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Archive for August 2012

Pic of the Day

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Click on photo to enlarge

A grey-headed flying fox takes a drink in New South Wales. The photograph is one of 100 in the Veolia environment wildlife photographer of the year competition on show at the Natural History Museum, London.

From the GUARDIAN’S daily Eyewitness Series.

The scariest photo of a critter simply taking a drink I have ever seen. Imagine this coming in your direction at the side of a quiet pond! Woo-hoo!

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Written by Ed Campbell

August 31, 2012 at 10:00 pm

Celebrity priest says boys are often seducers of pedophiles

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Critics blasted a nationally renowned Catholic priest Thursday for his outrageous claim that underage victims of pedophiles such as Jerry Sandusky and rogue priests are sometimes the seducers.

In an interview with the National Catholic Register, the Rev. Benedict Groeschel, former head of the Office of Spiritual Development for the Archdiocese of New York, appalled victims rights advocates when he offered sympathy for disgraced ex-Penn State coach Sandusky and suggested that first-time sexual predators deserved no jail time.

“It’s disgusting,” said David Clohessy, director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.

“It’s wrong to demonize children who were raped, and it’s even worse to turn it around and turn the victims into the villains,” said Clohessy. “This is not only backward and wrong, but hurtful and counter-productive…”

The priest suggested that kids “looking for a father figure” make overtures to adults such as clergymen or coaches…“People have this picture in their minds of a psychopath,” Groeschel said, referring to pedophiles. “But that’s not the case.

“Suppose you have a man having a nervous breakdown, and a youngster comes after him,” he continued. “A lot of the cases, the youngster — 14, 16, 18 — is the seducer.”

He went on to express his sympathy for “this poor guy Sandusky” — the former Penn State defense coordinator convicted in June of abusing 10 boys over many years…

And he asserted that first-time pedophiles should receive a pass on jail time because it was more a sin than a crime.

“It was a moral failure, scandalous,” he said. “But (pedophiles) didn’t think of it in terms of legal things.”

The predictable non-denial denial came out the next day. It is claimed that Groeschel is old and having memory lapses.

Sounds to me like his memory works fine and he’s expressing what has been the position of way too many officials in the Catholic Church – for decades.

Quebec coppers seek thieves with $30 million of maple syrup

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Thieves have made off with a “considerable amount” of maple syrup from a warehouse in Quebec…The warehouse, in St-Louis-de-Blandford, stocked more than $30m worth of the product. Police said it was too early to say how much had been stolen.

Quebec provincial sergeant Claude Denis said on Friday that the warehouse stored more than 10 million pounds of maple syrup.

The Federation of Quebec Maple Syrup Producers says they discovered the missing syrup when a routine inventory turned up empty barrels…

It is believed that the thieves decanted the syrup into other containers, with the intent of selling it on.

The federation said that if the thieves attempted to sell the syrup, the whole industry would be affected. “It is crucial to identify those responsible for this crime,” the federation said.

Quebec produces 70 to 80% of the world’s maple syrup. Most of the exported product is sold in the United States.

Sylvain Charlebois, a food policy researcher at the University of Guelph, told the Globe and Mail that it would be hard to track the contraband syrup. “It is going to be problematic, one way or the other, whether it’s to sell through proper channels or dealing with the black market,” he said.

I can already visualize the making of another McKenzie brothers movie.

Written by Ed Campbell

August 31, 2012 at 2:00 pm

Harvard investigates cheating on exam about government

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Harvard University is investigating 125 students accused of collaborating on a spring take-home final exam, in what could prove to be the largest Ivy League cheating scandal in recent memory.

Nearly half the students in an introductory government class are suspected of jointly coming up with answers or copying off one another. Groups of students appear to have worked together on responses to short questions and an essay assignment, violating a no-collaboration policy that was printed on the exam itself, said Jay Harris, Harvard’s dean of undergraduate education.

Although no students appear to have lifted text from outside sources, some apparently plagiarized their classmates’ work, submitting answers that were either identical or “too close for comfort,” Harris said Thursday…

The students whose tests were flagged as problematic — nearly 2 percent of the college’s approximately 6,700 undergraduates — have been notified and will appear before the board individually in the next few weeks, Harris said. Some may be exonerated, but those found guilty could face a range of punishments up to yearlong suspensions…

College officials declined to name the course or any students involved, citing federal privacy laws. But the Harvard Crimson identified the class late Thursday as Government 1310: Introduction to Congress, taught by assistant professor Matthew Platt…

How appropriate can the study of a corrupt body become?

When a democratic republic allows our law-making body to continue archaic practices like the electoral college and the filibuster, corruption becomes inevitable. When a body like the Senate incorporates self-serving rules allowing a single member to prevent voting on an issue, when that same body disables access to majority voting – democracy is subverted, representative leadership and responsibility to voters becomes impossible.

