Friday, February 29, 2008

Oil prices hit new high

No, this post isn't about soaring prices of the fossil fuel known as "oil", from which we still cannot wean our civilization. I am now writing about sunflower oil, a product no kitchen can do without.
After the obligatory talk about poor sunflower crop and high production costs, Bulgarian manufacturers and retailers raised sunflower oil prices to record high. In my working-class district of Zaharna Fabrika, a liter costs EUR 2. Today, I travelled to a more prosperous district and bought a bottle of oil for EUR 1.5. There was even cheaper oil, but I looked for small-size font on the label and read, "20% sunflower oil, 80% rapeseed oil". Rapeseed oil undergoes unpleasant changes when heated and, hence, is good only for salad and not for cooking.
People residing in richer European countries report that sunflower oil there costs less. This is no surprise. Everybody who has done even the most superficial research on poverty knows that poor people are poor not only because they have low income but because they are typically charged more than rich people for the same commodities and services.
These days, the buzz word is Kosovo. After it declared independence, everybody is talking about it. A Bulgarian truck driver returning from Kosovo was interviewed about his first-hand impressions. He said, "I was impressed most by the low sunflower oil prices. People say Kosovo has virtually no economy, no production, yet oil there is much cheaper than in Bulgaria."
Dear reader, when I started this blog, I intended to write only about interesting and important things. I never thought that I would flood the Web with narrow-minded subjects like the price of sunflower oil.
Unfortunately, this is occupying my attention now. It seems that we Bulgarians, even Euroskeptics like me, had hopes that EU would rescue us from ourselves. After our first year in EU, a year of rampant inflation and frozen incomes, our spirit is very low. We cannot make any plans for the future, we just manage our physical survival day by day. And the only fact offering some hope is that the winter is over.
I am sorry, just venting.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Laws are to be kept, aren't they?

Bulgarian law doesn't allow university teachers who are past retirement age to occupy faculty positions such as Head of department, Dean or Rector.
I wouldn't like to go into detail why this restriction is a vital safeguard against the natural gerontophilia of the academic system. This would mean to explain that the law must be kept because it is good. However, laws must be kept regardless of being good or bad, in our interest or against it.
The Dean of the Faculty Law and History of Neofit Rilski Southwestern University, Prof. Alexander Vodenicharov, was born in 1940 and, hence, has been entitled to retirement for years. He must resign from his position immediately. There are allegations that he has broken the law also in other ways, but I wouldn't comment them because I am too far from the Southwestern University and have no first-hand information.
I know about this story from the blog of Svetla Encheva, assistant professor in the Department of Sociology of the Southwestern University. I hadn't the intention to write about these events because they didn't seem important enough to me (unfortunately, there are much more outrageous things happening in Bulgaria). However, I couldn't help putting my twopence after I saw Svetla being bashed again and again for daring to write in her personal blog that laws must be kept.
Most suppliers of obscenities are, predictably, anonymous. But it makes me sad that some colleagues of Svetla, instead of looking at the elephant in the room (i.e. the Dean's illegitimacy), accuse her in violation of ethics because of the things she wrote in her personal blog. The blog of the Department of Sociology, which was written also by Svetla, fell victim to the conflict.
To back a lawbreaker, however strong he may be at the moment, means to bet on a lame horse. Even in Bulgaria. I hope that the teachers of the Southwestern University who are doing this will soon realize their mistake.
I also hope that they and not I will be wrong at the end of the day.

Monday, February 18, 2008


When I was younger and my body was working better (and also my mind, but this is another matter), I always felt awfully after skipping a meal. With hours passing, I felt more and more scraping inside my stomach and began to cast carnivorous looks at other people. Soon I would become unable to think or do anything else, so I had to find some food immediately.
I no longer have this perfect metabolic feedback. Often, when I miss a meal, I feel fatique and dizziness instead of sharpening hunger. I have to remind myself to eat and make an effort.
It is especially bad at nights. My baby, like any mammal of his age, wants to sleep side by side with Mom. So I have to lie next to him until he is asleep. He often becomes tired and wants to sleep before I have had my supper. So I put him to bed and lie next to him, intending to get up again after he is asleep.
It is not unusual for me to fall asleep before the baby. But even if I am technically awake, by this time I don't want to get up. I feel no hunger. Sometimes I feel cold, but a woolen blanket helps. So I lie in bed and hear my better self telling me to stand up, have a supper, wash the dishes or at least brush my teeth. Sometimes I listen to my better self, sometimes not.
If I don't get up, the longer I remain lying, the less I want to do anything. The undernourished brain feels some daze making all problems seem far away and long ago. All wishes subside, except the wish for this nirvana to continue, and I am unhappy when somebody or something forcibly brings me back to reality.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Expanding toys are hazardous

