Thursday, 30 January 2014

Knox Guilty, So Now For The Extradition

Now that the Italian court has upheld the guilty verdicts on American Amanda Knox for killing British student Meredith Kercher in 2007, all eyes are on what America will do next with regards to the extradition of the 26 year old to serve her sentence.
Before the verdict Knox said that she would expect the Italian government to approach the US government with a request for her extradition and that she hoped that her government would refuse to extradite her.
'I'm definitely not going back to Italy willingly. They'll have to catch me and pull me back kicking and screaming'.
If President Obama's government decide against extraditing Knox as expected in defiance of the extradition treaty between the two countries, she would be effectively trapped in the USA as she would face arrest and deportation to Italy as most countries are bound to intervene under the rules of the extradition that Italy has with most of the rest of the World, including Canada.
Some US lawyers have argued that having been acquitted in 2011, she would be protected under the US Constitution from being tried twice for the same charge yet this argument has been dismissed as the US-Italy extradition treaty only protects Americans from extradition to face prosecution again in Italy for an offence that has already been dealt with by the US legal system.
President Obama is sure to come under pressure to turn down any extradition request however it would need to weigh this against the blow to co-operation from other Governments when it makes future extradition requests especially in such a high profile case as this.
After the Spying scandal Americas reputation is in the bin so what it does now regarding Amanda Knox could go some way to fixing it or could drive it even further down.

New Flag For New Zealand

The New Zealander's are so fed up with everything thinking that their flag is the Australian flag that they are considering replacing it and the most popular choice is a silver fern leaf on a black background.
The New Zealand Flag is a few stars on a blue background with a Union Flag in the corner while the Australian one is a blue background with a Union Flag in the corner and a few stars but because foreigners keep confusing the two for some reason, New Zealand are to hold a referendum on what to replace the design with.
Judging by the reaction from excited Kiwi's on the internet, the black flag with the silver fern is very popular with more than few mentions of it looking like a bad ass Pirate flag which makes me wonder what sort of pirates books they read as kids if a bit of plant rather than a skull and cross-bones chilled the bones of their sailors.
Black flags are also associated with funerals and mourning and a cursory glance through the big book of flags doesn't show up one single black flag so it would be a unique choice. 
I do feel though that a flag should represent the country and fair play to New Zealand if it wants to change its flag to distance itself from its Antipodean neighbours but we all know that as soon as a New Zealander opens their mouths, we will just assume they are Australian anyway no matter what flag they have.

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

The Dangers Of E-Cigarettes

The use of e-cigarettes has become more and more popular recently and there are two valid arguments that i, an e-cigarette user, find hard to argue against.
The first is that the e-cigarette companies are aiming their wares at the under 18 market. Hard to argue when you see flavours such as ice cream, bubble gum and candy floss.
The second is that the 'safe' aspect of vaping will tempt people to try smoking who would not have necessarily have and i've already met people who have tried vaping, liked it and then tried a cigarette.
Tied into the second argument is another reason that doesn't seem to have been aired, it will make smoking cool again. 
As e-cigarettes are allowed to be advertised on television, the companies are benefiting from hitting a wide audience and it is this, coupled with celebrity endorsements, that concern me.
Advertising works and if you can get a celebrity to help shift your product then more the better and something we do see now is celebrities endorsing e-cigarettes and newspapers pictures of celebrities vaping.
A quick Google search bring up pictures of Jenny McCarthy, Kate Moss, Simon Cowell, Katy Perry, Jack Nicholson Lindsey Lohan, Leonardo de Caprio, Paris Hilton, Sean Penn, Britney Spears, Johnny Depp, Charlie Sheen, Robert Pattinson, Jimmy White, Tom Petty and even Alan Titchmarsh using e-cigarettes.
The UK's medicines regulatory body, Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, have said that e-cigarettes could help save 57,000 British lives over the next decade and they are undoubtedly a great way to give up the much more dangerous tobacco cigarettes but i do have one concern over that they may make smoking cool again.
E-cigs do help people to reduce or quit cigarettes, i haven't had a real cigarette for almost 15 months since i took up vaping, but as well as helping smokers cut out a dangerous addiction, it also works from the other end as well and introduces non-smokers to the same dangerous addiction due to their 'safe' label.
The best course of action is to not smoke at all and e-cigarettes are great for smokers who are addicted to nicotine already but there should be the concern that the cool image and images of celebrities vaping will prove attractive to non-smokers and may even act as a gate-way to real cigarettes.

