Thursday, September 30, 2010

Thursday 09-30-10

Why is 'food security' sparking unrest?

Hong Kong, China (CNN) -- While nations debate what to do about long-term problems such as climate change and dwindling water supplies, two words send immediate shivers down the spines of government officials across the world: Food security.

A series of environmental disasters fueling a wave of food price volatility has given governments, "a much needed wakeup call," said Abdolreza Abbassian, an economist for the United Nation's Security of Intergovernmental Group on Grains.

The UN's Food and Agricultural Organization will be holding a special meeting to discuss the issue and the recent volatility in Rome on September 24.

The meeting was called after Russia decided to ban wheat exports after a punishing drought wiped out 25 percent of its crop. Moscow's decision pushed food prices up about 5 percent worldwide. Bread prices surged in some countries and triggered the deadly riots in Mozambique.

Massive floods in Pakistan also caused huge losses to the country's crops, adding to the uncertainty in the markets.

"The pace in which prices went up, nobody predicted markets could turn so fast," said Abbassian. "It's been two months and we're still struggling with it."

United Nations
Food security, in simple terms, is defined by the United Nations as food being available in sufficient quantities to reliably feed a nation's population.

Market volatility is nothing new, especially when it comes to commodities. During the food crisis of 2007-2008, prices spiked dramatically: Rice surged more than 200 percent; wheat and corn jumped more than 100 percent. The cause continues to be debated, but the effects led to protests and deadly riots from Haiti to Mogadishu.

But the current market conditions are very different from a few years ago, said Hafez Ghanem, the FAO's assistant director-general for economic and social development.

"(I)n the years ahead we'll probably be seeing more of the turbulence we're experiencing now because markets are set to become more volatile in the medium term for at least three reasons: a) the growing importance as a cereal producer of the Black Sea region, where yields fluctuate greatly from one season to the next; b) the expected increase of extreme weather events linked to climate change; and c) the growing importance of non-commercial actors in commodities markets," Ghanem said in an interview posted on the UN Food and Agricultural Organization website.

If the next few years could be more volatile, the next few decades could be downright frightening.

"The most urgent issue confronting humanity in the next 50 years is not climate change or the financial crisis, it is whether we can achieve and sustain such a harvest," said Julian Cribb, scientist and author of "The Coming Famine."

The UN predicts that by the year 2050 the globe will be home to more than 9 billion people. In a recent presentation to The World Congress of Soil Science, Cribb said global demand for food is going to more than double over the next half century.

In a worst-case scenario, Cribb describes a world where famine has broken out in several locations, leading to wars and hundreds of millions of refugees wandering the globe looking for food and shelter. That scenario is avoidable, he said, as long as governments make policy changes in their approach toward agriculture.

"First, we need to recognize that investment in agriculture is defense spending," Cribb said Thursday. "If we want to prevent wars and refugees and a food crises, then we need to renew global investment in agriculture and agriculture science. Agriculture has been a low priority for the last quarter century."

Recent efforts by BHP Billiton to acquire Canadian fertilizer company Potash Corp. were viewed as the Australian miner's attempt to cash in on the growing importance of the agriculture industry. Chinese companies have also expressed interest in Potash as they try to secure fertilizer supplies for their own agriculture market.

Famed investor and author of the "Gloom Boom and Doom" report, Marc Faber has appeared on CNN telling viewers the best long-term investment today is farmland and a focus on stocks that may benefit from food and water shortages.

Cribb said unlike most other countries, China is aware of the potential risk to food security and has been taking steps to ensure it is prepared. That includes coming up with domestic policies to secure water supplies. But Beijing is also looking outside China by securing agricultural supplies in other regions, such as Africa.

"We have to reinvent the way we grow food and reinvent our diet if we are to sustain the food supply through the peak in human numbers and demand," said Cribb.

That is the challenge facing world leaders.

So, at the upcoming meeting in Rome, Abbassian said he plans to ask every government delegate attending a simple question: "Are you preparing yourself for food security?"

World Bank urges nations to avoid food export bans
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The World Bank on Monday urged countries to refrain from imposing policies that could trigger a new global food price crisis as drought-hit Russia said it could extend a grain export ban into next year.

World Bank Managing Director Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala told Reuters the sharp spike in grain prices since last week did not amount to a crisis yet, but emphasized increased food price volatility would hurt poorer countries.

She said the poverty-fighting institution would activate a food fund when the World Bank board, currently in recess, reconvened in early September in case the situation worsened.

Grain prices have soared since last week after Russia, the world's No. 3 wheat producer in 2009/10, banned grain exports as the worst drought on record ravaged crops across the Black Sea region and concerns grew about supplies from dry weather in Western Australia.

In Ukraine, the world's sixth-largest wheat exporter, grain exports are facing delays after the introduction of a new system of customs controls last week, while bad weather there could cut crop and exports forecasts.

Okonjo-Iweala said the World Bank was conducting a survey of vulnerable countries amid reports that exporters had cancelled wheat contracts to Bangladesh and were reviewing contracted wheat supplies to Egypt, the world's largest wheat importer.

She said flooding in India, Pakistan and China had also raised food supply concerns.

"We don't see a crisis yet and are hoping to head it off by asking countries not to undertake policies that will precipitate a crisis," she said in an interview.

Not only food but metal are being manipulated also.
China: Rare earth export cuts protect environment
China’s decision to slash export quotas of rare earth elements was a necessary step to protect the country’s environment, commerce minister Chen Deming said following criticism from Japanese officials. “Mass extraction of rare earth will cause great damage to the environment and that’s why China has tightened controls over rare earth production, exploration and trade,” Chen was quoted by state news agency Xinhua as saying on Saturday.

China issued export quotas for 30,258 tonnes by the end of July, down 40 percent compared to last year, following a nationwide campaign to consolidate the sector and clamp down on illegal production. China has been steadily reducing export quotas since 2005 for rare earth elements, which consist of 17 metals used in crucial new green technologies like hybrid cars, wind turbines and superconductors, as well as in missile guidance systems and mobile phones.

Overseas buyers have expressed concern about China’s policies to restrict rare earth exports, which have driven up global prices, but Chen said China had no choice and its own market would also suffer as a consequence. Rare earths are in increasingly short supply as world demand surges, with industry officials predicting a global shortfall of 30,000 to 50,000 tonnes by 2012.

China invested heavily in rare earth extraction technology in the 1990s and now controls more than 95 percent of recoverable reserves, mostly in the vast northern region of Inner Mongolia. It has sought to strengthen its control over the global market, urging its biggest producer, the Inner Mongolia Baotou Steel Rare Earth 6000111.SS to build strategic stockpiles. China’s leading rare earth miners are also discussing setting a unified pricing mechanism in order to boost China’s global pricing power.


Forcing children to eat can have lasting impact
When WTOP News Director Mike McMearty was a child, he couldn't stomach what he refers to as the dreaded "Bs" -- beets, brussels sprouts and lima beans.
"My parents forced me to eat them. I said I didn't like them and I threw up all over the table."

He's been able to reconcile his distaste for two of the three, but he still hates lima beans.

He isn't the only one.

New research shows that an aversion to food can often stem from a childhood experiences that carry over into adulthood.

Much of what adults think about food is established between infancy and age six, according to experts at the New Realities Eating Disorders Recovery Centre in Ontario, Canada.

And it doesn't necessarily have to do with eating; a particularly harsh teacher who smells like onions might lead to an aversion to that food.

Experts recommend self-coaching and a lot of repetition for overcoming nutritional dislikes. The key is acknowledging emotions paired with a particular food, they say.

McMearty also isn't the only WTOP staffer with a lasting abhorrence.

"If it was green, I hated it," says Morning Anchor Mike Moss, adding that he'd hide his vegetables under potato skins and pieces of chicken.

"Or I'd sneak it to the dog."

As a kid, Anchor Mark Lewis turned his nose up to squash.

"Yellow was nasty. It seemed disgusting. I like it now," Lewis says.

Lewis also couldn't stomach brussels sprouts.

Moss' fellow anchor Bruce Alan doesn't see what all the fuss is about.

"I actually like brussels sprouts," Alan says.

But a little more prodding uncovers Alan's hidden past -- what Web Editor Colleen Kelleher describes as "the liver look."

"Yuck, liver."

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Wednesday 09-29-10

I have some mixed feelings on this one, i think that the sick pup should be put out it's misery. But there is a thing called due process, if it is denied to him, what makes me think it won't be me in the future. You need to quite being naive.
Obama argues his assassination program is a "state secret"
At this point, I didn't believe it was possible, but the Obama administration has just reached an all-new low in its abysmal civil liberties record. In response to the lawsuit filed by Anwar Awlaki's father asking a court to enjoin the President from assassinating his son, a U.S. citizen, without any due process, the administration late last night, according to The Washington Post, filed a brief asking the court to dismiss the lawsuit without hearing the merits of the claims. That's not surprising: both the Bush and Obama administrations have repeatedly insisted that their secret conduct is legal but nonetheless urge courts not to even rule on its legality. But what's most notable here is that one of the arguments the Obama DOJ raises to demand dismissal of this lawsuit is "state secrets": in other words, not only does the President have the right to sentence Americans to death with no due process or charges of any kind, but his decisions as to who will be killed and why he wants them dead are "state secrets," and thus no court may adjudicate their legality.

