La Baronia creates halal mozzarella. Whoopee!

Once homogeneously Italian and a nation that was famous for exporting immigrants, Italy has in the past decade seen the arrival of hundreds of thousands of immigrants from Africa, Asia and the Middle East, many of whom are Muslim.

Now a company in the Campania region around Naples has won official recognition for the first halal mozzarella, made from the milk of water buffaloes.

The key difference to regular mozzarella is that alcohol-based chemicals must not be used to clean the machinery in which the halal version is made.

The globular white cheese must also bear the date on which it was produced, as well as its sell-by date…

The firm, La Baronia, based in the town of Castel di Sasso, was awarded halal status by an Islamic culture association in Italy, Zayd Ibn Thabit…

Muslims could tuck into mozzarella safe in the knowledge that “there are no substances that, even accidentally, could render the product illegal for Islam,” he said.

Kind of warms the cockles of your heart doesn’t it? Knowing that simply changing cleaning procedures for a bit of machinery satisfies the heavenly demands of yet another superstition.

And expands market and profit potential.

Atlanta schools’ Beverly Hall knew or should have known

Dr. Beverly Hall holds up her 2009 Superintendent
of the Year award.

Across Atlanta Public Schools, staff worked feverishly in secret to transform testing failures into successes.

Teachers and principals erased and corrected mistakes on students’ answer sheets.

Area superintendents silenced whistle-blowers and rewarded subordinates who met academic goals by any means possible.

Superintendent Beverly Hall and her top aides ignored, buried, destroyed or altered complaints about misconduct, claimed ignorance of wrongdoing and accused naysayers of failing to believe in poor children’s ability to learn.

For years — as long as a decade — this was how the Atlanta school district produced gains on state curriculum tests. The scores soared so dramatically they brought national acclaim to Hall and the district, according to an investigative report released Tuesday by Gov. Nathan Deal…

For teachers, a culture of fear ensured the deception would continue.

“APS is run like the mob,” one teacher told investigators, saying she cheated because she feared retaliation if she didn’t.

The investigators conducted more than 2,100 interviews and examined more than 800,000 documents…

The special investigators’ report describes years of misconduct that took place as far up the chain of command as the superintendent’s office. The report accuses Hall and her aides of repeatedly tampering with or hiding records that cast an unflattering light on the district…

District employees suffered intense stress — enough to send at least one to the hospital — in a workplace where threats from supervisors kept them from reporting wrongdoing for fear of losing their jobs.

Area superintendents, who oversee clusters of schools, enforced a code of silence. One made a whistle-blower alter his reports of cheating and placed a reprimand in his file — and not the cheater’s. Another told a teacher who saw tampering that if she did not “keep her mouth shut,” she would “be gone.”…

The district’s priority became maintaining and promoting Hall’s image as a miracle worker.

Bear in mind that the kids who would have posted failing scores didn’t get the remedial assistance they were entitled to.

Hackers seize PayPal UK Twitter account

The cartoon’s not plausible. A PayPal spokesman saying, “I’m sorry”? C’mon.

Hackers seized control of a PayPal Twitter feed for more than an hour on Tuesday, then sent out messages criticizing the payment processor in the second attack of its type in two days…

The attackers sent out messages promoting, a site devoted to what it says is “exposing the nightmare of doing business ‘the PayPal way.'”

The Tweets were removed within a few hours of the hijacking…

A PayPal spokesman said via email that the attack on the Twitter account had not affected the company’s operations….

So, in other words, PayPal still sucks?

Alto, Texas, lays off their entire police force

They won’t make any money selling off their sidewalks

A small Texas town has shut down its entire police department.

Facing dramatic budget cuts, the city’s efforts to control costs in Alto sent the police force home June 15, and law enforcement is now on hold. Former police chief Charles Barron and four ex-officers secured the evidence room, changed the passwords on their computers and locked the department’s doors, preparing for a closure that will last at least six months…

“There have been accusations that the police department is not generating enough revenue,” Barron said. “Well, police departments are not revenue generators…”

Now, county sheriff’s deputies will handle calls in Alto, but that means police response times that were less than 3 minutes are now up to 15 minutes, and deputies are spread thin, according to CBS News. Twenty-five deputies and reservists will oversee a 1,000 square mile county.

Alto residents are sending around a petition to try to get their police force back.

Sounds like a typical Texas Republican solution to me. Dollars and [NO] sense govern budget considerations and the greenbacks rule. The lowest possible priority is the needs of the people.

