Sunday, August 31, 2008

The Cure for Global Warming

May be worse than the disease, say some mad scientists:
...the world's biggest experiment could cause the end of the world, say scientists.

They fear that the Large Hadron Collider - due to be switched on in nine days' time - will create a black hole that could swallow the planet.

By smashing sub-atomic particles together at close to the speed of light, the LHC aims to recreate the conditions that existed a fraction of a second after the birth of the universe or Big Bang, shedding light on the building blocks of life.

But critics claim that the 'time machine', which has been built 300ft beneath the French-Swiss border near Geneva, could instead spawn a shower of mini-black holes.

Within four years, one of these 'celestial vacuums' could have swollen to such a size that it is capable of sucking the Earth inside-out, said Otto Rossler, one of a group of scientists mounting a last-minute court challenge to the project.

They claim the experiment violates the right to life under the European Convention of Human Rights. However, the case at the European Court of Human Rights is not expected to delay the switch on, scheduled for Wednesday of next week.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Hell hath no fury...

Barack, we have a problem:
Our house is rocking on it's foundation! We are doing cheering laps around the living room. I kissed Johnnie's face on our big screen TV. I called the McCain headquarters and said "God Bless John McCain and God Bless the Republican Party!

"This is a joyful day in our history. Our debt of gratitude is to Hillary Rodham Clinton, 18 million prayers, without which none of this would be possible.

Tears of joy
Tears of joy

My husband said, "Honey, YOU did it!" And I realized, he was right. That the people like US did do it. We showed that we would not back down. We made John's choice for him. And he listened.

But the person to whom we owe the greatest debt:


The Girl Governor Next Door

Is Paul Krugman correct that only Democrats care:
It’s true that elected Democrats are often too cautious — and too beholden to major donors — to be as progressive as the party’s activists would like. But even in the face of a Republican Congress, Mr. Clinton succeeded in pushing forward policies, like the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, that did a lot to help working families.

And what one sees on the other side is a total lack of empathy for and understanding of the problems working Americans face. Mr. Clinton, famously, felt our pain. Republicans, manifestly, don’t. And it’s hard to fix a problem if you don’t even think it exists.

Not according to a comment made at Marginal Revolution:
My brother-in-law worked for several years in Alaska, setting up half-way houses for alcoholics and drug addicts for a group called Oxford Houses when Palin was the mayor in Wasilla. They opened an Oxford House right next door to Palin's house. Needless to say, Oxford has problems moving into neighborhoods all the time, because of the Not-in-my-backyard fears, but Palin was very supportive. How many mayors in America would feel the same? She's the real thing!

Friday, August 29, 2008

Cheaper to Keep Her

Breaking up is hard to do in Britain these days:
The credit crunch is preventing warring couples from divorcing because they cannot afford to separate, experts have claimed.

National figures published yesterday show the divorce rate last year was the lowest since 1981.

....Analysts said the fall was down to economic uncertainty that had made unhappily married couples reluctant to go it alone financially. Crucially falling house prices have forced many to rethink selling their home and dividing the assets.

The Other Woman

Turns out to be a hockey mom who sharpens her skates before the game:
"It was rightly noted in Denver last week that Hillary left 18 million cracks in the highest, hardest glass ceiling in America. But it turns out the women of America aren't finished yet and we can shatter that glass ceiling once and for all."

With a stint as mayor of her home town, and the current governor of Alaska, she has more executive experience than the Democrat ticket combined.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Lingua Franca

For the lady golfers, it's the dollar:
Concerned about its appeal to sponsors, the U.S. women's professional golf tour, which in recent years has been dominated by players born outside the United States, has warned its members that they must become conversant in English by 2009 or face suspension.

"We live in a sports-entertainment environment," said Libba Galloway, the deputy commissioner of the tour, the Ladies Professional Golf Association. "For an athlete to be successful today in the sports entertainment world we live in, they need to be great performers on and off the course, and being able to communicate effectively with sponsors and fans is a big part of this.

