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January 26, 2010

Whistleblower sues Harper government

CANADA - The whistleblower Richard Colvin who blew the whistle on the Afghanistan torture issue (essentially Canada was knowingly giving over detainees to Afghan officials knowing they would be tortured for information, tantamount to "outsourcing torture") is now suing the Canadian government for refusing to pay his legal bills in 2009.

Richard Colvin's testimony hurt Stephen Harper's government in 2009 when it was learned the government was handing detainees over despite widespread knowledge they were going to be tortured, and have been doing so since 2005. The Harper government then made a big stink about it, which led to an inquiry into the whole affair and a pile of legal bills for Mr Colvin.

Normally when a diplomat has legal bills they are paid for by the Canadian government, but because Colvin damaged the reputations of various high ranking Conservative Party members they decided not to pay his legal bills in reprisal. Colvin is entitled to legal representations as a federal civil servant who was summoned to testify about his work in Afghanistan. The government originally agreed to provide funding for independent counsel prior to his testimony because the Justice Department could not represent parties on both sides of the dispute, given the risk of a conflict of interest.

Now that the government has reneged on its promise to pay the legal bills Colvin is now suing for the full amount. Owen Rees, Colvin's Toronto lawyer, says his client has "a reasonable belief" that the government's refusal to pay his legal bills is a clear reprisal and part of an effort to silence future whistleblowers, according to a letter submitted yesterday to the Military Police Complaints Commission.

“Coupled with the government's public attacks on Mr. Colvin and his testimony before the special committee on the Canadian mission in Afghanistan ... our client is left with the reasonable belief that the denial of legal indemnification is a reprisal for his participation before the committee and the commission,” the letter says.

The Harper government has denied Colvin's testimony and has instead gone on the attack, trying to ruin Colvin's reputation as a civil servant.

Stephen Harper's government was so upset by the torture testimony the Prime Minister prorogued parliament in an effort to stay in power and to silence the scandal. That is basically an admission of guilt.

California's Dustbowl

ENVIRONMENT - The photo on the right is a farm in California that has been put up for sale. Its just one of thousands of farms that are now facing desertification. California's drought is now in its 5th year and farmers are becoming desperate as California increasingly starts to look like a dustbowl from the 1930s.

Climate change will effect farmers most of all and in this case California farmers are getting an early taste of it as their climate becomes more like the Mojave Desert. In this case the desert is getting bigger every year and there's little farmers can do about it. There isn't any water. Wells have gone dry and its not worth it to truck fresh water in from Canada (the only place in North America with an abundance of fresh water usable for drinking/agriculture).

There are water pipes for bringing water in from northern California, but they're old, rusty, falling apart and can't deal with the sheer bulk demand that farmers are facing as the Mojave Desert spreads. There simply isn't enough water to do the job. Those farms that can afford to import water are suffering hugely because water now accounts for 30% of the operating costs and it gets worse every year.

California's Central Valley is already one of the poorest regions in the United States and if weather patterns don't change soon it will become a whole region of ghost towns as farmers leave to find work and the local economy collapses.

California's once snowpacked mountains are also feeling the heat. None of the ice caps remain. Long dry spells have been killing off the trees, causing the treeline to move an average of 213 feet up the mountain (according to a 2008 UC Irvine study).

January 25, 2010

Bees dying due to mites

ENVIRONMENT - Canadian scientists have discovered the reason why 23% of bee hives are dying during the winter (where previously they were fine). The reason is a tiny mite about the size of a period which is killing the bees.

Known in the USA as Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) the mysterious vanishing act has decimated approx. 40% of North America's bee population. Usually the bees left the hive and never returned, sparking theories the bees were being killed by radiation, cellphones, global warming, climate change, terrorists and aliens.

In Canada however the bees hibernate during the winter and Canadian scientists were able to investigate the dead bee hives in the spring and determined the difference between healthy hives and dead hives was the presence of varroa mites, a crab-like parasite that clings to the backs and bellies of bees.

Varroa mites has become the superbug of bees because they've built up a resistance to miticide. The news that the mystery has been solved is welcomed by farmers and the beekeeping industry, but now becomes the difficult task of trying to find a way to get rid of the mites with either a more powerful miticide or an alternative method.

16,000 new Samsung jobs in Ontario

CANADA - The Samsung Group from South Korea is bringing 16,000 green-collar jobs to Ontario, part of a plan to manufacture green energy equipment.

Part of this is because Ontario's Liberal government has been promoting Ontario as a producer of clean-energy technology and equipment such as solar panels and windmills. This much is true. Ontario now boasts the largest number of green companies than any region on the planet. On top of that Ontario's new "Green Energy Act" means Ontario is the best place on the planet to grow a green business.

