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Date: Tue, 3 Jun 2014 11:04:42 +0100
Subject: FWD - Real Scientists Rebel?

Yup, some folk have been saying this for a while.  Have accumulated facts allowing a fuller analysis of the problem - it's below the signatures (four of them are Nobel winners BTW):
10:35 PM BST 02 Jun 2014

SIR - Under current policies, academic researchers must submit their proposals to a small group of their closest competitors - their peers - for consideration before they might be funded.  Peers selected by funding agencies are usually allowed to deliver their verdicts anonymously.  They assess the proposal's suitability for funding, whether it would be the best possible use of the resources requested, and determine, if it were successful, the probability that it might contribute to the national economy in some way.  If the answers are satisfactory the proposal has roughly a 25 per cent chance of being funded.

Peer preview is now virtually unavoidable and its bureaucratic, protracted procedures are repeated for every change in direction or new phase of experimentation or for whatever an applicant might subsequently propose.  Consequently, support for research that might lead to major new scientific discoveries is virtually forbidden nowadays, and science is in serious danger of stagnating.  Many scientists privately deplore these policies but their professional standing often depends on their acquiescence - a catch-22 that effectively diminishes public opposition to the policies.  We call upon funding agencies to support sustained, open-ended research in unfashionable fields.

Donald W Braben
University College London;
John F Allen
Queen Mary, University of London;
William Amos
University of Cambridge;
Richard Ball
University of Edinburgh;
Tim Birkhead
FRS, University of Sheffield;
Peter Cameron
Queen Mary, University of London;
Richard Cogdell FRS
University of Glasgow;
David Colquhoun FRS
University College London;
Rod Dowler
Industry Forum, London;
Irene Engle
United States Naval Academy, Annapolis;
Felipe Fernández-Armesto
University of Notre Dame;
Desmond Fitzgerald
Materia Medica;
John Hall
University of Colorado, Nobel Laureate;
Pat Heslop-Harrison
University of Leicester;
Dudley Herschbach
Harvard University, Nobel Laureate;
H Jeff Kimble
Caltech, US National Academy of Sciences;
Sir Harry Kroto FRS
Florida State University, Nobel Laureate;
James Ladyman
University of Bristol;
Peter Lawrence FRS
University of Cambridge;
Angus MacIntyre FRS
Queen Mary, University of London;
John Mattick FAA
Garvan Institute of Medical Research, Sydney;
Beatrice Pelloni
University of Reading;
Douglas Randall
University of Missouri;
David Ray
Bio Astral Limited;
Sir Richard J Roberts FRS
New England Biolabs, Nobel Laureate;
Ken Seddon
Queen's University of Belfast;
Colin Self
University of Newcastle;
Harry Swinney
University of Texas, US National Academy of Sciences;
Claudio Vita-Finzi FBA
Natural History Museum.

Here's the _real_ reasons science (and social systems) tend to stagnate: [links to data]

fashion - larger groups of people (scientists included) tend to have their thinking dominated by fashionable ideas rather than analysis of facts - individuals or small groups are more driven by data;

imposition of mediocrity - peer-review panels are made up of people who - no matter how `good' at their own area or discipline - are bound to be ignorant of the particular data assemblage that inspired an individual researcher or small group of developers;

fear of ridicule - peer-reviewers are necessarily those who've made a niche for themselves in some area of science; such folk don't want anyone to `rock-the-boat' and maybe damage reputations made with theories that could be out-dated [and, more than anybody, they know that truly revolutionary discoveries are almost _always_ met with denial and ridicule from people like themselves].

Date: Fri, 9 May 2014 14:06:57 +0100
Subject: FWD - Causation or Correlation? Alzheimer

This report might be simple correlation only - like people with the tendency towards Alzheimers also more likely to remember "stressful incidents".  Or even completely circular, like undiagnosed long-term precursor brain damage making folk more likely to _have_ stressful incidents twenty to thirty years or more before symptoms become obvious.

that "advice" about diet/smoking/exercise seems to be politically-correct propaganda - most sharp-witted folk I know (esp. women, even elderly) have led fairly dissolute lives.
1 October 2013 Last updated at 01:02 - Mid-life stress 'precedes dementia'
Mid-life stress may increase a woman's risk of developing dementia, according to researchers.

In a study of 800 Swedish women, those who had to cope with events such as divorce or bereavement were more likely to get Alzheimer's decades later.

The more stressful events there were, the higher the dementia risk became, BMJ Open reports.

The study authors say stress hormones may be to blame, triggering harmful alterations in the brain.

Stress hormones can cause a number of changes in the body and affect things such as blood pressure and blood sugar control.

Current evidence suggest the best ways to reduce the risk of dementia are to eat a balanced diet, take regular exercise, not smoke, and keep blood pressure and cholesterol in check.

And they can remain at high levels many years after experiencing a traumatic event, Dr Lena Johansson and colleagues explain.

But they say more work is needed to confirm their findings and ascertain whether the same stress and dementia link might also occur in men.

Stress link
In the study, the women underwent a battery of tests and examinations when they were in either their late 30s, mid-40s or 50s, and then again at regular intervals over the next four decades.

At the start of the study, one in four women said they had experienced at least one stressful event, such as widowhood or unemployment.

A similar proportion had experienced at least two stressful events, while one in five had experienced at least three. The remaining women had either experienced more than this or none.

During follow-up, 425 of the women died and 153 developed dementia.

When the researchers looked back at the women's history of mid-life stress, they found the link between stress and dementia risk.

Dr Johansson says future studies should look at whether stress management and behavioural therapy might help offset dementia.

