Getting ready for a disaster when you’re living with a disability

Here at the Get Ready Blog, we spend a lot of time talking about emergency preparedness and providing general tips to help everyone get ready in case of a disaster. However, being prepared often requires extra planning if you are living with a disability. To learn more, we recently interviewed Danielle Bailey, MPH, a research assistant for the Oregon Office on Disability and Health for the latest episode of our Get Ready Report podcast series.

Bailey says that everyone should take basic steps to get ready for an emergency: identifying the disasters that could happen in your area, creating evacuation and communication plans and putting together an emergency kit. But achieving this level of preparedness, says Bailey, “varies greatly for a person with a disability because of the level of attention and planning required to address their specific needs.”

If you are living with a disability, Bailey says the best practice is to sit down with someone who knows you well — a spouse, friend, family member or caregiver — and decide together “what activities of living you are able to do for yourself and what help you may need before, during and after an emergency.”

Bailey also recommends being very specific when putting together emergency kits. For example, “individuals who can only drink out of a straw, include straws in your bag, or if you use a manual wheelchair you may want to think about having some type of hand protection, such as leather gloves.”
“Think about backup batteries for hearing aids, extra canes and, of course, you need to have a plan around your medication and ensure you have copies of current prescriptions,” Bailey says.

For a general checklist about preparing an emergency stockpile, read the Get Ready checklist (PDF) It’s a good starting place for everyone!

For more great information about getting ready for a disaster when you’re living with a disability, listen to the full episode of our newest Get Ready Report. You can also read the transcript of our interview with Bailey.

Youtube's Censorship of Free Speech Regarding Religion


I hope this post still works, because for one reason or another, it has taken a rather circuitous path to get where it has.

Though it is basically a tale of censorship, and in my case as a UK resident, one of censorship and copyright, the underlying theme is one of disappointment.

Disappointment, great disappointment in where we as a species are headed. In an age and in a period of our history when we should be glorying in, and of our own enlightenment, there are still great swathes of humanity, whose purpose and intent is that we remain, or even less unacceptable, regress to a pre-industrial era of superstition and theocracy.

For those that would have us remain, and in a period far earlier than pre-industrial, earlier by a millennium or more in fact, of them, the followers of the Prophet Mohamed, there is no hope whatsoever. No hope whatsoever that those of the Islamic faith will ever embrace modernity or enlightenment. But as we know, content as they might be to live by the dark ages edicts of an illiterate bandit, there is no such contentment that the rest of us are disinclined to embrace their particular brand of mythology.

The refusal to accept the science of what we are doing to our planet apart, the tenets of Islam constitute one the greatest threats imaginable to a civilised, just and harmonious society.

But, but, yes I hear you, I know your argument; what about the rest of them, the Christian fundamentalists, are they any better? Simply, no.

Are they in fact worse? Only in the fact that Christianity has been replaced as the religion of death they're not; and I'll truck no argument from anybody, that Islam is anything other than this. Fundamental to its core, if you don't accept its teachings your dead. Well, if you open your mouth to say as much you are, let alone tweet such thoughts, but of the tweets, we will look a little later to one of the featured videos.

It's not my intention to turn this post into us and them, or my God is bigger than your God kind of thing, because quite frankly, I think both sides are insane, only by varying degrees. But as it is their turn under the spotlight, let us see to what degree, they disappoint us in terms of our modern day society. And to do this, there is no better place to look than the politics of the Christian right of America.

At which point reason, regarding religion and politics in American public life, ceased to be part of the equation, I couldn't really say, I have only been observing such things since 2006, but nonetheless, extremism was every bit as present then as now. The outrageous inclusion of 'faith' and politics that we see so inextricably mixed today, was as I say, still at the forefront of political life then. The most astounding example would have had to have been in a televised 2007 Presidential debate candidates, when asked to raise their hands if they don't believe in evolution, Sen. Sam Brownback, Gov. Mike Huckabee and Rep. Tom Tancredo all said they do not.

My point being, is it so very far removed from having Mullahs in charge of the running of a country?

Two more short clips, where the response of the audience is quite frightening.

Here's a short bonus clip, just forty three seconds, it's enough.

Bad enough then that this blatant religiosity is such a part of modern politics, but even worse, is the extreme platform that today's politicians, both those already elected and potential candidates, adopt as though somehow being quite reasonable and acceptable. But those platforms are anything but reasonable and acceptable, they are in fact nothing less than biblical.

Already we see around the US such policies in force, and more on the way each passing day. And everyone of those policies the recipient is a female; how could it not be when the legislation, semantics apart, comes straight out of the Bible, written when I ask?

Again bad enough, that these policies are being implemented by those already in office, but to actually run as a candidate for POTUS with a platform based on such fables, just staggers the imagination. And perhaps even more staggering, these policies are looked on favourably by no small percentage of the electorate.

Bringing us full circle, back to disappointment in what should be an enlightened period in our history as a species.

So what exactly was it that caused me to write about this disappointment? To answer that question we have to look at the recent behaviour of an organisation that should epitomise enlightenment, Google/Youtube. It should, but it doesn't; not when it starts to censor content based on religion, could anything really be more disappointing than that I ask?

I am going to make use of a few screenshots, both to explain my path to this sorry state of affairs and to clarify certain points, a picture being worth a thousand words blah blah.

We start off with something I re-tweeted.

Coincidentally, the featured video was the same one as in my own digest alert from Youtube.

Let's see what all the fuss is about says I. Therein lay a problem.

This because the clip contained a few seconds of Richard Dawkins taken from his Root of All Evil. A program I am fully entitled to watch in this country by the way, via Channel iplayer. Let's leave the logic of that one out of it all and move straight on.

Looking at the associated videos, I came up with this from the Amazing Atheist, who, if you pick them out, makes some germane and salient points.

24 hours later:

It seems Youtube has had a change of heart regarding its policy, shown below.

So much for enlightenment in the 21st century.

Why such a reversal on the part of Youtube? Enter Isaac Newton and his third law, for every action ....

Ah so! Not only that, with a thousand others mirroring the clip, we can kiss the copyright issue goodbye, it just becomes unenforceable. And of course, then allowing me to view the clip in question.

But the critical thing here, is not the content per say, inoffensive that it is, but that, quote: Youtube's professional team of moderators reviewed these videos and impartially came to the conclusion that they did not confirm to Youtube's stated policy.

To other little note worthies regarding this video; enter the tweets, and yer man ain't never going to get an Oscar

And one of the offending videos, the Best Emotional Porn, below for you to take offence at.

Most people will look at communal animals, and their need to be in groups will be outstandingly obvious. However people are that taken up by the first person perspective of life, that they don't immediately recognize their own biological need to be in groups. Its not just a preference, its biologically hardwired into your brain. Being with friends is good, and being with powerful friends is even better. It is therefore unsurprising that if you are going to fantasise about a friendship, that as the rewards are better for having a powerful invisible friend, than a weak one, that most people end up having a 'relationships' with an ultrapowerful god.

It is hard to contest that there are real emotional rewards yielded from such fantasies, and I have no problem with that. However when these fantasies have destructive effects on the society around those who hold them it becomes an issue. Indeed the extent to which such fantasies can pervert and corrupt a member of society are aptly summed up in William Lane Craig. Arguably the strongest interpersonal behavior is that of protecting infants. William Lane Craigs religion perverts his behavior to such an extent that he will happily justify putting a sword through a babies skull with a smile on his face and a tune in his heart knowing that, according to his fantasy, that the infant received an infinite good as a consequence of him killing it.

Banned video list.

Rules on (emotional) masturbation.

The end.


The Sad Race for Bottom on the Loony Right

As Santorum and Romney battle for the extremist vote, progressives should be worried, not gloating.
Robert B. Reich
February 27, 2012

My father was a Republican for the first 78 years of his life. For the last twenty, he’s been a Democrat (he just celebrated his 98th.) What happened? “They lost me,” he says.

They’re losing even more Americans now, as the four remaining GOP candidates seek to out-do one another in their race for the votes of the loony right that’s taken over the Grand Old Party.

But the rest of us have reason to worry.

A party of birthers, creationists, theocrats, climate-change deniers, nativists, gay-bashers, anti-abortionists, media paranoids, anti-intellectuals, and out-of-touch country clubbers cannot govern America.

