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August 31, 2008

New Orleans evacuated as gas prices expected to rise to $6/gallon

With a historic evacuation of 1.9 million people from the Louisiana coast complete, gun-toting police and National Guardsmen are standing watch as rain has started to fall on New Orleans. The powers that be are extremely worried Hurricane Gustav would be another Katrina.

Police threatened to arrest if necessary, forcing thousands of American onto buses and warned that anyone who remained behind would not be rescued. Looters will go directly to jail – no exceptions.

The storm was set to crash ashore midday Monday with frightful force, testing the three years of planning and rebuilding that followed Katrina's devastating blow to the Gulf Coast.

Painfully aware of the failings that led to that horrific suffering and more than 1,600 deaths, this time officials moved beyond merely insisting tourists and residents leave south Louisiana.

Meanwhile the evacuation and shut down of oil rigs and oil refineries along the Gulf of Mexico has caused economists to speculate that gas prices, if the worst happens, could skyrocket to as much as $6 or $7 US per gallon. Due to a shortage of oil in the United States and a lack of backup oil refineries the price of gasoline within the USA is expected to rise dramatically.

America's oil and gasoline stockpiles have been notoriously low since George W. Bush came to power in January 2001 and started selling off stockpiles. (The US government normally maintains oil and gas stockpiles in the event of an emergency or prolonged war, but because of America's rapidly increasing oil shortage the Bush Administration decided to sell the stockpiles because they deemed the War on Terrorism to be an important enough emergency.)

New Orleans appears to be the Achilles heel of the US economy. Whenever the Louisiana coast gets hit by a hurricane the American economy seems to go for a nose dive. Combined with the subprime mortgage crisis in 2007 and the current American recession things are not looking very positive.

At least this time the powers that be are taking hurricanes seriously. Hurricane Katrina in 2005 cost the Bush Administration a chunk of its already low popularity.

August 29, 2008

John McCain chooses a female vice-presidential running mate

When bidding for the White House it always helps to have the cards stacked in your favour. While Barack Obama turned down Hillary Clinton as his running mate, John McCain has wisely chosen a female in hopes of luring more women voters upset about Hillary Clinton's failed presidential bid.

John McCain announced his choice of Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, a diehard conservative, as his vice-presidential running mate today in a startling selection on the eve of the Republican National Convention. McCain made his selection only six days after his Democratic rival Barack Obama named Senator Joseph Biden of Delaware as his running mate.

McCain said he made his pick after looking for a political partner “who can best help me shake up Washington and make it start working again for the people who are counting on us.”

McCain said that Palin was “exactly who I need. She’s exactly who this country needs to help us fight the same old Washington politics of me first and country second.”

Palin, whose name wasn’t even on the short list of prospects so heavily discussed publicly in recent weeks, thus became the first woman named to a spot on a Republican ticket.

Obama picked an older running mate, and a man whom he said at the outset was qualified to be president.

McCain chose Palin a generation younger than he is, and a governor less than two years, and made no such claim about her readiness to sit in the Oval Office.

Unlike Biden, who attacked McCain's record in his debut last week, Palin was indirect in her initial attempts to elevate McCain over Obama. Palin made an immediate play for support from Democratic women, mentioning that she followed in the footsteps of Geraldine Ferraro, who was the Democratic vice-presidential running mate in 1984.

She also referred favourably to Senator Hillary Clinton, who drew 18 million votes in her unsuccessful run against Obama for the Democratic nomination.

A self-styled hockey mom and political reformer, Palin was also mayor of Wasilla, Alaska (population 6,500) before she became governor of Alaska.

NAME - Sarah Heath Palin

AGE-BIRTH DATE-LOCATION — 44; born Feb. 11, 1964; Sandpoint, Idaho.

EXPERIENCE: Alaska governor since December 2006; unsuccessful run for Republican nomination for lieutenant governor in 2002; chairwoman of the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, 2003-2004; served two terms as Wasilla mayor and two terms on city council.

EDUCATION: Graduated University of Idaho, 1987, journalism.

FAMILY: Husband, Todd; five children.

BUSINESS: Worked as sports reporter for two Anchorage television stations; owned with her husband a snowmobile, watercraft, ATV business from 1994-97. Husband is a North Slope oilfield worker. She has extensive ties within the oil industry.

Fall Movie Reviews

Bangkok Dangerous: Starring Nicolas Cage, Shahkrit Yamnarm.

It is our honest opinion that Nicolas Cage is washed up and should be downgraded to B movies. Bangkok Dangerous plot is likewise crap, in which he plays an assassin who falls in love, has a change of heart, yada yada yada, saves the girl, kills the bad guys and retires. Worse, the movie is a remake. Next!

Righteous Kill: Starring Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson, Donnie Wahlberg.

This movie is a serial thriller about two New York City cops with an all star cast. The two cops are chasing a vigilante serial killer who is hunting down criminals and killing them. Its basically the same plot as the Dirty Harry movie "Magnum Force", but with two stellar actors and different circumstances. Doesn't look bad judging by the trailer.

The Women: Starring Candice Bergen, Annette Bening, Bette Midler, Meg Ryan, Eva Mendes, Jada Pinkett Smith and Debra Messing.

This film is basically a remake of "The First Wives Club" and the 1939 George Cukor classic of the same name about infidelity, but evidently with a lot more women. Indeed, Bette Midler also starred in "The First Wives Club", and we LOVE Bette Midler. That girl has the golden touch when it comes to comedy. Fans of Sex in the City will also appreciate the humour of this film.

High School Musical 3: Senior Year: Starring Zac Efron, Vanessa Anne Hudgens.

When will they stop making this horrible freaking musicals? Please make it stop.

Burn After Reading: Starring Brad Pitt, George Clooney, John Malkovich.

Made by the same people who made "The Big Lebowski", with a stellar cast and a plot reminiscent of "Fun with Dick and Jane" this movie looks to be both funny and one that we would watch again and again and again... I suddenly have to watch "The Big Lebowski" again... which reminds me... rumour has it they're hoping to make a sequel: "The Little Lebowski".

Passchendaele: Paul Gross, Caroline Dhavernas, Gil Bellows.

Gross wrote, directed and stars in this drama about World War I. Blood, guts, war and romance? Sounds good, but lets hope it doesn't go to his head like what happened to Mel Gibson (who is now washed up and an anti-semite).

Appaloosa: Starring Ed Harris, Viggo Mortensen, Jeremy Irons and Renée Zellweger.

Westerns will never die, and this one just plain looks gooooood. The plot is similar to "A Fistful of Dollars" and numerous other westerns. Ed Harris and Viggo Mortensen worked well together in "A History of Violence", so this film could be just as good or better.

Beverly Hills Chihuahua: Starring the voices of Drew Barrymore, Cheech Marin and Salma Hayek.

We have a theory about dog movies and it goes like this: All dog movies are automatically instant hits because the dog lovers all go see them and drag their kids to go see them too. In other words this movie could be utter crap and it wouldn't matter because its just another dog movie.

Igor: Starring the voices of John Cusack, Sean Hayes, Christian Slater, Steve Buscemi, John Cleese and Molly Shannon.

Hunchbacked lab assistant Igor has big dreams of becoming a mad scientist himself and winning the annual Evil Science Fair. Touches of both the Nightmare Before Christmas and Shrek... possibly a winner for both kids and adults alike.

Ghost Town: Starring Ricky Gervais, Téa Leoni and Greg Kinnear.

Gervais takes on his first leading role as a jerk of a dentist who can suddenly see ghosts – and one of them (Kinnear) needs a favour breaking up his widow's impending marriage. Doesn't look that spectacular, but can't say for certain.

Rachel Getting Married: Starring Anne Hathaway, Rosemarie Dewitt, Debra Winger.

