French fast food chain Quick sparks halal burger fuss

A French council has lodged a complaint against a fast food chain that serves only meat that conforms with Islamic dietary laws at a local branch. The mayor of Roubaix, in northern France, said the halal menu constituted “discrimination” against non-Muslims.

The Roubaix branch is one of several restaurants at which the chain, Quick, took non-halal products and pork off the menu in November…

Quick decided to take a bacon hamburger off the menu at eight of its 350 branches, replacing it with a halal version that comes with smoked turkey.

It said the move was designed to test the “commercial interest and technical feasibility” of introducing halal menus.

The Quick manager responsible for the Roubaix branch said there had been a slight increase in business after the introduction of halal menus and that he had not received complaints from customers, AFP news agency reported.

There’s some discussion in the article; but, mostly, the tempest in the teapot seems mostly to involve politicians across the spectrum of France – trying to gain electoral chops from the restaurant chain’s experiment.

Nothing new. It’s happened forth and back in major cities in the U.S. – depending on who owns the hot button, Jews, Koreans, Chinese, Puerto Ricans, Mexicans. You name it. Everyone’s national cuisine gets targeted for opportunist food vendors and even more opportunist politicians.

One of those silly questions that will be resolved quickly and easily by the marketplace. If it doesn’t make money ain’t any chain continuing the change. If it does, well, then, the local population has voted with their feet and their appetites.

Putting new perspective on political corruption in Illinois

Dick Simpson stood somberly on the fifth floor of the century-old Cook County Building last week, in an area between two banks of elevators with the faint aroma of cheap institutional cleaner. His topic was as dispiriting as the ill-lit environ chosen for a no-news press briefing.

Corruption in Cook County: Anti-Corruption Report Number 3” was the handout for the event, and Mr. Simpson was joined by Andy Shaw, the longtime television reporter who now runs the Better Government Association, and Representative Mike Quigley, a North Side Democrat who did time on the Cook County Board of Commissioners…

And, yet — as I listened to the presenters talk about documented misdeeds being just the tips of icebergs; the “corruption tax” we pay in more expensive services; and the virtual non-efforts of Cook County’s state attorneys — I couldn’t help recalling a distant night in El Salvador. It was in the late 1980s, during the civil war in which the United States supported an often-odious government. I was at a spaghetti dinner in the capital, San Salvador, with veteran foreign correspondents who debated this: Who’s the biggest crook ever?

There were citations of billion-dollar thefts and whole industries nationalized to enrich a single family. There were many strong candidates, but not one American was mentioned.

It’s partly why one might wonder about the unceasing refrain from Rush Limbaugh and his ideological confreres in Washington about “the Chicago way” of doing business. It’s all tied to bashing President Obama and top aides as being products of a culture of chicanery…

By some measures, corruption in Illinois even trails that in five or six other states, with Florida leading the way…

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An Ibuprofen a day might keep Parkinson’s Disease away

New research shows people who regularly take ibuprofen may reduce their risk of developing Parkinson’s disease, according to a study released February 17…

The research involved 136,474 people who did not have Parkinson’s disease at the beginning of the research. Participants were asked about their use of non-steroid anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), including aspirin, ibuprofen and acetaminophen. After six years, 293 participants had developed Parkinson’s disease.

The study found regular users of ibuprofen were 40 percent less likely to develop Parkinson’s disease than people who didn’t take ibuprofen. Also, people who took higher amounts of ibuprofen were less likely to develop Parkinson’s disease than people who took smaller amounts of the drug. The results were the same regardless of age, smoking and caffeine intake.

Ibuprofen was the only NSAID linked to a lower risk of Parkinson’s,” said Xiang Gao, MD, with Harvard School of Public Health in Boston. “Other NSAIDs and analgesics, including aspirin and acetaminophen, did not appear to have any effect on lowering a person’s risk of developing Parkinson’s. More research is needed as to how and why ibuprofen appears to reduce the risk of Parkinson’s disease, which affects up to one million people in the United States.”

I’ll second that. I’ve seen a few folks waste away via Parkinson’s. Terribly frustrating ailment.

I don’t really understand why; but, some of the anti-medicine, anti-science crowd, have more of a hard-on for Ibuprofen than just about any other OTC medication. Some cranky creaky old geeks wouldn’t get through the day without it.

Like me.

A nap boosts your learning power

New research from the University of California, Berkeley, shows that an hour’s nap can dramatically boost and restore your brain power. Indeed, the findings suggest that a biphasic sleep schedule not only refreshes the mind, but can make you smarter.

Conversely, the more hours we spend awake, the more sluggish our minds become, according to the findings…”Sleep not only rights the wrong of prolonged wakefulness but, at a neurocognitive level, it moves you beyond where you were before you took a nap,” said Matthew Walker…the lead investigator of these studies.

Since 2007, Walker and other sleep researchers have established that fact-based memories are temporarily stored in the hippocampus before being sent to the brain’s prefrontal cortex, which may have more storage space…

In the latest study, Walker and his team have broken new ground in discovering that this memory- refreshing process occurs when nappers are engaged in a specific stage of sleep. Electroencephalogram tests, which measure electrical activity in the brain, indicated that this refreshing of memory capacity is related to Stage 2 non-REM sleep, which takes place between deep sleep (non-REM) and the dream state known as Rapid Eye Movement (REM). Previously, the purpose of this stage was unclear, but the new results offer evidence as to why humans spend at least half their sleeping hours in Stage 2, non-REM, Walker said.