Dr Simon Ridley, of Alzheimer's Research UK, said that from this study, it was hard to know whether stress contributed directly to the development of dementia, whether it was purely an indicator of another underlying risk factor in this population of women, or whether the link was due to an entirely different factor.

"We know that the risk factors for dementia are complex and our age, genetics and environment may all play a role. Current evidence suggests the best ways to reduce the risk of dementia are to eat a balanced diet, take regular exercise, not smoke, and keep blood pressure and cholesterol in check.

"If you are feeling stressed or concerned about your health in general, we would recommend you talk this through with your GP."

Date: Sat, 17 May 2014 07:34:14 +0100
Subject: Re: Re: Letter to Dr. Michael Swords

From: vincent****@*****com Sent: Friday, May 16, 2014 4:59 AM

> "Science" is a Church. It demands obedience and it relies on the party line.

Sorry to have to remind folk of this:
In a way the `Science Establishment' _is_ a church, in that most members - lacking total competence or even knowledge - tend to rely on "faith".

Therefore it reacts badly, and often corruptly, whenever its pronouncements are challenged.

Examples are numerous and extend all the way to yesterday's news (see - "Climate scientist forced from position after 'McCarthy" style pressure'" - maybe see glacials.html for - unbiased - background info).   [And for update]

You might also recall the despicable treatment of Halton Arp by the establishment (when NASA faked (airbrushed) photographs to `disprove' his discoveries - which are gradually being verified today), and the similarly disgusting bullying and lying by the `great and good' of the scientific establishment when trying to silence Velikovsky - where even Carl Sagan descended to lies and misquotes.

All establishments, including `Science', will tend to act badly and even corruptly when threatened - because they're run by human beings.

As for the `faith' that most scientists cling to, I would recommend reading Popper (many say he defines `science' and the `scientific method'):
"Theories are, therefore, never empirically verifiable. ...  The empirical basis of objective science has thus nothing `absolute' about it.  Science does not rest upon solid bedrock." - from `The Logic of Scientific Discovery'

Having said all that, it is clear to me - and apparently to an increasing number of commentators - that hypnotism cannot help in a search for objective 'truth' about past events.

On the contrary it [hypnotism] creates false memories and then `confirms' those false memories.  See for some data.

Ray D

Date: Mon, 5 May 2014 10:19:54 +0100
Subject: FWD - Neanderthals may have been as intelligent as humans?

Ha! The `experts' definition of intelligence is always biased crap!

Fr'instance a few decades ago UK's most important school examination (the "eleven plus") had questions about royal palaces or castles.  I.e. the exam was designed to select kids from families with most knowledge of "royalty" - those questions _didn't_ select for intelligence, merely for conformist, elite-friendly "knowledge" and views.
PS - if `intelligence' is the ability to survive (as it must be) then Neandertals (mostly) failed, but humans (and slime-moulds) have succeeded - so far.
PS2 - see answers028.html#intell for a personal take (+confirmation)
THE TELEGRAPH | Neil Murphy | 8:17PM BST 01 May 2014

Neanderthals may have been `as intelligent' as humans, scientists say
Neanderthals did not suffer from inferior "cognitive ability" compared with modern humans, according to research

New research has undermined the popular belief that Neanderthals were less intelligent than Homo sapiens, and challenges the widely-held view they were forced into extinction by modern humans.

Many experts have suggested humans' advanced culture and hunting ability caused Neanderthals to disappear from Europe over 30,000 years ago.

The existence of Neanderthals in Eurasia has been traced back nearly 350,000 years, but their disappearance has long been a mystery to scientists who attribute humans' superior ability to innovate as a key factor in the demise of the Neanderthal population in Europe.

However, research from experts Paola Villa and Wil Roebroeks says there is no scientific evidence to support these claims, and suggests inter-breeding between the closely-related species may explain how they vanished from archaeological records.

DNA analysis has shown approximately 1-4% of people outside of Africa have have some Neanderthal inheritance.

According to the report: "Modern humans are usually seen as superior in a wide range of domains, including weaponry and subsistence strategies, which would have led to the demise of Neanderthals."

"We have found no data in support of the supposed technological, social and cognitive inferiority of Neanderthals compared to their contemporaries ... their demise was clearly more complex than many archaeology-based scenarios of 'cognitive inferiority'."

Date: Mon, 5 May 2014 08:22:21 +0100
Subject: FWD - Experts aren't!

Yup, have already collected evidence that `experts' aren't trustworthy - if not corrupt (biased by cash/power rewards) they're often incompetent (unaware of reality) - here's two good books on that subject:

BTW - that TinyURL below was just serendipity - honest! (Maybe read his warning [in bold] of a dystopian future: "being nudged/guided from birth to death, like sheep").

The Guardian, Sunday 4 May 2014 17.59 BST
Advice on stock market crashes, plane disasters and bad weather. Can you risk not reading this piece?
In his new book Risk Savvy, psychologist Gerd Gigerenzer argues that when it comes to taking risks in life, we are often much better off following our instincts than expert advice

At 66, the moustachioed psychologist Gerd Gigerenzer exudes strapping good health - but that's not because he goes regularly to the doctor for checkups. "I follow the evidence," he says. "People who go to checkups: do fewer of them die from heart disease? From cancer? Or from any cause? The answer, three times: no. They just get more treatment, take more medication, and worry more often."

The Bavarian-born Gigerenzer - though once a professional banjo player - has spent decades studying risk, and he long ago concluded that the ways we attempt to cope with life's uncertainties - including medical checkups - can make matters worse. These days, when he is in an upmarket restaurant, he won't even bother opening the menu: asking the waiter what he or she would order is the only way to get what's best, he insists. For research purposes, he once tested an unlikely strategy for managing financial risk: instead of trusting the experts, as most people might, what if you stopped pedestrians at random, gave them a list of companies, asked which ones they had heard of, then just invested in those?

