Saturday, October 31, 2009

Turn Back Your Clock Halloween Night !


On Sunday at 2 a.m. Daylight Saving Time officially ends until the second Sunday in March.

Some will turn their clocks back before they go to bed on Saturday night (Halloween) – others will do so Sunday morning. And some will forget – arriving to church an hour early!

According to National Geographic, not all states observe Daylight Saving Time. Exceptions are Hawaii and most of Arizona.

Here are some other interesting facts from various Web sites:

· Benjamin Franklin, when serving as US minister to France, wrote an article recommending earlier opening and closing of shops to save the cost of lighting. In England, William Willett in 1907 began to urge the adoption of Daylight Saving Time. During World War I the plan was adopted in England, Germany, France and many other countries. In the US, Robert Garland of Pittsburgh was a leading influence in securing the introduction and passage of a law (signed by President Wilson on March 31, 1918) establishing Daylight Saving Time in US.

· In 1883 the U.S. railroad industry established official time zones with a set standard time within each zone. Congress eventually came on board, signing the railroad time zone system into law in 1918. The only federal regulatory agency in existence at that time happened to be the Interstate Commerce Commission, so Congress granted the agency authority over time zones and any future modifications that might be necessary.

· Part of the 1918 law also legislated for the observance of Daylight Saving Time nationwide. That section of the act was repealed the following year, and daylight saving time thereafter became a matter left up to local jurisdictions.

· During World War II, President Franklin Roosevelt instituted year-round Daylight Saving Time, called “War Time,” from Feb. 9, 1942 to Sept. 30, 1945.

· Finally, in 1966, Congress passed the Uniform Time Act, which standardized the start and end dates for Daylight Saving Time but allowed individual states to remain on standard time if their legislatures allowed it.

· Beginning in 2007, Daylight Saving Time is extended one month and begins for most of the United States at: 2 a.m. on the second Sunday in March and lasts until 2 a.m. on the first Sunday of November.

Changing our clocks this weekend – while we yearn for those longer days – also serves as a reminder to check the batteries and expiration dates in our smoke detectors and carbon monoxide alarms.

Fire departments everywhere recommend for public safety reasons that we check those batteries twice a year and the best way to remember is to do so when we “fall back or spring forward!”

It is also a good time to make sure you have enough smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and that they are placed in appropriate locations in your home.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Current debit monopoly `unsustainable,' says Visa

Current debit monopoly `unsustainable,' says Visa

October 30, 2009

Rita Trichur

Visa Canada says there is a big misperception that its new debit product is designed to rid Canada of its existing low-cost service run by Interac Association.

While critics contend that Visa debit is putting non-profit Interac "under siege," the U.S.-based card giant argues that Canadians will only benefit from competition in the $168 billion debit market.

Mike Bradley, Visa Canada's head of products, says the current "monopoly" is not sustainable because consumers are demanding more innovation from debit.

Canada is the second-largest debit market in the world after Sweden. It represents a lucrative expansion opportunity for Visa Inc., which has penetrated other markets.

In the United States, for instance, Visa's debit payments volume now surpasses that of credit. In fact, the majority of Visa's global payments and transactions are on debit.

The introduction of Visa debit in Canada will give consumers more utility, Bradley said. For instance, Visa debit offers international acceptance and a wider reach with online merchants.

Like Interac, it promises improved security through chip-enabled cards and zero-liability on fraudulent purchases, while dangling contact-less payments as an option.

"I am extraordinarily proud of our national payments system but I find it embarrassing that you can get in France, in Australia, in Nigeria, a debit card that allows you to buy stuff online, pay for your bills, order a pizza on the phone and do all of the things that you can't do today with your debit card," Bradley said.

While logic suggests a healthy market promotes competition, critics warn the result for Canada could be far from that, and that once Visa and smaller rival MasterCard gain enough market share, Interac will cease to exist and fees will soar.

Catherine Swift, president and chief executive officer of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, said Visa has already proven adept at dominating market share south of the border.

"In the U.S. debit is roughly 10 times what it is here, on average. It costs them 60 to 70 cents a transaction and we think that's rip-off territory," Swift said earlier this week.

Sources say Finance Minister Jim Flaherty is hearing complaints that Visa and MasterCard are taking advantage of a little-known "co-badging" rule to gain the upper hand on Interac.

Co-badging is mostly used to offer complementary services. For example, cards running on the domestic Interac network can also be used on Visa Plus or MasterCard Cirrus for international transactions. This allows Canadians to withdraw cash from bank machines elsewhere in the world.

But now co-badging is being used by Visa and MasterCard to compete in the market. While the new Visa and MasterCard debit cards are not allowed to bear each other's badges, each will sport the Interac logo. That allows the cards to use Interac as a backstop if merchants have not signed up for Visa debit or MasterCard's Maestro network.

Visa says it will allow consumers to choose at the point of sale whether their debit transaction runs over Visa's or Interac's network. But retailers worry the Interac option will be given less prominence. MasterCard, meanwhile, has said that if Maestro debit is on the merchant's terminal, the transaction will be priority routed over its network.

