Thursday, October 01, 2009

There Is No Missing Link

'Researchers have unveiled the oldest known skeleton of a putative human ancestor -- and it is full of surprises. Although the creature, named Ardipithecus ramidus, had a brain and body the size of a chimpanzee, it did not knuckle-walk or swing through the trees like an ape. Instead, "Ardi" walked upright, with a big, stiff foot and short, wide pelvis, researchers report in Science. "We thought Lucy was the find of the century," says paleoanthropologist Andrew Hill of Yale University, referring to the famous 3.2-million-year-old skeleton that revolutionized thinking about human origins. "But in retrospect, it was not."'

This is a major scientific discovery. The inference -- that for much farther back into the ancient past, humans and apes have been separate and distinct species -- rules out the nmotion of there being a 'missing link' in the fossil record, a link that has been much lampooned by creationists and their fellow morons.

Weekly Update: Plain Brits

Coming Out Earlier Than Ever

Austin, a gay 13-year-old from Oklahoma
'Austin didn’t know what to wear to his first gay dance last spring. It was bad enough that the gangly 13-year-old from Sand Springs, Okla., had to go without his boyfriend at the time, a 14-year-old star athlete at another middle school, but there were also laundry issues. “I don’t have any clean clothes!”'

Monday, September 28, 2009

Roman Polanski Arrested in Switzerland; Why?

Roman Polanski has been arrested in Switzerland... The long arm of the law, indeed: the warrant for his arrest after he fled the U.S. is thirty-one years old.

But why has he been arrested?
"I confirm that Mr Polanski has been arrested. The American authorities issued an international search request in 2005 in relation to a 1978 warrant," said Guido Balmer of the Swiss justice ministry. "There was a valid arrest request and we knew when he was coming. That's why he was taken into custody." [Guardian]
It seems that prosecutors in Los Angeles kept on trying to get him:
In Los Angeles a representative for prosecutors described the arrest as all but inevitable in a game of cat and mouse they had never stopped playing. [NY Times]
Incidentally, the same New York Times story has this intriguing sentence, near the end, after describing how Polanski had fled from the U.S. after being released from a 42-day stay in a California State prison: "He has not openly visited the country since."

Does this suggest that he might in fact have been back to the U.S., perhaps using a falsified passport? It's certainly possible...

Last year, a documentary called "Roman Polanski: Wanted And Desired," retold the story of what happened factually, within the legal system and in the media, presenting a story far more fascinating and complex than I had realized. The "troubled and charming creep-genius," as one review of the documentary calls him, co-operated with the police and courts, showed up for his prison stint, left the country (with permission) for work engagements in Europe and then returned for further court appearances.

The American and European media reacted with predictably frenzied, tabloid hysteria over the case, prejudicing the case under any normal rules, according to the documentary. Opinion was split, however, between an American self-righteousness and a more languid European attitude. If Polanski was a reluctant star of the show, the judge in the case courted the media with gusto. Justice Laurence J. Rittenband was, the film makers' said, "a man so press hungry that he kept a cuttings book inside his bailiff’s desk... as imperious and impulsive as Polanski himself."

At the time of the trial, Rittenband had two girlfriends, one aged only 19, and he routinely spoke to the press about the case as it proceeded. He even briefed the prosecutor and Polanski's attorney on how they should argue the case, possibly with a view to getting headlines in the following day's newspapers. Now we await the filing of a U.S. extradition request with the Swiss authorities (perhaps Polanski now agrees with Gaddafi) and Polanski will appeal... and people will argue over it for a long time to come.

The Rain in Spain ...

This new PS20 solar power tower collects sunlight through mirrors known as “heliostats” to produce steam that is converted into electricity by a turbine in Sanlucar la Mayor, Spain, Wednesday. (Miguel Angel Morenatti/Associated Press)

Keep. Your. Hands. Off.

President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama welcomed Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi to the G-20 dinner in Pittsburgh Thursday...

The Postman's Overweight

According to a British Government minister, the Royal Mail service is experiencing a decline in volume -- 'figures are down' -- as more and more people use the Internet and cell phones to communicate. A regular postman writing in the London Review of Books says this is bull...

‘Figures are down,’ we say, and laugh as we pile the fifth or sixth bag of mail onto the scales and write down the weight in the log-book. It’s our daily exercise in fiction-writing. We’re only supposed to carry a maximum of 16 kilos per bag, on a reducing scale: 16 kilos the first bag, 13 kilos the last. If we did that we’d be taking out ten bags a day and wouldn’t be finished till three in the afternoon.

The truth is that the figures aren’t down at all. We have proof of this. The Royal Mail have been fiddling the figures. This is how it is being done...
And he continues to go quietly postal in print here.