tampabay.com

A Little Perspective

By TIMES WIRES
Published January 14, 2007


Profess not to jaywalk

Jaywalking is not a crime in Britain. So historian Felipe Fernandez-Armesto of the University of London was rather surprised to be wrestled to the ground in Atlanta at the conference of the American Historical Association, reports the BBC. "I come from a country where you can cross the road where you like," said the professor. "It hadn't occurred to me that I wasn't allowed to cross the road between the two main conference venues." The bespectacled professor says he didn't realize the "rather intrusive young man" shouting that he shouldn't cross there was a police officer. "I thanked him for his advice and went on." The officer asked for ID. The professor asked for his, after which he was arrested. The professor, who says even his box of peppermints was confiscated and that he spent eight hours in a cell, said colleagues regard him "as a combination of Rambo, because it took five cops to pin me to the ground, and Perry Mason, because my eloquence before a judge obtained my immediate release."

Fighting word unsaid

Despite the politics of the word "surge" when applied to increasing the number of U.S. troops in Iraq, President Bush did not use the word himself in his address to the nation last week. For weeks leading up to the announcement, "surge" had become a fighting word of its own. Use the word, and you supposedly were making a political statement. Use the Democratic alternative - "escalation" - and you were supposedly making a very different statement. To see just how strongly people hold views on this issue, go on line and do a Google search for "surge" and "escalation" - and click away.

Tougher crash tests

Apparently, it's gotten too easy for vehicles to score five stars on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's frontal and side crash tests. According to Consumeraffairs.com, 87 percent of 2006 vehicles received four or five stars for side impact crashes and 95 percent earned top marks for frontal crashes. The concern is that with so many cars receiving similar ratings, they have lost meaning for consumers. NHTSA wants to change its testing regime by using smaller dummies to stand in for female drivers, raising speeds and making crash barriers heavier to simulate larger vehicles, reports the Washington Post. Oh, and it wants to wrap cars around poles to show how side air bags can protect the driver's head.

The world goes urban

For the first time in human history, the world's population is about to become mostly urban, the Christian Science Monitor reports. United Nations researchers and other experts predict that some time in 2008 more people will live in cities than in rural areas. This demographic shift is mostly taking place in Africa and Asia, largely in low-income settlements in developing countries - much of it in the 22 "megacities" whose populations will exceed 10-million and in some cases grow to more than 20-million by 2015.