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July 30, 2010

North Korea may kill soccer coach

ENTERTAINMENT/POLITICS - North Korea's soccer coach for the World Cup in South Africa is fearing for his life as the communist country continues to punish him for the three resounding losses the North Korean soccer team faced during the World Cup last month.

Kim Jong-hun, back home in defeat is worried about his safety, his life and the lives of his family.

His team scored only 1 goal during the entire tournament. It was most pathetic games of professional soccer ever witnessed... like watching a bunch of pro footballers play against 10-year-olds.

Their first match against Brazil ended 2-1. To be fair, the Brazilian team are the five time World Cup Champions.

Their second match against Portugal was a humiliating 7-0 defeat. If you watch the video below you will note the North Koreans barely even got to touch the ball.

In the third game the Ivory Coast beat North Korea 3-0. The North Korean team was sent home, minus two Japanese ringers, in utter defeat.

What is more embarrassing is that North Korea's despot leader Kim Jong Il and other members of the North Korean leadership thought the North Korean soccer team would do pretty well, despite not competing in the World Cup for over 2 decades because they either refused to play or couldn't manage to qualify. Kim Jong Il was so confident their team would do better during the 2nd match that it was aired on live television to millions of North Koreans.

Having an embarrassing 7-0 loss broadcasted to millions of North Koreans is what has sealed the fate for the poor soccer coach Kim Jong-hun. Embarrassing the country is practically treason in North Korea and the country is known for taking delight in punishing its loyal servants who fail to win.

The team itself was honoured upon their return, complete with parades and fanfare, but following the honours the players faced 6 hours of formal reprimands designed to scare others into submission. The audience included other North Korean athletes and scholars. Failure must be punished.

Worse they are now accused of betraying North Korea in the “great ideological struggle” against the West.

Its not the team's fault North Koreans can't play soccer. Its the fault of North Korea for rarely competing on the national stage. They have almost zero experience, almost no skills and simply aren't up to snuff compared to professional athletes which play soccer for a living.

After the team was given their dressing down, then came coach Kim Jong-hun. He was accused of “betraying the young General Kim Jong-un,” the son of Kim Jong-il. Just his similar name was enough of an embarrassment apparently. General Kim Jong-un will be taking over when "the Glorious Leader" Kim Jong Il finally dies and embarrassing the son of the great leader is practically a death sentence.

When the North Korean team managed to qualify for the World Cup months ago, the success was promoted in North Korea as “young General Kim Jong-un’s accomplishment.”

North Korea recently executed two top officials with firing squads. One was killed for a recent disastrous currency revaluation. The other failed in diplomatic talks with South Korea.

There is currently a rumour that coach Kim Jong-hun has since been forced into slave labour for North Korea's construction industry. His future is very uncertain.

July 29, 2010

American smog kills 2,700 Canadians / year

ENVIRONMENT - The quality of the air coming up from the United States leaves much to be desired. The pollutant-spewing coal power plants from what is commonly referred to as "Smog Alley" ends up in Ontario and is responsible for over 50% of the smog found in Canadian cities.

And that smog kills approx. 2,700 people in Ontario every year.

The good news is that American air quality regulators are finally doing something about it. They're shutting down dozens of coal power stations and ordering the remaining coal stations to adopt new, clean technology.

The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) is ordering hundreds of stations to cut sulphur dioxide and nitrous oxide emissions by 50% by 2015, the primary ingredients for making smog. Specifically the utilities will have to cut SO2 by 52% and NOx by 71% below 2005 levels. If they don't comply they will be shut down.

In addition to killing 2,700 people in Ontario, that smog also causes the hospitalization of 12,000 others each year and hurts Ontario's economy to the tune of $5.2 billion per year in lost economic potential and medical costs.

Meanwhile the Ontario government has achieved a 73% reduction in coal-fired electricity production since Dalton McGuinty became the Ontario premier. McGuinty hopes to eventually scrap all coal plants in Ontario.

And we are seeing the results this summer. We've had very few smog alerts this year, despite record heat.

If Ontario can do it, Smog Alley certainly can too.

While Americans are busy fussing about the stalled climate bill in Congress, the EPA is making some dramatic changes which will create a new era of air quality in both the USA and Canada.

Two decades ago EPA regulations targeting acid rain cost American taxpayers $3 billion USD, but the economic benefits since then have resulted in $122 billion USD. Proof that saving the environment, our agriculture, our food supply and our quality of life can be profitable.

Global warming undeniable

ENVIRONMENT - Its hard to believe there is still global warming deniers out there. But they do exist, and they're often so stuck in their ways no amount of evidence would convince them otherwise.

Scientists have released a comprehensive review of climate change indicators which confirm the world is warming and that the past decade is the warming on record. The review was compiled by 300 scientists from 48 countries and its conclusions based on the 10 indicators are “clearly and directly related to surface temperatures, all tell the same story: Global warming is undeniable.”

The 10 indicators are average air temperature, the ratio of water vapour to air, ocean heat content, sea surface temperature, sea level, snow cover, glaciers, sea ice, air temperature over the ocean and air temperature over land. These 10 were selected because they are the most obviously related indicators of global temperature that can easily be measured.

This report is just one of many comprehensive reports which have come out in recent years. What is unique about this one is that it doesn't list a cause.

The report mentions nothing about greenhouse gases. Its only assertion is that based on the data present global warming exists and is undeniable. There is no doubt whatsover that the Earth is getting hotter.

Convincing deniers however that greenhouse gases is the cause is trickier. Deniers will blame global warming on anything (God, the sun getting hotter, 2012, people eating too many beans, whatever excuse they can think of).

The report also confirms that the 1990s was hotter than the 1980s, and likewise the 2000s was hotter than the 1990s. Each decade hotter than the last, and each year is hotter than the year a decade earlier. Lastly it also confirms the 2000s was the warmest decade on record.

The report also cites the dangers of global warming which includes droughts, deadly heat waves, dwindling clean water supply, rising sea levels, food shortages, loss of agricultural land and climate change.

A different report from Princeton University says migration will become a major issue in the future, suggesting 6.7 million Mexicans might migrate to the United States due to droughts and foot shortages in Mexico.

Pink cars are never stolen

CARS - Nobody ever steals a pink car. According to a Dutch study which compared the colour of cars being stolen, pink is the safest colour available when it comes to car theft. The statistic is equally true for trucks and motorcycles.

Silver, black, white, grey and blue represent 86% of cars that are sold, and thus likewise make up the majority of cars which are stolen. Thieves prefer to steal colours which are more sober in appearance. Aside from pink, the least stolen colours are red, yellow, purple and orange.

The most popular colour to steal is black. (Technically its a shade, but whatever.)

According to the statistical findings it doesn't matter where you live either, whether you're in the Netherlands or North America. Car theft these days is increasingly the work of professionals and they want to be able to sell the car later, so the colour of the car is extremely important.

The Dutch study by Ben Vollaard (a crime economist at the University of Tilburg)goes back 15 years of car theft statistics and has determined that car thieves are increasingly more likely to steal cars with conservative colours that won't attract attention. Stealing a red car for example will attract more police attention.

Anti-theft devices that immobilze the steering wheel and other devices have long since decreased the number of car thieves who hotwire a car just for a joy ride. These days thieves are concerned only with the resale value.

Thieves these days are more likely to use burglary to find car keys and then drive away with the car. Hotwiring has been made more difficult in recent years due to changes in the way cars are manufactured and designed.

Most cars that are stolen are sent overseas to the Middle East, Africa or Asia. Nobody there wants to buy a pink car apparently.

So what does Ben Vollaard drive himself? A yellow Peugeot. Yellow cars are 40% less likely to be stolen.

Small surprise. You would have to be some kind of weirdo to want to be seen in a pink car anyway.

Old Spice Guy a huge success

By Ai Lung Nguyen - July 2010.

ENTERTAINMENT - Its not often people talk about advertising as a form of entertainment, but in the case of Old Spice Guy we can make an exception. The funny commercials with his over-the-top confidence followed by the 186 YouTube videos which were custom-made to answer twitter and Facebook messages have sent Old Spice sales through the roof.

Apparently a lot more men out there now smell like the man your man could smell like. Old Spice body wash sales soared 107% in July, mostly due to Isaiah Mustafa's manly voice and chiselled chest. 117 million views on YouTube, 97,000 Twitter followers and 726,000 Facebook fans, and now a cameo in the upcoming comedy film "Horrible Bosses" in which he gets to play a cop.

