Surveillance update

London has 10,000 publicly funded crime-fighting spy cameras at a cost of USD400 million, but four out of five of the regions with the most cameras have a record of solving crime that is below average.

A comparison of the number of cameras in each London borough with the proportion of crimes solved there found that police are no more likely to catch offenders in areas with hundreds of cameras than in those with hardly any.

The figures were obtained using the U.K. Freedom of Information Act. [Evening Standard via Wired]

Losing our cap

Graphic of 2007 Arctic summer iceThis is the best graphic I’ve found showing this year’s summer ice with the long-term average represented by the pink line.

“The sea ice cover this year has reached a new record low,” says Mark Serreze, senior research scientist at the U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colo. “It’s not just that we beat the old record, we annihilated it.”

Full report at Scientific American

Hydro-pirates

There’s another black water contributing to America’s falling standing among the people of the world.

It takes 1.5 gallons of water to make a quart of Coca-Cola.

In March 2000 Coca-Cola opened a plant near a village in southern India to produce 1.2m bottles of Coca-Cola, Fanta, Sprite, Limca, Thumbs Up, Kinley Soda and Maaza every day. The company drilled more than six wells and illegally installed high-powered electric pumps to extract millions of gallons of pure water.

The level of the water table fell from 150 to 500 feet below the surface. 260 drinking water and irrigation wells have run dry. Local women were forced to walk about 3 miles to fetch drinkable water. Part of India’s rice bowl, local crop yields plummeted.

Coke dumped waste into paddy fields, canals and wells; then into dry boreholes that had been drilled on-site for the disposal of solid waste. This contaminated the aquifers. In 2003 the district medical officer advised the people that their water was so polluted that it was unfit for consumption.

How had the company addressed the problem?
It allegedly bribed officials and then sought national leverage. And it hired a public relations firm to pump its green image by giving $20 million to the World Wildlife Fund.

But these weak efforts seem to be failing. India’s Supreme Court has declared Coca-Cola’s property rights do not extend to the ground water below the land it owns, adding that nobody has the right to appropriate the lion’s share of a public resource and the government has no power to license vast quantities of extraction. The Supreme Court has rejected appeals.

Both Coke and Pepsi products are now banned in the state. The Indian parliament has banned the sale of Coke and Pepsi products in its cafeteria finding more than 30 times the toxins allowed in overseas products.

As recently as January 2007, human chains formed around Coca-Cola and Pepsi factories across India.

Protesting Coca-Cola in IndiaFull report here, via Bruno Giussani
Originally published in LeMonde 2005. More coverage here.
KillerCoke.org is dedicated to bad news about Coca-Cola.

Fair where fair is due

The president of Mattel recently apologized to the Chinese saying that the magnet-related recalls were due to the design and had nothing to do with whether the toys were manufactured in China.

A total of 17.4 million toys were recalled because of loose magnets, while 2.2 million toys were recalled over impermissible levels of lead

Tipping sanity

Pamela’s top tips for staying sane

Soothing touch. The warmth of human contact. We all need it, especially when we are sad or in pain.

Cry if you need to. Allow yourself to sob; it is a marvellous, healing release.

Exercise. There are many psychological benefits to be gained, including reduced feelings of depression and anxiety.

Seek humour in your life. It is very healing to laugh. Humour reduces stress and sadness.

Keep learning. We thrive on mental stimulation, and it can help protect us against dementia and mental atrophy as we age.

Write. Writing down your thoughts, and especially feelings, helps to soothe and organise emotions.

Eat nutritious, well-balanced meals. There is a relationship between mental health and a decent diet. Feed your brain.

Don’t abuse alcohol and drugs, and keep use to a minimum. Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant.

Contact nature. A visit to the botanical gardens or even peeking at the stars will provide us with a calming sense of our place on the planet.

Learn to give and receive love.

Shall civilization be respected?

Allan Dumfries is merely typing a comment under an article, but doesn’t he say it well?

