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the column of lasting insignificance: Nov. 17, 2012
by John Wilcock

CONTROL OF THE INTERNET will shift ominously next month if an international consortium meeting in Dubai votes against America. Totalitarian nations are already able to bar their citizens from criticizing the government, and smaller countries which share their resentment about the internet’s freedom think that global censorship would be the best way to curb it. From the beginning, administrative control of the World Wide Web has been in the hands of the non-political Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) based in Los Angeles. Seeking to change this at the Dubai gathering will be delegates from 120 countries attending the World Conference on International Communications. They are expected to outvote the U.S. and transfer control to a UN body.
    “The driving force behind the meeting’s agenda” writes Arthur Herman in Commentary, “are Russia and China, the world’s worst cyber crime offenders and most systematic suppressors of political dissent. Whoever controls the internet controls the destiny of nations”. The proposal is to transfer administration from ICANN to ITU (the International Telecommunications Union), a branch of the UN in which all countries have an equal vote. ITU’s general secretary Hamadoun Touré, a graduate of Moscow Tech, declares that when an invention becomes used by millions across the world “it no longer remains the sole property of one nation”, an opinion unsurprisingly supported by Russian president Vladimir Putin who believes that governments, and not users, should have the final say. “The goal, in short” explains Commentary, will be to force the United States, Canada and Europe to shut down dissident websites or sites that provide any information that other governments deem extreme or anti-social”.

T-SHIRTS ADVERTISING BROTHELS can be worn for practice but not in actual soccer games, is the ruling by authorities regarding the soccer team Voukefalas, an amateur league team representing the town of Larissa (pop: 200,000) in northern Greece. Two local brothels—Villa Erotica and Soula’s House of History—are prominently displayed on the pink shirts of the team

Brothel Games'
Nikolas Giakoumidis/AP

owned by Soula Alevidrou, 67, who proudly told the Associated Press: “Here is where it all begins, with amateur sport. I am a Greek woman and I love my country”. And club chairman Yiannis Batziolas adds: “It’s a question of survival”. The sponsorship is said to cost €1,000 ($1,320) annually, about ten percent of the running costs of an amateur team that includes students, waiters, bartenders and pizza delivery guy. Prostitution is legal in Greece and brothels, often advertised with garish neon signs, make good money but in their search for sponsors, soccer teams have hit on funeral homes and makers of feta cheese.

THE WORLD’S TOUGHEST JOB is how Fortune describes being commissioner of police in New York City, a job currently held by Ray Kelly who administers a $5bn budget, superintends 50,000 employees and simultaneously heads the country’s first counterterrorism bureau. (He has set up NYPD outposts in a dozen different cities around the world). All this at a time when New York’s murder rate, at a mere one per day, is the lowest in decades. Kelly, son of a milkman and a supermarket checkout lady, was police chief once before, under mayor David Dinkins in 1992, before spending seven years helping to restore Haiti’s police force and later as director of the Customs Service. He was reappointed police chief by mayor Michael Bloomberg who, say some observers, he may seek to succeed next year. Lowering the city’s murder rate—which averaged seven per day at the height of the crack epidemic in 1990—may well be the result of inspired police work, but critics point to the sevenfold increase in “stop and frisk” maneuvers of his patrolmen. The almost-700,000 examples of this last year, the mag reports, netted more than 8,000 illegal weapons.

IS IT POSSIBLE to fool a vending machine with a color copy of a dollar bill? It’s one of the questions asked of Wired’s Mr. Know-it-all who points out that today’s machines are much more sophisticated that one might imagine. “(The) validator …assesses whether a greenback contains the proprietary inks and fibers that are used in legit money” came the answer. “The special inks are chosen by the Bureau of Engraving for their reaction to wavelengths of light, both visible and invisible. Even the highest quality photocopy of a bill will flunk these tests since its off-the-shelf inks won’t emit the right patterns”.

DENGUE FEVER WHICH, mostly in Africa, Asia and South America, kills at least one million people a year, was once wiped out in the Western Hemisphere, but has made a comeback, especially in Florida and along the Texas/Mexican border. “We desperately need additional tools for dengue” says Stephanie James of the National Institutes of Health. One promising approach is the experiment at Australia’s James Cook University where mosquitoes are injected with an innocuous microbe called wolbachia which in some unexplained way stops the insects from transmitting the fatal strain. “It’s like a dengue vaccine for the mosquito” explains the lab’s spokesman. Similar methods are in play at Southern California’s UC Irvine and at a UK biotech company, Oxitec, both releasing genetically engineered male mosquitoes that cause the females to produce sterile larvae.

