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November 24, 2010

Funny Sex Cartoon

SEX - We found this by accident. Just had to share it with the world.



UPDATE:

This blog post has since gone viral via mobile users and we would like to update this posting to note the creators of the above cartoon: XKCD. We didn't know who the creator was when we originally posted it, but we feel they should get all the credit for making such an awesome cartoon. XKCD rocks!

See Also

November 23, 2010

North Korea attacks South Korean island of Yeonpyeong

By Charles Moffat - November 2010.

POLITICS - The island of Yeonpyeong is on the South Korean side of the border, but that didn't stop North Korea from attacking it with an artillery barrage that killed two soldiers and wounded 20 people. South Korean President Lee Myung-bak called the attack "an invasion" of South Korea.

If that is an invasion, what do we call North Korea's other actions from the past year and a half? They have test-detonated nuclear weapons, launched long range missiles across the Pacific Ocean towards the USA and torpedoed the South Korean warship Cheonan, killing 46 sailors.

The increasingly belligerent North Korea seems to be bent on war and many analysts believe nuclear war with North Korea is now inevitable. The only question remains is who will strike first, and where.

The Yeonpyeong Attack on November 23rd

The tiny island is home to a military base and a local residential population of farmers and fishermen. Both North and South Korea have a string of military bases near the DMZ (Demilitarized Zone) that is the border between the two nations.

North Korea claims South Korea fired first, something South Korea denies, but its not impossible they did indeed fire first because tensions on the Peninsula are the highest they've been in the 57 years since the 1st Korean War ended in 1953. What is known is that North Korea fired approx. 200 large artillery shells at the island. At the time South Korea was conducting a military drill in the region, but the firing was not [supposed to be] directed at North Korea.

The first sign of trouble was when on the morning of November 23rd, at 8:20 AM local time, North Korea sent a wire message warning South Korea not to conduct drills close to the border.

At 10 AM South Korea began conducting their military drill.

Hours later, at 2:34 PM local time, North Korea began shelling the town of Yeonpyeong and destroying anything it hit. A few of the artillery shells (like the one in the photo above) did not explode. North Korea stopped firing at 2:55, but resumed firing at 3:12 and doesn't stop until 3:41.

Since then many of the residents of the island have been evacuated, leaving only the military presence on the island and clean up crews sorting through the rubble. South Korea is now trying to determine when residents can return to their homes.



The 2nd Korean War?

For months now the USA and South Korea (and a few others) have been conducting military exercises in preparation for what they believe will be a combined invasion and nuclear attack from North Korea. The North is becoming desperate and the leadership from their frail and ill leader Kim Jong Il (and the handover of power to his 27 year old son Kim Jong-Un) is fraught with danger for the rest of the world.

#1. Kim Jong Il might decide to go out in a blaze of glory (or because of his illness, might allow his generals more control).

#2. His son Kim Jong-Un is a mere 27 years old, far too young to have his own arsenal of nuclear weapons. He was chosen to replace his father because his older brothers were considered to be too friendly towards foreigners and the military leadership wanted someone who absolutely hated the USA.

The more time North Korea has, the more nuclear missiles they will build. They've already determined they have enough missile power to reach Hawaii or Alaska from North Korea. Launching from a submarine or ship off the coast of the USA would drop the distance significantly.

For South Korea, Japan, China and the USA the issue is very complicated and dangerous.

  • South Korea is the hated rivals/family... there are many in South Korea who want a peaceful solution with North Korea and reunification.

  • Japan however is the hated enemies from centuries of conflict.

  • China is an ally, but one which has increasingly lost interest in North Korea in favour of its economic ally the USA, and thus could become a potential target if they are seen to be betraying North Korea to the USA and the South.

  • The USA is the hated and feared enemy, the one North Korea hates the most for a combination of racial, religious and ideological reasons.

    Analysts say there is two ways this war could pan out...

    #1. North Korea launches a sudden blitzkrieg invasion of South Korea, its military abandoning North Korea entirely and fighting guerrilla style in South Korea, combined with a volley of nuclear missiles directed at Seoul, Pusan, Tokyo, various military bases and American cities. The USA has missile interceptor ships currently standing by in the region, but the city of Seoul is mere a mere 30 km from the DMZ.

    #2. A tit-for-tat war until South Korea/USA decides to launch a pre-emptive strike to try and remove North Korea's nuclear arsenal, a task most analysts see as impossible because they would not be able to remove all of North Korea's missiles at the same time.

    Regardless, the end result would be a full scale nuclear war, something which hasn't happened yet and the whole world would be watching to see how the USA / Barack Obama handles such a problem.

    According to an American scientist who visited North Korea's facilities on November 12th in a "disarmament for food aid" deal North Korea has thousands of centrifuges for enriching uranium. Their nuclear arsenal could already be in the hundreds. The facility was described as modern and very new, suggesting it is not the first but one of several such facilities.

    Stanford University scientist Siegfried Hecker told U.S. officials he was “stunned” by the “sophistication” of the facility which was operated by “an ultra-modern control room.”

    This game of brinkmanship however is difficult to estimate how it will unfold. Who will blink first? Who will get an itchy trigger finger?

    South Korea’s population is very vulnerable to attacks from the North, over 50% of the South's population lives within 80 km of the DMZ.

    We've been warning for years now that North Korea is deliberately escalating the threat they pose. The younger generation in the North is hungry for war and think it is a solution to their problems... worse, they actually think they can win.

    Nobody wins in a war.

    See Also
    North Korea reacting to war games
    North Korea's heir apparent
    North Korean timeline towards Inevitable War
    North Korea launches missile
    North and South Korea on verge of open war
  • Afghan girls disguised to attend school

    POLITICS - Zahira Sarwar is an Afghan-Canadian working at GTZ in Afghanistan. While there she recently conducted an interview with a girl who disguised herself as a boy and went to school in a village where the Taliban was in control. The video below has English subtitles.

    Zahira Sarwar says "there is a common misconception that with the arrival of Foreign troops in Afghanistan and the introduction of democracy women's rights have improved. But as you will see in this video the Afghan government and foreign troops are only focussing on certain provinces and cities thereby leaving other regions of the country still in the hands of the Taliban. Consequently, women and young girls' lives are still affected by this."



    The areas the military are interested in are the Al-Qaeda strongholds along the border of Pakistan and protecting the Trans-Arabia Oil Pipeline which goes through the Wakhjir Pass and the part of Afghanistan known as Wakhan Corridor which goes to the Chinese border. The oil pipeline to China is an important part of the USA's economic strategy for the region.

    November 22, 2010

    Electric cars = Brownouts?

    CARS - The first mass-market electric cars go on sale in December 2010, but will the electricity grid be able to take the extra stress? Will cars like the Nissan Leaf and Chevrolet Volt be a boon or a burden?

    When you plug in an electric car (like the Tesla Roadster on the right) you draw electricity from the grid, made from a variety of sources like nuclear, solar, wind, hydro, geothermal and of course... coal.

    At present coal isn't a very smart way of fueling cars. It just isn't practical to replace one source of carbon emissions (gasoline or diesel) with another source like coal.

    But coal is the cheapest source of electricity.

    A single electric car can draw as much power as a small house and when electric cars are being purchased by consumers the surge in demand result in brownouts where some locations just don't have enough electricity to spread around.

