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May 29, 2009

Snatch him up

Dwayne McDuffie has been fired from writing JLA due to too much public griping. Let's get him back to Marvel!


By fnord12 | May 29, 2009, 2:17 PM | Comics | Comments (1) | Link



May 28, 2009

Recap #26

If At First You Don't Succeed, Move On To The Next Thing


By min | May 28, 2009, 10:42 PM | D&D | Comments (0) | Link



Top That, Tom Hanks!

Heart and Soul. pffft.


By min | May 28, 2009, 12:02 PM | Music | Comments (1) | Link



Random Lyrics Thursday

As The Seasons Grey by Testament

Take a look, what do you see
Image in the mirror
Yesterday is yesteryear
You'll meet your maker
I know that time grows old
Can't stop the seasons
Shifting sands slip through your hands
Time is gone before it's begun...

Die
A little more
A little more for every day

Lord why
Oh tell me why
Do the seasons slowly grey ?

Days of blue just turn to grey
The picture slowly aging
Nothing left of the memory
Death will not forsake them
God-fearing people say
They are not afraid of dying
So why do they turn to faith
When faith has no meaning in life ?

Time worn
Worn time
Say good-bye to yesterday
After life
Life after
It's all the same

The golden years bring out the pain
Death rolls in like the seasons change
You've lost all hope but still you pray....

Aging eyes that fail to see
The mirror has been shattered
Death's knocking on their door
A vision filled with laughter
I know that time grows old
Can't stop the seasons
And as the end draws near
The story's over before it's begun



By fnord12 | May 28, 2009, 9:11 AM | Music | Comments (0) | Link



May 27, 2009

Mowgli Children

What is with Russia and all their feral children?

Russian police have taken into care a 5-year-old girl who has been shut up in a flat in the company of cats and dogs for her entire life, police said on Wednesday.

The girl, who lived in the Eastern Siberian city of Chita, could not speak Russian and acted like an dog when police took her into care.

"For five years, the girl was 'brought up' by several dogs and cats and had never been outside," a police statement said.

...

Such children have usually built strong ties with the animals with whom they lived and find the transition to normal human contact extremely traumatic.

Link


By min | May 27, 2009, 2:18 PM | Ummm... Other? | Comments (0) | Link



Jellyfish Monkeys

I don't appreciate that the article waits until the very last paragraph to explain wtf breeding glowing monkeys has to do with studying Parkinson's.

Japanese researchers have genetically engineered monkeys whose hair roots, skin and blood glow green under a special light, and who have passed on their traits to their offspring, the first time this has been achieved in a primate.

They spliced a jellyfish gene into common marmosets, and said on Wednesday they hope to use their colony of glowing animals to study human Parkinson's disease and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or ALS.



By min | May 27, 2009, 2:11 PM | Science | Comments (0) | Link



One step closer to the Veggie Gestapo

Veggiedag.

Last year, Rajendra Pachauri, chairman of the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, suggested that the most useful step ordinary citizens could take to help combat climate change would be to stop eating meat. In Belgium, an entire town is taking his advice to heart. The Flemish city of Ghent has designated every Thursday as "Veggiedag" - Veggie Day - calling for meat-free meals to be served in schools and public buildings, and encouraging vegetarianism among citizens by promoting vegetarian eateries and offering advice on how to follow a herbivorous diet.

By fnord12 | May 27, 2009, 5:56 AM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0) | Link



May 22, 2009

All Things Mario

1) is he wearing makeup?
2) his flute seems extra long to me
3) i wonder if he has neck and upper back issues from twisting like that to play
4) god, i don't even want to imagine what the inside of that flute must look like


By min | May 22, 2009, 2:07 PM | Music & Video Games | Comments (0) | Link



Verizon Could Use a Little Customer Service Training

A 62-year-old Carrollton area man was found unconscious and unresponsive Thursday morning during an intense search overnight by Carroll County sheriff deputies, an Ohio State Highway Patrol trooper and the patrol's airplane.
...
Williams said he attempted to use the man's cell phone signal to locate him, but the man was behind on his phone bill and the Verizon operator refused to connect the signal unless the sheriff's department agreed to pay the overdue bill. After some disagreement, Williams agreed to pay $20 on the phone bill in order to find the man. But deputies discovered the man just as Williams was preparing to make arrangements for the payment.

