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The number of people living beyond 100 years has reached a record high in England and Wales, according to official figures.The Office for National Statistics says there are now 9,000 "centenarians" - a 90-fold increase since 1911. Estimates suggest this will carry on rising to 40,000 by 2031.
click to read about old fogies taking over the world...
Men with deep voices tend to have more children than those who speak at a higher pitch, scientists say.
Their finding is based on a group of hunter-gatherers in Tanzania known as the Hadza, who can be studied without bias because they use no birth control. Males who hit lower notes as they talked had about two more children on average than squeaky speakers. It fits with observations that women find masculine voices more attractive, the team reports in Biology Letters.
The rest of the story
How the science fiction master created the template for our looser, hipper, more pluralist world.
Brian Doherty | August/September 2007 Print Edition
The science fiction writer Robert Heinlein's 100th birthday is July 7. Despite his visions of near-immortals and cryogenic sleep, he didn't live to see it. He died in 1988, mourned by millions of readers who saw him more as a father or a guru than merely as a spinner of captivating tales.
Fans plan to celebrate his centennial at a conference in Kansas City, near Heinlein's birthplace, in July. Among those who will be paying him homage are Buzz Aldrin (the second man to walk on the moon) and Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.), whose past includes stints as both a hippie folksinger and a Reagan speechwriter.
That pair of devotees says something about the range of Heinlein's influence. His influence on science fiction almost goes without saying; when the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America chose their field's first Grand Master, Heinlein was the easy choice. But Heinlein was bigger than his literary genre. Following him could lead you to seemingly contradictory places, from the military to a free-love commune.
Heinlein venerated the armed forces, most notoriously in his 1959 novel Starship Troopers, which celebrated an elite military order. Just two years later, he was publishing the counterculture classic Stranger in a Strange Land, with its simultaneously beatific, sexy, and heroic vision of Martian-inspired communal living. A rich mix of bohemian and straight-arrow values, Heinlein's unique take on American individualism made him the bridge between such disparate '60s icons as Barry Goldwater and Charles Manson.
Heinlein's novels and short stories reflected the rough-hewn anti-government but pro-defense message associated with Goldwater and the conservative movement he sparked. At the same time, his writings exuded the communal desire to live in blissful togetherness, ignoring the repressive sexual and religious mores of bourgeois America. With a libertarian vision that appealed to individualists of both the left and the right, Heinlein not only set the template for the American 1960s but helped create the looser, hipper, more pluralist world of the decades since.
Whether we're looking at post-Star Wars pop culture, post-Reagan politics, or the day-to-day tenor of our own lives in the Internet age, it's easy to see that while more literary novelists such as Philip Roth and Saul Bellow enjoy high-flying critical reputations, it's Heinlein's fingerprints that mark the modern world.
Heinlein the Soldier
Heinlein was born in 1907 in Butler, Missouri, the son of a farm equipment salesman. Family connections with the Pendergast political machine in Kansas City won him an appointment to Annapolis. He identified proudly with the Navy for the rest of his life, although he was retired in 1934 because of tuberculosis, just five years into his active service.
Heinlein sold his first S.F. story in 1939 and almost instantly became the acknowledged king of his field, under the tutelage of legendary Astounding editor John Campbell. In the Campbell era, with Heinlein leading the way, the S.F. magazines moved from didactic travelogues and amateurish intergalactic epics to intelligent treatments of politics, religion, and sociology. Heinlein was also the first S.F. writer to break into respectable "slick" fiction magazines such as the Saturday Evening Post after World War II, and he spearheaded the first sober space travel movie, Destination Moon (1950), in which private enterprise-beating back objections from early advocates of a sort of "precautionary principle," who feared it was to unsafe even to try-makes it to the moon.
Most important, from 1947 to 1958 Heinlein wrote a series of S.F. novels for boys, published by Scribner's, that seemed to make it into every high school and elementary school library. From book to book their scope widened, starting with plucky, capable boys making a simple moon flight (Rocket Ship Galileo) and progressing across the solar system, presenting young men fighting revolutions on Venus (Between Planets), farming on Ganymede (Farmer in the Sky), navigating interstellar starships (Starman Jones), and finally defending the human race before an alien tribunal (Have Space Suit, Will Travel).