This impressed the South Koreans who were looking to build a new manufacturing super-plant in North America and could have chosen a location in the United States instead, but chose Ontario because the province has become a "green energy mecca".

That means $7 billion (USD) in clean-energy manufacturing coming to Canada and boosting the local economy. In total Samsung will build four manufacturing plants in Ontario and will initially develop 2,500 megawatts worth of wind and solar projects.

Under the Green Energy Act Ontario will pay producers 12 cents for every kilowatt made, slightly cheaper than the current 13 cents it costs the government to produce that energy using coal and nuclear power. It should be noted that Ontario Hydro then sells that energy to the Ontario public at a rate of approx. 6.5 cents per kilowatt, a loss for the Ontario government which is made up later with tax revenues.

Some people might be surprised to learn Ontario actually sells its electricity at a loss. Its not a commonly known fact and the only reason I know about it is because I briefly worked for Direct Energy (an electricity wholesaler which resells electricity at a bulk rate over the long term, and frankly that company is a big scam because its based on the assumption electricity rates will rise).

Opposition party's in Queen's Park however are not aware the government actually takes a loss when selling electricity (and has been taking a loss for decades) and are arguing the 12 cents the government will be paying companies like Samsung will somehow increase the cost of electricity. Nonsense. The government will continue to take a loss (as usual), but it will be slightly less than normal since we'll be paying 12 cents instead of 13. (Technically Samsung brokered a deal where they will be paid 12.5 cents per kilowatt, but its still worth it when it means bringing a $7 billion investment and 16,000 jobs to Ontario. Plus Ontario will save half a cent per KW compared to their regular costs.)

This is the value of knowing all the facts.

See Also
North Korea

Dungeons & Dragons banned in Wisconsin Prison

ENTERTAINMENT - A prison in Wisconsin has banned the popular roleplaying game "Dungeons & Dragons", claiming it promotes "gang-related activity".

Using that argument the prison in question should also ban board games, card games, all games involving dice. D&D promotes teamwork, the importance of friendship, math skills, the imagination and problem solving skills. If anything prisons should be PROMOTING Dungeons & Dragons as a way to rehabilitate inmates, but instead they've been encouraged by right-wing Christian groups concerned about anything remotely "occult" to ban the game. (Does this mean they've also banned Harry Potter or Tolkien books?)

The prison has been trying to ban Dungeons & Dragons since 2004. One of the inmates, Kevin T. Singer, filed a lawsuit against Wisconsin's Waupun prison arguing his First Amendment rights were being violated and demanded that Dungeons and Dragons material confiscated from his cell be returned.

Today the 7th United States Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the prison's policy was reasonable and denied Singer's request.

Its a slippery slope America! Whats next? Burning fantasy books like Conan because Conan is a thief, a pirate, a mercenary and a rebel leader? Oh, and there's magic in the stories too. Oh dear, better not give the religious wackos any ideas.

See Also
Conan the Berserker

Seal Hunt pie in your Face

CANADA - Today in Brampton a female protester opposed to Canada's annual seal hunt shoved a pie in the face of the federal Minister (Fisheries and Oceans Minister Gail Shea, grandmother of 8, a Conservative MP from Prince Edward Island) responsible for the seal hunt.

The woman was taken in to custody and Shea finished her speech after wiping the pie from her face.

The Canadian Seal Hunt is an annual event in which approx. 300,000 seals off Atlantic Canada are killed in an effort to save the cod fishing (because seals eat cod and are basically the wolves of the sea). The hunt takes place around Prince Edward Island, the gulf between the Gaspe Peninsula and Newfoundland, and the waters north of Newfoundland.

The government sets quotas for how many of each kind of seal (including babies) are allowed to be killed each year.

Baby whitecoat and blueback (aka hooded) seals are illegal to hunt other times of the year. Once they reach the age of 14 days however they become fair game for hunters. The reason its illegal to hunt babies is because of photos from 1987 showing baby seals being clubbed to death, which was bad press for then Prime Minister Brian Mulroney.

According to the International Fund for Animal Welfare seals are routinely (about 45% of the time) skinned alive because sealers don't check for a blinking reflex to confirm death.

The Canadian government makes approx. $16 million / year off the sale of seal meat and fur, and also use the seal oil for various food products because its rich in Omega-3. The seal hunt is a substantial boost to the economies of Newfoundland and Labrador where unemployment is a shocking 15%.

