Extra $100 notes circulating in Oz from pensioners hiding cash?

Peter Nicholson is a favorite cartoonist – worldwide

A mysteriously high number of $100 notes in circulation in Australia has been blamed on elderly citizens who hoard cash “under the bed” to ensure they receive a pension.

A former official at Australia’s Reserve Bank, Peter Mair, said high-value notes should be phased out to prevent mass welfare fraud by the elderly who are hiding $AUS 20 billion to become eligible for entitlements. Australia has about 10 $100 notes in circulation per person – far more than the $20 note which is much more commonly seen.

Old people may be old but they are not silly and as a ballpark figure I suggested people could be holding up to $50,000,” he told ABC Radio.

“They [$50 and $100 notes] are being withheld from circulation, mainly by people looking to manage their assets to get them under the threshold to qualify for getting the aged pension.” Mr Mair has written to the Reserve Bank governor, Glenn Stevens, to propose phasing out $50 and $100 notes which only “facilitate tax-dodging”…

“If putting it under the bed or in a cupboard means you qualify for the pensioner card, you get discounted council rates, discounted car registration, discounted phone rental – in percentage terms the return is enormous…”

However, the Council of the Aged Australia hit back at the claims, saying welfare fraud was spread across all age groups.

“It’s really unfortunate that older people have been singled out to be called welfare cheats when the vast majority of older people on the pension are struggling to make ends meet on the pension and are doing the right thing and have paid taxes all their lives,” said a spokeswoman for the council, Jo Root.

The demented mental processes of conservative beancounters obviously aren’t limited to the United States or Europe.

The puritan mindset which says “everyone is a crook but me and my rich friends” – would institute means tests for everything from public health to toilet paper. The ideologues who believe everyone is corrupt usually are the pace-setters in the sport. They’re prepared to waste triple taxpayer funds managing minutiae rather than simply letting everyone live a decent life as part of a democratic society.

When everything settles out, history tells us the biggest thieves are at the top of the heap – not trudging along after a lifetime of hard work.

Majority of Mexican prisons run by the gangs on the inside

Six in 10 of Mexican prisons ‘self governed’ by gangs…Prisons are also plagued by overcrowding, a shortage of guards and corrupt employees who sometimes help with breakouts, according to Mexico’s human rights commission.

Representative Andres Aguirre said 60 percent of the country’s 430 prisons or jails are controlled by criminal elements.

He added that the escape of 521 inmates over 14 incidents since 2010 – often with the help of corrupt prison officials – constitutes a grave problem for the country.

Earlier this month, more than 130 inmates escaped from a prison near the U.S. border in Piedras Negras, Coahuila, one of numerous mass breakouts tied to organized crime in the past few years.

Initial reports indicated the Piedras Negras inmates escaped through a 23-foot-long underground tunnel, but it was later revealed that they had merely walked out the facility’s front door with the help of prison guards…

The commission’s findings are a reminder of the challenges that await Enrique Pena Nieto, Mexico’s incoming president, who has pledged to reduce crime in the country after six years of increased gang-related violence under President Felipe Calderon.

Same as it ever was. Anyone who believes decades of political corruption can be wiped away by one term of a reformist president is deluded. But, then, that isn’t just true of Mexico – is it?

Everyone but the rich say — Tax the rich!

Most U.S. voters say they believe the wealthy should be taxed more, results of a United Press International poll released Tuesday indicated.

Nearly half of likely voters — 49 percent — said they support President Obama’s view that the wealthy should pay more taxes than they now do, results of the UPI-CVoter poll indicate…

Voter support for higher tax rates for the rich — who typically pay less than middle-class taxpayers based on percentages of incomes — sweeps across gender, education, race and region…

The only groups in which the majority said they favor tax breaks for the wealthy are Republicans, people who identify themselves as moderately or strongly conservative, and senior citizens over 55 years old…

Sometimes my grayhead peers really piss me off. You’d think if there was any group likely to practice educated self-interest in politics it would be seniors. We’ve been around long to recognize the lies we’ve been told longer than other demographics.

I guess it’s like advertising. We’ve been subjected to what marketing folks like to call “enforced demand” so long that we’re brainwashed into accepting opinion and agitprop from pleasantly scrubbed white faces as if it’s fact.

Just looking at the crowd at a Tea Party rally cheering on speakers who would scrap the social security and medicare benefits they’ve been paying for their whole adult lives is enough to convince me that all those years of smoking cigarettes with “not a cough in a carload” addled their brains irreparably.

Just in case you thought our government and the courts would be on the side of ordinary citizens…

Three years ago, a federal court found the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers responsible for the catastrophic flooding of New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

On Monday, an appeals court threw that decision out…The new court decision, which potentially gets the government off the hook for tens of millions of dollars in damages, is based on a legal provision specifically designed to keep courts from second-guessing government decisions when the government is sued for its actions or inaction.

