Followers

December 28, 2011

America pulls out of Iraq in the middle of the night

POLITICS - The last 500 American soldiers rolled out of Iraq across the border into neighbouring Kuwait under the cover of darkness on Sunday December 18th. The convoy was done in secret during the night for fear of attacks from the rival factions of Sunni and Shiite Iraqis who have been caught in a civil war since the fall of Saddam Hussein 9 years ago.

The five-hour drive by the American convoy marked the end of a bitterly divisive war that left Iraq shattered and struggling to recover.

“My heart goes out to the Iraqis,” says Warrant Officer John Jewell. “The innocent always pay the bill.”

It was a stark contrast to the high-octane start of the war, which began before dawn March 20th 2003 with an airstrike in southern Baghdad, the opening shot in the infamous “shock and awe” bombardment meant to terrorize the Iraqis into submission.

Saddam and his regime fell within weeks, and Saddam Hussein was later captured by the Americans and executed by his Shiite enemies in 2006. But Saddam’s death only fueled the rivalry between Shiite and Sunni factions.

The Iraqi civil war devastated the country, and its legacy includes tens of thousands of widows and orphans, a people deeply divided between loyalty to church and state and an infrastructure that remains largely in ruins.

Since Barack Obama got into power violence has dropped suddenly and Iraqi security forces have improved dramatically. The sectarian violence remains and likely will never disappear as long as religious radicals continue killing each other.

The same day, even as American troops were leaving, the Sunni political bloc said it was suspending its participation in parliament to protest the monopoly on government posts by Shiite allies of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

Iraqis celebrated the exit of what they call their American occupiers. Some said that were grateful for the USA ousting Saddam, but complain that the war went on too long. A majority of Americans would agree, according to opinion polls.

Iraq’s military chief of staff, Lt.-Gen. Babaker Zebari (a Shiite) said Sunday that his troops were up to the task of uprooting Sunni militant groups. Sunni militants continue to carry out bombing and shooting against police, soldiers and civilians, and Shiite militias have been founded for the express purpose of exterminating Sunni militants.

Note: Sunni Muslims are the moderate ones, typically wearing mustaches instead of beards, and allowing women to drive, become doctors, etc. Saddam Hussein however went too far in his brutal repression of the Kurds and Shiites.

Captain Mark Askew was among the last soldiers to leave Iraq, said the future of Iraq is unknown. “It depends on what Iraq does after we leave,” he said. “I don’t expect them to turn into South Korea or Japan overnight.”

120 Sears and Kmart stores to close

UNITED STATES - Sears has announced it will close 120 Sears and Kmart stores, the largest closing of its properties after disastrous holiday sales. The closings will effect 1000s of jobs.

The retailer will be closing 120 of its worst performing ("marginal") stores and will focus its resources on its top performing stores.

“Given our performance and the difficult economic environment, especially for big-ticket items, we intend to implement a series of actions to reduce ongoing expenses, adjust our asset base, and accelerate the transformation of our business model,” says CEO Louis D’Ambrosio. “These actions will better enable us to focus our investments on serving our customers.”

Sears Holdings Corp., based in Hoffman Estates, Illinois, hopes to generate $170 million in cash from inventory sales and additional proceeds from the sale or sublease of real estate.

Sears, which operates Kmart stores, Sears, Roebuck and Co. and Land’s End, has seen rival department stores like Macy’s Inc., discounters like Target and electronics stores like Best Buy and Future Shop steal loyal customers away, mostly people in the middle-income bracket.

Sears announced smaller closings earlier this year and had pinned their hopes on upbeat holiday sales. Sears Holdings has more than 4,000 stores in the U.S. and Canada.

12 New Years Resolutions Worth Keeping for 2012

#1. Don't answer hatemail. Just delete it and don't worry about it.

#2. Explore your sexuality. You only live once.

#3. Exercise. Just in case the religious nutjobs are right and the zombies rise up in 2012. You will live longer either way.

#4. Stop worrying about the unimportant things. "Don't sweat the small stuff."

#5. Learn to say no. You are not a slave to the whims of others.

#6. Turn off your electronics at least 1 day per month. You can answer the emails later.

#7. Stop pigging out on junk food. You know its unnecessary. Do something else that gives you comfort.

#8. Pretend to be confident and you will become confident once you realize how easy it is.

#9. Stand up for others. You won't regret it.

#10. Organize your time better. Stop multitasking so much. Multitasking actually reduces productivity.

#11. Travel. Again, you only live once.

#12. Learn a new language. The next best thing to traveling.

December 25, 2011

MERRY XMAS FROM LILITH NEWS

ENTERTAINMENT - This Christmas we recommend checking out the feline follies of "Simon's Cat" available on YouTube or www.simonscat.com. Have a happy and safe Holiday Season!

December 23, 2011

Helena Guergis sues Stephen Harper

CANADA - Former cabinet minister Helena Guergis was falsely accused of cocaine use, extortion and associating with hookers in a plot to chase her from politics. Guergis, the former MP for Simcoe—Grey and minister of state for the status of women, saw her political career smashed in April 2010 in a swirl of false allegations which ultimately cost her career, her ability to make a living and her self respect.

And now its payback time.

Helena Guergis is suing Prime Minister Stephen Harper, the Conservative Party of Canada and two former cabinet colleagues for $1.3 million, for their roles in deliberately and unfairly forcing her out of the Conservative caucus and cabinet for their own political, personal and financial benefit.

In one incident, Labour Minister Lisa Raitt spreaded “defamatory” words that she had seen Guergis in the bathroom of an Ottawa restaurant using cocaine with two other people. That rumour later turned out to be a complete fabrication.

The lies unfolded in 2010.

In April 2010, private investigator Derrick Snowdy went to Arthur Hamilton (a lawyer with the Cassels Brock law firm) and falsely claimed that Guergis was involved in fraud, extortion and prostitution.

Hamilton went to Harper’s inner circle and the Prime Minister himself, and then Stephen Harper decided (with no proof that Guergis was involved in any wrongdoing) that they would kick Guergis out of the caucus and work to distance themselves from her.

On April 9th 2010, Harper announced in a news release that he had become aware of “serious allegations” about Guergis’s conduct. The Prime Minister said Guergis had offered her resignation from cabinet and would no longer sit as a Tory MP.

But Harper never detailed what the allegations were and Guergis didn't offer her resignation. Guergis says she was pressured to step down and accuses Harper of rushing to judgment.

Much later private investigator Derrick Snowdy's claims were proved false and complete fabrication, but because Harper acted on the false information and deliberately worked to force Guergis out of politics that shows he acted with malicious intent.

However, Harper and his cronies will probably get off. Defamation laws clear state that if people act on information (even if later proved to be false information) that this NOT constitute defamation because it is "reasonable to believe".

There are several defenses against defamation:

#1. Responsible Communication, ie. warning people about a criminal.
#2. Fair Comment, ie. commenting on something that is reasonable to believe.
#3. Already Infamous, ie. the person is a known criminal.

And so forth...

So while Helena Guergis' lawsuit has validity, it will likely fail because Stephen Harper's actions fall into the realm of Fair Comment. If the PMO took other actions which stepped over the boundaries of Fair Comment however (such as the false cocaine allegation) then that crosses into defamation.

December 14, 2011

Five Economics Predictions for 2012

POLITICS - What are economists saying about 2012? Lets find out.

IHS Global Insight expects global GDP to rise 2.7% in 2012, but they have other predictions as well. In 2010 eight out of 10 of IHS’s predictions proved to be correct.

1) United States recession?

Most economists think the USA will avoid a recession in 2012 and IHS agrees. They're predicting the first half of 2012 to be slow, but to pick up steam half-way through the year. They're expecting the USA's GDP to rise 2.5% by the end of 2012.

2) Europe

Fiscal confidence is plummeting in Europe, suggesting a mild recession in 2012. If Europe's debt problems are not solved however it could be much worse. The IHS is expecting Greece's GDP to drop 6% and Portugal's to drop 3%.

The IHS is predicting Greece might drop the Euro as its currency.

