Monday, June 30, 2008

Location, Location, Location

Especially when fuel is rapidly rising in price:
Nevada brothels that cater to long-haul truckers are offering gas cards and other promotions after seeing business decline as much as a fourth from a year ago, industry officials said.

Geoffrey Arnold, president of the Nevada Brothel Owners' Association, said truckers account for up to three-fourths of business at the state's rural brothels along Interstate 80 and U.S. Highway 95.

....Of Nevada's 28 legal brothels, 16 are located in rural areas that are being hurt by truckers' higher diesel costs, Arnold said. Brothels closer to Reno and Las Vegas, which rely more on tourists and conventioneers, say business is up this year.

Nevada is the nation's only state that allows brothels. Prostitution is legal in 10 of Nevada's 17 counties, but it's illegal in the Reno and Las Vegas metropolitan areas.

In response to a 5 percent drop in business, the Shady Lady Ranch along U.S. 95 about 150 miles north of Las Vegas plans to offer $50 gas cards to clients who spend $300 and $100 gas cards to those who spend $500.

....Under a promotion at the Moonlite Bunny Ranch near Carson City, the first 100 customers who arrive with government-stimulus checks receive twice the services for the same regular price.

"We're calling it double your stimulus," said BunnyRanch owner Dennis Hof.

What's a little voter fraud...

...among friends who live in glass houses:
SHARM EL SHEIK, Egypt: Unabashed by critics and taunting his peers to prove their own democratic credentials, President Robert Mugabe traveled to an African Union summit meeting in this Red Sea resort Monday, flaunting victory in a one-candidate election that his neighbors said did not "represent the will of the people of Zimbabwe."

The journey of the length of Africa was his first formal act after being inaugurated Sunday for a sixth term. The trip displayed his determination to take his seat among African leaders unfazed by those who say the presidential runoff election Friday was neither free, fair nor credible. The African Union's own election observers concluded Monday that the vote "fell short" of the organization's standards.

For their part, African leaders showed little appetite for public confrontation with Mugabe. Dressed in a characteristically natty suit and tie, the 84-year-old leader, once feted as a liberation hero, slumped in an armchair in a cavernous conference hall, using a headset to follow speeches that, in part, demanded negotiations to end his absolute power. When the cameras moved away from him, he was seen hugging fellow African leaders, The Associated Press reported.

Surrender, Monkey!

In the country that gave the world the faux pas:
On a sunny Sunday afternoon, young boys ate ice cream and looked on with pride as they watched their fathers perform mock hostage liberations and antiterrorist operations, sweating in their camouflage outfits and firing blanks from smoking machine guns as if it were for real.

And then it became tragically real.

During the last of six military show exercises at the Laperrine military barracks in southern France, one soldier used live ammunition and wounded 17 people, most of them members of families of the military staff, said Colonel Philippe Tanguy, a spokesman for the Defense Ministry.

...."It is incomprehensible how this could have happened," Tanguy said. "The question everyone is asking is: How could he have had real ammunition on him during an exercise?"

The shooter, a 28-year-old sergeant whose identity had not been disclosed, was arrested and was being questioned Monday. According to the state prosecutor in the regional capital of Montpellier, Brice Robin, the sergeant said he had loaded his assault rifle with a magazine of live cartridges by mistake.

Friday, June 27, 2008

That's not funny!

How many Canadians does it take to get a joke:
A Canadian stand-up comedian will face a human rights tribunal hearing after a woman complained she and her friends faced a "tirade of homophobic and sexist comments" while attending one of his shows.

In a decision released this week, the B. C. Human Rights Tribunal ruled there is enough evidence to hear the case of Vancouver woman Lorna Pardy against Toronto comedian Guy Earle. Zesty's Restaurant in Vancouver, where the May 22, 2007, show took place, has also been named in the complaint.

Ms. Pardy could not be reached yesterday for comment. However, the tribunal's decision says she alleges she was discriminated against over her sex and sexual orientation when Mr. Earle made public comments "intended to humiliate her."

The ruling says Mr. Earle and Ms. Pardy "have very different versions of who was to blame for the incidents, how it came about and how it escalated." There is also a dispute over what role alcohol played in the incident.

Vote or Die

The real thing, not Hollywood. But, it ain't working:
President Robert Mugabe faces humiliation as hundreds of thousands of Zimbabweans defied intimidation and refused to vote in his unopposed re-election.

Despite threats from Mr Mugabe's thugs to beat those who refused to vote, many polling stations in the capital Harare had not seen a single ballot cast three hours after opening.

Others remained virtually empty and many of those who did vote simply spoiled their ballot papers.

Morgan Tsvangirai, the opposition leader, announced he was pulling out of the election last weekend in protest at weeks of violence against his supporters. But the regime said the poll would go ahead anyway.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Swedish Chef Training

Thanks to Peter Gordon, the Fly Under the Bridge Academy discovers an outpost of capitalism hitherto unsuspected:
In just 14 years the share of Swedish children educated privately has risen from a fraction of a percent to more than 10%.

At the time, it was assumed that most “free” schools would be foreign-language (English, Finnish or Estonian) or religious, or perhaps run by groups of parents in rural areas clubbing together to keep a local school alive. What no one predicted was the emergence of chains of schools. Yet that is where much of the growth in independent education has come from. Sweden's Independent Schools Association has ten members that run more than six schools, and five that run ten or more.

The biggest, Kunskapsskolan (“Knowledge Schools”) opened its first six schools in 2000. Four more opened last autumn, bringing the total to 30. It now has 700 employees and teaches nearly 10,000 pupils, with an operating profit of SKr62m last year on a turnover of SKr655m.

Like IKEA, a giant Swedish furniture-maker, Kunskapsskolan gets its customers to do much of the work themselves. The vital tool, though, is not an Allen key but the Kunskapsporten (“Knowledge Portal”), a website containing the entire syllabus. Youngsters spend 15 minutes each week with a tutor, reviewing the past week's progress and agreeing on goals and a timetable for the next one. This will include classes and lectures, but also a great deal of independent or small-group study.

The Kunskapsporten allows each student to work at his own level, and spend less or more time on each subject, depending on his strengths and weakness. Each subject is divided into 35 steps. Students who reach step 25 graduate with a pass; those who make it to step 30 or 35 gain, respectively, a merit or distinction.

Again like IKEA, no money is wasted on fancy surroundings. Kunskapsskolan Enskede, a school for 11- to 16-year-olds in a suburb of Stockholm, is a former office block into which classrooms, open-study spaces and two small lecture-theatres have been squeezed (pictured). It is pleasant, but basic and rather bare. It rents fields nearby for football and basketball, and, like other schools in the chain, sends pupils away to one of two specially built facilities for a week each term for home economics, woodwork and art, rather than providing costly, little-used facilities in the school.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

O Bah Man dissin' Scar Jo

Under the bus, Ho!
...Sen. Barack Obama downplayed the idea that he hobnobs with actress Scarlett Johansson.