Frankly he'd make a pretty good "Officer Bubbles" if someone was willing to make a comedy film about that.

Underwater combat coming to DDO

ENTERTAINMENT - If you're a fan of MMORPGs like the World of Warcraft (WoW) or Dungeons & Dragons Online (DDO) then you're in luck. Update 6 for Dungeons & Dragons Online is introducing a whole new realm of underwater combat.

Fighting sea monsters in their own realm on a 3-dimensional zone where you can swim above, below and around the monster while hacking at it with your +3 holy, pure good greatsword has never been done before. Or at least, never been done on a computer before.

Update 6 introduces "a vile swamp of death and terror lurking beneath the waters" known as the Red Fens. In it players can hunt for lost treasure, pearls, evade deadly traps, raid a sunken temple, kills hordes of Sahuagin (fish people that look a bit like piranhas) and battle swamp monsters and sea monsters, the likes of which are usually only imagined in "Pen and Paper" Dungeons & Dragons games.

The Red Fens adventure zone includes 4 new quests: Fathom the Depths, Into the Deep, The Claw of Vulkoor, The Last Stand and 12 new rare monsters, including a Will-o-Wisp, a giant Scrag troll, a water elemental, a carnivorous plant, an abishai devil and a really angry hill giant. All just waiting to be defeated.

And if you're worried about money the good news is that DDO is free to try. You don't have to spend any money to play Dungeons & Dragons Online, but you will need a nice graphics card on your computer.

July 28, 2010

Moscow's smog deadly

By Ai Lung Nguyen - July 2010.

ENVIRONMENT - The smog in Moscow right now is 10 times above safe levels, the worst smog to hit the city in over a decade and according to Russia's chief lung doctor on residents were inhaling the equivalent of 40 cigarettes every three to four hours. Climate Change has seen rising heat levels in Russia during the last decade.

10 million Muscovites have been baking in a record breaking heatwave which has only been made worse by peat fires in the hills surrounding the capitol city of Russia. Almost every day there is a new heat record being broken.

According to scientists the concentration of carbon monoxide and suspended particles in Moscow has gone up to 10 times above the safe limits. The dangers of exceeding the limit results in carbon monoxide damaging red blood cells in the human body. Prolonged exposure causes death when the body's organs start to shut down. The government is urging Muscovites to wear gas masks and use other ways to ventilate their breathing. Doctors are urging people to eat more vitamin E, an antioxidant, which will help to neutralize the carbon monoxide in their bloodstream. People are being urged to stay indoors and use nebulizers to clear their lungs.

The record breaking temperatures includes 37.4 C on Monday and 37.3 C on Wednesday, smashing records from 130 years ago. So far hundreds of Muscovites have died during the intense heat and humidity which is in the 50s and hundreds more have died due to respiratory failure.

The smog is expected to start clearing today (Thursday), but only if a cold front moves into the region with rain. If that happens temperatures are expected to drop to approx. 32 C.

North Korea reacting to war games

POLITICS - For the last four days the United States and South Korea has been conducting war games and battle simulations off the coast of North Korea, a mighty show of force against the nuclear-missile armed country. North Korea warned months ago that any incursion on their territory would be seen as an act of war.

The war games included anti-submarine exercises and included 20 submarines and naval vessels, the nuclear aircraft carrier USS George Washington, 8,000 troops, 200+ fighter planes and 3 American destroyers + 2 South Korean destroyers.

Code-named "Invincible Spirit," the display was meant as a distraction as American unmanned spy planes flew over North Korea, taking snapshots of the Korean terrain which will be useful to create an invasion plan if and when North Korea and the United States go to war. The USA has no shortage of satellite imagery of North Korea, but the spy planes provide more detailed imagery of the mountains and important structures.

Regardless the display was the largest joint U.S-South Korean military exercise in history. Even bigger than offensives made during the 1950-53 Korean War.

In addition to unmanned drones they also tested out four new F-22 stealth fighters, which are designed to sneak behind enemy lines and bomb targets quickly. The F-22 (aka the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor) is the most advanced stealth fighter currently in service (they will eventually be replaced by the F-35s which are just starting production). According to military sources the F-22 can bomb North Korea's nuclear facilities in Yongbyon within 30 minutes of taking off.

North Korea’s National Defense Commission says that the American-South Korean military exercises are an “undisguised challenge” to the international community’s hopes for peace on the Korean Peninsula. The NDC said they will “legitimately counter with their powerful nuclear deterrence the largest-ever nuclear war exercises to be staged by the U.S. and the South Korean puppet forces.”

Meanwhile China has mobilized scout planes, their submarines and their satellites to gather more information. The United States and China have become tied at the hip economically so if the USA goes to war with North Korea, China will definitely be helping. China's news media has denounced the war games as "risky" and their military is making a show of force in an effort to convince the North Koreans that they're still allies.

China's worry is that North Korea might use nuclear missiles against Chinese cities during an early stages of a war. They have a lot to lose if the North Koreans feel they are being betrayed and try to take out their revenge against the Chinese. Its no small secret however that the USA and China are tied economically, especially the massive debt the USA accumulated during George W. Bush's time in office.

Meanwhile the Japanese Naval Self Defense Force sent 4 officers and observed the exercises, eager to learn how they may play a role in any war with North Korea which is now seen as inevitable according to many military strategists. In recent years Japan has made a number of constitional changes which allows them to go to war again, withdrawing from the previously enshrined belief in a pacifist military which can only respond to threats.

Canada's recent order for 65 new F-35 stealth fighters suggests they want to get in on the action too.

For the last 57 years the United States and North Korea have been officially at war. The Korean War may have ended in 1953, but there was never a peace treaty and skirmishes over the years have resulted in North Korea taking extraordinary efforts to acquire nuclear missile technology and test detonate nuclear devices.

How North Korea responds to spy planes probing inside their borders and the recent war games could be quite devastating.

Student Loans and Life Insurance

By Charles Moffat - July 2010.

HEALTH - When I went off to university in 1999 one of the things my parents decided to do (likely due to worry when they saw the size of my students loans) was sign me up for life insurance and the insurance agency sent a nurse to my university to check my physical condition.

After suffering the indignity of peeing in a cup and getting pricked with a needle to get a blood sample I was later informed I was in "excellent condition", "not a damn thing wrong with you" and the nurse apparently thought I was the most physically healthy specimen she's ever examined (not sure if that is true, but its what I was later told). 11 years later I should point out that this hasn't always been true. Poor diet and exercise both during and after university caused my weight to fluctuate upwards and in 2005 a colleague of mine commented "When is the baby due?" while pointing at my increasing gut and joking about my habit of scarfing down multiple pastries during my lunch break.

Five years later and 30+ lbs of fat loss since then I would like to say I am in the best shape of my life, but I am not certain its true. I am definitely not as agile and flexible as I was 11 years ago. My goal these days is to put on muscle weight, just enough to make me look like male supermodel Marcus Schenkenberg. I am part way there, but nevertheless I am skeptical I would go through a medical with as much flying colours as I did 11 years ago.

These days more credit card companies, banks and other institutions are pushing the idea of life insurance for borrowers... their primary concern is if you die then who is going to pay off the loan?

Which brings us to the topic of "no medical exam" life insurance companies. Finding a good one can be difficult, especially since a few of them out there refuse to pay out. This then creates problems for the banks/loan companies because if the life insurance company refuses to pay up with a borrower dies, then its the bank which ends up losing all that money... or depending on the state of your finances, your family may be held accountable.

Suffice to say banks therefore have a vested interest in finding reputable life insurance companies that actually pay what is owed when a borrower dies.

Lets say for example you get a loan. Depending where you get it from the might ask if you have life insurance coverage. If its only a short term loan you could get an online payday loan, if you're willing to pay the extra interest charges, but otherwise I would not recommend that for any long term loans.

Next, assuming then that you require life insurance... what happens if you know you're diabetic, overweight, possibly obese and you're pretty damn sure you'd fail the medical exam so badly you'd have a huge premium added to your life insurance bill. Thus the need to find a no medical exam life insurance company... preferably one which is recommended by your bank because at least then you know they're reputable. tracks interest rates, the prime rate and personal finance data with respect to loans and borrowing trends. The growing trend towards no medical exam life insurance companies has resulted in them building a section just for tracking reputable companies. They're probably not the only site doing this either, because for the banking industry these are important things to know.