If you feel like eating candy, and by coincidence there is some candy right in front of you and you know that it is a present for you, will you take it and put it in your mouth? Or will you first explore it by all your senses and seek a second opinion in order to be sure that it really is candy, because some evil cosmic conspiracy might supply you with objects that look like candy but actually aren't? David Hume would vote for the thorough exploration. His philosophy states that our experience cannot teach us about regularities in the real world, so we are only deluding ourselves that what looks like apple will always taste like apple, while in reality it may next time taste like cheese. Hume's ideas, although defying common sense, useless in science and as depressing as Hell, are impossible to disprove. And I have discovered that they can be true in any sense you like.
On Sunday, we were at a party on the occasion of a family member just returned from the USA. As the host was shuttling between the dining-room and the kitchen, the other adults were sitting at the dinner table and my 4.5-year-old son was exploring the presents. They were piled on another table 3 meters away from us. I was watching him from time to time, but didn't pay much attention because he is already quite reasonable. I mean, he has passed the stage when children break or put in their mouths everything they touch.
I saw my son finding some chocolate and helping himself. Then, he took some packed coloured capsules that looked like candy. I thought they were and didn't intervene. Happily, my husband went to the table with the presents. As he told me later, he also wanted a candy.
However, when he looked at the package with the product description, it turned out not to be candy at all. The objects were "toys comprising of foam plastic which have been compressed and placed in a gelatine capsule that expands when placed in liquid" (quote from an act banning this product in Australia; for Bulgarian readers, "foam" here means "dunapren"). There was a warning on the package, "Not a food product. Do not swallow." WTF?! You manufacture an expanding foam object looking quite like a food product, you intend it to be used by children too young to read and you think you have done all your duties to public safety by putting a warning label?
By this time, my son had unpacked 3 capsules. Two of them were found in a cup, apparently spitted out after some chewing. My son referred to them as "chewing gum". However, the third one was nowhere to be seen and when we asked the child whether he had swallowed it, he said "yes".
We put the other two capsules in warm water to see what would happen. They expanded into animal shapes with maximum sizes about 5:1:1.5 cm. There was a doctor among the guests. He said that a soft, compressible object of this size would pass through the digestive tract uneventfully. Happily, he was proven right, at least in this case. Several hours ago, my son had a bowel movement and I found there the foam object. Another blogger recently asked his readers to define happiness. I could tell him that happiness is when you see the foreign body ingested by your child passed naturally without complications.
I'd wish to keep the story to myself and my closest friends, because it doesn't speak well of my parenting. However, I feel obliged to make it public in order to warn other parents. The expanding toys may be amusing but they are surely dangerous. Stay away from them, don't give them to any child. I hope that governments of USA and other countries will follow Australia's lead and ban these hazardous toys before some child suffers an accident with not so fortunate outcome.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Rights of home owners under attack