Critics worry that once Visa and MasterCard gain sufficient market share, they will no longer agree to share space with Interac on the same card. Flaherty is expected to address co-badging when he releases his voluntary code of conduct for credit and debit.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

FTC Charges Jeff Paul, Others with Deceptive Practices Enough with the get-rich-quick schemes already!



Easy Internet Millions
And a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow
By Susan Hindman

Scammers have snared many in schemes that somehow sounded lucrative but over time turned into financial nightmares for the person who needed the help most. These attracted the attention of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which in July announced a crackdown on scammers trying to bilk vulnerable consumers by promising nonexistent jobs or promoting get-rich-quick plans, bogus government grants, and phony debt-reduction services.

“Operation Short Change” is a law enforcement sweep that includes eight new FTC cases, 44 law enforcement actions by the Department of Justice, and actions by at least 13 states and the District of Columbia.

“Thousands of people have been swindled out of millions of dollars by scammers who are exploiting the economic downturn,” said David Vladeck, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, in a press release. “Their scams may promise job placement, access to free government grant money, or the chance to work at home. In fact, the scams have one thing in common—they raise people’s hopes and then drive them deeper into a hole.”

One of those charged may sound familiar. We wrote about it in April: “Jeff Paul’s Shortcuts to Internet Millions.” He’s the one with the infomercials about how easy it is to get started on an Internet marketing path and earn $50K a month. The infomercials, which have aired for the past three years, indicated that people would receive “proven, turnkey Internet businesses” and that the system is so simple that consumers did not need any prior experience with Internet businesses to make it work.

The FTC begged to differ. They found that the Jeff Paul materials did not contain step-by-step instructions for accessing or using the “proven, turnkey Internet business.” Instead, the materials told consumers to create their own informational products from scratch, and then market those products on the Internet. The system’s “instant” Web sites were simplistic, requiring users to learn how to do extensive work to enhance them. Once the sites were activated, consumers had to do all of their own marketing to attract customers. “Few, if any, consumers who purchase and use the Jeff Paul system quickly and easily earn substantial amounts of money,” the FTC determined.

The “Jeff Paul system” is intertwined with two other schemes that the FTC says duped “hundreds of thousands of consumers into paying approximately $300 million”: “John Beck’s Free & Clear Real Estate System” and “John Alexander’s Real Estate Riches in 14 Days.” All three used frequent infomercials to sell their systems for $39.95 and then contacted the purchasers via telemarketing to offer “personal coaching services,” which supposedly would enhance their ability to earn money.

The coaching services for all three were provided by Mentoring of America LLC, which was also charged by the FTC, and cost anywhere from $195 to $14,995. Another company charged, Family Products, LLC, was part of the sales effort of the Jeff Paul system.

Thousands of consumers across the United States purchased the John Beck, John Alexander, or Jeff Paul systems as well as the personal coaching services. Purchasers were also signed up for “continuity programs” (in Paul’s case, under the name Jeff Paul’s Big League) that were free the first month but cost $39.95 a month after that, much to the surprise of the consumer.

The FTC accused all of the companies of operating together “as a common enterprise while engaging in the deceptive acts and practices . . . through an interrelated networks of companies that have common ownership, officers, managers, addresses, and/or business functions.”
FTC Charges Jeff Paul, Others with Deceptive The FTC also brought cases against the following individual and companies:

  • Wagner Ramos Borges (Job Safety USA, Sparkle Industrial, Sparkle Maintenance, Star Maintenance, Aim Janitorial & Flooring, and United Maintenance) targeted people seeking maintenance and cleaning work through print and online classified ads and then tricked them into paying $98 for a worthless credential called a “certificate registration number” in order to get the job—which was then not provided.
  • Grants for You Now operated Web sites such as GrantsForYouNow.com, GrantOneDay.org, and EasyGrantAccess.com that allegedly deceived consumers by promising them free government grant money to use for personal expenses or to pay off debt. Consumers’ credit or debit account information was taken to process a $1.99 fee, but then, unbeknownst to them, they were enrolled in a membership program that cost up to $94.89 a month.
  • Cash Grant Institute allegedly waged an automated robocall campaign promoting bogus claims that consumers were qualified for grant money from the government, private foundations, and wealthy individuals that they could use to fix their financial problems. They made similar misleading claims about “free grant money” on their Web sites, CashGrantSearch.com and RequestAGrant.com.
  • Mutual Consolidated Savings used telemarketing robocalls and the Internet to push a phony “Rapid Debt Reduction” program. For $690 to $899, consumers were told they could reduce credit card interest rates, save thousands of dollars, and pay off their debt three to five times faster than they could under their current payment schedule. The defendants also failed to make good on promises that they would refund the fees paid if the consumers’ credit card interest rates were not reduced.
  • Google Money Tree (Infusion Media, Inc.; West Coast Internet Media, Inc.; 2 Two Warnings, LLC; Two Par Investments, LLC; Platinum Teleservices, Inc.) allegedly misrepresented that they were affiliated with Google and lured consumers into divulging their financial account information by advertising a low-cost kit that would supposedly enable them to earn $100,000 in six months. They failed to mention that the fee for the kit would trigger monthly charges of $72.21.
  • Penbrook Productions (Make You Famous Consulting; Process from Home) promoted a work-at-home scheme online that charged $197 for the opportunity to become a certified rebate processor who could earn as much as $225 per hour. But after paying the fee, consumers were instead instructed on how to become an affiliate marketer. And they couldn’t get a refund despite the “ironclad” money-back guarantee.
  • Classic Closeouts charged consumers’ accounts continuously for months or years after they bought low-cost clothing or household goods from classiccloseouts.com. Consumers’ efforts to contact the company to contest the charges, which ranged from $59.99 to $79.99, were unsuccessful. If the disputed charges were reversed by their financial institutions, the company contested these disputes, falsely claiming that consumers had chosen to join the Classic Closeouts “frequent shopper club.”
You can read the full complaint at the FTC’s site.