"Our new life insurance page is... [] ...not just a bunch of dry content about life insurance. We've included highly instructive, real-world stories related to life insurance, stories that anyone can relate to. There's also a rich and carefully crafted life insurance frequently asked questions section which will be expanded indefinitely," says Steve Brown from, whose site also tracks car insurance, credit card trends, mortgage/foreclosure info and new loan products.

Even if you're not morbidly obese some people just don't like the idea of pushy medical exams, needles to draw blood and giving away urine samples. Some people faint at the sight of blood or even just the sight of needles.

If you do go shopping for life insurance the biggest recommendation I can made is to shop around, snoop around to see which companies have a lot of complaints or lawsuits against them, see who your friends, colleagues or banker recommends... and then try to pick the best one. The premium might be higher than some of the other ones being offered, but the ones with a low premium are more likely to never actually pay out because they're cheapskates and never deserved the money you paid them for life insurance.

Note: To me life insurance is really more for your family members than yourself. As long as I don't have kids, what do I care what happens to my loans after I die? I'm dead already. Leave me be. If you have a spouse and kids to worry about then its a whole other matter.

"... in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes." - Benjamin Franklin.

July 26, 2010

The Race for Great Lakes Wind Power

ENVIRONMENT - Ontario is in a race versus 8 American states to see who will get wind power factories by wind giant Vestas from Denmark. The company is planning to build factories for building offshore wind turbines which will mean thousands of jobs for the local economy, but it is really dependent on which province or state on the Great Lakes gets their act in gear first.

According to CEO Anders Soe-Jensen the company is waiting for whoever orders off shore wind turbines first. “We just need to see some orders,” he says.

There isn't a single offshore wind turbine in North America yet because there isn't any place to manufacture them... they're too big to ship from overseas, it makes more economic sense to build them here. And we can't build them until the government can agree on a funding plan worth $15 billion CDN.

In Europe they already have 830 offshore wind turbines, each roughly the height of the Statue of Liberty (50 meters). Europe has only been building them since 1992, but they're now expecting to build thousands more in the next five years because of the shortage of land but abundance of shorelines.

New York, Ohio, Michigan and several other northeast states are also in the race to be first place to make an order for offshore wind turbines, but there is several hurdles to jump.

#1. NIMBYs: Not-In-My-Back-Yarders. They whine and complain, make all sorts of excuses that wind turbines cause cancer, that they make irritating noises, that wind turbines distract from the view and make people go blind. Seriously. Blind. From their perspective they'd rather have a big dirty coal plant down the street than a wind turbine off the shore. I've got a suitable acronym response for these people: STFU or we'll build a coal plant instead. Its that or widespread brownouts because Ontario needs more electricity.

#2. Government inaction. When politicians don't know what to do or can't decide (which is ironic because they're supposed elected for their decision making capabilities) they sit on their butts and do nothing.

So whichever state or province gets their act in gear first will get thousands of jobs and become the major supplier for the other 8 states/provinces on the Great Lakes. Its going to happen eventually and whichever region tells the NIMBYs to STFU first will be the one who gets thousands of green energy jobs and will monopolize the market for the next 50+ years.

Its estimated North America will build between 2,000 and 3,000 offshore wind turbines by 2020, representing 6,000 to 10,000 megawatts of power. In the Great Lakes region alone it will be worth billions of dollars in economic benefits. Ontario does have an advantage because they have the most shoreline of any political region on the Great Lakes, but that is not a guarantee. Michigan could easily win the first factories instead if they get their act in gear.

Offshore wind turbines are larger and harness far more power than land turbines. The winds blowing in from the lake are stronger, more consistent and make them much more value for money. They are trickier to install but once they're there they require very little maintenance because the Great Lakes are fresh water and aren't salty, which causes corrosion. Its also faster and easier to install on a lake than on the ocean. They can also be built closer to cities which need more electricity.

Rival wind corporation Trillium wants to build 740 wind turbines in northeast Lake Ontario and has 3 other projects they're building which will add 3,700 megawatts to Ontario's electricity grid.

There's also Windstream Energy which is the 1st company in North America to get a power purchase agreement. They're building a 300 megawatt offshore wind farm in Lake Ontario.

Both Trillium and Windstream represent a whole industry of investment in Ontario, everything from the manufacturers of the wind turbines to the barges, drill rigs, jacks and cables for installing and transporting the electricity they make.

But Vestas' plans is 50% bigger than both Trillium and Windstream combined. Being the first province or state to win their contract will be the dominating factor in where the huge factories will be built.

Rivals Siemens and General Electric are two more huge corporations with their eye on the Great Lakes region. General Electric already has a deal with Ohio to build turbines off the shores of Cleveland. And New York state is going to begin receiving applications in December 2010 to build wind turbines on both the Atlantic Ocean and Lake Ontario. Both Ohio and New York want to become the central hubs for wind turbine factories.

But the US states face lots of problems, especially from NIMBYs who are trigger happy with lawyers. Its actually easier to build an offshore oil rig in the states then it is to build a wind turbine.

Say Goodbye to your Rabbit Ears TV

CANADA/ENTERTAINMENT - Next year on August 31st 2011 Canadian television broadcasters will switch from analog to 100% digital broadcasts. The rabbit ears on your old TV will become completely obsolete.

Cable and satellite subscribers will not notice the difference, but over one million Canadians still rely on over-the-air television signals to get their news and entertainment will end up seeing nothing but a blank screen.

The Canadian government has no comment on the process, leaving it entirely up to the private sector... and the private sector is under huge pressure from cellphone companies who want access to the valuable radio bandwidth.

For over 70 years Canadians have been able to get television using nothing more than an antenna or "rabbit ears" attached to their TV set. For those willing to pay for cable it will mean a market boost for Rogers.

It would be even nicer if Rogers allowed a basic cable package which was super-cheap. If they don't you can probably expect the number of people who are stealing cable to skyrocket.

According to the CRTC 857,000 Canadians living in major cities still use antennas and rabbit ears to get their television. Add to that the number of Canadians living on farmland or small towns and the number of Canadians hooked on traditional TV is well over a million.

Since cable isn't even available in rural communities they will have to use satellite receivers instead, which will be a boost to that industry.

In the United States the government offered a coupon program to ease the transition for the first 6 months of users switching to cable or satellite. In Canada there will be no coupon program.

There's also likely to be a rush at the very end. Cable and satellite providers won't be able to respond to all the calls they receive. Many people who apparently live in a vacuum won't even know about the change until they turn on their TV one day and its simply static.

EXCEPTION: Depending on where you live you may be able to get a digital air waves converter box, because a few TV stations will continue to broadcast in digital format but the majority of them will be off the air.

Its also possible to get TV online these days, on either the CBC, CTV or Global websites... but download speeds require you have cable internet anyway.

There's also the possibility that afterwards some scofflaw out there might setup their own "Pirate TV station" which broadcasts on a mobile transceiver. The CRTC would have to track down the transmitter and block their transmissions.

Tony Hayward remaining BP CEO

POLITICS - In China Tony Hayward would have been shot for gross negligence. The Chinese government has zero tolerance for companies and individuals who fail to protect the safety of the country.

Remember the big 7.9 magnitude earthquake in Sichuan province in 2008? It killed almost 90,000 people. Two years later they're still pulling dead bodies out of the rubble. When word got out that a lot of schools and public buildings in the area had not been built to government specifications the building inspector for those buildings was tried for bribery, corruption, gross negligence and was promptly shot.

In the case of the BP Oil Spill however Tony Hayward, who continues to insist his oil rigs were safe (despite testimony from oil rig workers who refer to it as "the Rig from Hell" and now the new moniker "the Rig of Death" because of the lack of safety procedures used on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig), well he gets to keep his job.

Tony Hayward was recently the subject of a rumour he was going to be replaced. He was gaffe prone. He kept sticking his foot in his mouth. He was caught repeatedly lying on camera. He was downplaying the size of the catastrophe and releasing spill numbers which have since been determined to be wholly inaccurate.

17 million litres per day until the cap was finally placed on the well, that is the most accurate estimate so far. Tony Hayward and other BP spokespeople however were downplaying the numbers, spreading misinformation with numbers that were between one-tenth to one-quarter the real size of the spill. They were lying so much that they were contradicting their own people.

