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Thursday, December 01, 2005

Under control, under surveillance and under suspicion

In an interestingly titled article, "Microwaves govern us," the Sydney Morning Herald reports that electromagnetic "smog" may "affect mood and behaviour." Psychiatrist Michael Berk, of the University of Melbourne, studied solar flares over a more than thirty year period and compared them to suicide rates among women. It turns out that suicides tended to go up during and just after solar flares. "The finding meant it was feasible that electrical and communications equipment could affect mood, Professor Berk said."

Along those lines, the Independent is carrying an article citing rising internet addiction in the US. Researches think that up to ten percent of the nearly 200 million Americans online may suffer from it. Just so you can tell whether you have it, here are the seven signs of addiction:
a thirst for ever more time spent online, trembling or even involuntary finger movements when the users is away from the computer, dysfunctions in day-to-day relations with friends and co-workers and, at the extreme, the loss of a job or a marriage because of excessive internet use.
That's the bad news. The good news?
The business consultants Challenger, Gray & Christmas recently estimated that American fantasy football alone was costing US employers $200m in lost productivity every season.
More than half of all American teenagers were online at least once a day.

Speaking of unintended consequences of technology, the AFP reports that "
[t]he body count from road accidents in developed economies is 390 times higher than the death toll in these countries from international terrorism." Keep in mind that most of those deaths occur going to, coming from or during work. And, it should go without saying that all of that is a direct result of the class war waged on us by the rich, who continue to shift the economic and health costs of their businesses onto anyone other than themselves. Check out Bob Black's excellent essay, "The Abolition of Work" for a further treatment of the destructive nature of work in modern economies.

The Guardian also reports that the largest skyscraper in the world, the Taipei 101, which stands more than 1600 feet high and weighs more than 700,000 tons, has opened up new fault lines, leading to earthquakes. Consider this:

Many engineers and scientists are more perturbed about the impact of other types of construction. "It is well known that man can induce earthquakes from things like mining, building reservoirs and extracting oil and gas, where a large load acts over a large area," says Dr Lubkowski.

One of the most convincing examples is the Koyna Dam earthquake, which occurred in 1967. More than 120 people died and many more were injured when a magnitude 6.5 earthquake shook the ground around the recently constructed dam in Maharashtra state, India.

It is thought that the huge weight of water changed the stresses in the ground. Closer to home, the magnitude 5 earthquake in May 2001 in the North Sea is thought to have been caused by a release in pressure from oil and gas extraction.

In 1967, mountains of waste that had been injected into the Rocky Mountains set off a magnitude 5.5 earthquake under Denver in Colorado. A similar earthquake under a nuclear waste store would be disastrous.

Some readers may remember the Christian Science Monitor article linking the rising number of earthquakes to global warming.

Another Guardian article reports that "
A new class of malaria drugs [artemisinins] that has been billed as a life-saver for millions of children in Africa and Asia is already losing its potency." Of the more than a million people Malaria kills each year, more than 70 percent are children under the age of five. Thanks to inappropriate use, the article claims, "the expectation that all combinations with artemisinins will have a long therapeutic life may be overly optimistic." Technology giveth and technology taketh away.

Shifting gears a bit,
Chuck McCutcheon, reporting for the Newhouse News Service writes about the increasing utilization of cell phone records to solve crimes. This probably isn't new to regular readers, but the article provides some particularly disturbing (though not surprising) quotes from law enforcement on the topic of technology. For instance:
"Technology has become the best friend of law enforcement ... and we know now that the phone is our friend," said John Firman, research director for the International Association of Chiefs of Police in Alexandria, Va.
Of course, he's talking about cell phones, which authorities now routinely use to check against alibis and investigate crimes. And why shouldn't technology be the best friend of law enforcement? They're both authoritarian institutions created by the wealthy for the wealthy.
Al Gidari, a Seattle attorney who represents several wireless telephone providers, said requests for records have skyrocketed in recent years, reaching as many as 4,500 per month at the top five companies. "It's a huge burden," Gidari said.
Of course, it's bad for the cops to have access to this information, but remember, the corporation is an authoritarian institution, as well.

As if to reinforce the point, from the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, we have this quote:
"The bad guys have technology, too," Firman said. "The fact is, police have an obligation, not just an interest, to get a hold of and explore the use of technology."
It comes from the unthreateningly titled article, "Police cameras focus on crime." Focusing on the spread of surveillance cameras in West Palm Beach. In what has become a typical justification for the cameras - and technology in general - Assistant Chief Guillermo Perez said,
"If one of these cameras saves someone from being murdered or being shot, it's worth it," he said. Continuing with the cliches, he says, "I think the climate has changed out there. At one point 15 years ago, it might have been met with a lot of opposition."

Meanwhile, Motorola announced that it has developed a new license place reading technology that it plans to make available to law enforcement.
Called Automatic License Plate Recognition (ALPR), the technology installed in police cars "reads" vehicle plates as they enter the view of a vehicle-mounted or roadside infrared camera, and checks them against a database for nearly instantaneous identification. The system runs continuously, automatically capturing images of license plates with a camera that works in nearly every lighting condition.

"This technology is completely automated and built into the car's operation, so it requires no action on the part of the police officer to capture the plate numbers and have them verified. It is not something the officer has to initiate," said Steve Most, multimedia business director, Motorola radio systems division, in a statement.

Previous technologies required officers to manually type in a plate number and request a database search for each number, which can be time consuming and prone to errors.
As bad as it is when humans are in charge of law enforcement, does anyone think it will be better when the machines are in charge?


Blogger subbionic said...

interesting to have come across your site.


Fri Dec 02, 04:43:00 PM 2005  

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