Link

I'm sure Verizon will manage to weather this patch of bad PR just fine. They'll prolly blame it on the operator, fire them, and consider it done. Afterall, it's not like the guy died or anything.


By min | May 22, 2009, 1:54 PM | Ummm... Other? | Comments (0) | Link



Marvel Sales

March


By fnord12 | May 22, 2009, 10:16 AM | Comics | Comments (0) | Link



May 21, 2009

This is Why You Need to Get Your Eight Hours In

Late-night noise from spinning wind turbines on an outlying island of Taiwan may have killed 400 goats over the past three years by depriving them of sleep, an agricultural inspection official said on Thursday.

After the eight turbines were installed in the notoriously windy Penghu archipelago in the Taiwan Strait, a neighbouring farmer reported that his goats had started dying, Council of Agriculture inspection official Lu Ming-tseng said.

Link


By min | May 21, 2009, 3:52 PM | Ummm... Other? | Comments (0) | Link



An Oaky Bouquet With a Hint of Saltiness....

...and urea.

A first for space was celebrated yesterday with astronauts drinking water recycled from their urine, sweat, and water condensed from exhaled air. "The taste is great," said the US astronaut Michael Barratt.

It's not all that different from what we do with our water here on the planet. Did you think it came from a bottomless spring? Or that a cleric conjured it out of nothing? Wastewater treatment plant outflow eventually becomes water treatment plant inflow. Then it ends up in your taps and your bottled water.


By min | May 21, 2009, 3:21 PM | Science | Comments (0) | Link



Fnord Thought You Might Be Interested In Seeing These

Can't imagine why....


The original Walkman



Apparently, they don't have bathrooms at car shows. This kid's social life is doomed.


By min | May 21, 2009, 2:29 PM | Ummm... Other? | Comments (0) | Link



Buckaroo Banzai Had 8 Dimensions

But when one of your dimensions is "polarisation", i suppose i have to cut you some slack.

For the first time researchers from the university's Centre for Micro-Photonics have demonstrated how nanotechnology can enable the creation of 'five dimensional' discs with huge storage capacities.
...
Discs currently have three spatial dimensions, but using nanoparticles the Swinburne researchers were able to introduce a spectral - or colour - dimension as well as a polarisation dimension.'
...
Some issues, such as the speed at which the discs can be written on, are yet to be resolved. However the researchers - who have already signed an agreement with Samsung - are confident the discs will be commercially available within 5 - 10 years.

Link

That's right, sparky. The fourth dimension is color.


By min | May 21, 2009, 2:25 PM | Science | Comments (0) | Link



Random Lyrics Thursday

Games Without Frontiers by Peter Gabriel*

Hans plays with Lotte, Lotte plays with Jane
Jane plays with Willi, Willi is happy again
Suki plays with Leo, Sacha plays with Britt
Adolf builds a bonfire, Enrico plays with it

Whistling tunes we hid in the dunes by the seaside
Whistling tunes we're kissing baboons in the jungle

It's a knockout
If looks could kill, they probably will
In games without frontiers - war without tears
Games without frontiers - war without tears

Jeux sans frontieres

Andre has a red flag, Chiang Ching's is blue
They all have hills to fly them on except for Lin Tai Yu
Dressing up in costumes, playing silly games
Hiding out in tree-tops shouting out rude names

Whistling tunes we hide in the dunes by the seaside
Whistling tunes we're kissing baboons in the jungle

It's a knockout
If looks could kill they probably will
In games without frontiers - wars without tears
If looks could kill they probably will
In games without frontiers - war without tears
Games without frontiers - war without tears

Jeux sans frontieres

*with Kate Bush, who is not saying "She's so funky, yeah!"


By fnord12 | May 21, 2009, 10:32 AM | Music | Comments (1) | Link



May 20, 2009

That's my people.

Report on the Irish Reform Schools is out:

"Often the act of kindness, recalled in such a positive light, arose from the simple fact that the staff member had not given a beating when one was expected."

By fnord12 | May 20, 2009, 10:39 AM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0) | Link



This is How Most People Feel About Their Jobs

A man who left jury duty after lunch because he was "extremely bored" will be back at the courthouse Tuesday to be arraigned on a charge of contempt of court. A police report said officers found the 25-year-old man near his home earlier this month and asked why he skipped out. He said he was bored, and "just couldn't take it" anymore.

