Malta backs introduction of divorce in referendum (Reuters)

May 31, 2011 by  
Filed under Clueless, Humor, Total Nonsense

The crucifix atop the dome of the Carmelite Church in Valletta is silhouetted against the sky at sunset February 14, 2007. MALTA OUT REUTERS/Darrin Zammit LupiReuters – Staunchly Catholic Malta approved the introduction of divorce, backing the move by a small majority in a referendum.

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Air Canada Union Pension Fight Over Plans For New Workers

May 31, 2011 by  
Filed under TOP HEADLINES

(CBC) — Three unions representing Air Canada flight attendants, ground crews, counter personnel and other workers are uniting to fight the airline’s plan to introduce a defined-contribution pension plan for new workers.

The unions say they want Air Canada to stop considering proposed changes that would force new hires onto defined-contribution pension plans.

Defined-benefit pension plans, which Air Canada employees currently earn, are designed to provide retirees with a predictable income, but they expose the airline to additional costs if the pension fund’s assets aren’t able to pay for the benefits.

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Deb Milbrath, Freelance – MORE MEDIA COVERAGE

May 31, 2011 by  
Filed under Daily Cartoons

Cartoon by Deb Milbrath TITLE: MORE MEDIA COVERAGE
KEYWORDS: Gingrich, Newt,republican,GOP,candidate,primary,Palin,media,Meet the …

PUBLICATION DATE: Tue, 31 May 2011

Feeling "In Control" Tied To Lower Risk Of Depression Among African American Men

May 31, 2011 by  
Filed under Health News

African American men who feel “in control” of their lives are less likely to suffer from depressive symptoms, according to a study published recently in the journal Research on Social Work Practice. Research shows that having a sense of control over one’s life, a concept also known as “perceived mastery”, is tied to better mental health…
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Rabbi Shmuley Boteach: Those Who Say Israel Should Fear the Wrath of Obama

May 31, 2011 by  
Filed under Videos

I have no beef with those who argue President Obama did nothing wrong by sliding in a reference to Israel returning to the 1967 borders, albeit with land swaps, in his major address on the Arab pro-democracy movement at the State Department. To be sure, I believe it ruined the President’s otherwise impassioned insistence that America would support the Arab yearning to be free of its tyrannical dictators by inserting an inflammatory and highly controversial distraction that dominated the headlines.

Still, the President is entitled to his view even as it remains to be seen if pressuring Israel will lead to a lasting peace. What I do have a problem with is the large number of commentators — the vast majority Jewish — who say that in defying Obama on the ’67 borders Netanyahu has provoked the President’s wrath and Israel will now suffer the consequences.

As an American I have a visceral distaste for anyone arguing that we ought to fear our government or our President. I do not live in Russia. I do not live in Syria. President Obama is nothing but the elected representative of the American people. He has absolutely no power other than that which we, the American people, grant him. He is not a king and he is not an emperor. He cannot pursue his grudges and he cannot avenge his personal honor. He is a servant of the people. The idea that Israel, as a sovereign nation and most trusted ally of the United States, ought to fear the American president for not kowtowing to his every foreign policy whim when it feels he is desperately wrong, is distasteful in the extreme.

Worse, it is an incalculable insult to President Obama. What these commentators are implying is that Obama is a man so petty and immature that as pay-back to Netanyahu and Israel for defying him he will throw both under a bus. I do not believe this about Obama. I believe him to be a mature and dignified leader even as I disagree with him profoundly on so many substantive issues of policy.

But there were some of America’s top writers arguing that Bibi had pissed off Obama and now Israel would pay. Leading the charge was Time magazine’s Joe Klein who titled his attack on Netanyahu, “Bibi Provokes Obama,” and ended his column with these words: “Given his congressional support, Netanyahu may be able to get away with playing so bold a hand — but it is inappropriate behavior for an American ally, and you can bet that Obama won’t forget it.” Won’t forget what? That an Israeli Prime Minister actually had the courage to tell an American President — finally! — that the sovereign State of Israel will not be pushed into compromising its security? And what is Klein suggesting Obama will now do. Retaliate against Israel and spitefully take the position of the Palestinians? Does he really believe Obama to be that frivolous? I most surely do not.

