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May 30, 2011

Canadian Debts piling up

CANADA - 51% of Canadians feel uncomfortable about their debts and 33% are embarrassed by their level of debt, according to a survey released by Investors Group.

Almost everyone in Canada has debt, says Jack Courtney, assistant vice president of advanced financial planning, of Investors Group. Many Canadians have been "spending beyond one’s means and without foresight."

The survey found many Canadians borrow in an effort to cope with day-to-day expenses. The biggest debts are still mortgages, but borrowing to just get by (living paycheque-to-paycheque) is a bad sign that Canadians aren't making enough money and have too much debt. The third biggest category is debt accumulated by spending on holidays, entertainment, recreation and vacations.

The problem however exists in that many Canadians aren't taking their debts seriously. They figure that if worst comes to worst, they can just declare bankruptcy. That is bad news for banks which will end up holding the bag if too many Canadians default on their debts.

33% of Canadians admit to losing sleep over their debt problems.

25% say debt talk has lead to arguments with their partners.

28% have gone into debt to make a investment.

18% have taken on debt to upgrade their skills or return to school.

33% have used debt to invest in home renovations.

25% are considering drastic steps to reduce what they owe, either by delaying retirement or working at more than one job.

51% of Canadians with debt say their personal and household debt has decreased in the past year.

31% say their debt makes them feel as though they have achieved acceptable financial status because they are considered credit worthy.

40% think they have less debt than their friends while only 19 per cent think they have more.

15% say it is the result of bad budgeting and overspending and eight per cent say they believe they will never climb out of debt.

Some Canadians are hoping to cut back on their debts and are poised to cut their spending after two years of wracking up record debts during the Great Recession.

Still it could be worse. The USA is in far worse state than Canada is.

According to a separate report from the Boston Consulting Group, Canadians are facing a period of belt tightening.

51% of Canadians believe that the worst of the economic downturn has passed.

However 90% of Canadians report they will spend the same or less compared to last year.

44% plan to decrease their spending.

46% plan to spend the same amount.

Only 10% plan to spend more.

Canadians spent their way through the recession and are now feeling the pinch, says Cliff Grevler, a Partner and Managing Director in the Toronto office of BCG. In an effort to avoid the poor house many Canadians just kept spending during the Great Recession, raising household debt in Canada to record levels. Canadians took advantage of low interest rates and their debts skyrocketed.

The average Canadian credit card debt was $4,600 in 2010, up approx. 10% from $4,200 in 2008. And there is another problem... less Canadians are paying off their credit card debts. In 2008 only 23% of Canadians carried a balance on their credit card. In 2010 38% of Canadians now have credit card debts that they aren't paying off.

It should be noted that America's average credit card debt has been going down. $8,200 in 2008 to $6,700 in 2010.

But that is small peanuts compared to the amount of debt Canadian mortgages has piled on.

Which means if economic bumps happen a larger percentage of Canadians are now in a position to renege on their credit card debt (this is what happened in Asia in the late 1990s during the Asian credit crisis).

Last year, 38% of Canadians reported reneging on their credit card balance at least one month. That is a dramatic increase from 27% in 2008.

In the USA in 2008 50% of American households were reneging on credit card balances. In 2010 Americans have gotten better, down to 46% reneging.

An economic bump like raising interest rate could spell economic disaster. 15% of mortgage holders say they could not sustain a rise in interest rates of 2% or less. That 15% would effect about 850,000 homes.

80% of Canadians think they’re better off than Americans.

66% think they’re better off than Europeans.

Only 33% of Americans express optimism about the economy.

75% of Canadian consumers report spending more time shopping around for better prices.

75% of Canadians report buying "fewer things" over the past 12 months.

86% of Canadians report to have bought more often “on a deal” or "on sale" over the last 12 months.

More Canadians also said they plan to cut spending on non-essential spending and delay big ticket items.

80% of Canadians believe they’re better off than Americans.

78% of Canadians buying fewer luxury products

75% of Canadians spending more time shopping for better prices.

66% of Canadians believe they’re better off than Europeans.

51% of Canadians agree the worst of the downturn is behind us.

20% of Canadians say they’re not financially secure.

36% of Americans say they’re not financially secure.

$50 Fat Tax?

By Suzanne MacNevin - May 2011.

HEALTH - The state of Arizona is thinking of creating a $50 Fat Tax in an effort to discourage obesity. The annual $50 fine would be imposed on overweight Medicaid recipients who don't follow a strict health regime as set by their doctor.

Its a sign that governments are starting to get desperate to lower obesity rates in America. The costs of obesity to the US economy and health care system are starting to wrack up, and worse America has developed a horrible reputation for being "fat and lazy", a concept which hurts the USA's global reputation.

Governments, in an effort to save money, are looking to take desperate action. Ideas like income tax rebates for gym memberships, bicycles, exercise equipment are being batted around.

Other ideas like taxing fatty foods have also been promoted, but America's corrupt food industry keeps bribing the right officials to keep their products on the shelves untaxed. The idea of taxing or banning foods is argued to be counter to the idea of American freedom of choice.

ie. If Americans want to obese and eat fattening foods constantly, that is their choice.

However taxing Medicaid patients has a problem... its meant for poor families who are unable to pay for medical costs. Such a tax would effectively be "taxing poor fat people".

The program would also fine the parents of poor obese children. But parents of rich obese children wouldn't get taxed at all.

The total cost of Medicaid (both state and federal parts) is approx. $340 billion per year. Due to obesity levels and an aging population the costs are expected to go up 8% per year.

In exceptionally fat states, the cost is ballooning out of control. Especially since the American Recession has caused many more Americans to fall below the poverty line and recovery has been very slow.

However avoiding a $50 fat tax doesn't seem like much of an incentive does it?

I'd argue that overweight people spend WAY more on groceries per year anyway. Getting rid of unnecessary junk food alone would save a single person hundreds of dollars per year. For a family of 4 scrapping junk food (except for special days) could save a whole whack of money.

Don't believe me? Do a test.

Cut out junk food from your budget for a month. Including fast food when eating out. Calculate how much you saved. Multiply by 12. Even if you only spent $30 / month, that amounts to $360 per year.

$360 would buy a nice bicycle...

Its like when you quit smoking and suddenly realize you have lots of extra cash. No more "one pack per day" = a lot more cash in your pocket.

I argue therefore that people should never go on a diet and/or exercise just for the sake of a mere $50. Do it for yourself. Save yourself a whack load more money. Become a healthier, happier version of yourself.

Watch your love life / sex life improve too. You will be happier more often and less likely to get depressed. Over time you will realize that you were in a slump and were eating because you were sad.

Finding happiness in execise and eating well is more difficult, but it is there. It is just a matter of effort.

In Britain the government has been debating a fat tax for almost a decade now and the UK isn't even that overweight in comparison to the USA. A whole lot of football (soccer) fans in Britain and there is a stronger belief in walking or cycling to work.

Take myself. I don't own a car. I live in Camden (London, England) and 90% of what I need is walking distance from me. If I need something farther away I can bicycle there or take the Underground.

Of course not everyone lives in a location that they can travel to what they need so easily. But if you do, it just takes a few minutes to get to where you need to go. No need to drive. Walking an extra hour/day burns an average of 150 calories/day. Over the course of a month that is 1.28 lbs you've just lost (3,500 calories = 1 lb).

