Hi-tech holy water brings Catholics up to 19th Century

Catholic churches in Italy are installing automatic holy water dispensers to help reduce the risk of spreading swine flu.

The outbreak of the H1N1 virus has led many churches to suspend the tradition of having holy water in open fonts into which people dip their hands.

The new machine works like an automatic soap dispenser, squirting water when a hand is passed under the tap.

Father Pierre Angelo Mota, from Capriano Briosco, north of Milan, said squirtable holy water had surprised some of his parishoners at first.

“People initially were a bit shocked by this technological innovation but then they welcomed it with great enthusiasm and joy. The members of this parish have got used to it,” he added.

“Some people had stopped dipping their hand into the holy water font as they were afraid of infections,” he told Reuters.

This is all absurd to the point of being hilarious.

First, we have the faithful finally realizing germ theory is a fact. That brings them up to the mid-19th Century, anyway. Although, wouldn’t you presume that truly “holy” water would protect you – not make you sick?

Then, we get to deal with the Orthodox who may acknowledge that germs, disease and death exist outside of divine retribution – but, giving up a tradition just to live longer is way too modern.

There is no one more foolish than someone dedicated to religious self-delusion?

DNA policy bets innocent may commit a crime within 6 years

The DNA of most innocent people arrested in England, Wales and Northern Ireland will not be kept for more than six years, the Home Office has said…

The move comes after the European Court of Human Rights ruled last year that the National DNA Database was illegal…

Ministers defend this as a proportionate tactic that protects the public, rather than a principled but simplistic stand for privacy. The problem is that there is a lack of data on how many crimes have been cracked thanks to retaining DNA from innocent people…

That leaves critics saying anyone in this category has been judged “not guilty – yet”. If the plan gets through before the general election, it will be challenged, testing ministers’ claims to have balanced privacy with a duty to protect the public.

Wasn’t there once a standard of constitutional rights being based upon principles rather than expedient policies enacted by a government run by fear-filled cowards?

How can people be judged temporarily innocent?

Merkel and Sarkozy in first joint Armistice memorial


Daylife/Getty Images used by permission

French and German leaders joined together on Armistice Day for the first time to remember their war dead and pledged to work more closely together as partners in Europe.

To the sound of the national anthems of the two former enemies, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy laid down a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier under the Arc de Triomphe in Paris.

It was the first time a German leader had attended France’s Armistice Day, marking the end of World War One hostilities on the Western Front on November 11, 1918.

“We gather this November to commemorate not the victory of one people over another, but hardship that was as terrible for one side as it was for the other,” Sarkozy said in a speech.

“German orphans cried over the death of their fathers in combat just as French orphans did,” he added…

A visibly moved Merkel shook the hands of frail, grey-haired veterans of World War Two.

Here in the United States, most have no perception that the “invalids of war” encompasses whole populations. The death of many millions of civilians is a vast ocean of sadness – even on a day when we remember those who died in the course of battle, the accepted confrontation of military against military.

Big Brother pulls the plug on a million XBox gamers – UPDATED

It’s oh-so enticing: You find a copy of a brand-new game like Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 on a pirate site and the temptation to download it is too strong.

Well, that temptation may have cost up to 1 million users of Microsoft’s Xbox Live the ability to use that service. According to a report in InformationWeek, Microsoft has banned as many as a million players from Xbox Live for altering their consoles in order to play pirated versions of games…

“Xbox 360 consoles are equipped with digital rights management technologies designed to detect pirated software,” InformationWeek wrote, “but some players have successfully ‘modded,’ or modified, their machines to circumvent DRM protections.”

InformationWeek said that even if someone has been banned, their Xbox will still play offline games. But it’s not at all clear if the bans are permanent or if Microsoft will allow those who have been booted from Xbox Live to return at some point down the line.

Microsoft did not immediately respond to requests for comment. But in a statement received by InformationWeek, the company said, “All consumers should know that piracy is illegal and that modifying their Xbox 360 console to play pirated discs violates the Xbox Live terms of use, will void their warranty and result in a ban from Xbox Live.”

Kiss your $50 XBox Live fee goodbye, folks!

UPDATE: Microsoft says the ban is permanent. You need to buy a new console to start afresh. Har!

