* Posts by John Savard

1388 posts • joined 18 Sep 2007

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Amazon cloud to BEND TIME, exist in own time zone for 24 hours

John Savard
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Units of Measurement

The length of the second, when combined with the mass of the kilogram and the length of the metre, gives us the size of other fundamental units like the ohm, the ampere, the watt, and the joule. So we can't change the length of the standard second.

But it certainly is possible to have civil time run on non-standard seconds, as was the case before 1972. Atomic Time is based on Ephemeris Time, and we could continue to have that as well.

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Microsoft: Free Windows 10 for THIEVES and PIRATES? They can GET STUFFED

John Savard
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Parsing

Sounds like if you own a computer that came with a legitimate copy of Windows, but it got wiped or something, then you could get a copy of Windows 10 - that's what that sentence about OEM partners and devices in a non-genuine state appeared to mean to me.

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Attack of the possibly-Nazi clone parakeet invaders

John Savard
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Re: Speaking of Pigeons...

Well, why not? Parakeets usually live in tropical climes, where it's warmer than in the places they're invading now.

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Meet the man who inspired Elon Musk’s fear of the robot uprising

John Savard
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Paper Clips

Of course the idea of a universe of paper clips, in effect, is an old one.

First, there was the science-fiction story "Watchbird".

Then, no doubt inspired by it, was a comic in an early issue of Creative Computing which showed robots, tasked with eliminating an annoying insect pest, wiping out the planet's only contraceptive herb.

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All-Russian 'Elbrus' PCs and servers go on sale

John Savard
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Re: @ Stuart Longland

Well, there is an awful lot of stuff that can be done perfectly well with a 60 MHz Pentium - or even a 40 MHz 486. So the fact that it's even slower in terms of clock rate than the 1 GHz chip in my cell phone doesn't make it useless; given their current aggression in the Ukraine, Western sanctions against them are likely to increase in severity. So having their own x86 capability in some form obviously meets a real need.

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Amstrad founder Lord Sugar quits 'anti-enterprise' Labour party

John Savard
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Unusual

I'll have to agree that it's unfair to jump to conclusions, although it seems odd that he discovered that Labor was anti-free-enterprise only after they lost the election. But that depends on what he meant by that; some people call anyone to the left of Margaret Thatcher an enemy of free enterprise, but if he had held such an attitude, he would never have been part of the Labor party in the first place.

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Not pro-Bono: Russian MP wants Apple to face stiff action for cramming 'gay' U2 into iCrevices

John Savard
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The True Agenda

I should have seen this long ago. The international repercussions of Russia's anti-gay campaign clearly outweigh any cred Putin is getting from it with the Orthodox Church in value.

But there's a large ethnic minority in Russia that has no use for extreme nationalism. From its ranks, one of Putin's most significant opponents, Garry Kasparov, came. Because they have a well-founded fear of persecution, however, Putin may be calculating that his anti-gay measures, by proving him to be profoundly illiberal, will contribute to generally cowing that minority into silence.

So it doesn't really have anything to do with homosexuality; Putin is afraid of the Jews in Russia speaking out against his rule.

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Bruce Schneier's Data and Goliath – solution or part of the problem?

John Savard
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Property Rights

Property rights are a good model for many things. They make sense for freedom of speech; forcing cable TV companies to have "public access" channels, forcing bus companies to accept controversial ads, is a violation of their freedom of speech, to make them a conduit of someone else's speech. It's unfortunate that some of us don't own newspapers, but this isn't the way to address it.

But there are other cases where they aren't the right model. That's why the Declaration of Independence spoke of "inalienable rights" - rights that can't be sold or given away. If you could sell yourself into slavery, it would be harder to police a ban on all other slavery.

People "need" electricity and telephone service and banking services - and thus end up having to agree to pretty onerous contract terms for them, since no other choices are on offer. Being able to search with Google is in that area as well. Laws that limit the abuse of market power, such as antitrust laws, do not conform to a laissez-faire mindset, but are in direct opposition to it.

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Shields up! Shields up! ASTRONAUTS flying to MARS will arrive BRAIN DAMAGED, boffins claim

John Savard
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Re: Not really equivalent

But the point is that they exposed the mice to one dose of radiation in a short time, instead of exposing the mice to the same total amount of radiation over the time a Mars mission would take, so that the brain could repair itself between receiving a little radiation and then receiving some more.

For most parts of the body, this is a very valid objection. But most of the brain doesn't undergo constant cell division the way the tissues of the rest of the body do. So it isn't renewed constantly.

