When did Brits become weather wimps?

Click on the image for a version NSFW

Fresh snowfall is forecast to hit parts of Britain today, with up to 5cm predicted in northern Scotland and in northern and western Wales, bringing warnings of icy roads.

5cm of snow. That’s about 2 fracking inches! That qualifies as snow flurries.

Lighter snow showers are expected in Merseyside, Shropshire and Derbyshire.

Temperatures dropped well below freezing overnight with a low of -7C recorded in Benson, Oxfordshire…

There were five separate crashes on Bonemill Lane in Sunderland yesterday morning and police were forced to close the road for an hour and a half. And an icy road surface led to a three-vehicle collision at a roundabout near Crowther Road in the city. Nobody was injured in any of the incidents, police said.

Is this the weather forecast from the UK – or Mexico?

“Temperatures will return towards the seasonal average of 4C to 6C, but it will remain quite chilly in Scotland with the potential for snow over the hills.”

It’s always chilly in Scotland except when it’s fracking freezing. But, my kin in the Outer Isles don’t panic over a snowstorm unless it produces serious accumulation.

My relatives up on PEI still tell of the winter a bear fell into the tunnel they would dig every winter between the house and barn – to get out to milk the cows. And my dad didn’t take me out to teach me how to drive in the snow until we had a “decent” 6-inch snowfall in Connecticut.

C’mon, folks. Whatever happened to those brave barechested bruisers I see on the telly cheering on Newcastle? Did the whole nation get relegated?

Egypt 3-peats the African Cup of Nations

Mohamed Gedo scored with extra time looming

Egypt secured a record seventh Africa Cup of Nations title, after beating Ghana 1-0 in a tense final in Angola.

Substitute Mohamed Gedo scored the only goal of the game, playing a neat one-two before curling a superb shot past Richard Kingson in the 85th minute.

Gedo finished the tournament as the top scorer and Egypt became the first team to win three successive titles.

RTFA. Truly a shame they didn’t manage to qualify for the World Cup Finals in South Africa. They’re one of the best.

Gates’ pledge $10 billion call for decade of vaccines

Endorsing vaccines as the world’s most cost-effective public health measure, Bill and Melinda Gates say that their foundation will more than double its spending on them over the next decade, to at least $10 billion.

The change could save the lives of as many as eight million children by 2020, Mr. Gates calculated. He said he hoped his gift would inspire other charities and donor nations to do the same…

For starters, Mr. Gates wants to make sure that 90 percent of the world’s children get shots for routine childhood diseases like measles, diphtheria, whooping cough and tetanus. Right now, almost 80 percent do. But with 134 million children born each year, it is a constant struggle to keep up, and efforts can be interrupted by factors like war, natural disasters, bad roads and corrupt officials.

Then he assumes that two new vaccines against rotavirus and pneumococcal disease, which are major killers of malnourished children, are adopted as routine immunizations in most poor countries and reach 80 percent of all children by 2020.

Even in wealthy countries, the introduction of any new vaccine can be tricky because of bureaucratic and logistical delays and because unexpected rumors can spring up, like the persistent one that polio vaccine is a plot to sterilize Muslim girls…

Mr. Gates has criticized many wealthy nations for giving what he considers too little to foreign aid. On what he described as a “list of shame” in the annual letter he released this week, he noted that the United States is last on the list of 22 wealthy nations when aid is measured as a percentage of GDP.

However, Italy recently cut its foreign aid in half, which will drop it to the bottom of next year’s list, and while at Davos, Mr. Gates took a jab at Italy’s famously wealthy and vain premier, Silvio Berlusconi, telling a German newspaper, “Rich people spend a lot more money on their own problems, like baldness, than they do to fight malaria.”

Rumors in the USA are mostly confined to Republican/Libertarian cheapskates who hate to contribute to anything – including children’s health – that might diminish their personal wealth. And, of course, the religious nutball set who can come up with a different heretical plot for every day of the week.