A very intense case of food poisoning in New York on Thursday, combined with my traveling home all night last night, prevents me from writing much about this until tomorrow (and it's what rendered the blog uncharacteristically silent for the last two days). But I would hope that nobody needs me or anyone else to explain why this assertion of power is so pernicious -- at least as pernicious as any power asserted during the Bush/Cheney years. If the President has the power to order American citizens killed with no due process, and to do so in such complete secrecy that no courts can even review his decisions, then what doesn't he have the power to do? Just for the moment, I'll note that The New York Times' Charlie Savage, two weeks ago, wrote about the possibility that Obama might raise this argument, and quoted the far-right, Bush-supporting, executive-power-revering lawyer David Rivkin as follows:

The government's increasing use of the state secrets doctrine to shield its actions from judicial review has been contentious. Some officials have argued that invoking it in the Awlaki matter, about which so much is already public, would risk a backlash. David Rivkin, a lawyer in the White House of President George H. W. Bush, echoed that concern.

"I'm a huge fan of executive power, but if someone came up to you and said the government wants to target you and you can't even talk about it in court to try to stop it, that’s too harsh even for me," he said.

Having debated him before, I genuinely didn't think it was possible for any President to concoct an assertion of executive power and secrecy that would be excessive and alarming to David Rivkin, but Barack Obama managed to do that, too. Obama's now asserting a power so radical -- the right to kill American citizens and do so in total secrecy, beyond even the reach of the courts -- that it's "too harsh even for" one of the most far-right War on Terror cheerleading-lawyers in the nation. But that power is certainly not "too harsh" for the kind-hearted Constitutional Scholar we elected as President, nor for his hordes of all-justifying supporters soon to place themselves to the right of David Rivkin as they explain why this is all perfectly justified. One other thing, as always: vote Democrat, because the Republicans are scary!

* * * * *

The same Post article quotes a DOJ spokesman as saying that Awlaki "should surrender to American authorities and return to the United States, where he will be held accountable for his actions." But he's not been charged with any crimes, let alone indicted for any. The President has been trying to kill him for the entire year without any of that due process. And now the President refuses even to account to an American court for those efforts to kill this American citizen on the ground that the President's unilateral imposition of the death penalty is a "state secret." And, indeed, American courts -- at Obama's urging -- have been upholding that sort of a "state secrecy" claim even when it comes to war crimes such as torture and rendition. Does that sound like a political system to which any sane, rational person would "surrender"?

Marcy Wheeler has more on other aspects of the DOJ's arguments, and I'll have more tomorrow as well.

UPDATE: As a reminder: Obama supporters who are dutifully insisting that the President not only has the right to order American citizens killed without due process, but to do so in total secrecy, on the ground that Awlaki is a Terrorist and Traitor, are embracing those accusations without having the slightest idea whether they're actually true. All they know is that Obama has issued these accusations, which is good enough for them. That's the authoritarian mind, by definition: if the Leader accuses a fellow citizen of something, then it's true -- no trial or any due process at all is needed and there is no need even for judicial review before the decreed sentence is meted out, even when the sentence is death.

For those reciting the "Awlaki-is-a-traitor" mantra, there's also the apparently irrelevant matter that Article III, Section 3 of the Constitution (the document which these same Obama supporters pretended to care about during the Bush years) provides that "No person shall be convicted of treason unless on the testimony of two witnesses to the same overt act, or on confession in open court." Treason is a crime that the Constitution specifically requires be proven with due process in court, not by unilateral presidential decree. And that's to say nothing of the fact that the same document -- the Constitution -- expressly forbids the deprivation of life "without due process of law." This one sentence from the Post article nicely summarizes the state of Obama's civil liberties record:

The Obama administration has cited the state-secrets argument in at least three cases since taking office - in defense of Bush-era warrantless wiretapping, surveillance of an Islamic charity, and the torture and rendition of CIA prisoners.

And now, in this case, Obama uses this secrecy and immunity weapon not to shield Bush lawlessness from judicial review, but his own.

Europe's central banks halt sales of gold reserves

Europe's central banks have all but halted sales of their gold reserves, ending a run of large disposals each year for more than a decade.

The central banks of the eurozone plus Sweden and Switzerland are bound by the Central Bank Gold Agreement, which caps their collective sales.

In the CBGA's year to September, which expired on Sunday, the signatories sold 6.2 tonnes, down 96 per cent, according to provisional data.

The sales are the lowest since the agreement was signed in 1999 and well below the peak of 497 tonnes in 2004-05.

The shift away from gold selling comes as European central banks reassess gold amid the financial crisis and Europe's sovereign debt crisis.

In the 1990s and 2000s, central banks swapped their non- yielding bullion for sovereign debt, which gives a steady annual return. But now, central banks and investors are seeking the security of gold.

The lack of heavy selling is important for gold prices both because a significant source of supply has been withdrawn from the market, and because it has given psychological support to the gold price. On Friday, bullion hit a record of $1,300 an ounce.

"Clearly now it's a different world; the mentality is completely different," said Jonathan Spall, director of precious metals sales at Barclays Capital.

European central banks are unlikely to sell much more gold in the new CBGA year, according to a survey by the Financial Times.

Although many central banks declined to detail their sales plans, the responses of some, along with numerous interviews with bankers and consultants, suggest it is unlikely there will be a return to the trend of the past decade, when CBGA signatories sold on average 388 tonnes a year.

The central banks of Sweden, Slovakia, Ireland and Slovenia said they had no plans to sell, while Switzerland reiterated a previous statement to the same effect.

The CBGA was first signed after gold miners protested that central banks' rush to sell was depressing prices.

In previous years signatories haggled for individual allowances to sell under the CBGA, but the most recent renewal of the agreement in 2009 contained no such quotas, according to Darko Bohnec, vice governor of Slovenia's central bank. ... A+World%29

It Is Not A Matter Of If With Hyperinflation, But When
Interview With Marc Faber: It Is Not A Matter Of If With Hyperinflation, But When

HRN: What would you recommend that the Federal Reserve do differently?

Dr. Marc Faber: The first action Mr. Bernanke should take is to resign. If I had messed up the system so badly, as he has done, I would have to resign. He has talked constantly about the Great Depression and what caused the depression but the problem is that he really doesn't understand what caused the depression, which was also excessive leverage at that time. I have to stress that in 1929 the debt to GDP ratio was of course minuscule in comparison what it is today. It was 186% of GDP but you didn't have Social security, Medicare and Medicaid and unfunded liabilities for Social Security and so forth. So, debt today, as a percent of GDP, is 379% and if you add the unfunded liabilities we are at over 800%. The Federal Reserve should pay attention to that.

HRN: With debt levels and liabilities so high, what solution is there for the United States?

Dr. Marc Faber: The solution is, basically, for the government to move out and not intervene in the economy. There are economists who will dispute that the Federal Reserve is partially responsible for the crisis and there are economists that will still tell you that debt doesn't matter, that deficits don't matter and they want to continue to intervene in the free market constantly. To these economists I respond: What about Fanny Mae and Freddy Mac? It was an intervention by the government into the housing market and into the mortgage market and the biggest bankruptcies�bigger than Citigroup and all the banks'are Fanny Mae and Freddy Mac� government-sponsored enterprises. The same economists will tell you that the gover'ment has to intervene and to these economists I say: Well, you have made so many mistakes already with interventions do you think that in the future your interventions will improve anything? Einstein defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results, but these economists and the Federal Reserve think that by more interventions with fiscal measures and more money printing they will improve things. No, they won't. They will make things worse.
(you can read the rest at)

Just because this is already too long i will give you a couple of headlines and links and you can click them if you want;

U.S. Economy "Close to a Destructive Tipping Point," Glenn Hubbard Says

Consumer confidence drops to lowest since Feb.