3) Asia

Asia will continue to have the strongest economic growth in the world (around 5.5%). Expect a rebound in post-earthquake Japan that will drive exports. Growth in China is expected to be about 8% or better.

4) Commodity Prices

Prices should stabilize and gold prices may drop. Expect oil prices to drop 30 to 40%. Prices should drop in North America/Europe due to weaker demand, but expect growing demand in China and India.

Geopolitical tensions and oil shortages may cause oil prices to go back up during the Summer of 2012, but not to any record levels unless there is a large war in a country such as Iran.

5) Inflation

Inflation will fall, particularly in North America and Europe. Central banks are unlikely to raise interest rates. In Europe deflation in poorer regions will become a growing concern.

2011 was the 10th Hottest Year in recorded history

ENVIRONMENT - 13 of the hottest year in recorded history were in the last 15 years. This past year was no different, tying for the number 10 spot. The global warming phenomenon and its cause due to greenhouse gases will certainly continue to be a hot topic in 2012.

Our governments will continue to ignore the threat of climate change and the growing sense of environmental catastrophe will expand as we encounter longer droughts, deeper floods, record setting hurricanes and bizarre weather.

World temperatures keep rising and we are heading for irreversible changes as the Arctic sea ice has shrunk to record-low volumes in 2011, the melting of the permafrost and rising sea levels. Rising sea levels is the biggest danger since most of the world's population lives in coastal cities which would be flooded by just a 7 meter increase (scientists have determined that if both poles melted it would be an approximately 21 meter increase). Some island nations will be destroyed entirely by rising sea levels.

"The science is solid and proves unequivocally that the world is warming," says R.D.J. Lengoasa, deputy director of the International Meteorological Organization. "Climate change is real, and we are already observing its manifestations in weather and climate patterns around the world," he said on the sidelines of the UN climate conference under way in South Africa.

2011 has been a year of extreme weather. Extreme drought in East Africa has left tens of thousands dead, and there have been deadly floods in Asia, and 14 separate weather catastrophes in the United States with damage topping $1 billion each. American insurance rates are skyrocketing due to weather alone.

Climate negotiators have set a goal of keeping temperatures from rising more than 2 C above preindustrial levels. The global temperature average is already 0.8 C above the preindustrial average.

"Forget about it. It's too late," says Michel Jarraud, IMO's secretary-general, who also says the 2.3 F target already is out of reach because countries keep bickering over blame and doing nothing.

Scientists are now stating the record high concentrations of greenhouse gases will result in the average global temperature eventually rising another 2.4 C above 2011 levels.

2011 saw high temperatures saturated the Earth despite a La Nina event, when low surface temperatures in the equatorial Pacific Ocean normally has a cooling effect on the entire globe. 2012 is expected to be one of the top 5 hottest years on record.

This means bizarre and extreme weather will increase in both frequency and intensity as the Earth continues to warm.

PREDICTION: The melting of sea ice in the poles will create channels through which ocean currents can pull ice farther into warmer waters, causing a chain reaction and sea ice melting at a faster rate than normal. Similar events happened during the collapse of ice shelves in previous years, but the ocean currents could speed up the process.

2011: Year of the Protester

POLITICS - From the protests and revolution in Egypt, the Arab Spring (protests and governments toppling across North Africa and the Middle East) to the economic frustration felt in Europe to the Occupy Wall Street Movement we've seen our share of protests in 2011.

Indeed every continent but the Antarctica saw its share of protests in 2011. Even now in December as the year comes to a close protests remain in Israel, India, Chile, China, Britain, Spain and the United States.

So much so that “The Protester” was named Time Magazine's 2011 Person of the Year today. The distinction is given to the person who, for better or for worse, influences the events of the year.

“Is there a global tipping point for frustration? Everywhere, it seems, people said they'd had enough... ... They dissented; they demanded; they did not despair, even when the answers came back in a cloud of tear gas or a hail of bullets. They literally embodied the idea that individual action can bring collective, colossal change,” says Time Editor Rick Stengel.

In China, the Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei was held 81 days in secret detention by Chinese authorities earlier this year. The arrest and lack of charges against him sparked an international outcry and protests in China.

December 13, 2011

Deadly Greenhouse Gas bubbling up in Russian Arctic

By Charles Moffat.

ENVIRONMENT - Dr Semiletov of Russia released his findings for the first time last week at the American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco. His findings show an unprecedented release of methane that is bubbling up from the East Siberian Arctic Shelf.

Methane is a greenhouse gas 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide.

The Russian report states that methane has been seen bubbling to the surface of the Arctic Ocean by Russian scientists undertaking an extensive survey of the region. The scale of the methane release astonished the head of the Russian research team who has been surveying the seabed of the East Siberian Arctic Shelf off northern Russia for nearly 20 years.

Igor Semiletov, of the Far Eastern branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences, states that he has never before witnessed the scale and force of the methane being released from beneath the Arctic seabed.

"Earlier we found torch-like structures like this but they were only tens of metres in diameter. This is the first time that we've found continuous, powerful and impressive seeping structures, more than 1,000 metres in diameter. It's amazing," says Dr Semiletov. "I was most impressed by the sheer scale and high density of the plumes. Over a relatively small area we found more than 100, but over a wider area there should be thousands of them."

American scientists estimate that there are hundreds of millions of tonnes of methane gas locked beneath the Arctic permafrost, which extends from the mainland into the seabed. With the disappearance of the Arctic sea-ice in summer, and rapidly rising temperatures across the entire Arctic, the trapped methane could be suddenly released into the atmosphere leading to rapid and severe climate change.

Dr Semiletov's team published a study in 2010 estimating that the methane emissions from this region were about eight million tonnes per year at that time, but the latest expedition suggests that the phenomenon has increased dramatically in volume and strength.

In late Summer 2011 the Russian research vessel Academician Lavrentiev conducted an extensive survey of about 10,000 square miles of sea off the East Siberian coast. Scientists deployed four highly sensitive instruments, both seismic and acoustic, to monitor the "fountains" or plumes of methane bubbles rising to the sea surface from beneath the seabed.

"In a very small area, less than 10,000 square miles, we have counted more than 100 fountains, or torch-like structures, bubbling through the water column and injected directly into the atmosphere from the seabed," says Dr Semiletov. "We carried out checks at about 115 stationary points and discovered methane fields of a fantastic scale – I think on a scale not seen before. Some plumes were a kilometre or more wide and the emissions went directly into the atmosphere – the concentration was a hundred times higher than normal."

And if its bubbling up in the Russian arctic chances are likely up it is also bubbling up in the Canadian arctic and off the coast of Greenland.

Veganism, The New Religion

By Charles Moffat.

HEALTH/RELIGION - Veganism is more than a diet to many Vegans. Its a way of life. Its a set of moral values. Why should a religion need anything more than that?

There are other non-deistic religions in the world (non-deistic means a religion with no god). Confucianism for example believes in honouring ancestors. Shamanism and various other religions believe in a spirit world, but one without a god.

For fun some Canadians and Americans put down "Jedi" when asked their religion, so much so that some Jedi people now claim it should be acknowledged as an actual religion.

However the major problem with organized religions is that they tend to be pushy, worse than credit recovery agencies and their annoying phone calls, and they try to push their beliefs unto others by ranting on and on about how their religion is superior.

And certainly there are some Vegans out there whom do that. (And we could also say the same about some meat-eaters and omnivores always trying to convert Vegans and vegetarians back to the fold of bacon.)

I have a Vegan friend who unlike a few other Vegans I've met doesn't try to ram her lifestyle down the throats of unwilling people. She doesn't try to coerce you, doesn't fuss about all the health benefits of Veganism (unless it comes up naturally as part of the conversation), doesn't show you horribly graphic documentaries showing how cattle, lambs and horses and brutally slaughtered for food... she just treats everyone equal, bends over backwards to be nice to people and is genuine about it.

Her behaviour is such that I wish more people (not just Vegans) were more like her. Genuinely nice.

Because frankly there is nothing more annoying than a friend who is constantly trying to get you to change your beliefs, doesn't respect your beliefs, and wants you to completely change your lifestyle.

