Friday, October 22, 2010

2009 Five Presidents, President George W. Bush...Image by Beverly & Pack via FlickrAmerican presidents must not lose their nuclear codes...

American presidents must ensure they don't lose the nuclear codes they are entrusted with in the event of a national crisis that may necessitate the launching of a nuclear attack.

President Bill Clinton allegedly mislaid his, and Jimmy Carter sent his  to the drycleaners in his suit pocket.So president Barack Obama take note!

All modern presidents have been entrusted with a code of identification to prove their identity in the event of a national crisis that may necessitate the launching of  a nuclear. attack.
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Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Christchurch City (New Zealand) from the Port ...Image via Wikipedia Christchurch rocked by another powerful aftershock - locals nerves frayed...

Christchurch, New Zealand, rocked by another powerful aftershock - locals nerves frayed. Lastest figures in excess of 2000 now.

By Peter Petterson

First Published at Qondio:

Late this morning, New Zealand time, 11-35am or thereabouts, the South Island city of Christchurch, New Zealand's second biggest, was rocked by another aftershock of 5.0 on the Richter scale. There have now been 1900 aftershocks since the initial 7.1 earthquake rocked and ravaged the city of the plains and the surrounding area of North Canterbury, towns and rural townships.

The initial earthquake was of the same force as the one that hit Haiti some months ago, killing tens of thousands and injuring hundreds of thousands and ravaging the country. The most remarkable thing about the NZ quake was the lack of deaths caused through the actual quake and only a couple of serious injuries. A number of people have died of heart attacks which may be attributed to the earthquake.

Four hours before and after the quake and there could have been considerable loss of life downtown at bars, restaurants and cafes, and later as early shoppers hit town. Good fortune protected the New Zealand city.

During the last few weeks a lot of cleaning up around the city has been done, making slightly damaged houses liveable and safe. Inspections of schools were made, and hundreds of buildings inspected and graded according to condition - green for continued use and repair, and red for those that will have to be demolished for safety reasons.

Insurance assessors have also been busy assessing damaged houses in the city and environs. The Earthquake Commission pays up to $100,000 for each individual property with insurance companies picking up the costs above that figure.

But the 1900 aftershocks have in many cases damaged buildings and houses that were not damaged in the initial earthquake.

Some buildings that could not be repaired or strengthened have started to be demolished for public safety reasons, including one iconic building over 100 years old. 150,000 buildings and houses have been damaged to some degree, with about 200 having to be demolished, and twenty properties unfit for rebuilding.

A few hundred homes in the eastern suburbs have been without sewerage and have had limited water supplies since the EQ - chemical toilets have been placed outside every third house in some streets, and washing has had to be done down at the local mall and laundrette. Sewerage may not be replaced until 2011 in some streets.

There is no doubt tha many of the people of Christchurch and surrounding areas are becoming shell-shocked by the continuing aftershocks, which are in effect earthquakes in their own right. Comparisons are now being made with the effects of the London blitz in the early days of WW2.

I have never heard of so many aftershocks after an earthquake which may continue for months to come. A few people who were able to have left Christchurch with their families, but everybody else will not have such luxury. Life goe on for the suffering Christchurch and Canterbury people.

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University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand, Clo...Image via Wikipedia 

Schizophrenia linked to infection in pregnancy...

A new study of the brain mechanisms behind schizophrenia has found the illness could be triggered by an infection during the early stages of pregnancy.

The study, by researchers from University of Otago ’s Department of Psychology, found a one-off infection in a pregnant rat could result in long-range neural problems in her offspring.

PhD candidate and lead author Desiree Dickerson said the study, believed to be the first of its kind, was an exciting step toward understanding the brain mechanisms that underpinned schizophrenia.

“There is a considerable body of evidence suggesting that changes in neural synchronisation may underlie a range of symptoms seen in schizophrenia,” she said.

“At the same time many studies have found that infection during early-to-mid pregnancy slightly increases the overall risk of children developing this illness as adults, with recent research implicating the mother’s immune response.”

Ms Dickerson said the study helped “connect the dots” between maternal infection and the synchrony research.

“We show that a single activation of an immune response during pregnancy can lead to adult offspring showing disrupted communication between two key brain regions implicated in schizophrenia,” she said.

“Moreover, these offspring also displayed hallmark schizophrenia-like changes in their behaviour as they became adults, such as an abnormal startle response.”

Ms Dickerson said effective communication between brain regions required synchronised firing of groups of cells within the brain.

“This can be compared to a crowd performing a Mexican wave. Brain cells in individuals with schizophrenia are like people trying to produce the Mexican wave independently and with poor timing -- the wave doesn’t form cohesively and the message is distorted.”

WinchesterUntil now, there had not been a good model for investigating how and why the desynchronisation occurred, she said.

“Importantly, this study has provided a chance to examine what happens in schizophrenia at a biological level that would otherwise be inaccessible. This will ultimately lead to better understanding and treatment of this severe mental illness.”