    Utilities in parts of California, Texas and North Carolina are scrambling to upgrade transformers and other equipment in neighborhoods where the Nissan Leaf and Chevrolet Volt are expected to be in high demand.

    The last time there was a sudden electricity demand like this was air conditioners during the 1950s and 1960s. So there will be problems...

    But there is a silver lining... In 2009, Americans alone spent $325 billion on gasoline, and utilities would love even a small piece of that market. Especially green utility companies like Bull Frog Power which specializes in delivery 100% green electricity and invests heavily in solar and wind projects.

    After all what is the point of having an electric car if the electricity being used to recharge the batteries isn't green too? Electric cars produce no emissions themselves, but the electricity they are charged with is made mostly from fossil fuels like coal. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council electric cars produce 66% less greenhouse gas emissions, on average, than a similarly sized car that runs on gasoline.

    THE MAIN OBSTACLES

    Limited Range: Most electric cars have a limit on their range and would have to be recharged either at home or at gas station with the proper equipment (and usually it takes awhile). In theory if you owned your own business you could have charge it up at work too. Eventually a network of charging stations will be made and parking lots will offer electricity charging as part of their services.

    High Cost: Electric cars already cost more than gasoline cars, that is to be expected. Their primary goal is to "save the environment", but their secondary goal is to save money by no longer needing to buy gasoline. In the beginning using electric cars should be cheaper than gasoline, but what happens when higher demand causes electricity rates to skyrocket?

    Driving 10,000 miles on electricity will use about 2,500 kilowatt-hours, or 20% more than the average annual consumption of U.S. homes. At an average utility rate of 11 cents per kilowatt-hour, that’s $275 for a year of fuel, equivalent to about 70 cents per gallon of gasoline (or 17.5 cents per litre).

    Thus even if electricity rates were 55 cents per kWh you'd still be spending less on fuel than a gasoline driver. (Yesterday the price of gasoline was $1.09 / litre in Toronto.)

    If you calculate how much you drive in a year you might find you have significant savings. Indeed the more you drive, the more you save in comparison to driving the same distance on gasoline.

    Clustering: Utilities have more than enough power plants and equipment to power hundreds of thousands of electric cars. The problem is when lots of homeowners in one neighbourhood all buy electric cars. The phenomenon is called “clustering” because it can create local shortages and brownouts.

    Electric vehicle clusters are expected in neighborhoods where:

    High-income and environmentally conscious commuters live.

    Generous subsidies are offered by states and localities.

    Weather is mild, because batteries tend to perform better in warmer climates.

    THE FUTURE

    Automotive executives say it’s inevitable that utilities will experience some difficulties early on, both with the demand on their supply and also keeping their customers happy.

    An estimated 30,000 Nissan Leafs and Chevrolet Volts are expected to be sold in 2011. Over the next two years Ford, Toyota and EVERY other major automaker also plans to offer electric cars as part of their new line up. (Its like the hybrids all over again...)

    So in theory electric cars will be here to stay, which will make gasoline drivers happy because gasoline prices should hopefully stay stable. (Although that isn't likely, due to the high demand in China and India.)

    Of course the real future is in Hydrogen Power, but the utility system and distribution network for hydrogen will need to be upgraded significantly first. Hydrogen-powered cars is really in its infancy while electric cars are toddlers in contrast. But the beauty of it is that by creating an infrastructure for electric cars it will also create a lot of the infrastructure that will later be needed for hydrogen cars (which uses electrolysis and salt water to collect hydrogen).

    Governments are promoting the technology as a way to reduce dependence on foreign oil, cut greenhouse gas emissions and improve air quality. The U.S. Congress is offering electric car buyers a $7,500 tax credit and some states and cities provide additional subsidies that can total $8,000. The Nissan Leaf sells for $33,000 and the Chevy Volt sells for $41,000.

    Some states are going to be very aggressive about promoting electric cars. California has set a goal of 1 million electric vehicles by 2020 and thus will likely have a lot more subsidies in the future.

    A million electric cars = A lot of electricity being sucked out of the grid, how big the drain will be depends on the size of the battery in the car, how fast the car is charged and the duration/range the car is capable of.

    From a standard 120-volt socket an electric car draws 1,500 watts. By comparison, a medium-sized air conditioner or a countertop microwave that is in use draws about 1,000 watts.

    The car can be charged faster however when plugged into a home charging station. The first Leafs and Volts can draw 3,300 watts, and both carmakers have plans to boost that to 6,600 watts. The Tesla Roadster, an electric sports car with a huge battery, can draw 16,800 watts.

    A modest home in the San Francisco Bay area (without air conditioning) uses 3,000 watts at most. Thus various neighbourhoods will need upgrades to the neighborhood transformer when the usage from single homes suddenly skyrockets from 3,000 to 6,000+ or even 20,000.

    Replacing a neighborhood transformer costs a utility between $7,000 and $9,000, according to SoCal Edison. Fortunately this is work a utility will often want to do, but it often requires government approval.

    Utility executives hope the popularity of electric cars will grow as the vehicles’ costs come down and as public charging stations are made available at malls and along highways. They know there will be problems with blown fuses and fried transformers, but they also know its a huge market that will pour lots of extra cash into the system and allow them to spend more on solar and wind projects.

    Why? Because everyone wants to go green, its just a matter of getting there.

    See Also
    Can Electric Cars be Sexy?
    Mitsubishi Electric Car
    Car Sharing is the Future
    Green Cars in 2020
    Converting Hybrids into Electrics
    The Eco-Car Battleground
    Hydrogen Power

    Prositution laws in Ontario under scrutiny

    CANADA/SEX - This past September an Ontario Superior Court judge struck down three key prostitution laws, and that decision is set to come into effect in Ontario on Saturday November 27th. The result will be an “unprecedented” social experiment to see whether brothels is a safer place for prostitutes than walking the streets, and whether prostitutes have the right to use the money they make to feed their families and the right to hire bodyguards and staff, and perhaps most importantly the right to screen customers.


    The three laws struck down prohibited the use of brothels, the ability to hire staff/give money from the proceeds to family members, and a communication law which prohibited prostitutes from screening customers with criminal records.

    The laws were struck down because the judge ruled that these laws made it less safe for prostitutes. The concept is that prostitutes will be much safer if they have the right to operate a brothel, that they need the right to feed their family and hire bodyguards/staff for their protection, and that they should be given the right to screen customers who might have a violent criminal record.

    However the new status of these laws isn't a done deal yet. The federal and Ontario governments are today before the provincial Appeal Court, asking for the ruling to be stayed until a proper appeal can be heard.

    Lawyers for the federal government say if a stay isn’t granted, Saturday will bring about a “social experiment unprecedented in this country.”

    But lawyers representing sex workers say those laws contribute to the dangers faced by prostitutes, and that status quo can’t be maintained.

    Soliciting sex and pimping are still illegal in Canada.

    See Also
    Canadian Feminists divided over Prostitution
    Criminalizing the Men

    In other news...

    Judge in Murder Trial declares Mistrial

    The judge for Erika Mendieta’s second murder trial has declared a second mistrial Monday. Mendieta is charged with murdering her daughter in 2003 after she beat her 2-year-old daughter Emily to death. The judge ruled that the prosecutor from her first trial had distracted the jury and intimidated the defendant.

    Mendieta’s second trial had begun to crumble when the jury sent a note to Justice Nola Garton asking that a man be removed from the courtroom gallery because he was making strange faces. The man in question turned out to be assistant Crown attorney Paul Alexander, the prosecutor from the 1st trial.