Yet even if they lose the presidency on Election Day they’re still likely to be in charge of at least one house of Congress as well as several state legislators and governorships. That’s a problem for the nation.

The GOP’s drift toward loopyness started in 1993 when Bill Clinton became the first Democrat in the White House in a dozen years – and promptly allowed gays in the military, pushed through the Brady handgun act, had the audacity to staff his administration with strong women and African-Americans, and gave Hillary the task of crafting a national health bill. Bill and Hillary were secular boomers with Ivy League credentials who thought government had a positive role to play in peoples’ lives.

This was enough to stir right-wing evangelicals in the South, social conservatives in the Midwest and on the Great Plains, and stop-at-nothing extremists in Washington and the media who hounded Bill Clinton for eight years, then stole the 2000 election from Al Gore, and Swift-boated John Kerry in 2004.

They were not pleased to have a Democrat back in the White House in 2008, let alone a black one. They rose up in the 2010 election cycle as “tea partiers” and have by now pushed the GOP further right than it has been in more than eighty years. Even formerly sensible senators like Olympia Snowe, Orrin Hatch, and Dick Lugar are moving to the extreme right in order to keep their seats.

At this rate the GOP will end up on the dust heap of history. Young Americans are more tolerant, cosmopolitan, better educated, and more socially liberal than their parents. And relative to the typical middle-aged America, they are also more Hispanic and more shades of brown. Today’s Republican Party is as relevant to what America is becoming as an ice pick in New Orleans.

In the meantime, though, we are in trouble. America is a winner-take-all election system in which a party needs only 51 percent (or, in a three-way race, a plurality) in order to gain control.

In parliamentary systems of government, small groups representing loony fringes can be absorbed relatively harmlessly into adult governing coalitions.

But here, as we’re seeing, a loony fringe can take over an entire party — and that party will inevitably take over some part of our federal, state, and local governments.

As such, the loony right is a clear and present danger. Alternet

Palatability, Satiety and Calorie Intake

WHS reader Paul Hagerty recently sent me a very interesting paper titled "A Satiety Index of Common Foods", by Dr. SHA Holt and colleagues (1).  This paper quantified how full we feel after eating specific foods.  I've been aware of it for a while, but hadn't read it until recently.  They fed volunteers a variety of commonly eaten foods, each in a 240 calorie portion, and measured how full each food made them feel, and how much they ate at a subsequent meal.  Using the results, they calculated a "satiety index", which represents the fullness per calorie of each food, normalized to white bread (white bread arbitrarily set to SI = 100).  So for example, popcorn has a satiety index of 154, meaning it's more filling than white bread per calorie. 

One of the most interesting aspects of the paper is that the investigators measured a variety of food properties (energy density, fat, starch, sugar, fiber, water content, palatability), and then determined which of them explained the SI values most completely.

Read more »

Health And Fitness For Kids And More Tips

Health And Fitness For Kids-Preserve Your Child's Health

Kids today are to focused on watching tv and playing video games that they don't take the time to workout. This has resulted in sharp rise in the number of kids with obesity. Kids fitness games not only maintain their bodies in shape, but also keeps their minds active. Parents as a result must make certain that their kids have enough time to exercise. Parents must find some basic games which each of your kids will love playing.

Rope skipping offers a fantastic way for a child to burn extra calories. Most young children are hyperactive and are going to love jumping about while their skipping rope. The kids can play alone or as a group on the play ground. In this game your kids will use their whole body and they can also attempt to compete and see how quick they can jump with no tripping. Alternatively, they are able to use more than 1 rope which increases the degree of activity.

Hokey is one more fitness for kids game. In this game the kids will put 1 leg in front and pull it back, then the other leg as well as the hands. The kid then shakes the whole body and turns about. This game is not only enjoyable, but additionally assists your kids to maintain the best weight.

Cycling is regarded as the single most successful and popular ways to keep your youngster active and in shape. Youngsters love cycling and it is possible to join your kids together in quality time and fun. The child gets to workout his leg muscles, some of the largest on our bodies, thus burning the most fat. However, it is advisable to supervise your child while cycling to prevent accidents. Be sure the child stays on the sidewalk and he or she wears helmet. Guess what? You are getting some good exercise too!

The best Health and Fitness For Kids games are those which involve racing and agility. Football is one such game and it also offers an chance for the kids to find out how to become a team player. Running around enables kids to enhance heart muscles along with their bodies. Also take time to encourage your children and to motivate him or her, appeal to their competitive nature. You are going to be amazed at how sweaty your kids will probably be during and at the finish from the football game.

Start Indoors with games including Sardines, excellent when the climate is cold and rainy. Teach them that one particular kid is the one who must find the others, hides like in hide and seek with a time limit. The other children are essential to join in hiding until only 1 child is remaining after which they're able to come out if not found. It is also possible to also introduce your children to dancing as exercise and also to explore their talent. Take your kids to join a dancing class so he can grow to be a good dancer and partners.

Essential Tips For the Struggling Mom With an Obese Child

Obesity in children seems to be everywhere in the news these days. Some people want to blame the parents, others the child and still others blame outside forces like advertisers and the schools. If you and your child are struggling with an obesity issue, you really don't need to hear all that negativity, because you already know how serious the problem is. You need constructive help to get you going in a better direction.

First of all take a breath, hug your child, and realize that you CAN do this together. I'm not going to repeat all the negative health issues related to obesity and just assume you've heard it and want to move on to what to do about it.

If you remember nothing else from this article, remember this: knowledge is power. You have the ability to help your child by educating yourself. Two areas to begin with are household awareness and reading labels. Understanding these two will start you on your way to making better decisions and put the power into your hands.

What I mean by household awareness is simply writing down notes on the food buying and eating habits of your household. Keeping written notes for just one week will give you plenty of information to work with.

Who eats what for breakfast?

Does everyone eat breakfast?

Is there snacking between breakfast and lunch?

If so, what was eaten?

What beverages do you and the family drink?

What is eaten at lunch? Does snacking continue through the day?

What are the snacks? What is eaten for supper?

Is there dessert? How often and how much?

What snacks are eaten between supper and bedtime?

How many sodas are consumed throughout the day?

Once you see for yourself what is being consumed, you can come up with substitutions: oranges instead of cookies, baked apples with cinnamon instead of pie. It will take an effort, but you'll know what you're up against.

When grocery shopping how much of your purchase is for snacks? Go through your receipt and circle the food items not included in a meal. No one is going to judge your list but you. You don't have to show it or even tell anyone. The whole point is for you to become aware of what you and your child are actually eating.

The next important step in educating yourself is reading labels. This is another awareness exercise. You can't eliminate bad foods from your diet unless you know which ones they are. And the only way to do that is to read the labels. A simple rule to start with is look for sugar in the list of ingredients on packages. If it is one of the first 4 ingredients, leave it in the store. Another is if it contains high fructose corn syrup at all, leave it in the store. These are just two simple rules to start with. As you learn more about quality nutrition, you'll add more of your own. It's best to start slowly and build rather than being overwhelmed from the start.

Learning about nutrition can be very involved, but you need to start someplace. These are just a few tips to get you started. My hope is that it will help you to feel like you have control of something in your life. Tune out the naysayers and blamers and just do what you've got to do. As you learn more, you'll pass that on to your child, who in turn will learn how to make healthy choices. And isn't that what all moms want?

Best Natural ADHD Diet for Children

Although, some claim that the condition could be treated with the improvement of the environment and prescribed medication, it was found that certain type of foods better improve the symptoms. Here is how the ADHD diet for children benefits their condition.

An ADHD diet helps the brain to have a better focus decreasing inattentiveness and hyperactivity among children. While there are some controversies to certain types foods, it is clear that a diet enriched with essential fatty acids (EFA) help to improve the cells of the neurons responsible for receiving and conveying messages especially at the synapse point. One problem pointed in ADHD among children is the problem in receiving messages where the neurons scoop their own blocked messages. With an EFA diet, the problem of neurons reacting to its own messages is improved. Sources of EFA diet includes nuts, fish, algae, eggs, and flax seeds which are known to be a good source of omega 3. It should be noted though that fish such as sword fish, shark, mackerel, and shellfish should be avoided because of their high content of mercury. Mercury is believed to take away the ability of children to think and concentrate.