....speaking to reporters aboard his campaign plane, Obama said the actress doesn't have his personal email address. "She sent one email to Reggie, who forwarded it to me," Obama said, referring to his 26-year-old personal assistant, Reggie Love. "I write saying, 'thank you Scarlett for doing what you do,' and suddenly we have this email relationship"

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Dept. of Consequences Unintended

Oh what a tangled web the SCOTUS has woven for some Chinese Muslims:
In the first civilian judicial review of the government's evidence for holding any of the Guantánamo Bay detainees, a federal appeals court has ordered that one of them be released or given a new military hearing.

The ruling, made known Monday in a notice from the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, overturned a Pentagon tribunal's decision in the case of one of 17 Guantánamo detainees who are ethnic Uighurs, a Muslim minority from western China.

....The one-paragraph notice from the appeals court said a three-judge panel had found in favor of Huzaifa Parhat, a former fruit peddler who made his way from western China to a Uighur camp in Afghanistan.

....Its practical consequences for Parhat, however, are not clear. The administration has said it will not return Uighur detainees to China because of concerns about their treatment at the hands of the Chinese government, which views them as terrorists.

Which concerns may be reevaluated now?

Sometimes a cigar case... only a political opportunity:
It seems that a Western politician is finally going to pay the price for his involvement in the Iraq war. After five years of disaster and bungling, I am told that justice is about to be done, and I expect many readers will be delighted.

....I am informed by my friends in the Metropolitan Police that I am shortly to become the one and only Western politician to be brought to justice for crimes committed in Iraq. My transgression? I have somewhere in my possession a cigar case that once belonged to Tariq Aziz.

....Grinning looters were hacking up the roads and carting off the copper wiring, and I was taken to see what the mob had done to the villas of Saddam's regime.

We came to the riverside house of Tariq Aziz, the white-haired Chaldean Christian who served as Saddam's deputy and foreign minister, a man so intimate with the tyrant that he inspired one of the only jokes of the war: When does Saddam have his dinner? When Tariq Aziz.

As I stared at the remains of his home, I saw utter destruction. Surely the looters had left nothing of value.

Such was their lust for metal piping that the very bidets had been ripped out and smashed. A blackened safe lay on its side, and everywhere was rubbish and filth. And there, just by my toe, protruding from beneath a piece of dusty plywood, was the cigar case.

Actually, it was only the bottom half of a cigar case, in thick red leather and coarsely stitched.

....I reached down instinctively, and placed it for safekeeping in my pocket. Amid such wholesale larceny and devastation, who was going to quibble about a cigar case?

The British Government had just assisted in the destruction of billions of pounds of Iraqi property; Western forces had allowed thieves to carry off 99 per cent of the valuables of Tariq Aziz, not to mention the priceless Sumerian artefacts of the Iraqi National Museum.

Would there be anyone so petty, so time-wastingly idiotic, as to complain? Alas, I forgot about the Labour Party. Five years after I found this memento, Labour stooges were recently combing my articles for anything discreditable to a Conservative mayoral candidate.

They found the article, and with bulging eyes they went to the Metropolitan Police and demanded that I be prosecuted. I am accused by my political opponents of removing a cultural artefact from Iraq. As it happens, I also have in my possession a letter from the lawyers of Tariq Aziz, informing me that Mr Aziz wishes me to regard the cigar case as a gift.

Monday, June 23, 2008

The Spirit of Australia

No more cute and cuddly:
QANTAS will try to bypass striking union engineers by permanently increasing the amount of critical maintenance work done overseas, in a move that threatens to inflame the dispute disrupting the nation's airports.

As airline passengers prepared for more turmoil today after more than 20 flights were cancelled yesterday, Qantas said it planned to have overseas engineers in the US and London permanently conduct maintenance work on its fleet, reducing work available for Australian engineers.

After the engineers' union threatened more disruption after today in support of its 5 per cent pay claim, Qantas chief executive Geoff Dixon revealed American engineers at Los Angeles International Airport had completed two full maintenance inspections - known as A-checks - on Qantas jets in the past 10 days.

Mr Dixon told The Australian that it was the first time that full inspections had been completed in Los Angeles and the airline was planning more full A-checks in other major cities - believed to include London - where Qantas jets had major downtime.

Qantas also hoped to increasingly use engineers based at Avalon in Melbourne, who are not part of the current dispute, to undertake maintenance inspections.

....The union's rolling stoppages forced disruption to more than 20 domestic and international flights yesterday, with at least a further 18 flights to be affected today when action is taken in Brisbane and Perth.

....Company sources said the increasing use of Los Angeles airport was designed to "send ashot across the bows" of theunion.

"We've done partial A-checks (at Los Angeles) before but we've never geared up to do full A-checks, which means they will no longer be done in Australia, it will be permanent," one company source said.

"If we can get it done elsewhere, it obviously means it is less work for their members."

Nessuna tassa senza rappresentazione

She's not taking this lying down:
A[n] Uruguayan prostitute working in Italy is refusing to pay taxes on her suspected earnings since she came to the country in 2004.

The woman, 32, was recently presented with a bill of 90,000 euros ($140,000) for undeclared income the Italian tax man has estimated at more than 350,000 euros ($550,000).

....She said she was determined to fight the case in the courts, arguing that she should not be expected to pay taxes for an often dangerous activity in which she had never been protected by the law.

''I've had to protect myself. No one listened to me when I asked for help. The police said they couldn't step in unless blood was shed. And now they're asking for taxes?''

The woman's lawyer said authorities should provide regulated and protected facilities for prostitution if they wanted to tax sex workers.

Have a Brewski?

Having a wife who's a beautiful, blonde, beer baroness isn't all positive:
Hensley, one of the nation's major beer wholesalers....founded by Cindy McCain's late father, holds federal and state licenses to distribute beer and lobbies regulatory agencies on alcohol issues that involve health and safety.

It has opposed groups such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) in fighting proposed federal rules that would require alcohol-content information on every package of beer, wine and liquor.

Its executives, including McCain's son Andrew, have written at least 10 letters to the U.S. Treasury Department, contributed tens of thousands of dollars to a beer-industry political-action panel and hold a seat on the board of the powerful National Beer Wholesalers Association.

....The involvement of his wife and children in federal regulatory issues could create a conflict of interest for a future McCain administration, according to advocacy groups and political analysts.

....Cindy McCain is chairwoman of Hensley and controls about 68 percent of the privately held company stock with her children and the senator's son from his first marriage, according to records at the Arizona Department of Liquor Licenses and Control. Cindy and John McCain keep their finances separate, and he has no interest or role in Hensley.

If her husband is president and she retains her role at Hensley, Cindy McCain would set a precedent for outside corporate activity by a first lady.

...."You can't run a beer company out of the White House," said Samuel Popkin, a political-science professor at the University of California, San Diego. "You can't run any company from the White House. McCain is leaving a live hand grenade on the table, a major embarrassment."

Small Isn't Beautiful

To Bill and Melinda at Oregon's high schools:
Oregon's highly touted small high schools this month graduated their first class of students who spent all four years in intimate academies intended to revolutionize the big American high school.