The price of quality seal pelts has dropped in the last 4 years from $105 to $15 CDN, suggesting the public no longer wants to wear products made from seal. To compensate this Stephen Harper's government is trying to promote seal meat and is now serving seal in the Canadian Parliament Hill restaurant.

Native Canadians maintain the right to hunt seals for food and for traditional ceremonies.

January 24, 2010

10 Reasons why Torontonians are Rude

CANADA - The following is a list of 10 reasons why Torontonians are considered the rudest city in Canada. The sad part is Toronto may deserve this reputation and that there is frankly "no good reason" for their rudeness. I'd argue we definitely deserve the nickname "Hogtown".

#1. Torontonians won't give you the Time of Day - Seriously. What reason is there to ignore someone who asks you for the time? I've asked people for the time in various places around the world, but Toronto is the ONLY place where people refuse to answer and ignore you.

#2. Torontonians won't stop to give you Directions - This is partially true. Some will, some won't. The people who do are either genuinely nice, or they weren't born and raised in Toronto. Based on personal experience the people born outside of Toronto are more likely to stop and give directions. And its not just directions. Stopping a Torontonian for any kind of question is notoriously difficult comparatively. (On a personal note, people stop and ask me directions regularly and I always help them as best I can, but perhaps that is because I don't look like a Torontonian yet still look like I know where I am going.)

#3. Torontonians think they own the Sidewalk - Ever been walking in one direction and someone coming the other way refuses to step off to the side, even though you're carrying something heavy or breakable, pushing a baby carriage, elderly walking with a cane, etc? Chances are likely the *expletive* that won't move is a Torontonian.

#4. Torontonians cut in Line - Ever been waiting in the lineup at Tim Hortons and some *expletive* ahead of you lets in all their friends? Suddenly the lineup has doubled in size. Letting friends cut in line is something you did in grade school, it was meant to stop once you reached adulthood. It should be noted some people don't think cutting in line is rude, and that is part of the problem.

#5. Torontonians rarely Apologize - If someone steps on your heels, accidentally bumps you, slows everyone down, etc. and they does not apologize for their action or inaction chances are likely they're a Torontonian. Its like they avoid talking to people period, even when something is their fault. If they actually spill something on you they would apologize, especially if you're big and mean looking, but otherwise they seem to avoid talking to strangers entirely.

#6. Torontonians are horribly Rude Drivers - This is more of a North American thing wherein both Americans and Canadians have a tendency to be in a rush, cutting people off, not signaling, rude to other drivers and all the effects of Road Rage. I'd argue Torontonians are particularly bad when it comes to Road Rage, but thankfully we don't all carry guns like Americans. Perhaps worse of all we "think" we are good at driving when in truth there is only one country in the world which has quote unquote "good drivers": Finland, and we're nowhere near their skill. (Finland's driving school program takes years to complete and includes driving techniques usually taught to rally race car drivers.) Another factor of this is ignoring pedestrians, something which explains why 11 people have been struck and killed so far this January.

#7. Torontonians ignore the Homeless - Again only partially true, but in general most Torontonians walk by, stare straight ahead and refuse to even acknowledge their existence. Does it really take that much effort to smile a little and give them an empty handed gesture which shows you have nothing to give them?

#8. Torontonians are Rude to Cyclists - This can be well-demonstrated by former MPP Michael Bryant deliberately hitting cyclist Darcy Sheppard, father of three, and later running him over and killing him with his car. It was all caught on surveillance tape. As a cyclist myself I've seen how rude Torontonian drivers are when it comes to cyclists and its beyond the norm compared to having cycled in other cities globally. In Toronto this rudeness extends to endangering the lives of cyclists and even an outright hatred of them.

#9. Torontonians live in a Bubble - According to various sources Torontonians are "self-absorbed, pretentious, arrogant, concerned only with money and don't care about what happens in the rest of Canada". We're "escalator nazis" who are always in a hurry to get somewhere and we think we're better than the other people standing next to us on the subway platform. In essence Torontonians think they are superior to other Canadians and even other Torontonians.

#10. Torontonians will ignore a pregnant woman looking for a seat on the subway or bus, even though there are signs saying you must give your seat to pregnant women and the elderly - This one needs no explanation. One time I saw a pregnant woman faint on the subway because nobody offered to give her a seat.

Now I want to point out I don't hate Toronto. In fact I love Toronto. But I also think Toronto could be improved dramatically if we all practiced being nicer to each other and not so self-absorbed and paranoid when it comes to talking to strangers. Some Torontonians seem to think if you stop to give someone directions you might get shot. Ridiculous. Toronto's crime rate and murder rate are both BELOW the national average and statistically you're 100 times more likely to be shot by a family member, friend or co-worker. Almost never by a stranger. Torontonians are so obsessed with their personal comfort and their personal time they don't want to waste time helping strangers. Pathetic. Torontonians should be ashamed of themselves.

