Critics ridiculed European Union bureaucrats on Saturday for taking time off fighting the euro zone’s debt crisis to impose strict new rules on how restaurants serve olive oil.
From January 1, 2014, eateries will be banned from serving oil to diners in small glass jugs or dipping bowls, and forced instead to use pre-sealed, non-refillable bottles that must be disposed of when empty…
…Critics say the rules are a sop to Europe’s olive oil producers, and will only add to the frustration felt by many towards a bloated EU bureaucracy regarded as out of touch with the concerns of ordinary Europeans…
The Commission said its proposal was supported by 15 out of 27 EU member governments, including the continent’s main olive oil producers – Italy, Greece, Spain and Portugal – which are among the countries worst affected by the euro crisis…
German newspaper Sueddetsche Zeitung described the plan as “the weirdest decision since the legendary curvy cucumber regulation”, referring to now-defunct EU rules on the shape of fruit and vegetables sold in supermarkets.
The regulations are based on rules in force in Portugal since 2005, and are part of an EU initiative to help olive oil producers hit by rising operating costs and falling profits in recent years.
But Enzo Sica, owner of Italian restaurant Creche des Artistes close to the EU quarter of Brussels, said the rules would prevent him from buying his extra virgin olive oil direct from a traditional supplier in Italy.
“They say they’re thinking about consumers, but this will increase costs for us and our customers as well. In this time of crisis, surely they should be worrying about other things rather than stupid stuff like this.”
Who says Europeans can’t and won’t learn from Americans. The EU is simply following the examples of social stupidity expressed in reactionary regulations embraced so thoroughly by Republicans and a few other idiots in Congress.
EU hacks understand they’d be thrown out of office if they tried to pass useless laws banning medical care and women’s rights – so, they pick on absurdities which will at least get the support of anachronistic segments of Euro-capitalism.
A comprehensive report on drug policy in the Americas released Friday by a consortium of nations suggests that the legalization of marijuana, but not other illicit drugs, be considered among a range of ideas to reassess how the drug war is carried out.
The report, released by the Organization of American States walked a careful line in not recommending any single approach to the drug problem and encouraging “flexibility.”
Prompted by President Juan Manuel Santos of Colombia at the Summit of the Americas last year to answer growing dissatisfaction and calls for new strategies in the drug war, the report’s 400 pages mainly summarize and distill previous research and debate on the subject.
But the fact that it gave weight to exploring legalizing or de-penalizing marijuana was seized on by advocates of more liberal drug use laws as a landmark and a potential catalyst for less restrictive laws in a number of countries…
The report said “the drug problem requires a flexible approach,” and “it would be worthwhile to assess existing signals and trends that lean toward the decriminalization or legalization of the production, sale and use of marijuana.
“Sooner or later decisions in this area will need to be taken,” it said. “On the other hand, our report finds no significant support, in any country, for the decriminalization or legalization of the trafficking of other illicit drugs…”
“The region’s leaders expressed their frustration with the limits and exorbitant costs of current policies and their hunger for a fuller, more creative debate,” said John Walsh, a drug policy analyst at the Washington Office on Latin America, a human rights group.
But the United States has so far rejected legalization as a solution to drug violence…A State Department spokesman, William Ostick, said “blah, blah, blah”…
Yes, the OAS statement on decriminalizing is rather like the American Institute of CPA’s noting that little solid-state hand calculators work as well as pencil and paper and may be faster. Still, even an acknowledgement of solutions without prior approval from the US State Department is an achievement for the OAS.
Two new studies add to the growing evidence that spending time outdoors may help prevent or minimize nearsightedness in children. A study conducted in Taiwan, which is the first to use an educational policy as a public vision health intervention, finds that when children are required to spend recess time outdoors, their risk of nearsightedness is reduced. A separate study in Danish children is the first to show a direct correlation between seasonal fluctuations in daylight, eye growth and the rate of nearsightedness progression…
In one of the new studies, an elementary school in Taiwan required its 333 students to spend recess outdoors for a year from 2009-10 so that researchers could learn whether this would reduce myopia rates. A similar school nearby served as the control group and did not require outdoor recess. The children in the intervention school, many of whom had formerly spent recess indoors, now spent a total of 80 minutes per day outdoors.
