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May 29, 2009

North and South Korea on verge of open war

POLITICS - North Korea test-fired another short-range missile today, the sixth in the last week and warned it would act in "self-defence" if provoked. The recent nuclear test on Monday by North Korea suggests Koreans (both North and South) should be worried about impending invasions.

Today's missile tested has a range of approx. 260 km, which would give it enough range to reach most of South Korea's cities, but not Pusan, a military headquarters. However North Korea test fired a long range missile in April, one capable of reaching Hawaii.

Chinese and Japanese fishing boats have left the region and South Korean and American forces are now on high alert. U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said the situation is not yet a crisis and no additional U.S. troops would be sent to the region, but he didn't rule out the possibility.

North Korea accused the United Nations Security Council of hypocrisy is a released statement. "There is a limit to our patience," the statement said. "The nuclear test conducted in our nation this time is the Earth's 2,054th nuclear test. The five permanent members of the UN Security Council have conducted 99.99 per cent of the total nuclear tests."

North Korea insists it will only act in defense. Fears of a skirmish could set off an escalation towards war.

The North has renounced the truce that has kept peace between the two Koreas since the Korean War ended in 1953. The waters off the west coast were the site of two deadly skirmishes in 1999 and 2002.

"For now, it seems quiet," said South Korean construction worker Lee Hae-un, 43. "But if North Korea provokes us with military power, I think our government should actively and firmly counteract it."

The United States has 28,000 American troops stationed in South Korea.

North Korea meanwhile has 1.2-million troops and is one of the world's largest. A war with North Korea may require the United States to draft additional troops and would destabilize global politics, as Iran and other countries may decide to take advantage of the situation.

The two Koreas technically remain at war because they signed a truce in 1953, not a peace treaty.

May 26, 2009

The Return of Hundred Dollar Oil

POLITICS - Its back. Can't you smell it? People are burning through gasoline again faster than you can say "Fill'er'up".

Last summer the summer driving season (beach parties, long weekends, vacations at the summer cottage, visiting friends and relatives) was so intense it drove oil prices up to a record $147.27 USD.

We had predicted Hundred Dollar Oil would come, especially with the world's easily accessible oil supplies dwindling and we're now so desperate we are going to tar (ie. the Alberta Oil Sands) and even coal (China is converting coal into gasoline) in order to fuel our cars when supply becomes low.

The shortage is most noticeable in the United States, which according to a 2007 CIA estimate consumes 20.68 million barrels of oil per day (almost one quarter or the world's total oil consumption, see the CIA World Factbook for more details).

After last summer's driving season was finally over, prices settled back down below the hundred dollar mark and even reached $35 USD earlier this year... but with the prospect of another driving season up ahead the prices have already shot up to $62 USD and many industry analysts are predicting the return of hundred dollar oil.

"The stage is currently being set for oil prices to skyrocket," says U.S. energy analyst David Fessler. Fessler cites the decline of such super fields as the North Sea, Alaska's North Slope, Mexico's Cantrell Field and Saudi Arabia's Ghawar Field – largest in the world – along with the extraordinary cost of producing crude from the few remaining newer crude sources such as Alberta's Athabasca tarsands and reserves six or seven kilometres below sea level off the coast of Brazil as signs that we are facing another oil shortage and skyrocketing prices.

"If demand in China and elsewhere returns to its previous rate of growth, it will not be too long before the same calculus that produced the oil-price spike of 2007-08 will be back to haunt us again," says economics professor James Hamilton of the University of California at San Diego. He and several others are predicting Two Hundred Dollar Oil by 2014. Maybe sooner.

"You're going to be back to $75 (U.S.) oil by the end of the year, and $200 (USD) per barrel within five years." says ex-oil tycoon T. Boone Pickens, now a champion of alternative energy.

It doesn't help that the oil industry has cut funding for oil exploration. Despite record profits, the industry isn't looking for new oil sources as much as it usually does, perhaps realizing its more profitable to drum up more money by playing into the doom-and-gloom of the growing shortage.

When oil collapsed more than 70 per cent from its July 2008 record high, many major oil firms slashed their exploration budgets claiming the lower prices did not cover the expenses of today's high-cost of finding new sources. High cost? Pfff. Utter nonsense. Their record profits tells a different story.

The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), has delayed 35 new exploration projects until 2013. About $100 billion USD worth of Alberta tarsands expansion projects are now on hold. Civil war continues to rage in Nigeria, America's fifth-largest source of oil imports and a source of frequent supply disruptions.

And when the global recession ends, demand in China, India and other growing economies will come back strong, and thus will push oil prices up faster and farther than ever expected. With the lack of new exploration it means we may finally meet the peak oil pinnacle.

(Peak Oil is the theory wherein oil demand finally out paces supply, creating on a graph a peak between declining oil supply and growing demand. After that point its guaranteed oil prices will skyrocket.)

To combat that eventuality many nations and the automotive industry are pushing the idea of cars that run on alternative energy, such as hydrogen (gasoline is many of hydrogen and carbon) and is actually a more efficient energy source, but North America currently lacks the infrastructure to distribute it. It would take several years to build the infrastructure required.

