Feb 27, 2010

Do you have an exciting weekend planned?

Magnatude 8.8 quake hits Chile

The Globe and Mail reports:

A devastating magnitude-8.8 earthquake struck Chile early Saturday, shattering buildings and bridges, killing at least 122 people and setting off a tsunami that threatened every nation around the Pacific Ocean — roughly a quarter of the globe.

The photo shows vehicles damaged after the collapse of an overhead portion of a road in Santiago.

Chilean President Michele Bachelet declared a “state of catastrophe” in central Chile.

“We have had a huge earthquake, with some aftershocks,” President Bachelet said from an emergency response centre. She urged Chileans not to panic.

In the 2 1/2 hours following the 90-second magnitude 8.8 earthquake, the U.S. Geological Survey reported 11 aftershocks, five of them measuring 6.0 or above.

Officials in Japan and Australia warned a tsunami from the earthquake was likely to hit Asian, Australian and New Zealand shores within 24 hours.


Huddling together helps keep you warm

Times must be really getting tough

Feb 26, 2010

Quote of the day February 25, 2010

“It's easy being Vice President — you don't have to do anything.”

- Joe Biden, just before the afternoon session of the health care summit Thursday

He is highly qualified.

Tumbling block houses in Rotterdam

The Kubuswoning Cubic Houses in Rotterdam were completed in 1984 and designed by the Dutch architect Piet Blom.

They are considered one of the top examples of abstract architecture in the world.

Each of these tilted appearing dwellings is intended by the architect to represent a single tree in a larger forest.

Each dwelling unit is laid-out identically with a living space on the bottom, a bedroom and bathroom in the middle and an extra space on top that lets in stunning light through a pyramid shaped skylight.

The interior of every unit is the same as all the others and is a reminder of Levittown, Long Island, New York. It obviously has a lot more class than Levittown. Maybe the ‘tumbling block’ community could be called Levittown on steroids.

Poll: majority say government a threat to citizens' rights

A CNN national poll found that a majority of Americans think the federal government poses a threat to the rights of American citizens.

Fifty-six percent of people questioned in a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey released Friday say they think the federal government's become so large and powerful that it poses an immediate threat to the rights and freedoms of ordinary citizens. Forty-four percent of those polled disagree.

The study also finds that Americans overwhelmingly think that the U.S. government is broken. It is interesting to note that the public overwhelmingly holds out hope that what's broken can be fixed.

The group of Americans holding out hope the government can be fixed will undoubtedly turn out in record numbers during the November elections.


Hamburger Helper not needed for this cycle

This unique three-wheeler was created by burger collector Harry Sperl.

It’s called “Hamburger Harley” and is outlandish enough to turn heads in SoHo or Venice Beach and most anywhere in between.

Besides this one-of-a-kind creation the owner has more than 1,000 pieces of hamburger paraphernalia in his collection.

The fork is made to look like catsup bottles. Hamburgers, fries and cokes rest on a tray just above the headlight.

Fuzzy math from the Congressional Budget Office

An article at the link below claims the CBO jobs report was pre-ordained to show the stimulus succeeded.

The article says that the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has produced a new report estimating that the $862 billion stimulus has thus far saved or created 1.5 million jobs.

However the CBO’s calculations are not based on actually observing the economy’s recent performance. Rather, they used an economic model that was programmed to assume that stimulus spending automatically creates jobs — thus guaranteeing their result.

This study, designed to ‘prove’ a pre-determined outcome, is a reminder of an old adage I found to be true during my years as an auditor -- “figures don’t lie but liars figure.”


How the Brits viewed our healthcare summit

The British press warned of boredom at the healthcare summit.

A London Times headline read: Try to stay awake: the President has a healthcare Bill to pass.

From the Times report:

Warning: watching American politicians argue about healthcare can be seriously damaging to your health. Symptoms may include migraines, extreme fatigue and sudden violent urges. In the event of exposure to competing statistics — regarding "donut holes", "HMO deductibles", "reconciliation devices" or suchlike — seek immediate medical help.

Link here for more of the Times report of the healthcare summit.

Feb 25, 2010

How boring was it?

Power Line report: early comments looked good for Republicans

A report on Power Line (see link below) gave some quotes from CNN’s Gergen, Borger and Blitzer (shown here in part).

CNN’s David Gergen:

The folks in the White House must be kicking themselves right now.

They thought that coming out of Baltimore when the President went in and was mesmerizing and commanding in front of House Republicans that he could do that again here today. That would change public opinion about their health care bill and they can go on to victory. Just the opposite has happened.

CNN's Gloria Borger:

The Republicans have been very effective today. They really did come to play. They were very smart ... and I think did a very good job.