“I can’t imagine Mother Nature would have us spend 50 percent of the night going from one sleep stage to another for no reason,” Walker said. “Sleep is sophisticated. It acts locally to give us what we need.”

Zzzzzzzz…

Dutch leaving Afghanistan as pledged. Government falls.


Light at the end of this tunnel

A day after his cabinet collapsed, the Dutch prime minister says he expects Dutch troops to end their mission in Afghanistan in August as expected.

If nothing else will take its place, then it ends,” Jan Peter Balkenende told Dutch television.

The cabinet fell after the two largest parties failed to agree on a Nato request to extend the tour of the almost 2,000-strong Dutch contingent…

Dutch troops have been stationed in Afghanistan since 2006. They should have returned home in 2008, but their deployment was extended by two years because no other Nato member state offered replacements.

In October, the Dutch parliament voted that the deployment must definitely end by August 2010.

Mr Balkenende’s government had not endorsed that vote, and the finance minister and leader of the Labour Party, Wouter Bos, demanded an immediate ruling from the prime minister.

When they failed to reach a compromise during marathon talks that continued into the early hours of Saturday, Labour said it was pulling out of the coalition.

Later, Mr Balkenende said there was no common ground and offered his cabinet’s resignation…

Reflect upon the principles involved in these political acts – and their absence from American and British government.

It starts with multi-party coalitions. Which the two TweedleDeeDum American parties are united to fight come Hell or high water. They will not allow multiple choice answers to logjam politics.

Then, they have a parliament that acts in democratic fashion – no filibusters, no procedural crap guaranteeing fence-sitting – to establish goals and then stick to them.

Followed by a head of government who lives up to that democratic vote even when he’s diametrically opposed to it – because that’s his job, his responsibility.

BTW – Expect to see and hear any discussion of this event on TV talk shows, today?

Cluster bomb convention to become law


Survivors of Israeli mines and cluster bombs in Lebanon enjoy a football match
Daylife/Getty Images used by permission

An international treaty banning cluster munitions will come into force later this year after the number of countries to register their ratification reached 30 on Tuesday, the United Nations said.

Dropped from aircraft or fired from the ground, cluster bombs open in mid-air and scatter bomblets over a wide area. Campaigners against their use say they have killed and maimed tens of thousands of civilians…

The treaty is binding only on countries that have signed and ratified it. So far, 104 countries have signed the pact, according to advocacy group Cluster Munition Coalition (CMC).

Countries that have signed the convention include major European states France, Germany and Spain. Britain and Italy have signed but not ratified.

Those that have done neither include the United States, Russia, China and Israel…

Anyone surprised? All confident they are above international law.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called the 30 ratifications a “major advance on the global disarmament agenda” and said the treaty’s entry into force “demonstrates the world’s collective revulsion at the impact of these terrible weapons.”

“Cluster munitions are unreliable and inaccurate,” Ban said in a statement. “They maim and kill scores of civilians, including many children. They impair post-conflict recovery by making roads and land inaccessible to farmers and aid workers…”

In recent times, the United Nations estimated that Israel used up to 4 million submunitions in Lebanon during a 2006 war against Hezbollah guerrillas, who also fired more than 100 cluster munitions rockets into northern Israel.

Both Russia and Georgia used them during their August 2008 conflict.

Laos is the country most heavily contaminated by cluster munitions as a result of U.S. bombing during the Indochina war more than 30 years ago, according to the CMC.

Anyone surprised?

Japan minister says they’ll ignore any ban on Bluefin Tuna

Daylife/Reuters Pictures used by permission

Japan will not join in any agreement to ban international trade in Atlantic bluefin tuna under the United Nations treaty on endangered species, the country’s top fisheries negotiator said.

The negotiator, Masanori Miyahara, said in a telephone interview this week that Japan “would have no choice but to take a reservation” — in effect, to ignore the ban and leave its market open to continued imports — if the bluefin tuna were granted most-endangered species status…

A formal proposal for a ban — which requires the approval of two-thirds of its 175 member countries — is scheduled to be presented at a CITES [Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species] meeting next month in Doha, Qatar.

The position of Japan, which consumes about 80 percent of the bluefin tuna caught in the Mediterranean, “is very simple,” Mr. Miyahara said. He said Japan believed that a different organization, the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas, known as Iccat, should manage bluefin tuna catches and protection.

Mr. Miyahara said Japan acknowledged that the bluefin tuna needed protection, but the endangered-species convention was “quite inflexible,” he said.

Historically, he said, almost no species added to the CITES endangered species list had ever been removed. “We don’t believe the bluefin tuna is endangered to that extent,” he said…

France, home of the largest Mediterranean bluefin fleet, said on Feb. 3 that it was prepared to back an international trade ban at the CITES meeting, to take effect after 18 months. But a person with knowledge of the European Commission’s thinking who asked not to be identified because the commission had not formally adopted the position, said on Friday that officials were planning to propose that Iccat be given a last chance to give depleted stocks of the tuna a chance to recover by temporarily banning all commercial trade in the fish.

Fishing bans do, of course, work. One of several means of limiting catch and trade in endangered species. It’s worked with trout. It’s worked with Atlantic cod.

A case where Japanese intransigence is likely to lead to something akin to the boycott of tuna that wasn’t dolphin-safe. Aimed directly at Japanese products. Not too sharp, Mr. Miyahara.