Dollar Trades Near Five-Month Low Before U.S. Housing, Sentiment Reports

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Tuesday 09-28-10

Open letter to Obama from Charlie Daniels
Mr. President,
I write this letter as a patriot, a taxpayer, a lifelong resident and as concerned citizen of what I consider to be the greatest nation ever known to man, the United States of America.
I am Caucasian, so let's get the racial aspect out of the way to start with. This letter has nothing to do with your race. I lived through the cruelty of Jim Crow and segregation and learned early on in my life that the color of my skin does not make me better or worse than any other man.
We all remember Martin Luther King, Jr.'s statement about judging people, not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character, and I believe that with all my heart.
I believe that America is an exceptional country. We have been liberator, benefactor and leader of the free world for centuries. America is an example of what can be achieved by free people living under the free enterprise system.
↓We have led the world in technology, industry, science and medicine for a long time.
Our capitalist system guarantees that those who explore new worlds and bring us new products and better techniques are amply rewarded for their efforts, and this is as it should be.
A person who is the first one to get there and the last one to leave, who burns the midnight oil and never gives up until they realize their goals, are a boon to humankind. They're the ones who discover new cures, start new industries and create jobs.
These people deserve to be rewarded for their hard work and for the products and services they bring to make life better for all mankind.
Mr. President, it is my personal opinion that you want to take the well-earned rewards of these people and give it to those who have done nothing to deserve them.
It's really redistribution of wealth, and it's nothing new. It's been tried many places before and it has miserably failed in every one of them.
It's called socialism.
Am I calling you a socialist? Yes, I am. I firmly believe that you are a socialist and a globalist, and that you think America should have a comeuppance and have our playing field leveled to match those of other countries not as industrious or as innovative as we are.
Mr. President, how can you support the building of a mosque in the very same area where Islamic radicals murdered so many Americans?
Just who's side are you on?
Am I accusing you of being a Muslim? No I'm not, but the jury is still out a little bit on that subject in my mind, because many times your sympathies seem to lean in that direction. You need to watch who you bow to Mr. President.
You have betrayed a whole generation of African-Americans who voted for you because they really believed all that junk about "hope and change," they really thought you were going to do something great and the only thing you've done is to make their jobs disappear and their health insurance go up.
You and your party have corrupted duly elected officials in an effort to get your legislative agenda passed. Remember the "Louisiana Purchase" and the "Cornhusker Kickback," and that's just a couple we know about, but you bought off a bunch of congressmen and senators, knowing that you were going against the will of the majority of Americans, because you think that you and your arrogant friends know more about what's good for America than the citizens your disastrous actions effect.
Am I accusing you of being an elitist? You bet.
I don't believe you take the Islamic threat to America nearly as seriously as you should. You use semantics like "Overseas Contingency Operation" and "Man Caused Disasters" to soften your rhetoric toward people who would like nothing better than decapitate the entire population of America.
And Mr. President, if you'd really like to know the kind of warriors who are fighting the "Overseas Contingency Operation," and you would like to really know about what kind of enemies they're fighting, you should read a book called Lone Survivor by a brave, young Navy Seal named Marcus Lutrell who went to hell and back for his country, and is still a dedicated patriot. I think you'd find it enlightening, Mr. President and after you finish it would you pass it on to Janet Napolitano? And by the way, tell her that my invitation to take her to Iraq and show her some "Man Caused Disasters" is still open.
Am I calling you naïve? Absolutely.
You seem to think that America has an endless supply of tax dollars for you to waste and give away, and the debt you've piled up could well bankrupt the greatest nation on earth.
Am I calling you a failure, Mr. President? With all due respect that's exactly what I'm doing.

—Charlie Daniels is an award-winning country musician. His latest album is called "Land That I Love" ... z10aX4Rpt5

Report questions biometric technologies in fighting crime
Television cop shows love "biometric" technologies — fingerprints, eye scans and so on — but a blue-ribbon panel report calls for caution on widespread use of biological identification.
Released by the National Research Council, the "Biometric Recognition: Challenges and Opportunities" report headed by HP Labs distinguished technologist Joseph Pato, concludes all biometric recognition technologies are "inherently fallible."

"A lot of things possible on a TV series just don't work that way in real life," says panel member Bob Blakley of Gartner, a computer security firm in Stamford, Conn. "While there are lots of good uses for biometric recognition, there are lots of ways to create systems that waste time, cost too much and don't work very well."

Fingerprints are the best-known example of biometric recognition markers — physical traits that can serve to identify people reliably, such as facial features, voice, signature and even walk.

"Biometric recognition has been applied to identification of criminals, patient tracking in medical informatics and the personalization of social services, among other things," notes the report, released Friday.

Federal agencies such as the FBI and Department of Homeland Security are funding research in improved biometric screening, but the report cautions they're not doing basic research into whether the physical characteristics involved are truly reliable or how they change with aging, disease, stress or other factors. None look stable across all situations, the report says.

Deployment of biometric screening devices at airports, borders or elsewhere without understanding the biology or the population being screened will lead to long lines, false positives and missed opportunities to catch criminals or terrorists, the report says.

"No system is infallible. There is no silver bullet," says Marc Rotenberg of the Electronic Privacy Information Center in Washington, D.C. "We have to test our security strategies carefully, or there will be a lot of taxpayer money wasted on systems that disappoint us."

Brandon Mayfield, a 44-year-old attorney from Oregon, is an example of the problem. A partial fingerprint from the 2004 Madrid subway bombing that killed 191 people was said by the FBI to match Mayfield's, which led to his arrest.

A judge later found the fingerprint match was only a slight one and for the wrong finger, ordering Mayfield released. The FBI apologized for the arrest, and Mayfield won $2 million in damages.

The FBI's nationwide fingerprint system has generally worked very well, leading to the arrests of fugitives, the report says. "But the key message is that even a very accurate technology can yield bad results if it is turned to the wrong problem," Blakley says, such as using time-consuming technologies to screen large numbers of people.

For that reason, the report calls for open and independent testing of biometric screening technologies before they are placed into widespread use. Cultural factors such as how long people are willing to wait in line for screening, as much as raw accuracy, will determine whether a particular kind of biometric recognition system will work.

"Too many false positives, and guards will just stop believing in the system and let the wrong people through," Blakley says.

83-year-old pulls semiautomatic handgun on would-be robber

CLEARWATER, Florida — Knocked to the ground by a would-be robber, 83-year-old Charles Place defended himself — by pulling a gun.

Clearwater Police said Place was in a restaurant parking lot Wednesday when a man grabbed him from behind and tried to take his wallet.

Place resisted and was knocked to the ground. Police said that's when Place pulled out a .25-caliber semiautomatic handgun.

Authorities said Place pointed it at the man and ordered him to leave him alone.

The assailant, Bryan Treloar, ran and was followed by a witness. Police caught up with him and charged him with attempted strong arm robbery. He was being held on $10,000 bail.

Place, who has a permit to carry a concealed weapon, wound up with small cuts on his hand.,0,7201060.story

Makes you want to move there does not it?
Kennesaw, where everyone is armed by law

Dent ‘Wildman’ Myers, packing twin semi-automatic pistols
Kennesaw, Georgia, is Everytown, USA: a mixture of old wooden bungalows and cookie-cutter subdivisions, of seventh-­generation locals and Mexican immigrants. Its quaint, ­cobbled historic centre is lush, with low-hanging trees and chirping cicadas. The civil war museum tells the history of the local Confederate fight against the Yankees. At the suburban malls on a humid Saturday afternoon locals vie to park their SUVs as close as possible to the Target and Best Buy outlets, and queue for tables at Chuck E. Cheese’s and Applebee’s.

But this city, half an hour’s drive north of Atlanta, is unique: it is the only place in America where it is compulsory to own a gun. In 1982, Kennesaw City Council unanimously passed an ordinance requiring households to own at least one firearm with ammunition. The law states that its purpose is to “protect the safety, security and general welfare of the city and its inhabitants”. Kennesaw’s ordinance was a heartfelt assertion of second amendment gun rights, a principled and legislative rebuttal to a law passed earlier that year in Morton Grove, ­Illinois, banning guns within the city limits.

“It was official, but we were protesting as much as anything,” recalls Fred Bentley, a lawyer, who was already 56 when he wrote the ordinance. Looking every part the southern charmer in a grey suit and spotless white shirt topped with a gingham bow tie, Bentley keeps a loaded .38 revolver by his bed and two double-barrel shotguns from his hunting days. Otherwise his guns are decorative – a Brown Bess ­revolutionary-era musket stands by the door of his office.

Kennesaw residents were outraged not only by Morton Grove’s assault on the second amendment of the Constitution – which gives all Americans the right to bear arms – but also by “the slobbering way that the press portrayed the law as taking a stand against ‘evil’ handguns,” says Robert Jones, the president of the Kennesaw Historical Society and the owner of a .357 Magnum handgun. The American Civil Liberties Union challenged Kennesaw’s law as unconstitutional, but the federal court let it stand, although the city did add a clause exempting conscientious objectors, criminals, the mentally disabled and people who could not afford a gun.

In search of China’s top entrepreneurs - Sep-24Vogue’s earliest celebrity models - Sep-24Jones says: “In 1982 this was a rural community of about 5,000 people. The whole town was very conservative and about 95 per cent of people owned guns anyway, so it was a very symbolic law.” Indeed, the law contains no penalty for violation and no one has ever been prosecuted for not owning a gun. Local police estimate that only 50 per cent of households have a gun.

But almost 30 years after the law was passed, it is still in place and still popular, not least because Kennesaw’s crime rate has remained disproportionately low, even as the town’s population swelled from 5,000 in 1982 to almost 35,000 now. According to the latest FBI statistics, Kennesaw recorded 31 violent crimes – mainly robberies and aggravated assaults – during 2008. In other similar-sized local towns the figures were much higher – 127 in Dalton and 188 in Hinesville. For property crimes – largely burglaries and thefts – Kennesaw recorded 555 while Dalton had 1,124 and Hinesville 1,802.

Samantha Ellis, 26, a Kennesaw resident, with her lightweight Kimber Ultra Carry .45
“Firearms are involved in less than 2 per cent of the crime around here,” confirms Craig Graydon, a police lieutenant who has served in Kennesaw for 24 years. “If nothing else, [the firearms law] draws a lot of attention to the importance of crime prevention.” Though it will give liberals heartburn, Kennesaw’s gun policy works.

. . .