"Being a U.S.-based tour, and with the majority of our fan base, pro-am contestants, sponsors and participants being English speaking, we think it is important for our players to effectively communicate in English."

The LPGA and the other professional golf tours, unlike professional team sports, are dependent on their relationships with corporate sponsors for their financial survival.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Didn't sitter well

In this case, the sitter may have had a super ego:
A portrait worth millions of pounds by Lucian Freud, which was to take centre stage in a major exhibition of his work, was secretly destroyed by the sitter who objected to the way he was depicted.

The painting of Bernard Breslauer, a millionaire antiquarian book dealer, was finished more than 50 years ago and Freud was anxious for it to be included in the exhibition in London next month.
But after a long search Freud was devastated to discovered that the painting had been destroyed by Breslauer ....

Mr Breslauer, apparently, objected to the way Freud had painted his distinctive double chin.

Monday, August 25, 2008


As the textbooks predict:
American natural gas production is rising at a clip not seen in decades, pushing down prices of the fuel and reversing conventional wisdom that U.S. gas fields were in irreversible decline.

The new drilling boom uses advanced technology to release gas trapped in huge shale beds found throughout North America - gas believed just a decade ago to be out of reach.

Shale gas could ultimately be important beyond North America. The rest of the world has shale formations on an immense scale. Many of them, including beds in Europe, Russia and China, are known to contain gas, but exploration and assessment of those fields with the new production techniques is just beginning.

The trend has significant long-range implications for U.S. consumers and businesses. A sustained increase in gas supplies over the next decade could slow the rise of utility bills, obviate the need to import more gas from elsewhere around the globe, including liquefied natural gas delivered in tankers, and make energy-intensive industries more competitive.

While the process of extracting gas produces some environmental damage, natural gas is the cleanest fossil fuel, releasing less of the emissions that cause global warming than coal or oil. It is now used primarily for residential heating and cooking, power generation, providing energy for industrial processes, and as a feed stock for fertilizer, chemicals and plastics.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

He's bright, articulate, clean...

And, he's mine:
Sen. Barack Obama has chosen Sen. Joseph Biden, of Delaware, to be his running mate, turning to a leading authority on foreign policy and a longtime Washington hand to fill out the Democratic ticket, people told of the decision said.

....Biden is known for being both talkative and prone to making the kind of statements that get him in trouble. In 2007, when he was competing for Obama for the presidential nomination, he declared that Obama was "not yet ready" for the presidency, a line certain to show up in Republican attack ads.

Friday, August 22, 2008

The Bicycle Thief

Not the Oscar nominated movie, the real deal:
TORONTO — What exactly was he planning to do with 2,865 bicycles?

That is just one of many questions the police and others have been puzzling over since the arrest last month of Igor Kenk, the owner of a used-bike shop [The Bicycle Clinic] here.

...."He's easily the most hated man in Toronto," said Alex Jansen, a filmmaker who has been working on a documentary about Kenk as part of a study of his rundown neighborhood's transition to hipsterdom. "But I just found that it's not as black-and-white as I originally thought."

Kenk was something of an informal social worker, Jansen explained, giving work to street people and outpatients from a nearby mental-health institution. Of course, the police say some of that work involved stealing bicycles.

....On the afternoon of July 16, Kenk directed a companion, who has a history of mental illness, to cut the locks on two bicycles — not ones planted by the police — and they then rode off on them.

When the police subsequently raided the Bicycle Clinic, the Fire Department initially blocked them from entering because the building was so crammed with bicycles that a Fire Department rescue squad had to remove the upper-floor windows and lower the bicycles by rope.

An additional 200 bikes were seized in Kenk's home. Ten landlords around the city reported their garages had been rented by Kenk and were bulging with bicycles. As the police gathered the mounds of bikes, they also found cocaine, crack cocaine, about 15 pounds of marijuana and a stolen bronze sculpture of a centaur and a snake in battle.

In the past, Kenk has said he was accumulating bicycles in preparation for a severe oil shortage. But in a somewhat disjointed interview in July for a radio documentary...Kenk portrayed himself as a crusader against theft and a protector of castoff bicycles.

