31 December 2008

The day the Zunes died

The New York Times has a blog by Jenna Wortham about another splendid Microsoft product:
Sure, gadgets sometimes break. But they don’t usually break all at once. That is what happened on Wednesday to a particular model of the Zune, the portable media player that is Microsoft’s answer to the Apple iPod. Reports flooded Zune support Web sites and fan forums describing devices that stopped working early Wednesday morning. Zune owners say the devices are frozen on the startup screen. One posting on the Zune.net forum read: “My Zune has managed to freeze itself with the Zune Logo and the loading bar on the screen and none of the buttons are responding, rebooting isn’t responding, plugging it into the computer isn’t responding, nothing is working.”
On Wednesday evening Microsoft said it had traced the problem to a software bug “related to the way the device handles a leap year.” Apparently the Zune was expecting 2008 to have 365 days, not 366. Only models of the Zune with 30 gigabytes of storage were affected by the glitch. North American sales of all Zune devices surpassed 3 million units in November, but Microsoft would not say how many of those were 30-gigabyte models.
The company said the internal clock on the players should automatically reset by noon Greenwich Mean Time on Thursday (7 a.m. Eastern time). Microsoft is advising Zune owners to allow the player’s battery to fully drain and then turn the devices back on on Thursday. The end-of-year timing led some Zune owners to dub the problem “Z2K9.”
The Zune meltdown is the latest setback in Microsoft’s troubled history with hardware. In 2006, after Microsoft released the Xbox 360, a video gaming console, untold numbers of console owners watched their machines break down because of a severe and widespread manufacturing flaw. During that console crisis, the company offered to fix faulty machines free of charge. Microsoft set aside a reported $1.1 billion for the repairs, a figure that suggested to industry analysts that the problem could affect a third of the 11.6 million 360s already in the hands of consumers.
Rico says you can always trust Microsoft, but to do what is the issue...

Now all we need to do is get there

The ground-penetrating radar aboard NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) has identified extensive Martian glaciers buried under "protective blankets of rocky debris". The glaciers, lying in the Hellas Basin region of Mars's southern hemisphere, stretch for "dozens of miles from edges of mountains or cliffs". Their discovery solves the mystery of the "aprons" spotted in the 1970s by Viking orbiters, described as "gently sloping areas containing rocky deposits at the bases of taller geographical features". Scientists previously suggested the aprons might conceal "flows of rocky debris lubricated by a small amount of ice", but the truth has now been revealed.
NASA explains: "Radar echoes received by the spacecraft indicated radio waves pass through the aprons and reflect off a deeper surface below without significant loss in strength. That is expected if the apron areas are composed of thick ice under a relatively thin covering. The radar does not detect reflections from the interior of these deposits as would occur if they contained significant rock debris. The apparent velocity of radio waves passing through the apron is consistent with a composition of water ice."
John Holt of the University of Texas said: "Altogether, these glaciers almost certainly represent the largest reservoir of water ice on Mars that is not in the polar caps. Just one of the features we examined is three times larger than the city of Los Angeles and up to one-half-mile thick. And there are many more. In addition to their scientific value, they could be a source of water to support future exploration of Mars."
The MRO has also spotted similar features in the Red Planet's northern hemisphere which, in common with their southern counterparts, lie roughly between about 35 to 60 degrees. Their rocky shield probably explains why they haven't evaporated at these latitudes, although how they got there in the first place remains a matter for speculation.
James Head of Brown University suggested: "The tilt of Mars' spin axis sometimes gets much greater than it is now. Climate modeling tells us ice sheets could cover mid-latitude regions of Mars during those high-tilt periods. The buried glaciers make sense as preserved fragments from an ice age millions of years ago. On Earth, such buried glacial ice in Antarctica preserves the record of traces of ancient organisms and past climate history."

Getcher very own

NASA has announced plans for disposal of the Space Shuttle fleet and spare main engines. The space agency intends to donate one orbiter to the Smithsonian museum, and give the others to "educational institutions, science museums, and other appropriate organizations". The proud new owners will need to stump up an estimated $42,000,000 in decommissioning and delivery charges for a shuttle and $400,000-$800,000 for a main engine, exclusive of shipping.
Rico says cheap at twice the price, assuming you have a very large backyard...

Well, duh

The Register out of the UK has an article by Lester Haines about the Columbia shuttle disaster:
NASA's comprehensive final Columbia Crew Survival Investigation Report has concluded that the 1 February 2003 space shuttle disaster was "not survivable by any currently existing capability". Columbia distintegrated on re-entry into Earth's atmosphere, having suffered launch damage to its left wing caused by a piece of foam which detached from the external fuel tank. Hot gas entering the breach provoked a catastrophic meltdown of the shuttle's structure, although the report reveals the crew were killed not by fire but rather by a "depressurization event" which "occurred so rapidly that the crew members were incapacitated within seconds".
The 400-page report notes that some crew members were not wearing their protective gloves at the time of the "Crew Module Catastrophic Event (CMCE)", one was not wearing a helmet and the six who were had their visors open.
Accordingly, although NASA says the crew was aware of the initial "LOC [loss of control] and was taking actions that were consistent with an attempt to recover hydraulic pressure", the cabin depressurisation proved "lethal". Had the crew survived the loss of pressure, they would have been killed anyway by injuries caused by "inadequate upper body restraint and protection during rotational motion", possible exposure to "thermal events" and, finally, "ground impact".
Specifically regarding these three factors, NASA explains that "seat inertial reel mechanisms on the crews’ shoulder harnesses did not lock", the "ascent and entry suit had no performance requirements for occupant protection from thermal events" and the suit "provides protection from ground impact with a parachute system" which had to be manually operated. Its recommendations are that "future spacecraft seats and suits should be integrated to ensure proper restraint of the crew in off-nominal situations while not affecting operational performance", and that "spacecraft crew survival systems should not rely on manual activation to protect the crew". Regarding a "thermal event", NASA soberly concludes that "the only known complete protection from this... would be to prevent its occurrence". NASA deputy associate administrator Wayne Hale summarised: "This report confirms that although the valiant Columbia crew tried every possible way to maintain control of their vehicle, the accident was not ultimately survivable."
Rico says that, if you click on the post title and go to the article, you can download the complete report; probably fascinating reading, if macabre...

Once bitten, twice shy

The Chicago Sun-Times has a column by Lynn Sweet about the Obama replacement debacle:
Representative Danny Davis (Democrat from Illinois) would like to replace President-elect Barack Obama in the Senate. The appointment was dangled before him last Wednesday. He turned it down. We discussed why when we talked Tuesday night, hours after a defiant Governor Blagojevich, facing impeachment for, among other charges, trying to sell the Obama seat, tapped former Illinois Attorney General Roland Burris for the spot, touching off a racially inflammatory firestorm.
Davis, speaking on the phone from Chicago, said he met with Blagojevich attorney Sam Adam Jr. last Wednesday morning. The two met in Davis' Chicago office. Davis said he was told "the governor would like to appoint me to the vacant spot". After Blagojevich was arrested on 9 December, Davis, who sought the appointment from him when he thought Blagojevich was playing it straight, said he would not take the job if offered.
But he conferred with Adam anyway, out of "respect" for the office of the governor, Davis told me; besides, Blagojevich has not yet been indicted nor found guilty of anything. Davis, first elected to the House in 1996, has been restless: In 2006, he eyed the Cook County Board presidency after Board President John H. Stroger Jr. had a stroke. And now, just weeks after being named to the powerful Ways and Means Committee in the House, Adam was making him an offer.
You know the backstory, as did Davis: the Senate Democrats said they would not seat anyone appointed by the tainted Blaogjevich.
Davis met again with Adam. "I indicated I came to the conclusion there was too much discomfort on my part and the part of my family," Davis said. Anyway, he could not see how the governor could name anyone and make it stick. But, most important, Davis said he realized that if he took the job, "It would be difficult to generate the trust level people would have to have in me. I just decided there was too much turmoil, too much disagreement. It was something I wanted to do, but I said I would not take an appointment from the governor."
Representative Bobby Rush, an African American, heated up the race question when he appeared Tuesday with Blagojevich and Burris, using racially charged language. Backing Burris, the first African American to win an Illinois statewide office, Rush said, don't "hang or lynch the appointee, as you try to castigate the appointer".
Obama was the only African American in the Senate, and Rush said the seat must go to an African American. (Rush did not invoke racial solidarity when Obama faced a Senate primary in 2004. Rush backed another candidate, Blair Hull, payback for Obama's failed challenge to unseat Rush in 2002.)
Davis, an African American, disagrees with Rush. It's not all about race. Said Davis, "I always said that I don't think it is a seat that belongs to anybody... The person should be who can best unify the state and bring back a sense of integrity and trust... The seat does not belong to any race or any ethnic group or any category of individual. It belongs to the voters."
Rico says it's too bad he didn't take it; Burris was obviously the second choice...

