Ultra-Orthodox Jews battle police over parking lot – WTF?


Demonstrator tries to escape police
Daylife/Getty Images used by permission

Ultra-Orthodox Jews, angry at the opening of a parking lot on the Jewish sabbath, clashed with police separating them from secular Jerusalem residents who held a protest on Saturday in support of the move.

Police moved in to separate the demonstrators after ultra-Orthodox Jews started hurling stones and vegetables. A police spokesman said 24 people were arrested and four policemen suffered minor injuries.

Tensions have been brewing in the city over plans by Jerusalem’s Israeli mayor, Nir Barkat, to reopen a parking lot on Saturday, a move that could draw more traffic into the city on the Jewish sabbath…

Tensions reached a new peak on Friday when thousands of Ultra-Orthodox Jews walked through a main street in the city in protest at Barkat’s decision. Some scuffled with journalists and photographers covering the march…

Barkat became mayor in November after beating ultra-Orthodox Uri Lupolianski. He ran on a platform of reversing an exodus of secular young Jews who leave to cities like Tel Aviv and Haifa in search of better job opportunities.

The intolerance of fundamentalist religions confounds me. It doesn’t matter a bit how much any kind of orthodox True Believer mouths off about Love Thy Neighbor. When push comes to shove, they are as violent, cruel and egregious as any other leftover cave-dweller.

Reactions, discussion, debate continues over Web-filtering in China – UPDATED


Daylife/AP Photo used by permission

While American tech pundits and politicians alike blather about The Great Firewall of China – never reading beyond the first couple of press articles covering the topic – discussion, changes, continue inside the same communities in China. Here’s part:

Should every computer in China be installed with a filter software? And should the government make a decision before making the software known to the public and listening to their views?

Heated debates have arisen since the government said earlier this month that all computers sold in China would have to include software packages for filtering out online pornography.

On June 9, a filtering program named “Green Dam and Escorting Minors” was introduced to the public by the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT).

The software was said to be able to identify and block pornographic or violent images and words on the Internet. The package could also help parents control how much time their children spent online.

According to the MIIT, all new computers in China must have this software package pre-installed as of July 1.

I don’t know if the MIIT has already started backing off – or these are simple clarifications from bureaucrats accustomed to offering oversimplified statements.

As it stands, now, the software may either be installed on the hard drive of new computers like the bloatware that comes with most PC’s or reside on a CD delivered with the purchase. It is NOT required to be installed or enabled.

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Big rigs getting greener and cleaner – sooner than required!


Click photo for a closeup that scares small children

According to the American Trucking Association, there has been a 41 percent increase in registered large trucks and an 84 percent increase in miles traveled by large trucks from 1986 to 2006. That equals lots of diesel fuel consumed. Fortunately, a new report from Coordinating Research Council and the Health Effects Institute shows that pollution from heavy trucks and buses is actually improving at a faster rate than automobiles.

Impressively, today’s big rig engines produce 98 percent less carbon monoxide, 10 percent less nitrogen oxide, 95 percent less non-methane hydrocarbons and 89 percent less particulate matter than required by EPA’s 2007 diesel engine emission standards. Diesel engines manufactured in 2010 will perform even better as new regulations mean the powerplants will cut nitrogen oxide emissions by another 50 percent.

This study is the first installment of the Advanced Collaborative Emissions Study (ACES), which will continue to test diesel engines and the related health effects of burning diesel fuel over the next five years. Click here to view the official test results and to keep future tabs on the testing results.

Diesel for passenger cars here in the States is decades behind the rest of world – especially Europe. There are unique reasons on each continent; but, the primo excuse here is incompetent GM product rolled out decades ago. Smelly, leaky, inefficient, crap.

Our trucking industry – led by Cummins, Caterpiller and others – is in the business of optimizing profits for their customers instead of whatever it was motivating the half-brains at the Big Three. So, they started designing, experimenting, innovating at least as early as the best Euro diesel manufacturers. Frankly, I think they’re doing a better job of it all-round.

Now, if we only could get someone with the brains and courage to turn out U.S-built small turbo-diesel cars and light pickups, I might get serious about getting a new ride.

Why do Republicans lie about Canadian health care?

If the only way we compared the two systems – U.S. versus Canada – was with statistics, there is a clear victor. It is becoming increasingly more difficult to dispute the fact that Canada spends less money on health care to get better outcomes.

Yet, the debate rages on. Indeed, it has reached a fever pitch since President Barack Obama took office, with Americans either dreading or hoping for the dawn of a single-payer health care system. Opponents of such a system cite Canada as the best example of what not to do, while proponents laud that very same Canadian system as the answer to all of America’s health care problems…

As America comes to grips with the reality that changes are desperately needed within its health care infrastructure, it might prove useful to first debunk some myths about the Canadian system.