Vaya con GPS

Down Mexico Way, it's self defense:
Affluent Mexicans worried by soaring kidnapping rates are spending thousands of dollars to implant tiny transmitters under their skin so satellites can help find them even when stuffed in the boot of a car.

....More people, including a growing number of middle-class Mexicans, are seeking to have a microchip implanted under their skin by Xega, a Mexican security firm whose sales jumped 13% this year. The company claims to have more than 2,000 clients.

Detractors say that the chip is little more than a gimmick that serves no real security purpose. The company injects the crystal-encased chip, the size and shape of a grain of rice, into clients' bodies with a syringe.

A transmitter in the chip communicates with a larger GPS-enabled device carried by the client, Xega says. That gadget reports its location to the company when the owner presses a panic button, something the device could arguably do without an under-skin chip.

....Xega, based in the central Mexican city of Quererato, designed global positioning systems to track stolen vehicles until a company owner was kidnapped in broad daylight in 2001. The firm sees kidnapping as a growth industry in South America and plans to expand its services next year to Brazil, Colombia and Venezuela.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Do the Math

Vladimir Putin probably has.

Glenn Hubbard evaluates Barack Obamanomics, and finds it wanting:
Given the hearty support Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama received in Europe last month, he must have noticed the surprise and skepticism among some Germans when he asked that Europeans contribute more for defense. Many Europeans argue they cannot afford such an additional expenditure.

They are right. And therein lies a cautionary tale for the United States, because continental Europe has been following something like Mr. Obama's plans for spending and taxes.

....The problem with Mr. Obama's fiscal plans is not that that they lack vision. On the contrary, the vision is plain enough: a larger welfare state paid for by higher taxes. The problem is not even that they imply change. The problem is that his plans are statist.

While the candidate is sending a fiscal "Ich bin ein Berliner" message to Americans, European critics of his call for greater spending on defense are the canary in the coal mine for what lies ahead with his vision for the United States.

Protestant Ethic

In China, it isn't ethical to protest...or, even to apply to do so:
Wu Dianyuan and Wang Xiuying....two women, both in their late 70s, have never spoken out against China's authoritarian government. Both walk with the help of a cane, and Wang is blind in one eye.

Their grievance, receiving insufficient compensation when their homes were seized for redevelopment, is perhaps the most common complaint among Chinese displaced during the country's long streak of fast economic growth.

But the Beijing police still sentenced the two women to an extrajudicial term of "re-education through labor" this week for applying to hold a legal protest in a designated area in Beijing, where officials promised that Chinese could hold demonstrations during the Olympic Games.

They became the most recent examples of people punished for submitting applications to protest. A few would-be demonstrators have simply disappeared, at least for the duration of the Games, squelching already diminished hopes that the influx of foreigners and the prestige of holding the Games would push China's leaders to relax their tight grip on political expression.

....The announcement that the police had set up special protest zones was initially greeted as a positive if modest step that could allow Chinese a new channel to voice grievances otherwise ignored by party authorities and the state-run media.

"In order to ensure smooth traffic flow, a nice environment and good social order, we will invite these participants to hold their demonstrations in designated places," Liu Shaowu, the security director for Beijing's Olympic organizing committee, said at a news conference. He described the creation of three so-called protest zones and suggested that a simple application process would provide Chinese citizens an avenue for free expression, a right that has long been enshrined in China's Constitution but in reality is rarely granted.

But with four days left before the closing ceremonies, the authorities acknowledge that they have yet to allow a single protest. They claim that most of the people who filed applications had their grievances addressed, obviating the need for a public expression of discontent.

Hurry up and wait

When it's free, you get what you pay for from Britain's National Health Service:
A nurse suffering a brain haemorrhage died after waiting two hours for an ambulance - even though a paramedic had arrived within three minutes.

Martina Simmons, 36, collapsed in agony after arriving home from a late shift and her husband Shaun phoned NHS Direct for help.

A 'first responder' paramedic who was sent to her home called an ambulance - and kept ringing every 10 minutes.