These coming-of-age adventure tales imagined an anti-xenophobic world in which aliens were lovable, inscrutable, and often wiser than men-although, for all that, occasionally dangerous. Those books lie close to the heart of almost everyone who went on to love or write science fiction, or to work to make its space travel dreams come true.
As the 1950s ended, Heinlein wrote a final boys' novel, Starship Troopers. Scribner's rejected it, finding it inappropriate for its intended youth market. It tells the story of a young man who finds his place in the world by joining the Mobile Infantry, going through the travails of training, and eventually fighting a war against sinister, implacable alien bugs whose ant-like lack of individuality was an unmistakable metaphor for communism.
Troopers was published in 1959, just before Barry Goldwater made his first big national splash with his 1960 manifesto Conscience of a Conservative. Goldwater's appeal had two things in common with Heinlein's: an individualist sense that Americans were being overmanaged and overpampered by an out-of-control federal government, and a belief that those rotten commies needed to get it, good and hard.
Heinlein was influenced by the same Cold War realities that inspired Goldwater. Even in the 1930s, during his brief involvement with Upton Sinclair's left-wing End Poverty in California movement, Heinlein had always been a staunch individualist (and somewhat of an elitist). His novels were peopled by super-competent men and women struggling against repressive governments and hidebound bureaucracies, not to mention more literal threats to their individuality, such as brain-controlling slugs from Saturn's moon Titan (in his 1951 Red Scare metaphor The Puppet Masters).
The struggle part was key to Heinlein's thought. In the 1950s, he viewed Soviet communism as a threat to individualism that needed to be combated by nearly any means necessary. (A draft, which he regarded as slavery under any circumstances, was not one of them.) One of his central ideas, repeated over and over again, was that man is the most dangerous beast in the universe. Thus, he saw no probable peaceful end to the Cold War. Preparing for a nuclear war he saw as bordering on inevitable was, he believed, an American's prime duty. In 1958 he bought newspaper ads calling for the formation of "Patrick Henry Leagues" to push this idea. (Among other things, the ads stated that "higher taxes" were a price worth paying to beat the Soviets.)
The novel that arose from this sense of mission, Starship Troopers, strikes many readers as overly militaristic, bordering on fascist. The S.F. writer and Nation critic Thomas Disch wrote that the book caused "so many of [Heinlein's] critics" to pin a "totalitarian" label on him. (Disch kindly said that "authoritarian" is more apt.) Troopers posited that a ruthless military was an inescapable aspect of human civilization, and it presented approvingly a society in which only veterans of public service could vote.
Heinlein's detractors ignored the fact that military service made up only a small portion of that public service. The novel kept its occasional paeans to authority and discipline strictly within the military context, not meant to apply to all human relations. It also explained that active military men were not permitted to hold public office and were in fact held in low regard by the rest of the culture.
The choice to enter the service and earn the franchise was both voluntary and rare. The society in Troopers was, despite such a restricted democracy, one where "personal freedom for all is greatest in history, laws are few, taxes are low, living standards are as high as productivity permits." Still, Heinlein's insistence on the importance and glory of the military, and of often brutal discipline within that context, left him, as Disch wrote, "able to amaze and appall the liberal imagination like almost no other SF writer."
Heinlein the Hippie
The anti-communist, pro-military message of Troopers might seem to suggest that Heinlein stood firmly on the right wing of the larger American individualist tradition. But Troopers appeared as Heinlein was in the middle of writing another novel, one that painted a very different picture.
The interrupted novel became his breakthrough both as a successful "mainstream" writer and as a public influence. It was Stranger in a Strange Land, about a human being raised by Martians who returns to Earth and begins a new religion of free love.
His name is Valentine Michael Smith, and he's brought back to Earth as a total na
NEW YORK (Reuters) - How do you keep a leader as verbally gaffe-prone as U.S. President George W. Bush from making even more slips of the tongue?
When Bush addressed the U.N. General Assembly on Tuesday, the White House inadvertently showed exactly how -- with a phonetic pronunciation guide on the teleprompter to get him past troublesome names of countries and world leaders.