Lets say you walked 2 hours per day for a year. That is almost 31 lbs just from walking alone. Add jogging, weightlifting, yoga and other activities to your lifestyle and you will see faster results. ie. Weightlifting burns 700+ calories per hour (or 1.4 lbs per week, but you will also gain some muscle mass).

See Also:
Calories: Food Vs Exercise
Ab Exercises

May 28, 2011

Mayor Ford to raise taxes and add road tolls

CANADA - According to a consultant hired by the city of Toronto, Mayor Rob Ford will need to bring in new road tolls and congestion charges (and new taxes) to pay for his $4 billion expansion to the Sheppard Subway line. It is “the biggest transit deal in North America, or perhaps the world” and it won't be cheap.

Rob Ford has previously claimed the city could raise the money from the private sector, but according to Gordon Chong, ex-city councillor, ex-chair of GO Transit, ex-TTC commissioner and now chair of the Toronto Transit Infrastructure Ltd., such a claim isn't realistic. The private sector isn't going to invest $4.2 billion in a project that will take decades to see any kind of return.

Indeed some city councillors are now feeling deja vu. Remember Sarah Thomson's proposal for a massive subway expansion? She proposed using road tolls/etc as well, an idea that Rob Ford at the time openly poked fun at.

But now apparently Rob Ford is in a position to flip flop on that idea and add road tolls.

As well as tolls, there will need to be increased government grants, unprecedented development fees, revenue tools not used here before, plus the public-private partnership Mayor Rob Ford covets in order to make the project happen, Gordon Chong says.

Last year a poll was conducted and determined that 70% of Torontonians disliked the idea of a $5 road toll on the DVP and similar freeways in Toronto.

It was these naysayers who formed the backbone of Rob Ford's electorate during the mayoral election, following Rob Ford's promises to cut fees, introduce no new taxes and to put a stop the "gravy train" in City Hall.

Except the gravy train hasn't stopped. If anything it has gotten bigger. Since getting in power Rob Ford has hired his friends as consultants to "determine cost effective ways to save money", involved himself in rank nepotism and has yet to actually do much in the way of cutting off the source of gravy.

If he really wanted to cut the gravy train here is what you do:

#1. Fire all the consultants.

#2. Use committees made up of volunteers or people already on the city payroll to do any consulting work.

#3. Cut back on costly perks.

#4. Retire unnecessary staff early.

#5. Fire unnecesary staff who aren't pulling their own weight and don't replace them.

#6. Track which city employees spend most of their time at work socializing, on Facebook, not doing any real work... and fire them.

#7. Cut back on useless meetings (if you've ever worked for the government, you know what I am talking about).

#8. Pay off any high interest debts.

#9. Cutback on the highest paid staff first.

#10. Cutback on executive staff salaries. They either take a pay cut or a pink slip. (Executives are waaaaaaaay over paid and often do very little actual work.)

We should note however that Rob Ford probably won't do even half of this list. Its much more likely he will go the road toll route simply because its easier and less of an headache.

We should also note that the $4.2 billion needed for the new subway expansion will be funneled through a company run by Rob Ford's brother, which has outraged city councillors and Torontonians alike.

In related news...

City Councillors forming Committees behind the Mayor's back

Mayor Rob Ford’s slipping grip on the city agenda has resulted in city councillors launching their own committees and task forces. The committees range in topic from child care to environmental issues.

For example Mike Layton has formed an ad hoc group to replace the cycling advisory committee, which is among 20 citizen groups Rob Ford is trying to scrap. The future of such groups are now in limbo because Rob Ford wanted to scrap them, but city council voted against the idea and told him to take another look at these groups and report back in July.

Mike Layton (Ward 19, Trinity-Spadina), son of federal NDP Leader Jack Layton, was upset at the possible loss of the cycling committee and asked himself: “Why don’t you just start your own?” Mike Layton would then become the committee’s voice at council.

Another committee is about traffic gridlock, and to be headed by Josh Colle (Ward 15, Eglinton Lawrence) who wants to talk with drivers, pedestrians, transit users, cabbies, cyclists and business representatives on solutions to Toronto gridlock problems. (Although we should note gridlock doesn't really bother cyclists. They just laugh and ride by all the cars.)

John Filion resigned from the government management committee, because Rob Ford’s office ignored his requests that the mayor return to the planning and transportation committee. Filion (Ward 23 Willowdale) says he will visit meetings, without a vote, but says he is now planning on starting his own committee.

UPDATE



Mayor Ford is now denying he has any plans to use road tolls to find funding for the Sheppard subway expansion. Ford says he is “totally opposed” to road tolls, but its still possible he might flip flop on that idea. It wouldn't be the first time a politician has been known to flip flop on their promises.

The mayor's brother Doug Ford also says “road tolls are not going to happen.” but he is also a politician and the brains of the pair.

The city would need provincial approval to impose tolls, but that is really just a formality.

The mayor still thinks he can pay for the subway extension via a public-private partnership. He has not explained how such a plan would work and its really just an idea right now with no substance. No corporations have stepped forward and said "Hey, we'd like to lose $4.2 billion on a long shot that we will eventually get our investment back."

There is a federal infrastructure fund, but that contains only $1.2 billion for all of Canada. On a per capita basis Toronto would only get approx. 250 million of that money.

Finding another $3.95 billion would be a real challenge because at this stage its not lucrative.

The only promising route might be to sell "air rights" to real estate developers looking to build skyscraper condos directly above new subway stations or existing subway stations. Air rights would go for approx. $600 per square foot. The city would only need to sell 7 million square feet of air to condo developers to raise the necessary $4.2 billion.

May 25, 2011

Death toll on North American roads dramatically down

By Ai Lung Nguyen - May 2011.

CARS - Compared to decades ago the number of people who die in car accidents have dropped dramatically.

Let us start in Canada, where the death toll is at its lowest level since the Canadian government began keeping statistics more than 45 years ago.

The latest Transport Canada statistics show the number of people who died in traffic collisions declined 8.7%, to 2,209 deaths in 2009 compared to 2008. That compares dramatically to 6,706 deaths in 1973 and similar years.

Note that Canada's population has also gone up during this period of time, from 22,494,000 in 1973 to 33,894,000 in 2009. So despite the growth in population, road deaths are still down per capita. From 1 in 3,354 in 1973 down to 1 in 15,344 in 2009. That is a per capita decrease of approx. 78.2%.

Since the Canadian government started compiling road collision data in 1965, 2009 marks the fourth consecutive year where fatalities have declined despite more licensed drivers and vehicles on the road. From 1999 to 2009 annual road fatalities have dropped 26%.

In the United States we see a similar trend. Fatalities have dropped to historical lows, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Both governments attribute the lower death tolls to safer vehicles, stronger laws, stricter enforcemen, public-awareness campaigns about drinking and driving, wearing a seat belt, avoiding distractions (ie. cell phone use, etc).

We have to remember that back in 1973 not many people wore seat belts. Only after decades of public awareness campaigns do the majority of people now wear seat belts. The trick now is whether campaigns against drunk driving and cell phones will smarten people up.

We should note that one person dies on a Canadian road every 4 hours.

In the USA its 1 person every 16 minutes (remember the USA has 9 times the population of Canada).

US Car Accident Deaths / Year
2000 41,945
2001 42,196
2002 43,005
2003 42,643
2004 42,836
2005 43,443
2006 42,642
2007 41,059
2008 37,261
2009 33,808
2010 32,708

The leading causes of car accidents are:

Drunk Driving
Reckless Behaviour
Distractions
Elderly
Inexperience

Personal Note: Speaking as someone who travels a lot, its nice to know that car accident fatalities are dropping significantly. I think it makes a difference in your psyche when you get in a car with a driver whom you quickly realize is a HORRIBLE driver. Your knuckles go white with fear and you keep wondering when they are going to have an accident.