If we see $100+ oil again, perhaps permanently, we could see public opinion swayed to the point where hydrogen-distribution infrastructure is suddenly on the public agenda.

North Korea tests nuke, launches two missiles

POLITICS - Communist nation North Korea tested two more short-range missiles Tuesday, one day after its nuclear weapon test.

Pyongyang also warned ships to stay away from waters off its western coast this week, a sign the country may be gearing up for more missile tests. South Korea's coast guard says they will be maintaining their distance but keeping a watch out for more test missiles.

Yesterday North Korea conducted an underground atomic test in the northeast that the UN Security Council condemned as a "clear violation" of a 2006 resolution banning North Korea from developing its nuclear program.

The 2006 resolution apparently fell on deaf ears in North Korea, the so-called "Hermit Kingdom" because it rarely trades with other nations and has essentially cut itself off from the outside world.

The United States and Japan are pushing for strong action against North Korea for testing a bomb that Russian officials said was comparable in power to those that obliterated Hiroshima and Nagasaki during World War II.

Russia, once a key backer of North Korea, condemned the test and is also urging to punish North Korea through diplomatic sanctions, although many question how well sanctions work in a country that refuses to trade with outsiders and doesn't acknowledge the authority of the United Nations Security Council.

North Korea's test of a long-range missile in July 2006 and its first nuclear test in October 2006 (see North Korea's Nuclear Test - October 9th, 2006)drew stiff sanctions from the Security Council and orders to refrain from engaging in ballistic missile-related activity and to stop developing its nuclear program. Demands which were basically ignored.

Last month North Korea went ahead and launched a long-range rocket on April 5th. The rocket was a failure, but its goal was to reach the California coastal waters a mere stone's throw from the United States. It splashed down north of Hawaii instead.

Meanwhile South Korea (North Korea's enemy for over 50 years) announced today it would join a maritime web of more than 90 countries that intercept ships suspected of spreading weapons of mass destruction, a move North Korea warned would constitute an act of war if any North Korean ships are intercepted.

South Korea's capitol Seoul is mere miles from the DMZ between the two Korean nations and has 24.5 million people living in its metropolitan area. Its believed a nuclear war with North Korea would make Seoul the first target. Pusan, the second largest city and a military HQ, would be the second most likely target.

Kim Jong Il, North Korea's "Great Leader", had a stroke in 2008 (see North Korean Dictator suffers stroke) and has become increasingly erratic in his behaviour and aggression towards the USA.

May 19, 2009

Women more vulnerable to lung damage

HEALTH - Women may be more vulnerable to lung damage from smoking than men, according to new research.

In a study looking at chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), scientists at Brigham and Women's Hospital, part of Harvard University Medical School, and the University of Bergen in Norway found that female smokers experienced reduced lung function at a lower level of exposure and at a younger age than male smokers.

"There's an important public health message here," says senior author Dr. Dawn DeMeo, assistant professor of medicine at Harvard. "Many women believe their smoking is too limited to be harmful, that a few cigarettes a day is a minimal risk. Our research shows there's no safe amount, especially for women."

The study, presented yesterday at the American Thoracic Society conference in San Diego, analyzed data from Norway of current and former smokers, 954 of whom had COPD; 955 were controls.

The gender differences were most pronounced among COPD patients under the age of 60, considered early onset, and those who smoked less than a pack a day for 20 years, the low-exposure group.

COPD is a progressive disease characterized by increasingly difficult breathing. It is most often caused by cigarette smoking and includes the conditions emphysema and chronic bronchitis

Another study, also reported this month, looked at 683 lung cancer patients at a Swiss treatment centre. It found that women tended to be younger when they got cancer even though, on average, they had smoked less than the men, suggesting an increased susceptibility.

The findings were presented earlier this month at the European Multidisciplinary Conference in Thoracic Oncology in Switzerland.

Previous research has also indicated an increased female vulnerability. "The idea has been around for 10 to 15 years. The evidence is building up piece by piece," says Dr. Donna Stewart, chair of women's health at the University Health Network, in Toronto.

But no one knows why there might be a gender difference.

"One theory is that women have smaller lungs than men, so each cigarette does more harm," says Dr. Inga-Cecilie Soerheim, lead author on the COPD study.

Another possible explanation is that men and women metabolize cigarette smoke differently. An enzyme involved in metabolizing drugs and tobacco smoke is regulated by estrogen, Stewart explains. Genetic factors may also be at play.

Roberta Ferrence, executive director of the Ontario Tobacco Research Unit, is cautious about putting too much emphasis on gender differences.

"It's very difficult to figure out what's biological, genetic, environmental, behavioural. Even the type of cigarette and how it's smoked is part of it," she says.

"It's a complex mix. The bottom line is that everyone should quit and nobody should start," adds Ferrence.

In Canada, lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death for both men and women.