STATE-OWNED PRINTERS produce most of the new 150bn banknotes that appear each year, but in this era of financial meltdown private printing companies are experiencing a boom. The world’s largest commercial banknote printer, Britain’s De La Rue, which also prints British passports and other identity documents, devises about 100 new banknotes each year and recently has produced the currency for Iraq and the new nation of South Sudan. One of the first rules, explains Alan Newman, the company’s design chief, is that the note must look like it actually has value. “It can’t look like a theater ticket”.

NOW UNMANNED HELICOPTERS have entered the world of pilotless drones and are being tested in Afghanistan, delivering surprisingly heavy loads to isolated bases. Unarmed, with a top speed of 115mph, the copter has all the virtues of unmanned aircraft, reports the Economist, “it never gets sick, tired or goes on leave”. Continuing modification of the K-MAX, as it is called, will eventually enable it to be landed on steep slopes in high winds--something obviously beyond the range of fixed wing aircraft—and in addition to delivering supplies will be able to evacuate casualties.

THE FRENCH PERFUMIER Velds is making the unlikely claim that its new scent Prends-Moi is the first fragrance that helps the user to lose weight. When its launch was announced in London recently, the Daily Mail noted that 6,000 women were already on the waiting list (weighting list?) to try it. The perfume’s credentials are bolstered by its ingredients which include bergamot, jasmine, lilac and yiang yiang, described as oil from the fast-growing rainforest cananga odovate tree long associated with aromatherapy. According to Stores magazine which calls it ‘Eau de Slim’, the Velds company tested the perfume for 28 days on a group of women, three quarters of whom said it “limited their urge to snack”. Prends-moi (“take me”) costs $50 for a small bottle.

THE WILCOCK WEB: If the airwaves really belong to the citizens, then networks should offer free debating time to ALL the parties for every election….Dear Donald Trump, No, the world’s not laughing at us, it’s laughing at you…. New Jersey governor Chris Christie should follow his better instincts and change his party registration… And anybody who inflicts hours of fake wrestling on the world deserves to lose a hundred million bucks…. Military justice seems kinda slow when, eight months after rampaging over two Afghanistan villages. killing children and returning bloodstained to base, a hearing is now being held to decide if the soldier should be tried….… Scotland Yard has finally got around to investigating the role played by Rupert Murdoch’s chief tabloid competitor, the Daily Mirror (1995-2004 editor Piers Morgan) in the notorious telephone hacking scandals….”If you don’t have a full length mirror ”advises Bette Midler, “you’re going to get fat”…. Customers of some of the 735 Starbucks’ branches in England are complaining that the company uses financial trickery to avoid paying any taxes in that country. It should be “a basic social duty to pay a modicum of tax in your host country” writes Spectator columnist Martin Vander Weyer”…. Oh, those French with their amours. A new book about Valérie Trierweiler, 47, who supplanted the 40-year wife of president François Hollande and has continued trashing her rival ever since, was also sleeping with another politician at the same time. The Week describes Hollande as “feeble, vacillating” and “henpecked”…..The beguiling, little creature at right is a Philippine tarsier which often has its mouth open but never seems to be saying anything.


   Then anthropologists measured its voice level at 75 khz, more than three times beyond the 20 khz at which humans can hear….. In a bit of literary pretentiousness, survivalist author James Wesley, Rawls insists on the interjection of a comma into his name….. Although 80% of 70+ drivers held a driving license last year—up seven per cent—fatal accidents involving that group was down by almost a third reports AARP magazine, a decrease partly due to “conservative driving”…….”If I finish my term in office and have high approval ratings then I wasted my last years in office” says NYC mayor Michael Bloomberg.” A high approval rating means you don’t upset anybody”…. Oil refineries are selling one million gallons of gasoline abroad every day, which helps to cause domestic shortages (and thus, inflated prices)…. “Dream big by setting yourself seemingly impossible challenges. You then have to catch up with them.”—Richard Branson (1950- )




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