    The note read:

    “Dear Your Honour, We the jury would like to have a male individual removed from the courtroom. We find him very distracting, and he is making strange faces all the time. We feel very uncomfortable with him. He sits to your right, and has blond hair.”

    They included a diagram of the courtroom, marking the spot where Alexander sat with an asterisk and the words “He sits here!”

    The judge determined that Paul Alexander was deliberately trying to distract the jury and intimidate the woman on trial and declared a mistrial. A third trial will be held in the future.

    November 19, 2010

    Harry Potter leaked online

    By Charles Moffat - November 2010.

    ENTERTAINMENT - The new Harry Potter film hit the theatres at 12:01 AM this morning (I know because I managed to get tickets for the 12:01 showing of it, and better yet got bumped up to IMAX when the demand was so high).

    However what you may have also heard is that Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Part One) has already been leaked online. Or more specifically, the first 36 minutes of the film was leaked... essentially a sneak preview of the film, sparking debate as to whether the first 36 minutes were deliberately leaked to drum up the number of people who would go to the movie theatre to see the remaining 1 hour and 54 minutes of the film.

    Warner Bros denies leaking it on purpose and has started an investigation into how the first 36 minutes was leaked online.



    The last Harry Potter film was one of the top 10 most pirated films of 2009. Its highly likely Part 1 and Part 2 of the final chapter of the Harry Potter franchise will also be heavily downloaded.

    And if you got there early enough you might have also saw the following preview for "Cowboys & Aliens".

    November 17, 2010

    Chevy Volt Car of the Year

    CARS - Motor Trend magazine has named the Chevrolet Volt electric car its "2011 Car of the Year".

    As usual Motor Trend is either behind the times or trying desperately to get ahead of the curve. And they miss pretty often based on their track record. Lets look at some of Motor Trend's past "Cars of the Year"...

    2010 Ford Fusion - Production of gasoline version the Ford Fusion began in 2005, but it wasn't until 2010 that they came out with a hybrid version. Otherwise there isn't anything special about it.

    2009 Nissan GT-R - Its a 485 horsepower supercar made in Japan. It also won Top Gear's "Supercar of the Year"... in 2007! Motor Trend is 2 years too late.

    2008 Cadillac CTS - A luxury sedan. Yawn. So bored just saying the name. Next please.

    2007 Toyota Camry - The Toyota Camry has been on sale since 1980. The only major change in recent years is they started selling a hybrid version in 2006.

    2006 Honda Civic - Another oldie... The Honda Civic was first introduced in July 1972!!! Again the only major change is they introduced a hybrid version.

    2005 Chrysler 300 - Ironic because it wasn't even sold in 2005. Although sales in 2006 of this luxury segan (yawn!) were good, sales in recent years have dropped by over 70%.

    2004 Toyota Prius - Ah, the original hybrid that started it all. It was the biggest innovation of its time. On sale since 1997 it was first introduced to the American market in 2000, but it took Motor Trends another 4 years to get the drift. Toyota sold over 400,000 Priuses in the last year alone; Over 2 million in the last decade.

    2003 Infiniti G35 - ANOTHER luxury sedan. Seriously, Motor Trend just seems to take turns between the latest hybrid and latest luxury sedan which crosses their fancy. Yawnerrific.

    2002 Ford Thunderbird - And then just for kicks they toss in the occassional car to make your head spin and wonder if they know what year it is. The Ford Thunderbird has been on sale since 1955. It was taken off the market in 2005 because sales were ridiculously low and the brand had become lame and ugly ever since 1972 (the old Thunderbirds are a thing of beauty, but ever since 1972 they've been ugly as sin).

    2001 Chrysler PT Cruiser - Its a new car with an ugly design, a crappy engine, poor performance, and a big butt. Some people like the look, but most of us think they're god-awful-ugly-and-slow! (If you want a retro-looking car, get a Plymouth Prowler. At least it looks good... but alas it was taken off the market in 2002.) The good new however is that the PT Cruiser was also discontinued in 2009.

    2000 Lincoln LS - Oh look another Luxury Sedan! And oh look it was taken off the market in 2006 due to low sales!

    Anywho... back to the Chevy Volt. Motor Trend claims they picked the Volt because it has some of the most advanced engineering ever seen in an American car.

    No seriously, that is what they said! Nevermind that they've ignored electric cars entirely until now and only picked up promoting hybrids 4 years after they went on sale. They really should be called Motor Behind the Trend magazine.

    Oh and the Chevy Volt comes with a backup gasoline engine... which makes it technically a hybrid. It can go "up to" 50 miles on the electric engine before the gasoline engine kicks in.

    At $33,500 (with a federal tax credit) the Chevy Volt is nothing special when compared to other hybrids. The only real difference is that if you can keep yourself under the 50 mile mark and hypermile it you could in theory be driving a car that is 100% electric. But good luck keeping under that mark unless you live really close to work... in which case, why aren't you just walking or cycling? The Volt goes on sale this December.

    Automakers often quote Motor Trend awards in advertising... but one must wonder if they just promote whichever company throws the most money at them. Not a bribe per se, just whichever company buys the top spot. Its basically a rag when it comes to car magazines.

    But whatever...

    In other news General Motors is having its initial public offering of stock on Thursday (tomorrow) and they've already upped the minimum stock price from $29 to almost $33 due to high demand.

    Cellphone fees taken to task

    CANADA/TECHNOLOGY - A Liberal politician in Ontario wants wireless companies to stop confusing consumers with complex cellphone contracts and high fees. David Orazietti has introduced a private member's bill in the provincial legislature that would stop unfair practices by wireless service providers.

    If passed, the bill would:

  • Reduce cancellation fees;
  • Make advertising and costs transparent;
  • Clarify and simplify contracts.

    This way consumers will know what they're paying for and aren't getting ripped off when their cellphone bill comes and has extra charges on it.

    Companies would also be forced to unlock any phone once it's paid for, even if they haven't agreed to a contract, so buyers can switch service providers the same day without their phone being relocked and re-unlocked.

    Quebec already implemented similar legislation in July.
  • Green Lantern trailer

    ENTERTAINMENT - The much buzzed about "Green Lantern" film is scheduled to be released on June 17, 2011, but the trailer is here now to whet the interest of fans.



    The film stars People magazines’s 'Sexiest Man Alive', Canadian actor Ryan Reynolds as 'Hal Jordan'.

    Note: If you are used to seeing the Green Lantern in the Justice League TV show (or other sources) you might be confused to see that Green Lantern is white. BUT as any true Green Lantern fan will tell you, there is more than one Green Lantern. Guy Gardner, Kyle Rayner, Hal Jordan, John Stewart, and Kilowog (all shown below).







    Green Lantern's Oath:

    In brightest day, in blackest night,
    No evil shall escape my sight
    Let those who worship evil's might,
    Beware my power... Green Lantern's light!


    It may not sound like much to non-fans, but Green Lantern fans are probably wetting themselves with excitement right now.

    Royal Wedding: Prince William & Kate Middleton

    ENTERTAINMENT - Seriously, it doesn't count as politics when you announce Prince William of Britain & Kate Middleton are getting married. Maybe in the centuries past it would be politics, but these days its just celebrity buzz.

