Sunday, December 30, 2007

U.S. Falls to Worst Category in Privacy International Rankings

Privacy International (PI) is a human rights group formed in 1990 as "a watchdog on surveillance and privacy invasions by governments and corporations." It has been doing its global survey on the rankings of privacy protection around the world since 1997.

This year's survey describes "an increasing trend amongst governments to archive data on the geographic, communications and financial records of all their citizens and residents" which leads to the conclusion that "all citizens, regardless of legal status, are under suspicion."

It also describes
an "overall worsening of privacy protection across the world, reflecting an increase in surveillance and a declining performance of privacy safeguards."

The lowest ranking countries in the survey continue to be Malaysia, Russia and China. The highest-ranking countries in 2007 are Greece, Romania and Canada.

While Canadian news services
crowed about Canada's ranking vs. the United States and the United Kingdom, it should be noted that Canada's ranking moved from "significant safeguards and protections," next to the best category, to "some safeguards but weakened protections," a drop of two categories.

Of course, both the U.S. and U.K. are in the "endemic surveillance societies" category, the worst, and obviously Orwellian in nature. While Malaysia, Russia and China rank at the bottom, they tie at 1.3 (out of 5) while the U.K. is 1.4 and the U.S. is 1.5.

The report also noted that "in terms of statutory protections and privacy enforcement, the U.S. is the worst ranking country in the democratic world."

Greece is top at 3.1 ... once again out of 5, so you can see that privacy protection isn't exactly stellar across the world.

A .PDF version is available here.

Friday, December 28, 2007

SF Zoo Website Expresses Condolences; Awkward Mission Statement Remains

While the investigation into the Christmas Eve tiger mauling continues, the San Francisco Zoo has updated their website with a message of condolence as well as a note indicating that they will most likely re-open on Saturday Dec. 29th.

At the same time, however, it appears they need to update other parts of the website, such as their Mission Statement:
At the San Francisco Zoo, it's our mission to connect people with wildlife, inspire caring for nature and advance conservation action.
Emphasis theirs, BTW.

Meanwhile, there are no major developments in the investigation as yet. As it is raining in the San Francisco Bay Area, some important forensic evidence may have washed away.

It has come to light that when the victim, Carlos Sousa Jr. didn't show up for Christmas dinner, his father called several of his son's friends - including the two brothers injured in the tiger attack that killed the teen - who lied to the father about the teen's whereabouts.

The Dhaliwal brothers, Kulbil and Amritpal, remained in stable condition Thursday. However, reports are that the brothers have been uncooperative in the investigation. What is there to hide, unless the suspicions over taunting the tiger are true?

At the same time,
Leo Ferreira, Sousa's 21-year-old half brother, said he did not believe his brother would have taunted the tiger.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Dude, Jesus Hangs 10 in Action Figure Line

Jesus the Surfer. Jesus the Biker. Jesus the Bull Rider (?). And more.

This is the new line of Jesus "action" figures from Fishermen, Inc. Each comes with a crown of thorns, and each has a different message, which you can see as you pan across the home page above. The are as follows:
  • Bull Rider: Strength
  • Quaterback: Faith
  • Biker: Freedom
  • Soccer Star: Victory
  • Panhandler: Hope
  • Surfer: Spirit
  • Skateboarder: Youth
  • Rock Climber: Life
Click the surfer dude above to see most of the line (the rock climber and skateboarder wouldn't fit on his home page). Price varies from $20 - $30.

According to the founder, Eric Dyson, in a message available on his site (but not linkable), the death of his father led him to soulsearching, and God told him "I am always with you," to break through his despondency.

With this message, he says, came a vision of Jesus on a motorcycle riding across the open roads of America. Thus he decided to create this line of figures.

The figures are available at Christian retail stores, but it's apparent from the "Coming Soon" message when you click "Buy Now" at the site, they will soon be available online as well.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Subtle Butt Disposable Gas Neutralizers: $9.95 for Peace of Mind

Yes, this is a genuine product. The company is called Garment Guard, and their products include Garment Guard perspiration protection for your clothes. Their newest product: Subtle Butt.

