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Friday September 30th, 2005


Chimpanzee Hackers

and Monkey Trials

 "Ahhhh, I love the smell of Patriotic Dissent in the afternoon! "
Cindy Sheehan


Dear folks,

I don't know about the rest of you, but after a hard day of screaming at monkeys, often I get a sore throat. My friend, singer, Kavisha Mazzella advised gargling with salted water. Now anytime Kavisha makes any suggestions regarding care and feeding of the throat and voice, I take note as she knows her onions in that area. You would think that gargling with salt water would irritate a sore throat but it actually does the reverse:

" Sore throats are sore due to inflammation. Usually, the inflammation is due to a viral or bacterial infection. However, sore throat may also be related to allergies or physical injury to the throat. In each case, an inflammatory response has been triggered. Pain, swelling and an itchy or irritated sensation are the common symptoms of this inflammatory response. The medical term for swelling is edema. As part of the inflammatory response, there is an increase in the water content of the involved tissues. With respect to sore throat, a sense of fullness and difficulty swallowing are both related to edema of the tissue lining the throat (mucosa). Water tends to follow salt. Anyone who has ever salted a snail knows what happens to the snail. Here's a less disgusting analogy: have you ever salted slices of raw eggplant? The salt draws moisture from the eggplant; after a few minutes, you can see beads of fluid on the surface of the eggplant.
Everyone has a different recipe for a salt water gargle, but all recipes tend to be fairly salty. If the gargle has a higher salt concentration than your intrinsic salt concentration, it will tend to draw out some of the edema fluid from the mucosa of the throat. This will make SOME of your "sore throat" symptoms better. The relief is very real, but also tends to be short-lived, since the gargle has done nothing to remove the cause of the sore throat. In some cases, gargling with salt water also has a cleansing action. If you are suffering from postnasal drainage due to a bacterial sinus infection or allergies, the mucus which drains from your nasal cavity is full of chemicals that tend to promote an inflammatory response. As this stuff drains down the back of your throat, it leaves a trail of inflamed tissues in its wake. Frequent gargling with salt water will help minimize this problem. As with everything else in medicine, you can certainly overdo this one! Make the gargle salty enough, and you will dessicate the mucosa of the throat. This could lead to even greater irritation than what you started with!"
Dr Douglas Hoffman

Next monkey, please!

Favourite Letters of the Week

Dear Joe,
RE: MANGLED MEASUREMENTS: 1 million microphones = 1 megaphone

Ahem ahem. 'scuze me.
1 million microphones = 1 phone
1 million phones = 1 megaphone
from Eric Houg


Dear Mr Dolce,
I never asked to be put on your newsletter list and this is what I think of it:
signed Angry About Spam


China's Leaders Launch Smokeless War against Internet and Media Dissent
By Benjamin Joffe-Walt
The Guardian UK


News deemed contrary to national interest is banned. Party summit decides to target 'liberal elements.'
China announced a fresh crackdown yesterday on the internet amid further revelations of a plan by Hu Jintao, the president, to suppress dissent.
 "The state bans the spreading of any news with content that is against national security and public interest," said a statement from Xinhua, the official news agency. The announcement called for blogs and personal web pages to "be directed towards serving the people and socialism and insist on correct guidance of public opinion for maintaining national and public interests".
The statement was just one of a series of initiatives by the government to root out politically sensitive news from domestic and foreign media. On Thursday a Chinese journalist and former professor was given a seven-year sentence for "inciting subversion" by writing hundreds of articles for banned overseas news websites. (article)


Games for Gargling Chimpanzees No 1
Poke The Penguin

This is an Act of Censorship Worthy of Joseph Goebbels
Simon Jenkins
The Guardian

At last history hits pay dirt. For years it was pap for television. The nation's rulers needed scientists for guns, linguists for trade and economists for mistakes. History was for nuts and numismatists. Now up pops Charles Clarke jingling bags of gold. The home secretary has promised the prime minister that he will lock away for five years anyone who "glorifies, exalts or celebrates" a terrorist act committed in the past 20 years. He does not care if glorification was not meant. If someone, somewhere takes anything that I say or write as encouraging to terror, even if they do not act on it, I have committed a criminal act.

