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August 23, 2009

Canadian Journalist still being held captive

Canadian journalist Amanda LindhoutCANADA/POLITICS - A year ago today Canadian journalist Amanda Lindhout and two colleagues were kidnapped at gunpoint in Somalia, near Mogadishu. Since then she has escaped, been recaptured, raped, tortured, escaped again and recaptured again.

Meanwhile Stephen Harper's government has been powerless to rescue this Canadian and bring her back to Canada.

Her ransom (combined with Australian reporter Nigel Brennan) was originally $2.5 million USD, but the price has been lowered numerous times since then. One of the other journalists captured with her was released back in January following a successful exchange.

Australia has been making efforts to pay for Brennan's ransom, but what is Stephen Harper's government doing? Nothing. And because the Somali kidnappers want both paid for at the same time, they have remained in captivity.

The other problem is that Amanda Lindhout is a freelance journalist, and thus no individual newspaper or news station has taken responsibility for trying to rescue her. She's been over there for a year and the only people trying to negotiate for her release is her family.

So instead she remains in limbo because the Canadian government is doing nothing to negotiate her release.

NOTE: Canada, the United States and numerous other western countries dump toxic and nuclear waste in Somalia. The country has been without an official government since 1991 and has been basically living in anarchy since then. Their local economy has collapsed and crime is rampant, hence all the kidnappings and piracy.

Because Somalia has no government it makes it an ideal dumping ground for toxic and nuclear waste since there's no government to complain about it.

GM's Volt Hybrid goes farther but leaves much to be desired

CARS - The recently unveiled GM Volt Hybrid car is claiming to have a 230 mpg fuel consumption.

The math assumes the car travels 40 miles (62 km) before it runs out of battery power and then an additional 10 miles (on 0.2 gallons of gasoline) before running out of gas. So 50 miles on 0.2 gallons = 250 mpg, minus some lost energy recharging the battery and they arrive at the claim of 230 mpg.

So that is a nice claim, except the GM Volt won't actually go 230 miles. You will only go about 50 and then run completely out of battery and gasoline. And the time required to recharge the batteries is such that the $40,000 USD you paid for the car you will have a hunk of junk in your driveway that is constantly being charged, but rarely ever gets used.

And frankly why pay extra for a hybrid version of the car? Why not just stick to the standard electric version? Sure, the electric version can only go 40 miles, but the extra 10 miles just seems silly. So yes, the Volt hybrid goes 20% farther than the regular Volt... but what is the point if you are still restricted to very short distances like city driving only?

Also, if you are doing this for the environment... why not just take a bus, subway or cycle?

#1. The bus or subway is going that way anyway. Whether you take it or not it will still be using the energy to haul people back and forth.

#2. The average cyclist gets 15 mph (24 kph) and if you have a roadbike the average is about 18 mph (29 kph).

#3. About 35% of the electricity used to charge your GM Volt comes from coal power anyway, so unless you have 20 solar panels on your roof and you're charging it yourself (off the grid) you'd still be polluting for the sake of your motor.

Or you could wait a couple years for hydrogen filling stations and buy a hydrogen car, which is set to replace electric cars anyway. Hydrogen is more efficient way of running an electric motor. Way better than battery power.

Note: If someone were to invent a more powerful battery or a more efficient way to store energy they could rake in billions.

August 21, 2009

Poll shows Obama is a Moderate Democrat

POLITICS/UNITED STATES - The popular political comic strip Doonesbury has been conducting a poll on their website recently. Its for fun, but the results are rather amusing.

In the poll you are asked two questions:

1. Is Obama a Nazi, a Socialist or a Moderate Democrat?

  • Obama is a Nazi. Totalitarian and anti-parliamentarian, he opposes economic and political liberalism. He also believes in a racially and ethnically pure state -- and mass murder to achieve that end.

  • Obama is a Socialist. Deeply opposed to capitalism, he believes in class struggle, the redistribution of wealth, and in state ownership and management of the production of goods.

