Currency manipulation leads to unintended consequences

Switzerland’s decision to lift the cap on the franc’s value against the euro has had unexpected consequences – in the form of intercepted pizza deliveries.

Swiss people looking for a bargain have been dialling up restaurants across the border in Germany, but now the authorities have had enough…

Uli Burchardt, the mayor of Constance, which borders Switzerland to the northeast, told the publication that German vans have been stopped by Swiss customs officials after it was discovered they had been delivering up to 60 pizzas at a time. And fast food is not the only thing the Swiss have been seeking elsewhere, as people cross the border to do their weekly shop and even visit the dentist.

Cripes. There are dentistas in Mexico who have public school contracts in Arizona and California.

Following the decision to lift the €1.20 cap last month, the franc shot up by 40 per cent against the euro. The franc also rose 30 per cent against the dollar and 15 per cent against sterling. In short, the Swiss can now get more for their money.

However, there is concern that businesses will be negatively impacted by the strong franc. Eurozone companies that buy their products in Switzerland are at risk of being priced out of the market, while Swiss businesses situated on the border may find themselves passed over in favour of their perceived better-value eurozone counterparts.

Interesting – and eventually acceptable when the situation stabilizes. Not out of line with long-term commerce in cross-border towns along the US-Canadian border or the US-Mexican border.

Of course, hypocrites in government can’t pass up an opportunity to whine for domestic political advantage. So, both the White House and Congress whine about so-called Chinese currency manipulation when the biggest fraud in Asia comes from the Bank of Japan. As it always has.

We the Geeks: a Constitution for nerds and geeks

…The White House is launching its #WeTheGeeks initiative, a series of online video chats meant to “highlight the future of science, technology and innovation in the United States.” The first one happened Thursday at 2 pm ET on the White House’s Google+ page and included four leading thinkers in science and technology. We at began to wonder what would happen if there really was a part of the dusty old U.S. Constitution devoted to geeks. So we, who are geeks ourselves, drafted one. Below, you will find Article I of the Geek Constitution.



Section 1

All exponential powers herein applied to numbers shall not be imaginary, or be powers of three, unless it is deemed applicable.

Each House shall respect curiosity and the search for knowledge.

Members are encouraged to make scientific discoveries, if they so desire, but they may indulge any other topic of their choosing.

Such proclaimed Geeks shall be able to disarm the Keeg, to be heretofore known as the inverse Geek.

Horses may be ridden, unless it is declared that more pony is required. In that case, rainbow-colored ponies shall suffice.

Section 2

The House of Representatives shall be a weekly gathering, and leaders from each state shall be determined by rolling a d20.

No person shall be a Representative who shall not have memorized at least 50 digits of the mysterious number pi.

Section 3

The Senate will gather in a laboratory. Some members will be responsible for conducting experiments, while others will take measurements. White laboratory coats may be worn, but are optional.

No Person shall be a Senator until they can recite the periodic table of elements in their sleep.

Section 4

The time, place and manner of holding elections for Senators and Representatives can be calculated using complex equations. Such results shall be recorded in binary format.

The Congress shall assemble at least once per year, and shall eat as much pizza as they want.

The “Constitution” carries on from there. A lot!

Man in SWAT standoff demands pizza, marriage to Paris Hilton

I thought she only came with hamburgers

An Oregon man was arrested after barricading himself in a North Carolina hotel room and demanding pizza and to marry celebrity Paris Hilton, police said…

Police said Frederick Denney barricaded himself into a room on the second floor of the hotel and threatened to shoot at police after demanding pizza and to be wedded to the Hilton heiress.

After hours of negotiating with several agencies, including the Regional SWAT Team, Denney was pepper sprayed and taken into custody.

Authorities said Denney, who is from Roseburg, Ore., has had run-ins with SWAT teams in other states in the past.

Denney was taken to a local hospital for a mental evaluation. He is now facing several charges, including being “intoxicated and disorderly”…

Tell us what kind of pizza he wanted, anyway!