Do not judge lest you be judged. Surely some degree of common humanity would not be amiss as we jump to condemnation of these often mentally ill inmates. Let Society abhor the crime but find some measure of forgiveness for the criminal for by that virtue shall our civilisation be respected.

Momentary progressive bliss

What’s the latest report on the status and power of the evangelical right wing?

I recently learned there’s a breed farm in Colorado Springs that’s spawning Dominionist Christians to convert lonely soldiers stationed at 174 of our military bases.

Why should we worry?

“They are, in short, responsible for a great many of the most notable social and intellectual embarrassments in America since the new millennium took hold, and rest assured, we and the rest of the civilized world shall recall their bleak accomplishments for much of our natural born lives, and shudder.

Mark Morford is offering choice words of comfort.

Oh yes, by all means please take a moment to look around, ye who might be feeling a bit hopeful and optimistic right now.

Because indeed, you’ve got your wonderful and ever-accelerating green movement, your lovely mixed-blessing organic food movement and your rejuvenated attention to solar power and sustainable buildings and organic cotton and fair-trade coffee and clean energy and CFLs and urban recycling and sleek gorgeous modern vibrator design to make hip women of the world swoon.

We’ve got urban smoking bans and Smart cars and women finally rising to the most powerful positions in the land. We’ve even got an increasing awareness (BushCo, the Middle East, and China gruesomely excepted) of industrial pollution and global warming, all maybe indicating a subtle but still profound shift away from traditional modes of waste and war and our everlasting thirst for death and all possibly pointing to a happy delicious karmic sea change toward light and health and love for all beings everywhere for all time, as the butterflies and bunnies and birds all hum and smile and sing. Mmm, utopian.

But wait, why stop there? While we’re wearing these swell rose-colored glasses of momentary progressive bliss, let us go one big step further.

Because right now, there is perhaps no greater item we as a struggling human ant farm can be grateful for, no single social emetic we can look to for inspiration or hope or a happy tingly sensation in our collective groinal region indicating a possible move away from our long-standing Dick-Cheney-in-hell attitude of shrill bleakness, alarmism and religious righteousness than the simply wonderful implosion of the evangelical Christian right that’s happening right now in America.

Forgotten carbon miles

Waste during the rush hourCongestion is getting worse in regions of all sizes.

Three weeks worth of fuel is wasted for the average U.S. resident.

Read 1000s of articles promoting the new green or, heaven forbid, demanding new green taxes to drive us off the road, there’s little or nothing about wasting billions of gallons crammed in 1000s of gasoline spillways that no corn crop can conquer.

And look!
Not one recommended fix for crawling 72 hours a year in gridlock requires a dead Iraqi.

  • flexible work hours
  • removing stalled vehicles quickly
  • correctly timed traffic signals
  • relieve choke points
  • improve corridors
  • diversify destination patterns

Love is easy

Wordsworth said it this way:

… And I have felt
A presence that disturbs me with the joy
Of elevated thoughts; a sense sublime
Of something far more deeply interfused,
Whose dwelling is the light of setting suns,
And the round ocean and the living air,
And the blue sky, and in the mind of man;
A motion and a spirit, that impels
All thinking things, all objects of all thought,
And rolls through all things.

Disembuggied and Disambiguated

Bergeron Nursery in frigid winters Minnesota has for three generations taken great pride in becoming successful in an area of the country that can make living in your refrigerator seem like a beach. Perhaps its rural ethics have helped keep its business solvent. Or because since the 1940s all employees are fed homemade meals with fresh bread, cake, pie, and meat and potatoes, and all customers are offered homemade donuts.

Here’s a subtle country-styled vignette to warm your heart.

Amish buggy in Minnesota landscape

Our patch of fall-bearing Caroline raspberries is bearing far too many berries for Dad to freeze, so we invited our new Amish neighbors over to pick.

After the two young women and three little tykes disembuggied with their pails, I pointed out the patch and mentioned that they could take some tomatoes, too.

“We have tomatoes,” the young woman said, thoughtfully. “Do you have any watermelon?”