    Prince William and his bride-to-be Kate Middleton will be getting married between March and September of 2011. They have yet to pick a date.

    If they want a sunny wedding the list of dates are limited. Its pretty much guaranteed to be rainy regardless. [Although traditionally that is a good omen for fertility. ;)]

    In other news Kate Middleton is 28 years old. That is practically 22 by today's standards. Most 20-somethings are waiting longer to get married.

    Oh and there is the price tag... £25 million ($40 million USD) in taxpayer money from a country currently in the worst recession in decades. So will that mean cutting back on their budget?

    Oh and British citizens are already betting on when the wedding will be... and how long it will last.

    Prince Charles and Princess Diana's marriage lasted from July 29th 1981 until the separation in the early 1990s. The divorce was on August 28th 1996.

    40% of marriages in Britain end in divorce, the highest divorce rate in the world.

    Electricity rates in Ontario slashed 10%

    CANADA - Ontario's Liberal government has decided Ontarians are paying too much for electricity (or as we call it locally "hydro"). Thus they've decided to slash hydro bills by a whopping 10% starting January 1st 2011.

    It will cost the province $1 billion per year and it will only effect homes and small businesses (corporations, factories, etc. will still pay the full rate).

    The problem you see is that electricity in Ontario costs about 13.5 cents per kWH to produce, but its sold for approx. 6.5 cents each. The province ends up paying almost 50% of the cost.

    So in reality this reduction is nothing new. Ontario has been subsidizing electricity rates since the beginning.

    The average hydro bill in Ontario about $125 a month, so this $12.50 / month reduction will save ratepayers about $150 each / year... you will know this because the price discount will be mentioned on your bill as the new “Ontario Clean Energy Benefit” reduction, just above taxes.

    This in essence decreases the amount people in Ontario pay, despite the 8% increase due to HST's introduction back in Summer 2010. By roughly 2% overall.

    Expect more tax breaks and other things coming in the near future too. Its an election year and the next provincial election is set for October 6th 2011.

    The Liberals have also trimmed Ontario's budget.

    And there is also plans to scrap the “debt-retirement fees” of around $10 a month from the old Ontario Hydro corp. It is due to come off bills in 2016 anyway, but they might scrap it early to make voters happy if they can cobble together $5 billion towards the project.

    In September, an Angus Reid poll found 86% of Ontarians feel “it is harder now than it was two years ago to make ends meet.” Thus helping voters pay for their bills (of which electricity is a chief complaint) is the right direction if they want to get more votes.

    While they are a it they need to start pressuring Ottawa on a list of things that should be exempt from HST:

    #1. Healthy Food. (This might require grocery stores to include the tax with the price of unhealthy "junk food", but would result in most vegetables, meats, milk, cheese, etc. coming in at a lower price. Ontario has been debating for years of putting a tax on junk food. This would be the opposite, a tax exemption on healthy food.

    #2. Children's Educational Materials.

    #3. Fitness Equipment, Gym Memberships and Bicycle Equipment.

    #4. Green Cars: Hybrids, Electrics, Hydrogen-powered.

    #5. University Books.

    Some of these used to be exempt from PST or GST, but when the HST came into effect they lost all the exemptions. You can probably come up with a list of things you'd like to see exempt from HST.

    The only snag is that Ontario needs Ottawa's permission to get exemptions in...

    So what if Ontario created something which is the OPPOSITE of a tax? For example an "Healthy Food Reduction" which appears on bills right before the taxes are applied. Say 10%.

    In one pocket and out the other.

    America's New Slave Class

    POLITICS - In case you haven't guessed already America's new slave class is the Poor. And to some extent the lower middle class too. Heck, even the mid middle class is looking a bit surly if they have a mortgage hanging over their heads.

    Here is why: If a person has so much debt that it restricts their freedom and if banks/government is stripping away their fundamental rights, then they have become de facto slaves.

    Ever heard the phrase "renting is for suckas"? Well in the 21st century renting is also for slaves. Or in this case what might properly be called "Neo-Slavery" (slavery through debt and rent).

    Its actually not far from historical slavery either. Some people would wrack up some much debt that they would later be "sold into slavery" in an effort to pay off their debts.

    But how is this is a new thing? Haven't the poor always been practically slaves any way? (Rather like medieval serfs living on a land owner's property?) Well, yes, the poor have always been rather stuck between a rock and a hard place for centuries and millenia now.

    But never before so many NEW slaves all at once, thanks to the recent American Recession (or Great Recession).

    What happened with this new era of slavery is really the result of an accident, one that was bound to happen due to bank greed and stupidity. It wasn't that bankers were in a collective effort to turn America's poorest classes into slaves. No, their intent was to make themselves rich and they did it by playing in the stock market.

    And normally you'd think "A fool and his money are easily parted" right? Especially with the stock market involved. But no, here's what happened.

    #1. The bankers sold their mortgage debts on the stock market and then leveraged it higher than it was actually worth. (Leveraging things higher then they're actually worth is arguably a Ponzi scheme when used on the stock market.)

    #2. Stock marketites (They're more termites, because they're a disease that infects the structure of society) gobbled up the stocks, thinking that housing prices would keep going up and therefore they would keep making lots of money.

    #3. The economy hit a big road bump in the years following September 11th and home prices collapsed. Stock marketites sold off their stocks in a hurry, leaving the banks with a lot of mortgage debts and nobody willing to buy all the debts. (They tried selling the debts to the Brits, the Arabs, etc, but nobody would buy.)

    #4. Investment banks with lots of bad mortgages started shutting down. Panic spread. The banks made the argument that they were "too big to fail" and convinced George W. Bush / the US government to bail them out by borrowing money from the Chinese.

    #5. To recoup their losses the banks foreclosed on lots of houses in the USA, but many of the foreclosures were illegal because they didn't do all the paperwork and just "rubberstamped" them without really looking into whether the family who lived in the home was in arrears or not.

    Indeed as it turns out millions of Americans had their home foreclosed on them illegally and they are now suing the banks in what is now a backlog of court cases due to illegal seizures/foreclosures. It is these millions of Americans of which I speak of... they are the new slave class.

    Their debts (in this case their mortgages) caused the banks to trample on their rights and essentially steal back homes which should not have been foreclosed on in the first place. In the panic following the collapse of a few banks other banks began rubberstamping foreclosures in a hurry, making the problem worse than it really was in their effort to cut their losses.

    Like we said earlier, its the result of greed and stupidity.

    The thing is however is that the United States' new slave class isn't taking the stripping of their rights away standing down. They're not uneducated serfs from the middle ages who have no access to lawyers.

    So there is going to be an economic rollercoaster ride in the USA and its far from over. First the banks took a hit from the bad mortgages, but they're going to take a second hit from lawsuits (and rightly so) as many Americans fight back and get back what was stolen from them.

    Because the banks can't just steal all the homes from America's poor and start charging them rent permanently. People will revolt. Especially in America where guns and explosives are too easily available. It won't be anarchy, but there is a lot of upset people out there... starting with the disgruntled Tea Party movement which is two steps away from becoming a domestic terrorist group.

    After all who do you blame in this mess? Who are the would-be slave owners? Bankers and Wall Street.

    America will never rest under de facto slavery. The American Dream and the pursuit of happiness will live on.

    November 16, 2010

    Mexican Bull jumps into Crowd

    ENTERTAINMENT - A charging bull ran across the arena and jumped into the Mexican crowd today.