By making this list I hope Torontonians will read it and remember it the next time they decide to ignore someone, cut in line or traffic, forget to apologize and nearly kill a cyclist. Its no wonder people call Toronto "Hogtown".

And it goes for non-Torontonians too. There is no reason other people can't benefit from this list and become nicer people. We don't all have to behave like obnoxious Americans (just kidding, I love you guys too).

The silly thing is in our rush to get places there is always delays anyway. The proverbial 2 seconds it takes to be nice to other people is 2 seconds LESS you will be waiting in traffic or some lineup. If you're so worried about it walk a little faster to make up the 2 seconds you lost.

"When you're rude people will remember it for eternity." - Charles Moffat.

January 22, 2010

Banning Auto-Prorogation in Canada

CANADA - Now if you don't know what prorogation is, you must not be too familiar with Canadian politics.

Prorogation is when the Prime Minister of Canada goes to the Canadian governor general and asks them to shut down parliament (the legislative branch of the Canadian government) for a period of time.

Ergo, when parliament is prorogued nothing gets done. The parliament buildings stay empty and the politicians all go home and enjoy an extended vacation with their big fat pay cheques.

So far Stephen Harper, the current minority Prime Minister, has prorogued parliament twice in an effort to stay in power. Essentially he is avoiding non-confidence votes that would force either a new election, or a new minority government led by the Liberals.

Thus in our current scenario Canada ends up having to keep a lame duck prime minister because whenever we try to throw him out of office with a non-confidence vote he ends up proroguing parliament. (And if you doubt that Stephen Harper is a lame duck, please tell me what exactly has he ACCOMPLISHED while in power? His only goal seems to be delaying green environmental measures.)

Right now the NDP is proposing a new law that would require a parliamentary vote to prorogue parliament, bypassing the governor general entirely. Other political parties are supporting the measure. Thus it would not be an outright ban on prorogation, but it would be a ban on the Prime Minister's ability to prorogue parliament.

To gain public support for the idea the NDP is hosting a variety anti-prorogation rallies across Canada.

I on the other hand am going a different route. I am promoting a new Facebook group called "Stephen Harper is a Lame Duck Prime Minister" and should be tossed out for being a complete failure. I am making it my new years resolution to make it happen.

See Also:
Follow the Lilith eZine on Facebook

January 19, 2010

Clean Water is Haiti's new currency

ENVIRONMENT/HEALTH - The gourde is the currency of Haiti, but the paper notes are basically worth nothing in the aftermath of last Tuesday's earthquake. Water is the new currency in Haiti, specifically clean water for drinking, cooking and cleaning.

Its now estimated that over a quarter of a million people died in the earthquake and more bodies keep piling up. Initial estimates are now considered wildly premature as its evident this has been a catastrophe on the scale of the 2004 Tsunami and one of the largest natural disasters in human history. Already 70,000 people have been buried, but vast numbers of bodies remain to be found and buried. The scale of the disaster is such that all the bodies will never be found.

For the survivors now the real challenge is finding food and water. The water pipes all across the city have been ruptured, the buildings that distributed the water destroyed. Finding clean water is thus a real challenge for the approx. 750,000 people still living in Port-au-Prince.

“Money is worth nothing right now, water is the currency,” one foreign aid worker said.

The irony that the gourde is named after a plant typically used for carrying water is not lost on Haitians, but its a very sad and bitter irony.

The Sarcasm Symbol

ENTERTAINMENT - Ever had some confusion online or with your cellphone when someone fails to catch the sarcasm?

Well now with the SarcMark you can get your point across.

Launched this week by Sarcasm Inc. you can download it for use on Windows, Apple or your BlackBerry... no word when its available for iPhone users.

"We want to see if we can get it established as a punctuation mark," says co-creator Paul Sak, 63, who started the idea with his son Douglas, 35. Doug came up with the idea eight years ago when he sent an ironic email to an old college buddy and realized that it would be taken the wrong way. He figured the SarcMark would be the solution.

Kudos. That should save a few friendships.

The only problem is it costs $1.99 USD. Seriously guys? Why isn't it free?!

Wouldn't it make more sense to just have already available symbol(s) used instead?

Examples:
?!
$@
*sarcasm*

I totally agree with the concept of a Sarcasm Mark, but I think sarcasm should be free.

