Japanese protest US base – have a government that might agree!

Thousands of people have protested on the southern Japanese island of Okinawa demanding the removal of a US military base there.

The local mayor called on new Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama “to put an end to Okinawa’s burden and ordeal”.

Japan and the US agreed in 2006 to relocate the Futenma base from an urban area to reclaimed land but the PM’s election has rekindled opposition…

Japan’s new government has expressed a determination to have a less subservient relationship with the US.

Organisers of the protest claimed 21,000 people took part.

That’s, uh, about 14 times the number of Michelle Bachman’s anti-healthcare teabaggers – covered by all the US talking heads, last week.

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Online holiday sales seen up 8 percent – otherwise mediocre gains


Santa been smoking the seeds, again!

U.S. online sales are expected to rise 8 percent this holiday season, with mass market retailers who can offer discounts performing best, according to Forrester Research Inc.

The research firm said it expects online retail sales in November and December to reach $44.7 billion this year, up from $41.4 billion a year ago, providing a bright spot to a retail industry that could see total sales fall.

“Despite the lingering effects of the global financial crisis, the online space remains the retail industry’s growth engine,” Forrester said in its report.

Last year, total holiday sales logged their worst performance in nearly four decades after consumers cut back onspending in a global financial crisis. Online sales rose only 5 percent last holiday, breaking a multiyear streak of double-digit gains, according to Forrester.

This year…the National Retail Federation has forecast that total holiday sales will decline 1 percent…

For its part, Amazon forecast that sales during the holiday quarter could far exceed Wall Street’s early estimates.

About the only portion of our family purchases that doesn’t regularly happen online is groceries. If I ever decide to buy a new pickup, I imagine that will be a brick-and-mortar purchase.

That’s about it, folks.

A cuppa fair brew?

chamrajtea

The Chamraj tea estate in South India was among the very first farms to receive fair trade certification in 1994. Now 15 years later, has fair trade made a difference to the lives of workers there?

The little video is neat to see how peoples’ lives have been affected at the grassroots level. Ignore the non-sequitur tacked onto the end. Honestly, though it sounds like a longer piece has been edited down, I think it just reflects editorial policy at the Guardian.

I love the paper and source it as much as any other; but, someone has decided you can’t present a piece that’s 100% positive. So, if the folks at this tea plantation have benefitted across the board from Fair Trade – the editors want to remind you that someone, somewhere else, isn’t doing as well.

Very fracking Presbyterian.

Lightning and anti-matter?

Designed to scan the heavens thousands to billions of light-years beyond the solar system, the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope has now recorded some more down-to-Earth signals. During its first 14 months of operation, the flying observatory has detected 17 gamma-ray flashes associated with terrestrial lightning storms.

The flashes occurred just before, during and immediately after lightning strikes, as tracked by the World Wide Lightning Location Network.

During two recent lightning storms, Fermi recorded gamma-ray emissions of a particular energy that could only have been produced by the decay of energetic positrons, the antimatter equivalent of electrons. The observations are the first of their kind for lightning storms. Michael Briggs of the University of Alabama in Huntsville announced the puzzling findings Nov. 5 at the 2009 Fermi Symposium.

It’s a surprise to have found the signature of positrons during a lightning storm, Briggs said.

During lightning storms previously observed by spacecraft, energetic electrons moving toward the craft slowed down and produced gamma rays. The unusual positron signature seen by Fermi suggests that the normal orientation for an electric field associated with a lightning storm somehow reversed, Briggs said. Modelers are now working to figure out how the field reversal could have occurred. But for now, he said, the answer is up in the air.

I don’t think that was a deliberate pun. It’s also interesting as all get-out.

So much science to learn – and we are surrounded by nutballs still trying to count angels on pinheads.

Thanks, wok3

Keeping you up-to-date on latest Phishing phoolery

Cyber criminals are using fake messages claiming to be from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) to deliver a virus capable of stealing unsuspecting victims’ bank passwords and other sensitive personal information, says Gary Warner, the director of research in computer forensics at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB).

Warner says the spam is being delivered with one of two subject lines:

FDIC has officially named your bank a failed bank

You need to check your Bank Deposit Insurance Coverage

Warner says that once the message is opened the spam asks users to visit a specific Web site, a link to which is included in the message. Those that follow the link are taken to a page that asks them to click and download a copy of “your personal FDIC insurance file.”

“Unfortunately, anyone who clicks that download link will be downloading a version of the Zeus Bot virus, which has the capacity to steal bank passwords and other financial and personal information,” Warner says.