Nor is this all. Lest any crackpot thinks he can dance up and down any old high street praising Hitler, Mao or Uncle Joe as outside the 20-year limit, Clarke is preparing a list of earlier terrorist acts that also render their celebrants criminals. After "listed" historic buildings we have "listed" historic terrorisms. To the glorious chronicles of our island race, Clarke is to append an open-ended catalogue of listed events. They may include any acts of violence against people, property or, bizarrely, electronic systems anywhere in the world if intended to advance a political, religious or ideological cause or to influence a government. ARTICLE


Games for Gargling Chimpanzees No 2
Dumb Animals

Lessons From a Fallen Empire
by James Carroll
The Boston Globe

ROME - To be in Rome is to stand, as it were, before a canyon wall on which the tell-tale marks were made by human hands instead of wind, sun, and rain. The primordial world lives in the ruined Forum, the stripped-to-the-brick facades of temples and theaters, the surviving arches of long-gone aqueducts and imperial palaces.

The legacy of that civilization is a structure of thinking that informs the very words on this page, which attempt to do for ideas what lightning rods do for electricity in the sky. Polarities between republic and empire, beauty and decay, order and tyranny, expression and silence -- these are the tensions which found balance in ancient Rome and uphold still the pillar of culture.

In the post-Constantinian Rome of Christianity, holiness found its match in power, and the match is not over. Its archaeology is in the street. Basilicas began as palaces and became cathedrals without dropping an arch. Emperors became popes and, as they say here, vice versa. (article)


Games for Gargling Chimpanzees No 3
Trippy Mirror

My First Time
by Cindy Sheehan

" The rumors are true this time. I was arrested in front of the White House today. It was my first time ever being arrested.
We proceeded from Lafayette Park to the Guard House at the White House. . . " (more)


Amazing Facts About Voting In America
Watching Watchers.org

"Despite Diebold's claims that the audit logs could not be hacked, a chimpanzee was able to do it!"

(Note: Hmmmmmm? Any chimpanzees you know of come to mind? I know we've all heard a zillion stories about the way electronic vote counting is unreliable in the US but this is the most concise summary I have seen.)

       1. 80% of all votes in America are counted by only two companies:
Diebold and ES&S.
       2. There is no federal agency with regulatory authority or oversight
of the U.S. voting machine industry.
        3. The vice-president of Diebold election systems and the vice
president of aftermarket sales at ES&S are brothers.
        4. The chairman and CEO of Diebold is a major Bush campaign
organizer and donor who wrote in 2003 that he was "committed to helping Ohio
deliver its electoral votes to the president next year."
        5. Republican Senator Chuck Hagel used to be chairman of ES&S. He
became Senator based on votes counted by ES&S machines.
        6. Republican Senator Chuck Hagel, long-connected with the Bush
family, was recently caught lying about his ownership of ES&S by the Senate
Ethics Committee.
        7. Senator Chuck Hagel was on a short list of George W. Bush's
vice-presidential candidates.
        8. ES&S is the largest voting machine manufacturer in the U.S. and
counts almost 60% of all U.S. votes.
        9. Diebold's new touch screen voting machines have no paper trail of
any votes. In other words, there is no way to verify that the data coming
out of the machine is the same as what was legitimately put in by voters.
        10. Diebold also makes ATMs, checkout scanners, and ticket machines,
all of which log each transaction and can generate a paper trail.
        11. Diebold is based in Ohio.
        12. Diebold employed 5 convicted felons as consultants and
developers to help write the central compiler computer code that counted 50%
of the votes in 30 states.
        13. Jeff Dean was Senior Vice-President of General Election Systems
when it was bought by Diebold. Even though he had been convicted of 23
counts of felony theft in the first degree, Jeff Dean was retained as a
consultant by Diebold and was largely responsible for programming the
optical scanning software now used in most of the United States.
        14. Diebold consultant Jeff Dean was convicted of planting back
doors in his software and using a "high degree of sophistication" to evade
detection over a period of 2 years.
        15. California banned the use of Diebold machines because the
security was so bad. Despite Diebold's claims that the audit logs could not
be hacked, a chimpanzee was able to do it!
        16. 30% of all U.S. votes are carried out on unverifiable touch
screen voting machines with no paper trail.
        17. All-not some-but all the voting machine errors detected and
reported in Florida went in favor of Bush or Republican candidates.
        18. The governor of the state of Florida, Jeb Bush, is the
President's brother.
        19. Serious voting anomalies in Florida-again always favoring
Bush-have been mathematically demonstrated and experts are recommending
further investigation.