Students at both schools received eye exams at the study outset and one year later. The results showed that significantly fewer children became nearsighted or shifted toward nearsightedness in the school that required outdoor recess, compared with the control school. The researchers recommend that elementary schools in Asia and other regions add frequent recess breaks and other outdoor activities to their daily schedules to help protect children’s eye development and vision…
“Because children spend a lot of time in school, a school-based intervention is a direct and practical way to tackle the increasing prevalence of myopia,” said the leader of the study, Pei-Chang Wu, M.D., Ph.D., of Kaohsiung Chang Gung Memorial Hospital in Kaohsiung, Taiwan.
A separate study on the impact of daylight exposure on eye development analyzed data collected in a 2005 clinical trial that included 235 Danish school children with myopia. The participants were divided into seven groups, each of which represented a different seasonal interval. Because daylight hours fluctuate markedly with the seasons in Denmark, from seven hours in winter to nearly 18 in summer, access to daylight was distinct for each group. Axial eye length — the distance from the front to the back of the eye — and vision were tested in each group of children at the beginning and end of their seasonal interval. Axial length is an important measurement because elongation of the eye indicates that the person’s myopia is worsening. In the children with access to the fewest hours of daylight, eye growth averaged 0.19 mm; in those with access to the most daylight, eye growth was just 0.12 mm.
“Our results indicate that exposure to daylight helps protect children from myopia,” said the leader of the study, Dongmei Cui, M.D., Ph.D., of Sun Yat-sen University, China. “This means that parents and others who manage children’s time should encourage them to spend time outdoors daily. When that’s impractical due to weather or other factors, use of daylight-spectrum indoor lights should be considered as a way to minimize myopia.”
Bravo! Great start to in-depth research. Tell your local beancounter school board to pay attention.
Things have not been going well of late for the ideologues who also wax economic regarding inflation, interest rates, austerity, etc. They’ve been wrong at every turn. Luskin, Ferguson, Bowyer, Laffer, Kudlow, the WSJ editorialists, and so on…
…I continue to be amazed that folks who can be so devastatingly wrong, for so long, on such a broad array of topics, can continue to hold sway…Interestingly, these same folks were stunningly wrong about a decade ago about when they banged the drum for war against Iraq. Overthrowing Saddam, of course, was a high priority for the neocons, and they needed to drum up broad support to get folks on board. What better lever to pull than to claim that oil prices would drop through the floor once Saddam was out of the picture and Iraqi oil flowed freely?
Here was the conservative line on what would happen to oil prices after we ousted Saddam…
Rand Corp (by recollection): Under a free market [ed. note: The author's article was all about our liberation of Iraq], oil prices would probably fall to between $8 and $12 per barrel over the next 10 years — down dramatically from today’s price of about $25 per barrel…
Fortune: No one knows for sure which way things will go. But if you have to make a bet, the most likely scenario is that a year from now, with a new regime in Baghdad and long-dormant Iraqi wells finally pumping out crude, oil prices will be back in the mid-20s.
Heritage Foundation: An unencumbered flow of Iraqi oil would be likely to provide a more constant supply of oil to the global market, which would dampen price fluctuations, ensuring stable oil prices in the world market in a price range lower than the current $25 to $30 a barrel.
National Review: “…markets clearly expect lower prices. On the eve of hostilities, oil was selling for about $37 per barrel…But once it became clear that Iraq’s liberation was at hand, the price quickly dropped to about $28 per barrel, cutting our annual oil bill by $70 billion. With full Iraqi production, the price might drop to $20 per barrel or less, giving us the equivalent of an annual tax cut of about $120 billion per year…”
WSJ: Of course, the largest benefit–a more stable Mideast–is huge but unquantifiable. A second plus, lower oil prices, is somewhat more measurable…Postwar, with Iraqi production back in the pipeline and calmer markets, oil prices will fall even further. If they drop to an average in the low $20s, the U.S. economy will get a boost of $55 billion to $60 billion a year.
One more time, rightwing ideologues sent our troops halfway around the world to “bring freedom” – and deliver the profits from Iraq’s oil into the coffers of Wall Street.
They are wrong time after time. Not always as dramatically as in Bush’s invasion of Iraq. No matter. The professional liars in Congress will beat the war drums on command from the generals of finance every time they are called upon. Time for voters to shut them up.
