Sunday, December 22, 2013

Fight between Selfie and Science for Title of the Word of the Year 2013

Oxford Dictionaries' word of the year for 2013 definitely captures a snapshot of our social-media-obsessed moment. It is SELFIE.

selfie noun, informal (also selfy; plural selfies): a photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically one taken with a smartphone or webcam and uploaded to a social media website.

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While it is safe to say that selfie’s star has risen over the last 12 months, it is actually much older than that. Evidence on the Oxford English Corpus shows the word selfie in use by 2003, but further research shows the earliest usage (so far anyway) as far back as 2002. Its use was, fittingly enough, in an online source – an Australian internet forum.

“Um, drunk at a mates 21st, I tripped ofer [sic] and landed lip first (with front teeth coming a very close second) on a set of steps. I had a hole about 1cm long right through my bottom lip. And sorry about the focus, it was a selfie.” (2002 ABC Online (forum posting) 13 Sept).

The term’s early origins seem to lie in social media and photo sharing sites like Flickr and MySpace. But usage of it didn’t become widespread until the second decade of this century and it has only entered really common use in the past year or so. Self-portraits are nothing new – people have been producing them for centuries, with the medium and publication format changing. Oil on canvas gave way to celluloid, which in turn gave way to photographic film and digital media. As the process became snappier (pun intended) so has the name. And now as smartphones have become de rigueur for most, rather than just for techies, the technology has ensured that selfies are both easier to produce and to share, not least by the inclusion of a button which means you don’t need a nearby mirror. It seems likely that this will have contributed at least in part to its increased usage. By 2012, selfie was commonly being used in mainstream media sources and this has been rising ever since.

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unit= freq./billion words

Early evidence for the term show a variant spelling with a –y ending, but the –ie form is vastly more common today and has become the accepted spelling of the word. It could be argued that the use of the -ie suffix helps to turn an essentially narcissistic enterprise into something rather more endearing. It also provides a tie-in with the word’s seemingly Australian origins, as Australian English has something of a penchant for -ie words – barbie for barbecue, firie for firefighter, tinnie for a can of beer, to name just three.

But you would be surprised that even on such arena, there is a strong competition among respectable agencies. As opposed to Oxford decision, Merriam-Webster has declared "science" its 2013 word of the year.

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Oxford's buzzworthy choice of "selfie" last month was a result of the word's growing usage and digital fame. But its U.S. counterpart picked "science" primarily based on numbers on its website. It looked at the most searched-for words on its online dictionary,, and also those that showed the biggest increase in the number of look-ups.

The word with the largest spike? Science. A 176% increase in look-ups, to be exact. "A wide variety of discussions centered on science this year, from climate change to educational policy," the dictionary editors said in a statement. "We saw heated debates about 'phony' science, or whether science held all the answers. It's a topic that has great significance for us."

Merriam-Webster has a history of not getting too carried away by Internet memes.

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Thursday, December 12, 2013

Uruguay - First World Nation to Legalize Marijuana Trade

Uruguay has become the first country in the world to make it legal to grow, sell and consume marijuana.

For decades, smoking cannabis has been legal in Uruguay. Seeing a group of youngsters sharing a joint in the park has become a familiar scene, but growing and buying the drug have remained illegal.

But that has changed couple of days ago.

Uruguay became the first nation in the world to regulate the production, sale and consumption of cannabis after a new law was passed by the country's senate. After nearly 12 hours of debate, senators gave the government-sponsored bill their historic final approval. The law allowing registered Uruguayans over 18 to buy up to 40g (1,4oz) of the drug a month is not expected to come into force before April, 2014.

Hundreds of young people gathered outside Congress in Montevideo to follow the vote on a giant screen. Many shared a joint of marijuana with their friends. They partied amid reggae music and some waved marijuana leaves.

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There was an atmosphere of celebration inside the Senate too, with dozens of supporters of President Mujica following the debate from the spectators' gallery.

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Dozens of supporters of the bill proposed by the left-wing President Jose Mujica gathered outside the Congress in Montevideo to follow the vote.

Presenting the bill to fellow senators, said Sen. Roberto Conde of Uruguay's Broad Front coalition, which supported the measure, it was an unavoidable response to reality, given that the "war" against drugs had failed. It is understood that a regulation-based policy has positive consequences for health and public security, given that, on the one hand, it can produce better results when it comes to education, prevention, information, treatment and rehabilitation in relation to the problematic uses of drugs," said Roberto Conde. "On the other hand, it helps fight drug trafficking, which fuels organized crime and criminal activities that affect the security of the population."

The historic approval comes amid growing debate over drug legalization in Latin America. A group of former presidents and influential social figures, including Brazil's Fernando Henrique Cardoso, Mexico's Ernesto Zedillo and Colombian ex-leader Cesar Gaviria, have called for marijuana to be legalized and regulated. But President Mujica recently asked during an interview why the former leaders only spoke out about the legalization of marijuana after they had left office.

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Once the president signs the bill, the state will control the production and sale of cannabis.

The bill goes several steps further than existing legislation in the Netherlands, where growing cannabis is not legal, although the authorities turn a blind eye to those who grow some plants at home. It bears some similarities to drug laws in the US states of Colorado and Washington, where the sale of cannabis for medicinal or recreational use was made legal in 2012. But Uruguay is the first nation state to regulate the production, distribution and sale of the drug.

The country, which has a population of fewer than 3.5 million people, has so far been spared much of the drug-related violence that other Latin American countries have suffered from, but officials say it is time to tackle drug gangs before they get too strong.

