Last night, Sunday April 19, 2009, I found myself entering into a strange new world, a world in which I was immersed in a pool of silence.
My left ear has been fairly deaf since I was a kid. I think I lost a good bit of hearing in that ear when I was six and a doctor lanced my eardrum in order to treat an abscess. This was before the age of antbiotics, and medical care back then was relatively primitive. As a result they kept giving me hearing tests all through Elementary School. However, I learned to live with it because after all I had a reasonably good right ear.
But Sunday night my right ear suddenly failed me, leaving me unable to hear such common, everyday things such as running water and the flushing of the toilet. On a scale of 1 to 10 my right ear was perhaps hearing at a scale of 4, if that. This joins my left ear which barely hears anything this side of a roar.
Monday morning. As I feared, I did not hear my alarm going off at 6 am this morning, and it was 6:21 before I reared my head up to check the clock. Television has pretty much lost its voice. And music sounds like a travesty of itself through those wonderful Sennheiser headphones my sons pooled their resources to send me last year.
It’s a condition that continues to bring down my quality of life. Will I respond by finally getting myself some kind of a hearing aid as my older son Dan has been urging me to do for years now? Who knows? Will Medicaire and my health insurance company, Texas HealthSpring pay any money towards it? Or will I be forced by economic reasons to continue swimming in this pool of silence I have so suddenly found myself in?
Of course, when you get to my age and something like this happens, you can’t help but ask yourself, “what’s next?” Who knows what failings lurk in the bodies of the elderly? The Shadow knows! I would sure as hell give just about anything to find out the answer to that “what’s next” question. But as usual only time will tell.
Update: I started coming out of the pool (of silence) late in the day Monday, and by Tuesday I can hear fairly normally on the telephone, and the tv. Music still doesn’t sound quite right on the Sennheisers, but you can’t have everything. Be thankful for small favors, Little Eddy.
At least now, blush, blush, blush,
I can finally hear my toilet flush.§
Jesus Diaz on GIZMODO writes, Demonstrating how futile the war against Pirate Bay really is, someone has created The Pirate Google bay: A Google custom search dedicated to find torrent files. I can't wait for the industry to sue Google.
Think about it: Even if they hunt all the Torrent directories and search pages down, they will keep appearing and people will still publish things online, no matter what. Torrents torrents everywhere, and Google as the mega-Pirate Bay it already is.
And from The Local, Sweden’s news channel in English, comes word that at least one of the attorney’s for the real Pirate Bay’s principals are planning to call for a mistrial. It turns out that the judge in the Pirate Bay case, Tomas Norström, has been a member of several of the same copyright protection organisations as several of the main entertainment industry representatives, Sveriges Radio's P3 news programme reports.
Peter Althin, the lawyer who represents Pirate Bay spokesperson Peter Sunde, has announced that he plans to demand a retrial. "I will point that out in my appeal, then the Court of Appeal (Hovrätten) will decide if the district court decision should be set aside and the case revisited," Althin said on Thursday.§
How about a toy where you make a ping pong ball rise using only your brain power? Look ma, no hands!
Isn’t that an extraordinary video? Imagine this Christmas you’ll be able to give the child of your choice the power to use his/her brain waves so creatively? And what is first appearing as a children’s toy will eventually have some purely grownup uses. Like as mentioned the ability to control artificial limbs through brain waves, and the idea of using your brain to help fly that complicated new jet fighter. Intriguing stuff, this.§
LONDON, England (CNN) -- Scientist and author Stephen Hawking is "very ill" and has been hospitalized, according to Cambridge University, where he is a professor. Hawking, 67, is one of the world's most famous physicists and also a cosmologist, astronomer, and mathematician. Wheelchair-bound Hawking is perhaps most famous for 'A Brief History of Time.'
Hawking has Lou Gehrig's Disease (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, or ALS), which is usually fatal after three years. Hawking has survived for more than 40 years since his diagnosis. On his Web site, Hawking has written about living with ALS. "I try to lead as normal a life as possible, and not think about my condition, or regret the things it prevents me from doing, which are not that many," he wrote.