Myth: Taxes in Canada are extremely high, mostly because of national health care.

In actuality, taxes are nearly equal on both sides of the border. Overall, Canada’s taxes are slightly higher than those in the U.S. However, Canadians are afforded many benefits for their tax dollars, even beyond health care (e.g., tax credits, family allowance, cheaper higher education), so the end result is a wash. At the end of the day, the average after-tax income of Canadian workers is equal to about 82 percent of their gross pay. In the U.S., that average is 81.9 percent.

Myth: Canada’s health care system is a cumbersome bureaucracy.

The U.S. has the most bureaucratic health care system in the world. More than 31 percent of every dollar spent on health care in the U.S. goes to paperwork, overhead, CEO salaries, profits, etc. The provincial single-payer system in Canada operates with just a 1 percent overhead. Think about it. It is not necessary to spend a huge amount of money to decide who gets care and who doesn’t when everybody is covered.

Not so incidentally, single-payer systems run by the U.S. government can approach Canadian efficiency. Medicare and Social Security run at less than 3% overhead.

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Michael Jackson dies. Did the Internet almost go with him?

CNN would like you to think so.

The biggest showbiz story of the year saw the troubled star take a good slice of the Internet with him, as the ripples caused by the news of his death swept around the globe.

“Between approximately 2:40 p.m. PDT and 3:15 p.m. PDT today, some Google News users experienced difficulty accessing search results for queries related to Michael Jackson,” a Google spokesman told CNET, which also reported that Google News users complained that the service was inaccessible for a time. At its peak, Google Trends rated the Jackson story as “volcanic.”

As sites fell, users raced to other sites: TechCrunch reported that TMZ, which broke the story, had several outages; users then switched to Perez Hilton’s blog, which also struggled to deal with the requests it received.

CNN reported a fivefold rise in traffic and visitors in just over an hour, receiving 20 million page views in the hour the story broke.

Twitter crashed as users saw multiple “fail whales” — the illustrations the site uses as error messages — user FoieGrasie posting, “Irony: The protesters in Iran using Twitter as com are unable to get online because of all the posts of ‘Michael Jackson RIP.’ Well done.” The site’s status blog said that Twitter had had to temporarily disable its search results, saved searches and trend topics.

Of course, Twitter fails if you blow two farts in their general direction. The fact that Google News had a couple of slow patches is still better than crashing on their own – once a month – for hours at a time.

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Police search for Michael Jackson’s drug doctor


Have you seen this man?
Daylife/AP Photo used by permission

A doctor who has apparently gone missing after treating Michael Jackson before his sudden death is being sought by the Los Angeles police and coroner’s office.

The doctor’s car, which was left outside Jackson’s rented mansion in Bel Air, has been impounded. A police spokesman said they wanted to talk to Dr Conrad Murray, a cardiologist who practises in California, Nevada and Texas, because he had not signed a death certificate, as is normal procedure. It was reported last night that police were in contact with Murray.

Speculation was mounting that the star’s death may be linked to his longstanding use of painkillers. Family friends have confirmed he was taking drugs to help him deal with the stress of preparing for his series of London concerts.

Last night the Los Angeles coroner said initial examination of the body indicated “no foul play or external trauma”. He said a ruling on the cause of death would be deferred for detailed toxicology and neuropathology tests, which could take between four and six weeks…

Charlie Beck said the doctor’s car was seized because it may contain drugs or other evidence. Beck said officers had spoken to the doctor immediately after Jackson’s death but wanted to carry out “an extensive follow-up interview”…

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Is there risk of mad cow disease from farmed fish?

Three U.S. scientists are concern about the potential of people contracting Creutzfeldt Jakob disease — the human form of “mad cow disease” — from eating farmed fish who are fed byproducts rendered from cows.

Mad cow disease, also called bovine spongiform encephalopathy is a fatal brain disease in cattle, which scientists believe can cause Creutzfeldt Jakob disease in humans who eat infected cow parts.

In the latest issue of the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, Dr. Robert P. Friedland, a neurologist at University of Louisville in Kentucky and colleagues suggest that farmed fish fed contaminated cow parts could transmit Creutzfeldt Jakob disease.

The scientists want government regulators to ban feeding cow meat or bone meal to fish until the safety of this common practice can be confirmed…

“We are concerned,” Friedland and colleagues write, that eating farmed fish may provide a means of transmission of infectious proteins from cows to humans, causing variant Creutzfeldt Jakob disease.

“We have not proven that it’s possible for fish to transmit the disease to humans. Still, we believe that out of reasonable caution for public health, the practice of feeding rendered cows to fish should be prohibited,” Friedland said in a prepared statement. “Fish do very well in the seas without eating cows,” he added.

You know, that’s a pretty reasonable point he just made.

Think about it!