No doubt the mice were much more likely to develop cancer than astronauts would have been, making the study entirely invalid for measuring that risk.

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John Savard
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Re: Not really equivalent

In the 1973 novel Protector, by Larry Niven, Phssthpok was a protector-stage Pak. That's what he was talking about.

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Burger me! Microsoft's chainsaw rampage through sacred cow herd

John Savard
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Re: On the 6th of March 2011 Motorola Atrix phone was released

Apple also has a history of "making products early before the tech can support them" - like the Lisa. Which is how they got all those juicy GUI patents.

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US govt bans Intel from selling chips to China's supercomputer boffins

John Savard
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Some Considerations

From the story, it appears that a court was simply enforcing an existing legislated ban on exports for military uses. Courts go by what the law says, and so if the consequences are bad, politicians will have to amend the law; it's not fair to criticize the body that directly imposed the specific sanctions.

However, shortly after I read this, I found out from a Google search that China was coming out with a supercomputer which consumed 1.1 megawatts to provide one petaflop of computing power, using homegrown Shenwei 1600 processors, made on a 65nm processs. I was amazed that they reacted so quickly in the expected fashion to this!

Then I searched for more information, took a closer look at the results, and found that this story was from November of 2011. Apparently the processor may use the MIPS instruction set, although its internals are said to be based on studying a DEC Alpha.

This means China indeed has a capacity for going homegrown, but also that it would try this without our encouragement - and that they are sufficiently behind in technology that sanctions will still slow them down.

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Eco-loons hack Thirty Meter Telescope website to help the 'natives'

John Savard
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Fortunately, the attack didn't compromise any observations, or it would have been a far more serious matter.

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C++ Daddy Bjarne Stroustrup outlines directions for v17

John Savard
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Re: Direction number one

This is an argument for putting "the modern stuff like functional programming constructs" in some new language, and not trying to graft it on to C++. It is not an argument for abandoning a language which is still very useful. Of course, if that "modern stuff" becomes so important that interest in C++ declines, then one can talk about "maintenance mode" - but at the moment, languages which produce efficient executables without the overhead of runtime type checking are still very much needed.

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Top Spanish minister shows citizens are thick as tortillas de ballenas

John Savard
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Reading

I was just re-reading Carl Sagan's The Demon-Haunted World. And that reminded me of the importance of teaching people critical thinking. And that's sadly neglected today even in most free nations, but naturally it's avoided in dictatorships because the last thing their rulers want is people who can see through their lies.

So it isn't just Franco's preference for conservative Catholicism that's to blame here.

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Windows 10 Device Guard: Microsoft's effort to keep malware off PCs

John Savard
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Not Useful Enough

Enterprises can get Microsoft to sign, for them, old applications they want to use.

But what about the home user? This will mean not being able to run legacy applications, if one wants to have the security this provides.

If there were a way that users could sign their own applications for their own use, locally, on their computers - without this adding a risk that it could be used by attacking programs to sign themselves - then it would be useful to people like myself.

This presumably would mean having a hardware-isolated program that could talk to the keyboard and the display. Since programs only need to be signed once, the inconvenience of booting into signing mode would be acceptable.

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‘For the love of Pete, America, learn about decent chocolate’

John Savard
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What I've read is that many competitive brands, because Americans have come to like the taste of Hershey's bars, which use a process that allows them to be less demanding of the quality of milk supplied to them, add butyric acid to their product. While I don't know further details, this may add to the understanding of this issue.

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Thank heavens for the silicon chip: A BRIEF history of data

John Savard
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Actually, the real riposte is that there are some computer applications that don't manipulate very much data, and computing rather than data manipulation is the most important thing that they're doing.

The earliest computers - excluding Colossus from consideration - were thought of basically as programmable scientific calculators, and that's how they were used. Some programs would take long lists of numbers as input (and thus they clearly did deal in data to a significant extent) - and others wouldn't.

But in business applications, data was relevant before there were computers - companies kept boxes of punched cards for transactions and for customers. And dealing with data was painful before random-access storage (the disk drive) came along... and once it became available, then it made sense to start thinking of how to make better use of its capabilities. And then various early types of database (hierarchical, Codasyl) came along before the relational database was invented.

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RSA supremo rips 'failed' security industry a new backdoor, warns of 'super-mega hack'

John Savard
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Audiences

No doubt his advice is appropriate for major businesses.

However, building higher and smarter walls is what makes sense for the average home computer user who cannot afford to hire a staff of security experts to protect the computer with which he surfs the Web and sends E-mail. So trying to make higher and smarter walls almost work is still a worthwhile endeavour.