New tough emissions standards

CARS/POLITICS - Its a new day in America, a day that car-loving environmentalists have been asking for decades.

United States President Barack Obama announced today a plan to curb vehicle emissions by 2013 by increasing engine efficiency.

In the White House Rose Garden earlier today, Obama outlined his administration's bold plan to end dependence on overseas oil by curbing vehicle emissions, calling the initiative a historic environmental and economic turning point toward a "clean-energy economy."

"As a result of this agreement, we will save 1.8 billion barrels of oil over the lifetime of the vehicles sold in the next five years," said Obama, joined in his announcement by leaders of the auto industry, labour, government officials and key national and state political leaders.

"And at a time of historic crisis in our auto industry, this rule provides the clear certainty that will allow these companies to plan for a future in which they are building the cars of the 21st century."

The new emission standards is badly needed from an economic standpoint, not just for fuel savings, but because many American-built cars can't be sold overseas because they don't meet Asian or European efficiency standards. Upping the American standards will force American automakers to make cars both here (and for overseas) that can compete globally.

It also ends a state-by-state problem, wherein different American states had different emission standards, but they weren't easily enforced because people could just by a car across the state border (or in Canada or Mexico). The new consistency will make it easier for automakers to set the bar and stick to it.

The new national standard roughly mirrors the proposed California clean car standards, which sought to cut emissions by 30% by 2020. Obama's new plan? Cut 30% by 2016. Automakers have until 2013 to invest in R&D and get all their new cars up to snuff.

But that R&D will be fairly easy. European and Asian countries already have similar or much tougher standards. The recent purchase of General Motors by European automaker Fiat for example will give GM access to lots of R&D which will allow the company to build more lightweight cars with more efficient engines.

So we already have the technology, its just a matter of using it.

Americans buy over 27 million new cars per year. The new emission standards will reduce the number of gas guzzlers on the road by 177 million by 2016. Consumers will end up saving an average of approx. $1700 USD by paying less for gas (or more if gas prices skyrocket) over the next 6.5 years.

Hateler Youth - Homeland Security's Jegund

By Diane.

"The children are our Future." Never has a sweet sentimental adage been more abused by its utterers by adults with visions of their own dangerous and demented futures, than when Hitler's Youth was in existence from 1922 t0 1945.

PhotobucketUntil now.

As the mother of a 10 year old, I often look at my child's future, and my stomach cramps with ulcerated fear. Global warming, no economy, Constitutional shredding... yes, he will be up against so much, but nothing scares me more than the cultural acceptance of violence as part of life that ingrains every part of his world. Nearly every video game made and marketed, the most successful of these, are always military and murderous in nature. Our children weren't suckled on sandlot baseball games in the neighborhoods, they were nursed on "Lets blow the bad guys away!"

And they are now taking the next rational step in creating a Paramilitary Nation of Citizens who hate, and are dying to kill "Bad Guys" in real time.

This is what the Boy Scout affiliate, Explorer Scouts now looks like:

PhotobucketJust as our Boy-President was manipulated by images of Biblical passages transposed over Iraqi military action by Rummy, leading him to believe he was leading another Holy Crusade against Islam, and the "Left Behind" folks created a video game series to teach their children to "Convert them or Kill them," we now have real time Youth training shaping minds as young as 13 and a half to be proud little killers for America.

PhotobucketThe parallels of the Hitler Youth being indoctrinated with the hatred of Jewish people, and being taught they were the only "good" people just trying to "protect" their beloved land, just begs to be made with the rhetoric of the people sponsoring this Explorer Scout program. Their motives and actions are so very alike.

From encouraging little girls being "EXCITED" solely by the gun aspect, to dressing actors for them to fight in traditional Muslim garb, to telling them to slam suspects in the ground and grind a knee in their backs; we are training these kids to ENJOY the degradation and killing of anyone their superiors tells them is the "bad guy."

They are training them to support border control and take out Mexicans as well, hoping to create the perfect agent: Bloodthirsty and on a Jihad to take out immigrants.

I fear for my son. I know I am raising him right. I do. But when hundreds of his peers run off to play paintball every weekend when he turns 13, and I ostracize him from his own society in order not to glorify that violent bloodlust, will he rebel against me?

They are playing this by the tainted book that Dictatorial Societies always try when Empires collapse.

Divide the people. Create scapegoats. Teach them killing for their country is "Just" and "Good." Insulate the police and military societies into siege mentality that "civ's and perps" just don't get it, that they are the Real America and the Insiders.

Make it "FUN" to kill.

Even should he turn out a young man of whom I am eternally proud, what society will he be living in when he and his peers come of age?

A polarized paramilitary society, where privacy is treason, you are either "for us or against us" and brutality is the norm.

PhotobucketAs the waters rise, the food runs out, there is no work and the Fascist Face of our Uberrich masters, for whom profit is more important than the health care of we "useless eaters" no longer even bothers to veil itself will his greatest enemy not be any of those, but brainwashed people of his generation that think blowing his head off is an extra video game point?

