Digital Dharma

The Middle Path, One Day At A Time

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Separation of Church and State Best for Both

Separation of state liberating for religion, too | Features | The Australian

The separation of the state from religion liberates both. It preserves freedom for religion. It liberates the church from the baggage of unpopular and difficult political decision-making. It liberates the state from the religious dogma that, at times, has held back scientific progress. There are some countries today that still have established state churches. But there are no countries in the modern world that claim to be Christian theocratic states.

Edited extract from a speech delivered by federal Treasurer Peter Costello to the Australian Christian Lobby’s national conference in Canberra.

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Is George Bush Really the Devil?

Is Bush Really The Devil?
Satan has better taste in shoes. Is far sexier. Can actually spell ‘Venezuela.’ I mean, come on


…I am here to tell you, it ain’t that easy. I am here to set the record straight. Well, straighter. Because unfortunately, no matter how much we all want to believe it’s true, Bush simply cannot be the Devil. He simply doesn’t have the chops.  …

By Mark Morford, SF Gate Columnist

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More from the Monitor

The environmental load of 300 million: How heavy?

PORTLAND, ORE. – A flotilla of 100 fishing boats, rafts, and kayaks crossed the Willamette River to a downtown park in Portland, Ore., the other evening to rally for the Pacific Northwest’s reigning icon: wild salmon, now plummeting toward extinction due to development across much of the Columbia River basin.

It was a typical event for a “green” city that has one of the best records in the United States for recycling, reducing greenhouse-gas emissions, using alternative energy, and providing public transportation and bike paths.

But Portland’s amenities – its natural setting along the Willamette River and its youthful techie vibe – are drawing a surge of new people, threatening to erode the very qualities that drew people here in the first place. As the US approaches 300 million people, that’s the story of the nation as well.

A weekly series

Part 1 – 09/12/06

Is a bigger nation richer?

Part 2 – 09/19/06

A rising mix of immigrants

Part 3 – 09/26/06

The environmental load of 300 million: How heavy?



A fierce and furry fight on the banks of the Thames

OXFORD, ENGLAND – A war is raging on the riverbanks of the Thames. Not that you would ever guess if you took a stroll alongside them. Here, where the river bends and heads toward Oxford, all seems calm, quiet, green, and serene. Only the occasional splash of a sycamore seed – helicoptering down from the lanky trees that lean over the river – disrupts the soft, steady flow of the deep greenish Thames.

But don’t be fooled. Hidden in the reeds are two guerrilla armies fighting for dominion over this watery kingdom. On one side stands a battalion of sleek and cocky American invaders, who have set up camp and forced many to flee. On the other side stands a band of brave and plucky Brits, determined to win back the banks.

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Nurse tells of fight to save Steve Irwin

Nurse tells of fight to save Steve Irwin

For the Sunshine Coast nurse and Queensland surf lifesaving identity, it would be a bizarre coincidence as she had known Irwin since he was the “kid with lizards in his pockets” in her home town of Caloundra 30 years ago.

Mrs Traill said she had been sightseeing at Low Isles, a nature reserve north-east of Port Douglas in far north Queensland, when the mortally wounded Irwin was brought ashore on September 4.

No one realised the identity of the man who had been speared through the chest by a stingray’s barb while snorkelling at nearby Batt Reef.

The blow was struck at 11.18am and it was not until 11.52am that Irwin arrived at Low Isles, where about 50 tourists – mainly divers – were based for the day.

“I was wandering around the island when I heard counting – ‘one, two, three’ – and saw a person being resuscitated,” Mrs Traill said. “He was being carried up the beach and with the camera crew there, I thought they must have been filming a documentary. Then I realised it was for real and asked if they needed any help.”

Mrs Traill said the patient was taken into a boat shed and she took over CPR.  More:

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Who’s intolerant?

Comparative Religion by Jeremy Meister

Madonna is now wrapping up her European tour – one of the highest grossing in history. For those that don’t know, Madonna has selected to be cruicified at one point during the show a la Jesus Christ. Naturally, this is an open minded, fair attempt by the artist to get people to examine their beliefs.

But the great thinker Rosie O’ Donnell told us that Christian zealots are just as bad as Islamic ones. Thus it’s a little surprising to note that Christians all over the global are being rather quiet. There are no mass demonstrations in the streets. No one burning Madonna an effigy. No one bombing record stores and Walmarts that carry Madonna’s albums. No clergy calling for the Madonna’s beheading.

More surprisingly is the fact that despite her tour coming to the United States, there have been no calls at all. …



Q  U  O  T  E D

“I’ve bought a car.”

Three-year-old Jack Neal explains to his mother why it’s never a good idea to save your eBay password in a browser.


More About Digital Voting Machines (Heard enough yet?)

The Big Gamble on Electronic Voting – New York Times

…One brand of machine leads in market share by a sizable margin: the AccuVote, made by Diebold Election Systems. Two weeks ago, however…

…Edward W. Felten, a professor of computer science at Princeton, and his student collaborators conducted a demonstration with an AccuVote TS and noticed that the key to the machine’s memory card slot appeared to be similar to one that a staff member had at home.

When he brought the key into the office and tried it, the door protecting the AccuVote’s memory card slot swung open obligingly. Upon examination, the key turned out to be a standard industrial part used in simple locks for office furniture, computer cases, jukeboxes — and hotel minibars.

Once the memory card slot was accessible, how difficult would it be to introduce malicious software that could manipulate vote tallies? That is one of the questions that Professor Felten and two of his students, Ariel J. Feldman and J. Alex Haldeman, have been investigating. In the face of Diebold’s refusal to let scientists test the AccuVote, the Princeton team got its hands on a machine only with the help of a third party.

Even before the researchers had made the serendipitous discovery about the minibar key, they had released a devastating critique of the AccuVote’s security. For computer scientists, they supplied a technical paper; for the general public, they prepared an accompanying video. Their short answer to the question of the practicality of vote theft with the AccuVote: easily accomplished.

The researchers demonstrated the machine’s vulnerability to an attack by means of code that can be introduced with a memory card. The program they devised does not tamper with the voting process. The machine records each vote as it should, and makes a backup copy, too.

Every 15 seconds or so, however, the rogue program checks the internal vote tallies, then adds and subtracts votes, as needed, to reach programmed targets; it also makes identical changes in the backup file. The alterations cannot be detected later because the total number of votes perfectly matches the total number of voters. At the end of the election day, the rogue program erases itself, leaving no trace.