Armed with $25 million from billionaire Bill Gates and other education reformers, backers of small schools heralded the academies as the best way to curb high dropout rates, forge connections to keep teenagers on track and prepare every graduate for college. Four years into that effort, however, the small schools have yet to deliver on those promises.

Instead, their statistics look a lot like results from the lumbering, impersonal high schools they are supposed to replace. Lots of students quit, and most of the graduates aren't ready for the rigors of college.

At Marshall and Roosevelt high schools in Portland, which each house three academies, about half of the students didn't make it to graduation. That's the same low graduation rate as when they were two big schools instead of six small academies.

....Oregon's small-schools initiative was launched in 2004 with grants from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Meyer Memorial Trust. Nationally, the Gates Foundation has donated more than $1 billion to create and support small academies.

Eleven big high schools got grants of about $1 million each to break into academies of fewer than 400 students each. Two schools have since backed out.

Friday, June 20, 2008

The Cool War?

In the U.S. we have the Obamas, but Russia has the Vlampire:
Vladimir Putin has enhanced his image as Russia's leading sex symbol after a commemorative magazine wholly dedicated to his virility and reputation as a "vampire" rapidly sold out in the kiosks of Moscow.

Feeding on an almost cult-like obsession among the Russian people for their inscrutable prime minister, the celebrity gossip magazine Secrets of the Stars released a special edition eulogising the ex-KGB officer.

The cover, carrying a picture of Mr Putin looking unnaturally youthful accompanied by the headline "My heart is on my sleeve", alone seemed sufficiently tantalising to appeal to most patriotic Russians.

Add to that a free poster of the topless prime minister fishing and sub-headlines promising revelations of his wild youth including a visit to a stripclub in Hamburg, romances with women and a guide on "how to become Putin", and the magazine looked set to break circulation records for a single issue.

....the magazine has outdone itself, carrying numerous photos of the prime minister in heroic poses, kayaking, swimming with dolphins and arm wrestling, under the headline: "Sometimes He's Just So Cool".

"There's not a single woman who would not dream of embracing and kissing Vladimir Vladimirovich and hearing his declaration of love," the article opined.

A great deal of attention was given to Ludmila Putin, his wife who won praise for her ability to "cook, clean and knit".

Quoting a German friend, Mrs Putin reportedly praised the prime minister as a model husband because he did not beat her, but also noted that he was an unemotional "vampire" who "sucked all the juices" out of her.

Steppe it up

It's a growth industry says a Russian investment bank:
The Moscow investment bank Troika Dialog says that just 43[%] of the arable land in Russia is cultivated. Crop yields in... leading ex-Soviet states remain at pre-modern levels. Yields can be doubled in Russia, and tripled in the Ukraine using modern kit and know-how. "The potential is tremendous," said Kingsmill Bond, Troika's chief strategist.

The great leap forward may at last be underway as the clutter of Soviet-era restrictions are broken down and Russia's new found wealth pours into high-tech farm investment. It comes in the nick of time. World corn prices are flirting with the once unthinkable level of $8 a bushel - up fivefold in little over two years. This has lifted the entire nexus of grains in its wake as farmers switch to corn. Soybeans are up 84pc in the past year.

....Troika's pitch is that investment funds scrambling to buy land - almost anywhere, at any price - on assumptions of a Malthusian food crisis are likely to face a rude shock. "The consensus view that the world is running out of land is a fallacy," said the bank.

....Land costs roughly $1,000 a hectare in the region, compared with nearer $9,000 for good soil in Iowa and $7,500 in Champagne. It is not easy to buy. In Russia, locals can at last purchase farms, although the ownership laws are a tangle and it takes two years to get a title from the land cadastra. Foreigners have to work through complex system of subsidiaries.

In Ukraine, it is still impossible to buy land. Political paralysis is expected to block the new property law until 2010 or beyond, so long leases are the only way to operate for now. This will change.

"There is a spectacular amount of money about to go into the Ukraine," said Mr Bond. The country has a ready-made network of railways with links to the Black Sea, some dating from Tsarist days when Ukraine's black earth farms supplied all Europe.

Not our style

Martha isn't up to Brit snuff:
Martha Stewart has been refused a visa to Britain because of her criminal convictions for obstructing justice, the Daily Telegraph has learned.

The lifestyle guru, convicted four years ago in the US for obstructing justice, was planning to speak at the Royal Academy and to hold meetings with several figures in the fashion and leisure industry, including Jasper Conran, and was due to travel within the next few days.

....A British government official called the decision "an own goal" given the transatlantic business and goodwill her visit could generate.

"It is a bit silly given some of the other people allowed into the country," the official added.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

U-Pick M

More evidence it's not Mrs. Miniver's England anymore:
Anyone who claims to have picked their own strawberries and resisted the temptation to secretly gobble a particularly juicy specimen is almost certainly lying.

And for 50 years, Hacker's Fruit Farm was content to put up with a smidgen of deceit as people made their way through rows of plants weighed down by the brightly-coloured fruit.

But the manager has now ripped up the entire crop after becoming fed up at people gorging themselves for free on what was supposed to be his livelihood.

Mark Spight said he had been losing a quarter of each year's yield to greedy punters at the farm in Dry Drayton, Cambridgeshire.

Some families were stuffing themselves with up to £15 worth of the summer fruit, costing the business as much as £225 every day.

'The cheek of people was unbelievable. People were treating it like a giant open buffet,' he said.

....'We spotted one family sitting in the field with a bowl of water to wash them and then a bowl of cream they were dipping them in.

'One woman came up to the counter, covered in juice on her trousers, up her arms and even in her hair. But she handed over a punnet with four strawberries in.

'A mum walked into the shop with her family and her sari was bulging with fruit. But her husband handed over an empty basket saying they couldn't find any.'
Michelle Obama on The View, exhibiting a self-awareness level not usually seen outside a usenet newsgroup:
...Obama mentioned how grateful she was to Laura Bush, noting that the first lady had sent her a note after her "first time" remarks backfired, sympathizing with her predicament.

....Obama said she was taking some cues from Bush. "There's a reason people like her," Obama said. "It's because she doesn't, sort of, you know, add fuel to the fire."

He's a Tramp

That's why they love him, and want to travel his way, according to new research:
Scientists have long speculated why famous "bad boys" like Mick Jagger and Warren Beatty appear to have more success with women.

Researchers at New Mexico State University tested 200 university students for three characteristics which when taken together have been dubbed the "dark triad" by psychologists.

These are a tendency to lie and manipulate others, the selfishness associated with narcissism and impulsive behaviour that gives little thought to consequence.

The scientists then asked the students about their attitudes to sex, including how many partners they had had and whether they desired short-term sexual encounters.

The result of the study, presented at the Human Behaviour and Evolution Society conference in Kyoto, Japan, earlier this month, found that those who were ranked highest for "dark triad" characteristics also tended to have the largest number of sexual partners.

