British Prime Minister visits Gulf states – hat in hand

Daylife/AP photo by Hassan Ammar

Gordon Brown, the British prime minister, is visiting the Gulf states to urge them to help stabilise the global economy in the midst of economic turmoil…

The British prime minister has called on countries with large resources, such as the Gulf states and China, to contribute to an international fund aimed at helping smaller economies.

“They are in a position, as states with significant wealth reserves, that they can contribute to refinancing the stability of the global financial system,” his spokesman told reporters on Friday. “It’s in everyone’s interests that there is stability and, over the long term, sustainable growth in global markets…”

Ibrahim Oweiss, professor of economics at Georgetown University, told Al Jazeera that there was little incentive for the Arab countries to contribute as they were not responsible for the financial turmoil.

“There is nothing they [the West] can give in return as a business transaction. They don’t have enough to give, or they are not willing to give any economic collateral for any aid that they get,” he said.

“I think Gordon Brown’s trip will be an exercise in futility.”

Gee, they don’t wish to loan Britain money just because the Brits are nice guys – and have this terrific history of helping out in the Middle East?

13-year-old girl charges rape – then, she’s killed for adultery

A 13-year-old girl who said she had been raped was stoned to death in Somalia after being accused of adultery by Islamic militants.

Dozens of men stoned Aisha Ibrahim Duhulow to death in a stadium packed with 1,000 spectators in the southern port city of Kismayo, Amnesty International and Somali media reported, citing witnesses. The Islamic militia in charge of Kismayo had accused her of adultery after she reported that three men had raped her.

Calls to Somali government officials and the local administration in Kismayo rang unanswered Saturday.

Somalia is among the world’s most violent and impoverished countries. The nation of some 8 million people has not had a functioning government since warlords overthrew a dictator in 1991 then turned on each other.

A quarter of Somali children die before age 5; nearly every public institution has collapsed. Fighting is a daily occurrence, with violent deaths reported nearly every day.

Ain’t no one making a movie called, “It’s a Wonderful Life” in Somalia in the near future.

Not any regime change likely, either. No oil.

Attorney General’s personal trips cost taxpayers $155,800

“Don’t worry about taking extra seats for your family!”

Attorney General Michael Mukasey has taken personal trips on government jets almost every weekend since he took office less than a year ago at a cost to taxpayers of more than $155,800.

Mukasey took so many personal trips on FAA, FBI or Drug Enforcement Administration planes that he was out of Washington for almost half or more of February, May, July and September, according to the records, which were released recently in response to open records requests that McClatchy filed nine months ago. From November 2007 to September 2008, he traveled home to New York 45 times.

Justice Department officials defended Mukasey’s personal travel, saying he has no choice but to fly on a government plane to see his family. Mukasey, unlike most other cabinet members, is required to fly on government planes, rather than commercial ones, for security reasons.

“When he travels personally, the attorney general pays what any other government official would pay for a commercial flight to that location,” Justice Department spokesman Peter Carr said in a statement. “It would be unfair to penalize financially the attorney general because he is one of the few government officials required to use government aircraft for all travel.”

Mukasey reimbursed the government a total of $15,246 for all of his trips, based on round-trip coach fares, as he’s required to do by government travel regulations. However, the cost of operating the Gulfstream G5s, Cessna Citations and de Havilland Dash 8-100s that Mukasey uses is tens of thousands of dollars more…

When your nation is run like a monarchy, when Congress and the Executive act like overlords, I guess we shouldn’t be surprised at excesses from the Judiciary.

I’m not surprised. But, I sure am pissed off!

Deputies taser an undercover agent – WTF?

Deputies with their guns drawn shout at an armed man at a liquor store to get on the ground.

The man, Ira McQueen, is an agent with the Florida Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco, but the deputies don’t know that.

They have been called to what a witness believed was an armed robbery at the business.

When McQueen, who is in civilian clothes, doesn’t comply with the deputies’ demands, a Taser stun gun is used on him. A Sheriff’s Office dog is also released on the man.

McQueen ends up in the hospital.

Read the whole article. Nothing is as simple as it sounds. Before or after reading the tale.

I’m still not really certain what happened here and neither are the coppers. I think the script was written by Monty Python.

Lost in translation!

Swansea council contacted its in-house translation service when designing the bilingual sign. The seeds of confusion were sown when officials received an automated email response in Welsh from an absent translator, saying: “I am not in the office at the moment. Please send any work to be translated.”

Unaware of its real meaning, officials had it printed on the sign. The council took down the sign after Welsh speakers spotted the mistake.

We have a similar problem in northern New Mexico with all the road signs being produced at the State Penitentiary. The prevailing illiteracy makes for some fascinating reading while trying to find your way around the region.

Prison inmates conduct research on slow-growing mosses

Nalini Nadkarni of Evergreen State College currently advises a team of researchers who sport shaved heads, tattooed biceps and prison-issued garb rather than the lab coats and khakis typically worn by researchers.

Why is Nadkarni’s team composed of such apparently iconoclastic researchers? Because all of her researchers are inmates at Cedar Creek Corrections Center, a medium security prison in Littlerock, Washington.

With partial funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF), Nadkarni has guided her unlikely but productive team of researchers since 2004, as they conduct experiments to identify the best ways to cultivate slow-growing mosses. Nadkarni’s so-called Moss-in-Prisons project is designed to help ecologists replace large quantities of ecologically important mosses that are regularly illegally stripped from Pacific Northwest forests by horticulturalists.

Why did Nadkarni recruit inmates into her research team? “Because,” she explains, “I need help from people who have long periods of time available to observe and measure the growing mosses; access to extensive space to lay out flats of plants; and fresh minds to put forward innovative solutions.”

Sounds good to me. All the way round.

She has assistance from folks with a lot of time on their hands and maybe – just maybe – the program can point some of them to a useful life back on the outside.

Tainted candy stolen – and now back on retail shelves in Toronto

Hershey’s chocolates and candies recalled two years ago over salmonella fears and subsequently stolen from a recycling depot are now being sold in Toronto-area stores, according to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

The products — including Oh Henry!, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and Glosettes — were recalled in November 2006 after Hershey’s detected Salmonella bacteria in its plant in Smith Falls, Ont.

The following year, some of the products were stolen from a Toronto recycling depot that was contracted to collect and dispose of the questionable products.

So, they hadn’t yet disposed of the suspect candy in a year?

At least 640 chocolate bars have now been recovered from five stores in the Toronto area, the CFIA said. Agency spokesman Garfield Balsom said more of the products might be for sale in other convenience and variety stores.

Hershey’s spokesman Kirk Saville said the recalled candy is being sold to stores through illegal channels.

There’s another stellar bit of detective work.

Cripes. What does it take to find out where these supposedly responsible retailers got this crap?

Otto the octopus sharpshooter

Otto the culprit

Staff believe that the octopus called Otto had been annoyed by the bright light shining into his aquarium and had discovered he could extinguish it by climbing onto the rim of his tank and squirting a jet of water in its direction.

The short-circuit had baffled electricians as well as staff at the Sea Star Aquarium in Coburg, Germany, who decided to take shifts sleeping on the floor to find out what caused the mysterious blackouts.

A spokesman said: “It was a serious matter because it shorted the electricity supply to the whole aquarium that threatened the lives of the other animals when water pumps ceased to work…

We knew that he was bored as the aquarium is closed for winter, and at two feet, seven inches Otto had discovered he was big enough to swing onto the edge of his tank and shoot out a the 2000 Watt spot light above him with a carefully directed jet of water.”

My kind of cephelapod.