"I try as hard as I can to live by my principles, so I put in a large sum of my own money," recalls Gigerenzer, who lives in Berlin but today is sipping coffee in the New York offices of his American publisher. "It was one of the most lucrative things I've ever done."

For the rest of us - as Gigerenzer demonstrates in his new book, Risk Savvy - things regularly don't turn out so well. We hear a terrifying news story involving aeroplanes, so we switch to car travel instead, even though it's vastly more dangerous: in the 12 months following 9/11, that choice killed an estimated 1,600 Americans, unacknowledged victims of al-Qaida. Or we're told that taking the contraceptive pill "doubles" the risk of thrombosis - as the Department of Health notoriously announced in 1995 - but nobody explains what that really means: a doubling from one woman in every 7,000 to two in 7,000. That report scared so many women off the pill, it's been calculated, that there were 13,000 additional abortions in England and Wales the following year.

And then there is the tale of the American weather forecaster who warned of a 50% chance of rain on Saturday, then a 50% chance on Sunday - meaning that the likelihood of rain that weekend, or so he claimed, was 100%. (Don't chuckle too hard: do you know what phrases such as "a 30% chance of rain tomorrow" really mean? In one study, most Berliners said it meant it would rain for 30% of the time the following day.)

At first glance, Risk Savvy looks like yet another of those books that have become bestsellers recently by telling us we're much more foolish than we thought. We have learned that we are "predictably irrational": that our decisions are influenced by factors as seemingly irrelevant as the height of the ceiling, the weather, or the strength of the car salesman's handshake; and that we do stupid things with money, such as travelling across town to save £5 on a cheap kettle, but not bothering to make the trip when buying an expensive new laptop, even though the saving is the same. Yet one driving motivation behind Gigerenzer's work is to show that the thrust of this research is wrong: that we are not idiots, chronically misled by our instincts. In fact, he argues, we would handle risk far better if we knew when to trust our guts more, and when to spurn expert advice in favour of simple rules of thumb.

"The error my dear colleagues make," Gigerenzer says, is that they begin from the assumption that various "rational" approaches to decision-making must be the most effective ones. Then, when they discover that is not how people operate, they define that as making a mistake: "When they find that we judge differently, they blame us, instead of their models!" This is mainly a reference to Gigerenzer's long-running and mainly friendly dispute with Daniel Kahneman, the Nobel prize-winner and author of the hugely successful Thinking, Fast and Slow. Kahneman maintains that we have two inner "systems" for making decisions, the fast but error-prone unconscious system one, and the calculating, conscious system two, on which we ought to rely more.

Gigerenzer, a director at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin - his wife, the American historian Lorraine Daston, runs another of the numerous Max Planck institutes - thinks that distinction is absurdly vague, and that it is Kahneman who is error-prone. But far worse, he argues, are the political implications of this outlook. If we are hopeless bunglers, forever making bad decisions, it is easy to conclude that what is needed instead is a paternalistic society in which we surrender to experts: "The idea is that if people can't be trusted to deal with risk and uncertainty, then someone else needs to do it." The approach known as "nudging", which grew directly from Kahneman's work, is just the latest example: it takes it as a given that our urges lead us astray, then asks how those urges might be channelled in healthier ways. "But this isn't a vision for the 21st century - to guide people along from birth to death like sheep!" Gigerenzer says. His stance may make for some awkward conversations next month, when he visits David Cameron's behavioural insights team, AKA the Nudge Unit. ("They wrote to me that they much admired my work," he says, a bit wryly.)

In reality, though, experts may be guilty of more risk-related errors than the rest of us - or more consequential ones, anyhow. Gigerenzer recalls the surreal week in 2007 when Goldman Sachs executives blamed their firm's implosion on a sequence of "25-sigma events". To put that in perspective, a five-sigma event is one you would expect to have occurred once between the end of the last Ice Age and today; a 25-sigma event is as likely as winning the national lottery 21 times in a row. And yet, as John Lanchester writes in his book I.O.U.: "Goldman was claiming to experience them several days in a row. That is so wrong you can't put it into words. It shouldn't be possible to be that wrong."

But the underlying mistake it had made was fairly simple, Gigerenzer thinks. Goldman thought it was operating in a world of calculable risks; in fact, it was operating in a world of true uncertainty, where the risk of different outcomes couldn't be known. "The financial crisis had many causes, but one of them is this illusion that you could calculate the risk," he says. "You have these very nice models, and they work, assuming that the world is stable and nothing in particular happens" - which is, by definition, precisely not the case in a crisis. The banks' mathematical risk models gave them a fatal sense of security: "It's like having an airbag in your car that works all the time, except when you have an accident."

Even when you can calculate the probabilities, trusting experts can be a terrible idea. Gigerenzer's research has shown that many doctors don't grasp the pros and cons of procedures such as cancer screening - or that they do, but have ulterior motives, such as not wanting to get sued if a patient declines screening then dies of cancer. Take mammograms: according to Risk Savvy, for every 1,000 women aged 50 or older who don't get routine screening, about five will die from breast cancer within a decade. For every 1,000 who do get screened, the figure's about four. Hardly a huge difference. And then there are the downsides of screening: for every 1,000 women, 100 will experience false alarms or other distress, while five will undergo unnecessary treatments, including mastectomy. Yet you're still more likely to see leaflets describing the benefits as "a 20% risk reduction", or just dispensing with numbers in favour of condescending slogans: "Why should I have a mammogram? Because you're a woman." Gigerenzer's team campaigns for fact-boxes setting out the upsides and downsides of each course of action; in Austria, they have already been adopted.