The Bulgarian law managing property in multi-storey apartment buildings (Bulg. Zakon za etazhnata sobstvenost) has been virtually unchanged since the 1950s. Now, the National Assembly will discuss changes in it proposed by the government. From what I know about the changes, I do not like them. And I am not the only one. Bulgarians can read criticism of the draft law e.g. at Dnevnik and Standart News.
Let me translated a little of the latter article, by Pepa Vitanova, titled Neighbours by the jungle law: "(With the proposed changes) the general assembly of apartment owners is allowed to evict a tenant or owner who violates the block's interior regulations... But who can assure that the neighbour' verdict will be just? The story of journalist Vassil Ivanov is an example of how far into the jungle neighbours' relationships can go. (You can read more about Ivanov in my May 19, 2006 post - M.M.) After his home was bombed, life became hell for my colleague and his mother. Neighbours kept telling them to move out, insulted them and threatened them. Vassil did move out but the neighbours continued to harass his mother... The proposed changes untie neighbours' hands to apply their pack instincts in accordance with the law... There was a report about a single mother with a small child who had lived for six months without any water supply because her neighbour from below had cut off the pipes. The house manager was hiding and finally took the side of the guilty man. If house managers are given more rights, as the draft law proposes, they will treat their neighbours as tenants in every respect."
I have lived in apartment blocks for all my life and I'll most likely die in one. Despite the advantages they offer for heating, I find them hardly compatible with privacy and human dignity. In my 2006 post Water regime, or how to create and perpetuate misery I quoted a friend calling them "hen-houses". As far as I know, in civilized countries such buildings usually belong to one owner renting them to poor people. In Bulgaria, each apartment is owned by a different family. Hence, it is next to impossible to fund and organize anything requiring combined efforts of all owners, e.g. roof repair. Apartment blocks begin to deteriorate from the moment they are handed to their owners. However, I don't think this can be an excuse to infringe property rights of individual owners.
I first learned about the proposed right to evict "bad" neighbours from TV news. The report was illustrated by an interview of inhabitants of an apartment block in Sofia. They all said that it would be very good if the change came into effect, because there were some drug addicts in the building (the camera showed empty syringes thrown on the floor) and everybody wanted them out. (These people seemed to think that only some alien life form could use drugs and there was not even a 0.000001 % risk for their own teenage children to become addicted.)
I immediately began to think what could happen if people were indeed allowed to evict their neighbours. You can be ordered out for being a Gypsy, a Turk or a Jew. Or for being Bulgarian in a building populated by Gypsies or Turks. Or for having an autistic child. For anything you like, if only neighbours find it inconvenient. Sounds like the times we hoped to have left behind.
The situation with tenants has always been like this. In Bulgaria, very few people live in rented housing because the high rents prevent young adults from leaving their parents' home. So tenants are regarded by many as an unnatural phenomenon which can be tolerated only as an exception and mustn't be allowed to disturb other people's comfort. My uncle used to own an apartment just above that of R., a very bad woman. He lived elsewhere and had asked my mother to find tenants for his apartment. But whoever was renting the apartment, R. was unhappy. At one time, a company was using it as an office. My mother thought, "Now at least R. will shut up, because the apartment will be empty after 5 PM." However, R. complained that the company's secretary had shoes with heels that were producing too much noise! (The floor was covered with moquette, not with terracotta tiles, as you could suppose.) No one tenant could satisfy R., she just wanted the apartment to stay empty for her comfort.
It is especially difficult to find a rented home if you have a child. I knew a man with a baby who, after searching long, had found an accommodation for rent. It was in bad need of repair. He invested much money and work in repairing it, and then the landlord ordered his family out. He finally had to rent a house in the nearby village of Vladaya, which becomes isolated from the world with the first snowfall. My mother also once let a family with children in my uncle's apartment and regretted it. R. became furious, threatened that if no measures were taken to end "the unbearable noise from tenants' domestic quarrels", she would call the police. My mother went to check first-hand and saw that the tenants didn't quarrel at all. The "unbearable noise" turned out to be the crying of the younger child, a newborn baby. What to do, newborn babies are like this. Perhaps R.'s anger was partly due to the fact that the tenants were Arabs. (They soon moved out.)
If the proposed law is enacted, not only tenants but also apartment owners will be harassed and dispossessed by people like R. And this can happen very well. Most of our lawmakers have nice houses with gardens in prestigious suburbs and cannot be expected to care for the poor people in crowded "hen houses". And, as we have observed many times, they don't even pay attention to what exactly they vote.
I would like to repeat what smarter people have said before: private property, and its protection by law, is the basis of any free and prosperous society. As Friedrich von Hayek wrote, only property can guarantee freedom, and freedom not only for those who have property but even for those who haven't. We mustn't let members of ruling coalition infringe our property rights. Why don't they just resign and become house managers, like Ostap Bender?

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Bulgarian members of European Parliament: Europe, don't talk about our starving children!