For now Tony Hayward is going on vacation... stress leave the oil company is saying. BP Managing Director Bob Dudley will be answering all further questions regarding the BP oil spill.

BP isn't the only company to blame. They were outsourcing a lot of their workers from Halliburton, workers in theory who should be drilled in safety procedures. The process of assigning blame began long ago, but the finger pointing thus far has been on nameless middle management and the CEO Tony Hayward.

Temporary caps have slowed the oil leaking into the Gulf of Mexico, but the environmental and economic backlashes have only barely begun.

July 25, 2010

Canadians angry about scrapping of Long Form Census

CANADA - Canadians are hopping mad about the scrapping of the long form census and its not just politicians, economists, researchers, scientists, university professors and academics. The general public is angry about it too.

According to a Toronto Star poll 70% of readers are against the changes. And the debate has since gone viral on Facebook: Keep the Canada Census Long Form.

There's also a petition at Keep the Canadian Census Form.

Even the minister responsible for scrapping the long form census Tony Clement is against the scrapping of it, but his arm is being twisted because he's basically been told by Stephen Harper that either it goes or he goes.

Evidently Tony Clement wants to keep his job so he does whatever the Prime Minister tells him to do.

See Also: Stephen Harper hates Stats Canada

Harper's government claims the reason for scrapping the long form census is to respect the privacy of Canadians. Utter nonsense. The long form census has never been used to invade privacy.

But Harper's government has frequently invaded the privacy of Canadians:

#1. Harper's government requires airlines to collect detailed personal information about everyone who flies and then hand that info over to the government and also send copies to the USA.

#2. Last month Harper's government placed a lockdown on downtown Toronto, arbitrarily stopping and arresting people at random and taking away their freedom and their right to due process. Lawsuits still pending.

#3. The Harper government has authorized the RCMP to use gestapo tactics to hunt down and intimidate government dissidents who (surprise, surprise) dislike Stephen Harper.

"You MUST like the glorious Canadian leader. Or else."

The scrapping of the census long form has been decried by every organized Canadian group imaginable, everything from accountants to real estate agents to bankers to teachers to newspaper editors to politicians of all political stripes. The long form census is a NECESSITY for determining accurate statistics about Canadians and scrapping it will ultimately hurt the economy, our education standards and our ability to make informed decisions.

Meanwhile the head of Statistics Canada, Munir Sheikh, has resigned. He's now being revered as a national hero for standing up against Stephen Harper's hypocrisy.

July 23, 2010

AGO fires curator Dennis Reid

By Charles Moffat - July 2010.

ART HISTORY/CANADA - I have multiple art history books on my shelf written by Dennis Reid so it comes as a shock that the curator of the Art Gallery of Ontario has been forced into retirement, but without a public explanation.

“I am retiring, and I can confirm that the timing is not of my choice,” said Dennis Reid, at his home yesterday. He refused to comment on why he was forced into retirement. The 67-year-old Reid is a highly respected Canadian art scholar and member of the Order of Canada has been working for the AGO for 30 years. He was chief curator from 1999 to 2005, before becoming the director of collections and research and transferred again in 2009 to the role of chief curator of research.

Dennis Reid's retirement will officially begin August 31st.

What is disgusting however is that the current curator, Matthew Teitelbaum, of the AGO is paid $1,070,000 per year... and 23 full-time employees were laid off in April 2009 as a "cost cutting measure". And yet Teitelbaum continues to be paid such an outrageous salary.

Seriously, as a fellow art historian I could do that job for a FRACTION of the cost. $100,000 per year would be quite reasonable to me. And with $870,000 in savings the AGO could hire back the 23 employees they canned.

Colleagues of Dennis Reid are all shocked at the sudden loss to the art gallery.

“I think it came as a shock to a lot of us. A shock and a surprise,” says Fred Schaeffer, former chairman of the Canadian art historical committee. Schaeffer believes the gallery “probably made a mistake.” “There are not many left in Canada who are great Canadian art scholars and he [Dennis Reid] is one of them.”

“I think the real issue is the resources internally to manage and research and present the historic Canadian collections, and that is a loss to the AGO because Dennis knew the collections well,” says Charles Hill, a curator with the National Gallery of Canada.

“He’s one of the finest scholars in Canadian art that Canada’s ever had. He has really defined the field,” says Tom Smart, director of the McMichael Canadian Art Collection and a former student of Reid's back when he was a professor at U of T.

$35 for an iPad? No wait, its not an iPad

TECHNOLOGY - It looks like an iPad but at $35 it is a fraction of the cost. The new touchscreen tablet being built in India is aimed at students and is going into mass production in 2011.

The new touchscreen uses Linux and can be used for word processing, web browsing and video conferencing. Like the $2,100 Nano car and other cheap items from India its certain to be a hot item for people on a budget.

You can even get it with solar power, which is considered important in parts of India where electricity isn't easy to come by.

“This is our answer to MIT’s $100 computer,” says Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal. In 2005 MIT unveiled a prototype of a laptop designed for children in 3rd world countries that would cost a mere $100 to manufacture and make it easier to teach students in such locations. The One Laptop Per Child charity program subsidized the cost of the laptop by selling models in North America with a marked up price.

Sibal hopes to bring the price of his tablet down to $10 eventually, but for now he's shopping for a manufacturer who can mass produce the prototype.

Key to all this is falling hardware prices and smart designs that make this all possible. Sibal's tablet doesn't use a hard disk which costs more, but instead uses a removable memory card just like a cell phone which saves a lot on hardware costs. Plus Linux is an open-source software, so there's no cost there either.

India plans to sell the tablets to high school and university students, subsidizing them to bring the price down to $20. India also has an ambitious plan to bring broadband connectivity to 25,000 colleges and 504 universities... with such a huge market the mass production will have to be in the hundreds of millions.

And if it comes over here it will force Apple to lower their prices and stop gouging consumers $500 to $700 for an iPad. Because come on, you can get a laptop for that much and laptops still have way more to offer. The only thing iPad has is the "Nyah nyah, I got one and you don't!" factor.

See Also: Touchscreen is the Future

July 22, 2010

Canada's economy heading back into recession

CANADA - Thought the recession was gone? Nope, its coming back for the "Dreaded Double Dip", likely sometime in late 2010 or early 2011.

Canada's economy is slowing fast, but is still leagues ahead of the global competition which is stalling rapidly and appears to be headed towards a global depression. Debt crisises in Greece, Spain and the rest of the EU, plus the economic troubles in America's gulf coast region and slow recovery in the USA have created a combination of factors for why Canada's economy is sputtering once more.

The Bank of Canada raised its key interest rate 0.25% a couple days ago, despite economic news that Canadians weren't ready for it. Especially the mortgage and loan industry. Higher interest rates hurts homebuying and automotive sales.

Still the Bank of Canada refuses to backoff on the idea of raising interest rates. Their hope is to eventually raise it from its current position at 0.75% to 2%, in an effort to match the inflation rate.

But what about deflation? In the USA prices are coming down so fast that the American economy is seeing deflation, which is considered a sure sign of a depression.

But politicians don't like to use that word depression. Heck, even economists are worried about using it because using the word can often spark fear and people will cut back on their spending habits... which in turn hurts the economy.

But there is ways around that:

1. You spend because you need to: Rent/mortgage, food, medicine, necessities.

2. You spend so you can save more money later. ie. Buying a bicycle and saving on gasoline by cycling to work.

3. You spend frivolously, but only on products or services made in Canada. (Or at very least made in the USA.)

The moment you buy something you don't need that is made overseas, you've just shipped your money over to China (whose economy is booming right now) or wherever it was actually made. The bulk of that money ends up in the pocket of some wealthy Chinese businessman and very little actually trickles down to the workers who are being paid peanuts.

If its something that you actually need you can probably buy a Canadian-made version, but if you can't oh well. Its a necessity.

Otherwise your goal should be to pay off your credit cards/loans as quickly as possible, because you may need them later in the event of a rainy day.

And that rainy day may be sooner than you think. During the first three months of 2010 Canada's economy grew out of the recession it had been in with 6.1% growth. But according to new estimates the 2nd quarter of 2010 will experience only 3% growth, showing that the economy is slowing and starting to falter.

Its still growth, for now, but if it slows even more we could dip back into the negatives within the next 6 months.

Estimates for the third quarter were predicting 3.5% growth, but that has since been lowered to 2.8%. Some economists are predicting Canada's economy could slow to 1 or 2% by the fourth quarter.