The pill: research says taking it doubles the chance of thrombosis. But this means 1 in 7,000 becomes 2 in 7,000. Photograph: Lehtikuva Oy/Rex Features The consequences of misunderstanding risk can sometimes be more horrifying. In the early days of HIV testing, when the diagnosis felt like a death sentence, 22 blood donors in Florida were informed that they had tested positive. Was there any hope the tests might be wrong? Suppose, says Gigerenzer, that about five in 100,000 HIV tests administered to low-risk women result in false positives. That sounds tiny, and wouldn't provide much comfort. But there is a crucial additional fact: only about 10 in 100,000 women, in the US, have HIV anyway. So an average woman, receiving a positive result, has a one in three chance of being fine. But in the Florida case, before the possibility of false positives could be investigated, seven of the 22 donors had reportedly killed themselves.

That is a case where more information would have been much better, but the surprising conclusion of much of Gigerenzer's work is the opposite: that we are often best advised to go with less information and rely on those simple rules of thumb, conscious or unconscious, that psychologists call "heuristics". Recall those pedestrians, stopped at random and asked which companies they had heard of. This is known as the "recognition heuristic", and it is a surprisingly good way to pick stocks, because there is a good correlation between a firm's performance and its prominence. (It is far from a flawless method, of course; the point is that it is less flawed than cleverer-seeming strategies.) In another study, Germans and Americans were asked which of two American cities, Detroit or Milwaukee, had the larger population. The Germans did much better than the Americans: they were much less likely to have heard of Milwaukee, so they (correctly) picked Detroit. The Americans knew too much: they got bogged down analysing possible reasons for either answer.

In some parts of life - such as the arts, or romance - we are usually happy to trust our intuition. If a friend told you he had used data-gathering and number-crunching to conclude that he preferred Mozart over Beethoven, you would think him rather odd. "And if the woman you desire has a spreadsheet, with all the possible names and consequences, and she does a calculation and selects you - well, would you really want to have been selected in this way?" Gigerenzer wonders. "Probably not."

Playing a musical instrument well draws similarly on intuition as much as intellect - as Gigerenzer knows first-hand, having paid his way through college by playing the banjo in a German Dixieland band. And in cricket and baseball, fielders don't catch high-flying balls by calculating heuristics in their heads. Rather, they unconsciously use the "gaze heuristic": they fix their eyes on the ball, then adjust their running speed so as to keep the angle of their gaze constant - which leaves them in the right place when the ball approaches the ground.

But in business and politics, gut feelings are taboo: they are used all the time, but nobody dares admit it. "On average, for big decisions - say, whether to set up a new factory in Shanghai or not - every other decision is based on gut feeling," Gigerenzer says. "But executives won't admit this. So instead you find reasons after the fact. You send an employee on a two-week trip to find reasons to present to shareholders. Or you hire expensive consultants, who'll provide a 200-page document to justify the gut feeling, without mentioning that that's what they're doing." (The paperwork responsibilities piled on doctors, academics and others often fulfil a similar function.) In the worst cases, decisions get taken solely on the basis of whether they can be justified with data, which usually means a hyper-cautious adherence to the status quo.

Hence another of Gigerenzer's rules of thumb: if an experienced person with a good track record has a strong hunch about some decision, listen to that person, and don't demand that she or he justifies the hunch with facts. That is the point about hunches: they operate at a level inaccessible to the conscious mind of the person who has them. What if the culture of Goldman Sachs had permitted its most senior managers to say "I've got a bad feeling about this", and for that to be taken seriously?

In Germany, thanks largely to Gigerenzer's efforts, risk literacy is included on school curriculums in the early stages of education, and he's optimistic that the approach will spread more widely. He wrote Risk Savvy, he says, "as an alternative to this flood of popular books that say we're foolish, irrational, and there's not much that can be done about us - But the assumption that people commit all these errors is only partly correct. And the assumption that there's no way to help them is strictly incorrect. We have experimental evidence that we can teach kids to understand risk. In fact," he adds, eyebrows bouncing with amusement, "we can even teach doctors."
Gut instinct
Gerd Gigerenzer's top risk tips

1 Always ask: "What is the absolute risk increase?"
Journalists are fond of referring to a "100% risk increase", a "fivefold" increase, and so on - but the absolute risk might be tiny. How many more people per thousand are actually affected?

2 Don't buy financial products you don't understand
That is not the same as being risk-averse. But it is the only reliable way to avoid falling prey to banks' conflicts of interest - or being sold something even the bank staff don't understand.

3 Set your "aspiration level". Then pick the first option that satisfies it and stop searching. This is "satisficing", as opposed to "maximising", and it can eliminate huge amounts of worry and wasted time. If you are buying, say, a new mobile phone, decide what matters most - cost, features etc - then purchase the first one that ticks those boxes. In principle, at least, it needn't be confined to small choices: why not use it to pick whom to marry?

4 Don't ask an expert what they recommend for you; ask them what they would do, or how they would advise a close relative.
This triggers a shift in perspective, which helps focus things on the real risks and benefits of whatever is being discussed.

Date: Thu, 24 Apr 2014 16:50:24 +0000
Subject: Cat signal!

Dear Internet Defense League member,

Right now, President Obama is meeting with key leaders in Asia to finalize a new SOPA-like Internet Censorship scheme through a secretive international agreement called the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP).