Every morning, 79-year-old Dent “Wildman” Myers, whose bushy beard tapers into a long grey dreadlock reaching below his navel, belts two loaded .45 semi-automatic pistols and four magazines of extra ammunition around his waist and heads to work. Myers, one of the strongest ­proponents of the gun law, owns Wildman’s Civil War Surplus, a Confederate-themed memorabilia shop that touts itself as “The Best Little War House in Kennesaw”. The stock includes books of “redneck poetry” and spent shells from the civil war, Third Reich-inspired rock CDs and bumper stickers reading “The United States is an Obamanation to the world”.

During the civil war, Kennesaw was one of the bloodiest battlegrounds in the south and HQ of the Georgia Volunteer Infantry Regiment. The influence shows. “If them Yankees up north say you can’t have a gun,” says Myers in an exaggerated southern drawl, toothpick dangling from his mouth, “we southerners are going to say you gotta have one.” The slogan on his T-shirt declares: “It’s the law in Kennesaw.”

While Myers might be on the fringe, it’s difficult to find anyone in Kennesaw who strongly disagrees with the gun ownership law. Residents recall a TV repair shop owner who years ago tried to have the law overturned, but no one can remember his name or when he left town. There are, however, plenty of gun agnostics who choose not to own a gun.

“It’s not enforced, it’s strictly psychological,” says John Grimm, 78, who works part-time in the gift shop of Kennesaw’s museum. The shop sells magnets, patches and coffee mugs sporting the Confederate flag alongside Confederate soldier caps for children and replica Confederate pistols ($89) and rifles ($189). While not complying with the law, agnostics benefit from its presence and are happy for it to stay. Grimm, who doesn’t have a gun, tells me: “If someone is going to rob you, they don’t know if you have got a gun or not, so they’re going to go somewhere else.”

A T-shirt on display at Myers’s shop
The law may be anachronistic but, whether in Kennesaw or the wider area, guns are a touchstone issue. This is not just about gun rights, but about independence; it is about a desire to keep the government in check.

. . .

Nick DeMarco wasn’t even born when the law was introduced. But a love of guns is in his blood. “I grew up around guns, and I already have a .22 ready for my 10-week-old son,” says DeMarco, a 24-year-old with a round face and goatee beard, who describes gun ownership as “a ton of fun”.

As we talk, he pulls out his mobile phone to show me ­photos of his baby. “I’ll probably get him into BB guns [steel-pellet air guns] at three or four – I’ll get him a Red Ryder BB gun, that’s what I grew up with – and I’ll start taking him hunting with me too.” While many of his friends share his love of shooting, not everyone his age does. “A lot of kids are not getting into guns because they’re not being brought up that way. Some might believe in their right to bear arms and think that the government has too much control, but they might not exercise that right,” he says.

Young Marine Zachary Wessinger, 10, with his .22 rifle
DeMarco believes that the world beyond Kennesaw is a violent place and that gun ownership offers a solution. “In Alpharetta, [a nearby town] it’s ridiculous,” he says. “I saw these kids jumping on the top of this nice Audi. You can’t shoot them, of course, but you sure could scare them. The way the world is going, with all the violence and crime, if you don’t carry a gun, you’re more susceptible to being a victim.”

Eavesdropping on our conversation in the sports shop where DeMarco works is Alex Payne, a 38-year-old machinist who lives just outside Kennesaw. He has a cherubic face and long wavy hair, but he turns out to be anything but a hippy. He shows me the belt holding up his camouflage shorts – its brass buckle reads “Amendment II: The right to bear arms” – and proceeds to hold forth on why gun rights are so ­important to him.

“To me, owning a gun means you’re not just being an American, but that you’re upholding the Constitution. So when that right is being infringed, when someone tries to take it away, it’s like they are trying to take away your freedom of speech. Imagine if someone told you right now that you couldn’t take notes,” he said, pointing at my notebook.

Payne has just introduced his daughter to BB guns, he says, putting his arm around a blonde 10-year-old in a pink T-shirt. “It’s really fun,” she says. “She started this year and I hope to have him start soon too,” says Payne, pointing to his eight-year-old son.

When I ask how many guns he owns, he responds sharply: “That’s none of your business.” This secrecy is common in the town, and is part of a general wariness towards government. Payne says: “Our Founding Fathers thought it was important enough to make this the second amendment so that we could protect ourselves from invaders in our country. And they knew that citizens needed to be protected from being taken over by the government.”

These words, puzzling to outsiders, reflect deep-seated beliefs, stretching back to the American Revolution and reinforced (especially in the southern US) during the civil war. As Robert Jones says: “People in the US are much more in touch with their Founding Fathers in a way that is not true in England. How many English people sit around reminiscing about Oliver Cromwell or praising the Magna Carta? In Red America, people sit around talking about the Founding Fathers. They look at Billy the Kid and Wyatt Earp, and say ‘Don’t tread on me.’”

Such sentiments have been charismatically personified over the past two years by Sarah Palin, darling of the conservative right and a possible candidate for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012. Palin, a self-proclaimed “mama grizzlie” who shoots moose and caribou for sport, has fiercely defended second amendment rights and fuelled the fear, bordering on hysteria, that they will be taken away.

A customer holds a semi-automatic rifle at a gun show outside Kennesaw, Georgia
During a speech to the National Rifle Association (NRA) in May, Palin said the only thing stopping President Obama from scrapping the Constitution’s right to bear arms was fear of a public backlash. “Don’t doubt for a minute that, if they thought they could get away with it, they would ban guns and ban ammunition and gut the second amendment,” she said, urging the 9,000 NRA members at the conference to “stop them in their tracks”. In her fight against Democrats and big government, she has even adopted a gun-themed slogan: “Don’t retreat. Reload!”

For many here, Palin embodies the spirit of independence and self-reliance they admire so much. She even hails from the frontier state of Alaska. Her words certainly strike a chord with Johnny Wilson, who doesn’t let the fact that he is legally blind stop him from shooting as a hobby. “I buy guns like other people buy golf clubs,” chuckles 58-year-old Wilson, who owns more than half-a-dozen handguns, including two Colts, a Glock 17 and a Smith & Wesson PPK/S.

“Sarah Palin is certainly someone who can bring the community together,” he says, buying ammunition with his son, Gedde, at Nick’s Guns and Range in a mall in Kennesaw. “Those liberals just scare me to death. Not to be redneck about it or anything, but those tree-huggers don’t see anything good in the outdoors, all they see is the killing and the guns.” Wilson has been stocking up on weapons and ammo out of fear that Democrats will retain control of the House and Senate after the November mid-term elections.

“Let’s just hope that in November the Republicans take back Congress because if those other guys get in for two more years, we’re in trouble,” he says. Although he admits the Obama administration has not signalled that it plans to tinker with gun rights – in fact, the president has barely even mentioned the hot-potato issue – Wilson believes in a secret plot to scrap the second amendment. “We just don’t know what those politicians are up to.”

. . .

Erik Fredricks of Nick’s Guns, with a Smith & Wesson
Nick’s Guns – with more than 300 weapons in stock, from tiny pink pistols to huge black assault rifles – has been doing brisk trade since Obama was elected. The store manager is Erik Fredricks, a skinny 37-year-old who wears a Smith & Wesson .357 revolver on his hip. “We were doing about three or three-and-a-half times our normal business from the day after the election right through to mid-April. It was ­absolute insanity. The shelves were going bare because the manufacturers couldn’t keep up with demand.

“A lot of it was a knee-jerk reaction because of the assault weapon ban in the early 1990s after President Clinton came in. A lot of people thought something like that was going to happen again,” he explains. “But over the past few years in general, there has been a huge influx of all sorts of shooters and a lot more people getting concealed carry permits and coming in for handguns.”

Fredricks has been at the shop for four years and tells me that during that time no one has bought a gun specifically to comply with the Kennesaw law. They just like to buy guns.

So what sort of handgun would he recommend for me, for self-defence? He gives me a very light $319 black Kel-Tec semi-automatic pistol, which fits into my hand. “But I tend to start women on a larger gun because it doesn’t recoil so much and is easy to handle,” he says, handing me a $700 Smith & Wesson revolver. It is much heavier and feels sturdier.

Perhaps sensing the liberal shiver going down my spine, he offers to give me a test drive. But the trainer is out and the firing range at the back of the shop is busy. I spot groups of women in purple earmuffs, and fathers and sons lining up in the 10 alleys to shoot bullets into posters of deranged zombies called Bob and Steve. I am relieved: while I am game to try shooting, I am afraid I might enjoy it.

“Guns are a huge part of American culture,” says Fredricks. “When America was a frontier country, you needed your gun to put food on the table. Whenever you hear Americans talking about guns, they talk about independence and self-­reliance. The second amendment is somewhat unique because it places the ultimate option for use of force in the hands of the citizen and not on the state.”

Danyell Teets at the range

Danyell Teets is not as ideological as her boss; she just likes to shoot for fun. In the shooting range at the back of Nick’s Guns, where the air is thick with gunpowder and concentration, Teets lines up her 9mm Sig P225 pistol and shoots into the target. Bang, bang, bang, all into the couple of circles closest to the bull’s eye. In tight jeans, her hair pulled back in a ponytail, Teets, 23, graduated as an elementary school teacher in December and has been working at Nick’s Guns while looking for a teaching position – something that could take a while in the current economic climate. “I’m always apprehensive about telling people, especially in the school system, that my other job is in a gun store,” she says.