Becoming a Vegan is a daunting task. People don't do it over night. It really is like changing your religion. Its a life style change, from the clothes you wear (no wool, leather or fur), no foods or drinks that contain any kind of meat, dairy or animal byproducts... and some of them may lose friends in arguments about morality and food.

I would argue therefore that there really needs to be a set of ethics for Vegans. A sort of Ten Commandments of Veganism... and these edicts should include behavioural advice too.

The Thou Shalt Commandments of Veganism

1. Thou shalt not eat meat, dairy or animal byproducts.

2. Thou shalt not wear leather, fur, wool or animal byproducts.

3. Thou shalt not use household objects containing animal byproducts.

4. Thou shalt be respectful of other people's food habits.

5. Thou shalt be courteous and kind and non-forceful when spreading your ideas.

6. Thou shalt be helpful to people expressing an interest in Vegan lifestyle.

7. Thou shalt be equally kind to people with no interest in Vegan lifestyle.

8. Thou shalt let other people, including your own children, decide for themselves.

9. Thou shalt be understanding of other people's opinions and respectful of their decisions.

10. Thou shalt be a role-model for other Vegans and people in general.

Is that too much to ask?

I know if we replaced the word Vegan with the names of various religions (especially the ones which go door to door trying to convert people) that the above 'Thou Shalts' would be too much for some people to actually do. There are two kinds of people in the world: Those who like to force their beliefs on others, and those who simply ask to be left alone to make their own decisions.

I personally prefer to make my own decisions. If I go to the fridge and pull out cheese and bread and make a grilled cheese sandwich, its my decision. If I can respect the choices of others, why should they not respect mine?

See Also:
Veggie-Curious

November 29, 2011

The Art of Turn of the Century Mug Shots

ART HISTORY - They're not abstract art paintings like those of Toronto artist Laura Warburton... but they're definitely interesting to look at.

The Helen McClung Gallery at the Archives of Ontario building at York University is displaying 100 striking photographs in “Arresting Images” until December 9th 2011. The photos were part of a cache of 474 turn of the century photographs from the OPP’s Niagara regional headquarters and were uncovered during some housecleaning in the 1960s.

The photos are mostly for petty crimes such as burglary and shoplifting. The one at the top here was arrested for having a tattoo of a woman on his arm. (Apparently tattoos of women were illegal in 1907.)











And if mug shots isn't your thing, check out Laura Warburton's Open House on Saturday, December 10th. 1 PM to 6 PM. It is at 55 Mill Street, Building #74, Studio #401, the Distillery District, Toronto.

Top Brass ordered False Arrests during G20

CANADA - Toronto man Jason Wall has won his lawsuit against Toronto police for his treatment during the G20. He was on his way home to go to church on Sunday, June 27th 2010, when he was "mobbed by police" and arrested for wearing a bandanna (which they considered to be a disguise). He was then verbally abused and handled roughly before being released without charge the next day. Jason Wall has settled the lawsuit against Toronto police for an undisclosed amount and terms.

Not only was his arrest illegal, but a OPIRD report on his case shows senior police command ordered officers to deliberately make illegitimate arrests, stopping people for wearing black clothing or carrying a backpack, or any number of idiotic reasons, just so police could claim to the media that they arrested suspects.

“We need to hold police accountable,” says Jason Wall, a 25-year-old Toronto graphic designer.

Wall has settled a $25,000 lawsuit against Toronto police on undisclosed terms, and will hold a news conference Tuesday.

The Office of the Independent Police Review Director (OPIRD) report concluded that Jason Wall was arrested illegally on a charge of wearing a disguise with intent. Wearing a bandanna on its own does not show intent. Many people at the G20 wore something to protect their nostrils and eyes in event of police using teargas.

A “disguise” on its own is not enough for a charge but requires the intent to commit an indictable offence, the report said.n

Officers detaining Wall on June 27, 2010, told OPIRD investigators they were instructed to arrest people wearing bandannas, masks or gas masks concealing their identity. One officer said he was told to search anyone with a backpack, and if that person refused, he or she could be arrested for obstructing police.

The report shows the many unlawful arrests of the G20 weekend were not just the result of a few bad apples or overreaction from front-line officers. “The orders must have come from the top," says lawyer Davin Charney.

In a related story there are photos of Black Bloc members wearing police issue boots. This has sparked a theory that the so-called anarchist group was actually police in disguise the whole time. One photo shows a Black Bloc member with an arm tattoo and there are other photos of a police officer with the same build with an identical tattoo.

Increasingly it is becoming clear that all the G20 arrests was part of a carefully orchestrated plan coming from Ottawa.


Eurozone Credit Crunch

POLITICS - The European Union is facing a huge credit crunch and there really is only one solution...

Raise corporate taxes and income tax on the rich.

Instead the 17 finance ministers of the countries that use the Euro met at the EU headquarters today in a desperate bid to protect the value of the Euro and prevent a debt-induced financial tsunami that could sweep Europe.

The problem is that a number of European countries are spending beyond their means and their taxes are too low to support such spending. If they cut jobs it will cause a recession.

And you can't keep raising taxes on the poor and middle class, because that will also spark a recession.

The ONLY solution is to raise corporate taxes and income tax on the rich. Because the rich can afford it.

The problem is that the rich also make political donations and don't like extra corporate taxes. Which puts politicians in a hard place. Do they let their economy crumble (in which case the rich keep getting richer anyway) or do they become fiscally responsible?

The 17 ministers are discussing ideas that would have countries ceding fiscal sovereignty to a central authority; some kind of elite group of Euro nations that would guarantee one another’s loans — but require strong fiscal discipline from anyone wanting membership.

The question then becomes, what counts as fiscal discipline? Because cutting jobs or raising taxes on the poor would count as belt tightening, even if they're mistakes.

The fear is that the crisis — which has already forced bailouts of Greece, Ireland and Portugal — could engulf bigger economies such as Italy, the eurozone’s third-largest. If Italy were to default on its debt of €1.9 trillion ($2.5 trillion), the financial fallout could send shock waves throughout the global economy and spark another global recession.

Italy’s borrowing rates shot up today to above 7%t, an unsustainable level on a par with rates that forced the others to seek bailouts. And those bailouts just mean more debt. Its just paying debt with more debt.

Its like defaulting on your mortgage, selling the house, buying a BIGGER house and getting a bigger mortgage with a worse interest rate.

Worse these 17 finance ministers need to push their reforms through quickly... unlike previous reforms which took years to implement due to referendums.

The 17 ministers are also to discuss jointly issuing so-called Eurobonds — an all-for-one, one-for-all way of having the different countries guarantee one another’s debts. Right now each nation issues its own bonds, meaning that while Italy pays above 7 per cent, Germany pays about 2 per cent.

Having stronger countries like Germany stand behind the general European debt would lower Italy’s borrowing rates — and prevent a debt spiral that leads to a national bankruptcy. But it would raise Germany’s cost of borrowing, hence why Germany has been fiercely opposed to the Eurobond proposal.

If the European Union fails to fix its debt woes, bank lending would freeze, Europe's stock markets would likely crash, and Europe’s economies would crater. Economists believe such a collapse could see Europe’s economic output fall temporarily by as much as 50%, according to UBS forecasters.

Such debt problems would hinder the USA and Asian economies, the same way the US Recession sparked a global recession.

November 15, 2011

Legalized suicide coming to Canada?

CANADA/HEALTH - Assisted suicide and euthanasia should be legal in Canada, concludes an expert panel in a report released today in Ottawa, adding fuel to the growing demands to legalize suicide in Canada.

The report was commissioned by the Royal Society of Canada, and the panel was made up of six Canadian and international experts in bioethics, clinical medicine, health law and policy, and philosophy.

Whether the report will spark a new, national debate on end-of-life care is the question.

The thing however is that the vast majority of people either prefer to wait for death or simply don't care enough to change the status quo. After all as long as its not them dying slowly and in horrible pain, why should the average person care?

The average person goes through high school, college or university, works for decades in some boring job, gets a mortgage, buys a house with a mortgage, car loans, credit cards, 2.2 children, and eventually dies in their 70s or thereabouts.