Games for Gargling Chimpanzees No 4
Bat the Penguin

Orange Chemical Hailed as a Treatment for AIDS

SYDNEY (Sept. 27) - An Australian pharmaceutical company said on Tuesday a naturally occurring chemical extracted from oranges can be used to treat HIV/AIDS, influenza, SARS and the common cold. Citrofresh International Ltd. said Europe's Retroscreen Virology Laboratory had found its Citrofresh bioflavanoid compound to be effective against the HIV-1 virus, the human influenza A virus including Avian influenza or bird flu, the Urbani SARS virus and the human rhinovirus. (article)



(Note: This is an actual job application that a 75 year old senior citizen
submitted to Walmart in Arkansas. They hired him because he was so funny.)

NAME: George Martin
SEX: Not lately, but I am looking for the right woman (or at least one that will cooperate)
DESIRED POSITION:  Company's President or Vice President.  But seriously, whatever's available.  If I was in a position to be picky, I wouldn't be applying here in the first place.
DESIRED SALARY:  $185,000 a year plus stock options and a Michael Ovitz style severance package.  If that's not possible, make an offer and we can haggle.
LAST POSITION HELD:  Target for middle management hostility.
PREVIOUS SALARY:  A lot less than I'm worth.
MOST NOTABLE ACHIEVEMENT:  My incredible collection of stolen pens and post-it notes.
PREFERRED HOURS:  1:30-3:30 p.m.  Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday.
DO YOU HAVE ANY SPECIAL SKILLS?:  Yes, but they're better suited to a more intimate environment.
MAY WE CONTACT YOUR CURRENT EMPLOYER?:  If I had one, would I be here?
DO YOU HAVE A CAR?:  I think the more appropriate question here would be "Do you have a car that runs?"
HAVE YOU RECEIVED ANY SPECIAL AWARDS OR RECOGNITION?:  I may already be a winner of the Publishers Clearing House Sweepstakes, so they tell me.
DO YOU SMOKE?:  On the job - no!   On my breaks - yes!
WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE TO BE DOING IN FIVE YEARS?:  Living in the Bahamas with a fabulously wealthy dumb sexy blonde supermodel who thinks I'm the greatest thing since sliced bread.  Actually, I'd like to be doing that now.
(***Old People Rock! ***)


New York Man Dies Laughing in Church
by Elroy Willis -- April 18, 2005

NEW YORK CITY (EAP) -- An 82-year-old Brooklyn man died from laughter yesterday after being told that the Earth and our universe are less than 7000 years old during a church service conducted by a visiting pastor. Pastor Jonathan Verncast who was temporarily filling in for pastor George Beneggin at Kingswood Episcopal church said that he didn't intend to kill anyone with his sermon, and considers the incident as a "mysterious work of the Lord."
"I didn't mean to make anyone laugh, and my deepest sympathies go out to the widow and her family," Verncast said.
"My husband was a geologist and spent his career studying rock formations which he said were millions of years old, and he started giggling and finally broke out into uncontrollable laughter when the pastor started talking about how the Grand Canyon was formed only 5000 years ago during Noah's flood," said Louise Elderberry, wife of George Elderberry who was pronounced dead at the scene by paramedics who failed to revive him.
"He started slapping his knee and elbowed me, then broke out into full-scale laughter. His face turned red at first and then blue, and he looked like he was having trouble catching his breath. He then clutched his chest and fell right out of the pew onto the floor," she said.
"It was probably a heart attack brought on by the heavy laughter that killed him," said Larry Goldstein, attending physician at Mercy Hospital where Elderberry was taken by ambulance.
"I'm a doctor, not a geologist, but even I know that the Earth is way older than 7000 years," he said.
"He was laughing so hard that some of the other people around him started laughing out loud too," said Rolena Washington, who was sitting in the pew behind the Elderberry family.
"My husband and I couldn't figure out why he was laughing so hard," she said.
Verncast said that he was just filling in for a few weeks while the regular pastor was on vacation, and that next week's sermon will be on something less likely to cause potential laughter.
"It will most likely be something about love and kindness and nothing to do with geology," he said.
(thanks to Param B)

