Speaking of the weather in Australia…

Australia’s “dome of heat” has become so intense that the temperatures are rising off the charts – literally. The air mass over the inland is still heating up – it hasn’t peaked

The Bureau of Meteorology’s interactive weather forecasting chart has added new colours – deep purple and pink – to extend its previous temperature range that had been capped at 50 degrees C.

The range now extends to 54 degrees C – well above the all-time record temperature of 50.7 degrees reached on January 2, 1960 at Oodnadatta Airport in South Australia – and, perhaps worryingly, the forecast outlook is starting to deploy the new colours…

While recent days have seen Australian temperature maps displaying maximums ranging from 40 degrees to 48 degrees – depicted in the colour scheme as burnt orange to black – both Sunday and Monday are now showing regions likely to hit 50 degrees or more, coloured purple…

“The air mass over the inland is still heating up – it hasn’t peaked,” Dr David Jones said.

Australia’s first six days of 2013 were all among the hottest 20 days on record in terms of average maximums, with January 7 and today likely to add to the list of peaks. That would make it four of the top 10 in a little over a week…


US average fuel economy reaches all-time high

Sheila likes her new ride
Sheila approves of her new ride

New cars sold in the US had a record-high fleetwide fuel economy, up about 14 percent over the past four years, the Detroit Bureau reports, citing the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute. New US vehicles sold in 2012 averaged 23.8 miles per gallon, up six percent from the 22.5 mpg achieved in 2011…

In fact, GM says it was the first US automaker to sell more than one million vehicles in the US in one year with fuel economy of at least 30 mpg on the highway. There was a hiccup in the upward trend, though, since December’s new-vehicle MPG numbers fell slightly from November’s, likely a result of falling gas prices.

Either way, Americans are buying more advanced powertrain vehicles than ever. US sales of hybrids, plug-ins and diesels last year jumped 63 percent to 540,181 units. More impressively, plug-in vehicle sales almost tripled in 2012 to 49,962 units, and that’s not including low-volume cars like the Tesla Model S and Fisker Karma.

Americans are as dumb as a hoe handle. I know that’s not as accurate or politically-correct as “ignorant”. But, there was sufficient information readily available 50 years ago for three generations of my family to begin the switch to energy-efficient motor vehicles. And we did.

I won’t wander into the sociology of mass gullibility. The continued presence of most Republicans and the Tea Party in Congress is the best illustration. I do blame the American industry mis-leaders and their willing collaborators in both of the TweedleDeeDum parties for showing the way to backwardness while the rest of the world gazed and smirked.

Poisonally, I’m only waiting for this growth to extend far enough up the consumption scale to force efficiencies of scale onto the production of plug-in hybrids and electric cars – and we can then trade-in my wife’s shiny new car on something even more efficient. For now, we own what we best can afford to lay out on a purchase. And we’re very happy.

Now, does anyone in northern New Mexico want to buy a 30-year-old Volvo station wagon that still gets 24 mpg?

Brazilian hookers expand language skills for 2014 World Cup

Prostitutes in the Brazilian city of Belo Horizonte are signing up in droves for free language classes in order to be ready for a barrage of foreign visitors to the tropical country during the 2014 soccer World Cup.

The women join many others in Brazilian society, from politicians to construction workers, who are racing the clock to prepare 12 host cities throughout the nation for the international soccer championship.

“When all this chatter about being ready for the World Cup started last year, we decided the women needed to be prepared for it too,” Cida Vieira, president of the Minas Gerais state Association of Prostitutes, told Reuters…

The group has solicited volunteers to teach English, Spanish and even Portuguese, she said, explaining that some of the city’s sex workers are immigrants who needed to learn Brazil’s primary language.

Vieira said demand for the classes could surpass the 300 women who originally expressed interest, with calls coming in from as far away as Sao Paulo, about 509 km (316 miles) from Belo Horizonte.

“This is important for the dignity of the work, the women need to be able to negotiate a fair price and defend themselves,” she said.

Glad to see these women are organized. Ain’t exactly the safest job in the world.

Now – more important – who’s in charge of standards for the pies?