[emphasis mine]

Link

If it weren't for the health care benefits...


By min | May 20, 2009, 10:22 AM | Ummm... Other? | Comments (0) | Link



May 19, 2009

Universal Health Care

This started as a private email, but i figured why not blog it...

Broadly, there are four different categories of "universal health care".

---------------------------------------------------

#1 The first is a government mandate that every American must somehow buy insurance, maybe with a subsidy or tax break for Americans who can't afford insurance. This would be similar to how car insurance works. Everyone would have to buy health insurance in the same way that everyone (who drives) has to buy car insurance.

So the benefit of this system is that everyone will have insurance.

One downside is that we will have to pay more in taxes to support those that can't afford it. This might pay for itself though, because right now if people don't have insurance they don't go to the hospital until they are very sick and at that point taxpayers still have to pay for it. By making sure everyone has insurance, people who are sick are likely to see a doctor sooner before they get so sick that it becomes very expensive to care for.

Another downside is that this doesn't do anything to address the cost of insurance. If you are paying a lot for insurance, you will still have to. And if you lose your job, you will have to find a private insurance company, which is likely even more expensive than what you get through your job (and/or you will have to prove that you are now poor enough to merit the subsidy). Health care costs are also a big burden on businesses; one of the major reasons the auto industry is in trouble is because it is having trouble keeping up with rising health care costs. The reason it doesn't improve costs is because it doesn't add any new competition to the mix. It's the same insurance companies. If anything they are now getting an indirect subsidy because the government will be giving money to poor people that has to be used for insurance.

This solution is what conservatives are in favor of.

---------------------------------------------------

#2 The second is a mandate with a public plan. This is the same as the above, but instead of subsidizing poorer people, it extends Medicare to anyone who chooses it instead of making them pay for private insurance. So basically, your choices are either to be on private insurance or be on Medicare. This doesn't eliminate competition, but it actually increases it by putting another player into the mix: the government. So conservatives who say that government run programs are inefficient compared to private industry will get to see that proved out in practice. If the public option is better than what's available through private insurance, then more people will go to that. If the public option is bad, most people will stay on their private insurance and only people who can't afford anything better will be on Medicare. So it shouldn't worry conservatives who believe in the free market (but it does, and it's worth considering what that means).

So this option will make sure everyone has insurance, meaning it has the same benefit as the mandated system. Additionally, it can potentially lower costs because private insurance companies may have to lower costs in order to compete with Medicare.

The downside again is higher taxes, but that may again be mitigated by savings in early health care treatment, and furthermore due to the increased competition.

But it's important to realize that the only control the government has over the health care system in this option is through the insurance. They may dictate whether they'll cover a procedure or treatment. And they'll determine how much they'll pay a health care provider for that treatment. But that's no different than private insurance. And in this option you can always find a different insurer if you want a treatment that the government won't cover (if you can afford it).

This is the solution that the Obama administration is in favor of (in theory, although they seem to be wavering under conservative criticism).

---------------------------------------------------

#3 is a single payer system. This the system used in most industrialized nations. Canada is the model for this system. In this system you don't pay for insurance directly. The government pays insurance companies with tax money. So everyone has insurance and no one has to worry about dealing with insurance companies. You don't have to fill out forms or pay a co-pay when you go to the doctor. You just go. And insurance companies don't go away. They just deal directly with the government, in the same way that weapons manufacturers deal directly with the government. In a single payer system, you can't buy private insurance. The goal is to ensure that everyone has the same coverage and rich people can't buy premium coverage while everyone else gets mediocre coverage. If you have a problem with part of the government policy - i.e., you want coverage to start including a new treatment, or you think there aren't enough doctors or MRI machines in the country, it is handled through the electoral process. You petition your representatives to make the system better, or you vote for the candidate who has the policies you support. So everyone is in the same boat and decisions are made via a democratic process.