He added: "I have been lucky, that my condition has progressed more slowly than is often the case. But it shows that one need not lose hope."
Hawking has been married twice. His Web site says he has three children and one grandchild. Hawking was born on what turned out to be an auspicious date: January 8, 1942 -- the 300th anniversary of the death of astronomer and physicist Galileo Galilei.
A Cambridge University spokesman told CNN: "Professor Hawking is very ill and has been taken by ambulance to Addenbrookes Hospital, Cambridge." Professor Peter Haynes, head of the university's department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics, said: "Professor Hawking is a remarkable colleague, we all hope he will be amongst us again soon."
Hawking has guest-starred, as himself, on Star Trek: The Next Generation and The Simpsons. He also said if he had the choice of meeting Sir Isaac Newton or Marilyn Monroe, his choice would be Marilyn. In October, CNN's Becky Anderson interviewed Hawking. The following are some quotes from that interview:
"Over the last twenty years, observations have to a large extent confirmed the picture I painted in 'A Brief History of Time.' The one major development that was not anticipated was the discovery that the expansion of the universe is accelerating now, rather than slowing down... We live in the most probable of all possible worlds."
"I believe that the long-term future of the human race must be in space. It will be difficult enough to avoid disaster on planet Earth in the next hundred years, let alone next thousand, or million."
"I see great dangers for the human race ... but I'm an optimist. If we can avoid disaster for the next two centuries, our species should be safe as we spread into space.
On Tuesday the Associated Press reported that later in the afternoon, Hawking was "now comfortable but will be kept in hospital overnight." Hawking was involved in the search for the great goal of physics — a "unified theory" — which would resolve contradictions between Albert Einstein's General Theory of Relativity, which describes the laws of gravity that govern the motion of large objects like planets, and the Theory of Quantum Mechanics, which deals with the world of subatomic particles.
"A complete, consistent unified theory is only the first step: our goal is a complete understanding of the events around us, and of our own existence," he wrote in his best-selling book, "A Brief History of Time," published in 1988. In a more accessible sequel "The Universe in a Nutshell," published in 2001, Hawking ventured into concepts like supergravity, naked singularities and the possibility of a universe with 11 dimensions. "§
Our erstwhile ex president of vice, the Dick with the last name of Cheney, recently shot his mouth off about how this country (in his somewhat skewered opinion) was less safe under President Obama than we were under Bush/Cheney because Obama has forsaken torture as an interrogation technique, which in Cheney’s assessment is what has kept Americans safe these many years since 9/11. Of course Cheney could cite not one instance to back up his specious claims. If indeed there is any, all such information is conveniently classified? Should we take an unsubstantiated Cheney at his word? Or should we turn for guidance to someone who actually administered interrogation techniques in Iraq? And what, if anything, lurks in the wake of U.S. interrogation techniques as practiced under the Bush/Cheney administration?
Matthew Alexander is a former senior interrogator in Iraq who reminded us in Monday’s edition of The Daily Beast that abusing prisoners results in unreliable information, costs American lives, and still hasn’t turned up Osama Bin Laden. According to Mr. Alexander:
Our policy of torture and abuse of prisoners has been Al Qaida’s number one recruiting tool, a point conspicuously absent from former CIA Director General Michael Hayden and former Attorney General Michael Mukasey’s argument in the Wall Street Journal. As the senior interrogator in Iraq for a task force charged with hunting down Abu Musab Al Zarqawi, the former Al Qaida leader and mass murderer, I listened time and time again to captured foreign fighters cite the torture and abuse at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo as their main reason for coming to Iraq to fight. Consider that 90 percent of the suicide bombers in Iraq are these foreign fighters and you can easily conclude that we have lost hundreds, if not thousands, of American lives because of our policy of torture and abuse. But that’s only the past.
Somewhere in the world there are other young Muslims who have joined Al Qaida because we tortured and abused prisoners. These men will certainly carry out future attacks against Americans, either in Iraq, Afghanistan, or possibly even here. And that’s not to mention numerous other Muslims who support Al Qaida, either financially or in other ways, because they are outraged that the United States tortured and abused Muslim prisoners.