Peter Jonason, from New Mexico State University in Las Cruces, who led the study, said that many of the traits were those seen in Ian Fleming's fictional spy and could explain James Bond's success with women.

"He's clearly disagreeable, very extroverted and likes trying new things – killing people, new women," he said.


Karl Rove points out that if both the parties have the candidates they deserve, neither is deserving of victory in November:
Barack Obama and John McCain are busy demonstrating that in close elections during tough economic times, candidates for president can be economically illiterate and irresponsibly populist.

....Joseph Schumpeter...explained that capitalism is inherently unstable because a "perennial gale of creative destruction" is brought on by entrepreneurs who create new goods, markets and processes. The entrepreneur is "the pivot on which everything turns," Schumpeter argued, and "proceeds by competitively destroying old businesses."

Most dramatic change comes from new businesses, not old ones. Buggy whip makers did not create the auto industry. Railroads didn't create the airplane. Even when established industries help create new ones, old-line firms are often not as nimble as new ones. IBM helped give rise to personal computers, but didn't see the importance of software and ceded that part of the business to young upstarts who founded Microsoft.

So why should Mr. McCain expect oil and gas companies to lead the way in developing alternative energy? As with past technological change, new enterprises will likely be the drivers of alternative energy innovation.

Messrs. Obama and McCain both reveal a disturbing animus toward free markets and success. It is uncalled for and self-defeating for presidential candidates to demonize American companies.

It is understandable that Mr. Obama, the most liberal member of the Senate, would endorse reckless policies that are the DNA of the party he leads. But Mr. McCain, a self-described Reagan Republican, should know better.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008


My name is Bushra, and I have a price on my head:
For Sarah Desrosiers, meeting Bushra Noah was not a moment in her life that she would describe as especially memorable.

Not only was it brief - lasting little more than ten minutes - but it was rapidly obvious to Sarah that Bushra was not the person for the junior stylist position she was trying to fill at her hairdressing salon.

Sarah's reasoning? Quite simply that Bushra, a Muslim who wears a headscarf for religions reasons, had made it clear she would not be removing the garment even while at work.

....For a year, Sarah has been facing financial ruin, due to a compensation claim for £34,000 brought by Bushra, 19, who has maintained she is due that figure after being turned down for a job at the Wedge salon in London's King's Cross.

In the event, the tribunal ruled this week that while Bushra's claim of direct discrimination failed, her claim for indirect discrimination had succeeded.

Sarah has therefore been ordered to pay £4,000 compensation by way of 'injury to feelings'.
Although this is a smaller sum than she'd feared she might have to hand over, Sarah, 32, is still outraged.

'I am a small business and the bottom line is that this is not a woman who worked for me,' says Sarah.

She is simply someone I met for a job interview, who, for a host of reasons, was not right for the job. I cannot see how she deserves £4,000.

'As for the notion that I've injured her feelings - well, people's feelings get injured every day. I dread to think the sorts of things that people will try to claim injured feelings for now that this precedent has been set.'

....Since the judgment, Bushra, who is of Syrian descent and has worn a headscarf since she was 13, has, so far at least, chosen not to comment.

But, speaking last year, she admitted she had attended 25 interviews for hairdressing jobs without success.

....Although Bushra is believed to have been acting alone, in the past similar cases have been championed by Muslim traditionalist groups.

Barack to the Future

It'll be That 70s Show if he gets his way:
Sen. Barack Obama shed new light on his economic plans for the country, saying he would rely on a heavy dose of government spending to spur growth, use the tax code to narrow the widening gap between winners and losers in the U.S. economy, and possibly back a reduction in corporate tax rates.

....Sen. Obama cited new economic forces to explain what appears like a return to an older-style big-government Democratic platform skeptical of market forces. "Globalization and technology and automation all weaken the position of workers," he said, and a strong government hand is needed to assure that wealth is distributed more equitably. He spoke aboard his campaign bus, where a big-screen TV was tuned to the final holes of the U.S. Open golf tournament.

No doubt a Made-in-America big screen TV. But some are not impressed:
Douglas Holtz-Eakin, chief economic aide to Republican candidate Sen. John McCain, dismissed the Obama strategy as "classic industrial policy which shows a lack of faith in private markets." He was skeptical of any potential Obama corporate-tax cut, noting a lack of details. "It's like being for kittens, puppies and sunshine," he said.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008


Yes, we have no more at yesterday's prices:
Pedro Arias, an economist for the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation, said that world banana prices would increase sharply by the end of the year. He said: “Weather-wise, it has been drier than usual and we expect production to come down a bit. Fuel is impacting prices because of the cost of transportation . . . but the next big issue is the hurricane season, which started at the beginning of June.

“[Banana] prices have already risen to the same level as 2005, when we suffered an appalling hurricane season, which disrupted supplies. But we have been lucky over the past few years, so we are expecting a bad hurricane season this time round.”

Bananas are so integral to the British diet that the Office for National Statistics includes the fruit in the country’s inflationary basket of goods to help to calculate the cost of living. Britain imports the bulk of its bananas from the Windward Islands, Latin America and from a handful of plantations in West Africa.

The European Union is the world’s largest importer of bananas after the United States. According to the most recent UN figures, the EU imported 3.4 million tonnes in 2005. In April, Fyffes, the banana group, said that the cost of the fruit would continue to rise this year, because of increases in the price of fuel.

Monday, June 16, 2008


Back to the future:
A private French military firm has signed a contract with Somali authorities to boost security off the country's coast, plagued by high-profile piracy in recent years, the chief executive said Saturday.

Pierre Marziali, CEO of the firm Secopex, said the deal would "strengthen maritime business" off Somalia.

The deal, estimated to be worth between EUR 50 million to 100 million annually for the next three years, comes in the wake of the hostage-taking by Somali pirates of a French luxury yacht, the Ponant, in April. After a week-long stand off, all 30 crew members were released unharmed, but French special forces swooped on the fleeing pirates, capturing six and retrieving some of the ransom money paid.

....Secopex, founded in 2003, is involved in providing private security, bodyguards, and security advice and auditing. The branch based in Carcassonne, southern France, specialises in private military services to sovereign states.

Brit Girls Gone Wild

Home Alone and wreaking havoc:
...women working out on the Nintendo Wii Fit video game have helped cause £20 million of damage to their living rooms.

Flower pots, television sets and even pets have been sent flying by the high kicks and hula hoop motions of increasingly vigorous home exercise routines, a study found.

....While working out at home has been a popular pursuit since the rise of the keep-fit video, the study found that the launch of the Wii Fit console, which went on sale in Britain last month, has led to a surge in popularity.

As many as 86 per cent of the 1,000 women polled earlier this month said they already owned a Wii Fit or were planning to get one soon.

But the study also found that the average living room now contains just 21sq ft of free space - meaning that furniture and fittings will remain in the firing line.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Putting the Patient Under

Down Under:
HALF the state's [South Australia] public health system anaesthetists are set to resign as the state's health crisis lurches to a new low.

The dramatic move follows the resignation of 44 emergency department doctors yesterday, and threatens to throw the health system into turmoil.