    Now watch it over again... look at the Mexican guy in the white shirt and the black hat. Wow, he can really jump in a hurry when he needs to.

    A couple months ago there was a similar incident in Spain, a bull jumped into the crowd and injured 40 people.

    Evidently these bulls (on steroids?) need to be fenced in better. Time to add an extra foot or two to the height of the fences.



    A similar incident happened in Edmonton at a rodeo recently. Skip forward to 2 minutes 20 seconds to see where the bull jumps into the crowd.

    Why is Remembrance Day not a Holiday?

    CANADA - National Post writer Matt Gurney says Remembrance Day should not be a National Holiday in Canada because... well, you read it:

    "Ontario Progressive Conservative MPP Lisa MacLeod has put forward a private member’s bill calling for Ontario to make Remembrance Day, November the 11th, a statutory holiday. More specifically, she would like the February holiday of “Family Day” dropped and replaced by the Nov. 11 date (swapping a holiday, rather than carving out a new one, would avoid the headache of inconveniencing businesses and disrupting school schedules, which must offer a certain number of class days per academic year). MacLeod’s heart is clearly in the right place, and every option to honour and support Canadian veterans is worth considering. But in this case, there are better ways to serve those who have served us all. Nov. 11 should not be made a holiday.

    For all Canadians who enjoy the freedoms and safety secured for us by the sacrifice of over 100,000 lives and the suffering of millions more who served and lived, Remembrance Day is a rare opportunity for a united, collective thank you. At most work places and in all schools, at 11 a.m., work pauses and people can reflect. It provides an opportunity for organized displays, the reading of poems, the recounting of veterans’ tales of courage and pain, and most importantly, the solemn education of the youngest Canadians in the facts of war and how much our prosperous and free society has truly cost. For one day a year, for only a few minutes at a time, we take the steps needed to ensure that for at least one more year, the sacrifices made on our behalf will not be forgotten.

    Making Nov. 11 a day off would not only make it harder for Canadians to share this time of contemplation and sobriety, but would also fundamentally change the meaning of the day. Even the best-intentioned Canadian, one fully mindful and respectful of the costs of war, would soon have to fight the urge to look forward to Remembrance Day. A day off with the kids, a chance to sleep in or take the dog for a long walk, are things rightly relished, and it would be wrong to deliberately associate Nov. 11 with relaxation and pleasure. If Remembrance Day were to become a holiday, it would virtually guarantee that millions of Ontarians would at some point in their lives think, “Wow, things have been rough at the office lately, but thank God Remembrance Day is coming up. I could really use the chance to relax!” Perhaps some would feel guilt at that passing thought, but before long, and particularly amidst the youngest Ontarians, such sentiments would become the meaning of Remembrance Day. Perhaps they’d know in the back of their minds that it had once meant more, but only in the abstract. The meaning of the day, something that we have maintained for 91 years, would be forever lost.

    For those reasons, Ms. MacLeod should be thanked for her well-intentioned idea, which should then be voted down. Remembrance Day is a sad time for many Canadians, including a whole new generation of Afghan war veterans and the loved ones our fallen have left behind. Let’s never turn the day we set aside to honour their maximum efforts in the face of incredible horror and deprivation into a chance to relax amongst all the comforts of home.

    National Post
    mgurney@nationalpost.com"


    Now it is our opinion that Matt Gurney is a moron and has it all backwards. He has it stuck in his head that "At most work places and in all schools, at 11 a.m., work pauses and people can reflect."

    He is so wrong it isn't funny. I have NEVER, EVER had a pause during the workday on November 11th. And its a rare workplace that actually follows this routine. Does your workplace stop and pause on November 11th? Doubtful.

    And even if you do stop for 30 seconds or a minute, most people probably don't even think about veterans or dead soldiers who gave their lives for Canada. They're too stressed from being at work in the first place.

    Now schools, we can understand that. They have to stop and pause because Remembrance Day is practically part of the school curriculum.

    Furthermore how will this hurt the education of young Canadians? The teachings of Remembrance Day will simply be moved to November 10th (or the Friday previous if Remembrance Day is on a Monday). Thus students end up getting a reminder about Remembrance Day for TWO days of the school week.

    Matt Gurney simply hasn't thought all this through. It should be obvious to him, but he works for the National Post (a Conservative rag) so it really isn't a surprise when one of their writers is dumb as a brick.

    The meaning of Remembrance Day would not be lost on Canada's youth and adults. It would be reinforced by allowing Canadians real time to reflect on the meaning of the day instead of just working through it and forgetting all about it.

    See Also
    Should Remembrance Day be a National Holiday?
    Help make Remembrance Day a National Holiday!

    November 15, 2010

    Facebook email on the Horizon

    By Ai Lung Nguyen - November 2010.

    TECHNOLOGY - Facebook has announced plans to introduce an email service for all of their 500 million Facebook users. ie. yourname@facebook.com.

    But in reality what this really is is an attempt by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg to compete the big names in email business: Yahoo!, Hotmail and Gmail.

    The new service will be phased in over the coming months and include a Gmail-style continuous conversation, but will organize conversations according to priority. Thus new messages your bitter ex-boy/girlfriend from 8 years ago will rank lower on the list than the messages from your current lover. And spam will be filtered / lowered to the bottom of the priority list that it hopefully won't even be seen.

    Facebook first announced "Project Titan" last February but has been dragging its feet on releasing the details for fear of leaks of its “Gmail killer” project from reaching the ears of its rivals.

    Rivals like Hotmail, which dominates with 364 million users. Or Yahoo! with 273 million users... and the fast growing Gmail (up 21% in the last year), which has 193 million and only went public in 2007 (beta testing began in 2004).

    Email providers have become increasingly aggressive in recent years in both ease of use and the quality of their service, mostly because Gmail upped the game.

    Of course there will be problems...

    #1. Facebook is already a heavy target for spam on groups and pages. This has the potential to make it worse.

    #2. Not everyone likes Facebook. Many people are simply boycotting it because they believe it is a complete waste of time. They are partially correct.

    #3. Do you really want ANOTHER email address that has to be checked regularly? I think not.

    #4. Facebook routinely deletes profiles on their system and doesn't verify with the users or explain why they deleted it. What happens when they delete a person's profile AND any important emails that was stored in there? Lawsuits probably. Obviously it would be a bad idea to use Facebook email for anything important.

    #5. Facebook's help department is ridiculously lax about answering complaints or helping with problems. Its worse than phoning and talking to a machine. First you have to navigate a labyrinth of FAQ and help section stuff before you get a contact form, and even then when you contact them... you NEVER get a reply.

    Oh and here is the worst part... if you are already familiar with Facebook you know they are relentless. You get email messages for almost everything that happens on there. You have to really edit those settings down so you can limit who, what and how people can actually bug you with their lame invites to groups, causes, events, and all the other crap. With email added... it will just get worse.

    November 12, 2010

    Phrase of the Day: Currency War

    POLITICS - The words "Currency War" is on the lips of both politicians and the mass media today. The Lilith News used the words 6 days ago on November 6th. See "Currency War on the Horizon". But we're hardly the first people to use the term.

    Indeed there is currently 1.36 million websites which mention the words "currency war" if you do a refined Google search.

    And if you only search for News, there is 2,830 articles which make reference to it.

    But what is a currency war you might ask?

