Pro-shoplifting vicar suffers pasta protest

A Yorkshire priest who caused controversy this month by preaching that shoplifting could sometimes be justified has had a bucket of pasta thrown over him by an irate parishioner.

Shortly before Christmas, Father Tim Jones gave a sermon in which he suggested that the desperately poor should consider shoplifting from supermarkets if it stopped them from committing violent crimes or burglary against members of the public.

His comments were met with a storm of criticism from fellow clergymen, police and politicians alike. But one York local, 48-year-old Martin Stot, took matters into his own hands and threw the pasta over the priest as he left church on Sunday afternoon.

I was just offended by what he said,” Mr Stot told the York Press. “I just got this thing in my head where I thought I would make my own little protest.”

Speaking to The Independent last night, Father Jones said he had been “frightened and humbled” by the experience. “In conversation with the man afterwards, it emerged that his has been a very hard life indeed,” he said.

Yet, he managed to survive without stealing.

Of course, the easy rationale in contemporary American society is you turn to dealing drugs.

Harper suspends Canada’s Parliament to avert defeat

The Conservative government has shut down Parliament for two months, until after the Vancouver Winter Olympics.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper telephoned Gov. Gen. Michaëlle Jean on Wednesday to ask her permission to end the parliamentary session. Jean signed the proclamation later that day, granting his request.

The move triggered immediate condemnation from opposition MPs who labelled the Conservative government’s move an “almost despotic” attempt to muzzle parliamentarians amid controversy over the Afghan detainees affair…

A speech from the throne will be delivered March 3, followed by presentation of the budget the next day. The session had been scheduled to resume Jan. 25 after the holiday break…

“Three times in three years and twice within one year, the prime minister takes this extraordinary step to muzzle Parliament. This time it’s a coverup of what the Conservatives knew, and when they knew it, about torture in Afghanistan. So their solution is not to answer the questions but, rather, to padlock Parliament and shut down democracy…”

By the time Parliament resumes, Harper would have had time to ask Jean to name five new senators, which would give the Conservatives a majority on the newly formed Senate committees and greater control for passing their own legislation.

Even George W. couldn’t do a worse job of governing. Harper is running away and hiding – hoping the spectacle of the Winter Olympics will distract angry citizens and politicians alike. Before he has to face up to his incompetence.

Cake and circuses didn’t work the last time it was tried.

Thanks, Cinaedh, for a better link

China willing to spend big on Afghan commerce


Aynak – former Al-AQaeda stronghold – soon to be copper mine

Behind an electrified fence, blast-resistant sandbags and 53 National Police outposts, the Afghan surge is well under way.

But the foot soldiers in a bowl-shaped valley about 20 miles southeast of Kabul are not fighting the Taliban, or even carrying guns. They are preparing to extract copper from one of the richest untapped deposits on earth. And they are Chinese, undertaking by far the largest foreign investment project in war-torn Afghanistan.

Two years ago, the China Metallurgical Group Corporation, a Chinese state-owned conglomerate, bid $3.4 billion — $1 billion more than any of its competitors from Canada, Europe, Russia, the United States and Kazakhstan — for the rights to mine deposits near the village of Aynak. Over the next 25 years, it plans to extract about 11 million tons of copper — an amount equal to one-third of all the known copper reserves in China.

While the United States spends hundreds of billions of dollars fighting the Taliban and Al Qaeda here, China is securing raw material for its voracious economy. The world’s superpower is focused on security. Its fastest rising competitor concentrates on commerce…

Nice to hear someone raise that point besides me.

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Vitamin C surprise – helps reprogram adult cells into stem cells

Famous for its antioxidant properties and role in tissue repair, vitamin C is touted as beneficial for illnesses ranging from the common cold to cancer and perhaps even for slowing the aging process. Now, a study published online…in the journal Cell Stem Cell uncovers an unexpected new role for this natural compound: facilitating the generation of embryonic-like stem cells from adult cells.

Over the past few years, we have learned that adult cells can be reprogrammed into cells with characteristics similar to embryonic stem cells by turning on a select set of genes. Although the reprogrammed cells, called induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs), have tremendous potential for regenerative medicine, the conversion is extremely inefficient.

Dr. Duanqing Pei and colleagues measured the production of reactive oxygen species or ROS during reprogramming and discovered a potential link between high ROS and low reprogramming efficiency. They became particularly interested in antioxidants, hypothesizing that they might suppress ROS and cell senescence, which seems to be a major roadblock for the generation of iPSCs.

The researchers found that adding vitamin C, an essential nutrient that is abundant in citrus fruits, enhanced iPSC generation from both mouse and human cells. Vitamin C accelerated gene expression changes and promoted a more efficient transition to the fully reprogrammed state. Somewhat to their surprise, they found that other antioxidants do not have the same effect, but vitamin C does seem to act at least in part through slowing cell senescence.

Our results highlight a simple way to improve iPSC generation and provide additional insight into the mechanistic basis of reprogramming,” concludes Dr. Pei. “It is also of interest that a vitamin with long-suspected anti-aging effects has such a potent influence on reprogramming, which can be considered a reversal of the aging process at the cellular level. It is likely that our work may stimulate further research in this area as well.”

