Friday, July 27, 2007


What is the penalty for a train or airline passenger who's late? Often $50 or more. What is the penalty for a company when a train or airplane is late? Nothing. How can that be fair? It's not. But this imbalance, and many others you can probably recite by heart, can be blamed in part on the proliferation of one-sided contractual relationships called "contracts of adhesion."

Every one of us finds ourselves in contracts of adhesion every day, with virtually every consumer product we buy. Contracts of adhesion are pacts between two entities that are not equal, a David and Goliath agreement, where Goliath offers the deal on take-it-or-leave-it terms. Nothing can be negotiated, so everything can be unfair. Buying a car? You have to sign a piece of paper that says you'll never sue the dealer. Won't sign the paper? You can't buy a car. And since all auto dealers require these one-sided terms, consumers don't really have a choice -- either abdicate your right to sue, or don’t drive.

In general, contracts in the United States are only valid when they are negotiated between two equal parties. That makes sense: Only people on equal footing can engage in fair, arm's-length negotiations.

Take-it-or-leave-it Consumer contracts don't fit this bill, however. They are almost always take-it-or-leave-it, non-negotiated contracts. When you purchase a cell phone, you agree to never join a class-action lawsuit against the cell phone provider. When you get a credit card, you agree that the terms and conditions for that card can change at any time. If you don't agree to these things, you can't get a cell phone or a credit card. That's just how it is. Take it or leave it. It's all on those pieces of paper you sign, or somewhere on the firm's Web site, in very, very small print.

To prevent abuses, courts have held repeatedly that contracts of adhesion fall into a special category. Despite what you might have heard, unfair provisions inserted into such contracts are not legally enforceable -– even if you signed the piece of paper. Such provisions are given the drastic legal term "unconscionable." A judge who finds a provision of a contract of adhesion to be unconscionable will void that provision.

There is a problem, however: Absent activist government intervention, everything is legal until someone sues. Long ago, companies noticed this and began pushing the boundaries on contracts of adhesion. As long as no one drags them to court, anything goes.

Point of View

These are the words to one of the songs I'll be singing at the Hungry Ear Coffeehouse, Sat., Aug. 4, 2007. See previous post for details

Point of View
copyright 2002 Patricia M. Shannon

There were two men from the same village,
the truest friends you've ever known.
They were blood-brothers when they were children,
and worked together when they were grown.

They were the best of friend, the best of friends,
brothers of the heart,
They were the best of friends, the best of friends,
nothing ever could tear them apart.

One day the Trickster bet the village,
he could get these friends into a fight;
"Oh, no," said the village,
"We know you can't be right."


Tricks made a coat of different colors,
walked between them so they could view;
"What a lovely red.", said one friend,
said the other : "No, it is blue."

They started shouting at each other
over which one saw it true,
Trickster turned around and showed them
"It's all in your point of view."

They were the best of friend, the best of friends,
brothers of the heart,
They were the best of friend, the best of friends,
they thought nothing could tear them apart.

the bess press money can buy

To get the latest in how the press is distorting the news, see

Thursday, July 26, 2007

good Christians
A dozen Christian men were convicted Thursday and sentenced to up to 14 years in jail for beating to death and beheading two Muslims to avenge the government executions of three Christians in Indonesia last year.

There are evil idiots of all races, nationalities, and religions.

foxes protecting our henhouse

A federal judge Thursday ordered the government to pay more than $101 million in the case of four men who spent decades in prison for a 1965 murder they did not commit after the FBI withheld evidence of their innocence.

The judge called the government's defense that the FBI had no duty to get involved because it was a state case "absurd."

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Better Sleep May Put Huntington's Disease Sufferers Back On Track

Mice carrying the genetic mutation that causes Huntington's Disease (HD) showed marked improvements in alertness and their ability to learn after they were given drugs that put them to sleep.

According to the Cambridge neuroscientists conducting the research, HD mice have abnormal circadian rhythms; their daily sleeping and waking cycles are disrupted and irregular. Since sleep disruption contributes to problems with perception and learning in healthy people, the team wondered whether the circadian disruption and cognitive disturbances in HD mice were linked.