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Streaming tears of laughter as Jay-Z (Tidal) waves goodbye to $56m

John Savard
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Re: Word perfect article

I liked the article, especially the bit about Blumlein, but I think that saying every word is true is going a bit too far. I'm rather sure he was exaggerating about Madonna.

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Cybercrim told to cough up £1m or spend years in chokey

John Savard
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Then he should have to reimburse the bank in full before paying money to be used for police and courts.

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John Savard
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Insurance just changes who the victim is. That would then mean he should have to pay full restitution to the insurance company.

Of course, full insurance against all crime-related losses should be free of charge. Paid for by the government, which gets the money from criminals, not taxpayers.

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John Savard
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Priorities

Before he should be allowed to pay any money to be used for "policing and the criminal justice system", or, in fact, before he should even be allowed to pay his taxes, every cent taken from his victim should have to be returned to her.

Yes: if you steal money from someone, then when your taxes are deducted, they should go straight to your victim instead of the government, meaning that interest and penalties will just add up until everything you stole was returned. Of course, I know this might not be popular with the government, so voters will have to put pressure on it.

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'If people can encrypt their cell phones, what's stopping them encrypting their PCs?'

John Savard
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Re: Congressman John Carter

While he seems like the sort of person who would get his secretary to type his E-mails, it seems to me that he didn't do that bad. People can encrypt their hard drives if they're so inclined and still use their computers. Also, he seems to have predicted the existence of what is known as ransomware. This is pretty good guessing for someone who doesn't seem to know that this sort of stuff is going on already.

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John Savard
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Vocal Cords

The fact that no one likes wading through ten levels of menus before getting to "press zero to talk to a human being" does not seem to me to indicate that the use of speech as a form of communication is heading for obsolescence, so I thought you were being rather unfair.

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Appeal court bombshell: Google must face British justice for 'Safari spying'

John Savard
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Criminal Charges

There should be criminal charges in U.S. courts under U.S. law, because they were engaging in the unauthorized misuse of people's computers. This should be treated just like other methods of exploiting vulnerabilities in browsers and operating systems.

When people actually go to jail over something, then the behavior stops - at least among respectable businessmen.

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How a hack on Prince Philip's Prestel account led to UK computer law

John Savard
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It Explains Much

The suspects in this case should never have been charged, as they weren't engaged in any criminal activity - as soon as they discovered there actually was a problem, they ceased from their unauthorized access, and notified the authorities.

This explains the case of the programmer prosecuted for double-checking whether the charitable site he donated to was legitimate that I read about in the Register some years back.

Having broad and severe laws against computer misuse is entirely reasonable. Enforcing them without a shred of common sense and discretion, however, is not.

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Quantum computers have failed. So now for the science

John Savard
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Doubts

As the Schrodinger equation is a wave equation, it is not too remarkable that some of its behaviors can be replicated in other things that involve waves. If, however, you ever try to do the Bell's inequality experiment with your droplets, I rather think that some differences will come out - indeed, I suspect that they will manifest themselves earlier, such as when you try to "observe" those droplets, thus forcing wave packets into eigenstates.

The wave-particle duality is key to much of the strangeness of quantum mechanics. Yes, you can simulate the wave part, but the particle part, that leads to "quantization", is not so easy to match with a classical model.

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Forget 1,000 lashes for Facebook posts, Saudis now want to behead blogger Raif Badawi

John Savard
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Re: Reproachless

"You do not know with 100% certainty who was flying those planes or who put them there !!!"

No, but I know nutcases when I see them, and the "911 Truth" style movements definitely qualify. In the real world, sometimes we have to live with 99.9999% certainty.

"Saudi Arabian laws are not dictated by the USA, therefore the Saudi Arabian government are not commiting an act of agression against an innocent according to SA law. US laws apply only to the US..."

I didn't say anything about Sa'udi Arabia breaking some other country's laws. Aggression against innocent people is an objective matter, and has nothing to do with any particular country's laws. Thus, Negro slavery and the Holocaust were both "legal" according to the laws of the countries that countenanced them, but that mattered not a whit. Right and wrong and justice are absolutes that exist for all times and places, and are not subject to change by human whim, or alterable to benefit vested interests.

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John Savard
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Re: Reproachless

Exactly when did radical atheists or secularists fly an airplane into a building in Sa'udi Arabia, killing thousands of innocent people? The U.S. is responding to an act of aggression against innocents, and the Sa'udi government is committing an act of aggression against an innocent. That should be clear to everyone.