The Bibi-undermined-Israel’s-security-by-getting-on-Obama’s-bad-side argument continued with Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic — normally one of my favorite writers — who titled his piece, “Dear Mr. Netanyahu, Please Don’t Speak to My President That Way.” Goldberg wrote, “And if President Obama doesn’t walk back the speech, what will Netanyahu do? Will he cut off Israeli military aid to the U.S.?” Perhaps Goldberg has confused the American political system with that, say, of Libya. Our President does not give any economic aid to Israel.

It is the American people who, in their overwhelming support of the Middle East’s sole democracy, repeatedly elect leaders who share their pro-Israel posture and who in-turn vote to continue foreign aid to Israel. Whatever the tension between Bibi and Obama the American people are not now questioning why we give our most trusted ally $3 billion a year in military aid, but why we gave Pakistan, where Bin Laden was hiding, a total of $20.7 billion in aid from 2002 through fiscal 2011.

Goldberg continues: “Prime Minister Netanyahu needs the support of President Obama in order to confront the greatest danger Israel has ever faced: the potential of a nuclear-armed Iran. And yet he seems to go out of his way to alienate the President.” The inference is that by Netanyahu throwing what Goldberg called ‘a hissy fit,’ President Obama may withdraw his support for Israel on Iran. This is an unwarranted and unjust criticism of our President who knows darn well that a nuclear-armed Iran is as big a threat to the United States as it is to Israel. Last time I checked ‘The Great Satan’ label bandied about by the Iranians was a reference not to Israel but to America.

But the sentiment of Bibi’s foolishness in ‘provoking’ Obama was heard even in major Jewish publications. New York Jewish Week publisher Gary Rosenblatt, one of the most erudite and insightful of all writers on the Jewish scene, said,

This is more than a personal grudge match; it can affect strategic policy and the very future of the Jewish state. Israel, of course, has a lot more to lose here than the U.S., so the onus is on Bibi to make the relationship better… Bibi has chosen confronting Obama rather than working at restoring their relationship. I hope it’s not a permanent mistake.

I respectfully disagree. It was Obama who gratuitously threw in the provocative reference to Israel’s 1967 borders without, at the very least, calling on the Palestinians to withdraw the utterly unrealistic right of return. And it was Obama who was forced at AIPAC to dilute his ’67 border comment to the point of meaninglessness because he feared the wrath of American Jewry — one of his most important financial and electoral constituencies — rather than the other way around.

I mean no disrespect. But it seems to me it’s high time we reject the traditional court-Jew mentality that says that we must shimmy-up to powerful leaders in order to gain their protection. America does not support Israel because Jews are friendly or subservient. It does not respect Israel because it is polite or deferential. Rather, America, in its righteous, majestic might supports Israel because its cause is just. And any insinuation to the contrary is an insult both to our President and the American people.

Shmuley Boteach, “America’s Rabbi,” is Founder of This World: The Values Network, which promotes universal Jewish values in the mainstream media. His most recent book is “Renewal: A Guide to the Values-Filled Life.” Follow him on Twitter @RabbiShmuley.

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EU Rushing To Complete Greece’s Second Bailout Package

May 31, 2011 by  
Filed under Capitol Hill, Money

BRUSSELS/ATHENS (Jan Strupczewzki and Harry Papachristou) – The European Union is working on a second bailout package for Greece in a race to release vital loans next month and avert the risk of the euro zone country defaulting, EU officials said on Monday.

Greece’s conservative opposition meanwhile demanded lower taxes as a condition for reaching a political consensus with the Socialist government on further austerity measures, which Brussels says is needed to secure any further assistance.

Moves to plug a looming funding gap for 2012 and 2013 were accelerated after the International Monetary Fund said last week it would withhold the next tranche of aid due on June 29 unless the EU guarantees to meet Athens’ funding needs for next year.

Senior EU officials held unannounced emergency talks with the Greek government over the weekend, an EU source said.

Greece took a 110 billion euros ($158 billion) rescue package from the EU and IMF last May but has since fallen short of its deficit reduction commitments, raising the risk of a default on its 327 billion euro debt — equivalent to 150 percent of its economic output.

The tax cuts sought by conservative New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras could aggravate the revenue shortfall, but he argues they are essential to revive economic growth.

EU officials said a new 65 billion euro package could involve a mixture of collateralized loans from the EU and IMF, and additional revenue measures, with unprecedented intrusive external supervision of Greece’s privatisation program. “It would require collateral for new loans and EU technical assistance — EU involvement in the privatisation process,” one senior EU official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Extra funding for Greece faces fierce political resistance from fiscal conservatives and nationalists in key north European creditor countries — Germany, the Netherlands and Finland — complicating EU governments’ task.

