Thoughts Gallery March 2002
March 1
Image of the Day
Looks like the government may be able to track people more easily than ever, if this technology ever becomes "trendy" to have... I took the day off work today to help Raymond & Misty move out to their new place.  It was interesting to see the actually living conditions they were accustomed to living it.  For even visiting them often, we were totally unaware of the true condition of their unit.  Hopefully they can get their finances together and move back into a place in society, and not at the edge of it out in near Del Valley.  30 loads of laundry latter, and we still had dirty laundry in bags that we moved, time to donate something to salvation army
Applied Digital Solutions new "Verichip" about the size of a grain of rice, seen at left in this handout image, is the first ever computer ID chip, that could be embedded beneath a persons skin. The Palm Beach, Fla., based company plans to begin the process of obtaining Food and Drug Administration approval for the device, and intends to limit marketing to companies that ensure its human use is voluntary.
March 2
Image of the Day
At the crack of dawn we fogged the entire duplex with 16 foggers.  This after the professionals said the duplex was to porous to fumigate.  15 gallons of paint later the place is starting to look clean and bright again.  We had to replace one socket that we blew from spraying too much bug spray into it.  Not the first time we've flipped the circuits in this place.  We still have much more cleaning and repairs to do to this place that hasn't been renovated in probably 10 years.
What is this?  Is it a soap bubble, a mushroom, a slug, a toothbrush, a piece of gum.....  This is a test explosion of one of the first few nuclear bombs.
The first atmospheric nuclear test blast is seen 0.16 seconds after detonation at New Mexico's Trinity test site in this July 15, 1945 file photo. At least 15,000 cancer deaths in the U.S. were probably caused by radioactive fallout from Cold War nuclear weapons tests worldwide, according to portions of a government study made public February 28, 2002 by USA Today. The newspaper reported the study found when fallout from all domestic and foreign tests was combined, no U.S. resident born after 1951 escaped exposure. 
March 3
Image of the Day
Got some help from Chris - Erin's brother today to help out in the painting process.  His knack for wanting to quickly finish tasks helped up pick up the pace on painting the trim work.  Now if we could only clean up everything else as quickly.
Just imaging what it would be like if we had no fly zones over the US imposed by another foreign country.
U.S. warplanes attacked Iraqi air defense sites in a 'no-fly' zone in northern Iraq, after western aircraft patrolling the zone were targeted by radar and anti-aircraft guns, the U.S. military said. The U.S. European command based in Germany said all warplanes departed the area safely. There was no immediate report of damage on the ground. 
March 4
Image of the Day
My dad stayed over another day to help with the cleaning and painting of the unit.  Looks like the electrical work will get finished quickly over the next few days as the facade gets replaced.
Physics Nobel Prize winner Dr. Leon M. Lederman, director of the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Batavia, Ill., moves the hands of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists "Doomsday Clock" two minutes closer to midnight at the University of Chicago. The symbolic clock, kept by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, had been set at 11:51 since 1998. It was moved to 11:53 p.m. George A. Lopez, the chairman of the board, said it has never been moved in response to a single event. Still, he said, the attacks of Sept. 11
combined with evidence that terrorists were attempting to obtain the materials for a crude nuclear weapon should have served as a wake-up call to the world.
March 5
Image of the Day
I hired someone to help paint the Erin's unit for today.  Hopefully we can get the trim all finished and painted today. I have my fingers crossed to see if any work gets done on the electrical items today.
Man Stuck in Garbage Chute for Love of Sweater 
STOCKHOLM - A man squeezed into a garbage chute in an apartment building to retrieve a favorite old sweater thrown away by his wife, but got stuck between floors, the fire brigade said. Firefighters had to rescue the 25-year-old Ecuadorian, who had managed to pull himself through the chute's 9" wide garbage hole on the third floor, legs first, after discovering the basement door to the garbage area was locked. "It was not difficult at all, because I am quite small," he told the Expressen daily. "I knew the garbage would probably be collected early in the morning so I rushed to save the sweater."  he got stuck after sliding one floor down and was unable to climb up knotted bed sheets lowered into the chute by his wife.  After his rescue, the basement doors were unlocked for him to retrieve his now filthy sweater -- a hand knitted gray black present from his mother. 
March 6
Image of the Day
This evening we put up the new light and electrical sockets for all the face plates.  It's starting to look really nice, although not all the paint spots came up off the old carpet from our panting party last weekend.
Microsoft Pushes Windows for Automobiles 
      DETROIT - Microsoft Corp. may dominate the market for desktop computer software, but the company's first salvo at automobile
dash-top computing is just reaching North America after more than five
years of work.  Microsoft said that BMW AG's new 7-Series sedan would
use Windows CE software to run its in-dash control computer, along with several other auto makers that will soon unveil Windows CE-powered systems for future vehicles. 
      The announcement is a milestone for Microsoft, which has struggled for a foothold in the market against competitors such as Sun Microsystems Inc. Sun already has agreements with General Motors and Ford Motor Co. to use its Java technology.  Auto makers once saw in-car computing and other "telematics" work as potentially worth billions in additional revenues, given how much time the average driver spends in his or her vehicle. But the industry's profit downturn, cool customer response to some early technology and cost cutting at major auto makers has dampened such projections.  Gonzalo Bustillos, the director of Microsoft's automotive business unit, said Microsoft was still bullish on the prospects for in-car computing. 
      Vehicle computing is going to be there, caretakers have decided it's going to be there. The only questions are when, and how the models may become a reality.  Microsoft had Windows CE in 13 vehicle lines worldwide, with nine more to be announced by the end of the year.  Microsoft would eventually like to see Windows CE used as a link in networks that connect drivers to their home computers, and as an enhancement to navigation systems that give drivers up-to-date information about their trip. Consumers will not look at navigation as a system to use when we get lost, but the system that helps me get there in time and helps me avoid traffic. 

March 7
Image of the Day
I spent the evening caulking cracks and holes for 4 hours.  4 tubes of caulk later it looks like i have a lot more caulking work to do.  Created a good working environment for erin to do her math homework though as she had no distractions from her homework that the occasional "bug sightings" Free wireless internet will probably become common in the next few years, that's plenty of time for me to get my laptop for a main computer.