In addition, torture and abuse has made us less safe because detainees are less likely to cooperate during interrogations if they don’t trust us. I know from having conducted hundreds of interrogations of high ranking Al Qaida members and supervising more than one thousand, that when a captured Al Qaida member sees us live up to our stated principles they are more willing to negotiate and cooperate with us. When we torture or abuse them, it hardens their resolve and reaffirms why they picked up arms.
Former officials who say that we prevented terrorist attacks by waterboarding Khalid Sheikh Muhammad or Abu Zubaydah are possibly intentionally ignorant of the fact that their actions cost us American lives. And let’s not forget the glaring failure in these cases. Torture never convinced either of these men to sell out Osama Bin Laden. And that’s the other lesson I learned in Iraq.
Matthew Alexander is a pseudonym for a 14 year veteran of the U.S. Air Force. As the leader of an elite interrogations team in Iraq, he conducted more than 300 interrogations and supervised more than 1,000. He served in three wars and was awarded the Bronze Star Medal in 2006.
Of course Mr. Cheney’s primary motive for hitting the talk circuit running is his attempt to justify the torture he had pushed for so hard in his VEEP days. His recent appearances on CNN and on Fox represent a new turn in his career, as he attempts to add the title teacher to his resume, and his one and only course is C.Y.A. 101. (Cover Your Ass). For as a driving force behind its adoption Mr. Cheney would naturally stand to get substantial blame if the policy is later deemed to have been criminal. And particularly if it ever gets to a stage of prosecution.
The entire article makes for riveting reading, and may be accessed by pointing your cursor and clicking here!
Leave it to our ex president of vice to claim success in the jaws of failure. According to published reports CIA interrogators waterboarded Khalid Sheikh Mohammed 183 times in March 2003 — according to a newly released Justice Department document. If you are waterboarding a man 183 times in a single month then one thing is quite obvious. Your success rate isn’t running very high.
Furthermore the truth is finally leaking out about the true reasons for that all of that excessive torture during the Bush/Cheney years. According to a report by Jonathan S. Landay of McClatchy Newspapers the relentless pressure from the Bush Administration to use harsh methods on detainees was done in part to find evidence of cooperation between al-Qaida and the late Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein’s regime, according to a former senior U.S. intelligence official and a former Army psychiatrist.
Such information would have provided a foundation for one of former President George W. Bush’s main arguments for invading Iraq in 2003. In fact, no evidence has ever been found of operational ties between Osama bin Laden’s terrorist network and Saddam’s regime.
Former Vice President Dick Cheney and others who advocated the use of sleep deprivation, isolation and stress positions and waterboarding, which simulates drowning, insist that they were legal.
A former senior U.S. intelligence official familiar with the interrogation issue said Cheney and former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld demanded that the interrogators find evidence of collaboration between al-Qaida and Iraq.
“There were two reasons why these interrogations were so persistent, and why extreme methods were used,” the former senior intelligence official said on condition of anonymity.
“The main one is that everyone was worried about some kind of follow-up attack (after Sept. 11). But for most of 2002 and into 2003, Cheney and Rumsfeld, especially, were also demanding proof of the links between al-Qaida and Iraq that (former Iraqi exile leader Ahmed) Chalabi and others had told them were there.”
It was during this period that CIA interrogators waterboarded two alleged top al-Qaida detainees repeatedly — Abu Zubaydah at least 83 times in August 2002 and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed 183 times in March 2003 — according to a newly released Justice Department document.
“Cheney’s and Rumsfeld’s people were told repeatedly, by CIA … and by others, that there wasn’t any reliable intelligence that pointed to operational ties between bin Laden and Hussein, and that no such ties were likely because the two were fundamentally enemies, not allies,” the former official said.
Senior administration officials, however, “blew that off and kept insisting that we’d overlooked something, that the interrogators weren’t pushing hard enough,” he said. Mr. Landay’s complete reporting may be found here!