I know this is nothing new to many of our regular geek readers. Just offering the latest tale of social engineering so you can pass it along to your more gullible kith and kin.

Typically, these creeps are sending these emails out just after banking hours close on a Friday. No way to phone your bank to see if everything is OK – though, I’d think you would know something about who you’re banking with, eh?

This way, people have two days over the weekend to get nervous and pull the trigger.

Courage/Conscience 220 to 215 Corrupt/Copouts/Cowards


Daylife/AP Photo used by permission

President Obama and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi achieved a stupendous – but still incomplete – victory Saturday, winning House passage of the biggest expansion of health care coverage since Medicare’s creation in 1964, in the face of nearly unanimous Republican opposition…

“This bill is change that the American people urgently need,” Obama said Saturday in a Rose Garden speech. “This is their moment, this is our moment to live up to the trust that the American people have placed in us – even when it’s hard; especially when it’s hard…”

The House bill promises to expand coverage to 96 percent of Americans, but many key provisions, including a new insurance exchange where those without insurance could choose between a government option or private plans, would not take effect until 2013, after next year’s midterm elections and after the 2012 presidential election…

Part of the delay is due to the complexity of implementing changes to a $2.6 trillion industry that consumes $1 of every $6 Americans spend; part is due to budget maneuvering that delays expenditures to meet Obama’s pledge not to add to the burgeoning federal deficit within a 10-year budget window.

Just one Republican voted for the Democrats’ bill, Anh “Joseph” Cao, a Vietnam immigrant from Louisiana. All but Cao continued a GOP boycott of the Obama agenda that began with last fall’s $787 billion fiscal stimulus.

Democrats emphasized coverage expansions and the new security promised to millions whose employment-based coverage is threatened by rising premiums. The legislation would also impose new regulations on insurance companies, banning such practices as cancellation of policies when people get sick, and strip the industry of its antitrust exemption.

All overdue.

One non-white immigrant Republican voted for change instead of corporate lockstep obedience. The majority of Democrats voted for the people. The Blue Dogs belong on the cowardly side of the scoreboard. As they always have.

I grew up in New England. There is not a single Republican remaining in the House of Representatives from New England.

I have lived the past few decades in New Mexico. In the last election we voted in a Congressional delegation, House and Senate, that was all Democrats.

That doesn’t mean I’m going to register as a Democrat, this week. But, it surely is a good feeling to see some of our politicians begin to catch up with the people.

Who Is a Jew? British court answers question – sort of

The questions before the judges in Courtroom No. 1 of Britain’s Supreme Court were as ancient and as complex as Judaism itself.

On the surface, the court was considering a straightforward challenge to the admissions policy of a Jewish high school in London. But the case, in which arguments concluded Oct. 30, has potential repercussions for thousands of other parochial schools across Britain. And in addressing issues at the heart of Jewish identity, it has exposed bitter divisions in Britain’s community of 300,000 or so Jews, pitting members of various Jewish denominations against one another…

By many standards, the JFS applicant, identified in court papers as “M,” is Jewish. But not in the eyes of the school, which defines Judaism under the Orthodox definition set out by Jonathan Sacks, chief rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth. Because M’s mother converted in a progressive, not an Orthodox, synagogue, the school said, she was not a Jew — nor was her son. It turned down his application.

That would have been the end of it. But M’s family sued, saying that the school had discriminated against him. They lost, but the ruling was overturned by the Court of Appeal this summer.

In an explosive decision, the court concluded that basing school admissions on a classic test of Judaism — whether one’s mother is Jewish — was by definition discriminatory. Whether the rationale was “benign or malignant, theological or supremacist,” the court wrote, “makes it no less and no more unlawful.”

The case rested on whether the school’s test of Jewishness was based on religion, which would be legal, or on race or ethnicity, which would not. The court ruled that it was an ethnic test because it concerned the status of M’s mother rather than whether M considered himself Jewish and practiced Judaism.

“The requirement that if a pupil is to qualify for admission his mother must be Jewish, whether by descent or conversion, is a test of ethnicity which contravenes the Race Relations Act,” the court said. It added that while it was fair that Jewish schools should give preference to Jewish children, the admissions criteria must depend not on family ties, but “on faith, however defined.”

The same reasoning would apply to a Christian school that “refused to admit a child on the ground that, albeit practicing Christians, the child’s family were of Jewish origin,” the court said.

Even more to the root of the question is religions that consider their law superior to the law and legal system of the state. Unless you’re in a theocracy – when you can have bits of your body lopped off for offending some judge.