Another Skint Pensioner

Not surprising to hear that another OAP is on her uppers, times are hard and it is the elderly most at threat as the Government hack away at state handouts.
Luckily, this pensioner is also the Queen and she is down to her last million because running around the World waving at people isn't cheap and the £36m she gets from us just isn't enough to keep her to the lifestyle to which she has become accustomed.
With a Conservative Government in power, the usual solution to a problem is to privatise it but that doesn't seem to be mentioned here so what can we do with an out of date institution that is a drain on our meagre resources?
Simples, pack her off to Australia or any other part of the Commonwealth.
I have never understood why she is the head of 53 other nations but the Australians, Canadians or Tongans never dip into their pockets to pay for the Royal family.
Instead of selling her off to the Americans or someone who are silly enough to like out Royals, let's pack her and her family off to members of the Commonwealth. Let her live there for a year at a time and let them pay for her.
It's only fair, we're all in it together, Ma'am and you will love Pakistan, North Waziristan is particularly lovely at this time of year.

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Sochi Winter Olympics 2014

The Sochi Winter Olympics are almost upon us and i am looking forward to watching men and women hurl themselves off huge slopes and go speeding around an icy bend on little more than a tea tray.
Not to take anything away from the athletes performing these tasks, but whereas the Summer Olympics are about feats of endurance and years of preparation to run, throw and jump the highest, the Winter Olympics is more to do with who can slide the best using the force of gravity. Pick a winter sport about to be watched, and it will probably involve a slope and a slippery surface which means it doesn't really compare to it's Summer relation.
Team GB is expected to bring home at least three medals from Sochi, the higher end of our expectations is 7 medals which would beat our Britain's best ever tally of four medals in 1924.
Costing a reported £51bn and using 25,000 volunteers, it should be 17 days of watching athletes from 85 countries falling over because to be honest, that's what we really want to see. 

Saturday, 18 January 2014

The Problems With Technology

There are some things from future technology that seem exciting until you think them through and you find yourself thinking that actually, it would be a nightmare.
Flying cars for example, sounds great in theory, soaring above the roads and houses but if it goes wrong, if the car suddenly stops or it stalls or you run out of petrol or get into a prang with another flying car, that's you plummeting to earth inside a tonne of metal and firemen pulling your scorched body from flaming heap of twisted car.
Another idea that sounds great but is already with us is the replicator, or the 3d Printer as it is called in the real world.
What could possibly go wrong with a machine that could build anything. Hungry? Print a meal. Cold? Print a blanket. Indigestion? Print a tablet.
It should be great, a world where anybody can have anything they want by just printing it.
The problem see may occur is that we wouldn't need anybody to make anything. Clothes, food, furniture, pills and even other 3d printers. The only people who would need a job are the people who provide the elements that go into 3d printers and even they would be out of a job if we could 3d print the elements required.  
Nobody would have a job and nobody would need one because anything we wanted, which we would have paid for in the old days, we can now just print.
Technology, not as good as we think and don't get me started on making robots more intelligent than us!

Gays To Blame For Flooding!!

For a political party that wants to be taking seriously, UKIP does have more than its fair share of complete nutters so this weeks UKIPs fruitcake David Silvester who is arguing to anyone mad enough to listen to him that the recent storms to hit Britain are God’s punishment for legalising gay marriage.
David Silvester claimed he had warned the Prime Minister that the legislation would result in 'disasters' and explained that the UK has been 'beset by storms since the passage of the new law on gay marriage because Cameron had acted arrogantly against the Gospel. The scriptures make it abundantly clear that a Christian nation that abandons its faith and acts contrary to the Gospel will be beset by natural disasters such as storms, disease, pestilence and war.
Maybe i'm just not enough of a religious right wing nutjob to agree because blaming Cameron for the floods over him giving the nod to same sex marriage is a bit of a stretch and i'm usually all for using any excuse to smack him and his party around the head.
That UKIP statement where they state that the views expressed by this particular member is not those of the party, followed by the one that states someone has now left the Party are getting a good airing recently.

Act Of God?

