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Tuesday, November 26th, 2002

I'll be on vacation for the next two weeks, and I doubt that I will attend to this site during that time.

In the mean time, I encourage my faithful readers to peruse the archives.

Be sure to contact me, and let me know how great you think I am, and how you wish that you could be more like me; or at very least let me know that you've been here.

I hope everyone has a happy thanksgiving.

Friday, November 22nd, 2002

Allahu Akhbar? God is great? Perhaps, but 105 people (as of this writing) have died at the hands of protestors-turned-murderers who objected to the supposed sexual promiscuity and indecency of the Miss World beauty contest in imagined defense of their god and his presumed prophet, Muhammad.

Let's talk about obscenity and indecency. What is truly profane is the hospitalization of more than 500 people, and the murders of 105 other humans because a group of fanatics believe that they are the judge, jury and executioner for their god.

Read the CNN story:

Dozens killed in Miss World riots
Friday, November 22, 2002 Posted: 8:52 AM EST (1352 GMT)

KADUNA, Nigeria -- Dozens have been killed in northern Nigeria in rioting that erupted after a newspaper suggested the Prophet Mohammad would have approved of the Miss World beauty contest.

The death toll was more than 100 with more than 500 taken to hospital, aid workers said on Friday.
Mobs in the mainly-Muslim city of Kaduna burned Christian churches and rampaged through the streets until hundreds of soldiers arrived to restore order and enforce a 24-hour curfew.
CNN's Jeff Koinange said the authorities were trying their best but were "overwhelmed" by the scale of the violence.

Residents of Kaduna told Reuters that sporadic shooting could be heard on Friday morning as soldiers and police battled rioters burning churches and mosques despite the curfew. City streets were completely deserted.
The president of the Nigerian Red Cross, Emmanuel Ijewere told Reuters 105 people had died.
He suggested the toll could rise further, saying: "There are some houses that have not been entered. It is possible that there are injured in these houses."

\Another Red Cross spokesman, Patrick Bawa, told CNN aid workers had evacuated 521 injured people.
"Right now, the military authorities are trying to contain the situation in Kaduna but we cannot rule out the spillover effect of this crisis to other parts of the north," Bawa said.

The Miss World contest is due to start in Nigeria on December 7 in the Nigerian capital, Abuja.
Rows over the decision to host the pageant during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan had been simmering until the article in ThisDay newspaper questioned Muslim groups who claimed the contest promotes sexual promiscuity and indecency.

Witnesses said enraged youths torched churches, looted shops and overturned cars in Kaduna, a city about 600 km (375 miles) northwest of Lagos that still bears the scars of Nigeria's worst sectarian clashes two years ago in which thousands died.

"What would (the prophet) Muhammad think? In all honesty, he would probably have chosen a wife from among them (the contestants)," Isioma Daniel wrote in Saturday's article.
The newspaper ran a brief front-page apology on Monday, followed by a more lengthy retraction on Thursday, saying the offending passage had run by mistake.

Shehu Sani of the Kaduna-based Civil Rights Congress told The Associated Press he watched a crowd stab a young man, force a petrol-filled tyre around his neck and burn him alive. Sani said he saw three other bodies elsewhere in the city.

Alsa Hassan, founder of another human rights group, Alsa Care, told AP he saw a commuter being dragged out of his car and beaten to death by protesters.

Schools and shops hurriedly closed as hordes of young men, shouting "Allahu Akhbar," or "God is great," ignited makeshift street barricades made of tires and garbage, sending plumes of black smoke rising above the city. Others were heard chanting, "Down with beauty" and "Miss World is sin."

'Hugely popular'

The pageant has also drawn protests from other parts of the world.
Contestants from five countries -- Costa Rica, Denmark, Switzerland, South Africa and Panama -- are boycotting the event because Islamic courts in Nigeria have sentenced several unmarried women to death by stoning for conceiving babies outside wedlock. Nigeria's government insists none of the judgments will be carried out, although it has refused to intervene directly.

Winner of Miss World in 2000, India's Priyanka Chopra, defended the contest being held in Nigeria, saying it was hugely popular in developing countries.

"People want to see their citizens on an international level," she told CNN.
She added that it was being held in Nigeria because last year's winner had been Miss Nigeria, Agbani Darego.
She said Nigerians had been "excitied and elated" at the prospect.

Miss World publicist Stella Din said pageant organisers hoped calm would quickly return to Kaduna.
"We are very, very sad that it has come to this -- even if there is a loss of one life, it makes us sad. We are appealing to all to please exercise restraint," Din told AP.

In other god related news:

In direct violation to our Constitution, and to the fabric of liberty, our senate has acted illegally by unanimously passing a bill in contradiction to the concepts of separation between church and state.

A quick synopsis:

"Students in private and public schools would be required to recite the Pledge of Allegiance or sing the national anthem each morning under a bill unanimously passed this week by the state Senate."