Dysfunctional drama queen Kym arrives back home post-rehab for her sister Rachel's wedding, trailing destruction in her wake. Funny? Possibly, if you like watching a train wreck of a wedding.

W: Starring Josh Brolin, James Cromwell, Richard Dreyfuss and Thandie Newton.

Oliver Stone's comic look at the young George W. Bush and his rise from drunken party boy to president. Worth a laugh.

Miracle at St. Anna: Starring Derek Luke, Michael Ealy, Laz Alonso.

Spike Lee directs his first war movie about four black American soldiers stationed in Italy during World War II who end up trapped behind enemy lines... the trailer is fantastic and we're looking forward to seeing this one.

Eagle Eye: Starring Shia LaBeouf, Michelle Monaghan and Billy Bob Thornton.

Two strangers get caught in a cyber cat-and-mouse game with a mystery woman who somehow knows their every move. If the plot reminds you of "The Net" or "Phone Booth", its because its just as lame.

The Lucky Ones (Maple): Rachel McAdams, Michael Peña and Tim Robbins.

Three injured soldiers returning from Iraq find life has moved on in their absence. This has potential to be really good... or really bad.

Blindness: Starring Julianne Moore, Mark Ruffalo, Danny Glover.

A city is ravaged by an epidemic of instant white blindness and as society breaks down, one woman whose sight is unaffected is the sole witness to the spectacle. This film is another one of those "you've gotta see this". Like Memento or Schindler's List its just one of those films you have to see someday.

Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist: Starring Michael Cera and Kat Dennings.

Two strangers spend one crazy night of adventure in the heart of New York's music scene. Yawn.

Happy-Go-Lucky: Sally Hawkins, Eddie Marsan.

Sally Hawkins as an endlessly optimistic, free-spirited single teacher in London who won't even let the theft of her bike get her down. She signs up for driving lessons with uptight Scott (Marsan). Yawn.

The Secret Life of Bees: Starring Dakota Fanning, Jennifer Hudson, Queen Latifah.

A 14-year-old girl's distant memories of her late mother who finds herself in the solitary world of beekeeping. Yawn.

Pride and Glory: Starring Edward Norton, Colin Farrell and Jon Voight.

A family of New York City cops sees loyalties tested after the violent deaths of four officers on one of two brothers' squads. Three actors that we can't stand, a crappy plot and thus we don't recommend paying to see this.

Zack and Miri Make a P0rno: Starring Seth Rogan, Elizabeth Banks, Jason Mewes.

Zack and Miri decide making a p0rn flick will help them get out of debt, but it results in some mixed up feelings. Kevin Smith directs so its gotta be good... and hilarious. Lots of intellectual potty humour for those who appreciate it.

The Changeling: Starring Angelina Jolie and John Malkovich.

A Los Angeles mother's kidnapped son is returned, but she realizes this child is not hers and is some kind of doppleganger/alien and has to deal with corrupt police and a skeptical public. Sounds pretty good, a bit like the Bodysnatchers.

The Legacy of the George W. Bush Administration

The following list regarding the Legacy of the George W. Bush Administration was sent to us by Richard G. Smith, which we've edited, reorganized, and added a little bit to:

  • Average Gasoline Price in 2000 = $1.10 US; In 2008 = $3.65 US.
  • In 1999 the annual unemployment rate was 4.2%; In 2008 it rose to 5.7%.
  • In 2000 $0.95 US bought 1 Euro; In 2008 $1.48 US buys 1 Euro.
  • In 2007 the Cost of Living rose to its highest level in 17 years.
  • In 2007 the housing market burst, causing the subprime mortgage fiasco, which in turn caused numerous banks and financial organizations to go bankrupt. The American government was forced to issue a huge financial bailout via US mortgage lenders Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
  • In 2007 the average American owed more on their mortgage than their house was worth (the last time that happened was in 1945).
  • The number of Americans living under the poverty line rose by 5.7 million between 2000 and 2008.
  • In 2000 there was 17 million Americans on food stamps; The forecast for 2009 is 28 million.
  • In 2007 the United States went into a Recession, according to Warren Buffett, Alan Greenspan and numerous other economists/businessmen.

  • Continued failure to recognize Global Warming as a threat.
  • Hurricane Katrina.
  • Oil wells being drilled in National Parks.

    Federal Finances
  • The US National Debt in 2001 was $5.6 trillion, today is $9.1 trillion.
  • Bill Clinton left the White House with a budget surplus, George W. Bush will leave it with a record breaking budget deficit.

    Health Care
  • The number of Americans without health insurance rose by 7.2 million between 2000 and 2008.
  • The United States is the only country left in America or Europe that does not have free guaranteed health care.

  • Forced resignation of the U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.
  • Forced resignation of the U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.
  • Forced resignation of the U.S. Housing Secretary Alphonso Jackson.

  • Abu Ghraib Prison (Democracy and Values on display).
  • Guantanamo Prison (A new low in American jurisprudence).
  • Extraordinary Rendition (new and improved synonym for torture).
  • Spying on Americans without warrants, and torture justified and legalized.
  • Failure to find Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq, the whole reason for going to war.

  • September 11th 2001 attacks on the World Trade Centre, which could have been prevented.
  • American troops are still in Afghanistan.
  • American troops are still in Iraq.
  • Osama bin Laden still hasn't been captured.
  • Why does gasoline cost so much?

    Pissed off about high gasoline prices? Wait until you read this...

    Oil prices have dropped approx. 20% since last month, but why is gasoline prices still so high? They're dropped a little, but not by the 20% it should have.

    It all kind of stinks of... price fixing. Which is illegal.

    Back in July, the U.S. House and Senate held almost 30 different hearings on the role oil speculators have had on bumping up the price of oil.

    Here in Canada, Canadian lawmakers have held their own two-day hearing into the cost of gasoline. Much smaller in scope, but important because they narrowed the focus to the price at the pump and how it was radically different from what was happening in the oil market on a regular basis.

    When oil prices go up, so does gasoline prices, right? And when they go down, gas prices go down too, right? Wrong. Frequently it seems as thought gas prices just stay high as the various gas companies play a shell game (yes, that was a pun) to come up with excuses to keep the prices high.

    "I've been following Hurricane Gustav," says Jeff Rubin, chief economist at CIBC World Markets, when asked about the parliamentary committee hearing. Rubin didn't deny that speculators are playing some role in the price of oil, but the point he was making was that the oil industry loves to keep the prices high, and almost any event in the media can be used as a scapegoat to boost prices. Problems in Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Venezuela, Nigeria, the Gulf Coast of the United States, Alaska or in Alberta or Newfoundland Canada can all be used as an excuse to boost oil prices. Competition from China, India and Europe can also be blamed, the weak American dollar, etc, etc.

    Its all one big blame game for why the prices of gasoline and oil are so high. Depending on what is happening in the news, even if it isn't hurting oil supplies, can dramatically effect, bolster or maintain high oil prices. The problem lately it would seem is that oil speculators seem to have had a drought of credible news topics.

    "It's not about the Bank of Canada, the House of Commons or the Finance Ministry. Instead of playing the blame game, I would redirect our energy towards lessening our dependence on oil," says Jeff Rubin.

    Canada, a major oil producing country, isn't likely to do much about it. We're making huge profits off of the oil industry right now. High oil prices? So much the better. We can roll in the profits.

    Sure, it will hurt the prices of commodities and inflation will skyrocket, but who cares? Might as well enjoy it as it lasts.

    And that's the mantra the oil industry in general is going for. Keep the oil prices high as long as possible to get as much profit out of it as we possibly can.

