Tagged: UK

Welcome to Dismaland — Banksy’s dystopian theme park

Inside the walls of a derelict seaside swimming resort in Weston-super-Mare, UK, mysterious construction over the last month—including a dingy looking Disney-like castle and a gargantuan rainbow-colored pinwheel tangled in plastic—suggested something big was afoot. Suspicion and anticipation surrounding the unusual activity attributed to fabled artist and provocateur Banksy has reached a Willy Wonka-esque fervor. Well, if Banksy’s your bag, continue fervoring

The spectacle has since been revealed to be a pop-up art exhibition in the form of an apocalyptic theme park titled Dismaland – “The UK’s most disappointing new visitor attraction” – that will be open to the public for five weeks.

Hardly a better reason to book travel to the UK under – way under – a Conservative government.


More photos inside the article

Thanks, Honeyman

Oral contraceptives prevented 400K endometrial cancers

Medium- to long-term use of oral contraceptives “confers long-term protection against endometrial cancer” that appears to last for 30 years or more, long after the use of contraception has stopped, authors of a meta-analysis asserted.

“The present results, taken together with what what is known about past patterns of use, suggest that in high-income countries oral contraceptives have, over the past 50 years (1965–2014), already prevented a total of about 400,000 endometrial cancers before the age of 75 years, including 200,000 in the past decade (2005–14),” according to members of the Collaborative Group on Epidemiological Studies on Endometrial Cancer…

Although the meta-analysis was based on association studies that, strictly speaking, cannot demonstrate a causative effect, the researchers argued that the strength and consistency of the associations warranted the conclusion that oral contraceptives protect against endometrial cancer.

On the other hand, they acknowledged that the mechanisms of such a protective effect — especially one lasting long after use of the agents had stopped — remained unknown…

In the study, individual participant datasets were provided for 27,276 women with endometrial cancer and 115,743 controls without endometrial cancer from 36 epidemiological studies…

A diagram summarizing results of the individual studies showed that every one of them had found a trend toward lower rates of endometrial cancer in ever-users of oral contraceptives, although in many cases the trend was not statistically significant.

But in the meta-analysis the association was highly significant: every 5 years of use was associated with a risk ratio of 0.76 (95% CI 0.73-0.78; P<0.0001).

The magnitude of this proportional reduction is similar to that seen for ovarian cancer, the study team pointed out, and continued to be seen in middle-aged participants who had stopped using oral contraceptives decades earlier…

Although the oral contraceptives of the 1960s would generally have contained much higher doses of estrogen that those in the 1980s, there was no apparent decrease between them in terms of the relative risk associated with a given duration of use, the authors indicated. “These results show that the amount of estrogen in the lower-dose pills is still sufficient to reduce the incidence of endometrial cancer“…

Although oral contraceptives are known to reduce the incidence rate of endometrial cancer, until now it was not known with certainty how long this effect lasts after use ceases. Similarly, it has not been clear whether or not this is modified by other factors.

Obviously, discovering the mechanism of this unintended consequence is going to prompt more and deeper investigation. Quantifying a benefit which already entered the consciousness of many physicians carries an important message throughout the whole class of women in societies with ready access to contraception.

Yes, computational analysis rocks!

France, Germany and Italy add to UK joining AIIB – refusing Obama’s demands

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“If they don’t pay attention, we break both legs next time”

A senior US diplomat said it was up to individual countries to decide on joining a new China-led lending body, as media reports said France, Germany and Italy have agreed to follow Britain’s lead and join the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB).

Accommodation seems to be all that’s left to Obama since threats didn’t work.

A growing number of close allies were ignoring Washington’s pressure to stay out of the institution, the Financial Times reported, in a setback for US foreign policy.

In China the state-owned Xinhua news agency said South Korea, Switzerland and Luxembourg were also considering joining.

The Financial Times, quoting European officials, said the decision by the four countries to become members of the AIIB was a blow for Washington…

The bank is also seen as contributing to the spread of China’s “soft power” in the region, possibly at the expense of the United States.

The AIIB was launched by Beijing in 2014 to spur investment in Asia in transportation, energy, telecommunications and other infrastructure. It is touted as a potential rival to the western-dominated World Bank and the Asian Development Bank.

China said earlier in 2015 that a total of 26 countries had been included as founder members, mostly from Asia and the Middle East. It plans to finalise the articles of agreement by the end of the year…

Obama, the State Department, Congressional clown show members who fancy their foreign policy cred – all joined in to try to prevent this new international funding source from acceptance by our allies. At least those who acquired the title by generally obeying White House orders.

Didn’t work. Didn’t happen.