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John Savard
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What Is Needed

It's time to bring about regime change in Sa'udi Arabia, and ensure that the new regime is firmly committed to universal standards of religious liberty and the separation of church and state, so that things like this will never happen again. From one end of the Islamic world to the other, non-Muslims must have full equality, under constitions which firmly prohibit making Islam, or any other faith, an established church - that is, favored in any way by the government, in violation of the basic eternal democratic principle of a wall fo separation protecting religious faith from government interference,

Of course, that wall of separation doesn't exist in the other direction, and so the faithful Muslim population can continue to vote for legitimate laws that reflect their moral beliefs which are informed by their faith. So beverage alcohol, abortion, pornography, and maybe even teaching evolution in public schools might still be illegal in Sa'udi Arabia, but such laws are admissible, being in line with precedent in genuinely democratic nations.

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Mummy, what's the point of Evgeny Morozov's tedious columns?

John Savard
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Point

Evgeny Morozov's point is obvious, having read his Guardian column. While digital tech may help somewhat in creating more equality, this is being over-hyped, and it's not going to solve the serious existing problems of inequality we face any time soon. So it won't "make those old debates irrelevant".

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The BBC wants to slap a TAX on EVERYONE in BLIGHTY

John Savard
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The Truth is Simple

Poll taxes are evil, and TV license fees are evil. If the BBC needs government funding, let it come from progressive income taxes like anything else worth doing that costs a great deal of money. It has been a terrible tragedy that lower-income people in Britain have had to suffer under the burden of BBC license fees as a condition of getting access to entertainment. This also meant that in the 8-bit computer era, people had to buy expensive monitors for their computers, because using cheap old disused TV sets, as North Americans did, would have meant they would have had to pay extra license fees - and so Britain fell behind in the early microcomputer era.

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Égalité, Fraternité - Oui, peut-etre. Liberté? NON, French speedcam Facebookers told

John Savard
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Saving Lives

Driving at excessive speeds places human lives at risk, and so harsh penalties for attempting to reduce the efficiency of legitimate law enforcement measures to ensure that every motorist, every second of the time he or she is on the road, drives at or below the posted speed limit, are entirely appropriate.

After all, if someone were to die in a car accident, not all the tax revenues of the French government could bring that person back. So it must never be allowed to happen in the first place.

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First HSBC, now the ENTIRE PUBLIC SECTOR dodges tax

John Savard
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Budgets

Seeing the headline, I wondered how on Earth the government not paying sales tax to the government could cost the government, or even the taxpayer, any money. But reading the article cleared this up - individual government departments, claiming tax refunds not allowed by the rules, were enabling themselves to spend more of your tax dollars than they were really given in their budgets.

I wonder how you could have made a non-confusing headline for this type of story. Civil servants use tax fraud to inflate their budgets?

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Qualcomm, ARM: We thought we had such HOT MODELS...

John Savard
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What I Took From the Article

There's a foundry in Red China capable of making 28 nm chips? Oh noes, we're all DOOMED!

But I'm surprised that ARM isn't in more trouble already. Never mind Intel using the x86 chip as an Android alternative. Since most Android programs use bytecode rather than native code, other chips more similar to ARM, and thus presumably more suitable to smartphone chips, could be used. Thus, why isn't MIPS entering this market?

Or, more to the point, some RISC chip vendors are licensing their architectures on generous terms, because they would really like to see them more widely adopted. So why not SPARC smartphones, or PowerPC smartphones?

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DARPA's 'Cortical Modem' will plug straight into your BRAIN

John Savard
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What It Would Be Most Good For

I'm quite surprised the article did not give prominence to the most obvious benefit to this technology; it would be able to bring sight to the blind.

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In praise of China’s CROONING censors: Company songs NOW!

John Savard
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British History

If one is going to mention "Ever Onward, IBM" and the like, what about Farey Aviation and the Black Dyke Band?

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ATTENTION SETI scientists! It's TOO LATE: ALIENS will ATTACK in 2049

John Savard
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Re: Death by Alien Cockup ...

Robert Zubrin has used this as an argument against being overly concerned about back contamination from Mars. However, he overlooked one point. Of course we don't have to worry about Martian malaria contaminating the Earth. Martian mold or Martian mildew, however, could see us just as a big pile of sugars with no relevant immune defenses - and turn Earth's biota into green goo in a matter of weeks.

Plus, on Earth, mold and mildew are relatively complicated organisms - symbiotic clusters of eukaryotic cells, I think. So they're not the ones that would have already made it to Earth on meteorites, putting paid to another one of his arguments.