The FTC has produced a consumer education video that shows how easy it is to be conned and how to avoid fraud:


Another investigation report found here:

http://www.internetbizhelper.com/internet-business-opportunity-scams-tv-infomercial-pitches/#more-181

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Sky Before Katrina,,,Wow!

Whoever took
These pictures did an awesome job.

And whoever
Said Katrina was
'awesome and
Terrifying is telling the truth.


These pictures were purportedly to have been made by a man in Magee, MS

Where the eye
Of the storm passed thru-
what an
Experience.

Magee is 150
Miles North of Waveland, Mississippi

Where the
Hurricane
made landfall.

The dance with
Katrina, part of her beauty as she left
destruction on
Her exit.

They are
Remarkably dramatic...













The following picture was taken from the third story balcony of Saint Stanislaus College Located next door to Our Lady of the Gulf church in Bay Saint Louis, Mississippi on the morning of August 29th, 2005.

This is believed to be the initial tidal wave from Hurricane Katrina.

The tidal wave
Was approximately 35 to 40 feet high.

When it slammed
Into the beach front communities of Bay Saint Louis and Waveland,
Mississippi to completely destroy 99% of every structure along the beach
For 9 miles and over a mile inland.

The destruction
Only started there.

The flooding
That continued inland destroyed the contents of all but 35
Homes
in these two
Communities of approximately 14,000 people.


Scientology's star wars Paul Haggis angrily quits A Scientologist storms off TV's Nightline

Paul Haggis, a Church of Scientology member for 35 years, opposes the actions of the Scientology chapter in San Diego that supported Proposition 8, banning gay marriage in California.

And the Oscar for most public resignation from a church goes to ... Paul Haggis.

In a stinging letter to Church of Scientology spokesman Tommy Davis, the Canadian screenwriter and director quit the controversial group over the weekend, citing "tacit" church support for banning same-sex marriage.

"I reached a point several weeks ago where I no longer knew what to think. You had allowed our name to be allied with the worst elements of the Christian Right," writes Haggis, 56, who won two Oscars for directing and writing the movie Crash. London, Ont.-born Haggis, a member of Scientology for 35 years, had previously been a vigorous defender of the faith.

In the letter, Haggis recalls asking Davis, son of actress and Scientologist Ann Archer, several times over the past year to publicly denounce the actions of the Scientology chapter in San Diego in support of California's Proposition 8, which bans gay marriage in the state.

"You told me you were horrified, that you would get to the bottom of it and 'heads would roll.' You promised action. Ten months passed. No action was forthcoming," Haggis writes in the 1,500-word letter.

"The church's refusal to denounce the actions of these bigots, hypocrites and homophobes is cowardly. I can think of no other word. Silence is consent, Tommy."

His letter comes amid a bad few days for Scientology, founded by science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard in 1953. In fact, it's been a bad few months. On Saturday, Davis walked out of an interview with Martin Bashir on the ABC program Nightline after being asked whether the church believed Earth was populated by an alien lord called Xenu 75 million years ago, calling the line of questioning "offensive."

And while the membership of celebrities such as John Travolta and Tom Cruise has garnered Scientology much media attention over the years, Travolta's involvement drew some unwanted interest earlier this year with the death of son Jett.

In the ensuing coverage, it was revealed that Travolta and wife Kelly Preston had treated Jett's seizures with a detoxification program based on Hubbard's writings.

Then, last June, the St. Petersburg Times printed a lengthy investigative package about Scientology and its inner workings, drawing largely on interviews with one-time top scientologists Mike Rinder and Marty Rathburn.

The stories made allegations of beatings by church leader David Miscavige, the use of confidential information to keep followers in line and strong-arm tactics to gain tax-exempt status in the United States – a status it does not have in Canada. Haggis drew on the stories in his letter.

"These were not the claims made by 'outsiders' looking to dig up dirt against us. These accusations were made by top international executives who had devoted most of their lives to the church," he writes.

He also refers to a CNN interview in which Davis denies that members must shun any who leave the church, with Haggis revealing that his wife has, at "terrible personal pain," broken ties with her own parents after they left Scientology.

In writing the letter, Haggis says he may suffer the same fate.

"I am now painfully aware that you might see this as an attack and just as easily use things I have confessed over the years to smear my name. Well, luckily I have never held myself up to be anyone's role model."

The Toronto office of the Church of Scientology was contacted by the Star Monday afternoon, and a message left for the public relations department. No response was received by Monday evening.




http://abcnews.go.com/Video/playerIndex?id=8905062

Saturday, October 24, 2009

No Swine Flu Shot For This Little Piggy

Consider this fair warning to all you germaphobes and nervous Nellies: I will not be getting the swine flu shot.