Teets owns two guns – she was tired of her Sig weighing down her bag, so she bought a smaller .380 model. She ­generally keeps one of her guns with her or in her car, “unless I’m going to school”. She tells me, “I have never had to draw it, but I did have an awkward situation a few weeks ago when I was being followed home and I didn’t have my gun on me. I was really nervous. I would always rather be safe than sorry.”

She was brought up with guns: “My dad was in the Marine Corps so I was always around guns. When I was six or seven, he took me on a hunting safety course, and I’ve been shooting with him ever since. Now I don’t shoot as much as I used to because of this job. By closing time I’m done. But before I started working here, my boyfriend and I used to come down to the range every Sunday. That was our thing.”

Regardless of whether other towns adopt Kennesaw-style laws, the reassertion of gun rights in the Obama era, along with a Palin run for president in 2012, will ensure that the second amendment remains on the political agenda.

And here in the south a new generation of gun-owners is ready to continue the tradition. As Teets says: “I am always going to have a firearm. And I am going to teach my children – when I have them – to shoot. I was raised that way and I want my children to be raised that way.”

Monday, September 27, 2010

Monday 09-27-10

We have come a long way baby, maybe the social engineers are wrong? Why does it take England to bring this out? (It is worth going to the link and seeing the map)

Revealed: The maps that show the racial breakdown of America’s biggest cities
These are the maps that show the racial breakdown of America’s biggest cities.
Using information from the latest U.S. census results, the maps show the extent to which America has blended together the races in the nation’s 40 largest cities.
With one dot equalling 25 people, digital cartographer Eric Fischer then colour-coded them based on race, with whites represented by pink, blacks by blue, Hispanic by orange and Asians by green.
The resulting maps may not represent what many might expect Barack Obama’s integrated rainbow nation to look like, as many cities have clear racial dividing lines.

Detroit: Red represents White, Blue is Black, Green is Asian, Orange is Hispanic, Gray is Other, and each dot represents 25 people

Washington, DC: The east-west divide of the nation's capital can clearly be seen
Los Angeles: The city's Hispanic population lives predominantly in the city's poorer areas
Detroit, for example, is infamous for its divide between black and white. But the map shows such a clear separation along the Eight Mile beltway that it is startling - almost bordering on segregation.

The strict east-west divide in Washington DC is also well known - but chilling to see so starkly outlined on the map of the nation's capital.
And in Los Angeles, the Latino population dominates the poorer areas of the city.
But, reassuringly, the maps do show that not all American cities are so divided.
In New York, the boundaries are so intensely coloured that they can hardly avoid being integrated. While the different racial groups still have their own areas, it is one of the most diverse of the major urban cities.
New York: The dots are so dense they almost cannot help but be separated - yet the Big Apple still has clear pockets of ethnicity

San Antonio: The Texan city blurs the lines better than most - though a divide can still be seen
San Antonio in Texas paints a much better picture of integration, with whites and Hispanics blurring the boundaries and no real sign of a rich white enclave.

Another Texan city, Houston, also shows a richer diversity of races spreading out from the centre and Las Vegas boasts a good mix.
More...'I don't want a tomato picked by a Mexican': Stephen Colbert sparks uproar as he testifies (in character) to Congress committee on immigrant labour

San Francisco also presents a better picture of racial integration together with a larger Asian contingent.
The maps have quickly become a source of fascination for bloggers, even though the data used is a decade out of date.
Houston: The Texan city becomes diverse spreading out from the centre

San Francisco: The Californian city also shows pockets of diversity
‘I’d love to see the income data presented this way, too,’ said one.
Good magazine's Andrew Price said: 'What do we, as a society, want to see in maps like this? I think it's safe to say that the clear separation of races in Detroit is a symptom (or cause) of serious social problems.
'At the same time,' he added, 'it seems unrealistic to expect perfect integration and it's unclear if we should want that anyway. It's great that our cities have vibrant ethnic neighbourhoods.'
The maps are based on information from the 2000 census, but Mr Fischer, 37, said in a blog on his Flickr site: ‘I intend to do a 2010 version as soon as the census finishes tabulating the data. I think the full release is planned for next June.’
He told the Washington Post:' I always knew that cities had these racial divisions, but seeing them set out so graphically, that was the striking thing about them.'

Are you telling me they don't have the ability and do it now? I have a bridge that i'm looking to sell, email me and i will make you a great deal, but will take only cash or commodities.

Wiretapped phones, now Internet?

WASHINGTON - Federal law enforcement and national security officials are preparing to seek sweeping new regulations of the Internet, arguing that their ability to wiretap criminal and terrorism suspects is "going dark" as people increasingly communicate online instead of by telephone.

Essentially, officials want Congress to require all services that enable communications -- including encrypted e-mail transmitters such as BlackBerry, social networking websites such as Facebook and software that allows direct "peer-to-peer" messaging such as Skype -- to be technically capable of complying if served with a wiretap order. The mandate would include being able to intercept and unscramble encrypted messages.

The legislation, which the Obama administration plans to submit to Congress next year, raises fresh questions about how to balance security needs with protecting privacy and fostering technological innovation. And because security services around the world face the same problem, it could set an example that is copied globally.

James Dempsey, vice president of the Center for Democracy and Technology, an Internet policy group, said the proposal had "huge implications" and challenged "fundamental elements of the Internet revolution" -- including its decentralized design.

"They are really asking for the authority to redesign services that take advantage of the unique, and now pervasive, architecture of the Internet," he said. "They basically want to turn back the clock and make Internet services function the way that the telephone system used to function."

But law enforcement officials contend that imposing such a mandate is reasonable and necessary to prevent the erosion of their investigative powers.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Sunday 09-26-10

Biblical account of the Red Sea crossing, it does ot match the article at the end. Man always wants to rationalize what God does.

Exo 14:1 And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
Exo 14:2 Speak unto the children of Israel, that they turn and encamp before Pihahiroth, between Migdol and the sea, over against Baalzephon: before it shall ye encamp by the sea.
Exo 14:3 For Pharaoh will say of the children of Israel, They are entangled in the land, the wilderness hath shut them in.
Exo 14:4 And I will harden Pharaoh's heart, that he shall follow after them; and I will be honoured upon Pharaoh, and upon all his host; that the Egyptians may know that I am the LORD. And they did so.
Exo 14:5 And it was told the king of Egypt that the people fled: and the heart of Pharaoh and of his servants was turned against the people, and they said, Why have we done this, that we have let Israel go from serving us?
Exo 14:6 And he made ready his chariot, and took his people with him:
Exo 14:7 And he took six hundred chosen chariots, and all the chariots of Egypt, and captains over every one of them.
Exo 14:8 And the LORD hardened the heart of Pharaoh king of Egypt, and he pursued after the children of Israel: and the children of Israel went out with an high hand.
Exo 14:9 But the Egyptians pursued after them, all the horses and chariots of Pharaoh, and his horsemen, and his army, and overtook them encamping by the sea, beside Pihahiroth, before Baalzephon.
Exo 14:10 And when Pharaoh drew nigh, the children of Israel lifted up their eyes, and, behold, the Egyptians marched after them; and they were sore afraid: and the children of Israel cried out unto the LORD.
Exo 14:11 And they said unto Moses, Because there were no graves in Egypt, hast thou taken us away to die in the wilderness? wherefore hast thou dealt thus with us, to carry us forth out of Egypt?
Exo 14:12 Is not this the word that we did tell thee in Egypt, saying, Let us alone, that we may serve the Egyptians? For it had been better for us to serve the Egyptians, than that we should die in the wilderness.
Exo 14:13 And Moses said unto the people, Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD, which he will shew to you to day: for the Egyptians whom ye have seen to day, ye shall see them again no more for ever.
Exo 14:14 The LORD shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace.
Exo 14:15 And the LORD said unto Moses, Wherefore criest thou unto me? speak unto the children of Israel, that they go forward:
Exo 14:16 But lift thou up thy rod, and stretch out thine hand over the sea, and divide it: and the children of Israel shall go on dry ground through the midst of the sea.
Exo 14:17 And I, behold, I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians, and they shall follow them: and I will get me honour upon Pharaoh, and upon all his host, upon his chariots, and upon his horsemen.
Exo 14:18 And the Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD, when I have gotten me honour upon Pharaoh, upon his chariots, and upon his horsemen.
Exo 14:19 And the angel of God, which went before the camp of Israel, removed and went behind them; and the pillar of the cloud went from before their face, and stood behind them:
Exo 14:20 And it came between the camp of the Egyptians and the camp of Israel; and it was a cloud and darkness to them, but it gave light by night to these: so that the one came not near the other all the night.
Exo 14:21 And Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and the LORD caused the sea to go back by a strong east wind all that night, and made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided.
Exo 14:22 And the children of Israel went into the midst of the sea upon the dry ground: and the waters were a wall unto them on their right hand, and on their left.
Exo 14:23 And the Egyptians pursued, and went in after them to the midst of the sea, even all Pharaoh's horses, his chariots, and his horsemen.
Exo 14:24 And it came to pass, that in the morning watch the LORD looked unto the host of the Egyptians through the pillar of fire and of the cloud, and troubled the host of the Egyptians,
Exo 14:25 And took off their chariot wheels, that they drave them heavily: so that the Egyptians said, Let us flee from the face of Israel; for the LORD fighteth for them against the Egyptians.
Exo 14:26 And the LORD said unto Moses, Stretch out thine hand over the sea, that the waters may come again upon the Egyptians, upon their chariots, and upon their horsemen.
Exo 14:27 And Moses stretched forth his hand over the sea, and the sea returned to his strength when the morning appeared; and the Egyptians fled against it; and the LORD overthrew the Egyptians in the midst of the sea.
Exo 14:28 And the waters returned, and covered the chariots, and the horsemen, and all the host of Pharaoh that came into the sea after them; there remained not so much as one of them.
Exo 14:29 But the children of Israel walked upon dry land in the midst of the sea; and the waters were a wall unto them on their right hand, and on their left.
Exo 14:30 Thus the LORD saved Israel that day out of the hand of the Egyptians; and Israel saw the Egyptians dead upon the sea shore.
Exo 14:31 And Israel saw that great work which the LORD did upon the Egyptians
: and the people feared the LORD, and believed the LORD, and his servant Moses.