Now they're at it again

CNN.com has a story about ETA, back again:
A bomb exploded outside a television station in Spain's Basque region Wednesday after police got a warning call from the separatist group ETA, authorities said. The blast occurred around 11 a.m. (5 a.m. ET) in Bilbao. The warning came an hour ahead of the bombing and gave police enough time to evacuate the area. There was no immediate word on casualties or damage.
Last month, during an anti-terrorism raid in France, authorities captured the man now considered to be the overall chief of the separatist group. Authorities initially said the suspect, Mikel Garikoitz Aspiazu, 35, was the top military chief of ETA, in charge of ordering attacks. But the armed group long has also had a separate leader in charge of policy. Authorities now believe Aspiazu, alias Txeroki, held both positions.
ETA is blamed for more than eight hundred deaths in its long fight for Basque independence. It has traditionally used France as its rear-guard base for logistics to carry out attacks, mainly across the border in Spain, and French and Spanish police have cooperated on a number of arrests of top ETA operatives in France.
On 30 October, a powerful car bomb that authorities blamed on ETA injured twenty-seven people at the University of Navarra in the northern Spanish city of Pamplona. And, in mid December, French police arrested two ETA suspects, both armed, as they were riding bicycles.
Rico asks, how scary can terrorists be if they ride bicycles?

Civil War for the day

Rico says there's an illustration he wanted to post here today, but he can not find it, no matter how he searches the internet.
It is for a story published in Playboy magazine back in the 1960s; the story was about inadvertent time-travel by a squad of soldiers in North Carolina, who were thrown back a hundred years into the midst of the Civil War. Given the standard mix of Northern versus Southern soldiers in the squad, the complications are as expected, but the resolution was excellent. A great story, but an even better illustration; it looks exactly like a period Brady daguerreotype, until you notice the grenades...
If anyone knows where he can find it, please email him with the proper issue date so he can order a copy.

Turns out it's not what you know, as usual, it's who you know. And Rico says he knows John Robinson from New Orleans, who knew some other guy named Breda Fallacy, who knew exactly what Rico was talking about; the story is by George Byram, and is called The Chronicle of the 656th. Rico says he's awaiting the results of an eBay auction to see if he got a copy. When he does, he'll scan the photo and post it for all to marvel at...

30 December 2008

Up their nose with a rubber hose

The New York Times has an article by Bettina Wassener about a clever way to fuck over the ragheads:
Air New Zealand tested a jet fuel made from the jatropha plant on Tuesday as the airline searches for an affordable and environmentally friendly alternative to crude oil. For two hours, pilots tested the oil, in a 50-50 blend with conventional jet fuel, in one of the four Rolls-Royce engines powering a Boeing 747-400 aircraft — the first test flight by a commercial airline using jatropha oil. Rob Fyfe, Air New Zealand’s chief executive, called the flight a milestone in commercial aviation. “Today we stand at the earliest stages of sustainable fuel development and an important moment in aviation history,” he said. The project has been eighteen months in the works.
Unlike other biofuel crops like soybeans and corn, jatropha needs little water or fertilizer and can be grown almost anywhere, even in sandy, saline, or otherwise infertile soil. Each seed produces thirty to forty percent of its mass in oil, giving it a high per-acre yield, specialists said.
The results of the flight— and two others planned by rival airlines in the United States and Japan in January— will be closely watched by an industry that is trying to shift toward renewable, low-emissions fuels. A sharp rise in crude oil prices— to more than $145 a barrel in July— offered a strong incentive for the industry to reduce its exposure to volatile oil prices. But pressure to reduce carbon emissions has also driven the search for alternatives. The International Air Transport Association, which represents 230 airlines, wants its members to use ten percent in alternative fuels by 2017. The association has the ambitious goal that airlines will be able to fly carbon-free in fifty years, with the help of technologies like fuel cells and solar energy. Such goals have ensured that research and development into greener flying have continued, despite the plunge in oil prices below forty dollars a barrel.
Having conducted a series of tests, Air New Zealand and its partners, the aircraft manufacturer Boeing, the engine maker Rolls-Royce, and the technology developer UOP (a part of Honeywell), will review the results “as part of our drive to have jatropha certified as an aviation fuel", the flight’s chief pilot, Captain David Morgan, said. The hope is that the test results will lay the groundwork for jatropha to be commercially available in three to five years, executives from the companies said.
In February, Virgin Atlantic became the first airline to test a biofuel blend in a commercial aircraft, using a twenty percent mixture of coconut oil and babassu nut oil in one of its four engines. Two more airlines are to test their alternatives next month. Continental Airlines will conduct a test flight on 7 January using a blend that includes algae and jatropha, the first biofuel test flight of a commercial airliner owned by an American company. And Japan Airlines is planning a test flight on 30 January using a fuel based on the camelina oilseed.
Together, the flights will test not only different sources of alternative fuel, but also their use in different engines. Attention has increasingly turn to fuels made from inedible crops, like algae and jatropha, that can be grown without drawing on forested or arable land. But even the potential use of jatropha has not been free of criticism, with some observers fearing that farmers could be tempted to grow jatropha rather than edible crops in the hope of getting better prices. Algae may be free of this potential problem, but research into algae is not as far advanced, said an Air New Zealand spokesman, Mark Street, explaining the airline’s decision to focus on jatropha. Air New Zealand, which aims to meet ten percent of its fuel needs through sustainable biofuel by 2013, said the jatropha used on Tuesday’s flight had been grown in Malawi, Mozambique, and Tanzania.
Rico says that, if you listen closely, you can hear screaming coming from the sandy little countries...

Very pretty, and hard

video
Rico says he cannot imagine how many hours of practice it took to get to this...

Nice find


A total of 264 gold coins were discovered during archaeological excavations in a car park on the edge of Jerusalem's walled Old City. The coins were among the ruins of a building dating back to about the seventh century, the end of the Byzantine period.

Good ol' Christian morality in action


Rico says it's nice to see that stupid, self-important, moralizing Christians aren't limited to the United States...

Like us voting for Al Capone as a humanitarian


Soviet dictator Josef Stalin has placed third in a nationwide Russian poll seeking to name their greatest-ever countryman.

Just what we need, more bad flu

al-Reuters has an article by Maggie Fox on research into the 1918 flu bug:
Researchers have found out what made the 1918 flu pandemic so deadly— a group of three genes that lets the virus invade the lungs and cause pneumonia. They mixed samples of the 1918 influenza strain with modern seasonal flu viruses to find the three genes and said their study might help in the development of new flu drugs. The discovery, published in Tuesday's issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, could also point to mutations that might turn ordinary flu into a dangerous pandemic strain.
Yoshihiro Kawaoka of the University of Wisconsin and colleagues at the Universities of Kobe and Tokyo in Japan used ferrets, which develop flu in ways very similar to humans. Usually flu causes an upper respiratory infection affecting the nose and throat, as well as so-called systemic illness causing fever, muscle aches and weakness. But some people become seriously ill and develop pneumonia. Sometimes bacteria cause the pneumonia and sometimes flu does it directly.
During pandemics, such as in 1918, a new and more dangerous flu strain emerges. "The 1918 influenza pandemic was the most devastating outbreak of infectious disease in human history, accounting for about 50 million deaths worldwide," Kawaoka's team wrote. It killed 2.5 percent of victims, compared to fewer than 1 percent during most annual flu epidemics. Autopsies showed many of the victims, often otherwise healthy young adults, died of severe pneumonia. "We wanted to know why the 1918 flu caused severe pneumonia," Kawaoka said in a statement.
They painstakingly substituted single genes from the 1918 virus into modern flu viruses and, one after another, they acted like garden-variety flu, infecting only the upper respiratory tract. But a complex of three genes helped to make the virus live and reproduce deep in the lungs. The three genes— called PA, PB1, and PB2— along with a 1918 version of the nucleoprotein or NP gene, made modern seasonal flu kill ferrets in much the same way as the original 1918 flu, Kawaoka's team found. Most flu experts agree that a pandemic of influenza will almost certainly strike again. No one knows when or what strain it will be but one big suspect now is the H5N1 avian influenza virus. H5N1 is circulating among poultry in Asia, Europe and parts of Africa. It rarely affects humans but has killed 247 of the 391 people infected since 2003. A few mutations would make it into a pandemic strain that could kill millions globally within a few months. Four licensed drugs can fight flu, but the viruses regularly mutate into resistant forms, just as bacteria evolve into forms that evade antibiotics.
Rico says there are scientists in bio-war labs playing with this right now...

Stupid is as stupid does

The Lebanon Daily News (Pennsylvania, not the mid-East) has the sad story of kids dying because their elders were idiots:
Fire officials say filling a heater with gasoline instead of kerosene caused a fire that killed seven people in a southwest Philadelphia home.
Fire Commissioner Lloyd Ayers said Monday a fire marshal's report confirms what firefighters at the scene suspected: pouring the wrong fuel in the heater touched off an "instant fire" that killed four adults and three children Friday night. Ayers says the fire spread so fast that "Those people went from looking at television to instant peril."
Three children were killed: 8-year-old Ramere Dosso, 6-year-old Mariam Dosso and 1-year-old Zyhire Wright-Teah. The other victims were 54-year-old Henry Gbokoloi, and siblings, 26-year-old Vivian Teah, 23-year-old Elliott Teah and 17-year-old Jennifer Teah.
Rico says it's good that 54-year-old Henry died, the moron, but it's a shame he had to take the rest of them with him...