And my hunch is that many other British Columbians of good health and sound mind will also not be heeding the inoculate-'em-all, big and small, entreaties issued this week from federal health authorities, who in an odd singsong of official well-meaning laced with hysteria are encouraging pretty much everyone to line up, in order of priority, for the H1N1 shot.

No argument, of course, with the common sense directive that the swine flu vaccination is a must for those with suppressed immune systems, and chronic physical infirmities such as diabetes, kidney disease, asthma and blood disorders.

And, yes, it's a scary mutating invader, showing little regard for traditional victims of flu, such as seniors, but instead an affection for young healthy women.

At risk, too, according to the experts, are pregnant women in their third trimester, natives on reserves, health care workers, and children under five.

But how did those specifics, and the actual H1N1 fatality statistics, suddenly translate into a mass inoculation program?

With few exceptions, most of the 86 deaths in Canada (nine in B.C.) attributed to H1N1 as of Oct. 22 have been linked to underlying medical conditions.

In fact, most documented cases of swine flu have been mild ones, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada, which also reminds us that other flu strains account for between 2,000 and 8,000 Canadian deaths each year.

The decision is personal, of course, and mine is based on many things, including research and my relative good health.

It's based, too, on a growing unease that our modern society seems inordinately predisposed to the quick-fix petri dish cure for fear a common sniffle might morph into a death sentence, instead of trusting our own built-in immune systems.

And while I have a healthy respect for our medical system, I also have a healthy distrust of drug invention and testing, coloured by lingering memories of thalidomide and Accutane and other so-called miracle medicines gone bad.

I wonder, too, as we blithely inject ourselves with viruses to fight viruses, year after year, if our own natural antibodies will go on evolutionary strike and simply give up the fight.

Fifty years ago, my mother vaccinated me as a youngster, as I did my two children, as did my two children with their children.

Polio, tuberculosis, smallpox, measles -- these debilitating and often deadly diseases are virtually eradicated thanks to modern medicine.

But the flu? Sneezing, runny nose, coughs, aches and pains? Headache, fever, diarrhea?

Surely our mothers gave us the best health advice ever, at least in dealing with seasonal flus and colds.

Eat properly. Get off your arse and get some fresh air. Don't sneeze on people. Cover your mouth when you cough, lest you spread germs.

If you get the flu, stay home and drink soup and ginger ale.

Wash your hands. A lot.

Look after your body. Listen to it. It will usually tell you when it's in trouble.

When I was a kid and hurt myself, my mother would ask: "Are you bleeding?" If I said "no," she would say, "Then stop crying and go back outside and play."

The message, of course, was that life is sometimes tough, so suck it up, and that which doesn't kill you, well, you know.

My mother, who is 83 and a life-long advocate of managing one's own health care, gets the annual flu shot, but will not be getting the swine flu shot.

My 25-year-old pregnant daughter, still in early days, will be discussing with our family doctor the side-effects of the H1N1 vaccine, said to include Guillain-Barre syndrome, a debilitating neurological disorder.

At 56, I have never had a flu shot, and I will not be getting the swine flu shot.

Does my doctor have a fool for a patient?

Perhaps.

But the truth is, I'm more afraid of the swine flu vaccination than I am of the swine flu.

And should I be wrong, well, I'm sure there'll be a lineup at the microphone come the funeral.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Ballon Boy Hoax Parents instructed children to lie to officials

Keith Coffman and Alex Dobuzinskis, Reuters

DENVER -- The mother of a Colorado boy thought to be aboard a homemade helium balloon has admitted to investigators the whole thing was a hoax, according to a court document made public on Friday.

The local sheriff had already said the Oct. 15 "Balloon Boy" incident was a publicity stunt and expected felony charges to be filed against the 6-year-old boy's parents, Richard and Mayumi Heene.

The live television images of the silver saucer-like balloon soaring through the Colorado skies captivated audiences until the boy turned up in the family's attic. Public sympathy turned to outrage when the family's account began to unravel.

According to a copy of a search warrant affidavit posted on the website of Fort Collins newspaper The Coloradoan, Ms. Heene told investigators she and her husband lied to authorities and knew their son Falcon was at home as rescue teams tracked the balloon believing the boy was inside.

"The motive for the fabricated story was to make the Heene family more marketable for future media interest," the affidavit states.

The document also says the Heenes, who had starred in the reality television show "Wife Swap," had devised the hoax about two weeks before and had instructed their three children to lie to authorities and the media.

© Thompson Reuters

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Zappos "quit now" policy and get $2000.00

Zappos.com is an electronic commerce company specializing in footwear and is currently based in Henderson, Nevada, USA.[2] The company warehouse is located in Shepherdsville, Kentucky, along with an outlet store. In addition, Zappos has two outlets stores in Las Vegas, Nevada and Henderson, Nevada.

