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Comment Re:Oh goody (Score 5, Insightful) 790

The short answer is, it depends on the kind of rights we're talking about.

The long answer is, there are many different kinds of rights. Natural rights are those that are thought to be inherently granted; legal rights are those granted by a body politic.

Positive rights require action. Universal healthcare is a positive right, since it requires someone to provide that healthcare. Negative rights require inaction. Right to life, liberty, and property are negative rights, since they require that someone NOT take those things from you.

There are also the concepts of claim rights (a right which entails some responsibility on the part of the right-holder) and liberty rights (a right which does not).

Healthcare and the Internet could easily become rights if the government decrees that they are rights. With respect to the Internet, this is what the GGGP was arguing should happen.

Comment Re:female (Score 2, Insightful) 332

As someone with several family members in nursing, one of whom does research on the factors that are driving nurses to leave the profession, I wanted to correct some of the misconceptions in your comment. First, there's still bullying in nursing, sometimes from patients, sometimes from management, sometimes from co-workers; second, there's plenty of stress, since most hospitals assign enormous patient loads to their nurses to cope with the nursing shortage or to keep costs down; and third, there are definitely long hours, with shifts that can last twelve hours or more. Don't think the shortage will necessarily improve pay or benefits, either, which are currently on par with salaries in IT. Nursing jobs don't go to India, but hospitals fill the gap by importing nurses from overseas.

Comment Re:Book about Microsoft (Score 4, Insightful) 241

The review says the book "... presents a harsher and messier history, sharply questioning Microsoft's ethics and corporate wisdom..."

From the same Amazon review:
"Both stand open to the charge of having an ax to grind, and the reader senses a lot of personal animosity at work."

The book seems authoritative; the authors certainly had inside access to the facts.

Emphasis on "seems." The Amazon reviewer you quoted further mentions that some of the information was already available, and that "... most of the new information presented has the ring, at least, of probability."

Not a strong endorsement of this book as "the reality of Microsoft." Probably an interesting and amusing read, but one that needs to be taken with a grain of salt.

Comment Re:Sprint (Score 1) 520

I also have Sprint, and my experience has been the same as yours, but Sprint is not without its customer service problems. At one level or another, all of the major providers seem to be running plays from the same book of dirty tricks. Fortunately for us, we haven't yet had to deal with such things from Sprint, but while I have no complaints to date, I'm not going to hold my breath.

Comment Re:Not government's job (Score 1) 681

Gas is pretty cheap in this country (relative to other parts of the world), and local governments are ridiculously broke right now. I think I could get behind a gas tax to help cover the current shortfalls. I recognize that increasing any taxes in the middle of a recession would be hugely unpopular, but in addition to keeping state and local governments afloat, an increase in the cost of gasoline could create incentives that might propel a lot of positive changes (the purchase of more fuel-efficient cars, reduced dependence on foreign oil through reduced consumption, increased use of public transporation, etc).

What I'd ultimately like is to see the proceeds of such a tax be used to increase availability of and access to public transportation across the country. But I imagine that once politicians get their hands on the money, they'll find all kinds of pet projects on which to spend it.

Comment New Product from Kaspersky Labs (Score 1) 537

From: Kaspersky Labs
Date: The Future

Governments of the World,

Anonymity on the Internet is a problem. It has been linked to obesity, cancer, global warming, and other really bad things.* That is why Kaspersky Labs is pleased to announce a new product for the citizens of your country: the Internet Passport! No more do you or your citizens have to fear the terrible ills of anonymous Internet browsing. Now, you might be thinking, what will this incredible new technology cost me? For such an important application, a trillion dollars is not an outlandish price. However, given the critical importance of this technology in today's world, Kaspersky Labs is offering it for the low, low price of a billion dollars.** Sign up today and you'll also receive an offer for free antivirus software for you and a million of your citizens!*** Don't let this incredible opportunity pass you by!


Kasperky Labs Marketing Dept.

* In that the Internet and the various terrible things listed and hinted at have existed together, at some point in their histories.

** Cost of software only; installation, management, and troubleshooting costs extra. Does not include annual per-user Internet passport licensing fees, which will be very high.

*** Contingent on the purchase of Kaspersky Labs antivirus software for the rest of your citizenry.

Comment Re:Tinfoil House (Score 1) 161

Nah, it's too cold for that where I live. Looks like it's time to get one of those old-fashioned "land lines" installed (like your parents have, or maybe used to have).

In fact, as a general solution to some of the loss-of-privacy implications of new technology, may I suggest ... old technology?

Comment Re:It is immoral and unethical... (Score 1) 358

>>>baraknaphobia got to him, it appears.

I haven't changed. I've always disliked big spenders that borrow money and drive us deeper into debt ($130,000 per U.S. home and climbing). BTW did you know, due to the recession, Social Security is now projected to go bankrupt in 2017? Yay.

Did they change the definition of "bankrupt" recently? Social security's costs will exceed its revenues in 2017; that does not mean Social Security will go bankrupt in 2017. The Social Security trust fund is expected to run out of money in 2037. And that assumes nothing is done about it in the next twenty-eight years. I don't want to give the government too much credit, but, for better or for worse, they can probably figure something out in that amount of time. According to the report by the trustees (see link), any healthcare-related cost-containment would immediately improve the outlook for the trust fund, so the ongoing discussion in congress about healthcare reform stands to ameliorate the situation with Social Security and Medicare if it does manage to lower healthcare-related expenses (again, for better or for worse; I don't know enough about the debate to call it either way).

Comment Re:Radiation Myth Busting Time (Score 2, Informative) 501

Please allow me to enlighten you on the origins of cancer.

