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The Column of Lasting Insignificance: August 19, 2006


SKINNY MODELS have called the shots in Argentina for too long say the officials in Buenos Aires province who have recently passed a “law of sizes” which stipulates that fashion retailers must stock a full range of clothing sizes for women. The law has been passed, says the New Statesman, “to break the fashion ‘tyranny’ imposed by designers and manufacturers which practically forces women to starve themselves to fit into their microscopic clothing”. Gabriella Ancha, 19, blames the “sick beauty industry we have in our country” for the anorexia that blighted her earlier teenage years because it was difficult to find anything in the stores that fitted her. But the industry is fighting to overturn the new restrictions. “The fashion designers have too much money and too much sway to make this law really successful” says Dr. Mabel Bello, founder of the capital’s biggest anorexia and bulimia clinic.

“THE NEXT BILLION” is the catchall phrase the computer industry has adopted for making the rest of the world computer-literate, but how do you design a PC that’s affordable to almost anyone asks Business Week pointing out some of the conditions such as desert heat and sand and frequent electricity outages that mitigate against success. One solution is Intel’s new “community PC”, car-battery-powered computer with protective cover and with dust filters that can be set up in Indian villages and used by everybody.

BOTTLED WATER IS NOT ONLY a waste of money, especially in places where the tap water is at least as pure, but is bad for the health of the planet. So says a report by the Washington-based Earth Policy Institute (EPI) which claims that the U.S. market alone requires more than 1.5 million gallons of oil each year to produce. For a fraction of the $100billion the world spends annually on bottled water, EPI concludes, everyone on earth could have access to safe drinking water and proper sanitation.

SEVEN OF THE TEN poorest US counties are found on Indian reservations in Arizona and North and South Dakota reports the Wall Street Journal explaining that because tribal law dictates that land is owned collectively individuals are denied even the first rung on the economic ladder because they cannot put up land as collateral for mortgages or loans. “The time has come to abolish reservations for the good of the people who live on them,” the paper concludes.

NORWEGIAN CROP SCIENTISTS plan to carve a $3 million “doomsday vault”–a kind of genetic Noah’s Art–out of a sandstone mountain on the Arctic island of Spitsbergen to store two million seeds representing “all known varieties of the world’s crops”. “If the worst came to the worst” says Cary Fowler of the Global Crop Diversity Trust, “this would allow the world to reconstruct agriculture on this planet”.

A WORLDWIDE TREASURE HUNT is expected to ensue at the publication next month of Michael Stadther’s book which will give clues to finding hidden tokens which can be redeemed for a $1million diamond ring. More than 150,000 copies of a similar book detailing a U.S. treasure hunt sold so well that Stadther created, A Treasure’s Trove: Secrets of the Alchemist Dar with international scope (the rings could be anywhere) and the new book will be launched with fanfare like a movie premiere.

SINCE THE 1950s radio telescopes have been sweeping the skies in search of life in outer space. Of course, they can only scan a mere 50 light years (sounds like a lot) and a tiny part of the universe, but they’ve heard nothing. Nada. Not a word. So maybe its time to start thinking that there’s nobody out there speculated Peter Schenkel in the Skeptical Inquirer who, nevertheless, quotes Russian rocket expert Konstantin Tsiolkoyske as saying: “Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence”. Of course, evolution takes a long time. Even though the earth is four billion years old, the first human-like being didn’t appear on earth until 18 million years ago and some scientists claim it will be another two or three hundred years before we can achieve the speed of light. Skeptics suggest another reason why we haven’t found any outer space creatures: they may have developed more than us and don’t want to get involved with an inferior species.

THE WILCOCK WEB: Having sex with robots is a distinct possibility within five years or so according to Stockholm’s Dr. Henrik Christensen, described by National Review as “a high-level roboticist”, and who says: ”People are willing to have sex with inflatable dolls, so initially anything that moves will be an improvement”……Estimating the eventual cost of the Iraq war $1.27 trillion. The American Prospect explains that a trillion is what you get if you spend a million dollars a day for a million days, 2,737 years…. Reviewing the “anti-Wal-Mart film”, Victoria Segal said that Bill Gates has devoted 58 per cent of his income to charity whereas surviving members of the Wal-Mart family (among the ten richest people in America) had donated 1% of theirs….An unidentified Chinese man from Jiaxing, who offered his soul for sale, received 60 offers before Taobao (China’s eBay) pulled the posting stating that it would be allowed only if he could provide permission from ”a higher authority” …. A car battery now costs the same to buy as 14 new cars were a decade ago, says a report on inflation in Zimbabwe….“I used to talk street slang and do the whole rap thing” muses millionaire pop star Mary J. Blige, “but I know that is just ignorance. I want to speak properly; I want people to understand me. I don’t want to be part of that life anymore” …. “Many people would sooner die than think. In fact, they do.”—Bertrand Russell (1872-1970)