“Uh, no,” I stammered. “We did but we’ve picked them all.”

From her seemingly empty pail she procured a small watermelon and held it out for me with a smile. “Would you like one?”

Imagine A Woman

Our planet is in desperate need of women who love themselves. Women who use their time, energy, and resources to design life-affirming solutions for the challenges confronting humankind. Women who give birth to images of inclusion, poems of truth, rituals of healing, experiences of transformation, relationships of equality, strategies of peace, institutions of justice, and households of compassion. – Patricia Lynn Reilly

Bold and unshrinking
Annie Lennox in this 3 page news article “addresses global warming, the war in Iraq, the Aids pandemic in Africa, religious conflict, political corruption, business greed, global poverty and rampant inequality.

“This planet is absolutely off its head. It’s insane,” she says. “It is Hieronymus Bosch out there. Half the people are drinking or drugging themselves to numb it. A lot of people are in pain.”

“We contain polarity within ourselves, we are full of possibilities, light and beauty and goodness, but at the same time we are ravaged by doubt or despair or hopelessness. I have been through my own trials and tribulations, so in a way I am trying to make sense of it. But its not about a logical, rational sense. The language of music expresses things that are almost inexpressible.”

Annie Lennox, Why
[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ILJxICUIbCY]

Not quick to recover

An assault on reason itself.
I’m capturing this post from the new comment system installed at Google News where affected parties that are principal to the news event may insert their point of view or rebuttal. I’m certain this comment will be scissored as editors feed the story so I am posting it to preserve and elevate its poignant and pertinent warning.

Florida cops were out of line Tasering student at speech

Google Comment – Sep 19, 2007
The conduct of the police officers at Monday’s forum with John Kerry is nothing short of an embarrassment for both the University of Florida and the City of Gainesville as a whole.

We will not be quick to recover from the wounds that we all suffer as a result of the complex betrayal on behalf of the University of Florida Police Department. As if the suppression of thought is not in itself, heinous enough a crime, the unabashed abuse of physical force by those sworn to protect us leaves trust broken and wounds open.

This incident will be remembered as a physical assault as well as an assault on reason itself. How dare law enforcement act in such a manner! We, the students of this university, must not allow this aggression to stand!

Benjamin N. Dictor

Pure cathartic rant, with toilet

We all rant. It’s popular.
Professional pundits and columnists can make a fine living bitching. Listening in on banter in any coffee shop, acrid comments are tipped with the acrid coffee. And blogs have released a 10 to 1 ratio of caustic opinion over tolerant observation.

It’s not good to be continually sour and cynical.
We’re just humans spinning on a rock. Not one of us is truly certain that we clearly see the motive or purpose in all things.

But a good rant that sums all the poison brimming into our world can’t be left without a good ramp of links. Frank Paynter found this acerbic piece. It’s pure catharsis.

THE NEW AMERICAN INFANT

Copyright 1996, 1997 John Trubee

Now
such grotesqueries as chocolatey and lemony
infect the lexicon
bespeaking the ubiquitous oral preeminence
of the New American Infant.

Once proud cowboy
now fat-assed cretin.
Once curious scientist
now mall drone gangbanger.
Once ballsy westward-forger
now jacuzzi-lounging sleazeball.
Once prolific inventor
now drunken celebrity wastrel.
Once hardy pioneer prairie mama
now scaggy teenage crack whore.

O America
You blew it.

You became too soft for your own damn good.

Your nuclear submarines beneath the Indian Ocean
protect the trust funds of golfing adulterers in Indian Wells
–from what?

Thomas Jefferson’s vision
somehow hideously devolved
into the embarrassingly trivial tripe
of the Jerry Springer Show.

O America
founded by geniuses with utmost esteem for the mind
you’ve become a gaudy playground
for capricious brats,
imbecilic sociopaths,
emotional snivelers,
and feel-good movie patrons weeping upon their fake popcorn
who constantly kill mind
in mindless reflex.

