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Archive for November 2008

Where will Bush hide after he’s out of office?

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Political observers say setting up a post-presidency home for U.S. President George W. Bush is problematic due to security concerns.

While first lady Laura Bush says the family may to be headed to Dallas after the presidential changeover on Jan. 20, preparing a final destination is no simple task.

Southern Methodist University political science professor Cal Jillson said while the Bush family could immediately live at its ranch in Crawford, Texas, a Dallas home would require more preparation time.

“There would be a lot of activity to get such a place ready for the post-presidential family,” the professor at the Dallas college said. “That requires a lot of security, and that can’t happen in the time that remains.”

Just think of the quantity of armor plate, guards with Uzis and slavering Texas Rangers required?

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Written by Ed Campbell

November 30, 2008 at 10:00 pm

Posted in Politics

Tagged with , , , ,

Fast Food: A Risk Factor For Alzheimer’s?

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Do they mean like this?

Mice that were fed a diet rich in fat, sugar and cholesterol for nine months developed a preliminary stage of the morbid irregularities that form in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients. The study results, published in a doctoral thesis from the Swedish medical university Karolinska Institutet (KI), give some indications of how this difficult to treat disease might one day be preventable….

The underlying causes of Alzheimer’s disease are still something of a mystery, but there are a number of known risk factors. The most common is a variant of a certain gene that governs the production of apolipoprotein E, one of the functions of which is to transport cholesterol. The gene variant is called apoE4 and is found in 15-20 per cent of the population.

For her doctoral thesis, Susanne Akterin studied mice that had been genetically modified to mimic the effects of apoE4 in humans. The mice were then fed for nine months on a diet rich in fat, sugar and cholesterol, representing the nutritional content of most fast food.

“On examining the brains of these mice, we found a chemical change not unlike that found in the Alzheimer brain,” says Ms Akterin, postgraduate at KI Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center.

Interesting study.  But why must such findings be presented as a “fast food” story?  Folks, I eat a lot of fast food.  While doing so, I rarely eat a meal “rich in fat, sugar and cholesterol.”  On the contrary, I eat mostly grilled chicken, plenty of salads, rarely any french fries, and the chili and baked potato at Wendy’s are delicious, thankyevedimuch.  I enjoy grabbing a sandwich at Subway, and know a nice lady from India who knows how to load it down with lots of veggies.  (I usually get no meat!)

Order what you will.  But please don’t blame the brick and mortar.  It’s called “personal responsibility.”

Written by K B

November 30, 2008 at 6:00 pm

Posted in Health

Tagged with , , ,

German general admits abysmal record in Afghanistan

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Police Academy graduates

Breaking with a military tradition of keeping silent about policy, a top German general has branded his country’s efforts in Afghanistan a failure, singling out its poor record in training the Afghan police and allocating development aid.

The comments came from General Hans-Christoph Ammon, head of the army’s elite special commando unit, or KSK, whose officers are in Afghanistan fighting alongside U.S. forces against Al Qaeda and the Taliban.

The training scheme was “a miserable failure,” Ammon told DPA, the German press agency, after describing the German record in Afghanistan to a gathering last week of a reservists’ association. The government had provided a mere €12 million for training the Afghan Army and police while the United States has already given more than $1 billion, he said.

“At that rate, it would take 82 years to have a properly trained police force,” he said. More damaging for Germany’s reputation, Ammon said, was that its police-training mission was considered such a “disaster” that the United States and EU had taken over responsibility.

There could hardly be a more telling criticism than for Germany to admit the Americans [and the French?] could do a better job at something like policing. Like teaching policing? Wow!

Written by Ed Campbell

November 30, 2008 at 4:00 pm

U.S. bioterror labs tripled – creating new safety risks

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Seven years after the 2001 anthrax attacks, a congressionally ordered study finds a growing threat of biological terrorism and calls for aggressive defenses on par with those used to prevent a terrorist nuclear detonation…

The bipartisan report faults the Bush administration for devoting insufficient resources to prevent an attack and says U.S. policies have at times impeded international biodefense efforts while promoting the rapid growth of a network of domestic laboratories possessing the world’s most dangerous pathogens.

The number of such “high-containment” labs in the United States has tripled since 2001, yet U.S. officials have not implemented adequate safeguards to prevent deadly germs from being stolen or accidentally released, it says. “The rapid growth in the number of such labs in recent years has created new safety and security risks which must be managed,” the draft report states…

The biodefense research industry that sprang up after 2001 offers potential solutions to a future attack, but also numerous new opportunities for theft or diversion of deadly germs, the report says. Today, about 400 research facilities and 14,000 people are authorized to work with deadly strains in the United States alone, and several of the new labs have been embroiled in controversies because of security breaches, such as the escape of lab animals.

Internationally, the challenges are even greater. And we know how much respect the United States enjoys around the world.

Written by Ed Campbell

November 30, 2008 at 2:00 pm

Posted in Politics, Science

Tagged with , , , ,

Swiss approve legal heroin program

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Daylife/AP Photo by Anja Niedringhaus

A pioneering Swiss program to give addicts government-authorized heroin was overwhelmingly approved Sunday by voters who simultaneously rejected the decriminalization of marijuana.

Sixty-eight percent of voters approved making the heroin program permanent. It has been credited with reducing crime and improving the health and daily lives of addicts since it began 14 years ago.

Only 36.8 percent of voters favored the marijuana intitiative…

Parliament approved the heroin measure in a revision of Switzerland’s narcotics law this past March, but conservatives challenged the decision and forced a national referendum under Switzerland’s system of direct democracy.