But a crew did not arrive for more than two hours -15 times longer than the official target time of eight minutes.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Back to the drawing board

Mugabenomics keeps on rolling...toward the cliff:
The rate of inflation in Zimbabwe jumped to just over 11,250,000% in June, official figures show.

"It gained 9,035,045.5 percentage points from the May rate of 2,233,713.4%," said state media quoting the Central Statistical Office (CSO).

....High money supplies have also been fuelling hyperinflation. Critics have accused President Robert Mugabe's government of printing money to finance his election campaign and prop up the economy. Month-on-month inflation in the country accelerated to 839.3% from 433.4%.

....Earlier this month, Zimbabwe's central bank chief called for a six-month freeze on prices and wages in a bid to rein in spiralling inflation.

"Zimbabweans must realise that the country is in a practically binding state of socio-economic emergency," Reserve Bank governor Gideon Gono said.

"As such, there is need for a universal moratorium on all incomes and prices for a minimum period of six months," he added.

His comments came weeks after the bank revalued its currency in an effort to curb hyperinflation - lopping 10 zeros off the Zimbabwe dollar making 10bn dollars now equal to one dollar.

Monday, August 18, 2008

If You Want To Be Happy for the Rest of Your Life

Become a miner in Northern Australia:
John Moloney, the Mayor of Mount Isa, said "ugly ducklings" could find happiness if they chose to settle in the Queensland town where men outnumber women five to one.

In 2006, there were just 819 women aged 20-24 living there out of a total population of 21,421, according to the most recent census.

Located 1,136 miles (1,829km) from Brisbane, Mount Isa is home to one of the world's biggest underground mines.

In an interview with a local newspaper Mr Moloney said: "Quite often you will see walking down the street a lass who is not so attractive with a wide smile on her face. Whether it is recollection of something previous or anticipation for the next evening, there is a degree of happiness."

Saturday, August 16, 2008

The Great Big Flushing Sound

Is for the Seattle taxpayers' money:
Seattle has officially washed its hands of the five self-cleaning toilets.
The toilets cost the city $5 million.

They sold on eBay Thursday evening for $12,549.

All five were sold to Racecar Supply, of Rochester, in Thurston County, with winning bids ranging from $1,625 to $4,899 per commode, said Pat Miller, spokesman for Seattle's Fleets and Facilities Department.

"What a buy," said Racecar Supply owner Butch Behn. "Wouldn't you think it's a really good deal, considering what they paid for them? It was a gift."

Behn said he likely will install at least two of the toilets at South Sound Speedway, a racetrack the company owns in Tenino. He said he might sell the others, perhaps keeping one for parts.

"I'm thinking they're pretty spendy to repair," Behn said.

...."We sold them for what the market determined them to be worth," said Andy Ryan, spokesman for Seattle Public Utilities. "Did we get hosed? I'm not sure."

Miller said he wasn't disappointed with the return on the city's $5 million investment.

"The loss is not in the sale of them," he said. "The loss was in the maintenance of them for years and years and years, in my opinion."

The city paid more than it planned to take care of the toilets. Workers had to clean the stalls after trash clogged the self-cleaning mechanism. Losing the toilets will save the city some $4.5 million on the remainder of its operating contract and in cleaning costs over the next several years.

But the city still has to arrange to remove the toilets, which were closed to the public earlier this month. And it will cost an estimated $250,000 to restore the park sites where the toilets were installed.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

For the Big O

Not an Oscar Robertson fan club:
Regan "Draco" Lane-Smith and "Naughty" Nonah Elliston outfitted their six-bedroom rental house with 15 mattresses, bondage crosses and sex swings. They built elaborate sets in their backyard for taking erotic photos.

And they promoted the Hardwood Cabin online.

Up to 60 guests at a time came to mingle, sunbathe nude by the pool and have sex with fellow swingers and fetishists, Elliston said. Parties were frequent enough that the couple's laundry service was cycling through 50 bedsheets a week.

But the couple shut down the sex club last month when they were cited for running a business without a license and threatened with fines of up to $513 a day.