Leaked documents show that this secretive plan will censor the Internet and strip away users' rights.[1]  If finalized, it would force ISPs to act as "Internet Police" that will monitor our Internet use, censor content, and even remove entire websites.[2 ]

To fight back, Fight for the Future, OpenMedia, reddit, imgur, and dozens of other groups have united to launch a historic international action opposing TPP Internet Censorship.  We're using a high-powered spotlight to project a Stop The Secrecy message on key buildings in Washington D.C. from now until when Obama returns on April 30th.

Yes, you read that right.  We're launching a Stop The Secrecy "bat signal" in D.C.

To make this work, we need the help of the Internet Defense League. We're raising the League's "Cat Signal" to get as many people as possible to sign on to the petition.

Can you participate?  If so, get the code for your site here or copy it from right here:

<script type="text/javascript"> widgetContext = {"url":"https:\u002F\\u002Fwidgets\u002Fstop-secrecy?width=260\u0026height=460\u0026src=fftf", "width":"260", "height":"705", "widgetid":"web_widget_iframe_9c82eae7a4902042e4b47b5c826fa5e6", "scrolling":"auto"}; </script><script id="web_widget_iframe_9c82eae7a4902042e4b47b5c826fa5e6" src=""></script>

We don't have time to modify the "All Campaigns" code for this action, so if you want to participate you must use the code above.

Unfortunately, we thought this type of wholesale Internet censorship died after our historic victory against SOPA.  But it looks like some of the worst parts of SOPA have found their way into the TPP.

And the agreement is huge: covering 40% of the global economy, and once key leaders finalize TPP Internet censorship plans in coming days it will be used to globalize censorship across the world.

Internet users everywhere will be affected and this may be our only chance to stop it.

There's already 2.8 Million people have have spoken out - let's make that number as big as we can get it so stop this agreement from going through.

Please help spread the word. This is going to be big.

Evan Greer and Steve Anderson on behalf of

P.S., If the TPP censorship plan goes through, the Internet as we know it will change forever.  We'd be left with an Internet that's far more expensive, censored, and policed. We know we can stop this - but we need to act right now. Can you help us spread the word? Get the code.

P.P.S. If you'd like to learn more about the TPP, the Coalition has a great FAQ page here.

[1] "Secret Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP)." Source: WikiLeaks.
[2] TPP Creates Legal Incentives For ISPs To Police The Internet. What Is At Risk? Your Rights. Source: Electronic Frontier Foundation.
[3] U.S. "Bullying" TPP Negotiators Amid Failure to Agree. Source: Inter Press Service News Agency.
*Note: The U.S. and the E.U. are already discussing a similar secretive agreement called "Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP)".  Once the TPP is finalized there will be pressure to harmonize and extend its provisions to TTIP - meaning the E.U.  There are also reports of several others countries being added to the TPP once it is finalized.

Date: Tue, 22 Apr 2014 16:58:24 +0000
Subject: Can you help us rally the people of Northern Ireland to demand libel reform?

Dear Friends

Can you help us rally the people of Northern Ireland to demand libel reform?

On Wednesday 7th May the Libel Reform Campaign will bring together writers, journalists, scientists, academics, human rights advocates and civil society organisations to form a coalition to reform the law of libel to Northern Ireland.

We need this coalition to make the case for reform of these archaic laws to the Northern Ireland Law Commission consultation on libel reform, which is expected to launch soon.

The failure to extend the Defamation Act 2013 to Northern Ireland has created a loophole in the law that could undermine everything we have fought so hard for. You can read the campaign's criticisms of the law and the process that led to the new Defamation Act not being applied to Northern Ireland here and here.

We would very much appreciate your attendance at this event and your participation in this coalition. I will be joined by Jo Glanville from English PEN, Síle Lane from Sense About Science and others campaigning for libel reform in Northern Ireland.

The event will be hosted in The Lab at the Belfast MAC (10 Exchange Street West, Belfast BT1 2NJ) from 10am - 12.30pm on 7th May. Refreshments will be provided.

Please RSVP here.

Thanks to all of you who have donated to our Northern Ireland fundraising appeal. It was overwhelming to see our target reached in less than a week. More donations are still continuing to come in. Donate today and allow us to reach more people in Northern Ireland and ensure the decision makers can't ignore the growing number of voices calling for libel reform.

Yours sincerely
Mike Harris

Libel Reform Campaign


Date: Tue, 15 Apr 2014 10:09:10 +0100
Subject: Re: FWD - "Almost 10,000 British soldiers classed as unfit for duty

You've got a point there Choong - the rise of `manufactured' foods seems to've brought the obesity epidemic, not so much the amount eaten.

From: Choong K*** Y***
Sent: Monday, April 14, 2014 12:34 PM

> Well Ray., in those days when the "Sun never set" on the British empire there
> wasn't that much KFCs McDonalds or Starbucks I would say hahaha and jokes
> aside on a more serious tone one can see the rise of franchised junk fast
> foods is parallel with the booms in pharmacy outlets everyone, this is a fact
> even in Malaysia. nowadays that obesity is now rampant over here too.
> Choong

On 14-Apr-14 9:07 AM, Ray D wrote:
>> Ha! Think this is mostly mis-information, and most "MND" cases are simply a
>> bit `overweight'. Recall the start of this modern red-tape (about MND) way
>> back when I was serving in Germany and some senior blokes were suddenly told
>> they were `non-deployable' because they were a bit too heavy (in cases that
>> meant a cut in pay I believe - especially for paras). But most guys affected
>> who I knew were perfectly good senior NCOs and well able to handle
>> themselves - seems to be `political correctness' again.
>> Ray

>> ---

Date: Thu, 10 Apr 2014 04:50:33 +0100
Subject: Re: FWD - "Bush Clinton 2016: Forget left vs. right

Interesting.  At a tangent, forgot to mention that taxation corruption is also a common denominator for countries with low numeracy in schools.  So UK's tax system is more (blatantly) corrupt than all other north European countries - even the US tax system is less obviously bent.  That's because most working people in UK leave school hardly capable of understanding simple percentages or ratios - so tax figures hurt their heads. - Ray

[PS - was in a cafe near the library when a workman came in (from a nearby road gang) and asked for ten bacon sarnies (sandwiches).  The teenage girl at the counter had to ring up a sandwich price TEN TIMES - because she couldn't do that simple multiplication.