Like the emergency doctors, the anaesthetists will give two weeks' notice. Union officials initially planned to hand over the signed resignation letters to the Government this afternoon, but that action is now expected to take place on Monday.

Dr Dave Sainsbury, Director of Anaesthesia at the Women's and Children's Hospital, said a shortages of anaesthetists was putting patients' safety at risk, forcing practitioners to hand in their resignations.

...."That's going to cause problems with patient safety and with the supervision of trainees," he said.

"There are serious issues with the delivery of care."

With so many doctors threatening to leave the system, Health Minister John Hill said wards could close.

"I'm really appealing to (doctors) to put the interests of their patients first," he said.

"We believe the industrial relations process will deliver to them a very good outcome.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

'cause there's no nicer witch than you

The Swiss don't miss the bad ol' days:
Swiss authorities are preparing to exonerate the last woman in Europe to be executed for witchcraft.

Anna Goeldi, a maid in the small alpine region of Glarus, was beheaded in 1782 for being a witch after she confessed under torture to conversing with the devil and poisoning the daughter of the house.

....Goeldi was employed by the family of a rich married politician, who after having an affair with her denounced her for witchcraft claiming she made his daughter spit pins and suffer convulsions.

She insisted on her innocence but confessed after being strung up by her thumbs with stones tied to her feet.

The case was brought to light through a book by local journalist Walter Hauser, who claimed Goeldi's employer had used his influence to convict her after she threatened to make their relationship public.

After months of debate and consultation with church authorities the regional government formally acknowledged "that the verdict handed down came from a nonlegal trial and that Anna Goeldi was the victim of 'judicial murder".

....The Protestant Church council, which conducted the trial, had no legal authority and had decided in advance that the woman was guilty, the government said.

She was executed even though the law at the time did not impose the death penalty for nonlethal poisoning, it added.

Goeldi's torture and execution was even more incomprehensible as it happened in the Age of Enlightenment when "those who made the judgment regarded themselves as educated people," the government said in a statement.

Mighty White of You, Barack

And, don't think I'm going to ignore it either, says Colonel Gadaffi:
Libya's leader has strongly criticised US presidential candidate Barack Obama for saying Jerusalem should remain the undivided capital of Israel.

....Referring to him as "our Kenyan brother", Col Gaddafi also said Mr Obama might suffer from an inferiority complex because of his African origins.

The issue of race could make Mr Obama's behaviour "more white than white people", Col Gaddafi suggested, rather than acting in solidarity with African and Arab nations.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Momenta de Emilia Litella; 'No importa.'

Some comrades turn out to be more equal than others after all:
The egalitarian wage system Fidel Castro spent decades building in Cuba is no longer viable, plagued by low pay, corruption and waste that can be eased by paying workers more for better work, a top labor official said in an interview published Wednesday.

Carlos Mateu, a vice minister of labor and social security, said many government companies have already eliminated caps on salaries for productive workers and the rest must do so by August.

An end to wage caps could eventually lead to a true middle class by allowing Cubans to openly accumulate wealth. But it runs counter to the notion of an egalitarian society that ailing, 81-year-old Fidel Castro promoted throughout his 49 years in power.

The article in the Communist Party daily Granma ... said Mateu "underscored that there has been a tendency for everyone to get the same, and that egalitarianism is not convenient."

"That is something we have to resolve," Granma said, adding that the traditional Cuban pay system saps employees' incentives to excel since everyone earns the same regardless of performance.

That is "unfair because if it's harmful to give a worker less than he deserves, it's also harmful to give him what he doesn't deserve," the article said.

You're So Vain

You know...this is probably about you:
The actress Scarlett Johansson has revealed that she has regular email contact with presidential hopeful Barack Obama in which she offers advice and consoles him after difficult debates.

The Hollywood starlet said she had been communicating with the Democratic candidate for months and was "amazed" that he always found the time to reply.

Michelle was unavailable to comment on her gentleman's preference for the blonde.

Lunatics Demand a Say

In running the Obama Nation:
Labor union officials and some liberal activists were seething Tuesday over Barack Obama's choice of centrist economist Jason Furman as the top economic advisor for the campaign. The critics say Furman, who was appointed to the post Monday, has overstated the potential benefits of globalization, Social Security private accounts and the low prices offered by Wal-Mart -- considered a corporate pariah by the labor movement.

Officials from several labor organizations phoned the Obama campaign to complain about the appointment and circulated e-mail messages containing quotes from some of Furman's work. Campaign officials responded that some of the quotes were inaccurate or out of context. They expressed confidence in Furman's abilities and said that Obama would be listening to an array of advisors.

...."We are very much taken aback that Furman has been put at the head of this team," said Marco Trbovich, a senior aide to United Steelworkers President Leo W. Gerard, whose support is considered crucial to Obama's success in heavily unionized areas of Pennsylvania, Ohio, Minnesota and other battleground states.

....He is a very bright fellow, but he is an unalloyed cheerleader for the trade policies that have been very destructive to manufacturing jobs in this country," Trbovich said.

....Perhaps the most enraging part of the record, according to Trbovich and others, were comments attributed to Furman on Wal-Mart.

In a paper presented in Washington, he suggested that there were some economic benefits from the company's low prices and other policies at a time when major labor unions had launched an anti-Wal-Mart campaign.

....Lori Wallach, a lawyer and leading opponent of free-trade policies, said the appointment was jarring from a policy and a political perspective.

"Furman seems like a liability, given his anti-worker writings and statements about Wal-Mart, fair trade and other middle-class issues," said Wallach, director of Public Citizen's global trade watch division.

....[Furman] was also quoted in a transcript from a CNBC interview in 2006 as suggesting openness to changes in Social Security that might include private accounts and benefit cuts.

The approach he described sounded similar in some ways to that proposed at the time by President Bush.

However, other members of the Obama economics team said, don't worry, we won't pay any attention to him:

In naming Furman as economic policy director, Obama also announced that other economists, including some from the left, would informally become part of the Obama economics team.

One economist from the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute, Jared Bernstein, offered praise for Furman, saying he understood why some critics were unhappy, though he thought their fears were misplaced.

"I understand the concerns, given positions he has taken" on some issues, Bernstein said. "But I am 110% certain that it will be Barack Obama -- not Jason Furman or Robert Rubin -- who will be setting the policies for the Obama administration."

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Estate Taxing

No, you're arent' reading this incorrectly:
A Spokane County Superior Court judge must decide who will inherit the $300,000 estate of female jazz pianist Billy Tipton's ex-wife, a former stripper known as the "Irish Venus."

Kathleen Tipton Oakes lived as bandleader Tipton's wife in Spokane from 1962 until they separated in 1980. Oakes died last year at age 73, and no will was found, The Spokesman-Review reported Sunday.

The three sons she and Tipton adopted have hired lawyers to pursue claims on her estate. If their claims don't hold up, the woman's uncles and cousins in the Midwest and South may share in the proceeds.