Great pictures around of lightening striking the Christ The Redeemer statue in Brazil on Thursday evening.
Some of the more excitable amongst us have taken it as a sign from God along the lines of us all being sinners and we must repent and such other drivel.
Others, equally as excitable, see this is a bad omen for Brazil with the World Cup set to be staged there this year and all the controversy surrounding that event.
Personally i take it as a sign that if you stick a 38 metre statue on one of the highest points in Brazil, it will get struck by lightening during an electric storm.

Thursday, 16 January 2014

Frank Carson And Linda Nolan Mystery Solved

Celebrity Big Brother is always a bit controversial and this year it is the argument between Linda Nolan and Jim Davidson who mischievously hinted at something improper that involved Frank Carson and Linda Nolan's husband.
Apparently The Sun newspaper has the exclusive but it will cost you to sign up to their Sun Plus to find out. 
Don't know why anyone would do that, the story is that in the mid 90's, Linda's husband and manager, Brian Hudson, was filmed taking money from Frank Carson's wallet while Linda was performing at the South Pier in Blackpool with the Irish comedian.
He was arrested, charged, pleaded guilty and was fined £200 so there you go, that saved you a pound.

That's A Shame

One of the more rare positive outcomes of the austerity cuts imposed by the coalition is the reduction in our defence budget.
We still spend tens of billions on maintaining our useless nuclear capability we will never use so we can pretend we are one of the big guys but our capability to start more dodgy wars has been diminished.
To anyone with a functioning brain cell that is a good thing so i'm guessing the former US defence secretary Robert Gates brain cell wasn't connecting properly because he has piped up to say that cuts in UK defence spending mean UK will no longer have full-spectrum capabilities.
"A smaller armed forces would mean the UK could no longer be a full-spectrum military partner to the US" he said.
You mean America won't let us tag along when they invade other oil-soaked countries and kill hundreds of thousands of their population and send drones in to blow up wedding parties?
How is there anything not to like in that sentence..erm, i mean damn. Guess we will just have to sit out the next wars then. Shame that.

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Ignore Me Then Netherland Scientists

Unbelievable. Here i am warning about the dangers of giving robots to much knowledge and intelligence that they become too intelligent and turn on humans and two days later the EU announce that they are experimenting with a library for robots so they can download source code to perform tasks from each other.   
Scientists at Eindhoven University have mocked up a room and have four robots connected to a cloud-type website where the four robots can upload their source code which becomes available to the other three robots.  
For example, one robot's program allows it serve drinks while another fluffs the cushions so that means all four can now serve drinks and fluff pillows. 
"At its core it is a world wide web for robots: a giant network and database repository where robots can share information and learn from each other," said Rene van de Molengraft, the project leader which sounds great in practise but have they thought this through or has the thought of a future with nicely fluffed pillows clouded their judgement?
Robots that can learn from each other combined with Artificial Intelligence that evolves and can write its own source code and more dependant humans is 'I Robot' just waiting to happen.
Don't they read this blog in the Netherlands??

Renewed Hope For Blackberry Phones

I have spent far too much time lately trying to sort myself out a new smartphone to replace my Blackberry Curve whose contract runs out at the end of January.
The biggest sticking point seems to be my avoidance of touchscreen keyboards, i just never got along with them but that restricts me to Blackberry phones and the Curve, or rather the scroller button, has been a source of much annoyance and trips to the menders during its 24 months in my care.    
The scroller issue aside, the Blackberry Curve is a great phone but the other problem was the lack of decent apps so i was resigning myself to having to stay with the outdated Blackberry or reluctantly go touchscreen until i read this weekend that the new Blackberries with the 10 Operating System will allow users to install Android apps on the phones.
That's probably the best move Blackberry has made in recent years when it has been left behind in the smartphone stakes and probably the most repeated reason for grievance i have heard when discussing Blackberries.
To complicate things the new Blackberry Z10 and Z30 are touchscreen only but the Q5 and Q10 have the real keyboard which i'm after.
Seems strange that after a two years of moaning about the Blackberry, it is the route i seem to be heading for a replacement as it is the only phone company that does the two things i want, a QWERTY keyboard and decent apps.
Smart move Blackberry, it could be the business decision that keeps you afloat as long as the scroller button isn't skimped on again.

