In the meantime, American students get serious about the cost of draft beer

and taking a break from drunken date rape to fall to their deaths from balconies.

While, in Paris:

Protests have turned violent in France as at least 250,000 people rallied against a controversial new labour law.

Protesters object to new two-year job contracts for under-26s which employers can break off without explanation.

Students fear the First Employment Contract (CPE), which passed into law last week, will erode job stability in a country where more than 20% of 18- to 25-year-olds are unemployed – more than twice the national average.

Mr Chirac has called for dialogue between ministers and labour leaders, but union officials say they will not enter into talks until the CPE is suspended.

Oh, hey, American Idol is on….

OK, this is no joke

@mber’s father has had a stroke, and though it looks like he’s going to be ok, they could sure use a little help. He is one of the 43 million of us that don’t have health insurance.

You can find out more details and how to help here.

Missing the hook

It is surprising to me that the editors of the HuffPo could so glaringly miss the point of Bill Gates’ unsurprising slam of the MIT $100 laptop initiative. It’s irresponsible to just run a brief blurb from the Yahoo News article without any sort of “We are thinking critically here, and this is what we think might be behind Gates’ dismissal:”

The thing doesn’t run Windows. It runs Open Source software. To whit:

We are committed to the principle of Open Source for this project. Please refer to our manifesto: OLPC on open source software.

Which says:

To achieve these and other practical goals and to live up to the principles upon which we believe the success of our platform will be built, we insist that the software platform for the One Laptop Per Child project:
• Must include source code and allow modification so that our developers, the
governments that are our customers and the children who use the laptop can
look under the hood change the software to fit an inconceivable and
inconceivably diverse set of needs. Our software must also provide a
self-hosting development platform.
• Must allow distribution of modified copies of software under the same
license so that the freedoms that our developers depend upon for success
remain available to the users and developers who define the next generation
of the software. Our users and customers must be able to localize
software into their language, fix the software to remove bugs, and
repurpose the software to fit their needs.
• Must allow redistribution without permission — either alone or as part of
an aggregate distribution — because we can not know and should not control
how the tools we create will be re-purposed in the future. Our children
outgrow our platform, our software should be able to grow with them.
• Must not require royalty payments or any other fee for redistribution or
modification for obvious reasons of economy and pragmatism in the context
of our project.

It goes on from there.

This little “toy” is going to blanket Africa in free software. No wonder the richest man in the world hates it. He’s, by the way, got an $800 alternative….

Before his critique, Gates showed off a new “ultra-mobile computer” which runs Microsoft Windows on a seven-inch (17.78-centimeter) touch screen.

Those machines are expected to sell for between $599 and $999, Microsoft said at the product launch last week.

Of course, if you’re poor and/or living in a developing nation, you can suck it, as far as Bill Gates is concerned.

Bought and paid for

forwarded without comment:

SUPREME COURT The Supreme Court has tossed out a lawsuit that accused two oil companies of inflating gasoline prices by at least a (b) billion dollars.

Justices unanimously ruled gas distributors didn’t prove ChevronTexaco and Shell violated antitrust laws. The joint venture started in 1998 and ended four years ago.
In the court’s decision, Justice Clarence Thomas wrote that the companies had a legal partnership. And he said the joint venture’s pricing decisions don’t “fall within the narrow category of activity” that’s illegal.
Distributors filed a class-action lawsuit in California accusing the oil companies of using the partnership to fix gasoline prices. The suit said the move broke antitrust provisions of the Sherman Act.

Oh, and wonder of wonders…

A letter came in the mail today informing me that my MRI (which was last week, as you may know) is now Pre-Certified!

After spending most of yesterday on the phone with the insurance company, I feel compelled to reference Arthur C Clarke’s famous quote: Any sufficiently advanced incompetence is indistinguishable from malice. (see also: IRAQ INVASION and KATRINA.)

So, my joy at having saved myself $1800-$2000 is kind of tempered by the knowledge that if I plan to get my shoulder treated, I can look forward to more of the same.

How to manage your health insurance provider

From Agent Little Bird comes this crucial legal term:

promissory estoppel: A type of estoppel that prevents a person who made a promise from reneging when someone else has reasonably relied on the promise and will suffer a loss if the promise is broken. For example, Forrest tells Antonio to go ahead and buy a boat without a motor, because he will sell Antonio an old boat motor at a very reasonable price. If Antonio relies on Forrest’s promise and buys the motorless boat, Forrest cannot then deny his promise to sell John the motor at the agreed-upon price.

It helps to have documented every phone call, every promise made by your provider- with dates, times, first and last name of every person with whom you spoke.

Today, I called my insurance provider, went into their automated phone system and tapped in my account number with them, followed all of the proper menu items and then went into their hold queue for one hour, seven minutes and some odd seconds. (My phone has a timer.) My wife called at the thirty minute mark, after speaking with me on the cell phone, and kept tapping zero. She was speaking to someone within ten minutes. Makes me wonder if they have my policy number tagged so that I just drop into hold hell.

So we finally got on a three way call with someone at my insurance provider who now says that there must be SOME MISTAKE, and that the letter I received saying that I am not covered for the MRI was sent in error. She is going to follow up with some other company(?) that is part of their network (shell game) and get back to me.

Updates as I get them….