Since its founding in 1999, Zappos has grown to be the biggest online shoe store.[3] Zappos did "almost nothing" in sales for 1999, but grossed over $800 million in merchandise sales in 2007, and is projecting over $1 billion in 2008.[1]

The name Zappos is derived from the Spanish word zapatos, meaning shoes

Company culture and core values

Zappos claims to place great emphasis on company culture and core values. The company publishes a "Culture Book" annually that is made up of contributions from employees describing what the company culture means to them.[9]

According to the company, the core value is to "deliver 'wow' through service."[10] A list on their website lists ten guiding principles embraced by the company.[10]

All employees that are hired for their corporate office, regardless of position, are required to undergo a 4-week Customer Loyalty Training course, which includes at least 2 weeks of talking on the phone with customers in the call center[8] at full salary. After a week of training, the new employees are offered $2,000 to leave the company immediately, no strings attached.[8] This is to ensure people are there for the love of the job and not the money. Over 97% turn down the buyout.[11] The quit-now bonus began at $100. It was soon bumped to $500 then $1,000. They currently offer $2,000 to "quit now".[11]

The company's culture focuses on making sure every interaction with the customer results in them saying, “That was the best customer service I have ever had.” [12]

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zappos.com

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Store clerk accused of stealing $1M lotto prize


By Kelley Shannon, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — A 25-year-old convenience store clerk pocketed a customer’s $1 million winning lottery ticket, claimed the prize and skipped town, possibly back to his native Nepal, authorities said.

Pankaj Joshi took 67-year-old Willis Willis’ winning Mega Millions megaplier ticket after Willis asked Joshi in May to check whether any of his numbers were winners, investigators said in a search warrant affidavit last month.

Joshi claimed the prize — about $750,000 after taxes — at the lottery claim center in Austin, had the money wired to a bank account and disappeared, authorities said.

“Never to this degree have we seen a clerk steal a megaplier winning ticket,” assistant district attorney Patty Robertson said Wednesday.

Nick Parveez, Joshi’s former manager at Lucky’s Food Store in Grand Prairie, near Dallas, called the lottery commission in July to voice his suspicions about Joshi after hearing that his store sold a $1 million winning ticket, according to the affidavit.

No one at Lucky’s had ever seen Joshi play the lottery, assistant manager Mike Rahman said.

“He just left,” Rahman said. “We were shocked. We didn’t know he could do anything like this.”

Joshi, who was a student at the University of Texas at Arlington and had worked at the store for five years, was charged in Travis County in September with one count of claiming a lottery prize by fraud. If convicted, he could face up to 20 years in prison. A judge set Joshi’s bond at $10 million.

The Austin American-Statesman first reported on the charge Wednesday.

Joshi transferred some of the money to various bank accounts after the initial deposit by the lottery, prosecutors said. Authorities have recovered $365,000 from Joshi’s account. It wasn’t clear when the money might be returned to Willis, if it’s proven in court to be his.

“We hope to return the stolen funds back to the victim,” Robertson said.

Investigators believe Joshi may have returned to Nepal. When he quit his job in June, Joshi said he was returning to the South Asian country to help his cousin with her perfume business, Parveez told investigators.

Willis, a regular customer at Lucky’s, said he played the lottery two to three times a week using a set batch of numbers. He said he bought $10 worth of Mega Millions megaplier tickets on May 29 for that night’s drawing, according to the affidavit.

Willis told investigators he went to the store two days after the drawing to check the results because he hadn’t been able to find the winning lottery numbers on television or check them in the newspaper.

Investigators used the lottery transaction system to see if the winning ticket had been scanned and found it was checked on May 31. An inspection of the store’s check processing computer found that Willis had cashed a check at the store and purchased lottery tickets two days earlier using set numbers. Willis also produced a lottery play slip showing the winning numbers.

Texas Lottery Commission officials said Wednesday they were investigating the matter. Spokesman Bobby Heith referred questions about the case to the district attorney’s office. He said the lottery recommends players sign the back of their tickets when they buy them in case of loss or theft.

Rahman said even though Willis is upset about the missing money, he still buys lottery tickets at Lucky’s.

Monday, October 19, 2009

DiManno: Balloon boy bursts dad's bubble


Famous. Infamous. The distinction doesn't matter any more.

The Heenes got what they lusted for: Worldwide TV face-time, a pathetic affirmation of their otherwise insignificant existence, star billing in manufactured melodrama. Mission accomplished. All it took was an aluminum foil balloon that resembled a humongous hangover ice-bag, a conspiracy of pretense forced on their children and the complicity of a credulous media contaminated by infotainment pressures.

And cops too, they were in on the sham, albeit and allegedly somewhat belatedly, mounting what they now claim was a tit-for-tat sting in order to elicit the truth.

"This was a hoax," Larimer County Sheriff Jim Alderden confirmed Sunday during a jaw-dropping press conference. "We've since learned, as many of you have, that these people are actors." Indeed, the couple now in the crosshairs had met at a school for thespians in Hollywood. "They put on a very good show for us and we bought it."

Lordy, the extent to which some folks will go for a piece of that reality-TV action, a 21st century phenomenon that is intrinsically un-real in its conceits, yet investing celebrity on the vapid.

"On the bizarre meter, this rates a 10," Alderden observed.

If so, the boundaries have just been pushed even farther out into the twilight zone of crafted mise-en-scène where the wacky are.

Is anyone prepared to bet that the Heenes won't get their coveted reality show on some shameless cable channel? Even if denied such an offer, they're clearly just as capable of producing a do-it-yourself online version or straight-to-YouTube eyeballs magnet.

