The ten safest airlines in the world


Daylife/Getty Images used by permission

British Airways is one of the world’s ten safest commercial airlines, a new study has claimed.

Two other European airlines, Air France-KLM and Lufthansa, featured in the report, which was published by the Geneva-based Air Transport Rating Agency (ATRA).

Six of the ten safest airlines – Continental Airlines, Delta Airlines, Southwest Airlines, United Airlines, American Airlines and US Airways – are based in the United States. Japan Airlines was also named among the top ten.

In its “Holistic Safety Rating” report ATRA compared publicly available data on 100 of the world’s largest airlines.

It took into account 15 different criteria, including the age of the each airline’s fleet, their pilot training facilities and the number of accidents they have been involved in during the last ten years.

Though I refuse to fly anymore – with the advent of TSA and their Homeland Insecurity nanny – the topic is still important to many of you.

I suppose there could be sufficient emergency or motivation to get me back on an airplane. I used to fly with some frequency. But, I refuse to cave into the fear mantra that rules our society and politics nowadays. That includes refusing the ritual “approval” to fly.

Photo of Minister carrying Afghan memo bidding farewell to Karzai

A senior minister has accidentally revealed a UK government briefing document “welcoming” the departure of Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell was photographed clutching the note as he left No 10. It said the UK should “publicly and privately” approve Mr Karzai’s decision not to seek a third term in 2014.

In response, Foreign Secretary William Hague said the memo was “pretty low level”, adding “these things happen”.

These things happen – like clicking a link in a phishing email or giving your credit card info to someone who just rang you up from Nigeria.

Mr Mitchell was photographed leaving Downing Street following a meeting of the National Security Council – in which ministers discussed Libya, Afghanistan and a range of other issues.

The document says: “Note that Karzai has publicly stated his intention to step down at the end of his second term as per the constitution. This is very important. It improves Afghanistan’s political prospects very significantly. We should welcome Karzai’s announcement in private and in public…”

It goes on to say: “Afghan perceptions of violence are very important for their confidence in their future, and for their readiness to work for the Afghan government.

Have we got the strategic communications on levels of violence right?…”

“They would have had a national security level marking of ‘restricted’ or ‘confidential’ if they contained anything of significant sensitivity,” a spokesman said.

Not that the Brits have the market cornered on incompetent security. Still, they should add another level of secure classification. In addition to Top Secret, Restricted or Confidential, they might consider Don’t Do Anything Stupid!

German hookers get their own parking meters

Prostitutes working the streets of the old West German capital now have to buy tickets from converted roadside vending machines that once dispensed tickets to the city’s drivers. A night’s ticket will set a prostitute back £5.30, irrespective of the number of clients they have.

Like parking metres, the machines also tell users the times of day when a ticket is necessary: in this case between the hours of 8:15pm and 6am, Monday to Sunday.

Monika Frombgen, a spokeswoman for Bonn city council, said the ticket machines would bring street prostitutes into fiscal line with their peers in registered sex establishments.

This is an act of tax fairness,” she said. “Prostitutes in fixed establishments such as brothels and sauna clubs already pay tax.” She added that with many street prostitutes foreign born previous attempts to tax them had floundered on a widespread inability to comprehend a German income tax form. The machines, Bonn hopes, will provide an easy-to-understand system of taxation…

The ticket machines come as the latest step in Bonn’s drive to increase tax revenue from prostitution as it wrestles with financial problems. Earlier this year the city introduced a “sex tax”, and it expects the levy to raise annual revenue of £265,000 for the city’s coffers…

The city has banned prostitution from areas of the city, and allocated six closed-off parking places for the use of prostitutes and their clients.

Aside from the chuckles, this is a useful exercise in thoughtful fiscal policy from a sophisticated, well-educated nation. Imagine trying to sort something like this out in the United States?

But, then, much of Western Europe also has [somewhat more] sensible policies about drugs, speeding, unemployment.

US gave away Billion$ above and beyond value of war contracts


Rumsfeld at meal run by Bush’s favorite concierge – KBR

The US government has wasted more than $30bn on private contractors and grants in Iraq and Afghanistan over the past decade – more than 15% of the total spend – according to a bipartisan group charged with examining the issue.

The figure, described as “sobering but conservative”, illustrated the need for significant law and policy changes to avoid such waste in the future, the Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan said.

The body, set up by a Senate vote in 2007 to mimic the work of a post-second world war commission that investigated waste, will submit its report to Congress on Wednesday. Submitted to the same people who approved the expenditures in the first place…

At least another $30bn could be wasted if the governments of Iraq and Afghanistan are unable to keep US-run projects running after the US withdraws or simply choose not to do so, Christopher Shays, an ex-Republican congressman, and Michael Thibault, a former deputy director of the Defence Contract Audit Agency, wrote.

