Darwin Award – Ukrainian style

Three members of a Ukrainian family have died from carbon monoxide poisoning after an attempt to exterminate rats in their basement using a car’s exhaust fumes.

A couple in their 70s and their granddaughter died in the incident, while another granddaughter is said to have been lucky to survive, Pravda reports.

The three were found dead in the basement of their home in Dnepropetrovsk, on the Dnieper River in the east of the country. It transpired that the grandfather, 71, had attached a hosepipe to his ZAZ Zaporozhets car’s exhaust pipe and put the other end through the window of the family basement, and started the engine.

After retiring upstairs for some time, he came downstairs to see whether any rats had died. However, the concentration of carbon monoxide in the basement’s atmosphere caused him to lose consciousness.

When he failed to return, his wife, 77, followed him to see what had happened, and also fainted. The same later happened with their 29-year-old granddaughter.

The three bodies were found when a second granddaughter went to investigate. Authorities said she was herself lucky to survive.

I suppose the only one who deserves – and gets – the Darwin award is grampa. Does he get extra credit for taking out a couple of innocent bystanders?

Oil broker banned for drunk trading binge

Britain’s financial regulator has fined and banned a former broker for manipulating oil prices by buying more than 7 million barrels while on a drinking binge.

The Financial Services Authority (FSA) said it fined Steven Perkins, a former employee of PVM Oil Futures Ltd, $108,000 and banned him from working in financial services for at least five years for carrying out trades without the authority of clients or his employer.

The FSA said Perkins bought huge volumes of Brent crude oil

in the early hours of the morning on June 30, 2009 after drinking heavily for several days and then lied repeatedly to his employer to cover up his actions…

The trades landed PVM with a loss of $10 million last summer. The company is the world’s largest independent oil broker, executing trades on behalf of clients but not carrying out trading for its own account…

Perkins’ unauthorized trading pushed the price of Brent crude oil futures up to almost $73.50 a barrel — at that point the highest level prices had hit on the InterContinental Exchange in 2009.

In the days leading up to the trades, Perkins had been drinking heavily at a company golf weekend and had carried on drinking on the Monday afternoon, the FSA said…

The ruling marks only the second action by the FSA against market abuse in commodities in London…

“I suspect they’re trying to seem tough, to look like they’re doing something,” one broker said. “I remain unconvinced they truly understand commodity markets or can get to grips with them.”

What do you think the odds might be, say, of the SEC walking into the NYSE some Monday morning and having traders pee in a cup – to check for cocaine?


New Australian prime minister is an atheist

Daylife/Getty Images used by permission

Julia Gillard, the new Australian prime minister, has said that she does not believe in God, but has “great respect for religion”.

Why? Hasn’t served much of a purpose since the Stone Age.

Ms Gillard, who replaced Kevin Rudd as leader of the country in a dramatic political coup last week, said she had been brought up in a Baptist family, but had “made decisions in my adult life about my own views”.

I’m not going to pretend a faith I don’t feel,” she said. Ms Gillard’s views on religion are in stark contrast to those of Mr Rudd, who was a regular at Canberra church services, and those of her rival, Tony Abbott, who once trained as a priest and is known as a devout Catholic.

Since taking over from Mr Rudd and becoming the country’s first female prime minister, Ms Gillard has presided over a lift in the polls for the Labour government.

The last Nielsen Poll on the topic found that 75% of Australians could care less if political leaders believe in God – or Yahweh – or Allah – or [cripes] even the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

Only a century or two ahead of American voters.

Harper will turn over control of Canadian air travel to U.S.

The Harper government has quietly presented a bill in the House of Commons that would give U.S. officials final say over who may board aircraft in Canada if they are to fly over the United States en route to a third country.

Canadian sovereignty has gone right out the window,” Liberal transport critic Joe Volpe told The Gazette in recent telephone interview. “You are going to be subject to American law…”

At present, airlines are only required to give passenger information to the U.S. government on flights landing in the United States…

If you are on a no-fly list or have the same name as someone on a no-fly list, you could be questioned, delayed or even barred from the flight. If your name does not match, Homeland Security tells the airline you may have a boarding pass.

Currently, Canadian airlines check names against no-fly lists provided by the United States and Canadian governments. But the airlines decide who gets a boarding pass.

Volpe noted that Bill C-42 does not refer specifically to the United States, adding that “with a stroke of the pen” the government is agreeing to provide data on Canadian passengers to any foreign government.

“They just opened the door to everybody without even so much as, ‘Hello, why are you doing this?’

“They can harass our airlines, harass our passengers, anything they want to.”

RTFA. Especially if you’re one of our Canadian readers.

Extortion comes to mind when you read of the “negotiations” permitted in this process. If your government doesn’t feel like being under the thumb of our Homeland Insecurity Department they’re told they won’t mind losing landing rights for their jetliners in the United States – will they?

Living inside the belly of a bully doesn’t make me feel any safer.

Kyrgyz voters = 90% support parliamentary democracy

Daylife/Getty Images used by permission

Kyrgyzstan has voted to create Central Asia’s first parliamentary democracy.

The author of the article feels that what’s important is what Russia thinks about the idea. Baloney.