Petty orally-fixated ninnies
bullying for money,
lying, cheating, stealing,
insider trading,
filing spurious lawsuits for dubious gain,
and squandering job slavedom’s bucks
upon chimerical lottery ticket delusions,
you trashed your vaunted work ethic
in the mad mob dash for sticky candy.

(At what point does optimism become stupidity?)

(How many stomped hopes at last inform the deluded mind?)

You murdered your freedom with cretinous irresponsibility,
you placed social approval above the expressions of the mind,
you slobbered over money as the supreme value,

and now you wonder why you are drowning in shit.

O America
neon playground for vicious money whores
and candyass upwardly mobile dipshits:
who’ll incinerate these vermin?

The New American Infant soils his diapers
and whimpers.

It's all going to the toilet - via rjisaac[at]graffiti.net

Al Gore Inc.

Al Gore, The HurricaneThe Sydney Morning Herald is republishing 8 pages on the current life of Al Gore.

The opening byline says,
“Not long ago, he was the butt of jokes-lockbox, earth tones, a postelection beard. Then he dusted off an old slide show and jumped with both feet into the private sector.”

“The untold story of how an epic loser engineered what may be the greatest brand makeover of our time.”

Financial disclosure documents released before the 2000 election put the Gore family’s net worth at $US1 million to $US2 million. After years of public service-and four kids needing high-priced educations-Al and Tipper used to fret occasionally about money.

Not anymore. They have a new multimillion-dollar home in a tony section of Nashville and a family home in Virginia, and have recently bought a multimillion-dollar condo at the St. Regis condo/hotel in San Francisco.

Available data indicate a net worth well in excess of $US100 million.

I’m not criticizing. I think it’s neat.
He’s ‘become a stunningly successful businessman’.

Since his nonelection, Gore has become a millionaire many times over, bringing him, in financial terms, shoulder to shoulder with the C-suite denizens he used to hit up for campaign cash.

In addition to the steady flow of six-figure speaking gigs, he has become an insider at two of the hottest companies on the planet: at Google, where he signed on as an adviser in 2001, pre-IPO (and received stock options now reportedly worth north of $US30 million), and at Apple, where he joined the board in 2003 (and got stock options now valued at about $US6 million). He enjoyed a big payday as vice chairman of an investment firm in L.A., and, more recently, started a cable-television company and an asset-management firm, both of which are becoming quiet forces in their fields.

Al Gore is building a new kind of media company to democratize television, confident that video will become the dominant method of communication in the years ahead. “Much of TV is mind deadening. It’s a one-way conduit of knowledge.”

Ethanol and Inherent Contempt

While cigars may no longer be passed around, there’s smoke leaking from back rooms of the Whitehouse, an arrogance we haven’t seen such the 1800s that’s hustling red state votes from the farm belt and oil patch to grow and refine corn but providing little strategic policy to help America succeed.

From an editorial at the NYTimes: “The United States should let sound science and sound economics rather than politics drive its energy consumption and policy.” [firewall sub] [emphasis added]

Cash CornThe editorial goes on to say that the economics of corn ethanol have never made much sense.

Rather than importing cheap Brazilian ethanol made from sugar cane, the United States slaps a tariff of 54 cents a gallon on ethanol from Brazil. Then the government provides a tax break of 51 cents a gallon to American ethanol producers — on top of the generous subsidies that corn growers already receive under the farm program.

Corn-based ethanol also requires a lot of land. An O.E.C.D. report two years ago suggested that replacing 10 percent of America’s motor fuel with biofuels would require about a third of the total cropland devoted to cereals, oilseeds and sugar crops.

Meanwhile, the environmental benefits are modest.

Doug Powell in the thick of the agri-belt at Kansas State’s International Food Safety Network, points out that our food prices are skyrocketing under this President’s crop policy.

There is nothing wrong with developing alternative fuels, and there is high hope among environmentalists and even venture capitalists that more advanced biofuels — like cellulosic ethanol — can eventually play a constructive role in reducing oil dependency and greenhouse gases.