Stimulates the hell out of my curiosity. That’s for sure.

I always appreciate the interlocking dialectic of multiple scientific disciplines. Often, you find new directions, new solutions you hadn’t even been looking for.

Store employees steal more than shoplifters

At the Saks flagship store in Manhattan, a 23-year-old sales clerk was caught recently ringing up $130,000 in false merchandise returns and siphoning the money onto a gift card…

Employee fraud involving gift cards appears to be growing sharply as retailers struggle to contain overall theft, now estimated at $36 billion a year in the industry, or 1.51 percent of retail sales, according to a leading national study. Even as total sales have been falling, employee theft and shoplifting have been rising across the United States, industry experts say, with occasional arrests making headlines.

Many of the gift card crimes are straightforward, frequently involving young sales clerks and smaller amounts than the Saks theft. Among the variations of such crimes, cashiers often do fake refunds of merchandise and then, with the amount refunded, use their registers to electronically fill gift cards, which they take. Or sometimes when shoppers buy gift cards, cashiers give them blank cards and then divert the shoppers’ money onto cards for themselves…

The most common type of employee theft is “sweethearting,” in which cashiers fail to ring up or scan goods that friends or relatives present at the register, Professor Hollinger said. Stealing from the till remains a problem, too. But with gift cards continuing to grow in popularity, they are an increasingly easy target.

Whatever method employees use to steal, their take is more substantial than that of the average shoplifter. Joshua Bamfield’s global study of retail theft found that larcenous employees averaged $1,890 in theft, compared with $438 for shoplifters…

Professor Hollinger says the rate of theft is greatest among retailers with high turnover rates and many part-time workers, who may be less loyal and under more financial pressure than full-time workers.

He also found higher theft among younger workers. “Older workers know they have a lot more to lose — promotional opportunities, health insurance, 401(k)’s and pensions,” Professor Hollinger said.

My experience in traffic management, small parcel manifesting systems plus a bit of retail – leads me to believe that the prospect of a future within a firm makes significant difference to loyalty, standards-based behavior and theft. Someone working in a facility where management reaches out to promote from within, assist in education assistance, provide medical benefits – is a lot less likely to jeopardize an entry-level job that can lead to something better.

There are plenty of good examples – UPS being the strongest in my experience.

Need to hide abusive Irish priests? Send ’em to America!

A Waltham-based group that has been chronicling the US clergy sexual abuse scandal has released the names of 60 to 70 accused priests it says were born in Ireland or are of Irish descent who came to the United States and were reoffenders.

The group, BishopAccountability.org, demanded that Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley of Boston and Bishop Thomas J. Tobin of Providence immediately make public the names of any credibly accused Irish priests who have worked in their dioceses.

By revealing the names, the group said it hopes to highlight the issue of immigrant Irish priests who are known pedophiles and whose histories of alleged abuse have long been “outsourced’’ to the United States

“Bishops [in Ireland], just like bishops here, have been moving accused priests around, even though they know they are dangerous,’’ said Terence McKiernan of BishopAccountability.org. “Unfortunately the places where they put them include our own backyard. So the Irish crisis, basically, has become our crisis, too.’’

Standing before the Cathedral of the Holy Cross, members and supporters of the group said the Irish scandal is deeply linked to the US abuse crisis because priests trained in Irish seminaries are systematically sent to serve in America, including clergy with long histories of abuse.

They also called on Prime Minister Brian Cowen of Ireland to recognize his country’s responsibility to inform the American public of all child-molesting clergy from Irish dioceses and religious orders who have immigrated to US dioceses.

RTFA. No surprises. No real solutions offered by the church.

The sickest part remains politicians both sides of the pond who maintain their collusion with the Catholic Church over the crimes.

Toyota sneaking up on a subcompact hybrid

Toyota will introduce a small hybrid that could cost less and offer higher mileage than any other hybrid currently on the market. Detroit News reported that the Toyota subcompact hybrid will go into production in Japan in late 2011 and arrive in US showrooms in early 2012.

The Japanese automaker will unveil a concept version of the car on Jan. 11, 2010, the first day of the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. The debut of the hybrid concept in Detroit will provide concrete details about the car…

The company has not yet revealed if the subcompact hybrid concept will be a hybrid version of an existing car, such as the Toyota Yaris, if it will use the Prius name, or if it will be a original nameplate. Toyota issued two teaser images showing details of the car.

In recent years, Toyota has expanded its US hybrid lineup to seven vehicles——three Toyota vehicles and four with Lexus badges. But none have come close to the Toyota Prius in popularity. Many observers believe that the price of hybrids must come down before reaching mainstream buyers. Earlier this year, Honda introduced the 2010 Honda Insight in an effort to make hybrids affordable. But the Insight’s combination of a $20,000 price tag and average city/highway mileage of 41 mpg did not win hybrid shoppers from the 50-mpg Prius, which commonly sells in the mid-$20,000 range.

Could be a great commuter-mobile for my wife.