The bank will be welcome throughout the developing world, throughout the 3rd World. Like Chinese foreign policy it doesn’t come with social strings. The intent is to aid in the building of infrastructure – which means we probably should apply from poor states like New Mexico as a matter of need. We ain’t getting anything from Congress. That’s for sure.

The rap on both the World Bank and the IMF is that they have to answer to conservative voices in the United States and the European Union. Conservative voices not so focussed on the funds as social welfare – which they consider to be at least a mortal sin. Money is doled out through an eyedropper. Proof of reduction in socially productive programs required on a daily basis.

The chuckle is – for a lot of reason including holding a place in line for future exchanges dealing RMB, the Chinese currency, EU nations often the most conservative when criticizing other nation’s social practices – still want to be seen as caring and participating and maybe even profiting from a more open and less-political form of moneylending.

The United States OTOH is “above all that”. So to speak.

Brits will join China-backed Asian Infrastructure Bank

The White House has issued a pointed statement declaring it hopes and expects the UK will use its influence to ensure that high standards of governance are upheld in a new Chinese-led investment bank that Britain is to join.

In a rare public breach in the special relationship, the White House signalled its unease at Britain’s decision to become a founder member of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) by raising concerns about whether the new body would meet the standards of the World Bank.

Obama is so pissed off you can see his face turn red from here.

The $50 billion bank, which is designed to provide infrastructure funds to the Asia-Pacific region, is viewed with great suspicion by Washington officials, who see it as a rival to the World Bank. They believe Beijing will use the bank to extend its soft power in the region…

George Osborne – who has discussed the decision to become a founder member of the investment bank with his US counterpart, Jack Lew – has been the driving force behind developing closer economic ties between Britain and China. The chancellor has led the way in encouraging Chinese investment in the next generation of civil nuclear power plants in the UK and he ensured that the City of London would become the base for the first clearing house for the yuan outside Asia.

The US administration made clear in no uncertain terms its displeasure about Osborne’s decision to join the AIIB. A US official told the Financial Times: “We are wary about a trend toward constant accommodation of China, which is not the best way to engage a rising power…”

“…I think [the US] should have been more willing to engage in discussion with China and others about the institution. There’s a big infrastructure gap in Asia, existing institutions are not filling it and China has the wherewithal to contribute on the right terms,” said Matthew Goodman, senior adviser for Asian economics at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Some surmised that the US was responsible when Australia backed away from signing up to the bank at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Beijing last autumn, after widespread speculation a deal was on the cards.

“The US did reach out to Australia, Koreans and others to consult about questions and concerns, and that’s been interpreted as leaning on allies not to join the bank,” said Goodman.

Uncle Sugar expected obedience and got it.

If you’ve spent time studying the interrelationship between the World Bank, the IMF, any number of subsidiary forms dedicated to “keeping folks in their place” – you know this is a real slap in the face to the policied of Imperial America. It’s directly counter to Obama’s version of the stock American policy of negotiating by shoving large chunks of military in your face, threatening to cut you off from access to foreign exchange and liquidity.

China now invests more abroad than foreign money invests inside China. For all the blather – well, lies – about the United States seeking commercial engagement with state or private investors from China, the White House blocks as many deals for phony reasons as do numbnut Congressional Republicans. Companies and jobs grown in the US through Chinese investment are policy only for election-speak. China ends up with three-quarters of their overseas investment going into Europe because they simply aren’t jerked around the way they are when trying to invest in the United States.

The United States talks about carrots and sticks but only relies on varying sizes of sticks. China has lots of carrots.

U.S. and British government spies invaded billions of cellphones

drone watching
“Programming drones to zero in on SIM cards was a great idea!”

U.S. and British spies hacked into the world’s biggest maker of phone SIM cards, allowing them to potentially monitor the calls, texts and emails of billions of mobile users around the world…

The alleged hack on Gemalto…would expand the scope of known mass surveillance methods available to U.S. and British spy agencies to include not just email and web traffic, as previously revealed, but also mobile communications…

All the while, claiming they aren’t snooping without warrants on everyone. Liars.

The report by The Intercept site, which cites documents provided by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, could prove an embarrassment for the U.S. and British governments. It opens a fresh front in the dispute between civil liberties campaigners and intelligence services which say their citizens face a grave threat of attack from militant groups like Islamic State…

The Intercept report said the hack was detailed in a secret 2010 GCHQ document and allowed the NSA and GCHQ to monitor a large portion of voice and data mobile communications around the world without permission from governments, telecom companies or users…

The new allegations could boost efforts by major technology firms such as Apple and Google to make strong encryption methods standard in communications devices they sell, moves attacked by some politicians and security officials.

Leaders including U.S. President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron have expressed concern that turning such encryption into a mass-market feature could prevent governments from tracking militants planning attacks.