Let me first translate a little from
"Jan. 31 - Bulgarian members of European Parliament Filiz Hyusmenova (DPS party), Metin Kazak (DPS party), Prof. Vladko Panayotov (DPS party), Bilyana Raeva (NDSV party) and Iliana Yotova (BSP party) submitted on Wednesday in the European Parliament a draft statement. It calls for unified European policy concerning the care for disadvantaged children... The main point of the document is the appeal not to exploit politically this grave social problem, as happened in Bulgaria..."
The Trud site summarizes the draft statement more clearly: "It appeals to EU member states not to take advantage of the media disclosures about the care home in Mogilino." The media in question is the BBC which recently produced a shocking documentary about an institution for abandoned disabled children in the Bulgarian village of Mogilino.
When foreign media bring to light outrageous facts about Bulgarian reality, the reaction of our authorities is not to address the problems but to attack the reporters as having an agenda to denigrate Bulgaria. E.g. see my Nov. 12, 2007 post about the response of Bulgarian police to a BBC report of child trafficking ring. Specifically about Mogilino, at least two ministers have made public statements that the BBC documentary is all anti-Bulgarian propaganda. See my Nov. 26, 2007 and Jan. 7 posts. However, the ministers at least talked and wrote their shameful nonsense in Bulgarian, it was me who decided to translate it and re-post it in English. Now, the five European Parliament members give their masterpiece directly to the translators in Brussels, to guarantee that nobody will remain unaware of the Bulgarian idiocy.
Dear fellow Bulgarians, please be careful next time when the above listed people and parties want your votes again!

Premier Stanishev wants to reopen nuclear reactors closed as precondition for Bulgaria's EU membership

Immediately after Putin's visit to Bulgaria in January, our Premier minister Sergey Stanishev announced the start of a campaign called "I want light". Details e.g. here in English, here and here in Bulgarian (update - also here). The campaign is to demand reopening of two reactors at Kozloduy nuclear plant that were closed as a precondition for Bulgaria's EU membership. Stanishev appealed to us ordinary Bulgarians to take the cause close to our hearts, as we did with the last year's "You are not alone" campaign in support of our accused medics in Libya. (So far, I don't see any grass-root enthusiasm about the Premier's idea.)
The European Union wanted the reactors closed for the sake of security, or at least this was said. Some Bulgarian and Russian experts claim that they were in fact totally safe. I don't know, I am no expert, and after all safety was claimed also about the Chernobyl plant before the 1986 accident.
Besides, it was Bulgaria who was eager to join EU before 2007, it was not EU eager to join Bulgaria. So Europeans had the full right to demand from us whatever they wanted, and we had the options of either complying or withdrawing the application. I mean, if we really wanted the reactors so much, we could very well stay outside EU. But I find it a disgrace to comply with European demands and then after becoming a member state to say, "Now we don't intend to keep what we have signed, you can be as angry as you want but you cannot order us out of EU once you let us in!" To cap it all, Bulgaria has received from EU money to close the reactors.
I have written before that current Bulgarian government is a unit measure for arrogance and that statements of one or another minister are shameful, but I think this latest performance of Premier Stanishev takes the cake!