It makes me wonder if the government should track "problem drivers" and either revoke their licenses or force them to take remedial driving lessons until they learn how to drive properly.

May 22, 2011

Apocalypse: 2012, 3797, or never?

RELIGION - If you missed the failed Rapture yesterday predicted by American millionaire evangelist Harold Camping, don't worry there is another chance the world might be destroyed on December 21st 2012.

See Apocalypse fails to happen.

December 21st 2012 is the day the Mayan long calendar comes to an end and a fresh calendar starts. Some religious folks however have taken this to mean the world will be destroyed on that day. It should be noted however that its just a calendar and the Mayans were not prophets.

Nostradamus however was a 16th century prophet, and he predicted a much farther away date... the year 3797. Or 3786, depending on which version of Nostradamus you read.

It should be noted however that Nostradamus' predictions were so vague they are very open to interpretation and have known to be completely wrong and off the mark.

ie. Nostradamus predicted that World War Three would start in July 1999 when Europe is invaded, the war will last until 2026 and an American city will be burnt to the ground.

HOWEVER, Nostradamus did something unusual which covers his predictions if they prove to be false. He said that mankind has the option to change/prevent his predictions from happening, simply by choosing another path. Thus his predictions aren't guaranteed. Amusing move for him to make, it makes him seem right even when he turns out to be wrong.

Here is a prediction for you...

2012 will come and go, some cults will commit mass suicide, but otherwise nothing major will happen.

3797 will come and go too, nothing spectacular will happen then either. Hopefully by then mankind will be out colonizing the galaxy and using intra-galactic travel.

And the Earth won't be destroyed, or at least not for billions of years when the sun finally goes supernova. The surface of the sun is around 5780 Kelvins and would need to go up several thousand degrees Kelvin and turn blue long before it goes supernova. It takes 15,000 years for the sun's surface temperature to go up just 1 degree Kelvin.

There is an asteroid which might hit the Earth in 2029, but the chance is minimal. Only 2.7%. In which case there is a 71% chance it would hit water and cause a tsunami. If it hit land it would destroy approx. 18,000 square km, an area 20% smaller than the state of New Jersey.

So it wouldn't be the Apocalypse, just a big impact crater.

There is also a tiny chance the asteroid could hit earth's gravity at a specific angle, fall into orbit and become a 2nd moon. Which would be interesting.

May 21, 2011

Apocalypse fails to happen

RELIGION - If you were one of thousands of people expecting the Rapture today, as predicted by Harold Camping to happen May 21st 2011 at 6 PM, you were sorely disappointed. There was no rapture, no earthquakes, no zombies.

Just a sunny day, sometimes cloudy, maybe some rain, depending on where you lived.

Some believers were so fanatical they gave away all their earthly possessions or cleaned out their bank accounts.

Meanwhile multi-millionaire Harold Camping, rich off his popularity and donations from thousands of followers, is avoiding the mass media and privately claiming he must have made a math error like he did before in 1994.

The Oakland California headquarters of Family Radio International meanwhile is set to expand, having plundered the wealth of thousands of would-be Rapturites.

One might wonder what United States laws say about fraudulent behaviour. True, they're "donations", so Harold Camping hasn't committed fraud because everyone gave their money willingly, but making these Apocalyptic predictions and getting rich off the gullible should be illegal.

Related Topic: Judgment Day is tomorrow, so sayeth cult

Macho Man dies in car accident

ENTERTAINMENT - Randall Mario Poffo, aka Randy Savage, aka the Macho Man, the legendary professional wrestler known for his deep raspy voice, sunglasses and bandannas, has died in a car accident earlier yesterday (May 20th) when his car went across oncoming traffic and collided head-on with a tree in Florida. He was 58.

Police believe he may have suffered a heart attack or stroke, causing him to lose control of the car. Officials need to perform an autopsy to know for sure.

A woman in the vehicle, Barbara L. Poffo, 56, Randy Savage's current wife, suffered minor injuries. Both were wearing their seatbelts.

“Poffo will be greatly missed by WWE and his fans,” said a statement from the WWE. “Our sincerest condolences go out to his family and friends. We wish a speedy recovery to his wife Lynn."

At 6'2" and 237 pounds, Randy Savage was a charismatic wrestler known for his “Oooh Yeah!” catchphrase. He was a champion wrestler in Vince McMahon's World Wrestling Federation, and later Ted Turner's now-defunct World Championship Wrestling. He wore the championship belts many times during his career. He had retired from wrestling in 2004.

For much of his career, his manager/companion was Miss Elizabeth. Elizabeth Hulette was his real-life wife, but they later divorced, and Hulette died in 2003 at 42 in a prescription drug overdose. Many performers in the WWE die young, even those not wrestling.

To name a few...
Curt (Mr. Perfect) Hennig, died of a cocaine overdose in 2003 at 44.
Chris Benoit, killed his wife and son and then committed suicide in 2007, age 40.

Randy Savage was known for his flying elbow off the top rope move, often mimicked by amateur wrestlers everywhere. He was also known for his rivalries and friendships with Hulk Hogan, Ricky Steamboat and Ric Flair.

Dwayne (The Rock) Johnson calls Randy Savage as one of his childhood inspirations and heroes, while Mick (Cactus Jack) Foley says Savage was “one of my favourite performers.”

“He had so much life in his eyes & in his spirit, I just pray that he's happy and in a better place and we miss him,” Hulk Hogan writes.

Note: The WWF changed their name to WWE years ago after losing a lawsuit from the World Wildlife Foundation.

Before becoming a wrestler, Randy Savage was a minor league catcher in the 1970s for St. Louis and Cincinnati. His father, Angelo Poffo, was a longtime wrestler, and his brother, (Leaping) Lanny Poffo, was also a 1980s WWF favourite.

During and after his wrestling career Macho Man appeared in a number of TV shows and films, including Walker Texas Ranger, The Weird Al Show, Baywatch, and the 2002 film Spider-Man as the wrestler Bonesaw McGraw. He also did voice acting for a variety of animated shows including Family Guy and King of the Hill.

May 20, 2011

US Investigators find Osama bin Laden's porn stash

POLITICS/SEX - US investigators going through Osama bin Laden's computer and other materials from his secretive compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, have found Osama bin Laden's secret stash of pornography.

Investigators won't say what the stash of naughty photos and videos contains, but prying eyes want to know.

And the rumours are circulating wildly. Everything from the silly to the outrageous. Suffice to say such material will never see the light of day, and the rumour mill will be turning non stop now.

Its bad enough the White House is refusing to release photos of a dead Osama bin Laden to confirm to the world that he really is dead.

There is even just a possibility this is all just a rumour started by Homeland Security in an effort to demoralize Osama bin Laden's ragtag band of followers by besmirching his name.

If so, expect more news in the future that Osama bin Laden really wasn't a Muslim and that he had secret Satanic writings, that he privately committed all sorts of sins, that he didn't pray towards Mecca, etc.

As long as they don't find any of Osama bin Laden's personal notes admitting that he didn't plan the September 11th attacks and pointing out that he never took credit for it.

Judgment Day is Tomorrow, so sayeth Cult

By Charles Moffat - May 20th 2011.