Saudis forced to divorce, reunited by court – progress!

Mansour Al Timani, with his daughter, Nuha

A Saudi couple forced to divorce on grounds they were not from equal tribal backgrounds has been reunited by a new court created as part of judicial reforms.

The marriage of Mansour al-Timani and his wife Fatima Azzaz was annulled after Azzaz’s half brothers persuaded judges at a first instance court in 2006 that Timani’s tribal background was not prestigious enough for his wife’s family.

The case drew international criticism from human rights groups, but a new cassation court, created under reforms instituted by King Abdullah, has said the couple may be reunited…

“I hope that with this ruling, our authorities will close once and for all this issue of inequal tribal backgrounds. Islam does not allow it,” Timani added.

Saudi Arabia, the world’s top oil exporter and home to Islam’s holiest sites, imposes a strict version of mainstream Sunni Islam. The ruling Al Saud family accords the religious establishment wide powers in the justice system and education.

“Wide powers” translated into other dialects means “Keep us in power and you can run all the superstitious power games you wish to!”

Turkeys voting for Xmas: the American electorate

The Republicans’ shock victory in the election for the US Senate seat in Massachusetts meant the Democrats lost their supermajority in the Senate. This makes it even harder for the Obama administration to get healthcare reform passed in the US…

Only because of opportunist allegiance by both parties to anti-democratic rules in the Senate…

But it is striking that the people who most dislike the whole idea of healthcare reform – the ones who think it is socialist, godless, a step on the road to a police state – are often the ones it seems designed to help.

In Texas, where barely two-thirds of the population have full health insurance and over a fifth of all children have no cover at all, opposition to the legislation is currently running at 87%.

Instead, to many of those who lose out under the existing system, reform still seems like the ultimate betrayal…

If people vote against their own interests, it is not because they do not understand what is in their interest or have not yet had it properly explained to them.

They do it because they resent having their interests decided for them by politicians who think they know best.

There is nothing voters hate more than having things explained to them as though they were idiots…

Even if the operative word is “ignoramus” instead of “idiot” – the result is the same.

Continue reading

TSA probes bigotry – after CNN and a whistleblower point it out

The Transportation Security Administration has launched an internal investigation into an air marshal field office in Florida where supervisors are alleged to have used a crew assignment board to ridicule and keep score on women, gays and minorities, sources told CNN.

The board, resembling the TV game show “Jeopardy,” includes categories such as “pickle smokers,” “our gang” and “creatures,” which sources said were names used by managers for gay men, African-Americans and lesbians.

A photograph of the board was sent to CNN. The Transportation Security Administration confirmed the investigation in a written statement but did not elaborate on when the board was in use, where it was displayed or how it was used…

“Accordingly, TSA takes all allegations of misconduct seriously. The Federal Air Marshal Service will continue to provide its full cooperation and support to the investigation.”

They certainly are on top of things – now that a whistleblower and CNN told them about it.

Google phasing out support for IE6

As of March 1, Google will no longer support IE6 on its Google Docs and Google Sites services, it announced Friday. IE users will have to upgrade to at least version 7 if they want to use those products, as “many other companies have already stopped supporting older browsers like Internet Explorer 6.0 as well as browsers that are not supported by their own manufacturers,” the company said in a blog post.

A flaw in IE6 was exploited in the recent cyberattacks against Google and other U.S. companies, and Microsoft scrambled to patch the flaw in a rare out-of-cycle patch release earlier this month. Use of the browser–considered much weaker than more recent versions of IE within the security community–has been dropping with the release of Internet Explorer 8 but it is still being used by 13.5 percent of Web surfers, according to statistics from StatCounter.

Google set the baseline for other browsers at Firefox 3.0 or higher, Chrome 4.0 or higher, and Safari 3.0 or higher. “…you may find that from March 1, key functionality within these products–as well as new Docs and Sites features–won’t work properly in older browsers,” Google said.

Figured I may as well check our own readers – and IE6 is used by 5%… Guess that says something positive about our readers.