The Bank of Canada earlier this year predicted Canada's economy would grow 3.5% overall, but they may need to adjust that estimate downwards. They were also predicting 2.9% growth for 2011, but that is now expected to change too.

The Canadian dollar is expected to stay in the 96 cents US range, but only if oil prices stay stable.

The global economy is expected to rebound 4.2% this year, but that could be dramatically altered by global events. The debt crisis in Europe continues to loom and the Canadian real estate market is expected to burst sometime in the next 6-9 months, likely provoking a Canadian recession.

July 21, 2010

Yahoo struggling with low profits

TECHNOLOGY - Yahoo! Inc. has been playing second fiddle for years now, ever since Google became the hot profitable company.

The problem with Yahoo! is that they haven't really done anything new and exciting for many years now.

They bought Flickr in 2005 and they bought Geocities in 1999 (and cannibalized that website without realizing its true potential since it was a precursor to sites like MySpace and Facebook). Otherwise Yahoo! is so old now its become stale and boring.

Its one of those companies which have now become focused on "trimming costs" in an effort to keep their profit margins slightly higher.

What they should be doing is investing in their ability to make new things, like games and other items. They have been passing opportunities to reinvent themselves and create something new and profitable.

CEO Carol Bartz, who was hired 18 months ago to lead the company out the financial funk it is in. Yahoo!'s global profits from 2009 did total $1.13 billion USD, which is comparable to Google's profits of $6.52 billion USD... and yet Google's stock is valued at 8 times that of Yahoo! Inc.

Microsoft tried to buy out Yahoo! Inc. in 2008 for $49.5 billion USD, but was turned down. At the time they were bidding $31 per share, which is more than twice what Yahoo! stocks are currently worth. And frankly what is the point of investing in an old company that isn't making anything new? Their infrastructure is old and they're not trying to compete and create something new and exciting.

The only going for Yahoo! is its brand name, the fact its been around since 1995 and has a huge network of websites, and the fact it is more popular on a global scale than Google (which is more focused on English-speaking countries).

CEO Carol Bartz would be wiser to expand Yahoo!'s game division, create a popular gaming/social website (or acquire one and make it better). History has shown Yahoo! past acquistion tactics have been to cannibalize other sites, instead of just letting them stand on their own and improving them. Yahoo! needs to change their tactics by making things better. Buying and devouring smaller companies isn't profitable.

And last but not least Yahoo! needs to fix their advertising program. This business of only showing ads to Americans when they operate a global network is like shooting yourself in the foot.

Bank of Canada raises interest rates to 0.75%

CANADA - For the 2nd time since June 1st, Bank of Canada Governor Mark Carney has raised the key overnight lending rate by 0.25%, bringing the total to 0.75%.

This is despite economic worries that many poor Canadians have too much debt and are being swallowed up by higher interest rates, especially from credit cards.

The average Canadian has over $60,000 in personal debt. An 0.25% increase means most Canadians will end up paying approx. $150 more in interest per year.

Who does this benefit? Canada's banking industry, already ripe with billion dollar annual profits.

Raising the interests rates also hurts the mortgage, housing and construction industries which are currently on the verge of the housing bubble being burst. When the bubble bursts Canada will go into a recession similar the American Recession of 2007-2009. Raising interest rates for mortgages too fast could spark a decline in home buyers and cause the housing bubble to implode.

July 20, 2010

HIV Vs Circumcision, Not Conclusive Proof

HEALTH/SEX - The World Health Organization and several other health groups are trying to promote circumcision as a way to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS in Africa. They conducted three test studies wherein the men who were circumcised 15 to 20 years ago are 60% less likely to have HIV.

However, this doesn't prove anything.

The areas where they did the test studies were more affluent/wealthy and the 6,500 men who agreed to be circumcized were more likely to be better educated and well-off, more access to condoms, etc.

And more so, these men were agreeing to do this because they were afraid of catching a STD. So really all this proves is:
Educated men who are paranoid about catching a STD and take preventive measures like using condoms or abstinence are 60% less likely to get HIV.
The concept that circumcision alone prevents HIV is based on false reasoning. There are other factors such as wealth, education, access to condoms, paranoia, how often they have sex, whether they have multiple sexual partners, whether they re-use needles, etc. The mere fact these men volunteered for the procedure showed they were at least paranoid about STDs.

This false logic has fooled even former U.S. President Bill Clinton and philanthropist Bill Gates who have since become advocates of higher circumcision rates in Africa. Proof that you don't have to be stupid to get fooled by faulty research.

More conclusive evidence would have been to simply determine what percentage of men were already circumcised and what the HIV prevalence rate was amongst these men. Creating a test group of volunteers from one community which already has better access to condoms/etc is not conclusive evidence.

For centuries people have been pushing the superstition that circumcision can prevent everything from masturbation, genital herpes, homosexuality and other problems related to the male sexual reproductive organs. None of these have ever been proven.

July 19, 2010

Pink Panthers strike again

ENTERTAINMENT - Okay technically the Pink Panther was the name of the diamond stolen by The Phantom several times within the film series, but British newspapers have dubbed a team of jewel thieves from Montenegro which have struck in London, Paris, Tokyo, Dubai and have thus far stolen over $250 million USD worth of jewelry.

One of the members, Milan Jovetic, was caught 7 years ago with a diamond worth $1 million USD hidden in his girlfriend's jar of face cream, like Lady Claudine hid the diamond in the film "The Return of the Pink Panther". The British press had fun with that and the name Pink Panthers has stuck ever since.

Milan Jovetic helped rob London's Graff store on New Bond Street of $30 million worth of diamonds.

Since then a pattern of high profile jewelry heists have caused Interpol to set up “Project Pink Panthers” in an effort to catch the jewel thieves. They are investigating 190 incidents in 27 countries across 4 continents.

Jovetic was sentenced to 5 1/2 years in prison of which he served four. He is now back in Montenegro and something of a celebrity. He won't even talk to reporters unless they're paying him.

Supporters of the Pink Panthers compare them to Robin Hood and note that while they do sometimes carry guns, they have never killed or even shot at anyone. They've been on the run since the late 1990s and most of them have managed to avoid getting caught.

Interpol believes there is about 40 members of the Pink Panthers, but only 25 arrests have ever been made in recent years. There's also been about 400 people investigated as being accomplices or lackeys. Most of the members come from Montenegro or Serbia and are affiliated with Balkan crime syndicates.

Their robbery tactics are much simpler than the cat-burglar tactics used by The Phantom in The Return of the Pink Panther".

Typically a well-dressed man distracts the clerk (often by pointing a gun at them) while a team smashes jewelry casings and loots the place before they flee in stolen cars.

In Tokyo in 2004 they wore wigs, pepper-sprayed the clerk and stole a $27 million diamond necklace.

Last December three members, two men and a woman, were convicted for stealing $31.5 million worth of jewels, including an 125-carat necklace. The jewelry however was never found.

Its believed the group is contracted by someone within a large diamond corporation which is able to fence the jewelry without raising suspicion. The diamonds can be recut and reshaped making them easier to sell.

During a 2007 heist in Dubai two cars drove into a lobby of the Wafi shopping mall and backed into a jewelry store window, grabbing approx. $3.5 million worth of jewels. The incident was caught on a cellphone camera.

Dubai police later arrested 8 suspects, but the Pink Panthers continues to operate under a code of silence making it difficult to get convictions.

Cheech & Chong Vs Stephen Harper

CANADA - When asked about Stephen Harper comedians Cheech and Chong have some blunt comments about Canada’s least popular Prime Minister.

Right: Chong on the left and Cheech on the right.

“Wise up, you douchebag,” says Cheech Marin.

“I would tell Stephen Harper to let go of George Bush’s butt,” says Chong who is from Edmonton. “Your head’s too far up there. Get your head out of his butt. He’s gone. George is gone. He’s history, Stephen."

“In fact, turn it over to other people who care about more important things.”

Richard “Cheech” Marin and Tommy Chong grew the comedy act during the 1970s and went on to become cultural icons, making a variety of films, comedy albums and appearing in numerous TV shows including "South Park", “Nash Bridges” and “That ‘70s Show.”

Their film credits include: Born in East L.A., Tin Cup, Once Upon a Time in Mexico, Cannonball Run II, The Corsican Brothers, Ghostbusters II, The Lion King, From Dusk Till Dawn, Spy Kids, Cars, Race to Witch Mountain, McHale's Navy and Life After Sex.