The Corner Internet Network vs. the Cellular Giants
New York Times - John Markoff
A new paradigm for Internet access is emerging in wireless mesh routing, which transfers Internet data packets from one wireless node to another. The local networks being constructed by hobbyists and semi- altruistic entrepreneurs around the country could one day form an expansive network of cheap, high speed wireless Internet access. Built on the common 802.11b Wi-Fi wireless standard, these networks are formed as people link and overlap their wireless access points, which usually extend about 200 feet. Antennas can extend that coverage or push out wireless access for a land-based connection. Groups such as the Bay Area Wireless Users Group are pioneering concepts such as neighborhood area networks (NANs), or nanny networks, by buying up access rights to the best transmitter positions across town. Proponents of this movement point out their networks' performance and robustness improve with more users and links, giving them the same economies of scale that benefit the Internet. So far, at least 19 startups have been launched to provide proprietary technologies to enable wireless mesh networking, many based around the San Francisco area.
March 8
Image of the Day
Looks like hackers gained yet another point of attack on the military's communication now.  Now if only they would put the police system on the internet, then I could crash the ticket police's computers for vehicle registration.
"Councils of War" Atlantic Monthly - James Fallows
Civilian technology and Web services are being spun off into the military sector, including email, online auctions, and advanced navigation technology. These three applications are examples of how the civilian tech world is influencing military technology--they are relatively inexpensive and do not attempt to supplant human intelligence decision making. Email is being applied to the military through efforts such as the Access Intelligence network, a free open -source resource that circulates non classified information in the form of electronic messages from defense, intelligence, law- enforcement, academic, and corporate personnel; these messages can be used to supply timely data in times of crisis.
      Development Space takes its cue from eBay to enable government agencies, foundations, and altruistic parties to view and fund proposals for international aid that do not entail high costs and red tape. The importance of such a service becomes clear with the inevitable need for foreign aid as a result of military conflicts. Meanwhile, Athena Technologies' GuideStar is an airplane navigation system that can be used in both a civilian and military capacity. The device can pilot aircraft too unstable for human operators while sensing and responding to changes 50 times per second. It can also execute vertical takeoffs and landings, corner maneuvers, and low- altitude flight. Furthermore, GuideStar could be used to prevent intrusions into restricted airspace and building collisions.
The 1,004 foot tower, dubbed the "Shard of Glass," will rise 66 stories above the River Thames in London's borough of Southwark, stealing the title of Europe's tallest building by 23 feet from Frankfurt's Commerzbank AG Tower. London's new tower, which could take five years to build once final planning details have been approved, is budgeted to cost up to $495 million and generate up to 10,000 jobs. 
March 9
Image of the Day
A recently uncovered letter purportedly written by John D. Lee and blaming Mormon leader Brigham Young for the Mountain Meadows Massacre of 1857 is displayed in National Park Service headquarters in Page, Ariz.  Lee was the only person held accountable for the slaughter in southern Utah of 120 Arkansas men, women and children. In the letter, etched in a sheet of soft lead and dated 1872, Lee writes that he and other Mormon authorities carried out the massacre on orders from Young.
March 10
Image of the Day
He Hacks by Day, Squats by Night By Noah Shachtman 
NEW YORK -- Last January, Adrian Lamo awoke in the abandoned building near Philadelphia's Ben Franklin Bridge where he'd been squatting, went to a public computer with an Internet connection, and found a leak in the Excite@Home's supposedly airtight company network.  Just another day in the life of a young man who may be the world's most famous homeless hacker.  More than a year later, Lamo is becoming widely known in hacker circles for tiptoeing into the networks of companies like Yahoo and WorldCom -- and then telling the corporate guys how he got there. 
      Administrators at several of the companies he's hacked have called Lamo brilliant and "helpful" for helping fix these gaps in network defenses. Critics blast Lamo as a charlatan who preens for the spotlight.  "(Is) anyone impressed with Lamo's skills(?) He is not doing anything particularly amazing. He has not found some new security concept. He is just looking for basic holes," wrote one poster to the SecurityFocus website. 
      To such barbs, Oxblood Ruffian, a veteran of the hacker group Cult of the Dead Cow, replied, "It's like dancing. Anyone can dance. But not many people can dance like Michael Jackson."  Lamo's latest move: using a back door in The New York Times' intranet to snag the home phone numbers of over 3,000 Op-Ed contributors, including Vint Cerf, Warren Beatty and Rush Limbaugh. Although Lamo (pronounced LAHM-oh) did nothing more mischievous with the information than include himself in its roster of experts, the Times is considering pressing charges, according to spokeswoman Christine Mohan. Hacking is a federal crime, currently punishable by five years in jail. 
      Prison would be an ironic twist for Lamo -- it'd be the first time in years he would have a steady place to stay.  Living out of a backpack, getting online from university libraries and Kinko's laptop stations, the slightly built, boyish Lamo wanders the country's coasts by Amtrak and Greyhound bus. 
      "I have a laptop in Pittsburgh, a change of clothes in D.C. It kind of redefines the term multi-jurisdictional," Lamo said with a mild stutter. "It'll be hard to get warrants for it all."  He spends most of his nights on friends' couches. But when hospitality wears thin, he takes shelter in city skeletons -- like the crumbling Philadelphia restaurant supply shop, or the old officers' quarters at the Presidio in San Francisco. Lamo said he found his way into the colonial-era military complex by randomly trying doorknobs until he found one that rattled.  It's a pretty good metaphor, he adds, for how he hacks. 
      Company networks use proxy software to let internal employees out to the public Internet. It's a one way door, essentially. But if proxy servers aren't configured correctly, these doors can swing both ways, allowing outsiders in through the corporate firewall, said Chris Wyspoal, an executive with security firm @Stake. Lamo peeks around for these swinging doors and lets himself in with widely used hacker tools. It's not technically complex at all. Lamo found an open proxy on The New York Times' network in less than two minutes. So it's understandable that many who consider themselves black belts in the computer arts regard Lamo's notoriety with more than a bit of skepticism.  A poster to SecurityFocus' site complains, "The only thing 'hacked' here is the media." 
      "The only way to get a publicly traded company to recognize that they're acting retarded is to kick 'em in the nuts. And you do that through the media," wrote Ira Wing, 29, who's been one of Lamo's closest confidants since the mid-1990s when the two met at PlanetOut, the gay and lesbian media firm where Wing worked and Lamo volunteered. Lamo had long tried to point out security flaws to corporate network administrators, Wing said. But even after his first well publicized intrusion -- a late 2000 pilfering of AOL instant messenger accounts -- the suits weren't about to pay attention to some hacker kid who didn't even have a high school diploma. 
     Despite his good intentions, Lamo may still go to jail for what he's doing. "Strictly speaking, he is a criminal. The law doesn't take into account motivation," security consultant Winn Schwartau said. Lamo answered, "If (the government) were to decide to indict (me), I'd rather everything be on the up and up -- inasmuch as you can be on the up and up when you're committing a federal crime." 