Cat Goddess Temple found in Egypt

RELIGION - Archaeologists in Egypt announced today that they have unearthed a Ptolemaic-era temple dedicated to the ancient cat goddess, Bastet.

Egypt's SCA says the temple dates back approx. 2,100 years and were discovered in the heart of the Mediterranean port city of Alexandria (founded by Alexander the Great in the 4th century B.C.) that ended with the suicide of Cleopatra 300 years later.

The temple was previously thought to be a palace belonging to Queen Berenice, wife of King Ptolemy III who ruled Egypt in the 3rd century B.C., but new excavations have found a large number of cat statues, along with a few statues of other Egyptian gods, suggesting it was at one time a temple to the cat goddess Bastet. Its believed this cat temple was the first of its kind during the Ptolemaic era.

The temple is now missing quite a few large stones, suggesting it was later used as a quarry by the Romans, likely for a Roman-era amphitheatre down the street in the Kom el-Dekkah neighbourhood.

Modern Alexandria is built on top of the ruins of the ancient city and many of the great temples, palaces and libraries of that time remain under layers of earth and sand.

Is Internet Explorer unsafe?

TECHNOLOGY - German and French governments are recommending internet users don't use Internet Explorer versions 6, 7 and 8 when using Windows XP, Windows Vista and Windows 7. Why? Because IE has security flaws which leave it open to both hackers and viruses. Both governments are recommending people install a quality virus protection software and use an alternative browser like Firefox or Opera.

Microsoft however is very angry that the governments have come out and publicly encouraged people to choose a different internet browser. Microsoft spokesman Thomas Baumgaertner has disputed the advice, claiming "These were not attacks against general users or consumers."

Nevertheless, Microsoft also admitted in its own security advisory that it was “actively working with partners” to fix the problem. MS Internet Explorer is still used by approx. 66% of the global population, including many government computers and banks.

Last week hackers exploited weaknesses in Internet Explorer to launch a “highly sophisticated” attack on email users around the world, especially in China where the attack originated from.

The attack targeted the email addresses of activists promoting the truth about Tiananmen Square Massacre, China's military response to Tibet and a variety of other human rights abuses going on in China. Its believed the Chinese government perpetuated the hacker attack.

Google is now threatening to pullout its business from China because of the attack. In retaliation the Chinese government is now blocking Google China's internet access.

January 17, 2010

Convict burns to death in a Haitian street

POLITICS - WARNING! WHAT YOU ARE ABOUT TO READ IS GRAPHIC AND DISTURBING.

Yesterday the man on the right was tortured, stripped naked and eventually lit on fire when police caught the man looting.

The order of events:
  1. The earthquake leveled the local penitentiary in capitol Port-au-Prince.
  2. Many convicts escaped from the collapsed building.
  3. The man on the right was caught by police, placed in a truck and was being transferred to a jail when a mob of people saw him.
  4. They swarmed the police truck, dragged the convict from the truck while the police radioed for help.
  5. They bound him with rope, stripped him naked, tortured him and then took turns beating him with a long wooden stick.
  6. Then they lit his body on fire.
  7. When police sirens were heard someone yelled: "Get away! The police!" and the mob blended into the rest of the crowd, leaving his body burning in the street.
People have been looting and scavenging for food for days now as food is scarce and relief supplies are slowly trickling in to some of the worst locations. Many of the roads were destroyed by the earthquake and are now impassable.

Decades of government corruption in Haiti has resulted in a bitter scared populace. Since the earthquake the government is barely functioning and control is now more or less in the hands of international aid organizations and the American military which has stepped in to render assistance.

One can only hope that international attention might actually help Haiti to pull itself from the ruins and rebuild, throwing off the shackles of corruption, but history suggests government corruption is virulent everywhere.

See Also:
Profiteerism as Haiti suffers

January 14, 2010

Earthquake in Haiti kills 50,000+

HEALTH - The death toll for yesterday's earthquake in Haiti keeps rising, with current estimates over 50,000 dead. Outside Port-au-Prince's General Hospital at least 1,500 bodies were stacked and waited to be picked up by trucks. More bodies keep filling up the streets as people search through the rubble for survivors.

UPDATE: Approx. 230,000 people died during the January 12th 2010 earthquake in Port-au-Prince Haiti.

Police gather up the bodies and take them to hospital parking lots where they wait to be picked up and eventually identified.

Approx. 3 million Haitians are now injured and/or homeless and the country is growing desperate as foreign aid slowly trickles into the country. The US military is managing the landing of planes, but in typical American fashion they seem to have miscalculated and bungled the attempt. Many of the planes carrying aid have been forced to land elsewhere to refuel as they circle the capitol and wait for the signal to land.