Monday, 13 January 2014

Cameron's Fracking Bribe

Without a shadow of a doubt the Government likes fracking which is why David Cameron today announced that he is going 'all out" for shale gas schemes', remembering to tag on the usual arm twisting of job creation, reduce energy bills and help the economy.
The fly in the ointment though is that nobody wants a dirty great big fracking operation in their own backyard, much better polluting elsewhere.
The Government though have thought of that and are offering 'rewards' to councils who give the green light to fracking in their area. Allow them to drill a well and the Government will hand over £1.7 million and that's a lot of biscuits at the council meetings.
It's a ruse that they tried last year with radioactive waste but only two councils stepped forward for the 'rewards' and then backed down in the face of local outrage.
Not sure why David Cameron thinks that nobody wants radioactive material under their parks and gardens but will be fine with chemicals in their drinking water and the ornaments falling off the shelf when the earthquakes come. 
I'm of course hoping that no Councils step forward to take the 'bribe' to allow fracking, will be particularly interesting to see if Cameron's own West Oxfordshire District Council steps forward for this, but unfortunately you can see some deciding the £1.7 million is worth poisoning their land and facing the wrath of protesters overs.

Sunday, 12 January 2014

The Last Invention That Man Need Ever Make

Back in the 1980's, when the climate change campaigners were just starting to make an impact on our thinking, many people dismissed the warnings of rising sea levels and today there are standing knee deep in their flooded living rooms and stupidly wondering why.
Another looming catastrophe that never seems to get a mention is humans stupidly creating their own downfall by Artificial Intelligence which is rapidly gaining on us humans and will finally overtake it and the repercussions that particular scenario will unfold.
It is already happening, pale faced girlfriendless people are out there writing computer code that can park our cars and even drive them for us. It starts small, consider those adverts in the margins of our web pages, type into Google that you are looking for a tent and you are bombarded by adverts from every camp shop or go browsing for guns and receive adverts for penis enlargements.
In the driverless and car parking examples, we have AI that can do things better and safer than a human and within the next decade we will be happy to let them parallel park and safely transfer us from A to B which is a sure sign that humans haven't got long left as robots intellect bypasses our own, known as the 'the singularity' in AI circles which is the moment when humans cease to be the smartest things on the planet.
Computers already dominate modern life from directing traffic to controlling financial systems and security systems and satellite navigation GPS to most forms of modern day communications so imagine the chaos if they all suddenly just stopped.
Computer pioneer Alan Turing said: 'Once the machine thinking method has started, it would not take long to outstrip our feeble powers. At some stage therefore we should have to expect the machines to take control and the intelligence of man would be left far behind. Thus the first ultra-intelligent machine is the last invention that man need ever make'.
Scientist and a software engineers have come together to create the Centre for the Study of Existential Risk (CSER) to address the concerns of our technology outstripping us and posing extinction-level risks to our species.
In 2009 the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence (AAAI), chaired a meeting of leading computer scientists, artificial intelligence researchers and roboticists to discuss the potential impact of robots that could become self-sufficient and able to make their own decisions. They described the current level of AI as achieving the intelligence of a cockroach which may not sound much but it means it is on the evolutionary path where we once stood and in a fraction of the time.
Another concerned group of experts at the Singularity Institute have already announced that the 3 Laws of Robotics would not be enough to protect humans from AI if it attempted to take complete control over humanity.
Our saving grace at the moment is that humans write the code that run the Artificial intelligence but as the code gets evermore complex, we will have to leave the AI to write its own code, something called an AI Box which far from being in the realms of a sci-fi movie, are being used today.
The Machine Intelligence Research Institute has already run experiments on AI boxes that have the potential to make themselves more intelligent by modifying their source code. These improvements would make further improvements although the experiments have been limited to just two hours for safety reasons.
Of course when we do create super intelligent robots and they do take over the world and enslave us they will obviously need to genetically engineer the humans they keep around as slaves and when they have created a race of brilliantly intelligent humans, we will re-enslave them back which will serve them right.