      For example, Lamo insists that unlike so many others in his trade, he won't take money from the companies he's hacked.  "When I was thirsty during Excite@Home, they bought me a 50-cent bottle of water," he said. "That's the most I got."  Instead, he relies on a small savings he amassed from stints doing security work for Levi Strauss and for Bay Area non profits, where his cubicle or the office elevator would often serve as the night's lodgings. He picks up money, occasionally, from short term freelance security gigs. And, of course, there are the emergency handouts from his parents, Mario Lamo and Mary Atwood. 
      Lamo's parents moved often during his formative years, to Arlington, Virginia, to Mario's native Bogota, Colombia, and then to San Francisco. When they decided to move to Sacramento when Adrian was 17, the teen elected to stay in the city and live on his own. 
Despite such grown-up pressures, friends say Lamo is still a kid in many ways. Childhood cloak-and-dagger fantasies of "paying 'salaries' of lunch goodies" to spy on youthful nemeses are now acted out online, according to Stephen Whiters-Ridley, a friend since elementary school. 
      Cyberpunk fiction, like Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash, seems to serve as a model for real life action. Lamo is "a strange amalgam of Robin Hood and console cowboy," Whiters-Ridley wrote in an instant message. "(He's) the wandering samurai, Mad Max, (the) hacker with a heart of gold."  Lamo recently posted to a Usenet group, "If I didn't have computers, I'd be exploring storm drains or mountain caves. Hell, I do, when I don't have a line to the Net. There have been times my laptop has been the only dry thing I owned."  But his adventures -- picking through the trash of tech firms ("we considered stealing a CSC [Computer Science Corporation] flag ... but decided against it," a co-conspirator said) or climbing to the roof of Philadelphia's 30th Street Station -- may be starting to wear thin. 
      The heat is coming from a growing chorus of critics and a federal investigation Lamo feels is almost certain to come.  "My lifestyle takes a toll on anyone I interact with," Lamo said.  Reluctantly, he recalled a recent date when he suggested exploring the ruins of San Francisco's old Sutro Baths instead of dinner or a movie. A breakup e-mail followed the next day.  "I've had a long day, a long month, and a long year," he said at the end of a pre-dawn chat.  He follows that with an instant message: "Dream of a warm and safe place." 
March 11
Image of the Day
Spent the evening cutting ceramic tiles.  My mom and 2 sisters and a friend showed up today to help fix and clean things around my duplex.  I have a list of about 80 hours of work items that need to be done.  Hopefully they can make a dent in it.  Working on trying to get a lot of things fixed in Erin's unit from years of neglect.
Indian police punish two youths who were out on their
motorbikes during the curfew in the old city of Ahmadabad, India. Government workers dug graves for 120 unclaimed bodies of Muslims, as peace returned to the western state of Gujarat after weeklong Hindu-Muslim violence claimed 570 lives.  Citizens are sometimes punished by making them hold on to one another's ears while standing up and sitting down repeatedly.
March 12
Image of the Day
Today new heater unit was installed in unit B and the a/c duct work in unit A was fixed.  The laying of the ceramic tiles continues and the floor is almost completely covered and will be ready for grout when it dries.  The electric work should start shortly, and most of the general cleaning has been done.  The bathroom tiles were removed to enable us to replace the rotted floor boards around the toilet.
      I do not see this as an issue, when the norm is to circumcise males at birth also.  Maybe more oversight needs to be done to make sure it doesn't turn into genital mutilation, but those same mistake can happen on male circumcisions.
6,000 Girls Reportedly Circumcised Every Day - Tom Miles
LONDON - About 6,000 girls a day undergo genital mutilation, often willingly, and up to 115 million African women have already had it, US-based development agency World Vision said.  And bizarre beliefs abound about female genital mutilation (FGM), such as, if a woman is not circumcised, her husband will die; she will give birth to an abnormal baby, or her genitals may grow to an enormous size. These tales have helped perpetuate the practice in more than 30 countries, Fatuma Hashi, the report's author, said.  "The worst perpetrators of FGM are women themselves," Hashi said, adding that girls fear being
ostracized and older women cling to tradition, unaware of the health risks. 
      FGM is a cultural practice with roots predating the spread of the major religions. Nevertheless, "erroneous beliefs that the Christian Bible and the Muslim Koran demand it are widespread," Hashi said. The report highlighted cases in Ethiopia, Kenya and Ghana, and described a Kenyan woman ordering her twin daughters to shower in ice cold water in preparation for circumcision. "With the freezing water's numbing effect serving as the only form of anesthesia, Mary sits akimbo on a sheepskin, her limbs clamped down by other women to discourage even the slightest movement to prevent unintentional cutting. "In an operation that lasts several minutes, an elderly woman takes several swipes at Mary's genitals using a sharp razor blade." 
      Cultures which practiced FGM gave many reasons for it, including preserving virginity, enhancing personal hygiene or attractiveness, easing childbirth and achieving status for the girl or her father.  Types of FGM ranged from clitoridectomy to infibulation, in which the clitoris and labia minora are removed and the labia majora are pinned together with catgut or thorns, leaving only a pinhole opening for
urine and menstrual blood.  Infibulation, also called "pharaonic" circumcision, leaves scar tissue which must be cut open before
intercourse and the birth of each child. 
      Apart from the short term consequences of FGM such as extreme pain, blood loss, gangrene and infections, many girls went on to suffer pain during sexual intercourse, infertility, incontinence, depression and long term psychological problems.  It sometimes caused death from hemorrhage, blood poisoning, urine retention or led to HIV infection. 
FGM could also lead to problems at childbirth, and many women suffered constant bleeding, slow sexual arousal and an inhibited orgasm, or no orgasm at all.  "Sex and suffering become synonymous to females both young and old," the report said. "Having no acceptable way of addressing their feelings, these girls and women mostly suffer in silence." 
       The report quoted an official of an African community education group as saying half the battle was to convince traditional midwives, who birth over 80% of Africa's babies and who are trusted by mothers. "It's the midwives who either circumcise girls themselves, or encourage mothers to circumcise daughters," the official said. 
March 13
Image of the Day
All the tiles were finished being mortared today, we ended up being 3 tiles short so we had to get one more box of tiles.  Another two trips to Home Depot and looks like we have all the supplies to finish getting the floor done.  Watched the movie AI tonight, was an interesting well thought out movie.  Although I think there was too broad a concept for the movie to tackle in just one movie.  The whole notion of 2000 years later being discovered by aliens could easily be a whole movie itself.
It looks like the US propaganda machine has caught the attention of this accused criminal.