Thanks, Barry Ritholtz
The state-owned Harpa concert hall and conference center
…Before my first visit to Reykjavik in August 2012, my law school thesis was settled – a study of cyber warfare and the Geneva conventions.
But a week in Iceland changed my perspective. I was pleasantly flummoxed by what I saw.
Violent crime was virtually non-existent. People seemed relaxed about their safety and that of their children to the point where parents left their babies outside and unattended.
I’d spent time in Norway, Sweden, and Denmark, but those countries now appeared plagued with crime by comparison.
Once I got back to America, I changed my thesis topic…I wanted to know what Iceland was doing right…
According to the 2011 Global Study on Homicide by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Iceland’s homicide rate between 1999-2009 never went above 1.8 per 100,000 population on any given year.
On the other hand, the US had homicide rates between 5.0 and 5.8 per 100,000 population during that same stretch…
First – and arguably foremost – there is virtually no difference among upper, middle and lower classes in Iceland. And with that, tension between economic classes is non-existent, a rare occurrence for any country…
On one of three visits to Althing, the Icelandic parliament, I met Bjorgvin Sigurdsson, former chairman of the parliamentary group of the Social Democratic Alliance. In his eyes – as well as those of many Icelanders I spoke with – equality was the biggest reason for the nation’s relative lack of crime.
“Here you can have the tycoon’s children go to school with everyone else,” Sigurdsson says, adding that the country’s social welfare and education systems promoted an egalitarian culture…
Crimes in Iceland – when they occur – usually do not involve firearms, though Icelanders own plenty of guns…
The country ranks 15th in the world in terms of legal per capita gun ownership. However, acquiring a gun is not an easy process -steps to gun ownership include a medical examination and a written test…
RTFA for more details.
I love Iceland. Haven’t been there in years; but, the standards I always found in Icelandic politics I felt reflected the matriarchal side of the legal system. For centuries and generations, property rights descended through the women of any family. Governance always offered a higher priority for evenhanded and fair decisions than the contested immediate context in the rest of the West.
A quick survey of the breadth of Icelandic culture that’s reasonably accurate IMHO is over here.
Semagn-Asredie Kolech, left-center, with a group of Ethiopian farmers
With unpredictable annual rainfall and drought once every five years, climate change presents challenges to feeding Ethiopia. Adapting to a warming world, the potato is becoming a more important crop there – with the potential to feed much of Africa…
Ethiopia sits on the brink of thriving financial and gross domestic product forecasts, as its government formally merges green economics with climate-change resilient policies. But the country’s agricultural economy suffers from poor cultivation practices and frequent drought. However, new efforts – including Semagn-Asredie Kolech’s research – are beginning to fortify the country’s agricultural resilience, reducing the threat of starvation and bringing on the rising possibility of exporting potatoes to other African countries.
Annually, Ethiopian farmers plant potatoes in the spring and late summer. Yet, they still search for optimum planting dates and vie for vibrant drought-tolerant varieties if planted in the short-rain season, and sidestepping late blight, if planted in the longer rainy season.
At an Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future forum in March, Kolech presented preliminary research gathered last summer. He surveyed Ethiopian farmers in potato-growing regions to understand their varietal inventory and crop practices. Farmers tried new varieties, but they often reverted back to using their traditional cultivars…
Kolech said that he found that the usage drop-off is due mostly to poor storage quality. New varieties have good attributes, such as high yield and late blight resistance, but in northwestern Ethiopia where more than 40 percent of potatoes are grown, the potato color and taste changes in storage earlier than the local varieties…
In 1970 Ethiopian farmers planted less than 30,000 hectares of potatoes. Today, more than 160,000 hectares are planted. With a population of 93 million and a land size almost double that of Texas, Ethiopia can accommodate growing 3 million hectares of potatoes, Kolech says.
The environmental and economic prospects for Ethiopia are so intriguing, this June five Cornell faculty members…will travel with Kolech to Ethiopia to meet with potential government and nongovernmental collaborators. Their travel will be funded by Cornell’s Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future and a collaborative CARE-Cornell Impact through Innovation Fund.
Bravo! The sort of activist education and research that helps define a leading university.