Background: Cancer is an uncontrolled growth of cells in the body. There is, and I am oversimplifying here for the sake of explanation, one reason that this occurs: mutation. When cells divide, a lot of very complicated things need to happen. If any of those things go wrong, a mutated cell can appear. Cells are supposed to destroy themselves if they detect that something is wrong, but sometimes the mutation affects this controlled cell death, so they don't. Combine that mutation with one that causes the cell to divide very rapidly, and you have a cancerous cell. You can read more about the specifics of these kinds of mutations in this wikipedia article.

Statistics: Cells have a lot of safeguards in place to protect them against mutation, so the odds are extremely small that any one particular cell will become cancerous. However, there are a lot of cells in your body. Estimates differ, but most seem to be on the order of 10^13 (a multiple of 10 trillion). So while the odds of one particular cell becoming cancerous are not very good, the odds of one of those trillions of cells becoming cancerous are much better. One "hit" (cancer-related mutation) against a cell might not make that cell cancerous; recall from the previous section that the two mutations needed are (1) the inability to self-destruct and (2) a propensity for rapid division. However, once a cell has a "hit" against it, it becomes more likely that such a cell (or its progeny, since they inherit the "hit") will become cancerous later on. This is why some people are predisposed to develop certain kinds of cancer: some of their cells already have one "hit" against them.

Cancer and Longevity: Over time, those odds become more significant for more people. When people lived shorter lives, cancer was not as great a concern, because few people lived long enough to develop a life-threatening form of cancer. With life expectancies increased into the 70s and 80s for many people, the possibility of developing a life-threatening form of cancer has increased commensurately.

Cancer in Men: This brings us to the most common form of cancer in men, prostate cancer. If they live long enough, most men will develop prostate cancer. This is because prostate cancer rates are primarily linked to age. However, and there are more details in the link, most men never even know they have it; you are more likely to die from other causes (including just plain old age) than from prostate cancer. That is why the fact that "in excess of 50 percent of just the male population will develop some form of cancer" exists: most men will develop prostate cancer.

Personal Electronics and Mutation: The concern that radiation emitted by personal electronic devices causes cancer is still a point of much dispute and ongoing investigation. It is known that radiation damages a cell's DNA, potentially causing cancerous mutations. However, there are a variety of sources of such radiation, as documented on this Idaho State University webpage. This webpage from the Office of Civilian Radioactive Waste Management further documents our greater exposure to natural forms of radiation (cosmic rays, etc) than consumer devices.

So if the implication in your statement is that "from somewhere" must include the radiation from personal electronics, that can't be ruled out. But your statement is constructed in such a way as to suggest that the rates of cancer you mention are tied to the forms of radiation under discussion. That, in my opinion, is very misleading, especially since the majority of cancers that make up the statistic you cite (prostate cancer) are most strongly tied to age, not to any particular form of radiation.

Comment Hardest Part: Selecting the Games (Score 1) 214

This struck me as a really innovative idea. I admit that I haven't played any of the games in the article (except the Oregon Trail back in the first grade), but from the comments, it sounds like Civilization got quite a few people interested in history and world civilizations. Does anyone remember playing Number Munchers? That was a far more entertaining way to learn multiplication, factoring, and inequalities than a bunch of worksheets. That's the game I remember the most, but that wasn't the only game we played during class. There were others that became a part of our curriculum for weeks, about which and from which I don't remember a damn thing. Even Oregon Trail didn't seem all that instructional to me. I didn't have any better sense of the hardships of western explorers after having played it. All I really took away from the Oregon Trail was: it's easy (and fun!) to shoot wild animals, but it's hard to get all those animals into your wagon. And they spoil so quickly!

Selecting the appropriate game for each subject and age group seems to me like the most difficult part of this curriculum. For example, how much Mesopotamian culture are these kids really going to soak up while they develop their graphic novelization of "Gilgamesh?" I'll bet that the future engineers will become masters of the multimedia application they're supposed to use, and when you ask them to tell you about Gilgamesh, they'll say, "Check out how realistically I rendered his fall from the tower! And look at this bitchin' eagle I made that broke his fall!," (I've never read Gilgamesh; here is the brief description from which I constructed my example) followed by a lengthy explanation of how they got the whole thing to work despite numerous setbacks and frustrations with the multimedia program, and how, when they write their multimedia program, it will have fewer bugs, more features, and just generally be way better.

Sorry, just trying to score some Funny points.

One of the earlier comments talked about a role-playing game in which the children had to work their way through a post-apocalyptic scenario: pick a leader, decide whether to open the bomb shelter door. That seems like an excellent game. Hopefully such innovative "real-life" games won't be permanently shelved in favor of electronic or board games during any move towards a more game-centric style of teaching.

Back to selecting age-appropriate, subject-specific games. I don't know much about such games, but per my experience with Number Munchers, it seems like such games could be a real boon (it also seems weird, as an adult, to be talking about Number Munchers as an excellent, age-appropriate mathematics game, instead of talking about how cool the game is and how far into the game I can get relative to my peers, as I did when I was in grade school). For example, Alice seems like an excellent teaching tool by which to introduce more kids to programming. And maybe Civiilization, or a game like it, can help drive home history material. At least initially, though, selecting the right game seems like the most difficult part of this approach (harder still: how do you determine whether it WAS the right game? How do you gauge effectiveness?). I do, however, applaud the attempt to try something novel, and despite having read and having had my initial enthusiasm tempered by the critics of this approach who have posted already, I admit that I am optimistic about the outcome.

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