In addition to the benefits listed for the other universal health care options, this option also gains efficiencies through consolidation. In a private system, insurance companies are businesses, and they spend a lot of their profits on advertising and marketing. That isn't necessary when the government pays for insurance, so those costs go away, reducing the overall health care cost. Also, each insurance company has its own executives (with executive pay), administrators, and other functions not directly related to insurance. A lot (but not all, since there still are private insurance companies) of that redundancy can be cut away, further reducing costs. And finally, because the government is such a large "client" of the insurance companies, it is in a much stronger position to negotiate costs. If i run a small business of 25 people, and i look at the current insurance companies available, i'm not in a good position to tell them "I only want to pay $1000 per person". But if i'm a government representing millions of people, insurance companies are more likely to negotiate with me. Like with military contracts, there is the potential of corruption.

A downside is increased taxes. The argument here is that while your taxes may increase, if you look at your taxes + health care costs before single payer system and compare them to your taxes with no health care costs after a single payer system, you are going to come out ahead. But critics argue that this isn't really the case and that taxes may increase. Another downside is that consumers effectively have no choice. If the government doesn't pay for a procedure, you can't go to a private insurance company to get it done.

This is the solution that i am in favor of (as are organizations like the Green party).

---------------------------------------------------

#4 The fourth option is socialized medicine. This is the system used in Cuba and in the former USSR. In this system, the government literally runs the health care system. The concept of insurance doesn't really exist, and doctors and other health care providers are employees of the state.

The benefit of this system is that it even further reduces those executive and administration type costs. The government can also directly control how many doctors and what types of equipment are available.

The downside is that there is literally no competition and the chance of corruption is quite high, although that could be mitigated if it were implemented under a democratic government (which has not been the case in real world examples).

This is the solution that socialists and communists are in favor of.

---------------------------------------------------

Everything i've said is a generalization and there's a lot of nuance within each system. But broadly speaking, those are the four categories. And when you look at it that way you realize that what Obama is trying to do isn't all that radical. We are past due for real health care reform. It is a drain on individuals and businesses. Certainly we need universal coverage, but we also need to do something about costs. A solution that only addresses one of those issues (i.e., the mandated plan) is insufficient.

Many people think solution #2 is a backdoor method of getting to #3. Interestingly, the people who think that include both people who have faith in a government run option, and people who profess to be believers in the free market. They both think that people will prefer the public option so much that the private insurance companies will eventually die out. That's true competition at work, so one wonders why free market conservatives would have a problem with it. But i think it is likely that enough people with means will prefer to stay on private plans in order to get advanced coverage. And i think that due to our slow and semi-corrupt democratic process there will be plenty of problems with the public option that will keep some people away. So i think the private insurance companies will stick around, although most likely they will have to restructure themselves according to the new reality. This is why i am in favor of a single payer option. If rich people can't get the treatment they want, they can't just bail out and use their money to go to a private plan. They will have to use their influence to get the public system improved. This helps everybody.

Single payer options actually poll very well in America. But for some reason, our politicians won't come out in favor of it. We do not have bold leaders. This is why Obama is only in favor of option #2, even though as he goes around the country to do townhall meetings he is constantly asked for option #3. He is compromising right out of the gate. The way to negotiate is to go in with something bigger than you want, and then compromise down to what you really want. Obama could have started with single payer. In my opinion he should stick to his guns and live or die by single payer. But he says he can't do that and he has to find something that's politically tenable. So he is starting with the public option. And now he can only go down from there in negotiations. You go in with a good public option plan, and you negotiate with Republicans and conservative Democrats and you come out with a weak public option plan, or no public option plan. Some people think he's not even committed to the the public option plan and he's just using that as his bargaining stick, and he'll eventually negotiate down to a mandate plan with some minor additional concessions from the insurance companies. Which would be really sad. But it's a logical alternative to the idea that he simply doesn't know how to negotiate.

This is why it's important to keep the pressure on our politicians to do what they were elected to do. They are feeling pressure on the other side by insurance lobbyists. We can't rely on our weak leaders to not buckle under that pressure. People who want a good universal health care system need to apply an equal or greater pressure in the opposite direction. As usual, they have the money but we have the numbers. So it's really a question of overcoming our apathy.


By fnord12 | May 19, 2009, 10:56 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0) | Link



Projecting

The Washington Post has storyboards for the ads the insurance companies plan to run to attack the public option in Obama's health care plan. The third one is especially ironic/oblivious. I've experienced that myself many times with the efficient private system. I'm sure a lot of people have. I wonder if this will actually have any effect. I think people are more than ready for a publicly run health care system. But if you're not so sure, you can always drop some money on MoveOn's campaign to counter the insurance companies' message.


