Semenya Case Shows Complex Ethics of Fairness in Sport

Caster Semenya, the 18-year-old track-and-field phenomenon from South Africa, is a woman whose hormonal chemistry is unusual for the average adult female. Test results are reported to show that her body naturally secretes three times the normal female levels of testosterone, the dominant “male” hormone, which some competitors say gives her an “unfair advantage”.

The issue has raised perhaps the most serious challenge to the notion of fairness in sport, and to conventional attitudes about gender. For instance, should Semenya be weaker than she is, if she were “fully” female? Is that idea in itself not demeaning to women? Is there even a specific provision in international sporting regulations that requires women to be notably weaker than or slower than men?

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California Could Build Renewable Resource Export Economy

One solution for California would be the expansion of its efforts across the region and the nation, to spur the creation of a full-scale renewable resource-based power grid, to optimize both generative capacity and distribution. The question is, now that the decision has been made to shift toward renewables, how can California go beyond the 1/3 threshold and build a strong renewable-energy export economy?

Part of California’s renewables build-up process might well be, as Gov. Schwarzenegger suggests, a dynamic market in which renewable resourced energy is imported into the state. But part of California’s goal in doing this, admittedly, is to depend less on the volatility of imported energy. So there will have to be a major shift in the investment of public funds toward renewables infrastructure, within the state.

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Does Anyone Know What Capitalism Is?

Is capitalism legalized greed or an organic model of resource allocation?

Capitalism is “survival of the fittest”… capitalism is rooted in the idea of merit; everyone should be compensated according to his or her contribution (to the common good?)… capitalism is about the movement of capital; the more it moves, the richer everyone gets… capitalism is an upgraded feudalism, where the capitalist is an overseer of an abstract terrain made up of investments, not of arable lands… capitalism is democracy; the free spirit of an open society requires capitalism to support the liberties of individual citizens, and protect against government overreach… capitalism is virtue… or, capitalism is the absence of virtue…

These are just a few commonly held ideas, not all compatible with one another or with reality as we know it. Depending on point of view, we find ourselves favoring or opposing some aspect of something we call capitalism, with sometimes radical swings in the underlying reasoning of our political philosophy — we being Americans, generally. And across the world, the same questions come up time and again: one nation’s democratic marketplace, rising tide that lifts all boats, is seen from a poorer nation as an upgraded feudalism, a new age of empire.

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Artificial Intelligence: Will It Understand or Reject Our Human Qualities?

TheHotSpring.com :: Is the very thing we demand of our computers the thing that will make them intolerant of our humanity, if and when they awaken to an artificial intelligence? One of the fundamental problems in achieving a state of computational agility and independence that would allow us to say a synthetic entity has acquired ‘artificial intelligence’ is the problem of autonomy. If we give real autonomy to artificially intelligent machines, can we trust them to cooperate with us, in the ways we, as human beings prefer?

This is an ethical question as well as a practical one. There are real ethical risks inherent in creating devices, or even independently mobile entities, that use their own store of learned intelligence and independent decision-making to interact with or make decisions that affect the conditions of human life. Consigning human well-being or liberties to a system that privileges artificial intelligence for the sake of expediency of one kind or another might reduce the range of free choice available to human individuals.

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Physicians for Human Rights says Doctors Aided in Torture

After reviewing the CIA inspector general’s (IG) report on prisoner abuse during and surrounding the Bush-era “war on terror”, the watchdog Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) says doctors not only attended and supervised prisoner abuse, but recorded information that “may amount to human experimentation”.

In a new 6-page white paper, “Aiding Torture: Health Professionals’ Ethics and Human Rights Violations Demonstrated in the May 2004 CIA Inspector General’s Report”, PHR reports on physicians aiding in the abusive interrogation techniques some now say amount to illegal torture.

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Off-the-Grid Home Breeds Quality of Life, Environmental Resilience

In a tucked-away corner of the New Zealand coastline, a couple, both architects, Lance and Nicola Herbst, have designed a self-sustaining “off-the-grid” home that lends flavor and mood to everyday living. Their cedar-clad bungalow is designed to interact with the natural environment and optimize its use of resources, such as energy, water and nutrients.

Great Barrier Island is four and a half hours from Auckland, by boat, and its remote geography necessitates the kind of innovative green building choices visible in the home built by Lance and Nicola Herbst. When the South African-born couple first visited Great Barrier Island, they were taken with the unique beachside structures they encountered—“little timber shacks we had never experienced before—tiny buildings with 20 years’ accretion of stuff”.

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Sexual Violence Against Darfuri Women Out of Control

Life for women in Darfuri refugee camps in Sudan and neighboring Chad is extremely hard. Many have no access to any public authority that will investigate violence against women, and medical facilities are scarce to non-existent. While rape is rampant, and has allegedly been used as a “weapon of war” by the Khartoum backed militia engaged in a campaign of ethnic cleansing in Darfur, women are seldom able to find safety in seeking help from local authorities.

Uprooted from their homes, often relegated to ad-hoc communities where male elders are dispersed or involved in conflict, women victimized by corrupt camp guards or Sudanese police or militia risk serious physical attack or punishment for reporting rape. The Darfur refugee crisis has exacerbated the crisis levels of violence against women, and ongoing conflict and an apparent government cover-up campaign help to conceal the crimes.

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Any Healthcare Exclusion for Condition or Care Option is Failed Reform

Pres. Obama used his prime-time press conference last night to dive straight into the fray on healthcare reform, pledging commitment to bold action, demanding cost-cutting measures and promising to bring affordable coverage within reach of all Americans. He did not specify if he wanted an “individual mandate” that all Americans buy into one plan or another, and he did not promise that no insurer would be allowed to deny treatment under any circumstances.

But since we’re talking tough and being straightforward about what constitutes success and failure, it must be said: any amount of leeway for insurers to deny coverage or to limit treatment options will be a failure for the healthcare reform movement. Insurers are not substitutes for doctors and hospitals; they are insurance companies and payment systems, and that is all they should be involved in: they should have to survive without the market being rigged through allowances for denial of coverage and denial of care.

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Internet Access Must Be a Human Right

Access to the internet must be a basic human right, across the globe, for a number of reasons. First of all, legitimate, transparent democratic processes of government require in today’s world that information flow freely and that citizens be empowered to share information and to find information, according to their choices and their needs.

Socio-economic barriers to such free flow of information are just another kind of information control that establishes dangerous demographic stratification into privileged and marginalized groups. Governments across the world are using web filtering technologies to censor the information available to their citizens and crack down on dissent.

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CBO Never Reported Patients’ Healthcare Costs Would Go Up

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) reported last week that the healthcare plan currently being debated in Congress would likely cause federal expenses related to healthcare to increase. But it did not report that the plan would cause average per-patient costs to increase across the entire healthcare market, as opponents of healthcare reform are alleging. In fact, that philosophical point has not been disproven by any budgetary analysis to date.

Douglas Elmendorf, the CBO director, told Congress last Thursday that reform proposals currently under consideration would likely increase costs for the federal government. He never said they would fail to bring costs down across the market as a whole; nor did he, for that matter, comment on whether the federal cost increases would materialize if costs did, in fact, come down in the marketplace.

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