Acknowledgements: Elaine Winchester - Atareira/Hutt Valley Mental Health

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This image shows Angela Merkel who is the Chan...Image via WikipediaAngela Merkel declares death of German multiculturalism...

 Chancellor's remarks, which claimed multiculturalism had 'failed utterly', interpreted as a shift rightwards from previous views.

Chancellor Angela Merkel says multiculturalism in Germany has 'failed utterly'. She tells a conference of the youth wing of her Christian Democratic Union party that Germans and foreign workers could not 'live happily side by side' Link to this video Chancellor Angela Merkel has declared the death of multiculturalism in Germany, saying that it had "failed utterly" , in what has been interpreted as a startling shift from her previous views. The German leader said it had been an illusion to think that Germans and foreign workers could "live happily side by side".

"We kidded ourselves for a while that they wouldn't stay, but that's not the reality," she said at a conference of the youth wing of her Christian Democratic Union party at the weekend, referring to the gastarbeiters, or guest workers, who arrived in Germany to fill a labour shortage during the economic boom of the 1960s.

"Of course the tendency had been to say, 'let's adopt the multicultural concept and live happily side by side, and be happy to be living with each other'. But this concept has failed, and failed utterly," she said, without elaborating on the nature and causes of this failure.

Merkel's verdict marks a shift in her previously liberal line on immigration which had always put her at odds with the more conservative wing of the party.

While she stressed in the same speech that immigrants were welcome in Germany and that Islam was a part of the nation's modern-day culture, her remarks positioned her closer to Horst Seehofer, the Bavarian state premier of the Christian Social Union, who last week called for an end to immigration from Turkey and Arab countries.

They also align her with Thilo Sarrazin, the former Bundesbank member whose book on how the failure of many of Germany's 16 million immigrants to integrate was contributing to Germany's decline led to his dismissal.

Sharing the same podium as Merkel in Potsdam, Seehofer also said "multiculturalism is dead" and that both the rightwing parties were committed to a "dominant German culture". If Germany did not revise its immigration policies, he said, it was in danger of becoming "the world's welfare office".

Seehofer insisted his statement was "an attempt to stop rightwing lunatics" but Jürgen Trittin, for the Greens, called the comments "shabby" and in danger of "lending social acceptability to views similar to those of rightwing extremists". There is a labour shortage in Germany. The chamber of industry and commerce has said Germany is short of 400,000 skilled workers and the gap costs €25bn a year, equivalent to 1% of growth annually.

While industrialists have called on the government to remove obstacles stopping more skilled workers entering Germany, citing lengthy bureaucratic procedures as well as unrealistic thresholds, others say that long-term unemployed German workers should be given more of a chance first. Merkel insisted in her speech that immigrant workers should not be considered "until we have done all we can to help our own people to become qualified and give them a chance".

The issue has caused tension within Merkel's year-old coalition with the pro-business Free Democrats.

Labour minister Ursula von der Leyen, a member of Merkel's party, has said it was an illusion to believe people were queueing up to enter Germany.

"For several years more people have been leaving our country than entering it," she said in an interview. "Wherever it is possible, we must lower the entry hurdles for those who bring the country forward."

Merkel faces pressure to take a tougher line on immigration, particularly on so-called "integrationsverweigerer" or those immigrants who show a lack of willingness to adapt to the majority culture, by, for example, refusing to attend German language classes.

While trying to embrace both sides of the debate, including repeatedly calling on Germans to accept that foreigners are a part of their country, Merkel cannot have ignored the popular response with which Sarrazin's book was received, nor the repeated polls in which Germans have indicated a growing intolerance towards immigrants which observers say is linked to fears about economic stability, even though the economy is showing strong signs of recovery.

Last week a study by the Friedrich Ebert foundation found more than 30% of people questioned agreed that Germany was "overrun by foreigners", while a similar number said they believed that some immigrants had only come to Germany to take advantage of its social welfare, and therefore "should be sent home when jobs are scarce".

What they said

"At the start of the 60s we invited the guest-workers to Germany. We kidded ourselves for a while that they wouldn't stay, that one day they'd go home. That isn't what happened. And of course the tendency was to say: let's be 'multikulti' and live next to each other and enjoy being together, [but] this concept has failed, failed utterly."

Angela Merkel, German chancellor

"Germany should … get tougher on those who refuse to integrate before opening itself up to further immigration."

Horst Seehofer, Bavarian state premier

"Integration is the achievement of one who has integrated … I don't have to recognise anyone who lives from the state, rejects that state, refuses to ensure his children receive an education and continues to produce little headscarfed girls."

"A large number of the Arabs and Turks living in this city (Berlin) has no productive function other than selling fruit and vegetables".

"Turks are conquering Germany in the same way as Kosovars conquered Kosovo – with a high birth rate."