Each 3.25" square filter has two layers: one made of soft fabric with an antimicrobial treatment, on the side touching the skin. The second layer is activated carbon, which faces the underwear or the pants (for those who go "commando") and has a "vast surface area" for odors to adhere to and get "neutralized." Two adhesive strips hold the Subtle Butt in place.

The price: a mere $9.95 for five pads and peace of mind. Though a "silencer" feature would be a good add-on.

To be honest, I remember seeing a joke commercial on Nickelodeon where they suggested putting a dryer sheet in your pants in case of gas; maybe this company stole / improved on that idea.

BTW, here's a link in case you have a gassy friend you want to email this to.

Un-Merry Christmas to Vick, Cheney, From PETA

Rather than giving Michael Vick a lump of coal in his stocking, PETA has decided to immortalize him in his own holiday e-card. Others they have chosen to give the same honor to include:
  • Cold-blooded Colonel Sanders
  • Hairy Kate and Trashley: the Olsen Twins
  • Pelt Pusher Anna Wintour
  • Fur Hag Kate Moss
  • Hunter Dick Cheney
Vick paces around a prison yard inside the snow globe, kicking a ball in the air and occasionally being hit on the head with it, to the announcer's comment of "Ooh. That's gonna sting in the morning."

Shake the globe by left-clicking and dragging the mouse and you'll hear sirens and "They got to the quarterback’s blind side there. He never had a chance."

Cheney's is funny too, with Cheney walking around the globe shooting other hunters.

Check out all of them at PETA's site (click image above), and maybe even send one to a friend.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Gonzales Loses ABA's "Lawyer of the Year" Title

The people (or other lawyers) have spoken, and the American Bar Association (ABA) has listened. As I wrote earlier, the ABA named Alberto Gonzales 2007 Lawyer of the Year and Michael Mukasey 2008 Lawyer of the Year. At the time, the explanation was that Gonzales made the most news in 2007, and Mukasey was anticipated to do the same in 2008.

Apparently, and unsurprisingly, lawyers around the country objected to the "Lawyer of the Year" title, and the ABA Journal has retitled the two as "Newsmakers of the Year."

In a post on their site, the ABA said:
We appreciate the feedback we’ve received, and we’re acting on it. So that there can be no confusion, the term “Lawyers of the Year” has been changed in the headline and story to “Newsmakers of the Year.” The story is otherwise unchanged from its original version.
As I said in my previous post, Time Magazine named Hitler "Man of the Year" once,
basically for the same reason (not that I'm comparing them, just the thought process of the ABA Journal).

It didn't really take them long to rethink their original decision, only a couple of days. That must have been one heck of an email / phone / letter-writing campaign by lawyers around the country.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

"Death TV": All Death, Mourning, Noon, and Night

At one time a network devoted to cartoons seemed ludicrous. But how about a channel that's all about death? Nothing but obituaries, and some documentaries on cemeteries around the world.

Etos-TV is backed by the German Undertakers' Association (go figure) and is scheduled to start broadcasting early next year. For €2,000 the association of undertakers will gather picture and video material from relatives and help write text for voice-overs, which the station will then broadcast.

Belying the "Death TV" comment I made, besides the obituaries and the cemetery documentaries, the station will also broadcast shows covering issues it thinks will be of interest to its target over-50 audience: keeping mobile in later years, organ donation and coping with bereavement. Certainly isn't going to be a fun-filled set of shows, though.

The station will broadcast daily over the Astra satellite starting next month --- though only 3 hours a day. It also hopes to expand across Europe. All I can say is, just keep it away from my satellite TV company.

Monday, December 10, 2007

"If Cheney Were Anyone Else, He'd Probably Be Dead by Now"

An effective, and to the point full-page ad is appearing in 10 Iowa papers today. The ad (.PDF), while advocating HR 676, the National Health Insurance Act, also points out an inconvenient truth: if Dick Cheney didn't have the government-financed health care he, Bush, and members of Congress enjoy, he'd most likely be dead by now.

(I will make a slight correction to the ad: Cheney is rich, so he could probably afford health care. If Cheney were a middle-class American, on the other hand ...)