From: M**********
Sent: Wednesday, April 09, 2014 1:10 AM

> I think Jeb is considered a fuck-up, but it's been more than 20 years since I
> last thought about Jeb Bush. ;) I think a woman getting elected would put a
> dagger in the heart of the Republican's social extremist/religious wing, and
> that the corporate Republicans would be quite happy about that. Both parties
> have been screwing the working class, so I've had it with corrupt goons. I'm
> fed up, but it's sadly, darkly amusing, in some fashion, to me.

> On Tue, Apr 8, 2014 at 11:52 AM, Ray D wrote:
>> Interesting when you think that India - the least democratic and most
>> corruption-riddled so-called `democracy' - is seemingly bound to dynastic
>> politics, where obviously incompetent sons or daughters (or wives) of
>> national figures are almost automatically voted into office - Ray

>> [BTW - the common denominator of `dynastic' countries seems to be their low
>> level of education ]

>> Bush Clinton 2016: Forget left vs. right
>> March 31, 2014

Date: Tue, 8 Apr 2014 15:15:53 +0100
Subject: FWD - BANKERS "deaths are somehow connected"? - 7 April 2014 Last updated at 21:37
'Liechtenstein bank chief shot dead'

If you add the latest death (above - reported yesterday), then it all begins to look a bit dodgy - Ray
Mar. 15, 2014 11:40 am - Becket Adams

A recent string of apparent suicides in the financial services industry this year has given birth to a flurry of conspiracy [] and other theories [] suggesting that the deaths are somehow connected.

And the passing of a Wall Street trader earlier this week seems to have given new life to these speculations.

First, consider these earlier deaths, the ones that seemed to have inspired all the scare headlines about `banker suicides':

1. Karl Slym: The 51-year-old Tata Motors managing director was found dead near a Shangri-La hotel in Bangkok on Jan. 25, 2014. The British businessman jumped to his death, police said. His wife told local law enforcement officials that they had recently fought "at length" about a personal family matter. She said they argued for so long `she could not talk to her husband anymore.' Thai police said they found no trace of a struggle.

2. William Broeksmit: The recently retired 58-year-old senior executive at Deutsche Bank AG was found dead of an apparent hanging suicide in his home in central London on Jan. 26, 2014. Police are not treating the death as suspicious.

3. Gabriel Magee: The 39-year-old J.P. Morgan tech executive killed himself in London on Jan. 28, 2014, by jumping off of J.P. Morgan European headquarters. Police ruled his death as `non-suspicious.'

4. Mike Dueker: The 50-year-old chief economist Russell Investments was found dead Jan. 30, 2014, near the Tacoma Narrows Bridge in Washington. Police said it appeared he jumped a four-foot fence and fell down the 40-50 foot embankment. Law enforcement officials said it appeared to be a suicide. Friends told police that he had been having problems at work before he went missing.

5. Ryan Henry Crane: The 37-year-old J.P. Morgan executive director died Feb. 3, 2014, of an apparent suicide. Police have not yet announced the cause of death. Instead, they said they'll know more when a toxicology report comes out. That report won't be ready for a couple more weeks. He worked in a unit that dealt in trading blocks of stocks.

6. Richard Talley: This is easily the strangest entry on this list. The 56-year-old founder of American Title Services in Centennial, Colo., was found dead Feb. 4, 2014, after he apparently shot himself seven or eight times with a nail gun. His company was under investigation by the Colorado Division of Insurance.

7. Dennis Li Junjie: The 33-year-old banker jumped to his death from the J.P. Morgan headquarters in Hong Kong on Feb. 18, 2014. The junior employee's death is being treated as a suicide, police said. He jumped after attempts to talk him down failed.

8. James Stuart Jr: The 70-year-old former National Bank of Commerce CEO was found dead on Feb. 19, 2014, in Scottsdale, Ariz. His family has not yet commented on his cause of death. The Lincoln, Neb., native was known in his community as a `very successful' banker.

Questions about what these deaths could mean and theories about whether they're connected have popped up all over Internet for the past three months, resurfacing this week with the death of a financial professional in Manhattan, N.Y.

Edmund Reilly, 47, a trader at Midtown's Vertical Group, threw himself in front of a speeding Long Island Rail Road commuter train at around 6:00 a.m. Tuesday morning, the New York Post reported.
He was declared dead when authorities arrived.
A LIRR spokesman confirmed the trader's identity, adding that the investigation into the apparent suicide is ongoing. Passengers on the train told local law enforcement officials they saw a man standing by the tracks as the train arrived and saw him jump.
The New York City trader's apparent suicide marks at least the ninth financial services sector-related death this year, supposedly `confirming' for some the idea of there being a connection between these tragedies.
(more at page ...)

Date: Thu, 03 Apr 2014 22:03:30 +0000
Subject: The fight for libel reform continues

Dear Friends

The fight for libel reform continues.