Including vitamin B in an ADHD diet for children is also found helpful in making the nerves healthy thus improving neural activity. Good source of these are liver, whole grain, yeast, milk, rice, bread, soy, and leafy greens. The inclusion of vitamin B however should be under the supervision of a dietician or the physician because of the possible side effects it produces. Food sources should be organic as much as possible. Experts believe that pesticides and other chemicals and additives used in gardening increases hyperactivity in children.

To maintain the energy of children with ADHD, their diet should also include protein. Protein should be evenly distributed throughout the meals of the day. Wrapped cheese is a good snack and so is yogurt eaten with bread. The use of butter like cashew or peanut proves to be a good source of protein as well. However, before giving any source of protein to your child with ADHD the child should first be tested for gluten sensitivity. It was found that gluten free diet is better and it provides effective results in reducing the symptoms.

Fast food should be discouraged as a part of the ADHD diet for children because it was found that it contributes to the negative symptoms of ADHD among children. An Australian research reveals that processed foods like red meats and other ingredients mixed with spaghetti, hamburger, French fries are associated with the disorder. Likewise, candies should be avoided as they are among the causative factors.

Finally, ADHD diet for children should include trace minerals like zinc and iron. Children with ADHD are found to have low levels of these minerals. Good sources of trace minerals include fruits, animal products, and vegetables or in the form of a multivitamin. Iron is found to regulate neurotransmitter dopamine and effectively transmit messages resulting in the improvement of the child's hyperactivity.

Leveson Inquiry: NoW Accused of Colluding With Murder Suspects - Daniel Morgan

This story has been around for a year or two, twenty five of them to be precise, and that which is alluded to in the story, goes far beyond a fleeting acquaintance between the cops, the News of the World and the murder of Daniel Morgan. Good to see the thing getting an airing via Leveson though.

Lots of information on the Morgan Murder here, Daniel Morgan Murder Cover-Up.

Leveson Inquiry: NoW Accused of Colluding With Murder Suspects

Former policewoman and Crimewatch presenter Jacqui Hames also claims Rebekah Brooks covered up why her family were targeted
John Plunkett
28 February 2012

Jacqui Hames Former Crimewatch presenter Jacqui Hames broke down in tears as she gave evidence to the Leveson inquiry.

A former policewoman and Crimewatch presenter who was put under surveillance by the News of the World has accused the News International paper of "collusion" with suspects in a high-profile murder case at the Leveson inquiry.

Jacqui Hames, who broke down in tears as she gave evidence to the inquiry on Tuesday, accused the then News of the World editor Rebekah Brooks of covering up the real reason why her family were targeted.

Hames, a detective constable who appeared in uniform on Crimewatch and has since retired from the Metropolitan police, said the explanation Brooks offered was "pathetic" and questioned why the police did not do more to investigate the affair.

She and her then husband, senior police officer David Cook, were placed under surveillance by the paper after he was put in charge of a 2002 appeal for information regarding the murder of Daniel Morgan.

Morgan was found dead in the car park of a pub in south London in 1987. He had been hit in the head with an axe.

Private investigator Jonathan Rees, who allegedly earned £150,000 a year from the News of the World for supplying illegally obtained information, was cleared of Morgan's murder last March.

According to the witness statements Hames submitted to the inquiry, shortly after the new 2002 appeal, which was broadcast on Crimewatch, the police were told that one of the suspects intended to make life difficult for Cook, and the BBC1 programme received an email suggesting she was having an affair with a senior police detective.

The couple subsequently found themselves under surveillance by News International. Two vans parked outside their house were traced back to the News of the World causing them "great anxiety", said Hames.

Contacted by Met press chief Dick Fedorcio, Brooks said the paper was investigating suspicions that the couple were having an affair with each other, Hames said.

Hames told the inquiry this was "absolutely pathetic". "This was utterly nonsensical as we had by then been married for four years, had been together for 11 years and had two children," said Hames in her witness statement.

"Our marriage was common knowledge to the extent that we had even appeared together in Hello! magazine."

She said the News of the World had "never supplied a coherent explanation for why we were placed under surveillance".

In a meeting with her husband and his boss commander Andre Baker, she said Brooks "repeated the unconvincing explanation that the News of the World believed we were having an affair".

Hames said: "I believe that the real reason for the News of the World placing us under surveillance was that suspects in the Daniel Morgan murder inquiry were using their association with a powerful and well-resourced newspaper to try to intimidate us and so attempt to subvert the investigation.

"These events left me distressed, anxious and needing counselling and contributed to the breakdown of my marriage to David in 2010."

She added: "Given the impact of these events, I would like to know why the police did not investigate why we came to be placed under surveillance by a newspaper like this."

Hames told the inquiry that it was impossible not to conclude that there had been "collusion between people at the News of the World and people who were suspected of killing Daniel Morgan".

Asked by Lord Justice Leveson about the impact of the News of World surveillance on her personal life, Hames broke down in tears.

Leveson told her it was clearly very distressing and she did not have to continue.

But having recovered her composure, Hames told the court: "No one from any walk of life should have to put up with it. I would hate to think of anyone having to go through what we have had 10 years of."

Hames said private investigator Glenn Mulcaire's notebooks were later found to include her payroll number, her previous police accommodation, her address, telephone numbers, and details about her then husband.

Mulcaire worked for the News of the World for several years up to mid 2006 and was jailed for intercepting voicemail messages in January 2007.

She said the information showed the paper knew she was married to Cook and could not have been having an affair with him.

Hames, who was a presenter on Crimewatch between 1990 and 2006 and took early retirement from the police force in 2008, said this information could only have come from the Met's personnel file.

"When you learn that someone in your family, the police service, has sold you down the line it's very painful," she added. Gruniad

Hubble Snaps Exploding Star Eta Carinae

A stunning photograph, the likes of which, I hope we don't become blase.

Hubble snaps exploding star's near-fatal weight-loss bid

Eta Carinae on the fast track to supernova
By Brid-Aine Parnell
27th February 2012

Pic NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has captured a stunning shot of the Eta Carinae system's largest star suffering a near-death experience before it goes supernova in the near future.

Earlier this month boffins published a study into the Eta Carinae star's near-nova explosion during which it shed ten solar masses*. The violent detonation was seen in 1843 and, discounting our Sun, made the heavenly body the second brightest star in the sky. The only star brighter was Sirius, which is nearly a thousand times closer to Earth.

Now the star is once more visible to the naked eye at night, although it's nowhere near as bright as it was back in the 19th century.

This pic shows the cloud of material, now known as the Homunculus Nebula, thrown out during the star's brush with death - what space boffins call a "supernova impostor event".

The image, consisting of ultraviolet and visible light images from the High Resolution Channel of Hubble's Advanced Camera for Surveys, shows that the debris from the event wasn't thrown out uniformly, but in a dumbbell shape.

Boffins are fairly confident that the Eta Carinae star is on its way out and they expect its supernova in the near future. Of course, this being in astronomical timescales, "near future" could be as much as a million years from now.

Whenever it does eventually go off, the star will be one of the closest to Earth to explode when there was someone here to see it, giving an impressive view to folks on the surface. The brightest supernova ever observed from Earth was a star of the same type, but it was in a galaxy 200 million light years away. Eta Carinae is only 7,500 light years away. Register

* One solar mass is equivalent to 1.98892 x 1030 kilograms

Soda-Free Sunday

Last Thursday, I received a message from a gentleman named Dorsol Plants about a public health campaign here in King County called Soda Free Sunday.  They're asking people to visit and make a pledge to go soda-free for one day per week. 

Drinking sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs), including soda, is one of the worst things you can do for your health.  SSB consumption is probably one of the major contributors to the modern epidemics of obesity and metabolic dysfunction.

I imagine that most WHS readers don't drink SSBs very often if at all, but I'm sure some do.  Whether you want to try drinking fewer SSBs, or just re-affirm an ongoing commitment to avoid them, I encourage you to visit and make the pledge.  You can do so even if you're not a resident of King county.

What Really Mattered At Leveson Today February 27

Let's face it, at the end of the day, nothing much is going to happen to Murdoch in this country. But if the Feds get a serious hard-on for News Corp, then we might see how fallen are the mighty.

But what I'm personally looking forward to, is seeing scumbag copper John Yates in the hot seat.