    Sure, as Jeff Rubin suggests, people can cut back on their oil and gasoline usage. Drive less, drive smarter (hypermiling for example) or buy a hybrid car. Its going to be many years before hydrogen cars are available anyway for mass market production.

    The rapid rise of oil prices and market speculation is undeniable. In the 20 years prior to 2003 there was plenty of spare oil capacity, and nations who were members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries could influence the price occasionally by simply turning the tap on and off. OPEC's power to control the oil prices kept risk-averse speculators out of the market for many years. (Earlier this year OPEC predicted oil prices might reach $170 US/barrel.)

    In 2000 the United States ended its regulation of energy markets, letting speculators trade in oil futures without much oversight from the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. In 2003 there were about 50 financial institutions trading oil on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Today that number is closer to 400. In 2007 billions of dollars flooded the commodities markets after the sub-prime mortgage meltdown, turning oil into an asset class and making oil and gold prices skyrocket due to over investment.

    Every investor suddenly jumped off the mortgage and banking bandwagon and jumped on the oil and gold bandwagon (gold prices are less effected by geo-politics thankfully). Nothing else could explain a barrel of oil jumping from $70 (U.S.) to $147 and back down to $115 within a year.

    U.S. legislators are looking at putting up speed bumps that would reduce the influence speculators have on commodity prices, including limits on the number of oil contracts an investor can hold, and stricter disclosure requirements. If it wasn't for the oil speculators the price of oil would likely be closer to $80 a barrel today.

    There's also the Peak Oil Theory that global oil production has reached or will soon reach its maximum and slowly decline as oil resources become more scarce in years to come. That theory has a lot of investors thinking positively about the future of high oil prices...

    And lawmakers and regular citizens looking at a future of skyrocketing energy costs and high gas prices.

    Obama the Promise of Change

    On August 28th 1963 the Reverend Martin Luther King gave a memorable speech to a crowd of multi-racial, multi-ethnic, multi-faith people who crowded into a football stadium to hear him speak.

    Why did they go? Because they wanted to witness history in the making, to be part of something bigger than one person, to see a man with shared values stand up for what they believe in: The American Dream.

    Exactly 45 years later, Barack Obama accepted the Democratic nomination for the presidency of the United States and made his own speech to an overcrowded stadium of 85,000+ Americans. Why are they they there? To witness history in the making once more.

    Obama's theme? The American Promise.

    "America, we are better than these last eight years. We are a better country than this."

    "This moment – this election – is our chance to keep, in the 21st century, the American promise alive. Because next week, in Minnesota, the same party that brought you two terms of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney will ask this country for a third. And we are here because we love this country too much to let the next four years look just like the last eight."

    "On November 4th, we must stand up and say: Eight is enough."

    Some of the people in the crowd are old enough that they were at both speeches and can draw parallels between the two. But where Rev. Martin Luther King dwelled on racism frequently, Barack Obama describes himself as post-racial and doesn't constantly remind people of the colour of his skin.

    Obama's key points is that he is a man of change, of promise, and most importantly, he's not like Bush. If anything he's the anti-Bush. No more shooting first, asking questions later. No more preemptive strikes and wars without evidence or legitimate reason. If the United States goes to war with Iran, it will be because Iran's leadership has become violent and needs to be removed. Not because the White House trumps up threats with phony documents about WMD.

    Did Bush lie to the American people? Yes, but its a bit like asking permission to do something after you've already done it. Its too late now. Bush will be gone 4 months anyway. Americans have paid the price and will continue to pay the price for not paying more attention to what their leaders are doing. American troops and finances will be bogged down in Iraq for years if not decades.

    Obama's opponent John McCain meanwhile has been trying to distance himself from the fact that he's basically a carbon copy of George W. Bush, but without the Bush family wealth and aloofness to back him up. Does America really want to make the same mistake a third time?

    In the words of George W. Bush himself: "There's an old saying in Tennessee — I know it's in Texas, probably in Tennessee — that says, fool me once, shame on — shame on you. A fooled man can't get fooled again."

    Or can they?

    August 28, 2008

    Quebec artists call Stephen Harper a censorship NAZI

    Is Prime Minister Stephen Harper like Adolf Hitler? So says a group of Quebec artists and artisans who are blasting $45 million dollars in cuts to federal arts spending, effecting mostly Quebec.

    Hundreds of Quebec singers, actors, dancers and writers gathered in a Montreal square to condemn the funding cuts announced recently by the Conservative government.

    The artists are accusing the Harper government of trying to censor them.

    When composer Walter Boudreau delivered a blisteringly sarcastic speech from the stage about the intentions of the federal government he concluded it by shouting, "Heil Hitler."

    A couple of people in the crowd also hoisted signs marked with the Nazi swastika and photos of Stephen Harper with a Hitler mustache.

    Credible or not, Quebec artists do have good reason to be upset and they're not alone...

    The Canadian television and film industry also has a bone to pick with Stephen Harper, who this year passed Bill C-10, which effectively cuts off funding for ANY film or television production which references sex, homosexuality or violence.

    That includes instructional videos on how to properly put on a condom, any film showing police, the mafia, murders, etc... so much for a Toronto or Vancouver version of CSI. The Canadian film industry is justifiably upset about it and the bill is evidently designed to censor anything the Stephen Harper government doesn't approve of.

    First Bill C-10 censors the film/TV industry about anything sexual or violent, and now deliberate cuts to Quebec's arts industries... what is next?

    Is Stephen Harper going to sell the CBC?

    Introduce a new law that restricts journalists?

    It certainly looks like Stephen Harper is trying to muzzle Canada's media and arts industry.

    Oil prices break $120 again

    Oil prices have soared over $120 US per barrel, again.

    This time it is because of Tropical Storm Gustav is headed for the Gulf of Mexico, threatening oil production in the region. Transocean, the world's biggest offshore drilling contractor, is suspending operations at all of its rigs and pulling nearly 1,600 people out of the Gulf. Many other oil companies are also evacuating their personnel.

    Gustav is the first storm of the 2008 Atlantic hurricane season to pose a serious threat to the more than 4,000 oil and gas installations in the Gulf. In 2005, Katrina and Rita destroyed 109 oil platforms and five drilling rigs.

    The weak US dollar has also boosted oil prices.

    Bikini Waxing for Kids?

    FASHION - Imagine working in a spa as an aesthetician and having a mother phone to order a bikini wax... for her 10 year old daughter.

    Not only would it hurt a lot, but it just sounds kind of stupid. But apparently "baby waxing" is the next big thing according to some mothers and spa workers.

    Though not quite as popular as mani-pedi parties for toddlers, aestheticians are now scheduling more hair-removal appointments than ever for the under-12 set.

    More mothers are pressuring the girls to look a certain way, and peer pressure doesn't help.

    Insults from classmates about a students body hair can damage a child's psyche quite a bit (especially if they have a bit of a unibrow). The pain of waxing off the offending eyebrow hair is nothing compared to the torment children's teasing can do.

    But its important that parents be realistic about these things. Going in for a bikini wax with your 12-year old and getting a boob job as well is not recommended.

    It's critical that parents try to temper unrealistic beauty ideals instead of supporting them," says Alyson Shafer, a psychotherapist and parenting expert.

    There's also a difference between a mother who's talking with her daughter about hair removal options and a mother who forces her child into it because they want a miniature version of themselves.

    This is what some people are now referring to as the Chihuahuaization of Children. Like chihuahuas, children are now being seen as fashion accessories. Disturbing at that is, it is happening.

    Thankfully most mothers are calling spas looking for alternatives to waxing. Since the hair is typically much too fine for a laser treatment the standard suggestion is a chemical depilatory like Nair, which recently introduced a fruity scented line for young girls called Nair Pretty.