Thus the vast majority of people aren't exactly lining up for assisted suicide for people dying slowly in horrible pain. A torturous death, like being beaten to death with a reed switch, a rod of thumb's width or the lash.

What people would wish to do when dying a torturous death is really up to the person suffering such torment. Who amongst us can claim to have suffered such pain, without any hope of relief in sight?

Soldiers perhaps, people with injuries so dire they question their existence. Its not like accountants, Toronto mortgage brokers, real estate salesmen, production planning managers or inventory management assistants are likely to have occupational hazards that might lead to horrible painful deaths.

No, the Grim Reaper's icy grip is random and slow sometimes. It can strike any, but does so rarely. Usually death is reasonably quick, like a tax man stealing money from your pay-cheque. Its happened before you even realize it.

The Royal Society of Canada report also makes a number of recommendations related to end-of-life care, but the most important thing in the report is the proposal that the Criminal Code of Canada be amended to permit euthanasia and assisted suicide.

The panel should be decriminalized for "competent individuals who make a free and informed decision that their life is no longer worth living."

The panel calls for a "permissive yet carefully regulated and monitored system" for assisted death, and says it carefully considered Canadian values, international evidence, and legal and ethical arguments to reach that conclusion.

"The evidence does not support claims that decriminalizing voluntary euthanasia and assisted suicide poses a threat to vulnerable people, or that decriminalization will lead us down a slippery slope from assisted suicide and voluntary euthanasia to non-voluntary or involuntary euthanasia," the report says. "The evidence does not support claims that decriminalization will have a corrosive effect on access to or the development of palliative care."

The report was released at a press conference a day after a major legal challenge in British Columbia on assisted suicide began in the province's Supreme Court.

So there is a fire in the courts, and now there is extra fuel.

If the court cases eventually reach the Supreme Court of Canada it can overturn the Criminal Code of Canada if the Supreme Court makes a ruling in favour of euthanasia.

If euthanasia was allowed by the Supreme Court of Canada, the Canadian parliament would have no choice but to debate the merits of letting people make their own decision.

November 1, 2011

Earth's 7 Billion people set to keep expanding

POLITICS - Not even wars can slow down Earth's ever expanding population it seems. According to a variety of sources and estimates Earth now has 7 billion people. The "7 billionth baby" was supposedly born on October 31st 2011 (Halloween morning).

In reality its impossible to pinpoint who was the actual 7 billionth human to be born on Earth at this present day, it was really more symbolic of all the babies born on October 31st 2011.

The United Nations even marked the day with a series of festivals around the world.

But with 7 billion humans we also need to ask some questions:

#1. What happens when our population starts to run into food shortages? Some parts of the world are already dealing with that problem.

#2. Is there enough clean drinkable water to support this many people?

#3. Will everyone get an education or will the poor end up being treated like slaves? (Depending on where you go this is already happening.)

#4. Should more countries be promoting contraceptives and birth control pills?

#5. Will overpopulation lead to more wars over scarce resources? We're already fighting over oil and water supplies.

According to historians and demographers it was 1804 when the human population reached 1 billion. By 1927 it was 2 billion. Then 3 billion in 1959; 4 billion in 1974; 5 billion in 1987; 6 billion in 1998.

13 years later and we're already at 7 billion. We will likely reach 8 billion by 2024. Or less. It was only 11 years between 1987 and 1998 so it could just as easily be 2022.

When you factor together the birth rate (252 worldwide births per minute) and the death rate (107 worldwide deaths per minute) there is 145 more people on Earth every minute. 2.4 more per second.

In India the province of Uttar Pradesh is the most densely populated region in the world. But it could be growing even faster, were not for India's habit of aborting female fetuses. The Indian government has chosen to highlight that issue to draw attention to the growing shortage of women in India. India has 893 girls born for every 1,000 boys born.

“It would be a fitting moment if the 7 billionth baby is a girl born in rural India,” says Dr Madhu Gupta, an Uttar Pradesh gynecologist. “It would help in bringing the global focus back on girls, who are subject to inequality and bias.”

Meanwhile in China the population growth rate is at an all time low, thanks to China's one-child policy (Chinese parents can have more children, but they have to pay a tax on each additional child).

While China's policy has certainly helped their economy over the past 3 decades, eventually it will begin to hurt their economy as the older generation begins to retire and there won't be enough young Chinese to work in the factories. At some point China will have to start bringing in immigrant workers. China, like India, is also facing a shortage of women.

India's population is set to pass China by roughly 2030.

October 24, 2011

Why you should never buy from a Puppy Mill

CANADA - If you love animals why would you buy a pet from a puppy mill?

Well the sad answer is that some people just don't care. Out of sight, out of mind. They don't realize the horrible conditions the animals are subjected to, the unsanitary conditions, the diseases, the violent treatment of the people who run puppy mills.

In Canada the Humane Society and police work continually to find puppy mills and shut them down. Dogfighting and cockfighting activities are similarly banned. In Ontario the penalties for persons guilty of such offences can vary from $1,000 to $60,000 with possible imprisonment of up to two years. Learn more by reading the Ontario Animal Welfare Act.

A puppy mill's primary goal is to make money. Regardless of what price they set on selling these pets (often sold via pet stores with dubious reputations) their goal is to make as many pets as they can in a hurry in an effort to maximize profit and very little overhead.

We won't go into the details of some of the horrific treatment cats and dogs endure at puppy mills, but we can show you a few photos of animals which have been rescued from puppy mills by the Humane Society.



"Don't ever buy a dog unless you have personally visited where the dog was born and raised."


Now you could buy a rescued animal from the Humane Society... but buying any pet which may have been subjected to violence is risky, especially if you have children. Abused animals can sometimes respond violently without warning.

No, its far better to buy a pet from a dedicated breeder. It may cost you a lot more money, but over time it will be a wise investment. ie. Toronto Maltese Puppies cost $2,000 to $3,000, but over a 10 or 15 year period the financial sting isn't so bad. Especially as you grow to love and adore your pets.

McGuinty’s Liberals win third term... will there be a 4th?

CANADA - Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty’s Liberals were re-elected over a week ago and already people are thinking they might win a 4th term.

But the third term will have a short leash. McGuinty’s Liberals were re-elected with a minority government, propped up by the NDP. The rare “three-peat” win on Thursday October 6th saw the Liberals win 53 seats out of 107, just 1 short of a majority government. The NDP won 17 seats and will be propping the Liberal government up in exchange for compromises.

History Repeats Itself

In 1985 David Peterson's Liberals were elected with 48 seats, propped up by 25 NDP seats under then NDP leader Bob Rae. This historic cooperation between the Liberals and NDP ended 42 years of Conservative control.

The cooperation between the Liberals and NDP led to many great changes which helped the economy, health care and environmental policies in Ontario. In 1987 the Liberals were re-elected with a majority, but people later realized it was the NDP component which had been so helpful. To make matters worse the recession hit Ontario hard during 1989.

Thus in 1990 the NDP was elected with a majority government under Bob Rae, and due to a tight budget Bob Rae brought in "Rae Days" (days when government employees were asked to work for free in order to cut back on government spending). This measure wasn't popular and led to the Conservatives later winning a majority in 1995.

So the question is, if history is to repeat itself, will a Liberal-NDP cooperation now lead to the Liberals being re-elected for a 4th term? Its entirely possible.

For now the Liberals will be supported on a “case-by-case” basis by the New Democrats and, on occasion, the Progressive Conservatives.

“Dalton was clear — no deals — and with these numbers there is no need. When you’re at a threshold, it’s a mandate,” said one senior Liberal insider on the election night.

The lifespan of a minority administration is usually only “18 months to two years”, depending on the economic woes of the time. If the economy is good it can last longer, but the ruling party sometimes forces a fresh election if their popularity is soaring.

McGuinty, 56, is the first premier to win three straight elections since Davis in 1977.

Conservative Leader Tim Hudak, 43, meanwhile looks to be at the end of his career. Public opinion polls suggest that he isn't leadership material. He needs to stop and reflect, do some inventory management of his staff, compare that to what people in Ontario actually want and see if the Conservative Party needs to change its platform. If he still thinks he is the right person to lead the Conservatives then he might stay on... of course he might stay on as leader purely out of ego, and not due to any logical reasoning.