Thanks, Ursarodinia

In 2011, the 4th of July has become Independents Day

As we celebrated Independence Day at the start of a long hot campaign season, it is worth remembering that patriotism is not the same thing as partisanship.

Our first president, George Washington said, “I was no party man myself, and the first wish of my heart was, if parties did exist, to reconcile them…”

And the third president — and author of the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson, observed: “I never submitted the whole system of my opinions to the creed of any party of men whatever in religion, in philosophy, in politics, or in anything else where I was capable of thinking for myself. Such addiction is the last degradation of a free and moral agent. If I could not go to heaven but with a party, I would not go there at all…”

The fact is that 41% of Americans describe themselves as independents — as opposed to Democrats or Republicans — according to an April Washington Post/ABC News poll. Independents are the largest and fastest-growing segment of the electorate. Back in 1945, they made up 15%…

…And the growth of independent voters has occurred precisely as the two parties have become more ideologically polarized than at any time in our recent history…

Continue reading

Canada combat troops returning home from Afghanistan

Countdown to the return home in a tent full of Canadian soldiers
Daylife/AP Photo used by permission

Canada is formally completing its fighting mission in Afghanistan this week, a move that marks the end of a robust combat presence centered in the dangerous and violent southern province of Kandahar.

The Canadian military on Tuesday formally transferred its last district in the province to the United States, where the U.S. 3rd Battalion 21st Regiment took over from the Canadian 1st Battalion, Royal 22nd Regiment…

This transition comes as other countries make preparations for drawdowns and shifting to plans for noncombat missions in Afghanistan, such as training…

One of more than 40 countries participating in NATO’s International Security Assistance Force with nearly 3,000 troops, Canada has lost more than 157 troops in the war, the third highest death toll after the United States and Britain.

Also, the government says, the “incremental cost of the current mission in Afghanistan to the Government of Canada from 2001 to 2011 is currently estimated to be approximately $11.3 billion.”

Up to 950 Canadian armed forces trainers and support personnel eventually will be based in Kabul until 2014. The Canadians will be working alongside Americans, Brits, Australians and others in a countrywide training mission, Stadnyk said.

Though much usable military material will be back in the GWN by Xmas – a sizable chunk will follow the traditional US model and be sold off in one of the world’s largest yard sales. Got to keep the military-industrial complex solvent producing non-consumable goods, ya know. That’s as true in Ottawa as it is in Washington, DC.

Easier access to abortions + contraception = fewer abortions

A year after Spain brought in a controversial reform of its abortion laws, statistics show a decline in the number of terminations, putting paid to fears from opponents that rates would rocket. Women are terminating their pregnancies earlier than under the previous legislation, an association for licensed abortion clinics also reported.

Spain brought its abortion laws in line with most other European countries last July allowing abortion on demand up to 14 weeks of pregnancy and up to 22 weeks if there is fetal malformation or threat to the health of the mother.

Before its introduction abortions were offered under restricted circumstances and rarely in a public hospital…The vast majority of the 115,000 abortions carried out in 2009 took place at private clinics, many at a late stage of gestation, and were justified on the grounds that the pregnancy posed a “psychological risk” for the health of the woman.

The legislation saw a series of huge demonstrations by pro-lifers on the streets across Spain supported by the Catholic Church and the conservative opposition Popular Party (PP) who said it would cause a leap in the number of terminations.

But associations for abortion clinics across Spain said the number of terminations had in fact declined to various degrees depending on the region over the year…

Spain’s Health Ministry has yet to publish official figures but confirmed a pattern of decline which it attributed to a number of measures.

The sale of the ‘morning-after pill’ over the counter, pregnancy prevention programs and the advent of new subsidised contraceptives are all helping reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies,” said Jose Martinez Olmos, Secretary General for Health.

Health workers reported that abortions were being carried out in the earlier stages of pregnancy than before.

The abortion reform was part of an ambitious programme of social change under José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, the socialist prime minister, which led to repeated clashes with the Church.

Since winning power in 2004 his government has legalised homosexual marriage, eased divorce laws and dropped religious education from the curriculum in public schools.

Needless to say the Pope and his political pimps in Spain are pissed that all the holy disasters they guaranteed have not come to pass. Perish the thought that ordinary human beings learn they can run their lives pretty darn well without supervision from ancient invisible critters in the sky.