Stardate 20010623.1540 (On Screen): This article discusses how common "creative accounting" has become, and shows a rogue's gallery of small and large companies who have had to "restate earnings" (read "admit that they lied") in the last couple of years. What I want to know is why no-one is flaying the auditors for not catching this nonsense. Isn't it their job to look over the books and make sure that no-one is cheating? The auditors are supposed to work for the stockholders and you'd think that there would be some outrage directed at them for missing this kind of baloney, but I've never heard of any. If they're not catching the fakery, just what exactly are they doing, and why are they there?
How about a couple of high-profile big-buck malpractice suits, eh? If PriceWaterhouseCoopers gets nailed for $200 million next time some company "restates earnings", I think they might scrutinize the books a bit more carefully from now on, and actually earn their fee. (discuss)
Stardate 20010623.0806 (On Screen): A US web host permits hate groups to put up web sites. A French anti-racism groups wants them to be suppressed. The French group is wrong.
Free expression must protect unpopular, even despicable, expression or it is a mirage. If you are only free to say or write things which your neighbors — or people half-way around the world — approve of, then you are not free at all. The web has no borders, and we are faced with two and only two choices: either all content on the web will be governed by the most restrictive rules anywhere, or by the least restrictive rules anywhere. I unhesitatingly express my preference for the latter. The limited damage done by permitting one particularly abhorrent example of expression is far less than the broader damage which would be done by permitting anyone, anywhere, to suppress anything anyone else has written. Fortunately, I believe that the Yahoo case will settle this unequivocally, when (I believe) a US Federal Court will rule that a French Court has no jurisdiction to issue court orders applicable within the US. (discuss)
Stardate 20010623.0632 (On Screen): Some researchers claim to have created a vaccine for Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) and claim to have demonstrated that it really does protect cats against the disease. There isn't enough information given here to show how they determined that there actually was protection. In particular, I'm concerned that they are using the lack of stage 1 symptoms of the disease as an indication that infection has not taken place, and if so their results are seriously suspect. I think there is no question that a vaccine could prevent that part of the syndrome, but that doesn't necessarily mean that it would prevent chronic infection leading to long-term progression to AIDS. One reason that I'm particularly concerned about this report is that it would take on the order of ten years to truly determine, because it takes 5-10 years for stage 3 symptoms (feline AIDS) to develop after infection with FIV. And I don't think that they developed this vaccine in 1990. It's possible that they could determine prevention of feline AIDS in five years by monitoring blood counts, but I don't believe that this candidate vaccine was developed five years ago, either. I think we're looking at something which was developed in the last couple of years, and if so then there hasn't been enough time to prove that it really works.
The fervor with which the medical research community embraces the idea of a vaccine for AIDS strikes me as being akin to the way that some people cling to religious icons. I have this mental image of scientists hauling their equivalent of the local statue of the Virgin out to try to halt an oncoming lava flow from the local volcano, with about the same chance of success.
There was another comment in this article, near the end, which struck me in an odd way: (Dr. Alan Stone) said that in some parts of Africa, Asia and the Indian sub-continent it was very difficult to get the men to use condoms. This made me think something curious. I want to make clear that I express no moral judgement in the following observation. I am not trying to claim that "they'll deserve it", or anything of the kind.
Natural selection doesn't only work on individuals. When a species adopts a pack or group lifestyle, so that closely-related individuals living together substantially enhance the survival of all members, then there comes into being a meta-level of sel