From a N.Y. Times story by Scott Shane and Mark Mazzetti which can be read in its entirety here!:
Even George J. Tenet, the C.I.A. director who insisted that the agency had thoroughly researched its proposal and pressed it on other officials, did not examine the history of the most shocking method, the near-drowning technique known as waterboarding.
The top officials he briefed did not learn that waterboarding had been prosecuted by the United States in war-crimes trials after World War II and was a well-documented favorite of despotic governments since the Spanish Inquisition; one waterboard used under Pol Pot was even on display at the genocide museum in Cambodia.
They did not know that some veteran trainers from the SERE program itself had warned in internal memorandums that, morality aside, the methods were ineffective. Nor were most of the officials aware that the former military psychologist who played a central role in persuading C.I.A. officials to use the harsh methods had never conducted a real interrogation, or that the Justice Department lawyer most responsible for declaring the methods legal had idiosyncratic ideas that even the Bush Justice Department would later renounce.
The process was “a perfect storm of ignorance and enthusiasm,” a former C.I.A. official said.
And finally for the ultimate Timeline of the Bush Administration’s march into the Dark Side, go to the Foreign Policy website by pointing your cursor here!§
The U.S. Defense Department’s newest battlefield weapon is, would you believe? an iPod Touch. According to an article by Benjamin Sutherland in Newsweek:
The U.S. military in the past would give a soldier an electronic handheld device, made at great expense specially for the battlefield, with the latest software. But translation is only one of many software applications soldiers now need. The future of "networked warfare" requires each soldier to be linked electronically to other troops as well as to weapons systems and intelligence sources. Making sense of the reams of data from satellites, drones and ground sensors cries out for a handheld device that is both versatile and easy to use. With their intuitive interfaces, Apple devices — the iPod Touch and, to a lesser extent, the iPhone — are becoming the handhelds of choice.
Using a commercial product for such a crucial military role is a break from the past. Compared with devices built to military specifications, iPods are cheap. Apple, after all, has already done the research and manufacturing without taxpayer money. The iPod Touch retails for under $230, whereas a device made specifically for the military can cost far more. (The iPhone offers more functionality than the iPod Touch, but at $600 or $700 each, is much more expensive.) Typically sheathed in protective casing, iPods have proved rugged enough for military life. And according to an Army official in Baghdad, the devices have yet to be successfully hacked. (The Pentagon won't say how many Apple devices are deployed, and Apple Computer declined to be interviewed for this article.)
The iPod also fulfills the U.S. military's need to equip soldiers with a single device that can perform many different tasks. Apple's online App Store offers more than 25,000 (and counting) applications for the iPhone and iPod Touch, which shares the iPhone's touchscreen. As the elegantly simple iPods — often controlled with a single thumb — acquire more functionality, soldiers can shed other gadgets. An iPod "may be all that they need," says Lt. Col. Jim Ross, director of the Army's intelligence, electronic warfare and sensors operations in Fort Monmouth, New Jersey.
Since sharing data is particularly important in counterinsurgency operations, the Pentagon is funding technology that makes it easier for the soldier on the ground to acquire information and quickly add it to databases. Next Wave Systems in Indiana, is expected to release iPhone software that would enable a soldier to snap a picture of a street sign and, in a few moments, receive intelligence uploaded by other soldiers (the information would be linked by the words on the street sign). This could include information about local water quality or the name and photograph of a local insurgent sympathizer. The U.S. Marine Corps is funding an application for Apple devices that would allow soldiers to upload photographs of detained suspects, along with written reports, into a biometric database. The software could match faces, making it easier to track suspects after they're released.
Apple gadgets are proving to be surprisingly versatile. Software developers and the U.S. Department of Defense are developing military software for iPods that enables soldiers to display aerial video from drones and have teleconferences with intelligence agents halfway across the globe. Snipers in Iraq and Afghanistan now use a "ballistics calculator" called BulletFlight, made by the Florida firm Knight's Armament for the iPod Touch and iPhone. Army researchers are developing applications to turn an iPod into a remote control for a bomb-disposal robot (tilting the iPod steers the robot). In Sudan, American military observers are using iPods to learn the appropriate etiquette for interacting with tribal leaders.