....Oakes was 28 and working in nightclubs in Seattle and Spokane when she met the 47-year-old Tipton and they "married." They adopted three infants and she became a middle-class housewife and Cub Scout den mother.

Tipton began dressing as a man early in her jazz career, escaping limitations put on women musicians. Her bands played in the Midwest and Northwest starting in the 1940s. A saxophone and piano player, she performed and recorded with the Billy Tipton Trio in the 1950s.

She retired in Spokane and died in 1989, when her sexual identity as a woman was publicly revealed for the first time. Oakes told reporters she never had sex with Tipton, never slept in the same room with her or saw her naked.

That's not the Jason Furman he knew?

Barack Obama's latest economics adviser in 2005:
Productivity is the principal driver of economic progress. It is the only force that canmake everyone better off: workers, consumers, and owners of capital. Wal-Mart has indisputably made a tremendous contribution to productivity. From its sophisticated inventory systems to its pricing innovations, Wal-Mart has blazed a path that numerous other retailers are now following, many of them vigorously competing with Wal-Mart. Today, Wal-Mart is the largest private employer in the country, the largest grocery store in the country, and the third largest pharmacy. Eight in ten Americans shop at Wal-Mart.

There is little dispute that Wal-Mart’s price reductions have benefited the 120 million American workers employed outside of the retail sector. Plausible estimates of the magnitude of the savings from Wal-Mart are enormous – a total of $263 billion in 2004, or $2,329 per household. Even if you grant that Wal-Mart hurts workers in the retail sector – and the evidence for this is far from clear – the magnitude of any potential harm is small in comparison.

Weak Economy?

Not in Obama Nation:
Leading Democratic fundraisers predict that Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) will raise hundreds of millions of dollars over the next few months if he opts out of public financing and begins raising money for the general election.

Specifically, they say Obama could raise $100 million in June and could attract 2.5 million to 3 million new donors to his campaign.

....Steve Grossman, former chairman of the Democratic National Committee (DNC), said that if Obama skips federal campaign funds and raises money through November, he would have 4 million to 5 million donors by Election Day.

If those new donors give amounts similar to what Obama supporters have given so far this election cycle, Obama could raise another $630 million for his campaign. He raised $272 million through the end of April from about 1.5 million donors.

Allow Me to Introduce Myself

I'm your new economics adviser, and I'm a fan of Wal-Mart:
Senator Obama's choice of the left's most prominent defender of Wal-Mart, Jason Furman, as his campaign's economic policy director is a sign of hope for the Democrat of Illinois.

Mr. Furman, in a 2005 paper, "Wal-Mart: A Progressive Success Story," took issue with attempts by Democratic lawmakers such as the New York City Council to block Wal-Mart stores from opening. "Attempts to limit the spread of Wal-Mart and similar 'big box' stores do not just limit the benefits of lower prices to moderate-income consumers, they also limit the job opportunities that Wal-Mart and other retailers provide," Mr. Furman wrote.

....Mr. Obama ...criticized Senator Clinton in a debate by saying to her, "While I was working on those streets, watching those folks see their jobs shift overseas, you were a corporate lawyer sitting on the board at Wal-Mart."

Attack of the Killer Tomatoes

You say tomato...they say no way, Jose:
Certain raw tomatoes are disappearing from salsa bars, produce sections, service delis, pizza parlors and even McDonald's restaurants in the Seattle area and across the nation as federal food-safety officials try to stop the spread of an unusual salmonella strain that has sickened people in 16 states, including Washington.

At least 145 cases of salmonellosis caused by the bacteria Salmonella Saintpaul have been reported since mid-April, including a teenager in Okanogan County. The Food and Drug Administration has linked the outbreak to three kinds of raw red tomatoes but is still trying to determine the specific type and source.

In the meantime, many supermarkets and restaurants are playing it safe by throwing out round red, red plum and red Roma tomatoes and products that may contain them. Mexican-food chains Taco Bell and Chipotle both pulled raw tomatoes from their menus, as did many Subway sandwich shop locations.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Rue Britannia

It's only a paper navy, but not sailing on a cardboard sea:
Two Royal Navy destroyers could not fire their missiles if they came under attack - because they have been removed to save cash.

Type 42s HMS Exeter and HMS Southampton have been working without their Sea Dart guided missile system since Christmas, it was revealed today.

To go with the cutbacks, at least half a dozen operating crew have been transferred to other ships.

The missiles, used to protect the destroyers and larger aircraft carriers against air attack, have been stored away even though HMS Exeter has sailed to the Mediterranean twice and joined a NATO-led operation in that time.

Is the Pope Catholic?

Are the French a funny race? They're not amused in Bordeaux:
Turmoil over wine ads on the web dates back to a court case in France last February against international beer giant Heineken, which forced it to close its French website.

The judge in the case ruled that because the Internet was not on a 1991 list of approved media for alcohol publicity, web-based wine ads were therefore illegal.

The fact the internet did not exist in its current form at the time was taken into account, but only to the extent that the court advised that the 1991 law - known as the "Loi Evin" which governs alcohol and tobacco publicity - be updated. Heineken is currently appealing the case.

"In France whatever is not legal is illegal, in America it is the other way around, that is why we are in this incomprehensible situation," said Patrick Bernard, director of one of Bordeaux's biggest online wine providers, Millesima.

Somewhere Ronald Reagan is smiling. But not France's best known winemakers:
...the Heineken ruling is further complicated by a case which in November 2004 concluded that any mention of an alcoholic drink product be considered to be publicity.

The result of the two cases combined are widely understood by the trade as having outlawed the Internet as a means of communication for all alcoholic drinks in France, with wine being the hardest hit.

"We are in an absurd situation," said Marie Christine Tarby, president of Vin et Societe, an association that has been battling to have the Internet included as one of the state approved mediums for alcohol publicity.

....Asked if the current laws, taken to their logical conclusion meant the sites of the most iconic Bordeaux chateau, including Chateau Margaux, Chateau Latour, Lafite and Yquem, as well as any others, are in fact illegal, Tarby said yes.

And Microsoft believes her:
Apart from the legal aspect, Tarby said self censorship would quickly kick in. She said a move by Microsoft to deactivate all key words and publicity links relating to wine sales as of June 1 on its French MSN site, has fulfilled her predictions.

"In effect [French] law underlines that the Internet is not one of the approved mediums for alcohol publicity," said the message from Microsoft adCenter, sent last month.

The unprecedented move, which wine professionals see as a major threat, has yet to be followed by Yahoo or Google, but if it were, said Julien Pichoff of the French online wine blog and search engine, it would be the end of wine sales on the web -- which are authorised.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

It's Not Easy Being Green

You can lose your shirt these days on biofuels:
Biodiesel, which can be used in most existing diesel engines without major modifications, is made from the oils in soybeans and other crops. Another biofuel, corn-based ethanol, has become a widely used gasoline additive, now present in millions of U.S. vehicles.

The rush to produce biodiesel was a gamble, assuming that skyrocketing petroleum prices would soon make veggie fuels reasonably cheap by comparison.