    Be very careful with Nair. Make sure the kids aren't leaving it on for too long because it can burn.

    See Also: Fashion Salon

    Driving downtown is for suckers

    Ever driven downtown or been stuck in traffic in the overpopulated centre of a metropolis? Well, then you probably understand the constant headache it is.

    What kind of lunatic would want to drive downtown in a crowded city core? Seriously, unless you're a taxi driver, a pizza delivery guy, a Fedex guy, or somebody driving a limo... you really have no business driving downtown in the first place.

    Starting today in Toronto Canada pedestrians rule at the corner of Yonge and Dundas, where the city has launched the first pedestrian priority traffic lights — also known as scramble crossings or Barnes dance — at the busy intersection this morning.

    For a 28-second period in every cycle cars face a red light in all directions, during which time pedestrians are allowed to cross in any direction (side to side or corner to corner). Pedestrians are also allowed to cross in the conventional way, in the same direction as traffic, when vehicles are using the intersection.

    Pedestrians vastly outnumber cars in the downtown core of Toronto, and the message is being hit home to car drivers: "If you're not downtown on business, what business do you have driving downtown?"

    The pilot project will be extended to other busy downtown intersections (Bay and Dundas; Yonge and Bloor; Yonge and Eglinton) over the coming years and talks have started up of making "pedestrian only streets".

    Idling cars will just have to wait their turn and car drivers are being encouraged that if they want to go downtown take the subway like everybody else.

    Traffic congestion problems in downtown Toronto have become so bad in recent years the city is being forced to do more in an effort to get unnecessary cars from driving downtown.

    Other cities around the world are also dealing with heavy traffic congestion in their downtown cores.

    In São Paulo Brazil the city is planning to increase subway tracks by 50% by 2010 (from 38 miles of track to 60 miles) and to triple subway tracks (to 120 miles) by 2020.

    In Auckland New Zealand the city is building more subways, more buses and building more roads.

    Over in London England cars now pay a tax just to drive downtown. They are hoping to cut traffic congestion by half by 2025.

    In the United States, the Texas Transportation Institute estimates that in 2000 the 75 largest metropolitan areas experienced 3.6 billion vehicle-hours of delay, resulting in 5.7 billion US gallons (21.6 billion liters) in wasted fuel and $67.5 billion in lost productivity. It also estimates that the annual cost of congestion for each driver is approximately $1,000 in very large cities and $200 in small cities.

    The highest levels of traffic congestion in the USA are Los Angeles, New York and Chicago. The congestion's fuel cost for Los Angeles alone was estimated at US $9.3 billion.

    Want to drive downtown and waste both gasoline and time waiting in endless traffic? Driving downtown is for suckers.

    August 20, 2008

    Mutant Oil Sands Fish something out of the Simpsons

    Remember that Simpsons episode with the fish with three eyes? Blinky was his name.

    Well something similar has happened in Alberta, Canada, where the oil industry has been raping the land with their oil-sands projects, and creating ridiculous amounts of pollution. The recent high oil prices has caused a spike in oil-sands production and the amount of waste pollution being tossed into nearby rivers.

    But is that pollution enough to cause mutant fish?

    In Fort Chipewyan information about a mutated fish caught downstream from Alberta’s oilsands region will be sent to a joint government-industry group that monitors the health of rivers and lakes.

    The 2.5-kilogram goldeye caught last week in Lake Athabasca has two mouths, one beneath the other.

    Two boys pointed the deformed fish out to Stuart Macmillan, Parks Canada’s manager of resource conservation at Wood Buffalo National Park, who studied it before handing it over to the Mikesew First Nation.

    “We had just pulled up to the dock and some kids came over and said, `Hey, we’ve got a fish over here with two mouths,” Macmillan said Tuesday.

    “It was really unusual. The fish has an obvious abnormality. I had never seen anything like that myself before. I can’t speculate on what might have caused it.”

    Macmillan said Parks Canada has not tested the fish, which was caught outside the park boundary, but he will forward a report on the mutation to the Regional Aquatics Monitoring Program in Alberta.

    RAMP includes Alberta Environment, the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Health Canada, oilsands corporations and aboriginal groups. It was established to identify and address the potential impacts of oilsands development.

    The two-mouthed fish created a stir at the Keepers of the Water conference on the weekend at Fort Chipewyan, about 600 kilometres northeast of Edmonton.

    Aboriginal communities downstream of the oilsands have expressed concerns about how industrial development is affecting the animals that they eat and their drinking water. Elders believe pollution is responsible for high cancer rates and other health problems in the region.

    George Poitras of the Mikesew Cree said he quickly froze the fish and later put it on display for 20 minutes at the conference on a bucket of ice.

    “It was important for the fish to be displayed at the conference to show people what we have been claiming all along,” Poitras said.

    “People were in disbelief. Here they saw a fish that we suspect is very much linked to tarsands development and contamination of the Athabasca River. Our elders tell us that what happens to the animals and the fish is just a sign of what is going to happen to human life.”

    Health Canada and the Alberta Cancer Board said earlier this year they plan to study cancer rates in the Fort Chipewyan area.

    A federal fisheries official acknowledged the department is a member of RAMP but doesn’t get directly involved when mutated fish are reported.

    RAMP chairwoman Janice Linehan said the program has been testing fish in waterways downstream of the oilsands for 12 years. While no one has ever found a two-mouthed fish before other deformities have been studied.

    Linehan said to her knowledge there has never been a scientific link to fish deformities and oilsands activity.

    “For the most part what we have been getting is natural parasites and fin erosion, which are normal in sand-bed rivers,” Linehan said. “Throughout the 12 years there has been no significant impact shown from oilsands development.”

    Poitras said the Mikesew plan to send the fish to an independent lab for testing. He said the band will not send the fish to RAMP, because it doesn’t trust the organization to provide an objective assessment.

    The Mikesew is a member of RAMP, but is planning to withdraw from the group, Poitras said.

    “It is very heavily represented by industry and government and we feel that it doesn’t do any justice as far as accurately representing any data to the community,” Poitras said. “This is evidence and we need to ensure that is preserved.”

    According to RAMP, it is normal to occasionally find deformed fish and that physical injuries or increased water temperatures in the egg stage can cause mutations.

    Abnormalities can include growths or tumours, lesions and missing or additional fins. Two-mouthed fish are not listed on the RAMP website.

    Linehan said RAMP plans to do a better job of communicating test results with remote communities.

    “Some of the community concern was that even if they were bringing them in (fish for testing), I don’t think RAMP was doing a great job in communicating back to those individuals about the testing,” she said.

    A two-mouthed trout was caught in Nebraska in 2005 and sparked headlines around the world.

    Nebraska fisheries officials speculated the deformity was caused by genetic mutation.

    The angler who caught the two-mouthed trout cut off its head and donated it to Harvard’s Museum of Comparative Zoology.

    The man said he kept the body, which he ate. He later said he wished he had kept the fish intact and had it mounted for posterity.

    See also: Ontario's Untapped Oil Reserves

    August 16, 2008

    Air pollution so bad you can't see the Olympics happening

    I turned on the CBC today to see how Canada's athletes are doing at the Beijing Olympics...

    What I saw however, in the example of the marathon runners was a lot of smog. The air quality was so bad you could barely see what was happening at the helicopters followed the marathon runners.

    Seems like a bit of a whoops on the Olympic committee's planning stages to pick a city with such horrible air quality. The pollution levels in Beijing, according to China's government, have gone down in recent years, but it is still one of the most polluted and smoggiest cities in the world.

    Researchers at Peking University say 25,000 Chinese die of premature deaths in Beijing every year due to pollution levels. Beijing's population of 18 million has 3.5 million vehicles and hundreds of factories which contribute to smog levels.