Greek daily Kathimerini said finance ministers of the 17-nation single currency area may hold a special meeting next Monday on a new package. European Commission spokesman Amadeu Altafaj dismissed the report as “unfounded rumours, once again.”

The next scheduled meeting of euro zone finance ministers is on June 20 in Luxembourg, having been pushed back a week from its original date. It will be followed three days later by a summit of EU leaders to assess the 18-month-long debt crisis.

MARKETS RATTLED

Mass unemployment and wage and benefit cuts due to the EU/IMF austerity plan have triggered spontaneous youth protests in Greece as well as a series of one-day strikes by powerful trade unions.

Weekend comments by an Irish minister that Dublin too may need a second rescue package may also fuel opposition to further bailouts among lawmakers in Berlin, the Hague and Helsinki.

Transport Minister Leo Varadkar told The Sunday Times newspaper that Ireland was unlikely to be able to return to capital markets next year as foreseen in its EU/IMF program.

“It would mean a second program (of emergency loans),” he was quoted as saying.

Irish central bank governor Patrick Honohan acknowledged at a news conference on Monday that debt market conditions were worse now than when Ireland took an 85 billion euro bailout last November but said they would improve.

Uncertainty over whether Greece will receive the next 12 billion euro aid tranche required to meet 13.4 billion euros in funding needs in July continued to rattle financial markets.

The Greek 10-year bond spread over safe haven German Bunds rose by 20 basis points to 1,387. Two-year yields were up 58 bps to 26.23 percent.

The European Central Bank maintained a drumbeat of pressure against any attempt by EU politicians to restructure Greece’s debt mountain, even by asking investors to accept a voluntary extension of bond maturities.

ECB board member Lorenzo Bini Smaghi said in an interview published on Monday the idea that debt restructuring could be carried out in an orderly way was a “fairytale,” saying it was the equivalent of the death penalty.

“If you look at financial markets, every time there is mention of a word like ‘restructuring’ or ‘soft restructuring’ they go crazy — which proves that this could not happen in an orderly way, in this environment at least,” Bini Smaghi told the Financial Times.

He also warned against a debt ‘reprofiling’, or voluntary extension of Greek bond maturities, saying it would be hard to get investors to agree to such a deal without the use of force.

Euro zone governments are actively studying options for changing the maturities on Greek debt, officials say, although German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble acknowledged in an interview last week that it was very high risk.

“The Eurogroup is doing research for reprofiling — what can you do on reprofiling? Is it possible without a credit event?” Dutch Finance Minister Jan Kees De Jager told reporters on Saturday in Cyprus. “It’s an investigation, and we have to wait for the outcome of it.

EU officials contend that Greece could do much more to help itself by selling off a treasure trove of state assets.

ECB executive board member Juergen Stark told Welt am Sonntag newspaper that Athens could raise as much as 300 billion euros from privatising state property.

Greece currently aims to raise 50 billion euros from privatisations by 2015 to help stave off a fiscal meltdown, but the country lacks a proper land registry and ownership of many potentially lucrative assets is legally uncertain.

Athens is setting up a sovereign wealth fund to pool real estate assets and state stakes in companies such as telecom company OTE, Post Savings Bank and ports.

Top EU officials have asked Greece to step up privatisations urgently and suggested creating a trustee institution to help the process similar to the body that privatised East German firms after the fall of communism.

(Additional reporting by Angeliki Koutantou and Ingrid Melander in Athens, Marius Zaharia in London, Luke Baker in Brussels; writing by Paul Taylor, editing by Mike Peacock)

Copyright 2011 Thomson Reuters. Click for Restrictions.

Read more: EU Greece, Greece Debt, Bailout, Greece, Greek Deficit, Greek Crisis, Second Bailout, European Union, Eu, Euro Package, Business News

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Danger underfoot in Myanmar war zones

May 30, 2011 by  
Filed under Health News

The last thing Tee Pa Doh remembers before losing his foot is a bright flash. With his leg mangled and bleeding, he knew his best hope was a long journey through the jungle to the Thai border.
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Video Game Design

May 30, 2011 by  
Filed under Humor

I'm not a gamer. I'm not even a casual game player. But the other day I decided to try a game called Angry Birds just to see why it's so popular. I wasn't expecting to like it. I was wrong. The game is instantly addictive. But why? Or more generally, what makes one game a hit and another a dud?