The besieged sheriff's department actually got beaten to the gotcha announcement by Gawker, a cyber-gossip site that admits it paid cash – as demanded – by an associate of Richard Heene who claims to have been in on the fakery. Robert Thomas, current whereabouts unknown – but cops are looking – said Heene boasted the balloon scheme "would be the most significant UFO-related news events to take place since the Roswell crash of 1947."

As everybody knows, thanks to wall-to-wall coverage, the flying saucer-shaped balloon was sent aloft by Papa Heene last Thursday, purportedly snapping its tether, and it originally appeared 6-year-old son Falcon had been in the belly basket. That sparked a massive chase-and-rescue attempt as the dirigible drifted for 110 kilometres across Colorado, but no Falcon was found when it came to Earth.

The boy, turns out, was "hiding" in the attic, allegedly too frightened of catching heck from his dad to make his whereabouts known. But the ruse was blown when Falcon, during an appearance on CNN, blurted – when asked again why he'd remained hidden – "You said we did this for a show."

Alderden called that the "aha moment," though many of us in the news biz considered Wolf Blitzer's obsequious back-off – when Heene the Elder objected to a probing question – an "ah geez" moment for the veteran journalist.

"If you look at the non-verbal responses, as well as some of the verbal cues, not only for him but from the family, the children, their reaction, it became very clear to us at that point that they were lying."

Heene had got all hinky, professing he'd agreed to the interview so the media pack would get off his back. In fact, the Heenes are crazy for cameras and attention.

As the media quickly discovered, this was a TV-whore family, having appeared on creepy reality show Wife Swap and since then mooching around for another such production, reportedly in development.

Thomas, the whistle-blower, had proposed a show called The Science Detectives, wherein storm-chaser-cum-handyman-cum-contractor Heene would posit and then debunk nut-job scientific theories. The concocted boy-in-a-balloon nail-biter was a side stunt and apparently not-so-crazy a flim-flam, coming from this particular clan.

While Alderden was telling reporters that the Heenes would soon be arrested on charges of conspiracy, contributing to the delinquency of a minor, making a false report to authorities and attempting to influence a public servant – up to six years in prison and a $500,000 fine included on the array of convictions – Richard and Mayumi Heene were shopping at Wal-Mart with their three boys. Heene told reporters he was "seeking counsel," though, as Associated Press wryly noted, it's unclear whether he was talking about hiring an attorney or a shrink.

"The thing has become so convoluted," Heene said, tears welling.

So, the guy can do lachrymose on command, perhaps thanks to those acting classes. Or perhaps he's finally realizing where this ill-advised bamboozle might end. To wit, jail and, one hopes, a close look by child welfare authorities.

During the media scrum, Alderden confirmed that likelihood when he responded to a query about whether any drugs had been seized in a police search of the Heene house. "Some of the kids on some of the videos certainly raised the question of whether they were drugged or not."

That's another explanation for young Falcon vomiting during two of the interviews his family gave when making the round of news shows on Friday.

If the child wasn't drug-pumped, he was certainly distressed and TV executives will have to answer for their poor judgment in continuing to put that family in front of the cameras. (Investigators were also looking into whether any media outlets were in on the hoax.)

The sheriff's department has egg on its face also, though Alderden insisted his earlier remarks about believing the Heene story was, well, cop-spin, lying to journalists to secure the family's trust while investigators chipped away at evidence and separated the principals for interrogation.

Amidst all the lying, this was one more bit of mendacity. "It's not a crime for us to do that," Alderden said, sheepishly.

All of it, no doubt, turned into a made-for-TV movie soon.

Rosie DiManno usually appears Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Does USD Money Display 911 Twin Towers?


Complot 11 Septembre : Dollar US - More amazing video clips are a click away

Toronto Maple Leaf Fans Hide Face In Shame Of The Team


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The legendary willingness of Leafs-loving Torontonians to dish out mortgage-payment-like sums to witness a perennial loser may have reached its breaking point.

Tickets to Maple Leafs games are being sold for unprecedented low prices on the open market – in what ticket brokers and resellers say is an early sign of a backlash against the club's league-topping ticket prices and basement-dwelling performance.

For the first time ticket sellers can remember, Leafs tickets with face values of $100 to $300 each are routinely selling for as little as half that amount.

"In the past, they always said it didn't matter what the Leafs produced on the ice because people will still pay top dollar," said Shawn Brookes, director of operations with FanXchange, a website that connects buyers with sellers. "This is the first time I've seen customers finally getting fed up with these astronomical prices."

Most of the Leafs tickets sold on FanXchange this season were snapped up for below face value, says Brookes.

For a home game against the Colorado Avalanche on Oct. 13, "there were tickets – dead centre golds – selling for $90 or $100 instead of the $203 face price."

There are other signs Toronto's hottest ticket has become tepid.

A search of eBay and Craigslist, popular websites for reselling seats, turns up dozens of below-face-value tickets along with such creative, bargain-basement inducements as, "Buy tickets for this Saturday's game vs. the New York Rangers and if (the Leafs) lose, the next game is FREE."

Experts say the availability of tickets at the box office, even for big games, is evidence Leaf Nation is hitting the wall.