Consumer Limitations:
* Registered residents can buy up to 40g (1.4oz) marijuana/month.
* Up to six plants can be grown at home.
* Buyers and growers have to be over 18.
* Tourists are excluded.
* Advertising is forbidden.
* Prices will be fixed by the government.

Marijuana clubs of anywhere from 15 to 45 members would also be allowed and granted permission to grow up to 99 plants at a time. Users would have to register, and those claiming to use cannabis for medical reasons would have to show a doctor's prescription. Marijuana would also be sold at licensed pharmacies.

Once the bill becomes law, there will be a 120-day period to give the government time to adopt regulations and implement it.

The United States Position

The U.S. has spent billions of dollars to put a crimp on the production end of drug trade, and it has steadfastly pressured Latin American leaders not to consider any sort of drug liberalization. But this year in Uruguay, said Hannah Hetzer, policy manager for the Americas at the Drug Policy Alliance, there's been nary a peep from the U.S. embassy about the marijuana law.

That may be because of domestic U.S. politics. Back in 2012, when Guatemala's president proposed legalizing drugs, the U.S. embassy there "swiftly responded" with a stern statement warning about the "major public health and safety threat" from drugs.

But then Colorado and Washington legalized pot, making any American admonitions against doing the same sound a little hollow, not to say hypocritical. In a September speech at the U.N., Guatemalan President Otto Pérez Molina commended, perhaps a little bit mischievously, "the visionary decision of the citizens of the States of Colorado and Washington."

The U.S. may also have seen little threat from legalization in Uruguay. The country is far away from the front lines of the war on drugs in places like Mexico or Central America, at most a bit player in international trafficking.

Citizens of the USA also are in favor of the cannabis legalization. Actually, now for the first time in the history, a clear majority of Americans (58%) say the drug should be legalized. This is in sharp contrast to the time Gallup first asked the question in 1969, when only 12% favored legalization.

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Colorado and Washington States are already there. More to follow… Yesterday, December 11, 2013, New York Assembly Health Committee Chairman Richard Gottfried (D-Manhattan) and state Senator Liz Krueger (D-Manhattan) announced at press conference their intent to introduce legislation to legalize the possession, cultivation, and retail sale of cannabis. Similar initiatives are in pipelines of New jersey, Main, Michigan, Arizona, Alaska, California, and Hawaii.

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Monday, November 18, 2013

Sinful Dance - Tango

The tango, which has already been condemned by illustrious Bishops, and is prohibited even in Protestant countries, must be absolutely prohibited in the seat of the Roman Pontiff, the centre of the Catholic religion.
Cardinal Pompili, 1914

It is everything that can be imagined. It is revolting and disgusting. Only those persons who have lost all moral sense can endure it. It is the shame of our days. Whoever persists in it commits a sin.
Cardinal Cavallari, 1914

Exactly 100 years ago, November 17, 1913, Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany forbade his officers to dance the tango while in uniform, describing the dance as “Rinnsteinkind”, (a child of the curbstone). But Argentinean Tango is still pretty much alive, in spite of the uneasy history.

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The tango was born in the back streets of Buenos Aires among the hundreds of thousands of Europeans who emigrated to South America looking for a new life. The dance was a combination of the many different cultures and dance styles represented in that mix of backgrounds.

During the later part of the 1800s and early 1900s, Argentina was undergoing a massive immigration. In 1869, Buenos Aires had a population of 180,000. By 1914, its population was 1.5 million. The intermixing of African, Spanish, Italian, British, Polish, Russian and native-born Argentines resulted in a melting pot of cultures, and each borrowed dance and music from one another. Traditional polkas, waltzes and mazurkas were mixed with the popular habanera from Cuba and the candombe rhythms from Africa.

Large scale immigration, most of whom were men, increased the population Buenos Aires. One figure suggests that at one point the ratio may have been about 50 men for every woman.

Men tempted by the idea of a better life and streets paved with gold, instead found a lonely squalid place with muddy streets and poor accommodation. Often they were stranded on the outskirts of the city and everyday became a struggle to survive.

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The one trade that flourished above all others was prostitution. A reflection of the hardships endured by the people, a way of survival for some, and a desperate means of earning income for others. It is unlikely the working girls saw much of the money. For many men, owning a woman who earned good money working in a brothel, became a status symbol.

It is here in the brothels and bordellos on the back streets of Buenos Aires, that the Tango really came to life. These illegal brothels, most became known as Academies de Dance, were the massage parlors of their day. The dance had to be simple, so if the police raided the joint (police which hadn't been bribed), there would appear to be "dancing instruction" going on.

It was the rise of the Compadritos and the Compadres who really launched the Tango. Compadritos - the street man, sometimes but not always, small time villains, petty criminals and pimps. Compadres - the local men of some means, sometimes shady dealings, slightly better off than the compadritos who tried to emulate them.

The dance probably started out as some form of acting out of the relationship between the prostitute and pimp. This was often reflected in the titles of the first tangos which referred to characters in the world of prostitution. It must also be noted that when written lyrics began to appear, women were often portrayed as evil temptresses, there to lead men into sin and degradation.

At this time, the dance was totally rejected be the upper class elite of Buenos Aires society, as a dirty street dance. Although, many of the young well-to-do gentlemen, would allegedly visit the ‘Dance Academies’ for instruction.

Around 1880, a new instrument arrived from Germany, the Bandoneon. A difficult instrument to master but its wailing sound caught the very feeling of the Tango. It became inextricably linked to the music of the Tango, from then to now.