Saturday, 11 January 2014

Nothing To Celebrate After Sharon's Death

Former US envoy to the Middle East, Dennis Ross, paid tribute to Ariel Sharon, saying that that Israel has 'lost one of it's giants' which is true although a bit insensitive to make fun of the 27 stone former leaders girth at this time.
When such a controversial figure dies, and Sharon did not have many friends outside of Israel and the White House, it is always the immediate family i feel for.
The much reviled Sharon is more than worthy of all the barbs and hostility that he is going to get but it can't be easy for the family to hear that the death of their husband, brother, father and grandfather is being celebrated.    
He has gone, history will decide which side of the fence his reputation falls on and he can do no more harm where he is now but i am uncomfortable to hear of people celebrating a persons death, i never agreed with the Thatchers dead parties held in Britain when Maggie died.
Sharon has died but the Palestinians are still forcibly suppressed, Israel continues to steal their land and kill their citizens indiscriminately and continues to keep any peace deal at arms length so nothing has changed today with this news, nothing worth celebrating anyway.  
I'm sure the UK and USA will issue tributes that will hail him as a great man while history, one hopes, will remember him as instigating wars, targeting civilians and a worthy recipient of a call from the court for war criminals.
Alas that's all gone now, he has died so lets not waste time on him and hope that somewhere in Israel there is a future leader who is the opposite of Sharon who is worthy of real platitudes, not the rewriting of history that is bound to be going on today to make out that Sharon was anything other than a war-mongering disaster.

Friday, 10 January 2014

Ware Is The Porn Capital Of The UK

It was recently discovered that the village of Ware in Hertfordshire is the porn capital of the UK which is an improvement on their previous claim to fame which was that Mr Barrowclough from Porridge once lived there.
Apart from making a mental note never to shake hands with anyone from Ware, it is accepted that porn is everywhere on the Internet. Long gone are the days when you can innocently type in Randy Buamgardener and read about the Colorado Republican Senator without being confronted by, well, gardeners bums.
Now that Ware is on the map, and its fruity antics splashed all over the papers so to speak, just how much of the Internet is porn? Addiction centre 'techaddiction' have a breakdown of statistics regarding web porn.

12% of the websites on the Internet are pornographic.
33% of porn viewers are female
70% of men between 18 and 24 visit porn sites regularly
25% (68 million) of all search engine requests are porn related,
35% of all downloads are pornographic   
Sunday is the most popular day for viewing porn
Every second 30,000 people are watching porn online
The USA produces 89% of all pornographic web pages
56% of divorces involve one partner having an obsessive interest in porn websites

Obviously web porn addiction is a serious problem and and maybe techaddiction should set up a treatment center in Ware so someone can get a grip on things there. Just remember to take the antiseptic hand gel and keyboard wipes.

Israel Look To Scupper Peace Talks Again

How predictable that just as Middle East Peace talk between the Palestinians and Israel are set to get underway, Israel announce plans to build 1,400 new homes in Jewish settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, territory the Palestinians claim for their state.
Predictable because this is what Israel do every time there is mention of talking peace and even the most rose-tinted Israel admirer in the White House must see the humiliating pattern for American policymakers.
In 2010, the Vice President Joe Biden was in Israel and spent his time assuring Israel of America's unconditional support and talking up the prospects of a renewed peace effort and Israel announced the construction of 1,600 new homes for Jews in the disputed territories of East Jerusalem.
In the summer Israel kicked more sand in the face of the Obama Administration by announcing further settlements days after Kerry announced a push for peace in the area and then again, a day after Kerry has left the region after working on the Palestinian Authority president, Mahmoud Abbas, to drop his earlier demand for a settlement freeze before negotiations, Israel's housing ministry announces that 800 new houses would be built in the West Bank and 600 in East Jerusalem.
Why America continues to entertain Israel is bizarre, in future years the modern day Israel will be mentioned in the same breath as the apartheid regime in South Africa and America will have found itself tainted with its closeness to another unfriendly nation.
Despite the continual embarrassments, America continues to fund Israels military and Israel is happy to throw spanners into the works whenever the chance of peace talks is raised so it can continue with the status quo while it mops up Palestinian land.
This Israeli Government doesn't want peace, it has no intention of halting settlement construction until it has written its smaller neighbour out of the equation.
I don't have much hope that the US administration now to hold Israel to account for actively sabotaging their efforts for peace time and again, but they should by withholding their funding and forcing them to make peace or keep going as they are and face bankruptcy.