....They began with just a couple parties a month, then increased to weekly events. In March it became three times a week — hosting about 20 people on Wednesdays and Fridays, and between 40 and 60 on Saturdays, Elliston said.

Elliston counted police officers, nurses and lawyers among her guests, she said. Members were as young as 22 and as old as 80.

The couple hosted a naked rally for presidential candidate Barack Obama and naked karaoke nights.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Thank Heaven, For Little Girls

And the Home Court Advantage:
For the U.S. women's gymnastics team, it came down to a few missteps, and, as is usually the case in a sport of precision and grace, those stumbles made all the difference.

The U.S. lost the gold medal to China 188.9 to 186.525. Simple but glaring mistakes were the Americans' undoing. They may have had prettier routines, but the Chinese were more consistent.

The U.S. had been confident it could take back the gold it last won with the "Magnificent Seven" at the 1996 Olympics. But China proved more hardy in its home gym, as flag-waving spectators cheered "China! China!"

The younger team — some say an illegally young team — proved to have the stronger nerves.
It wasn't close.

....At least two of the Chinese girls did not look anywhere close to being 16 or turning 16 this year, as the rules require. They looked little enough to still believe in Santa Claus. The Americans by contrast, have an 18-year-old and two 20-year-olds on their team. Their experience, however, did not pay off.

In the finals, each of the three routines on each of the four events count. Nothing gets thrown out. There is no room for error. The U.S. made plenty.

[Alicia] Sacramone fell on her mount on the balance beam after a long wait while judges and a floor TV producer spoke and gestured.

The next competitor must receive wait for a red "stop" sign to change to a green "go" sign on the screen before starting a routine. Sacramone had to step back away from her mount twice because it didn't flash go.

"There was no stop sign, just a blank screen," Sacramone said. "I just stood there until my name came up. It seemed like forever. I think that could have contributed to my fall. I was pretty nervous.

"I have to live with my mistakes and just try to put a smile on my face and remember we won a silver medal."

Tuesday, August 12, 2008


The market in has-beens is thriving:
Nadia Comaneci and Mark Spitz are endorsing Botox. The soccer player Julie Foudy is promoting Cabot cheese and Kleenex, and the track star Jackie Joyner-Kersee is working with Medco, the health benefits manager. One swimmer, Janet Evans, is with John Hancock insurance, while another, Josh Davis, is with Mutual of Omaha.

The Olympics are not just moneymakers for the current athletes, but for former ones as well. Even for the alumni, the ability to cash in on one's former fame peaks every four years, because corporate sponsors prefer to work with athletes when their signature sports are in the news.

"My husband and I plan everything around the Olympics," said Evans, who earned gold medals at the 1988 and 1992 Games. She is working with the swimsuit maker Speedo, the Canola Council (a trade group for canola growers), the health care firm Johnson & Johnson and John Hancock.

"We planned our wedding around the '04 Olympics; we planned our little girl being born at the end of '06, when '07 wasn't as busy," Evans added. "My husband teases me, we plan in quadrenniums," she said, using the International Olympic Committee's term for four-year periods.

....Many retired Olympians make a living out of their former glory, giving motivational speeches and making appearances for corporations. As time passes, the less picky they can be about opportunities.

....The corporations that spend millions to sponsor the Olympics hold plenty of events during the Games for their clients and employees, and the presence of former Olympians adds some glitter.

"They seem to resonate because they let us almost escape to what we believe to have been a better time in sports," said David Carter, executive director of the University of South California's Sports Business Institute.

For the athletes, these appearances are a good way to make thousands for a few hours' work. Evans, for example, gets $5,000 to $15,000 for an appearance, according to her agent, Evan Morgenstein of the Premier Management Group, while the swimmer Rowdy Gaines fetches just under $10,000.

Monday, August 11, 2008

The Men Who Never Returned

They may ride forever 'neath the streets of Boston, but keep out of Las Vegas:
LAS VEGAS — A federal judge ordered three college students to cancel a Sunday presentation at a computer-hackers conference where they had planned to show security flaws in the automated fare system used by Boston's subway.