Tens of billions of taxpayer dollars have been wasted through poor planning, vague and shifting requirements, inadequate competition, substandard contract management and oversight, lax accountability, weak inter-agency co-ordination, and subpar performance or outright misconduct by some contractors and federal employees. Both government and contractors need to do better,” they said…

In a separate report, released on Monday, the independent Centre for Public Integrity thinktank said $140bn in defence contracts were awarded without competitive tendering last year – almost triple the sum in 2001…

The report will include 15 recommendations…most of which will be useless crap if Congress maintains business as usual – rubber stamping anything that has the words Homeland Security, Pentagon or Military in the title.

Why should the young men and women of America be required to risk life and limb, take a general pay cut, to go off and fight useless wars – while America’s corporations are guaranteed not only profits but super-profits for supplying the matériel to support the physical structure of those wars, create fresh death and destruction?

Italian village proposes minting their own money


Daylife/Reuters Pictures used by permission

A small town in central Italy is trying to go independent and mint its own money in protest at government austerity cuts.

Filettino, set in rugged hill country around 100 km east of Rome, is rebelling against a proposal to merge the governments of towns with fewer than 1,000 inhabitants to save money. Filettino has only around 550 people, but instead of merging with neighboring Trevi, mayor Luca Sellari is trying to go it alone and set up a “principality” along the lines of the famous republic of San Marino to the north.

He has started minting Filettino’s own bank currency, the “Fiorito,” with his photo on the back, which he says is already being used by the townsfolk.

“We aim to achieve real autonomy from Italy and we have the financial resources to do it,” Sellari said in an interview on the town’s website http://www.principatodifilettino.com…

Mayors plan a protest in Milan Monday although media reports say the government is preparing significant changes to the budget, including a substantial dilution of the proposals on local government.

It’s a truly stupid series of proposals from the government. But what else would you expect from Berlusconi?

Why not pass Fiorito’s idea along to the Kool Aid Party, Ron Paul and the truly nutball Republicans who think this would fit their definitions of libertarianism?

All they need to do is to return to printing bills from the Confederacy. It’s where the heart of their ideology resides.

PATRIMONIO DELLA CHIESA CATTOLICA IN ITALIA . DA TASSARE!

E’ già da un mese che il tema della tassazione del patrimonio della Chiesa in Italia ha l’onore della cronaca e di qualche prima pagina. Poche in verità, ma in confronto all’ omertà dei grandi giornali e dei partiti politici, direi che se ne comincia a parlare. Grande, d’altronde, è l’ignoranza circa le esenzioni di cui gode la Chiesa nelle più disparate forme e consuetudini. La maggioranza degli italiani quando si parla del tema nomina immediatamente l’8×1000. Ma lì si ferma!

I’m offering this link to a blog post by one of our regular readers – whose English is so much better than my Italian – on a topic important to many nations. That topic is the tax-free status of many religions. State religions. State religion wannabes.

GOOGLE translate helps if you don’t speak Italian.

Daily dose of chocolate cuts risk of strokes, heart disease

Those who eat more chocolate have a 37 per cent lower risk of cardiovascular disease than those who eat little, according to a Cambridge University analysis of seven separate studies, containing in total over 100,000 people.

They also have a 29 per cent lower chance of stroke, although they do not have a lower risk of heart failure.

The studies, which followed people in Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, the US and Japan for about a decade on average, did not focus on dark chocolate alone, which is believed to be the most beneficial type.

Rather, they included consumption of other types including milk chocolate and chocolate bars, drinks, biscuits and desserts.

Dr Oscar Franco, from the university’s Cardiovascular Epidemiology Unit, said no one really understood why chocolate appeared to be so good for heart health.

He said: “Foods are very complex structures where many substances interact to have a beneficial effect…”

Dr Franco presented the results at the annual meeting of the European Society of Cardiology in Paris on Monday, while a paper has also been published in the British Medical Journal…

He said it only suggested two pieces of chocolate a day; while other studies have indicated a mere 20 to 50g – a small bar’s worth – is enough…

And while the analysis did not differentiate between different types of chocolate, he said it was clear that dark chocolate was the healthier option, as it contained less sugar and fat.

We’ve posted about the chocolate effect before. I certainly take it to heart [pun intended] as does my partner in the Deep South, KB.

I eat a little bit of chocolate almost every evening. Sometimes 72% dark chocolate, sometimes 85% dark.