Hillary: Why did Harper exclude part of Arctic Council?

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton delivered a rare public rebuke to close ally Canada, criticizing it for excluding key nations from a meeting to discuss the resource-rich Arctic.

Canadian Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon gathered his counterparts from Russia, Norway, the United States and Denmark for three hours of talks on Monday on the grounds that they were the only nations with Arctic coastlines.

The decision prompted unhappiness in Sweden, Finland and Iceland, who are also members of the eight-nation Arctic Council — traditionally the body where most important decisions on the region are taken.

“Significant international discussions on Arctic issues should include those who have legitimate interests in the region,” Clinton said in a statement issued before the meeting had even begun. “I hope the Arctic will always showcase our ability to work together, not create new divisions…”

Cannon spent much of his closing news conference responding to questions about Clinton’s statement and insisting he was not trying to marginalize the Arctic Council…

The five nations that did participate in the meeting are the only ones engaged in a protracted process of filing territorial claims in the Arctic, a region that experts say contains rich oil and gas deposits.

“While development may be years in the future, the renewable and nonrenewable resource potential of the Arctic Ocean represents tremendous opportunities,” said Cannon. “We have a common commitment to the orderly settlement of any possible overlapping claims.”

If you need a translation, that’s horseshit diplomacy talk for “We’re figuring out how to divvy up the mineral rights”.

Being a woman is no longer a pre-existing condition


Peggy Robertson rejected because of Caesarean – eligible if sterilized

Being a woman is no longer a pre-existing condition. That’s the new mantra, repeated triumphantly by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senator Barbara A. Mikulski and other advocates for women’s health. But what does it mean?

In the broadest sense, the new health care law forbids sex discrimination in health insurance. Previously, there was no such ban, and insurance companies took full advantage of the void…

Until now, it has been perfectly legal in most states for companies selling individual health policies — for people who do not have group coverage through employers — to engage in “gender rating,” that is, charging women more than men for the same coverage, even for policies that do not include maternity care. The rationale was that women used the health care system more than men. But some companies charged women who did not smoke more than men who did, even though smokers have more risks. The differences in premiums, from 4 percent to 48 percent, according to a 2008 analysis by the law center, can add up to hundreds of dollars a year. The individual market is the one that many people turn to when they lose their jobs and their group coverage.

Insurers have also applied gender-rating to group coverage, but laws against sex discrimination in the workplace prevent employers from passing along the higher costs to their employees based on sex. Gender rating has taken a particular toll on smaller or midsize businesses with many women, like home-health care, child care and nonprofits. As a result, some businesses have been unable to offer health coverage or have been able to afford it only by using plans with very high deductibles.

In addition, individual policies often excluded maternity coverage, or charged much more for it. Now, gender rating is essentially outlawed, and policies must include maternity coverage, considered “an essential health benefit.”

Overdue. By decades.

US to sell its stake in Citigroup at a profit


Daylife/AP Photo used by permission

The US government is preparing to sell its 27% stake in Citigroup, in what would be one of the largest share sales in history.

Some 7.7 billion shares in the bailed-out bank will be sold in tranches throughout 2010, the US Treasury said. It will mark another stage in Wall Street’s recovery, and could make the US taxpayer $8bn in profit…

The bank has received a total of $45bn in bail-out money from the Treasury’s $700bn Troubled Asset Relief Program (Tarp). It was the largest amount given to a bank (and was equal to the sum given to Bank of America).

Citigroup was given $25bn in return for 7.7 billion in shares, and was loaned another $20bn in two tranches. This $20bn was repaid in December…

Citi follows other Wall Street banks, including Goldman Sachs and Bank of America, who have repaid the government investment.

Not that most will ever recognize [a] which administration initiated the loans and purchases; [b] which administration sorted it out and started the repayments rolling; [c] what went to banks and what went to insurance companies and car companies. Nor do I expect any admission of the matching segments of the programmatic stimulus and healthcare contributing to the process of recovery.

After all – that would require some knowledge and understanding of history and economics – in addition to the more common populist skills like hollering and obscene gestures.

Erykah Badu strips at JFK assassination site


The link is usually blocked by copyright holders = UMG

Erykah Badu shed her clothes as she walked along a Dallas, Texas, sidewalk until she was nude and then fell near where President Kennedy was assassinated.

The result was a controversial video, released Saturday, for her song “Window Seat,” which Badu said was “shot guerrilla style” with no crew and in one take March 17. Children could be seen nearby as Badu stripped in Dealey Plaza, a popular tourist spot since Kennedy’s 1963 assassination…

She tweeted that “there were children there. i prayed they wouldnt b traumatized.”