The 7.0 quake struck Tuesday night and was the worst earthquake to hit the island in 200 years. Four Canadians are already among the dead and many more Canadians are missing.

UPDATE: 6 confirmed Canadian deaths and 1,362 Canadians are still missing in Haiti.

Over a hundred Canadians have already been evacuated from Haiti, suggesting its easier to get out of the country right now than to get in. Injured Canadians are the first to be evacuated so they can receive medical attention in Canada.

There are approx. 6,000 Canadians living in Haiti, with about 100 currently taking refuge at the Canadian embassy. The Canadian government says it will match every dollar Canadians give to the relief effort in Haiti, up to a max. of $50 million. So far donation websites for the Haiti relief fund have crashed due to sheer numbers.

The United States so far has pledged $100 million in humanitarian aid and have called upon the American military to swiftly deliver it.

Right: The Haitian Presidential Palace lies in ruins, before and after.

Two Canadian warships carrying humanitarian aid left for Haiti today and another aircraft, a Hercules airplane, are already on its way.

Nearby Cuba already has 300 doctors in Haiti providing assistance, a rare opportunity for Cubans and Americans to work together (something which hasn't happened since WWII when Cuba helped fight the Japanese, the Germans and the Italians).

January 12, 2010

$300,000 Speeding Ticket

CARS - A Swiss multi-millionaire who was speeding in a Ferrari was slapped recently with a fine of 203,181 Euros (approx. $300,321 CDN). The punishment was not based on the actual speed he was going, but rather based on a Swiss law uses fines based on income.

ie. If a person is really poor, the fine might be 100 Euros or less.

Similar laws already exist in Germany, France, Austria and various Scandinavian countries in order to prevent rich people from ignoring traffic laws. In Germany the fine can be as much as $16.6 million compared to only $1 million in Switzerland. (Beware Jeremy Clarkson and any other speed demons, don't go driving in any of those countries...)

In the above case the driver, identified only as "Roland S.", was described as a "Traffic Thug" by Swiss judges for terrorizing city streets in a 50 km zone and endangering the lives of other drivers and pedestrians. His personal wealth is more than $20 million and a fine of $500 would have not sent the right signal.

No news yet on when similar laws might come to North America.

January 11, 2010

California's Solar Financing

ENVIRONMENT - Its expensive to buy a $20,000 solar system for your home... even though you know its worth it in the long run because you end up saving money. The problem is the initial start up cash.

California however has come up with a solution known as "Financing Initiative for Renewable and Solar Technology" (or FIRST). Using the program municipalities issue bonds to the financial/private sector for investment and then grants 20-year, low-interest loans to homeowners who want to install a rooftop solar photovoltaic system. Depending on where you live a combination of solar/wind/geothermal is also available for loans.

The homeowner then pays off the loan via a small increase in their property taxes, thus if you sell your house later on the loan is transferred to the new owner. The savings from not having to pay an electric bill every month (or better yet, getting a cheque from the electric company for feeding back into the system) more than outweighs the increase in property taxes. Plus the interest rate on the loan is approx. 1% higher than the interest rate owed on the bonds, allowing the municipality to recoup the cost of administering the program.

Since the program first appeared in 2007 its spread all over the United States and is now endorsed by the White House and various other government agencies. It is being hailed by financial institutions and environmental groups as "brilliant" and commonly goes with the phrase "Why didn't we think of this sooner?"

Similar programs have since spread to Europe and Asia and its quickly becoming a global phenomenon.

So when will it be coming to Canada? Good question. Ask around in your local municipality because chances are likely it will be here soon (or faster if people start pushing for it).

Toyota racing ahead of the competition

CARS - While there are lots of hybrids out there available, there's only one manufacturer who is actually known for them: Toyota.

And for anyone who is still a naysayer of hybrid technology here is some interesting facts for you:

Toyota is now the biggest car manufacturer in the world, surpassing former giant General Motors.

Toyota is the biggest producer of alternative energy automobiles (including hybrids, electrics and hydrogen fuel cell).

The Toyota Prius was the best-selling vehicle in Japan in 2009.

Other manufacturers (Ford, Chrysler, General Motors) are essentially copying whatever Toyota is doing in order to try and keep up and stay competitive, but the fact remains that Toyota is years ahead of the competition in terms of Research & Development.

Above on the right is the Toyota FT-CG compact car, which is 22 inches shorter than a Prius but still seats 5 people. They've done it by making the engine / components more compact and making trunk space more vertical. As such the car saves on weight which makes it more economical. It will also be cheaper so the cash-strapped younger generation will be more likely to buy it.