Cheech & Chong are on a new comedy tour and were in Montreal last week hosting for the Just For Laughs Festival. The pair are also upset that Stephen Harper's government and police are cracking down on medicinal marijuana clinics, which are perfectly legal in Canada for the treatment of arthritis, cancer and other medical conditions. Police in Quebec and Toronto have been staging raids against legal medicinal clinics, arresting people for possession of the drug despite the fact that these clinics have government permission to sell to medical patients.

“I’m insulted. As a Canadian I’m insulted that Harper would go to that length,” says Chong.

July 18, 2010

Facebook Ghosts

By Ai Lung Nguyen - July 2010.

TECHNOLOGY - When a Facebook user dies it takes awhile for the company to determine they are actually dead and to memorialize their profile. With 500 million members approx. 9,500 members die every day. (There's no shortage of new people signing up which balances that out.)

Globally 250,000 to 300,000 people die every day, but the majority of them don't have Facebook accounts thankfully. Membership is continuing to grow, but time spent on the website has dropped in the last year.

The disturbing thing however is when you receive an automated message from Facebook, referring to your friend or relative which you know is dead, ie. birthday reminds, events, etc. Thats where the spooky ghost moments come in.

"Its like they're poking you from beyond the grave."

Facebook has had trouble automating the task of figuring out when one of its users has died. So far it has to be done manually for fear the person might not actually be dead and still wants to access their account. (Cyber Zombies anyone?)

The fastest growing age group on Facebook is now over the age of 65 (all the young people who wanted to join did so ages ago). 6.5 million seniors signed up in May 2010 alone... but this is also a group with a higher mortality rate.

Figuring out how to handle the ghosts in its machine has been left to a form which friends can fill out to memorialize the deceased. They have to list a link to a website with obituaries to prove the person is dead. Then it has to be checked manually by an employee, so there ends up being a huge backlog of dead people on the waiting list...

There is 350,000 Facebook users for every actual employee and the almost 10,000 dead Facebook users per day is so overwhelming they simply can't keep up with them all.

The option to memorialize a profile is not well publicized, so many profiles of dead Facebook members are never converted to tribute pages. Hence why they often pop up as ghosts...

The Facebook Form to Memorialize an Account

Facebook is considering using software scans for repeated postings of phrases like “Rest in peace” or “I miss you” on a person’s page and then dispatch an email to the person to determine whether they respond.

See Also:
Peter Nygard deletes Facebook group boycotting him
Babyboomers becoming lost in the Digital Divide
Facebook banned in Pakistan
Facebook finally posts a profit

RIM to Apple: Back off Steve

TECHNOLOGY - In the ongoing iPhone 4 connectivity problems scandal Apple CEO Steve Jobs recently tried to allude that the new BlackBerry SmartPhones have similar connectivity problems... comments which may even draw lawsuits.

In response RIM, the makers of BlackBerry, have issued a statement telling Steve Jobs to handle his own problems and not draw other companies into them with wild claims.

“Apple's attempt to draw RIM into Apple's self-made debacle is unacceptable. Apple's claims about RIM products appear to be deliberate attempts to distort the public's understanding of an antenna design issue and to deflect attention from Apple's difficult situation.”

“One thing is for certain, RIM's customers don't need to use a case for their BlackBerry smartphone to maintain proper connectivity. Apple clearly made certain design decisions and it should take responsibility for these decisions rather than trying to draw RIM and others into a situation that relates specifically to Apple,” reads a RIM statement.

Steve Jobs has nobody to blame but himself. He ignored the warnings of Apple’s senior antenna expert during the early design stages of the iPhone 4. He then attempted to cover up the problem and is now trying to allude his company isn't the only one with connectivity troubles.

If Steve Jobs wants to avoid lawsuits he should keep his big mouth shut. Jobs is already facing possible criminal charges due to backdating of stock options, defrauding Apple of approx. $20 million USD. The Apple Board of Directors is also being sued in a class action lawsuit by investors for $7 billion to recover money from securities fraud.

See Also
Apple`s Steve Jobs admits iPhone 4 is flawed
Shoddy iPhone 4 Design

July 17, 2010

Canada to buy $9 BILLION in fighter planes

CANADA - The Conservative minority government of Canada has committed itself to buying 65 new fighter planes at a cost of $140 million each, the biggest post-Cold-War expenditure in Canadian military history.

Who exactly is the threat you ask? Iran? North Korea? Maybe. The huge $9 billion plus price tag raises some important questions about where Canada would be using such fighter planes.

Not on our own soil obviously. We're surrounded by water on three sides and our allies the Americans to the south. So... the answer then is that these fighter planes will be used not in Canada, but overseas in some future conflict.

Defence Minister Peter MacKay touted the new fleet of Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning IIs, outfitted with stealth technology, secure communication channels and presumably the best pilots Canada can muster.

These are not interceptor planes for shooting down enemy bombers or missiles. We have other planes and anti-ballistic missiles as part of NORAD for taking care of such threats.

No, the new F-35s are designed to bomb targets and to do so discreetly. Fly in unnoticed, bomb a target and then leave before anyone notices. While they can also be used for air support and defense, their primary purpose is tactical bombing of targets.

Maintenance for the $9 billion worth of fighter planes will cost an extra $7 billion. F-35s are expensive pieces of equipment and very pricey to maintain.
The Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning IIs were developed by the United States, Canada and 7 other allied nations and are the first 5th-generation fighter planes American allies are "allowed to buy"...

You may find it ironic that Canada and allies helped pay for the development costs for designing these planes, but then we have to pay to have them built in the USA and shipped to Canada. Why can't we build them HERE? Heck, apparently we even have to ask America's permission to buy a plane which we helped design.

Actually that is not true. We're allowed to BID on subcontracts to build parts for Lockheed Martin, but only if we agree to buy a whole bunch of planes. That does not guarantee our bids are accepted.

Meanwhile the Conservative government wants to begin a 5-year-period of budget cutting, but its evident the military isn't one of those things to be cut. Expect more budget cuts to health care, education, women's shelters, arts and other public services.

Defence Minister Peter MacKay says the fighters are to “defend the sovereignty” of Canadian airspace. Apparently he's forgotten about all the other fighter planes we already possess.

Canada currently has 9 types of military aircraft in active service:
AgustaWestland CH-149 Cormorant (an air-sea rescue helicopter)

BAE Hawk (a fighter jet used for training exercises, but capable of combat)

Canadair CT-114 Tutor (a jet used for primarily for training)

McDonnell Douglas CF-18 Hornet (a multirole fighter plane Canada has been using since 1982)

De Havilland Canada DHC-5 Buffalo (a short takeoff transport plane)

Lockheed CP-140 Aurora (maritime patrol aircraft)

SAGEM Sperwer (unmanned spy plane)

Sikorsky CH-148 Cyclone (maritime helicopter, complete with ant-sub technology)

Beechcraft T-6 Texan II (a turboprop plane used for training)
This may be a case of Sammy down the street has a new toy and Peter wants one too. The Americans have them, so we need them too. Because apparently our 138 CF-18 Hornets aren't kewl enough any more.

As if our 65 new F-35s can really compare with the 2,000+ F-35s the United States is preparing to build.

If you're struggling to imagine what country has 2,000+ targets that need to be bombed in tactical missions you're not alone. It really feels like overkill.

"The neighbour's grass is always greener when his gun is bigger than yours."

Small Business Credit Cards

POLITICS - Credit card companies in the United States Prime Rate are recommending business owners get small business credit cards to smooth their transactions and keep track of finances easier. The US prime rate website is also recommending small business credit cards for the American market.

"Small business owners all across America have been struggling to get access to loans as banks continue to hoard cash. Though the American economy is growing again, the banking sector is still hurting, with many banks still facing closure by the FDIC." says Steve Brown from

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) has closed 90 banks so far in 2010, a faster pace compared to bank closures for the same period in 2009 during which the FDIC closed 57 banks. The FDIC shut down 139 banks during all of 2009.

For businesses what people really need is reasonable terms and conditions and there are very few credit card companies offering that right now, but its what is needed if the United States is to pull out of its current debt crisis.

Many banks have been scaling back on lending to small businesses, especially fledgling ones. Since the start of the American Recession and the collapse of the American housing and mortgage industry the USA has seen lower home sales, real estate deflation, rising unemployment and the threat of a depression. To kickstart the economy back into working order the Obama administration went down the road of infrastructure spending, borrowing billions from China and using that money to prop up the American economy.

