Sunday, February 28, 2010

The New Racism: Global (Climate Change) Warming

I would proffer that when the feminist movement began (or re-emerged) in the late 20th century, the idea of birth control and abortion were deeply embedded in a desire to limit the populations of undesireables.  It has not changed much, but the new racism is in fact global warming.  Why?  because.

I know, you have alwasy liked the answer - because, ever since your parents used it to explain why you needed to be in bed at that moment, why you didn't need that dessert, or that toy.  Unfortunately, the answer is simply - because.

Take for example - I want everyone on earth to wear GREEN.  How do I accomplish this task.  First, create a plan with achievable goals.  It makes it much more compelling if, when you interact with the clothing manufacturers, you phrase it as an imperative, WITH a moral imperative behind the request.

Therefore, all clothing manufacturers should create and develop clothing which is green, because ... other colors contribute to global warming and global warming will inevitably make life on this planet unsustainable.  Say for purposes of my example, production of all clothing (9.3% +) uses X chemical but green uses less X than the rest (it uses 5.6%.  I would first get everyone riled up about global warming.  Once they have embraced that slogan and clamor for ways to save the planet, I will then move to step 2 - ban chemical X or ban and prohibit use of any production involving more than 6% X.  Studies will show that emissions of X destroy closed ecosystems where tests have been conducted.  The public would accept that idea - after all, 6% is still a lot, and it would never be clear exactly what we are discussing until it is way too late to disagree.  After all, once we have accepted a premise, unless the premise is disproven, we feel obligated if we have already embraced the concept of whatever it might be.  As clothing manufacturers begin using less X, green clothing is produced in greater quantity than any other.  Hence, people are wearing more green.  We then move to the next step - I now publicly say that anyone who wears any color but green hates the environment and wants to destroy our ecosystem.  I then allow social pressure to do the rest.  In the end, I would wager 98% would wear green and the remaining 2% who do not wear green would do so only in private. 

Once people have become invested in an idea, goal, purpose, mission - we tend to accept the logical conclusions that follow:  war = sacrifice.  To go on vacation = savings = sacrifice. 

If I told you that your child needed $250,000 to go to college, and you sit there contemplating that figure while you look at your belly get bigger and bigger each day, you would sigh and set the issue aside for another day or tell yourself you will have to mortgage your future to send your kid to college, or your kid can do it on his/her own.

But what if I told you that the $500 you get for the baby shower and the $20 you receive each birthday for the kid add up.  Each Christmas the kid gets $50 from relatives (perhaps a lot more but just say $50) and for birthdays the child receives $20 from each grandparents ($40) and throw in another $10 from the parents.  $100 a year X 18 = $1800.  You won't be getting much with that after 18 years.  However, set aside $25 a day from your salary - taken out before taxes.  By removing it before taxes for a 401 plan, it will almost be unnoticed. $250 or so before taxes will almost not be noticed (assuming you get paid every two weeks and have a reasonably good paying job). 

Now figure it up.  First year, $180 in gifts plus $6500 in 401 = $6680.  By the end of the 2nd year you now have $6880.  Then you add in another $180 in gifts plus another $6500 in savings to give you $13,710 by the end of the 2nd year plus the interest which brings it to $14,120 by the time the kid turns 3 (give or take some months).  Compounding these numbers, adding more to them as the child gets a job and saves some money - there is no reason why you couldn't get to the desired amount with very little sacrifice beyond what you have been doing since the child was born.

Now, say around age 10 the costs to educate will have gone up considerably.  Do you simply give up, abandon all hope, or after having invested so much into the enterprise, and it is worthwhile, and it is good and it will help and it isn't wasting the money, you start to put away $40 a day five days a week for the last 8 years.  That raises your contributions to over $12,000 per year.  You measure, consider, and once invested in a cause you see as right and moral (or ethical) - you accept the further costs and march on.

Global Warming means cutting down on CO2, but what if, the unstated, unspoken, yet critical aspect to global warming was something that you at this moment would NEVER accept ... and then they sprung it on you.

Climate change: calling planet birth

Family size has become the great unmentionable of the campaign for more environmentally friendly lifestyles

Oliver Burkeman
The Guardian
Saturday 13 February 2010
Twelve years ago, the American author Bill ­McKibben published a short book entitled Maybe One: A Personal And Environmental Argument For Much Smaller Families. It certainly has its faults: most obviously, it provides a little too much information about the vasectomy ­McKibben decided to have in lieu of a second child. But it isn't pious or hectoring; if anything, the author tries overly hard to be tentative, emphasising that he isn't seeking to dictate other people's choices, and doesn't think he has all the answers. The "maybe" is right there in the title, after all. McKibben meant it in the sense of "maybe one child at most", but it reflects the book's general tone of modesty and equivocation. Maybe One is a suggestion. It's something to think about.

He might as well have called for the enforced sterilisation of all men and women of procreating age, along with the outlawing of Father Christmas and the Tooth Fairy. The New York Times called him "sanctimonious" and "holier-than-thou". The Wall Street Journal labelled him an "extremist" (their specific objection was that he hadn't mentioned nuclear power as a way to combat global warming, even though Maybe One is a book about parenting). "So much false information, so many bad ideas, in so few pages," another reviewer fumed. Speaking after publication, McKibben observed that Maybe One's subject matter was "the last remaining taboo thing to talk about" and in this case the cliché seemed justified.

In 1998, most people weren't willing to consider any significant lifestyle changes for environmental reasons, let alone cutting back on kids. Much has changed since then, of course, both in terms of the consensus on the threat posed by climate change, and our willingness to make sacrifices in the face of it. But one thing has not: you still won't hear any major environmental campaign group in Britain or the US arguing that, in addition to flying less and recycling more, middle-class westerners should be having fewer children to save the planet. Even commentators who warn of the evils of overpopulation, proudly trumpeting their willingness to raise controversial issues in defiance of "political correctness", only rarely emphasise the notion that we – rather than those in the developing world – might consider doing less of the populating. For several thorny reasons, family size has become the great unmentionable of the campaign for more environmentally friendly lifestyles. And yet, in the end, it may be the only one that really counts.

Trying to understand the debate about population and the climate sometimes feels like peering into a kaleidoscope while drunk. Directly contradictory claims, that can't both be true at the same time, are advanced as if they were facts. Weird allegiances are created: George Monbiot and American creationists, for example, are roughly equally contemptuous of organisations such as the Optimum Population Trust; supporters of reproductive rights find common cause with anti-abortionists. You come across nutty-sounding fringe groups like the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement, but then you phone its founder, Les Knight – he's a supply teacher, based on America's west coast, and can only talk during breaks between lessons – only to discover that he isn't nutty at all, but in fact rather sane and self-deprecating. (He simply wants people to choose not to breed. "Eventually we'll be extinct anyway, but it would be so much nicer if we phased ourselves out through natural attrition," Knight told me affably. "You know – the way a company reduces its workforce without firing anyone.")

For all the confusion and sensitivities that ­surround the subject, though, the basic facts are clear. If you live in Britain or the US in 2010, there is nothing you can do to reduce your impact on the environment that even comes close to the effects of having one fewer child.

This makes intuitive sense: every new human is a new consumer with their own carbon footprint, along with their own potentially limitless chain of descendants. The year before last, two researchers at Oregon State University, Paul Murtaugh and Michael Schlax, set about trying to put a figure on the idea of "carbon legacy", and last summer their results were published in the journal Global Environmental Change. Murtaugh and Schlax started from a simple premise. Assume, they said, that if a woman and a man have a baby, they're each responsible for 50% of that child's lifetime carbon dioxide emissions; and if that child has its own child, the original two parents each bear 25% of the responsibility for their grandchild's emissions, and so on down the generations. For how many tonnes, on average, would each original parent end up being responsible?

There are two important obstacles in performing this calculation. The first is that you don't know what will happen to per capita emission rates in the future: worldwide, they'll almost certainly rise, but in many ­western countries they're likely to fall, as energy-efficiency measures kick in. The second is that you don't know what will happen to fertility rates: you can't know whether your great-great-granddaughter will give birth to one new carbon-emitter, or two, or six, or zero. So for fertility rates, Murtaugh and Schlax used UN population predictions. (In the experiment, some of the hypothetical family trees eventually died out; others were stopped after a predetermined time.) And for per capita emissions, they used three different scenarios: an optimistic one, in which per capita emissions fell, a pessimistic one in which they rose, and a compromise one, in which they stayed constant.