When ethics and economics are subservient to lobbying, real and apparent buying and selling of votes – I can only guess these students have learned their lessons well.

Written by Ed Campbell

August 31, 2012 at 10:00 am

America’s Exceptional Fiscal Conservatism

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In most countries, to be “fiscally conservative” means to worry a great deal about the budget deficit and debt levels – and to push these issues to the top of the policy agenda. In many eurozone countries today, “fiscal conservatives” are a powerful group, insisting on the need to boost government revenue while bringing spending under control. In Great Britain, too, leading Conservatives have recently proved willing to raise taxes and attempted to limit future spending.

The United States is very different in this respect. There, leading politicians who choose to call themselves “fiscal conservatives” – such as Paul Ryan, now the Republican Party’s presumptive vice-presidential nominee to run alongside presidential candidate Mitt Romney in November’s election – care more about cutting taxes, regardless of the effect on the federal deficit and total outstanding debt. Why do US fiscal conservatives care so little about government debt, relative to their counterparts in other countries?

It has not always been this way. For example, in 1960, President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s advisers suggested that he should cut taxes in order to pave the way for his vice president, Richard Nixon, to be elected to the presidency. Eisenhower declined, partly because he did not particularly like or trust Nixon, but mostly because he thought it was important to hand over a more nearly balanced budget to his successor.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Ed Campbell

August 31, 2012 at 6:00 am

World’s oldest message in bottle found by trawler “Copious” off the coast of Shetland Isles

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Andrew Leaper and the bottle

A small glass bottle, spotted sticking out of the net of a trawler alongside a catch of cod, haddock and monkfish, has set a remarkable world record in the annals of maritime history.

The eight-inch “message in bottle” had been adrift in the stormy waters of the northern North Sea off the coast of Shetland for 97 years and 309 days.

The new world record for discovering the oldest message in a bottle is held by Andrew Leaper, who was skipper of the Lerwick-registered Copious when he made the amazing find in April.

Coincidentally, his friend Mark Anderson set the previous record in 2006 when he was skippering the same boat. Both bottles that made the record books are from a batch of 1,890 scientific research “drift bottles” released in various parts of the North Sea in June 1914 by experts from the Glasgow School of Navigation as part of a study to map the currents of the seas around Scotland…

The bottle is now one of the prized exhibits in the Interpretative Centre on the Shetland island of Fetlar, where Mr Leaper was born and raised.

Richard Lochhead, the Scottish environment secretary, said: “The story of scientific drift bottles is a fascinating one and harks back to an area when we were only beginning to understand the complexities of the seas.

It’s amazing that nearly 98 years on bottles are still being returned to the marine laboratory – and in such fantastic condition. With many bottles still unreturned, there is always the chance in the coming years that a Scottish drift bottle will once again break the record.”

What a delightful find.

My closest friend, Clyde, and I were part-time beachcombers for years back in New England. Never found anything of this historic value. Though we did turn out some gorgeous woodwork from driftwood.

Written by Ed Campbell

August 31, 2012 at 2:00 am

“No Indians, No Asians” job ad gets cleaning subcontractor fired

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One of Australia’s largest supermarket chains has come under fire for an online job ad that specified that “no Indians or Asians” should apply…The ad, which sought cleaners at a Coles supermarket near the Tasmanian capital of Hobart, sparked condemnation after it was posted Sunday…

Coles said the offending ad was placed by a cleaning subcontractor without the company’s knowledge, in a written statement from spokesperson Jim Cooper.

“Coles is a proud, equal-opportunity employer and at no time have we ever issued the directives contained in this ad.”

The company said it was “extremely concerned to learn of the ad and its contents” and has terminated the subcontractor’s services as a result. It said it will also retrain its cleaning contractor on equal opportunity employment policies.

The ad has since been removed from the popular Gumtree classifieds website.

“I’m certainly going to look at commencing an investigation into what’s happening—the role of Gumtree, what Coles’ role was, and find out more details about the subcontractor,” said Tasmania’s Anti-Discrimination Commissioner Robin Banks…

In addition to media reports, Banks was alerted to the Coles ad through a post to her personal Facebook page. This showed that the community cares about fighting discrimination, she said.

Fast reaction time is half the battle against bigotry – if and when a government is serious.

Written by Ed Campbell

August 30, 2012 at 10:00 pm

All kids are born geniuses, born scientists

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I thank the memory of my parents teaching me to read, to search out something new to read based on my curiosity – before I ever started school.

Thanks, Ursarodinia

Written by Ed Campbell

August 30, 2012 at 6:00 pm

Paul Ryan – turns straw into gold – if you believe?