The testimony may prove damaging to the News Corporation, the American-based parent of Mr. Murdoch’s media empire, if it gives ammunition to the F.B.I. and other agencies that are investigating the company for possible prosecution under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

Inquiry Leader Says Murdoch Papers Paid Off British Officials
February 27, 2012

LONDON — The officer leading a police investigation into Rupert Murdoch’s British newspapers said on Monday that reporters and editors at The Sun tabloid had over the years paid hundreds of thousands of dollars for information not only to police officers but also to a “network of corrupted officials” in the military and the government.

The officer, Deputy Assistant Commissioner Sue Akers, said that e-mail records obtained by the police showed that there was a “culture at The Sun of illegal payments” that were authorized “at a very senior level within the newspaper” and involved “frequent and sometimes significant sums of money” paid to public officials in the Health Ministry and the prison service, among other agencies.

The testimony was a sharp new turn in a months-long judicial investigation of the behavior of Murdoch-owned and other newspapers, known as the Leveson inquiry. It detailed financial transactions that showed both the scale and the scope of alleged bribes, the covert nature of their payment and the seniority of newspaper executives accused of involvement.

The testimony may prove damaging to the News Corporation, the American-based parent of Mr. Murdoch’s media empire, if it gives ammunition to the F.B.I. and other agencies that are investigating the company for possible prosecution under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

Until now, the Leveson inquiry delved primarily into questions of unlawful accessing of private voice mail and e-mail by tabloid journalists. That scandal that forced the company to shut down The News of the World, Mr. Murdoch’s flagship Sunday tabloid, in July 2011; it was replaced last weekend by a new Sunday version of The Sun, which published its first issue hours before the latest hearings of the Leveson inquiry. In a statement, Mr. Murdoch, the head of News Corporation whose British subsidiary owns The Sun and other major newspapers here, did not specifically deny the allegations made by Ms. Akers. Rather, it focused on the company’s response: “As I’ve made very clear, we have vowed to do everything we can to get to the bottom of prior wrongdoings in order to set us on the right path for the future. That process is well underway. The practices Sue Akers described at the Leveson inquiry are ones of the past, and no longer exist at The Sun. We have already emerged a stronger company.”

In recent weeks, a number of senior journalists from The Sun have been arrested on suspicion of making illegal payments to officials, and Ms. Akers said that the activities had been carried out by “the arrested journalists.”

Ms. Akers said that the payments from The Sun went far beyond the occasional lunch or dinner, with one public official receiving more than $125,000 over several years, and a single journalist being allocated more than $238,000 in cash to pay sources, including government officials.

It was clear from references in the e-mail messages — to staff members’ “risking losing their pension or job” and to the need for “tradecraft” like keeping the payments secret or making payments to friends or relatives of the officials — that the journalists in question knew that the payments were illegal, Ms. Akers said.

“Systems have been created to facilitate such payments whilst hiding the identity of the officials receiving the money,” she said. “The e-mails indicate that payments to ‘sources’ were openly referred to within The Sun, with the category of public official being identified, rather than the individual’s identity.”

She added: “Some of the initial e-mails reveal, upon further detailed investigation, multiple payments to individuals of thousands of pounds. There is also mention in some e-mails of public officials being placed on ‘retainers,’ and this is a line of inquiry currently being investigated.” Go to page 2 NYT

Venezuela Roundup

Chavez Surgery Opens Venezuela Election Chances For Candidate Henrique Capriles

Feb 26,2012

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — Throughout his presidency, Hugo Chavez has relied on his vigor and endurance: playing baseball, speaking for hours at a stretch and making decisions on the fly while bounding around Venezuela exuding energy.

Now, just as he may need it most, Chavez finds himself ailing heading into a re-election campaign.

It's the rival, Henrique Capriles, who tossed a baseball with Little Leaguers and embraced admirers as Chavez, 18 years older, disappeared over the weekend into a Cuban hospital to have a potentially cancerous tumor surgically removed.

Capriles "represents a contrasting young and energetic option," said Diego Moya-Ocampos, an analyst with the London-based consulting firm IHS Global Insight.

The 39-year-old state governor has also, perhaps inadvertently, blunted some of the sympathy vote that might go to Chavez by shunning direct attacks on the president. He has cast himself as a polite, non-confrontational politician, a sharp contrast to the venom-tongued president, who recently referred to Capriles as "a pig" and has accused rivals of wanting him dead.

But Capriles didn't rise to the bait.

"I wish the head of state a long life," Capriles said. "I want him to see the changes that are going to come about in our country, for him to see a Venezuela of progress, a united country, a country where Venezuelans have many opportunities."

He added a little dart though: "It's important that people who have an illness tone down the confrontation a bit. It's not good for one's health."

History has shown that those who underestimate the socialist president do so at their own peril.

"For now (Chavez's) illness represents a political weakness, unless and until he can put it behind him," said John Walsh, an analyst at the Washington Office on Latin America, an independent think tank. "If he can eventually convince people that he has overcome cancer, then the narrative changes to one of Chavez conquering adversity, and the advantage could shift to Chavez."

"Chavez is a masterful politician," Walsh added. "His resourcefulness in setting the agenda and defining the terms of debate should not be underestimated."

Chavez had seemed to be rebounding from last year's cancer surgery, when he was in Cuba for weeks to have a malignant tumor removed from his pelvic region. At the time, he was often out of sight and was slow to give details of what was going on, leaving Venezuelans guessing about his health. But the hair he lost during chemotherapy has been growing back and Chavez was again back to making extensive, and extended, public appearances. He spoke for about four hours on Thursday as he discussed his illness before departing for Cuba, insisting, "I will live!"

Chavez's refusal to say exactly what type of cancer he had, as well as earlier assurances he had been completely freed of cancer, have led to uncertainly among Venezuelans regarding his chance for full recovery.

Chavez revealed last week that his Cuban doctors had discovered a one-inch (two-centimeter) lesion near where the larger tumor was removed last year and he has conceded he could be out of action for a while. If he is forced to undergo radiation treatment following the surgery, he could be sidelined for several months.

That could leave Capriles free to hog the spotlight back home, making personal appearances at school openings and giving speeches as the campaign builds toward the October vote.

If Chavez is unable to personally lead his re-election bid, that opens him to questions about whether he is still capable of running the government and illness tarnishes his long-standing image as an unbeatable politician just as the long-fractious opposition has finally united behind a single candidate.

Capriles, meanwhile, has been busy inaugurating schools and sports facilities in his central state of Miranda. At the inauguration of a baseball diamond on Saturday, he joined dozens of Little League players for warm-up exercises and tossed a ball around with them before a game.

Neighbors see him go on daily jogs through his middle-class Caracas neighborhood, and he even runs the occasional marathon.

That's the sort of athleticism long displayed by Chavez, a former paratrooper and a pretty good amateur baseball player.

A day before he left for Cuba, Chavez acknowledged that cancer's apparent comeback has obliged him to move beyond his usual politics of personality and lean on others.

"This situation forces me to move forward the appointment of the campaign organizers," he said to loud applause at a packed rally in Caracas. "I swear that I'll live and I'll accompany you to new victories. No cancer will stop us."

While the president's social programs are popular among the country's poor, he is vulnerable to criticism about economic and social problems that have persisted or grown during his more than 13 years in office. Those include annual inflation of 26 percent, the highest rate in Latin America, and soaring murder rates.

While Chavez has insisted that Capriles would eliminate many benefits for the poor, the governor has so far promoted welfare programs similiar to those of Chavez in his own state.

"The race is already shaping up to be close, and a physically weakened Chavez, less potent as a campaigner, would make it even closer," Walsh said. "At this stage it will be difficult for Chavez to recover his aura of invincibility and inevitability, meaning it will be a hard-fought campaign."

Luis Vicente Leon, director of the Datanalisis polling firm, said he expects the tightest presidential race Venezuelans have seen since Chavez's first election victory in 1998.

"It's the first time the opposition kicks off a campaign so close to Chavez," Leon said.

Before Capriles won a Feb. 12 primary, polls by Datanalisis showed a difference of less than 5 percentage points between Chavez and the still undetermined winner of the opposition vote, Leon said. Datanalisis, widely considered one of Venezuela's most accurate pollsters, has not carried out any surveys since the primary.