Technology has long surpassed humanity, and propaganda always beats education, especially in a society where real education is suppressed, and questioning is akin to treason. This society is proving in real time that the rules we have made for ourselves no longer apply, and that those who wield the power will blatantly break them anytime they choose with no repercussion.

Uneducated masses with no way out are easy prey for indoctrination. Are they taking violence-suckled babies and creating soldiers or monsters?

You see, I do believe children are our future.

I for one, have had the absolute shit scared out of me.

May 11, 2009

RCMP apologize for taser death

CANADA - The RCMP's second-in-command issued an outright apology today for the death of Robert Dziekanski, the Polish immigrant who was tasered to death by trigger happy RCMP officers.

"We are very sorry for Mr. Dziekanski's death and we are committed to learning as much as possible from this terrible event," said Deputy Commissioner William Sweeney.

Sweeney, speaking to a senate committee on change in the RCMP, went further than either senior B.C. officers did two weeks ago or Commissioner Bill Elliott.

Elliott said the force would soon indicate to a judicial inquiry into Dziekansk's death that members of the RCMP would have done things differently. It was the closest the force's leadership had come to admitting any mistakes were made in the October 2007 incident wherein RCMP officers electrocuted Dziekanski five times and killed him. The officers proceeded to electrocute him less than 30 seconds after meeting him, not even bothering to wait for an interpreter or attempt to communicate with him.

The four RCMP officers later lied under oath, claiming they had felt threatened by the Polish immigrant because he was holding a stapler. Public disbelief that four armed RCMP wearing bullet-proof vests felt "threatened" by a confused man with a stapler was widespread.

The RCMP also tried to cover up the incident by seizing a video camera which recorded the incident and was the primary damning evidence. Paul Pritchard, the owner of the camera, had to take the RCMP to court to get his video back and released the video to the media afterwards.

Afterwards the RCMP also faked a coroner's report stating that Dziekanski died of a heart defect, but a later autopsy disproved this and that the previous coroner's report was completely bogus.

Deputy Commissioner Sweeney said today that the RCMP is awaiting the outcome of the inquiry led by Judge Thomas Braidwood. Will the four RCMP officers be punished and charged with manslaughter, conspiracy and perjury? Maybe. The RCMP seems to be completely corrupt. It took the RCMP seventeen months to finally issue an apology.

May 10, 2009

Chemical attack in Afghanistan

POLITICS - Afghanistan is accusing the United States of using chemical weapons in a remote region of the Afghan countryside. The USA denies the charge, suggesting it was the Taliban who used chemical warfare.

But according to photos by ABC News (see Afghanistan's Young Victims of Chemical Strikes), which shows American marines launching 120mm white phosphorous mortars at Taliban strongholds, the United States did indeed launch the attacks and hit civilians in what will undoubtedly be another friendly-fire incident that will permanently tarnish the reputation of the American military. (We also found a Reuters photo showing a white phosphorous attack over civilian populations.)

Afghanistan's leading human rights organization said today it is investigating the possibility that white phosphorus was used in a U.S.-Taliban battle that killed 130+ Afghan civilians. The U.S. military rejected speculation it had used the weapon, insisting it was Taliban militants who did the deed, despite ABC News photos to the contrary.

White phosphorus is a spontaneously flammable material that can cause painful chemical burns. It is used to mark targets, create smoke screens or as a weapon, and can be delivered by shells, flares or hand grenades.

White phosphorus can be employed legitimately in battle, but rights groups say its use over populated areas can indiscriminately burn civilians and constitutes a war crime. Launching it at a town occupied by both Taliban fighters and civilians would therefore constitute a war crime. Human rights groups denounce the use of white phosphorus for the severe burns it causes, though it is not banned by any treaty to which the United States is a signatory. It is however banned by numerous other countries.

Afghan doctors are concerned over what they are calling "unusual" burns on hundreds of Afghans wounded in last Monday's battle in Farah province, which President Hamid Karzai has said killed approx. 130 Afghan civilians. The incident in Farah drew the condemnation of President Karzai who called for an end to American airstrikes on civilian populations.

This is not the first time the USA has used white phosphorus on civilian populations. The U.S. military used white phosphorus in the battle of Fallujah in Iraq in November 2004. Israel's military used it in January 2009 against Hamas targets in Gaza.

Colonel Greg Julian, the top U.S. military spokesman in Afghanistan, said the U.S. did not use white phosphorus as a weapon during last week's battle. The U.S. does use white phosphorous to illuminate the night sky, he said. (He apparently has not seen the ABC photos yet of American troops launching it during day hours.) Instead he suggested the chemical burns might be from exploding propane tanks, but didn't explain how exploding propane tanks could kill 130 civilians and burn hundreds of others.

Yesterday a different U.S. military spokesman blamed Taliban militants for causing the deaths by using villagers as human shields. This suggests the U.S. is admitting to the attack with one spokesman and denying involvement with another.