Translation is another important area. A new program, Vcommunicator, is now being issued to soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. It produces spoken and written translations of Arabic, Kurdish and two Afghan languages. It also shows animated graphics of accompanying gestures and body language, and displays pictures of garments, weapons and other objects. Procurement officials are making a "tremendous push" to develop and field militarily useful Apple devices, says Ernie Bright, operations manager of Vcom3D, the Florida firm that developed the software. The iPod has already transformed the way we listen to music. Now it's taking on war.
Apple’s Quarterly Report
Meantime, the Associated Press’ Jessica Mintz reported Apple Quarterly financial results. Strong sales of the iPhone Apple Inc. lifted its quarterly profit 15 percent, well ahead of Wall Street’s expections despite of the global downturn. The company also said co-founder Steve Jobs still plans to return from his medical leave as scheduled. "We look forward to Steve returning to Apple at the end of June," Apple's chief financial officer, Peter Oppenheimer, said in a conference call with analysts. Jobs, a survivor of pancreatic cancer, stepped away from his day-to-day responsibilities as CEO in January. Analysts who follow Apple have said that if Jobs does not return, the company's stock will take a hit and the company might find it difficult to replicate some of the strategic moves that its CEO has forced, such as moving into the smartphone handset business.
"I think you'd see a high-functioning company, but one without the lightning strike of genius," said Ezra Gottheil, an analyst with Technology Business Research Inc., shortly after Jobs announced his medical leave. "They'd have a human batting average.§
In an article entitled Brand Che: Revolutionary as a Marketer’s Dream, Michiko Kakutani in Books of the Times reviews the impact of a book called CHE’S AFTERLIFE The Legacy of an Image By Michael Casey Illustrated. 388 pages. Vintage Books. $15.95. From the revue:
Not just in the hearts of revolutionaries, Marxist insurgents and rebellious teenagers, but on T-shirts, watches, sneakers, key chains, cigarette lighters, coffee mugs, wallets, backpacks, mouse pads, beach towels and condoms. He’s not only been used by politicians like the Venezuelan president, Hugo Chávez, to promote their own agendas, but he’s also been employed by merchants to sell air fresheners in Peru, snowboards in Switzerland and wine in Italy.
The supermodel Gisele Bündchen pranced down a runway in a Che bikini. A men’s wear company brought out a Che action figure, complete with fatigues, a beret, a gun and a cigar. And an Australian company produced a “cherry Guevara” ice cream line, describing the eating experience like this: “The revolutionary struggle of the cherries was squashed as they were trapped between two layers of chocolate. May their memory live on in your mouth!”
As Michael Casey, the Buenos Aires bureau chief for Dow Jones Newswires, observes in his fascinating new book, “Che’s Afterlife,” the image of Ernesto Guevara most frequently used by politicians, demonstrators and merchants alike is based on the famous 1960 picture of the guerrilla leader taken by the Cuban photographer Alberto Díaz Gutiérrez, known as Korda. It’s the familiar, ubiquitous close-up, often rendered in high-contrast blacks and whites, which features the handsome 31-year-old Argentine-born revolutionary looking off into the distance as if he had his eyes on the future, his gaze — described, variously, as pensive, determined, defiant, meditative or implacable — as difficult, in Mr. Casey’s words, “to put a finger on” as the Mona Lisa’s smile.
One often wonders what the American CIA agent who is credited with finishing a wounded Che off with a bullet to his head, thinks about his accomplishment lo these many years later. His shot seemingly projected Guevara into the realm of myth, and has helped make the face of the somewhat obscure physician and revolutionary one of the most recognizable images on the planet.
In James Bond lore it was author Ian Fleming who anointed Bond with the power of 007, life and death. One wonders in a democracy such as ours, just who it is who has the power to anoint a CIA agent with such powers. That someone in the U. S. could invoke such power at a time the nation was not at war was something they neglected to teach us in our high school civics classes. I suppose Dick Cheney could explain it to us.§
And so we have passed yet another edition of the Little Eddy Blog. Do join us again anytime next week for more of the same. God and Google, willing we post Saturday mornings. See you next time.§