Emilio Mijares is one of the many Venezuelans known as "ni-nis," or "neither-nors," who have never backed Chavez or his opponents. He said he might vote this October for the first time in more than a decade because he fears instability if Chavez wins a fourth term.

"I don't believe the president is going to get better. His health could deteriorate following re-election, and that would certainly lead to problems," said Mijares, a 48-year-old taxi driver. By contrast, he said he considers Capriles to be an efficient administrator.

Others fear political upheaval looms no matter who wins.

"If (Chavez) recovers and wins, the opposition is going to protest. On the other hand, if Capriles wins the election, the Chavistas will fill the streets and there will be violence," said 58-year-old retiree Maria Guzman. "Whatever happens, we'll have trouble." HuffPo

Cameron Hired Emma Harrison Knowing Fraud Allegations Already In Place

A4e fraud allegations known before David Cameron picked 'families champion'

David Cameron is facing fresh questions over the choice of Emma Harrison as his “families champion” as it emerged the Government knew about fraud allegations against her firm at the time.
By Rowena Mason, Political Correspondent
27 Feb 2012

The Department for Work and Pensions was told about accusations against Mrs Harrison’s company, A4e, in November 2010, the month before she was made a Government adviser.

It also knew about the allegations five months before A4e was awarded new Government contracts worth around £440 million to help get unemployed people into work.

Liam Byrne, the Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, last night wrote to the Government demanding answers over who knew about the investigation and whether the Prime Minister was informed at the time.

Iain Duncan-Smith, the Work and Pensions Secretary, has now been asked to clarify whether he was personally aware of the alleged fraud, if he told the Prime Minister and whether he will publish all correspondence relating to the accusations.

“Given that your Department knew about the allegations, they go to the issue of the Government’s judgment in how it dealt with them,” Mr Byrne said in his letter.

Mr Byrne yesterday also asked the department to publish how well A4e has actually performed at getting unemployed people into jobs through the new Work Programme.

“Billions of pounds of public money are at stake in the Government’s Work Programme and I have constantly pressed you to be straight with the public on its effectiveness,” he said.

Allegations that former A4e employees falsely claimed jobless people had been placed in work is now the subject of a police investigation, which has already led to four arrests.

Mrs Harrison resigned from her job as a Government adviser and from A4e last week as she did not want to be a “distraction” while the investigation continues. There is no suggestion she had any part in any wrongdoing.

Yesterday, A4e hit back against fresh claims by whistleblowers that its staff stole vouchers intended to help the unemployed get new clothes in preparation for job interviews.

A spokesman for the company said: “A4e purchases these vouchers. It’s our profit margin that is affected by buying them, not the taxpayer. We are not aware of any such alleged fraud nor have we been informed by Thames Valley Police of such an investigation. If this alleged activity had come to light we would undertake our own robust internal investigation.” Telegraph

Donald Trump Promises £10m to Fight Wind Farm Construction in Britain

I don't think I trust myself to comment on this.

Donald Trump Promises £10m to Fight Wind Farm Construction in Britain
Richard Hall
27 February 2012

Fresh from a dispute with environmentalists over his golf resort on the Aberdeenshire coast, the billionaire Donald Trump has revealed plans to hand £10m to anti-wind farm campaigners.

The American property tycoon has become vociferous in his opposition to wind farms since plans were revealed for 11 turbines to be built off the coast from his £750 million complex of holiday homes, hotels and golf courses.

In a letter to the first minister Alex Salmond, Mr Trump blasted the "horrendous machines", and claimed he could win a "very large lawsuit" if he were to challenge their construction.

Susan Crosthwaite, a spokeswoman for Communities Against Turbines Scotland (CATS), said the money could be a game-changer in the battle against wind farms, and repudiated suggestions that Mr Trump's new-found opposition could be self-interested. "I think he genuinely cares about Scotland," she said. "We don't agree with everything Donald Trump stands for, but we do agree on this issue.

Willie Rennie MSP, leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats, criticised Mr Trump's "hysterical" response to plans to build turbines in sight of his resort.

"We have very ambitious targets for renewable energy. Rather than stopping us he should be helping us," he said. Telegraph
Previous: What Can You Expect From an Arsehole But a Trump

City of London Police - Corruption - Malicious Prosecution - Abuse of Office - Corporate Lackeys: Operation BOHAN

And that's just for starters.

And this is just a trailer, goodness knows what the program proper will throw up.

As the clip will reveal, the attitude and the actions of City of London Police can only be described as one thing, Naziism, and even though it's a term I seldom employ, that's exactly what they are, out and out Nazis and totally out of control. And let us not forget, this police force run amok, all under the authority of Home Secretary, Theresa May.

I shall be chatting with the victim of this case, plumber, terrorist, drug user, have I missed anything? Ian Puddick, a little later in the day, hoping he might shed more light on what kind of response, if any, that he has received from the Home Office over this scandalous abuse of police powers. And that abuse I add, at the behest of American company, Kroll. Nice huh! it must be all part of that special relationship we enjoy so much with America.

Chris Plumley Channel 4 Dispatches new film How Power Corrupts.

The film exposes institutional Police Corruption at City of London Police at senior level.

The film questions why officers from the Counter Terrorism Directorate made misleading statements in court under oath and the questionable relationship between City of London Police and elite global security giant Kroll.

The same Kroll whom effectively took control and lead COLP Counter Terrorism Directorate ‘Operation BOHAN’, an operation costing over £1,000,000 to censor Ian Puddicks website –

The film will show documents used in court which name senior officers at City of London Police whom were only to happy to comply with Kroll’s requests to silence Ian Puddick.

Michael Wolkind QC interviewed for the film confirmed that Police Corruption is an issue that is rarely reported and that the public are not aware of how the Police behave in court.

Asked by Chris Plumley if in this case it was just a few bad apples spoiling the barrel, Michael Wolkind QC replied ‘it was a matter of looking in the barrel for a good apple’.

Detective Constable Colin Dawson Counter Terrorism Directorate told Ian, Operation BOHAN was instigated and managed at the very top of City of London Police

Police Corruption

Detective Sergeant John Christopher Ellis City of London Police Counter Terrorism Directorate told the court under oath that he found Class A Crack Cocaine/Paraphernalia throughout the property during a search of Ian’s property there were approx 14 other officers involved in the search.

However Sergeant Ellis when questioned on the matter, said that he forgot to confiscate the Cocaine/ Paraphernalia.

He (Detective Sergeant John Christopher Ellis) didn’t mention it to the other officers whom were with him, he didn’t make a note of it in his note book, nor did he tell his boss. He just remembered the finding the drugs cache whilst in court. (Ah so! not the sharpest chisels in the box are they?)

Unrelated: Oh lovely Theresa Theresa May What Are You Getting Yourself Into?

Home Secretary Perhaps You Might Care To Review This: Re-Up

Your Scum On Sunday

They are never near as good when they are forced, which this one is, but at least I have the template readied should I have a flash of brilliance.

Click again after opening.

It's a Funny Old World or There's No Taste Like Bad Taste

I was watching Baltasar Kormákur's movie The Sea last night, a film set in Iceland.

Now I know they haven't a tree in Iceland, much less one to burn. Even so I found this one scene so utterly bizarre, we'll leave the matter of taste out of it, but as the couple sit down, yer man switches on the television, pre-set obviously, and up pops a blazing log fire.

Some fine character acting all round, not least from minor player Herdís Þorvaldsdóttir who played the granny. (See acclaim link)

The film won quite a lot of critical acclaim around the world, but didn't do too well in the States.

You will never get those Yankies to watch a movie with sub-titles.

I think this was number four in Icelandic films that I have watched, all totally different, but all very watchable. Wish I could say the same for those produced in the Baltic States, totally dreary, drawn out and barely comprehensible. No more of those.

When All Else Fails Roll Out Adolf Hitler - Rick Santorum

I've lost count as to how many times I have iterated the header in commenting on this blog. When you are talking bullshit and you have nothing to support your argument, roll out Adolf.

I see Rachel Maddow has picked up on last weeks Santorum madness. As Rachel points out, the Cloggies are hopping mad with Ricky.

Rick Santorum's Death By Clog Euthanasia Update

Can you hop in clogs?