Milosevic Says FBI Paper Shows Al Qaeda in Kosovo 
THE HAGUE - Slobodan Milosevic brandished what he said was an FBI document showing al Qaeda backed Muslim fighters in Kosovo as he insisted Friday that Albanian separatists were the true villains in the war torn province
March 14
Image of the Day
It's interesting to see how religions are affected and changed by the current popular opinions and trends of a period.  It amazes me to thing of all the information and knowledge that has been discarded over time just because it was not popular with the popular thinking of the times.  The grout for the tiles was finished today.  My mom returned to Houston today after spending the last few days helping me get the work list a little shorter.
As Rabbis Face Facts, Bible Tales Are Wilting 
By MICHAEL MASSING The New York Times 
Abraham, the Jewish patriarch, probably never existed. Nor did Moses. The entire Exodus story as recounted in the Bible probably never occurred. The same is true of the tumbling of the walls of Jericho. And David, far from being the fearless king who built Jerusalem into a mighty capital, was more likely a provincial leader whose reputation was later magnified to provide a rallying point for a fledgling nation. 
      Such startling propositions the product of findings by archaeologists digging in Israel and its environs over the last 25 years have gained wide acceptance among non- Orthodox rabbis. But there has been no attempt to disseminate these ideas or to discuss them with the laity until now.
       The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, which represents the 1.5 million Conservative Jews in the United States, has just issued a new Torah and commentary, the first for Conservatives in more than 60 years. Called "Etz Hayim" ("Tree of Life" in Hebrew), it offers an interpretation that incorporates the latest findings from archaeology, philology, anthropology and the study of ancient cultures. To the editors who worked on the book, it represents one of the boldest efforts ever to introduce into the religious mainstream a view of the Bible as a human rather than divine document.
         "When I grew up in Brooklyn, congregants were not sophisticated about anything," said Rabbi Harold Kushner, the author of "When Bad Things Happen to Good People" and a co-editor of the new book. "Today, they are very sophisticated and well read about psychology, literature and history, but they are locked in a childish version of the
Bible." "Etz Hayim," compiled by David Lieber of the University of Judaism in Los Angeles, seeks to change that. It offers the standard Hebrew text, a parallel English translation (edited by Chaim Potok, best known as the author of "The Chosen"), a page-by-page exegesis, periodic commentaries on Jewish practice and, at the end, 41 essays by prominent rabbis and scholars on topics ranging from the Torah
scroll and dietary laws to ecology and eschatology. 
        These essays, perused during uninspired sermons or Torah readings at Sabbath services, will no doubt surprise many congregants. For instance, an essay on Ancient Near Eastern Mythology," by Robert Wexler, president of the University of Judaism in Los Angeles, states that on the basis of modern scholarship, it seems unlikely that the story of Genesis originated in Palestine. More likely, Mr. Wexler says, it arose in Mesopotamia, the influence of which is most apparent in the story of the Flood, which probably grew out of the periodic overflowing of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. The story of Noah, Mr. Wexler adds, was probably borrowed from the Mesopotamian epic Gilgamesh. 
        Equally striking for many readers will be the essay "Biblical Archaeology," by Lee I. Levine, a professor at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. "There is no reference in Egyptian sources to Israel's
sojourn in that country," he writes, "and the evidence that does exist is negligible and indirect." The few indirect pieces of evidence, like the use of Egyptian names, he adds, "are far from adequate to corroborate the historicity of the biblical account." 
        Similarly ambiguous, Mr. Levine writes, is the evidence of the conquest and settlement of Canaan, the ancient name for the area including Israel. Excavations showing that Jericho was unwalled and
uninhabited, he says, "clearly seem to contradict the violent and complete conquest portrayed in the Book of Joshua." What's more, he says, there is an "almost total absence of archaeological evidence"
backing up the Bible's grand descriptions of the Jerusalem of David and Solomon. 
        The notion that the Bible is not literally true "is more or less settled and understood among most Conservative rabbis," observed David Wolpe, a rabbi at Sinai Temple in Los Angeles and a contributor to "Etz Hayim." But some congregants, he said, "may not like the stark airing of it." Last Passover, in a sermon to 2,200 congregants at his synagogue, Rabbi Wolpe frankly said that "virtually every modern archaeologist" agrees "that the way the Bible describes the Exodus is not the way that it happened, if it happened at all." The rabbi offered what he called a "litany of disillusion" about the narrative, including contradictions, improbabilities, chronological lapses and the absence of corroborating evidence. In fact, he said, archaeologists digging in the Sinai have "found no trace of the tribes of Israel not one shard of pottery." 
        The reaction to the rabbi's talk ranged from admiration at his courage to dismay at his timing to anger at his audacity. Reported in Jewish publications around the world, the sermon brought him a flood of letters accusing him of undermining the most fundamental teachings of Judaism. But he also received many messages of support. "I can't tell you how many rabbis called me, e- mailed me and wrote me, saying, `God bless you for saying what we all believe,' " Rabbi Wolpe said. He attributes the "explosion" set off by his sermon to "the reluctance of rabbis to say what they really believe."
        Before the introduction of "Etz Hayim," the Conservative movement relied on the Torah commentary of Joseph Hertz, the chief rabbi of the British Commonwealth. By 1936, when it was issued, the Hebrew Bible had come under intense scrutiny from scholars like Julius Wellhausen of Germany, who raised many questions about the text's authorship and accuracy. Hertz, working in an era of rampant anti-Semitism and of Christian efforts to demonstrate the inferiority of the "Old" Testament to the "New," dismissed all doubts about the integrity of the text.
        Maintaining that no people would have invented for themselves so "disgraceful" a past as that of being slaves in a foreign land, he wrote that "of all Oriental chronicles, it is only the Biblical annals that
deserve the name of history."  The Hertz approach had little competition until 1981, when the Union of American Hebrew
Congregations, the official arm of Reform Judaism, published its own Torah commentary. Edited by Rabbi Gunther Plaut, it took note of the growing body of archaeological and textual evidence that called the accuracy of the biblical account into question. The "tales" of Genesis, it flatly stated, were a mix of "myth, legend, distant memory and search for origins, bound together by the strands of a central theological concept." But Exodus, it insisted, belonged in "the realm of history." While there are scholars who consider the Exodus story to be "folk tales," the commentary observed, "this is a minority view." 