Dr. Mohammad Aref Jalali, the head of the burn unit at the Herat Regional Hospital disagrees. "I think it's the result of a chemical used in a bomb, but I'm not sure what kind of chemical. But if it was a result of a burning house – from petrol or gas cylinders – that kind of burn would look different," he said.

"There has been other airstrikes in Farah in the past. We had injuries from those battles, but this is the first time we have seen such burns on the bodies. I'm not sure what kind of bomb it was," says Gul Ahmad Ayubi, the deputy head of Farah's health department.

The current investigation coincides with another investigation into a March 14th incident in which an 8-year-old Afghan girl named Razia was burned by white phosphorus munitions in Kapisa province. Investigators are trying to determine whether U.S. troops attacked the little girl for "shits and giggles", and if so should disciplinary action be taken.

An estimated 17 members of the Taliban were killed in last Monday's chemical attack, although this has not been confirmed.

Today Afghanistan called for the United States to come clean on the incidents.

May 9, 2009

Swine flu in Canada, update

CANADA/HEALTH - Canada's H1N1 flu epidemic (also known as swine flu) is expected to pass the 250 person mark today. The deadly flu has only killed 1 Canadian so far, but more deaths is expected as laboratory tests confirm whether or not people have the H1N1 virus.

Delays receiving laboratory test results have opened up the question of how serious the Canadian government is taking the epidemic. So far the death rate in Canada has been pretty low (less than 0.5%) but it could get potentially a lot worse if not tracked and documented.

If a single case goes unnoticed someone could accidentally (or deliberately) spread the deadly flu to other Canadians simply by visiting highly populated public places like shopping malls, schools or retirement homes.

May 8, 2009

Battling for control of Talibanistan

POLITICS - If you're not familiar with the term "Talibanistan", let me explain.

The United States and allies only captured parts of northern Afghanistan. The Taliban is still in control (after 8 years of fighting) of southern Afghanistan and have been spreading their realm of influence into Pakistan. The area controlled by the Taliban pays taxes to the Taliban, pays their electricity & water bills/etc to the Taliban-controlled utilities.

So as much as we may think we've won that war, its evident we haven't even come close. The Taliban (and Al-Qaeda) are still very much in control of the southern region of Afghanistan. The USA and allies really only control major cities in the south, but within those cities are constantly under attack from roadside bombs and suicide bombers.

Across the Pakistan border, the Taliban have entrenched themselves in order to avoid military sweeps by the USA. Lookouts watch out for American troop movements and then radio (using cellphones) to their allies to warn them to duck and cover. Its essentially a cheap and dirty radar system relying on word of mouth.

Pakistan's army vowed today to eliminate militants from a northwestern valley of Pakistan known as Swat, but warned that its under-equipped troops face thousands of Taliban extremists who have taken control of Pakistani towns, planted improvised bombs made from pressure cookers, and brainwashed children to become suicide bombers in a holy war against the hated Americans. (The village of Swat is one of the rumoured locations of Osama bin Laden.)

The United Nations and Pakistani officials predict 1 million refugees will soon burden the turbulent Afghan border region as people flee the growing conflict between Pakistan and the Taliban. Pakistan officials estimate 250,000 people have already fled the region in the past week. U.N. officials say the numbers may be twice that.

The Taliban's power has only been growing, with their most recent advance placing them within 60 miles of Pakistan's capital, Islamabad. That places them within easy striking distance of Pakistan's nuclear arsenal, which has caused the United States to become concerned about the possibility of a nuclear weapon falling into the hands of the Taliban.

There are doubts about the resolve of the Pakistani army and Pakistan's ability to sustain the kind of grinding counterinsurgency warfare needed to defeat extremists whose rhetoric resonates widely in a Muslim nation deeply skeptical of American goals in the region.

Pakistan officials say they need helicopters, surveillance drones and night-vision equipment, which the United States is scrambling to provide.

Canada's first swine flu death

CANADA/HEALTH - Canada had its first death from swine flu on April 28th, health officials confirmed today. The northern Alberta woman had other medical problems that complicated her condition.

People with respiratory problems like asthma are more susceptible to swine flu death.

The woman died 10 days ago, but it took awhile to pinpoint her cause of death. Her case had been considered mild, but her history of chronic health problems caused her to be more susceptible to the disease.

4,000 Canadians die every year from the regular flu, begging the question whether swine flu is really that deadly.

So far there is 224 confirmed cases of the outbreak strain of H1N1 (swine flu) in Canada, but only 1 death.

A total of 44 people have been confirmed to have died of the flu strain in Mexico and two in the United States. There are many more waiting for confirmation as to the cause of death.

The World Health Organization said Thursday that up to two billion people could be infected by swine flu if the current outbreak turns into a pandemic, but its still unknown just how deadly it is. The Canadian statistics suggest the death rate may be less than 0.5%.

May 6, 2009

The Cove - Dolphin Massacres in Japan

ENVIRONMENT - Normally we wouldn't discuss issues like "Save the Whales", PETA and other animal activist issues (we're meat lovers and proud of it), but every person has a line at which they consider something immoral to eat.