RELIGION - According to a cult based in California, Judgement Day is tomorrow (May 21st 2011) and Jesus Christ will return to the Earth and bring about the Apocalypse.

So what will you be doing during the rapture?

I was thinking of going to the beach tomorrow and enjoying a bit of 'God's green earth'.

Strike me down for being a non-believer, but I don't think the world will come to an end tomorrow.

Oh I suppose there is a tiny minuscule chance I could suffer eternal damnation for mocking this cult and they turn out to be correct, but lets face it, I mock every cult that claims "The end is nigh!"

Now if it was the Catholic Church or some other major religion claiming that Judgment Day is tomorrow, that would be more interesting and potentially dangerous if lots of people believe it and go around looting and killing people, causing general anarchy for 24 hours before it settles down and people realize "Hey, I guess we were wrong."

The cult in question will feel pretty silly on Sunday when their prediction turns out to be false. They're basing their belief on "five months of supernatural earthquakes and unspeakable suffering", namely the earthquakes in Haiti, Chile, Japan, etc.

Harold Camping, the founder of Family Radio, a California-based evangelical Christian radio network and cult, who says the world will end tomorrow whether the rest of us believe it or not.

“The Bible guarantees it!” says Family Radio’s website. The non-profit network of evangelical radio stations has posted 3,000 billboards about the apocalypse across the world, including 85 in Canada. They focused mostly on English speaking nations because apparently non-English people don't matter.

Harold Camping, age 89, who also predicted the world would end in 1994 (except it didn't last time, so why does he expect to be correct this time?), claims to have reached his conclusion after studying the Bible and mathematically interpreting a timeline of ancient events. (Camping says he made several math mistakes in 1994.)

According to Camping, the Apocalypse, End of Days, actual time of Rapture will occur at 6 PM Eastern Standard Time, or 2 AM if you live in New Zealand. A series of massive earthquakes will then destroy the earth. Only true believers will be airlifted to heaven and anyone left on earth will fight to the death earth until October 21st, when God will decide whether to completely destroy the planet.

Or Harold Camping is off his rocker again (frankly I think he fell off it years ago and never regained his seat).

EXTENDED COMMENTARY

Believing in any kind of Dooms Day scenario is really rather counter productive. People should be trying to improve the world around them, acting as caretakers to the earth in an effort to make it better.

If we take a religious perspective I would argue that people who believe in the Apocalypse and 'want it to happen' are actually committing several sins:

#1. Sloth - Refusing to do any work to improve the world around you because you think the world will be destroyed anyway. Being lazy for such a reason is like saying you can't go do work on a sunny day, because its too hot, or on a rainy day because its too wet, or a cloudy day because its too depressing. Excuses, excuses.

#2. Wrath - Being angry against non-believers is no reason to wish them all to die. Wishing for the Apocalypse just so you can punish your neighbour is a clear sin. Thou shalt not wish for your neighbour to die just because you don't like his or her beliefs.

#3. Pride - Thinking that you are right and everyone else is wrong is a clear sign you lack humility. Therefore thinking that the Apocalypse will happen and that you will be one of the few who will be saved (the Bible says only 12,000 people from each of the 12 tribes of Israel shall be saved) assumes 2 examples of pride: That you are a member of one of those 12 tribes, and that you are actually a good enough person worth saving.

I would argue therefore that people who believe in the Apocalypse are inherently believing in their own damnation through a combination of vanity, laziness and hatred for their fellow human beings.

I would also argue that people in the world whom practice the Seven Virtues are few and far between. They are:

Chastity
Temperance/Self-Control
Charity
Diligence
Patience/Understanding
Kindness
Humility

How many chaste, charitable, hard-working, patient, understanding and kind people are there in the world whom have good self-control and a strong dose of humility? Very, very few.

I think humility is perhaps the most important one. Humility is the key to unlocking all other virtues.

And you don't have to be religious to appreciate said virtues. An atheist or agnostic could benefit from practicing being virtuous. It is just a matter of letting go of your pride.

The world might end someday, but wishing it to happen isn't going to make it come any faster. Our sun isn't about to go supernova just because you don't like your neighbours.

May 19, 2011

Toronto Schools to host the largest solar project in Canada

CANADA - The Toronto District School Board has approved a $445 million deal to add solar panels to almost every school in Toronto over the next 20 years, at no extra cost to taxpayers. It will be the biggest rooftop solar project in Canada.

The company (AMP Solar Ltd.) installing the solar panels will spend $121 million to repair and renovate school rooftops, and in exchange will gain the exclusive rights to put solar panels on the rooftops. AMP Solar Ltd. will be responsible for construction, technology, power generation, financing, roofing, operations and maintenance. Furthermore the Toronto school board will get a share of the profits from selling the electricity and will be paid rent for leasing the rooftop space.

AMP Solar Ltd. will install panels on up to 450 of the board’s 524 roofs, fixing the worst roofs in the first three years. Once installed the solar panels are expected to generate 66 megawatts of green energy per year, enough for 6,000 average Toronto homes.

The school board is now getting phone calls from other educators around the world for details, hoping to get a similar program at their schools.

“This is groundbreaking; this reduces greenhouse gases and provides a learning opportunity for our students and leaves a legacy for more than 20 years — this is extraordinary,” says Toronto District School Board Trustee Howard Goodman.

“Our students will not only be able to track the relationship between sunlight and electricity production, they will be going to school every day in a working power plant,” says Goodman. “This will make abstract concepts tangible and inspire many of them to build their own small-scale model power plants, look into the work of Einstein, ponder the mysteries of quantum physics, investigate the economics of power production and consider the relative environmental and health impacts of different energy sources.”

COMMENTARY

We think there is potential here for what we might term "Responsible Sponsorship". Some schools in the USA are accepting sponsors in an effort to keep their athletic programs, but sadly these sponsors are often promoting junk food and sugary drinks.

Responsible Sponsorship would mean only accepting sponsors which fulfill a helpful purpose that benefits society. ie. Tobacco = Bad. Bicycles = Good. Evidently local companies would be preferred. Even neutral companies like "Local Furniture Ltd." would be better than say McFattyBurger... and the furniture company could build all the desks, furniture, etc. for the school, but in exchange get advertising space in the school and any school publications (which parents would then see, and think "Hey, maybe we should buy our next sofa there.").

Food for Thought.

May 16, 2011

Toronto ranked the 2nd Best City in the World

CANADA - New York City has been ranked the best city in the world in an annual report of the top 26 “Cities of Opportunity” by PricewaterhouseCoopers. Toronto placed 2nd and San Francisco placed 3rd.

Its not a surprise that NYC got the top spot, but what is a surprise is that Toronto beat out other cities like San Francisco, London, Paris and Hong Kong.

Indeed, Toronto blew away a lot of the competition. The report’s grading process placed Toronto 31 points behind the Big Apple. Toronto was 23 points ahead of San Francisco, and many more points ahead of the other contenders.

Toronto has it all. A strong economy, good schools, low crime, everything.

Look at the 10 specific categories that make Toronto great:

Intellectual capital and innovation: Toronto placed 2nd

This category measures university graduates, classroom size, literacy rates, math and science skills. Only Stockholm did better.

Health, Safety and Security: 2nd

Toronto’s relatively low crime rate scored big points in this category. Toronto's hospital performances are also fabulous. Toronto was just one point behind Stockholm.

Demographic and livability: 3rd

Toronto attracts and retains talent. Toronto had the highest ranking for quality of living and life satisfaction, and scored points for its low “natural disaster risk.” Stockholm again ranked first.