To test this, drugs were administered to regulate sleep patterns in the mice. The results, published today in the Journal of Neuroscience, show that both drugs caused a noticeable improvement in learning and Alprazolam also improved arousal. The study shows for the first time that treatments aimed at restoring normal sleep-wake activity could slow the cognitive decline that is such a devastating feature of the disease.

In Violent Neighborhoods, Adults Too Fearful To Intervene With Most Young Offenders

A study of young, violent criminals in New York City found that they used fear and intimidation to keep adults from interfering with their criminal activities.

The results showed that adults in these high-crime neighborhoods faced a difficult situation in their relationships with young adults. The young offenders said they wanted the adults in their neighborhood to care more about them, and to provide more guidance and help. But those same young people also recognized that their own actions frightened adults away.

The best scenario would be for adults to try to intervene with children when they are still young and more willing to accept guidance from adults, she said.

While adults may be rightfully fearful of confronting violent youth in their neighborhoods, they can help in more subtle ways by being good role models, Wilkinson said.

These young people need to see adults who go to work and make a positive impact on society.

“We found that, in at least some situations, adults can influence the behaviors and thinking of teens and young men,” she said. “Despite their involvement in criminal activities, the youth in our study had aspirations for better lives free of the chaos of drugs and violence. We need to find ways to reach them when are younger.”

Elevated Leukaemia Rates Near Nuclear Facilities

Leukaemia rates in children and young people are elevated near nuclear facilities, but no clear explanation exists to explain the rise, according to a research review published in the European Journal of Cancer Care.

They found that death rates for children up to the age of nine were elevated by between five and 24 per cent, depending on their proximity to nuclear facilities, and by two to 18 per cent in children and young people up to the age of 25.

Incidence rates were increased by 14 to 21 per cent in zero to nine year olds and seven to ten percent in zero to 25 year-olds.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

environmentalism is selfish (good)

The passionate negativity that one reads concerning protecting our environment confuses me. If I were to proceed with complete self-centered selfishness I would still WANT and expect; clean air, a rich and varied flora and fauna, space to live, water to drink, food enough to survive, and a sewage system that works..........this is what is at stake if we breed without limit and consume unchecked.Gretchen Scharnagl, Miami, FL USA

This comment is really great.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Sun variations not behind warming, study says

By Sara Goudarzi, LiveScience Staff Writer
posted: 13 September 2006 01:01 pm ET

Variation in the brightness of the Sun is not the major factor behind the unusual warming the Earth has experienced over the past few centuries, a new study suggests.

Researchers traced changes in our parent star's energy output back to the 17th century and found that solar cycles, peaking nearly every 11 years, did not play a significant role in contributing to global warming.

Earth's warming trend, which climate reconstructions show began in the 17th century, has accelerated in the last 100 years. Most studies reveal that this temperature rise could be attributed to the increase of greenhouse gases in the Earth's atmosphere.

In addition to man-made factors, natural inconsistencies in Earth's climate could also play a role in climate change. Additionally, some scientists have speculated that changes in the Sun's brightness affect temperatures on Earth.

About once every 11 years, changes in the Sun's magnetic field result in increases in the number and magnitude of sunspots and solar flares, which bombard Earth with charged particles.

During times of high activity, like in year 2000, the Sun shines about 0.07 percent brighter, researchers report in the September 14 issue of the journal Nature.

The researchers used a combination of data on solar brightness obtained by spacecrafts since 1978 and isotope data --collected from Earth's atmosphere and in ice sheets of Antarctic and Greenland--to recreate the Sun's influence on terrestrial temperatures over the past several centuries.

Although events such as sunspots have increased in the last 400 years, their effect only contributed a small amount to global warming, the results show.