More like 'indignity'

CNN.com has an article about rampant stupidity off Gaza:
An Israeli patrol boat struck a boat carrying medical volunteers and supplies to Gaza early Tuesday as it attempted to intercept the vessel in the Mediterranean Sea, witnesses and Israeli officials said. CNN Correspondent Karl Penhaul was aboard the 60-foot, Gibraltar-registered pleasure boat Dignity when the contact occurred. When the boat later docked in the Lebanese port city of Tyre, severe damage was visible to the forward port side of the boat, and the front left window and part of the roof had collapsed. The Dignity was carrying crew and sixteen passengers— physicians from Britain, Germany and Cyprus and human rights activists, including former US Representative Cynthia McKinney— who were trying to reach Gaza through an Israeli blockade of the territory.
The captain of the Dignity said the Israelis broadcast a radio message accusing the vessel of being involved in terrorist activity. But Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor denied that, and said the radio message simply warned the vessel not to proceed to Gaza because it is a closed military area. Palmor said there was no response to the radio message, and the vessel then tried to out-maneuver the Israeli patrol boat, leading to the collision. Penhaul said at least two Israeli patrol boats had shadowed the Dignity for about half an hour before the collision, moving around the vessel on all sides. One of the patrol boats then shone its spotlight on the Dignity while the other, with its lights off, "very severely rammed" the boat. The captain of the Dignity told Penhaul he received no prior warning. Only after the collision did the Israelis come on the radio to say they struck the boat because they believed it was involved in terrorist activities. The captain and crew said their vessel was struck intentionally, Penhaul said, but Palmor called those allegations "absurd".
"There is no intention on the part of the Israeli navy to ram anybody," Palmor said.
"I would call it ramming. Let's just call it as it is," McKinney said. "Our boat was rammed three times, twice in the front and one on the side. "Our mission was a peaceful mission to deliver medical supplies and our mission was thwarted by the Israelis, the aggressiveness of the Israeli military," she said.
The incident occurred in international waters about ninety miles off Gaza. Israel controls the waters off Gaza's coast and routinely blocks ships from coming into the Palestinian territory as part of an ongoing blockade that also applies to the Israel-Gaza border. Human rights groups have expressed concern about the blockade on Gaza, which has restricted the delivery of emergency aid and fuel supplies.
The collision was so severe, Penhaul said, that the passengers were ordered to put on their life vests and be ready to get in lifeboats. The Dignity began taking on water, but the crew managed to pump it out of the hull long enough for the boat to reach shore. Palmor said the vessel refused assistance after the incident. The boat was carrying boxes of relief supplies, volunteers, and journalists to Gaza, the Palestinian territory now subject to an intense Israeli bombing campaign.
Israel launched airstrikes against Gaza on Saturday in what Defense Minister Ehud Barak called an "all-out war" against the Palestinian militant group Hamas, which has ruled the territory since 2007. The Palestinian death toll has topped 375, most of them Hamas militants, Palestinian medical sources said Tuesday. At least sixty civilians have been killed in Gaza, UN officials said. Hamas has responded with volleys of rocket fire aimed at southern Israeli towns, which have left six Israelis dead, five of them civilians. Hamas has vowed to defend Gaza in the face of what it calls continued Israeli aggression. Each side blames the other for violating an Egyptian-brokered cease-fire, which formally expired on 19 December, but had been weakening for months.
Rico says you can claim 'innocent' all you want, but any moron trying to take a boat through the Israeli blockade deserves what he gets, and CNN is just as culpable... (And if the boat was carrying "boxes of relief supplies, volunteers, and journalists", it could just as easily been carrying "boxes of military supplies, volunteers, and jihadis"...)

Five to one? Pretty good odds

The New York Times has yet another article, this one by Ethan Bronner and Taghreed el-Khodary, about the war between Gaza and Israel:
Israel is engaged in an “all-out war with Hamas,” Defense Minister Ehud Barak told Parliament on Monday as his air force struck at the organization’s civic institutions — the Islamic University, Interior Ministry and presidential guesthouse. The death toll surpassed 350, some sixty of them civilians, according to United Nations officials. As the conflict passed its third day, with no active diplomacy, there appeared to be no quick end to the largest assault on Gaza in decades.
Israel has defined its aims relatively narrowly, saying it seeks to cripple Hamas’s ability to fire rockets into Israel. It has not made clear if it means to topple the leadership of Hamas, which Israel and the United States brand as a terrorist organization.
Hamas sought to cast its fighters as martyrs in a continuing battle against Israel, the lone resisters in a Palestinian community divided between Gaza, where Hamas rules, and the West Bank, which is governed by the rival Fatah organization.
Hamas killed four Israelis on Monday after firing more than seventy rockets, including a long-range one into the booming city of Ashdod some eighteen miles from Gaza, where it hit a bus stop, killing a woman and injuring two other people. Earlier, a rocket hit nearby Ashkelon, killing an Israeli-Arab construction worker and wounding three others. The other dead Israelis, The Associated Press reported, were a civilian in the Negev desert and a soldier. Thousands of Israelis huddled in shelters as the long-range rockets hit streets or open areas late in the night, the most serious display of Hamas’s arsenal since the Israeli assault began.
In Gaza, where the bombardment continued early Tuesday, residents pulled relatives from the rubble of prominent institutions leveled by waves of Israeli F-16 attacks, as hospitals struggled to keep up with the wounded and the dead and doctors scrambled for supplies. Hamas gunmen publicly shot suspected collaborators with Israel; families huddled around battery-powered radios, desperate for news.
Mr. Barak said that Israel would widen and deepen the attack if necessary and told Israeli lawmakers that it would continue until Hamas no longer had the ability to fire rockets into Israel. Politicians on the left who supported the initial attack urged the government to seek a new cease-fire rather than continue the bombardment. But the military created a two-mile war cordon along the Gaza border and amassed tanks and troops there, with commanders saying that a ground force invasion was a distinct possibility but had not yet been decided upon.
In Crawford, Texas, a spokesman for President Bush renewed calls for the parties to reach a cease-fire, but said Israel was justified in retaliating against Hamas’s attacks. “Let’s just take this one day at a time,” said the spokesman, Gordon Johndroe.
Allies of Hamas in parts of the Muslim world raised their voices. In Beirut, tens of thousands of Hezbollah supporters stood in pouring rain in protest, and in Tehran a group of influential conservative Iranian clerics began an online registration drive seeking volunteers to fight Israel.
Mr. Barak had told lawmakers that Israel had nothing against the citizens of Gaza and that it had more than once offered its hand in peace to the Palestinian nation. “But we have an all-out war with Hamas and its offshoots,” he said. Israel sent in some forty trucks of humanitarian relief, including blood from Jordan and medicine. Egypt opened its border with Gaza to similar aid and to allow some of the wounded through. At Shifa Hospital in Gaza, the director, Dr. Hussein Ashour, said that keeping his patients alive from their wounds was an enormous challenge. He said there were some 1,500 wounded people distributed among Gaza’s nine hospitals with far too few intensive care units, equipped ambulances, and other vital equipment.
On Monday, Dr. Ashour was not the only official in charge. Armed Hamas militants in civilian clothes roamed the halls. Asked their function, they said it was to provide security. But there was internal bloodletting under way. In the fourth-floor orthopedic section, a woman in her late twenties asked a militant to let her see Saleh Hajoj, her 32-year-old husband. She was turned away and left the hospital. Fifteen minutes later, Mr. Hajoj was carried out by young men pretending to transfer him to another ward. As he lay on the stretcher, he was shot in the left side of the head. Mr. Hajoj, like five others killed at the hospital this way, was accused of collaboration with Israel. He had been in the central prison awaiting trial by Hamas judges; when Israel destroyed the prison on Sunday he and the others were transferred to the hospital. But their trials were short-circuited. A crowd at the hospital showed no mercy after the shooting, which was widely observed. A man in his thirties mocked a woman expressing horror at the scene. “This horrified you?” he shouted. “A collaborator that caused the death of many innocent and resistance fighters?” Sobhia Jomaa, a lawyer with the Palestinian Independent Commission for Citizens’ Rights, said 115 accused collaborators were in the central prison. None had been executed by Hamas since it took office and their cases were monitored closely. “The prison provided the sole protection to all of them,” she said. “But once it was bombed, many wanted to take revenge.”
Across the street from the hospital, a mosque where militants often took refuge has been destroyed by Israel, one of five mosques it has hit so far. Electricity arrives in Gaza only a few hours a day, offering the diversion of television, but nothing local. The Hamas station was taken out by an Israeli missile and most local radio stations have closed their doors out of fear of suffering the same fate. Israeli drones buzz overhead taking photographs.
Israel’s heavy bombing, more than 300 airstrikes since the operation began on Saturday, reduced dozens of buildings to rubble, but appeared to be directed mainly at the political, military and academic symbols of Hamas’s rule in Gaza. The Israelis also made targets of the homes and offices of Hamas’s political and military leaders, who did not appear in public during the day.
Despite an apparent effort to limit the attacks to specific buildings, ordinary Gazans are constantly caught up in the bombing. On Saturday, when dozens of Israeli sorties were made simultaneously, a group of young people, ages eighteen to twenty, were hit when a missile was aimed at a group of Hamas policemen in the street. According to a statement by United Nations Special Coordinator Robert Serry, eight of the young people, emerging from a United Nations training center, were killed instantly and nineteen wounded. Eight of those hurt were in critical condition on Monday. One is awaiting emergency transfer to an Israeli hospital. Mr. Serry sent Mr. Barak a letter of protest.
In the Jabalya refugee camp on Sunday, an attack on a mosque where militants were hiding also struck a nearby house, killing five girls under the age of eighteen, health ministry officials said.
Meanwhile in Israel, sirens wailed over mostly empty streets in the seaside city of Ashkelon. Storefronts were battered shut. Families clustered inside the city’s stretches of towering white apartment blocks and single-family houses. Weary of venturing too far outside, they scurried into protected rooms when sirens sounded, listening for the sound of another rocket crashing somewhere in their city.
It is a city that is reluctantly getting used to its status as the front line. “It’s frightening, but what can we do?” asked Chen Hassan, a high school senior. She woke up Monday morning, jolted by the sound of a missile hitting a public library under construction across the street. The rocket killed a construction worker and wounded several others, Bedouins from Israel’s Negev Desert.
Rico says Israel's got over seven million people, Gaza a million and a half. Israel has tanks and aircraft and, push comes to shove, a nuclear capability that Gaza doesn't. Gaza's got people willing to strap on bombs and blow themselves up; Israel's got people willing to drop bombs and blow Gazans up. Rico says his money is on Israel...