Rick Santorum cries Nazi
By Dana Milbank
February 22, 2012

Rick Santorum sees Nazis everywhere: in the Middle East, in doctor’s offices and medical labs, in the Democratic Party, and now in the White House.

The Republican presidential candidate told a group of supporters Sunday night that this year’s election was like the time between 1940 and 1941 when Americans didn’t act against Adolf Hitler because they thought he was “a nice guy” and not “near as bad as what we think.”

“It’s going to be harder for this generation to figure this out. There’s no cataclysmic event,” he explained, but similar urgency. “Is anybody reminding us who we are, what made us great, and what these assaults are all about?”

The obvious implication — later denied by the candidate — was that Santorum is some modern-day Churchill and President Obama is der Fuhrer. It was outrageous and yet, for Santorum, routine.

Six years ago, in his losing bid for reelection to the Senate from Pennsylvania, Santorum had a remarkably similar take on the stakes. “If we are not successful here and things don’t go right in the election, there’s a good chance that the course of our country could change,” he said, according to an account in the Lebanon (Pa.) Daily News. “We are in the equivalent of the late 1930s, and this election will decide whether we are going to continue to appease or whether we will stand and fight while we have a chance to win without devastating consequences.”

His opponent, Democrat Bob Casey, won the election, and yet the country somehow did not fall to the brownshirts.

In explaining why his remark over the weekend wasn’t linking Obama to Hitler, Santorum said that “the World War II metaphor is one I’ve used a hundred times.” This is not an exaggeration — and that’s Santorum’s problem.

Nazi comparisons are the most extreme form of political speech; once one ties his political opponents to the most deplorable chapter in human history, all reasoned argument ceases.

Yet this is where Santorum exists, in a place of binary extremes of good and evil, where his political foe isn’t just wrong but adheres to a “phony theology” not found in the Bible. His frequent tendency to go from zero to Nazi over ordinary political disagreements is typical of the emotional appeal he has to conservative primary voters, but it also shows why he’s outside the bounds major political parties have applied to their past presidential nominees.

Some of Santorum’s opponents have suggested that his Hitler tic reflects his own autocratic tendencies; his opponent’s campaign manager in 2006 called Santorum “one notch below a Nazi.” But while Santorum favors more coercive government — one that could, for example, ban birth-control pills — he isn’t a Nazi. He worked against anti-Semitism in the Senate and tried to get a German physician prosecuted for Nazi war crimes. The problem is Santorum is such a stranger to democratic give-and-take that he thinks it’s okay to label everybody else as Nazis. more

What Was Best For The People of Japan Took a Backseat: Fukushima

Probably not an awful lot more than you already know, but perhaps some finer details.

Containing Fukushima: Saving Japan From Itself (Part I)
25 Feb 2012

The disaster at Fukushima last year exposed how entrenched interests among key decision-makers have contaminated Japanese society, endangering the long-term prosperity of Japan. These special interests often do what is right for themselves, as opposed to what is in the best interests of the Japanese people.

In this two-part series, discussion on what has transpired over the past twelve months as a result of decisions made related to the Fukushima disaster (Part I) will lead to a look at decision-making during the crisis in subsequent weeks and months that have passed (Part II). As the current decision-making system in Japan increasingly works to the detriment of Japanese society, what is needed instead is a more transparent, honest, and benevolent decision-making system that listens to the wishes of the people and responds to it.

Deep relationships among public and private sector players are present in all societies around the world. Yet Japan has a unique set of circumstances that make these relationships unlike any other. Looking firstly at this process sets the stage for understanding what has gone wrong in Japan.

Japan's "Iron Triangle" of power, the traditional post-war decision-making apparatus, is comprised of Administrative Bureaucracy, Organized Business and Party Government. Together these groups create and implement policies and laws. This inter-institutional cooperation establishes the foundation for how society operates.

It is a cozy relationship. Policies are established by bureaucrats, laws are then passed by politicians and implemented by the business sector. The unelected bureaucrats who formulate policies are beholden to no one other than themselves. Long-term bureaucrats have decades to nurture connections. Top officials often "retire" on to private sector Board of Directors or are granted lucrative positions inside organizations that they used to regulate, thereby forming a comfortable intermingling of the public and private sectors. The system perpetuates itself.

To lubricate the system, up to 40% of the annual Japanese national budget is spent on infrastructure projects -- many of which are unnecessary. It could easily be argued that a great number of the nuclear power plants built since the Second World War would fall in to this category. That helps explain why even though 90+ percent of all nuclear reactors are currently off-line, no energy shortages or blackouts have occurred to date.

An additional appendage to this triangle of power is the Japanese mafia or "Yakuza" which have historically been able to legally exist in Japan. The Yakuza serve to make sure the system operates smoothly. One example of this is the supplying of labor to the nuclear industry for undesirable jobs and, in particular, to the Tokyo Electric Power nuclear plant after the disaster of March 11, 2011.

Added to this mix of the Iron Triangle and mafia comes a cultural factor not seen in other nations known as 'nakama' or becoming an accepted 'trusted insider' among a respective group. This eases the process of consensus-formation. In group-oriented Japan, such strong relationships are seen as the ultimate goal to be achieved as they allow for the maintenance of harmony. Japan is a series of 'inside' and 'outside' groups and nakama relationships built over time and through mutual experience foster deep loyalties in the public and private sector.

Nakama can also become a hindrance in times of crucial decision-making where telling the truth comes head-to-head with loyalty to long-held relations. One well-known example is the case of the Japan Airlines crash in Tokyo Bay in 1982 that killed 133 people. The captain deliberately engaged the number 2 and 3 engines' thrust-reversers in flight which caused the crash. He was later found to be suffering from mental illness prior to the incident which resulted in a not guilty verdict by reason of insanity. The interesting point about this particular story is that his co-workers and even the company had known he was unstable for a long time, yet he was able to maintain his position, hierarchy and rank. This can be the danger of nakama relations -- when some one in a position of power does something he/she should not do, most are reluctant to do anything about it for fear of damaging relations.

Witness the Fukushima disaster. Not only did decision-making take too long in the early hours of the crisis because consensus needed to be formed among too many players, but there was a lack of communication due to inoperable phone systems. On top of this, the Iron Triangle players were protecting their respective turfs. Politicians and regulators protected the nuclear industry and the nuclear industry protected itself. What was best for the people of Japan took a back seat.

Observing what happened in the early hours of the crisis is to see how forming a consensus on what to do to protect the populace was a futile effort, indeed. Prime Minister Naoto Kan, to his credit, trusted neither the bureaucrats advising him nor the Tokyo Electric Power Company (which was worried about protecting its assets). Even the plant manager did not trust his superiors who had instructed him to stop pouring sea water on the reactors to keep them cool. His decision to defy that order likely prevented the disaster from becoming worse than it was. "At the drama's heart was an outsider prime minister who saw the need for quick action but whose well-founded mistrust of a system of alliances between powerful plant operators, compliant bureaucrats and sympathetic politicians deprived Prime Minister Kan of resources he could have used to make better-informed decisions," reported the New York Times.

How much of what went wrong was actually due to sheer incompetence or lack of adequate preparation as opposed to an attempt to hide the truth is unclear. But the New York Times ran an incredible piece on this "culture of collusion" early in the crisis. And it took an outsider (who used to be an insider) to reveal the truth -- that "nuclear power's main players are more interested in protecting their interests than increasing safety". My point exactly. The safety of the people of Japan was not the top priority which further shows that the decision-making system is not working.

Just ask the people of Namie, a city located just north of the doomed Tokyo Electric Power nuclear plant. Lacking clear guidance on what to do or where to go from decision-makers in Tokyo, town leaders thought it would be safe to head north to escape the dangers caused by explosions at the plant. Computer calculations, known to officials in Tokyo, had predicted winds would carry radioactive clouds north -- not south -- as Namie town officials had thought. But no one bothered to tell them and they were exposed to high levels of radiation for three days and nights. As reported in another New York Times exposé, "The forecasts were left unpublicized by bureaucrats in Tokyo, operating in a culture that sought to avoid responsibility and, above all, criticism... Japanese authorities engaged in a pattern of withholding damaging information and denying facts of the nuclear disaster -- in order to limit the size of costly and disruptive evacuations in land-scarce Japan and to avoid public questioning of the politically powerful nuclear industry".