What’s wrong is letting politics — the kind that leads to unnecessary subsidies, the invasion of natural landscapes best left alone and soaring food prices that hurt the poor — rather than sound science and sound economics drive America’s energy policy.

A new report from one of the most trusted consultants to the U.S. poultry industry which competes for corn supplies for use as feed, makes it clear that the so-called free-market policies of the Republicans are an unnecessary sham.

“Ethanol is one of the most profitable enterprises in the United States today, but unfortunately a high percentage of those current profits come not from the marketplace, but from the federal treasury.”

“Federal supports are severely distorting crop prices while adding little, if anything, to the stated goals of the renewable energy program.

“The ethanol program is also increasing the federal outlays and has very little impact on U.S. dependence on foreign oil,

“On a net energy basis, ethanol will not make a significant contribution to overall U.S. energy production. Instead, the ethanol boom will have a huge impact on the worldwide supply of corn and other grains.

“The ethanol boom is driving up the cost of food production, and could eventually cost a family of four about $460 a year in higher food costs.”

Trust is the new e-currency

“People are fearful of Google’s personalization efforts, they’re worried that they’re getting biased info on Wikipedia, and you just can’t find a good deposed Nigerian ambassador to invest in anymore.”

Kaila Colbin at the vortexDNA blog is asking, “Why is trust so important?”

“Other than the obvious, feel-good, look, I’ll-count-to-three-then-fall-back and you-catch-me sort of team-building aspect of it … trust is not a touchy-feely, airy-fairy commodity.

“Trust is what drives the world economy, and without it, our entire financial system would collapse.

“Trust is worth more than gold online these days.

“I’m going to say it again, in bold: In a world with few boundaries, trust is the only currency worth having.

Adding my broad sweep across the bow of the ship of state, there’s much work to be done in government too, where no web browser or trust certificate is offering us a lock and key.

In keeping with the brouhaha of the times we are living, a February 2007 survey by the Poneman Institute found that while we may trust the Post Office, the CIA, Homeland Security and the National Security Agency are “the least trusted federal agencies when it comes to protecting Americans’ privacy”, while the Department of Justice is on the very bottom of the list of 74 federal agencies!!

The study’s overall findings concluded that Americans remain concerned over a “loss of civil liberties and privacy rights,” “surveillance into personal life,” and “monitoring e-mail and Web activities.”

A meteor can make you sick

A recent meteor crater in Peru“Hundreds of people in Peru have needed treatment after an object from space – said to be a meteorite – plummeted to Earth in a remote area.

“People who have visited the scene have been complaining of headaches, vomiting and nausea after inhaling gases.

They said to the BBC, “That is why we are asking for an analysis because we are worried for our people. They are afraid. A bull is dead and some other animals are already sick.”

Scientists will be arriving soon. Some believe the high heat of impact may have fused compounds in the ground and released nauseating or perhaps toxic gases.

What if a large meteor hit the earth? Here’s an outline from the geology folks at Oberlin College on the effects a meteorite impact large enough to seriously effect earth’s global environment.

Meteors travel at 22 kilometers per second (13.6 miles) or faster, and typically gain speed when they enter a planet’s gravity well.

Meteor craters are also likely reservoirs of crude oil. “More than one part of an impact crater has potential to produce hydrocarbons,” says P. Jan Cannon, who’s been mapping craters since the Apollo moon landings.

Seize the Time

The Six Original “The life and existence of the Black Panther Party, the ideology of the Party in motion, is a biography of oppressed America, black and white, that no news report, TV documentary, book, or magazine has yet expressed.

“To do so, the media would let the people know what’s really going on, how things have happened, and how we’re struggling for our freedom.

“So before the power structure, through its pigs, attempts to murder any more of us, or take more political prisoners in its age-old attempt to keep us “niggers,” as they like to say, “in our place,” I have put together the true story of the Black Panther Party. – Bobby Seale

Written by the 1970s activist, and co-founder of the Black Panthers militant group, “Seize the Time” is part manifesto, part auto-biography. Released into the public domain by its author with the words “Fuck copyright”.

These guys took so much heat.