Most commonly is dogs and cats, because they're commonly pets, eating horse is more common but frowned upon by some people. The one in this documentary, The Cove, is the issue of the slaughter and consumption of dolphins in Japan.

Earlier this year at the Sundance Film Festival, The Cove premiered to applause and gasps. The film is a dolphin abuse exposé that plays like a spy thriller because of all the cloak-and-dagger stuff the crew had to go through to find out the truth.

In the film director Louie Psihoyos, a top National Geographic photographer, leads a crack team of environmentalists and scuba divers probing reports of dolphin abuse in the marine town of Taiji, Japan, a town known for its dolphin tourism trade.

What they discover, using hidden cameras, is a slaughterhouse where thousands of dolphins are butchered alive, often after watching their terrified offspring killed first. (Dolphins are one of very few species that form life-time affinities with their children and can communicate using a complex mixture of squeaks.)

Blue water turns red from the carnage and for a moment you're reminded of the film Jaws, but with the realization that it is humans that are the killing machines.

Every year in Japan more than 23,000 dolphins and porpoises are killed, harvested for their meat which is sold illegally as a food delicacy, despite having dangerously high levels of mercury caused by industrial pollution. Dolphin meat is often falsely labeled as whale meat, which compounds the problem, since whales are also a highly endangered species.

Some of the dolphins are shipped to water parks around the globe to be used for entertainment, making Japan one of the largest exporters of live dolphins.

American marine expert Richard O'Barry, who helped create the Flipper TV series of the 1960s, says he personally captured the four or five bottlenose dolphins that played Flipper, but later regrets his actions when he realized how sensitive the animals are and how much they suffered. As a result O'Barry changed from dolphin hunter to dolphin protector and now travels the world with his message that these are sentient beings, far more intelligent than anyone imagines.

The Cove also showing how duplicitous the Japanese government is about its commitments as a member of the International Whaling Commission, which is supposed to conserve marine life rather than exploit it.

So now that we know about this abuse, and the corruption within the Japanese government, will people put a stop to it?

May 5, 2009

Dom DeLuise dead, age 75

ENTERTAINMENT - Dom DeLuise, the portly actor-comedian of Cannonball Run fame has been a popular character actor for decades with movie and TV audiences has died. He was 75.

Dom DeLuise died last night in his sleep after a long illness.

The actor also carved out a formidable second career as a chef of fine cuisine. He wrote two cookbooks and would often appear on TV shows as guest chef.

As an actor he appeared in almost a hundred movies and TV shows, also acted in Broadway plays and voiced characters for numerous cartoon shows.

Writer-director-actor Mel Brooks cast DeLuise in several of his films, including "The Twelve Chairs," "Blazing Saddles," "Silent Movie," "History of the World Part I" and "Robin Hood: Men in Tights." DeLuise was also the voice of Pizza the Hutt in Brooks' "Star Wars" parody "Spaceballs."

Opposite his friend Burt Reynolds, DeLuise starred in "The End," "The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas," "Smokey and the Bandit II," "The Cannonball Run" and "Cannonball Run II."

Dean Martin, admired his comic abilities so much that he cast DeLuise as a regular on his 1960s comedy-variety show. Some of his appearances include "The Munsters," "The Girl From U.N.C.L.E.," "Burke's Law," "Sabrina the Teenage Witch" and "Diagnosis Murder."

On Broadway, DeLuise appeared in Neil Simon's "Last of the Red Hot Lovers" and other plays.

Because of his passion for food, the actor battled obesity throughout much of his life, his weight reaching 325 pounds at one point.

For years, he resisted the efforts of family members and doctors who tried to put him on various diets. He finally agreed in 1993 when he needed hip replacement surgery and his doctor refused to perform it until he lost 100 pounds. DeLuise enrolled at the Duke University Diet and Fitness Center in Durham, N.C., and DeLuise lost enough weight for the surgery.

His two cookbooks, both highly successful, were 1988's "Eat This – It Will Make You Feel Better!" and 1997's "Eat This Too! It'll Also Make You Feel Good." He strongly resembled the famed chef Paul Prudhomme and joked in a 1987 interview that he had posed as Prudhomme while visiting Prudhomme's New Orleans restaurant.

He was born Dominick DeLuise in New York City on August 1st 1933, to Italian immigrants. His father, who spoke only Italian, was a garbage collector, and those humble beginnings stayed with him throughout his life.

DeLuise's introduction to acting came at age eight when he played the title role of Peter Rabbit in a school play. He went on to graduate from New York City's famed School of Performing Arts in Manhattan.

He eventually found work at the Cleveland Playhouse, appearing in stage productions that ranged from comedies such as "Kiss Me Kate" to Shakespeare's "Hamlet."

"I worked two years solidly on plays and moving furniture and painting scenery and playing parts," he remarked in a 2006 interview. "It was quite an amazing learning place for me."

While working in summer stock in Provincetown, Mass., he met a beautiful young actress, Carol Arthur, and they were soon married.