    Well, a currency war is when nations deliberately devalue their currency in an effort to boost their exports (by making their currency cheaper, their currency therefore becomes more affordable).

    Examples

    #1. China is currently pegging the Chinese Yuan to the American dollar, instead of letting it just float on the open market. The end result is that the Chinese Yuan is worth about 50% to 66% less than it really should be worth.

    #2. In response the United States has begun printing more US currency, in an effort to #1 (pay off its debts to China) and #2 boost America's exports. This however can hurt the US economy over the long run if they flood the market with too much cash, causing hyperinflation (which is what happened to Germany during the 1920s).

    #3. Historically countries used to protect their currencies by having tariffs (taxes on imports) which allowed their domestic economy to be quite strong, but resulted in a loss of exports to other nations which had similar tariffs in place. With the advent of Free Trade this is no longer a viable option.

    #4. Printing phoney money of the rival country's currency. ie. If someone wanted to collapse the economy of South Whatistan all the rival nation would need to do is print billions of notes South Whatistan's local currency, causing rampant inflation and financial ruin.

    #5. Following WWI Germany was forced to pay for the financial cost of the war to its enemies and it did so by printing more money. So much money that the Deutschmark devalued itself by so much during that time period that it became worth less than toilet paper. (Seriously, toilet paper would have been considered hard currency in those days.) Shown here is German children playing with stacks of money, which makes you realize how worthless Deutschmarks were at the time.

    #6. Currency problems in Europe were such a hassle that most European countries decided to end their petty currency problems and unite under a single currency, the Euro. This has turned out to be a smart protective measure and boosted their domestic economies.

    Now of course we have to remember one important distinction in all of this... money is inherently WORTHLESS. Its just paper. Its not like 100 years ago when many countries still used the gold standard (ie. the British pound used to represent exactly that, one lb of gold).

    Yes, the USA still keeps quite a bit of gold in Fort Knox and other gold deposits around the USA, but the fact is that the United States Bullion Depository holds only 4,603 tons (4,176 metric tonnes) of gold bullion (147.4 million troy ounces) of gold.

    And indeed gold prices right now are at record heights, recently passing $1,400 USD per ounce. That is quite a bit compared to December 2000 when gold was hovering around $240 USD per ounce.

    Now if you're doing math that means the USA only has $206.36 billion USD worth of gold in their system. That is all that is backing up the value of USA's currency, even though there is no direct connection between the US dollar and the amount of gold the USA keeps in reserve.

    Now when you compare that number to the US National Debt ($13.73 trillion USD) what you realize is that the USA doesn't have the gold or the strength of their currency to fall back on. The emperor is quite literally naked.

    Now before you run out and start burning your money to keep warm, think again.

    What this really means is that OBJECTS and REAL ESTATE is more valuable than money. ie. If you own a home (as in literally own it, and you don't have a mortgage or lots of debts) it means that you could be a lot better off than some other people who may run into trouble later as this currency war between the USA and China heats up.

    However some might argue that the USA has already lost this currency war, purely on the basis that China has stocked up on so much foreign currency and owns so much of the United States' debt (see the image below) that the USA can't possibly hope to compete because if they even tried China could suddenly dump all of its foreign reserve currency on the market, utterly destroy the US economy and send the USA back into the dark ages...



    But hey, who would China sell everything to then? What would be the point of destroying the global economy? The answer is that its pointless. China needs the USA as its trading partner and needs to wise up to the fact its own domestic economy is booming and will soon become the world's central economy.

    NOTE: There is a book currently on sale in China called "Currency Wars", published by Song Hongbing in 2007. Its sold over 200,000 copies and is "read by many senior level government and business leaders in China". The book even predicted the banking crisis in the USA in 2008. The book argues that China should change its currency to become a representative currency (ie. off gold for example) instead of a fiat currency which is meaningless and worthless.

    There is no doubt that China and India will become global centres in the 21st century global economy, but China needs to change how it conducts business with its currency if it wants to prevent a global economic collapse. (ie. One day we wake up and all our currencies are suddenly worthless because the financial system has fallen apart.)

    One solution would be for China to slowly sell off its foreign currency reserves, buy up as much gold as it can using those currencies and then switch to a system wherein the Chinese Yuan is pegged not to the price of the US dollar, but pegged to the value of gold.

    (Or alternatively, pegged to a basket of mineral prices, such as 1/4 gold, 1/4 silver, 1/4 platinum, 1/4 palladium, thus creating a system which is more stable than just gold by itself. Which in turns means that countries would have to create depository systems and stockpile these minerals.)

    Indeed if every country switched to a gold/mineral standard it would unify our global currencies under one base currency. No phoney electronic credit system that nobody can trust (an idea that banks have been pushing because it would allow them to basically print their own money). A gold standard for everyone.

    Fake TTC tokens made in China

    CANADA - Toronto's Transit Commission is losing about $2 million CDN per year due to fake TTC tokens and its due to an unlikely source: Organized crime from China.

    The TTC estimates that about 2,000 fake tokens are used in the system every day, a rise from the 500 / day that were being used in March 2009.

    Obviously the attempt to prevent fakes by using tokens made of two metals has failed, but what has happened instead is that the criminals making the fake tokens are of a different kind: The Chinese mafia, according to sources.

    Two alleged fare fraudsters have been arrested, but the fakes continue to pour into the system from other fraudsters who are importing the fake tokens from China. Canada Border Services and the Toronto Police fraud squad are investigating how the fake tokens are being smuggled into Canada.

    Earlier this year the fraud squad intercepted a box of 3,800 counterfeit TTC tokens from China. “They were stopped at the border, examined by customs and identified to be counterfeit,” says Toronto Police Det.-Sgt. John White.

    Using the names and addresses of where the tokens were heading police later arrested Paul Keim, 31, and Vincent Ham, 23, both of Toronto, and charged them fraud and other criminal charges.

    This is the first time a foreign mint has been importing fake tokens into Toronto.

    The tokens are apparently hard to spot the difference and were being sold for a mere $1.75 each (compared to $2.50 which is the regular price).

    The TTC has been upping the stakes in recent years in an attempt to prevent fraud. They switched to the new two-metal tokens and last year the TTC changed the design of the Metropass, adding a hologram which changes each month.

    Eventually tokens will be phased out entirely as SmartPhones, SmartCards and PayPass-enabled debit and credit cards become the new standard for fares. New York City, Seoul and many other subway systems around the world already have a card system.

    Is Free Trade killing our Economy?

    POLITICS - News flash... Canada is opening free trade talks with India. And while we are at it, the USA is in a growing trade war with China.

    The former, the negotiation of free trade with India, seems like a ridiculous idea now when you realize all the damage that trading with China is doing to the USA's economy.

    Lets visualize this...

    Imagine in your head a map of China, the Pacific Ocean and the United States.

    Now imagine large amounts of ships going from China, carrying lots of products to the USA to be sold in American stores. In contrast very few ships from the USA are going back to China. Does that sound fair? No, it doesn't.

    Now imagine American factories being closed down while China builds lots of new factories because their labour is so cheap? Does that sound fair? No, it doesn't.

    Now imagine the US dollar with the Chinese Yuan pegged to the dollar at a rate so low its criminal. American workers can't possible compete with Chinese workers because the Chinese Yuan is pegged at a rate wherein its worth 50 to 66% less than what it really should be worth. Ergo, it costs at least half as much to build things in China because the Yuan is deliberately undervalued and isn't allowed to float on the free market. (To learn more read Currency War on the Horizon.)