       Twenty years later, the weight of scholarly evidence questioning the Exodus narrative had become so great that the minority view had become the majority one. Not among Orthodox Jews, however. They continue to regard the Torah as the divine and immutable word of God. Their most widely used Torah commentary, known as the Stone Edition (1993), declares in its introduction "that every letter and word of the Torah was given to Moses by God." Lawrence Schiffman, a professor at New York University and an Orthodox Jew, said that "Etz Hayim" goes so far in accepting modern scholarship that, without realizing it, it ends up being in "nihilistic opposition" to what Conservative Jews stand for. He noted, however, that most of the questions about the Bible's accuracy had been tucked away discreetly in the back. "The average synagogue-goer is never going to look there," he said. 
        Even some Conservative rabbis feel uncomfortable with the depth of the doubting. "I think the basic historicity of the text is valid and verifiable," said Susan Grossman, the rabbi of Beth Shalom Congregation in Columbia, Md., and a co-editor of "Etz Hayim." As for the mounting archaeological evidence suggesting the contrary, Rabbi Grossman said: "There's no evidence that it didn't happen. Most of the `evidence' is evidence from silence." 
        "The real issue for me is the eternal truths that are in the text," she added. "How do we apply this hallowed text to the 21st century?" One way, she said, is to make it more relevant to women. Rabbi Grossman is one of many women who worked on "Etz Hayim," in an effort to temper the Bible's heavily patriarchal orientation and make the text more palatable to modern readers. For example, the passage in Genesis that describes how the aged Sarah laughed upon hearing God say that she would bear a son is traditionally interpreted as a laugh of incredulity. In its commentary, however, "Etz Hayim" suggests that her laughter "may not be a response to the far- fetched notion of pregnancy at an advanced age, but the laughter of delight at the prospect of two elderly people resuming marital
        In a project of such complexity, there were inevitably many points of disagreement. But Rabbi Kushner says the only one that eluded resolution concerned Leviticus 18:22: "Do not lie with a male as one lies with a woman; it is an abhorrence." "We couldn't come to a formulation that we could all be comfortable with," the rabbi said. "Some people felt that homosexuality is wrong. We weren't prepared
to embrace that as the Conservative position. But at the same time we couldn't say this is a mentality that has been disproved by contemporary biology, for not everyone was prepared to go along with
that." Ultimately, the editors settled on an anodyne compromise, noting that the Torah's prohibitions on homosexual relations "have engendered considerable debate" and that Conservative synagogues should "welcome gay and lesbian congregants in all congregational activities." 
        Since the fall, when "Etz Hayim" was issued, more than 100,000 copies have been sold. Eventually, it is expected to become the standard Bible in the nation's 760 Conservative synagogues.  Mark S. Smith, a professor of Bible and Near Eastern Studies at New York University, noted that the Hertz commentary had lasted 65 years. "That's incredible," he said. "If `Etz Hayim' isn't around for 50 years or more, I'd be surprised." Its longevity, however, may depend on the pace of archaeological discovery.

March 15
Image of the Day
Started raking up some of the leaves in the back yard this evening.  Stacked up the scattered wood pieces that had been laying in the yard for a while.  I am ready to get the new sewage line finished and completed. The cabinet doors have too many layers of paint on them, and have to look at replacing some of them, and just leaving some of them open.  We are thinking about either framed glass doors or just glazed glass doors, as they cost just as much as buying wood doors.  The expensive item for glass is the hinges that hold them.

Sharbat Gula captivated audiences with her haunting green eyes when she appeared on the cover of National Geographic magazine in 1985. At the time the Afghan girl was living in a Pakistan refugee camp. Although time and hardship have erased her youth, her gaze still challenges in this picture taken 17 years later, right, leaving in a remote Afghan village. The story of her life and how she was located after nearly two decades is featured in the April issue of National Geographic magazine, available on newsstands April 1.

March 16
Image of the Day
Hauled off another load of garbage to the dumpster's today with the help of Chris's truck.  Spend the whole day working on little items and you look around afterward and it barely makes a dent.  Finished replacing some of the colar electrical switches and sealing in a few more of the socket boxes downstairs.  We fogged both sides again this evening with the smoke foggers.  Discovered that my house is really porous, and hopefully after a few more rounds of caulking that will go away.  Now all we need is for the fascia to be replaced to seal the last few rotted opening in the roof line.
March 17 
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Restained the front door today with some light cherry red stain, a vivid contrast to prepare the person for entering the southwestern style look of this left unit.  Repainted the doors and walls of the kitchen for like the forth time.  It seems the tile installation was sloppy and grout and mortar eded up splotching on the walls.  I'm starting to think that we need to replace the flat wall paint with a semi gloss version.
Nokia, the world's largest mobile phone maker, launched a series of new phones, some of which have a RealOne Player pre-installed. The phones, such as the Communicator shown here, and a camera phone that will be out in the second quarter, can play video images that are 'streamed' at data-rates beginning at 20 kilobits per second.
March 18
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Spring break is over already and I didn't get to enjoy much of the SXSW music or film festival this year.  Spent most of last week working on side projects around my house.
Solomon Little Owl, University of Northern Colorado intramural basketball team member and director of Native American Services at the university, holds a T-shirt, in Eaton, Colo., that he had printed for his intramural basketball team.
The team, trying to make a statement about mascots featuring cultural stereotypes, is using the nickname the "Fightin' Whites." The team is being flooded with e-mails from Caucasians who think it's funny and others who say it is racially insensitive.
March 19
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I smashed my middle finger in a door today crushing half of it, so it looks like my bruised dark fingernail will be falling off shortly.  Will the disney movie 'the fox and the hound' become irrelevant to society as we seek to "humanize" our hunting and eating practices.  First whale hunting by indian tribes now this, what's next killing chickens with nerve gas...
Britain May Ban Hunting With Hounds - By Ed Johnson
LONDON - The government has not decided what it will do
about fox hunting, but Prime Minister Tony Blair intends to vote Monday for a ban on hunting with hounds in the latest test of opinion in the House of Commons.  "We want to listen to what will hopefully be an intelligent debate," Blair's official spokesman said, as lawmakers prepared to discuss an issue that polarizes Britain.
      The government has asked lawmakers to vote on whether hunting foxes, stags and hares with packs of hounds should continue freely, be
regulated or be banned altogether. Hunting is a highly emotive issue for Britain. While the royal family and many others delight in the sight and sound of horsemen galloping after a pack of hounds, opponents are revolted by the idea of wild animals being killed by dogs.
      According to the Campaign to Protect Hunted Animals, some 200 fox hunts around England and Wales kill a total of 21,000 to 25,000 foxes a year. Three registered stag hunts kill some 160 deer annually. The campaign says there are about 100 packs which hunt hares, but
provided no figures for how many are killed each year.
