Colin Powell’s latest endorsement as a character witness?

Colin Powell’s latest endorsement? Senator Ted Stevens.
Here – “One of the nation’s best-known retired Army generals, Colin Powell, described Sen. Ted Stevens in court today as a “trusted individual” and a man with a “sterling” reputation.”

Here – “Two senators — Daniel K. Inouye (D-Hawaii) and Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah) — and former secretary of state Colin L. Powell testified to Stevens’s reputation for integrity.”
Oh, well.
Further: so far as I can tell from their clunky search engine, the only mentions at the New York Times so far is on their election blogs, not news stories.
Further still: I was wrong. Gosh it’s clunky! I found one reference to Powell being SCHEDULED to testify – but no report of his praise of Stevens.

The State is NOT your friend

The news from Barbara Wagner’s doctor was bad, but the rejection letter from her insurance company was crushing.
The 64-year-old Oregon woman, whose lung cancer had been in remission, learned the disease had returned and would likely kill her. Her last hope was a $4,000-a-month drug that her doctor prescribed for her, but the insurance company refused to pay.
What the Oregon Health Plan did agree to cover, however, were drugs for a physician-assisted death. Those drugs would cost about $50.
“It was horrible,” Wagner told “I got a letter in the mail that basically said if you want to take the pills, we will help you get that from the doctor and we will stand there and watch you die. But we won’t give you the medication to live.”
Critics of Oregon’s decade-old Death With Dignity Law — the only one of its kind in the nation — have been up in arms over the indignity of her unsigned rejection letter. Even those who support Oregon’s liberal law were upset.
The incident has spilled over the state border into Washington, where advocacy groups are pushing for enactment of Initiative 1000 in November, legalizing a similar assisted-death law.
Opponents say the law presents all involved with an “unacceptable conflict” and the impression that insurance companies see dying as a cost-saving measure. They say it steers those with limited finances toward assisted death.
(my emphasis)

And when the insurance company is a state agency?

Germans take step against global warming – into the chill!

The Worlds Greatest Invention

Originally uploaded by A.Currell.

Five Berlin districts have agreed to ban patio heaters at outdoor restaurants in the new year because the heat lamps guzzle energy and pollute the air, city officials said on Sunday.

The controversial heaters, popularly known in Germany as Heizpilze, or heat mushrooms, because they are shaped like the fungus, have again been popping up in their thousands on outdoor terraces and sidewalks as colder weather takes hold.

But patrons wishing to feel toasty warm in the winter chill will soon have to revert to more conventional means like blankets or staying inside to avoid freezing temperatures.

The ban of the propane-burning patio heaters – which can pollute the air with as much carbon dioxide annually as an automobile – will likely kick in on January 1, 2009 across central Berlin if officials from five central districts get their way.

“It’s absurd to try to simulate a Mediterranean climate in northern Germany,” Peter Beckers, a Social Democratic city councilman from the Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg district, told the Tagesspiegel newspaper.

The Italians, living in the Mediterranean climate, use them too! I didn’t have any pictures of my own – but flickr came to the rescue. This German ban is on the district-by-district level still, so I don’t see any big momentum for the European Union to stop Italians, say, from sitting outside comfortably in January and February. But still, this is how the anti-smoking forces started! Beware!

News of the Ick – Vampire Moths!!

When the Russian moths were experimentally offered human hands this summer, the insects drilled their hook-and-barb-lined tongues under the skin and sucked blood.

Scientists want money to study them, of course, and take their boringly predictable line about ‘evolution.’ I’m sure they were produced by a mad scientist and I say we fight back by introducing the 60-acre spider web to Siberia!
(thanks to Christine for reminding me about the spider web just last week!)

Why the Corporate World Needs University Endorsements

Prof. Soltan writes at Inside Higher Education about how someone like the execrable Prof. Nemeroff can drag down the name of Emory University:

Keep front and center the fact that in this sense the university is immensely valuable, even to people like Nemeroff, for whom the shabby, earnest ethos of the institution is a joke and a personal insult. To play the professor is to play the man with integrity, the man who has eschewed the corporate world because he’s above single-minded profit-taking. He’s motivated by science and altruism.
And it is precisely everyone’s appraisal of the university professor as a serious person, motivated more by ideas than money, that Nemeroff and his corporate clients exploit. Professor Nemeroff shares with you his admiration for our new drug! This admiration emerges solely out of his intellectual scrutiny of its properties. You can trust his sober, disinterested point of view because… he’s a professor…
The character emerging from what UD’s been describing comes out of a nineteenth century novel. The fraud, the poseur, the hypocrite, the confidence man who breaks the rules more and more flagrantly because he’s sure he can get away with it. The world, after all, is a cynical place. He knows how to play it.
This is a comic character, full of high sentence and secret hoardings. The only writer today who can do him justice is Tom Wolfe.
Charles Nemeroffs are amusing in novels. Their reality is sad, sad, sad. If you care about the American university.
(my emphasis)

I wonder how much further into the 21st century the idea of the sober, disinterested pursuit of truth will survive as a characteristic attributed to professors in general. I think Prof. Soltan is right that it does still operate now. I’m not certain what will break it up faster – revelations like those about the corruption of science by Prof. Nemeroff or the realization by the broader public that Republicans are correct when they say that almost all professors are members of or contributors to only the parties of the left.

Everyone builds trebuchets . . .

. . . but at Arizona State folks are building a mangonel. Here’s the story: Beware of Flying Pumpkins During Homecoming.
Update: Aha, the Hobart & William Smith Trebuchet Contest was in the Spring of 2004, back before the total collapse of my blog database in January 2005. No wonder I couldn’t find any entries with the search term “trebuchet.” So I have to re-post the picture from that time, now very long ago.

Iron Chef Challenge – Offal!

I’m watching an iron chef comptetition that’s not online yet – Cosentino vs the bald iron guy (update: Chef Simon – in Battle Offal).
One of the things that’s made me a good customer in Rome is my willingness to order tripe – Tripa alla romana. The first time I ordered tripa alla Romana at my neighborhood restaurant in 2003 I got “cognosci che cos’è la tripa? I explained that I was from the South of America and that I knew that tripa was cow stomach. I got a lovely dish of tripe with tomato and peas. I ate it all.
From then, I was golden.
Italy is all about relationships, even in restaurants

Radio silence

Sorry – I had a busy weekend packing stuff and lifting things. Not particularly stressful for me (since it’s not my life being moved and I’m not concerned about various closings), but I did go off and leave the blog on its own. I also managed to leave my cell phone charger at home, which caused some parental worry when they couldn’t get me on the phone yesterday. Alas.

Do Baby Drop Offs (and associated laws) help?


Originally uploaded by der_tilmAn.

The number of infanticide cases has not been reduced since the 2000 introduction of the “baby hatch,” where parents can safely and legally surrender their infants to state care, experts said on Thursday.

Authorities have counted the same number of baby killings – an average of 25 per year – though there was a slight increase in 2007, German Ethics Council member Ulrike Riedel said in Berlin during the organization’s monthly plenary meeting.

“We can’t assume that baby hatches hinder infanticide,” she said.

Germany has some 80 baby hatches located at hospitals nationwide, and 130 places where mothers can give birth anonymously, the Ethics Council said. But the number of babies given up each year varies depending on the source.

The federal government reported that since 200, some 143 babies were left in baby hatches and 88 babies given up after anonymous births. But adoption expert Christine Swientek estimated that some 550 babies have been left in baby hatches and 600 left in anonymous birth clinics.

Experts at the meeting did agree that counseling for young women who are considering anonymous birth has been successful. Five of eleven mothers chose not to give up their babies after counseling sessions, Monika Klein, head of a Cologne Catholic women’s social service said during the meeting.

I noticed this in the wake of the Nebraska problem with their “drop your minor child off without consequences” law. The picture of a Babyklappe is from Flickr. You really should click on this link to the story to see the stick-figure sign showing how to use such a facility. Überdepressing.*

*I do my best not to steal photographs, which is why I so seldom post things I’ve just lifted off the web. Think of it as modeling good behavior to my students.

Look! The NYT is NOT blaming Bloomberg’s total solipsism on the Republican party!

He’s covered all the bases.

The vote was a major victory for Mayor Bloomberg — a billionaire and lifelong Democrat who was elected mayor as a Republican in 2001, won re-election in 2005, became an independent last year, and decided just weeks ago that he wished to seek a third term for himself in 2009 — and for the Council’s speaker, Christine C. Quinn.

I call that mighty objective of them. Michael Bloomberg (For Himself).