    Now imagine the US economy in so much economic trouble that in order to keep their economy from collapsing they BORROW money from China just so they can prop up the American economy with a bandaid solution.

    Now imagine the bandaid solution has failed. The US President Barack Obama has realized that the only course of action is to demand China to allow its currency to float on the free market (which will cause the Yuan to appreciate in value until it is at its proper value). Except China refuses, like they did at the G20 meeting in Seoul this week.

    So the USA is back at square effing one.

    And what you realize is that Free Trade with China is killing the American economy because the Chinese aren't playing "fair". So America's only solution now is to raise tarriffs on Chinese imports.

    Except that the USA owes China a lot of money. Trillions of US dollars worth of debt. So they can't go annoying China right now because its just too much debt. And worse the USA's debt keeps growing, and the country lending them more money is... China.

    So what you realize is that the USA is effing screwed.

    Oh in theory they could do more things like BUY AMERICAN programs and so forth, except China owns (or practically owns) most of the big retailers in the USA anyway, starting with Wal-Mart. (If you thought Wal-Mart was as American as apple pie, you'd be sorely disappointed to see who owns most of the shares in the company.)

    Indeed at this point the United States is only a step away from financial collapse, but the Chinese keep bailing them out. The problem however is that the Chinese can only bailout the USA when they are given plenty of advance notice. If the US economy collapses in a single day (like it nearly did on "Black Thursday" on October 24th 1929, well then it will be too late. The US economy will need a fresh reboot, a completely new financial system.

    Now it isn't all doom and gloom. One thing you have to learn is that when these things happen people come back and FIX it so it doesn't happen again.

    So when they do fix it one way to think about it is how do we create a new financial system, one that can't fall apart so easily?

    A NEW FINANCIAL SYSTEM FOR THE WORLD

    #1. An unified currency, ie. A global credit system. This way countries like China can't undercut other currencies by deliberately devaluing and pegging their currencies. If we all use the same currency this can't happen.

    #2. A global minimum wage. If every country had a minimum hourly wage of 10 credits it would mean an end to sweatshops and companies which undercut the production costs of factories overseas, stealing jobs from other countries. The only boundary then becomes the distance the product needs to be sent.

    #3. More local outsourcing. Why should Canada seek free trade with India? So we can outsource all of our banking and customer service jobs to a place with a lower minimum wage? Nonsense. Many of these jobs are just leeches in the first place, sucking money out of our financial system but without producing any actual product. What banks really need is more automation. Less staff, more computers. The only time you deal with a "banker" is when there is a problem with your account that needs to be fixed. And it is better to have someone local so they can relate to and understand the problem easier.

    #4. More local manufacturing. Why are we buying cars made overseas and then shipped here? Wouldn't it make more sense to have the same car (same company, same design, etc) built locally and sold in the same geographical zone? Less shipping = Less cost. The problem however is that union jobs are sometimes WAAAAAAAY overpaid. Ridiculous to say the least. There needs to be a cap on how much union workers can be paid.

    #5. Capping executive pay. Ever seen a CEO who gets a multi-million dollar bonus, but his or her company is currently filing for bankruptcy protection? Well its not fair. This is why executives, CEOs, etc should have a cap on how much they can actually be paid, and their yearly bonus likewise should have a cap on it. ie. $5 million max. After all, who needs more than $5 million per year?

    #6. Changing the stock market system. Right now we have this ridiculous system of futures and instant trading. Futures trading is when you bet FOR or AGAINST a stock and claim it will go up or down, without actually buying the stock. Then when it does go up and down, you make money depending on how many people bet one way or the other. It is essentially gambling and its very irresponsible. The second thing is the issue of trading stocks instantly. You can buy it one minute and sell it a minute later. This system of buying/selling stocks is unstable and will lead to disaster. ie. One day the DOW JONES will drop 666 points in a single day and everyone will start calling it Doomsday. What we need instead is to scrap futures trading and get rid of instant trades too. Investing in a stock should have a minimum time limit, like one week, and stocks should only be traded one day of the week (Wednesday). At the same time there should be a LIMIT on how far up or down a stock can go in a single week, like 5%. If it reaches that number it is capped and can't be traded any higher or lower than that. People have to wait for the next week to see if it will keep going up or down. The end result is a stock market which still fluctuates, but does so slowly and with stability and moderation.

    And there is a whole list of other ways we could make our financial system more stable. ie. We could set a limit on foreign investments to 33% to prevent foreign ownership of companies which are then closed / dismantled and the workers all laid off while operations are moved overseas.

    The point is our financial system needs change. But before we can change anything it first has to collapse completely so that people realize the need for change.

    Acne linked to higher suicide rate

    HEALTH - People with severe acne are more likely to attempt suicide, says a new study from Swedish researchers at the Karolinska Institute. But the researchers make it clear whether they're not certain whether its caused by the condition or anti-acne medication they are on.

    The Karolinska Institute studied data from almost 6,000 people who were prescribed the drug, isotretinoin, between 1980 to 1989. The medication has been commonly used to treat serious acne for the last 3 decades.

    Suicide attempts by people taking the medication were significantly higher than the average population, but the researchers say they need more information about whether severe acne patients who are NOT on the medication are also attempting/committing suicide at a higher rate.

    The scientists also suspect that patients whose acne improved after treatment might be upset when there is no major improvements in their social lives. (We all find it difficult to find love sometimes.)

    The scientists compared hospital discharge records and death registers from 1980 to 2000. Between that time 128 of the people were admitted to a hospital after a suicide attempt. (128 out of 6,000 is a big number when it comes to suicide attempts.)

    In contrast for young adults in the USA there are 13 suicides per every 100,000 people. And for every suicide there is approx. 11 attempts.

    According to the results, the number of patients attempting suicide skyrockets approx. six months after they stop treatment. (This adds to the theory that if people are off the medication, but somehow expecting their love lives to improve dramatically are getting depressed after 6 months and no sign of success.)

    This has led scientists to question whether severe acne patients (especially former patients) should be monitored psychologically for suicidal intents.

    The study was published today (Friday) in the medical journal BMJ.

    Patience and perseverance are the two greatest virtues when it comes to finding love. Its also recommended practicing the other virtues people admire.

    November 11, 2010

    Montreal godfather Nicolo Rizzuto killed in mob hit

    CANADA - If you thought Canada didn't have any mobsters you'd be wrong. Nicolo Rizzuto, 86, a great-grandfather and a "mafia godfather" of one of the biggest crime syndicates in Canada was gunned down in his Montreal mansion yesterday.

    Nicolo Rizzuto liked crisply tailored suits, wide fedora hats, playing cards and playing with his grandchildren... but according to mafia insiders and people who study the mafia in Canada, Nicolo Rizzuto was still wielding immense power while his son Vito Rizzuto languishes in an American prison for the 1982 triple murders of the Bonanno crime family.

    “He was the last of the real godfathers,” says Antonio Nicaso, a GTA expert and author of several mafia books (non-fiction, of course). “He was a combination of old and new, the last true godfather who was still alive and outside jail.”

    Nicaso believes a coalition of criminals murdered Nicolo Rizzuto, “Whoever killed Nicolo Rizzuto wants to control the narcotics traffick, the construction industry, the extortion business,” says Nicaso.