At least 294 people, possibly hundreds more, were killed this month in violence between ethnic Kyrgyz and Uzbeks in southern Kyrgyzstan, a former Soviet republic which hosts U.S. and Russian military air bases and shares a border with China.

Official results showed that with almost all votes counted, 90.6 percent of voters backed a new constitution paving the way for a parliamentary election in October…

Interim leader Roza Otunbayeva, speaking before the first results were known on Sunday, said Kyrgyzstan — which lies on a major drug trafficking route from Afghanistan — had embarked on a path to establishing a “true people’s democracy.”

The 56-nation Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) said the referendum was transparent and the high voter turnout signaled the resilience of Kyrgyz citizens…

RTFA if you think you need to examine Medvedev’s concerns. They’re all about “too much” democracy.

Security analysts say violence is unlikely to hand gains to militant Islamists as authorities are on alert…

Under the new charter, Otunbayeva — the first woman to lead a Central Asian state — will be acting president until the end of 2011. A former ambassador to the United States and Britain, she has struggled to gain control of the south, Bakiyev’s family stronghold, even though she was born in Osh.

I would look forward to the same opportunity in the United States – only I’m not holding my breath.

Not only would “official” reactionaries like the Republican Party, the NRA, Tea Party and other White Citizens Councils oppose the idea, the supposed Liberal leaders in the Democrat Party would mess their drawers over the possibility of any step forward in the direction of radical ideas like publishing a platform, democratic votes in the Senate, always having a president from the Congressional majority.

Maybe even minority parties representing someone other than corporate dollars?

Pentagon sets goal of $100 billion in savings

Flying Pork

The Pentagon is out to save $100 billion over the next five years in a major push to cut overhead costs, according to U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates. Gates officially unveiled his plan at a Pentagon news conference announcing he is putting department acquisition chief Ashton Carter in charge of finding where the $100 billion will come from in the budgets beginning in 2012.

“The department’s leadership has already taken strong action in this area, and needs to do more,” Gates said. “Other savings can be found within programs and activities we do need, by conducting them more efficiently. … I’m confident we’ll succeed,” he said…

He has urged President Barack Obama to veto the 2011 defense budget if lawmakers keep programs he considers a waste of money, such as additional C-17 cargo planes or an alternate engine design for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. Gates also recently ordered the restructuring of the F-35 programs because of massive delays and cost overruns.

He has said he would put the savings back into personnel, military units and future war-fighting capabilities…

He said it will also encourage more competition between companies.

“In the rest of the economy, we expect this [competition],” Ashton Carter said. “You get a better computer every year, and cheaper. But we haven’t seen productivity growth in the defense economy, more has been costing more, and we need to reverse that trend and restore affordability to our programs,” he said.

Democrats and Republicans alike consider this blasphemy.

But, take a minute or two and go back 60 years and reflect on where we have come – even after President Eisenhower’s warning about distorting power in Congress and our economy.

Pig-farming kibbutz in Israel is a religious target

Kibbutz Lahav is a controversial enterprise in Israel, the world’s only predominantly Jewish state.

Eating pork is prohibited under Jewish dietary laws, and to many Jews the pig has a deep cultural symbolism representing all that is unholy. Raising pigs for pork has been banned in Israel since 1963, apart from in a small, traditionally Arab-Christian area in the north of the country.

But the kibbutz maintains vehemently that the primary purpose of its herd is for medical research, which makes the operation legal.

However, it also has a factory, in which it processes excess animals, and those raised to provide organs for research, to be sold for meat. And when the day’s medical trial – testing of equipment for screening for colorectal cancer – is over, some of the researchers tuck in as the institute’s manager doles out plates of sizzling pork chops from a barbecue.

Ofer Doron is passionately secular and a proud pork eater. But he says about a quarter of the Kibbutz’s staff are kippa-wearing, religious Jews, happy to work with the pigs for research, but not to consume their meat. “Saving lives is one of the biggest Jewish commandments,” he says…

His father, Eri Doron, says…in early days…The Kibbutz was strongly socialist, and “very revolutionary”, based on utopian Marxist ideals, he says. And there was no debate at all, he stresses, about keeping pigs – “we are atheists,” he says simply.

Secularism in the Kibbutz movement was strongly linked to the post-holocaust mentality…”It was a shared view that we will never be victims again, we will work our own land, we will be strong, we won’t take part in the superstitions that comprise religion, we’ll see a new clear rationalistic way.”

But over the years, the Kibbutz’s identity has changed. Pork is on the dining room menu less – just Fridays and holidays – these days, as more traditional and religious Jews have moved in. Nevertheless, in Israel as a whole, demand for what is sometimes euphemistically dubbed “white meat” has grown in recent decades…

As pork imports are generally banned, most of the meat on sale is domestically produced – with Kibbutz Lahav providing just under a tenth of the total produce…Animal rights activists object to its research and say the pigs’ conditions are not good enough…and although many religious Jews accept the use of pigs for medical purposes, they accuse the kibbutz of using the research as little more than an excuse for selling pork for profit.

Problems which don’t become mainstream in modern nations rejecting theocracy.