Turkish universities to allow headscarves

With the Islamist tide rising in Turkey, it seems that the ban on headscarves in universities will be lifted (see e.g. VOA News and this blog which, by the way, mentions Bulgaria.)
I have very mixed feelings about headscarves in universities (and also in secondary schools, where the problem is entirely different). However, from my personal selfish viewpoint, I shall be happy if they are allowed in Turkish universities. Because then fewer headscarved students can be expected to come from Turkey to study in our universities. And, as I have already written, while foreign students in general aren't the teacher's dream, the headscarved girls from Turkey seem to be the worst students we've ever had.
Let me now cite and translate some things written about the headscarves in August 2007 in the ABV's Islam forum (this is the only place where I have seen ordinary Muslim citizens of Bulgaria online). A non-Muslim participant asks, "Turkish society is worried by the decision of Abdullah Gul's wife not to take off her headscarf if her husband is elected as President. Why? What do you think scares people when they see a headscarved woman? I have two Iranian friends living in Sweden. When we begin to discuss Islam they blister from horror the same way I blistered when we were discussing totalitarian rule and communism... Are headscarves some inclination to totalitarian rule? Is this why people are afraid?" A little later, another non-Muslim writes, "Tell me what the headscarf means (except when it is a necessary garment!) Do you deny that Muslimas put on headscarves to protect themselves from male lustful looks? Or perhaps the headscarf's function is to shield from mosquitos?" Muslims reply, "People, and particularly Turks, are scared by the fact that the headscarf covers not only the woman's hair but also her brain... Let's clarify a thing between us, we are Muslims. I dislike the Arab covering... to hide all of the woman's flesh, to leave just the gleaming eyes and then to claim that the woman isn't oppressed... And at the same time the man goes around and looks at our women - here I feel like saying something as if commenting a soccer match... Our mothers, sisters, wives, daughters who dress normally are still Muslimas and aren't obliged to endure lustful "Muslim" looks..."
Now, to counter the European supremacy that apparently creeped into the above cited debate, let me quote two Arab blogs.
Highlander, Dec. 2006: "If you asked me the ratio of veiled women in Libya to non-veiled I would confidently say that now, veiled of all types are a comfortable majority... Sometimes I feel discriminated against , not in an obvious way, just those tiny hints. For example last time I was chatting with some colleagues : “Highlander , you‘re such a nice person, why don’t wear a scarf (only a scarf mind you) and you will see you will get married straight away”."
Leilouta, Oct. 2006 (I hope she is OK): "In Saudi Arabia women are forced to wear the veil, in Tunisia they are not allowed. Both places are equal, women aren't free to choose.Wouldn't it be easier to fight extremism by having an open free society with equality and a good economy to provide jobs and futures, instead of politicizing cloth?"
Commenter Massir, writing on the same Leilouta's post: "Nooo, it is not the same thing. In Tunisia, we struggled for our freedom. I don't want to wear a hijab. Leilouta, you are living in US, you cannot understand. You are talking about theory (théorie). Sure, everybody must have the choice, but there is not an islamic country wich allow you to have this choice. That's why, i'm against the "going back" to the hijab... I went to Egypt years ago, egyptian women were not veiled. I went back there last year, all women in the streets wear the hijab. Everything has changed. Years ago, in Tunisia, only few women were veiled. Now, they are increasing every day. Years ago, I could go to my office wearing sleeveless shirts, nowadays, I cannot. Years ago, I could eat and drink in the streets in Ramadan. Nowadays, I cannot even drink my coffee in my office. Everybody will stare at me. So where is my freedom???? I want to be free. I want to wear the clothes I like. I don't want to pray, or fast...I WANT TO BE FREE.THERE IS NO FREEDOM IN ISLAMIC SOCIETIES!!!!!!"
A complicated issue, isn't it? But, to return to my viewpoint - I'll be glad if no more female students receive a scholarship just for wearing a headscarf, and I'll be glad if headscarved girls study at home, we don't need such "exports".

"The essence of secular humanism"

Estranged has left on my post About my "About me" and this blog in general a comment that I like too much to left it buried in the Comments section. Here it is:
"Maya, it is a bad idea to substitute the description of your blog and yourself with a DISCLAIMER... only because of people who can't READ what you have written and rely on personal attacks because they can't think.
Other bloggers have made that mistake too, Карчински comes to mind. After one "Nomad"-ish comment he turned his "about" and blog sub-title into a disclaimer, but after some comments from regular readers he restored the previous "about".
What I liked most about your previous "about" was the thought that we have to take care of our world and no external power can do it for us; and that there is no other meaning of life but this one. This is the essence of secular humanism and I totally liked it.
Finally, if what you say doesn't insult somebody, then you're probably not saying anything..."
I am really moved by this comment. Possibly some day I could follow Estranged's advice and restore the old "about". However, for the moment I prefer to keep it only in the above linked post (and this one, too) and leave the "About me" as it is now. I just feel like letting the blog itself, my other writings, my deeds speak for me.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Day care failures