The R&B singer said she was making a statement against “groupthink,” which she tweeted was an “unwritten rule” that “i will not express my true opinion if it opposes those i love and fear…”

The video opens with a November 22, 1963, radio broadcast describing Kennedy’s motorcade turning onto Elm Street seconds before fatal shots were fired…

As she reached the spot where Kennedy was first struck by a bullet, the crackle of a gunshot is heard and Badu’s head snaps back and she falls to the ground as if dead.

Brave, foolhardy. Not my kind of social and musical experiment – but, rock on, lady!

Smyslov’s dead

Vasily Smyslov– seventh world chess champion– dies at 89.

Vasily Smyslov, the seventh world chess champion, who was known for both the artistry of his play and the solidity of his technique, died Saturday at a hospital in Moscow. He was 89….

Mr. Smyslov … thought of chess as an art form and each game as more than just a struggle between two opponents. In his book, “Smyslov’s 125 Selected Games,” he wrote, “The content of a game should be a search for truth, and victory a demonstration of its rightness.” His games often sparkled with beautiful, small combinations that served strategic ends….

In 1953, Mr. Smyslov earned the right to challenge Mr. Botvinnik for the title after he won the candidates tournament in Zurich….

Mr. Smyslov was an intimidating opponent. He always appeared calm and in control. In the 1957 article about Mr. Smyslov’s victory over Mr. Botvinnik, Mr. Frankel wrote, “His apparent indifference has unnerved many an opponent.”

If you haven’t a copy of Bronstein’s tournament book of Zurich 1953, get it.

When I was about 15 years old, during a summer vacation break, I spent a month sitting outdoors with a chessboard and a copy of Rook Endings, coauthored by Grigory Levenfish and Vasily Smyslov. I was fascinated by the presentation’s structure and disciplined methodology.

Interestingly, what brought me to that book was a game against an inferior opponent in which, having achieved clear superiority, including materially, I felt helpless to do anything with it. Our failures (the game ended in a draw) often turn out to be some of our most instructive games. I really really enjoyed those days with that book!

Raids target Christian militia in Midwest – UPDATED


Michigan State Police aiding one of the raids

The FBI said Sunday that agents conducted weekend raids in Michigan, Indiana and Ohio and arrested at least three people, and a militia leader in Michigan said the target of at least one of the raids was a Christian militia group.

Federal warrants were sealed, but a federal law enforcement official speaking on condition of anonymity said some of those arrested face gun charges and officials are pursuing other suspects…

FBI spokesman Scott Wilson in Cleveland said agents arrested two people Saturday after raids in two Ohio towns. A third arrest made in northeast Illinois on Sunday stemmed from a raid Saturday just over the border in northwest Indiana, both part of an ongoing investigation led by the FBI in Michigan, according to a statement from agents in Illinois…

Michael Lackomar, a spokesman for the Southeast Michigan Volunteer Militia, said one of his team leaders got a frantic phone call Saturday evening from members of Hutaree, a Christian militia group, who said their property in southwest Michigan was being raided by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

They said they were under attack by the ATF and wanted a place to hide,” Lackomar said. “My team leader said, ‘no thanks.’ ”

The team leader was cooperating with the FBI on Sunday, Lackomar said. He said SMVM wasn’t affiliated with Hutaree, which states on its Web site to be “prepared to defend all those who belong to Christ and save those who aren’t.”

“We believe that one day, as prophecy says, there will be an Anti-Christ,” the group’s Web site said. “Jesus wanted us to be ready to defend ourselves using the sword and stay alive using equipment…

I’m a firm believer in staying alive “using equipment”. Mostly, that includes my TV set, CPAP machine, pickup truck to get to the grocery store in town on Saturday morning – stuff like that.

UPDATE: These terrorists planned to murder one or more law enforcement officers – then attack the funeral to kill even more law officers. Terrorist thugs seem to think alike no matter what nation houses their warren of cowards and killers.

Self-published e-books to make it to Apple’s iPad

Big publishers are flocking to the iPad, readying to publish electronic versions of their bestselling books on Apple’s much-anticipated tablet device due to launch April 3. But smaller publishing houses are making the move, too, including self-publishing service Smashwords.

Smashwords, a site where writers can publish their own e-books, said today it has signed a distribution deal with Apple to put its books into the iPad iBookstore. Mark Coker, chief executive of Smashwords, said in an email to authors that his company has been working on the deal ever since the iPad was announced. And, yes, this means that unpublished authors can sell their work on the Apple iPad at virtually no cost…

The company also said it is adding ISBN (International Standard Book Number) support as required by Apple, and it is preparing a large delivery of books to Sony’s e-book store. Apple’s requirement is that all e-book prices end in .99, so you can sell at 99 cents, $1.99 etc. The price must also be less than the print counterpart. The distribution cost to get the book on the iPad is free. Smashwords and Apple divide the remaining 40 percent of the e-book price.

Maybe I’ll get round finishing my High Desert Mediterranean cook book, eh?