Read the whole CNN report: Penn. bill to require pledge in schools

I've already written at great length on the ethics, legality and wisdom of separation of church and state. In two different places, the constitution clearly separates church and state.

The first of these statements are found in Article 6, Section 3, of the Constitution says, "The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the members of the several State legislatures, and all executive and judicial officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by oath or affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States."

The Constitution applies the prohibition against religious tests to all public officials, both federal and state. If such a test cannot be required of any legislative, executive, or judicial office holder in the United States, it can be logically assumed that no such test can be required by those same legislators, officials, or judges of any other American.

As I've written previously, the second distinction between church and state (and the stronger of the two) is found in the first amendment, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances."

But instead of further reiteration of my arguments - as found elsewhere in this site, I present Mr. Teddy Carroll's excellent editorial on this latest infringement of our rights.


"The land of the free and the home of the brave ... or else!

Just when you thought that the jingo bandwagon has pulled out of the station and left you behind, PA lawmakers have made room for some more. Students will be forced to display their patriotism by reciting the pledge or singing the National Anthem every morning. State Senator Allan Egolf says that he introduced the bill after he found that many classrooms did not display the flag or require their students to recite the pledge. "It's getting away from teaching about what our country stands for, what our founders did, and why we have the country we have," Egolf said.

Since when does our country stand for forced participation in ritual activity? Since when does reciting the pledge every morning teach students anything at all about The Founders, their philosophies, and what they accomplished? When did rote memory and mindless recitation become a proper civics lesson?

Never fear, though. The children will have the right to not participate if they cite personal or religious beliefs. And of course the teachers will have to be good little Nazicrats and inform the children's parents that they decided not to pledge allegiance. Now that's my kind of freedom!

What about passing a bill that requires all students to be able to recite the preamble to the Constitution or to be able to recite The Bill of Rights and be able to write 5 pages on what each means to the freedom of The United States of America? Or better yet, a continuing education course for state legislators that shows the inverse proportionality between freedom and government coercion? Nah, let's just stick with the pledge thing. Less writing."

Read Mr. Carroll's original November 19th, 2002 article as well as other's on his Web site: Adventure's in My Mind.

I saw "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets" this week.

I can hardly tell if the movie is better than the merit-less, first edition, "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone", or if my total lack of hope or expectations for this second film enabled me to enjoy it more. But off hand, I do think that the directing and acting were marginally better. Still, the climax of the movie was handled so clumsily that I found myself laughing out loud at the preposterous contrivances.

When I say, 'preposterous contrivances', I don't mean the magic or the monsters, because that is part and parcel with a fantasy. No, my argument is with plot contrivances such as Harry Potter dropping his wand in his exuberance just as he knowingly enters the foreboding lair of a fearsome monster.

All of that said, the two most memorable elements of seeing the movie, wasn't the movie itself, but the audience.

And so it is that I need to say: if you have a newborn baby, it is your social obligation not to take the infant to a movie. And, if you ignore this social covenant, it should be punishable by imprisonment to stay in the theater when your little squid starts crying.

The other child/audience issue of note was that the theater had several parents with children that I'd guess were no older than five years of age. So, at the monstrous climax of the movie, as a giant intimidating beast threatens the protagonist in full, thunderous, surround sound I could just imagine the mental trauma that was scarring the little cherubs.

Parents - the movie is rated PG. Leave the little tykes at home with the baby sitter, or at least locked in a secure closet.

Friday, November 15th, 2002

Miss Cleo should have seen it coming.

Read the Washington Post article about would be psychic 'Miss Cleo' (birth name: Youree Dell Harris) and her corporate cronies:

Psychic Network Loses Future, Fortune
Companies Behind Miss Cleo Give Up $500 Million in Charges in FTC Settlement

By Caroline E. Mayer
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, November 15, 2002; Page E03

"Miss Cleo's crystal ball is going dark.

The Federal Trade Commission yesterday said the Psychic Readers Network, which features the heavily advertised clairvoyant, is shutting down, after the agency and several state law enforcement officials accused the operation of misleading consumers through deceptive ads, billing and collection practices.
Criminal: Miss Cleo - would be 'psychic'

The FTC said the nation's largest psychic hotline and its subsidiary, Access Resource Services Inc., have agreed to pay a $5 million fine and forgive an estimated $500 million in outstanding consumer charges -- about half their billings over the past three years.

The total financial redress is larger than the $215 million settlement the agency reached two months ago with Citigroup Inc. to resolve charges that one of its subsidiaries had engaged in widespread deceptive and abusive lending practices. But while Citigroup had to pay refunds to affected consumers, the settlement with the psychic network only requires it to forgive uncollected bills. No consumer who has already paid a bill will receive a refund.

The settlement resolves a February lawsuit in which the FTC alleged the network was "permeated with fraud" -- charging for services that were advertised as free, billing customers for services never purchased, threatening to report to credit bureaus people who challenged their bills and harassing consumers by repeatedly calling their homes.

"I'm no psychic, but I can foresee this: If you make deceptive claims, there will be an FTC action in your future," J. Howard Beales, the director of the FTC's consumer protection division, told reporters yesterday.