      Even lawmakers who oppose hunting have labeled the vote an empty gesture and have called instead for decisive government action to enact legislation, as happened earlier this year in the Scottish Parliament. "Blair has got to have the guts to go for it and ban the sport," said Deborah Sparkes of the League Against Cruel Sports. "The time has come to end barbaric blood sports."  Virginia Deverell, who rides with the Blackmoor and Sparkford Vale fox hunt in Somerset, southern England, insisted, however, that hunting was a humane way to control the fox population.  "It is the kindest way to kill them," said Deverell, who added thousands more foxes would be shot, gassed or snared if hunting were banned. She said a ban would destroy hundreds of years of rural tradition and cost thousands of jobs in the countryside.
March 20
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It's interesting to see this new after having seen the movie AI this weekend.  It makes you think how quickly our environment could change to make this planet less hospitable for humans to live and develop.  I think it would be interesting to develop a series that shows the cause and future affects of actions looking from the past century to this one, and then showing a prediction of the affects of our actions on the future generations.  Show cultures around the world other than roman that made an impact on their region and show their modern affects on the society in that area.
An Antarctic ice shelf the size of a small country has disintegrated under the impact of global warming, scientists said. Although scientists at the British Antarctic Survey predicted four years ago the eventual disintegration of the giant Larsen B ice shelf -- 1,255 square miles and 655 feet deep -- they were astounded by the speed of the break up. This satellite image shows the progression of collapse of the Larsen shelf between 1995 and March, 2002. Pictured area is approximately 300x300 km.
March 21
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Took a vbreak from the hectics of renovation to go and enjoy the Fat Boy Slim concert tonight at the austin music hall.  Nice to be able to attend a concert after a hietus for a little while.  Reminds me why i like seeing concert at that venue.  The intro dj's were good, nice to see that electronica music is alive someplace outside of Europe.  Still haven't made it over to the new Hard Rock Cafe, to see how they renovated that building.  Looks like my fingernail might stay intact from smashing it, I'll keep my fingers crossed.
A full-size fully functional virtual keyboard that can be
projected and touched on any surface is shown by Siemens Procurement Logistics Services at the CeBIT fair in Hanover, northern Germany.  The virtual interface from Developer VKB Inc. from Jerusalem in Israel can be integrated in mobile phones, laptops, tablet PCs, or clean, sterile and medical environments and could be a revolution for the data entry of any mini computer. The mini projector that detects user interaction with the surface also simulates a mousepad.
March 22
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From geysers to glaciers, Iceland is blessed with innumerable natural wonders. But one Icelander has chosen to ignore his country's impressive geology and focus on the more obscure phallology, the study of the penis -- the Icelandic mammal penis in this case. Sigurdur Hjartarson erected the Icelandic Phallological Museum in 1997 in Reykjavik after collecting dozens of penises from the various mammals of his homeland. A whale penis is seen on display at the museum in this November  2000 photo.
March 23
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Spent the day wiring the place to have ethernet, cable, and phones connections in several rooms of unit A. With the help of Erin and Chriss the place is starting to catch up to this decade of house technology.
Explorers Unearth Lost Inca Stronghold in Peru 
By Missy Ryan 
LIMA, Peru - In the first major Inca find in four decades, Peruvian and British explorers say they have discovered a hidden city, perched on an Andean hilltop, that may have sheltered stalwarts of South America's legendary empire as they made a last stand against Spanish conquerors. Located on a narrow ridge around 11,000 feet up in Peru's windswept, southern Andes, the Inca citadel of Corihuayrachina is a mysterious gathering of religious platforms, funeral towers, and food storehouses. 
      British scholar and guide Peter Frost told a news conference on Monday he first spotted the ruins in the rugged, isolated Vilcabamba
region some 300 miles south-east of Lima three years ago. Frost said the site was the biggest of its kind found since 1964 and could have been occupied by the Inca when they took to the hills after the Spanish conquest. It is about 22 miles southwest of the famous Inca citadel of Machu Picchu. 
      The Incas once ruled a vast swath of South America stretching from Colombia to Chile, but Spain's Francisco Pizarro and his band of 160 treasure hunters, using cannons and horses, brought that empire to a bloody end in 1533. Some Inca, moving with an army of 50,000 to the more remote Vilcabamba area, held out against the invaders for nearly 40 years.  "It's a jigsaw puzzle. What we're finding are more pieces ... to get a better sense of what was happening in that area," said Frost, who has lived for 30 years in the Inca's imperial capital Cusco in southern Peru, gateway to Machu Picchu. 
      European diseases like measles ravaged the empire, cutting its population from an estimated 32 million people in 1520 to 5 million in 1548. Frost said he found Corihuayrachina -- eyeing it from afar but not able to actually reach it -- when he was leading a group of tourists through the remote region in 1999.  Funded by the Washington based National Geographic Society, Frost was finally able to set foot on the cloud shrouded site two years later in June, 2001, trekking four days along winding mountain paths with a team of scientists and excavators. 
      "This was an area totally untouched by science," said Peruvian
archeologist and expedition co-leader Alfredo Valencia, who along with local workers hacked away at the thick leaves and vines covering squat buildings and murky tombs. But Frost said the scientists were still in the early stages of puzzling out who inhabited Corihuayrachina, how they lived, and why they chose to live in such an inhospitable place. 
"If (the site) was occupied after the Spanish conquest, what will we find? If we find human remains, will they show European diseases?" Frost said. 
      Like most of the scores of native shrines, tombs and temples across this Andean nation, the explorers said the site had been looted over the years by local grave robbers and now the graves were only filled
with pottery fragments and bones.  But unlike Machu Picchu, discovered in 1911 by American explorer Hiram Bingham, Frost said the recent find was not home to the Inca elite.  Machu Picchu has been named a United Nations  World Heritage site and draws throngs of tourists from across the globe. Unlike Machu Picchu, only stone foundations some 2-3 feet high remain of the new find's structures, which were originally constructed with adobe or wood.  National Geographic is due to release a television special chronicling the Corihuayrachina discovery in May. 
March 24
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Spent the afternoon tacking up the cable lines that run around the house and trying to clear up the mess of lines all strapped together in one area on the back wall.  In the process I managed to fill 3 trashbags full of garbage and shingles that was scattered around the yard of unit B.
America's roadways are becoming increasingly automated -- with camera surveillance and automated ticketing and tollways turning them into electronic superhighways. Programs like E-ZPass, the automated toll-pay system, have been big hits with consumers happy to avoid traffic tangles at toll booths. But drivers are becoming increasingly angry about being ensnared in another web -- the electronic ticketing systems that have replaced traffic cops with ticket-issuing Big Brothers.. An American Traffic Systems RL-200 red light camera system is shown in this undated photograph.