My hypothesis is that we humans have a dozen or so natural impulses that evolution has provided. When we exercise any of those impulses, we feel most alive. For example, a first person shooter game primarily appeals to males, probably because it taps into a man's most primitive urge to eliminate other males as reproductive competition. And more generally, we males have a natural impulse to fight. A well-designed shooter game allows males to spend hours per day unleashing the urges that are socially inappropriate.

You can see in almost any successful game the elements needed for hunting, gathering, self-defense or reproduction. Puzzles probably use the part of our brain designed to figure out where the food is. Lots of games require us to gather up resources. And any game that requires you to quickly spot abnormality is the same skill you need to identify healthy mates. I would argue that Tetris and Mahjong are good examples of games where you have to quickly spot abnormality. And it is no surprise that both games have attracted female gamers.

Angry birds is brilliant because it touches several of our most basic impulses. The player flings birds from a slingshot and tries to destroy various structures and kill the pigs within. It's a basic hunting metaphor, and pigs are a symbol for food in Western cultures. That part is obvious. The less obvious part of the addiction is the joy of destroying structures that are man-made. I believe this taps into our basic need to tear down the accomplishments of others in order to feel better about ourselves. It's Shadenfreude – the satisfaction or pleasure we get from the misfortune of others.  Someone unknown built those structures, and presumably they would be unhappy to know you knocked them down. The game would be far less satisfying if you were destroying trees or other natural creations.

I first noticed this natural impulse for destruction when I was working my corporate job.  In those days, Dilbert was nothing but a nameless doodle on the whiteboard in my cubicle. I noticed that male visitors would "accidentally" destroy my drawings at a rate far higher than chance would suggest. Usually this took the form of needing to use a different part of the whiteboard and accidentally encroaching into the drawing, or absent-mindedly erasing too vigorously and whacking part of it. The first dozen times it happened I thought it was coincidence. Eventually I came to see it as an urge that couldn't be contained. There seemed to be a need to destroy what I had created.

All of this makes me wonder if I could come up with a hit video game idea by starting with basic human urges and designing up from there. The idea that immediately jumps to mind is a game that allows you to kill the rich and destroy all of their belongings.  Let's say that in this game's imaginary world, human-like aliens have occupied Earth and become our overlords, residing in huge mansions, mating with Earth's most attractive women, and generally living like Donald Trump. You're part of the resistance, armed only with the blaster guns you captured from the aliens. Your mission is to destroy the handsome and powerful aliens that have acquired vast fortunes here on Earth. The main story line would sound noble – saving humanity from aliens – while the addictive element is the feeling of satisfaction you get by destroying the yachts, sports cars, and mansions of the rich alien overlords. Obviously this game would appeal to males more than to women.

For female gamers, I suggest some sort of game that appeals directly to a woman's innate ability to notice imperfection. I assume women have evolved the flaw-finding skill to quickly identify healthy potential mates. Imagine a game that displays a crowd of men on screen, animated, and all milling about. The player has to quickly identify the only handsome man in a crowd of homely men.  In each round, the handsome man and the rest of the crowd are dressed differently and found in different exotic locations. When the player finds the handsomest guy, he offers a small gift and a compliment as reward. To make things as stalker-creepy as possible, the player can customize the handsome man with her own choice of hair, complexion, size, and other features. And if you want to add a layer of primal urge, the handsomest man could have some delicious food with him in his computer bag and present it to the game player as a prize for completing each level.

What other natural urges do we have that have not been exploited by game companies?
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Renters By Choice

May 30, 2011 by  
Filed under Mortgage Mess


When we sold our house in 2005 and moved into a rental, we were asked by concerned friends, “Are you doing OK?” Obviously you wouldn’t be in a rental unless you were in financial straits. In 2006 when we launched Doom, I couldn’t convince reporters that I wasn’t either “bitter” or “priced out of the market”. [I never could figure the latter out.  Lenders were passing out loans to anyone who could fog a mirror.  How could anyone be priced…

Read this item at Housing Doom…


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America needs gun control … for bureaucrats

May 30, 2011 by  
Filed under Humor

by Garry Reed 

The state Egg Inspector confronts the supermarket Produce Manager.