"Our results imply that, over the past century, climate change due to human influences must far outweigh the effects of changes in the Sun's brightness," said study co-author Tom Wigley of the National Center for Atmospheric Research.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Republicans favorite things

I got this off the comments at

Sung to “My Favorite Thing”s:

Two-timing Gingrich,
And page-blower Foley
The cream of the party,
Which claims to be holy,

Big paper bundles
Of cash for Cheney

These are a few of my fave GOPs.

Hookers for Vitter,
A black servant for Strom
A cop for Bob Allen
To go down upon.
Six spouses for Rudy and his current Ms.

This is what’s called family values a-miss.

When Ted Haggard,
Gets his massage,
When a lawyer’s shot,
The GOP will cover up all these things
As the nation just goooooooes to pot!

Posted by wadyaknow at 03:33 PM : Jul 12, 2007

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Stressed-out types at risk for memory problems;_ylt=AkkJW_sepAqDzuBLYLmY_Lw_cbYF

People who are often stressed out or depressed are far more likely to develop memory problems than those with sunnier dispositions, U.S. researchers said on Monday in a finding that sheds light on early predictors of Alzheimer's disease.

They said those who most often are anxious or depressed were 40 times more likely to develop mild cognitive impairment, a form of memory loss that is often a transitional stage between normal aging and dementia.

People with mild cognitive impairment have some trouble remembering things, but they do not have significant disability. Not all people with this problem develop Alzheimer's disease, a much more serious impairment, but about 10 to 15 percent do, according to the Alzheimer's Society.

More vitamin D can put more pep in seniors' steps;_ylt=Am4H3ILRgG9YaDME6puF_u0_cbYF
Declining physical performance among some Dutch seniors may not be a simple consequence of aging, it may actually be due to a vitamin D deficiency, results of a new study suggest.

Bills pile up when uninsured eligible for Medicare;_ylt=AmQOqofvd_do.JeGUMneTyc_cbYF

Americans who previously had no health insurance rack up some expensive medical bills once they are old enough to be covered by Medicare, researchers said

"The implication is that expanding (Medicare) coverage to uninsured near-elderly adults may not cost as much as previously thought,"

The American College of Physicians has endorsed the idea of allowing insured adults to purchase Medicare coverage before age 65.

I'm a perfect example. I'm saving up to pay for a cataract operation on one eye, which has been legally blind for more than a year. I can still see well enough to work and drive with the other eye, but I can see a deterioration in the vision of my good eye. I expect to put off having a cataract operation on my better eye until I am eligible for Medicare.

And of course, some problems are much more expensive when treatment is put off.

Mild Stress In The Womb May Worsen Risk Of Cerebral Palsy

Chronic mild stress in pregnant mothers may increase the risk that their offspring will develop cerebral palsy--a group of neurological disorders marked by physical disability--according to new research in mice. The results may be the first to demonstrate such effects of stress on animals in the womb.

In the study, the scientists adjusted the normal cycle of light and dark that the pregnant mice were accustomed to for half of the mice, subjecting them to a mild level of stress. Then the researchers exposed the brains of the developing fetuses to injury. When the brains of the young mice were examined on birth, Gressens and his team found that the offspring born from stressed mothers showed brain lesions about twice as big as those in offspring of unstressed mothers.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Looking for life
Stellar Tiramisu: Astronomers Find Hints of Distant Planetary Pollution

This article was different from what I expected.

This misunderstanding gave me an idea.

Reading a science magazine yesterday, a scientist suggested that when looking for life on other planets, we look not at chemistry, but for signs of intelligence. He obviously was referring to technologically advanced societies.
The reference to "planetary pollution" shown above gave me an idea.
When looking for "intelligent" life, we should be looking for pollution.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Best Males Have Less Successful Daughters

Studies of red deer published recently in Nature suggest that the most successful males are more likely to produce less fertile daughters.

Male and female deer need different attributes to succeed. Genes which prove to be an advantage in fathers don't necessarily prove beneficial in daughters.

Males who win fights for females go on to produce daughters who have fewer offspring, whereas the daughters of less successful males demonstrate higher fertility.

The research helps explain why, despite natural selection, there can still be broad biological diversity between individuals in a population.