Take a look at his history as described in the PDF: four heart attacks, quadruple bypass surgery, angioplasty, an implanted defibrillator and an emergency procedure to treat an irregular heartbeat. Does anyone seriously believe a private insurer would have not either slammed him with impossible to pay rates, or dropped him altogether? Even in a system like Massachusetts', where insurance is mandated, most likely the rates would be impossible.

Let's not forget the United States is the only industrialized nation that does not have some form of universal health care, and that because of that we are near the bottom in terms of infant mortality (see link above).

Why should our government have free health care while the people they represent do not? Health care is not just for the rich, as most other nations know. Of course, health care giants and pharmaceutical companies don't want anything to change.

As Martin Luther King, Jr. once said,
Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane.
Do any of us deserve less than Cheney?

Dana Perino: "What's the Cuban Missile Crisis?"

This is why I love the NPR show, Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me. This weekend they had White House Press Secretary Dana Perino on during the Not My Job part of the show, and she admitted she didn't know what the Cuban Missile Crisis is.

Unfortunately, as she is appointed, not elected, I can't make a joke about "these are the people we elect?" I could say, "these are the people appointed by the people we elect?"

She indicated last week she was asked about the Cuban Missile Crisis in reference to President Putin's comparison of the U.S. missile defense shield program to the Cuban Missile Crisis. From the show:

"I was panicked a bit because I really know about ... nothing about ... the Cuban Missile Crisis. It had to do with Cuba and missiles, I'm pretty sure."

She admitted he had to ask her husband and he shook his head.

I have to admit she has a decent sense of humor, even about the mortgage hotline goof by Bush last week. She also admitted her husband has told her not to talk to him in her "White House voice." She wouldn't demonstrate the voice for NPR, though.

Unfortunately, she didn't win for her contestant. Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

You can here the whole segment here; click on Not My Job.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

A Very Silent Night, for All But Dogs

Most people know that dogs can hear frequencies too high for humans to hear. But that doesn't mean something in those frequencies can't be music to their ears.

The New Zealand SPCA has released a CD single called A Very Silent Night. Not only that, they released a music video featuring NZ rapper Dei Hamo, as well.

Unfortunately for us in the U.S., it appears the only retailer selling these CDs is The Warehouse, which advertises itself as New Zealand's "leading music retailer." Cost: $4.99.

I'll say I played the music video on my PC, and didn't get a reaction from my dogs. They just continued to sack out on the couch. However, they didn't put their paws over their ears or start howling either. For them, that's probably the best review this video could expect.

Watch, but don't expect to listen, to the video.

Could Mormonism Be the Greenest Religion?

Earlier this week a Michigan State University study was released which indicated that divorce may have an environmental cost. The reasoning behind it is pure common sense: divorced couples, living apart, obviously use more resources simply because of that fact. But the study quantified that information.

In fact, the study found that in the U.S., divorced households spent 46% more per capita on electricity and 56% more on water than married households did. Like I said, common sense quantified.

That got me to thinking. If a typical American family was good, couldn't an atypical family be better? I don't simply mean a couple with 12 kids ... that is still, in many scientists' opinions, very non-green. I mean a polygamist household.

I mean, think about the savings by combining all those households into one! Or perhaps another possibility is a cult like Waco, where a large number of people live in a compound.

Before people correct me, I realize that despite Warren Jeffs' best attempts, the Mormon church no longer sanctions polygamy. I also realize that this is strictly theoretical (and tongue-in-cheek). Realistically we'd need MSU or someone else to do another study.

Any takers out there?

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Santa Gets Fired for Laughing

It looks like Australia was serious when it said it didn't want its Santas saying "Ho, ho, ho," the traditional Santa laugh. I wrote about that earlier in mid-November, when protesters targeted Westaff, a company that supplies hundreds of Santas in Sydney, for wanting its Santas to use the phrase "Ha, ha, ha" instead.

Westaff wanted the change made because it felt that the "Ho, ho, ho" phrase could frighten children and could even be derogatory to women (right!).

70-year-old John Oakes said he was fired on Monday for saying "Ho, ho ho" and for singing the Christmas song Jingle Bells (for Jingle Bells?). Oakes has been a Santa for 3 years running.