This contrasts with the Bush administration which simply bailed out the banking industry and was all too happy to leave the mess in Obama's hands when the White House swapped one president for the other.

During the economic chaos the credit card industry started making cutbacks (which any economist will tell you is the WRONG thing to be doing during a debt crisis). They made it more difficult for people to apply for a credit card and now do substantially more background checks before granting them to would-be consumers. They also cut back on bundling services and focused on selling the debts as securities on the New York Stock Exchange (the same way mortgage debts were sold on the NYSE). This meant less risk for the banks and more risk for investors in case people start defaulting on their credit card payments.

During the height of crisis business credit cards became so risky and unprofitable for banks that many business credit card accounts were either closed, frozen or had their credit availability limited. One such company Advanta, which specialized in small business credit cards, closed up shop on May 30th 2009 and filed for bankruptcy in November. The FDIC later shut down Advanta Bank Corporation in March 2010.

The US Federal Reserve says less than 20% of small business credit card holders carry a balance. Over 80% pay off their debts immediately.

Apple`s Steve Jobs admits iPhone 4 is flawed

TECHNOLOGY - When the iPhone 4 was being designed and sent to production Apple’s senior antenna expert warned CEO Steve Jobs of a potential problem with reception, but Steve Jobs ignored it.

After all, iPhone customers are so loyal they will buy any piece of crappy technology as long as it has the Apple logo on it.

The leak comes as Apple is facing a public relations nightmare, with Steve Jobs admitting the Apple iPhone 4 is not perfect and insisting there are other cellphones on the market with the same or similar problem.

Maybe so Steve, but when people pay $299 USD for an iPhone 4 with 32 GB of space, high resolution camera, multi-touch, video recording, etc... they expect the product to actually work when they phone someone or use the internet.

Other SmartPhones do not have this problem.

Apple’s senior antenna expert Ruben Caballero brought up the possibility of dropped calls in early design meetings but was overruled by Steve Jobs who insisted the problem wasn`t a big deal. Steve Jobs is now insisting that meeting never took place and that warnings that the design was flawed is a complete crock.

So is he saying he didn`t know about the problem and is incompetent or is he just plain lying in an effort to stocks high... Apple stocks have dropped in value $24 USD in the last month.

This has upset investors who now believe Steve Jobs ignored the problem and then tried to cover up the flaws with the iPhone 4 and was so focused on `making a quick buck` off enthusiastic Apple customers (who, like we`ve said before, will buy any crap with an Apple logo on it) that he didn`t care whether there was flaws with the product.

Meanwhile Apple is now offering a full refund for people who return their iPhone 4 or a free case (a bandage solution) for people who decide to keep it.

Our advice is to return the damn thing and wait for the iPhone 5 to come out. Maybe then they will have realized honesty is the best policy and covering up faulty antennas is bad for business. That or you could buy a different SmartPhone that works.

Consumer Reports magazine has refused to endorse the iPhone 4, having conducted a battery of tests that reveal the product loses reception when it is held in the bottom left corner. The problem can be solved using a case or if users are careful to not touch that part of the phone. Some people may be willing to do that, but will probably feel like idiots all the time for buying such a crappy product.

"Woe to he who ignores the advice of his own engineers."

See Also: Shoddy iPhone 4 Design

American hypocrisy on Climate Change

By Ai Lung Nguyen - July 2010.

ENVIRONMENT/POLITICS - Awhile ago the Financial Times encouraged all European Union governments to approve stricter emissions targets, pointing out that it would encourage private investment in low emissions technology and benefit Europe's economy.

But when it comes time for the US government to do the same thing, its not stricter emission targets... its the watering down of emission targets.

The United States Senate spent this past week arguing the best ways to water down greenhouse gas emissions targets because some of them have it stuck in their silly heads that such things would hurt the economy.

Question: How does better fuel efficiency hurt the economy?

The answer is it doesn't. It boosts the economy by making it cheaper to transport things. We have the technology to build more efficient cars, motors and engines that run on less energy but still provide the same amount of power and torque.

But because Americans are lazy they choose not to use the technology sitting right in front of them. How backwards is that?

The energy bill currently being debated calls for a 17% cut from 2005 emissions levels by 2020. It is frankly a ridiculously easy goal to achieve and you don't even have to cull SUVs to do it.

The automotive industry is minuscule compared the amount of CO2 being emitted from coal-burning electricity plants. Cut out just half of the coal burners and you will have reduced CO2 emissions by 17.5% right there. (Coal burning accounts for 35% of CO2 emissions in the USA.)

Replace the coal burners with nuclear, geothermal, solar, wind and other renewable resources and the problem is very quickly solved. And the building of such things creates local jobs, boosting the economy in the process.

According to 100% of peer-reviewed scientific reports the Earth is facing catastrophic climate change if global temperatures rise more than 2 degrees Celsius, which will result in massing storms, flooding, rising sea levels, droughts, and widespread destruction of crops and livestock.

Meanwhile European lawmakers are moving much more aggressively. They're calling for 30% reductions below 1990 levels by 2020. Asian countries like China, India, Japan and South Korea are likely to follow suit.

Meanwhile quite a few American cars can't even be sold overseas in Europe or Asia because they can't meet the efficiency standards. America's economy is largely dependent on automotive exports, but because American politicians can't get their act in gear the economy is floundering.

Stephen Harper hates StatsCan

CANADA - “Harper does not like StatsCan, that’s what we kept hearing,” says a longtime employee of the agency which handles Canada's statistical information and national census.

“In particular, he does not like the analytical work we’ve done for years.”

Why? Its because the analytical work tracks inequality between Canadians. It measures things like pensions, benefits, how Canadians spend their money on housing, vacation time, medical expenses, how good or bad we are doing financially, how happy we are, how often we have sex, why we get divorces, why we get abortions, how well different ethnic groups are doing, how well our immigrants are integrating with Canadian society, how well people with physical or mental disabilities are doing. Etc, etc. And then it compares this across all of Canada, between the different provinces and territories.

Basically the analytical work points out everything that is wrong with Canada and which things need fixing.

Thus when Stephen Harper's government announced this weekend that Statistics Canada's 2011 census will have changes to the long forms (which usually effect 20% of the population) that would make it no longer compulsory but instead voluntary it caused a scandal both amongst politicians, but also civilians.

The long form Census is a necessary measurement because its used to determine $60 billion in transfer payments to the provinces and territories.

It also builds a picture of Canada, while respecting the privacy of Canadians (Statistics Canada has never violated the privacy of anyone), so that we know which parts of Canada need extra attention in certain areas. People fill out the forms and send it back in their own time. Some people are slower doing it, but history has shown the speed people mail it back is the same regardless of whether its the short forms or the long forms.

By making the form purely voluntary it means only people with the time to do it (ie. rich or middle-class Canadian) may respond. It will create a skewed picture of Canada.

Worst of all it throws out decades of previous work by StatsCan, because there would be nothing to compare the skewed findings with.

Don Drummond, former chief economist of the TD Bank and a member of the National Statistical Council, says Harper's planned changes to the 2011 census would leave Canada “in a fog” for years.

We would have to wait decades to even begin to make new comparisons and the statistical info would be skewed wildly by lower response rates.

According to a source from inside the party not everyone was happy with Stephen Harper's decision. Tony Clement, the minister in charge of Statistics Canada was against the idea. So was Finance Minister Jim Flaherty. Many of the other high ranking ministers were against the changes.

“The PMO thought nobody would care,” says the source, but the backlash is intense.

The conservative C.D. Howe Institute is upset.

So is the Canadian Society for Epidemiology and Biostatistics (health scientists use census data in the research of public health).

And there is also: Federation of Canadian Municipalities; Atlantic Provinces Economics Council; Canadian Association for Business Economics (bankers, applied economists, etc.); Canadian Institute of Planners; Canadian Economics Association (academics who teach economics); Canadian Council of Social Development; Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives; Canadian Statistical Society; Canadian Marketing Association; Canadian Research Data Centre Network; Canadian Census Committee; Canadian Association of University Teachers; Caledon Institute; Information and Communications Technology Council; Institute for Research on Public Policy (whose president Mel Cappe is Canada’s former top public servant as clerk of the Privy Council); City of Toronto; Toronto Public Health; United Way Toronto; and Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants.