Study seeks to explain the parting of the Red Sea
The biblical account of the miraculous parting of the Red Sea has amazed and captivated people for thousands of years. New research released today could give a scientific grounding to the story.
The study, published today in the online journal PLoS ONE, finds that strong, persistent winds could offer a physical explanation for the event, which was made eternally famous by Charlton Heston in the epic film The Ten Commandments.

Lead author Carl Drews, a scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo., used computer simulations to recreate what might have happened that day some 3,000 years ago.

"The simulations match fairly closely with the account in Exodus," says Drews.

As recorded in Exodus 14, "Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and all that night the Lord drove the sea back with a strong east wind and turned it into dry land."

This allowed the Israelites to escape pursuit by the Egyptians, who were killed once the water closed up again.

Drews' simulations found that a strong east wind, blowing at a constant speed of about 63 mph for 12 hours, could have pushed water back at a bend where an ancient river is thought to have merged with a coastal lagoon along the Mediterranean. Such an event occurred in 1882, when a British Army general reported a strong easterly wind that pushed the water away on Lake Menzaleh, on the west side of the Suez Canal.

With the water pushed back into both waterways, a land bridge would have opened at the bend, Drews says, enabling people to walk across exposed mud flats to safety. As soon as the wind died down, the waters would have rushed back in.

Drews says it is possible for people to walk in winds as strong as 63 mph winds, which is partly why he chose that speed for the simulation.

The research was based on a reconstruction of the likely locations and depths of Nile delta waterways, which have shifted considerably over time.

Other previous studies have looked into scientific explanations for this event. One proposed that a tsunami may have caused the seas to part. But Drews says such an event would not have caused the gradual overnight divide of the waters as described in the Bible.

"People have always been fascinated by this Exodus story, wondering if it comes from historical facts," Drews says. "What this study shows is that the description of the waters parting indeed has a basis in physical laws."

Ken Ham, president and CEO of the Creation Museum, in Petersburg, Ky., needs no scientific explanation: "The parting of the Red Sea was a miracle," he wrote in an e-mail. "It was an extraordinary act of God. Yet, God used a force of nature — wind — to bring about this miracle. But there is no need to come up with a naturalistic explanation of a supernatural event."

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Saturday 09-25-10

Six arrested in Gateshead over 'Koran burning'
Six people have been arrested on suspicion of inciting racial hatred after videos emerged on the internet apparently showing copies of the Koran being burned.
''The incident was recorded and a video placed on the internet.''

In a video still accessible on YouTube, six young men in hooded tops or wearing scarves over their faces can be seen pouring petrol on a book and setting it alight, before burning another.

On the video, which appeared to have been filmed behind a pub, they cheer as the first book bursts into flames.

Northumbria Police said the men were not arrested for watching or distributing the video, but on suspicion of burning the Koran.

Warren Buffett to CNBC: "We're Still In a Recession"
Warren Buffett tells CNBC that by his own "common sense" definition, the United States is "still in a recession."

In a taped interview with Becky Quick airing this morning on CNBC's Squawk Box, Buffett says, "I think we're in a recession until real per capita GDP gets back to where it was before."

While Buffett continues to believe the U.S. will eventually emerge from its economic downturn, "We're not gonna be out of it for awhile."

Buffett was responding to a question from question about the National Bureau of Economic Research's determination earlier this week that the recession 'officially' ended in June, 2009.

WARREN BUFFETT: Well, my experience is that they, they, they really, the business has reasonable equity, reasonable prospects. Now, you, if you want to start a business and have no equity, you can try and borrow the whole thing, you shouldn't get the money. I mean, it, it, so, a lot of dumb loans were made three, four, and five years ago. And not only in real estate, but, but in, commercial businesses.

But the banks I know are dying to get the money out. Right now, there's over a trillion dollars of the banks, and they only have deposits of $7 or $8 trillion, there's over a trillion dollars on deposit with the Federal Reserve, earning a quarter of one percent. You go broke with a bank earning a quarter of one percent on your money, even if it doesn't cost you anything. Your operating expenses will eat up. So, you want to get it out in loans. And, there is, there is, there is money available.

BECKY QUICK: So, how are small businesses faring right now, if you had to look overall? Obviously, everyone's in a different position. But overall, how do you think they're doing?

BUFFETT: I think they're doing about like the economy is. That they, they've been through, a terrible period. And I know some in Omaha, and Omaha hasn't been as hard hit as many others, but all businesses went through a terrible period. And, and basically, the government did the right thing in terms of getting the economy going again. It can't do it overnight or anything of the sort. I think most small businesses have come back somewhat. But they've, they, they're nowhere near their peaks.

BECKY: The NBER said this week that the recession officially ended back in June of last year.

BUFFETT: Well, they define it differently. (Laughs.) But I, I mean, I define it, I think we're in a recession until real per capita GDP gets back up to where it was before. That is not the way the National Bureau of Economic Research measures it. But I will tell you that to any, on any common sense definition, the average American is below where he was before, or his family, in terms of real income, GDP. We're still in a recession. And, and we're not gonna be out of it for awhile, but we will get out of it.

BECKY: We're not gonna be out of it for awhile meaning, you can see what? A quarter, two quarters, a year down the road? Just from your businesses are telling you?

BUFFETT: Our businesses are coming back, on average, we've got 70-some businesses. But most of them, the great majority are coming back slowly. If you take our railroad business (Burlington Northern Santa Fe), and our railroad business is typical of the other railroads in the company. If you take the peak period for shipments and then you go all the way down to the bottom, we're 61 percent of the way back up. That's better, I think, than most businesses are in the country. I don't think most businesses are 61 percent, our carpet business, our brick business, our insulation business, they're not back 61 percent, but they are moving back.

BECKY: What about from an employment perspective. We still have nine and a half percent unemployment in the country. What are your businesses doing right now in terms of hiring?

BUFFETT: Adding, very few people. But the, the, the railroad will have added a fair number of people, because if you've come back 61 percent, you've come back a fair amount unemployment. But if you take our carpet business, it fell from 13 million yards a week, we'll say, to seven million yards a week. And with that cost 6,500 jobs. We're back up to maybe nine million yards a week. But we haven't had to add yet. If we get to ten million, we'll start adding people. But it, it's lagging and it'll continue to lag.

We have been sacked by the Humane Societyby Joe 'The Plumber' Wurzelbacher

While Americans across the country have entered the political game to save our country, moving that proverbial ball of freedom towards the end zone, we’ve been sacked. Blindsided. We’ve been so focused on legislative elections (and rightly so) that most Americans don’t even know they’ve been hit – and hit hard.

But not by some big, burly monster like voter fraud or corruption. No, we’ve been knocked flat by the ignorance of the conservative electorate and cute little puppies licking our stunned, what-the-heck-just-happened faces.

Well, I’ll tell you what just happened.

It’s called the Humane Society of the United States cowardly hiding behind animal cruelty, lying to our citizens and taking our constitutional rights away – one state at a time.

This radical animal rights organization (HSUS), who spends less than 0.5% of its $100M + budget on actually helping animals, is using the referendum process to slowly, systematically eliminate food production in the United States.

In California, HSUS has decimated the egg industry forcing chicken farmers out of business and consumers to buy imported eggs. In Florida, for all intents and purposes, HSUS eliminated the pork industry. (Wondering why pork prices are going sky high?) They’ve also crippled numerous other agribusinesses – dragging connected industries down with them.

This November, HSUS is after the dog breeding industry in Missouri calling the bill the “Puppy Cruelty Prevention Act”. Great name. I mean who wouldn’t want to keep someone from being cruel to a puppy? The problem is Missouri already HAS laws protecting animals – all animals. So what’s the real agenda?

Simply to get rid of ALL dog breeding in Missouri – the unlicensed AND licensed breeders. Missouri’s Proposition B makes it a “crime of cruelty” for a piece of dog food to be in a water bowl or for a dog breeder to treat their own pet if they become ill (even with something as simple as a cold). To add insult to injury, HSUS has exempted themselves and shelters from these same laws. Apparently, they’re allowed to be cruel, but no one else is. (No folks, I don’t make this stuff up.)

This would almost be comical if it weren’t for the OTHER, more insidious parts of this bill that hit at the very core of our liberties. This bill forces breeders to limit the number of dogs they can own – regardless of care. Think about this a minute . . . . Should the government have the right to limit the number of houses a realtor can sell? Or the number of cattle a rancher can raise?