The headline result was astonishing. Under the constant scenario, an American who forgoes having a child would save 9,441 tonnes of CO2 – almost six times, on average, the amount of CO2 they would emit in their own lifetime, or the equivalent of making around 2,550 return aero­plane trips between London and New York. If the same American drove a more fuel-efficient car, drastically reduced his or her driving, installed energy-efficient windows, used energy-efficient lightbulbs, replaced a household refrigerator, and recycled all household paper, glass and metal, he or she would save fewer than 500 tonnes.

The Oregon study didn't run the numbers for Britain, where per capita carbon emissions are already about half as big as in the US. (This isn't down to personal virtue: it's mainly because so many of our power stations use gas instead of coal.) But in every other country they examined – including Japan, where per capita emissions are similar to Britain's – the environmental effects of not having a child were similarly vast. Even if every emissions target recommended by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change were to be successfully implemented – the ­"optimistic scenario" – an American could still save 562 tonnes of CO2 by having one fewer child, while a Japanese person could save 233 tonnes.

Leaving aside the complexities of global population issues, then, wouldn't it make sense for British environmental groups to suggest that well-off westerners might like to consider smaller families? John Sauven, the executive director of Greenpeace UK, concedes that it's a "no-brainer" that a smaller population would place a smaller burden on the planet. But he's reluctant to contemplate a Greenpeace campaign; in any case, he says, among environmentally conscious people in his demographic, "my sense is that nearly all of us have had two children or fewer". Franny Armstrong, who runs the 10:10 campaign, which is backed by the Guardian, says the topic came up in the planning stages of the project, but was abandoned. "We did have the discussion. But we decided it couldn't work, because of the timescale. 10:10 is a short-term campaign about reductions you can make in 2010."

Besides, a decade after Bill McKibben published Maybe One, we're apparently still not ready to contemplate its message. "10:10 is a populist campaign. It's about doing the easy things first," Armstrong says. "I completely agree that [family size] is the elephant in the room. But we need one of the big thinkers, a George Monbiot or a Naomi Klein, to go first, before anyone else is going to say it. To use that as a message in a populist ­campaign, right now? It would absolutely destroy the whole campaign."

The fundamental problem with the topic of influencing population levels is that almost everybody – no matter what their politics or other beliefs – has a very good reason to avoid discussing it. If you don't believe in climate change, it's yet more irrelevant, busybodyish meddling. If you're broadly leftwing or progressive, as are most people strongly committed to reducing their own environmental impact, it's awkward, because raising the issue seems to shift responsibility from the developed countries, which bear most historical responsibility for climate damage, to the develop­ing world, where population growth is most rapid. And for anti-immigration voices on the right, the whole idea seems backwards: they worry that Europe's population – by which they usually mean its white population – isn't growing fast enough, so promot­ing smaller families is perverse. Above all, perhaps, there's the simple fact that family size seems such an intensely personal matter, beyond the legitimate scope of politics or public campaigns. Just mentioning it feels somehow inappropriate.

There's another awkward truth: historical predictions of catastrophic population explosions have tended to be badly wrong, from Malthus in the 1700s, to Paul Ehrlich in the 1960s, to the UN Population Fund, which predicted in 1987 that a world population of 5bn would mean the world "could degenerate into disaster". (The number is now well over 6.7bn.) Nearly everyone, meanwhile, is troubled by the notion of coercion: China's "one-child policy", promoted by Chinese politicians at Copenhagen as a solution to the climate crisis, has resulted in numerous reports of forced sterilisation and abortion, and rumours of infanticide. Supporters of reproductive choice are understandably appalled. Then again, trying to achieve a similar end by voluntary means, by making family planning more widespread, draws fury from the other side of the spectrum: pro-life campaigners, who fear a surge in abortions.

A recent study by the Optimum Population Trust (OPT) estimated that saving a tonne of CO2 costs only $7 if the money is spent on family planning; to achieve the same by means of solar power would cost $51. The finding paralysed environmental organisations, especially in America, where even the hint of increased funding for abortion carries huge political costs. "I don't know how to say 'no comment' emphatically enough," David Hamilton, of the US green group the Sierra Club, told the Washington Post. (He had reason to be reticent: the Sierra Club suffered its own encounter with the tangled politics of population in 2004 when a group of population-control advocates tried to stage a takeover. On that occasion, just to confuse matters further, those attempting the takeover were fiercely opposed to immigration, on the grounds that immigrants to the US develop bigger carbon footprints once they get there.)

Strictly speaking, though, none of this ought to be relevant to the parenting decisions of the average climate-conscious Briton. Perhaps the OPT is a brave voice in the wilderness – "Nobody else wants to put their head above the parapet," says Simon Ross, an OPT trustee – or perhaps, as George Monbiot says, they're a "congregation of no ones" – a gaggle of post-reproductive white middle-class men trying to shift attention to the one part of the climate problem for which they're not responsible. Either way, from the point of view of climate change, choosing to have one fewer child – especially if you live in a high-consumption society – remains a Very Good Thing Indeed.

And yet even that more narrowly focused topic seems to provoke a surprising degree of fury. Two years ago, Sarah Irving, then a journalist at Ethical Consumer magazine, was one of several people featured in a Daily Mail article on couples who had taken the small-family idea to its logical conclusion, opting to have no children at all. (The Mail article is inadvertently hilarious, so baffled are its authors by the concept of voluntary childlessness; one woman's decision to have an abortion on environmental grounds is described as "the reversal of nature" and "the denial of motherhood".) "There were people who went to the lengths of finding my personal email address to say things like, 'Why don't you just kill yourself?' " Irving says, even though she was specifically quoted in the article as saying she'd never dream of telling other people whether or not to have children. "Generally speaking, if you're talking about having no children at all, you're still regarded as barmy or selfish. Or you get the patronising, 'Oh, you know, you'll change your mind.' "

Prejudice remains, too, against the idea of having only one child, even though McKibben's book is at its strongest in his tour of the research that shows no evidence that a singleton childhood is detrimental: indeed, there are some indications that only children are more sociable and intellectually capable than their peers, because families with more children have to make their time, energy and money spread further. But the hostility to both childlessness and one-child families explains why the OPT's campaign targeting British people is called Stop At Two. (The Voluntary Human Extinction Movement objects strongly: "Rather than stop at two, we should stop at once," says Les Knight.) And even the Stop At Two position caused a minor furore last year when Jonathon Porritt, the veteran environmentalist and then a government adviser on sustainability, told an interviewer, "I think we will work our way towards a position that says that having more than two children is irresponsible." "This seems to be the same old thing: save the world but kill a human," said the pro-life campaigner Josephine Quintavalle, following her own unique brand of logic, while Ann Widdecombe labelled Porritt "absolutely barmy".

It is possible that, in Britain at least, the issue will resolve itself naturally, since both no-child and one-child families are becoming much more common: a record one-fifth of all women turning 50 in Britain in 2010 have no children, while the percentage of children without siblings was 26% in 2007, having steadily increased from 18% in 1972. More families already Stop At Two than at any other number of children. Having three or more children is going to become more and more unusual, quite apart from more difficult to justify, while claiming to care about the warming planet.

More radical visions persist, though. Alan Weisman's 2007 bestseller, The World Without Us, pictures the earth in the hypothetical weeks after humanity vanishes – as weeds and then trees start to break through the pavements and wild animals began to take up residence again in the midst of abandoned cities. It's a paradisiacal vision, yet also a terrifying one, and Weisman isn't recommending that we try to bring it about. He reaches a slightly more modest conclusion: the world would easily heal, he argues, if each person brought a maximum of one child into it. (This is intended as a thought-experiment and an inspiration, not a call for coercive policies.) By 2075, the human presence on earth would have been reduced by half.

"At such far-more-manageable numbers… we would have the benefit of all our progress, plus the wisdom to keep our presence under control," Weisman writes. "That wisdom would come partly from losses and extinctions too late to reverse, but also from the growing joy of watching the world daily become more wonderful. The evidence wouldn't hide in statistics. It would be outside every human's window, where refreshed air would fill each season with more birdsong." •

the end of the world as we know it and I feel fine

Obama: Feeble Attempts, Ruining Our Special Relationship with the UK

Their words, not mine.  Feeble.  Given all the circumstances of the last 14 months, the best presentation is, the US always remains loyal in heart, to our allies - but we embarass their leaders, give the dvd's they cannot play, send back busts given as gifts, hug the Queen who is not to be touched, ignore the leaders, and very nearly annoy all their major newspapers.  That is just what we know about.  I sure hope there is a relationship left to fix when the next president takes office.