And every university and academic is up in arms about the proposed changes, the loss of continuity of Canadian data. Many universities would be forced to use American statistics because the Canadian statistics would be considered inaccurate, flawed and worthless.

And once something becomes worthless it is soon to be cut out entirely. Scrapped from the budget, which would leave Canadian statistics completely in the dark.

Hopefully Stephen Harper will come to his senses and realize his hatred of StatsCan is shortsighted and will have disastrous consequences.

Harper may not like the statistics he is seeing about Canada's changing demographics, but they are necessary so policy makers know what needs to be fixed.

"Burying your head in the sand isn't going to fix the problem."

G20 Afterthought: Officer Bubbles + Stephen Harper

CANADA - We're still learning more about what happened during the G20 summit in Toronto, especially about the ridiculous police presence and arresting civilians who were doing very little that is noteworthy.

For example in the video below 52nd Division officer Const. Adam Josephs threatens to arrest a G20 activist for blowing bubbles. The activist, Courtney Winkels, says she was talking with the female officer when Josephs walked over from about seven metres away — “totally out of range of the bubbles” — to stand in front of her and threaten arrest. He deliberately went out of his way to stand in front of her and then make the threat.

“I was both shocked and confused, but I complied and put the bubbles away,” says Winkels.

Since then "Officer Bubbles" has been making derogatory statements about the public on his Facebook profile, which has since been made private and he is no longer answering phone calls from the press. Police officers who resent the public is not a new phenomenon. The high stress job has been known to cause officers to lose their temper, become violent and go to ridiculous lengths trying to assert their authority. Mini Mussolinis essentially. The "Officer Bubbles" incident even spawned a video cartoon:

Meanwhile new protests against the police overstepping their own laws are being organized. Many of the activists are expected to bring bubbles.

And while we are at it, why is Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty getting all the slack for the G20 presence? The OPP wasn't even involved, everything was the Toronto Police Dept., who were on orders from Stephen Harper. There was the Provincial regulatory change that would have allowed Toronto police to arrest anyone within 5 meters of the security fence, but that turned out to be just a rumour... and frankly besides the point. Toronto police were arresting people who were whole city blocks away. Nowhere even near the security fence.

Meanwhile Stephen Harper is getting away Scot-free and is avoiding the whole G20 topic as much as he can. So far Harper has managed to escape the G20 fallout, with Dalton McGuinty taking a lot of the blame for things he had little or no control over.

It was Stephen Harper who decided the Canadian G20 summit would be in Toronto.

It was Stephen Harper who allocated $1.2 billion to G20 security and building retrofits (ie. the fake lake).

It was Stephen Harper who apparently wrote a black cheque for the summit and ignored attempts to control spending.

It was Stephen Harper who invited the leaders of 34 countries and over 10,000 delegates to the summit... such numbers were probably not needed.

It was Stephen Harper who approved of and helped plan many of the security measures.

It was Stephen Harper who decided that they're not going to reveal what the $1.1 billion spent on security alone would actually be spent on.

Yet it is the City of Toronto which will be hit with lawsuits for lost business, destroyed property, over a thousand unwarranted arrests and ensuing lawsuits and hundreds of allegations of police brutality. It is Dalton McGuinty who is currently receiving the political fallout, which he frankly doesn't deserve.

Three weeks after the summit Stephen Harper is still mum on the topic, except for his praising of the G20 police. Praising them! (I am sure Hitler praised the gestapo during his time in power too.) Meanwhile Stephen Harper is now on vacation, visiting the Calgary Stampede.

All while opposition MPs earlier this week tried to launch hearings and inquiries into the G20 policing, especially that bloated budget which has yet to be explained. Harper has a lot to answer for.

Hearings and inquiries are going forward on the municipal and provincial levels and the RCMP are doing their own investigation in police brutality reports, but Harper's refusal to allow a federal inquiry suggests he has something to hide.

Central to all of this is the concern amongst some Canadians that Canada is becoming a police state: A country ruled by the police and the military. That is a very serious concern because it represents a taking away of freedoms Canadians have enjoyed up to this point. The right to be arrested with due cause. Innocent until proven guilty. Not police officers with no uniforms attacking civilians with batons. Not officers in riot gear shooting crowds of chanting civilians with rubber bullets. Not spraying young women with pepper spray for the crime of trying to walk home near the police line.

And certainly not arresting them for something as simple as blowing bubbles.

July 15, 2010

Argentina legalizes same-sex marriage

SEX - Argentina became the first country in South America to legalize gay marriages and that gays and lesbians have all the legal rights, responsibilities and protections that marriage brings to heterosexual couples.

The Senate vote today was 33 in favour, 27 against and 3 abstained. It had already been approved of in the lower house and President Cristina Fernandez is also a supporter.

The paperwork and forms for getting a marriage license in Argentina have yet to be altered to reflect the changes, but already legalized marriages are going ahead as scheduled.

The changes happened despite huge efforts by the Roman Catholic Church, Pope Benedict in Rome and 60,000 Catholics marching on the Argentinian Congress in a huge demonstration. Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, the leader of Argentina's anti-gay movement had this to say: "children need to have the right to be raised and educated by a father and a mother."

As opposed to all those single mothers or fathers who end up raising their kids alone? Utter hogwash.

But they weren't the only crowd there. An equally large crowd of 70,000 gay activists and supporters chanted enthusiasm for the new changes while police cordoned off the two groups to protect them from possible anti-gay violence.

Argentina has already married 9 gay couples prior to today, after persuading judges that their constitutional rights were being violated by not allowing them the freedom to get married to the person they love. Other judges tried to overturn these marriages in court and it eventually had to be argued in the government.

Same sex civil unions (which is different from a marriage) are already legal in Uruguay, several states in Mexico and Brazil. Colombia recently gave same-sex couples inheritance rights and allowed them to add their partners to health insurance plans.

In North America Canada has already legalized same-sex marriages, but in the United States it varies from state to state.

"Today's historic vote shows how far Catholic Argentina has come, from dictatorship to true democratic values, and how far the freedom to marry movement has come, as twelve countries on four continents now embrace marriage equality," said Evan Wolfson, who runs the U.S. Freedom to Marry lobby.

See Also
Freedom of Expression, Freedom of Marriage
South Africa passes same-sex marriage
Harper Flip Flops on Same Sex Marriages
Rotten Marriages Vs Gay Marriages

July 14, 2010

Shoddy iPhone 4 Design

TECHNOLOGY - The iPhone 4, which sold 1.7 million units worldwide in its first three days, may be getting recalled in the near future because of a shoddy design which causes low reception quality when you hold the bottom left corner in your hand (which is often).

This design flaw is now causing many customers to be returning the devices and demanding their money back. Consumer Reports did their own testing of the devices and confirmed that there is definitely signal loss when the phone is held in such a fashion and are now recommending people not to buy the iPhone 4.

The thing is however... some iPhone users probably won't care. They're so addicted to their gadgets they could be sold manure with the Apple logo on it and they'd happily hand over $29.99 for it.

"Look, I got my own Apple Manure!"

"What does it do?"

"It smells horrible! And its got BlueTooth! Its so kewl!"

Seriously, I can just see the line of events in my mind... the design technicians were showing off their latest designs to one of Apple's executives and the executive asked "Hey, why don't we move this gizmo here so we can save space and have more room for gizmos?" and one of the technicians said "Um, yes, we could, but it would result in a loss of signal when its held a certain way." To which the executive responded "Bah, that doesn't matter. Our customers will buy any piece of crap anyway. Make the changes and lets sell it."

Proof why executives making 'executive decisions' often make the wrong decisions because they ignore technical advice. (I wonder if that had any role to play in the BP Oil Spill?)

My point here is that Apple executives knew the iPhone 4 was a shoddy design, but they decided to sell it anyway because they know their customers are idiots who will buy anything with the Apple logo on it.

Add that to the fact that Apple has been rejecting apps sent to them from Google for approval and it really starts to feel like Apple is shooting themselves in the foot. Google's application design department has been designing a variety of apps for SmartPhones, but they've only been approved for use on BlackBerry phones and phones running Android. Apple keeps rejecting their apps because they see Google as competition. Not all their apps are rejected, but any that are seen as a threat certainly are.

If this lack of comraderie and shoddy designs keep up Apple will soon see more customers ditching them for products that give them the full range of applications and the quality they've come to expect.

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