Beales said the FTC did not name Miss Cleo in its suit because the agency wanted "to figure out who is most responsible and proceed to prevent those practices" the agency believes are deceptive.

The companies' attorney, Sean Moynihan, said they settled even though "there was no finding of wrongdoing. There was only a difference in interpretation of the law. It was an economic decision to resolve the case."

Moynihan said ARS was moving to close its operations before the legal actions because its long-distance telephone provider, AT&T, had announced it would no longer provide billing services for companies that use 900-toll numbers to provide a pay-phone service.

Nine states made allegations similar to those filed by the FTC. Eight have already reached settlements with the network, Moynihan said. Florida's suit -- which also alleged there was no substantiation for Miss Cleo's description as a "nationally acclaimed psychic" -- is still pending."

MSNBC reports that, " the service charged people about $1 billion and collected half of it."

I'm glad that the Psychic Network is going out of business, but I'm dismayed that the reason's are soley based on bookkeeping and FTC legalities as opposed to the basic con-job of the charlatans who sell their cold reading technics as reality to the unwary. Nor do any of the reports say that Miss Cleo, or her accomplices are going to jail.

For all of the people who wasted their money (half of a billion dollars worth) on the Psychic Network in the belief that they were receiving supernatural help, how many of them ever questioned why NONE of the psychics predicted the events of September 11th, or how none could identify the snipers from Maryland.

No, all that the 'psychics' could do is make vague 'predictions' along the lines of, 'The day ahead is an opportunity to let go of the inhibitions that characterize you. Yield to your instincts a little, and see what occurs. A little more socializing wouldn't hurt, either.'

Wait. I'm having a vision. It relates to the psychic hotline callers and horoscope readers of the world. The ethereal mists clear, I can see it now, 'You are too gullible, and don't like to critically consider the world around you'.

That will be $100. (Don't ask me why I don't predict the lottery and retire young - it's too complicated.)

Learn about Cold Reading Techniques of the 'psychics' from the James Randi Educational Foundation Website and the Australian Skeptics Journal.

"You must use the stars as your management guide."

"Does that work?"

"If you believe it works, then you're not bright enough to make your own decisions anyway. So randomness is probably an improvement."

- Scott Adams, "Dilbert"

Thursday, November 14th, 2002

You are merrily clicking around the internet, looking for the best deal in Yak slippers on ebay or perhaps researching the airspeed of an unladen African Swallow, when all of a sudden a new browser window pops open before you advertising the benefits of some travel Web site, or a teleconferencing video camera for your computer.

These pop-up ads are the Web surfing equivalent to telemarketers and Spam email. They are evil, intrusive and deceitful, particularly to the novice Web user.

Consider this extremely insidious pop-up ad :

Evil Pop Up ad: Weatherbug

This ad pretends to be a system update from Microsoft. In reality it is from a company called Weatherbug that I won't even bother linking to because I don't want to increase the traffic to their site.
I was going to write Weatherbug a nasty email, but they must be use to it because they've hidden their contact information very well. I will write Microsoft instead, and tell them how badly Weatherbug's ad reflects on them.

The thick skulled marketers who dream up these 'wonders' of advertising have many tricks besides deceptive graphics and copy. Some pop-up ads, wait in the background after you've clicked to the page that activated them. Then after some time, the little buggers pop-open in front of what you are reading. Other pop-up ads, spawn, and open other pop-ups as you try and close them. Sometimes this is so bad that one is forced to quite their browsers! This isn't advertising, it is a virus.

If this isn't against the law, it should be.

Some companies have offered free 'pop-up ad killers', but they often have bad side affects to other browsing. (Such as blocking valid pop-up windows like I use on my site when linking to other sites.)

Here is a pop-up ad killer/blocker that claims to be free, but I've never tried it and can not make any claims about it.

Be cautious though, even this 'freeware' pop-up ad killer/blocker is associated with a non free upgrade the company might pester you to download.

However, if one is interested, simply do a search on Yahoo or Google with these key words, 'pop-up ad blocker free', and then research the results for the best deal.

But don't rule out the idea of a simple angry email to the offending company. I work for a company that builds Web sites and I know that at least one of our (very large) clients who were using pop-up ads received so much angry email that they stopped using pop-up ads.

Monday, November 11th, 2002

Today is Veterans Day, formally known as Armistice Day. As an act of 1938 Armistice Day was meant to honor those who fought in World War I, however the act and the day's name was amended in 1958 to Veterans Day to honor American veterans of all wars. (The Canadian equivalent to Veterans Day is called Remembrance Day).

Where as I believe that humanity needs to rise above the concept of war, I also recognize the service and bravery of those who have fought for the United States and the principles of its Constitution.

So today my thoughts and gratitude go out to those, living and dead who have risked and too often lost their lives so that others might live free.

Learn more about Veterans Day from the official site by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

See past WorldView and Friends and Family News in the Archive
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