(Note: Snopes.com had some interesting things to say about this topic:)

Legend:   People have died laughing
Origins:   In recent decades, laughter has been touted as a possible cure for many ills, including cancer and heart trouble. But could mirth also be deadly, making the phrase "I just about died laughing" as much about accuracy as it is hyperbole?
On 24 March 1975, 50-year-old bricklayer Alex Mitchell of King's Lynn in Norfolk, England, kicked the bucket while roaring with laughter at one of his favorite television shows, the comedy programme The Goodies. The skit that precipitated Mitchell's fatal fit of glee involved a kilted Scotsman's flailing away with his bagpipe at a vicious black pudding intent upon attacking him. Mitchell was unable to stop laughing, and after twenty-five minutes of uproar gave one last "tremendous belly laugh, slumped on the settee, and died," said his widow, who witnessed his passing. Mr. Mitchell had expired from heart failure.

An odder account of a "dying laughing" incident was reported in Bangkok in 2003:
An ice cream truck driver in Thailand died while laughing in his sleep. Damnoen Saen-um, 52, laughed for about two minutes yesterday and then stopped breathing, The Nation newspaper reported. Damnoen's wife tried to wake him up but he kept laughing. An autopsy suggested that he might have had a heart attack. "I have never seen a case like this. But it is possible that a person could have heart seizure while laughing or crying too hard in their sleep," said Dr Somchai Chakrabhand, deputy director-general of the Mental Health Department.

On the anecdotal side, Schott's Original Miscellany attributes the death of Burmese king Nandabayin in 1599 to his having "laughed to death when informed, by a visiting Italian merchant, that Venice was a free state without a king." And on the fictional front, one version of the demise of Pecos Bill, the legendary cowboy hero of American folklore, has him dying from laughter after an encounter with a Boston dude:

When Bill was gettin' on in years, a Boston man came down to New Mexico for a visit. He fancied himself a bit of a cowboy. Got himself one of them mail-order suits, don't ya know. The ones with the lizard skin boots, a shiny brass belt buckle, a new pair of blue jeans and a huge ten gallon hat with not a speck of dust on it. Well, when Pecos Bill saw him trying to swagger into a bar, he jest lay down on the sidewalk and laughed himself to death!

Not enough information was given in the (real) cases cited above to know whether laughter was a coincidental, contributory, or causal element of the deaths, but linguistically we've been tossing about "dying laughing" expressions for centuries; the Oxford English Dictionary records a use of this phrase as far back as 1596 ("Went they not quickly, I should die with laughing"). We also employ similar phrases to indicate intense feelings of humiliation ("I almost died of embarrassment"), and in a more generic sense we use 'dying' to indicate great longing ("I'm just dying to see you") or excellence ("It's to die for"). It therefore comes as a bit of a shocker to realize that there might be at least a smidgen of truth buried deep beneath all this overblown emoting. Yet even if there may have been an occasional death from guffawing, it's still possible merriment is far more healthy than harmful (at least for the ones who survive). Some studies assert laughing produces beneficial effects on physical health, including decreasing the secretion of serum cortisol (a stress hormone) and boosting the blood levels of immunoglobulin A, an antibody that fights bacterial and viral infections in the upper respiratory and gastrointestinal tracts. However, not everyone in the scientific community has jumped on this bandwagon - in a study reported upon in 2002 in Current Directions in Psychological Science ("Is Laughter the Best Medicine? Humor, Laughter, and Physical Health) researchers reported that the connection between humor and wellness was "less conclusive than commonly believed" and that "future research in this area needs to be more theoretically driven and methodologically rigorous." Barbara "laugh tracked" Mikkelson