Either it is a petty response OR they are clueless.

Hillary Clinton steps into Falklands row after 'feeble' Obama fails to back Britain in stand-off with Argentina

By Ian Drury

26th February 2010

U.S. secretary of state Hillary Clinton is due to meet with Argentina's president amid accusations of a snub to Britain over America's refusal to support the UK in the Falklands oil drilling row.

Mrs Clinton is to meet Cristina Ferndandez de Kirchner in Uruguay on March 1, Argentina's ambassador to the U.S. has announced.

Hopes are high in Argentina that Mrs Clinton will intervene on the country's behalf in the row with Britain over the disputed territory.

Respected Argentine newspaper La Nacion quoted State Department sources that claimed Mrs Clinton was 'prepared to mediate' in the row.

America's lack of support for Britain was last night blamed on the UK's decision to release sensitive U.S. intelligence on a terror suspect.

President Barack Obama was accused of being 'feeble' by failing to back London in the stand-off with Argentina over the disputed islands, despite the 'special relationship'.

Mrs Clinton and Mrs Kirchner are meeting in Uruguay as they attend the presidential inauguration there of José Mujica.

Argentina already has the support of Latin America and the Caribbean in the row with Britain, and regional leaders are expected to press the case with Mrs Clinton.

London and Buenos Aires are at odds over UK firm Desire Petroleum's decision to drill for oil 60 miles north of the Falklands.

Geologists estimate there are up to 60 billion barrels of oil in the seabed.

The Argentine government has tabled a UN resolution condemning the plan. It has also secured backing from 32 South American nations supporting its claim that Britain has occupied the islands illegally since 1833.

But despite Argentina's sabrerattling, senior U.S. officials insist Washington's position on the oil drilling is neutral.

It is also 'taking no position' on the issue of sovereignty of the islands in the South Atlantic.

A senior MP and a respected foreign policy think-tank claimed Washington's stance was 'payback' for the British courts ordering the disclosure of secret CIA files on Binyam Mohamed.

Two weeks ago, the U.S. said it was 'deeply disappointed' that Foreign Secretary David Miliband had been told by Court of Appeal judges to publish closely-guarded information about the former Guantanamo Bay prisoner.

The papers detailed evidence showing MI5 knew that Mohamed, a British citizen, had been tortured by U.S. spies after he was detained in Pakistan in 2002.

This week the White House has refused to endorse the UK's historic sovereignty over the islands and its right to explore for oil in its waters.

Last night, the Henry Jackson Society, a London-based foreign affairs think-tank, said Mr Obama's stance was linked to anger at the release of the secret files.

Executive director Alan Mendoza said: 'The Obama administration's decision to ignore the democratic rights of the Falkland islanders is disgraceful.

'It can only be motivated by moral weakness in the White House or a misplaced desire to punish Britain for the Binyam Mohamed case and the disclosure of U.S. intelligence documents.

'The decision, while feeble, is unsurprising. For the past year, Mr Obama has followed a foreign policy path that punishes allies and democracies while allowing rogue authoritarian nations like Iran and North Korea to pursue their objectives.'

The criticism was echoed by Tory MP Patrick Mercer, the chairman of the Commons' terrorism sub-committee. 'The U.S. position on the Falklands certainly seems to be a warning shot which says to Britain: "Don't mess us around too much or we could make life problematic",' he said.

Last week, it was revealed that a conference to mark 60 years of UK and American defence intelligence sharing had been cancelled after the Mohamed judgment. It was to have been held at the U.S. Embassy in London.

Relations between the UK and U.S. nosedived last summer over the decision by the Scottish authorities to release the Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset Al Megrahi back to Libya.

Yesterday it was revealed that a Spanish company is also set to begin drilling for oil near the Falklands.

Repsol is to start drilling by December some 200 miles off the Argentine coast - 'well within Argentine waters', a spokesman claimed.

Last year, Repsol bought Argentine company YPF - the biggest private oil and gas company in Latin America.

The spokesman told the BBC it will be exploring a 'few' wells some 150 miles from where the Ocean Guardian is drilling.

In 1982, 255 British and 649 Argentine soldiers died when Britain took military action to recover the islands after the Argentine invasion.

Yesterday General Sir Peter de la Billiere, a former UK commander who is vice president of the Falkland Islands Association, issued a 'hands-off' warning to Argentina.

He said the country would suffer the 'most unbearable losses' if it followed up the diplomatic skirmishes with military action.

Sir Peter said: 'We have demonstrated our intention to fulfil the islanders' wishes and support them if they are threatened.

'I can see no reason or justification or political will in the UK to do anything other than that.

'We did not lay down 255 lives just to give up and walk out a few years later.'

Last night, a Foreign Office spokesman denied there was a link between the U.S. position on the Falklands and the Mohamed case.

Argentina's accusations over the Falklands have been compared to 'the case of the lost girlfriend'.

'Argentina lost its girlfriend, and now she is going out with somebody else,' Federico Mac Dougall, an economist and political analyst at the University of Belgrano in Buenos Aires, told the New York Times..

He added: 'And together they may very well strike it rich with oil.'


Saturday, February 27, 2010

UK: Murder or Manslaughter. All depends, but you get 5 years for manslaughter

Kill a person in the US, manslaughter or not and you get a little more than 5 years!

A-level teen jailed for killing

26 Feb 2010

A SIXTH-FORMER who fatally stabbed her boyfriend in the heart hours after collecting her A-level results was jailed for five years today for his manslaughter.

Pretty Katherine McGrath, 19, plunged a steak knife into the heart of Alyn Thomas, 22, during an argument after a night out drinking with friends.

McGrath, of Brackla, Bridgend, South Wales, was cleared of murder following a trial earlier this month but found guilty of manslaughter.

Sentencing her at Cardiff Crown Court to five years in a young offenders' institution, Mr Justice Griffith Williams said: "Only you know what actually happened in the kitchen of your home but of this I am sure: the jury did not hear the whole truth."

The judge added: "Clearly you and Alyn Thomas rowed. Whatever the trigger or the cause of that row, my view is that he was not the only one to act aggressively.

"I accept that you did not intend to kill or cause him really serious injury and I am prepared to accept that you were provoked in the non-legal sense."


He told McGrath that arming herself with a knife was an overreaction and said: "You took the life of a young man.

"You deprived his parents, his family and his friends of their part in his life and of the chance to share in his future."

Mr Thomas, of Cymmer, near Neath, died in hospital after being stabbed in the kitchen of McGrath's detached family home in the early hours of August 21 last year.

In an impact statement read out in court, Stephen Thomas, the victim's father, said: "It is a parent's worst fear - receiving a phone call in the early hours of the morning saying that your child has been admitted to hospital, but then to be told that your child has been stabbed, it turns into a living nightmare.

"I shall never forget walking into the relative room at Bridgend Hospital and having Lynne (Mr Thomas's mother) greeting me by screaming 'He's dead' and then breaking down in floods of tears."

He said the loss of their son had devastated his family and added: "I could not imagine the pain I had to experience when I was having to choose flowers and hymns for a funeral service and having to choose clothes to dress Alyn in his coffin rather than having the honour of taking him shopping for a suit for his wedding."

During the trial the jury heard McGrath's 999 call in which she told the operator: "He's my boyfriend and he, like, came and attacked me and I didn't know what to do."

She also told the operator he pushed her to the floor and spat at her and tried to hit her.

John Charles Rees QC, defending, said McGrath produced the knife to scare off Mr Thomas when he became aggressive and she had not meant to hurt him.

At the sentencing today he said it was "self-defence gone too far".


Eat Popcorn and Get Fat: Daily Caloric Instake in ONE Bucket of Popcorn

Sweet Popcorn would be the equivalent of caramel corn I believe - not relevant at any theater I have been to in the US.

While the numbers are English - from their popcorn and theaters, popcorn with the oil they use and buttery flavoring would be about the same - or maybe more.

In any case - a reasonable standard to compare to.

A 1,800 calorie bag of popcorn: Cinemas urged to warn film lovers about fat-filled snacks

By Daily Mail Reporter
27th February 2010

Cinema-goers should be warned about how many calories are contained in popular snacks such as popcorn, fizzy drink and icecream, according to the nutrition watchdog.

The Food Standards Agency is also concerned that portion sizes offered to filmgoers are getting out of control and have called on cinemas to act to tackle the obesity crisis.