Meanwhile we must conclude that Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty is a competent leader to have managed to win 3 consecutive governments and to keep Ontario's economy humming. No lack of production planning ability there.

It was thought that Dalton McGuinty might get the boot because of the amalgamation of the 5% GST and 8% PST into the 13% HST, an act that made Dalton McGuinty unpopular amongst rich people who now have to pay more when buying a new car, cigarettes or luxury goods. Most people still pay 13% tax regardless.

There was also anger about rising hydro bills, gasoline prices, etc, but most people blame those things on the American Recession & Recovery of 2007-2010.

But both the Conservatives and NDP released relatively centrist electoral programs months before the vote that only promised to tinker with the HST and most other Liberal initiatives, in other words no daring changes just blue and orange versions of the Liberal platform.

The Conservatives did propose forcing prisoners to work on chain gangs and equip sex offenders with GPS bracelets so they could be tracked, but no other changes. (Chain gangs and GPS bracelets may be coming anyway due to Stephen Harper's federal government.) The Conservatives promised to keep running deficits until 2017.

Meanwhile McGuinty is now talking about creating 50,000 green energy jobs thanks to Ontario subsidies for wind and solar power, and plans to cut college and university tuition by 30% for low- and middle-income students.

October 17, 2011

Exercise Addiction and Other Things

HEALTH - There are many bad things one could be addicted to that are bad for your health. ie. Cocaine, crack, heroin, smoking cigarettes.

In contrast caffeine and chocolate are so comparatively minor that most people don't consider them addictions. A coke habit (Coca-Cola) certainly is better than a cocaine habit.

Anything in too much abundance to the point of addiction can be a cause for trouble, both physically and mentally.

Addictions come in many ways. A myriad different addictions for each of the Seven Deadly Sins.

1. Lust - sex addiction or fetishes.
2. Gluttony - food addiction.
3. Greed - gambling addiction. ie. internet gambling websites.
4. Sloth / Acedia - addiction to laziness or neglect. ie. procrastination.
5. Wrath - rageaholicism.
6. Envy - collection / hoarding in an attempt to outdo another.
7. Pride / Vanity - addiction to the attention of others.

But what about an addiction that is good for you? Such as an addiction to eating healthy foods?

Or how about exercising?

Truth be told even running can cause negative physical and psychological effects on a person. Runners are the most vulnerable to exercise addiction because it releases endorphins and beta-endorphins (a powerful painkiller), adrenaline and other hormones. This cocktail of chemicals ends up acting like heroin on the brain, creating a powerful addiction that many marathon runners are prone to.

Ironically there is plenty of heroin addiction treatment programs, but not many professional programs to treat exercise addiction. It can be rather difficult to determine when someone is an addict. The best route is to actually measure what they are doing and then compare to confirmed addicts.

ie. If you're running 100 km / week, you're an addict. Some exercise addicts are known to run 6 or 7 days a week, anywhere from 100 km to 150 km. They're so addicted they would rather run than spend time with friends or family. They even run when they go on vacation.

The Symptoms of Exercise Addiction

1. Insomnia and/or restlessness. All the extra chemicals being released is interfering with their ability to sleep or rest.

2. They exercise even when sick or injured.

3. They avoid family and / or friends to go exercising.

4. Anxiety, irritability, and depression.

5. Often the addict has some psychological problem from their youth that has scarred them mentally. A parent or relative who mocked their weight, being tormented by children at school, etc.

6. Denial. Exercise addicts will never admit what they are doing is "abnormal". Instead they pride themselves on being very athletic.

7. Low self esteem / an obsession with perfection.

How do you know if you are an Addict?

Have you missed important social obligations and family events?

Have you given up other interests, including time with friends?

Have you missed a workout and it makes you irritable and depressed?

Do you only feel content when exercising or after exercising?

Do you like exercise better than sex, good food or a movie?

Do you work out even when sick, injured, or exhausted?

Do you exercise more if you find extra time?

Has family or friends told you that you exercise too much?

Do you have a history of anxiety or depression?

September 13, 2011

Antenna sales booming as TV goes digital

ENTERTAINMENT/TECHNOLOGY

At the end of August digital-only broadcasts replaced analog transmissions in most parts of Canada. People with older TVs that rely on rabbit ears must either buy a digital television, or a digital-analog converter box.

That or start paying for cable TV.

But some people find the concept of paying for TV silly when they can get up to 30 Canadian/American channels for free with a good quality antenna (like the one shown here)... or simply download their favourite TV shows online through a variety of websites which offer free TV downloads. ie. CBC, CTV and numerous other Canadian / American networks already offer streamed TV shows.

But for those who go the antenna route its an one time payment and they get digital stations broadcast in wide screen high-definition quality, and in many cases, with multi-channel surround sound audio.

This has caused a huge spike in antenna sales across Canada, according to Elliott Chun, communications manager for Future Shop. "Some people simply refuse to subscribe to cable, and since the [analog] cut-off the other week, we've seen a lot of customers coming in to buy an antenna."

So much so that Future Shop and many other stores are SOLD OUT of antennas. Sales associates are referring customers to their website to order antennas.

"Everything went bananas about two weeks ago when stations switched from analog to digital and sales are just as strong," says Jeff Bayly, owner and operator of the Ottawa-based OTA Canada (OTA = "over the air") which sells mostly outdoor antennas with a stronger reception. "We recently got shipment of 50 to 60 antennas and sold out right away, both in our storefront and online, but we've since brought in more inventory."

Bayly also wrote an iPhone app, OTAMap ($1.99) that lists all the HD OTA stations available and guides users on where to point the antenna (typically south, but there are exceptions) to get the best reception.

There's also "internet cable" now too. A box you plug into your internet service and download cable. Several companies available too: Apple TV, Boxxee Box or LG Smart TV Upgrader (all between $100 and $200).

Here is a list of pros and cons to using antennas:

PROS

Over-the-air HD broadcasts are free after the initial costs of an antenna (typically $40 to $150) and perhaps $40 for a chimney mount or $10 to $30 for an antenna mast. (If you're a smart cookie you can even BUILD your own antenna.)

The video and audio quality of these "uncompressed" HD broadcasts are often better than what you'd get from cable or satellite.

Canadians will get American commercials on American channels (great for watching Super Bowl ads).

CONS

Some set-up is required, such as buying and placing an antenna to pick up a signal; a digital TV with integrated ATSC tuner is required to process the signal. Reception can be affected by obstacles (tall trees, buildings) and weather (fog, hard rain, snow), but will still be better than satellite.

Station selection is limited. You can get the major Canadian and perhaps American stations, but few specialty channels, if any. But hey, you probably should not be watching TV 24/7 anyway. If you don't live close to the American border you probably won't be able to access ABC, NBC, CBS and FOX.

SMART PHONE SOLUTION

These days you can also just download / stream TV on your computer, laptop, tablet or SmartPhone. Now granted, nobody wants to sit there and hold their phone for 45 - 50 minutes watching a TV show... your arm and hand will get sore using the same position constantly. But there is a solution for that... you can either find a way to rest your phone up against books / etc so it is upright and you can see it easily, or you can buy a special stand for your phone so you can rest it there.

In a day and age when TV is becoming obsolete technology is still providing solutions.

September 11, 2011

9/11 Foreshadowing in Art and Film

ART HISTORY / ENTERTAINMENT

There is a plethora of artworks and films out there made before September 11th 2001 which are considered to foreshadow the events of 9/11. As the 10th anniversary of 9/11 approaches this coming Sunday we would like to share some of these foreshadowed pieces.

#1. The Spiderman Film Trailer 2001.



#2. Alex Grey's painting "Gaia" from 1989.


The painting contains the WTC Twin Towers in the lower right, along with 2 planes and in the foreground are three figures resembling George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and Osama bin Laden.

#3. Sculptor Michael Richards

Perhaps the most striking, tragic and bizarre example is the case of sculptor Michael Richards, the only artist with a studio in the Twin Towers that perished that day. Michael was killed in Tower 1 and his entire body of work was thought to be destroyed. One piece, discovered later at the North Carolina Museum of Art, was a self-portrait figure sculpture depicting the artist with many airplanes penetrating his body in a style similar to St. Sebastian.

