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National Geographic: Do Chimps Grieve?

[caption id="attachment_74" align="aligncenter" width="640" caption=""CameroonAt the Sanaga-Yong Chimpanzee Rescue Center, more than a dozen residents form a gallery of grief, looking on as Dorothya beloved female felled in her late 40s by heart failureis borne to her burial." - National Geographic"]"CameroonAt the Sanaga-Yong Chimpanzee Rescue Center, more than a dozen residents form a gallery of grief, looking on as Dorothya beloved female felled in her late 40s by heart failureis borne to her burial." - National Geographic[/caption]

This photo took my breath away, and at least for me the evidence is absolute that there are animals capable of feeling complex emotions as we do. The grieving on the faces of the Chimps, is for me, undeniable. What do other people think?

The photo appears in the November issue of National Geographic in their Visions of Earth 2009 article.

...She lies in the Tehran street with her headscarf half-off, blood pooling around her jeans and white sneakers.

"Don't be afraid, Neda dear, don't be afraid," a white-haired man says desperately in Persian. Another man presses on her chest, trying to keep her alive.


Scarlet blood gushes from her nose and mouth and courses across her pale face. Men and women scream in horror as they realize she is dead or dying. - AP, 6/22/09


The murder of 27 year old Neda Agha-Soltan at a protest in Tehran likely by Basij militia or Revolutionary Guards has become a tragic yet equally powerful symbol for Iran's struggle for freedom and given her a martyr's status in Iran.In less than 48 hours, the 40 second video was all over YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter with over a million impressions (An aside: Social media has finally justified its otherwise navel-gazing existince). Old media followed soon after, spreading the video world-wide and into the mainstream consciousness. Nearly a week after the video was recorded it is still one of the most-searched terms on the web, and today alone over 14,264 blog posts and news articles have been written about her.

YouTube: Iranian woman killed June 20, 2009 by Ali Khamanei [WARNING: The preceding link contains the real and graphic death of a human being.]

Tiananmen Square Tanks ProtestBut it didn't take long for comparisons of Tiananmen's Tank Man to start rolling in. I am not sure how accurate these comparisons are given many differences between the two examples, but as powerful symbols of the struggle for freedom they are close. One such difference is that images of the Tank Man have near-universal familiarity and meaning to the rest of the world; In China, however, the powerful imagery of the Tank Man, is largely baffling to the younger affluent and educated generation many of whom had parents at the protests. On the other hand, the images of Neda's death have become a rallying cry for protesters in Iran, and despite complete media control, seems to be having an impact on the greater Iranian population to the detriment of the Islamic Republic's authority.

Neda Salehi Agha SoltanFurthermore, while the unprecedented protests in Tiananmen Square failed to liberalize the government of China, as the protesters had hoped, they did lead to economic reform. These economic reforms were still a far cry from the freedoms and accountability originally sought and that are still far out of reach. Meanwhile, Iran by some accounts is still fluid situation - although the edge still certainly remains on the side of the Islamic Republic. But the facade is nonetheless cracked and Ayatollah Khomeneican no longer take his power for granted in light of a younger generation that overwhelmingly seeks reform.

I really want to hear what some of you are thinking about all of this.

What do you think of the comparison of Neda to the Tank Man from Tiananmen Square?Is this a fair comparison? What do you think will be the ramifications of the poignant, public display of Neda's sacrifice? Is she the Tank Man of the Internet-generation?

Originally published at Blueblooder.com.

Last week the Mayor of Providence created a controversy by announcing a Payment In Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) system by which students of local Colleges and Universities pay a $150 fee per semester. This would be the first time a city levied a per-pupil fee to charge local schools for their use of land and municipal services. Naturally, the Universities balked and cried crocodile tears for their students who would suffer as the result of yet another fee. Students and their families already burdened with exponentially increasing tuition joined in too.Crocodile Tears : Glenn beck

If things are bad in Providence, they are much worse in Boston. In 2002, the BRA found that 50% of property in Boston was tax exempt. This study was conducted before the massive land grab by Harvard in Allston and Northeastern's expansion into Lower Roxbury. It's safe to assume that with these notable expansions along with many others, the amount of tax-exempt land is notably larger than 50%.

Boston gains a tremendous economic and cultural benefit from its large number of colleges and universities. But their presence does come at a high cost that is paid by the rest of us. The worst economy in a generation has caused municipalities to slash budgets for essential services and forced local governments to look for new means of creating revenue. It's hard not to notice that despite being similarly hit by the economy, many schools are flushed with cash and just sitting on hundred of millions (and some even with billions) of dollars. The economic reality has pushed a long-ignored issue to the forefront of Boston's Mayoral race.

Per-Student Fees
I find the per-student tax to be a very interesting approach to a PILOT system. It strikes me as infinitely more transparent and fair than the current system that happens mostly behind closed doors and from the beginning uses a flawed methodology to calculate fees levied on the colleges and universities.

Negotiations begin by looking at the value of property owned by the college or university. The problem with starting with property value, is that it ignores the largest cost to the city which are the students. It ignores that schools over-enroll forcing many more students to live off campus and naturally the many more students who choose to live off-campus. Off-campus students are even more apt to use municipal resources and yet are not accounted for at all under the current system. This is the way I see the advantages and disadvantages of per-student fees broken down.