From the early 1900, however, a new type of lyric began to appear. One recalling bygone times, often with a sad, melancholia, recalling wasted lives, lost loves, unrequited love, the missing of a mother, the missing of your barrios [district] or street but most all, the love of the Tango itself. The lyrics were written in the language of the streets of Buenos Aires, Lunfardo, a mixture of Spanish, Italian, Native Creole and words strangely twisted.

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The change in the Tango lyrics may also have occurred at this time because it is thought that Tango was first demonstrated by the Argentinean playboy Ricardo Guiraldes in 1910/1911 in Paris. It was so different from the dances of the time and considered somewhat obscene. It challenged the conventions of acceptable public behavior of the time. The Comtesse Melainie de Pourtalis stated, upon seeing a demonstration of the dance in 1912, "Is one supposed to dance it standing up".

However, the rapid acceptance by the people of Europe of the dance, invariably meant that it was re-exported back to Buenos Aires. Now it was embraced by the upper classes, who had so vigorously opposed it only a few years early.

The dance was quickly adopted by the high-class Parisian dance salons and took Europe by storm. It became fashionable to throw tango parties and tango tea dances. By the early 1900s, the dance had become so popular that it attracted the attention of many church and government leaders.

Because of its daring character, Cardinal Amette in Paris declared that “Christians should not in good conscience take part in it.” Then Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany forbade his officers to dance the tango while in uniform, describing the dance as “an affront to common decency.” Following the Kaiser's example, the King of Bavaria has put a ban on the tango. A secret Cabinet order of 1914 has been circulated among the Bavarian army officers informing them that his Majesty will look upon it with disfavor if during the coming Christmas festivities officers take part in entertainments at which the tango is danced. "The King," the order states, "regards participation in such a dance as absurd and unworthy of an officer.

Pope Benedict XV complained “An outrageous, indecent, heathen dance, which is an assassination of family and social life”.

The French ecclesiastical authorities appear determined to kill the tango. The Archbishop of Camhrat took the Initiative, and was followed by the Archbishop of Lyons and the Bishop of Verdun. The Bishop of Chalons-sur-Marne has issued a decree condemning the tango as "profoundly dangerous to morals." He enjoined all confessors, especially those living in towns, to combat it with all their influence.

In spite of the bans and public condemnations, the tango spread worldwide throughout the 1920s and 1930s. The dance appeared in movies and tango singers traveled the world. By the 1930s, the Golden Age of Argentina was beginning. The country became one of the ten richest nations in the world and music, poetry and culture flourished. The tango came to be a fundamental expression of Argentine culture, and the Golden Age lasted through the 1940s and 1950s.

The coup in 1955 that ousted General Perón had profound consequences for Argentina as a whole, and for the Tango in particular, launching the country into a kind of modern Dark Age. The new military government was made up of members of the upper classes, for whom the culture of the mass of the population was alien and dangerous. They did not understand the Tango. They did not dance it.

Also they had a knee-jerk reaction that anything Perón had said was good must be bad. Perón was a nationalist and a populist, and Tango was both national and popular. Perón had used Tango and Tango artists for his political purposes, and many famous Tango artists were involved with the Peronist movement. As a consequence many artists were either imprisoned or blacklisted by the new regime.

And large numbers of men meeting every night in the social halls of community or political associations in order to dance together? That would have seemed very suspicious, and an obvious cover for political agitation.

It would have been difficult to ban the Tango itself, although specific songs were banned, and some had to have their titles changed. Some of the measures natural to a repressive regime took their toll on the dance. At various times there were curfews, making things difficult for a night-time activity like Tango. At other times there were bans on meetings of more than three people, making a social dance illegal.

But one very subtle and clever attack was made specifically against the Tango. This story was told to me by someone who ran a number of Tango dances in the mid-1950s. There were laws banning the presence of minors in nightclubs. These laws were rigidly enforced for Tango clubs, but were not enforced at all for clubs that only played Rock and Roll music. So where before the coup the best way for a young man to meet a young woman was in a milonga, suddenly it was much easier to meet a girl by dancing Rock and Roll. Overnight, young men stopped learning how to dance the Tango. There was no reason to spend three years learning how to dance Tango, when the girl you liked was in a Rock and Roll club instead. The generation of 18 years old in 1955 learned to dance the Tango well and with confidence. The generation of 13 years old didn't learn it at all.

“Seize all copies and burn them !” shouted the Bologna, Italy prosecutor, “self serving pornography, that’s all it is” he continued with indignation…to thunderous acclaim, the film “Last Tango in Paris” had been released in Italy on December 15, 1972. Just one week later, police seized all copies and its director Bernardo Bertolucci, its producer Alberto Grimaldi and actress Maria Schneider were arrested and put on trial for obscenity. Following a series of sensational trials and appeals, the fate of the movie was sealed when on January 26, 1976 the Italian Supreme Court ruled all copies to be destroyed. Its director Bernardo Bertolucci was served with a four-month suspended sentence in prison and had his civil rights revoked for five years. It was not until 1987, fifteen years later, that the censorship ban was finally revoked and for the official release of the film permitted.

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Despite these bans the tango survived, particularly through the First World War, as people sought distractions from the horror of war. Today the tango is part of any ballroom dancing repertoire, and its effects on “common decency” are no longer feared.

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And here is an interesting comparison how the dance has changed over the years. The first clip is from 20s, and the second is modern.

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Thursday, October 17, 2013

Facebook privacy notice is a big fat hoax

Since 2012, Facebook users have been posting a legal-sounding “privacy notice.” By putting the notice on their timelines, they hope, they will become exempt from the terms and conditions of Facebook’s “Data Use Policy,” which users agree to upon initially signing up. 