As of Friday night, tickets were still available for Saturday's game against the New York Rangers.

"Sellers will bleed money this weekend," said one scalper, who asked to remain anonymous. "It's the taste people have in their mouths – losing, losing, losing."

While the club must hold some tickets until game day for league officials and players, says Rajani Kamath, a spokesperson for Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment, which owns the Leafs, the team's first four home games this season were sold out.

Not so, say many ticket sellers whose ability to charge premium prices is undermined when seats remain available at the box office.

Eric Lange, president of www.etorontotickets.com, says about 70 per cent of its inventory is selling for below face value.

"Four years ago, I was able to pick my customers," says Lange. "What's happening now is the exact opposite. The consumer is naming their price, they can pick from all kinds of inventory and, for the first time, you can get a Saturday night game. There's all kinds of seats everywhere. That's why we're selling cheap."

Lange sold tickets last year for up to $70 below face value, he says, but only after the Leafs were officially eliminated from the playoffs.

"Now, right from the get go, we were selling pre-season games at half-price that used to go for face value. It's unprecedented."

Another reason for the fire sale?

"This all goes back to March when the Leafs had the audacity to raise face-value prices," says Lange. "A lot of long-term season ticket holders contacted us and told us to sell their season tickets ... These are longtime season ticket holders saying, `I've had enough of the incompetence. Sell my tickets.'"

One Toronto broker says he is "significantly" in the hole only six games into this season, having sold 60 per cent of his inventory for below face value – including some tickets for less than the price marked.

"There's an unwillingness to pay I haven't seen before," said the man, who did not want to be identified. "A lot of clients are saying, `I want to go to a game but I'm not going to pay good money to watch the Leafs lose.'"

A recent survey by Chicago-based Team Marketing Report found that a ticket for a Leafs game at the Air Canada Centre costs an average of $117.49 (all figures U.S. dollars ) – more than double the National Hockey League average of $51.41.

The "Fan Cost Index" – Team Marketing Report's calculation of the cost of taking a family of four to a Leafs game – comes in at a chart-topping $585.57, an 8.4 per cent jump from last year.

Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment figures show individual seat prices increased 3.5 per cent over last season.

Graham Scully, a frequent Leafs ticket buyer and owner of Don Cherry's Sports Grill in Brampton, says "something crazy is going on."

"I've never seen this," Scully says. "Last year, if I had a couple of clients coming into town, I'd spend $500 on a couple of tickets. This year I'm getting them for $250. People just aren't putting up with it anymore."

These days, Scully has been finding cut-rate tickets online, often offering up to half the face value for good seats.

"I'll get it 75 per cent of the time. For the home opener (against Montreal), where you'd expect to pay double the face price, I offered $200 for a $265 centre ice, row 12 seat and got it. My whole entire life that's not happened."

Another measure of fan interest – traffic in Scully's sports-themed restaurant on game nights – serves up more bad news. "We used to be absolutely slammed and now its just a little better than an average night. I used to have to double my staff; now I put on an extra two servers instead of four."

Ask ticket sellers for a solution and you won't get many answers.

The Leafs can't just pick another player from the farm system, says Lange.

"There's nothing better back there. There's nothing to say that changing coaches will make it any better. There's just so many things wrong with this collection of players, no one knows where to start."

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Here'sThe Scope Today...


Leo (July 23 — Aug. 22)

The sky speaks of a real chance for you to banish strife from a part of your world that has long been suffering. Improvement will come right where you need it most and just in the nick of time.

Cancer (June 22 — July 22)

You are starting to wish you could shut yourself off from an emotional dilemma. You are not sure how to face up to your feelings. The best option is to listen to your heart and the solution will prove quite easy.

Gemini (May 21 — June 21)

Knowing the details of a certain issue isn't as important as it might seem. An outline view will expedite a simpler and more decisive outcome. Focus on what is crucial and don't be distracted by interference.

Scorpio (Oct. 24 — Nov. 22)

You've been up against something difficult to put right and the strain has left you exhausted. But you really ought to feel proud of how well you have coped. Everything takes time. Success will ultimately come.

Source

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Kelly McParland: Alcohol killed Robert Dziekanski. Seriously. Quit laughing.


Posted: October 14, 2009, 3:45 PM by NP Editor
Kelly McParland, Taser

The New Financial Post Stock Market Challenge starts in October. You could WIN your share of $60,000 in prizing. Register NOW


Some years back I happened to attend a Congressional hearing in Washington that featured the CEOs of the top U.S. tobacco companies.

Henry Waxman, the ultra-Liberal congressman who is now busy trying to torpedo any hope of Congress crafting a workable health plan, was intent on embarrassing them. In an inspired move, he asked them to stand, raise their hands and swear under oath that they didn't believe smoking was in any way harmful to health.

Well, you have to earn your money, so they did as exactly as requested, standing side by side with their hands in the air, professing utter bewilderment at the suggestion all those people dying of lung cancer might have lived longer if they hadn't been sucking back 20 or 30 smokes a day. Surely it was all just a coincidence.