In humans, there is evidence that homosexual men are more likely to have female relatives with high fertility.

Of course, in human societies, another reason for the occurance of broad biological diversity is that we need a broad variety of people to fulfill different roles. Eg., I read a study some years ago that found that, in general, the best drivers were those of average intelligence.

Intelligent People Are More Patient In Financial Matters; Higher IQ Also Makes More Tolerant Of Risk

Assuming someone gave you the choice of 100 euros today or 150 euros in a year's time. Which sum would you take? Scientists at the University of Bonn and the Institute for the Study of Labour (Institut zur Zukunft der Arbeit, IZA) asked 1000 adults in Germany this question. At the same time they measured the cognitive abilities of the participants, using two different methods. The result was that intelligent people prefer to wait for a higher return, rather than going for the money now. This is the first time that this relationship between intelligence and patience in financial matters has been shown. Furthermore, the willingness to run risks increases with higher intelligence.

Well, judging from such things as SAT and GRE scores, and others judgements, I'm pretty intelligence, but I don't consider myself very willing to run risks.

Reap What Your Ancestors Sowed

Freeloaders can live on the fruits of the cooperation of others, but their selfishness can have long-term consequences, reports an evolutionary biologist from The University of Texas at Austin in a new study.

"There is a historical dimension to cooperation," says Dr. Sam Brown, the Human Frontier Science Foundation Fellow in the Section of Integrative Biology. "The act of a cooperator can continue to give benefits even after the cooperator is dead. Conversely, cheating will have consequences in the future."

Brown has developed a new model showing that cooperators and cheaters can co-exist in a dynamic boom and bust state in the presence of long-lasting resources, known as "durable goods."

Durable goods can outlast their producers, and then be passed on to future generations. They include things like antibiotics produced by populations of bacteria to kill off neighboring bacteria and public parks or buildings built by humans.

In the presence of a durable good, cheaters can increase in numbers with no immediate consequences. For example, cheaters could still enjoy the shelter of an ant nest or a building for some time even if it is not being maintained.

"But freeloaders can also increase so rapidly that in a generation's time the whole building collapses," says Brown.

"If you have social dilemmas [where there are cooperators and cheaters] mediated by these longstanding, durable entities like buildings, ant's nests, or biofilms in bacteria, then you introduce an instability," he says. "It's almost as if there is a pact with the devil, because you pay nothing now for your cheating, but you pay double tomorrow, because everyone's cheating and the costs come home to roost."

If you've been reading my blog, you know this is a factor that has been of concern to me. Maybe I have had an impact by putting forth ideas; that would be gratifying. But, to me, this is such an obvious idea, that I would expect more than one person to think of it on their own.

Common Environmental Chemicals In Diet Affect Fetal Ovarian Development
Exposing a developing female sheep fetus to low doses of chemicals commonly
present in the environment can disturb the development of the ovary
Over recent decades there has been a dramatic increase in the production of
industrial and agricultural chemicals and heavy metals, and this has
coincided with widespread reports of breeding problems in wild animals.
Fertility also appears to be declining among humans and there has also been
a rise in reproductive defects observed in newborn babies.;_ylt=AvxxpotYGbPe2uvhbwqLqKQPLBIF

Sexual problems could lead to rhinos' extinction

Low sperm counts and other reproductive problems are preventing pregnancy among Malaysia's endangered rhinos, a worrying trend that wildlife experts say could hasten the animals' extinction.


Altruistic Rats
Cooperation in animals has long been a major focus in evolutionary biology. In particular, reciprocal altruism, where helpful acts are contingent upon the likelihood of getting help in return, is especially intriguing because it is open to cheaters. In a new study published this week in the open-access journal PLoS Biology, Claudia Rutte and Michael Taborsky demonstrate the first evidence for generalized reciprocal cooperation in non-humans. The authors show that rats who received help in the past were more likely to help another unknown partner.

So what I have said about humans holds for rats : The way you treat others helps create a world in which others treat you in the same way.