Advantages:


  • Accurately taxes Colleges and Universities for impact and use of services in the city

  • Includes students who live off campus who use municipal and city services more than their on-campus counterparts

  • A public, accountable, and equitable system across the board. No more closed-room dealings with City and university officials that lead to some schools paying more than others.

  • Per-Student fees become a separate part of tuition fees rather than squirreled away inappropriately under Student Activity or Maintenance fees


Disadvantages:

  • Fee paid directly from students

  • Potentially higher cost to students

  • Doesn't address needed reform PILOT fees required of Hospitals and other non-profits


It's important to note that any progressive changes to the PILOT system will likely lead to students paying more. So it becomes a question of whether you tax the students directly (per pupil, per semester) or indirectly (an overall negotiated fee to the city). I happen to think the former is fairer to everyone involved.

Where is Boston heading?The Mayor Good question!
In January, Boston's Mayor Menino announced the formulation of a task force to revise Boston's PILOT program. Thankfully not lost in the Mayor's typical fanfare, was the announcement that the four of the six committee members represent organizations that would pay more under a more aggressive PILOT structure. These members include Robert Brown the President of BU, Zorica Pantic President of Wentworth Institute of Technology, Patricia McGovern the general counsel of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, and Thomas Glynn the Chief Operating Officer of Partners Healthcare.

The conflict of interest here is obvious. Even moreso to the rest of us left footing the bill.

Originally published at Blueblooder.com.

FP!

First Post!

Now, let's get down to configuring this site.

Under Construction

On Vox: Mmm, books.

Colin showed me his newest book purchase, State by State: A Panoramic Portrait of America, and I couldn't help but notice who had written an essay on my fair little state of Massachusetts (while noting how little-read I must be since I only recognized a handful of other names who wrote of other states). The essay on Massachusetts was written by none other than the preminent John Hodgman! Moreover, I would discover, he was born somewhere in the tiny Boston burg of Brookline! Aw.


If there was ever someone I wish I was but could never be it would be John Hodgman. I don't think I could even pull off dressing like him, let alone any other aspect of his divine exterior and papercut wit.

Also, this book makes me hot too (and should make you hot too).

Originally posted on iheijoushin.vox.com

Only a few months ago we had the egregious FDA decision endorsing the use of BPA in consumer products even though it is known to leech from the plastic into our bodies. and that utterly ignores the research that suggests this is quite bad for us.  Only after a huge flood of negative press which noted the conflict of interest in the panel that made the decision and which pointed out the mounting evidence against BPA. Today we have the FDA telling us that small amounts of melamine in products for human consumption is okay so long as it is in tiny amounts.


Okay, fair enough tiny amounts don't bother me that much - except that you, the FDA, are charged with protecting us consumers against abuses and negligence on the part of corporations that have repeatedly shown zero regard for the health and well-being of their customers. You are the only line of defense we have. You keep showing us you constantly bow to the pressure from industry lobbyists, make decisions that lack enough evidence to be safely made and even ignore evidence to the contrary of your decisions. The BPA decision ignored more than 100 peer-reviewed studies noting that BPA leeches from plastics and that noted BPA's numerous connections to serious illnesses. Instead the FDA based their decisions on a handful of studies funded by the chemical industry. I've seen 5th graders with a more commanding understanding of the Scientific method and evaluating evidence.

There is no reason for melamine to be in baby formula, medicine, or food. None. Zero. It's called contamination, whether purposefully or not. So why is it that the FDA in all of its brilliance allows it to be present at all when there is not a damn reason why any product should have even the smallest amount of anything poisonous or dangerous in it (especially when it is unlisted) that is fit for human consumption.

The end result is an expensive and innefective Government bureaucracy that can absolutely not be trusted to do the very thing it was created to do. This is by our Government's own admission. The FDA's decisions equates to saying, that carelessness and abuse by Corporations is okay so long as it is barely noticeable or they stack our panels with people sympathetic to their cause, or they outright pay us to ignore it. We should not have to trust the capricious profit-oriented media to keep the FDA in check as they did with the BPA issue. They should be doing their damn jobs to begin with. Their jobs, which I might add, must also include regulating the "dietary supplement" market which has gotten away with misleading consumers and peddling dangerous products for years.

Our Government needs a serious overhaul and often in ways that are overlooked.  The much-needed overhaul of patent law and removing the conflict of interest the U.S Patent Office has to approve junk patents so that they can have a bigger budget. The FCC sheer insurmountable incompetence in all aspects of protecting consumer rights, and maintaining a healthy and diverse market of competition that avoids media consolidation.

Please future President Obama: Save us from our own Government.

More Information:
http://oversight.house.gov/story.asp?ID=1074
http://www.eyeonfda.com/

Originally posted on iheijoushin.vox.com

On Vox: Automate your Internet Snarkiness!


Never again be troubled with relying on your own quick wit or anonymity-provoked snarkiness to show some foolish denizen of the Internet their folly of asking questions easily answered by Google. 

Have LetMeGoogleThatForYou.com do your dirty work (and soak up that pesky negative karma) while you revel in the knowledge of a knowing you helped your fellow man.

The Internet just gets better and better.

Originally posted on iheijoushin.vox.com

On Vox: OMG ALIEN DISCOVERED!


Okay, so it's only the rediscovered Pygmy Tarsier. God totally made this sucker in the dark.


Look at those haaaaaands.

Originally posted on iheijoushin.vox.com

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