Lifestyle assets: 4th

Toronto’s cultural vibrancy and impact, art galleries, sports teams, green space, hotel rooms, etc. New York City was 1st in this.

Sustainability: 5th

Toronto tied with Mumbai for the 5th spot. Toronto has low air pollution, and is ranked high in waste recycling. But Toronto's carbon footprint is still huge. Berlin ranked 1st.

Economic Clout: 7th

Toronto's immunity to the financial crisis helped here. Toronto was competitive but was outmuscled by Singapore, Madrid, Hong Kong, New York, Paris, and London.

Cost of Living: 5th

Toronto has a relatively low cost of living, and is also listed as the cheapest place for a business trip. But Toronto's tax rate and cost of business occupancy is higher.

Ease of doing business: 5th

Toronto is one of the easiest cities in the world to do business.

Technology readiness: 11th

Toronto’s Internet services, cellphone/wireless network, etc. is good, but nothing spectacular. We don't even have cellphone service inside subways. Istanbul has better broadband quality.

Transportation and Infrastructure: 13th

While Toronto ranked first for the number of skyscrapers being built, it fared poorly for its small subway system, the high cost of public transportation and an insufficient number of licensed taxis. Toronto taxis are also ridiculously expensive compared to many other cities. The quality of San Francisco’s cable cars, Chicago’s “L” train and the Metro in Paris all caused those cities to be ranked higher.

CONCLUSIONS

So Toronto is great, but we definitely need to improve our subway system and wireless networks.

Who will be the next Bernie Madoff?

POLITICS - There are murderers who will get out of prison before Bernie Madoff does. New York financier Bernie Madoff is serving a 150-year sentence for pulling off the largest Ponzi scheme in history. He will die in prison long before that number is fulfilled.

To his benefit, Bernie Madoff pleaded guilty and his case didn’t go to trial. Which left lots of unanswered questions about how he managed to pull off the biggest Ponzi scheme in history, and begs the question of whether other people out there are doing the same thing and just haven't been caught yet? When did he start cooking the books? And how did he get away with it for so long? Who will be the next Bernie Madoff?

Diana B. Henriques, a New York Times financial writer who knew Madoff during the 1980s, has written a fascinating book that reads like a novel: "The Wizard of Lies: Bernie Madoff and the Death of Trust" (Times Books, $34.50).

The book reveals a lot of the faults in the U.S. financial system and how easily someone could run a Ponzi scheme and defraud their investors. The real trick is whether they have the brains to leave the country and disappear when they have the chance.

With books like this, and films like "Inside Job", which reveal just how corrupt and useless the American government is, it makes you realize how much big business now controls the USA.

The book begins with Bernie Madoff’s first on-the-record interview with Henriques in a North Carolina prison in August 2010.

Madoff insisted his family knew nothing about the fraud — a claim the author came to accept, since his wife and two sons didn’t flee (as they could have) after his surrender.

In a second interview in February 2011, Madoff had “shockingly changed” after his son Mark’s suicide at age 46 in December 2010. He is thin, almost fragile. What had been confident magnetism has weakened into a troubled intensity,” she writes.

Henriques isn't able to pinpoint the date when Madoff started his Ponzi scheme, using cash raised from later investors to pay the profits promised to earlier investors.

But she does find irregularities going back to 1962, when he erased losses from his clients’ accounts by buying their new-issue shares back from them at the original offering price – hiding the fact that their profits had been wiped out by the market’s turmoil. It was trickery in an effort to maintain his reputation and keep bringing in new and more wealthy investors.

“In the heyday of its success, a Ponzi scheme is amazingly painless,” Henriques theorizes in her book. "At first, you just see gratitude. It seems to be such a gentle crime – until the awful day when the music stops.”

What she means is that at first the Ponzi Schemer thinks they're doing a good thing, by paying their clients the full amount they promised them, even though it means defrauding other clients.

But its important to note how difficult it is to catch this kind of fraud.

“With his ability to disarm even the most sophisticated institutional investors, Bernie Madoff revealed how diabolically difficult it is for regulators to protect the public in the 21st century,” she writes.

Investors crave certainty. Thus Ponzi schemes will always be with us, because investors are too dumb to realize when an investor's reputation is "too good to be true". They just see a sure thing and fall into the trap laid for them.

Investors are looking for something easy and simple to put their investment money into, riskfree with high dividends... and Ponzi schemers like Bernie Madoff present that opportunity because their reputations are so flawless.

Many of today’s investors stubbornly insist they can find an investment wizard who can produce a totally safe investment yielding 8% a year. (Just like gamblers who think that they will eventually find a winning combination at the racetrack that will beat the odds.)

“What went wrong was their rejection of the basic bedrock principles of investing — that high returns are leg-shackled to high risks; that you should never put all your eggs in one basket; that you should never invest in something you cannot understand.”

What makes matters worse is when investors make decisions based on trust, they don’t read the fine print. Bernie Madoff learned that once trust is earned it will protect a con man from every red flag. The investors will just keep coming back, like gamblers to their favourite bookie.

“This is the hard lesson of the Madoff case that none of us wants to accept,” she writes. “We all invest on faith. We all believe that trust is all we need — indeed, most of us don’t have enough time or information to rely on anything but trust."

Because if we had time or information to do our own investing, we wouldn't be going to hotshot investors like Madoff in the first place.

“If regulators and policy makers don’t acknowledge this, their approach to the chronic problem of market fraud will be limited and ineffective.”

The next Bernie Madoff is already out there, working in secret somewhere, exploiting our trust and growing over confident in their ability to keep the web of lies spinning. Will they make a run for it when they realize everything is falling apart? Or will they go down with the sinking ship like Madoff did?

There is no heaven, says Stephen Hawking

RELIGION - Theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking says there is no heaven and no room for heaven or any other fairy tales in his explanation of the cosmos.

In an interview conducted in London England, the 69-year-old physicist says the human brain is a like a computer that will stop working when its components fail. We just die and that is the end of it.

Hawking says: “There is no heaven or afterlife for broken-down computers; that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark.”

In his book “Grand Design”, Hawking declared that it was “not necessary to invoke God... to get the universe going.” Instead the universe is like a giant clock. It keeps going and going because it has to. There is no end to it.

Hawking says he is not afraid of death, but adds: “I’m in no hurry to die. I have so much I want to do first.”

See Also
The Philosophy of Atheism
An Atheist Perspective on Death

May 14, 2011

Flatscreen TVs, how flat can we get?

ENTERTAINMENT/TECHNOLOGY - Flatscreen TVs are getting thinner and thinner and lighter and lighter...

So lightweight companies like Samsung, Sony, LG, Logitech are pushing the idea that they're super easy to transport. Its essentially the same technology used in iPads and tablets, but on a larger scale.

Of course, no serious person is going to carry a whole TV around with them... unless they really want it to get stolen or broken. But its really just the concept that they're that easy to transport.

In the case of Samsung they're also pushing the idea that their TVs are "Smarter", as per Web TVs and Internet TVs, or whatever name you want to call them. The concept here is to make TVs more like SmartPhones, so people can do a lot more on them than just watch TV or browse the internet. This new era of TVs will come with downloadable games (just like a SmartPhone) so that even if there's nothing on TV, people can just play a game instead.

Which promises to really open up the market for makers of video games.

It also means the market is now ready for "Wireless TV", meaning you won't need an antennae, cable or satellite any more. It will just automatically connect to the wireless network the same way your cellphone does.

