Thursday, December 28, 2006

Police propose tough new penalties for drink-driving

The National Police Agency (NPA) has finalized tough new measures to fight drink-driving under a proposed revision to the Road Traffic Law, increasing harsher penalties for drivers, passengers and alcohol suppliers.

Penalties for drink-driving were increased in 2001, but the police decided to introduce harsher punishment after an accident in Fukuoka in August killed three young children, and drink-driving emerged as a social problem. Police aim to seek public support for the bill and submit it at a regular session of the Diet next year.

Under the proposal, the current penalty for drivers who are heavily drunk (up to three years' imprisonment or a fine not exceeding 500,000 yen) will be increased to up to five years' imprisonment or a fine not exceeding 1 million yen. The current fine for driving under the influence with an alcohol level of at least 0.15 milligrams of alcohol per liter of expelled breath (imprisonment of up to one year or a fine of up to 300,000 yen) will be increased to imprisonment of up to three years or a fine of up to 500,000 yen.

Police also plan to get tougher on hit-and-run crimes, increasing the penalty from imprisonment of up to five years or a fine of up to 500,000 yen to imprisonment of up to 10 years or a fine of up to 1 million yen.

In addition police will step up measures against people who encourage drink-driving, provide cars to people who have been drinking or provide alcohol to people who are driving.

People who supply vehicles or alcohol to drivers who are heavily drunk will face up to five years' imprisonment or a fine of up to 1 million yen, while in cases of driving under the influence, they will face up to three years' imprisonment or a fine of up to 500,000 yen -- the same penalty as for drivers.

In addition, people who ride in cars with drivers who are drunk will face up to three year's imprisonment or a fine of up to 500,000 yen, while in cases of driving under the influence, they will face a prison sentence of up to two years or a fine of up to 300,000 yen.

The penalty for refusing to take a roadside alcohol test (currently a fine not exceeding 300,000 yen) will be increased to imprisonment of up to three months or a fine of up to 500,000 yen. Police apparently aim to discourage people from evading tests by introducing a prison sentence.

Under the National Police Agency's proposed measures, people will also be required to wear seatbelts in the back seats of vehicles. Previously not wearing a seatbelt in the back seat of a vehicle was not considered a violation of the Road Traffic Law.

In fatal traffic accidents last year, the death rate for back seat passengers not wearing seatbelts was about four times higher than for people wearing seatbelts. However, a survey in October this year showed that only 7.5 percent of backseat passengers in cars on regular roads and 12.7 percent of backseat passengers in cars on expressways were wearing seatbelts. (Mainichi)
Click here for the original Japanese story

December 28, 2006

Friday, December 15, 2006

Chilling Effects Clearinghouse

Chilling Effects Clearinghouse

A joint project of the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Harvard, Stanford, Berkeley, University of San Francisco, University of Maine, George Washington School of Law, and Santa Clara University School of Law clinics.

Do you know your online rights? Have you received a letter asking you to remove information from a Web site or to stop engaging in an activity? Are you concerned about liability for information that someone else posted to your online forum? If so, this site is for you.

Chilling Effects aims to help you understand the protections that the First Amendment and intellectual property laws give to your online activities. We are excited about the new opportunities the Internet offers individuals to express their views, parody politicians, celebrate their favorite movie stars, or criticize businesses. But we've noticed that not everyone feels the same way. Anecdotal evidence suggests that some individuals and corporations are using intellectual property and other laws to silence other online users. Chilling Effects encourages respect for intellectual property law, while frowning on its misuse to "chill" legitimate activity.

The website offers background material and explanations of the law for people whose websites deal with topics such as Fan Fiction, Copyright, Domain Names and Trademarks, Anonymous Speech, and Defamation.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Kobe & Mooch today

moon rises over Angel Island in San Francisco Bay


As the moon rises over Angel Island in San Francisco Bay, a hilltop Christmas tree formed by strings of lights competes for attention Tuesday. Chronicle photo by Frederic Larson
SFGATE.COM

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

no longer man's best friend

Left-handers 'think' more quickly

BBC NEWS
Left-handers 'think' more quickly
Left-handed people can think quicker when carrying out tasks such as playing computer games or playing sport, say Australian researchers.