And as oil prices soared past $100 per barrel in recent months — and a new closing record of $138.54 on Friday — the region's biodiesel industry should have been awash in cash.

But to the surprise of the industry and its supporters, the cost of making biodiesel has outpaced the rise in fossil-fuel prices.

Soybean oil, the main raw material for U.S. biodiesel, nearly doubled in price — partly because the consumption of soy has risen globally, and partly because U.S. farmers have been switching land to more profitable corn crops, from which ethanol is made. Demand from biodiesel producers has also lifted prices, and other biodiesel crops such as canola and palm oil have quickly caught up in cost.

It now costs about $4.66 to buy enough soybean oil to make a gallon of the renewable fuel. After adding manufacturing expenses and subtracting a $1-per-gallon tax credit, a gallon of nearly pure biodiesel retails at local stations for close to $6.

Conventional diesel, meanwhile, currently sells for about $4.80 per gallon.

We Are Serious

Apparently...since this popped up in the FLUBA inbox:
From: ...
To: ...
Subject: The New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics - Announcing the first new edition in 21 years!
Date: Jun 4, 2008 3:01 PM

Hello there!

I’m pleased to announce the arrival of the new edition of The New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics. This is the first revision in 21 years of what has been the standard reference book for economists since its foundation by Sir R. H. Inglis Palgrave in 1894.

The eight volumes of the new dictionary contain 1,872 signed articles by 1506 of the world’s leading economists, including 25 Nobel Prize winners. Together the articles provide an unrivalled snapshot of modern economics.

....If interested, we will be happy to provide you with a 2 week reviewer password for the online edition. Please reply to this email and we’ll get you set up.

Be it ever so humble

There's nothing quite like a politician promising...thinks Mark Steyn:
As for coming together "to remake this great nation," if it's so great, why do we have to remake it? A few months back, just after the New Hampshire primary, a Canadian reader of mine – John Gross of Quebec – sent me an all-purpose stump speech for the 2008 campaign:

"My friends, we live in the greatest nation in the history of the world. I hope you'll join with me as we try to change it."

I thought this was so cute, I posted it on the Web at National Review. Whereupon one of those Internetty-type things happened, and three links and a Google search later the line was being attributed not to my correspondent but to Sen. Obama, and a few weeks after that I started getting e-mails from reporters from Florida to Oregon, asking if I could recall at which campaign stop the senator, in fact, uttered these words.

And I'd patiently write back and explain that they're John Gross' words, and that not even Barack would be dumb enough to say such a thing in public. Yet last week his demand in his victory speech that we "come together to remake this great nation" came awful close.

Speaking personally, I don't want to remake America. I'm an immigrant, and one reason I came here is because most of the rest of the Western world remade itself along the lines Sen. Obama has in mind. This is pretty much the end of the line for me. If he remakes America, there's nowhere for me to go – although presumably once he's lowered sea levels around the planet there should be a few new atolls popping up here and there.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Lost Art: Editing

The Telegraph explains the Clintons:
Advisers to Mr Obama had been dismayed by Mrs Clinton's defiant refusal to concede that he had won the Democratic nomination and statements by several of her allies that she had authorised them to say she would like to be named as his vice-presidential running mate.

Mrs Clinton, who is to announce she is dropping out to endorse Mr Obama, only decided to withdraw from the race after Congressman Charlie Rangel of New York, a loyal supporter, said she would damage the party if she continued to prevaricate.

The Defense Rests

In France:
According to confidential defence documents leaked to the French press, less than half of France's Leclerc tanks – 142 out of 346 – are operational and even these regularly break down.

Less than half of its Puma helicopters, 37 per cent of its Lynx choppers and 33 per cent of its Super Frelon models – built 40 years ago – are in a fit state to fly, according to documents seen by Le Parisien newspaper.

Two thirds of France's Mirage F1 reconnaissance jets are unusable at present.

....The disclosure comes just ten days before President Nicolas Sarkozy announces a major reform of the armed forces, with a defence white paper outlining France's military priorities for the next 15 years.

He is expected to argue that the situation can only improve by reducing the number of France's operational troops from 50,000 to 30,000, and its fighter aircraft, as well as closing military bases.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Fable of the Bees

When bees are outlawed... dwellers across the country are rapidly discovering the appeal of urban beekeeping. Large cities like Chicago, Seattle, Boston, Dallas and San Francisco are even promoting beekeeping for pollination health, to keep city vegetation green and lush.

In New York City, a growing population of beekeepers is raising the insects in community gardens and on building roofs, even though it's technically illegal to keep bees there. Lawmakers plan to re-examine the city law that classifies honeybees as "wild and ferocious animals" along with lions, ferrets and alligators.

....Keeping bees in urban areas typically requires considerations that beekeepers in rural or suburban areas don't always have to worry about - like water. If you don't keep enough water for your bees, they'll often go to neighbors' pools and bird baths, according to veteran beekeepers.

Donald Burger, who teaches a course on backyard beekeeping in Houston, said beekeepers also need to consider the flight path of their bees - best kept above head level so the bees aren't flying straight into where people walk.

Certain varieties of honeybees are more docile than others, making them better for areas where they may encounter a lot of people, Burger said. He prefers a breed called buckfasts, while Barclay has kept both Italian and Carniolan honeybees.

....Residents with gardens typically welcome bees, and many beekeepers say they've found their neighbors are very interested in their bees.

"They're sort of like fish but better. Watching them calms you," said Rob Hicks, who keeps four hives in Chicago. "It's a fun way to spend time, and I think it might even have some effect on blood pressure," he joked.

There's also the honey. Hicks said that like many beekeepers, he's usually able to sweet-talk neighbors into acceptance by keeping them well-supplied with honey.

Noblesse Oblige

An e-mail brings this example of we're doing it for them:
Count Harvard University’s Drew Faust as one higher-education leader who recognizes that the debate over how wealthy universities use their endowments is an issue unlikely to fade away.

Yesterday, she chose one of the university’s most ceremonial of occasions and locations, the graduation ceremony at Harvard Yard, to introduce a very visible defense.

“In recent months, Harvard’s $35-billion endowment has become something of a target — publicly both envied and maligned,” said Ms. Faust in her speech.

“But it is poorly understood. Endowments represent a concrete embodiment of our accountability to the past and to the future,” she continued.

“They derive from our history and the dreams of those who have preceded us; they are in turn the vehicle that enables us to project our own dreams into the future.”

Harvard’s endowment provides “resources and the independence to support work that may not pay off in the short term,” she said, and that is valuable to society.

“In an era in which large and important financial organizations have been known to disappear over a weekend, universities are durable, proven institutions, here for the long haul. —Goldie Blumenstyk

Talk to the Autos

Imagine talking to a Toyoya. Chatting to a Chevy:
LONDON: Stealing a car will not be a cake-walk for car thieves anymore, for now a new type of car alarms would enable the vehicles themselves to look after each other's safety - just like a herd of animals under any potential threat from predators.

In this novel security system, cars will be talking to their neighbours constantly via hidden wireless transmitters, and if in case a thief tries to sweep it off, the cars would raise the alarm in a matter of seconds.