 “We have noticed this recent status update that is being widely shared implying the ownership of your Facebook content has recently changed,” Alex Kirschner, a member of Faceook’s PR team, explained. “This is not true and has never been the case.”

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While there are some variations, most of the warnings look like this:

For those of you who do not understand the reasoning behind this posting, Facebook is now a publicly traded entity. Unless you state otherwise, anyone can infringe on your right to privacy once you post to this site. It is recommended that you and other members post a similar notice as this, or you may copy and paste this version. If you do not post such a statement once, then you are indirectly ...allowing public use of items such as your photos and the information contained in your status updates.

PRIVACY NOTICE: Warning - any person and/or institution and/or Agent and/or Agency of any governmental structure including but not limited to the United States Federal Government also using or monitoring/using this website or any of its associated websites, you do NOT have my permission to utilize any of my profile information nor any of the content contained herein including, but not limited to my photos, and/or the comments made about my photos or any other "picture" art posted on my profile.

You are hereby notified that you are strictly prohibited from disclosing, copying, distributing, disseminating, or taking any other action against me with regard to this profile and the contents herein. The foregoing prohibitions also apply to your employee, agent, student or any personnel under your direction or control.

The contents of this profile are private and legally privileged and confidential information, and the violation of my personal privacy is punishable by law. UCC 1-103 1-308 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED WITHOUT PREJUDICE

There are a number of inaccuracies here. While Facebook indeed became a publicly traded company, the change has no bearing on how the social network treats user information. Facebook is still bound to the terms and conditions signed by users, even if the actual contents of the contract are usually left unread. The company is also required to provide notification regarding any significant changes to this agreement.

Additionally, the Uniform Commercial Codes cited at the end of the post, "UCC 1-103 1-308" is completely unrelated to privacy or social networking, making its inclusion irrelevant.

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Note that when you join Facebook and set up an account, you are required to indicate acceptance of the established Facebook terms and policies, including the privacy policy. Nobody is forcing you to have a Facebook account, and you are welcome to reject the agreement and refuse to use Facebook, but if you’re using Facebook then you’ve already agreed to abide by the legal terms laid out by Facebook. Therefore, you are not in a position to unilaterally alter the terms of the agreement, legally limit or restrict the rights of any other entity that isn’t a party to the agreement between you and Facebook just by posting some text on your timeline.

Still, Facebook gives you the tools to protect your own privacy, providing a diverse set of privacy controls, and enabling users to choose where and how most status updates, photos, and other Facebook posts are shared.

See the short clip, humorously debunking the myth:

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Monday, March 25, 2013

6 Less-Known Facts about Venice, Italy

Many years ago, in 421, at the very same day, March 25, the Great City of Venice was founded. The city was built by people who were escaping Attila’s invasion, so the city’s unique landscape would make it harder for invaders to infiltrate. The Venice Republic was the biggest power of the Mediterranean during 1300's-1500's.  Its territories embraced a big area in the east Mediterranean sea, encompassing the terra firma, that is the current Veneto and Friuli, and the today's Croatian Histria and Dalmatia with their islands, plus part of the Greek islands. The fall of the Republic of Venice occurred in 1797, when the Serenissima yielded to the military campaigns of Napoleon in Italy. With the Campoformio Treaty Venice and the Veneto, plus Histria and Dalmatia, were relinquished to the Austrian Empire, which ruled over them for about 60 years.  

Even those, who never visited the city, know for sure that it is beautiful. Venice captured the impression of a magical floating city by setting wood pilings on the 118 submerged islands in the Northern end of the Adriatic Sea. 400 foot bridges and 170 boat canals connect the city to make it easily accessible to the local populace.

In this post, we would like to present some less-known interesting facts about Venice.

1.       Is Venice sinking?

It is sad, but quite obvious fact that Venice is slowly sinking. Reports say that the city has sunk by about seven centimeters a century for the past 1000 years, and has subsided over 24 centimeters in the past century alone. The debate about how to save Venice has been fierce for a long time. An ambitious project called MOSE is underway to secure the future of Venice, by building a series of movable dams (inflatable gates). Then again, it is said that it's only a temporary measure which could protect the city for just 100 years.

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2.       How Venice was built?

When we mentioned earlier more than one hundreds islands, you may assume that the city was built on these pieces of ground. But that assumption would not be correct. The city was not actually built on the islets. Instead, its structures are supported by a series of wooden platforms. These platforms are secured by additional structures placed in the sea. Why did the Venetians do this? The lands themselves were not strong enough to support a regular building. As such, there are millions of “piles” underneath the Venetian lagoon. As you understand, this process was not easy. One of the region’s most famous churches took over two years to build. An astounding 1,106,657 piles were needed to complete its construction. These piles were 11.2 feet long.

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3.       Venice sewer system

Actually, Venice has no sewer system at all. Household waste flows into the canals and is washed out into the sea twice a day with the tides.

4.       Want to be a Gondolier?

If your dream job is to become a Gondola driver in Venice, think twice, as it is not that easy to get a “driver license” there. Only 3 to 4 Gondolier licenses are issued annually. To qualify, applicants must be able to finish an extensive training after passing a rigorous exam. There are only 400 licensed Gondolas operating in Venice today.

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5.       Venice population is shrinking

It is hard to imagine, but depopulation is one of the most serious issues facing Venetian society. Nowadays, Venice has less than 60,000 inhabitants when they were at 140,000 in the golden days. Some experts believe that Venice may become a ghost town as early as 2030. It would only get traffic from visitors (Each year the town receives 18 million tourists, which is an average of 50,000 tourists per day). Among the main of why Venice suffers with depopulation there are two seemingly controversial reasons: frequent floods and high cost of real estate purchase and maintenance.  In 1966 there was a flood which promoted a mass escape. Sixteen apartments were simply abandoned. And at the same time the increasing cost of Venetian real estate limits the ability of the average citizen to buy a home there. Instead, rich foreigners or corporations are taking residence.