Hoarfrost in northern New Mexico

This won’t dazzle anyone living in a climate with moderate amounts of humidity. But, hoarfrost is pretty rare in New Mexico.

After recent snowstorms we’ve been bumping well above our usual 15% humidity and, last night, a gentle breeze from the South combined with humid air – at minus 8ºC – our first walk, this morning, found the fence coated with ice feathers.

Here’s a close-up

Iceland chooses democracy over British beancounters

Icelanders delivering their “request” for a referendum to the president
Daylife/Reuters Pictures used by permission

Iceland’s president has accused the United Kingdom and the Netherlands of financially “bullying” his country.

Olafur Ragnar Grimsson said the two countries had been “using their influence within the International Monetary Fund” to stop it lending Iceland billions of dollars needed to rebuild the country’s debt-ridden economy…

“We have a situation, where a small nation is in fact ready to shoulder part of this burden but doesn’t want to be put in a corner where the very survival of its economy in the next 10 years would be at stake.”

The comments came after the UK expressed anger at the highly controversial decision by Iceland’s president’s to veto a bill that would pay back billions of dollars Iceland owes the UK and Netherlands. Britain was forced to spend $3.69 billion last year to cover the losses that British savers incurred when Icelandic banks collapsed…

You may not be up-to-date; but, understand that the entire adult population of Iceland probably would have thrown the President and the wimps in the Althing into the sea – if he didn’t veto the bill. The Brits treated Iceland in an incredibly cavalier fashion when their banks began to fail – invoking some yorky anti-terrorism laws to grab Iceland assets in the UK.

Grimsson told CNN his move was in the name of democracy. He said he acted in response to the one-quarter of Icelanders who petitioned against the compensation bill that would cost about $17,300 per Icelandic citizen.

“We have forgotten that there are two pillars in the western heritage that we are proud of. One is the evolution of the free market but the second is the evolution of democracy,” Grimsson told CNN.

“And what I did was when I was faced with a decision between the financial concerns on the one hand, and democracy on the other, I decided to go with democracy.”


Nations with centuries of imperialism in their history might consider reviewing their attitudes towards small countries – formerly colonial lands in the not-to-distant past. Expecting Icelanders to ask “how high?” when Gordon Brown says, “Jump!” is beyond likely.

Apple quietly makes iPhone, iPad into web phones

Apple has updated the iPhone software development kit to allow internet telephony apps to work on the 3G network. The little-noticed move effectively unlocks the ability for the iPhone — and the upcoming iPad — to be used as web phones.

ICall, a voice-over-Internet Protocol (VOIP) calling company, said the latest revisions in Apple’s iPhone developer agreement and software development kit enable the iPhone to make phone calls over 3G data networks. ICall promptly released an update to its app today, adding the 3G support.

Because the iPad includes a microphone and will run iPhone apps, that means the tablet will gain internet telephony, too.

The FCC on Thursday issued a statement applauding Apple’s policy change…

Previously, Apple and AT&T had a secret agreement to ban apps that would let iPhone users make phone calls using the 3G data connection to prevent cutting into AT&T’s profits. That agreement was revealed in summer of 2009 when the FCC asked Apple and AT&T to explain why Google’s Voice app was rejected from the iPhone store.

After the FCC announced it was planning to extend internet openness rules to mobile networks, AT&T in October 2009 announced it would extend VOIP to 3G networks for the iPhone.

It appears that AT&T’s policy change is only now coming into effect, beginning with iCall and a few other VOIP apps that can now work with 3G…

Members of the Whining religion have greeted this change by complaining that the micro-SIM used in the iPad isn’t offered by their pet telecoms.

Like most technical hardware advances over Apple’s history, from the 3½” floppy to the mini displayport, the tech is available and just needed a kickstart from someone like Apple to put it into play.

As sales of the iPad ramp up, there will be other phones, other services, saving another few grams and cc’s – switching over to the mini-SIM. Of course.