In 1995, the Supreme Court of Georgia heard a lawyer make a novel argument. He had read a study describing violent behavior shared by several generations of men in a Dutch family. Scientists had identified a mutated gene shared by all the violent men, and that’s what got the lawyer’s brain ticking.
The accused, argued the lawyer, might carry a gene — like the men in the Dutch family — that predisposed him to violence. (The lawyer’s client was on trial for murder.) Therefore, went the argument, the accused did not have free will, was innocent of the murder and should be acquitted.
The defense, an attempt at legal trickery remarkable even for a lawyer, failed. However, scientific discoveries, particularly advances in neuroscience, are nevertheless having profound consequences for legal procedure.
For example, the insanity plea in the United States currently requires that the accused does not know, because of mental illness, that he did wrong.
The insanity plea derives from the M’Naghten rule, a case from English law. In 1843, a man named Daniel M’Naghten attempted to assassinate the British prime minister; at his trial, he was found to be insane and the trial was abandoned. From that point on, lawyers saw the power of mounting an insanity defense, and many such claims were made.
“By the early 1980s, half the USA and most federal courts were using some sort of insanity test that incorporated elements of loss of volition,” said Robert Sapolsky of the Department of Neurology and Neurological Sciences at Stanford University. “This trend abruptly reversed when the potential assassin of Ronald Reagan, John Hinckley, was acquitted.”
The acquittal caused a public outcry, and U.S. courts were put under intense pressure to make it more difficult to make a plea of insanity and to restrict claims of impaired volition. Now Sapolsky is calling for a serious reassessment of the law.
Couldn’t resist this one. Got this story titled Japanese men lap up woman of foam from IOL:
Tokyo – Japanese men who want to rest their weary heads this Christmas season are finding comfort in the lap of a woman – made of foam.
The torso-less “lap pillow” stands upright like a small cushion and resembles a woman’s legs in a miniskirt.
“Single men find this soothing,” said Mitsuo Takahashi of the seven-employee manufacturer Trane KK.
“From the time people were kids, people have laid their heads on their mothers’ laps to get their ears cleaned,” he said. “This is made to be quite close to the real thing.”
So far the company has shipped about 3 000 of the sets of laps, which are retailing for ¥9 429 (about R500) including tax, Takahashi said.
The healing goods are also selling well as gag gifts for New Year’s parties, he said.
When I think back to the “old days” (all of 4 years ago) I remember how people mostly adopted a persona when chatting online and when you actually met them it was as if you had met the shadow of the fabulous being at the other side of the connection. It was as if the anonymity of the chatroom made it somehow safer to interact more fully and when it came to face to face meetings, all that personality and vibe went right out the window leaving a husk in its place. It is ironic that the Net has connected us in so many ways and, at the same time, given us more opportunities to remain strangers.
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Sharing is Mama Lotto’s motto
By Ndivhuwo Khangale
Finally, a sensible and warm-hearted Lotto winner exists.
Unlike most jackpot winners, Lydia Nkhoma did not blow her millions on an expensive lifestyle, a mansion in a wealthy suburb, holidays abroad and designer clothing.
After winning the R10-million jackpot in 2002, the 53-year-old, from the Mookgapong township in Naboomspruit, Limpopo, spent a huge chunk of her winnings on building 10 houses for family members.
On top of that, she renovated her six-room house, developed her community and invested her money.
It was the R5 she got as a tip while working as a cleaner
Nkhoma and husband Hendriek Moatshe have not been to any exotic holiday spot – it is only now that they are planning to go to Durban during the Christmas season.
“God gave me this money to help others develop themselves,” the modest woman said when The Star met her in Naboomspruit.
As Nkhoma and her husband drove through the streets, it was evident that the two were darlings in the impoverished community.
Children screamed “Mama wa Lotto”, meaning “Mother Lotto”, while adults waved at them in respect.
Nkhoma’s house is an ordinary structure painted in cream white. All she has done is to tile the walls and floors, and buy new furniture.
Apart from building three- and four-bedroom houses for her six sisters, two sons aged 24 and 33, her 31-year-old daughter and grandmother, she gave them R100 000 each and donated R7 000 to the church.
Seeing that there was no shopping complex in the area, she bought land, where a big complex is now under construction. Next to the complex is a brick company, which is run by her son and employs nine people from the community.
“There is no reason for me to stay in the suburbs because I relate better to people I grew up with. I want to see people happy and living life instead of complaining about it. This is where I belong,” said the former liquor store cleaner.
It was the R5 she got as a tip while working as a cleaner that changed her life.
On March 9 2002, Nkhoma took numbers from an old ticket and played them. She was watching the draw on TV when all of her numbers rolled out from the Lotto machine.
“I threw the ticket away, thinking that I was dreaming. I switched off the lights and tried to sleep, but I did not sleep the whole night.”
“The following morning I called my husband… He too thought I was dreaming.”
Moatshe said: “It really has changed our lives. No one works in the family because everybody has money…”
“But we don’t forget our neighbours and members of the community. This is a poor area and the people must share.”
- This article was originally published on page 2 of The Star on December 10, 2004
Now doesn’t that just give you warm fuzzies? Good for her! I only hope I have the good sense to emulate her when I win … :-S
It occurred to me that this feeling I was hoping for is a feeling that we could experience not just on our birthday but on all the other days of the year. Is this not a feeling we can experience all the days of our lives? Are we not magnificant beings of light and energy, truly special in our unique way? At the same time we are not special because if all beings are special and maginificant and parts of a greater whole, then no individual stands out as ‘more special’ than any other. We are all special and loved and supported and all we need do is recognise and experience that truth.
This sayeth the sage for the day …