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Paul Ryan’s acceptance speech at the Republican convention contained several false claims and misleading statements. Delegates cheered as the vice presidential nominee:

Accused President Obama’s health care law of funneling money away from Medicare “at the expense of the elderly.” In fact, Medicare’s chief actuary says the law “substantially improves” the system’s finances, and Ryan himself has embraced the same savings.

Accused Obama of doing “exactly nothing” about recommendations of a bipartisan deficit commission — which Ryan himself helped scuttle.

Claimed the American people were “cut out” of stimulus spending. Actually, more than a quarter of all stimulus dollars went for tax relief for workers.

Faulted Obama for failing to deliver a 2008 campaign promise to keep a Wisconsin plant open. It closed less than a month before Obama took office.

Blamed Obama for the loss of a AAA credit rating for the U.S. Actually, Standard & Poor’s blamed the downgrade on the uncompromising stands of both Republicans and Democrats.

And when he wasn’t attacking Obama, Ryan was puffing up the record of his running mate, Mitt Romney, on taxes and unemployment.

Click the link and read the details – if you can stomach them. I stopped paying any attention to what Republican candidates for president were saying back during Nixon’s first shot at it.

He got worse on his return; but, the Republican commitment to racism in an era of dynamic civil rights change both for Blacks and women – brought him to power. His criminal pursuits had time to flourish and provide an object lesson to American voters that lasted for a little while.

But, then, the era of Reagan and voodoo Reaganomics proved once again that a big enough lie – repeated loudly enough and frequently – is sufficient to delude an appropriate number of voters. I hope you don’t think education levels were growing in depth and breadth back then. Or since.

Now, with the advent of the Madison Avenue types like Karl Rove, Wall Street money boys like the Koch Bros – the .50-calibre shotgun approach is out in full force. Hopefully, outfits like factcheck.org reach enough people to compensate for the million of dollars spent on local TV advertising. The biggest lies on prime time television since imitation Viagra hit the streets.

So, like Rumpelstiltskin hustling the King and his daughter, those who watched Paul Ryan, last night, were treated to an evil cellar dweller bragging that he could spin straw into gold. Where’s a Grimm when you need one?

Written by Ed Campbell

August 30, 2012 at 2:00 pm

Superbug crept through NIH hospital last year – killing six

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As a deadly infection, untreatable by nearly every antibiotic, spread through the National Institutes of Health’s Clinical Center last year, the staff resorted to extreme measures. They built a wall to isolate patients, gassed rooms with vaporized disinfectant and even ripped out plumbing. They eventually used rectal swabs to test every patient in the 234-bed hospital.

Still, for six months, as physicians fought to save the infected, the bacteria spread, eventually reaching 17 gravely ill patients. Eleven died, six from bloodstream superbug infections.

The outbreak of the antibiotic-resistant bacteria known as Klebsiella pneumoniae was not made public until Wednesday, when NIH researchers published a scientific paper describing the advanced genetic technology they deployed to trace the outbreak.

This was “the proverbial superbug that we’ve all worried about for a long time,” said Tara Palmore, an infection control specialist at the Bethesda hospital.

With some 99,000 U.S. deaths attributed to hospital-borne infections annually, the NIH outbreak provides a stark case study of the dangers of the latest wave of hospital-bred bacteria and the extreme measures hospitals must adopt to stem the rising superbug tide.

The NIH Clinical Center now screens every patient transferring from another facility for superbugs, tests every patient in the intensive care unit twice a week and screens every patient monthly…

This was our introduction to [antibiotic-resistant] Klebsiella,” Palmore said. “We hoped we would never see it…”

Nationwide, about 6 percent of hospitals are battling outbreaks of the class of superbugs known as carbapenem-resistant bacteria, which includes Klebsiella, said Alexander Kallen of the CDC. These bacteria usually live harmlessly in our intestinal tracts, and they pose little or no threat to patients with healthy immune systems. But in patients with compromised immune systems, the bacteria can turn dangerous, gaining an enzyme that defeats even the most powerful antibiotics. That’s what happened at NIH.

The six patients who died of bloodstream Klebsiella infections had immune systems weakened by cancer, anti-rejection drugs given after organ transplants, and genetic disorders.

The CDC detected this type of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in 2000. “Since then, we’ve seen it spread across the country,” Kallen said, to 41 states.

Please read the whole article. Read the details of a wartime siege against this superbug. Understand why fiscal and political support is always needed to back up efforts by the NIH and CDC to muster programmatic assaults on disease vectors that can burn through a hospital population.

What took place in this hospital wasn’t that dramatic in terms of numbers – but, no less fatal and horrifying to the victims, to the friends and relatives of affected patients and staff. Please understand that what science we have at hand may not be sufficient, what public health procedures we presently enforce may be inadequate – only the dedication of more talent and funds will aid the fight against superbugs like this.

Thanks, Corn

Written by Ed Campbell

August 30, 2012 at 10:00 am

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