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6.       Dying in Venice

Isola di San Michele, a former prison, is Venice’s cemetery.  Because space is so limited on San Michele bodies are buried in tight rows of graves and are allowed to decompose for a mere twelve years before being dug up and the remains either moved into an urn or put with countless others in a nearby bone yard.

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Friday, February 15, 2013

2412 Years Ago Philosopher Socrates was Sentenced to Death

I doubt there is anyone, reading this post, who claim he/she is not familiar with Socrates. That is understandable, because Socrates can be considered as the Founding Father of western Philosophy. He is the first person we can identify who seriously asked and pursued answers to questions that we now think of as characteristically philosophical. Thinkers before Socrates had asked questions about mathematics, about metaphysics (Pythagoras thought the world was made up of numbers), and about natural phenomena. Socrates spent his life asking philosophical questions of the citizens of Athens, questioning their answers, debating them. He wanted to know what goodness was, what morality was, what piety was, whether virtue can be taught, what knowledge is and similar questions.

Why Socrates was Sentenced to Death?

At the age of 70, February 15, 399 BC, Socrates was charged with teaching young people to disrespect the gods of the city. The ancient Greeks believed that the gods protected their cities from floods, storms, plague and other natural disasters, as well as from invasions by other cities. If Socrates were, in fact, teaching disrespect for the gods, then there was a risk of danger to the Athens from these calamities.

But the trial and execution of Socrates in Athens still puzzles historians. Why, in a society enjoying more freedom and democracy than any the world had ever seen, would a seventy-year-old philosopher be put to death for what he was teaching?  The puzzle is all the greater because Socrates had taught all of his adult life. What could Socrates have said or done than prompted a jury of 500 Athenians to send him to his death just a few years before he would have died naturally?

What appears almost certain is that the decisions to prosecute and ultimately convict Socrates had a lot to do with the turbulent history of Athens in the several years preceding his trial. An examination of that history may not provide final answers, but it does provide important clues.

Socrates was a prominent public figure and he was familiar to most Athenians. However, the standing of Socrates among his fellow citizens suffered severely during two periods in which Athenian democracy was temporarily overthrown, one four-month period in 411-410 and another slightly longer period in 404-403.  The prime movers in both of the anti-democratic movements were former pupils of Socrates, Alcibiades and Critias. Athenians undoubtedly considered the teachings of Socrates--especially his expressions of disdain for the established constitution--partially responsible for the resulting death and suffering. Alcibiades, perhaps Socrates' favorite Athenian politician, masterminded the first overthrow. (Alcibiades had other strikes against him: four years earlier, Alcibiades had fled to Sparta to avoid facing trial for mutilating religious pillars--statues of Hermes--and while in Sparta had proposed to that state's leaders that he help them defeat Athens.)  Critias, first among an oligarchy known as the "Thirty Tyrants," led the second bloody revolt against the restored Athenian democracy in 404.  The revolt sent many of Athen's leading democratic citizens (including Anytus, later the driving force behind the prosecution of Socrates) into exile, where they organized a resistance movement.

Critias, without question, was the more frightening of the two former pupils of Socrates. I.F. Stone, in his The Trial of Socrates, describes Critias (a cousin of Plato's) as "the first Robespierre," a cruel and inhumane man "determined to remake the city to his own antidemocratic mold whatever the human cost."  The oligarchy confiscated the estates of Athenian aristocrats, banished 5,000 women, children, and slaves, and summarily executed about 1,500 of Athen's most prominent democrats.

One incident involving Socrates and the Thirty Tyrants would later become an issue at his trial.  Although the Thirty normally used their own gang of thugs for such duties, the oligarchy asked Socrates to arrest Leon of Salamis so that he might be executed and his assets appropriated.  Socrates refused to do so. Socrates would point to his resistance to the order as evidence of his good conduct. On the other hand, Socrates neither protested the decision nor took steps to warn Leon of Salamis of the order for his arrest--he just went home. While good citizens of Athens were being liquidated right and left, Socrates did or said nothing to stop the violence.

The horrors brought on by the Thirty Tyrants caused Athenians to look at Socrates in a new light.  His teachings no longer seemed so harmless. He was no longer a lovable town eccentric.  Socrates--and his icy logic--came to be seen as a dangerous and corrupting influence, a breeder of tyrants and enemy of the common man.

The view of the most Athenians was similar to that expressed by the orator Aeschines in a prosecution speech: "Did you not put to death Socrates the sophist, fellow citizens, because he was shown to have been the teacher of Critias, one of the Thirty who overthrew the democracy?"


The trial took place in the heart of the city, the jurors seated on wooden benches surrounded by a crowd of spectators. Socrates' accusers (three Athenian citizens) were allotted three hours to present their case, after which, the philosopher would have three hours to defend himself.

After hearing the arguments of both Socrates and his accusers, the jury was asked to vote on his guilt. Under Athenian law the jurors did not deliberate the point. Instead, each juror registered his judgment by placing a small disk into an urn marked either "guilty" or "not guilty." Socrates was found guilty by a vote of 280 to 220.

After the conviction of Socrates, the trial entered its penalty phase. Each side, the accusers and the defendant, was given an opportunity to propose a punishment. After listening to arguments, the jurors would choose which of the two proposed punishments to adopt.