These new regulations will put almost every breeder in Missouri out of business forcing the price of dogs to sky rocket and allowing pet ownership only for the very wealthy. But this bill is just a stepping stone. HSUS eventually wants to extend this law to ALL animals. Their idea of utopia is a United States with NO animal ownership; NO meat to eat; NO pets; NO hunting; NO fishing; NO service animals. If chicken farmers would be forced to own no more than 50 chickens they could no longer afford to stay in business. The same will hold true with hog farmers and cattle ranchers. Eventually, agri-business will be forced to go over seas, just as our manufacturing and tech industries.

But even the extinction of our food industry isn’t the scariest part of this whacko liberal agenda. A law is only as good as it’s enforced. And HSUS is happy to fill the void. HSUS has now become the self-appointed law enforcement of the animal world. In some states, HSUS employees are running around with guns and police-like badges breaking down doors, confiscating animals and business papers, and obtaining warrants with false information. Lawsuits are cropping up against HSUS, sheriffs and governments for blatant violations of the most basic of constitutional rights.

Enough is enough. We have to draw the line and hold these radical animal rights activists back. The battle this year is in Missouri. If we do not all enlist and soundly defeat this deceptive bill, you can expect your state to be next.

Washington struggling to rein in increasing homegrown terrorism
By Jordy Yager - 09/22/10 08:05 PM ET

Washington is struggling to stymie the growing trend of terrorists radicalized on American soil, officials said Wednesday.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, testifying before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, told senators that despite a surge in homegrown terrorist activity, the department is still figuring out how best to combat it.

“We do not yet have a complete understanding of what would cause a United States person to radicalize to the extent of violence,” said Napolitano, adding that the department was aiming its efforts at the community level by sharing information about the early signs violent radicalization might take.

“There’s no one way of counter-messaging,” she said. “We’re learning a lot about counter-messaging.”

Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) pointed out that at least 63 American citizens have been charged with or convicted of crimes directly related to terrorism during the past 18 months. The most widely known arrests occurred after the shooting rampage last year at Fort Hood in Texas, allegedly by a Muslim Army officer, and the failed Times Square car bombing in New York this past May.

FBI Director Robert Mueller and Napolitano warned senators that in addition to large terrorist organizations, even smaller factions that are al Qaeda affiliates have been increasing their focus on convincing Americans to carry out attacks.

“Groups affiliated with al Qaeda are now actively targeting the United States and looking to use Americans or Westerners who are able to remain undetected by heightened security measures,” said Mueller.

Michael Leiter, the head of the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC), also expressed his frustration with the growing trend of homegrown radicalization, stressing how difficult it is to combat.

“It’s a different challenge from what we see overseas because … it’s not easily isolated to a single demographic group or area,” said Leiter.

Lieberman pressed Leiter about whether his department was receiving enough funding and resources to effectively combat homegrown terrorism, but Leiter avoided the questions, saying the department was doing its best with what it had.

The committee’s ranking Republican, Sen. Susan Collins (Maine), raised additional concerns about the findings of a study by the Bipartisan Policy Center’s National Security Preparedness Group. The study states the U.S. has grown complacent in its attitude toward homegrown radicalization.

“The American ‘melting pot’ has not provided a firewall against the radicalization and recruitment of American citizens and residents, though it has arguably lulled us into a sense of complacency that homegrown terrorism couldn’t happen in the United States,” states the report.

Collins said that these findings were a call to “redouble our efforts to better anticipate, analyze and prepare.”

“We cannot afford a lapse in vigilance or foresight, nor wrap ourselves in a false security blanket,” said Collins.

She also posited that perhaps the various counterterrorism departments were having so much difficulty combating homegrown radicalization because there was no centralized agency in charge of operations.

“I can’t help but think that we have a lot of good people, a lot of good agencies [and] a lot of activity, but there still doesn’t seem to be an overall strategy nor accountability built in, nor a means of assessing the success,” said Collins. “I’m concerned that this … is too nebulous.”

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) received a great deal of criticism in the days following the failed Times Square bombing as well as the thwarted bombing of an airliner above Detroit on Christmas Day. Critics questioned how the alleged airplane bomber, a Nigerian man, made it past U.S. counterterrorism officials, especially after officials with the State Department and DHS had been alerted to his intentions.

Napolitano stressed there is a much stronger level of communication between departments, saying the use of 72 “fusion centers” is providing state and local officials with a stream of top-secret intelligence on suspicious activities while also channeling local intelligence back to analysts who have a big-picture view.

But Leiter, responding to Collins’s line of questioning, resisted accepting the argument that the NCTC was in charge of fusing U.S. counterterrorism intelligence.

“I think saying ‘in charge’ is too strong a word,” said Leiter. “[The NCTC is] who’s responsible for coordinating across multiple departments … in conjunction with the National Security Council.”

Napolitano said that perhaps in the future officials should hammer out an overarching written strategy that details a chain of command and operations.

In a simultaneous move aimed at remedying the weaknesses that the attempted Christmas Day bombing revealed in aviation security — as first reported by The Hill — Napolitano said that the U.S. would be leading the charge to establish a set of security standards for international airports at next week’s United Nations’ International Civil Aviation Organization’s general assembly.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Friday 09-24-10

More good news, people protecting them selves and standing up is always good.
Police: Alleged Home Intruders Looking for Cash, Pills; 1 Shot Dead
One alleged burglar was killed and another was arrested after being caught by the homeowners.

The Wayne County Sheriff's Department is still investigating a fatal shooting that happened on East Lynn Creek Road Sunday night.

Casey Bartram has now been named the shooter in what detectives are calling a "burglary gone wrong." Jason Hall was shot and while allegedly burglarizing Bartram and his girlfriend's property.

Williamson said it appears, but it is not confirmed, Jason Hall and Gary Maynard were looking for a cash settlement and prescription medications they knew the homeowners had.

Bartram and his girlfriend, Brittany Stroud, came home to find the two men wearing masks and allegedly robbing them. Hall was shot and killed and Maynard ran from the scene.

Bartram is not facing charges.

Maynard was arraigned on burglary charges in Wayne Magistrate Court Monday afternoon.

Just the way free-enterprise works, i personally use Avast and Spybot, and like both.

Free anti-virus protection spurs more robust options
With cyberattacks saturating the Internet, a dramatic shift is underway in the $7 billion-a-year anti-virus industry — and it's all good news for consumers.
There's no excuse anymore not to have anti-virus protection on your PC. You can get basic free protection from Microsoft with few hassles. Or you can opt for more robust protection — also at no cost — from a half-dozen reputable anti-virus makers. You need only endure marketing pitches to upgrade to their respective flagship products.

Spend a few pennies a day and you can step up to a very powerful anti-virus suite, available from a slew of established software security companies. Spurred by the rise of no-cost alternatives, Symantec, McAfee, Trend Micro and others are revving up their AV software suites, making them stronger, smarter and less demanding of your PC's resources.

"We're seeing a wonderful thing," says Jay Foley, executive director of the non-profit Identity Theft Resource Center. "More companies are coming out with free software, and at the same time the established players are coming out with more vibrant products that give the home user or small-business owner greater protections."

No-cost basic protection is fast catching on. A recent Morgan Stanley survey of 2,500 U.S. consumers showed 46% of the respondents used free anti-virus products. This trend is expected to continue as more frugal-minded consumers in the U.S. and elsewhere around the world recognize the need to protect their Internet-connected PCs.

Over time, this trend seems sure to dampen cybercriminals' ready access to PCs that have no protection at all, cybersecurity experts say. Today, an estimated 40% to 60% of PCs go unprotected. These are the easiest fresh machines for cybergangs to infect, steal data from and use to carry out online scams.

"The immediate benefit of free consumer offerings is that more network-connected machines worldwide are getting active protection," says Neil MacDonald, privacy and risk research fellow at Gartner Information Security.

Is 'free' protection enough?

The rise of free has also lit a fire under the anti-virus giants. They've begun stepping up marketing campaigns to convey why full AV suites, priced from $30 to $80 for a year's worth of continuously updated protection, are well worth the money.

"Freeware vendors have created a false perception that free, basic security is enough to protect you from today's online threats," says Janice Chaffin, president of Symantec's consumer business unit. "The reality is, free is not enough. It's like wearing a light windbreaker in a snowstorm."

A USA TODAY survey of 16 anti-virus companies shows that no-cost anti-virus programs generally lack important features such as a firewall, website health checks, automatic updates and customer support. Meanwhile, full, subscription AV suites continue to get more powerful each year.

Symantec, McAfee and most others, for instance, incorporate technology designed to predict, rather than react to, new attacks. Panda Security and Trend Micro are leaders in using "cloud" computing to deliver protection. They've transferred the intensive processing required to identify and block attacks off of the user's PC and onto their own servers.

"Vendors are improving and enhancing the breadth and depth of the security offerings they hope we will pay for," says Keith Weiss, Morgan Stanley anti-virus industry analyst.

Marketing muddle

Any lack of public understanding about this trend derives in no small part from the intensely competitive nature of the anti-virus industry. Microsoft stands alone in making basic protection entirely gratis. After years of trying, the software giant bailed out of trying to make a profit selling security to consumers. A year ago it launched Microsoft Security Essentials, mainly to protect the reputation of the Windows operating system, as well as to boost overall confidence in the Internet.

