Crime Skyrockets in Oslo

There are four times more crime in the capital of Norway than in New York, with a 20% increase in robberies over the last year alone. The Oslo police are blaming the increase on an influx of East Europeans.

Posted March 9th, 2008 Filed in International, Legal System

Brazilian Sub Fleet to Go Nuclear

Brazil has nuclear reactors. They can turn out nuclear fuel using existing enrichment facilities. They even have a "fleet" of five submarines. What they don’t have is a nuclear powered sub. But, thanks to France, all that may be about to change.

Why does Brazil want a nuclear sub anyway? Perhaps to protect them from the pirates of Costa Rica? Or to stave off invasion from Hugo Chávez of Venezuela?

Whatever the reason, it must be pretty good. They’ve been at it since 1979 and just last year Brazilian President Lula announced $540 million in new funding for the program (and for improving existing uranium enrichment efforts).

Over half a billion dollars! Just to go chasing a nuke dream. I’m glad they don’t need that money for anything important, like cleaning up the vast "favelas" (shanty towns) that sprawl next to every major Brazilian city. [Some 3 million people live in the Rio de Janeiro slums alone, a city where murder claimed an average of 80 victims a week last year.]

Maybe a sub that can go under the ice cap will intimidate the drug lords that rule the favelas with impunity. Maybe it will inspire the police force to put a stop to rampant corruption.

And what do the French get out of it (besides a rumored $600 million for the sub, not to mention more money for any follow-up technology transfer deals)?

[Defense Ministry spokesman Jose] Ramos said Brazil wants to establish a strategic partnership with France to transfer technology. France is interested in Brazilian know-how on jungle warfare and "the use of electronic equipment in the humidity of tropical rain forests," he said.

Yeah, that "jungle warfare" will no doubt come in handy when the next time France needs to quell riots that are spreading across the country.

Posted January 28th, 2008 Filed in International

The Truth About Benazir Bhutto

Finally, a journalist that doesn’t do the usual PC mouthings about an assassinated foreign leader:

We need have no sympathy with her Islamist assassin and the extremists behind him to recognize that Bhutto was corrupt, divisive, dishonest and utterly devoid of genuine concern for her country.

She was a splendid con, persuading otherwise cynical Western politicians and "hardheaded" journalists that she was not only a brave woman crusading in the Islamic wilderness, but also a thoroughbred democrat.

In fact, Bhutto was a frivolously wealthy feudal landlord amid bleak poverty. The scion of a thieving political dynasty, she was always more concerned with power than with the wellbeing of the average Pakistani. Her program remained one of old-school patronage, not increased productivity or social decency.

Posted December 28th, 2007 Filed in International

Listen to the "Global Majority"?

Whoa, here’s a poll to make you think:

Almost two-thirds of the world’s people say there must be urgent action to tackle global warming, a poll for the BBC World Service showed on Tuesday.

Then again, two-thirds of the world’s people are illiterate, live in huts and cook over dung fires. Listen to them on matters of global policy? I don’t think so. *

*Before I get flamed, this was literary exaggeration to make a point. In actuality, a report was recently released that claimed that for the first time in history half the world population is urban. But just because they live in the "big city", it doesn’t mean that they aren’t ignorant savages. [Heh]

Posted September 25th, 2007 Filed in Environment, Global Warming, International

Moderation, even in Mushrooms

Like much of Europe that is under attack by hordes of immigrant Muslims, the Netherlands is tilting to the Right. As a result, the home of the marijuana “coffee shops” is looking to officially ban magic mushrooms, which up until now could be obtained legally in “smartshops”.

The source of public focus is the death of a 17-year-old French girl with a history of psychiatric problem who jumped from a building last March. Since then:

  • A 22-year-old British tourist ran amok in a hotel, breaking his window and slicing his hand.
  • A 19-year-old Icelandic tourist thought he was being chased and jumped from a balcony, breaking both his legs.
  • A 29-year-old Danish tourist drove his car wildly through a campground, narrowly missing people sleeping in their tents.

It sounds to me as if the Dutch should ban tourists. Or, at least, screen them for mental disorders.

In a country with a population almost equal to that of Florida’s (the fourth most populous state), one would think that there would be more incidences of deaths from drunk driving, bar fights and alcohol poisoning that there are of shroom-induced psychosis. But you don’t hear anyone advocating prohibition.

Last March, the UK Academy of Medical Sciences conducted a study in which drugs were ranked according to potential harm in nine different categories.

Drugs Ranked By Danger

You will note that alcohol is ranked fifth, well ahead of cannabis and even LSD. Spokesperson Professor Nutt cited the statistic that one person a week dies in the UK from alcohol poisoning.

Basically, it all comes down to personal restraint. Drink in moderation, and you probably won’t choke on your own vomit. Don’t eat mushrooms when you are near psychotic and you probably won’t talk a walk on air while 30 feet up.

Does the world really need more drug laws?

Posted August 7th, 2007 Filed in International, War on Drugs

Japanese Quake — Been There, Done That

Collapsed Roadway Japan Quake July 2007

A quake registering 6.8 in magnitude rocked Japan’s largest island (Honshu), killing at least six people, injuring over 700, leaving thousands homeless, causing a fire at the world’s largest nuclear power plant and causing millions of dollars in damage. Hardest hit was the city of Kashiwazaki.

The epicenter was just off the coast, about ten miles below the earth’s surface.

In May of 1968 a quake registering 7.9 struck just off the coast of the northern island of Hokkaido, leaving 52 dead. I was in band class about 200 kilometers away in Misawa when the platforms our chairs were sitting on began walking across the room and light fixtures began falling. We evacuated to the parking lot and I will never forget the sight of the asphalt rolling like small ocean waves, the cars gently bobbing up and down, the cracks forming in the hard surface. Stupidly, I straddled one crack as it formed and widened between my feet.