By fnord12 | May 19, 2009, 3:59 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0) | Link



May 18, 2009

I've Seen "I Am Legend" But These Scientists Clearly Haven't

The plot of Will Smith's I Am Legend:

The film opens in 2009 with a televised news broadcast with Dr. Alice Krippin (Emma Thompson) who has created a cure for cancer (100% cure rate) by altering the measles virus.

In a post-apocalyptic 2012, U.S. Army virologist, Lieutenant Colonel Robert Neville (Will Smith) is left as the last healthy human in New York City and possibly the entire world. A series of flashbacks and recorded news programs reveal that the genetically re-engineered measles virus (referred to as K.V. or Krippen Virus) mutated into a lethal airborne strain that spread worldwide and killed 5.4 billion people, 90% of humanity. Only 12 million possessed a natural immunity. The remaining 588 million, after initially exhibiting symptoms resembling rabies, degenerated into primal, aggressive beings referred to as "Darkseekers" (the DVD subtitles refer to them as hemocytes) who have a painful intolerance to UV radiation, forcing them to hide in buildings and other dark places during the day. The "Darkseekers" exhibit superhuman speed, agility, and strength. They also retain some problem-solving intelligence and the capacity to organize. The immune humans were killed by the infected in a civil war that took place between 2009 and 2012, or committed suicide.

What scientists are now doing to find a cure for AIDS:

The approach taken in the current study was divided into two phases. In the first phase, the research team created antibody-like proteins (called immunoadhesins) that were specifically designed to bind to SIV and block it from infecting cells. Once proven to work against SIV in the laboratory, DNA representing SIV-specific immunoadhesins was engineered into a carrier virus designed to deliver the DNA to monkeys. The researchers chose adeno-associated virus (AAV) as the carrier virus because it is a very effective way to insert DNA into the cells of a monkey or human.

It always makes me squeamish when they start engineering viruses or genetically altering existing ones. I really wish they'd just make a big vitamin or something for everyone and be done with it.


By min | May 18, 2009, 2:20 PM | Science | Comments (0) | Link



Guard Your Pee Pees, Gentlemen

From the file of "Things That Shouldn't Actually Happen in Real Life":

A Taiwanese man became a sitting target for a snake, which bit his penis as he sat on the toilet at his rural home, local media reported on Monday.
...
Snakes regularly enter rural homes in Taiwan and other sub-tropical regions of Asia.

Link


By min | May 18, 2009, 1:46 PM | Ummm... Other? | Comments (0) | Link



May 17, 2009

SuperMegaSpeed Reviews

Avengers: Free Comic Book Day - I'm amazed that they picked such a strange plot and bad artist to use in the book that was going to be given away to non-comic book readers. But apparently Brevoort has a very different opinon of Cheung. "astoundingly gorgeous". I thought everyone looked ugly to the point of exaggeration, and i thought the action scenes were lifeless and confusing. I did appreciate the story, which references the Ymir/Surtur battle from Dr. Strange #178/Avengers #61 in 1969. And the dialogue was funny. So it was fine for me; i can live with bad art. It just seemed an odd choice for Free Comic Book Day.

Nova #24 - Kind of a typical "newbies go to war" sort of story, but done well enough. Gladiator is way too powerful, but that's nothing new. Interesting to see a Nova story that barely featured Nova, but i didn't have a problem with it. I was confused by the ending, though. Are they saying the the Worldmind has really been Ego all along, or that it's subsequently been infected with Ego, or are they just showing that the Worldmind is in control of Ego? If it's the third, we already knew that, so why the shocking cliffhanger-style reveal?

War of the Kings #3 - See now this is exactly what this series needed: the Guardians of the Galaxy. A raccoon with a mop facing down Gladiator = awesome. But there's Gladiator again, being way too powerful. This entire war pretty much hinges on where his loyalties lie, and that's got to feel limiting from a plot writing perspective. Also, Black Bolt and Medusa are being a little too manipulative towards Crystal. Seems out of character to me. We'll just have to reveal that they've been manipulated by Maximus this whole time. Still, this series is shaping up.