You can take that whine and stick it where the sun don’t shine!

Court forces UK government to admit illegal spying

A UK court vindicated Edward Snowden’s whistleblowing…by ruling that the secrecy surrounding one of the programs he exposed was, in fact, illegal. The decision is more evidence that not only were the Snowden revelations necessary and justified, but are also slowly forcing changes in both US and UK, even as both governments fiercely resist.

In a stunning ruling, the Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT) – which oversees (and usually rubber stamps) Britain’s spy agencies – declared that the intelligence-sharing rules between the NSA and GCHQ (Britain’s NSA equivalent and partner-in-crime) governing their mass surveillance program violated UK human rights laws because they were kept secret for so long.

The IPT is one of Britain’s most secretive and deferential courts, which makes this ruling so particularly stinging. And the only reason the surveillance program is currently lawful is because the plaintiffs – Privacy International and a coalition of other groups – forced GCHQ to reveal more of their alleged rules to the public in the course of the case, which itself all stems from the reporting on the Snowden documents…

The complicit British media (with only a few exceptions) refused to cover the GCHQ story at all unless they were called in to act as public relations agencies for the government by printing fear-mongering stories claiming that anyone reporting on the issue of privacy was just helping terrorists and pedophiles…

Yes, the British Press is even slimier than their corporate cousins in the United States.

This case also calls for a re-examination of the British government’s deplorable actions against those who have merely reported on the Snowden stories. They’ve forced the Guardian to destroy a hard drive full of Snowden documents, outrageously detained Glenn Greenwald’s partner David Miranda under the Terrorism Act and threatened Guardian reporters with prosecution for doing their jobs. Until now, the UK government has used vague excuses related to “terrorism” for their authoritarian actions – but now their motives should now be clear to all: they were trying to cover up an illegal program.

It remains to be seen how the court will react, if at all, to future cases. But this should be a warning for both the UK government and the media: the law and even the most obsequious of courts are not on your side. Your citizens aren’t either.

From this side of the pond, I think we only get to recognize small differences. Independence in a few centers of hard-copy journalism are not as self-limiting as the Brits. But, then, we haven’t an Official Secrets Act to deal with. Yet. Butt-kissers in Congress have proposed passing similar laws in the United States now that the pimps for oppressive government are in charge of both wings of congress.

Anyone confident the White House crew will stand up against a rebirth of official McCarthyism?

Just as the political correctness of the Right has generally been obeyed by the respectable Left in Congress, in the American Press – the same is true of policies counter to our Constitution. It took decades and a Supreme Court wholly unlike the sycophants of surveillance-as-safety currently in place atop our court system. And it only took a couple of Republican presidents and cowardly Democrats in Congress to remove principle from the oversight of politics once again.

Economics 101 for our latest Coalition of the Willing

US/UK warplanes are flying sorties, at a cost somewhere between $22,000 to 30,000 per hour for the F-16s, to drop bombs that cost at least $20,000 each, to destroy ISIL hardware.

That means if an F-16 were to take off from Incirclik Air Force Base in Turkey and fly two hours to Erbil, Iraq, and successfully drop both of its bombs on one target each, it costs the United States somewhere between $84,000 to $104,000 for the sortie

Watching today’s endlessly repeated video clip of one of our heroic sorties bombing a freaking pickup truck. At a cost of $85K-104K.

Just send in some creepy salesman from a local used car lot and offer the bandit in charge $20K cash on the spot for his truck – and we’re in business – making the world safe for capitalism.

Is your local government ready for a dragon attack?

How a council might protect a town from a dragon attack is among the most unusual requests for information received by England and Wales councils.

One council was asked how many children were micro-chipped, while another was quizzed on whether it had paid for exorcisms on possessed pets.

They are among the Local Government Association’s top 10 most unusual Freedom of Information requests…

The top 10 include:

What plans are in place to protect the town from a dragon attack? (Wigan Council)…

How many times has the council paid for the services of an exorcist, psychic or religious healer? Were the services performed on an adult, child, pet or building? (Rossendale Council)…

What precautions, preparations, planning and costings have been undertaken in the case an asteroid crashes into Worthing, a meteorite landing in Worthing or solar activity disrupting electromagnetic fields? (Worthing Borough Council)…

How many requests were made to council-run historic public-access buildings (e.g. museums) requesting to bring a team of “ghost investigators” into the building? (Birmingham Council)

How many children in the care of the council have been micro-chipped? (Southend Council)

No doubt the majority of requests are more mainstream than defending against dragons. At least I hope so.

There is a longstanding tradition in the UK investing casual time in tongue-in-cheek inquiries…and answers. I recall a leading census answer from some first responders one year being that their church membership was Jedi.