or Myspace and potentially bloggers who post videos on websites based in Europe to aquire a broadcast license for broadcasting a 'television-like service.' This is to require the websites to comply with EU regulations involving advertisements, hate speech, and child protection. Is regulating the fledgling European video market a wise idea to make it comply with other EU directives or is it just going to hurt European businesses and oppress bloggers?
Aglassis writes: The 16th First Annual Ig Nobel Prize Ceremony occured today in the Harvard University Sanders Theater. Among the notable recepients included Francis Fesmire of the University of Tennessee (Medicine) who determined that hiccups can be cured by a "digital rectal massage," Ivan Schwab of the University of California (Ornithology) who answered the age old question of "why don't woodpeckers get headaches?", and Howard Stapleford, the managing director of Compound Security Systems (Peace) who invented an accoustic teenager repellant than has no effect on people older than 30. Also this year marked the return of Roy Glauber, the Keeper of the Broom. Dr. Glauber was absent from last years ceremony because he apparently had better things to do (such as travel to be awarded the 2005 Nobel Prize in Physics).
In other news, Dr. Roger D. Kornberg of Stanford University was named to be the recipient of the 2006 Nobel Prize in Chemistry "for his studies of the molecular basis of eukaryotic transcription." This marks the first time in 23 years that United States scientists have been able to claim all of the Nobel prizes in the sciences. Sadly, the United States didn't fare so well in this years Ig Nobel Prizes.