We knew that

The New York Times has an article by William Broad that confirms the suspicion everyone's had for years:
A defining moment of the cold war came in 1955 when Moscow detonated its first hydrogen bomb — a weapon roughly a thousand times more powerful than atom bombs and ideal for obliterating large cities. The bomb ended the American monopoly and posed a lethal danger. So Washington dealt far more gingerly with Moscow, beginning a tense era dominated by fear of mutual annihilation.
Now, a new book says Moscow acquired the secret of the hydrogen bomb not from its own scientists but from an atomic spy at the Los Alamos weapons lab in New Mexico. Historians call its case sketchy but worthy of investigation, saying the book, The Nuclear Express: A Political History of the Bomb and its Proliferation, by Thomas C. Reed and Danny B. Stillman, adds to a growing number of riddles about who invented the Soviet H-bomb a half century ago.
“It’s quite intriguing,” Robert Norris, a nuclear historian, said of the book. “We’ve learned a lot about atomic spies. Now, we find out that a spy may be at the center of the H-bomb story, too.” A surprising clue the authors cite is disagreement among Russian nuclear scientists over who deserves credit for the advance as well as some claims that espionage played a role. The book details this Russian clash and questions the popular idea that Andrei Sakharov, who later became known as a campaigner for human rights, independently devised the Soviet hydrogen bomb. The book does not name the suspected spy but says he was born in the United States, grew up in a foreign country, fell in with communist sympathizers during the depression, and worked at Los Alamos during World War II. Afterward, it says, he became “deeply involved” in the American effort to develop the H-bomb.
The book says that Mr. Stillman, a physicist who worked at Los Alamos from 1965 to 2000 and served for more than a decade as the lab’s director of intelligence, took his suspicions in the 1990s to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. But the FBI inquiry, the book says, was “botched beyond recognition” and went nowhere. The alleged spy, the book adds, is now dead. The FBI, often accused of disarray in cases of atomic spying, declined to comment.
Historians and nuclear scientists call the book’s claim provocative, if vague and seemingly circumstantial. They add that its suspect is unlikely to be the last put forward to account for the Soviet breakthrough. “It’s a fascinating puzzle,” said David Holloway, author of Stalin and the Bomb and a military historian at Stanford University. “Mystery is too strong a word. But exactly how the Soviet physicists hit on the idea remains unclear.”
Harold Agnew, who worked on the world’s first H-bomb and eventually became director of Los Alamos, said the Soviets probably had had numerous spies divulging the secret. “We were always surprised,” he said, “at how quickly they moved ahead.”
The new book is due out in January from Zenith Press. A main focus is how spies spread nuclear secrets around the globe. In recent years, the ranks of known Soviet spies in the Manhattan Project to build the atom bomb have swollen to a half dozen or so, and more are expected to be named. But so far, accounts of the ensuing project at Los Alamos to build the hydrogen bomb have documented no major episodes of atomic spying. Hydrogen bombs, unlike their atomic cousins, are unlimited in size. American scientists who sought to devise one in the 1940s and early 1950s thus called their dream weapon the Super. The successful architects were Edward Teller and Stanislaw Ulam. Their 1951 breakthrough, known as “radiation implosion", called for putting an atom bomb at one end of a metal casing and hydrogen fuel at the other. The flash of the exploding atom bomb was to flood the case’s interior with enough radiation to compress and ignite the hydrogen fuel, releasing huge bursts of energy through nuclear fusion.
In late 1952, the first test of their idea caused the Pacific island of Elugelab to vanish. The explosion was 700 times more powerful than the blast that leveled Hiroshima.
Moscow had nothing comparable until 1955. It then made an arsenal of H-bombs that in time dwarfed Washington’s. It also detonated the world’s largest bomb — a behemoth more than 3,000 times as powerful as the Hiroshima blast. Over the decades, scholars identified Klaus Fuchs as one possible source of H-bomb intelligence. The Soviet spy in the Manhattan project left Los Alamos in 1946, gave Moscow H-bomb ideas, and was arrested in 1950. But most scholars judge his tips as too early, too sketchy and too erroneous to have provided much assistance.
The authors of The Nuclear Express said in interviews that their interest in the issue stirred after the cold war as former Soviet nuclear scientists told of their hidden labors. Mr. Reed, a former designer of H-bombs at the Livermore weapons laboratory in California and a former secretary of the Air Force, met a number of the Russian scientists at Livermore in March 1997. He said the meetings had proved eye opening. The Russian scientists described how Dr. Sakharov never took full credit for the hydrogen advance. And Lev Feoktistov, a member of the founding H-bomb team, suggested that espionage unrelated to Fuchs played a role. In his 1999 book, Nukes Are Not Forever, he reiterated that claim. “I cannot escape the feeling,” Dr. Feoktistov wrote, “that we were extended a helping hand once in a while, although quite inconspicuously.” For instance, he said the Soviet team had been given an unfamiliar bomb sketch that he subsequently identified as having been the work of Ulam, the American H-bomb pioneer. The sketch showed a design that antedated the breakthrough of radiation implosion. Amid the revelations after the cold war, Mr. Stillman, at Los Alamos, zeroed in on a candidate spy. In an interview, he said his suspicions had been aroused for a number of reasons, including the man’s great apparent wealth. Mr. Stillman said the FBI inquiry fell apart in the 1990s as the bureau’s Santa Fe office became entangled in the case of a modern alleged spy at Los Alamos: Wen Ho Lee. In time, all but one of the charges against Dr. Lee were dropped after a judge found significant flaws in the government’s case. The episode is seen as having raised the federal bar on new claims of atomic spying.
When Mr. Reed and Mr. Stillman began to collaborate on their book, they judged that they had complementary pieces of the H-bomb puzzle. In the book, they say they declined to name the Los Alamos suspect because he is now dead and “can neither defend his family name nor refute our arguments”. The actual identity does not matter, the books adds. “His fingerprints are what count.”
Reactions to the claim range from strong interest, to outrage, to curiosity about the identity of the alleged spy. For years, most Russian scientists and officials have insisted that the Soviet invention was completely independent of the United States, with the exception of preliminary intelligence from Klaus Fuchs. Gennady Gorelik, a Russian historian of science now at Boston University and a Sakharov biographer, dismissed the idea that the Soviets had received the secret from newly disclosed espionage. “No, they did not,” he wrote in an e-mail message.
Priscilla McMillan, an atom historian at Harvard and author of The Ruin of J. Robert Oppenheimer, said her weighing of old and new evidence had come down on Dr. Sakharov’s side as the main inventor. “It’s a tantalizing subject,” she said. “But I wouldn’t preclude that his version is pretty much correct.”
John Earl Haynes, a Library of Congress historian and an authority on atomic spying, said the book’s authors might have found a new spy at Los Alamos but he doubted their identification of him as a KGB asset. If the spy existed, he added, he might have been controlled by the GRU, a military intelligence agency. Richard Garwin, a top nuclear physicist who helped invent the American H-bomb and has advised Washington for decades, echoed Dr. Agnew in saying he found quite reasonable the idea that Moscow had espionage tips from Los Alamos about radiation implosion. “It is difficult to believe that US security was so good that the Russians could not have picked up the term,” he said in an interview. Dr. Norris, author of Racing for the Bomb, an account of the Manhattan Project, said solving the H-bomb riddle awaited more candor from Moscow. “The only way of clearing this up is for the intelligence services, the successors to the KGB and the GRU, to claim their share of the credit,” he said. But he added that such openness could undermine Russian pride in its nuclear achievements during the cold war. “It cuts both ways,” he said. “It would really be a blow to the self image of the Russian scientists, who believe to this day that they invented it independently.”
Rico says awww, bummer; the Russian scientists are just gonna have to get over it...