KR says:  I would suggest that this is really a rightwing politician's viewpoint. Germans have always opposed immigration. I would also suggest that open door immigration is always dangerous. Britain has found this out to its dismay, though to be fair it also has a lot to do with the chickens coming home to roost from its former empire.

Acknowledgemets: Kate Connolly

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Monday, October 18, 2010

Sunday, October 17, 2010

The inscription Equal Justice Under Law as see...Image via Wikipedia
You are wired. Big Brother is tracking you...

Yasir Afifi, a 20-year-old computer salesman and community college student, took his car in for an oil change earlier this month and his mechanic spotted an odd wire hanging from the undercarriage.

The wire was attached to a strange magnetic device that puzzled Afifi and the mechanic. They freed it from the car and posted images of it online, asking for help in identifying it.

Two days later, FBI agents arrived at Afifi's Santa Clara apartment and demanded the return of their property - a global positioning system tracking device now at the centre of a raging legal debate over privacy rights.

One federal judge wrote that the widespread use of the device was straight out of George Orwell's novel, "1984".

"By holding that this kind of surveillance doesn't impair an individual's reasonable expectation of privacy, the panel hands the government the power to track the movements of every one of us, every day of our lives," wrote Alex Kozinski, the chief judge of the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals, in a blistering dissent in which a three-judge panel from his court ruled that search warrants weren't necessary for GPS tracking.

But other federal and state courts have come to the opposite conclusion.

Law enforcement advocates for the devices say GPS can eliminate time-consuming stakeouts and old-fashioned "tails" with unmarked police cars. The technology had a starring role in the HBO cops-and-robbers series "The Wire" and police use it to track every type of suspect - from terrorist to thieves stealing copper from air conditioners.

That investigators don't need a warrant to use GPS tracking devices in California troubles privacy advocates, technophiles, criminal defence attorneys and others.

The federal appeals court based in Washington DC said in August that investigators must obtain a warrant for GPS in tossing out the conviction and life sentence of Antoine Jones, a nightclub owner convicted of operating a cocaine distribution ring. That court concluded that the accumulation of four-weeks worth of data collected from a GPS on Jones' Jeep amounted to a government "search" that required a search warrant.

Judge Douglas Ginsburg said watching Jones' Jeep for an entire month rather than trailing him on one trip made all the difference between surveilling a suspect on public property and a search needing court approval.

Ad Feedback "First, unlike one's movements during a single journey, the whole of one's movements over the course of a month is not actually exposed to the public because the likelihood anyone will observe all those movements is effectively nil," Ginsburg wrote. The state high courts of New York, Washington and Oregon have ruled similarly.

The Obama administration last month asked the DC federal appeals court to change its ruling, calling the decision "vague and unworkable" and arguing that investigators will lose access to a tool they now use "with great frequency".

After the DC appeals court decision, the 9th Circuit refused to revisit its opposite ruling.

The panel had concluded that agents could have gathered the same information by following Juan Pineda-Moreno, who was convicted of marijuana distribution after a GPS device alerted agents he was leaving a suspected "grow site".

"The only information the agents obtained from the tracking devices was a log of the locations where Pineda-Moreno's car traveled, information the agents could have obtained by following the car," Judge Diarmuid O'Scannlain wrote for the three-judge panel.

Two other federal appeals court have ruled similarly.

In his dissent, Chief Judge Kozinski noted that GPS technology is far different from tailing a suspect on a public road, which requires the active participation of investigators.

"The devices create a permanent electronic record that can be compared, contrasted and coordinated to deduce all manner of private information about individuals," Kozinksi wrote.

Legal scholars predict the US Supreme Court will ultimately resolve the issue since so many courts disagree.

George Washington University law professor Orin Kerr said the issue boils down to public vs. private. As long as the GPS devices are attached to vehicles on public roads, Kerr believes the US Supreme Court will decide no warrant is needed. To decide otherwise, he said, would ignore a long line of previous 4th Amendment decisions allowing for warrantless searches as long as they're conducted on public property.

"The historic line is that public surveillance is not covered by the 4th Amendment," Kerr said.

All of which makes Afifi's lawyer pessimistic that he has much of a chance to file a successful lawsuit challenging the FBI's actions. Afifi is represented by Zahra Billoo of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the country's largest Islamic civil rights group.

Afifi declined comment after spending last week fielding myriad media inquiries after posted the story of his routine oil change and it went viral on the internet.

Still, Billoo hopes the discovered GPS tracking device will help publicise in dramatic fashion the issue of racial profiling the lawyer says Arab-Americans routinely encounter.

She said Afifi was targeted because of his extensive ties to the Middle East, which include supporting two brothers who live in Egypt and making frequent overseas trips. His father was a well-known Islamic-American community leader who died last year in Egypt.

"Yasir hasn't done anything to warrant that kind of surveillance," Billoo said. "This was a blatant example of profiling."

Acknowledgements: Stuff NZ
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