Saturday, April 02, 2005

Evolving News

It was pretty much 'All-Schaivo All the Time' around Florida blogs this week.

South of Suwanee has the best roundup, including a must-read link to an online interview with Florida's own Matt Conigliaro, whose Abstract Appeal blog has long provided the most reliable and objective reporting on the case.

But Florida blogs were talking about a few other subjects, too...
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Robert C. of Interstate4 Jamming took time out from the week's other news to report "rumors are rampant in DC that White House advisor Karl Rove is encouraging Congresswoman Katherine Harris (R - Longboat Key) to avoid tossing her hat into the ring as a candidate for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Bill Nelson when it comes up last year." The White House is said to fear that Harris is a polarizing figure likely to inspire more Democrats to vote in next year's congressional elections. Harris' office says she'll announce her decision in June.
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Via Florida Politics we're told by the Orlando Sentinel that debates over the annual state budget should hit the floor of the Florida Legislature next week.
"Both House and Senate are expected to increase spending and, perhaps, propose tax cuts following an April 11 meeting of state economists to settle on a final estimate of tax revenues expected for the coming budget year. That group is likely to add hundreds of millions of dollars to the bottom line.
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Even without new money, however, the final budget has historically been larger than either chamber's, as top lawmakers insist on cherished programs that had initially been in one or the other version but not both.
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Mark Lane of FlaBlog highlights some $200 million in subsidies for professional sports approved, so far, by legislative committees. $30 million will go to the NASCAR Hall of Fame, $60 million to the Florida Marlins, and $200 million for the Orlando Magic.
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Lt. Gov. Toni Jennings announced this week the state has been awarded federal funds to experiment with a "faith based" juvenile delinquency program. Up to 200 juvenile offenders "of any faith" can sign up, but the Government already has decided the program administration "will be Christian-based."

Blogwood is not impressed. To see why, just follow the links at the end of his aricle.
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A gas price survey was started by Bark-Bark, Woof-Woof. "[A]long Coral Way," he says, self-serve regular gas is going for "$2.17 to $2.25." In faraway Traverse City, Michigan, it's reached $2.28. Readers are reporting in with their own local prices. So far, San Francisco seems to be the highest, at $2.78 for premium grade.

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Miami law professor Michael Froomkin expands on news reports this week about a small plane pilot who's licensed to fly but can't use any airports because he's been placed on a secret blacklist, probably by mistake, and the Government offers him no way to know why, contest the reasons, or appeal. Even agreeing to inform for the FBI on fellow flight school students didn't help.

The professor comments:
"That’s right. Mr. Nice Guy was so desperate to get off the US government blacklist that he became an informer on his fellow students. And even that wasn’t enough.

So we have secret arbitrary blacklists that make you berufsverbot. We have people crawling to the secret service offering to be informers to save their careers. Will the next step will be secret denunciations. Almost certainly. If it goes on long enough then, in time, stoolies will have to meet their quotas for denunciations or get in trouble. Yes, I’ve seen this movie before. It wasn’t pretty. But last time the actors had Russian and East German accents."
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The good professor might want to check out Dred's report on the so-called "academic bill of rights" tromping its way through the Florida legislature. The proposal is sponsored by Dennis Baxley (R-Ocala), a Baptist funeral director turned citizen law-maker.

Some say the bill would effectively authorize any student to sue a professor with whom he may disagree. That ought to stop all those ivory tower types from promoting dangerous ideas from the Age of Enlightment like evolution, the earth is round, everyone is entitled to due process of law, and a preposition ain't nothing good to end a sentence on.
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Speaking of evolution, Anger Management has identified a shark hunter who almost qualified for the Darwin Award, which is handed out periodically to those who "accidentally kill themselves in really stupid ways," thus improving the human genome.
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Evolution also has the attention of Why Now?Based in Cinco Bayou, that Florida blog snagged an interesting ABC News article on "laughter" research.

An Ohio professor and his students --
are finding there is a long evolutionary trail to our odd noises of amusement, and the latest proof comes from ticklish rats.

You've probably never heard a rat laugh, and there's a good reason.

Jaak Panksepp, of Bowling Green State University in Ohio, and his students found that the rodents emit gleeful "chirps" when playing, but only at ultrasonic tones five times higher than the human ear can hear. Once Panksepp hooked up an ultrasonic detector to listen in on rats in his lab and started tickling the animals, he realized the effect on them was dramatic.

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The fact that rats have a form of laughter suggests it has been around for a very long time. Scientists have estimated that the common ancestor of rats and humans lived some 75 million years ago.
Not long enough, apparently. Another researcher and his students have been hanging out in shopping malls, "surreptitiously watching people in the act of laughter."

Among other things, what they found:
"[M]ore often than not, the person doing the laughing is not the one listening, but the one doing the talking. Plus, he learned what people say before laughing is often not even remotely funny."

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Florida ranks dead last in high school graduation rates and near the top in violent crime, Florida News reminds readers. So he's outraged that the state legislture this week defeated a proposal to raise the age for compulsory school attendance to 18.
"In fact, of the ten most violent states in the nation, eight are also ranked in the bottom ten in high school graduation rates.

If low graduation rates lead to high crime rates, doesn't it make financial sense to keep kids in school longer?

No doubt. The average annual cost to house a prisoner is between $20-30,000, not to mention the costs to victims and communities. The annual cost of educating a child in Florida is roughly $7,000."
That's the problem, of course. The proposal to save money as well as young people simply makes too much sense to pass the Florida legislature.
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Another thing to do, one might conclude from Sticks of Fire, is to get sexual predators away from elementary schools. A statehouse bill named in honor of Homosassa's Jessica Lunsford would commit more than $13 million to electronically tracking convicted sexual predators who are on probation. Angry proposals to castrate them also may play well with constituents, but they would be of doubtful constitutionality.
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Hot Wax Residue has more on budget choices facing the Florida legislature, including Jeb Bush's proposal for a "do-over" vote on the class size amendment and a cut in the "per drink" alcohol tax.

Apparently, the governor thinks cheaper booze will help the state attract big business.

Do you also suppose scientists would find that tax cuts on alcohol would make them laugh more?

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