    16 of the world's 20 most polluted cities are in China.

    August 14, 2008

    Stephen Harper muses about forcing an election

    A recent poll shows Conservatives in Canada hold a 43% lead in popularity.

    In response Prime Minister Stephen Harper, the leader of a minority government, has begun openly talking about engineering his own defeat and forcing a general election this fall, and is taking aim at the Liberal party's carbon tax policy today.

    Earlier yesterday, after a funding announcement in eastern Newfoundland, Harper openly mused about the possibility of engineering the defeat of his own government and triggering an election.

    His comments in New Brunswick make it clear that attacking the Liberal carbon tax policy would be a key weapon in the Conservative campaign.

    "We are going to make sure that Atlantic Canadians are not tricked into voting for a carbon tax that would damage the [the coal industry in the] region," Harper said.

    The Liberals say Harper is misrepresenting their key policy, stressing that the carbon tax will be largely offset by income and business-tax breaks, which the Conservatives keep failing to mention.

    The Liberal plan would also offer future tax benefits to the poor, elderly and rural communities.

    Canadian deaths linked to bad air to hit 800,000 by 2031

    The Canadian Medical Association is warning that the number of deaths related to air pollution is set to soar, with a cumulative death toll of 800,000 Canadians by 2031.

    The vast majority of those deaths will be among people age 65 and older because they are more vulnerable to heart problems, the group said in a study released yesterday.

    Association president Brian Day says the number of people in that vulnerable zone will grow as the population ages.

    "We have a very high percentage of babyboomers who will hit 65 in the next three or four years and then keep hitting 65," he said.

    The association says 21,000 Canadians, mostly seniors, will die this year from a combination of short- and long-term exposure to air pollution. It predicts the annual death toll will rise 83 per cent to 39,000 deaths a year by 2031. The majority will die from heart and lung conditions caused by years of breathing dirty air, the study says.

    However, nearly 2,700 people will die from short-term exposure this year. The study predicts the number of deaths from short-term exposure will ramp up to 4,900 people a year by 2013.

    Pollution is also expected to cost the economy and health-care system $8 billion this year in medical costs and lost productivity, the study says. By 2031, these costs will have accumulated to total more than $250 billion.

    The Canadian Medical Association's estimates are conservative since the study assumed air pollution will not increase above current levels, Day said.

    The American Medical Association said it does not keep figures on deaths caused by air pollution. Day explained that Canada is one of the first nations to track such deaths.

    Asked how the doctors can be certain deaths from heart and lung disease are directly related to air pollution and not, say, smoking or a genetic condition, the association's technical adviser on health and environment said researchers have the tools to distinguish causes of death.

    Ted Boadway added the study "still significantly underestimates the number of deaths because we don't actually take any other areas where air pollution does cause cancer in other areas of the body."

    Prolonged exposure to air pollution damages the muscle cells in the arteries of the heart, causing them to harden, Boadway said. Meanwhile, short-term exposure to smog thickens blood, which is then more likely to clog arteries and produce heart attacks and strokes, he added.

    August 10, 2008

    Democratic Convention: Hillary still the top contender for the Vice-Presidential Nomination

    On the first night of the Democratic Convention Michelle Obama is slated for the headline speech.

    On the second night Hillary Clinton will make the headline speech.

    On the third night the Vice-President nomination will speak, as will Bill Clinton.

    There's two possibilities: Hillary is the nomination, and this is all a dramatic lead up. Or... the Clinton family is trying to help soften the blow and the disappointment many Clinton supporters are feeling right now.

    "Because I know from just what I'm hearing, that there's incredible pent up desire. And I think that people want to feel like, 'OK, it's a catharsis, we're here, we did it, and then everybody get behind Sen. Obama.' That is what most people believe is the best way to go," Clinton told supporters, saying she is seeking a way for her delegates to be heard at the convention and be united after the hard-fought nominating contest.

    Obama told reporters Thursday he thought the negotiations with Clinton aides had gone "seamlessly", but he also rejected the notion that there might be a need for emotional release on the part of some Democrats. "I don't think we're looking for catharsis," said Obama. "I think what we're looking for is energy and excitement."

    So is Obama and Clinton dropping hints of an Obama/Clinton democratic ticket in November? It certainly feels that way.

    The suspense is killing me. Politics is so frustratingly slow at times.

    Thousands evacuated as huge propane explosion rocks Toronto

    Toronto, Canada - A series of huge explosions rocked Toronto this morning as a propane plant (Sunrise Co.) blew up around 3:40 AM. Witnesses watched the series of explosions, two of which caused huge mushroom clouds, like a second sun dawning in the north west corner of Toronto near Keele Street and Wilson Avenue (Downsview Park).

    An estimated 5000 local residents were evacuated as fears of even larger explosions and falling debris could have injured many bystanders. One firefighter has been killed in the blaze and one other person is now missing (believed to be the propane plant's truck dispatcher who may have been caught in one of the explosions). Nearby York University has been sheltering evacuees and providing food and water, with discussions of opening up the universities near empty dormitories for any people who have lost their homes.

    18 other people are injured from flying debris and the force of the explosions shattered windows, overturned cars, set nearby residential buildings on fire, blew garage doors off their hinges, stripped roofs off of houses and tore trees asunder. The sheer force of the conflagration caused some bystanders to think it was a terrorist attack. Other people thought it was an earthquake or a 747 airliner crashing.

    An emergency worker at Bombardier Aerospace’s Downsview operation said he saw propane tanks falling from the sky.

    The area now looks like war zone.

    A 10-kilometre stretch of Canada’s busiest highway, the 401, was shut down as was the southern end of Highway 400, which carries people to and from cottage country.

    The Technical Standards and Safety Authority has sent two propane experts to the scene at the request of the Ontario Fire Marshal’s office, which is investigating the cause of the explosion.

    Propane is stored and transported in a compressed liquid form, vapourizing only when pressure is released. The gas is an asphyxiant, meaning it can cause suffocation. Exposure to high levels of propane can cause health problems, including frostbite if it touches skin.

    The Sunrise Company supplies nitrogen, propane, helium and argon to residential, industrial and agriculture clients. It also provides safety training for propane and dangerous goods certificates. Questions remain as to whether Sunrise employees or managers were following safety procedures.

    Sometimes it can be hard to find a Toronto Dentist you can trust.

    August 9, 2008

    Hybrids selling out faster than automakers can make them

    If you went to a car dealership today to buy a hybrid car you might run into a small problem: There is a chance they are sold out.

    Hybrid sales have jumped approx. 67% in the last six months, a combination of high oil prices and the new green trend that is sweeping North America. Hybrid prices have also dropped considerably, making them very affordable and the smarter choice in this era of high gasoline prices.

    Stephen Beatty, managing director for Toyota Canada Inc., said his company likely won't be able to keep pace with recent growth in hybrid sales for the remainder of the year because demand is outstripping supply.

    In some regions Toyota hybrid buyers may need to wait up to three months for specific models if they are not on dealer lots.

    Toyota's Japanese parent is also scrambling for more battery production for its hybrid models because of the heavy demand.

    Sales of hybrids for Toyota and its Lexus luxury brand climbed 82% in the first six months of 2008.

    General Motors also started offering a hybrid version of the popular Malibu mid-size sedan earlier this year and the company can't keep up with demand.

    "Consumer demand has been strong," said Patty Faith, GM manager of media relations.

    "We have worked our way through some availability constraints and expect the number will grow in the coming months."

    GM also offers hybrid versions of three large sport utility vehicles and will expand the fleet to include Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra pickups later this year.

    Sales of the Honda Civic hybrid have shot up 40%. The traditional Civic is already the most popular vehicle in the country.