CNN's Wolf Blitzer:

It looks like the Republicans certainly showed up ready to play.

The Hill's A.B. Stoddard:

I think we need to start out by acknowledging Republicans brought their 'A Team.'

I thought today the Democrats were pretty much on their knees.

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Comments from the Katzenjammer Kids on MSNBC will be different. The bottom rated cable channel shows of Chris Matthews, Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow will probably say that the Democrats came in second and the Republicans came in next to last.

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The Republicans really do have a good case. They kept presenting good fresh ideas from knowledgeable people including Congressmen who are medical doctors.

The Democrats had to rely on Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi and Joe Biden who, as Power Line says, were “not fresh, attractive, or especially bright.”

Link here for the full Power Line report.

Snowstorms are hard on everyone

Mission impossible?

Government medicine horrors in England

As the healthcare debate continues in Washington, it’s time to look at just a few of the horrors found under government healthcare in England as reported in the London Daily Mail (first link below) and the London Times (second link below).

These reports from England show that patients are routinely neglected at a National Health Service hospital where hundreds died in squalor.

As John Hinderaker of Power Line so simply and aptly put it (see third link below):

Attitudes under socialism generally leave a lot to be desired.

The report, which follows reviews by the Care Quality Commission and the Department of Health, said that unimaginable suffering had been caused.

Unimaginable suffering--that pretty much sums up government-controlled medicine.

That's our future, though, if the Democrats get their way. They care only about their own power, not about the quality of your medical care.

All government workers and members of labor unions will be exempt from the national healthcare proposed by the Democrats.

Everyone else, except the very rich who can pay for healthcare out of their own pockets, will be subject to government run healthcare (socialized medicine).

We will surely see these horrors here in American after a few years under ObamaCare.

Socialized medicine didn’t take long to evolve into the horrific state that the average Britain faces today.

Link here, here and here.

Duesseldorf carnival clown

This clown was part of the traditional carnival parade in Duesseldorf, western Germany. The street spectacles at the carnival centers of Duesseldorf, Mainz and Cologne, watched by hundreds of thousands of people, are the highlights in Germany's carnival season on Rose Monday.

Newfoundland Premier came to US for heart surgery

Danny Williams (pictured), the Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador left Canadian socialized medicine behind to have heart surgery in the United States.

Mr. Williams' decision to leave Canada for the surgery has raised eyebrows over his apparent shunning of Canada's health-care system.

An unapologetic Danny Williams says he was aware his trip to the United States for heart surgery earlier this month would spark outcry, but he concluded his personal health trumped any public fallout over the controversial decision.

In defense of forsaking Canada’s socialized medicine, Williams said it was, “my heart, my choice and my health.”

Many wealthy Canadians shun socialized medicine in Canada for medical procedures in the United States.

Premier Williams chose Mount Sinai Medical Center in Miami.


The only GOP ObamaCare backer losing campaign contributions

From a report at the link below:

The only Republican lawmaker to back ObamaCare has seen his fundraising drop by nearly 40 percent since his vote, and he is quickly burning through a dwindling bank account after resorting to a costly national fundraising operation.

Rep. Anh "Joseph" Cao (upper photo), the unlikely congressman from New Orleans, is facing the perils of bipartisanship unlike any other lawmaker in Washington — trying to please a heavily Democratic constituency while relying on core conservatives for money to fuel his campaign.

Probably the only reason Cao was elected in New Orleans, a Democrat stronghold, is because he was elected to replace corrupt William Jefferson (lower photo) who was found guilty on 11 of 16 corruption charges in August of 2009.

Cao may have been elected on the “rebound” after the William Jefferson trial was still fresh in the minds New Orleans voters. It is expected that Cao will have a very difficult time with his re-election bid. A vote against ObamaCare would spell doom for his chances at re-election.

The report says that Republican leaders in Congress have continued supporting Cao with money from their campaign committees despite his health care position. However, the conservative donors he's courting around the country may not be so forgiving and his campaign cash is dwindling.


Feb 24, 2010

Giant ants invade the outside of a building in Bogota

Sculptures of large ants by Colombian artist Rafael Gomezbarros “climb” the side of a building in Bogota, Columbia.

Gomezbarrios said his ant sculptures symbolize the people displaced by armed conflict in Colombia.

Former GM CEO hired back for $3,000 hour!

From an article on CNN Money.com:

After resigning as president and CEO of General Motors in December, Fritz Henderson (upper photo) might have gone into hiding or decided to sit out the harsh Michigan winter on a Florida beach.

Instead, here he is popping up again, this time as a consultant to GM on international operations at the very fancy fee of $59,090 a month for 20 hours of work a month. That works out to almost $3,000 an hour for a CEO who was ousted after just eight months on the job.