Meanwhile, a Westaff spokesman said that Oakes had been dismissed because of his attitude, and not for Ho, ho, ho-ing.

Well, if you won't even let him laugh, what do you expect Santa's attitude to be like?

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Need a Good Holiday Gift? "Reserve a Spot in Heaven" for a Friend!

Afraid you won't make it into Heaven? Now you can buy your way in (although I'm sure some have tried this already). This website,, says it will guarantee you a spot in Heaven, or your money back.

I'm assuming not that many have noticed this site as there's no news of a lawsuit yet (knowing our country).

So, what are the details? There are two different "packages." One is the "Essentials Travel Kit," $12.79. This includes:

  • Heavenly issued certificate of reservation with a unique I.D. number registered in the Book of Light™
  • A First class ticket to Heaven. Why walk those stairs when you can fly?
  • The Official Heaven Identification Card so you can get around without getting hassled.
  • Heaven 101 mini informational guide. Don’t be a victim of culture shock. Get acquainted with the land.

The upgraded "All Access Travel Kit," $24.95, includes the above plus:
  • All access VIP pass. This pass will grant you access to “VIP exclusive areas” including the Land of Milk and Honey, where all the elite get together and kick it.
  • Framing. Your ticket to Heaven and certificate of reservation will be nicely framed in an elegant casing.
As the site says, "spots are filling very quickly" in Heaven, so (according to them) you should sign up soon. And don't forget that 100% guarantee (though I'm not sure what good a refund will do you "down there").

Even better, you can give a Spot in Heaven for a friend or loved one, or even Spot (your pet, right?). They even have group rates and a monthly drawing for a free Spot as well.

Obviously (I hope!) a gag gift, but still, a serious business. I found this thread on PayPal's website where the site owner was asking for some help.

On the other hand, I can think of a few politicians in the current administration who might need help getting "up there," so if you're in the mood you might consider this as a gift. They may need more than one to make it, based on past deeds, though. Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Redskins Honor Sean Taylor with "Missing Man Formation"

The Washinton Redskins honored safety Sean Taylor, 24, who died on Tuesday from gunshot wounds, with a moving pre-game ceremony. The ceremony included a video montage of clips of his high school and college days, and an interview with him. There was also footage of Taylor with his young daughter.

The postscript to the video said, "WE WILL MISS YOU SEAN."

But that wasn't all.

When the Buffalo Bills offense took the field for the first time midway through the first quarter, the Redskins defense lined up with only 10 men on the field, similar to the "missing man formation" often used in flyovers. Taylor's open spot on the field was obvious.

The Bills gained 22 yards on the short-handed play, but it was a fitting tribute.

Men's Lives Extended by Breast Ogling --- Uh, No, Darn It

Interesting when the Science Editor (that's his title) of a pretty decent site like Softpedia gets hooked into a story that's obviously false. Or did he? I guess I wonder when this happens if they just post it to get traffic, or what?

The story at Softpedia was that staring at a picture of a woman's breasts for 10 minutes a day would extend the lifespan of a man for five years. According to the article, the study's author was Dr. Karen Weatherby, a gerontologist.

And, according to the article, "for five years, the boob oglers presented a lower blood pressure, slower resting pulse rates and decreased risk of coronary artery disease."

Riiight. I wonder where this editor got this story, actually. Let's look at the telltale signs of a fake story.

First, the study was published in New England Journal of Medicine and Weekly World News. OK, the New England Journal of Medicine, sure, but Weekly World News? Dead giveaway number one.

Dead giveaway two: searching for this story will find older versions of it, nearly word for word, posted years ago.

And finally, the old familiar Snopes debunking. According to Snopes the story first showed up in 1999, but the Softpedia story showed up on Nov. 30.

So, unfortunately guys, this isn't true, despite what could be called "wishful thinking."

Not to blame Softpedia alone, as Fark picked up on this as well, but I can see that, because the stories are user-submitted and it would be sure to drive traffic. Plenty of bloggers posted this as well, maybe for the same "traffic" reason.

But if that's not the reason, hey guys, you oughta do some research before posting, as your facts are all-effed-up.