This year, for the first time children in Sofia will apply for day care online. The system had to open at 9.00, i.e. 5 minutes ago. However, when I tried to open the site 30 minutes ago, it loaded only partially. I restarted everything and tried again. Then, the site failed to upload at all. A minute ago, it loaded partially, but when I tried to register, I saw just a message, "ERROR. Service unavailable. The requested service is unavailable. Try again later."
Not only I but also many other people had anticipated troubles with this site. They can be expected every time when a Bulgarian site is to be "attacked" by thousands of users simultaneously, especially if this is tried for the first time. But the Sofia Municipality and the site designer kept reassuring us that everything would be OK. Eh well, it isn't.
I was also afraid that I would have problem with my Internet - this happens sometimes. However, my ISP didn't fail me this time. The connection with Blogger is notoriously sensitive, and it is excellent now. So it must be the site's fault.
As I am writing this, I keep trying at another window to register, and the system is tossing me out again and again.
In a normal situation, I wouldn't have to be so upset. What, if the system is overloaded now, I could try in the afternoon or tomorrow. However, there are too few positions in day care. Thousands of children will inevitably be left out and I am afraid now that my toddler will be among them, because the positions will go to those registered first. This situation is very wrong because municipality day care centers are heavily subsidized. I always get mad when I am told that some taxpayer-sponsored facility has "insufficient" capacity. Do you know why? Because, when I have to pay my taxes, nobody ever asks me whether I have "sufficient" money to pay. So, if I always manage to find the money government asks from me, I feel entitled to expect something in return.
Bulgarian citizens and authorities always lament that too few Bulgarian babies are born. This is the definition of hypocrisy. I can tell first-hand why they are so few: because they are not welcome. You don't encourage parents to have more children by making them crazy about the children they already have.
My rant is ready for publishing now, and I still cannot register!
Update: It was almost 1 PM when the system let me in.
Update 2: In fact, I have been lucky. Other parents have failed to register all day and now demand the registrations of people like me to be cancelled. The system must send us e-mails confirming the registration but nothing of this kind comes to my Inbox. And nobody tells us what we must do if we do not receive the confirmation e-mail.
Update 3: I received the e-mail on Tuesday night. However, its Cyrillic text had been transformed into a string of meaningless "monkey" symbols, e.g. the first word was "Здравейте". I had to perform full-scale deciphering, it is good that Harold Jacobs's Mathematics: A Human Endeavor had taught me how to do that. The above cited word turned out to be "Здравейте", i.e. "Hello". For Bulgarian readers interested in deciphering, I have explained it on my Bulgarian blog.
The Web site designer blamed the Monday failure on hacker attacks. Nobody believes this too much. First, hackers have no special motivation concerning this particular site, and second, when you design a site, you keep in mind that not all people in cyberspace are nice, don't you? The Gyuvech Web portal today publishes the following joke on the subject:
"Police press center reports that the hackers who attacked the day care application site have been caught. The suspects I.P. (2.5) and B.B. (3) were motivated by their unwillingness to attend day care."