Thursday, 9 January 2014

The Importance Of Mein Kampf

As an author Adolf Hitler was a great painter and as a painter Adolf was a great author but because of human nature being what it is, there is still a strange fascination with the man who dominated the 20th Century.
That is exactly why his book, Mein Kampf, is riding high in the Kindle store chart, we may hate the man and what he did but we don't ignore him.     
The privacy of downloading also helps, much easier than borrowing it from a library or taking it to the counter in Waterstones.
It's the same morbid attraction that draws us to the head lopping nasty piece of work that was Henry VIII rather than almost any other British monarch or Billy The Kid, Vlad the Impaler or Bonnie & Clyde.
What makes Mein Kampf most interesting is that it is an insight into the thinking and his political ideology of a man who would go on to become labelled the most evil of the last century.
When you read his thoughts on the 'glorious Aryan race' and 'the satanic Jew', the words hit that bit harder because you know how he later acted upon these chilling thoughts.
I have seen and heard calls for the book to be banned, even castigating people for reading it and while it isn't a comfortable book to read, it is incredibly important.
It should not be a surprise so many people want to read it and learn what drove an artist from Austria to do what he did and should serve as a warning from history what could quite easily happen again in the 21st Century.

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Another Classic Song Ripped Off

Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull once said he liked Hotel California and he wished that he had written it but listening to We Used To Know, i think he may well have done, the music anyway.
I do get disappointed when i hear great songs are just a rip off of someone else and even more when they deny it when anybody with a working pair of ears can hear it is blatant. 
The Eagles toured with Jethro Tull and Anderson, with much more dignity then i would be able to muster, agrees that it is the same chord progression but says he feels honoured that they may of possibly have been inspired by his song.
Maybe it was just a massive coincidence that the support band later came up with an almost identical song to the band they were supporting or more likely they just straight forward nicked it and changed the temp a bit.
Still a great song, in my top 5 of all time favourites but it does get up my nose when people blatantly rip-off other artists and then don't have the nuts to credit the real talent behind it.
I never got over the admission that The Sex Pistols 'Pretty Vacant' song is just a souped up version of ABBA's, 'SOS'.  

Sunday, 5 January 2014

Last Supper For Ariel Sharon

It seems everyday lately, someone well know has died. James Avery (68), Phil Everly (74) and Eusebio (71) have all exited stage left in the past week and Michael Schumacher was apparently a hairs breadth away from joining them.
As Billy Joel told us, only the good die young and to prove his point Ariel Sharon is 85 but the man named after a washing powder and a fruit is still with us albeit courtesy of hospital machines as his organs fail.
Sharon was notoriously touchy about his weight, medics have him weighing in at around the 27 stone (378lbs) mark and according to his family, the evening before his stroke in 2006 he ate hamburgers, steak in chimichurri sauce, lamb chops, shish kebab salad and for dessert, Sharon had chocolate cake and then more cake.
His armoured convoy made regular stops for fast food in Jerusalem although Sharon, not on friendly terms with his neighbours, complained that his security services could not find an armoured vest large enough to cover his girth.
To many on the left, Sharon's political appetite for taking what he could from the Palestinians, he was always hungry for more land, means that he will not be missed when he goes but he was well received in Israel who lapped him up, voting him the 8th greatest Israeli of all time.
It seems the man who always had the stomach for a fight showed a woeful lack of self-control in the face of war and is going to be undone by the same lack of self-control in the face of chocolate cake.

Polar Vortex Only In USA

The continent of North America is currently suffering something called a Polar Vortex, or a depression that sends temperatures plummeting down as far as -40C in some parts such as North Dakota, Georgia, Minnesota and in Indianapolis, Chicago and from Michigan to Kentucky.
The JFK International airport in New York has been closed and in Missouri they have stopped salting the roads as it was too dangerous for the lorries to do their job while schools in Minnesota and Wisconsin have been closed.
I guess it is lucky that there isn't anything above the United States of America on the continent of North America, another country for example that would also bear the brunt of the polar vortex. Boy would they be miffed if all the news reports were about how cold and dangerous it is going to be in the USA and completely skip over that other country.
Canada is also on the continent you say? Nope, never heard of it.

Why Are We Still Broke?