  • Obama is a moderate Democrat. He believes in compromise, civil discourse, and modest, incremental policy reform, disappointing everyone but the centrist voters who made his presidency possible.

2. Are you a Nazi, a Socialist or a Moderate Democrat? Check one.

Out of the approx. 6000 votes so far tallied 91% of people identified Obama as a moderate Democrat. Approx. 5% thought Obama was a Socialist and approx. 2% called him a Nazi. (You will note the numbers do not add up to 100% because they don't include decimals.)

More so the majority of the people who were calling Obama a Nazi claimed on the survey that they themselves were a Nazi (maybe they got confused and checked the wrong box?). But even so 44% of self-proclaimed Nazis still thought Obama was a moderate Democrat, 16% thought he was a Socialist and only 39% of Nazis called Obama such (which again suggests people got confused about what box to check).

So what you get out of this is that the Nazis and the Socialists are calling Obama a Liberal and a moderate Democrat... evidently he's not a Nazi/etc, but some people will stoop to any level just because they don't like free health care.

And those people who are stooping so low are Republicans. (BTW, no serious Republican would ever read Doonesbury. They would have to be a left leaning Republican if they read it and participated in the above poll.) Its the Republicans who are sour about losing the 2008 election, and apparently are so uneducated they don't know the difference between Socialism and Nazism, who are calling Obama a Nazi or a Socialist or both.

And even dumber is why they are calling Obama a Nazi or a Socialist.

I mean come on... the guy gets into power, decides its time for Americans to have free health care, finds the money to pay for it, and then they call him a Nazi for "imposing his will on America" and call him a Socialist for giving away free health care? Americans have been demanding free health care for decades, its not like they weren't asking for it.

All the fuss is because Republicans are worried about the COST of free health care. They apparently don't worry about the cost of free education, police, fire, military services... but free health care? Oh no!

The silly thing is how Obama paid for it. Its already a done deal.

All he did is cut a income tax refund for charitable donations for people making over $250,000/year. So instead of a 35% refund they now only get a 28% refund. The 7% more the government keeps was enough money to pay for free health care for all Americans. So its not like Obama raised taxes or anything... all he did was cut back on a refund.

After its done and paid for however there's always a percentage of people who complain... like whats being going on with the car industry and the banking industry. Although you can't blame Obama for the bailouts because that was all Bush's doing while he was still in power.

True, Obama has helped out the auto industry (cleaning up Bush's mess), but Congress has helped out the auto industry many times before during Bush Sr's era and the Reagan era. Its hardly anything new. Every time there is a recession the auto industry asks for bailouts and loans (which they eventually paid back).

Calling a sitting president a Nazi is nothing new. Quite a few people called George W. Bush a Nazi during his time in the Oval Office, but in reality Bush was just a man who made mistakes and occasionally put his foot in his mouth. It is still questionable as to whether Bush was the corrupt puppet or the evil puppeteer pretending to be dumb, but he was certainly not a Nazi.

And calling Obama such is just plain ridiculous and childish.

August 20, 2009

Deadly Tornadoes strike down in Toronto

CANADA - A dangerous storm is going over Toronto right now as I type this. It has already killed one person when a tornado touched down in southwestern Ontario.

A second tornado touched down in Toronto near highways 400 & 7 (see photo on the right). Environment Canada has issued a tornado warning for the rest of Toronto as the same storm cell is due to pass through the length of the GTA.

So far 4 different tornadoes have been spotted as this particular storm passes over the GTA.

Does anyone need more proof that global warming and climate change is real? True, tornadoes can happen anywhere but I think we've all seen our share of unusual weather and hot temperatures in recent years.

August 17, 2009

Al Qaeda (The Base) is not a network

POLITICS - It might surprise you to learn that the "international network of terrorists" Al Qaeda is not a network. It is actually a very tiny group of less than 12 men. The word Al Qaeda (which means "The Base") isn't even the real name of the group. There was no name for it until after September 11th 2001.