Connections between the left and right hand sides or hemispheres of the brain are faster in left-handed people, a study in Neuropsychology shows.

The fast transfer of information in the brain makes left-handers more efficient when dealing with multiple stimuli.

Experts said left-handers tended to use both sides of the brain more easily.

Study leader Dr Nick Cherbuin from the Australian National University measured transfer time between the two sides of the brain by measuring reaction times to white dots flashed to the left and right of a fixed cross.

This seems to go with evidence that left-handers use both sides of the brain for language
Dr Steve Williams

He then compared this with how good participants were at carrying out a task to spot matching letters in the left and right visual fields, which would require them to use both sides of the brain at the same time.

Tests in 80 right-handed volunteers showed there was a strong correlation between how quickly information was transferred across the left and right hemispheres and how quickly people spotted matching letters.

But when the tests were repeated in 20 left-handed volunteers, the researchers found that the more left handed people were the better they were at processing information across the two sides of the brain.

Extreme left-handed individuals were 43milliseconds faster at spotting matching letters across the right and left visual fields than right-handed people.

More efficient

Dr Cherbuin, research fellow at the University concluded: "These findings confirm our prediction of increasing efficiency of hemispheric interactions with increasing left-handedness."

But he added that it wasn't a clear-cut pattern as there were subtle differences between strongly and mildly left-handed or right-handed individuals.

Dr Cherbuin explained that people tended to use both hemispheres for tasks which are very fast or very hard and which require interpretation of a lot of information, such as computer games or driving in heavy traffic or playing sport.

Chartered psychologist, Dr Steve Williams said left-handed people tended to be better at using both sides of the brain.

"It's certainly very interesting. It's always been said that left-handers are different from right-handers in that they are less consistent with their left-handedness.

"This seems to go with evidence that left-handers use both sides of the brain for language - that they are more bicerebral. They get faster at it because they're having to use both sides of the brain more."

"In football, being able to shoot with either foot is a huge asset (each foot like each hand is under opposite-side control) and I've heard that left-handers tend to have better backhands in tennis," he added.

Story from BBC NEWS:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/2/hi/health/6212972.stm

Published: 2006/12/06 11:45:38 GMT

© BBC MMVI

Monday, December 04, 2006

Punk producer thought everyone could be a star

Joel Selvin, Chronicle Senior Pop Music Critic

Monday, December 4, 2006


They buried the pope of punk over the weekend.

Many of the neighbors who rose to eulogize Dirk Dirksen, the 69-year-old former operator of the Mabuhay Gardens, the historic San Francisco punk rock club, knew him only as the crinkly eyed character who gave cooking lessons to the kids on the block at the rec center across the street from where he lived and who died in his sleep two weeks ago.

"He had a way of touching so many different people in so many different walks of life," said retired Fire Department Capt. Bob Manning, who worked with Dirksen as a community organizer in the Mission District and knew nothing of his past life as the snarling, sarcastic ringmaster of a circus of the damned that ran seven nights a week, 52 weeks a year for 10 years.

A decidedly ruly mob overflowed an antiseptic funeral chapel in the Outer Mission on Saturday morning. They filled the pews, lined the walls and stood out in the lobby, craning necks over shoulders, saying goodbye to the somewhat strange but rather wonderful man who always urged them to live their lives "onward and upward."

"He was a man in a penis nose telling us it was better to throw popcorn than beer bottles," said his friend Ron Jones. "Dirk knew everybody had a place on the stage of life -- as long as you went on and off on time. You had to remember there were other acts waiting, even if they suck."

Filmmaker Bruce Connor read some of Dirksen's trademark stage announcements: "Tonight's band may not be the best, but you are one of our lesser audiences ... Is that the best you can do to get attention? ... Quiet, animals."

Dirksen was one of the people who really made San Francisco San Francisco. He presided over the Fab Mab, as it was known to one and all, with the bemused tolerance of a cranky uncle who had seen it all and was surprised by nothing.

He saw his little corner of Broadway as a reincarnation of a Berlin cabaret or Montmartre theater. He wasn't just selling over-priced drinks to the unwashed masses; he was making theater and everybody was in the cast.