Dark Avengers #4 - The cover depicts the Green Goblin fighting Dr. Doom, which doesn't come close to happening in this issue. I just want to point out that Doom didn't just send Morgan Le Fey back in time. He sent her back to a time when cavemen and T. Rexes were both hanging around. Doom just makes up his own time periods. Who's going to tell him he can't? This is a great book. All the interactions between villains are really fun. Osborn's regret over the Sentry seemingly dying was a good moment, though, especially building on top of their previous discussion. Deodato, now there's an artist you might want to put in front of people for Free Comic Book Day.

Agents of Atlas #4 - I know i've said it before, but this is a book that can't fail to deliver me a talking gorilla every month. And it's got fun retro-sci fi and super-hero fights besides. It's just a good book.


By fnord12 | May 17, 2009, 10:14 PM | Comics | Comments (1) | Link



Like manipulating a child

Take a look at the covers of the reports Rumsfeld used to send to Bush. Has to be seen to believed. I guess the only question is were they all religious wackos or were they just manipulating Bush? I vote for the latter.


By fnord12 | May 17, 2009, 10:09 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (1) | Link



May 14, 2009

Yeah!


By fnord12 | May 14, 2009, 10:24 AM | Ummm... Other? | Comments (0) | Link



Random Lyrics Thursday

Better On Holiday by Franz Ferdinand

Jacqueline was seventeen
working on a desk
when Iver
Peered above a spectacle
forgot that he had wrecked a girl
Sometimes these eyes
Forget the face they're peering from
When the face they peer upon
Well, you know
That face as I do
And how in the return of the gaze
She can return you the face
That you are staring from

It's always better on holiday
So much better on holiday
That's why we only work when
We need the money

Gregor was down again
Said come on, kick me again
Said I'm so drunk
I don't mind if you kill me
Come on you gutless
I'm alive
I'm alive
I'm alive
and how I know it
But for chips and for freedom
I could die

It's always better on holiday
So much better on holiday
That's why we only work when
We need the money


By fnord12 | May 14, 2009, 8:54 AM | | Comments (0) | Link



May 13, 2009

Incoherence

Obama's spokesman Gibbs trying to explain why they won't release the torture photos that the ACLU successfully convinced a judge should be released. Gibbs is usually pretty straightforward so you can tell that something's wrong here.


By fnord12 | May 13, 2009, 9:57 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0) | Link



May 12, 2009

Hey, remember the Green party?

They may have gone to sleep in New Jersey, but apparently they're fairly active in Arkansas (!) and the unions are considering supporting one in a challenge to supposedly Democratic Senator Blanche Lincoln in return for her not supporting EFCA due to her patronage from Walmart.


By fnord12 | May 12, 2009, 11:28 AM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (4) | Link



May 11, 2009

I wonder what they *think* i'm doing

Surely, it isn't working on my comics timeline.


By fnord12 | May 11, 2009, 4:27 PM | My stupid life | Comments (0) | Link



May 8, 2009

WWOOF Vacations

This is kinda kewl if you get an assignment that doesn't require too many hours of actual work, like the Tuscany Wine and Olives one, and you don't have to camp.

The concept of a "WWOOFing holiday" is simple, very cheap and 100% above board: volunteers enjoy free food and accommodation at organic projects throughout the world in return for a number of hours' unpaid work per day.
...
f you want to combine your WWOOFing with a spot of Atlantic surfing or kayaking in a freshwater lagoon, head to Monte da Cunca in the south-western Algarve...WWOOFers work in the organic kitchen garden, build biodegradable straw-bale houses, decorate tourist apartments and look after the goats, donkey and horse.
...
Work on this family-run farm near Riparbella is limited to a civilised four hours per day. The land was converted to organic in 1981 and has welcomed WWOOFers since 1997. You can expect to tend the vineyards and olive groves as well as clearing land and cutting grass. Meals are mainly vegetarian and partially organic and there is room for two volunteers.

Ofc, i would prolly hate the communal thing, being me and all. But learning how to do stuff like build houses or grow real food - it might almost make up for it. Almost.