Here's what happened. One of Osama bin Laden's former buddies stole money from him, went to the United States claiming political asylum, talked to the CIA bragging about his work for bin Laden and mentioned the words 'Al Qaeda' referring to the base where Osama bin Laden was staying at the time.

On September 11th 2001 the CIA quickly started pointing fingers at Al Qaeda as the possible culprit, not realizing that Al Qaeda doesn't really exist, it was just Osama bin Laden and a few of his buddies. Furthermore because a lot of the people talking about didn't really know what they were talking about the fact and the fiction got mixed up pretty quickly, with Al Qaeda suddenly becoming an international organization of sleeper cells operating in 50 to 60 countries.

Which is funny, because that is really more a of Hollywood idea of what a terrorist group is like. The big bad James Bond villain with his hundreds or thousands of followers, his secret underground lair (the Base) and plotting in secret to destroy the American way of life.

Remember the drawings of WMD in Iraq and so-called mobile laboratories? That was just a theory someone in the CIA managed to draw up. The same thing goes with Osama bin Laden's underground bases built in caves. Just a drawing. Looks more like a set from a Hollywood movie, but nothing like what he really lives in.

Meanwhile the real Osama bin Laden is living in a tent in the desert, has an extremely tiny group of close friends and has nothing resembling a super villain's base or a network. It is no wonder nobody has found him. He's just a speck hiding in some remote location no where near the fighting in Afghanistan.

Bin Laden with hired extrasEven bin Laden is guilty of inflating himself, trying to appear more important than he really is. In the photo to the right he hired extras to pose and walk around with him to make it look like he has more men working for him than he really does.

So what does this mean? Well its just like Iraq and the so-called Weapons of Mass Destruction that were never found. Its another CIA intelligence cock up. Intelligence agencies seem to have problems sometimes separating fact from fiction, and the real facts only come out years later.

In fact if we look at Osama bin Laden and his buddies closely, what we see is that since September 11th 2001 they haven't committed any acts of terrorism at all. They just release videos to the media (which eventually make their way on to YouTube)... and then those videos (combined with the ongoing violence in the Middle East) inspire others to follow in the footsteps of terrorism.

Other groups calling themselves "Al Qaeda" have no formal connection to bin Laden's group. They are just calling themselves that.

Salim Ahmed HamdanEven the CIA has realized this. In 2008 they even released Salim Ahmed Hamdan, Osama bin Laden's former driver from Guantanamo. He managed to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, and won. Hamdan's story is also the subject of a bestselling book and an upcoming movie starring George Clooney as his defense lawyer.

Hamdan's unique circumstances were relatively simple. At the age of 26 he went to Afghanistan to help fight the Soviets. The Mujahideen were being financed by the CIA at the time and Russia ended up wasting so much money in Afghanistan they eventually went bankrupt and Communism in the Soviet Union fell apart.

Not much of a warrior, Hamdan ended up doing simple tasks like driving Osama bin Laden around, who during the 1980s was a well-liked leader of a small group of Mujahideen and getting funding directly from the CIA. Not that bin Laden needed it, his family in Saudi Arabia is filthy stinking rich. He ended up leaving bin Laden's employ after September 11th and was captured as a suspect in 2002 during the invasion of Afghanistan. Because he had worked for bin Laden for many years he was considered a person of extreme interest.

Salim Ahmed Hamdan's daughtersHamdan now works as a taxi driver in Yemen where he has a wife and two daughters.

And this is just one example. There are 800 other detainees in Guantanamo, mostly captured because they were foreigners living in Afghanistan at the time of the invasion and the vast majority of them having no connection to Osama bin Laden's little group. Or if they do have a connection, its because they happened to meet him briefly years ago.

In the end, is Osama bin Laden a threat to the United States? Not really. No more than anybody else is. He is more of a symbol. Capturing him would be nice just so the symbolism would eventually die down. Just so long as he doesn't become a martyr and an inspiration for a lone terrorist or small groups of people.

The real threat therefore isn't Osama bin Laden. Its the mythology around him.

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