It follows claims that a large bag of sweet popcorn could contain an alarming 1,800 calories - the equivalent of a large curry with sides and two bottles of beer.

A large salted popcorn did not fare much better than the sweet variety, containing 1,779 calories - the same as a three course meal of pizza, garlic bread and tiramisu.

The large popcorn bags are intended for sharing but are often eaten by just one person.

The agency's chief executive Tim Smith told The Times that cinemas should provide calorie information on their snacks.

'There is a myth that popcorn is calorie-free, but that is not the case. It is a concern to us,' he said.

'Portion sizes are also a big issue, and there seems to be increasingly big packs on sale. Who would ever have thought of the idea of a family needing a wheelbarrow to go into a cinema?'

He also urged cinemas to provide smaller portion sizes.

Popcorn isn't the only food of concern. Hot dogs contain about 650 calories, nachos with cheese could contain as much as 716 calories and a large Coca Cola has 328 calories, according to nutritionists.

Mr Smith spoke out as a number of food chains such as Pret A Manger, Wimpey and The Real Greek decided to put calorie counts on all their menus.

A trial scheme with 21 food companies took place last summer, and has already suggested that consumers alter their buying habits after reading how many calories are in certain products.

'The emerging evidence is that people are picking products which have 100 calories fewer than their normal purchase,' Mr Smith told The Times.

'It seems where there is choice between a chicken salad with 420 calories and one with 320 calories they are picking the lower one. One company has also told us that there is no profit impact on providing the information in cafés or on front of packs and there may even be a competitive advantage'

The Food Standards Agency is hoping to enlist support from cinemas and other entertainment venues, including football grounds and concert arenas, to tackle the obesity crisis.

It has already held talks with cinema suppliers PepsiCo and Coca-Cola.

Mr Smith added: 'When Coke started out in America it was sold in a 5oz bottle and now you can get it in a 64oz bucket. There are 20 fluid ounces in a pint, so that is a three and a bit pints. There can be nothing materially sensible about that, and no one needs that amount of soft drink.'

He said entertainment venues needed to take responsibility.

'It’s the same story. These are all areas where people are buying, albeit sporadically, high-energy items in large portions.'

Cineworld said it was in the process of improving nutritional information for all food and drink on sale at venues.

It comes as research this week showed that eight out of 10 men and almost seven in 10 women will be overweight or obese by 2020.


Scottish Deal: Free Terrorist for Compassion (he was about to die - now he is doing quite well)

It is amazing what positive thinking can do.  When  you are down to your last 3 months, just be happy and it will nearly extend your life by two years.  Think positively.  Amazing how it works.

Lockerbie bomber may beat cancer (but wasn't he sent back to Libya to die?)

By Sam Greenhill and Peter Allen
The Daily Mail
27th February 2010

Freed from his life sentence, the Lockerbie bomber was sent home by the Scots on compassionate grounds because he had 'just three months' to live.

But six months later, Abdelbaset Ali Mohamed al-Megrahi is still living - and doing it in the lap of luxury.

Yesterday, his elderly father even held out the prospect of him beating the prostate cancer that doctors said would kill him by last Christmas.

Mr Ali al-Megrahi believes that good genes, 'positive thinking' and alternative medicines could explain his son's remarkable survival.

Megrahi, 57, no longer receives hospital treatment after ending a course of chemotherapy.

Last night, the British cancer specialist who gave the three-month prognosis was forced to defend his prediction.

He insisted that Megrahi remained gravely ill and was not expected to live much longer.

He said the patient's survival may be due to his excitement over his reunion with family.

But Tory MP Daniel Kawczynski, chairman of the Commons all-party Libya group, yesterday tabled a Parliamentary question demanding Megrahi's medical records be published in full.

He said: 'He's still alive and we were told he had no more than three months to live. The Scottish Executive have a lot to answer for.'

Earlier this month it emerged that Libya was on the brink of agreeing £5billion in investment in Britain.

Critics believe Downing Street colluded with the Scots to pave the way by having Megrahi freed.

The news of Megrahi's survival has provoked consternation among those relatives of victims of the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 who suspect he was never as sick as he claimed to be.

They believe it was an unforgivable mistake for the Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill to release him last August.

The Libyan - who days earlier had dropped an appeal against his conviction for the 270 deaths caused when Flight 103 exploded over Lockerbie - flew home to a hero's welcome.

It later emerged he had a £2million fortune stashed in a Swiss bank account.

His father, who is in his early 80s and keeps a vigil at his son's side in the family's plush villa in the capital Tripoli, still believes a 'miracle' could happen.

He said: 'A close relative was diagnosed with a similar disease and he was treated and recovered completely. We hope that Abdelbaset recovers his health as well.

'I think that the sick are not just cured by medicine, but also by having a high morale and a sense of freedom, and these were not available to Abdelbaset in prison.'

Megrahi receives 24-hour nursing care and, though often heavily sedated, receives well-wishers.

The relaxed, peaceful atmosphere has enabled him to more than double his original survival prognosis, and he says he is 'inspired and feeling very positive' thanks to the support of family and friends.

Mr Megrahi said his son was working on his autobiography, and was determined to prove that he had nothing to do with the Lockerbie bombing.

The Tripoli Medical Center, where Megrahi was treated following his initial release, said it would be 'quite normal' for him to use 'alternative medicine and positive thinking' to prolong his life, and that a good family medical history would also act in his favour.

East Renfrewshire council, which is in weekly contact with Megrahi under the terms of his licence, speculated he could even 'last a year or two years'. A spokesman said: 'Nobody knows. It was never that he was supposed to be dead by now, it was never a certainty, it was just the opinion of the experts.'

Megrahi's life expectancy was crucial because under Scottish rules, prisoners can be freed on compassionate grounds if they are considered to have fewer than three months to live.

Last July, the Libyan government paid for Megrahi to be examined by three cancer specialists, among them British expert Professor Karol Sikora. It was their prognosis that won his freedom.

Professor Sikora told the Mail: 'I am very surprised that he is still alive. He is not receiving any active treatment. The latest information I have from Tripoli is that he is not a well man, and I suspect he will be dead within a month or so.'

Professor Sikora said he suspected Megrahi was hanging on because he had received a ' psychological' boost from being reunited with his family and countrymen.

Indeed the former Libyan secret service agent and his wife and five adult children are treated like royalty in Libya.

Frank Duggan, president of the Victims of Pan Am 103, which represents U.S. relatives, said: 'His people tried to have us believe he had one foot in the grave.

'Then to hear that he is doing quite well medically and is living in a luxury villa makes them all the more frustrated.'

Megrahi's lawyer in Scotland, Tony Kelly, declined to comment.


Disinterested = Great Candidate


They are everywhere - church, school, work, and unfortunately even in government.  In church, they are the person who volunteers for everything, and when they arrive the first day, they take dominate - whether by their actions or their presence.  They also show up at your child's class to volunteer or simply be helpful - offering their expertise, they taught decades ago, yet know everything you need to know, and despite the fact they dealt with pre-schoolers, are fully aware how to handle tenth graders.  When they finish at school and church, they are always around at work - volunteering for very nearly everything, and ensuring their opinions / thoughts are known to everyone.

Do we really want those professional volunteers?  Do we want people who live to be - whatever the being' may be.  Do you want a person who lives to be the volunteer - that their life is defined by the act of being.  They have no other measure for who and what they are, but for volunteering or working or ... They feel compelled to 'show off', or perhaps we could say, they have an overwhelming desire to share what they know with everyone else, whether or not they should, and regardless of the effect upon those around them.

It may be argued that who better to offer their thoughts or volunteer than someone who has done it.  True enough, but, remember why you disliked 'those' people when they were volunteering.  Now you seem to believe their obsession with the pursuit of a job is noteworthy.  It shows a 'can do' attitude (apologies to the Seabees) ... but unlike the Navy's SeaBees, these people are productive, at a cost.

When George Washington retired, he melted into the scenery, with little commentary afterward.  He wrote private letters and spoke to friends, but he did not meddle in the affairs of the Adams administration.  He did accept a position to assist in raising an army, without comment on whether war was necessary or not - an army was important.

Often these men call upon their predecessors for help, for no one has an understanding of the difficulty governing than someone who has, but we also see a pattern in this involvement.  More often, it is private and never revealed (or perhaps not for years or decades, or perhaps when an ex-president has passed away).  Johnson retires to his ranch in Texas and Nixon sits in the Oval Office - did Johnson ever speak out on Vietnam or his limited contacts with the Nixon administration?  No.  How about Nixon and Ford.  Did Ford admit to Nixon having offered thoughts on Cambodia or China?  No.  Did Carter call upon anyone?  Many times he had Kissinger offer his thoughts, but all private.  Carter also had Arman Hammer involve himself on Soviet issues - privately. 