China is now the world's biggest exporter

POLITICS - In addition to being the world's biggest economy, China is now the world's biggest exporter. China is also the biggest auto market and steel maker.

According to figures released yesterday by China's customs agency 2009 exports were more than $1.2 trillion USD.

That beats the 816 billion euros ($1.17 trillion USD) for Germany, currently #2. (The USA is a close 3rd.)

This growth was despite continuing reports of fake consumer goods coming out of China which are frequently unsafe for consumer use. ie. Don't buy new brake pads or birth control pills made in China.

January 7, 2010

Exclusive Interview with Underwear Bomber Witnesses

Friday Night at 6PM Eastern Time, WWL Radio relaunches for 2010!

The Holiday Break/Vacation is over!

I am pleased and excited to rejoin Gottlieb on air in this New Year. It is always an honor to run with the brightest and the best, and Gottlieb is certainly all that and more as a cohost!

We will be interviewing Atty Kurt Haskell and his wife Atty Lori Haskell of Haskell Law Offices in Warren, Michigan. They were both on Flight 253, and had to endure both the fear and uncertainty of the actual event of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab's attempted deployment of a device in his underwear, and the unusual circumstances leading to and occurring after the event. There was a concerted effort to repress their accounts. You can read their exclusive reports on "Lori's Liberal Realm" at haskellfamily.blogspot.com

As they ramp up the "War on Terror a Tactic" rather than a Land, it is good to remember there are flesh and blood people effected, like the Haskells.

Our post-interview analysis will include geo-political implications of why these events occur, as well as why we cannot or DO NOT seem to prevent them, while whittling away our own Civil Rights at an alarming speed.

Join us tomorrow night!


See you there! As always, respectful questions and commentary are welcomed. Call in, or use our attached live chat function!

Join Gottlieb and Diane tonight at 6pm EDT on Wild Wild Left Radio, via BlogtalkRadio, for an interesting hour of Political Reporting and Commentary.

WWL Radio: Free Speech in Practice.

The call in number is 646-929-1264

Listen to The Wild Wild Left on internet talk radio


The live chat link will go live around 5:15.

CHAT LINK:
http://www.blogtalkradio.com/FlashChat/Chat.aspx?cohost=y&HostUserURL=DianeG


January 4, 2010

Will Canada Ever Join the United States?

POLITICS - The quickest answer is no. Not during this century at least.

The issue of whether Canada should (or will ever) join the United States has been batted around for several decades, if not longer. The big problem however is that even if a majority of Canadians decided they wanted to join the United States (or merge into a North American Union, including Mexico) the simple fact of the matter its not is Canada's Confederation is broken down into the provinces & territories. Individual provinces/territories of Canada would have to each agree to join the United States.

That means the smaller governments of British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland & Labrador would all have to agree to become part of the United States.

And it would have to be unanimous.

That means if Quebec, Newfoundland or any other province decided they didn't want to join, the whole issue would be moot.

However that doesn't mean Canada might not eventually develop stronger economic or military ties with the USA. As members of NAFTA, NATO, NASA, NORAD and several other North American acronyms Canada is already pretty much the 51st state anyway.

When Death Comes to Town

CANADA/ENTERTAINMENT - The Kids in the Hall comedy troupe is back together again in Canada and this upcoming Tuesday January 12th at 9 PM their new mini series will hit the air: When Death Comes to Town.



Judging by the preview their wild wacky antics will have many Canadians pissing their pants with laughter. And a few Americans too.

The Plot:

"In the first episode, Death arrives in Shuckton, Ontario on a bus, while the town awaits news about its bid for the next Olympic Games. Shuckton is rocked when one of its most distinguished citizens is found murdered and everyone is implicated. As a suspect is arrested and the trial plays out, no one is left untouched, with many dark secrets surfacing throughout the run of the series."

January 1, 2010

The Capitalization of Love

SEX - In recent years it seems like love is constantly becoming more and more connected to money. Let's cite some examples:

#1. Online personals charging $XX / month.

#2. Matchmaking services charging an arm and a leg.

#3. People marrying for wealth and/or fame.

#4. People getting divorces over family finances.

Its no wonder people exaggerate their personal finances when filling out a form for an online personals. Everyone wants to marry someone rich because they're dreaming of all the financial benefits that will come with it.

The thing is there is a shortage of rich stupid people out there (excluding celebrities, because they're rare in the first place) who will marry people on short notice and then forget to ask their husband or wife to be to sign a prenup.