The shithammer of the universe

The New York Times has an article by Kenneth Chang about doomsday:
Several geologists have collected evidence indicating that something very big and unusual occurred in waters near the New York area around 300 B.C., give or take a century. And Dallas Abbott, a research scientist at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, is asserting that a meteorite, landing somewhere in the Atlantic, generated the tsunami. Someone at the tip of Lower Manhattan then would probably have seen “something coming in,” Dr. Abbott said. “Then you would hear a big bang, maybe a series of bangs, something that sounded like gunfire or cannons. It would be a really, really loud noise. And then you would be knocked to the ground by the air blast. And then you would be inundated by the tsunami.”
While not nearly as severe as the tsunami that killed more than 180,000 people in South and Southeast Asia in 2004, “it would have been a bad day to end all bad days,” she said, “in all senses.”
Although American Indians had long been living in and around the area that became New York, Dr. Abbott said there was no archeological evidence of a tsunami or known legends of, say, a terrible flood. She has built her case with diamonds, very tiny ones.
At a meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco earlier this month, Dr. Abbott reported finding minute carbon spheres and smaller-than-dust diamonds in sediment layers, which she said were the distinctive calling cards of a meteorite’s impact. “I think it’s pretty convincing,” Dr. Abbott said. “We always find the impact ejecta in the tsunami layer, never outside.”
A few years ago, the geologist Steven Goodbred, then at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, was not looking for tsunami or meteorites when he first examined sediment cores taken along the South Shore of Long Island. Dr. Goodbred was interested in the history of oysters in that area. But in the very first core, he saw a strange layer several inches thick containing fist-size gravel. “We started joking immediately, ‘It’s a tsunami,’ ” recalled Dr. Goodbred, now a professor at Vanderbilt University in Nashville.
Subsequent cores, taken in Great South Bay, also contained that layer, deposited about 2,300 years ago. When Dr. Goodbred presented his findings at a conference a couple of years ago, he failed to convince other scientists. They said the layer was more likely caused by a big storm, not a tsunami.
“Even if it was a storm, it was the mother of all storms,” Dr. Goodbred said, pointing out that the devastating hurricane that passed directly over Long Island in 1938 generated less than an inch of sediment. Then Dr. Goodbred met other scientists who had found similar sediment layers nearby. Cecilia McHugh, a professor at Queens College, had seen a sediment layer a foot and a half thick at Sandy Hook in New Jersey. That, too, was laid down about 2,300 years ago. And Frank Nitsche, another research scientist at Lamont-Doherty, had discovered a layer of wood debris in sediment cores from the upstate reaches of the Hudson River. Then Dr. Abbott joined the project and found possible evidence of a meteorite.
But the arguments of a meteor causing a New York tsunami are still regarded skeptically by many, if not most, geologists. For one, no one has found any craters. The evidence hinges most strongly on the tiny diamonds, presumably formed by the ultra-high pressures of impact. The carbon atoms inside some of the diamonds are lined up in a hexagonal crystal structure instead of the usual cubic crystals. The hexagonal diamonds have been found only within meteorites and at impact craters, said Allen West, a geologist who performed the diamond analysis for Dr. Abbott’s New York sediments.
But unless researchers find a crater in the ocean floor, an Indian legend telling of a day of fire and water, or many more thick sediment deposits, convincing other scientists of what they believe happened 2,300 years ago will continue to be an uphill battle.
Rico says scientists, like everyone else, don't want to believe the sky is falling, but it is...

Civil War for the day

29 December 2008

Oh what a surprise

WebMD.com has an article by Jennifer Warner about virginity pledges:
Teenagers who take virginity pledges are no less sexually active than other teens, according to a new study. But the results, published in the journal Pediatrics, suggest that virginity pledgers are less likely to protect themselves against pregnancy or disease when they do have sex. Researchers say the findings suggest that virginity pledges may not significantly affect teenagers' sexual behavior. Instead, they may decrease the likelihood of teenagers taking precautions, such as using a condom or using birth control, when they do have sex.
Researchers say the federal government spends about $200 million annually on abstinence promotion programs, which include virginity pledges. Two previous studies have suggested that virginity pledges can delay sex, but researchers say those studies did not account for pre-existing differences between pledgers and non-pledgers. In this study, researchers compared the sexual behavior of 289 teenagers who reported taking a virginity pledge in a 1996 national survey to 645 non-pledgers who were matched on more than one hundred factors, such as religious beliefs and attitudes toward sex and birth control.
The results showed that, five years after taking the virginity pledge:
82% of pledgers denied ever having taken the pledge.
Pledgers and matched non-pledgers did not differ in rates of premarital sex, sexually transmitted disease, or oral and anal sex behaviors.
Pledgers had 0.1 fewer sexual partners in the past year but did not differ from non-pledgers in the number of lifetime sexual partners and the age of first sex.
The biggest difference between the two groups came in the area of condom and birth control use. The study showed that fewer pledgers used birth control or condoms in the past year or any form of birth control the last time they had sex. Researcher Janet Elise Rosenbaum, PHD, of Harvard University, says the findings suggest that health care providers should provide birth control information to all teenagers, especially virginity pledgers.
Rico says besides just being laughable on its face, the notion of having any teenager sign away their intention to have sex is doomed to failure...

Rent control bites them in the ass

CNN.com has an article by Ashley Fantz about the Duchess of Carnegie:
Editta Sherman has celebrated more than half a century's worth of new years in her palatial studio apartment above New York's Carnegie Hall. But it's unlikely the celebrated portrait photographer will be raising her glass there next year. Known as the Duchess of Carnegie, the 96-year-old came home a few days ago to find an eviction notice on her door. "I thought, oh, what is this? Are you kidding me, that they are really going to send a woman like me down the street just like that? Have me scurry away without a fight?" she said, delivering a whooping cackle, punctuated with a grandmother's tsk tsk. "Oh, no, that's not what I am going to do. They'll have to take me out of here with their bare hands."
The city of New York wants to renovate the space above Carnegie Hall, where Marlon Brando once lived and where Sherman and five other renters, including iconic New York Times' photographer Bill Cunningham, have enjoyed rent-stabilized bliss since Frank Sinatra cut his first demo. Sherman pays $650 a month for her studio, a drool-inducing space basked in natural light with floor-to-ceiling windows. An enormous skylight hangs over bold, black-and-white tiled floors; a cast-iron circular staircase leads to a loft stuffed with props.
Since last year, when Carnegie Hall announced its facelift, 43 residents have lost their battle to stay, and one rent-controlled tenant has vacated, according to Hall spokeswoman Synneve Carlino. The push to renovate came from the Hall's chairman Sanford Weill, who wants to expand the education classrooms for more than 115,000 music and art students. Weill's son-in-law, Natan Bibliowicz, has been hired to design the studio spaces above the hall in a $150 million expansion, and taxpayers will reportedly foot part of the bill because New York state granted $5 million to cover design and planning costs, according to The New York Times.
Carnegie Hall has offered to pay for the rent-control tenants' relocation expenses and move them to apartments which are "equivalent or better" in the neighborhood. The Hall also is offering to pay the difference in rent to each of those tenants for the rest of their lives. "We have asked Editta to come and look at spaces with us," Carlino told CNN.
But Sherman and her like-minded neighbors are not budging. There is only one scenario that might work, the grandmother of 25 said. "They can pay me $10 million. I'm part of history," she said. "You want to tell me they don't have enough rooms? They have a building of rooms. This place is history, and I think Carnegie, the people running it, I don't think they think about that."
Dressed in a purple zebra-cuffed shirt and black jumpsuit, Sherman ambles around her enormous studio with the sprightliness of a woman half her age. She holds up a photograph of herself with Salvador Dali, her aubergine-painted eyebrows animated as she tells stories about the famous faces who have dropped by over the years: Andy Warhol, Henry Fonda, Eva Gabor, Tyrone Power, Carl Sandburg, and Paul Newman.
"With Salvador, he had an exhibit nearby, you know, and I went there to meet him and we just hit it off. So he came back to my place and I took some pictures," she said. "He wanted to buy my stair railing which was pure bronze then, with some engravings from Paramount. I told him it was quite expensive and he said he'd have to think about it."
Yul Brenner brought Marlene Dietrich by once in the 1950s, during a time when the two Hollywood stars were reportedly having an affair, Sherman said. "They were just so sweet," she said. "Yul was playful, and she was quiet."
In true Warhol style, Sherman photographed the pop genius as he was photographing her. Warhol's portrait sits next to the hundreds of other portraits piled up in rows in her studio. Sherman has hundreds of letters from Cary Grant, a long correspondence of them trying, in vain, to get together for a portrait session. "I never thought that taking photos would be valuable," she said. "I did it to earn a living and because I liked it."
Sherman's career took off when she got a job in New York casinos which hosted welcome home parties for World War Two soldiers. Her husband, Harold Sherman, who was an inventor and proprietor of photographic technology, convinced the management of the casinos to let his wife take photos of the celebrities who entertained there, she said. Sherman had a way of putting celebrities at ease when they posed for her, a gift she picked up from her father who was a photographer. And soon word of her work buzzed among New York's jet set. The Shermans and their five children decided they needed a place to live in New York. While many were running for the tranquil promise of the suburbs, she wanted to be in the middle of it all. She spied a full page ad in the New York Times in 1947. It read: "Live and work in Carnegie Hall." The rent was $225 a month. "It wasn't a big deal at the time, and when I saw the place I thought that it would be big enough for me and five children," she recalled. But the studio was much larger and more ideal for photography than she ever imagined. Vogue magazine used to borrow it for shoots. In the 1960s, Sherman shot many images of the supermodel Veruschka, a Prussian emigre. A celebrated muse of Dali, Veruschka was a pleasure to photograph, Sherman said. "She had such a beauty," Sherman said. "I believe youth and beauty are all in how you live." Sherman has space to live, at least for now. She occupies an entire floor. Her children are all grown and long moved out. Her husband died in his fifties from diabetes. She spends most days shooting photos and jumping rope to stay fit. "I feel lost sometimes that I'm the only one on this floor now," she said. "But, you see, people get tired of fighting. They lived here, and they could live somewhere else, so they did. But I am different. I have this business here," Sherman said. "This is who I am, where I live, and I won't let someone change that."
Rico says the woman's ninety-fucking-six years old; let them renovate around her, she won't last forever... (Veruschka didn't either, and she was beautiful; an icon, if a skinny one, of Rico's youth.)

Hey, first you ask nice...