The greatest compliment one could be called in the 18th century might be 'disinterested'.   Colonists, and thereafter Americans were suspicious of politicians and lawyers.  What we valued were men who, when called upon, came forward, served, and melted into the scenery when done.  It takes a very special human being to manage that feat, for the presidency creates ego.  Sitting in the most powerful seat on earth takes what ego you have and inflates it 1000%.  You believe you are the font of all knowledge and brilliance and cannot simply disappear for your ego is unfed and after years of having your every whim catered to, you feel compelled to thrust yourself upon the nation - as often as you possibly can.  Ego.

You may also find an ex-president thrusting himself upon the nation for another reason - he feels unfulfilled, he loses his identity when he leaves office.  His life is never complete again and he searches for meaning - in always being front and center of every event at any time. or offering his opinion even when not asked.

We all remember why we don't like those volunteers.

Disinterest - someone who does not live to be, but does to serve, holding their ego in check, more often than not through prayer, for humanism does not contain the ego, it lets it bloom - religion and faith tend to hold the ego in place if rendered faithfully.

This is the leader we want, whether they are eloquent or not, whether they be a Democrat or Republican.  I would take a Democrat who was 'disinterested' over a Republican with an obsession or need, to be the president.  I would trust the Democrat more.  His brightness and eloquence is less relevant than you might believe.  His disinterest, far more relevant.

We should look for the guy who had a life, who was comfortable with his life before, who values his privacy and is as comfortable in whatever his roles, does not take himself or anyone else too seriously, has good insight into people, and a general knowledge of events and places, but equally as important - he possesses a sense of humor.  That is the ideal.

Bush tells aides he seeks 'anonymity'

Feb 26 04:37 PM US/Eastern

Former US president George W. Bush told a group of his White House aides at a breakfast Friday that he is "trying to regain a sense of anonymity," an event attendee confirmed to AFP.

Bush also told the group that he was pleased former vice president Dick Cheney had taken a lead role in defending their national security policies, declaring: "I'm glad Cheney is out there."

The former president, who also touted his administration's domestic agenda, said he was resolved to keep a low profile and indicated he did not want to be a thorn in the side of President Barack Obama.

"I have no desire to see myself on television. I don't want to be on a panel of formers instructing the currents on what to do. I'm trying to regain a sense of anonymity," Bush said.

"I didn't like it when a certain former president -- and it wasn't 41 or 42 -- made my life miserable," he said in a reference to Jimmy Carter, who infuriated the Bush White House in 2007 when he accused the administration of allowing the use of torture on terror suspects.

The online political publication Politico first reported the remarks at the breakfast, which was closed to the media.


The Benefactor of the Left

The left often mentions funding from right-wing billionaires as proof Republican candidates are bought off, tainted, questionable, untrustworthy, and perhaps a bit smelly.

Flip it around, and it doesn't bother the left that George Soros funds several organizations that in turn support or run candidates against moderate Democrats, organizations that get Obama to speak to them, and Hillary to acknowledge them.  So why the double standard?

George Soros should have been imprisoned or at the very least, sunk with one of his yachts years ago.  The man has made his wealth off of destroying the economies of various countries.  Whether Indonesia, Russia, or Britain - the guy ruins their financial center, invests in their demise, they weaken, he makes billions, and walks away.  This is the sort of guy to champion?  The sort of guy to invite to the White House.  While Scaife may well hold views on the opposite side of the universe from Soros, Scaife has not made his wealth on the downturn on several countries where the poor do even worse, and government revenues are not enough to pay the bills, and the poor suffer even further.  Soros doesn't mind.  He just minds when it is Bush in office - then suddenly the poor are important.

Man who broke the Bank of England, George Soros, 'at centre of hedge funds plot to cash in on fall of the euro'

By Karl West

27th February 2010
The Daily Mail

A secretive group of Wall Street hedge fund bosses are said to be behind a plot to cash in on the decline of the euro.

Representatives of George Soros's investment business were among an all-star line up of Wall Street investors at an 'ideas dinner' at a private townhouse in Manhattan, according to reports.

A spokesman for Soros Fund Management said the legendary investor did not attend the dinner on February 8, but did not deny that his firm was represented.

At the dinner, the speculators are said to have argued that the euro is likely to plunge in value to parity with the dollar.

The single currency has been under enormous pressure because of Greece's debt crisis, plus financial worries in Portugal, Italy, Spain and Ireland.

But, it has also struggled because hedge funds have been placing huge bets on the currency's decline, which could make the speculators hundreds of millions of pounds.

The euro traded at $1.51 in December, but has since fallen to $1.34. Details of the secretive dinner emerged days after Mr Soros, chairman of Soros

Fund Management, warned in a newspaper article that the euro could 'fall apart' even if the European Union can agree a deal to shore up support for stricken Greece.


Friday, February 26, 2010

Please San Francisco - Vote Her Out

Naturally.  If his bad deeds didn't create a national security problem, he is ok.  Good lord, for 12 years - everytime Democrats attacked a Retardican for their miserable failings, ethical lapses, they went from 0 to quit or be censured/expelled ...


Pelosi Says Rangel Admonishment 'Not Good,' but Stops Short of Calling for Him to Resign

House Speaker Downplays Seriousness of Embattled Ways and Means Chairman's Admonishment

WASHINGTON, Feb. 26, 2010
ABC News

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi conceded that embattled Ways and Means Chairman Charlie Rangel's recent admonishment from the House Ethics Committee was "not good," but seemingly downplayed its seriousness in a network exclusive interview on ABC News' "This Week," saying "it was not a something that jeopardized our country in any way."

House speaker downplays Rep. Rangel's situation, tune into "This Week" for more.During a press conference this morning, Pelosi, D-Calif., told reporters that the Ethics Committee report was an indictment of the congressman's staffers, not Rangel's, D-N.Y.

But in the "This Week" interview set to air Sunday, the speaker of the House seemed to strike a different tone.

"The fact is, is that what Mr. Rangel has been admonished for is not good," Pelosi told ABC's Elizabeth Vargas. "It was a violation of the rules of the House. It was not something that jeopardized our country in any way. So it remains to be seen what the rest of the work of the committee is. And I hope it will be soon. But again, it's independent and they ... go at their own pace."

Pelosi made clear she did not want to "interfere in a political way" when asked if Rangel should step down for charges made this week that he violated House gift rules by accepting corporate-funded trips to the Caribbean. Instead, Pelosi agreed officials should wait for the full recommendations given by the independent, bipartisan House ethics committee before going any further.


Brasilian Walls

We will have to get Sheila Jackson Lee, Roseanne Barr, and others to get in boats and sail down to free the people.  Perhaps protests, divest investments from Brasilian businesses ... why haven't we heard the hue and cry from the left in the last year?  Where is the outrage?

The Times
May 26, 2009

Dom Phillips in Rio de Janeiro

Fury at ‘ghettoisation’ as Rio slums are to be sealed off by 10ft walls

Walls are going up around the hillside slums of Rio de Janeiro, further dividing a city already separated between rich and poor.

Beneath the gaze of the statue of Christ the Redeemer, work is nearing completion on one of 19 walls to be built around the city’s sprawling favelas — the informal and often crime-ridden shantytowns that are home to more than a million people.

Critics say that the concrete barriers, up to 3m high, will seal the favelas as ghettos, segregating the inhabitants by sealing them off from the richer areas.

“We had the Berlin Wall, we have the walls of Palestine, now the walls of Rio,” José Saramago, the author and Nobel laureate, said.

Sérgio Cabral, the Governor of Rio, has plans to surround 13 favelas in the south almost completely in a project that he says is designed to stop their sprawl destroying the last of the city’s forested peaks. In a city riven by violence, mistrust and social inequality, few believe him.

“The Government does not have access to the favelas, so they are going to encircle them,” says Rossino de Castro Diniz, the president of the Association of Rio Favelas.

About a fifth of Rio’s six million inhabitants live in its 946 favelas, which have grown rapidly in the past decade. Many are controlled by drug traffickers, armed police can enter only in force and every week people die in pitched gun battles.

In the Rocinha favela, home to an estimated 160,000 residents and the largest slum in South America, rubbish is piled up, sewers overflow and there is a huge rat infestation.