Residents of New Orleans, where more than 1,000 people were killed and many thousands made homeless in one of the worst disasters in American history, have been suing the corps, arguing that it failed to maintain a Mississippi river canal and didn’t protect the city properly from the storm.

A federal judge issued a blistering decision against the corps in 2009, accusing it of negligence over a period of 40 years because of “insouciance, myopia and short-sightedness.”

U.S. District Court Judge Stanwood Duval Jr. awarded hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages to each of five families that lived in the worst-hit sections of the city: the Lower 9th Ward and St. Bernard Parish…

But a higher court reversed the decision Monday.

The appeals court found that the government could not be held responsible because of a provision known as the discretionary function exception, or DFE, which says the government can’t be sued for actions that an agency or government employee makes, or fails to make, if the function is discretionary.

The DFE is intended to prevent courts from second-guessing government decisions “grounded in social, economic, and political policy” during the course of lawsuits, the appeals court said.

“Our application of the DFE … completely insulates the government from liability,” the three judges hearing the case wrote.

Just in case you thought we had legal recourse to damages for years of corruption, non-compliance, political ineptitude – because of politicians and bureaucrats who didn’t care a crap about the quality of the work they performed for us – have another think.

Regardless of what citizens may try to achieve for compensation through the courts – it is forbidden by a law expressly passed to protect civil servants and elected officials from responsibility for their incompetence.

It’s the American way.

How WebRTC will take over the mobile world

A new technology, WebRTC, also known as RTCWEB (Real Time Communication on the Web), is poised to send a virtual tsunami through the mobile communications industry, likely changing the landscape for a good long time. The idea is to put some of the voice and video services technology right inside the browser or device itself. That way, when a developer wants to enable voice or video calling, they can use the code that is already there. The only way to do that on a mobile device today is with a stand alone app, which is not easy…

Imagine a world where no matter what we use or where we are we could all communicate via video, hassle-free, for free — native video from Apple devices to Samsung devices, from business phones to the TV in your living room, from your car to your home to a beach in Hawaii. That is what WebRTC can do for us…

Google could see some big payoffs via WebRTC. Managing end-user software deployments, such as Google Hangouts, which range in the millions of users equates to real complexity. By reducing or eliminating the need for end-user software, WebRTC will help in a very material and measurable way.

Device manufacturers will also be in a better position. Since Google is a major stakeholder in the WebRTC movement and Google owns Android, we can surmise that Android-powered devices could start shipping with data plans and service offerings with free voice and video. Those services should be interoperable with other services that spring up using the WebRTC open standard. This would surely help Google’s handset and tablet sales.

Apple has been relatively quiet on the WebRTC front, which is somewhat disconcerting. Without Apple’s buy-in, approximately half of the mobile market is inaccessible. Which means that if developers were relying on WebRTC to deliver a voice or video service, they could only deliver service to half of the users that they could if they were to build a native application for both Android and iOS. This would be a major blow to the WebRTC community. On the other hand, Apple could easily take the openly available technology (as could anyone else) and drop it into a new version of iOS at any time, surprising everyone. Everything considered, I would say that Apple will play along, albeit quite a bit later than everyone else…

The WebRTC open standards project has been in progress for more than a year now, and there are plenty of early demos of WebRTC already. I think we will likely see some production deployments of WebRTC in the next six to nine months, when Firefox and Chrome for Android support it in a production version of their browsers. And Google seems primed to deploy it to their large user base on Hangouts.

We got rid of landlines in our home – for Skype – so long ago I’m not certain I recall our last phone number. But, any process which makes life easier for app developers and end users is something I must keep tabs on.

Synchronised citywide toilet flushing in Zimbabwe

Many residents of Zimbabwe’s second city have simultaneously flushed their toilets, as part of an official attempt to prevent blocked sewage pipes.

Bulawayo Mayor Thaba Moyo told the BBC the “big flush” would keep pipes wet and so prevent them getting clogged up.

A severe drought and years of poor maintenance have meant Bulawayo residents often go without running water for three days at a time.

The first synchronised flush took place at 19:30 local time (17:30 GMT).

Council workers had visited townships warning people that they risked a fine if they failed to take part.

Mr Moyo said the lack of water in the sewage pipes had already led some to burst.

Many of the city’s million residents are believed to have flushed at the appointed hour.

“I made sure my wife and children flushed the toilet at 19:30 to avoid blocking our own toilet. So far, the flushing of toilets was a success here in Cowdray Park township,” one resident, human rights activist Dumisani Mpofu, said.

According to the Associated Press, the synchronised flush will now take place at the same time twice a week – on Mondays and Thursdays – though residents will of course be able to flush their toilets at other times too.

Phew. Had me worried for a minute there.