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Current Affairs

Reining in the credit card companies

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What's in your wallet?  A ticking time bomb called a credit card.

The Democrats in Congress are starting to think about doing something about it (Kansas City Star, free registration required).

Here are some traps the “Stop Unfair Practices in Credit Cards Act” would address:

•Retroactive interest charges: It would ban the practice of charging higher interest rates on an entire existing balance, including past purchases made at a lower interest rate.

•Unjustified interest rate increases: It would limit penalty interest-rate increases to 7 percent above the prior rate if a consumer fails to make a payment on time.

•Repeat over-limit fees: It would allow card companies to charge over-the-limit fees only once, unless a consumer racks up even more purchases above the account limit.

•Fees for paying a bill: It would prohibit the practice of charging administrative fees to consumers who at the last minute pay their bills over the phone to avoid a late payment.

•Double-cycle billing: It would ban interest rate charges on balances that have already been paid on time.

I'm more inclined towards the Dave Ramsey "cut the darn things up and walk away from credit cards" approach, but something needs to happen to get under control predatory lenders, from payday loans to credit card companies.

Tipler unloads

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Frank J. Tipler wrote the textbook for my college physics courses (yes, more than one).  He's none too happy with the current state of collegiate physics instruction, and despairs of it getting better any time soon:
I fear that in the very near future, education in physics will have to be obtained from some source other than a university. It is becoming increasingly clear that this corruption of education is probably universal across all disciplines. If so, then all advanced education will have to be obtained outside of the university. And if that is the case, then why should universities exist at all?

Zoo gorilla gets loose, attacks

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Fox News:
A 400-pound gorilla escaped from its enclosure and ran amok in a Rotterdam zoo Friday, biting one woman, dragging her around and causing scenes of panic among dozens of families before being subdued, zoo officials said.

ACORN vote fraud guilty plea

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From the Kansas City Star:
A former voter registration worker for an activist community organization pleaded guilty in federal court Thursday to filing false paperwork with the Kansas City election board last fall.


Carmen R. Davis, 38, was charged in January with voter registration fraud and identity theft before the November 2006 elections.


. . .


Earlier this week, Dale D. Franklin, who pleaded guilty to filing false voter registrations in February, was sentenced to probation. Brian Gardner pleaded guilty in March and is awaiting sentencing, while Kwaim A. Stenson is scheduled for trial in July. Davis, Franklin, Gardner and Stenson are from Kansas City.


My guess is that they were not planning to benefit Republican candidates in Kansas City . . .

Orangutan has cataract surgery

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In the news today:
The 19-year-old orangutan named Aman is gradually recovering after the two-and-a-half-hour surgery on both his eyes at the Matang Wildlife Center in Sarawak state on Borneo island, said Sarawak Forestry spokesman Zulkifli Baba Noor.
(Is Medary turning into a simian-blog?  Could be . . . between the chimpanzee and orang news, and little articles about the goodness of peanuts.  All I can say is:  Ook.)

Also, why can't we in the U.S. have spokesmen named Baba Noor?

Peanut allergies overstated

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Despite hundreds of families being told their children have peanut allergies every year, many of the children may be able to eat peanuts safely, a study by researchers at UNSW and the Sydney Children’s Hospital has found.

Peanut allergies occur in one in 200 infants, according to the Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy.

“This is a really important finding,” said Dr Brynn Wainstein, a Sydney Children’s Hospital immunologist and MD candidate at UNSW.

“Because peanut allergies are potentially serious, requiring all sorts of restrictions, families can become very anxious when in fact, some of these families may be worrying unnecessarily,” Dr Wainstein said.
Unnecessary Worry Syndrome is the real under-reported pandemic, at least in areas covered by 24-hour TV news channels.

Don't boil your broccoli!

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The researchers, Prof Paul Thornalley from Warwick Medical School at the University of Warwick and Dr Lijiang Song from the University of Warwick’s Department of Chemistry bought Brassica vegetables, (broccoli, Brussel sprouts, cauliflower and green cabbage) from a local store and transported them to the laboratory within 30 minutes of purchasing. The effect of cooking on the glucosinolate content of vegetables was then studied by investigating the effects of cooking by boiling, steaming, microwave cooking and stir-fry.

Boiling appeared to have a serious impact on the retention of those important glucosinolate within the vegetables. The loss of total glucosinolate content after boiling for 30 minutes was: broccoli 77%, Brussel sprouts 58%, cauliflower 75% and green cabbage 65%.

The effects of other cooking methods were investigated: steaming for 0–20 min, microwave cooking for 0–3 min and stir-fry cooking for 0–5 min. All three methods gave no significant loss of total glucosinolate analyte contents over these cooking periods.

Keep those cruciferous veggies out of the boiling pan!

Lileks visits Disney World

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This should be good.  It begins:
If you have any doubts about anything in the world – the purposes of money, the transience of joy, the point of it all, frankly – it is swept away the second you watch your daughter running barefoot through the grass in the dusk to see the fireworks burst over the lagoon.

Chimp-girls gone wild!

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ScienceDaily--Female-led infanticide in wild chimpanzees;
As the result of new field work involving the Sonso chimpanzee community in Budongo Forest in Uganda, the St. Andrews researchers now report instances of three female-led infanticidal attacks. Alerted to the killings by sounds of chimpanzee screams, the researchers directly observed one infanticide, and found strong circumstantial evidence for two others. Evidence suggested that in two of the cases, the killings were perpetrated by groups of resident females against "stranger" females from outside the resident group. Infants were taken from the mothers, who were injured in at least two of the attacks; in at least one case, adult males in the area exhibited displaying behavior, with one old male unsuccessfully attempting to separate the females.
CSI-Uganda:  The Great Ape Unit . . .

If Iraq's a civil war, so is Los Angeles

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These guys ain't the Union and the Confederacy.  They're the Crips and the Bloods (that is, if the Crips were getting IEDs from Iran and the Bloods AK-47s from the Mafia).

J.D. Johannes writes at Outside the Wire:
The JAM (Shiite Mahdi Army--ed) and AQIZ (Al Queda in Iraq--ed) equally despised your average Dora, Rasheed or Abu Bashir resident and almost seem to work in collusion to profit from  their shake down schemes.  Without AQIZ, there is no need for JAM.  Without JAM there is no need for AQIZ protection from JAM.

I got to meet some of the JAM mid-level management and was not impressed. When confronted with a few soldiers he looked like a deer in the headlights and then started crying.

One minute he was the big tough JAM Boss full of the wasta getting ready to EJK (Extra-Judicial Killing--ed) a guy but when team of soldiers showed up he turned into, well, jelly.

The Baghdad Security Plan is working and can achieve an endstate.  It took the Brits 12 years in Maylaya.  We are following their plan.

The biggest enemy we have is an over active media and spineless Host Nation government which is intimidated by the JAM and has the JAM as key constituent group.