Pizza Hut blunders set up CIA informants for execution

More than a dozen CIA informants in the Middle East are thought to be facing execution after being caught by Iran and Hizbollah, due to a string of embarrassing failures by US spies.

Agents working for the US in Lebanon and Iran are said to have been outed after their handlers used trackable mobile phones and used the code-word “pizza” when agreeing to meet at a Pizza Hut.

The breaking of the two spy rings – one in the Beirut-based militant group that has killed hundreds of Americans, the other looking into the Iranian nuclear programme – amounts to a serious setback to US security. It may also make it difficult for US spies to recruit local informants in future…

Hizbollah counter-intelligence detected several mobile phones in Beirut that “were used rarely or always from specific locations and only for a short period of time”, according to the Associated Press.

Two Hizbollah double-agents, meanwhile, discovered the pizza restaurant where genuine informants were being met by pretending to work for the CIA, according to ABC News.

The leader of Hizbollah, Hassan Nasrallah, alleged in June that two high-ranking members of his group had been caught spying for the CIA, but the claims were denied by the US embassy. Iranian authorities also claimed to have discovered 30 Israeli and US agents in May.

The apparent blow comes almost two years after a suicide bomber posing as an informant killed seven CIA employees and wounded six others by gaining entry to a US base in Khost, Afghanistan.

A spokesman for the CIA declined to comment on operations.

What could he say other than offering up the usual crap arguments for slithering around in the Middle East. Historically, the CIA’s essential political function in the region has been to assure safety for Western oil companies by impeding any moves towards removing rulers-by-birthright and instituting democracy.

American generally aren’t aware of that – folks in the Middle East never forget.

Republicans and other paid-for politicians say pizza a vegetable

Pissaladière rouge et blanche

Is pizza a vegetable? Maybe not in most homes, but in public school cafeterias it is.

School meals that are subsidized by the government are required to contain a certain minimum of vegetables under current rules, and a serving of pizza that contains at least two tablespoons of tomato sauce meets the veggie requirement. The Obama administration recently sought to change the rule so that only a half-cup of tomato paste or more could be counted as a vegetable — part of their efforts to cut back on the amount of pizza, French fries and other “unhealthy” foods showing up on school lunch trays.

But the food industry and some lawmakers are pushing back. On Monday, Congress released the final version of a spending bill that would block the new tomato-paste rule, essentially keeping pizza in the vegetable category. The bill would also eliminate other changes the U.S. Department of Agriculture had proposed, like increasing whole grains in school meals and limiting the use of starchy vegetables to two servings a week, which would have cut back on the fries served daily at many schools.

As the Associated Press reports…food companies that produce frozen pizzas for schools, the salt industry and potato growers requested the changes and lobbied Congress….

Piling on to the companies’ opposition, some conservatives argue that the federal government shouldn’t tell children what to eat. In a summary of the bill, Republicans on the House Appropriations Committee said the changes would “prevent overly burdensome and costly regulations and…provide greater flexibility for local school districts to improve the nutritional quality of meals.” School districts have said some of the USDA proposals go too far and cost too much when budgets are extremely tight.

Which is a crock! Not much different from the days of “states rights” used to protect bigotry. Only this is used to protect the industries paying to keep your friendly neighborhood fat-and-salt laden Congress-critter in office.

As someone who cares specially for the Mediterranean portion of my family who taught me to prepare something more than Haggis – I make a delightful pissaladière along with dozens of variations on pizza from scratch. But, even one covered in onions only counts halfway as vegetable. The crappy nutrition designed by lobbyists from the American fast-food industry is matched in our schools only by the crappy education that satisfies our politicians.

3cheesus pizza

The face of Jesus has been spotted – in a three cheese pizza. Restaurant staff at the Posh Pizza shop in Brisbane, Australia, noticed the manifestation after taking the pizza from the oven. Maree Phelan says: “Some people are already calling it the Cheesus Pizza…

After attracting 26 bids on eBay, the pizza sold for a tasty £98.