“I am totally against the wall,” says Antonio Ferreira de Mello, known locally as Shaolin, who is the president of the residents’ association. “It’s an offence to human dignity.”

He says that the association, despite struggling to cope with the rapid expansion of the favela, has banned further building on new land so the Government’s ecological argument is redundant. Instead, expansion in Rocinha is vertical — one storey on top of another.

At the highest reaches of Rocinha, among the trees on a vertiginous slope, a wall is also under way. Far below is the city and above there is nothing but trees. It is a wild place.

“There are a lot of animals here,” says Waldir Domingo da Silva, who lives in one of the wooden shacks in one of the highest reaches. “Snakes. Scorpions. It’s a forest.”

The authorities say that the walls are designed to keep it that way. Icaro Moreno Junior, the president of Emop, the Rio state public works department, says that if nothing is done the green space will be gone in ten years. “We are protecting the forest,” he says. “We’re not dividing people . . . It’s crazy to compare it to the wall of Berlin or the wall of the Gaza Strip.”

In Dona Marta, on the slopes of Corcovado below the statue of Christ and once one of Rio’s most dangerous favelas, a new wall is almost finished. Its building has been carefully co-ordinated with other public works and the project has more widespread support.

Joel Miguel Rondon, 52, is one of the many residents working on it. “It’s a good idea,” he says. “Protect the environment.”

Since the police took control of Dona Marta in November and installed a base there, it has also become more secure and state money has been spent on a crèche, new housing and a network of secure concrete walkways instead of the usual treacherous paths. A free tram that opened in May last year climbs the favela’s steep gradient, lifting passengers to its dizzy heights.

“It got better with the wall,” says José Raimundo Brito do Santa, 26. He says that his sister’s house has increased in value from £2,500 to £4,600 since the tram arrived in May 2008.

Joseli Sebastião, 51, is hanging out washing. She welcomes the changes in the favela that have accompanied the wall. “I want peace,” she says. “I want to live.”

Even tourists are seen in Dona Marta, says Marlene dos Santos, 56, smiling as she sells cold drinks from her tiny house. “Everything that’s coming here really helps.”

For Rubem César Fernandes, the director of Viva Rio, an NGO that works to reduce violence in the favelas, the walls are an aggressive symbol of deeper divisions within the city.

“A wall satisfies public opinion,” he says. “Symbolically it is control. It is a bad solution to a real problem.”


Brazilian Palestine

What we could hear if we attended the Olympics in  Brasil -

"Welcome Olympians.  Welcome visitors of the world, to Brasil.  Please stow your wallets, cameras, rings, watches, hats, purses, chains, pendants, and anything more valuable than a postage stamp, ensure your kevlar vest is properly fastened, and your helmet is in place before you enter the queue.  Ensure you have the paperwork signed before you get to the signing stations.  Form A is your life insurance papers, Form B is your statement of authorization transfering funds from your bank in the event you are kidnapped for ransom, and Form C authorizes us to inject you with a GPS tracking device in order that we are better able to protect you.  Have a nice time at the Olympics."

The Times
February 27, 2010

The gun-toting boys from Brazil who rule Rio’s ‘Corner of Fear’

Dom Phillips in São Paulo

A boy steps boldly into the night traffic and waves a gun to bring the cars to a halt, clearing a path for a motorcycle which screeches into the intersection. Riding pillion is another boy, brandishing a machinegun.

Later two teenagers, also riding pillion on motorbikes, flash their guns at other motorists; nearby, a boy can be seen taking aim with a rifle equipped with a telescopic sight. Other youths wander the street smoking crack.

For residents, the junction between the busy Dom Helder Câmara and dos Democráticos, in North Rio de Janeiro, has become known as the Corner of Fear — and video footage of daily life there has shocked a nation already familiar with guns and violence.

The latest images, captured by undercover journalists from the Rio tabloid Extra, have exposed the city’s criminal youth culture in a manner that echoes the journalistic investigation featured in the film City of God.

The age of the criminals — one pistol-toting boy is 12 — is obvious cause for alarm, but so is the seeming impunity with which they act.

The video footage has provided a glimpse into the city’s underworld that hardly touches Rio’s wealthier citizens.

Local newspapers rarely show at first hand the violence that permeates the city’s slums (favelas). Since the brutal torture and murder of the journalist Tim Lopes — who was caught filming secretly in the Vila Cruzeiro favela in 2002 — Brazilian reporters have been reluctant to take their cameras into slum areas. Any reports that are filed tend to come from correspondents talking from inside armoured cars, or are images showing the aftermath of a shooting.

“What is shocking is this parallel power, the fact that they are very young,” said André Cabral De Almeida Cardoso, 41, a teacher. “They are so brazen about it.”

Valera dos Santos, 34, a maid who lives in a favela in São Paulo, said: “My God, I’ve never seen pictures like this. It’s absurd, they’re just boys.”

The journalists who captured the images were also taken aback. “Even knowing the reality of what could happen, you are still shocked by the glamour that these weapons represent in the arms of minors,” said Fernando Torres, 27, one of a team of three who spent four nights undercover at the Corner of Fear.

“These images are desolate,” said Lucy Petroucic, 56, a translator. “These boys have become little Taleban who think they have nothing to lose.”

Within hours, police arrested one of a group of bandits shown in the video and promised that changes were on the way. Luiz Fernando Pezão, Rio’s Deputy Governor, told reporters that a new police base would open nearby in May.


CNN Privacy Poll: Bad News for Liberals.

We always learn SOMETHING from a poll ... even if it is not always what the poll was trying to discover.

3.7 / 10 Democrats  ....  6.3 / 10 Independents  ...... 7 / 10 Republicans

What we learn from this poll is - some people who claim to be Republican are lying.  Why?  NO Republican, not even a Republican in a vegetative state, which many are in, would or could even think the thought let alone believe, that the government was not too large and too intrusive. Or these Republicans were formerly communists and relative to their former ideological belief system, the government is not too large.  This is not very likely.  What is more likely is - the poller calls, you answer. 
Poller:  Blah blah blah Would you be interested in taking a short research questionnaire about politics.
You:  [Thinking to yourself:  Sure, maybe I can say I support Obama and raise his sinking approval levels]  Yes.
Poller: Blah blah blah Democrat, Independent, Republican.
You: [Thinking to yourself, if I say Republican, and I say I fully support Obama, it will have a greater effect than if I say I am a far left liberal who can barely stand the guiy because he is too moderate, and then maybe finally people will give him a break]  Republican.
Poller:  Blah blah blah government too large blah blah privacy
You:  Of course not, it is serving the people, it can help the people now.  Of course it isn't too large.

I am pretty sure of the above having happened.  So you will argue well, the Republicans would do the same.  Perhaps, but the results do not bear that out.

What we have in this country are:
Republicans who are Conservative on the right, followed by (loving left) Republicans who are moderate; followed by Republicans who are centrist - right on some, left on others.  Democrats have the same, moving from right to left:  Centrist Democrats who are right on some issues and left on others.  Then you have the liberals followed by leftists.  Probably 30% of Democrats sit at the center area.  Republicans similar. 

So it probably breaks down, with + or - margins of error:

   20% Looney Left; 50% Liberal; 30% Centrist /  10-15-20% Independent  /    30% Moderate Republican / 65% Conservative / 5% Looney Right

So why do these numbers not add up.

You can find the more or less accurate numbers of voters in this country who are registered Democrat and same with Republican.  My first guess which is wrong, but not off by more than 4-5% - is 40% Democrat /  20% Independent / 40% Republican.

Which means 8% of Democrats are part of the looney left.  It means that 2% of Republicans are the Looney Right.  It should be clear how I came up with the 8 and 2.  Right or wrong given a margin of + or - it is, I am reasonably certain, more correct than not in reflecting the fringes.  Yet you could say you see Tea Party nuts and other right wing fringe calling Obama another Hitler, yet you do not see Looney Left acting out ... but you do, they are just not as visible today because their Messiah is in office.  Code Pink, Cindy Sheehan - true members of the looney fringe. - looney left. Yet they are quite quiet even though Obama is furthering the war as Bush did.  More Americans have died in Afghanistan in the last two months than in the course of the war for 8 years.  No Code Pink.  No Cindy.  No  Hmmm.

And the point then - Probably more likely 56% or 58% who fear the government today.  That bodes very badly for Democrats.  Very.  Even if future polls never reflect this concern and ask about economic well-being or job security or ... this result bodes very badly for them!!  Very.