"He loved you for who you were and who you wanted to be," Jones said.

Night after night, four bands trooped across the tiny stage in the seedy former Philippine supper club. As many as 10,000 bands may have played the Mabuhay.

It was where Neil Young jammed with Devo and Robin Williams opened for the Ramones. It was the high point of their career to thousands more, who never went any further up the ranks than the stage at the Mabuhay.

From the very beginning, when he started presenting late-night performances by the female comedy theatrical troupes, Les Nickelettes in 1974, Dirksen envisioned his enterprise as a television show waiting to be broadcast.

He videotaped every performance, long before videotape was routinely available. But he started in show business as the producer of a famous early live television experiment in Los Angeles, "Rocket To Stardom" -- a 12-hour live remote broadcast from a car dealership featuring amateur and semi-professional talent -- and he never really stopped thinking of himself as a television producer.

He and his lifelong partner, Damon Molloy, have operated a video service, Dirksen-Molloy Productions, ever since he left the nightclub business, that has produced storytelling videos on everything from a third-grade girls' basketball team to poetry readings by handicapped adults to senior swimmers' water ballet. Dirksen thought everybody should star in their own movie. He wanted to be the producer.

He was recalled as the man who taught the Latino neighborhood kids cooking in weekly classes at the Recreational Center for the Handicapped.

His older sister remembered him as a young boy in war-torn Germany, playing in his neighborhood after air raids left the street destroyed, making castles out of craters with his imagination.

Another friend recalled Dirksen encouraging him to finish his book by phoning him every morning. "I'm going to work this morning -- what are you doing?" he would say.

It wasn't a crowd full of big time music scenesters and there wasn't a lot of musical star power at the memorial, unless you count an impromptu reunion of the all-female punk rockers, the Contractions, guitarist Mary Kelley seated on a chair, drummer Debbie Hopkins playing softly on a modified kit and vocalist Kathy Peck sobbing her way through the sing-along folk song, "Down In the Valley."

Peck previously recalled Dirksen coming over every day, after her pet Chihuahua was diagnosed with diabetes, to give the pooch its shot because Peck couldn't quite handle it herself.

He was a surly curmudgeon all right, until he got around animals or small children.

In the end, he couldn't even afford to pay for his own funeral. Benefits are in the process of being organized to help pay his debts. But Dirksen was an honest man and they rarely do well in the music business. But, of course, his video and life partner Molloy made sure it was all caught on tape.

"No one is ever going to do anything like that for you ever again," Molloy told them.

E-mail Joel Selvin at jselvin@sfchronicle.com.

Page C - 1

Friday, December 01, 2006

Sex Will Make You Go Blind: Single? Under 30? You are in grave danger. Your government says so. Please, stop laughing

By Mark Morford, SF Gate Columnist

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

I think I get it now.

The latest pitiable GOP plan, from what I can tell, goes something like this: To make it all so absurd, to make the remaining Bush administration proposals and doctrines and cultural stratagems so outlandish and silly and degrading and insulting to your mind and your heart and your very own beleaguered genitalia that you cannot help but take note of their existence and laugh and cringe and sit back and go, Oh my God these people have got to be kidding.

At which point (they hope) you will turn to your spouse or your significant other or your dog and say, Hey honey, check this out, did you see the latest moronic and horrible dictum from the Bush administration? We should totally try it, just for kicks!

Then the GOP will gloat and say: See? The world still loves the GOP! Yay us! And then they shall proceed to smack themselves in the face with a brick.

It is the only viable explanation. It is the only way to account for something like, say, the latest twist in the Abstinence Education Program from Bush's increasingly laughable Department of Health and Human Services, a $50 million slice of embarrassing government detritus that is now actually encouraging all states to tell their single, youngish residents that they should -- how to put this so you don't shoot coffee through your nose? -- that everyone should avoid sex entirely, until they turn 30.

See? See your reaction? You are like: No way. You are like: Is the United States government really saying that? You are like: Laughter, a smirk, maybe a shrug and a sigh and a sad shake of the head and another glass of wine because, you know, what the hell is wrong with these people?