But you can be sure it won't be cheap. Wireless providers will probably be charging a fortune for service.

May 13, 2011

Heat Stroke killing more children locked in cars

ENVIRONMENT - When you were little were you ever locked in a hot car while your parents' went into a store to run an errand?

Chances are likely you've been in that situation. Its an old mentality. Its not so bad if your parents at least park the car in the shade and/or give you a drink before running their errand.

These days however governments have taken a tougher stance against parents' who are negligent about their children and heat stroke.

In 2010 a record 49 children died in the United States after their parent(s) locked them in the hot stuffy car without anything to drink.

In the USA it is a misdemeanor charge to leave a child in a locked car on a hot day. If the child is injured or dies it becomes a felony.

The thing is however that we keep breaking heat records thanks to global warming and climate change. Thus the rise in children' deaths due to being locked in cars on hot days is just a sign of the times.

Part of it might also be Global Warning Denialism, parents' who don't believe global warming is real and thus don't take the heat stroke threat seriously.

But when it comes heat stroke statistics there is no doubt that the USA is getting hotter and hotter. The average car-related heat stroke deaths for children used to be 5 around 1990, but it has been going up steadily in recent years. The average for 2008-2010 was 42.

If that isn't proof global warming is a real threat then some parents out there need their heads knocked together in an effort to drill some sense into them. Perhaps the heat has addled their brains so they aren't thinking straight, it might explain why so many dull-witted people keep locking their kids in their cars. The symptoms of heat stroke include dizziness, confusion, headache, fatigue and forgetfulness. Extreme cases cause disorientation, strange behaviour and hallucinations.

In other words perfectly rational parents could easily make mistakes if they themselves are suffering from heat stroke without realizing it. The solution therefore is to always bring plenty of cold drinks for both you and your kids.

May 11, 2011

The Facts about Budget Travel

By Ai Lung Nguyen - May 2011.

ENTERTAINMENT - Planning on going somewhere this Summer but don't want to spend a lot? Think BUDGET. And you will be surprised at how fun, easy and cheap it is.

As a "professional traveler" myself I have been to so many countries now I've lost track, and likewise I've lost track of how much money I've managed to save and stretch farther by staying with friends, "thinking cheap", and learning to find transportation on the fly.

Fact! Hostels are not "dirty or sketchy"

For $5 to $12 / night you get a clean / safe hostel room (some of them are shared dorms), clean sheets, crisp white blankets. You have to wait your turn to share the bathroom but otherwise they're pretty good. They even have lockers to store valuables. Check hostelworld.com to search for where to stay and compare user feedback. You probably won't even see a bed bug.

Fact! Street Food = Reasonably Healthy

If it was making the locals sick, the locals wouldn't be eating it. True, it will often be deep fried or greasy, but its super cheap and good for when you want to get food in a hurry and don't want to break your budget. The added benefit is you don't need to worry about tipping, and the added grease will give you extra energy for walking so you won't feel as tired. (Remember to bring a toothbrush however.)

Some of the foods may be oddities you've never seen before, ie. deep fried squid on a stick, but they're well worth the try if you like seafood.

If you have any food allergies and are travelling in a non-English country it might be best to learn phrases like "I am allergic to peanuts." and "Is there any peanut oil in it?" You get the idea.

Fact! Learn to think Poor and you will save oodles!

Its not just students or unemployed people who travel on a budget. You will meet lawyers, doctors, businessmen, computer programmers, whatever... I myself am a dental hygienist. Often these people have been traveling for awhile so you can get lots of useful tips on how to save money and "think poor".

Fact! You can barter your services to save money!

If you have an useful skill or trade you can barter them to save money. ie. If you were a plumber that would be very useful. As a dental hygienist I sometimes give people cleanings and carry the necessary tools and cleaning alcohol in a small kit. It weighs very little, but I've discovered its very useful, especially in 3rd world countries where dentists are rare.

Fact! You can still do everything you want to

Some attractions in North America are expensive to get into (ie. DisneyLand). but globally they are pretty inexpensive.

Taj Mahal, India - $18 or 750 rupees
Angkor Wat, Cambodia - $20 USD for a one day pass
Halong Bay, Vietnam - $43 USD for a 3-day trip

And the kewlest places to visit are often free, like Buddhist temples, night markets, waterfront concerts, meditation courses, mountain hiking, hot springs, etc.

If you get a Lonely Planet guidebook to the region you are exploring you will find lots of cheap/free venues to explore.

Fact! Making friends saves money

Sharing taxis, getting a free place to spend the night, some hot food for free, a hot shower or a soak in the tub... these don't just save you money but keep you sane when your travel schedule becomes too hectic. Sometimes its nice to just relax at a friend's place and kick off your shoes.

Fact! You don't have to plan much!

Sometimes when I plan trips I start weeks (or even months) in advance and start checking how much it will cost to get there, where to stay, etc.

However if you don't plan every little detail it doesn't seem to make much difference. You still end up finding nice places to stay and sometimes you find unexpected deals not advertised in any guidebook.

For example it’s cheaper in Asia to book tours and accommodations locally. Many low-cost guesthouses and tour companies aren’t listed online or in any travel book, despite super low rates of $5 / night.

Conclusions

What you quickly discover is that budget travel is both cheap and easy. You might even decide to bring camping gear, another excellent option. But my recommendation is that you travel as LIGHT as possible, so any sleeping bags or tents you carry should be as small as you can get.

May 10, 2011

Microsoft buys Skype

TECHNOLOGY - Microsoft is in the final stages of a deal to buy Skype, the popular VOIP phone service. It is Microsoft's biggest acquisition in its 36-year history with Skype being valued at $8.5 billion USD. The sale became official earlier today.

Which is a bizarre price when you consider Skype has comparatively low profits and a chunk of debt.

The previous biggest acquisition was the $6 billion purchase of ad service aQuantive in 2007.

The purchase of Skype gives Microsoft a valuable communications tool as it tries to gain ground online vs. Google, which itself is gaining ground with both Google phone and its growing majority of the smartphone market. Google's Android OS is now used in over 55% of all smartphones.

Skype has 663 million users worldwide who make voice and video calls over the Internet, amounting to 207 billion minutes of phone calls in 2010 according to records.

HOWEVER we should point out the only reason people use Skype (or Google Phone) is because they're both (for the most part) FREE. Trying to make a profit off a free service is like going to India and hoping to find and Outback Steakhouse. Futile.

As a result Skype is really more of a "money losing enterprise" than the type of company that actually makes money. In 2010 Skype's losses was $7 million, despite efforts to boost revenue.

It makes sense that the previous owners (Ebay Inc.) might want to sell it and ditch their sinking ship. Instead they thought they might sell shares of their company by making an initial public offering of stock. The IPO is now forgotten since Microsoft is apparently dumb enough to think they can make money off it. (Its likely Microsoft will add Skype as a standard feature on all Windows systems in the future, thus becoming the default VOIP service for internet users. Whether they can make money off it is another matter.)

Microsoft says it will also be adding Skype as a feature available on future Xbox game consoles, Outlook Email and Windows Mobile smartphones.

Three years ago Microsoft made a desperate bid to buy Yahoo! for $47.5 billion bid... although it should be noted that Yahoo! stocks are undervalued (they're deliberately deflated by constantly splitting the stock) when you consider Yahoo! still maintains impressive global profits, and thus Microsoft's bid was ridiculously low.