With Henderson back, even if it is a part-time (20 hours a month) engagement, GM is probably better off making use of his talents.

The report even suggests that GM could also make use of the talents of Rick Wagoner (lower photo) who is another GM ex-CEO. Once fired by one of Obama’s czar’s, the article says:

Perhaps somebody at GM will think up something that will make use of Wagoner's executive talents -- like figuring out a way for the automaker to take advantage of Toyota's recent troubles.


Toyota president apologizes for growing too big too fast

Toyota's president says the company compromised quality by growing too quickly in the United States.

Toyota President Akio Toyoda will appear before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on Wednesday.

Toyota's president will tell Congress that the automaker grew too quickly in recent years, at times pursuing sales volume over safety and quality.

In a prepared statement he said the company plans to establish a quality center in the U.S. and hire an executive focused on product safety.

Too little, too late? Is Toyota finally planning to lock the barn after all the horses ran off?


City says her $1,600 water bill is correct

A woman in Minneapolis, Minnesota usually has a water bill of $70 to $80 per month.

Erica Kocur said her last bill was for $1,600. The city believes the bill is accurate even though it's 20 times the woman's usual bill.

The city said she must have a running toilet or dripping faucet.

But KSTP-TV said the bill is charging for almost 200,000 gallons of water. That's three times the volume of her entire home.

A shower would have to run nonstop for almost two months to use that much water.

Dripping faucet indeed!


Magic Marker and Band-Aid robber disguises

This zits-faced man robbed a video store with a bandage over his nose. Does he have an injury or does he have a lot to learn about disguises?

This pair robbed apartments but were soon apprehended. Their Magic Marker disguises don’t look very magic.

Proof that intelligence is not a prerequisite for becoming a criminal.

Fred Flintstone solves Toyota accelerator problem


Feb 23, 2010

Dutch hackers clone Elvis ePassport

The United States, Canada, the European Union and other developed countries have been introducing electronically reinforced passports in which a radio-frequency ID (RFID) chip is implanted in the ePassport's cover.

The chip duplicates much of the information printed in the passport such as photo, name, address, place of birth and a fingerprint. Scanners read the chip when the traveler crosses a border.

Sound secure and safe?

Think again.

A group of Dutch hackers has shown the vulnerability of the new "ePassports" by making, and then using, one for Elvis Presley.

Even worse, they tell you exactly how to do it.

Hackers and computer-security experts have repeatedly shown that the passport RFID chips are easy to read and "clone," even through a wire mesh the U.S. added to ePassports a couple of years ago.

Now the Dutch group's taken it a step further by not just cloning, but creating an entirely new fake ePassport for a very famous dead man.

More here.

350 people sick aboard Celebrity Mercury cruise ship in Caribbean

Celebrity Cruise spokeswoman Cynthia Martinez said Tuesday that 326 of the more than 1,800 passengers on the Celebrity Mercury (pictured) began complaining Sunday of upset stomachs, vomiting and diarrhea. Martinez also said 27 of the nearly 850 crew members also reported symptoms.

The ship left Charleston, South Carolina on February 15.

The crew is conducting "enhanced cleaning" to prevent the spread of the illness.

An extra doctor and two nurses came aboard in St. Kitts in the British Virgin Islands and will sail to Charleston, arriving Friday.


Furry entry at Winter London Fashion Week

A model walks the catwalk during the Autumn/Winter London Fashion Week catwalk show last week.

Climate scientists backtrack on sea level claims

A report at the link below says climate scientists have withdrawn journal claims of rising sea levels.

A study claimed in 2009 that sea levels would rise by up to 82cm (32 inches) by the end of century – but the report's author now says true estimate is still unknown.

Scientists have been forced to withdraw a study on projected sea level rise due to global warming after finding mistakes that undermined the findings.

More here.

Feb 22, 2010

Iced bike

Ice covers a bicycle near Stockholm, Sweden. And right in the middle of global warming at that!

Tiger Woods caddy will silence hecklers

Tiger Woods' caddie Steve Williams said he won't tolerate any heckling from the public galleries when Tiger Woods returns to golf.

The photo shows Williams protecting a sobbing Woods. When Woods gets back on the golf circuit, he may have a lot more to cry about as he faces many highly critical fans.

New Zealander Williams, 46, who has been carrying Woods' golf bag in tournaments since 1999, has a gruff reputation for not tolerating heckling or loutish behavior in the public galleries when Woods is in action.

Golf tournament galleries will probably not treat Woods with wholesale rudeness as golf galleries are usually very well behaved. However, there will certainly be a lot of jeering when Tiger returns to the pro golf tour.

It may be more jeering than caddie Williams will be able to control.


