A new free internet phone call service has been announced by Jajah (via Guy Kawasaki).
This offer includes landline and mobile calls to and within the US, Canada, China, Singapore, Hong Kong, and Taiwan. It also includes landline, but not mobile calls, to and within Argentinia, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Korea South, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Russia, San Marino, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, UK, Venezuela
For free calling, both parties must be registered Jajah users, and the calls must be between the registered numbers. In addition, Jajah asks users to limit their calls to a reasonable amount:
The Jajah “fair use” policy simply asks all our users to “play fair” and behave in a manner that best serves the greater calling community. We ask that our users limit their free hours to about one hour a day, five hours a week and about a 1,000 minutes a month.
I'm getting ready to sign up for Skype. Have you tried Skype, Jajah, or another free Internet phone call service? Are you happy with the service?
Oracle Corp. CEO Larry Ellison has decided not to give Harvard University a planned gift of $115 million, a company spokesman said Tuesday.
Ellison canceled the gift because Lawrence H. Summers stepped down as Harvard's president this month after a stormy tenure at the university, Oracle spokesman Bob Wynne said. Summers announced his resignation in February, after being embroiled in controversy throughout 2005. Wynne said Ellison began to reconsider his donation when it appeared that Summers would step down.
"It was really Larry Summers' brainchild and once it looked like Larry Summers was leaving, Larry Ellison reconsidered," Wynne said. "It was Larry Ellison and Larry Summers that had initially come up with this notion."
Ellison's promise to Harvard last year created a sensation throughout the philanthropic community because it would have been the school's largest single contribution. The gift would have created a global health foundation named after Ellison.
It didn't matter, to those who called for Summers to be fired, that he offered not one, but three, possible explanations for the gender gap between men and women in math and science. In addition to the hypothesis of innate differences, Summers suggested that fewer mothers than fathers are willing to spend 80 hours a week away from their children and he also suggested that there was discrimination by universities.
Are differences in achievement in math and science innate? We don't know for sure. As an intelligent woman who knows many intelligent women who excel at math and science, I doubt it. I believe that environmental influences are much more important than some people think. (Far more parents buy their daughter toys and clothing with a "Our Little Princess" theme than the "Our Little Genius" theme.) But that's not the point. The point is that the evidence is not conclusive one way or the other, and that there is nothing wrong with asking a question or proposing a theory for further scientific study. That is all that Summers did.
It would have been fine with the P.C. crowd, of course, if Summers had claimed, with or without supporting evidence, that women were innately better than men at math, science or anything else. For example, it is routinely claimed that women make better managers, and nobody takes umbrage at the suggestion that men are innately poor managers, nor are there outraged demands that people who make such remarks be fired. But claiming that women are worse at anything is simply not acceptable.
Why is that?
Sure, we know that there was unfair discrimination against women in the past, that there is still some gender discrimination in the U.S. and other civilized nations, and that there is still plenty of discrimination against women in some parts of the world. But we cannot and should be afraid to ask questions about the reasons for things, particularly where the scientific evidence is inconclusive.
And yet too many are afraid to ask questions for fear of becoming social pariahs and, as a result, their areas of deliberate ignorance are growing. For example, it's now considered politically incorrect to suggest that a behavior like homosexuality may not be innate or genetic, despite the weakness of the scientific evidence supporting the claim that such differences are genetic or innate.
Why is one scientific theory about whether a trait is innate treated like political kryptonite, while the other is considered politically mandatory? It isn't the strength of the evidence, that's for sure.
The explanation is that both beliefs serve a particular political agenda. They are convenient. The belief that women have identical abilities in math and scientific serves the political agenda of seeking equality for women in those professions. The belief that homosexuality is innate, rather than chosen or environmental, serves the political agenda of turning homosexuality into a civil rights issue rather than a behavioral one.
But is it intellectually honest to squelch all scientific inquiry on one side of an issue in order to further a particular political agenda?
Of course not. And it's sadly ironic that female Harvard professors led such an effort in the case of Summers. It does not speak well of them that they put their own political agenda ahead of honest academic rigor.
So perhaps it is fitting that Harvard has lost $115 million in funding it otherwise would have had.
Our ideas are only as good as the questions we have the courage to ask, provided that we seek to answer those questions honestly. When we stop asking questions and seeking answers honestly, we have stopped thinking.
And a university filled with professors who are afraid to think, or to let anyone else think, is not worth much.