    In truth Nicolo Rizzuto is just the latest in a string of assassinations against Vito Rizzuto's crime family. Vito Rizzuto wielded enormous power in Montreal and also the GTA, and his family was running things for him while he was in prison.

    But Nicolo Rizzuto had been running things long before Vito (now 64) took over. He was quite literally "the godfather". Nicolo Rizzuto had sought to retire from the mafia underworld, but when multiple members of his family were imprisoned or killed he was forced back into leadership.

    “I think he was still the guy,” says Normand Brisebois, a former Montreal Mafia and biker enforcer. “It can’t be bikers,” says Brisebois. “It can’t be street gangs.” Instead he thinks its the Calabrian mafia group because nobody else is big enough to take on the Rizzuto family.

    Vito is due to be released from prison in the Summer of 2012, and you can guess he will be under close police scrutiny as there will likely be revenge on his mind for the deaths of his family members. (We should note he has an opportunity here to renounce the mafia lifestyle and become a witness for the state, blabbing about the people he thinks did it, but somehow we doubt he will even consider talking to the Feds.)

    What is interesting however is that while the Rizzuto family has been decimated in recent years their rivals don't seem to have suffered much retaliation, something which perplexes and worries mafia researcher Antonio Nicaso.

    Enforcer Brisebois says he used to trash and burn bars whose owners offended Nicolo and Vito Rizzuto. He says the elder Rizzuto was distant, but not hostile, when they met. Nicolo wouldn't even directly speak to people who weren't in his crime family. “He wouldn’t say a word to me, just spoke directly to his guys,” says Brisebois.

    Nicolo and Vito Rizzuto both lived on Antoine Berthelet Ave., an expensive cul-de-sac known in Montreal as “Mafia Alley.”

    Another member of the crime family, Paolo Renda, also lives there but disappeared earlier in 2010 and is believed to be dead or "swimming with the fishes" in the St Lawrence River.

    Nicolo Rizzuto emigrated to Canada in the late 1950s and rose to power in the late 1970s, after the assassination of Paolo Violi and his two brothers in Montreal, paving Rizzuto's way as a commander in the Cotroni crime family, which put him in charge of trafficking drugs through the Port of Montreal into New Yrok city.

    In the early 2000s, a hidden police camera caught Nicolo Rizzuto in a club counting money on a round table, and then stuffing it in his sock.

    Nicolo Rizzuto was also reputed to be an extremely tidy man. A police raid in the mid-2000s showed there wasn’t a spec of dust, even in the corners of the closets. His suits were all hung in order according to colour and styles, like suits in a store.

    Last year Nicolo Rizzuto pleaded guilty to tax evasion and agreed to pay a $209,000 fine, plus the amount owed. He apparently has an extra $5.2 million hidden in Swiss bank accounts.

    During 2009, Rizzuto family member Agostino Cuntrera and his guard, Liborio Sciascia were murdered in broad daylight.

    Last December, Nicolo Rizzuto’s grandson and namesake was also shot and killed in broad daylight in Montreal.

    The killer is still on the loose.

    And to some extent the police don't seem to be too worried about catching the killer(s). "Mafia justice" in this case makes it easier for police to just sit back and only mop up after the crime is done. The police aren't in any huge rush to catch the Calabrian mafia or whomever is behind these mafia hits.

    UPDATE: Nicolo Rizzuto was shot a sniper in the head, in front of his wife and daughter. The sniper had apparently hidden in a wooded area behind Rizzuto’s unfenced backyard, close to a statue of the Virgin Mary and away from several security cameras. Rizzuto died instantly.

    “This isn’t a war,” says Nicaso with respect to the method of his murder. “This is an extermination.” Nicaso says he doesn't think the Rizzuto family knows who’s killing them off. It could be a combination of old enemies and new rivals vying for Montreal’s underworld drug trade and construction industry.

    The killers may be feeling free to do as they please because the Rizzuto family is clueless, the police can't figure out who is doing anything and the family’s toughest member, Lorenzo (Skunk) Giordano, is currently serving time.

    Giordano, famously accused of shooting an enemy in the testicles, was arrested in a King Street Toronto fitness club in May 2007. The burly, Ferrari-driving mobster had been living under a false name with his Brazilian girlfriend in a hotel in Toronto. He was sentenced to 15 years in prison in February 2009, pleading guilty to gangsterism, conspiracy and possession of the proceeds of crime.

    With both Giordano and Vito Rizzuto behind bars the family is sitting ducks.

    November 10, 2010

    God Vs. Climate Change?

    ENVIRONMENT/RELIGION - According to U.S. House of Representatives' John Shimkus, who is currently being touted as the future chairman of the Congressional committee that deals with energy and environmental concerns, climate change should not concern Americans because God has already promised not to destroy the Earth.

    Ahem.

    Yesterday Shimkus, an evangelical Christian and a Republican from Illinois, announced his desire to become chairman of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, one the most powerful committees because it effects energy policy, environmental initiatives and public health. Shimkus is already on the committee, but now he wants to be chairman.

    In 2009, Shimkus dismissed the dangers of climate change and the warnings of scientists by quoting the Bible.

    First, Shimkus quoted Genesis 8:21-22:

    “Never again will I curse the ground because of man, even though all inclinations of his heart are evil from childhood and never again will I destroy all living creatures as I have done."

    “As long as the earth endures, seed time and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, will never cease.”

    “I believe that’s the infallible word of God, and that’s the way it’s going to be for his creation,”
    Shimkus said.

    Then Shimkus quoted Matthew 24:31:

    “And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds from one end of the heavens to the other.”

    “The Earth will end only when God declares it’s time to be over. Man will not destroy this Earth. This Earth will not be destroyed by a Flood,”
    says Shimkus. “I do believe that God’s word is infallible, unchanging, perfect.”

    So yeah, no floods coming... But rising sea levels, droughts, plagues, pestilence, and so forth... its all on the agenda now. Americans sure seem to WANT an apocalypse to happen, but they will likely be disappointed when such things do happen.

    What Shimkus apparently is ignoring is that God is also a vengeful god. According to the Bible mankind was placed here to be caretakers of the Earth. If we mess it up, God will punish us. Take from that what you will.

    The Republicans grew in power during the recent Congressional elections, which means the committee will shift to Republican leadership.

    So yeah... if you're American and worried about the environment you might as well kiss the planet goodbye for as long as whackjobs like Shimkus are put in power.

    Quebec, an Unique Society... of gamblers?

    CANADA - A new study shows that almost 70% of adults in Quebec gambled money in 2009. The study surveyed 12,000 Quebecers and a sample that size is considered to be accurate within 2%, 19 times out of 20.

    The average Quebecer spends almost $500 each on gambling every year.

    According to Dr. Sylvia Kairouz, a Concordia University professor and one of the study’s lead researchers, nearly 1.3% of Quebec’s adult population is at moderate risk of developing a gambling addiction.

    0.7%, or close to 41,000 Quebecers, could become pathological gamblers.

    Kairouz says online gambling (ie. online poker games) has become much more popular in recent years.

    The study is the first part of a larger 5-year survey which will be completed in 2014.

    So if 70% of Quebecers gamble, what does that say about Quebec as a province? Are they unique? Maybe. But we really can't tell unless we find out what percentages the other provinces gamble at. A national survey is needed.

    See Also
    The Roots of Quebec Separatism
    Quebec Separatism: Why Bother?

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