Maybe you think I am making this up. Maybe you think that our fair government, as sad and lost and nipple-terrified as it is, can't seriously be suggesting that, to avoid STDs and unwanted pregnancy and unchecked misery in their obviously sad and irresponsible little lives, single people under 30 should not have sex, like, ever. And maybe not even then.

You would, of course, be wrong.

It's for real. It's an actual HHS dictum and there are people who actually believe it should be adhered to, and I'm right now guessing you broke this rule this very morning and if you didn't you really, really wanted to, and if you're over 30 and/or married chances are you are sitting there right now wishing you were still single and/or under 30 just one more time just so you could squishily, juicily break that rule again, oh my God yes please. Just a guess.

Ah, abstinence education. Could there be a more dizzy, glaring example of a first-rate BushCo failure? Could there be a more insulting, demeaning program the sole intention of which appears to be to deceive humanity and undermine every succulent human impulse and shove sexuality back into the 1850s and induce 10 million teens to resent and mistrust adults even more than they already do? Verily I say unto thee, there is not.

To be fair, the HHS says this new rule is just a guideline, not strict dogma. No one actually has to refrain from having sex until they're married or 30, because that would be, you know, silly. Draconian. Talibanian.

Also: Were it actually imposed, everyone in America except perhaps for a few confused evangelicals and most Mormons would not be able to stop laughing -- a side effect that, while it might stop some people from having sex for a few moments, would do very little by way of helping the government scare Americans stupid.

It is enough to make you wonder: Will there ever be, in our lifetime, a president, a Senate subcommittee, a government program that will dare emerge with a sex-positive, unashamed, salacious and delicious new guideline suggesting that we should all get naked as much as possible so long as we work to understand our bodies and enjoy ourselves responsibly and lovingly and respectfully and orgasmically because it shall make the country and the planet a better place?

In other words, will there ever be a time when we can honestly look to the United States government for valid and reasonable and healthy and truly informative, positive information about human sexuality, information that does not embarrass us and humiliate us and insult our libidos the same way Dick Cheney insults sunlight? Do you already know the answer?

I remember Joycelyn Elders. I remember this feisty and outspoken surgeon general, appointed by Clinton back in '93, who dared to suggest, in public, that masturbation is fine and healthy and nothing to worry about and perhaps should be taught to teens as a safer alternative to riskier forms of sex.

The nation blinked. The Christian right, of course, was apoplectic. Clinton was forced to ask Elders for her resignation. Later, on the lecture circuit, Elders famously said, "As long as I was in Washington I never met anybody that I thought was good enough, who knew enough or who loved enough to make sexual decisions for anybody else." And there you have it.

This is what I wonder: I wonder if every administrative lackey who is right now stuck deep in the bowels of HHS and who is assigned to the dissemination of sneering abstinence misinformation, I wonder if they sigh heavily every day, if they stare miserably at the beige government walls, at their buggy Windows terminals, lost in a vague misery, wishing they could have more sex, curious as to where their life went wrong.

I wonder, if you asked them, would you hear the common refrain of those locked in miserable and joyless jobs under the Bush regime? "I have no idea how it came to this. I have no idea how I got here, doing this horrible thing in this horrible place with these miserable people and this awful boss. Every single day, my very soul is being leached through my teeth. What the hell happened to me?"

I believe this is how it must be, tenfold, in the Department of Health and Human Services, Abstinence Division. Among those who are charged with spreading the worst and most debilitating sexual propaganda BushCo has to offer: only misery. Joyless, sexless, unfortunate as the right-wing congressmen who shoved this bitter and lubeless ideology onto their daily plate.

I know, I know, it's all a bit silly. After all, the Bush government is all about restriction, contraction, containment and self-righteousness and pain. They're about as likely to pump out some positive sex vibes as the pope is to offer free condoms in the Vatican gift shop.

But Jesus with a Hitachi Magic Wand, one thing you can reasonably hope for is a government that's at least remotely in touch and relevant, the slightest bit informed about how life really is and hence will stop throwing these obnoxious bones to the gasping sexless Christian right. This is what you hope.

Meanwhile, we're still stuck with the same old questions: Is this really what our government is all about? Will this ever change? Can they really not hear all the derisive laughter?

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