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Thursday, November 01, 2007

Blogging roundup

Once in a while I like to devote one post to several stories I've found interesting, but have been unable to find time to blog about.

1. When should rescue attempts be abandoned?
Mine collapses in the Rocky Mountain West two months ago led to the loss of several miners, and subsequently the death of several rescuers from an ensuing cave-in. Manned rescue attempts were stopped after the second collapse. Was that fair? What if the original miners were still trapped below earth and eventually died from starvation?

2. How "constant vigilance" for terrorists hands them a victory
This story has been repeated endlessly, both in the United States and in other countries. Someone -- these are all real -- notices a funny smell, or some white powder, or two people passing an envelope, or a dark-skinned man leaving boxes at the curb, or a cell phone in an airplane seat. The police cordon off the area, make arrests and/or evacuate airplanes, and in the end the cause of the alarm is revealed as a pot of Thai chili sauce, or flour, or a utility bill, or an English professor recycling or a cell phone in an airplane seat.
Read the story about the English professor - it's an embarrassment.

3. Care about privacy or the 4th Amendment? Here's a nice 2-page analysis of what we need when Congress passes amendments to the Policing America Act - the legislation passed as a stop-gap in August to give Democrats more time to cave in to the Bush Administration's demands for unscrutinized ability to police Americans. One thought:
  • The legislation currently allows a "blanket warrant" to wiretap (or otherwise surveil) conversations of a foreign national with any American citizen. This is expressly prohibited by the 4th Amendment, which requires "probable cause." I shudder to think that some Founders thought we didn't need a bill of rights and that the Constitution implied that only very limited powers accrued to the national government.
4. Popcorn suppliers finally decide to remove a toxic chemical from microwave popcorn. So now you can inhale the buttery aroma without permanently reducing your lung function. Too bad the government never bothered to step in to protect your food...

In May I noted how OSHA declined to regulate diacetyl despite several debilitating injuries to popcorn plant employees. In September, a man was diagnosed with "popcorn lung" after being a heavy consumer of microwave popcorn.

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