Study the marketing messages from all other anti-virus suppliers, and you can land in a muddle. Avast, Avira, AVG, Immunet, Panda Security and PC Tools offer reputable no-cost protection. Symantec, McAfee and Trend Micro preload free trial versions of their AV suites onto new Windows PCs. Kaspersky, Webroot and Trend Micro can be found on the shelves at major U.S. retailers. And every anti-virus supplier relies to one degree or another on Internet promotions.

The common denominator: Each promotion — whether it be for a free basic version or free trial period or a free infection scan — seeks to convert users to a paid subscription.

The stakes are high. Consumers and companies this year will spend $7.2 billion on anti-virus software, up from $5.8 billion in 2007, Gartner says. Marketing pitches to get a piece of this lucrative pie run the gamut, from clear and straightforward to persistent and confusing, USA TODAY's survey found.

"It seems contradictory," says Chris Benham, chief marketing officer at Webroot. "You're in the business of trying to keep insidious software off people's computers, yet you're engaging in underhanded tactics."

Complicating matters, a thriving "scareware" criminal industry revolves around mimicking free infection scans of your PC, a promotional tool used by legitimate AV vendors. The bogus scans typically arrive in an unsolicited pop-up ad and attempt to frighten the victim into spending $30 to $80 for a worthless cleanup.

One cybergang, operating out of Ohio and the Ukraine, banked $163 million from 2004 to mid-2008 pitching scareware. The FBI broke up that gang, but others like it continue to thrive.

"The malware writers and hackers have really muddied the waters," says Rick Carlson, president of Panda Security's U.S. division.

Between aggressive promotions and criminal mimicry, anti-virus marketing messages "have gotten so complicated that consumers are at a loss to try to figure out whether they are protected at all," says David Perry, Trend Micro's global education director.

Homework required

The upshot for consumers: Be prepared to do your homework. Start with the assumptions that free protection is better than none at all, and that no single security product will keep you completely immune to cyberattacks. That's what Mickey Cashen did last spring upon discovering that an intruder had accessed his older Windows XP computer to send e-mail spam to his friends, despite running an updated anti-virus program.

The retired high school science teacher from Brooklyn Park, Md., estimates that he spent 50 hours over the next six months researching and evaluating security products. Cashen read product reviews in PC Magazine, PC World and on CNet and scoured lab tests by and, two independent tech security research groups.

He decided not to spend a penny, opting for free Avira AntiVir Personal for basic protection, combined with a free firewall from Comodo.

He also began using WinPatrol, a free program that blocks unauthorized additions to his PC's start-up sequence — a technique hackers use to re-infect your PC each time you boot up. And he relies on not one but three free Web browser plug-ins — AVG LinkScanner, McAfee SiteAdvisor and KeyScrambler — to help steer him clear of infected Web pages.

"I learned that multiple layers of protection are preferred," says Cashen. "I ended up very satisfied with what I think is a small fortress."

Anti-virus company executives, as you might expect, hope Cashen is the exception and not the rule. "There are users out there who think they can cobble together their own protection," says Trend Micro's Perry. "But the best thing for most people to do is install a single manufacturer's all-in-one protection."

Even so, simple economics suggest the popularity of free security tools will continue to soar among those on tight budgets: citizens of Third World nations, college students, the unemployed, the underemployed and retirees, like Cashen. What's more, word-of-mouth is a powerful no-cost marketing tool.

"Many consumers rely on the advice of others, and some of the free products have loyal and vocal followers," says Randy Abrams, director of technical education at anti-virus firm ESET.

Abrams and other anti-virus company executives interviewed as part of USA TODAY's survey hold a consensus view of how they believe the anti-virus market is likely to evolve.

As cyberattacks continue to spread, they see more computer users recognizing the need to protect their PCs. While many will gravitate to free protection, some will eventually convert to a paid subscription for a cutting-edge AV suite.

"Think of it as an insurance policy for your digital life," says Webroot's Benham. "As you put more personal information on your computer, you'll want more protection."

Old Machine Gun Ads

That big screen tv will be good for something after an emp though it would be a heavy fire starter, it might be useful as a solar cooker, on sunny days.
Firefighters: TV left in sun likely caused blaze
September 21, 2010 - 9:19pm

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (AP) - A big-screen television left outside in the sun this week was blamed for a fire that caused minor damage to a Springfield apartment. Assistant Fire Chief Randy Villines called the blaze "bizarre" and said mirrors inside the projection TV likely bounced and concentrated sunlight enough to start a fire.

The TV was left outside the apartment building Monday with the screen facing toward a parking lot.

The Springfield News-Leader reported that one person was arrested at the scene on suspicion of an unrelated charge, but Villines declined to give additional details.

One apartment complex resident was treated for smoke inhalation but refused further treatment.

Officials said a sprinkler system installed on the outside patio possibly prevented the blaze from spreading more rapidly to the wooden balconies above the patio.

___ Information from: Springfield News-Leader,

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Thursday 09-23-10

What a shame,
84-year-old vet suffers broken neck after police takedown

An elderly man is in critical condition after being thrown to the ground by a police officer.

It happened Saturday night near North Orange Avenue after police say Daniel Daley put his hands on the cop.

The World War II veteran is out of surgery. He suffered an injury doctors at Florida Hospital say only about 10 percent of people are lucky enough to survive.

Daley left the Caboose Bar and headed to his car across the street Saturday night.

Witnesses say the 84-year-old was upset when he saw his car was about to be towed.

The Ivanhoe Grocery owner recently posted signs warning drivers because customers of other businesses were parking in their spots.

Several people, who didn't want to go on camera, say it has led to plenty of arguments the past few weeks, but none with the potentially deadly consequences that happened Saturday.

The police were called and say Daley, who'd been drinking, put his hands on the officer.

Witnesses say he put his hands on the officer three times and the cop warned him to stop each time.

Police say Daley made a fist and said ‘I'm not leaving until I knock this cop out.’

Another witness says the officer then violently hip checked him and took him to the ground.

Daley ended up in Florida Hospital with a broken neck.

There's nothing that deals with the elderly in the Orlando Police Department’s use of force policy. However, it does define imminent danger as a situation that could lead to death or great bodily harm.

An Orlando police sergeant and spokesperson said this situation should qualify as imminent danger, but many residents don't think so.

"I don't think anyone needs to be thrown to the ground and have their neck broken because they were parked in the wrong spot,” said Gabby Aparacio, store customer. “I mean he's an old man. It doesn't matter if you've been drinking or not. How belligerent can you be?"

"I know when I get angry, I ball my fist. It doesn't mean I'm going to hit you. I think he had no right to do so,” said Nataya Benway.

As part of standard procedure, internal investigators will look at whether the officer complied with the department’s use of force policy.

Medal of Honor highlights secret heroics decades later

WASHINGTON — An Air Force hero who saved the lives of three colleagues at a secret radar station in Laos more than 42 years ago was posthumously awarded the nation's highest award for bravery Tuesday by President Obama.
Chief Master Sgt. Richard Etchberger was awarded the Medal of Honor for "conspicuous gallantry" after helping three wounded people onto an evacuation helicopter.

The radar site's existence was cloaked in secrecy for years because Laos was a neutral country and the U.S. government did not acknowledge having troops there. Etchberger's heroic actions emerged only as the veil of secrecy was lifted.

"His mission had been a secret, and that's how it stayed for many years," Obama said.

White House documents said the radar installation was presumed to be secure, since it was surrounded by sheer slopes, its summit poking out above the clouds.

On March 11, 1968, an enemy force of highly trained North Vietnamese soldiers scaled the cliffs, taking the 19 Americans by surprise. Etchberger and four others scrambled to a rocky ledge. He loaded his men onto a rescue helicopter and called in airstrikes as the invading soldiers closed in, according to the White House.

Etchberger would board the helicopter only after the other men were safely on board. As the helicopter banked away, he was hit by a burst of fatal gunfire from the mountaintop. Only seven Americans made it out alive.

Etchberger's late wife, Catherine, had known about her husband's actions but was sworn to secrecy. "And she kept that promise — to her husband and her country — all those years, not even telling her own sons," Obama said.

Germany demands internet code of practice
The German government has reacted to public privacy concerns about Google Street View by demanding internet companies work out a code of practice to protect the data they collect.

Thomas de Maizière, interior minister, said voluntary regulation could render legislation “at least in part redundant”, a signal that the government is softening its line on regulation of new internet services.

Civil-rights activists demanded homeowners be given the chance to have their properties blanked out – a request Google granted – and some government ministers openly mulled legislation to rein in Google and other providers of photographs.

But the interior minister in past weeks managed to get his cabinet colleagues to agree to allow the sector to regulate itself, a move employed by successive governments.

Germany’s stock-listed companies in the past years drew up and constantly refined a voluntary corporate governance codex, labouring under the implicit threat that the government would legislate unless the voluntary code had teeth.

Internet companies in Germany will now have to work together under the same pressure from Berlin. Mr de Maizière gave the companies until December 7 to draft first ideas and to consult with consumer protection groups.

Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger, justice minister, said the government might yet couple a voluntary code with new laws in the consumer area, but said the idea was still being discussed.