Neither vote surprised me. Still, an advance over measures that keep an economy alive for gangsters.

Written by Ed Campbell

November 30, 2008 at 12:00 pm

Bush rushes to enact regulations to screw all of us

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The Labor Department is racing to complete a new rule, strenuously opposed by President-elect Barack Obama, that would make it much harder for the government to regulate toxic substances and hazardous chemicals to which workers are exposed on the job.

The rule, which has strong support from business groups, says that in assessing the risk from a particular substance, federal agencies should gather and analyze “industry-by-industry evidence” of employees’ exposure to it during their working lives. The proposal would, in many cases, add a step to the lengthy process of developing standards to protect workers’ health.

Public health officials and labor unions said the rule would delay needed protections for workers, resulting in additional deaths and illnesses.

With the economy tumbling and American troops fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, President Bush has promised to cooperate with Mr. Obama to make the transition “as smooth as possible.” But that has not stopped his administration from trying, in its final days, to cement in place a diverse array of new regulations.

Regulations which will affect the lives of workers, degrade our environment, further diminish the quality of life for Americans – at the behest of the corporations who thoroughly own this government.

Written by Ed Campbell

November 30, 2008 at 10:00 am

Landing undeterred – setting out to kill in Mumbai

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Candles burn in front of the Taj Mahal hotel in memory of the victims
Daylife/Reuters Pictures

As Prasan Dhanur prepared his 13-foot boat on Wednesday evening for a hard night of fishing, he saw something strange.

A black inflatable lifeboat equipped with a brand new Yamaha outboard motor threaded its way among the small, wooden fishing boats at anchor and pulled up to the concrete pier of the slum where Dhanur, 24, has lived his whole life as a fisherman.

Ten men, all apparently in their early 20s, jumped out. They stripped off orange windbreakers to reveal T-shirts and blue jeans. Then they began hoisting large, heavy backpacks out of the boat and onto their shoulders, each taking care to claim the pack assigned to him.

Dhanur flipped his boat light toward the men, and Kashinath Patil, a 72-year-old harbor official on duty nearby, asked the men what they were doing.

“I said: ‘Where are you going? What’s in your bags?”‘ Patil recalled.

“They said: ‘We don’t want any attention. Don’t bother us.”‘ Thus began a crucial phase of the recent terror attacks…

Thus began the slaughter of the innocents that transformed Mumbai for the next three days. And more.

Written by Ed Campbell

November 30, 2008 at 8:00 am

American military has freed half of Iraqi detainees

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More than 17,500 detainees have been freed from custody in Iraq this year, leaving about 15,800 in custody.

Coalition officials said in a news release that it had been determined those released no longer posed a threat to Iraqi citizens, Iraqi security forces or the government.

“It is our responsibility to release detainees in a safe and orderly manner according to the Geneva Convention,” said Brig. Gen. David E. Quantock, deputy commanding general of detainee operations. “We’re releasing an average of 50 a day, 1,500 a month, which is a very good pace.”

Quantock said detainees are offered education and vocational training meant to give them skills to become productive members of Iraqi society.

Of course, many already have skills useful in the new Iraq society.

Yes, I noticed the General had heard of the Geneva Convention.

Written by Ed Campbell

November 30, 2008 at 6:00 am

Chrysler white-collar workers overwhelmingly choose buyout

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Overwhelming response by Chrysler LLC salaried workers taking buyout packages may be enough to avoid further layoffs. “We’re fairly certain we’ve achieved our target and won’t have to do any involuntary layoffs for the end of the year,” said spokeswoman Lori McTavish.

Thousands of white-collar workers chose to take packages and walked out the door for the last time Wednesday night. And while most will drop off the payroll as of Nov. 30, the high take rate has forced some departments to offer a temporary extension to select full-time and contract employees to get through the transitional month of December. A new restructured personnel plan is to go into effect in the new year.

All employees regardless of how many years they had with Chrysler, were eligible for a combination of money, car vouchers and some health care.

Phew!

Of course, as the economy continues to disappear down the crapper, as America’s mid-western manufacturing base remains mired in the 1950′s – there’s no saying the layoff monster won’t reappear.

Written by Ed Campbell

November 30, 2008 at 2:00 am

Train track network to link Asian nations

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Train lovers and travel nuts have long had a dream of going from Europe to Singapore by rail.

The journey to the East goes well as far as China, and the upgrading of tracks – sometimes with high-speed trains – is easing passage as far as Hong Kong.

From then on south, the rail buff, and potential cargo carriers, must wait just a few more years.

Diplomacy and funding from France and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) have been agreed for the next step, from China to the Vietnamese capital of Hanoi.

And there are more routes being built from Kunming in the Chinese province of Yunnan.

Regional transport specialists told the BBC that two-thirds of the line from Kunming to the Chinese side of the border is completed, and a project is under way on the Vietnamese side to Lao Khai on the border.

It will be possible to catch a train, or put a container on a train, from Singapore to Phnom Penh within two years, and from Phnom Penh to Ho Chi Minh City within five years.

The details are what you would expect. Just forget the Westerners recollection of coolies toiling like disturbed ants. That’s been dissipating since 1949.

Regional giants, Euro corporations with an interest in long-term global commerce participate in this vast new enterprise – as Asians have come to expect.

Americans think freight trains are those things that slow them down when they drive through small towns in Texas.

Written by Ed Campbell

November 29, 2008 at 10:00 pm

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