CNN.com has an article about the war in Gaza:
Israel is in "all-out war" with Hamas, the nation's defense minister said Monday, as Israeli jets continued to hammer targets in Gaza and the Palestinian death toll reportedly topped 300. "We have stretched out our hand in peace many times to the Palestinian people. We have nothing against the people of Gaza," Defense Minister Ehud Barak said. "But this is an all-out war against Hamas and its branches." Barak's remarks to parliament came as Israeli warplanes carried out a third day of strikes against the Palestinian militant group that rules Gaza. The Palestinian death toll from the campaign has topped three hundred, most of them Hamas militants, Palestinian medical sources said Monday. The attacks also have wounded about 650 people, sources said.
Iyad Nasr, a spokesman for the International Committee of the Red Cross, said the streets of Gaza were largely empty while airstrikes continued Monday morning. "Very little number of cars are going out," he said. "People who need to secure some basic food supplies are all to go out, or people looking for a family member who is missing or going to a hospital." A UN spokeswoman in Gaza City described the scene as chaotic and said Palestinians were "running in all directions" and were fighting among themselves.
Israel says the goal of the bombardment is to stop an ongoing stream of rockets being fired from Gaza into southern Israel. More than forty rockets and mortar shells were fired into Israel on Monday despite the raids, according to Israeli police spokesman Mickey Rosenfeld. More than 150 rockets have been launched into Israeli territory since the campaign began, Israel Defense Forces said. One of the strikes killed an Israeli at a construction site in Ashkelon, six miles (ten kilometers) north of Gaza, and wounded eight others, a hospital spokeswoman said. Another Israeli was killed during an attack on Kibbutz Nahal Oz, according to Israeli police and hospital spokespersons. They were the second and third Israeli fatalities since the airstrikes began Saturday. Two other people were wounded in Nahal Oz, one seriously, and three people were wounded by rocket attacks in Ashdod, one seriously and one critically.
The White House on Monday called on Hamas to halt its ongoing rocket fire on Israel so calm can be restored in Gaza. "In order for the violence to stop, Hamas must stop firing rockets into Israel and agree to respect a sustainable and durable cease-fire," said a statement from White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe.
Israel has struck more than 300 Hamas targets since Saturday, its military said. The Israeli air force carried out at least twenty airstrikes on Gaza on Monday, Israeli military sources said. Hamas security sources said the targets included the homes of two commanders of Hamas' military wing, the Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades, in the Jabalya refugee camp just north of Gaza City. Neither commander was among the seven people killed in those strikes, the sources said.
The Israeli military had no immediate comment on a report by Dr. Mu'awiya Hassanein that a strike near a mosque in Jabalya killed five children in a nearby home. The situation triggered protests in Iran, Greece, Britain and Lebanon, and the Iranian government declared a day of mourning for Palestinians in Gaza.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned Hamas for the rocket attacks, but also had strong words for Israel. "While recognizing Israel's right to defend itself, I have also condemned the excessive use of force by Israel in Gaza. The suffering caused to civilian populations as a result of the large-scale violence and destruction that have taken place over the past few days has saddened me profoundly," he said in a prepared statement. The UN Security Council has called for both sides to immediately end the violence, but Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Sunday that the campaign could last "for some time," and his Cabinet voted to call up 7,000 reservists. So far, about 2,000 reservists have been activated, according to the government.
Hamas pledges it will defend its land and people from what it calls continued Israeli aggression. Each side blames the other for violating an Egyptian-brokered cease-fire. The truce formally expired on 19 December, but it had been weakening for months.
There was no indication of a ground operation inside the territory, but Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said Sunday that Israel has not ruled out a push into Gaza. Livni defended the airstrikes, saying the raids have been aimed at "only military targets and places in which we know Hamas members are. Unfortunately, in this kind of attack, there are some civilian casualties," she said. "But Israel took all the necessary actions to warn the civilians before the attacks to leave the places they know that Hamas stays."
Mustafa Barghouti, a Palestinian parliament member, flatly blamed the violence on the Israeli "occupation" of the Palestinian territories and dismissed Israeli claims that it is targeting only Hamas. "This is not a war on Hamas; it is a war on the Palestinian people," he said. "The Israeli politicians are using this bloodbath, which is the worst since 1967, for their election campaigns. This is insane."
Both Livni and Barak will be vying in February for the prime minister's post against Likud Party leader Benjamin Netanyahu. Both Barak and Netanyahu have previously held the post.
Israel allowed more than fifty trucks carrying relief aid into Gaza on Monday, in addition to forty on Sunday, Israeli military sources said. The UN is expecting one hundred trucks Monday, but a UN official said it will not be enough to alleviate the worsening humanitarian situation.
Nasr, the Red Cross spokesman, said Israeli sanctions had left Gaza's hospitals "almost incapable of functioning" even before the weekend's attacks, and those facilities are now "bleeding every resource" available. "These supplies will increase by a little bit the quality of the services available to the victims, but it's far from meeting the needs of such medical facilities," Nasr said.
In the West Bank, Saeb Erakat, adviser to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, urged Israeli and Hamas leaders to put another cease-fire in place. The power base of Abbas' Fatah party is in the West Bank. The party is locked in a power struggle with Hamas, which won parliamentary elections in January 2006 and wrested Gaza from Fatah in violent clashes last year. Abbas, a US ally, wields little influence in Gaza.
Rico says Israel should have bulldozed Gaza into the sea in 1948, in 1956, in 1967, and in 1973, but this time they may actually do it... In a related story:
Iran was trying to ship two thousand tons of food and water to Gaza, according to an Iranian media report. A ship carrying the supplies and members of Hamas, Hezbollah, and Islamic Jihad left Monday for Egypt, which has not yet issued a permit for the vessel, according to Mojtaba Rahmandoost, director of the Society for the Defense of Palestine.
Rico says he wonders what else the Iranians put aboard...

When it's Microsoft, read the fine print

CNN.com has an article by David Meyer about the latest notion by Microsoft:
Microsoft has applied for a patent on metered, pay-as-you-go computing. U.S. patent application number 20080319910, published on Christmas Day, details Microsoft's vision of a situation where a "standard model" of PC is given away or heavily subsidized by someone in the supply chain. The end user then pays to use the computer, with charges based on both the length of usage time and the performance levels utilized, along with a "one-time charge".
Microsoft notes in the application that the end user could end up paying more for the computer, compared with the one-off cost entailed in the existing PC business model, but argues the user would benefit by having a PC with an extended "useful life".
"A computer with scalable performance level components and selectable software and service options has a user interface that allows individual performance levels to be selected," reads the patent application's abstract. The patent application was filed 21 June 2007. "The scalable performance level components may include a processor, memory, graphics controller, etc. Software and services may include word processing, email, browsing, database access, etc. To support a pay-per-use business model, each selectable item may have a cost associated with it, allowing a user to pay for the services actually selected and that presumably correspond to the task or tasks being performed," the abstract continues.
Integral to Microsoft's vision is a security module, embedded in the PC, that would effectively lock the PC to a certain supplier. "The metering agents and specific elements of the security module... allow an underwriter in the supply chain to confidently supply a computer at little or no upfront cost to a user or business, aware that their investment is protected and that the scalable performance capabilities generate revenue commensurate with actual performance level settings and usage," the application reads. According to the application, the issue with the existing PC business model is that it "requires more or less a one chance at the consumer kind of mentality, where elasticity curves are based on the pressure to maximize profits on a one-time-sale, one-shot-at-the-consumer mentality."
Microsoft's proposed model, on the other hand, could "allow a more granular approach to hardware and software sales," the application states, adding that the user "may be able to select a level of performance related to processor, memory, graphics power, etc. that is driven not by a lifetime maximum requirement but rather by the need of the moment."
"When the need is browsing, a low level of performance may be used and, when network-based interactive gaming is the need of the moment, the highest available performance may be made available to the user," the document reads. "Because the user only pays for the performance level of the moment, the user may see no reason to not acquire a device with a high degree of functionality, in terms of both hardware and software, and experiment with a usage level that suits different performance requirements."
By way of example, the application posits a situation involving three "bundles" of applications and performance: office, gaming, and browsing. "The office bundle may include word-processing and spreadsheet applications, medium graphics performance and two of three processor cores," the document reads. "The gaming bundle may include no productivity applications but may include 3D graphics support and three of three processor cores. The browsing bundle may include no productivity applications, medium graphics performance, and high-speed network interface."
"Charging for the various bundles may be by bundle and by duration. For example, the office bundle may be $1.00 per hour, the gaming bundle may be $1.25 per hour and the browsing bundle may be $0.80 per hour. The usage charges may be abstracted to 'units/hour' to make currency conversions simpler. Alternatively, a bundle may incur a one-time charge that is operable until changed or for a fixed-usage period," the document reads.
Microsoft's patent application does acknowledge that a per-use model of computing would probably increase the cost of ownership over the PC's lifetime. The company argues in its application, however, that "the payments can be deferred and the user can extend the useful life of the computer beyond that of the one-time purchase machine."
The document suggests that "both users and suppliers benefit from this new business model" because "the user is able to migrate the performance level of the computer as needs change over time, while the supplier can develop a revenue stream business that may actually have higher value than the one-time purchase model currently practiced."
"Rather than suffering through less-than-adequate performance for a significant portion of the life of a computer, a user can increase performance level over time, at a slight premium of payments," the application reads. "When the performance level finally reaches its maximum and still better performance is required, then the user may upgrade to a new computer, running at a relatively low performance level, probably with little or no change in the cost of use."
Rico says that, when he was at Apple, anyone using the phrase 'a more granular approach' was assumed to be lying...