Our great and wise leader David Cameron has been on the television this morning making noises about how his new year resolution is to cut taxes for the lowest paid and pledged to increase the state pension.
With one eye on the election in 16 months time, the Prime Minister said that: 'If I had money in the coffers i would target that money at the lowest paid'.
After over three of severe austerity cuts, why is there not enough money in the coffers to throw a bit towards the lowest paid? All i hear is how the Conservatives are bringing down the national debt and how the economy has turned the corner and plan A was a roaring success after-all so why are we still staring into empty coffers?
The figures from HM Treasury show that the National Debt in 2013 was £1.16 trillion but when the Conservatives took office in 2010 it was £0.76 trillion.
That would mean that despite cutting and slashing everything in the name of austerity, the debt has actually gone up by £0.40 trillion under the Conservatives tenure.
Not being of a financial mind, maybe i am reading it wrong but the Treasury figures show that the Debt per GDP in 2010 was 52% but in 2013 it was 75%.
Something is very wrong with the ruling Government when they are taking credit for introducing austerity measures that have somehow led to even more debt and something is even more wrong with the opposition that they are not screaming these figures from the rooftops.   
With the election just over a year away, i'm sure if more people took the time to look at the figures the next time Cameron of Gideon tell us how well everything is going, it would make for interesting conversations in the queues of the food banks and unemployment office.

Saturday, 4 January 2014

Happy Days

Something American celebrities say something they like about coming to Britain is that they can walk about the streets and not be harassed by fans.
I have always suspected that if they weren't recognised they would soon get miffed so i'm not sure how The Fonz felt when he was mistaken for just any other person walking around the streets and a TV Crew landed in front of him.
BBC News correspondent David Landale took to the streets of the London borough of Richmond, to conduct “Man-on-the-Street” interviews, polling passersby on their thoughts in regards to Heathrow expansions.
One such passerby was asked 'Do you vote?' and Henry Winkler’s response was 'Well, I’m American'.
Pressed on his opinion on the airport expansion he told BBC News 'Richmond is a lovely place. I watch the planes go every day. I hear nothing'.
What are the odds that you stop someone in the street and they turn out to be one of the biggest names from the early 80s.
I just wish he had said 'Heeeey...Sit on it David'.

Friday, 3 January 2014

What We Did To Iraq

The UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNIRAQ) report makes sombre reading, 2013 was the highest annual death toll for five years. A total of 8,868 people, including 7,818 civilians, have been killed in attacks across Iraq in 2013, in December alone, 759 Iraqis were killed and another 1,345 wounded in terrorist attacks and violence.
Hardly a day goes by in Iraq without news of blasts outside schools, mosques or markets and as the nations that wrecked the country pull out, it seems things are going from bad to worse for your average Iraqi.
After the deaths and destruction we have heaped upon the Iraqi nation, the worst part is that it never had to be like this.
We can never know what would have happened if we had left things alone but we can see what happened because we never left things alone and it is hard to see how matters could be any worse. 
Saddam Hussein was never a threat to the United States in removing him we have acted as the recruitment officer for Al Queada and radicalised more Muslims than Bin Laden ever did.
Three trillion spent, over a million Iraqi, thousands of Americans and hundreds of British deaths, a more powerful Iran, a weaker USA, civil war raging in Iraqi cities and the Middle East a more dangerous and unstable place than it was in 2003.
As the troops begin to leave Afghanistan, this is the template the Taliban will follow, filling the void left by the invading troops and seeking revenge.
The bottom line is we took an Iraq with no weapons of mass destruction, weapons inspectors ensuring there wasn't going to be any, a leader crippled by sanctions and a country bound by two no-fly zones, and filled it full of terrorists and generally wrecked it.
Rather than pulling out, the case could be made that we go back in to sort out the mess we made, to make the country properly secure and not what we define it as just so we can scarper out of the way of danger.
You would hope that in the 21st century, our leaders would have figured out by now that war is seldom a good idea. Shamefully, they haven't.

Why So Wet And Windy?

It seems as though the wet and windy weather is going to continue with the MET Office forecasting yet another storm set to bash the UK on Sunday. So why are we on the end of a conveyor belt of these storms?
The answer lays, with most problems, with North America and our old friend the Jet Stream.
In the North of America, it is cold, -22C in Canada, and the cold air is moving down and meeting warm air, 19C in Florida, and the stronger the temperature contrast where they meet, the stronger the Jet Stream which runs from America to the UK across the Atlantic and the stronger the Jet Stream, the deeper the low pressure systems and the deeper they are, the more rain and wind gets flung at the UK.
Simples, it's the continent of North America's fault that you had to sit with frizzy hair at work all day as it got wet this morning and you got home an hour late as your route was blocked by a fallen tree.