…The White House is launching its #WeTheGeeks initiative, a series of online video chats meant to “highlight the future of science, technology and innovation in the United States.” The first one happened Thursday at 2 pm ET on the White House’s Google+ page and included four leading thinkers in science and technology. We at CNN.com began to wonder what would happen if there really was a part of the dusty old U.S. Constitution devoted to geeks. So we, who are geeks ourselves, drafted one. Below, you will find Article I of the Geek Constitution.
THE GEEK CONSTITUTION OF THE UNITED STATES…
All exponential powers herein applied to numbers shall not be imaginary, or be powers of three, unless it is deemed applicable.
Each House shall respect curiosity and the search for knowledge.
Members are encouraged to make scientific discoveries, if they so desire, but they may indulge any other topic of their choosing.
Such proclaimed Geeks shall be able to disarm the Keeg, to be heretofore known as the inverse Geek.
Horses may be ridden, unless it is declared that more pony is required. In that case, rainbow-colored ponies shall suffice.
The House of Representatives shall be a weekly gathering, and leaders from each state shall be determined by rolling a d20.
No person shall be a Representative who shall not have memorized at least 50 digits of the mysterious number pi.
The Senate will gather in a laboratory. Some members will be responsible for conducting experiments, while others will take measurements. White laboratory coats may be worn, but are optional.
No Person shall be a Senator until they can recite the periodic table of elements in their sleep.
The time, place and manner of holding elections for Senators and Representatives can be calculated using complex equations. Such results shall be recorded in binary format.
The “Constitution” carries on from there. A lot!
A 10-year-old Washington state boy was sentenced on Wednesday to up to 5 1/2 years in a juvenile detention facility for his role in a foiled plot to rape and kill a girl at his school and harm other children.
The boy was charged with conspiracy to commit first-degree murder, juvenile firearm possession and witness tampering in connection with a plot in February at an elementary school in Colville, in the state’s northeast.
Prosecutors said he pleaded guilty last month to all charges.
Stevens County Superior Court Judge Allen Nielson sentenced the fifth-grader to a minimum of just over three years in juvenile detention and a maximum of nearly 5 1/2 years, Stevens County prosecutor Tim Rasmussen said…
The 10-year-old boy will serve his sentence at the Echo Glen children’s juvenile center in Snoqualmie, Wash., 45 miles east of Seattle. As of Thursday he had already spent nearly 100 days in a local juvenile detention facility, Rasmussen said.
The boy told investigators he and his friend had planned to kill a former fifth-grade girlfriend because she was “rude” and “always made fun” of him and friends, according to court documents…
The 10-year-old had taken a Remington Model 1911 pistol that originally belonged to his grandfather from his older brother’s room, according to court records.
The boys had also packed ammunition and a knife, but they were stopped on Feb. 7 shortly after they boarded a school bus, Rasmussen said.
A fourth-grade student spotted the knife and reported it to a teacher’s aide, Rasmussen said. The names of six other targeted classmates were on a list the boys had…
Cripes! No doubt we can come up with any number of sources that influenced the young mind of this kid. How to commit such crimes; perhaps, including plans to escape punishment.
Who was supposed to be playing the role of educator and mentor to this child? Who had the responsibility for instilling a sense of right and wrong, good and evil?
What kind of culture teaches a child the best way to solve questions of love and sex – is with a gun?
A transgender woman in Hong Kong has won a groundbreaking court appeal allowing her to marry her boyfriend and forcing the government to rewrite the city’s marriage laws.
The woman in her 30s, known in the Court of Final Appeal as “W” under anonymity rules, successfully overturned earlier verdicts that said marriage is only allowed between couples who were of the opposite sex at birth.
W, who underwent sex realignment surgery more than five years ago, argued that her post-operative gender was recognised by the law and that previous rulings were a violation of her constitutional rights…
She also said that her reassignment surgery had been government-subsidised…
“It is contrary to principle to focus merely on biological features fixed at the time of birth,” the court said in a written judgement by the panel of five judges.
It added that existing laws “impair the very essence of W’s right to marry“.
One more place in the world we might send some of our out-of-date politicians to learn something of changing civil rights.
There is more than a simple wry note to be taken that some jurisdictions that our nation depicts as backwards and lacking all-American freedoms are changing faster than we are.