Report: Toyota boasted of saving millions on recall

An Associated Press report says documents show that Toyota officials claimed they saved the company $100 million by successfully negotiating with the government on a limited recall of floor mats in some Toyota and Lexus vehicles.

Toyota, in an internal presentation in July 2009 at its Washington office, said it saved $100 million or more by negotiating an "equipment recall" of floor mats involving 55,000 Toyota Camry and Lexus ES350 vehicles in September 2007.

The savings are listed under the title, "Wins for Toyota — Safety Group." The document cites millions of dollars in other savings by delaying safety regulations, avoiding defect investigations and slowing down other industry requirements.

The world's largest automaker has been criticized for putting profits before safety by responding too slowly to complaints of sudden acceleration in its vehicles.

More here.

Is coconut water the latest health craze?

As proof that coconut water may become the latest health drink craze, Coca Cola Inc. and PepsiCo recently entered the market.

In September, Coca Cola Inc. bought a minority stake in the Hermosa Beach, California based coconut water company Zico (pronounced “Zee Koh”).

In August, PepsiCo bought Amacoco, the largest coconut water company in Brazil.

Coconut water looks like a lightly cloudy liquid with a slightly sweet and nutty taste.

It has been purported to be an anti-aging tonic. There have been many other claims as to the benefits of coconut water including the relief of constipation, lower blood pressure, and relief of vision problems, bladder and kidney disorders.

Isn’t that what labels said on elixers hawked by “snake oil” salesmen one hundred years ago?

The article at the link below claims the benefits have proven to be so effective that the Food and Drug Administration has allowed coconut water to carry the statement that it may “reduce the risk of high blood pressure and stroke”.

The original market for coconut water was to people with lost electrolytes due to vigorous exercise such as football players, construction workers, etc.

If that’s all you want coconut water for, it will be a lot cheaper to buy a ‘sports drink’ such as Gatorade.

The cost of a 12 pack of Zico’s coconut water costs $24 compared to a 12 pack of Gatorade at less than half that amount.

As for the other claims such as relief of constipation, high blood pressure, vision problems, bladder and kidney disorders, we are like the doubting kid in that old TV commercial: we’re ‘skeptible.’


Feb 21, 2010

Tiger Woods apologizes. Was it enough?

Golf giant Tiger Woods appeared as a sorry little man reading a 13-minute note saying he was sorry.

He finally showed his face to a waiting world Friday and apologized again for cheating on his wife, without revealing the scope of his infidelity or when he will return to golf.

He offered no new details of what happened or what's next, except that he was leaving Saturday for more therapy.

Woods' wife, Elin, did not attend his first public appearance since he crashed his car into a tree outside their home three months ago, setting off shocking allegations of rampant extramarital affairs.

He entered the room alone. When he finished, he stopped for a long embrace with his mother, Kultida, who said she whispered in his ear, "I'm so proud of you. Never think you stand alone. Mom will always be there for you, and I love you."

Regaining trust and support from everyone else might not be so easy.

Woods already has lost two corporate endorsements — Accenture and AT&T — and he has gone from being perhaps the most famous athlete in the world to a punch line in night clubs and on talk shows.

Much more here.

Owner destroys home to avoid foreclosure

Terry Hoskins home in Moscow, Ohio was scheduled for Foreclosure so, to prevent the bank from taking it, the man bulldozed the property.

The frustrated owner said his actions were intended to send a message to banks.

The problems began more than a decade ago, when IRS tax liens on business properties, were filed on his home.

Hoskins never missed a mortgage payment, and he was never late on a payment on his home.

As the foreclosure proceedings were getting to the final stages, that's when he bulldozed the building down.

After spending millions on attorneys Hoskins said he just had enough and two weeks ago bulldozed the home, 25 miles southeast of Cincinnati.

When asked if he would level his store, Hoskins said he would do "what it takes."

Messages were left for the bank and its attorney, and with the southern Ohio office of the IRS.


Unique upside-down house in Poland

This uʍop-ǝpısdn house was created by Polish businessman and philanthropist, Daniel Czapiewski.

This unique house is located in the tiny village of Szymbark, Poland. It was built to be a tourist attraction and was also meant to be a statement about the overturn of Communism.

Mr. Czapiewski’s company usually takes three weeks to construct a house, but this one took 114 days. The workers could only work in the house for a couple of hours at a time because they became disoriented by the strange angles of the walls.

Many tourists who visit complain of mild seasickness and dizziness after just a few minutes of being in the structure.

Diabetes drug Avandia linked to heart attacks

The diabetes drug Avandia is linked with tens of thousands of heart attacks, and drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline knew of the risks for years but worked to keep them from the public, according to a Senate committee report released Saturday.

The report said the federal agency that regulates food, tobacco and medications overlooked or overrode safety concerns found by its staff.

More here.