Other examples abound. X-Men and Superman comic books, song lyrics by Prince, album art by bands, etc.

One might argue that there was no shortage of ideas about planes crashing into buildings that it was only a matter of time before someone used it for evil purposes.

In related news check out the videos of Barrie Zwicker, one of many filmmakers making documentaries which assert that 9/11 was an elaborate deception.

Speaking from a statistical perspective, buildings don't fall straight down. The chances of 2 buildings (3 if you count Building 7) falling straight down in the manner the WTC buildings did is highly improbable (if not impossible). (Plus in the videos you can clearly see the demolition squibs, which any demolition expert will tell you is explosions knocking out the support structures on each level on a timer. Bringing a building straight down using controlled demolition explosions requires months of planning.)

September 5, 2011

Is Pope Benedict evil?

RELIGION - Have you seen this guy?


It's Pope Benedict XVI.

Formerly known as Cardinal Ratzinger, the same guy who allowed sexually abused deaf children to continue being abused and even made efforts to cover up the scandal... the same guy who opposes condom use in AIDS stricken Africa... the same guy who described his own leadership as "a dictatorship of relativism" (pride is one of the 7 deadly sins, FYI)... the same guy who declared 'holy war' on people claiming to be suffering from stigmata or claiming to be having visions... the same guy who pardoned Holocaust deniers and brought back the Good Friday prayer which prays that Jews 'may be delivered from their darkness'... the same guy who was in the Hitler Youth during WWII.

And this is just the tip of the iceberg of intolerance, deceit, and indeed sins which Pope Benedict has done. (A little research and you will uncover quite a list out there.)

But what is most obvious to the naked eye is just how evil he looks. We should never judge a book by its cover, but in this case the old belief that a person's life marks their face with their emotions stands true. A person who is happy constantly will have laugh wrinkles, a person who is sad or stressed with have obvious signs due to lack of sleep, and so forth.

Pope Benedict looks like he has lived a life in which he was constantly plotting evil, bringing to mind Emperor Palpatine (Sith Lord from Star Wars), Gargamel (the evil wizard from the Smurfs), Richard Nixon (once considered the most hated president in American history) and Adolf Hitler (the most evil man in recorded history). They all had faces which suggested a lifetime of evil thoughts and emotions and those emotions left their mark. (True, Emperor Palpatine and Gargamel are fictional characters, but the analogy is still valid.)

But is this self-described dictator "evil"? Or just misguided, proud, greedy, lustful, gluttonous, slothful, wrathful and envious? He's evidently not out there leading a holocaust, but he's not exactly doing humanity any favours when pardoning Holocaust deniers.

It all comes down to how we define evil, measure evil and balance it against acts of kindness.

If you believe in god or karma we could assume that if Pope Benedict is truly evil he will be punished later. A religious person should therefore let God decide, for who better to judge a person based on their evil deeds?

But if there is no god and no karma, what then? Well then its a matter of what evil things a person does and whether these things eventually kill Pope Benedict... you see there is a reason why they are called "The Seven Deadly Sins":

Lust will kill you when you acquire a venereal disease.
Gluttony will kill you with a heart attack, cancer or other illness.
Greed will kill you when you take too much and it ends up being your downfall.
Sloth will kill you when you neglect to do something important to your own survival.
Wrath will kill you when you pick a fight with someone with more strength or cunning than you.
Envy will kill you when you pick a fight with a rival.
Pride will kill you when you assume you are invincible.

Thus even if we don't believe in any religion we can still learn from and appreciate the wisdom that certain actions or inactions can lead to our own demise. ie. Failing to act on climate change and global warming could be a death knell for many.

In theory the Seven Deadly Sins work a bit like karma. Do enough evil acts and they come back to haunt you.

August 24, 2011

Strauss-Kahn freed despite damning evidence

By Suzanne MacNevin.

FEMINIST - Yesterday Dominique Strauss-Kahn's sexual assault charges have been dismissed by two judges and the charges withdrawn by the prosecutors, claiming they have lost faith in the star witness despite damning DNA evidence and numerous other victimized women who have come forward saying they were sexually assaulted by Dominique Strauss-Kahn.

The former head of the International Monetary Fund, Dominique Strauss-Kahn was onced touted as a possible future president of France, and has no shortage of power or money. Legal activists are crying foul and corruption, saying the dismissal of the charges has nothing to do with the victim's credibility and everything to do with Dominique Strauss-Kahn's power and friends in high places.

The legal ramifications of the violent sexual assault and attempted rape against the hotel housekeeper isn't over yet however. Justice may yet prevail as a civil assault charge remains.

Overseas in France more charges against Dominique Strauss-Kahn are coming forward, but for now he has been set free.

The damning DNA evidence is Dominique Strauss-Kahn's semen on the clothes of the victim. Everyone knows he attacked and sexually assaulted the woman, but bribery can grease unseen wheels.

Strauss-Kahn arrived at court in a six-car motorcade and was greeted by protesters wielding signs carrying such messages as “DSK treats women like property” and “Put the rapist on trial — not the victim.” The shouting could be heard inside the courtroom.

State Supreme Court Justice Michael Obus said he would dismiss the case, but first wanted an appeals court to decide whether a special prosecutor should be appointed. Within hours, the appeals court agreed.

Dominique Strauss-Kahn attacked and sexually assaulted the maid originally from the West African nation of Guinea when she arrived to clean his luxury suite May 14. The 62-year-old grabbed her crotch and forced her to perform oral sex on him. Dominique Strauss-Kahn is claiming the maid had consensual sex with him and denies it was a forced encounter, despite the maid's physical injuries. Strauss-Kahn's lawyers claim the injuries are unrelated.

The 33-year-old maid, Nafissatou Diallo, is also sueing Strauss-Kahn, making it clear she isn't going to let this matter rest on corrupt public prosecutors. Her attorney Kenneth Thompson said outside court that she had been abandoned by the justice system and they will continue the fight in the civil case.

“No man, no matter how much power, money and influence he has, has a right to sexually assault a woman,” says Thompson. “We are disappointed that District Attorney Vance apparently does not believe in equal justice under the law and has denied an innocent woman a day in court.”

Overseas in Guinea the people there are watching and listening to the news and expressing shock that the justice system in the USA is so corrupt.

“Since the beginning of time, the powerful have always won. Nafissatou Diallo didn’t stand a chance against DSK,” says local Pepe Bimou. “The only possible outcome was that she would lose.”

This is hardly the first time men in power have gotten away with sexually assaulting women. It won't be the last, but at least now everyone knows Dominique Strauss-Kahn is a sexual predator.

See Also:
Feminist Truths / Crime

Virginia earthquake rattles North America

ENVIRONMENT - On Tuesday around 2 PM a 5.8 magnitude earthquake rocked North America, the epicentre near Mineral, Virginia. The shaking was felt all over the continent. Strong tremors were felt in Washington, New York and as far north as Toronto and Fredericton.

It was the biggest earthquake to hit Virginia since 1897.

The tremors were so strong people were evacuating buildings in Washington, New York, Boston and Toronto.

There were no reports of major damage or injuries from the quake. Two nuclear reactors at a power plant in Virginia went off line, while traffic lights were knocked out throughout Washington.

Flights were grounded briefly in Washington, Philadelphia and New York while authorities inspected control towers and runways. The tremors didn’t affect flights at Toronto Pearson International Airport.

The quake comes just days after a 3.3 magnitude earthquake near Sudbury, Ontario.

August 22, 2011

Libyan rebels capture Tripoli

POLITICS - Libyan rebels claimed control of the Libyan capital on Monday (today) after advancing quickly on Tripoli. The capture of the capitol heralds the fall of Moammar Gadhafi's nearly 42-year regime. Scattered battles erupted across the city, and Gadhafi whereabouts remain unknown.

The international community has repeatedly called on Gadhafi to step down. Colleagues warned Gadhafi wouldn't go easily. Two of Gadhafi's sons were captured on Sunday.