CNN Poll: Majority says government a threat to citizens' rights

February 26th, 2010
CNN Deputy Political Director Paul Steinhauser

Washington (CNN) – A majority of Americans think the federal government poses a threat to rights of Americans, according to a new national poll.

Fifty-six percent of people questioned in a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey released Friday say they think the federal government's become so large and powerful that it poses an immediate threat to the rights and freedoms of ordinary citizens. Forty-four percent of those polled disagree.

The survey indicates a partisan divide on the question: only 37 percent of Democrats, 63 percent of Independents and nearly 7 in 10 Republicans say the federal government poses a threat to the rights of Americans.

According to CNN poll numbers released Sunday, Americans overwhelmingly think that the U.S. government is broken - though the public overwhelmingly holds out hope that what's broken can be fixed.

The CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll was conducted February 12-15, with 1,023 adult Americans questioned by telephone. The survey's sampling error is plus or minus 3 percentage points for the overall survey.


Congo and Death

The Unnumbered Dead

Jan 21, 2010 08:20 EST

The simple answer to the question of how many people died in Congo’s civil war is “too many”.

Trying to get a realistic figure is fraught with difficulties and a new report suggests that a widely used estimate of 5.4 million dead – potentially making Congo the deadliest conflict since World War Two – is hugely inaccurate and that the loss of life may be less than half that.

The aid group that came up with the original estimate unsurprisingly says the new report is wrong.

The problem is the way estimates are reached.

One way is to do a body count, but that is next to impossible in a country like the Democratic Republic of Congo. Very few of the victims are shot, blown up or otherwise die as a result of violence. Most succumb to disease or malnutrition. But then who died as a result of the war and who would have died anyway in a country where survival is normally so tough?

That is where the other methodology comes in. It is based on using the difference between the rate at which people were dying before the war and the mortality rate once it has started. It should indicate the number of those who have died as both a direct and indirect result of the war. This sort of calculation led to the figure of 5.4 million dead in Congo.

The problem is that if you get the wrong mortality rates, even by a small margin, the estimate can be way off. That is what the Human Security Report Project says happened with the Congo figures. The International Rescue Committee stands by its estimate.

Basing estimates on mortality rates can also have odd consequences – for instance mortality rates for those being helped by aid agencies can fall to below pre-war levels in places where living conditions were already very poor – meaning that not only could the death toll fall over time but in a sense more people might be alive as a result of a war.

The Congo figures have been nowhere near as controversial as calculations for Iraq or Darfur, but once figures are repeated often enough they tend to become established and treated almost as fact.

The United Nations estimate for the Darfur death toll of 300,000 is another example of how figures can enter common usage. It originally came from John Holmes, U.N. under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs, in April 2008.

“A study in 2006 suggested that 200,000 had lost their lives from the combined effects of the conflict. That figure must be much higher now, perhaps half as much again,” Holmes said, although he later described it as a “reasonable extrapolation”.

But because mortality rates were used in the 2006 study, the figure didn’t have to be much higher. It might even have been lower in some areas because of the immense efforts of humanitarian workers in reducing mortality rates for the millions of displaced.

While potentially wrong, such figures could have a use in drawing the eyes of the world to tragedies and finding the resources needed to end them. The question is whether, when challenged, they undermine the credibility of those who produce them? Then again, does it matter if they are wrong? Are those who challenge them at risk of harming efforts to save lives?


From the Mouth of Someone Who Knows

Freed French al Qaeda hostage tells of Mali ordeal

Fri Feb 26, 2010
VILLACOUBLAY AIR BASE, France (Reuters) - French aid worker Pierre Camatte, who returned to France on Thursday after being freed from captivity by North African al Qaeda militants, said his captors tried repeatedly to convert him to Islam.

Camatte, who looked gaunt and tired on his arrival, was seized in November and held in the desert of Mali by men calling themselves al Qaeda "mujahedeen", or fighters.

"They often came to see me to try and convert me," he told reporters on the tarmac after landing at an air base near Paris. "They want to Islamise the whole world in their own way."

Dressed in a white shirt and brown jacket that were too big for him after three months in captivity, Camatte said most of his kidnappers were under the age of 20.

"It was a jail without bars, it was simply a roof," he said. His captors would intimidate him by aiming rifles at him or miming throat-slitting, he said.

Camatte was released in an apparent prisoner swap that has angered neighbours Algeria and Mauritania. Al Qaeda threatened to kill him unless four Islamist prisoners were released by February 22. All four were freed last week.

"It's not as if freeing four Salafi Islamists will change anything, given that in the meantime they probably recruited 40 more," the former hostage said.

He learned of his imminent release only minutes before Mali's security forces arrived in the desert in a 4x4 jeep to pick him up, he said.

And they knew where to show up how?

On Wednesday night in Mali's capital of Bamako, during a press conference with French President Nicolas Sarkozy, Camatte had described how his captors would immerse themselves in the Koran for long periods of time.

"It's frightening, it's a kind of conditioning," he said.

al qaida

Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Taliban Can. Who can cause a problem, everywhere they go ...

The protectors of women's virtue, the savior of Muslim women, the enforcer of the law that protects women and children ...

On the night of 14 Feb. 2010, security forces freed 14 women and a child being held captive by Taliban rebels in Bakwa District, Farah Province. Explosive materials were recovered from the area, according to the provincial police chief.
Afghanistan Arzu TV, Mazar-e Sharif, 1500 GMT, 15 Feb. 2010

And some people want to leave these cretinous murderers in charge.  Feminist organizations in the US and around the world are not up in arms protesting the Obama administration trying to accomodate the Taliban!

taliban can

Global Warming? Scientists now sure why it is getting colder.

ANALYSIS-Scientists examine causes for lull in warming

25 Feb 2010

By Gerard Wynn and Alister Doyle

LONDON/OSLO, Feb 25 (Reuters) - Climate scientists must do more to work out how exceptionally cold winters or a dip in world temperatures fit their theories of global warming, if they are to persuade an increasingly sceptical public.

At stake is public belief that greenhouse gas emissions are warming the planet, and political momentum to act as governments struggle to agree a climate treaty which could direct trillions of dollars into renewable energy, away from fossil fuels.

Public conviction of global warming's risks may have been undermined by an error in a U.N. panel report exaggerating the pace of melt of Himalayan glaciers and by the disclosure of hacked emails revealing scientists sniping at sceptics, who leapt on these as evidence of data fixing.

Scientists said they must explain better how a freezing winter this year in parts of the northern hemisphere and a break in a rising trend in global temperatures since 1998 can happen when heat-trapping gases are pouring into the atmosphere.

"There is a lack of consensus," said Kevin Trenberth, head of the Climate Analysis Section at the U.S. National Center for Atmospheric Research, on why global temperatures have not matched a peak set in 1998, or in 2005 according to one U.S. analysis. For a table of world temperatures: [ID:nLDE6050Y5]

Part of the explanation could be a failure to account for rapid warming in parts of the Arctic, where sea ice had melted, and where there were fewer monitoring stations, he said.

"I think we need better analysis of what's going on on a routine basis so that everyone, politicians and the general public, are informed about our current understanding of what is happening, more statements in a much quicker fashion instead of waiting for another six years for the next IPCC report."

The latest, fourth Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report was published in 2007 and the next is due in 2014.

The proportion of British adults who had no doubt climate change was happening had dropped in January to 31 percent from 44 percent in January 2009, an Ipsos MORI poll showed this week.


The decade 2000-2009 was the hottest since 1850 as a result of warming through the 1980s and 1990s which has since peaked, says the World Meteorological Organisation.

British Hadley Centre scientists said last year that there was no warming from 1999-2008, after allowing for extreme, natural weather patterns. Temperatures should have risen by a widely estimated 0.2 degrees Centigrade, given a build up of manmade greenhouse gases.

"Solar might be one part of it," said the Hadley's Jeff Knight, adding that changes in the way data was gathered could be a factor, as well as shifts in the heat stored by oceans.

The sun goes through phases in activity, and since 2001 has been in a downturn meaning it may have heated the earth a little less, scientists say.

"We've not put our finger precisely on what has changed," Knight said. "(But) If you add all these things together ... there's nothing really there to challenge the idea that there's going to be large warming in the 21st century."

Melting Arctic ice was evidence for continuing change, regardless of observed temperatures, said Stein Sandven, head of the Nansen Environmental and Remote Sensing Center in Norway.

"The long-term change for the Arctic sea ice has been very consistent. It shows a decline over these (past) three decades especially in the summer. In the past 3-4 years Arctic sea ice has been below the average for the last 30 years."