Cool use of technology

CNN.com has an article by Cameron Tankersley about the use of satellites in archaeology:
Archaeologists believe they have unearthed only a small fraction of Egypt's ancient ruins, but they're making new discoveries with help from high-tech allies: satellites that peer into the past from the distance of space. "Everyone's becoming more aware of this technology and what it can do," said Sarah Parcak, an archaeologist who heads the Laboratory for Global Health at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. "There is so much to learn."
Images from space have been around for decades. Yet only in the past decade or so has the resolution of images from commercial satellites sharpened enough to be of much use to archaeologists. Today, scientists can use them to locate ruins, some no bigger than a small living room, in some of the most remote and forbidding places on the planet. In this field, Parcak is a pioneer. Her work in Egypt has yielded hundreds of finds in regions of the Middle Egypt and the eastern Nile River Delta. Parcak conducted surveys and expeditions in the eastern Nile Delta and Middle Egypt in 2003 and 2004 that confirmed 132 sites that were initially suggested by satellite images. Eighty-three of those sites had never been visited or recorded. In the past two years, she has found hundreds more, she said, leading her to amend an earlier conclusion that Egyptologists have found only the tip of the iceberg. "My estimate of 1/100th of 1 percent of all sites found is on the high side," Parcak said.
These discoveries are of no small significance to the Egyptian government, which has devoted itself anew to protecting archaeological sites from plunder and encroachment. The Supreme Council of Antiquities has restricted excavation in the most sensitive areas along the Nile, from the Great Pyramids at Giza on the outskirts of Cairo to the carvings of Ramses II in the remote south. Antiquities officials hope the move will encourage more surveys in the eastern Nile Delta in northern Egypt, Parcak said, where encroaching development in the burgeoning nation of 82 million poses the greatest threat to the sites.
Parcak's process weds modern tools with old-fashioned grunt work. The archaeologist studies satellite images stored on a NASA database and plugs in global positioning coordinates for suspected sites, then tramps out to see them. Telltale signs such as raised elevations and pot shards can confirm the images. As a result, the big picture comes into view. "We can see patterns in settlements that correspond to the historical texts," Parcak said, "such as if foreign invasions affected the occupation of ancient sites. We can see where the Romans built over what the Egyptians had built, and where the Coptic Christians built over what the Romans had built. It's an incredible continuity of occupation and reuse." The flooding and meanders of the Nile over the millennia dictated where and how ancient Egyptians lived, and the profusion of new data has built a more precise picture of how that worked. "Surveys give us information about broader ancient settlement patterns, such as patterns of city growth and collapse over time, that excavations do not," said Parcak, author of a forthcoming book titled Satellite Remote Sensing and Archaeology.
The vagaries of climate in the region make satellite technology advantageous, too. "Certain plants that may indicate sites grow during certain times of the year," Parcak said, "while sites may only appear during a wet or dry season. This is different everywhere in the world."
Archaeologists working in much more verdant climates, such as Cambodia and Guatemala, also have used the technology to divine locations of undiscovered ruins. They have been able to see similarities between the vegetation at known sites and suspected sites that showed up in fine infrared and ultraviolet images covering wide areas of forbidding terrain. "For the work I do in Egypt, I need wet season images, as wet soil does a better job at detecting sites with the satellite imagery data I use," Parcak said. "I can pick the exact months I need with the NASA satellite datasets."
Remote subsurface sensing has been used in archaeology in one form or another for years, though the term "remote" doesn't necessarily imply great distance. Typically, a surveyor has wheeled a sensing device over a marked-out area to determine what lies below. The sensing devices employ any of an array of technologies, such as Ground Penetrating Radar. They bounce signals off objects below the surface and translate the data into images that a scientist's trained eye can decipher.
Multispectral imaging encompasses technologies that "see" what the human eye can't, such as infrared and ultraviolet radiation. Scientists have used it for years to study the Earth's surface for a variety of purposes. Until resolution of these images improved, though, the only way to produce a sharp image was to be relatively close to the ground. For those lugging unwieldy gear across jungle and desert, an effective bird's-eye view can change the world. It lets them leave behind the days and days of meticulous "prospecting" and get results from airplane-mounted sensors or, later on, a flyover by an advanced satellite.
One of the most advanced is called QuickBird, which has been in orbit since 2001 and can provide high-resolution images of 11-mile-wide swaths. The satellite can collect nearly 29 million square miles of imagery data in a year, according to DigitalGlobe, which developed and operates QuickBird. The company, based in Longmont, Colorado, is working on an upgrade. WorldView-2, to be launched in 2009, will offer sharper resolution of visual and multispectral images than QuickBird, according to the company's Web site.
Rico says science is far more fun than people realize...

"When the legend becomes fact, print the legend."

CNN.com has an article by KJ Matthews about Clint, the legend:
Clint Eastwood doesn't know if he's a legend. "Maybe, what is it?" he asks, before making a reference to a line from director John Ford's "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance," "When the legend becomes fact, print the legend."
But for more than 50 years, he's appeared on the screen and behind the camera. His film credits include Dirty Harry, Every Which Way But Loose and the three Man With No Name Westerns. He owns four Oscars, two for direction of Unforgiven and Million Dollar Baby, and best picture wins for those two films, and he's been nominated for six others.
His most recent film is Gran Torino. In the film, which Eastwood also directed, he stars as Walt Kowalski, a Korean War veteran who is forced by immigrant neighbors to challenge his prejudices. Kowalski is a recognizable type, the gruff, sometimes bigoted old man who may be hiding more heart than he lets on. Even though he's not too caring at the start, "he ends up expressing love to a family he's never known before," Eastwood said. CNN talked with Eastwood, 78, about the movie, his future as an actor and what he expects in terms of awards. The following is an edited version of that interview:

CNN: When you read the script, were you at all concerned about the nature of the language?
Eastwood: No, I wasn't. If you're going to learn something and progress in the movie as a character, you have to start as something else in order to learn tolerance. And your character obviously is never too old to learn that, so he has to be a certain way. But I, being politically incorrect, I find it fascinating because I hate the so-called PC thing. I think that's one of the things that's damaging our generation at the present time. Everybody is taking themselves and everything so seriously. If they just relax a little more and take themselves and everything else a little less seriously, they'd have a lot more fun.
CNN: I understand Nick Schenk was the original screenplay writer. Boy, did he get a grand slam, getting Clint Eastwood to sign onto his project.
Eastwood: Well, it was interesting because he had a hard time getting it to us for some reason. Anyway, they did and finally they got it to Rob Lorenz, who's my associate. And he read it and said, "Well, it's kind of interesting. You might find this character interesting." He says, "He's got a lot of -- he's kind of a racist -- he's a little bit of a lot of things." I said, "Well, it sounds interesting, I'll read it." You know, he said the same thing you're saying. He said, "It's not exactly politically correct." I said, "Perfect. Let me read it. I'll read it tonight."
CNN: It's great that after doing so many films in your long career, you're still looking for that edgy material. The material that's not quite in the box obviously. And I heard that you don't know if you'll be doing too much acting anymore?
Eastwood: I don't think so. I just don't think there's going to be that many good roles, or as you say, edgy material.
CNN: Maybe not edgy material for the typical senior that's an actor, but you're a legend. You're Clint Eastwood. So I'm thinking people are writing stuff for you.
Eastwood: I'll tell you why. It's that I do enjoy being behind the camera. I started directing 38 years ago in order to be involved in the whole project and not just the one component of acting. And so it became interesting to me to look at the whole picture. And so I'm enjoying it back there. And next picture I do, Morgan's going to be upfront and I'm going to be behind the camera. And that's where, I think, where I belong.
CNN: And you guys are shooting that film about Nelson Mandela in South Africa? You guys are buddies now?
Eastwood: Well, this will be our third together film over the years. The other two films [Unforgiven and Million Dollar Baby] seem to be reasonably successful.
CNN: You've got Changeling, and then you've got Gran Torino. Both of them are getting a lot of buzz. What's your reaction to the fact that you'll probably be getting a lot of award nominations?
Eastwood: Oh, I don't know about that. I don't think about that. I just make the pictures and where they fall is where they fall. If somebody likes them, that's always nice. And if they don't like them, then too bad. Actually, I kind of make a film for mysel, or it's a story I might want to follow. I never think too much about anybody seeing it. And then when you're done with it, you go, "Oh my God. Now we got to see if anybody wants to see this thing."
Rico says he damn sure wants to see it...

Clueless? Too nice a word

CNN.com has an article by Rebecca Sinderbrand about the controversial CD issued by a party chairman candidate:
Republican Party reaction is divided over the decision of a candidate for party chairman to distribute a CD that features the parody tune Barack the Magic Negro, with the majority of Chip Saltsman's political rivals criticizing the move. Saltsman, a former chair of the Tennessee Republican Party, was a top adviser to former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist and managed former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee's presidential campaign.
The song, set to the tune of the 1960s folk song Puff the Magic Dragon, was first played on Rush Limbaugh's radio show in 2007. Its title was drawn from a Los Angeles Times column that suggested Obama appealed to those who feel guilty about the nation's history of mistreatment of African-Americans.
Rico says lessee, the guy was an advisor to Frist and managed Huckabee's campaign... And anybody's surprised by his taste in music? But the GOP's gonna have to back away from this one real fast if they hope to survive as a viable political party.