The Western Alliance is now moving ahead with postwar planning as ecstatic Tripoli residents celebrated in the Green Square, the symbolic heart of the Gadhafi regime.

The Western alliance promised to maintain its air campaign until all pro-Gadhafi forces surrender or return to barracks. NATO warplanes have hit over 40 targets in and around Tripoli since Saturday — the highest number on a single geographic location since the bombing started over five months ago, say officials.

The rebels capture of Tripoli in an hours-long blitz strike shows Gadhafi's forces are weakening and will likely face desertions soon since many of his fighters are hired mercenaries.

The rebels — mainly civilian volunteers who took up arms and had little military training — are big on zeal but short on organization and discipline, but their stunning success in Tripoli shows a high level of planning, co-ordination and discipline. They've gone from an unorganized rabble to an experienced fighting force in less than 6 months.

In London England, British Prime Minister David Cameron said frozen Libyan assets would soon be released to help the country's rebels establish order, saying Gadhafi's regime was “falling apart and in full retreat.”

Rebel spokesman Mohammed Abdel-Rahman in Tripoli, warned of pockets of resistance and said as long as Gadhafi remains on the run the “danger is still there.”

Today at Gadhafi's longtime command centre (Bab al-Aziziya) pro-Gadhafi government tanks emerged from the complex and opened fire at rebels trying to get in. The fighting continues.

Jack Layton dead, age 61

CANADA - Jack Layton, the fiery and eloquently spoken leader of the New Democratic Party has died of cancer at the age of 61.

Sometimes touted at the future prime minister of Canada, that dream now will never become a reality as friends and colleagues mourn his loss.

“Your support and well wishes are so appreciated. Thank you,” Jack Layton posted on Twitter in July after announcing he was battling a new form of cancer. “I will fight this and beat it.”

It was the last public announcement Jack Layton made in his long political career. He began as a campus activist and later becoming a left-wing municipal councilor and eventually the most electorally successful leader of the federal New Democratic Party in history.

Jack Layton was on a leave of absence as party leader since July 25, when he temporarily stepped aside to fight a second — and much more deadly — bout of cancer.

There are very politicians with the integrity and commitment that Jack Layton had. He will be sorely missed by the nation of Canada.

August 16, 2011

Moderation Key to a Long Healthy Life

HEALTH - When you live a balanced life style it can make huge differences in the quality of life and overall happiness.

#1. Moderation and balance. Both metaphorically and physically. You need to balance yourself mentally and emotionally (some might say spiritually) and also keep your balance in a literal sense. ie. Practice walking on top of things in straight lines like teenagers do to show off. If you practice good balance it hones various muscle groups which help keep you younger.

#2. Don't over stress yourself. Stress effects adrenalin and cortisol levels which you want to keep at moderate levels. If your work is too stressful it will be causing havoc with your health, decreasing your ability to work properly, sleep properly, eat properly and your health will deteriorate in a high stress job. (ie. Rob Ford has lost a lot of hair in the first 9 months of being mayor of Toronto, and he is pretty unhealthy to begin with.)

#3. Follow the BE SAFE program — Balance, Endurance, Strength And Flexibility Exercises. In general this means cycling, running, swimming, weightlifting and yoga. And various other activities just to make it more fun. ie. Archery.

#4. Don't smoke and avoid over-consumption of alcohol. A bit of red wine is actually good for you. Avoid environmental factors that are bad for you. ie. Noxious fumes and chemicals, food that is burnt / carcinogenic.

#5. The older you get the more you need to exercise. That includes WEIGHTLIFTING and keeping your balance.

#6. Decrease the intake of fatty, sugary, toxin filled foods and eat more healthy choices. Your body (and your sex drive) will thank you for it.

#7. Stay active. Don't let your body go to waste. Take up activities which cost nothing but give you both enjoyment and exercise.

Which would you rather be? A broken down person in a wheel chair complaining about the nurses who won't change your diaper? Or the old fogey at the gym lifting 200+ lbs at the age of 90?

See Also: Anti Aging Techniques

Former kidnapper admitted to bar

CANADA - Its sounds like a plot out of a CSI episode.

A Toronto man convicted of kidnapping a Hamilton woman years ago and holding her captive has been granted admission to the bar by the Law Society of Upper Canada. On August 9th a law society panel approved Alan Honner’s licence application, writing the lawyer “is now of good character.”

Alan Honner, age 30, pleaded guilty to charges of kidnapping and forcible confinement after helping a family accost and abduct their daughter, Mirella Brun Del Re, from a Hamilton street in 2005. They believed Mirella was in a religious cult and were worried she might be involved in a mass suicide.

The panel granted Honner admission to the bar because of his candour about his past as a kidnapper. But you have to admit the kidnapping was not normal circumstances. It wasn't for ransom or sexual assault. The Brun Del Re family was convinced their daughter was in danger and she wasn't listening to reason.

Mirella Brun Del Re, then 21, was held against her will for 10 days in a rented cottage in the Halton region before being transferred to her parents’ home, where an American woman tried to “deprogram” her from the cult. But Mirella Brun Del Re escaped and called police. (It is unclear whether Mirella Brun Del Re really was in a cult, or just a religious group that was a tad weird.)

Kidnapping and forcible confinement charges against Mirella Brun Del Re’s parents were later stayed just before the case was to go to trial.

Ontario’s Law Society Act requires only people with “good character” to be licensed to practice law. The law society requires Ontario applicants to complete 14 questions and offer two references from the legal profession to determine they are of “good character.”

Earlier this year, 29-year-old Ryan Manilla, an Osgoode Hall graduate, had his application rejected because of his aggressive and bizarre conduct as a member of his condo board.

Austin Powers 4: Thunderballs

ENTERTAINMENT - Canadian Mike Myers is reportedly writing on the next installment of his Austin Powers film... possibly named Thunderballs.

The randy British super-spy parody of James Bond hasn't been on the big screen since 2002 (Goldmember).

In a recent interview, Myers has hinted that the plot may focus on the father-son relationship between Dr. Evil (whom Myers also plays) and his son, Scott (played by Seth Green).

Jay Roach, who directed the three previous films, also touted the idea in a recent interview.

“For me, the secret is Dr. Evil. . .the Dr. Evil world of Mini-Me (Dr. Evil’s diminutive clone) and the Scott Evil triangle ... I could just watch that forever. So I hope he (Myers) will dig back into that side of it. Austin’s a great character, too, but we’ve done so much Austin, you know, I’d love to go deeper into Dr. Evil’s world,” Roach said.

However its also been 9 years since the last Austin Powers movie. Does the foppish, shagging-obsessed operative still have his mojo? Or will this be a case of the spy who shagged me only to find audiences have moved on?

And there is spoof titles... the current bet is on "Thunderballs".

Octopussy, Live and Let Shag, Licence to Shag, Shag Another Day? Whatever the end result it will likely be smashing, groovy, baby or shagadelic.

August 13, 2011

Virgin Mobile overcharging you on your bill

TECHNOLOGY - Remember to check your bill. Your cell phone company may be defrauding you.

This doesn't just apply to Virgin Mobile customers either. Rogers, Bell, Telus, AT&T... they're all overcharging customers.

And there is a number of ways they do it.

#1. Company is Forgetful

You sign up for your phone and they "forget" to add a service you requested and then overcharge you that service. ie. You signed up for unlimited text messaging and they instead wallop you with extra charges for every text message, even though it supposed to be unlimited. See Virgin Mobile overcharging me for text messaging.

#2. Extra Fees

Charging you extra for 911, road side assistance, insurance, etc. Things you didn't even sign up for. ie. Bell Mobility is notorious for adding road side assistance to customers' bills without asking them, often adding it to people who don't even drive.

#3. Bogus Fees

These are things like "utility usage", "connection charge", etc. Anything that sounds "official", but they're not legally supposed to be adding to your bill.

#4. Faulty Math

If you've ever had this happen you know they're messing with you.

#5. Multiple Bills

Ever been on a group plan with family members? But for some reason they keep charging you separately straight to your credit card...

HOW TO FIGHT BACK AGAINST CELL PHONE COMPANIES

1) NEVER EVER GIVE THEM YOUR CREDIT CARD INFO. Always use online banking because at least then it forces you to look at your bill and know how much you're paying.