    Ford Motor Co. of Canada Ltd. said sales of the Escape hybrid sport utility climbed 60%. The company will introduce a hybrid version of the Fusion mid-size car early next year.

    Popular Hybrids: Toyota Prius, Toyota Camry, Saturn Aura, Ford Escape, Lexus GS, Honda Accord.

    American Tourist murdered in Beijing China

    While China is bursting with pride at the opening of the Olympic games in Beijing, one American tourist is dead while his wife and tour guide are in hospital today.

    The attack happened yesterday afternoon at approx. 12:20 PM at Drum Tower, a popular tourist attraction in north Beijing. A 47-year-old attacker, Tang Yongming, killed the American man and injured both the American woman and the female tour guide. Tang then killed himself by jumping from the second storey of the Drum Tower.

    The two women were rushed to hospital and Chinese police are still investigating the murder. Chinese citizens are not allowed to own guns, and Chinese police have not said whether the attacker used a knife or other weapon.

    A Canadian fashion model was murdered last month in Shanghai, but police said that was because she stumbled onto a burglary.

    Last March a screaming, bomb-strapped hostage-taker commandeered a bus with 10 Australians aboard in the popular tourist city of Xi'an and was later shot to death by a Chinese police sniper.

    Statistically China has a very low murder rate. Shanghai and Beijing are still safer than most foreign cities of the same size.

    Built in the 13th century, the Drum Tower is one of the few ancient architectural structures still in Beijing, and was used to tell time in imperial China for the city, using drummers who pounded their instruments to mark the hours. It is situated on the important central axis of the city, to the north of the Forbidden City.

    The opening of the Olympic games included many Chinese symbols representing friendship, harmony and peace. But will the Olympics be a peaceful event, or will China's human rights record and political dissidents catch up with it?

    August 8, 2008

    Sicko, 9/11 Firefighters and Shoddy American Health Care

    I just finished watching Sicko (the 2007 documentary by Michael Moore about American health care, or lack thereof) and it is way better than Fahrenheit 9/11 (Four Stars) and every bit just as good as Bowling for Columbine (Five Stars).


    In the film Michael Moore manages to demonstrate why American health care is so shoddy. He doesn't actually say why, but I will: Because the health insurance and pharmaceutical industry in the USA is f%^&*#g greedy, and because American politicians have been paid off to maintain the status quo.

    In the film Moore also visits 4 countries that have free health care: Canada, Britain, France and Cuba, so see what so-called socialist health care is like.

    Moore even takes a group of Americans, including 3 firefighters/rescue workers who have medical illnesses from 9/11, to Guantanamo Bay (where terrorists get free health care paid for by American taxes) and tried to get the powers that be in Guantanamo Bay to give them medical care because the American government and health insurance companies refuse to pay for the health care.

    Turned away from Guantanamo Bay, they instead went to Havana where they received free health care from a hospital in Havana, and medications ($120 worth for less a $1) from a regular pharmacy.

    A local group of Cuban firefighters even invited the American firefighters over to meet them, shake their hands... and quite frankly that was a tear jerker moment.

    50 million Americans don't have health insurance. The other 250 million who do frequently are denied coverage for a variety of reasons.

    Too old, too young, too thin, too fat, pre-existing conditions, not life-threatening and a slew of other medical conditions health insurance companies refuse to pay for... so what exactly is the health insurance companies paying for? Because apparently they're not paying for health care.

    The following is the World Health Organization's ranking of the world's top 40 health systems. You will notice that the USA ranks #37th, just two above Cuba (which has free coverage for both its citizens and even foreigners who visit).

    1 France
    2 Italy
    3 San Marino
    4 Andorra
    5 Malta
    6 Singapore
    7 Spain
    8 Oman
    9 Austria
    10 Japan
    11 Norway
    12 Portugal
    13 Monaco
    14 Greece
    15 Iceland
    16 Luxembourg
    17 Netherlands
    18 United Kingdom
    19 Ireland
    20 Switzerland
    21 Belgium
    22 Colombia
    23 Sweden
    24 Cyprus
    25 Germany
    26 Saudi Arabia
    27 United Arab Emirates
    28 Israel
    29 Morocco
    30 Canada
    31 Finland
    32 Australia
    33 Chile
    34 Denmark
    35 Dominica
    36 Costa Rica
    37 United States of America
    38 Slovenia
    39 Cuba
    40 Brunei

    And its not like doctors in Canada, Britain, France or Cuba are any less than American doctors. Its the difference between receiving treatment and not receiving treatment. In America the health industry is controlled by privately owned health insurance companies... and they use every chance they get to deny people treatment because it hurts their stock value.

    And does Canada and other countries have high taxes that cripple their economies? No. Like America they also have free schooling, free police, free firefighters, free libraries and a host of other things the government pays for. So why not health care?

    Indeed the United States is the ONLY country in both North and South America that does not have free health care.

    Virus attacks Facebook and MySpace

    A virus has been infecting popular social networking sites MySpace and Facebook, tech experts said yesterday.

    On Facebook, the virus is causing email messages to be sent to people on "friends" lists asking them to watch a video supposedly on YouTube. A user has to download what purports to be a plug-in to watch the video.

    Tech expert Marc Saltzman said the plug-in is actually a virus.

    The bogus email appears to come from a friend, he said.

    "Even when you go to the fake site, it has their name and profile picture right on the site, so you really believe it," said Saltzman, a syndicated tech columnist who received several of these emails a few days ago.

    "It's affecting what is, arguably, the most popular service among Canadian web surfers. To the best of my knowledge, we haven't really seen a Facebook virus of this magnitude yet," he said.

    Security researcher Wayne Blackard said the virus is also infecting MySpace.

    "I don't have any specific numbers, but I do expect that it will spread rapidly given the popularity of the social networks," said Blackard of Texas-based TippingPoint Technologies Inc.

    On MySpace, the virus is being spread when people contact friends.

    Blackard said social networking sites are going to become increasingly vulnerable to cyber attacks due to their popularity.

    "The implicit trust built into the social circle of friends and the willingness to share information with those in the circle will only help the social engineering attacks to succeed," he said in an email.

    It's difficult to identify the perpetrators, Blackard said, but the intent seems to be to deliver malware (malicious software) such as spam. Then additional malware can be installed to capture "many types of sensitive information," he added.

    Facebook, a privately held company based in Palo Alto, Calif., wasn't immediately available for comment yesterday.

    Tech experts say computers must have up-to-date antivirus software to help prevent such attacks.

    The virus has been noted by several websites, including Saltzman's blog on MSN, tech blog Pocket-lint and by anti-virus software companies Sophos, Symantec and Kaspersky.

    See Also:
    Follow the Lilith eZine on Facebook

    Oil prices fall to $117

    Oil prices fell today to $117 US per barrel, still well above the hundred dollar/barrel mark, but down $30 from the July 11th record price of $147.27.

    Demand remains unchanged, as this latest change is the result of the strengthening US dollar, which lost 20% of its value in 2007. So is the US buck on the rebound?

    According to economists and political historians the US dollar usually follows a strengthening trend prior to an US election, the result of sunny optimism that change is good.

    It also means the United States might be able to avert or lessen a recession if they can manage to get their markets back on track and cut back on spending too much credit.

    Man walks tightrope across Twin Towers, 34 years ago.

    August 7th 1974 - 34 years ago yesterday Philippe Petit, a 24-year-old Frenchman, tightrope walked between the Twin Towers at the World Trade Centre not once, but 8 times before he was finally arrested by police in a helicopter.

    The feat is even featured in a documentary being released today in theatres: Man on Wire.

    The film is a celebration of human achievement, bravery and our ability to reach for the sky.