Marine reservist attacks Greek priest – thought he was a terrorist!

Tampa — The Rev. Alexios Marakis, visiting from Greece, had performed a blessing of a retired Greek priest in the West Shore area before accidentally exiting I-275 into downtown Monday evening, police said. Marakis followed cars into the Seaport Channelside Apartments on Twiggs Street and got out to ask for help.

Bruce, a reservist with a West Palm Beach unit since March, had his trunk open so he could get dry cleaning out, police said. Bruce, who lives in the apartment building, was not in uniform. He grabbed a tire iron from the trunk, hit Marakis four times over the head and chased him about three blocks before pinning the priest, police said…

When officers arrived, police say, Bruce told them he heard the man say “Allahu Akbar” – Arabic for “God is great.”

That’s what they say before they blow you up,” Bruce said, according to police…

Marakis, 29, was treated at Tampa General Hospital and released. He told investigators he’s visiting St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Tarpon Springs.

Marakis declined to comment today, saying he does not speak much English.

To their credit, Tampa coppers arrested Bruce – instead of the priest.

China prepares to close coal-fired power plants in Beijing


London 1952

China is considering moving the last four coal-fired power and heating plants out of Beijing’s municipal area, replacing them with gas-fired stations…in an effort to improve air quality in the capital…

“While the heat supply to Beijing residents must be ensured, coal-fired stations that need to be relocated must be relocated, and building gas-fired plants with advanced environmental protection technologies is a first choice…”

The four plants, owned by Huaneng Power International, Datang International Power Generation Co Ltd, China Shenhua Energy and Beijing Jingneng Thermal Power Co Ltd, have a total power generating capacity of about 2.7 gigawatts.

The plan, if it is implemented, would further drive up gas demand in Beijing, which already tops demand rankings among Chinese cities. Beijing consumed more than 5 billion cubic meters of gas in 2008…

As a result, construction of gas pipelines, liquefied natural gas facilities and underground storage tanks need to be accelerated, Huang Wei, Vice Mayor, said.

That might take care of half the coal-related smog problem in Beijing. Getting natural gas in sufficient quantity to the city might finally permit the changeover that solved the rest of the same problem for London back in the day, e.g., converting home cooking and heating fires from coal to gas and electricity.

This also is an admission that – regardless of all the talk from coal-dependent countries, whether it be the US or Poland, China or Australia – either current research into cleaning up coal ain’t producing squat or it isn’t producing good enough results quickly enough. So, China is going in the direction of a fuel where the world’s largest reserve is in Iran.

We’re not even prepared to listen to T. Boone Pickens.

Free holiday wi-fi added to 47 airports – by Google


Even our shiny new Railrunner has free wi-fi

Google’s gift of free holiday Internet access at 47 U.S. airports only points out how backward those airports are. Don’t they understand Internet access in public places is supposed to be free?

This time of year, however, people…live in airports. And there, Google is beating the Grinch that charges for Wi-Fi.

Folks who spend part of their holiday snowed in at a distant airport will all have nice memories of Google, provided its free Internet actually works pretty well. Google’s announcement did not say, but I hope they have invested in enough infrastructure to support the number of users the free offer will generate…

Google said its gift currently includes 47 airports, including Las Vegas, San Jose, Boston, Baltimore, Burbank, Houston, Indianapolis, Seattle, Miami, Ft. Lauderdale, Orlando, St. Louis, and Charlotte. Additionally, as a result of the project, Burbank and Seattle airports will begin offering airport-wide free Wi-Fi indefinitely.

Not included, however, are some major airports, including all three that serve New York City, Dallas-Ft. Worth, Chicago O’Hare, LAX, and Minneapolis-St. Paul.

Having to pay for Internet access in airports and other public places is simply stupid and is part of the nickel-and-diming that has become the post-9/11 travel industry. Except that airport Wi-Fi usually costs dollars, not dimes.

Airports and airlines should offer free Internet because keeping customers happy, productive, and occupied is a good thing while they wait for their planes. Don’t we already pay enough for everything else at airports..?

I am, hopefully, not spending time at any airports over the holidays (the promotion ends Jan. 15), but if I were, Google would be my new best friend.

Airports are managed by the inbred cousins of people from the MPAA and RIAA.