Daily Archives: September 13, 2006

The lie machine

With security becoming an increasingly important issue, particularly in airports, researchers are looking into low-cost ways of remotely and rapidly monitoring people answering routine questions at check-in desks, for example. One idea is to scan people’s faces with a high-definition thermal camera that detects tiny changes in the heat of the capillaries under a person’s skin. A computer rapidly analyses any changes, picking up tell-tale signs that someone is fibbing. The US Department of Defense is seeking ideas for the development of technology that can tell from a distance if someone is exhibiting signs of stress. The idea would be to beam microwaves or lasers at a person.
The reflected beams would carry information about the person’s physiological state, such as breathing rate, similar to the information gathered during a polygraph test. Experts point out that such a system presents serious practical difficulties, however.


China invents a new Mao myth

THEY came to praise their famous son under a miserable grey drizzle yesterday, but nothing could dampen the spirits of the Mao clan as they took pride in a new, if subtle, rehabilitation of the village boy from central China who shook the world. Thirty years to the day after his death at the age of 82, the anniversary exposed how the memory of Mao Tse-tung has become a potent political issue between “reformers” and “leftists” arguing over the direction of the world’s fastest-growing economy. Yesterday’s edition of the People’s Daily in the capital carried an extremely rare article by Mao’s surviving son, Anqing, headlined “Memories of my father”. It praised Mao as a selfless leader who hated corruption and refused to promote his relatives to positions of power.


Beijing silent on Mao’s 30th death anniversary

“If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face forever.”
– George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four.


Once people were ‘dragged out’ as ‘evil spirits’, they were forced to wear caps, collars or placards identifying them as such, as the representatives of the ‘Hunderd Clowns’ in the poster above. Being ‘cow monsters’, they were imprisoned in what was generally called a ‘cowshed’. This did not have to be a genuine stable; it could be a classroom, storehouse, dark room or temple. In the absence of legal procedures, the length of stay in the ‘cowshed’ could be ten days or ten years.

China officially ignored the 30th anniversary of the death of Mao Zedong yesterday, a sign that observers say reveals authorities’ fears that bitter memories could unleash a wave of discontent. In Beijing, the central government did not organize any commemorations for the man who established the People’s Republic in 1949 and was once known across China as the “great leader” and the “great helmsman.”


Chirac Sees ‘Dangerous’ Future for Peacekeeping Mission in Lebanon

French President Jacques Chirac has said the U.N. peacekeeping mission in southern Lebanon could become “dangerous” once the Hizbullah has time to recover from the recent Israeli offensive. “In my opinion there won’t be any problem for two or three months because Hizbullah is a little weaker,” Chirac told Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriquez Zapatero Sunday on the sidelines of the Europe-Asia summit in Helsinki. “But in three, four, five months it could be dangerous. I am a little worried for the future,” he said in comments caught by French television cameras and broadcast in Paris.


America is revealed as one nation under four faces of God

A survey shows that the way Americans see the Almighty is closely linked to their political beliefs
NINE in ten Americans believe in God but how they vote, or regard the Iraq war, depends on the very different views they have about His personality, according to a detailed survey of religion in the US.
It found that Americans hold four different images of God — Authoritarian, Benevolent, Critical or Distant — and these views are far more powerful indicators about their political, social and moral attitudes than any of the traditional categories such as Protestant, Catholic or Evangelical.

The study also suggests that America is more religious than previously thought, with only 5.2 per cent of respondents calling themselves atheist and 91.8 per cent saying that they believed in God. In Britain, by contrast, 20 per cent say that they hold no belief in a higher power and only 38 per cent claim to believe in a traditional God, according to a 2005 survey. The American survey, conducted by Baylor University’s Institute for Studies of Religion in Texas, broke new ground in asking respondents how they viewed God’s personality. Researchers found that Americans hold four distinct views, and these “Four Gods” are remarkably accurate diviners of how an American thinks about everything from politics, abortion, taxation and marriage. “You learn more about people’s moral and political behaviour if you know their image of God than almost any other measure,” said Christopher Bader, one of the researchers. Nearly a third of Americans, 31.4 per cent, believe in an Authoritarian God, angry at earthly sin and willing to inflict divine retribution — including tsunamis and hurricanes.


Chirac ‘trying to duck graft trial’

FRENCH President Jacques Chirac has been accused of manoeuvring his former legal adviser into a key judicial post to avoid being tried for corruption after leaving office and losing immunity from prosecution.
A furious row erupted after it emerged that Mr Chirac was seeking to appoint Laurent Le Mesle as the chief state prosecutor in Paris. If confirmed by the cabinet next month, Mr Le Mesle would have a decisive role in determining whether the President should be prosecuted in connection with corruption allegations when he steps down. Mr Chirac’s critics believe that Mr Le Mesle, 55, will do everything in his power to block action, given his close relations with the head of state.


Wikipedia defies China’s censors

The founder of Wikipedia, the online encyclopaedia written by its users, has defied the Chinese government by refusing to bow to censorship of politically sensitive entries.

Jimmy Wales, one of the 100 most influential people in the world according to Time magazine, challenged other internet companies, including Google, to justify their claim that they could do more good than harm by co-operating with Beijing. Wikipedia, a hugely popular reference tool in the West, has been banned from China since last October. Whereas Google, Microsoft and Yahoo went into the country accepting some restrictions on their online content, Wales believes it must be all or nothing for Wikipedia. His stand comes as Irrepressible.info, a joint campaign by The Observer and Amnesty International for free speech on the web, continues with the support of more than 37,000 people around the world. The campaign calls on governments to stop persecuting political bloggers and on IT companies to stop complying with these repressive regimes.