Oklahoma Republican politics means you don’t have to obey the president – but, you do have to obey the governor!

Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin signed a bill into law Monday that passes a statewide ban on raising the minimum wage and prohibits cities from legislating to establish mandatory employee benefits like vacations or sick leave…Opponents view the law as retaliation against grass roots organizers gathering signatures in the capital to raise the city’s minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10.

After Fallin signed the bill, her office released a statement claiming that “most minimum-wage workers are young, single people working part-time or entry-level jobs.”

Fallen said, “Mandating an increase in the minimum wage would require businesses to fire many of those part-time workers. It would create a hardship for small business owners, stifle job creation and increase costs for consumers.”

You decide if she’s ignorant or a liar. The average minimum wage earner is a single mom in her 30’s.

A major paper published last year covered by the Washington Post found that economists agree that raising the minimum wage actually reduces poverty.

Reducing poverty is one of those goals that you never hear addressed by Republicans except as some kind of supposed inevitability from their favorite dribble-down economics. Which hasn’t worked anywhere on Earth, yet.

They will get righteous about protecting profits, though.

Aargh! – Pirates win almost 9% in Berlin regional vote

With laptops open like shields against the encroaching cameramen, the young men resembled Peter Pan’s Lost Boys more than Captain Hook’s buccaneers when they were introduced Monday as Berlin’s newest legislators: They are the members of the Pirate Party.

Asked if they were just some chaotic troop of troublemakers, Christopher Lauer, newly voted in as a state lawmaker for the district of Pankow, replied with no lack of confidence, “You ought to wait for the first session in the house of representatives.”

By winning 8.9 percent of the vote in Sunday’s election in this city-state, these political pirates surpassed — blew away, really — every expectation for what was supposed to be a fringe, one-issue party promoting Internet freedom. The Pirates so outstripped expectations that all 15 candidates on their list won seats…

These men in their 20s and 30s, who turned up at the imposing former Prussian state parliament building, some wearing hooded sweatshirts, and one a T-shirt of the comic book hero Captain America, were no longer merely madcap campaigners and gadflies. They had become the people’s elected representatives…

They are absolutely not a joke party,” said Christoph Bieber, a professor of political science at the University of Duisburg-Essen. While there was certainly an element of protest in the unexpectedly large share of the votes the Pirates won, they were filling a real need for voters outside the political mainstream who felt unrepresented. “In the Internet, they have really found an underexploited theme that the other political parties are not dealing with,” Mr. Bieber said.

The state election in Berlin on Sunday was full of surprising results. The pro-business Free Democrats, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s coalition partners in the federal Parliament, crashed and burned, again, receiving less than 2 percent of the vote. That is well below the 5 percent needed to remain in the statehouse. The Green Party continued to build on its recent successes and may well become one of the governing parties in Berlin.

While issues like online privacy and data protection may seem incredibly narrow, even irrelevant, to older voters, for young people who often spend half their waking hours online, much of it on social networking sites where they share their most intimate moments, it is anything but a small issue. And the Pirates’ call for complete transparency in politics resonates powerfully with a generation disillusioned by the American case for war in Iraq and galvanized by WikiLeaks’ promise to put an end to secrecy.

The Pirates’ surprisingly strong showing came as further evidence of voter dissatisfaction in Germany with the established parties, and what many see as their inability to look beyond self-interest and focus instead on the needs of their constituents…

The effort made to build a sustainable Germany after World War 2 included a reliance on democracy long ago subverted in the United States. In almost every state, the deck is thoroughly stacked against a minor party getting on the ballot. And the 2-Party private club owns all the people who administer and regulate the process. Still, these folks are an inspiration.

Of course, the number of articles appearing on radio and TV, in mass media newspapers across the USA – relating the tale of this minority miracle – is less than coverage of the average NFL quarterback developing a hangnail on his throwing hand.

Parts of Kiwi earthquake city must be abandoned

Christchurch was so badly damaged in last month’s deadly earthquake that parts of New Zealand’s second largest city will have to be abandoned, Prime Minister John Key has said.

Key confirmed 10,000 homes faced demolition after the 6.3-magnitude tremor which is believed to have claimed more than 200 lives, warning that rebuilding would not be possible in some areas.

“We simply don’t know,” he told Radio New Zealand when asked which parts of the city would be deserted. “We know there’s been substantial liquefaction damage.

“It’s a statement of fact that there will be some properties that can’t be rebuilt… the question is whether it (rebuilding) is possible for certain parts of the city, certain streets or houses.”

Key said geotechnical engineers were working urgently to clarify the areas worst affected by liquefaction, caused when the quake’s shaking loosened the bonds between soil particles, turning the ground into a quagmire.

Community worker Tom McBrearty said the prime minister’s comments had increased anxiety among residents still reeling from the February 22 quake. “They interpreted… it as being that the riverside communities would not be allowed to be rebuilt, which is at this stage is incorrect. We don’t know, we’re still waiting for final analysis.”

Key said the government would provide financial assistance to those who were forced to move and was in talks with developers about releasing new subdivisions to cope with the demand for housing in the stricken city.

Christchurch mayor Bob Parker said speculation on the fate of entire suburbs was “alarmist” and urged residents to wait until geotechnical reports were complete.

Sad, sad tale. Although this earthquake technically was an aftershock of last year’s quake, it blasted along a new fault and being closer to the surface and in a populous area – just did an enormous amount of damage. More than anyone had foreseen.

China to create world’s largest mega city – with 42 million people

China is planning to create the world’s biggest mega city by merging nine cities to create a metropolis twice the size of Wales with a population of 42 million.