We live in a fast paced consumer culture these days wherein the internet is quickly becoming our primary source of communication. We can hire a mobile application developer to create program applications for our iPhone, we can get car insurance quotes online, order health products from a natural medicine clinic online, order ballet or classical music tickets... heck we can even order pizza or groceries online!

(Does anyone know a place where I can order a hamburger or a steak and have it delivered?)

And depending what websites you go to you could also get a Russian or Chinese mail order bride, a female or male prostitute for the night... or even a dominatrix if that is what you want... to say nothing of all the websites promoting their lines of sex toys, condoms, corsets, lingerie, dildos, etc. Thanks to the internet many of these products and services are now just a click away.

What it makes you realize its not so much about the commodification of LOVE, but sex as a commodity that can be bought, sold and traded.

And I am not immune to this. I have to admit I am a hypocrite. I own Goth Personals Canada and receive a cheque every year based on the number of people who sign up for free. Its not a lot, but it will help pay for my post-xmas credit card bill.

The thing however is money + sex = sexual slavery. Sex isn't supposed to be about money... its about having FUN. (I won't stoop to saying sex is about love between a couple, but frankly I see nothing wrong with platonic sex for the pure pleasure of it, with the understanding that both sexual partners are enjoying it.)

Recently there was a big scandal in Toronto because the TTC (Toronto Transit Commission) turned down an advertising campaign that would have went on the sides of street cars and buses by Ashley Madison... for those that don't know Ashley Madison is an online company which promotes adultery and husbands/wives cheating on their respective others with other people's husbands and wives. Its essentially a personals website, but specifically for people looking to cheat. (Their tagline is "Life is Short, Have an Affair!")

And of course there's always a fee involved.

In contrast there are very few personals websites out there which are free (or supported by advertising)... two examples I can name are Plenty of Fish and OkCupid.

In the name of research (and possibly finding a date for Valentines) I've joined quite a few personals websites and determined very quickly that the pay-personals are essentially a waste of time and money. Why? Because very often you have to pay to send a message to someone you like, you have to pay AGAIN to receive a message from someone too. Thus even if you find someone on a particular personals site that you like, and you pay to send them a message, they won't actually be able to receive that message unless they also pay for it.

Thus free personals websites make much more sense for consumers because then they can choose to spend extra money for a premium listing (and the website makes money anyway off advertising revenue).

What are people really looking for?

Mind-blowingly good sex? (Which frankly seems to be a myth.)

Love and companionship? (The kind of person you want to spend time with, never get bored of and you can enjoy activities like trying Indian food, throwing snowballs at each other, entering Lenzr photography contests, counting down New Years Eve together [Happy 2010 by the way!], showering together (I presume sex will be involved), breakfast in bed, the joys of having children and of course growing old and decrepit together.

I think people have set really high standards for their love and sex lives, but at the same time we NEED standards because otherwise people would be getting married willy-nilly and getting divorces soon after (a % of the population is doing that already). Thus standards are there because we want to meet someone compatible, who won't be a waste of time and cause emotional trauma or end in divorce.

Perhaps that is why love is becoming so capitalized... because people are developing even higher standards (the magazines with "50 Ways to Please Your Man" aren't helping either) in such a way that they expect their ideal man to have the charm/sophistication of a celebrity, the good looks of a supermodel, and the sexual capabilities of a porn star (a lot of women out there will be sorely disappointed when they find out the average man only lasts 5 minutes)... taken in context those standards are ridiculously high.

THE PERFECT MATE
1. Very sexy & good in bed.
2. Kind, Considerate & Affectionate.
3. Funny, Charming & Romantic.
4. Would never lie to you.
5. Rich to boot!

Plus!!!
6. Has similar religious/political beliefs.
7. Likes pets / wants children.
8. Doesn't have any mental issues / gambling problems.
9. Is not an alcoholic or a smoker.
10. No annoying quirks or habits.

Wait there's more!!!
11. Is athletic / not lazy.
12. Can cook / do chores around the house.
13. Handy with tools / sewing supplies.
14. Similar artistic / musical tastes.
15. Doesn't make annoyingly long lists.


And in theory people could add to this list as much as they want. The point I am making some of these 'requirements' are going to have to be ignored if people sincerely want to find love.

You know when a friend of yours is dating someone and some of their family members / friends don't approve of the person? ("Oh, he's just not right for you..." etc.) And then they cite reasons as to why the person isn't right for them... well the truth is nobody is really "right" for anybody. Nobody is 100% compatible. But 90% is pretty damn close and the 10% that they disagree on things is the spice that makes marriage interesting.

People who find love should hold onto it, not just throw it away because their friends/family disapprove.

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