Rajendra Pachauri, chair of the IPCC, told Reuters that the IPCC stood by its 2007 findings that it is more than 90 percent certain that human activities are the main cause of global warming in the past 50 years.

"I think the findings are overall very robust. We've made one stupid error on the Himalayan glaciers. I think that there is otherwise so much solid science." The IPCC wrongly predicted that Himalayan glaciers could vanish by 2035.


One long-running doubter of the threat of climate change, Richard Lindzen, meteorologist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said a lull in warming was unsurprising, given an earlier "obsessing about tenths of a degree" in the 1980s and early 1990s.

The world warmed 0.7-0.8 degrees Celsius over the last century. Lindzen expected analysis to show in a few years' time that recent warming had natural causes. "It just fluctuates. I think the best explanation is the ocean. The timescale for ocean circulations can be decades."

He dismissed recent ice melt over a short, 30-year record.

Pachauri said that scientists had to unpick manmade global warming from natural influences -- such as the sun and cyclical weather patterns -- also dubbed "natural variability".

"Natural variability is not magic, there is movement of energy around the climate system and we should be able to track it," said Trenberth.

Trenberth attributed the cold winter to an extraordinary weather pattern not seen since 1977 which had curbed prevailing westerly winds across the northern hemisphere, and said that the underlying cause was "one we don't have answers to."
ice age

President Bore?

The Times
February 26, 2010

Try to stay awake: the President has a healthcare Bill to pass

'Obama, looking incongruously glamorous in a crisp white shirt and blue tie - like Jamie Foxx chairing a convention of Pittsburgh cement contractors - gave an Oscar-worthy performance as the Concerned Listener'

The above was listed under the photo the Times had in this article.  It was a photo of Obama.  The attitude is a far cry from their fawning in the days after he was elected!

Warning: watching American politicians argue about healthcare can be seriously damaging to your health. Symptoms may include migraines, extreme fatigue and sudden violent urges. In the event of exposure to competing statistics — regarding "donut holes", "HMO deductibles", "reconciliation devices" or suchlike — seek immediate medical help.

The public affairs television channel C-Span 3 might as well have put such a message at the bottom of its screen yesterday as it broadcast President Obama’s epic six-hour "bipartisan" debate on US medical reform.

Of course, by the usual standards of C-Span programming — which can induce sleep faster than an IV drip of propofol — the summit was the equivalent of a bikini mud wrestling contest. You half expected the picture to shake as the camera operator struggled to compose himself.

For the rest of us, however, it was mainly an opportunity to see how many conciliatory-looking poses Obama could strike while listening to his Republican opponents explain why the entire first year of his administration has been a gigantic waste of time, and why the telephone directory-sized health Bills produced by both the Democrat-controlled House and Senate should be fed into a shredder the size of Connecticut, before they . . . well, no one seems to know exactly what these vast pieces of legislation would do.

Except that it won’t be good, because the US Congress generally only does expensive and complicated.

The President’s first challenger of the morning was the Republican charmer Lamar Alexander, a whiskey-voiced Senator from Tennessee. “We want you to succeed, because if you succeed, our country succeeds,” he told Obama, before adding, a few moments later, that want he really wanted, more than anything, was for the President to fail.

Or, as he put it: “This [healthcare reform] is a car that can’t be recalled and fixed . . . we ought to start over.”

Throughout all this, Obama, looking incongruously glamorous in a crisp white shirt and blue tie — like Jamie Foxx chairing a convention of Pittsburgh cement contractors — gave an Oscar-worthy performance as the Concerned Listener.

He listened with his chin raised and his eyes narrowed. His listened with his head resting quizzically in one hand. He listened while scribbling furiously in his notebook. Indeed, it was only when one of his own allies began to speak — the purple-suited Nancy Pelosi, famed for her left-wing politics and fondness for private jets — that Obama’s camera-talent abandoned him, and he allowed himself to be filmed with his middle finger creeping over his lips, as if urging Ms Pelosi to shut the hell up and take the next Gulfstream back to California.

His frustration was understandable. After all, for a while, it seemed as though Senator Alexander might be getting the upper hand, and the viewer began to wonder if Obama’s gambit — to bore America into submission while getting another opportunity to look handsome on television — was about to blow up in his face.

But then Alexander made the fatal mistake of claiming that even Congressional Budget Office thought Obama’s healthcare reform plan would result in more expensive health insurance premiums.

Quite the opposite, interjected Obama, suddenly in his legal scholar element: the Budget Office said that premiums would fall, which would then inspire middle class families to purchase better, more expensive insurance policies. “This is an example of where we’ve got to get our facts straight,” he chided, in the tone you might use while encouraging a toddler to eat all his peas.

Alexander attempted a flustered response, before declaring that he would like to submit his rebuttal in writing at a later date, instead of “arguing in public”. Obama, now sounding like the leader that has been mostly absent from the White House for the past year, declined the offer. “I’d like to get this issue resolved before we leave today, because I don’t believe I’m wrong,” he said.

For the Democrats, it was a long overdue moment of victory. Whether anyone in America was still awake to witness it, however, was another matter.


Hamas: Used Many passports to Conduct Illegal and Murderous Activity: ok. Israel may have used many passports to rid the world of Hamas killer: Bad.

If Israel did this, good.  If it didn't, too bad, but Israelis should be pleased.  Whoever did this - great.  One less vile and evil miscreant off this earth.

Why the governments of the world rose up in outrage and took such umbrage with this pathetic weasels death ... because the purported assassins or conspiracy of assassins used passports from their countries.

NONE of those countries have now risen up and shown anger and outrage that this weasel had passports issued by their governments (real or not).

But, raise a hue and cry about some very decent citizens ridding the earth of a miscreant and perhaps using passports issued by their governments and they scream.

Does not my condoning this miscreants removal suggest it is ok for teams of assassins to roam the earth and rid the world of others?  No.  Of 6 billion people on earth, you would find but a small handful who thought this piece of crap worthy of life.  That is not the same as any other leader or government official - except in Iran or North Korea perhaps.

Slain Hamas man used many passports: confidant

By Nidal al-Mughrabi Nidal Al-mughrabi
February 25, 2010

GAZA (Reuters) – Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, the Hamas commander assassinated in Dubai, used the same tradecraft -- fraudulent passports and disguises -- as his killers during secret missions to procure arms for the group, a confidant said on Thursday.

From shooting at a car that drove repeatedly past his home in Syria -- he later discovered it belonged to Syrian minders -- to shunning room service in hotels, the Hamas arms procurer took his personal security very seriously.

"He used to wear colored contact lenses and dye his hair when traveling to European countries," said the confidant, who is based in the Gaza Strip, an enclave run by Hamas Islamists. He told Reuters he spent two years in exile with Mabhouh.

"He used to supply money and arms to Hamas and other allied factions," the confidant said.

"He had many passports of different nationalities -- all Arab," he added. "Recently he underwent surgery to reshape his nose. It became narrower."

Mabhouh was killed last month in his hotel room in what Dubai police say they are almost certain was a hit by Israel's Mossad spy agency. Israel has neither denied nor confirmed it assassinated him.

Dubai authorities have named 26 alleged members of the team that tracked and killed the Palestinian and said they used fraudulent British, Irish, French, German and Australian passports, and disguises.

People with the same names of many of the suspects live in Israel and say their identities were stolen. The passport abuse has drawn criticism from the European Union and some of the governments involved have summoned their Israeli ambassadors.


Dubai police have not commented officially on the passport Mahbouh used to enter the emirate. Mabhouh's brother said the Hamas commander arrived in Dubai on a Palestinian passport that listed his family name as Hassan.

"(Mabhouh) never led a normal life. He was suspicious, careful, and he never told anyone, not even his wife, of his future or immediate plans," the confidant said, adding that Mabhouh used Arab passports to enter European countries because they aroused less suspicion.

The West shuns Hamas over its refusal to recognize Israel and renounce violence.

The confidant said Mabhouh was constantly traveling, booking his tickets himself at travel agents or over the Internet, but had not visited Iran in the past three years. Some sources in Hamas listed Iran and Sudan as sources of arms smuggling.

Both Hamas and Iran have acknowledged Tehran's financial support for the group, while stopping short of confirming Israel's belief that this includes bankrolling arms smuggled to the Gaza Strip.

(Editing by Samia Nakhoul)


Make Mine Freedom - 1948

American Form of Government

Who's on First? Certainly isn't the Euro.