The couple's three sons, Peter, Michael and David, all became actors and all appeared with their father in the 1990s TV series "SeaQuest DSV" in which Peter and Michael were regulars.

May 4, 2009

Korean snipers save ship from pirates

POLITICS - South Korean snipers hovering in a helicopter today chased away pirates pursuing a North Korean freighter in the Gulf of Aden off the coast of Somalia, while a Russian warship freed eight Iranian citizens held hostage for more than three months. (Call it a week of international co-operation.)

South Korea's joint chiefs of staff said in a statement that a South Korean warship sent a Lynx helicopter to assist the North Korean vessel shortly after receiving a distress call that it was being chased by the pirate ship.

The pirate vessel, 37 kilometres south of the Yemeni port of Aden, gave up chasing North Korea's vessel and sped away after snipers aboard the helicopter fired warning shots.

The high seas drama was a rare instance of recent co-operation between North and South Korea, which have been locked in a bitter cold war since the 1950s.

Also today, Iran's embassy in Moscow announced a Russian warship freed eight Iranians from pirates last week. The 8 Iranians had been held captive by the pirates for almost three months, and praised the Russian navy for the rescue.

Stocks markets up, Obama vows to catch tax cheats

POLITICS - There are increasing signs the American recession may end sooner than expected. For starters the Toronto Stock Exchange charged ahead again today, extending a rally that has propelled Canada's main index up 30% in less than two months and it is just one of many stock markets that have been doing better over the last 3 months suggesting the global economy is stabilizing and Obama's (and Canada's) stimulus package is working.

Today alone Toronto's S&P/TSX composite index surged 373.41 points to 9,870.37. It was the biggest one-day gain so far in 2009. Most of the gains have been in the last 2 months, with the TSX up over 2300 points since early March.

In the United States the Dow Jones industrial average gained 214.33 points today to 8,426.74 while the Nasdaq composite index climbed 44.36 to 1,763.56.

Construction spending is the USA is finally up and home sales are up again too. Commodity stocks are up, but so is oil prices (to $54.47 USD per barrel). These are all positive signs that the recession (which many economists have avoided calling a depression) may be on the rebound finally.


How do you pay for a stimulus package without raising taxes? Well, you can start by catching tax cheats who have been storing their ill-gotten cash in offshore bank accounts.

For years now greedy tax cheats in the United Statess have been storing their profits overseas in offshore bank accounts. Sometimes the money is the result of criminal activity or corporate corruption, which is also something that needs to be addressed.

President Barack Obama vowed today to "detect and pursue" American tax evaders and go after their offshore tax shelters. The Obama administration will begin by overhauling the U.S. tax code, so that existing laws that make it possible to "pay lower taxes if you create a job in Bangalore, India, than if you create one in Buffalo, New York."

After all, why should corporate bad-boys get a tax break for making jobs overseas. Wouldn't it make more sense to give them a tax break for making jobs in North America?

President Obama said he wants to prevent U.S. companies from deferring tax payments by keeping profits in foreign countries rather than recording them at home and called for more transparency in bank accounts that Americans hold in notorious tax havens like the Cayman Islands.

"If financial institutions won't cooperate with us, we will assume that they are sheltering money in tax havens and act accordingly," Obama said.

This was also one of Obama's campaign promises and he hammered on this issue repeatedly during his long campaign for the White House. Tracking down these tax cheats could result in an extra $210 billion over 10 years and "make it easier" for companies to create jobs at home. Over a decade, $210 billion would make a welcome dent in a federal deficit expected to swell to $1.2 trillion in 2010 due to the new stimulus package.

Under the new plan, companies would no longer be able to write off domestic expenses for generating profits abroad. The goal is to reduce the incentive for U.S. companies to base all or part of their manufacturing operations in other countries.

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner called the new move "common-sense changes designed to restore balance to our tax code."

"Nobody likes paying taxes, particularly in times of economic stress," Obama said. "But most Americans meet their responsibilities because they understand that it's an obligation of citizenship, necessary to pay the costs of our common defence and our mutual well-being."

The current tax code, he said, makes it too easy for "a small number of individuals and companies to abuse overseas tax havens to avoid paying any taxes at all."

The government is hiring nearly 800 new IRS agents to enforce the U.S. tax code and catch tax cheats.

May 3, 2009

Swine flu spreading at mathematical rate

HEALTH - Swine flu (the H1N1 virus) is spreading at mathematical rate. In fact, we may be able to predict the speed at which it spreads across the globe.

This past Thursday we sat down with a calculator and looked at the figures for the spread of the H1N1 virus, taking daily tallies for Wednesday and Thursday and using that to determine the percentage of increase.

Wednesday: 3,500 people worldwide suspected of having swine flu, including 343 people in the United States and 19 people in Canada.

Thursday: 4,000 people worldwide suspected of having swine flu, including 594 people in the United States and 33 people in Canada.

These figures indicated the global epidemic was increasing at the rate of 15% per day, and hot zones like the USA was spreading at 73% increase and more intermediate zones like Canada it was spreading at a 58% increase.