Somebody cares, but not Rico

ChannelWeb has a blog about Windows:
Speculation is bubbling that Microsoft could be preparing to unveil the public beta of Windows 7 as early as next week. But although purported Windows 7 beta builds have cropped up on BitTorrent sites, Microsoft is shrouding the release date in its customary veil of secrecy. Last week, the Within Windows blog noticed that Microsoft had included, and then removed, the Windows 7 beta in the roster for its Action Pack quarterly update, which is slated for launch on 5 January.
Microsoft has stuck to a timeframe of "early 2009" for the Windows 7 beta launch, and many Microsoft watchers expect CEO Steve Ballmer to make Windows 7 the centerpiece of his keynote speech next month at the Consumer Electronics Show. Several solution providers told ChannelWeb that regardless of when Microsoft launches Windows 7, they expect Microsoft to address the issues that have led to Windows Vista's battered reputation.
"Even though Vista is working pretty well now, Microsoft has to make this leap into Windows 7 because many corporations have decided that Vista doesn't work," said Alex Pearson, president of IS Systems, a San Antonio, Texas-based solution provider.
Steve Bohman, vice president of operations at Columbus Micro, a Columbus, Ohio-based system builder, says the key to Windows 7's success will be whether Microsoft has listened not only to its beta testers, but also to other, non-traditional user groups. That'll be especially important with regard to user interface issues, Bohman added. "They need to get feedback from people who didn't like the Vista interface and adjust from there," he said. "And if Windows 7 still has user interface elements that people aren't comfortable with, then Microsoft had better go back to the drawing board."
Rico says they'll have to go back to the drawing board for a long time before he'll even think about switching... (Just kidding. They couldn't pay him enough to switch.)

Oh, just a little lie...

The New York Times has an article by Motoko Rich and Joseph Berger:
A man whose memoir about his experience during the Holocaust was to have been published in February has admitted that his story was embellished, and on Saturday evening his publisher canceled the release of the book. And once again a New York publisher and Oprah Winfrey were among those fooled by a too-good-to-be-true story. This time, it was the tale of Herman Rosenblat, who said he first met his wife while he was a child imprisoned in a Nazi concentration camp and she, disguised as a Christian farm girl, tossed apples over the camp’s fence to him. He said they met again on a blind date twelve years after the end of war in Coney Island and married. The couple celebrated their fiftieth anniversary this year.
Ms Winfrey, who twice hosted Mr. Rosenblat and his wife, Roma Radzicki Rosenblat, on her show, called their romance “the single greatest love story” she had encountered. On Saturday night, after learning from Mr. Rosenblat’s agent that the author had confessed that the story was fabricated, Berkley Books, a unit of Penguin Group that was planning to publish Angel at the Fence, Mr. Rosenblat’s memoir of surviving in a sub-camp of Buchenwald with the help of his future wife, canceled the book and demanded that Mr. Rosenblat return his advance. Harris Salomon, who is producing a movie based on the story, said he would go ahead with the film, but as a work of fiction, adding that Mr. Rosenblat had agreed to donate all earnings from the film to Holocaust survivor charities.
Berkley’s decision came in the same year that another unit of Penguin, Riverhead Books, was duped by Margaret Seltzer, the author of Love and Consequences, her fabricated gang memoir about her life as a white girl taken into an African-American foster home in South Central Los Angeles. She had in fact been raised by her biological family in a well-to-do section of the San Fernando Valley. It also followed the revelations, nearly three years ago, that James Frey, the Oprah Winfrey-annointed author of A Million Little Pieces, had exaggerated details of his memoir of drug addiction. This latest literary hoax is likely to trigger yet more questions as to why the publishing industry has such a poor track record of fact-checking. In the latest instance, no one at Berkley questioned the central truth of Mr. Rosenblat’s story until last week, said his agent. Neither Leslie Gelbman, president and publisher of Berkley, nor Natalee Rosenstein, Mr. Rosenblat’s editor at Berkley, returned calls or e-mail messages seeking comment. Craig Burke, director of publicity for Berkley, declined to elaborate beyond the company’s brief statement announcing the cancellation of the book.
After several scholars and family members attacked Mr. Rosenblat’s story in articles last week in The New Republic, Mr. Rosenblat confessed on Saturday to Ms Hurst and Mr. Salomon that he had concocted the core of his tale. Ms Hurst said that, in an emotional telephone call with herself and Mr. Salomon, Mr. Rosenblat said his wife had never tossed him apples over the fence.
In a statement released through his agent, Mr. Rosenblat wrote that he had once been shot during a robbery and that while he was recovering in the hospital, “my mother came to me in a dream and said that I must tell my story so that my grandchildren would know of our survival from the Holocaust.” He said that after the incident he began to write. “I wanted to bring happiness to people, to remind them not to hate, but to love and tolerate all people,” he wrote in the statement. “I brought good feelings to a lot of people and I brought hope to many. My motivation was to make good in this world. In my dreams, Roma will always throw me an apple, but I now know it is only a dream.”
According to Ms Hurst, who represents other inspirational writers including Bernie Siegel, author of Love, Medicine & Miracles, Mr. Rosenblat first concocted his story in the mid 1990s as an entry to a newspaper contest soliciting the “best love stories". In 1996, he appeared on Ms Winfrey’s show with his wife and repeated the fabricated story. From there, it snowballed, with versions appearing in magazines, a volume of the Chicken Soup for the Soul series, and a children’s book, Angel Girl, by Laurie Friedman. Mr. and Mrs. Rosenblat, who now live in North Miami Beach, appeared on CBS’s Early Show in October. As media coverage of Mr. Rosenblat’s story spread, scholars and others began to question the veracity of the romance throughout the blogosphere, pointing out that, among other things, the layout of the camp would have prevented the pair from meeting at a fence.
In a telephone interview in November, Mr. Rosenblat defended his story against such doubts. He said that his section of Schlieben, a sub-camp of Buchenwald, was not well guarded and that he could stand between a barracks and the six-to-eight-foot fence out of sight of guards. Roma was able to approach him because there were woods that would have concealed her. In recounting the stunning “reunion” with Ms. Radzicki twelve years later, as survivors living in New York, Mr. Rosenblat said Ms Radzicki told him she had saved a boy by hurling apples over a fence to him. “Did he have rags on his feet instead of shoes?” Mr. Rosenblat said he asked her. She said yes and he told her, “That boy was me.”
In a telephone interview Sunday, Ms Hurst, who sold the book to Berkley for less than $50,000, said she always believed the essential truth of Mr. Rosenblat’s tale until last week. “I believed the teller,” Ms Hurst said. “He was in so many magazines and books and on Oprah. It did not seem like it would not be true.” On Sunday, Ms Hurst said that she was reviewing her legal options because “I’ve yet to see what kind of repercussions could come from this, and I was lied to.” Ms Hurst said that Mr. Rosenblat did provide some documentation, including a 1946 letter from a warden with the Jewish Children’s Community Committee for the Care of Children From the Camps that said Mr. Rosenblat had attended a technical school in London. Evidence of an organization with that name did not appear in Internet searches on Sunday.
Susanna Margolis, a New York-based ghost writer who polished Mr. Rosenblat’s manuscript, said she was surprised by his description of his first blind date with Ms. Radzicki. “I thought that was far-fetched.” she said. “But if somebody comes to you, as an agent and a publisher, and says, ‘This is my story,’ how do you check it other than to say, ‘Did this happen?’ ”
That so many would get taken in by Mr. Rosenblat’s inauthentic love story seems incredible given the number of fake memoirs that have come to light in the last few years. The Holocaust in particular has been fertile territory for fabricated personal histories: earlier this year, Misha Defonseca confessed that her memoir, Misha: A Mémoire of the Holocaust Years, about her childhood spent running from the Nazis and living with wolves, was not true.
A decade ago, a Swiss historian debunked Binjamin Wilkomirski’s 1996 memoir, Fragments, which described how he survived as a Latvian Jewish orphan in a Nazi concentration camp. It turns out the book was written by Bruno Doessekker, a Swiss man who spent the war in relative comfort in Switzerland. Mr. Rosenblat, at least, appears to have told the truth about being a prisoner in the Nazi concentration camps.
The primary sleuth in unmasking his fabrication of the apple story was Kenneth Waltzer, director of Jewish studies at Michigan State University. He has been working on a book on how 904 boys— including the Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Wiesel— were saved from death by an underground rescue operation inside Buchenwald, and has interviewed hundreds of survivors, including boys from the ghetto at Piotrkow in Poland who were taken with the young Herman Rosenblat to the camp. When Dr. Waltzer asked other survivors who were with Mr. Rosenblat about the tossed apple story, they said the story couldn’t possibly be true. In his research of maps drawn by ex-prisoners, Dr. Waltzer learned that the section of Schlieben where Mr. Rosenblat was housed had fences facing other sections of the camp and only one fence— on the south— facing the outside world. That fence was adjacent to the camp’s SS barracks, and the SS men there would have been able to spot a boy regularly speaking to a girl on the other side of the fence, Dr. Waltzer said. Moreover, the fence was electrified and civilians outside the camp were forbidden to walk along the road that bordered the fence. Dr. Waltzer also learned from online documentation that Ms Radzicki, her parents, and two sisters were hidden as Christians at a farm not outside Schlieben but 210 miles away near Breslau.
Holocaust survivors and scholars are fiercely on guard against any fabrication of memories because they taint the truth of the Holocaust and raise doubts about the millions who were killed or brutalized. “There’s no need to embellish, no need to aggrandize,” said Deborah E. Lipstadt, the Dorot professor of modern Jewish and Holocaust studies at Emory University. “The facts are horrible, and when you’re teaching about horrible stuff you just have to lay out the facts.”
Rico says this is a sad story, for all concerned. Herman wanted to make a nice story about the woman who became his wife, and it got out of hand...
 

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