Games for Gargling Chimpanzees No 5

Deliverance Game


Evolution Debate Heads to PA Court
The Associated Press


 Harrisburg, PA - Eighty years after the Scopes Monkey Trial, the latest legal chapter in the debate over the teaching of evolution in public schools is to unfold in federal court. The Dover Area School District on Monday was to start defending its policy of requiring ninth-grade students hear about "intelligent design" before biology lessons on evolution. Dover is believed to be the first school system in the nation to require students be exposed to the concept under a policy adopted by a 6-3 vote in October 2004.
 Intelligent design, a concept some scholars have advanced over the past 15 years, holds that Charles Darwin's theory of natural selection cannot fully explain the origin of life or the emergence of highly complex life forms. It implies that life on Earth was the product of an unidentified intelligent force.
Critics say intelligent design is merely creationism - a literal reading of the Bible's story of creation - camouflaged in scientific language, and it does not belong in a science curriculum. Eight Dover families are suing the school district, alleging that the policy violates the constitutional separation of church and state.
"The intelligent-design movement is an effort to introduce creationism into the schools under a different name," said Eric Rothschild, a Philadelphia attorney representing the families.
The history of evolution litigation dates back to the famous 1925 Scopes Monkey Trial, in which Tennessee biology teacher John T. Scopes was fined $100 for violating a state law that forbade teaching evolution. The Tennessee Supreme Court reversed his conviction on the narrow ground that only a jury trial could impose a fine exceeding $50, and the law was repealed in 1967. (article)

Newest Round in Evolution Debate
By Michael Powell

'Intelligent design' teaching challenged

 Harrisburg, Pa. - New barrages sounded in the evolution war Monday as lawyers for a group of parents challenged the teaching of "intelligent design" as nothing more than an old argument for God's hand wrapped in fancy new cloth.
"This clever tactical repackaging of creationism does not merit consideration," Witold Walczak, legal director of the Pennsylvania American Civil Liberties Union and a lawyer for the parents, told U.S. District Judge John E. Jones in opening arguments. "Intelligent design admits that it is not science unless science is redefined to include the supernatural." (article)



Lemon Rind, Star Anise and Ginger Bolognese Sauce with Ricotta Gnocchi

The lemon rind gives an unexpected chromatic 'crazy Ivan' to the calm and soothing harmonic flavours of the star anise, ginger and traditional bolognese sauce.

Olive oil
1 kg ground beef or mince
1 onion, diced
4 lemon slices, cut in halves
4 whole star anise
medium piece fresh ginger, thickly sliced
1 litre of tomato puree
125 ml brandy
2 cloves of garlic, chopped finely
salt and pepper to taste

Heat oil pot. Cook minced beef until brown. Add onion, lemon slices, star anise, garlic and ginger and toss for about 10 minutes. Add brandy and tomato puree. Bring to boil, lower to simmer and cook on low heat for about 1 hour. Add a little water if necessary. At the end of the cooking time, add the salt and pepper to taste.

Gnocchi di Ricotta

125 gr ricottta cheese
120 gr grated parsesean cheese
1 egg, beaten
pinch of nutmeg
55 gr flour
parsley, chopped
extra grated parmesean
salt and pepper to taste

Combine ricotta, parmesean cheese, beaten egg, nutmeg, salt and pepper and flour in a bowl into a smooth dough. Divide mixture into quarters. Roll each portion into a sausage shape on a lightly foured board. Cut each sausage shape into piece about 3 cm, roll each piece into a ball and flatten each piece into a disc with your hand. Cool the gnocchi in a large pan of boiling water until tender. (About 15 minutes) Serve with sauce and extra grated parmesan.



Strawberry Moon

My great-aunt Elizabeth Fortune
stood under the honey locust trees,
the white moon over her and a young man near.
The blossoms fell down like white feathers,
the grass was warm as a bed, and the young man
full of promises, and the face of the moon
a white fire.

Later, when the young man
went away
and came back
with a bride,
Elizabeth climbed into the attic.

Three women came in the night
to wash the blood away,
and burn the sheets,
and take away the child.

Was it a boy or girl?
No one remembers.

Elizabeth Fortune was not seen again
for forty years.

Meals were sent up,
laundry exchanged.

It was considered a solution
more proper than shame
showing itself to the village.

Finally, name by name, the downstairs died
or moved away,
and she had to come down,
so she did.

At sixty-one, she took in boarders,

washed their dishes,
made their beds,
spoke whatever had to be spoken,
and no more.

I asked my mother:
what happened to the man? She answered:
They had three children.
He worked in the boatyard.

I asked my mother: did they ever meet again?
No, she said,
though sometimes he would come
to the house to visit.
Elizabeth, of course, stayed upstairs.

Now the women are gathering
in smoke-filled rooms,
rough as politicians,
scrappy as club fighters.
And should anyone be surprised

if sometimes, when the white moon rises,
women want to lash out
with a cutting edge?

~ Mary Oliver ~