Our world view, our history, won’t let us see the real Pakistan

Daylife/AP Photo

First for the good news: Pakistan is not about to explode. The Islamic militants are not going to take power tomorrow; the nuclear weapons are not about to be trafficked to al-Qaida; the army is not about to send the Afghan Taliban to invade India; a civil war is unlikely.

The bad news is that Pakistan poses us questions that are much more profound than those we would face if this nation of 170m, the world’s second biggest Muslim state, were simply a failed state. If Pakistan collapsed, we would be faced by a serious security challenge. But the resilience of Pakistan and the nation’s continuing collective refusal to do what the west would like it to together pose questions with implications far beyond simple security concerns. They are about our ability to influence events in far-off places, our capacity to analyse and understand the behaviour and perceived interests of other nations and cultures, about our ability to deal with difference, about how we see the world.

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Rapist attacked more than 100 – coppers took no notice!

One of Britain’s most prolific sexual predators was allowed to remain free to drug, rape and assault more than 100 women over six years after police repeatedly failed to respond to the complaints of his victims.

John Worboys, 51, a licensed London cab driver, was told yesterday he faces a “very substantial” jail sentence after a jury convicted him of 19 charges of drugging and sexually assaulting 12 of the women, in one case raping his victim.

Police were last night bracing themselves for more women to come forward. They have received 85 complaints so far and believe that over his 13-year career as a London taxi driver he could have drugged and attacked more than 100 female passengers.

The watershed case has exposed serious failings in the way police treat allegations of rape and sexual assault and comes despite years of high-profile policies and promises to improve rape conviction rates that stick at less than 6%.

Campaigners said the details of how police failed to apprehend Worboys for six years, despite receiving numerous complaints from women, exposed the fact that frontline officers remained sexist, dismissive of allegations of sexual assaults and ultimately guilty of “sabotaging” rape inquiries.

Front-line coppers or not, the failure of officers and supervisory staff to notice what was happening on the streets they were responsible for is reprehensible.

Either you’re on the job to protect and serve the public – or you’re just another goof-off leaning on a shovel because you showed up for work.

Yet another way to screw the unemployed

Daylife/Reuters Pictures

If you’re out of work like Steve Lippe, who was laid off from his job as a salesman in January, you know you already have problems. But looking at the fine print that came with his new unemployment debit card, he became livid.

“A $1.50 [fee] here, a $1.50 there,” he said. “Forty cents for a balance inquiry. Fifty cents to have your card denied. Thirty-five cents to have your account accessed by telephone.”

He was quoting fees listed in a brochure that goes out to every unemployed person in Pennsylvania who chooses to receive benefits via debit card. He was given the option when he filed for jobless payments: Wait 10 days for a check or get the card immediately. Like most of the 925,000 state residents who received unemployment benefits in February in Pennsylvania, he chose the debit card and only then, he says, did he learn about the fees.

I was outraged by it,” he told CNN. “I was very noisy about it. I just couldn’t believe it. An outrage is just too weak a word. It’s obscene.”

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, 30 states offer direct deposit cards to the unemployed. Many of the nation’s biggest banks have contracts with the individual states. JP Morgan Chase, for instance, has contracts with seven states and has pending deals with two others, according to Chase spokesman John T. Murray.

Perish the thought the bloody banks should give people who are out of work a break. If there’s one area where the leading economic powers in this land excel – it’s inhumanity and greed.

Give phony info to Homeland Security – here’s your passport!

Daylife/AP Photo

A congressional investigation has exposed gaping holes in security eight years after the September 11 terrorist attacks, a government report says.

An investigator used a false identification to obtain a U.S. passport and then used the passport to get an airline boarding pass and go through an airport security checkpoint, according to the Government Accountability Office…

Individuals with “even minimal counterfeiting capabilities” can obtain genuine U.S. passports, which can be used to travel overseas, open bank accounts and prove U.S. citizenship, the GAO report says.

In the “most egregious” case, it says, the investigator used the Social Security number of a man who died in 1965 to obtain a Social Security card. In another case, he used the Social Security number of a 5-year-old child and obtained a passport, even though his counterfeit documents and application indicated he was 53 years old…

“State and USPS employees did not identify our documents as counterfeit in any of our four tests,” the GAO report says. The State Department “issued a genuine U.S. passport in each case.”

All four passports were issued to the same GAO investigator, under four different names,” it says. The tests occurred between July and December of last year.

Idiots. Absolute idiots. Homeland Insecurity is the least competent crew thought up by the federal government this side of Congress.

The FDA is the FEMA of American food

President Barack Obama has said the US food safety system is a “public health hazard” and in need of an overhaul.

He sounded the warning during his weekly radio and video address, as he appointed a new head of the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA). New York Health Commissioner Margaret Hamburg has been named for the post.