March 25
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A restaurant worker covers her head with a plastic bag as she delivers deliver food during a sand storm which turned the sky amber and greatly reduced visibility in front of Beijing's Tiananmen Gate. Extensive deforestation and desertification in northern China have fueled the dust storms. Nearly one million tons of Gobi Desert sand blows into Beijing each year. 
March 26
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Made the daily trip to Home Depot to buy more essential supplies like caulk.  Had the measuring done for new carpet on unit A's side, so hopefully that will get finished in the next 2 weeks.  Seems like all the simple little problems cost too much money to fix.  The upstairs bathroom has a broken diverter valuve and I have to rip out the fiberglass tub to get into the wall to replace it.
Schoolchildren Strip-Searched for Lost $5 
KANSAS CITY- A school principal and a teacher were ordered to stay home from school on Thursday after a class of third graders were strip-searched when $5 in lunch money disappeared.  The money did not turn up in Monday's search of the 26 students, who were between 8 and 9 years of age.  "There was a strip search. The kids were asked to take off their clothes. The female teacher searched the girls and the male teacher the boys," Kansas City School District spokesman Edwin Birch said.  Pitcher Elementary School Principal Jana Schwimmer and an unnamed teacher were ordered to stay away from work, though not officially suspended, pending an investigation of the incident, Birch said. It was not clear why both teachers were not removed.  Under Missouri rules, schoolchildren can be ordered to empty their pockets but not strip-searched. 
March 27
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Here I am having a meeting with my loyal servants.  Our meetings must be done at the early hours of the morning to prevent detection by the Queen Duck.
Nasal Maggots Linked to Hospital Budget Cuts 
NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Nasal infection of two comatose patients with fly larvae has been linked to a Missouri hospital's widespread mouse infestation, which occurred after the hospital laid off
housekeeping staff, researchers report.  "Hence, the disruption or loss of one vital link in hospital organization (in this case, housekeeping support) may lead to an unintended and bizarre outcome," lead study author Dr. Richard Beckendorf says. 
      In the first instance, maggots were found in the mouth and nose of a 45-year-old man 10 days after he was admitted to the hospital's intensive care unit (ICU) in July 1998, the researchers report in the March 25th issue of Archives of Internal Medicine. The patient died from an unrelated cause 2 days after the larvae were removed. 
      Two months later, maggots were found around the nasotracheal tube of a 49-year-old man 8 days after he was admitted to the ICU of the same hospital. The larvae, along with adult flies found in the area, were retrieved and later identified as P. sericata, or green blowflies. More than 100 green blowfly eggs can grow and mature to adulthood in a typical mouse carcass, the report indicates. 
      Hospital personnel had previously complained about fly infestation of the ICU, but the problem was thought to be due to construction that required the constant opening of windows and doors. The installation of insect light traps in the medical ICU and adjacent corridors did little to abate the problem. 
      Meanwhile, there were numerous reports of mice being seen on all 11 floors of the hospital, from July to September 1998. On one occasion mice "scampered over the feet of employees during a conference in the hospital director's suite," the researchers report. Upon inspection of the hospital cafeteria and canteen, mouse carcasses were found in food storage rooms, mouse nests were found on food shelves, live mice were found trapped in a wastebasket and numerous mouse droppings were observed on the canteen workroom floor.  Neither the cafeteria nor the canteen had been cleaned for at least one year due to downsizing of housekeeping personnel, the researchers note. 
      "The nasal myiasis (maggot infestation) in the two patients in the medical ICU was ultimately linked, albeit by a complex series of events, to the reduction in housekeeping personnel the year preceding the outbreak," Beckendorf's team concludes.  According to other media sources, the incident occurred at the Kansas City Veteran's Administration Medical Center. 
March 28
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Who needs a heater when you have a nice warm comforter.
        Spanish priest installs electronic jammer in church to banish cellular ringing 
MORAIRA, Spain - A priest fed up with mobile phones ringing during Mass has installed an electronic jammer to keep his flock in tune with God. The Rev. Francisco Llopis, pastor of the Church of the Defenseless, said the beeps, tunes and other digital noise emitted by today's omnipresent cell phones are incompatible with quiet worship.
Llopis' church in this southeast coastal town is the first in Spain to install such a device, which transmits low-power radio signals that sever communications between cellular handsets and cellular base-stations.

Llopis said that when he flicks the switch, "I ensure that the religious service is celebrated within the parameters of prayer," the national news agency Efe quoted him as saying.  The controversial technology is designed to create quiet zones in places like restaurants, movie theaters and libraries.  Commercial jamming systems are illegal in the United States, Canada and Britain, but some countries such as Australia and Japan allow limited use.  Spain has a legal vacuum, says NiceCom, the only Spanish company which markets the technology. It
has been doing so for two years, and lawmakers are now discussing the issue, NiceCom spokeswoman Inma Jimenez said.  The Spanish Science and Technology Ministry did not return a call seeking comment.

March 29
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At first this ritual looks odd, but as I think more about it, the christian practices of circumcision are just as strange.  I finally rearranged the front stones for the flowerbed to line then up in a straight line.  This added about a foot to the flowerbed, but increased the appearance of the yard overall.
A Shiite Muslim woman holds a three-year old boy whose forehead was cut during a ceremony in Nabatiyeh. Hundreds of thousands of Shiite Muslims turned out across Lebanon on Sunday to mark Ashoura, the Shiite Muslim religious festival which marks the AD 680 battle in which Imam Hussein, the grandson of Islam's Prophet Mohammed, was killed.
March 30
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The Space Elevator Comes Closer to Reality 
ALBUQUERQUE, NEW MEXICO -- Make way for the ultimate high-rise project: the space elevator. Long viewed as science fiction "imagineering", researchers are gathering momentum in their
pursuit to propel this uplifting concept into actuality. Forget the roar of rocketry and those bone jarring liftoffs, the elevator would be a smooth 62,000-mile (100,000-kilometer) ride up a long cable. Payloads can shimmy up the Earth-to-space cable, experiencing no large launch forces, slowly climbing from one atmosphere to a vacuum. Earth orbit, the Moon, Mars, Venus, the asteroids and beyond - they are routinely accessible via the space elevator. And for all its promise and grandeur, this mega-project is made practical by the tiniest of technologies - carbon nanotubes."Even though the challenges to bring the space elevator to reality are substantial, there are no physical or economic reasons why it can't be built in our lifetime." That's the matter-of-fact feeling of physicist, Bradley Edwards of Eureka Scientific in Berkeley, California, but carrying out heavy lifting design work in Seattle, Washington.