And to further prove the point about the failings of the Iron Triangle and how members sought to protect their turf, bureaucrats initially withheld vital information even from politicians, part of their own inner circle. As the aforementioned article notes, "Some of the predictions of the spread of radiation contamination were so alarming, that three separate government agencies -- the Education Ministry and the two nuclear regulators, the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency and Nuclear Safety Commission -- passed the data to one another like a hot potato, with none of them wanting to accept responsibility for its results".

Added to this story were revelations the in the crucial days during and after two reactors blew up, Potassium Iodide (which blocks radioactive iodine from entering the thyroid gland) was not dispersed to people in need in the areas near the plant. Why? "Government disaster manuals require communities to wait for the central government to give the order before distributing the pills. Though Japan's nuclear-safety experts recommended dispensing pills immediately, Tokyo didn't order pills be given out until five days after the March 11 accident". Once again, the people of Japan were not the top priority.

Here is yet another example -- days after the earthquake and tsunami, on March 15th and 21st, clouds of radiation drifted over Tokyo due to changing wind conditions. The people of Tokyo were not encouraged to either stay indoors (thereby somewhat limiting exposure) or leave the city. It was not that the authorities didn't know the clouds were coming -- they did. Even the U.S. military knew they were on their way due to a computer simulation known as SPEEDI (System for Prediction of Environmental Emergency Dose Information). SPEEDI was designed in the 1980s to make forecasts of radiation dispersal should an accident occur. SPEEDI information was shared with the U.S. military, but not with the people of Japan. Decision-makers withheld the information, most likely so as to avoid a panic.

So there was a choice in a "worst-case scenario", evacuate Tokyo (which might have led to the collapse of the Japanese economy) or risk collateral damage among the populace. All of which raises a fundamental question -- What gives unelected bureaucrats the right to decide what the public is told (or not told), particularly when issues of health are at stake?

Just as with the tale of the boy who cried wolf, many people in Japan no longer trust what they are told. It is now to the point where even if the truth is told, few believe it.

(Monday, in Part II, we look at more evidence of how nakama decision-making hurts Japan.)

K.T. Hiraoka is a pseudonym for the writer whose name was changed to allow for honest and open expression in order to better decipher the puzzle surrounding decision-making related to the Fukushima disaster. HuffPo

US Arrogance Writ Large

Should I have mentioned in the header that the story is centred around US rice farmers? I don't think so. arrogance is after all, a defining and quintessential characteristic of the American psyche. Just as equally, is the, it's all and only about us attitude, that permeates throughout the US.

Whereas the link will take you to an essay by Arthur Silber, an essay, that in part focuses on the 'American exceptionalism' attitude of John Kerry; we need to go no further than the side bar in this blog, to have that exceptionalist attitude displayed.

But perhaps exceptionalism is not the correct choice of term to employ here, perhaps delusional might be nearer the mark, but however we describe it, it is the same staggering arrogance, no, make that delusional arrogance, displayed by the whinging farmer as that displayed by his one time Commander-in-Chief, George W Bush.

“I think the Iraqi people owe the American people a huge debt of gratitude, and I believe most Iraqis express that. I mean, the people understand that we've endured great sacrifice to help them. That's the problem here in America. They wonder whether or not there is a gratitude level that's significant enough in Iraq.” Bush interview '60 Minutes' 1/14/07

Yes, kind of takes your breath away doesn't it?

Farmers furious after Iraq stops buying US rice
The Associated Press
Feb 23, 2012

The talk of the day among Ray Stoesser and other rice farmers is Iraq's decision not to buy U.S. rice, a stinging move that adds to a stressful year punctuated by everything from drought to unusual heat.

Stoesser and other farmers know Iraqis struggled during the U.S. invasion and subsequent occupation. They know most countries _ and people _ buy based on price. (Sic When did underscore enter the language?)

But at the moment, with production costs rising, export markets shrinking and rice prices dropping, it's difficult to be rational and suppress emotions so intimately intertwined with their land and livelihood.

"That's just not right," the 63-year-old Stoesser fumed. "If we've got some rice to sell, they ought to pay a premium for it just because this is the country that freed them."

Iraq imports most of its rice, about 1 million metric tons per year, making it a significant player in the global market. In the past decade, about 10 percent to 15 percent of that total came from the United States. But Iraq hasn't bought any U.S. rice since late 2010.

"You would think with all that we've done over there, there would be a way to get them to do business with us," said Ronald Gertson, who grows rice in Lissie, Texas.

Iraq has been buying instead from Asia and South America, and it recently lowered its quality standards so it would be able to buy rice from India, something that was impossible under the Iraqi Grain Board's old rules, said Andy Aaronson, chairman of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Rice Interagency Commodity Estimate Committee. It also recently bought rice from Uruguay, which grows a variety similar to the American one but sold for less.

"Iraq seems to be buying on price, and the lowest offered price is coming now from India," Aaronson said.

In Iraq, officials said the decision to forego American rice largely came down to a matter of taste. A Trade Ministry official said Iraq has decided to import only long-grain basmati rice from India due to its wide acceptance nationwide and cheap price.

"We have no problem with the U.S. rice specifically, which was widely acceptable by Iraqis, but we are seeing a demand for the Indian rice rather than others, which is also bought in good prices," he added.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to make a statement on government policies. He would not comment on U.S. farmers' anger or their argument that Iraq should buy U.S. rice because thousands of Americans died in the war there.

Iraq had accounted for about 2 percent to 5 percent of U.S. sales each year. It stopped buying American rice during the Gulf War in the early 1990s and in 2003, when the most recent war started, Aaronson said. Every other year, though, during the war, insurgency and U.S. occupation, the Iraqi Grain Board bought American rice.

Iraq's abandonment of U.S. rice comes as Haiti, once an exclusively American market, and Central America, another major buyer, also seek cheaper options elsewhere.

The lost sales sting because the U.S., unlike China and other major rice-growing nations, exports nearly half of its crop. With less demand from overseas, prices have dropped while production costs, including for fuel, have risen. The combination is squeezing farmers, Aaronson said. Rice acres in the United States decreased last year and will likely drop again as farmers switch to crops that will make them more money.

About half of the 3 million acres of rice typically planted in the U.S. each year are in Arkansas. The remainder comes from Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri and California.

When Iraq sought bids on rice a few months ago, word on the street was the U.S. would have a piece of the action, said Mike Wagner, who grew up on a rice farm in Sumner, Miss. When that didn't happen, Wagner and other rice farmers say they were shocked.

"We invested so much in that country, and we feel like it's something of a slap in the face," said Wagner, who's considering planting more soybeans or a new crop on his 4,000-acre Mississippi Delta farm.

John Alter, 64, also is considering alternatives. Usually, about one-third of his 1,500-acre farm in DeWitt, Ark., is devoted to rice. This year, it would be risky to dedicate too much land to the crop, he said. The loss of imports is disappointing, Alter said, noting the price difference between U.S. rice and Uruguayan grain was small.

"We spent billions and billions, if not trillions over there, and lots of people died," Alter said. "There should be some reciprocation ... Last time I checked, there wasn't any Uruguayan soldiers that lost their lives in Iraq." lasvegassun

Flu Fridays: Top five flu myths

Welcome back! Our topic for this Flu Friday is a fun one — we’re going myth-busting.

There are tons of rumors and myths about the flu, and here at the Get Ready campaign, we’ve probably heard them all. The key to being prepared in any situation is accurate information, so to help you get ready to fight the flu, we want to set the facts straight.

1. Myth: Cold weather causes the flu.

Truth: This is an age-old myth, but the truth is that cold weather itself does not cause people to be sick.

However, it is true that more people get sick with the flu in the colder months. This is because viruses that cause the flu can live longer when the temperature is cooler. In the end, more viruses can mean more people getting sick — the flu virus doesn’t care if you’re wearing a scarf or not. We still think you should listen to your mother anyway — just make sure to get your flu shot, too!

2. Myth: The flu is just a bad cold.

Truth: Many people see the flu as no big deal, but flu can be a very serious illness.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that since 1976, an average of 25,500 people a year have died from the flu and its complications. Flu also sends hundreds of thousands of people to the hospital every year.

The flu is especially serious for the elderly, pregnant women, young children, smokers and for people with asthma, heart disease, diabetes and other conditions. CDC has more information about people at high risk for the flu.