Socrates was given the opportunity to suggest his own punishment and could probably have avoided death by recommending exile. Instead, the philosopher initially offered the sarcastic recommendation that he be rewarded for his actions. Socrates, after expressing his surprise of the little amount he needed to be have been found innocent, jokingly suggested to provide him free meals at the Prytaneum, a particular honor held for city benefactors and winners at the Olympic Games, then offered to pay a fine of 100 drachmae, which was a fifth of his property and a testament to Socrates' poverty. Finally he settled on the sum of 3000 drachmae, put forward by Plato, Crito, Critobulus, and Apollodorus, who guaranteed the payment. His prosecutor proposed the death penalty.

In the final vote, a larger majority of jurors favored a punishment of death than voted in the first instance for conviction.  According to Diogenes Laertius, 360 jurors voted for death, 140 for the fine. Under Athenian law, execution was accomplished by drinking a cup of poisoned hemlock.


In May 2012, amid the unrest caused by the Greek government debt crisis, an international panel of judges and lawyers held a mock re-trial of Socrates in Athens. The split decision of five judges voting "guilty" and five voting "not guilty" resulted in an acquittal. The issue of sentences was not discussed, so as to restrict the discussion only to the facts of the case, but the judges voting to convict indicated they would not have been in favor of the death penalty

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Friday, February 1, 2013

Is Romance Dead? Banging With Friends Instead?

We should be able to say ‘bang’ and ‘fuck’ on our site because that’s how we talk in real life.
Creators of Bang with Friends

A controversial new sex app called “Bang With Friends” claims to facilitate sexual encounters with users and their Facebook friends without the embarrassment of rejection.

“Anonymously find friends who are down for the night,” the company website said. “Your friends will never know you're interested unless they are too!”

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The Bang With Friends app, aimed at 20-somethings, was created by three college-aged men from California, who are withholding their identities, according to US media reports. A Whois search for the domain name comes up with their registration information blocked, revealing the creators are web savvy and have taken the extra step to keep their identities hidden. While they don’t want their names attached to the legacy in the making just yet, they did open up about their first project as a team. 

“[Sex] should be something you’re expressive about, that you’re comfortable with, and if there’s a beautiful woman or a handsome man that you’re interested in, you shouldn’t hold back,” said one of the app’s creators. “We’re just giving you closer access to knowing the truth.”

The group thought of the idea as a way to improve standard online dating sites like eHarmony or “One night, we were shooting the shit about how online dating is broken,” said one creator. “What a lot of people want is just to skip all the shit and get to the sex.” The conversation evolved to Facebook, a social media platform used mainly by 18-34 years old, many of whom are in college and use social media to connect with pals. “It would be great, as guys, if you could find out which girls are actually into you and not dance around anything,” he said.

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The app, launched a week ago, only alerts users of a potential hookup if both parties express interest by selecting what is called the “Down to Bang” button.

The creators of the app said it has already gained more than 30,000 users, registering five new users every minute according to a report on the online tech site Mashable.

But critics of “Bang With Friends” putting the physical first is the reason for the demise of the majority of marriages and relationships in the United States.

“Back in the day people would court, they would go out with different people without exploring the sexual relationship because it allowed you to get to know what you may or may not have in common,” said Kristen Crockett, a Washington based relationship coach. And while some who use the app may be more interested in sex than building a relationship, Crockett cautions users with the potential drawbacks of getting physical with a Facebook friend.

“Once you start sleeping with someone, your red flags, your fears, all of those things get pushed into the back of your mind,” she said, adding often times people ignore signals and signs because of how the person makes them feel physically.

“We’ll be honest with you, we made this in two hours… with a lot of Red Bull and vodka … and it took off on its own,” one of the creators said. “What we’re working on right now is building sexual preferences. I personally am completely towards gay rights. We want to give everyone this awesome access to finding people who want to bang.”

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But lack of customized sexual preferences is just one of the problems the team initially encountered. An earlier version of the app didn’t take into account the presence of family members among a user’s Facebook friends, displaying anyone from grandfathers to siblings as potential “bang” buddies. This has since been fixed, and while you can’t be matched with your uncle, the BWF team doesn’t want to limit user’s pairings too much—for example, your relationship status will likely not be taken into consideration. “We’re not too [sic] objective to hooking up with that cute secretary across the office if she has a boyfriend already,” said one creator.

So how does it work? Well, users sign in with Facebook, and the app shows you a list of friends and their photos and users have to click on the “Down to Bang” button next to the friend. If your friend is ready for Down to bang, then it will change to Awaiting Bang. The app assures users that it will notify both parties via email about their mutual interest. The rest is up to the users, like deciding to proceed, fixing time, meeting arrangements, etc. 

Application website:

So, what you think? The idea is definitely great, and it has all chances to get multiple fans on Facebook. More people join, they bigger impact will be seen, since more chances of match with your virtual friends. The new trend is good, and it is bad at the same time. If you think there were no precedents in the past, you are wrong. In early Soviet Russia, revolutionary activists considered love as unneeded outlived quality, and sexual desire to be satisfied as easy as getting snack from the store. This approach has not lived long, since it proved to be socially unproductive. Communists did not take all this BS on the people feelings, love, and emotional relationship in consideration.

So, no more courting, flowers, and guesswork. You find a match, you make simple arrangements, because both of you want that, and you… bang. For some, that will be a huge relief because not many people have emotional abilities, time, and desire to build relationship. For other, it will take the best portion of the relationship out of the context, bringing sex down to the level of the daily exercises, good for mental and physical health and well-being.

In any case, you always have power of free will choice: choice to sign for this application, choice to accept the bang invitation, choice to covert virtual affair to the real-life affair.