City planners in south China have laid out an ambitious plan to merge together the nine cities that lie around the Pearl River Delta. The “Turn The Pearl River Delta Into One” scheme will create a 16,000 sq mile urban area that is 26 times larger geographically than Greater London, or twice the size of Wales.

The new mega-city will cover a large part of China’s manufacturing heartland, stretching from Guangzhou to Shenzhen and including Foshan, Dongguan, Zhongshan, Zhuhai, Jiangmen, Huizhou and Zhaoqing. Together, they account for nearly a tenth of the Chinese economy.

Over the next six years, around 150 major infrastructure projects will mesh the transport, energy, water and telecommunications networks of the nine cities together, at a cost of some $300 billion. An express rail line will also connect the hub with nearby Hong Kong…

Ma Xiangming, the chief planner, said no name had been chosen for the area. “It will not be like Greater London or Greater Tokyo because there is no one city at the heart of this megalopolis,” he said. “We cannot just name it after one of the existing cities…”

Twenty-nine rail lines, totalling 3,100 miles, will be added, cutting rail journeys around the urban area to a maximum of one hour between different city centres…

“Residents will be able to choose where to get their services and will use the internet to find out which hospital, for example, is less busy,” said Mr Ma.

Pollution, a key problem in the Pearl River Delta because of its industrialisation, will also be addressed with a united policy, and the price of petrol and electricity could also be unified.

I’ve never been a fan of big cities – with few exceptions: New York City back in the 1950’s. Music and food made it worth it. London and Geneva in the 1960’s. No doubt there were more. I’ve inevitably chosen to domicile in suburban or preferably rural areas. Access to urban accoutrements are useful; not necessary.

Still, for very many they make great sense. Convenience of everything from cultural to economic needs is a potential bonus.

Now, I wonder if they’ll have a naming contest? I’d be first in line to enter.

Hairdressers training to tackle Japan’s suicidal housewives

Officials in Toyama, a city 186 miles northwest of Tokyo, have launched the nation’s first scheme in which hairdressers are used as mediators between suicidal customers and professional counsellors.

The move taps into the renowned universal skill of hairdressers to lend a sympathetic ear to customers who often feel comfortable confiding in them about their problems.

More than 650 hairdressers in the city are involved in the new project, which involves taking part in training lectures with clinical psychologists to help them identify those in need of specialist help.

The hairdressers are also being given guidebooks to hand out to customers who they believe may be suffering from depression or suicidal thoughts and are able to put them in touch with professional psychological counselors…

As part of the new scheme, hairdressers will be taking part in training sessions organised by city officials with professional psychologists focusing on problems relating to suicide.

Japan is home to one of the highest suicide rates among industrialised nations, with more than 30,000 people killing themselves every year.

Hairdressers across the city appeared to welcome the initiative, with a growing number of premises displaying government-provided stickers in their window to show they are taking part in the project.

Hey – marketing is marketing. Increased traffic into a retail business is always welcome.

Brazil’s richest man builds huge port/city/highway

Dangling above the South Atlantic, construction workers brave wind and waves to erect a vast 10-berth port terminal off the Brazilian coast. Nicknamed the “highway to China,” the $2.7 billion port will be one of the biggest in the world when completed in 2012.

Eike Batista, a mining mogul and Brazil’s richest man, dreamed up the idea for the Acu Superport because he was fed up with the delays in getting iron ore from his mines onto ships bound for China.

“Land your cargo at a port and if it’s a container, it may stay there for 30 to 60 days,” Batista told CNN.

He ended up building a port and industrial complex that will be bigger than Manhattan and already is luring foreign and domestic investments…

A cement causeway juts 3 kilometers (1.8 miles) into the ocean. It will boast a four-lane highway, pipelines and conveyer belts to move iron ore, soybeans and oil onto waiting ships, feeding China’s insatiable appetite for raw materials…

This is a story about connecting Brazil to the world. Because for the last 20 years, why haven’t German companies or European or American companies come to Brazil?” he asks. “Very bad logistics.”

Brazil’s clogged roads and ports add billions of dollars to the cost of production every year. Analysts say improving the country’s infrastructure will be one of the main challenges facing Lula da Silva’s successor.

Batista’s a pretty impressive dude. Get a chance, watch the interview Charlie Rose did with him earlier this year. He’s one of those overachievers whose father was one of the wealthiest men in the country; but, didn’t believe in giving his kid a leg up.

He treats his own children the same way. Could make for a soap opera if he wasn’t so busy building a port that should end up anchoring a new city that rivals Rio. And brings in a lot more money.

Washington DC = 1st US city offering free female condoms

Washington, D.C., will become the first city in the United States to give away female condoms.

The project will distribute 500,000 free condoms at beauty salons, convenience stores and high schools in sections of the city that are plagued with high HIV rates.

The effort could begin within the next three weeks.

A 2008 report showed HIV rates in D.C. to be at 3 percent, making it a major epidemic. Nationally, HIV/AIDS is the leading cause of death among black women between the ages of 25 and 34…

The free female condom effort comes after a decade-long campaign to combat the HIV and AIDS epidemic by distributing free male condoms in Washington, D.C. The effort was largely seen as ineffective.

The female condom was first approved by the FDA in 1993, but its use has been limited. A second version was approved last year and consists of special polyurethane that conducts body heat to enhance sexual sensation for both men and women, the makers say.

All I can ever picture when the topic is female condoms is Edina’s mom in Ab-Fab slipping a couple over her hands and lower arms and enquiring if they’re for dish-washing?