As you may be aware, the new defences in the Defamation Act have been blocked from being extended to Northern Ireland. DUP minister Sammy Wilson said our demands for reform were "nonsense" and refused to consider any change.

This undeniably leaves the people of Northern Ireland with fewer free speech rights than other citizens in the UK. Even worse: this unexpected decision has created a loophole in the law. Libel lawyers have already begun touting Belfast to potential litigants as a claimant friendly jurisdiction. This creates uncertainty and confusion for journalists and publishers throughout the United Kingdom.

Mr Wilson's successor as Minister of Finance and Personnel has since referred the matter to the Northern Ireland Law Commission. This is a positive step ... but the Commission's review process could take years. It's clear that the political elites in Northern Ireland want to ignore this issue. But while they delay, the entire United Kingdom is stuck with a confusing, two-tier libel law that the rich bullies can't wait to exploit.

It looks like we'll have to break the consensus. Again.

We need your help to mobilise civil society in Northern Ireland to demand libel reform. The campaign already has hundreds of supporters in the province, but we need more if we want Assembly Members to take notice and sort this out. To do that we need to spend time and money on public events and campaigning materials. We're confident that the more people we reach, the more people will back reform.

Will you make a donation to the Libel Reform Campaign's 2014 appeal? If everyone who signed the campaign petition donated just £5 we would have enough to campaign on this issue for the rest of the year, and beyond. Of course, if you can spare a little more than £5 that would be even better! Everything helps.

Simon Singh, Dr Peter Wilmshurst and the Libel Reform Campaign


To donate:

Date: Thu, 27 Mar 2014 17:23:09 -0000
Subject: Re: TED Talk Controversies

Right Mark - think the early mistake was their almost immediate link-up with the big corporates, both for backing and then for planning / formatting.  Corporates have a vested interest in keeping people concentrating on greed, physical wealth (+ power) etc. so _don't_ want any other research / discoveries which might upset their apple-cart.

From: Mark Mc****
Sent: Wednesday, March 26, 2014 7:06 PM

Date: Sat, 15 Mar 2014 17:21:40 -0500
Subject: Re: Re: Re: Giant Megaliths Found in Siberia Could Be Largest in the World
> Giant Megaliths Found in Siberia Could Be Largest in the World

Hi Mark, at the moment there's one caveat.  Quite a while ago was working up in the north of Scotland and, as a way of passing the time would climb the sea-cliffs (from Aberdeen in mainland Scotland to the northern Shetland Isles) and also climbed and explored the ancient inland quarries in northern Aberdeenshire.  In the evenings would do lapidary work (with diamond cutters and abraders / polishers) on the stones I'd chipped out.  They were mostly granites, granite marbles (very pretty) and some harder inclusions, some semi-precious.

And from the strata of the cliffs and quarries I learned that many granites occur in multi-layered segmented strata which can look like a masonry wall (on differing scales - some very large).  So for the moment, from those photographs can't exclude the possibility that the "wall" we see is merely a set of naturally segmented granite layers.

Here's some examples of `naturally segmented granite layers' - Ray,_Showing_Weathering_Of_Granite_-_A_Book_of_Dartmoor.jpg

Date: Wed, 12 Mar 2014 08:16:43 -0700
Subject: Campaign welcomes Court of Appeal ruling

Campaign for Freedom of Information
Press release: 12 March 2014

Court of Appeal ruling strengthens FOI Act

The Campaign for Freedom of Information welcomed today's Court of Appeal ruling overturning the government's veto of an Upper Tribunal decision ordering the release of Prince Charles' correspondence with ministers.  The Guardian had applied for the correspondence under the Freedom of Information Act.  The Upper Tribunal, which deals with high level FOI appeals, had ordered disclosure, but the Attorney General had vetoed the tribunal's decision.

The Campaign's director Maurice Frankel said "the FOI Act has an elaborate appeal process, which the government could have used to challenge a decision it believed was wrong.  Instead it has attempted to squash the decision, bypassing the need to argue its case, by use of a veto.  The court's ruling will make it much harder for government to override a well argued tribunal case in future.  Disagreeing with the decision will not be enough, it will have to show why the decision is flawed or that circumstances have changed since it was reached. That is a major improvement to the public's right to know."

The Court of Appeal has also ruled that the veto cannot apply to environmental information at all.  "This fundamentally strengthens the public's rights to know what public authorities are doing about environmental issues", Mr Frankel said.

But the Campaign said that although these letters may now have to be disclosed, subject to any appeal, Prince Charles's subsequent correspondence will remain confidential as the FOI Act has since been amended to exclude it from access.

The Court of Appeal's judgment is available from:

Further information
Maurice Frankel or Katherine Gundersen: 020 7490 3958
Campaign for Freedom of Information
Unit 109, Davina House, 137-149 Goswell Rd, London EC1V 7ET, UK
Tel: (020) 7490 3958   |   |

(Please note that we have recently moved - our new address is shown above)

Date: Date: Mon, 10 Mar 2014 18:22:53 -0000
Subject: FWD - "Three-year-olds show greater suspicion of circular arguments than adults

Ha!  Personally use the example (of a circular argument) of a kid asking Mom "Why does the apple fall from the tree?" and Mom answering "Because of the Law of Gravity dear" - which is false!

I.e. both Newton's and Einstein's `Theories of Gravity' are merely theoretical descriptions of events (with or without the mathematics).  Even Feynman admits: "there is no model of the theory of gravitation today, other than the mathematical form." - Ray
PS - as seen below, unfortunately folk tend to `believe' or accept false / circular arguments "from authority" much more as they grow into adults.
Three-year-olds show greater suspicion of circular arguments than adults
Children aren't as gullible as you might think. Early in life they display a discernment that psychologists call "epistemic vigilance". They are more likely to trust information from experts compared with novices, from kind people rather than meanies, and from those they are familiar with, as opposed to strangers. Now a study shows that even by age three, children are sceptical about circular arguments; in some cases even more than adults.

