Friday, December 12, 2003
1. ELECTRONIC VOTING: HOW WILL YOU KNOW IF YOUR VOTE IS COUNTED?
You won't. After the 2000 election fiasco in Florida, election officials across
the country sought to modernize voting. This has meant a lot of business for
companies that make touch-screen electronic voting
machines. However, voters may also be getting the business - the machine codes are proprietary secrets (
25 Apr 03). This puts vote counting under full control of private companies, with no way to conduct an
audit. If this isn't scary enough, there's the fund-raising letter to Ohio Republicans from the CEO of
Diebold, the major supplier of touch-screen voting machines: "I am committed to helping Ohio deliver it's
electoral votes to the President." He is in a perfect position to do so. A study for the State of Ohio,
found 57 serious security flaws in electronic voting machines. Our best hope is H.R.2239, the Voter
Confidence and Increased Accessibility Act of 2003, introduced by Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ), a physicist. The
bill would require a voter-verified paper trail for all voting machines, making audits possible. There are
currently 74 bi-partisan cosponsors.
2. UNIVERSITY OF WORLD PEACE: TRAINING PROFESSIONAL MEDITATORS.
The Washington Post yesterday carried a photograph of a peaceful-looking audience, seated with their eyes
closed. It looked like an 8:00am section of Physics 101. The caption said they were meditating to raise
$1 billion to build a University of World Peace, with scholarships to train 8,000 meditation experts. You
can imagine that with 8,000 UWP graduates, they will be able to meditate even larger sums. Followers of
the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, they sought $1B after 9/11 to train 40,000 meditators who would generate a
"unified field" that would create world peace (WN
28 Sep 01). They must not have raised the full amount.
3. HUMAN CLONING: U.N. DEBATE ON TOTAL BAN IS DELAYED FOR A YEAR.
All member nations agree on a treaty to prohibit cloning of human beings, but the United States leads a
push to extend the ban to include therapeutic cloning of stem cells. Therapeutic cloning is regarded as a
promising approach to research on treatment of diseases ranging from cancer to Alzheimer's. The U.S.
position is opposed by our most important allies and almost the entire world scientific community. It is
backed by Costa Rica and the Catholic Church. At home, the Bush administration is at odds with 40 Nobel
Prize winners, the National Academy of Sciences, the American Medical Association, many scientific
societies the AAAS.
4. NOBEL MADNESS: CAMPAIGN BY SCORNED INVENTOR ONLY INTENSIFIES
There have been a lot of disappointed almost-Nobels, but nothing before like the costly public rampage of
Raymond Damadian, who was left off the 2003 Medicine Nobel, given for MRI (WN
10 Oct 03). He began with full-page ads in major newspapers, which is not inexpensive. No good could
come of this, and most scientists seemed at most sort of embarrassed for Damadian, but the full-page ads
just kept coming. On Tuesday, the day before the award ceremony, he took one last shot: a double-page NYT
ad in color.