Nine reasons why a Brit celebrates America – sort of…

As the US is marking its 233rd anniversary of its independence, the BBC’s Kevin Connolly gives his own list of reasons why America should be celebrated…

This is more about the American genius for making daily life more convenient, more entertaining or just more fattening.

First – air conditioning – testament to the American ability to conquer the harshest physical environments and to expand American life towards improbable horizons.

Ice cubes, too, reflect the same happy knack for making light of the hostility of circumstance.

Every floor of every motel building in the country has an ice machine; every convenience store sells it by the sackful, and every drink you are served contains lumps of ice big enough to sink a battleship.

Third -valet parking. President Barack Obama says America invented the car, which it did not. But it did invent motoring, and the pinnacle of the American motoring experience is the practice of having someone else park your car when you arrive at a restaurant or hotel.

Item Number Four is aviation. America did invent the aeroplane but it was rather a dull device at first and spent its early years being flown short distances in wobbly straight lines by plucky pioneers.

Fifth -chewing gum. One of America’s more enduring gifts to humanity requiring no comment or explanation.

1893, in fact, was a bumper year for people who do not worry too much about their fillings since it also saw the invention of Cracker Jack, a mixture of popcorn and peanut coated in toffee which is the baseball fan’s snack of choice.

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Why worry about insurance companies? They could care less about you!

Dead at 17 – courtesy of CIGNA healthcare

Wendell Potter says he is finished defending the insurance industry, which he says is “beholden to Wall Street.”

At a hearing last week before the Senate Commerce Committee, the former vice president of corporate communications at the insurance giant Cigna testified, “I know from personal experience that members of Congress and the public have good reason to question the honesty and trustworthiness of the insurance industry…”

In his testimony and during an interview with CNN, Potter described how underwriters at his former company would drive small businesses with expensive insurance claims to dump their Cigna policies. Industry executives refer to the practice as “purging,” Potter said.

“When that business comes up for renewal, the underwriters jack the rates up so much, the employer has no choice but to drop insurance,” Potter said…

Now a senior fellow on health care for the nonpartisan watchdog group Center for Media and Democracy, Potter writes a blog on health care reform. In particular, he is keeping an eye on efforts to defeat legislation that would give Americans the option of joining a government health care plan, something he now supports.

He says he witnessed how the insurance industry torpedoed health care reform efforts during the Clinton administration.

“They conduct what I call duplicitous PR campaigns. They’ll say what people want to hear,” Potter says. “It’s how they operate. You cannot trust these guys.”

Potter is also taking aim at some of the TV commercials aired by groups opposed to changes. One such ad caught Potter’s eye. Run by the conservative organization Patients United Now, the ad says that “now, Washington wants to bring Canadian-style health care to the U.S.”

Sometimes you’ll see misleading information. And sometimes you’ll see outright lies, like that [ad] is,” Potter said, referring to the spot…

Potter notes that the leading proposals for health care in Congress do not seek to set up Canadian-style health care in the United States. He says claims that overhauling the system would lead to “rationing” of care are missing his point.

“What we have is rationing by corporate executives who are beholden to Wall Street. And it happens all the time,” Potter said.

I’m not certain which is worse. My gullible fellow-citizens who eat up right-wing lies fed to them as TV commercials – or the fracking politicians who enjoy service akin to Canadian-style health insurance which we pay for – who know better and still repeat the lies on behalf of insurance company lobbyists.

I didn’t realize Canada was center of the subversion of everything held dear by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. More power to ’em!

In Afghan villages, Marines work to win over civilians

U.S. Marines and an Afghan policeman
Daylife/Reuters Pictures used by permission

United States Marines moved into villages in Taliban strongholds in southern Afghanistan on Friday, meeting little resistance as they tried to win over local chiefs on the second day of the biggest American military operation here since the fall of the Taliban government in 2001.

One Marine was killed and several were wounded Thursday, when 4,000 Marines launched the operation in Helmand Province, a remote area at the center of the country’s opium cultivation, which helps finance the insurgency. So far, however, there has been little resistance from the Taliban, according to Capt. Bill Pelletier, a military spokesman…

The aim of the operation in Helmand is not simply to kill Taliban fighters but to win over the local population, Captain Pelletier said — a difficult task in a region where foreigners are viewed with suspicion.

Also members of the wrong clan all the way out to 2nd cousins.