      Edwards told that he's been wrapped up in space elevator work for some three years, supported by grants from NASA's Institute for Advanced Concepts (NIAC) program. "I'm convinced that the space elevator is practical and doable. In 12 years, we could be
launching tons of payload every three days, at just a little over a couple hundred dollars a pound," he said. 
      "In 15 years we could have a dozen cables running full steam putting 50 tons in space every day for even less, including upper middle class individuals wanting a joyride into space. Now I just need the $5 billion, Edwards added. For a space elevator to function, a cable with one end attached to the Earth's surface stretches upwards, reaching beyond geosynchronous orbit, at 21,700 miles altitude. After that, simple physics takes charge.
      The competing forces of gravity at the lower end and outward centripetal acceleration at the farther end keep the cable under tension. The cable remains stationary over a single position on Earth. This cable, once in position, can be scaled from Earth by mechanical means, right into Earth orbit. An object released at the cable's far end would have sufficient energy to escape from the gravity tug of our home planet and travel to neighboring the moon or to more distant interplanetary targets.Putting physics aside the toughest challenge has been finding a super-strong cable material. "That's what has kept this idea in science fiction for 40 years," Edwards said. But the right stuff in terms of cable material is no longer thought of as "unobtainium", he said.
      The answer is carbon-nanotube-composite ribbon. Small fibers of the material are set down side-by-side, then interconnected to form a growing ribbon. The hurdle to date, Edwards said, has been the commercial fabrication of carbon nanotubes. Both U.S. and Japanese firms, among others, are ramping up production of carbon nanotubes, with tons of this now exotic matter soon to be available. "That quantity of material is going to be around well before five years time. It's not going to take long," he said.
      Given the far stronger-than-steel ribbon of carbon nanotubes, a space elevator could be up within a decade. "There's no real serious stumbling block to this," Edwards explained. Getting the first space elevator off the ground, factually, would use two space shuttle flights. Twenty tons of cable and reel would be kicked up to geosynchronous altitude by an upper stage motor. The cable is then snaked to Earth and attached to an ocean-based anchor station, situated within the equatorial Pacific. That platform would be similar to the structure used for the Sea Launch expendable rocket program.
      Once secure, a platform-based free-electron laser system is used to beam energy to photocell-laden "climbers". These are automated devices that ride the initial ribbon skyward. Each climber adds more and more ribbon to the first, thereby increasing the cable's overall strength. Some two-and-a-half years later, and using nearly 300 climbers, a first space elevator capable of supporting over 20-tons
(20,000-kilograms) is ready for service.
One thing to keep in mind. Building the impossible is done here on Earth routinely, Edwards said. 
      Take for instance the $13.5 billion Millennium Tower envisioned for Hong Kong Harbor. This incredible skyscraper would be 170 stories tall. Elevator traffic within its walls is estimated at 100,000 people per day.  Edwards also points to the Gibraltar Bridge project. It would span the Straits of Gibraltar, linking Spain and Morocco at a projected cost of $20 billion. The bridge would use towers, twice as high as the world's tallest skyscraper. Roughly 1,000,000 miles (1,600,000 kilometers) of wire cables would be utilized in the project.   "I think those projects are a lot harder than what I'm talking about," Edwards said.
March 31
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It's funny how adding a 50% tax on cigarettes hasn't made people stop smoking, just makes them rob more convenience stores to support their habbits.  It's an interesting concept, why can't we create a microsoft tax that goes to support competition in the marketplace.  For every $1 of microsoft software you buy, $0.03 goes to support alternative operating systems.  
Calif. Lawmaker Urges Soda Pop Tax to Slim Fat Kids 
SACRAMENTO, Calif. - A California lawmaker has proposed slapping a tax on popular soft drinks to help reduce rocketing rates of childhood obesity.   The bill proposed by state Sen. Deborah Ortiz--one of the first in the nation to target sugary sodas as a root cause of kids putting on too many pounds--would offer schools incentives to drop lucrative contracts to sell certain soda brands on their campuses.  "It is not my intention to demonize soda," Ortiz, a Democrat from Sacramento, said in a statement sent on Wednesday, adding that moderate soda pop consumption was not harmful. 
      "The problem is that Americans have lost sight of moderation, and fail to recognize how many additional calories soda adds to their diets."  A number of US states, including Arkansas, Virginia and Washington, currently impose excise taxes on soft drinks. But most use the proceeds  to fight litter, not the "epidemic" of overweight children in US schools. 
      Ortiz's bill, due to be taken up by the Senate Health and Human Services Committee on April 10, would charge manufacturers and distributors 21 cents per 1 gallon (3.8 liters) of bottled drinks and $2
per gallon of syrup used to create soft drinks in soda fountains. 
Consumers could be expected to absorb the additional cost, about two
cents per 12-ounce (340 ml) can, according to Ortiz, a Democrat who
represents Sacramento. The bill would raise an estimated $342 million a year, about half of which would be used to fund school health programs as well as after-school activities, which some school districts now pay for with money earned through exclusive soft drink sales agreements. 
      The rest of the money would be used to fund public health and childhood obesity prevention programs outside of school. The bill has generated controversy in Sacramento as beverage industry representatives and some Republican lawmakers accuse Ortiz of "demonizing" popular soft drinks and pushing government too far into the lives of school children and their parents. 
      "The senator's desire to improve the health of children in California is commendable. The problem is her approach is misguided," said Sean McBride, spokesman for the National Soft Drink Association in
Washington, DC.  "It is too simplistic to say that if we just ban or restrict certain foods in the diet, then our children will be healthy and obesity will go away." 
      Ortiz's bill is among the latest efforts by state lawmakers to battle rising obesity in California children--many of whom have been offered a menu of sweet drinks and high-fat foods at their school cafeterias.  Physical exams conducted by schools last year showed that 30% of California children in the fifth, seventh and ninth grades are overweight, reflecting national trends that show that over the last 20 years, the overweight and obesity rates among US children have doubled while the number of overweight adolescents has almost tripled. 
      Many public health specialists target soft drinks as a primary culprit. An average can of soda has about 150 calories (628 joules) and overall soft drink consumption has almost doubled over the past 20 years. Health educators worry that the rise in child obesity levels spells trouble
ahead as these children mature into overweight adults more at risk for
developing diabetes, heart disease and other chronic illnesses. Last year California's state legislature passed a new law aimed at limiting the availability of "junk food" in elementary and middle schools, and this month a Democratic state assemblywoman proposed adding an additional "junk food tax" to help pay for children's dental care. Both the junk food and soft drink tax proposals come as a growing number of US states look for new ways to boost flagging state revenues, including raising so-called "sin" taxes on cigarettes and alcohol.