Mr Obama cited a string of recent food safety scandals including a salmonella outbreak in peanut products this year that has been linked to nine deaths.

The president said recent underfunding and understaffing at the FDA had left the agency unable to conduct annual inspections of more than a fraction of America’s 150,000 food processing premises. “That is a hazard to public health. It is unacceptable. And it will change under the leadership of Dr Margaret Hamburg,” Mr Obama pledged.

Mr Obama said when he learned of the [recent peanut butter] recall, he immediately thought of his seven-year-old daughter, Sasha, who eats peanut butter sandwiches several times a week.

No parent should have to worry that their child is going to get sick from their lunch,” he said.

Our government’s only concern – for decades – has been profits for farmers, food processors and retailers.

Anyone who ever read “The Jungle” by Upton Sinclair – who knows the history of decades of struggle that finally won our our first food standards – must look with contempt upon the bureaucrats and Congress- critters who turned their back on the health of this nation.

Heicopter pilot loses license over porn video

A La Jolla helicopter pilot who turned up in an Internet video showing him engaged in sexual acts with a porn actress while flying over the city has had his wings clipped – again.

On Wednesday, the Federal Aviation Administration issued an emergency revocation of the commercial pilot’s license of David Keith Martz. He must surrender his license and will not be allowed to fly, said FAA spokesman Ian Gregor.

Martz, who previously had his license revoked twice and suspended twice, is appealing the FAA action, Gregor said. A hearing will be held before an administrative law judge, probably within the next 30 days, to determine whether Martz gets his license back.

The FAA trained its sights on Martz again in February after he turned up in a video on the gossip Web site TMZ. Originally shot in 2007, the video showed him fondling a porn actress, who then performed a sexual act on the pilot while he flew over San Diego.

Even worse. He was stupid enough to let the video loose on the Web.

Man sets hotel fire to delay wedding

A Japanese man has been sentenced to five years in prison for setting fire to a hotel allegedly to postpone his wedding date.

Tatsuhiko Kawata, 40, was convicted of arson in a fire at the Risonare Hotel in Hokuto. He said he needed time to decide whether to keep his current wife or his girlfriend of three years, Kyodo reported.

Judge Yasushi Watanabe at the Kofu District Court called Kawata “egoistic and short-sighted.”

Yup. Ain’t nothing like full-blown egregious behavior.

Should California try Australia’s ‘Prepare, Stay And Defend’ against wildfires?

Even as debate rages over the safety of Australia’s “Prepare, stay and defend, or leave early” policy of wildfire defense, fire researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, and in Australia say that the strategy is worth consideration in California and other regions in the United States.

Questions about the policy, which encourages able residents to stay home and actively defend their property from wildfires, are being renewed in the wake of Australia’s devastating fires, which began on Feb. 7 and killed 210 people, burned down 1,800 homes and scorched 1,500 square miles of land.

“The key element of Australia’s policy is to train willing homeowners to protect their homes in an active wildfire,” said Scott Stephens, associate professor of fire science and co-director of UC Berkeley’s Center for Fire Research and Outreach. “What the Australian strategy does is actively engage and help homeowners to become part of the solution rather than just to need evacuation. However, it should be noted that some California communities are so vulnerable that a ‘prepare and leave early’ strategy may be the only option.”

In contrast to Australia, the researchers said, fire agencies in California focus primarily on mandatory evacuations followed by fire suppression. Not only has this approach not reduced property loss, it could increase the risk for people if the evacuations are carried out at the last minute.

Something I have to consider. Our little community comprises about a hundred families on prairie grasslands a few miles outside of Santa Fe. The municipal airport is closer to hand than the county volunteer department.

Given perpetual wind, any fire could sweep into nature’s tradition and even the regrown bosque alongside the Santa Fe River could increase the danger.

Knowing my neighbors, half of us are owner-builders, we’d rather stay and fight.

Solar Water Heating Pays For Itself Five Times Over

An analysis of the engineering and economics for a solar water-heating system shows it to have a payback period of just two years, according to researchers in India.

The current focus in the developed world is on advanced technological approaches to alternative energy sources, such as photovoltaic cells for solar power and harnessing wind and wave with elaborate systems to generate electricity. However, the cost of such systems may be prohibitive for some applications in the developing world. They also often ignore the fact that a mundane process such as heating water might best be carried out using direct heat from the sun rather than including a waste energy-conversion step.

They have compared solar hot-water production per liter with electrical energy approaches and found that solar heating is 57 percent of the internal rate of return.

“Solar energy is the only renewable energy source that has wide range of uses with commercial viability. Solar energy provide water heating, air heating and electricity through various modes of applications. The use of solar energy for thermal purposes is the most cost-effective way of utilizing the resource. A solar water heating system satisfies the need of warm water,” the researchers explain.

Thinking about it. May even go that route before I can get round to saving enough for photo-voltaics for electricity.