The system called SVATS (Sensor-network-based Vehicle Anti-theft System) has been designed by Hui Song from Frostburg State University, Maryland, United States, in collaboration with colleagues at Pennsylvania State University.

.... The system starts when the driver of the vehicle switches on the transmitters fitted inside using a remote control, at the time of leaving the car. Then the car sends out a "join" message to all the nearby cars. The cars chooses its nearest neighbours to act as its sentinels and prefers partners that need the lowest signal strength for communication, so that the system does not consume less of the car's battery.

The car continues sending out periodic "alive" signals to these watchers, till the time the owner returns and it finally sends a "goodbye" message.

However, in case the "alive" messages die out without a "goodbye" message, then the cars acting as watchers would report a theft by transmitting a message to a central base station. This would ... trigger the alarm which in turn would notify the security guard of the car park, the owners of the vehicle, or the police.

Death Unwarmed Over

The latest in rapid response teams is in New York City:
The city is considering creating a special ambulance whose crew would rush to collect the newly deceased and preserve the body so that the organs might be taken for transplant.

The "rapid-organ-recovery ambulance", still in the early planning stages, could raise a host of ethical questions and strike some families as ghoulish. But top medical officials in the fire department and Bellevue Hospital say it has the potential to save hundreds of lives.

Generally in the US, only people who die at hospitals are used as organ donors, because doctors are on hand with life-support machinery and other equipment to preserve the organs and remove them before they spoil.

Surgeons have only a few critical hours before kidneys, livers and other body parts suffer damage that renders them unusable.

.... The transplant ambulance would turn up at the scene of a death mere minutes after regular paramedics ceased efforts to resuscitate a patient. The team would begin work almost immediately, administering drugs and performing chest compressions intended to keep the organs viable.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Nice Work If You Can...

Handle a race car:
John Langley, who has died aged 76, began his career as a Daily Telegraph motoring reporter in 1961 by driving the first E-type Jaguar at 149 mph on the M1.

He had not long joined the paper when he was asked to take the wheel of the world's most exciting car several weeks before its launch in Geneva. Thirty-five years later he was still awed by the E-type's docility and effortless speed, as well by as its reasonable price compared with foreign competitors.

"We were cruising very easily along the M1," Langley recalled, "when a clear stretch of road gave me the chance to see what it could do. Within a few seconds, the needle was nudging an indicated 149mph before a distant glimpse of traffic made it advisable to lift off.

Waitin' for the Train to Come In

Peggy Lee had the idea, and a German nursing home developed it:
The idea was first tried at Benrath Senior Centre in Düsseldorf, which pitched an exact replica of a standard stop outside, with one small difference: buses do not use it.

The centre had been forced to rely on police to retrieve patients who wanted to return to their often non-existent homes and families.

Then Benrath teamed up with a local care association called the "Old Lions". They went to the Rheinbahn transport network which supplied the bus stop.

....The result is that errant patients now wait for their trip home at the bus stop, before quickly forgetting why they were there in the first place.

"We will approach them and say that the bus is coming later and invite them in for a coffee," said Richard Neureither, Benrath's director. "Five minutes later they have completely forgotten they wanted to leave."

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

If you can't do the time

In Britain, you'd be missing out on the sublime:
Tens of thousands of prisoners are opting not to apply for early release amid allegations that Britain's prisons are now so comfortable that they are effectively "expensive bed and breakfasts".

The figures were released on Tuesday by Jack Straw, the Justice Secretary, who also disclosed that dozens of people have been caught trying to break into prisons over the past few years.

....The latest figures show that 37,000 inmates eligible to be released early declined to apply for the perk between 1999 and 2006.

Between 2003 and 2008, 42 individuals were detected attempting to break into prisons. The number of prison break-ins has increased from five in 2003-04 to 19 over the past year.

....Inmates at a top security prison recently told Mr Straw that conditions there were like a "holiday camp".

"Prisoners receive a wage for being in prison, they receive a bed, a TV in all cells, Sky television in most areas for recreational use, free telephones, breakfast in bed on many occasions, cash bonuses for good behaviour," said Mr Travis. "And prison staff are forced to deal with them in such a subservient way. It's ridiculous."

A spokesman for Mr Straw said that prisoners may choose not to apply for early release as they believe they are unlikely to pass the risk ass-essments. Others may be un-able to provide an address to which they will be released.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Come and get it

Food shortage? Get a fly swatter:
Eating insects such as wasps and grasshoppers has health benefits and should be encouraged in the Western diet, scientists have said.

The bugs are rich in protein and some minerals and are lower in cholesterol than beef or pork.

Research carried out at the National Autonomous University of Mexico found that 1,700 species are eaten in at least 113 countries across the world, usually as a substitute for meat.

In Mexico, grasshoppers are sold by the pound in markets and fried before being eaten while the larvae of giant butterfly sell for the equivalent of £12.50-a-plate in some restaurants.

Colombians eat ants, which they grind and spread on bread, and termites while Filipinos are partial to grasshoppers, crickets and locusts.

....David George Gordon, a Seattle-based naturalist and author, says: "Insects are the most valuable, underused and delicious animals in the world.

"Maybe we in the West are the weirdos."

Monday, June 02, 2008

Making Lemonade in Cambodia

You can bet on it:
In the run-up to July’s general elections, Funcinpec [Party] supporters are betting on the royalist party’s political demise – quite literally.

One high-ranking party punter has wagered $3,000 that his once-powerful political machine will fail to secure even one parliamentary seat.

His gambling partner, Funcinpec activist Chhun Saron, is giving the party slightly better odds, and stands to win a few thousand dollars even if the royalists lose all but one of their 26 seats in the National Assembly.

“If Funcinpec wins one or more seats in this election, I will win $3,000 from him,” Saron said of his high-profile opponent, who did not want to be named.

“Maybe he’s stupid,” Saron said. “But I am sure I will win. Funcinpec is certainly not the worst party in the election.”

....Lu Laysreng, first deputy president of Funcinpec, was unsurprised by reports that party rank-and-file were betting on the outcome of the election, and admitted the party was powerless to stop it.

“Our Cambodia is a gambling country,” he told the Post by phone on May 22. “People here will even bet on whether the rain will fall.”

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Praise the Lord...

and pass the 89 octane nozzle:
...unlike the customers rolling up to the station's pumps two weeks ago, resigned to the fact that their wallets were about to take a beating, Rocky Twyman and company had a plan to bring that number tumbling down.

They would ask God to do it.

"Our pockets are empty, but we're going to hold onto God!" Twyman, a community organizer from Rockville, Md., said as he and seven other people formed a semicircle, held hands and sang, pleading for divine intervention to lower fuel prices.

It was the latest demonstration by Twyman's movement, Pray at the Pump, which began in April. Since then, he has held group prayers at gas stations as far away as San Francisco, garnering international media attention and claiming success in at least a few cases.

Now that Barack Obama is looking for a new's What's Happenin' Now