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Tuesday, January 29, 2013

How is your Credit Score Calculated?

Until recently, people mostly were able to spend money only if they have them. With ability to borrow money through credit cards, mortgages, student and personal loans, people got the clear opportunity to spend money they do not have – borrowed money, paying certain percent for this use.

Why you Need Good Credit History?

When you lend money yourself, you will not give it anyone who will ask for that. The organizations, which will provide you with loan, will be even more sensitive, choosing the reliable people and getting the adequate conditions. For those who look more reliable, the financing conditions will be essentially better, than for those who may become a burden over time, not able to pay back.

So, a good credit history will benefit you in almost any major purchase that requires financing - buying a home, getting an auto loan, or setting up a business. When lenders review your credit history information, your credit score plays a big role in setting your interest rates and repayment terms. If your track record of building credit history is excellent, your efforts will save you money on interest charges. The same rule applies to insurance coverage; a high credit score means lower monthly premiums.

Landlords will use your credit history to gauge how likely you are to pay your rent on time. Phone companies and cable service providers examine your credit history to determine if you'll be a responsible customer.

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Who Defines your Credit Score?

There are many credit reporting bureaus in the US, of which the three main ones are Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. These bureaus maintain a credit file of every person who has ever borrowed any kind of credit. All your credit information, bank account information, loans, payments, etc. is contained in the credit file.  On the basis of this information, a credit score is calculated as simple numerical prediction of our creditworthiness.

Although there are many different types of credit scores, the most important is the FICO credit score.  This is the credit score that is used by the 3 leading credit bureaus in the country and it is also the credit score which the majority of the lenders look at to determine your credit worthiness.

The Fair Isaac Corporation (FICO) first developed the formula to calculate a person’s credit score based on their credit information. Since then, the FICO credit score has been accepted as the most official credit score in the US. Although there are other credit scores, none come close to the FICO score in terms of authenticity, correctness and nationwide acceptance.

A FICO credit score is a three digit number which can be anything between 300 and 850. A score in excess of 760 is considered to be an excellent credit score. Scores ranging from 700 to 759 are good, those ranging from 650 to 700 are average, and below 650 are low credit scores. Don’t feel bad if you are on the low end of excellent. Scores of 800 or higher are extremely rare. Even so, the median score is around 720, meaning half of all people have scores higher than 720.

Note that the same information, received by three competing credit bureaus, can produce different results, since the credit score calculation algorithm is slightly different. Each lender or credit issuer can choose whom it asks for your credit history. If several of your applications result in credit pulls from Equifax, your credit report and score may look different than one from TransUnion. Each bureau also manages your details separately from the others, so if there is a blemish on your credit report that needs to be fixed, you need to follow up with each bureau to make sure it has accurate information.

What are the Factors Affecting Credit Score?

While Fair Isaac and all credit bureaus keep the score calculation algorithms as top trade secrets and never reveal the exact formula, there is the following indication disclosed of what factors influence the score and what the weight of each of these factors is:
·         35% - Payment History. Not surprisingly, the biggest chunk of the score is your record of timely payments. If you pay your bills on time, you’re likely to continue paying your bills on time in the future as well. In brief, any late payments of 30-days late or worse can show up here, although a 60-day late or a 90-day late delay will have even bigger negative impact. If you just barely miss a due date and pay it off within 30 days, it shouldn’t show up here.
·         30% - Credit Utilization. This refers to the trend of how much of your available credit you are using, the value also known as utilization ratio. From the creditability perspectives, the lower the better. Being maxed out on all your cards is obviously not a good sign. Utilization ratio is tracked both on an overall level and on a per card level. For example, having five different cards with a $1,000 balance each and $10,000 credit limit each (10% ratio x 5 cards) is better than having 4 cards with no balance and one card with the $5,000 balance (50% ratio on 1 card). On the long run, having more credit cards would be a good thing as it should mean more available credit and a lower utilization ratio.
·         15% - Length of Credit History. The longer your credit history is, the better. Both the age of your oldest account and the average age of all your accounts are tracked. Continuously opening new credit lines may thus hurt your credit score. At the same time, having a lot of old cards can “anchor” your average account age as well. If I already have 20 cards averaging 8 years old, adding another new credit card won’t make that average budge hardly at all. The closed account will stay on your credit report for 10 years.
·         10% - Types of Credit Used. This factor refers to the mix of different credit accounts out there – revolving credit like credit cards, retail accounts (store cards), installment loans like auto loans, and home mortgages. Having a greater mix is better. However, due to the lesser weight of this factor, you should not deliberately open store cards, take auto loans, and buy new houses with mortgage, unless you really need this kind of the financial activities.
·         10% - Past Credit Applications. This low weight factor comes into play when you are working on some important financial operation, for example, shopping for refinancing, or purchasing a new real estate, or shopping for extra credit cards. This factor is taken in consideration because multiple inquiries and applications in a short period of time may represent an indication of existing or expected financial troubles. Therefore, you should be very careful with what are called “hard” credit inquiries. Hard credit inquiries (“pulls”) are usually from loan applications (asking for more credit). Soft credit inquiries occur when you are just checking your own credit score, or when other financial companies check your credit history as identity verification or for pre-approval offers. Hard pulls affect your credit score negatively for a temporary period of time. For mortgage and auto loans, there are special accommodations by FICO for “rate-shopping”; all hard inquiries within a 14 day period for mortgages or auto loans will only count as one inquiry. In regards to apply for new credit cards, it’s difficult to know the effect of a hard inquiry by itself, as a new credit card account will also affect the other factors above (average age of accounts, credit limits, and utilization ratio). For someone with a longer credit history, a new credit card application will have little effect. For someone with zero credit cards, it will have a larger effect. The general consensus is that each hard pull knocks about 3-5 points off your credit score, and the effect decreases as time passes – after 6 months the effect is reduced, and after a year it is gone. The recording of inquiries does stay on your report for 2 years.

