What does 'many' mean in 'stopping many terrorist plots'?

Yesterday, Andrew Parker, the new head of MI5, spoke out (though not by name) against Edward Snowden and the Guardian.
‘GCHQ intelligence has played a vital role in stopping many of the terrorist plots that MI5 and the police have tackled in the past decade.
‘It causes enormous damage to make public the reach and limits of GCHQ techniques. Such information hands the advantage to the terrorists.
'It is the gift they need to evade us and strike at will. Unfashionable as it might seem, that is why we must keep secrets secret, and why not doing so causes such harm.’
It's interesting to contrast the above with information emerging in the US about the efficacy of the programs whose existence Snowden leaked. Yochai Benkler writes in The Guardian:
In a 2 October hearing of the Senate judiciary committee, Senator Leahy challenged the NSA chief, General Keith Alexander:
Would you agree that the 54 cases that keep getting cited by the administration were not all plots, and that of the 54 only 13 had some nexus to the US? Would you agree with that, yes or no?
Alexander responded:
Leahy then demanded that Alexander confirm what his deputy, Christopher Inglis, had said in the prior week's testimony: that there is only one example where collection of bulk data is what stopped a terrorist activity. Alexander responded that Inglis might have said two, not one.
In fact, what Inglis had said the week before was that there was one case "that comes close to a but-for example and that's the case of Basaaly Moalin". So, who is Moalin, on whose fate the NSA places the entire burden of justifying its metadata collection program? Did his capture foil a second 9/11?
A cabby from San Diego, Moalin had immigrated as a teenager from Somalia. In February, he was convicted of providing material assistance to a terrorist organization: he had transferred $8,500 to al-Shabaab in Somalia.

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We Want to See Double

Stop Climate Chaos is running a campaign to double funding for cyclists and pedestrians in Scotland. Write to your SMP (takes under two minutes) and attend the demo at lunchtime on Wednesday 30 October.

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SCRIPT Workshop

Vrije University is hosting the SCRIPT Workshop.
Workshop on Secure Cloud and Reactive Internet Programming Technology
When and where?
The workshop will take place 12 to 13th of November 2013 at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel in Brussels, Belgium.
Theme and Goal of the Workshop
With the advent of JavaScript as a mature and powerful programming language running in the web browser, the web has changed for good from a mere document delivery service to a true distributed computing platform. Scripts now regularly use asynchronous message passing to send complex, structured data back and forth among distributed machines.
Unfortunately JavaScript was never designed to serve as a language to build advanced reliable and secure distributed applications. This has recently given rise to a number of language design initiatives that use the JavaScript infrastructure as an advanced virtual machine on top of which new web languages can be implemented.
We feel that we have only seen the tip of the iceberg on this subject and that many new language design initiatives will follow. The goal of the SCRIPT workshop (Secure Cloud and Reactive Internet Programming Technology) is to gather expert language designers and to let them present their view on the state of the art in this domain. SCRIPT is a workshop, not just a symposium, and the audience is more than welcome to actively engage with the speakers during and after the talks.
Speakers include:

Eelco Visser (Delft U., NL)
Daan Leijen (MS Research Redmond, US)
Manuel Serrano (INRIA Sophia-Antipolis, FR)
Adam Koprowski (Google, US)
Sébastien Doeraene (EPFL, CH)
Mario Südholt (Ecole des Mines de Nantes, FR)
Philip Wadler (U Edinborough, UK)
Gavin Bierman (MS Research Cambridge, UK)
Shriram Krishnamurthi (Brown U., US)
Adam Chlipala (MIT, US)

I'm looking forward to it!

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Tutu, Apartheid, and Israel

Charging Israel with 'apartheid' against Palestinians is controversial, so I was interested to discover this speech by Desmond Tutu from April 2002, reprinted in the Guardian under the title Apartheid in the Holy Land.
In our struggle against apartheid, the great supporters were Jewish people. They almost instinctively had to be on the side of the disenfranchised, of the voiceless ones, fighting injustice, oppression and evil. I have continued to feel strongly with the Jews. I am patron of a Holocaust centre in South Africa. I believe Israel has a right to secure borders. 

What is not so understandable, not justified, is what it did to another people to guarantee its existence. I've been very deeply distressed in my visit to the Holy Land; it reminded me so much of what happened to us black people in South Africa. I have seen the humiliation of the Palestinians at checkpoints and roadblocks, suffering like us when young white police officers prevented us from moving about.

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Fun in the Afternoon

Congratulations to Greg Morrisett, Tarmo Uustalu, and the entire team that assembled ICFP 2013. One session stood out in my mind, ''Fun in the Afternoon'', 15.30—16.30 Wednesday 25 September, chaired by Jeremy Gibbons.
Links to the papers above. The content of the papers was excellent, and the presentations were engaging. The presentation of the second was particularly notable because neither of the authors could attend, and John Hughes presented it in their stead, spectacularly. (Note to self: figure out how to work the phrase ''Don't worry about it'' into my next presentation.)

The first explains how semirings generalised with a closure operator combine the power of linear algebra with the power of regular expressions, including an application building on Doug McIlroy's Power Series, Power Serious. The second explains how to bring parsing into the 21st century, devising an algorithm that can distribute across a large number of processors. And the third explains how to bring computing into the 16th century, describing the design of violins and lutes in a DSL embedded in Scheme.

Indeed, I think this may have been my favourite session at a conference ever, with the exception of Guy Steele's presentation of Growing a Language at OOPSLA 1998. Which reminds me of a remark made by Jack Kennedy when hosting a dinner of Nobel laureates in 1962: ''I think this is the most extraordinary collection of talent, of human knowledge, that has ever been gathered together at the White House, with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone.''

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And as if staring in XKCD wasn't enough (see previous entry), functional programming also features in Blondie, of all places. Does this mean FP has really gone mainstream? Spotted by Andrew Tolmach.

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XKCD tackled functional programming last week. The title text nails it: ''Functional programming combines the flexibility and power of abstract mathematics with the intuitive clarity of abstract mathematics.''

Was it a coincidence that this panel appeared on the last day of ICFP? ICFP was in Boston this year, and Munroe lives nearby in Somerville.

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