We would estimate the real value of Yahoo! of being in the range of $110 billion (approx. $84 per share for 1.31 billion shares). Furthermore Yahoo! profits continue to grow steadily, up 84% in 2010.

Thus Yahoo! executives laughed off Microsoft's attempt to bid on their company.

In related news Facebook is thinking of getting into the VOIP business too, a risky move considering Facebook (like Skype) has its own problems with healthy profit margins.

NOTE: Ebay Inc. bought a 70% stake in Skype for $2.6 billion in 2005, but failed to unite the phone service with its online shopping business and has since given up trying. The other 30% was owned by private investors and equity firms.

Liberal Party implodes with infighting

CANADA - The Liberal Party of Canada, which suffered its worst defeat in Canadian history and has been reduced to a mere 34 seats in the Canadian parliament, has turned to fighting amongst themselves over who's fault it is and what to do next.

Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff did try to claim some of the blame for himself, but really the problem is deeper than that. The Liberal Party is a DINOSAUR on the verge of extinction. The party has aligned itself with moderate-centrist voters during a time when Canadians have been polarized to the left and to the right. There simply are not enough moderate voters to support the Liberals at the standards they are used to. They've become obsolete.

Normally what would happen now, the wisest course of action, would be to hold a leadership convention and determine who should lead the Liberal Party (and hopefully push it either to the left or the right, but not both).

But instead the party is bickering about when they should even have a leadership convention, which should happen around the end of October. But instead some party members have decided to have a special convention on June 12th to vote on amending the party’s own constitution so they can delay picking a new leader until 2012.

They argue they need time to pick a good leader. Hogwash. The obvious leader is Bob Rae, who it is believed will lead the Liberals towards unification with the much larger and more to the left NDP. This merger would be the wisest route and bring about the necessary change the Liberals so desperately need.

But instead the Liberal Party members have decided to fight amongst themselves over the best course of action, delaying the leadership vote, delaying any possible merger with the NDP, and are basically imploding their own party. Apparently political suicide is preferable to surrender.

Price gouging and record gasoline prices

CANADA - Gasoline prices reached a record high today in Canada and according to tomorrowsgaspricetoday.com the average price of gas in the GTA will soar 6.5 cents to hit a record $1.39.6 per litre today.

It should be noted that the price of oil is only hovering around $102.55 USD, so why the huge jump in gasoline prices?

Its because gas companies are gouging consumers and taking advantage of the situation. The average price compared to last year at this time was 96.3 cents. That is a 43.3 cent difference.

A year ago the price of oil was hovering around $84 USD, so its only seen a rise of $18 (up 22%) since then. Why then are gasoline prices up a whopping 45%?

The answer is because the oil and gasoline companies are gouging consumers to the tune of 23%.

Note: Some economists believe that gasoline prices are effectively a type of tax on consumers. Countries end up collecting revenue from the oil/gas companies, so higher gasoline prices = more government revenues. But higher gasoline prices hurts the economy by raising transportation costs.

See Also: Hundred Dollar Oil

May 5, 2011

May Movie Trailers

ENTERTAINMENT - Can't wait for this Summer's movies? Watch the trailers for May and make a list of the ones you want to see. We will be adding more posts for June, July and August in the future.

Friday May 6th

THOR - The first of many superhero films coming out this summer. Like viking gods? This one is sure to please.


SOMETHING BORROWED - Romantic comedy about a girl who sleeps with her best friend's future husband.


JUMPING THE BROOM - Drama about rich people, marriage and unreal expectations.


THE BEAVER - Mel Gibson tries to revive his career with a comedy directed by Jodie Foster.


EVERYTHING MUST GO - Comedy about a man who gets fired, locked out of his house and decides to sell everything.


PASSION PLAY - Mickey Rourke falls in love with a stripper who is young enough to be his granddaughter.


Friday May 13th

BRIDESMAIDS - Comedy chick flick about 40-something women having a party.


PRIEST - A superhero flick about a post-apocalyptic world where Vatican-trained warrior priests fight demons, vampires and worse.


HESHER - Heavy metal guy teaches kid how to laugh again and ignore the brutality of life.


Friday May 20th

PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: ON STRANGER TIDES - Johnny Depp returns to make young women drool and laugh all over again. Blackbeard, mermaids and zombies oh my!


MIDNIGHT IN PARIS - Woody Allen finally puts some decent big name actors in one of his romantic comedies.


Friday May 27th

THE HANGOVER PART II - A bunch of guys get drunk and wake up in Bangkok.


KUNG FU PANDA 2 - Panda needs to save the world when all the Kung Fu Masters start disappearing.


THE TREE OF LIFE - A drama about fatherhood and growing up, just weeks before Father's Day.

Reporters confusing Obama and Osama

ENTERTAINMENT/POLITICS - We've all done it. Confused the names Obama and Osama at some point.

Its just funnier when the news media does it.

The following clip is from Jimmy Kimmel Live! and features news broadcasters mixing up the names of President of the United States Barack Obama with that of dead terrorist Osama bin Laden.

Broadcaster Carolyn Jarvis, who is shown several times making the mistake, is a correspondent for Global National and Global’s weekly newsmagazine, and anchors the Saturday edition of Global National.

May 3, 2011

Who will replace Osama Bin Laden?

POLITICS - For decades during the Cold War the Soviet Union was the devil incarnate. Inflated the threat to unbelievable levels and it was only after the fact we learned most of it was just mythology and paranoia.

During the early 1990s Iraq and Saddam Hussein became the new focus.

Following September 11th terrorism and Osama Bin Laden...

But now that both Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden are dead, who will we make the new devil? Who is the new enemy that needs to be vanquished?

Possible Baddies include:

Muammar Gaddafi / Libya

Kim Jong Il / North Korea

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad / Iran

Of course there is also the conspiracy theorists who believe Osama Bin Laden isn't really dead. There was no photos or video of Osama Bin Laden's dead body, he was buried at sea, and no proof he actually died. There were fake photos made by members of the media, but that hardly counts. People aren't going to believe it until they actually see photos and/or video of Osama Bin Laden dead.

The same thing happened with JFK and Che Guevara. Photos of their dead bodies had to be released before people could really believe it was true.

And back to the devil idea... Does the United States really need to find a villain overseas? Certainly they could villainify someone in their own backyard and improve their own country for once instead of stirring up trouble overseas.

Bob Rae touted as new Liberal leader

CANADA - As Michael Ignatieff has resigned as leader of the Liberal Party of Canada its now up to one of his fellow party members (presumably one which actually got elected as a MP) to replace him.

At the top of the list is BOB RAE.

Bob Rae is the former premier of Ontario and has decades of experience in both provincial and federal politics. He has distinguished himself as an elder statesman. Plus he is Bilingual, which is pretty much a necessity.

At the age of 62 however Bob Rae has mused publicly about a merger with the NDP. This would actually be a good thing in our opinion. The Liberal Party is old, stuck to its traditions, too moderate, too centrist and too status quo. In a time when the world is changing around us Canadians need a party which is willing to evolve.

And if that means a merger with the NDP, its probably past due.

Other possible contenders are:

Dominic LeBlanc (never heard of him)

Justin Trudeau (39 years and still wet behind the ears)

David McGuinty (his brother is the current premier of Ontario, and none too popular)

Unless Jean Chretien suddenly comes out of retirement its basically a guarantee Bob Rae will be the next leader of the Liberal Party.

Which means it is likewise pretty much a guarantee we will see a merger of the NDP and the Liberals. So what will the name be...