Some people never get over such an experience. Indeed, as aftershocks struck in the days following we would watch as people panicked and ran outside. Some were afraid to go back inside at all.

I, of course,  thought I was totally indestructible (being a young teen), and thought that it was all great fun.

Posted July 16th, 2007 Filed in International

Country Freedom Ratings

The Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom has released the early results of their upcoming Religious Freedom in the World 2007. Some highlights:

  • The greatest persecutors of religion are Islamist and communist regimes.
  • Regimes that respect religious freedom also have more civil liberties, more prosperity, better health for their people, and less militarized societies.
  • All of the most religiously free countries are democracies.
  • Religiously free societies encourage private initiative and entrepreneurship.
  • Almost all of the most religiously free countries are culturally Christian in background.

Marshall also pointed out that some tyrannies, and their apologists in the West, prioritize “economic rights” and supposed “Asian” and “Islamic” values over religious freedom for individuals.   But non-Western and historically poor countries such as Mongolia, Thailand, Mali and Senegal have achieved relative religious freedom, without sacrificing their culture or their religion.  “It is a moral travesty of the highest order to maintain that because people are hungry or cold it is legitimate to repress their beliefs as well,” Marshall riposted.

So who did the best? The top “free countries” were:

Country Religious
Rights (PR)
Liberties (CL)
Estonia 1 1 1
Hungary 1 1 1
Ireland 1 1 1
United States 1 1 1

And the most repressive places on Earth:

Country Religious
Rights (PR)
Liberties (CL)
Belarus 6 7 6
China 6 7 6
Iran 7 6 6
Iraq 7 6 6
Libya 5 7 7
Cuba 6 7 7
Eritrea 7 7 6
Saudi Arabia 7 7 6
Burma 7 7 7
China-Tibet 7 7 7
North Korea 7 7 7
Sudan 7 7 7
Turkmenistan 7 7 7
Uzbekistan 7 7 7

A Matter of Perspective

Scott Adams thinks that the Taiwan government is pretty cool because “Jerry Springer-like fights” regularly break out in the legislature. Where most civilized people would look down their nose at this kind of behavior from our elected servants, Adams sees real potential:

Apparently this sort of thing happens all the time in Taiwan. A legislator objects to a parliamentary procedure and the next thing you know, the Minister of Shellfish is bitch-slapping him. A moment later, the air is filled with shoes, lunchboxes, and microphones. Can you imagine CSPAN’s ratings if we followed that model in America? I don’t think you’d be able to pry yourself away from the TV long enough to take a dump. You’d just sit there all day long with an adult diaper waiting for someone to sucker punch Teddy Kennedy.

I just can’t get that picture out of my head. And he’s right — I’d pay for CSPAN to see that kind of stuff!

Adams has a thought on a withdrawal plan from Iraq. Funny stuff.

Posted May 16th, 2007 Filed in Humor, International

Odds ‘n Ends

One of every seven Brazilian legislators are being investigated on charges ranging from corruption, embezzlement and bodily harm to manslaughter — and that’s only taking the federal courts into account.

Claudio Abramo, of the non-governmental organization Transparencia Brazil, said the numbers also were a worrying indication of corruption at local and regional levels of government.

Gee, ya think?

Villagers are puzzled by the Chinese government’s decision to paint a mountain green. Theories range from improving the area’s feng shui to the government wishing to appear more “green” — the barren mountain used to be a rock quarry.

Another Hollywood myth explodes: the recent discovery of an ancient coin reveals that Cleopatra wasn’t all that good looking.

Hey ladies, we just can’t help it:

When a man fails to help out around the house, his poor performance might be related to a subconscious tendency to resist doing anything his wife wants, a new study suggests.

We’ve known for a while that our desks and computer keyboards are little germ factories. But now we find that women’s work spaces have four times the bacteria than their male counterparts. My childhood best friend was right — women are gross!

Microsoft released the first security fix for Vista on patch Tuesday. This one is especially ironic for the OS billed as the “most secure ever”: the hole allows someone to take complete control of your computer.

Lula Wins, Markets Hold Steady

Incumbent Brazilian president Luiz Inacio Lula da Lula da SilvaSilva has easily won a second term.

With 99 percent of the votes counted, Lula had 61 percent leaving his opponent, Geraldo Alckmin, only 39 percent.

While a Lula victory was expected, the margin of victory comes as a surprise; Lula’s administration has been marred by a series of scandals, forcing him to fire his chief of staff and his minister of finance, as well as the president, treasurer and secretary general of the Worker Party, which Lula founded in 1980 and has led ever since.

Alckmin, nicknamed “chuchu” after a flavorless green vegetable because of his boring speaking style, received even fewer votes in the general election than he did in the primary.

Brazilian law makes it mandatory for everyone to vote, making it easy to buy votes.

In a victory address, the burly, bearded Lula promised to take care of the poor people whose support helped carry him to re-election. He said he would govern Brazil for everyone but “The poor will have preference in our government.”

Lula has drastically increased spending on social programs without raising taxes. While this has raised millions out of poverty, it has also left the country in dangerous economic condition. If Lula cannot figure out how to stabilize the situation and the economy crashes, tens of millions will end up worse than when they started.

List of Lula scandals:

  • 2004: An aide was caught on film soliciting campaign donations from numbers-game kingpins
  • 2005: An illegal multimillion-dollar slush fund used to finance Mr. da Silva’s 2002 campaign, and to pay off legislators from small political parties to support his government, was discovered.
  • 2006: The police apprehended operatives of Mr. da Silva’s party as they were about to pay $792,000 in cash for a dossier of dirt on Lula’s opponent in the presidential race, Geraldo Alckmin.

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Posted October 29th, 2006 Filed in International