By min | May 8, 2009, 2:37 PM | Ummm... Other? | Comments (0) | Link



Happy Mother's Day

Mom Sourcing


By min | May 8, 2009, 11:16 AM | Ummm... Other? | Comments (0) | Link



Smithfield Foods Business Model: We Won't Rest Until Everyone Gets Swine Flu

Not content with spreading disease in North America, Smithfield has actually been running its disease-nurturing factory farms in Eastern Europe. And let me just say, the locals were thrilled not to be left out.

Almost unnoticed by the rest of the Continent, the agribusiness giant has moved into Eastern Europe with the force of a factory engine, assembling networks of farms, breeding pigs on the fast track, and slaughtering them for every bit of meat and muscle that can be squeezed into a sausage.
...
In less than five years, Smithfield enlisted politicians in Poland and Romania, tapped into hefty European Union farm subsidies and fended off local opposition groups to create a conglomerate of feed mills, slaughterhouses and climate-controlled barns housing thousands of hogs.

It moved with such speed that sometimes it failed to secure environmental permits or inform the authorities about pig deaths -- lapses that emerged after swine fever swept through three Romanian hog compounds in 2007, two of which were operating without permits. Some 67,000 hogs died or were destroyed, with infected and healthy pigs shot to stanch the spread.

In the United States, Smithfield says it has been a boon to consumers. Pork prices dropped by about one-fifth between 1970 and 2004, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, suggesting annual savings of about $29 per consumer.

...

But Robert Wallace, a visiting professor of geography at the University of Minnesota says Smithfield's global rise is part of a broader "livestock revolution that has created cities of pigs and chickens" in poorer nations with weaker regulations. "The price tag goes up for small farmers."

In Romania, the number of hog farmers has declined 90 percent -- to 52,100 in 2007 from 477,030 in 2003 -- according to European Union statistics, with ex-farmers, overwhelmed by Smithfield's lower prices, often emigrating or shifting to construction. In their place, the company employs or contracts with about 900 people and buys grain from about 100 farmers.

In Poland, there were 1.1 million hog farmers in 1996. That number fell 56 percent by 2008, as the advent of modern farming methods transformed agriculture, according to the Polish National Agricultural Chamber.

Two years ago, Daniel Neag housed 300 pigs in the empty stalls of his windswept farm near Lugoj, in Romania. Since 2005, membership in his breeder association plunged to 42 from 300.

The impact on the environment is even more marked. With almost 40 farms in western Romania, Smithfield has built enormous metal manure containers to inject waste into the soil.

Oh, yeah. That's a good idea. When you have a farm and you buy fertilizer for it, you're spreading a small amount of treated manure ONCE. You aren't injecting tons of pig shit into the ground daily. I'm sure even those of you with little imagination can see how this would turn out. Just ask North Carolina how their manure disposal program's working for them.

Smithfield farms in Romania's Timis County are among the top sources of air and soil pollution, according to a local government report, which ranked the company's individual farms No. 13 through No. 40. The report also indicates that methane gases in the air rose 65 percent between 2002 and 2007.

Taxpayers footed part of the bill; Smithfield tapped into millions of euros in subsidies -- from a total of $50 billion [Euro] available in the E.U. last year -- that are meant to encourage modern farming balanced with care for the environment.

Typical. Can you imagine a small farmer being able to collect any subsidies from the government? Yet, those with money can always get more free money.

Oh, and i love this bit:


Smithfield representatives strongly defend their methods. They say they did everything they could to quash the Romanian swine fever outbreak, and they contend the lack of licenses was an oversight. "We have learned not to assume that a government's awareness of our plans and operations is the same as permission to keep moving forward until we have obtained all necessary permits," Charles Griffith, a company lawyer, said in answer to written questions.

[emphasis mine]


By min | May 8, 2009, 9:43 AM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0) | Link



Crazy Making

I'm too angry to say anything much about this.

Earnest Hammond, a retired truck driver, did not get any of the money that went to aid property owners after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

He failed to qualify for one federal program and was told he missed the deadline on another. But he did get a trailer to live in while he carries out his own recovery plan: collecting cans in a pushcart to pay for the renovations to his storm-damaged apartment, storing them by the roomful in the gutted building he owns.

It is a slow yet steady process. Before the price of aluminum fell to 30 cents a pound, from 85 cents, he had accumulated more than $10,000, he said, almost enough to pay the electrician. But despite such progress, last Friday a worker from the Federal Emergency Management Agency delivered a letter informing him that it would soon repossess the trailer that is, for now, his only home.