What is Better: No Credit or Bad Credit?

The common sense says that people with bad credit should have a lot more hard times getting loans with bad credit. Bad credit tells bankers, loaners, etc. that your credit worthiness is not good enough for them. People with no credit should have a better chance because they have no negative reports against them.

However, the financial specialists often claim that the common sense does not work here. They think, a bad credit is better than no credit. Bad credit means that you were extended and trusted at least at one point in your life. Bad credit score could also mean that you're paid off, but the bad history of the past is still weighing your score down. Depending on your current credit situation, you'll probably get extended another loan or card...your rates will stink, but you'll get one. Also, bad credit shows that the application you filled out is probably not filled with any fraudulent information and they will have some way of being able to get a hold of you.

NO credit may be riskier for creditors because they have absolutely NO track record to what the person's character is. With no credit or anything on your report, how do they know that none of the info on the application is good or bad? Someone with no credit is going to have the higher interest rate from the beginning.

How to Fix Bad Credit?

·         Pay all bills on time or ahead! To help simplify the process, once you get paid, pay all the bills that are due between then and your next paycheck. Allow time for the mail and processing. 

·         Learn to live on your take-home income. This means if you do not have the money, don't buy it. In other words, do not add to your existing credit balances.

·         Pay all charged-off accounts that appear on your credit report. A paid charge-off is much better than just a charge-off. 

·         Create a realistic plan to allocate a portion of your income to pay off large credit card balances. A high debt-to-income ratio could be causing you to lose points on your FICO score.

·         Give it some time. Most creditors look at your most recent credit history (last two or three years).

How to Fix No Credit?

·         FICO developed the Expansion score to help new-to-credit borrowers. It looks at information not included on a regular credit report, including utility and rental payments, payday loans and use of a checking account. Ask your lender if they use the Expansion score.

·         Apply for a secured credit card. A savings account secures the card in case of default. 

·         Once you have used your secured card for several months, apply for an unsecured credit card. You may have the best luck with a retailer or with the same bank from which you received the secured card. 

·         Your credit history measures all types of credit accounts, so you may want to establish a longer-term installment loan for a car or some other large purchase loan, such as furniture, with pay-back terms of longer than one year. 

·         To avoid problems, never borrow without knowing how and when you will be able to pay off the balance. Also, you should establish an emergency savings cushion for those times when life throws you an unexpected curve.

Sources and Additional Information:

Friday, January 25, 2013

Most Russians Support Putin in Adopting the Anti-Gay Law

Such widespread propaganda of homosexuality negatively affects the formation of a child’s personality, blurs its ideas of the family as the union of a man and woman, and in fact creates grounds for limiting the freedom of choice of sexual preferences when it grows up.

Defense Statement for Legislation

Russia’s parliament backed a draft law January 25, 2013, banning “homosexual propaganda” in the country. Critics see this act as an attempt to get up public support for President Vladimir Putin in the country’s largely conservative society and stir the opposition to fight quite unpopular causes (as viewed by general public).

Only one deputy in the State Duma lower house voted against the bill.

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The law would make the “promotion of homosexuality among minors” an administrative offence in federal law, with fines of up to 500,000 rubles (US$ 16,200).

Veteran human-rights campaigner Lyudmila Alexeyeva described the draft law as “medieval” and said it was intended to appeal to conservative voters after months of protests that have sapped Mr. Putin’s popularity. Public approval for Putin, who is now 60, stood in January at 62 percent, the lowest level since June 2000, an independent pollster said yesterday.

The legislation has served to deepen divisions in society since Mr. Putin returned to the presidency in May and began moves seen by the opposition as designed to crack down on dissent and smother civil society.

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Translation from Russian: “Homosexuality is not a perversion; perversion is a hockey on the grass and ballet on the ice!”.

During the process, Mr. Putin and his supporters have underlined what they see as conservative, traditional Russian values.

He has drawn closer to the Russian Orthodox Church during this time, hoping the support of one of the most influential institutions in Russia will consolidate his grip on power.

Homosexuality, punished with jail terms in the Soviet Union, was decriminalized in Russia in 1993, but much of the gay community remains underground and prejudice runs deep.

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Anti-gay propaganda laws are already in place in Arkhangelsk, Novosibirsk and St. Petersburg, Mr. Putin’s home city. A Russian court in November rejected a $10-million compensation claim against U.S. pop star Madonna by a group of anti-gay activists who accused her of hurting their feelings by promoting homosexuality at a St. Petersburg concert. Although a court rejected that case, a local politician from Putin’s ruling Untied Russia party has said he is taking similar action against another singer, Lady Gaga, who is also a defender of lesbian and gay rights.

Today, about 20 people were detained outside the State Duma, the lower house, after minor scuffles broke out between rival groups of supporters and opponents of the law. The supporters, some of them holding Russian Orthodox icons or crosses, cheered and threw eggs as police hauled away protesters who started kissing. One gay activist was splashed with green paint, witnesses said.

“The police yet again directed their actions with arguably excessive force towards the wrong people. The LGBTI activists were not a threat to anybody; they did not instigate hate or violence. They were there exercising their right to freedom of expression of their feelings towards one another. They are as entitled to this right and protection from violence as everyone else,” commented David Diaz-Jogeix, Europe and Central Asia Programme Deputy Director at Amnesty International.

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