Friday, February 01, 2008

Quacks want freedom of speech for themselves but deny it to opponents

Freedom of speech is definitely having a hard time. The relentless attacks of Islamists and their Western appeasers against it gave me material for 4 posts in last month alone (dated Jan. 11, 27, 29 and 30, respectively), and this without digging deeply into news and blogs. (Some Muslims seem to fear that their Allah, similarly to the gods of Terry Pratchett's Discworld, will cease to exist if enough people say He doesn't.) Crusaders of political correctness are banning every single word that could eventually offend anybody and so are transforming our languange into an euphemized and censored Newspeak. And now quack thugs try to silence people exposing their quackery.
Yes, I am not joking. On Jan. 23, Orac reported: "Three months ago, I wrote about vacuous legal threats issued by the Society of Homeopaths against one of the better skeptical bloggers, Le Canard Noir, who runs the excellent Quackometer Blog and created the infamous Quackometer, in order to intimidate him into silence. The attempt backfired spectacularly, as scores of bloggers reposted the article by Le Canard Noir that prompted the legal threats, in the face of which his ISP had caved. Now it looks like it might be time to do it all again, this time with a different twit who has issued abusive threats against Le Canard Noir. This time around, I learn from No Nonsense!, it is a man named Dr. Joseph Chikelue Obi (who bills himself as the "world's top expert in nutritional immunomudulation") who has threatened Le Canard Noir's webhost with a lawsuit, demanding a £1 million a day penalty unless pages about him and his highly dubious activities are removed from their server. Once again, given the U.K.'s exceedingly plaintiff-friendly libel laws, Le Canard Noir had little choice but to capitulate, as his ISP demanded that he take down the offending pages. Guess what? It's time for every blogger who supports freedom of speech and skepticism to repost the article, and I call on you to do just that. Here are my copies of the offending articles: Right Royal College of Pompous Quackery..."
However, knights of quackery are all for free speech when it comes to their "right" to give harmful advice to gullible public. Yesterday, Eli Stone soap opera went on air. Let me quote Wikipedia about it: "Eli Stone is an American television drama... Produced by ABC Studios..., the series... is airing as a mid-season replacement in 2008. It will also air on Channel Seven in Australia, CTV in Canada, and Antena 3 in Spain... The debut episode, dated 2008-01-31, attracted controversy due to its plot line, which depicts the theory that autism is caused by a mercury-based preservative formerly used in common childhood vaccines, and treats the theory as being credible and legally compelling. This theory is not supported by scientific evidence, but has contributed to decreased vaccination rates that endanger children. The American Academy of Pediatrics asked ABC to either cancel the episode or include a disclaimer emphasizing that mercury is not used in routine childhood vaccines, and that no scientific link exists between vaccines and autism. ABC instead decided to present a written notice and voice-over saying "The following story is fictional and does not portray any actual persons, companies, products or events", with a second card directing viewers to the autism web site of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention."
When pediatricians raised their voices against the "drama", quacks cried censorship. A distinquished their representative, David Kirby, wrote a jewel titled Pediatricians, ABC and censorship: Facts are scarier than fiction. (No, don't expect a link from me here, find it yourself if you want to read it. I have written before about the vaccines-cause-autism myth on Jan. 14)
Kristina Chew cites Chicago Tribune columnist Julie Deardorff that "the show is not about whether vaccines cause autism. It’s about the redemptive powers of faith. What the episode’s conclusion really asks is: Which is the greater force in life: science or faith?... What people, and specifically parents of autistic children, believe, the scientific evidence that there is no link between vaccines and autism, or their own faith that one day their child was “normal” and the next, post-vaccination, autistic. “It won’t matter how many studies show there is no link between vaccines and autism,” writes Deardorff. “We all believe our own truths.” "
Cancel all science, all quest for The Truth. There is no objective Truth cognizable by reason, just individual truths revealed to us by faith. The Age of Unreason has come.
I want to end this post with a quote from Joey's Mom. I am pasting her entire Jan. 28 post, which is short and on target:
"ABC is airing a new show with a first episode that implies a link between autism and vaccines. The co-creators say they'd be upset if people stopped vaccinating because of the show... talk about waffle-waffle. If they were so concerned, they would never have written it. If they believe vaccines cause autism, why are they saying they are concerned? And if they don't pull it, guess who isn't going to buy any more Disney products?"

Tourist dies in snow after being abandoned twice

Bulgarian mountains aren't widely known as climbing objects because even their highest peaks don't reach 3000 m. However, our mountains are high enough to be unsafe, especially for reckless people. The two highest ones, Rila and Pirin, at least drive respect with their impressive alpine landscapes. The mountain chain of Stara Planina (a.k.a. "the Balkan"), on the contrary, seems friendly with its misleading soft-edged shapes. However, it claims such a high toll from tourists that has been dubbed "Killer mountain".
Days ago, Stara Planina took its latest victim, Damyan Dimitrov (27). It is difficult to figure out exactly what happened, not only because this requires compiling fragmented description of messy events but because some of the survivors seem to bend the story in order to portray themselves not responsible for his death. Damyan was in a group of ill-prepared and ill-equipped tourists who on Jan. 27 despite the very bad weather went out near Mount Botev, the highest peak of Stara Planina. On the way down, Damyan felt so weak that was unable to walk on his own. He begged his companions not to abandon him. However, at one moment they did. Two other climbers took care of him and dragged him for some distance, but eventually they also abandoned him, leaving him under a tree. After they reached the hut, rescuers went to search for him but the hurricane-like wind forced them to return. Damyan's body was found only on Jan. 31.
What puzzles me in this story is the "self yourself" mentality underlying the behaviour of Damyan's companions. How could they leave him in the snowstorm, knowing that his chance to survive was near zero? What has happened to the people and made them forget the ancient unwritten laws of the mountain? It is true that an attempt to save him could cost their own lives. It is also true that not everyone can be a hero. However, they were not people surprised by some unpredictable accident but tourists knowingly taking a risk. I think that if you haven't the making of a hero, you'd better stay out of the wild parts of mountains, especially in winter.