The temporary restraining order, issued by a U.S. district judge in Massachusetts, prevented the Massachusetts Institute of Technology students from demonstrating at the Defcon security conference in Las Vegas how to use the vulnerabilities to get free rides.

....The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority said in a complaint filed Friday that the students offered to show others how to use the hacks before giving the transit system a chance to fix the flaws. MIT is also named in the suit.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Up to Speed

Two years after the Fly Under the Bridge Academy first began to instruct some of the economics profession's dimmer bulbs on the economics of private infrastructure, Steven Malanga takes note of the trends in transportation:
With America already underspending on infrastructure by about $130 billion a year, the country will require new financing sources in the era of high gas prices, especially when one-quarter of our bridges are deemed in poor shape, and one out of every seven miles of road pavement is considered “unacceptable.”

Here’s an area where the U.S. can learn from the many other countries around the world which for years now have been tapping huge pools of private capital to help build, maintain and operate roads, bridges, tunnels and mass transit systems. Some 3,400 miles of toll highways linking cities in France have been built with money from private investors. The United Kingdom has used so-called build-to-operate agreements with private companies and capital for 20 years to finance new roads, tunnels and bridges. Developing countries as different as Mexico, Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia have followed suit to one degree or another. China is using private capital for a massive road building effort which involves linking its major cities with super highways.

One reason such efforts have been successful is that there is plenty of capital out there looking for the kind of solid, predictable long-term returns that this investing brings. Huge global pension funds with very long investing horizons have targeted this area, which is considerably less volatile than investing in equities (or mortgage-backed securities, it seems). In a typical deal, a bank or investment house managing pension money partners with a company that is experienced in operating roads or bridges, and the pair either build or take over an existing road with tolls on it, then contract to operate it for many years in exchange for the toll revenues. In return, government typically gets an upfront payment, which in the case of existing roads that don’t have to be constructed, can be enormous.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

If the word doesn't fit...

This professor wants to akwit:
Dr Ken Smith is urging colleagues to turn a blind eye to the 20 most common slips - such as 'Febuary', 'ignor' and 'speach' - and view them instead as variants of standard spellings.

Writing in the Times Higher Education magazine, the senior lecturer in criminology at Buckinghamshire New University said: 'Teaching a large first-year course at a British university, I am fed up with correcting my students' atrocious spelling. Aren't we all?

'But why must we suffer? Instead of complaining about the state of the education system as we correct the same mistakes year after year, I've got a better idea.

'University teachers should simply accept as variant spellings those words our students most commonly misspell.'

He added: 'Either we go on beating ourselves and our students up over this problem or we simply give everyone a break and accept these variant spellings as such.

'All I am suggesting is that we might well put 20 or so of the most commonly misspelt words in the English language on the same footing as those other words that have a widely accepted variant spelling.'

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Fats in the Line of Fire

French politicians want to more than triple the Value Added Tax on fast food:
A French official report has called for a new tax on sweet and fatty foods, sodas and alcohol in a bid to fight obesity, which already afflicts one in five French adults.

....According to Les Echos newspaper, it calls for the VAT sales tax rate to be lifted from 5.5 to 19.6 percent on all food stuffs considered "too rich, too sweet, too salty and which are not strictly necessary".

Pizzas, hamburgers and sandwiches would all be hit by the new rules, the paper said.

Excess weight and obesity are blamed for fuelling cardiovascular disease as well as certain types of cancer.

The authors also advocate raising the tax on alcohol because of its link to certain types of cancer.

Size Matters

The land that can't keep bugs out of its hospitals, still pays attention to glass sizes in its pubs:
It never crossed Nic Davison's mind that selling Polish beer, in a Polish restaurant, in Polish glasses was a crime.

He reckoned without trading standards officers.

They have threatened the restaurant owner with a court appearance and £2,000 fine for serving his beer in litre rather than pint glasses.

It is an astonishing reversal after years of attempts across the country to nab traders who use imperial weights and measures rather than metric ones.