3. Myth: Vitamin C can protect you from the flu.

Truth: Vitamin C, herbal supplements and other “folk” remedies won’t stop you from getting the flu.

Have you ever been told to drink lots of orange juice or take extra vitamins as soon as you start feeling sick? Unfortunately, there is very little proof that vitamin C or other herbal supplements will prevent you from getting sick or reduce the severity of your illness once you get the flu. What’s more, taking very high doses of vitamin C, over 2 grams per day, could cause diarrhea and increase your risk for kidney stones.

The most effective way to prevent the flu is to get a flu shot every year. For more tips on staying healthy, check out our blog post on “Four things to do to prevent the spread of flu.”

4. Myth: Healthy people don’t need a flu shot.

[Image: Flu Vaccine,
courtesy CDC/Doug Jordan, M.A.]

Truth: CDC recommends that almost everyone in the U.S. who is 6 months of age and older get a flu shot every year.

Healthy people can and do become seriously ill if they get the flu. Getting your flu shot every year is important because it can prevent needless suffering. Why get sick and miss work or school when you can prevent the flu?

Even if you don’t fall into one of the high risk groups for the flu, chances are you know someone who does. Getting your flu shot will not only prevent you from getting sick, it will prevent your loved ones from getting the flu, too.

5. Myth: The flu shot can give you the flu.

Truth: The flu shot will not give you the flu!

We repeat: The flu shot will not give you the flu. The viruses contained in the flu shot are inactivated, aka killed, which means that they won’t give you the flu. The most common side effect from the seasonal flu shot is a sore arm.

There is also a nasal spray version of the flu vaccine that has live but weakened viruses. This vaccine will not cause the flu either, although some people report mild symptoms such as a runny nose or sore throat for a few days after they receive the vaccine.

It is possible that people can still get sick after getting a flu vaccine. There are a few reasons why this may occur: A person can still get sick from another type of virus, such as a rhinovirus, which causes the common cold, or they could be exposed to the flu before the vaccine has given their body full protection from influenza, which can take up to two weeks. Read more from CDC about flu vaccine misconceptions.

So, there you have it: We’ve busted the top five flu myths, and hopefully helped you get ready to fight the flu this season.

If you want to test your new flu knowledge, take CDC’s Flu IQ quiz, and tell us how you scored in the comments!

The 'My Name is Ricky and Sex is Icky' Santorum Post

What Rick Santorum Doesn’t Know About Sex

Rick Santorum doesn't understand why people have sex.
by Christopher Ryan
January 6, 2012

Rick Santorum doesn’t know what sex is for.

In a recent appearance in New Hampshire, he summarized his thoughts on the subject, saying, “God made man and woman, and men and women come together to have a union to produce children, which keeps civilization going and provides the best environment for children to be raised.” While this may seem a common-sense understanding of the function and purpose of sexuality, it doesn’t apply to human beings.

What Santorum is missing can be expressed in simple math. The vast majority of species have sex only to reproduce—a function reflected in a very low ratio of sex-acts-to-births. Gorillas, for example, have intercourse at most about a dozen times per birth. And as with good Catholics, gorilla sex is all business: no oral, anal, manual, or any other kind of non-reproductive dilly-dallying. The female of most mammals only has sex when she is ovulating. Otherwise, no go. But the sexuality of human beings—and our closest primate relations, bonobos and chimps—is utterly different. We and our chimp and bonobo cousins typically have sex hundreds—if not thousands—of times per birth, with or without contraception.

Santorum has argued that contraception is morally wrong because, “It’s a license to do things in a sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be.” But human beings happily experience, witness, imagine, and lament a cornicopia of erotic encounters that couldn’t possibly result in conception. Leaving aside the many “perversions” happily practiced by humans the world over, the human female is available even for Vatican-approved missionary position intercourse—at least theoretically—when she’s menstruating, already pregnant, post-menopausal, or otherwise precluded from conceiving. Is this, too, an abomination? Even Santorum and his wife, who have had more children than most couples, have certainly had a lot more non-reproductive than reproductive sex over the years.

It’s the nature of the human beast. For Homo sapiens, sex is primarily about establishing and maintaining relationships—relationships often characterized by love, or at least affection. Reproduction is a by-product of human sexual behavior, not its primary purpose.

Another way in which we differ from most mammals is in our complex, multi-male social networks. The gorillas mentioned earlier are polygynous, with one dominant silverback mating with several females (perhaps more akin to Romney’s religious beliefs than to Santorum’s). The only monogamous ape, the gibbon, lives in isolated nuclear family units in the treetops of Southeast Asia, while humans, chimps, and bonobos all live in complex social groups with multiple males in attendance. Of the hundreds of species of primates, there are precisely no monogamous species living in multi-male groups—except humans, if you buy scientific or religious arguments for the naturalness of human monogamy.

Although the nuclear family has been promoted like a soft-drink in recent decades, it’s clear that we are the most social species on the planet, interacting with and depending upon each other in ways that extend far beyond Mom, Dad, and Junior. We intermingle in ways no other creature could imagine—or tolerate. We do not raise our children in isolated treetops. We drop them off at school, where they satisfy their instinctive hunger for community, under the protection of adults whose names we’ll never know. When sick, we take them to doctors we’ve never met in hospitals built and maintained by utter strangers.

If you still doubt that humans are deeply social creatures, consider that our greatest punishment is solitary confinement. Anyone who’s experienced it will tell you that any human companionship—even that of murderers, rapists, and Washington lobbyists—is better than isolation. Sartre got it wrong: Hell is the absence of other people.

Santorum is inadvertently correct that sex “keeps civilization going.” But he’s wrong to credit only heterosexual reproductive sex. Sex of all kinds comes naturally to our species, and most of it has little to do with reproduction, and a great deal to do with loving one another. Sex and love hold communities—not just families—together. And in the end, it is our communities, as much as our families, we ask to raise our children, protect us from disaster, and offer us some measure of comfort in our final days. psychologytoday

Inside Rick Santorum's Head: For Him, the Right to Privacy Doesn't Exist
by Jim Hightower
22 February 2012

Rick Santorum is the latest darling of the most extreme of the GOP's extremist voters. Here's just an earful of this guy's moral piety.

Let's start where it all starts for us humans: conception. Not only does Santorum insist that life begins at the instant that a sperm contacts an egg, he also wants to preserve the sanctity of sperm itself by outlawing birth control. Yes, every sperm counts. Last October, he warned about "the dangers of contraception in this country…It's not OK. It's a license to do things in a sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be."

Indeed, Ayatollah Rick is a bit obsessed with what you might be doing in your bedroom. The Supreme Court, he asserts, was wrong to rule that we have a right to consensual sex in our homes. "Then you have the right to bigamy," he wails, "the right to polygamy…to incest…adultery…the right to anything." Then comes his punch line: "This right to privacy doesn't exist in my opinion in the United States Constitution."

In a January interview on CNN, the sanctimonious Santorum offered another startling insight into his moral code. When asked what he'd say to his daughter if she had been raped, was pregnant, and was crying for an abortion, he actually said, "the right approach is to accept this horribly created, in the sense of rape…gift of life and accept what God is giving you." He added that his daughter — and presumably yours, too — ought to "make the best out of a bad situation."

So much Rick, so little time. I haven't even gotten to global warming ("no such thing," he says), or his endorsement of the Crusades as being about "core American values," or his comparison of homosexuality to "man-on-dog" sex. But, with the national spotlight now on Santorum, we can count on many more Rickisms to enlighten us. truthout

Quintessential Santorum.

Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum repeatedly came under criticism at Wednesday’s debate over his voting record in Washington. We speak to Will Bunch of the Philadelphia Daily News, author of the recent article, "A Pennsylvanian’s Guide to the Rick Santorum You Don’t Know." "There’s basically two sides of Santorum," Bunch says. "One is the culture warrior side, and that’s the side we tend to talk about most in the media—the abortion, the gay rights stuff, the contraception stuff... But the other side of Rick Santorum, and one that I’ve written about a lot over the years, is the Washington insider Rick Santorum." Democracy Now

Who me indeed, because the content of the clip, although it featured Santorum in part, had nothing to do with the chosen backdrop. Oooh ya bitch! Lol