Hugo Mercier and his team presented 84 children aged 3 to 5 (and a control group of adults) with three illustrated vignettes in which a girl was looking for her dog. For each story, one character advised the girl of the dog's whereabouts with an argument based on what they'd seen: "The dog went this way because I've seen him go in this direction," (this is known as an "argument from perception" and it was spoken in a neutral voice played through speakers). A second character said the dog had gone in the other direction and gave a circular argument, "The dog went this way because he went in this direction" (also heard through speakers).

Children from age three and up, and the adults, more often chose to believe the character who based their testimony on what they'd seen rather than on a circular argument. This supports the idea that children from three and upwards have epistemic vigilance. "These results point to the existence of basic skills of argument evaluation that children would possess from at least three years of age onwards," the researchers said.

A developmental trend was for the older children to grow more consistent in their preferences. That is, as the children got older, they more often favoured either the argument from perception on every occasion, or (in a minority of cases) they favoured the circular argument on every occasion. Focusing on just those participants who always made the same choice, an intriguing pattern emerged. A minority of the four- and five-year-olds, and adults, always favoured the circular arguments, but none of the three-year-olds showed this pattern. In a sense then, some older children, and adults, were less sophisticated in their judgment of arguments than the three-year-olds.

How could this be? Mercier and his team think that as they get older, some children and adults become dependent on a rule of thumb that mistakes circular arguments for a sign of dominance or authority. When a person says that "the dog went this way because he went in this direction" this is interpreted as equivalent to an authoritative person saying, "this is the case because I say so."

To test this idea, the same children were tested on a similar task to before, but this time one character used a circular argument for a cat's location, while the other character provided no argument (i.e. they just said "The cat went this way"). Preference for circular arguments would be evidence that they are interpreted as having value beyond no argument at all. In this case, three-year-olds were equally likely to trust either form of advice, while a large number of four- and five-year-olds consistently chose to trust the circular arguments. That is, older children, but not the three-year-olds, saw more value in a circular argument than in no argument at all.

Many children display a distrust of circular arguments from a very early age. However, the findings also reveal an intriguing developmental trend, in which a minority of slightly older children begin to be seduced by circular arguments (a weakness that also persists in a minority of adults). This is likely due to them interpreting such arguments as a sign of authority. Such an inference requires a complexity of social thinking that is beyond three-year-olds. Ironically, this means that three-year-olds end up being more canny in their distrust of circular arguments than even some adults.
Mercier H, Bernard S, and Clément F (2014). Early sensitivity to arguments: How preschoolers weight circular arguments. Journal of experimental child psychology
PMID: 24485755

Date: Thu, 27 Feb 2014 17:57:27 -0000
Subject: FWD - "Kepler planet discovery changes ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING!

Nice take on that Kepler announcement - try scrolling to the bottom: I wasn't familiar with that A.C Clarke quote
Why the Kepler planet discovery changes ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING!
By Marshall Connolly - 2/27/2014

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - With a single announcement, scientists have updated what we know about the space around our Sun. We now know of over 1,000 planets outside of our solar system and we can safely conclude that planets are both normal and common around stars.

Most importantly, about 20 percent of those planetary systems has planets which are small in size, similar to Earth, and orbit in the habitable zone around their parent stars.

If these numbers were extrapolated out to the rest of the galaxy, it would mean the odds for intelligent life out there just grew many-fold times.This changes everything by dramatically increasing the odds for discovering intelligent life beyond Earth.

Conveniently, Kepler also identified which star systems are most likely to host planets that can support life, so scientists will know precisely where to look, which will make evaluation much faster. It's also worth noting that Kepler only studies a single patch of sky around the constellation Cygnus, the Swan. There's a lot more sky left to study.

Last month is was suggested we may discover evidence for life outside our solar system within the next two decades. The discovery that possible life-bearing planets are more common than previously suspected means we could answer the question even sooner than 20 years.

Scientists also made clear that they weren't finished yet. The discoveries were made using just the first two years of Kepler data. The telescope has been working since 2009, and another two year's of solid data are waiting for review. That data will certainly increase the number of candidate worlds for life.

The Kepler spacecraft discovered these planets because it was designed to look for the diming of starlight as planets passed in front of the star. Scientists then looked for patterns which of dimming which could only be caused by planets. By combining this with the predictable wobble planets have on their parent stars, which can easily be detected, they can determine with great precision how many planets, and what their masses and orbits are around each star.

Unfortunately, Kepler lost some of its functionality last year when some of its pointing equipment failed. The telescope is still operational, but it is now impaired and its mission is coming to an end. It wills oon be replaced by a small fleet of improved telescopes designed to perform the same duties, but even better.

Other telescopes in the planet-hunting fleet will actually be used to seek signs of life on these distant worlds.

It is breathtaking to imagine that we are but years away from possibly answering one of the most fundamental questions about the universe. How common is life? Are we truly alone? For decades, astronomers have doubted our loneliness, but there has been zero scientific evidence accumulated to suggest otherwise. Yet, given the vast size of the universe, it also seems extraordinarily unlikely.

Is life common, or is it exceptionally rare? Whatever the answer may be, we are likely to be astounded by the conclusion. As Arthur C. Clarke once surmised,
"Two possibilities exist: either we are alone in the universe or we are not. Both are equally terrifying."


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