Paroled Republican lobbyist cops a pizza gig

He doesn’t need a tie for the new job
Daylife/AP Photo used by permission

BALTIMORE — Like any new employee, Jack Abramoff is trying to keep a low profile — or as low a profile as a cause célèbre disgraced lobbyist and convicted felon can keep when news cameramen keep staking out his new workplace.

Mr. Abramoff started his new gig this week at Tov Pizza — “the best kosher pizza in town,” according to a catchy jingle that plays while callers are on hold.

He has so far stayed largely cloistered in a back office. He will work about 40 hours a week, said the owner, Ron Rosenbluth. He comes in around 10:30 a.m., leaves around 5:30 p.m., and wears a yarmulke to work, as many of the male customers and employees here do. He earns between $7.50 and $10 an hour (“or a little less than what he used to make”). He has been responsible, punctual, courteous. “He is not the monster he has been portrayed as,” Mr. Rosenbluth said…

He declined a request for an interview through Mr. Rosenbluth, and departed through a side entrance, skirting photographers waiting for him in a parking lot.

It is too soon to tell if Mr. Abramoff is cut out for a career in the pizza business, Mr. Rosenbluth said Wednesday. “He’s only been here three days,” said Mr. Rosenbluth, who has been here 26 years…

“People ask me, ‘Why would you ever hire Jack Abramoff?’ ” said Mr. Rosenbluth, who said he has not bothered to learn much about Mr. Abramoff’s past. “I say, ‘Why wouldn’t I hire Jack Abramoff?’ He’s paying his debt to society, right?”

As a matter of fact, I agree. I’ve worked with a few ex-cons in my life.

I may have a cynical view on recidivism based on the absence of education as a priority in our culture and within our prison systems. That doesn’t mean I’m unwilling to accept the right of someone who’s done time to try to make it on the straight and narrow back on the outside.

Unlike the unindicted creeps, say, from Lehman Brothers or Countrywide Mortgage, the SEC or Congress who simply move sideways to new job descriptions after they complete a prior round of corruption.

Naples pizza makers achieve EU trademark status

Naples has celebrated the first day of official recognition for the Italian city’s most famous culinary creation: the pizza.

The European Union ruling marks the end of a battle that began a quarter of a century ago and aimed to protect Neapolitan pizzas from imitations.

The Traditional Speciality Guaranteed label on Naples pizza was approved last month and came into effect on Thursday. The EU’s agriculture commissioner said Neapolitan pizza was now part of Europe’s food heritage…

The TSG label means that all pizzerias aspiring to supply the real thing are in future supposed to be vetted by a special commission that will check standards. They include using only San Marzano tomatoes and fresh buffalo mozzarella cheese.

Italy now tops the EU chart for products that are protected – it has 180, more than Spain or France.

Starting with the name up top of this blog, regular readers are aware of how much of a role my Scots heritage plays in my life. With one significant exception.

I am proud that I learned how to cook from the Italian half of my family.

All they wanted was a final pizza before leaving for Iraq

Mark Quinsey and Cengiz Azimkar
Daylife/Reuters Pictures

The British soldiers who were killed in Northern Ireland over the weekend had already packed their bags for Afghanistan and changed into desert uniforms when they were shot, said a top British military officer.

“Some of them decided to order a final takeaway pizza before they departed,” Brigadier George Norton said from the base where they were killed. “It was then that the brutal attack took place. They were off duty, they were unarmed and they were dressed in desert combats to deploy overseas.”

Two men with automatic rifles shot the soldiers as the pizzas arrived, authorities said. Two other soldiers and the two pizza deliverymen were seriously wounded.

The Ministry of Defence identified them Monday as Cengiz Azimkar, 21, and Mark Quinsey, 23.

The two soldiers are the first British troops to be killed in the province in more than 12 years, the Ministry of Defense confirmed, and the shooting has sparked fears of a return to the sectarian violence that Northern Ireland suffered for two decades before that.

And that’s what “helter-skelter” is all about. Whether the murderers were nationalists in their own mind or not. Whether they belonged to a tiny Republican sect or were agents provocateur on behalf of a Unionist gang is irrelevant.

The assassins deserve full punishment for their crime.