“I’ve just tested your refrigerated egg display.  The temperature is 44.5 degrees Fahrenheit.  You are in violation of article 7-11-01-03 of the North Dakota Egg Code, which requires a chill temperature of 45 degrees Fahrenheit.  That means your egg display is a crime scene.  I’ll have to cordon off your cold case.  Then I’m calling in the Feds.”

“What?” the Produce Manager whimpers.  “You’re making a federal case out of my cold case?”

“I have no choice.  You buy eggs from a tri-state area.  That’s interstate commerce.  This cold case is a case for … (dramatic music crescendo) … Inspectorcrat Eggbert Eggleheart!”

“Oh no!”

“Oh yes.  He’s a hard boiled Federal Egg Inspector.  He carries an Egg Inspector, Candler, and Grader license.  It is illegal to forcibly interfere with a Federal Egg Inspector.  Killing a Federal Egg Inspector will get you the death penalty.  He’s also exempt from federal gun laws.  He packs a Walther EGG.”

“You mean he’s … he’s …”

“Yes.  Agent Double-Grade A, License to Chill.”

Unfortunately, this is not entirely an exercise in satire.  This is the real drill: Alan Korwin, author of Gun Laws of America, noted on his website last June that “22% of federal gun laws now authorize arming staff.”  Scroll down the screen a bit and he further observes, “Some of the more unusual federal ‘police’ forces are the egg inspector police, the print shop police, the EPA police, and one of the newest, the Federal Reserve Board police.”  All of these absolutely beneficent bureaucracies have been endowed with “broad powers to keep and bear arms in cases where the public is banned from keeping arms.”

(Incidentally, it’s US Code Title 21 Section 1041 that makes it illegal to forcibly interfere with a federal egg inspector, and extending the death penalty to anyone murdering such a valuable government asset apparently became the law way back in 1991.)

“Wormly, you see that truckload of paper?  That’s the new budget we just printed here at the Congressional Print Shop.  You need to ride shotgun when they take it over to the Bureau of Budget Control.”

“Ride shotgun?  Why?”

“To protect it from a terrorist attack, of course.”

“But why would terrorists want to destroy the budget?”

“Who cares why?  Homeland Security awarded us 2.1 million taxbucks for anti-terrorism operations.  We bought a .38 police special and a bullet for you and we spent the rest redecorating the Directorcrat’s office suite.”

“I’ll do my duty, sir.  Congress won’t be able to act without a budget.”

“Are you kidding?  Nobody knows where all the money goes anyway.  If they don’t have a budget, those congresscrats will just borrow deeper into the future and spend deeper into the night, that’s all.”

Across town, Grimley Styffnek stares intently at his own reflection in the bathroom mirror.  “I will dedicate myself to my calling,” he murmurs quietly.  “I will exercise my obligations as a mindless bureaucratic tin soldier of the establishment civil service.  I will set the standard for all Federal Reserve Board police officers to come.  I don’t know exactly what the Federal Reserve Board is except that Wikipedia says it has something to do with our fiat money.  I must protect our fiat money at all costs.  I must protect the Chairman of the Federal Reserve Board at all costs.  I must protect him from Marxists and Maoists and Socialists and Third Worlders and especially those wild-eyed Anarcho-Austrian free market libertarian gold bug economists.  If someone picks up a gold standard and tries to strike the Chairman with it I will throw my body in front of whoever that guy is that replaced St. Alan Greenspan.  As a dedicated and highly trained mindless bureaucratic tin soldier I must protect the Status Quo at all costs.  Whoever this Greek sounding Status Quo guy is.”

In a distant corner of Drydirt County, Oklahoma, a woman dressed in khaki steps from behind a tree and points her service revolver at a figure standing in his campsite.  “Hold it right there,” she snarls.  “I saw you scrape those scrambled eggs onto the ground.  That’s an ecological crime.”

“Well,” the man snaps, “I’m a Federal Drylands Inspector and I was just…”

The EPA officer’s weapon barks once and the Drylands Inspector drops like a rock.

“Had me worried there,” the Deputy murmurs as she holsters her piece.  “For a second I thought the sonofabitch was one of those damned protected Federal Egg Inspectors.”

 

Originally published at the Loose Cannon Libertarian March 1, 2006.

 

Garry Reed is a contributing editor for Liberty For All.  You can contact Mr. Reed at Reedcannon@aol.com.

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