The White House was left scrambling to explain after a marked-up draft of Bush's speech popped up briefly on the U.N. Web site as he delivered his remarks, giving a rare glimpse of the special guidance he gets for major addresses.
It included phonetic spellings for French President Nicolas Sarkozy (sar-KO-zee), a friend, and Zimbabwe leader Robert Mugabe (moo-GAH-bee), a target of U.S. human rights criticism.
Pronunciations were also provided for Kyrgyzstan (KEYR-geez-stan), Mauritania (moor-EH-tain-ee-a) and the Zimbabwe capital Harare (hah-RAR-ray).
Myanmar troops pour into Yangon after protests
YANGON (Reuters) - The Myanmar junta poured troops and police armed with rifles into central Yangon on Tuesday in an attempt to end the biggest demonstrations against military rule in nearly 20 years.
Hundreds of them surrounded the Sule Pagoda, focus of two days of mass protests led by thousands of maroon-robed monks, and appeared to be preparing to seal off the area, witnesses said.
In another possible sign of a looming confrontation, a well-placed source said detained democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi was moved to the notorious Insein prison on Sunday, a day after she appeared in front of her house to greet marching monks.
Some analysts said the junta was been caught off guard by the speed with which protests mushroomed from sporadic marches against fuel prices in mid-August to massed demonstrations against 45 years of military rule a month later.
On Tuesday evening, soldiers moved in on Sule Pagoda after the end of hours of peaceful protest by tens of thousands of people who turned up despite the junta's threat to use force.
The area around the pagoda, which includes City Hall, was the scene of the worst bloodshed during a crackdown on nationwide pro-democracy protests in 1988 in which 3,000 people are thought to have been killed.
Tuesday echoed with reminders of one of the darkest days of Myanmar's modern history, starting with vehicles bearing loudspeakers touring the city blaring out threats of action under a law allowing troops to break up illegal protests.
People arrived in huge numbers anyway and in Taunggok, a coastal city 250 miles (400) to the northwest, about 40,000 monks and civilians took to the streets, witnesses said.
They were led in Yangon by 10,000 monks chanting "democracy, democracy" and, in a gesture of defiance, some waved the bright red "fighting peacock" flag, emblem of the student unions that spearheaded the 1988 uprising.
The streets were lined with people clapping and cheering as the column of monks stretched several blocks on their march from the Shwedagon Pagoda, the Southeast Asian nation's holiest shrine and symbolic heart of the campaign, to the Sule Pagoda.
The international community pleaded with the generals to avoid another bloodbath.
Bush urges U.N. to spread freedom
UNITED NATIONS - President Bush announced new sanctions Tuesday against the military dictatorship in Myanmar, accusing it of imposing "a 19-year reign of fear" that denies basic freedoms of speech, assembly and worship.
"Americans are outraged by the situation in Burma," the president said in an address to the U.N. General Assembly. The military junta renamed the Asian country Myanmar, but the United States does not recognize the change.
I was just in Myanmar and it's an awesome country with awesome people. I have friends who live in Yangon and in Bagan, and I'm thinking about them and worrying. I never connected my reluctance to change from "Burma" to "Myanmar" with my country's stance on the subject--I didn't know the U.S. doesn't recognize the change. But hell, Myanmar is easier to say. Politically, I of course never agree with any military hunta and people living in fear, blah blah blah. However, many people I talked to, even in completely safe environs (in the back of a truck roaring up a mountain, for example) said that the government wasn't so bad. I didn't question them on or bring up the subject at all, having been warned that this could be dangerous for whomever I was speaking to. Mostly, they brought stuff up to me. Many of the people who I spoke to were curious about me as an American as the perception is that Americans vehemently hate Burma's government. I knew a little about Burma's culture and religions before went--but little about their history or government, and so I had to confess that I didn't know enough to really have an opinion--but that from things I'd read and heard it sounded like a difficult situation. I am amazed that it is even possible for these protests to occur in Burma at this time and think that their existence at all is a huge step forward. On one hand, Burma's government can be pretty sure that another massacre won't be tolerated, yet the U.S. really shouldn't extend itself in another direction just now. Anyway, just a few random thoughts. Love and peace to all!
Here's a link to Wikipedia's entry on the History of Myanmar