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Catch-22: if he gets smarter, execute him?

THE SUPREME COURT decided in 2002 that it's unconstitutional to execute a murderer who is retarded. The ruling was in the case of Daryl Atkins of Virginia, who scored 59 on an IQ test in 1998. That state put the cutoff for retardation at 70.

Now for the Catch-22: The case attracted lawyers and others who sought to save his life, but the "intellectual stimulation" of reading and writing and learning about abstract legal concepts caused his IQ to shoot up to 76, so he no longer qualified as sufficiently retarded to avoid the death penalty.

Prosecutors argued that he never was "retarded" because in the case he was able to load a gun, recognize an ATM card, and find a remote area for the killing. Another argument: Should a decision to spare his life be made according to his IQ at the time of the crime or his IQ now?

Since the Supreme Court decision, dozens of retarded persons have been moved off the death rows of prisons. In a new trial, a Virginia jury found Atkins mentally competent and the judge scheduled his execution.

Toxins May Be Deadly At Much Lower Doses

Scientists in the new field of low-dose exposure to toxins are finding that some substances thought to be safe at higher levels actually are toxic at miniscule levels.

In an effort to explain the increased incidence of such maladies as breast cancer, prostate cancer, and autism, researchers suspect that even minute quantities of certain chemicals may be harmful. Bisphenol A (BPA), used in plastic baby bottles and in the lining of food cans, was ruled safe in 1988 for a dose for humans of 0.05 milligrams per kilogram, but a 2003 study found 0.0002 milligrams per kilogram caused sexual damage in rats. BPA is found throughout the environment and even in the umbilical cords of newborns. And some substances affect hormones more at lower doses than at higher doses. When some of these are mixed, the result may be more toxic than expected.

(Details: Wall Street Journal 7-25-05)

Naming Beetles, Rocks, and Monkeys

Entomologists who discovered 65 new species of slime-mold beetles quickly ran out of descriptive names, so they went on to names from popular culture, such as Darth Vader and Pocahontas, and on to political names. Bug expert Quentin Wheeler was a fan of President Bush, Vice President Cheney, and Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, and so he named some beetles after them. He said he received a thank-you call from President Bush himself.

Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity have found over a thousand geological features. On January 22, 2004, the Chinese new year for the year of the monkey, four rocks found near each other were named for a "Chinese" theme: Hanuman, Sun Wu Kong, King Kong, and Curious George. Other features were named for Inca and Mayan words, and for famous explorers and astronauts.

A recently-discovered monkey in Bolivia was named the Golden monkey for a Web casino near Montreal, which paid $650,000 to win an auction to get its name used. The Bolivian Wildlife Conservation Society will use the money to maintain Madidi National Park.

What's Left to Name a Hedge Fund?

Hedge funds, an investment type that shot up dramatically in recent years to over 8000 such funds, face an increasing problem: finding a good name. Names already taken include Greek gods, animals, mountain ranges, and solar systems. Particularly wanted are names suggesting the impressive, mighty, or majestic. Or take a word and change it slightly. But one suggested name, Catalyte, was rejected because it "sounds like a feline urinary tract infection."

More Beef Becomes "Steak"

Because "steak" prices are higher than most other cuts of beef, meat dealers changed the names of some lesser cuts, some of which may be as tender as classic steaks. With reduced consumer interest in pot roast, stew meat, and other cuts from the shoulder and hind quarters, dealers have made some changes in the way a beef carcass is cut up, and introduced such new names as "beef round sirloin tip center steak" and "beef shoulder top blade flat iron steak."

Red-Clad Athletes Defeat Blue-Wearing Ones

Several studies have shown that sports contestants wearing red tend to win over those wearing blue more than half the time. At the 2004 Olympic Games, some participants were randomly assigned red or blue uniforms, and the red-clad contestants defeated the blue-wearing ones 55 per cent of the time.

What's a Small Business?

Businesses classified as "small" can get government loans, contracts, and technical assistance. So what is "small"? The U.S. government categorizes as small a sheep farmer netting less than $750,000 a year, a residential remodeler at less than $28.5 million a year, a fish wholesaler with less than a hundred workers, and a telecommunications reseller with up to 1500 employees. The Small Business Administration is seeking to make the definitions more uniform.



* Robert Wanderer has studied general semantics with Hayakawa, Bois, Rapoport, Bontrager, Meyers, Read, and Murray, and has written many articles for ETC.
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Author:Wanderer, Robert
Publication:ETC.: A Review of General Semantics
Date:Jan 1, 2006
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