Using that we predicted the global spread would be 4,600 on Friday, 5,290 on Saturday, 6,083 by today (Sunday). We also calculated the spread in the USA (Fri 1,027, Sat 1,778, Sun 3,076) and Canada (Fri 52, Sat 82, Sun 130).

In theory as people start to take more precautions this should slow down the rate of spread. But there was also the chance for people to just ignore it, not worry about it, not realize they are sick, be carrying the deadly flu and spreading it to others without realizing it... or just plain assholes and be spreading it on purpose.

There was also the factor of the weekend, a time when people tend to either stay home... or go out to a movie, the beach, etc. We're fairly certain the weekend would decrease the overall rate.

What we discovered however is that our estimates were partially accurate, especially in Canada where people seem to be taking the flu less seriously. Our predictions of 52 on Friday and 82 on Saturday were pretty close to the results of 51 and 81. This morning its up to 85 and we will be watching news reports today to see how close it gets to our 130 estimate.

Our global estimate of 4,600 on Friday was off the mark, as it only grew to 4,400. Conflicting news reports in the USA suggest the swine flu has shrunk or grown, so we're going to wait for more accurate information for that one.

As soon as we get more accurate estimates we will be creating a new mathematical model to make more accurate predictions at how quickly the swine flu may spread. People taking extra precautions (washing hands, wearing surgical masks, quarantining themselves) should decrease the spread significantly.

Spokespeople for the World Health Organization say the pandemic level may be raised to 6 in the coming days, the highest level and will indicate its become a global pandemic.

So far cases tend to hit men the most, because men are the least likely to take precautions such as washing their hands regularly.

There is also still a lot of confusion about how people get swine flu, with less informed people still thinking it comes from pork products. That is good news for people who love eating pork chops and bacon, as the prices of pork products are coming down.

"I don't eat that stuff," says Paris Hilton, unofficial spokesperson for the totally uninformed.

(Personal Note: Reminder to buy bread, eggs, milk, bacon, pork chops and toilet paper today.)

See Also:
Swine flu spreading faster than expected
Worldwide Influenza Pandemic Warned
Swine flu hits Mexico and western United State

May 1, 2009

Will we see $100 oil again?

POLITICS - Last summer was a rocky year for oil prices, largely due to a lack of supply in North America and oil speculators who bid the price up beyond where it normally would have been.

So... could it happen again? Could we see hundred dollar oil again in the near future?

It is possible. Oil prices today rose to $53.34 US per barrel, despite the current recession (although its passed a point where we should now be calling it a depression) and people in the United States (the foremost consumer of oil) cutting back on driving and spending.

There was a time... not that long ago... when people were panicking about the prospect of $50 oil, and we've now become used to it, and instead fear the next time it rises to $100, $150 or even set a new record closer to the $200 mark. We came close to $150 last year, at $147.27 USD/barrel.

And since hitting that bar, we've now set the bar higher. Two hundred dollar oil. That doesn't suggest we won't just see it happen, it suggests when it does happen and things settle back down we're likely to see $100 oil to become the new low point.

North Americans have never really seen the true price of oil anyway. For decades now our governments (the United States and Canada) have been subsidizing the oil industry billions of dollars per year in an effort to keep prices cheaper. If you travel overseas the price of gasoline doubles in some places, an indicator of how much it is subsidized in North America.

We are however reaching a tipping point where oil subsidies may no longer be useful, largely due to competition and demand in China and India, and we will see our oil supplies become more meagre despite our attempts to make it more available and cheaper.

As a metaphor, oil is the lubricant which makes our economy go faster. Cheap oil = Cheap transportation, which means people can get to work easier, can afford to buy other things, more things and overall helps to spin the economic wheels faster. Take oil, gasoline and diesel away... and our economy grinds to a near stop.

Lately oil prices have hovered around $50 a barrel for several weeks, a steep price when you consider that U.S. government data shows that the American appetite for petroleum has dwindled to its lowest point in a decade, and storage houses are holding the most unused crude in nearly 19 years. So much that they're having to rent oil tankers just to store it for weeks or months at a time. We are currently overstocked with oil, as if worried about the upcoming driving summer driving season and a possible shortage.

Critics of the situation have even openly speculated that the big oil companies may be deliberately inflating the oil prices just so they can keep profits up. Other more radical people blame environmentalists or some other crackpot theory for who or what may be keeping oil prices high despite the current abundance of it. Some people are even blaming concern over Swine Flu as a possible reason, worried that 7% of the world's population might drop dead over the next year from the plague.

If so... wouldn't that mean 7% more oil for the rest of us, and in theory prices should drop significantly? The current situation is backwards... and all leads back to oil speculators again.

Which means that despite the cutbacks on oil consumption, oil speculators might still drive the price up again (and then make a profit off the raised prices).

OPEC leaders have recently said the price of oil needs to be above $70 to fund high-cost production fields. Just the whisper of OPEC cutting back on production has a tendency to raise prices.

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