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UN negotiations menaced by THOUSANDS of TOPLESS LADIES with MAYONNAISE

John Savard
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The Clear Agenda

It's clear that the fellow from Belarus was expressing a concern for the conference providing an opportunity for FEMEN to express its message, as opposed to concern for modesty or for the delegates' dry cleaning bills.

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'Giving geo-engineering to this US govt is like giving a CHILD a LOADED GUN'

John Savard
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Survival First

While it's true we should be converting to nuclear energy - a way to reduce our carbon footprint without making huge sacrifices in our energy use - even that isn't happening soon enough.

Giving a loaded gun to a child, if that's what the child needs to survive, is not always a bad thing; it may be the least bad alternative left.

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Skin colour's irrelevant. Just hire competent folk on their merits, FFS

John Savard
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Re: Three considerations

In the United States, at one time all it took was one sixty-fourth part of black ancestry to be classified as officially black.

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John Savard
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Not Enough

Just hiring on skills and merit instead of color sounds like it should be enough. But practical experience in the United States shows that it is not. Black people are somewhat less likely than white people to have the right pieces of paper when they are capable of doing a job. Furthermore, they're quite a bit less likely to have the right training to make them qualified for a job even when they have the same level of innate talent and ability for the job as a white person.

Is affirmative action really the right tool, though? Should employers, rather than the government, be expected to make up for prior discrimination black people have suffered in educational opportunities? That is a legitimate question, but even so, in any case the question is still more complicated than presented here.

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You MUST supply dying customers even if they're in administration, thunders UK.gov

John Savard
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Theft by Government

The instant a firm's solvency is called into question, it is entirely reasonable for it to be expected henceforth to pay in advance for any and all goods and services it receives from outside suppliers. For that matter, we need laws to protect the employees of firms that run into difficulty: their wages should be immediately paid into escrow as they are earned.

These innocent victims, who are at arm's-length from troubled companies, who don't have the opportunity to review their books and keep an eye on their total operations, ought not to be consigned to the limbo of being "unsecured creditors" who may get nothing. Banks do have the opportunity to monitor the fiscal health of the firms to which they supply credit; of course, though, since their collateral is what is backing part of the money supply, in much the same way as gold bullion in the vaults of central banks, so I admit that a balance has to be struck.

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Ex-NSA lawyer warns Google, Apple: IMPENETRABLE RIM ruined BlackBerry

John Savard
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Some Truth

Actually, there is some truth to the claim, incredible though it may sound.

The BlackBerry phones owed part of their security to communicating with BlackBerry's own servers. And the downfall of the company started when corporate users perceived BlackBerry phones as unreliable when it was victimized by a major DDoS attack.

The problem with their comeback was that individual cell phone users want a major apps platform like Android or the iPhone for their money - and, again, their maverick software is an element in their enhanced security.

So, while the encryption itself was a plus, not a minus, features of their phones that made it possible did contribute to their problems. Note, of course, that Apple and Google have no such problems, though, however much they upgrade their security.

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Swedish National Font marches to the sound of whalesong

John Savard
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Worried

I'm just glad that Sweden avoided sparking a conflict with Switzerland by declaring Helvetica the Swedish National Font!

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Nothing is True and Everything is Possible, Dead Girl Walking and Chasing the Scream

John Savard
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The Root Cause

If addiction is a disease of loneliness, then the cure is presumably worse than the disease.

Now that women have equal rights, they can take paying jobs and support themselves; not like ancient times, where every woman had to be married so her parents wouldn't have to be the ones to feed her.

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UK official LOSES Mark Duggan shooting discs IN THE POST

John Savard
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Puzzled

Looking up the case, I found that Mark Duggan was in possession of an unauthorized firearm, and that he was believed to be a member of an organized crime gang. Given that, why would his death be politically sensitive, or, indeed, a concern to anyone except perhaps his immediate relatives? Isn't the whole country at war with drug dealers and the like?

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Wham, bam... premium rate scam: Grindr users hit with fun-killing charges

John Savard
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Obviously, the charges should be billed to the dishonest party who posted the improper advertisement.

If law enforcement in, say, Belarus, or somewhere like that is not fully cooperative in this, the answer is simply to deny the country involved access to the Internet and, indeed, to long-distance telephone service. It's high time for the treaties that let 900 number dialer virus writers get away with their crimes to be reviewed.

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Panicked teen hanged himself after receiving ransomware scam email

John Savard
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New Laws are Needed

Under current law, I don't think the people responsible for this ransomware, if they were ever brought to justice, could be charged with murder. That should be changed. People who drive others to suicide through harassment and similar actions should pay the just price for what they have done.

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