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Sunday, December 24, 2006

"The whole dream of democracy is to raise the proletarian to the level of stupidity attained by the bourgeois." - Gustave Flaubert


On the Enlightenment: "The period was once thought of as a glorious chapter in the history of mankind, a time when the forces of light (science, progress and tolerance) triumphed over the forces of darkness (superstition and prejudice). Today, the Enlightenment tends to be dismissed. Post-modernists attack it for being biased, self-deluded and ultimately responsible for the worst in Western civilisation. Post-colonialists accuse it of being Eurocentric, an apology for imperialism. Nationalist historians reject the idea of a coherent universal movement, preferring to talk about the English, French, even Icelandic Enlightenments."

Straight Dope Staff Report: Are a country's foreign embassies an extension of its territory? - "Barry Carter and his coauthors, in their textbook on international law, say, "Contrary to popular belief, however, diplomatic mission and consular post properties are not extensions of the sending state's territory. Both in fact and in law, diplomatic premises are within the territory of the receiving state.""

The Straight Dope: Can playing with a Slinky change the channels on your TV set? - "Prior to the early 1980s, most TV remote controls communicated with the set via ultrasonic sound-- sound too high-pitched for the human ear to hear. Typically these devices worked by striking a series of metal bars with a tiny hammer. There was usually an audible click, but the frequencies that actually did the job were inaudible harmonics."

Payments for prison 'cold turkey' - "Nearly 200 prisoners and former inmates forced to stop taking drugs by going "cold turkey" are to receive payments... The claimants were bringing the action based on trespass, because they say they did not consent to the treatment, and for alleged clinical negligence."

The Straight Dope: What's the truth on trans fat? - Finally, a good readable summary. And Palm Oil makes an appearance too!

Pregnant Mary embarrasses Vatican - "It is the story of a young woman who finds herself unexpectedly pregnant. The birth takes place against a dramatic background and makes its mark on history. The plot of The Nativity Story is familiar enough. But the parallels between the lives of the Virgin Mary and the teenage actress who plays her in the first feature film to be premiered at the Vatican are causing controversy. The Pope, upon whose doorstep the first showing takes place on Sunday, will not be attending. Nor will Keisha Castle-Hughes, the 16-year-old unmarried actress who plays Mary and who is expecting her first child in the spring."

Man stole car to keep date with sheriff - "A 26-year-old man whose bail conditions required him to report once a day to authorities in Rutland found himself in Woodstock last week with a broken-down car. So determined was he to keep his court-ordered appointment that he stole someone else's car, police said."

Think Tank Will Promote Thinking - "Concerned that the voice of science and secularism is growing ever fainter in the White House, on Capitol Hill and in culture, a group of prominent scientists and advocates of strict church-state separation yesterday announced formation of a Washington think tank designed to promote "rationalism" as the basis of public policy... "In the current climate there is an implicit, if demonstrably false, sense that if your actions are based on a belief in God you are good person, and if they are not you are a bad person," Krauss said. "We should be very concerned that our political system reinforces the notion that the more you pray for guidance, the better suited you are to govern.""

Atlanta police probe shooting of 88-year-old lady - "Chief Richard Pennington said that the FBI would investigate the death of the woman, Kathryn Johnston, who was killed after she fired at three officers who breached the door of her small house, with its green shutters and a wheelchair ramp... The events leading to the death of Johnston, whose photograph in news reports showed her with a cane and a birthday crown, began with a warrant stating that an unnamed informant had bought two bags of crack cocaine from a man at the house, near Vine City. The warrant was known as a no-knock, giving the police the authority to burst through the door without warning in order to prevent the destruction of drugs."
Looks like it's not just drugs that kill.

Drug 'doubles mental health risk' - "Smoking cannabis virtually doubles the risk of developing mental illnesses such as schizophrenia, researchers say. The New Zealand scientists said their study suggested this was probably due to chemical changes in the brain which resulted from smoking the drug. The study, published in the journal Addiction, followed over 1,000 people born in 1977 for 25 years."
They need to come up with new posters for marijuana. At least they'll make more sense than the current rubbish.
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