This man is 70 years old and he's reduced to scrounging for soda cans to get money.

Thousands of rental units have yet to be restored, and not a single one of 500 planned "Katrina cottages" has been completed and occupied. The Road Home program for single-family homeowners, which has cost federal taxpayers $7.9 billion, has a new contractor who is struggling to review a host of appeals, and workers who assist the homeless are finding more elderly people squatting in abandoned buildings.

Nonetheless, FEMA wants its trailers back, even though it plans to scrap or sell them for a fraction of what it paid for them.

FEMA's claim is that it has done everything it could to help these people. If this is the quality of work they produce, they all need to be fired and fined. Also, i think their homes should be given over to all the Katrina victims. This is the sympathetic punishment. My initial feeling was that they should be beaten with hot irons.

It's been nearly 4 years since the hurricane and they haven't built a single, goddamned Katrina cottage? Those things are designed to be put up in less than a month. WTF?

As of last week, there were two groups still in the agency's temporary housing program: more than 3,000 in trailers and nearly 80 who have been in hotels paid for by FEMA since last May, when it shut down group trailer sites. Most are elderly, disabled or both, including double amputees, diabetes patients, the mentally ill, people prone to seizures and others dependent on oxygen tanks.
"A lot of people are involved in the process of making sure that no one falls through the cracks," said Manuel Broussard, an agency spokesman in Louisiana. "Everyone's been offered housing up to this point several times. And for various reasons, they have not accepted it."

But the dozen temporary housing occupants interviewed for this story said they had received little if any attention from FEMA workers and were lucky to get a list of landlords, much less an offer of permanent housing.

Last year, the Louisiana Recovery Authority was supposed to unveil a more intensive caseworker system for people in temporary housing, but it never materialized. The authority has now asked homeless service organizations like Unity of Greater New Orleans and the Capital Area Alliance for the Homeless in Baton Rouge to help find stable housing for the hotel occupants.

FEMA officials also say that residents can buy their trailers, sometimes for as little as $300. But virtually all of the residents interviewed said they had offered to do so and been told they could not.


By min | May 8, 2009, 9:28 AM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0) | Link



Friday Morning Panda Porn

I wish i could embed it, but the Guardian doesn't offer that option.

Look at them! They're just laying there on their backs eating.


By min | May 8, 2009, 9:05 AM | Cute Things & Ummm... Other? | Comments (0) | Link



May 7, 2009

Random Lyrics Thursday

Don't Destroy Me by Echoboy

My work is done
Thank god for the sun
Endlich urlaub
At last.. a holiday
(Day.. day... day...)

A sense of warm calm energy
Comes slowly over me
A sense of space so i can breathe
Amplify these emotions
I can see the morning
All the phases of my life
The building and the trees
I don't like the morning
All the pages open wide
Makes it clear for me to see
And feel reality

In the light brown lamplight of the moon
My aimless eyes will gaze at you
Feels like i'm floating in the air
A lack solidity

Don't destroy me
I'll take cover
Don't destroy me now
I'll take cover
Find another
Way to pass the time

I can see the morning


By fnord12 | May 7, 2009, 9:54 AM | Music | Comments (0) | Link



May 5, 2009

Asia considering forming its own IMF?

Link:

You will recall that the Asians were forced to go cap in hand to the IMF for bailout funds after the Asian Crisis in the late 1990s. This experience was very humiliating for some and caused extreme hardship as the IMF programs were rather severe and deflationary. Resentment toward the IMF remains as a result.
...
Back in the 1997-1998 Japan proposed an Asian-based IMF, the US objected and the issue seemed to be closed. However, during this crisis, a modified version appears to be in the works and without the international objections.

ASEAN+3 (Japan, China and South Korea) confirmed over the weekend that a $120 bln fx reserve pool will be established by year-end as the Chiang Mai Initiative is expanded. Participating countries can borrow up to 20% of their quote (agreed upon swap ). The other 80% can be accessed only after an IMF-like agreement. At first multilateral agencies, like the IMF and ADB, will be tapped for their expertise, but the intent to be independent is clear. Over time, their own surveillance unit will identify risks and provide oversight.


By fnord12 | May 5, 2009, 12:24 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0) | Link



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