Ignorance More Frequently Begets Confidence

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There’s happy news on the science and common sense front. First, The Complete Works of Darwin Online. Here’s a piece of their blurb:

This site currently contains more than 50,000 searchable text pages and 40,000 images of both publications and handwritten manuscripts. There is also the most comprehensive Darwin bibliography ever published and the largest manuscript catalogue ever assembled. More than 150 ancillary texts are also included, ranging from secondary reference works to contemporary reviews, obituaries, published descriptions of Darwin’s Beagle specimens and important related works for understanding Darwin’s context.

http://darwin-online.org.uk/

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Initial Robot Singer Inconvenient First Public Performance

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It’s been a banner year for those of us who dreamed of wearing Star Trek pajamas and Beatle Boots and zooming around the universe. On the transporter front, some Dutch scientists recently figured out how to do something that is, well, pretty much like beaming matter from one place to the other.

On the cloaking front, first introduced by the Klingon, of course, another team has demonstrated the principal of invisibility, although not yet in a visible light range. There’s bad news on the universal translator front, however. Moreover, it’s related to a setback in our quest to build Data.

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Broken English

The term “haji” is not simply an ethnic slur, like “gook,” “jap,” “jerry” or “nigger.” All ethnic slurs entail hostile stereotypes, but “haji” is a specifically religious stereotype based on hostility toward Muslims. In our 2003 book, Weapons of Mass Deception [15], John Stauber and I described the efforts that the Bush administration has undertaken to rebrand America in the eyes of Arabs and Muslims, spending hundreds of millions of dollars on projects including Radio Sawa [16], Al Hurra [17], a “Shared Values [18]” campaign, and the Council of American Muslims for Understanding [19]. Through glossy brochures, TV advertisements and websites, the United States has sought to depict America as a nation of religious tolerance that respects and appreciates Islam. These words, however, are constantly being undermined by the actual deeds and attitudes of the Bush administration’s most ardent supporters, including soldiers in the field in Afghanistan and Iraq. While the White House has tried to frame the war in Iraq as a “war on terror,” its own supporters keep reframing it as a war against Islam. This is a serious, if not fatal error. Rather than fighting a few thousand actual terrorists, the United States is positioning itself in opposition to one of the world’s major religions, with more than a billion adherents worldwide.

–Sheldon Rampton, from “Hadji Girl”
http://www.prwatch.org/node/4887/print

This is an excerpt from Rampton’s response to a controversy that begin last summer when a group called The Council on American Islamic Relations complained about a video in which U.S. soldiers were “cheering a song that glorifies the killing of Iraqi citizens.” The video was posted online last March. The council reminds us that “A “Hajji” is a person who has made the Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca, but the term has often been used as a pejorative by U.S. troops in Iraq.” Perhaps fortunately, the video has been removed from it original spot on YouTube. Continue Reading →