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Macho Fort Worth coppers give Texas their own Stonewall


The grand opening sign still hangs above the door of the Rainbow Lounge, but the recently opened dance club has already become a rallying point for gay men and lesbians here, after a raid by law enforcement last week left one man hospitalized with a head injury and prompted complaints of brutality.

The raid in the early hours of June 28 by Fort Worth police officers and agents from the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission has set off a political uproar and galvanized gay advocates in Fort Worth, who have traditionally been less vocal than in Dallas and Houston. After years of keeping a low profile, gay men and lesbians in Fort Worth say they are furious, and their complaints have spread on the Internet, attracting support from gay rights groups across the country…

The incident has drawn even more attention because of its timing; it came on the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall riot in New York City, widely considered to be the start of the gay rights movement.

Law enforcement officials have begun an investigation into the accusations of brutality, and internal affairs officers from the state liquor authority were interviewing employees of the club on Friday afternoon, sifting through conflicting accounts of what had happened.

I presume you know by now what “conflicting reports” means? It means that some of the cops are being caught in their lies.

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Hospital employee stole patients’ shots, spread hepatitis C

A former hospital employee may have exposed hundreds, or even thousands, of surgical patients to hepatitis C after taking their fentanyl injections and replacing them with used syringes filled with saline solution.

Kristen Diane Parker, who worked at Rose Medical Center in Denver, has admitted to secretly injecting herself in a bathroom and using unclean syringes as replacements for patients, investigators said.

She had hepatitis C, which she believes she contracted through using heroin and sharing dirty needles while she lived in New Jersey in 2008…

Nine patients who had surgery there during that time have tested positive for hepatitis C. Investigators are looking into whether they contracted the virus from Parker.

According to an affidavit filed by an investigator with the Food and Drug Administration, Rose Medical Center knew Parker tested positive for hepatitis C. She was counseled on how to limit her exposure to patients.

Parker quit after she was found to be in an operating room where she was not allowed to be. She subsequently tested positive for fentanyl. Hospital officials then contacted the DEA.

I’ve worked for several firms where we performed random drug tests on employees who drove company vehicles. The question and cost of liability took precedence over the price of testing.

Here, we’re looking at hospitals that had technicians distributing drugs and medications to patients – and didn’t have random drug test procedures in place? And no one noticed patients weren’t responding to the shots they supposedly had?

Cripes! I realize they’ll use privacy as the excuse; but, there’s really only one reason why managers in any business skimp on safety. They’re cheapskates. Beancounters instead of for-real managers.

Will global warming lead to bonsai sheep?

Despite a greater abundance of food, milder winters and longer summers means that the wild Soay sheep of the St Kilda archipelago are shrinking by 3.5 ounces (100g) a year.

Over nearly a quarter of a century the sheep, one of the oldest breeds in the world and already half the size of a normal domestic sheep, have dropped in weight and height by five per cent.

Researchers believe that the hotter weather means that the weaker, smaller lambs that are usually wiped out by harsh winters are surviving – bringing down the average of the 2,000-strong wild flock.

The milder weather is also allowing younger, smaller mothers to have children early, meaning they give birth to smaller offspring.

Professor Coulson suggests that this is because shorter, milder winters, caused by global climate change, mean that lambs do not need to put on as much as weight in the first months of life to survive to their first birthday as they did when winters were colder.

Although Soay sheep, which can live up to 16 years-old and weigh 100lbs (45kgs), get their name from the small outcrop of rock of the same name, they now inhabit other islands in the St Kilda archipelago.

The scientists led by Professor Tim Coulson, from Imperial College London, chose to study the population on the 1,500 acre island of Hirta which has been uninhabited since 1930.

Over 24 years they have studied the relative size of the flock, capturing, marking and measuring them every summer. Their research, published in the journal Science, shows that over the period the average size of the flock has dropped from 66lbs (30kgs) to 61lbs (28kgs).

How to prepare African Land Snail for dinner

land snail

I’m impressed. Ain’t going to be able to get any African Land Snails in northern New Mexico – and I haven’t traveled to London in years. Though the A2 Delicious restaurant looks like a gas.

I’ve eaten traditional garden snails even as a child. Our landlady was French and kept a terrarium stocked.

I’ve even been with mates just starving for a snack on the beach of some Caribbean island I wasn’t allowed to visit legally by my ever-protective government – and we captured and sliced up Conch au natural. And scungilli was a frequent Sunday treat. This – looks like a gastropod worth trying.