And it has even led to Mr Davison winning the support of the Metric Martyrs Movement, which says traders should be allowed to sell goods in whatever weight measurements they choose.

....last week trading standards officers from Doncaster council served an infringement notice on the business - because it was serving drinks in the wrong size of glass.

This was because the Polish brewer providing Zywiec beer also supplied the glasses, which come in 'small' and 'large' - 0.3 and 0.5 litre sizes.

But under 1988 Weights and Measures legislation, draught beer and cider may only be sold in pints. Serving them in litres, or fractions of litres, is illegal - even through half a litre is almost the same as one pint.

....The notice came despite there being no complaints from customers.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

A Bug's Life

Ain't Britain's National Health Service hospitals:
Filthy NHS wards are being plagued by pests - with maggots found in slippers and rats in maternity units, it was revealed last night.

Hospitals are so dirty that pest controllers were called out to 20,000 infestations in the past two years.

Experts warned that the appalling levels of hygiene added to the danger to patients from the deadly superbugs MRSA and C.diff, which multiply in the same environments as pests.

Official figures obtained by the Tories show that 80 per cent of NHS trusts reported problems with ants, 66 per cent with rats and 77 per cent with mice.

Cockroaches were reported at 59 per cent of trusts, biting insects or fleas at 65 per cent, and bed bugs at 24 per cent.

There were infestations of maggots at a further 6 per cent of trusts. And many of the pests were in clinical areas.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Take off that gloomy mask of tragedy

It's not your style.

Unless you're a lefty, says Arthur Brooks:
In May 2008, the Gallup Organization asked 1,200 American adults how many days in the past week they had felt "outraged." The average number of angry days was 1.17, and 54% of those surveyed said none. Only one in 20 reported being outraged every day. Despite the litany of horrors presented to us daily by campaigning politicians, most of us appear to be doing really quite well managing our anger.

Indeed, we are less angry today than a decade ago. Let's look back to the glory days of the 1990s, when -- according to the media narrative -- we enjoyed uninterrupted peace and prosperity. In 1996, the General Social Survey asked exactly the same "outrage" question of 1,500 adults. Then, only 38% had not been outraged at all in the past week. The average number of angry days was 1.5 per week, 29% higher than at present.

Virtually every group in the population is less angry in 2008 than in 1996 -- those making more and those making less than the average income; college-educated and noncollege-educated folks; men and women.

Only one major group in the population has gotten angrier: people who call themselves "very liberal." While conservatives, moderates and nonextreme liberals all have seen their average levels of outrage fall over the past 12 years, the number of angry days among our leftiest neighbors has risen 56% (to 2.28 from 1.46), and the percentage with no angry days in the past week has fallen to 31% from 37%. Today, very liberal people spend more than twice as much time feeling angry as do political moderates. One in seven is outraged seven days a week.

Friday, August 01, 2008

They haven't got a prayer...

of raising that kind of money:
A campaign to put an atheist advert on the side of a London bus looks to be dead after the organisers failed to raise enough cash.

Campaigners hoped to raise the raise the £23,400 necessary to buy a prominent two-week slot on a “bendy bus” by collecting £5 pledges from atheists online.

They even made a mock-up photo of a bus carrying their chosen message: "There's probably no God. Now stop worrying and get on with your life."

The project attracted huge attention on atheist message boards and was even featured on the website of scientist and promiment atheist Richard Dawkins, but it appears that too few non-believers actually put their hands in their pockets.

A specially-created website had attracted only 877 pledges when its deadline passed on Thursday, far short of the 4,678 people needed.

I'll be the honey down to get you in a taxi

To get you to the Pinktown Strutters Ball?
TILBURG [Holland] - The Equal Treatment Commission has ruled that a female-only taxi service in Tilburg does not discriminate against men.

The commission made the ruling following a complaint of discrimination against the Pink Lady Cab for refusing to permit men to ride in the cars, either as passengers or drivers.

The commission said that charges of discrimination are unfounded because there are more than enough other taxis available on the streets of the city to carry men as passengers.

It also said that there is enough work for male drivers in the taxi sector.