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

FOAB Posts in 2013

There were 423 posts on this blog in 2013 and Statcounter tells me that the top posts were:

World Turning Vegetarian
Thatcher Jokes
e-cigarettes As Medicine
Voyager-1 Has Left The Solar System
Pop Songs Ripping Off Classical Tunes

No rhyme or reason that connects the posts that i can see and there has been the usual mix of serious and not so serious posts, probably more climate change ones than normal as the Worlds weather went loopy.
The Behind The Scenes Of The 2013 List Post took the longest, i started that one around August but my own favourite was back in January, Thinking About Uranus. Proper schoolgirl stuff.

I do find myself considering moving on from the blogging sometimes, after almost a decade there can't be many more situations or thoughts left that i haven't posted either here or my previous blogs and i have a constant nagging to write up some of the novella ideas that have been floating around my brain for years and i keep meaning to start on but never seem able to. Just seems easier to find the pithy 500 words to type here rather than the 100,000 to turn what's in my over-active brain into a proper story.
I'm sure that i will still be saying it next December so Happy New Year to all and let's hope that 2014 takes a
leaf from Abraham Lincoln in the Bill & Ted movie and we are all excellent to each other.

The Winner Is...

The result is in, the votes have been counted and verified and we can reveal that the Win/Gallup International’s Annual Global End of Year Survey show that the biggest threat to World Peace is.....the United States.
The poll reveals that 24% of people questioned in 65 countries around the world believe the United States is first followed by Pakistan (8%), China (6%), North Korea, Israel, and Iran (5%).
Maybe it is something to do with all the drone strikes, illegal wars, assassination programs, rendition, global spying and threats of attack that makes America so scary but i would guess it's the 'We’re here to help' promise that gets served up whenever they point their military at someone.
Especially ironic is how the greatest threat to World Peace is run by a Nobel Peace Prize winner.

World Ending 2014 Dates

There are some things that we know for sure won't happen in the coming twelve months. Britain won't top the Winter Olympic Medals table, Jerry Seinfeld won't become funny and Country & Western music won't be eradicated but something that we do know will happen is the World will end at some point between now and December 31st.
The question is how will we all die horribly?
It could come at the hands of the Norse god, Heimdallr, pencilled in for February 22 or the 1.2km wide asteroid named 2003 QQ47 which is currently hurtling towards our planet and due to hit on March 21st in an event scientists have said 'merits careful monitoring'.
As they also say the probability of the asteroid hitting Earth is just 1 in 909,000 and the risk of impact is likely to decrease as they collect more information we may have to look elsewhere for our demise.
Places like the Bible according to John Hagee, senior pastor of the nondenominational Cornerstone Church in San Antonio who claims that four 'blood moons' throughout 2014 represent prophecies allegedly given in the book of Luke relating to Doomsday and the second coming of Christ.
Not to be outdone, the Catholics have their own 'we're all doomed' message and this one is from Pope Leo IX who predicted in 1514: 'I will not see the end of the world, nor will you my brethren, for its time is long in the future, 500 years hence'. 1514 plus 500 years makes...gulp.
There you go then, i wouldn't even bother buying present for next Christmas because one of them has to be right one year!

2014 Predictions

2014 will be way more volatile year than 2013. Who says? Tara Greene, Tarot Reader, Astrologer and Psychic Consultant from Toronto that's who.
Tara has gazed into her crystal ball, shuffled her cards and checked the planets and discovered that Uranus, Pluto, Mars and Jupiter are aligning into a Grand Cardinal Cross which means the following:

Assassination attempt on Pope Francis
Terrorist attack at Sochi Winter Olympics
Israel attack Lebanon, Iran or Syria.
Governments announce they have been communicating with aliens
Canada military engaged in conflict over the North Pole passageway
Prince Harry will get engaged to his girlfriend Cressida Bonas
Pippa Middleton will get married
Prince William and Kate has a girl they will name Diana.
Jack Nicholson will suffer a heart attack
Tom Petty will die

Israel attacking a neighbour is a given, don't need Jupiter and Mars to see that one happening while Prince Harry's engagement to Cressida is already fully expected in the new year so hardly a revelation if that one happens.
Not good for Tom Petty though and the alien interaction would be exciting so have to wait and see if nobody telling Tara that Pluto hasn't been a planet since 2006 has thrown out her predictions.