2) Remember to check your bill regularly if it looks like you're being overcharged. Look for anything suspicious.

3) When talking to customer service representatives make it clear you are not paying for their mistakes and demand retroactive changes / credits to your account. If they refuse to make those changes you know its time to start looking for a new company.

4) If you are forced to go look for a new cell phone company refuse to pay your old company anything until they fix the amount they were overcharging you. You may get a few calls from debt collection agencies, but you can explain to them you are not paying Virgin, Bell, Rogers, whatever one penny until they make retroactive changes / credits to your account. (If your credit rating is good a little dent will be worth it to stake a stand for your rights as a consumer.)

5) Remember that you always have rights as a consumer. Don't be bullied by the "big cell phone company". They're the one acting illegally, not you.

6) Organize a boycott on Facebook. Watch it go viral.

For more info check out the Ontario Consumer Protection website.

August 10, 2011

What the heck is a Reverse Mortgage Loan???

POLITICS - You would think the USA would be wary of mortgages and loans, but the truth is mortgages are a necessary evil in today's economics.

A "Reverse Mortgage" (I had to look this up on Wikipedia), one of the few times I actually find use for that website, is a release of equity...

Think of it a bit like selling your house, but slowly...! Its usually only done by seniors who are in retirement and want to slowly sell off their home (and not leave it for their kids).

However there are two types of Reverse Mortgages... large lump sum payments or multiple payments (which can set up monthly, thus giving the senior more money for their monthly budget). Its really for seniors who find themselves stretched for cash as they get older and find gasoline/food/electricity/health care costs are higher than they predicted.

The Reverse Mortgages adds a lien to the property so when the property is eventually sold (ie. the old couple dies or moves somewhere else) then the bank / lender gets their share of the equity from the sale of the property.

It may feel weird getting a Reverse Mortgage (it even sounds weird), but since a lot of Americans lost their jobs during the 2007 - 2009 recession and/or were forced into early retirement it is becoming a reality for many Americans.

There is also the matter of how much you can actually get. It really depends on the interest rates different banks and lenders are offering, where you live (real estate prices and interest rates vary by state and city), thus making it tricky to get an estimate on a reverse mortgage loan. Not an actual loan, just an estimate in an effort to calculate both the value of your home and the amount you can actually get either all at once or on a monthly basis.

If you later find / save / inherit money then you can also pay off the loan immediately. There is no required duration.

The good thing is that if your property keeps going up in value (American real estate prices have hit rock bottom and are now rising again) you won't have lost anything but a bit of equity.

Check out more real estate news at My Search for a Home.

August 9, 2011

Spermless Mosquitoes???

HEALTH - According to a team of British scientists releasing genetically modified, spermless male mosquitoes into the wild could help to prevent malaria transmission and reduce the chances of large outbreaks of the killer disease.

Researchers from Imperial College London have sterilized male mosquitoes by genetically modifying them to neutralize a gene required for sperm production.

Their study determined that female mosquitoes cannot tell if the males they mate with are fertile, or spermless and therefore unable to fertilise the females’ eggs.

The researchers say it might be possible to control the size of the malaria-carrying mosquito population by introducing a genetic change that makes males more sterile. Over time female mosquitoes would then unknowingly mate with the modified males and produce less offspring.

Malaria is a mosquito-borne disease that kills nearly 800,000 people every year. Its threat is greatest in Africa, where one child dies of malaria every 45 seconds.

Health experts and scientists are working towards the global eradication of malaria, but progress is slow and there is a constant need for better and cheaper ways to get there.

Genetically controlling the population is one possibility.

For these currently theoretical control ideas to work in practice, scientists first have to establish whether the insects would continue to mate as normal, unaware that they've lost the ability to reproduce.

After mating for the first and only time in her life, the female mosquito then eats a meal of blood, and lays a batch of eggs. This pattern is the same regardless of whether the eggs are properly fertilised.

In theory another route would be to genetically modify female mosquitoes so they produce less eggs.

However this idea may only have a small impact on mosquito populations. What is really needed is a way to kill large numbers of mosquitoes, but without harming insects like bees which are needed for pollination.

Giant blue electric bug zappers?

ie. California's fruit industry uses large commercial bug zappers. They emit an ultraviolet light which attracts insects and then zaps them with electricity.

However the problem is that bug zappers don't attract female mosquitoes (the only mosquitoes which bite). Thus they're useless for stopping mosquitoes and malaria.

What might work however is a blood-like substance laced with a toxin which female mosquitoes would find attractive, try to injest and then die from the toxin. Essentially it would be like rat poison and be left out to attract and kill female mosquitoes.

Scientists would need to determine what combination of iron, water and other elements mixed together best attract mosquitoes, determine what dosage of the toxin best kills mosquitoes and then test it on a larger scale.

The Practical Vegetarian Diet

HEALTH - Some of you may have heard about the health benefits of being vegetarian or vegan.

And there is a tonne of health benefits (and sexual perks) for those people who choose to go vegetarian or vegan. (There is also fruitarians, but those people are just plain crazy and suffer from a chemical imbalance.)

Vegans typically have less health problems, less headaches, less cancer, more energy and more sexual libido.




However for a a variety of practical reasons the vast majority of people are omnivores because...

#1. Eating omnivorously is more convenient. You don't have to be constantly checking labels to see if there is any animal biproducts in the food you are buying.

#2. Eating omnivorously can be cheaper (but isn't always). Especially compared to people who only buy "organic" fruits and vegetables which have been genetically modified. Organic is really a misnomer... what it means is its "pesticide free", but what they don't tell you is that they use other methods to kill insects... namely toxins in genetically modified plants which poison / deter the insects. However if you're not worried about buying foods that are organic (or grow your own vegetables) then going vegan is actually cheaper...

#3. Eating omnivorously is less stressful. You don't have to worry about vegan alternatives, where to eat, what to eat, who you are eating with, etc.

#4. Because their family / children / friends are omnivores and this creates problems for people socially.

#5. Because they're hopelessly addicted to bacon. (Okay, that is not a practical reason, but you get my point.)

Basically the majority of people can't deal with going Vegan because it just feels like too many rules, too stressful and not practical for their daily lives.

However there is a more practical approach to going vegan or vegetarian... I am not certain what to call this diet... its sort of a "Half Veg Diet"... or a "Veg-Curious Diet". Whatever you want to call it...

The Rules of the Half Veg / Veg Curious Diet

#1. The rules of this diet are really more like "guidelines". You can pick and choose which ones you want to follow. All the rules are OPTIONAL and can be modified as you see fit.

#2. You can make up and add your own rules. Whatever you find convenient or practical for you.

#3. Don't bother buying meat that often. ie. Only buy meat when its on sale.

#4. Avoid eating meat unless its offered to you. ie. You're at a friend's place and they offer you a burger.

#5. Avoid buying dairy or eggs (or other things you know to be non-Vegan) unless you actually need it. ie. You need milk for your cereal.

#6. Try to balance your diet towards more veggies / fruits / berries / grains and less meat/dairy products.

The end goal here is to do several things:

#1. Save money by buying meat less often and/or only eating meat when its either on sale or given to you for free.

#2. Still be an omnivore socially and still be able to enjoy the foods you love. (A bit like someone who only smokes when someone offers them a cigarette.)

#3. Not turn into one of those preachy people who look down on others for being an omnivore. (Not all Vegetarians or Vegans are like that, but there are a few preachy people out there who give the whole movement a bad rep.)

In theory the principles of this diet can also be applied to general dieting with respect to fatty / sugary foods... ie. Only buying fattening or sugary things when they're on sale and/or only eating such foods when they're offered to you and therefore are a treat.

The ultimate goal of the Half Veg / Veg Curious Diet is that you get to enjoy some of the health benefits of being a Vegan, but without going all the way. It also makes a good stepping stone for if you later decide to become a hardcore vegan.

If you do eventually decide to go the hardcore vegan route, you will likely want to learn more about veganism in general. I recommend the blog Beautiful Vegan for further reading. I also recommend the eBook Conscious Evolution available at the author's website or via Lulu.com.

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