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Wednesday, September 10, 2003  

News and opinion

  • Bomb's 'Pop' dead at 95
  • The progenitor of the hydrogen bomb is dead.

    Edward Teller, 95, the Hungarian-born physicist who blended a persuasive personality with keen scientific creativity to become known as the father of the hydrogen bomb, died yesterday in California.

    ...He was a naturalized U.S. citizen who had been driven from Europe by the rise of the Nazis, and he helped lead the U.S. effort to design and build the atom bomb during World War II.

    After the war's end, when many of his fellow physicists, for a variety of reasons, appeared to show little enthusiasm for designing and developing the next and more powerful stage in nuclear explosives, Teller worked with steadfast vigor to persuade the nation's leaders to push ahead with the hydrogen bomb.

    Teller went on to push the most popular boondoggle of my youth, Star Wars, the Strategic Defense Initiative. It, still championed in some quarters, is a dubious effort to develop a space-based defense against nuclear missiles.

    What does one say about the father of the bomb reaching his inevitable end?

    As people who have been reading Mac-a-ro-nies for a while know, I am a moderate science fiction buff. I'm also a fan of science in moderation. For example, I support a competently run space program, but am skeptical about some of what passes for science, such as the claim that autism is just male-female differences exaggerated, in the entry below. I believe Teller's death reminds us that the cautionary tale of Pandora's box is true in the way that fiction often proves to be. The human race has been 'blessed' with a remarkable invention, which it will likely use to destroy itself. Mainly good luck has kept us alive for more than a half-century after the invention of the bomb. May our progeny be so lucky.

  • Study finds gays have a higher rate of mental illness
  • Last month, I annoyed a gay blogger by mentioning in passing that homosexuals have higher rates of diagnosed mental illness than heterosexuals. He misinterpreted my statement of fact as deriding gay people. A study, supported by gay activists in England, offers new evidence of the problem.

    Two out of three gay, lesbian and bisexual people are likely to have mental health problems - compared to just one-third of heterosexuals, according to the largest study of its kind in the UK.

    Nearly a third of gay men and more than 40 per cent of lesbians, who are open about their sexuality, also reported prejudice from mental health workers, the study reveals.

    The findings will be published this week in a report by Mind, the mental health charity, launched at a conference about the mental health needs of gay men, lesbians and bisexuals. Researchers at University College London (UCL) interviewed 2,400 gay men, lesbians, bisexuals and heterosexuals in a three-year study financed by the Community Fund. The Independent on Sunday has been campaigning for more than a year for better services for people with mental health problems.

    As I told the fellow who thinks I'm wrong about this topic, the issue isn't whether gay people have significantly higher rates of mental illness. They do. The issue is what to do about the problem. The solution? Better preventative mental health care, I suspect. And, to obtain that goal, one must acknowledge the need for the services.

  • 'Cargo' man probed as terrorism threat
  • The FBI is probing an incident in which a man shipped himself from New York to Texas as air cargo.

    WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Federal officials are investigating how a man managed to hide inside a crate that was flown by a major cargo carrier from New York to Dallas, Texas.

    Charles McKinley wanted to go to his father's house in Dallas and decided to "ship himself rather than pay for a ticket," said Transportation Security Administration spokeswoman Suzanne Luber.

    McKinley secured himself in the crate, apparently with some help, along with his computer and some clothes.

    The incident highlighted a potential hole in aviation security.

    McKinley shipped himself through cargo carrier Kitty Hawk Inc., which said it was told by the shipping firm, Pilot Air Freight, that the crate was loaded with computer monitors.

    . . .Carl Smith, assistant chief of the De Soto Police Department, said that when the deliveryman went to remove the box from the truck he noticed a person inside.

    Authorities believe Smith had moved something he had been using to cover himself, so the driver was able to see him through a slit in the crate.

    "At that time, the young man kicked one side of the crate out, crawled out, got his box, and walked around to the back of the house," Smith said.

    The driver contacted police.

    I seriously doubt Smith had any terroristic intent. It also strikes me as unlikely that terrorists would choose this scheme for transporting themselves. Someone out to bomb a building or plane would want to use the most direct and effective means possible. Mailing oneself as cargo meets neither objective. If Smith is prosecuted under the Patriot Act, the slippery slope is not just beginning, we are well into it.

    The TSA has stepped fourth with a bad idea based on Smith's prank.

    "Should Congress ask us, we are ready to train cargo pilots as federal flight deck officers." Federal flight deck officers are armed with guns in the cockpit.

    Equipping the thousands of people who work with cargo with guns is both unnecessary and expensive. Nor would doing so have foiled Smith. He was discovered by a delivery truck driver, not cargo handlers.

    10:03 AM