    It also provides an interesting historical look at a set of buildings before they were destroyed 27 years later.

    If you are a fan of architecture, check out Ancient Architecture and Contemporary Architecture, and you will see that mankind's historical past and present as we continue to reach for the sky.

    August 7, 2008

    Iran sanctions imminent while Bush relaxes in China

    US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice threatened Iran with more sanctions Thursday after it failed to give an adequate response to the latest bid by Western powers to induce it to freeze uranium enrichment.

    "Iran has a way out if they ever wish, but we will seriously pursue sanctions if they don't," said Rice.

    "You have to hope that there are reasonable people in Iran who see this as not the way to run a country."

    Tehran's latest response to a demand for the enrichment freeze in exchange for trade and technology incentives "is not a really serious answer," she said in her first comments since six world powers discussed the matter in a Wednesday conference call.

    Washington and its allies say Iran's nuclear program could be a cover to develop atomic weapons. Iran insists it has the right to develop nuclear technology, which it says is aimed at generating electricity for its growing population.

    Meanwhile George W. Bush arrived in China last night for an extended "working vacation" during which the US President will take in the Olympics, but will simultaneously be pressuring China on its human rights record (ie. The Tiananmen Square Massacre) and discussing options with Chinese leader Hu Jintao about the oil pipeline the USA is helping to construct across the Middle-East to China's border with Afghanistan.

    George W. Bush has toned down demands on Iran in recent months in preparation for the coming US election in November.

    August 5, 2008

    Hydrogen car still years from mass production

    Time is ticking by and oil prices are fluctuating well above a hundred dollars/barrel and hydrogen power still has years to go before it is released for the mass market.

    For General Motors however, which is near bankruptcy and needs to cut $15.5 billion from its current budget, the hydrogen car is their only salvation for a distant future. Everything is riding on how soon GM can get the hydrogen car into production and stave off complete bankruptcy.

    For more on this subject read:

    The Hydrogen Equinox

    Green Cars in 2020

    The Eco-Car Battleground

    Two women one bathtub

    Two naked women cavorting in a bath in an art gallery's shopfront are being used to promote a new Brisbane art gallery in a stunt that has drawn fire from a local family group.

    Peak-hour motorists on Ipswich Rd have been treated to the nightly spectacle for the past week to advertise an exhibition at the Joshua Levi Galleries titled Naked New York.

    The exhibition by world-renowned Brisbane artist Tracey Keller features 25 original acrylic paintings on linen depicting naked women in various poses.

    In the stunt, two apparently naked women take a bath together (with lots of bubbles to cover up their bikini) and separately from 5pm to 7pm in the gallery's window, in candle-lit scenes reminiscent of those made famous by Mena Suvari in the movie American Beauty.

    No complaints have been received by police or Brisbane City Council, but the stunt has been criticized by the Queensland branch of the Australian Family Association.

    President Mark Holzworth described it as "childish, immature, teenage schoolboy voyeur stuff" that added no credibility to the gallery or the artists featured.

    "This will not attract art-lovers, it will attract voyeurs which is not good for Brisbane or women in general," Mr Holzworth said.

    "I thought we had grown up as a society. Not even brothels would be this brazen to promote their services." (Probably because they know it was draw too much attention.)

    Mr Holzworth said it was also concerning that the uncensored nature of the display meant young children walking along the street could be exposed without warning.

    But gallery owner Joshua Collings, 27, said the display was tasteful and had attracted positive feedback from art lovers and serious investors alike.

    "Some of the other galleries have turned up their noses, but we've been told Brisbane is not doing anything lively - this has more of a Melbourne or New York feel," Mr Collings said.

    "We're more laidback, where (an exhibition) is more of an event than just paintings on a wall."

    "We got the idea a few weeks ago and thought, 'what a great advertisement'. You see people slowing down in the street there, what better way to promote art?"

    Police visited the gallery yesterday morning. A Queensland Police spokesman said they had been assured the women wore sheer tops and bikini bottoms. He said there had been no complaints and no reported traffic problems.

    A Brisbane City Council spokeswoman said the council had no jurisdiction over the matter because its on private property and the women aren't technically naked.

    There is a long history of women in bathtubs in nude art.

    Gallery Covers Nude Drawing's Breasts After Complaint

    Mayer Fine Art, a gallery in Norfolk, VA, was asked to move a drawing of a nude after a shopper complained. While the nude art was not in the window, it was clearly visible to passing shoppers as is most of the other art in the gallery.

    Gallery owner Sheila Giolotti was unable to find a less visible space for the work, so she merely covered the figure's breasts with Styrofoam paper plates. She plans to decorate them with pens and glitter later to create pasties for the work.

    The artist Erika Risko said: "I just think it's all very funny, that a community that accepts a Hooters can't accept a piece of fine art that's in the tradition of Greco-Roman art dating back thousands of years."

    PETA ends boycott of KFC Canada, but...

    But is determined to continue boycotting KFC outside of Canada until other countries/KFCs agree to treat their chickens better.

    People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), ended its boycott of KFC restaurants in Canada today. Canadian PETA spokeswoman Pamela Anderson even showed up to symbolically eat a soy burger.

    Sixty-five per cent of Canadian KFC outlets now serve the Classic Vegeterian sandwich, which is described as similar in taste and texture to chicken.

    The soy patties were not the only thing that had PETA diehards grinning from ear to ear. In what PETA dubbed a "landmark agreement," KFC Canada will phase-in purchasing its chicken from suppliers who use controlled-atmosphere killing, considered to be a method of slaughter that's not as cruel as traditional methods.

    Since the Kentucky Fried Cruelty campaign began in 2003, PETA has held more than 12,000 protests in front of the chain's restaurants internationally. Nude protestors hoisted banners stating the Naked Truth: KFC Tortures Chicks. Others donned chicken costumes, climbed into cages, and held signs accusing the store of Murder by the Bucket.

    "Protests occured all over Canada. Here in Windsor we had about 25 activists out in November asking KFC to stop the very worst abuses of the birds slaughtered for their restaurants," said Matthews. "KFC came to the table with PETA, and now we have lessened the suffering for the birds."

    The agreement with PETA applies only to the Canadian branch of the fast-food chain, as it is owned by a separate group.

    Abortion Rights in India

    The question Indians are asking is: Do parents have the right to choose perfect unborn babies, or has the state overstepped its jurisdiction?

    The couple Nikita and Haresh Mehta challenged a 37-year-old abortion law when doctors detected a "fair chance" of the child being born with a congenital handicap.

    It would need a pacemaker from birth and the Mehtas decided they did not want the child to be born.

    But Indian law does not allow abortion after 20 weeks unless there is a health risk to the mother.

    The couple must now regret going to the court for a decision that will affect them for the rest of their lives.

    They could have done it quietly anywhere in the thousands of rural clinics where abortions are carried out in large numbers.

    A report from the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, a leading government institute and hospital in Delhi, reported that one-third to almost half of women have had at least one induced abortion under unsafe conditions.

    Girls are considered a burden for life and sex selection leading to female foeticide is the primary reason for abortions.

    It is a myth that it only happens in India's illiterate villages - middle class India is among the worst perpetrators of female foeticide as they can afford to have sonograms and other sex-determination tests.

    A study by the British medical journal Lancet found that in the past 20 years India has lost 10 million girls.

    Prenatal sex determination and selective abortion account for over 600,000 missing girls, while 80,000 mothers die during abortions every year.

    Though there are strict laws against sex determination and illegal abortions, like almost everything in India there are ways to get around the system.

    Even though ultrasound machines should be registered with government agencies, very few are. Today's machines are now so portable and easy to operate that they have proliferated every part of the country.

    In Nikita's case, the state does not have the social structure to provide lifetime support to children born with congenial and terminal problems.