The Liberal Democratic Party?

The Democratic Liberal Party?

The Democratic Party?

The New Liberal Party?

Evidently they will need to hold a party convention just to discuss the new name.

See The Canadian Political Spectrum.

Egad! Digital Cameras and Video Editing Software!

TECHNOLOGY - We are on a quest to find video editing software that is top notch, doesn't charge an arm and a leg, and is super easy to use (like your illiterate 5 year old kid could use it).

Last year Lilith News bought a new camera, an el cheapo Canon camera which came with a video function. Photography wise we don't have any complaints, but we scarcely use the video function because of three reasons:

#1. Even though we bought an extra large storage disk, the amount of time you can actually record is rather pathetic.

#2. We have difficulties getting the video off the camera and onto a computer properly. It sometimes develops errors while transferring the file from the camera to the computer. Maybe we are doing something wrong. Not sure.

#3. Once we have the video on the computer properly, its an issue to edit it. Since our computer runs Windows 7 (arrrrrggg!!!) it instead has "Windows LIVE Movie Maker" instead of the classic "Windows Movie Maker" (which was a much better program in terms of its range of options, ease of use, etc).

What we wish was that digital cameras and video cameras came with compatible *HIGH QUALITY* video editing software. You know, something which is standardized but really good quality, similar to the classic Windows Movie Maker but with even more options.

A friend of ours has recommended Honestech Video Editor, which unfortunately costs $59.99. There is a free version that we are planning to try using sometime, but there is a watermark on the video. According to CNET its only got 2.5 stars out of 5 and the reviews were mostly disappointment.

Sadly in the field of digital cameras/video cameras there is a lot of competition, both in hardware and the editing software. Every company out there is trying really hard to be "the cool one", but it would be nice if they went a step farther and was also the smart one.

Lets take for example the Samsung SH100, as seen in the video above and the photo shown here. It doesn't look very special.

But what is smart is that it has WiFi connectivity. It allows users to upload their images to the internet (to a location of their choosing, ie. Facebook or Picasa). This effectively means you have UNLIMITED space to store photos and/or videos made using the camera.

Furthermore the camera can be used remotely, like a spy camera, via the internet. That is impressive. And with video recording capabilities of 720p the quality is pretty good.

So that would solve problems #1 and #2 which we listed up above. But what about video editing?

Well as it turns out this camera DOES come with video editing software, a program by the name of Intelli-Studio. According to the video tutorial below Intelli-Studio is pretty easy to use and similar to Windows Movie Maker (which is exactly what we want).

So yeah, that solves problems 1, 2 and 3. The only problem is we're stuck with our Canon camera for now. The Samsung retails for $249.99 CDN.

80 Mobsters Arrested

POLITICS - Italian anti-mafia prosecutors have captured 80 Mafiosi from two prominent crime syndicates, arrested in separate operations in an effort to round up drug smugglers in Italy and Spain.

Anti-Mafia investigator Renato Cortese says 40 were arrested for association with the ‘Ndrangheta crime syndicate in Calabria.

Amongst those arrested are the mayor of the town of Marina di Gioiosca and three of his advisers.

In a separate operation, police arrested another 40 people in Naples from a separate crime syndicate known for trafficking drugs between Italy and Spain. The suspects have ties to the Neapolitan crime syndicate Camorra.

May 2, 2011

Conservatives win majority government

CANADA - Hell hath frozen over, so says supporters of the NDP and Liberals, but to political pundits the new Conservative majority government of Canada comes as no surprise. Thanks to vote splitting, it was actually predictable.

Its now after 12 midnight so we can legally post results: Conservatives won 167 seats, which means they will form the first majority government since 2004. The NDP won 102 seats, the Liberals 34 seats, the Bloc 4 seats and 1 independent (Green Party leader Elizabeth May finally managed to scratch out a seat).

See The Canadian Political Spectrum.

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

The Good

The NDP won over 100 seats for the first time in Canadian history. This signals that Canadians want change and are unhappy with the Conservative/Liberal status quo. The Liberal Party has become too moderate and too centrist in recent years, unwilling to change. This left a large part of the electorate dissatisfied and looking for change.

The Bloc has been reduced to 4 seats and could spell the end of the Separatist movement in federal politics. They lost official party status and will be marginalized. They couldn't even get their leader elected.

The Bad

The Liberals have dropped to their smallest size in Canadian history. Michael Ignatieff didn't even get elected and has resigned in defeat. The party tried to rest on its laurels and prided itself on tradition. Its time for the Liberal Party to consider unification with the NDP or be resigned to the history books for failing to evolve.

The Ugly

The Conservatives won a majority government. This means that their policies will finally be given room to breathe. Policies which have hitherto caused social uproar, everything from wanting to ban gay marriages and make abortions illegal. Harper has repeatedly said they will not reopen the gay marriage and abortion debate, but politicians aren't exactly known for keeping their word.

OSAMA BIN LADEN IS DEAD

POLITICS - Osama Bin Laden was killed last night by a helicopter raid in the town of Abbottabad, Pakistan. The raid on Osama Bin Laden's fortress in western Pakistan was a daring attack vs a small army of bodyguards. President Barack Obama made the announcement last night.

Note: The lead up to and the final assault is sure to become a feature film.

Osama Bin Laden, the leader of Al Qaeda, was shot in the head while fighting back against the helicopter assault force. One of Osama Bin Laden's sons died with him.

Osama Bin Laden was living in a house in the town of Abbottabad that was “custom built to hide someone of significance” according to US intelligence officials.

Abbottabad is approx. 100 kilometres from the Pakistani capital Islamabad, far from the remote mountain caves along the Pakistan-Afghanistan tribal border where it was believed he was hiding.

Instead Osama Bin Laden was living in a million dollar mansion just a stone's throw from the Kakul Military Academy, an army run institution where top military officers train.

Osama Bin Laden has been in hiding ever since September 11th 2001, accused of plotting the terrorism attacks of that terrible day.

The 5-year-old compound Osama Bin Laden was hiding in was guarded by 12 to 18 feet high walls, barbed wire, burned its own trash so people wouldn't snoop through garbage, had no phone or internet connections to the outside, internal walls and two separate security gates. It was practically a prison already.

The building was 8 times larger than other homes in the area and stuck out like a sore thumb. Its amazing people didn't question who actually lived there, and with the military academy so close it seems odd. It was really a matter of time before someone in US intelligence noticed the strange building during visits to the nearby academy.

As it turns out it was a Pakistani informant who told the USA where to find Osama Bin Laden. The informant told the CIA about a courier who worked for both Khaled Sheikh Mohammed and Abu Faraj al-Libi, both high ranking Al Qaeda members. The CIA then tracked the courier to the compound, which kick started an investigation into who might be living there.

The helicopter raid started being planned weeks ago...

On March 14th President Obama held the first of a series of 5 high security meetings to plan the operation. The last meeting was Friday at 8:20 a.m.

Following the meeting Obama traveled to Alabama to witness the damage from the recent tornadoes.

Many critics and conspiracy theorists have long believed that Pakistan might be hiding Osama Bin Laden within their border. The proximity to their highest ranking military academy suggests possible collusion with the Pakistani military.

The team of helicopter pilots and the assault crew are already being hailed as heroes. No Americans died during the assault.

Osama Bin Laden's body was recovered during the assault and American forces are now debating what to do with it. Like JFK and Che Guevara it will likely have to be shown publicly before people will believe he is dead.

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