    It is the sole responsibility of the parents who eventually endure the huge emotional and financial burden of bringing up children. So why are they forcing a decision on the parents who might have to witness the slow death of their child?

    Topless PETA protestors arrested

    The topless women from animal rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) were arrested this afternoon while protesting outside the CBD restaurant over KFC's alleged treatment of chickens in factories and slaughterhouses.

    The women - naked apart from lacy, yellow bikini bottoms - were inside a large cage, holding signs that read "Chicks Agree: Boycott KFC".

    One of the protesters claimed they were "roughly-handled" by police, and said this was due to increased police powers, which came into force on July 1 and will remain in place until the 31st.

    Under the laws, emergency and rural fire service volunteers have the right to move on people deemed to be causing "inconvenience or annoyance" to pilgrims during WYD celebrations and face fines of up to $5500.

    But NSW police, who said the protesters were "causing a stir among passers-by", denied using any new powers on the KFC protesters.

    The three women - Ms Fruno, 22, Fawn Porter, 20, and Carla Lobos, 32 - protested for about 40 minutes before being arrested about 1pm (AEST).

    "People were shocked, but we think we went a long way in educating people about the way KFC treats its chickens," Ms Fruno said.

    The protest follows former Baywatch babe and PETA supporter Pamela Anderson's (non-topless) protest at a Gold Coast KFC last week and is part of a four-year global campaign against the fast food chain over the way chickens are raised, slaughtered and transported.

    Convertible Bugatti Veyron

    The rumours are about to become a reality: a convertible Bugatti Veyron debuts in a few weeks.

    Due to arrive at the Pebble Beach Concourse d'Elegance on 17 August, the targa-style supercar will be known as the Grand Sport version.

    Although the open-air car will feature a removable hardtop, a fabric cover can take its place if the weather changes while you're driving around in your $2.25-million beast.

    Chopping the bit of aerodynamically-essential roof has also resulted in the technicians at Bugatti having to reinforce the chassis, but the new roof has been developed so as to prevent a draft inside.

    And in keeping with the Veyron legend, the Grand Sport is one of fastest open top cars, even though the top speed is limited to just 347km/h.

    You'll have to be even faster if you want to snap one up — just 80 cars will be built.

    Having trouble keeping your toupee on? Don't buy a Bugatti.

    Cindy McCain to go topless?

    Yesterday evening presidential candidate John McCain took part in the Sturgis Rally 2008 at Buffalo Chip in South Dakota, an annual tribute to veterans. The candidate was so excited, he encouraged his wife to participate in the festivities: "I told her with a little luck, she could be the only woman ever to serve as both the first lady and Miss Buffalo Chip."

    The Miss Buffalo Chip contest is essentially a topless beauty pageant. And occasionally bottomless, too.

    "During a drenching rain Wednesday night, the contest broke up into smaller groups and one woman wound up dancing naked on a bar top. Her boyfriend/husband saw her and angrily dragged her away as she struggled to put her pants back on." - ESPN's Jim Caple.

    So will Cindy McCain go topless? Not very likely. She doesn't seem to be slutty type, or the type to be promoting feminist topfreedom.

    William McClure Brown

    Canadian Art History

    I read the article below (from the Toronto Star) and decided to go find out more information on William McClure Brown... but there isn't a lot out there. A Google search revealed a host of articles about his death, saying the same things this article does (exact copies in some cases), and a defunct website which links to a rather sad and underdeveloped

    Conclusions? Mr Brown, sadly, wasn't famous at all, and not even mentioned on British websites despite that being his claim to fame.

    There wasn't even a Wikipedia entry (although I am usually the first to point out the horrific flaws of Wikicrapia).

    While I appreciate the Toronto Star trying to boost the dead artist's career, it just seems a bit pathetic that only now the Toronto Star is paying attention to him.

    He wasn't noteworthy in life, so why is he noteworthy now?

    Just because he is a dead artist? That is a sad way to be remembered.

    "William McClure Brown, 54: Painter and printmaker

    Known for childlike drawings, he became prominent member of Welsh arts community

    By John C. P. King

    William McClure Brown, a prolific Canadian painter and printmaker better known in Europe, has died in Britain of congestive heart failure. He was 54.

    He described himself as a narrative artist and his imaginative childlike drawings – which he mixed with poetry in half a dozen small books – told tales from his frequent travels to northern Canada and North Africa, as well as supernatural animal myths from Quebec and his adopted home in south Wales, where he was a prominent member of the arts community.

    But he was best known for the primitive and surreally humorous paintings and linocuts of the bears, moose, wolves, birds and fish he would see almost every year at a favourite childhood cottage on Loon Lake near Kearney, Ont., north of Huntsville.

    There he was "close to three or four dumps," his sister, Kathleen Hommel of Toronto, recalled this week. He would visit the local garbage heaps regularly to watch and draw the bears that congregated there. "Not another trip to the bloody dump!" his father Alex Brown, who still lives in Toronto with his wife Cathy, would exclaim.

    Will Brown started life on Dec. 11, 1953, at St. Joseph's Hospital in Toronto – "born on the shores of a large grey lake," as he would recount more poetically – and grew up in Brampton, always drawing.

    After studying fine art and sculpture in Toronto and Pittsburgh, he moved to England in 1977 with Joady Brennan, a woman he met in Toronto. They married and settled in Somerset, where Brown became a part-time art teacher and explored his fascination with animal stories by mounting pieces of small plastic toy bears on boards he would paint in acrylics.

    When his marriage to Brennan ended in 1983, Brown moved to London, to Avon and to Devon, where he became artist in residence at a junior school in 1987. There he fell in love with Carys Griffiths, the school's deputy headmistress, who took him in and encouraged him to focus on his art.

    They married in 1988 and moved to Wales in 1990, where Carys Brown became principal of a primary school and Will Brown opened a studio in an abandoned stone church in the tiny village of Llangynwyd in the Llynfi Valley.

    While he still returned to Canada almost annually for inspiration, Brown was an active member of Wales' cultural community, even becoming fluent in the complex Welsh language.

    During the Cold War, Brown was part of the mail-art movement, which sought to confuse Communist censors by using the outside of envelopes as much as the inside for communication.

    He persisted in that style, and the envelopes of his letters to friends in recent years were covered in rubber stamps of animals and maple leaves, pen drawings and witty phrases.

    Alison Lloyd, an exhibition officer at the Glynn Vivian Gallery in Swansea, Wales, included several pieces of her mail from him in a touring exhibition of Brown's work, "What's Behind the Blanket?" in 1996.

    That exhibition brought Brown to national attention in the United Kingdom, and for the next 10 years he put on regular shows of his bold acrylic paintings, black-and-white prints and watercolours in Britain and northern France, as well as in the Czech Republic, Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands.

    In London, his work was displayed at Canada House and the East West Gallery in Notting Hill. And some of his paintings were on show at John A. Libby Fine Art in Toronto.

    In Wales and during his visits to Canada, Brown was in demand for school and gallery workshops because of his skill with children.

    His sister Kathleen remembered a summer workshop he organized at the Niagara Centre for the Arts in the mid-1990s, when one boy told Brown he couldn't draw.

    "Will said anybody could draw," she said, and he told the boy, "You just sit down there, and by the end you'll be having fun." The boy did.

    Brown's health had been failing for about two years and he died in Bridgend, Wales, on July 17.

    Along with his family in Toronto, he leaves his wife Carys in Bridgend and a daughter, Ila, in Vancouver."

    Furthermore William Brown isn't even mentioned in art history books. His obituary is practically his only claim to fame.

    Want to learn more about poetry in Toronto? Join the Toronto Poetry Club. (Link updated March 2014.)

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