There is an oft-used photo of that moment, but perhaps David Neave has never seen it. Lawyers have to earn their money too, and Mr. Neave is the lawyer for Taser International, so on Tuesday he had to appear before the Braidwood inquiry into the death of Robert Dziekanski and profess with as straight a face as possible that there was no evidence "the Taser device caused or contributed to his death."

Nope, it was all just an unfortunate coincidence. Or maybe worse: a conspiracy against the good name of Taser International, those fine folks who manufacture devices capable of firing 50,000 volts of electricity into some poor sap's body.

"We say it is time this uninformed speculation about the role the Taser device may have had in this case be dispelled and the attack on Taser's reputation ended," intoned Mr. Neave.

"Taser's mission is to protect life," he assured the hearing, which has spent months listening to details of Mr. Dziekanski's death, which came after he'd been zapped five times with a Taser in the hands of a bunch of RCMP officers. A key bit of evidence is the famous video, which shows Mr. Dziekanski alive and well, if a bit upset. The cops arrive, Taser him five times, he turns blue and dies.

Hey, it could happen to anyone. The guy is fine, 100% healthy; he gets Tasered five times, which has absolutely no effect on him, but just happens to die of some completely unrelated factor at the exact same moment he's being Tasered by a harmless little electricity gun. I mean, what are the odds eh?

Mr. Neave had to make sure the inquiry understood just how tragic a coincidence it all was. The cops could have Tasered Dziekanski every 30 seconds for months on end and he'd have been just fine and dandy, if not for that unfortunate fatal attack he just happened to have at that moment.

As Canwest reported, "Neave said Dziekanski presented the classic profile of someone who dies during restraint by the police, as he appeared to be in a state of delirium prior to the incident, which was likely caused by alcohol abuse and withdrawal."

Oh sure, blame the alcohol industry, as if booze ever hurt anyone.

Neave noted that the poor ill-informed boobies who foolishly concluded Dziekanski's multiple tasering contributed to his death "had no scientific studies to back up their claims", while "experts" who said Tasers did not cause the heart to stop functioning had conducted studies to support their findings.

Wow, I mean is that convincing or what? Taser put forward "experts," not just drunks off the street like the commission used. Those "experts" had "studies" to prove their point, and we all know that "studies" conducted by "experts" are 100% fool-proof and not subject to doubt.

Now, you may want to recall that the tobacco companies survived for years on their 100% foolproof argument that there was no scientific proof connecting tobacco to cancer, and rolled out expert after expert to present studies backing up their claim. But don't make the mistake of concluding that the Taser industry is engaged in exactly the same old game, or that Mr. Neave was spouting utter nonsense on Tuesday.

This time it's really true. There is just no way that police killed Mr. Dziekanski with their Taser, no matter what the video and the evidence shows. I mean, who you going to believe, David Neave or your own eyes?

National Post

Did the store overcharge you? No need to fume

Did the store overcharge you? No need to fume

October 14, 2009

Shauna Rempel

It used to steam me up: I'd get home after a big shopping trip, only to look at the receipt and realize I'd paid full price for those granola bars – or whatever – that had been advertised on sale. A matter of just a few dollars, mind you, but it still felt like a rip-off.

Little did I know, those granola bars didn't have to cost me a thing.

You, too, could save – up to $10 on each item – if you are overcharged on your next trip to the store.

Or not, if you aren't aware – as I wasn't – of a national program that compensates customers who have been charged the wrong price by automatically giving them the item incorrectly scanned for free.

Yes, free.

Since 2002, stores that have signed on to a program called the Scanner Price Accuracy Voluntary Code that will give you an incorrectly priced item free, if that item costs less than $10. If it costs more, you get $10 off the correct price.

If you buy a bunch of the same, incorrectly priced thing, only the first unit purchased qualifies.

There are more than 8,000 participating locations across Canada.

The $10 code was developed as a way to maintain consumers' faith in the retail system, says communications director Mark Beazley of the industry group Retail Council of Canada, which, along with other groups representing grocery and drug stores, administers the code.

"Although retailers strive to be accurate in scanner pricing, errors can occur in the system," Beazley says. Errors such as an item that has the wrong label or is scanned incorrectly at the checkout. The code is a simple and effective way for customers to have those errors corrected, Beazley says.

Except that customers we spoke to had never heard of the code, despite shopping at participating chains.

"I can tell you in my case, definitely, I wasn't aware there was such a thing," says Sonya Kladich who was checking over her bill in a west-end grocery store parking lot.

"I am the worst when it comes to (checking prices)," she says, adding that she has been burned in the past by one chain that does not subscribe to the code and now keeps an eye out when shopping there.

Fred Vella, 73, also didn't know about the code.

"If they charge me too much, I go back to the store for an adjustment," he says, pushing a Loblaw's cart holding two bags of flour, canned soup and some yogurt that had been discounted for quick sale.

"It's an inconvenience, eh? I have to drive back to the store from home." (Customers can also call a toll-free complaint line set up by the Retail Council of Canada.)

Savvy shoppers on the deal-spotting site www.SmartCanucks.ca know about the code, but a recent discussion suggests a level of confusion over how it works. Some members thought it was universal among Canadian retailers.

Vella says he wouldn't think to demand his money back, which is typical, says Mel Fruitman, vice-president of the advocacy group Consumers Association of Canada.

"It's not in the Canadian psyche," Fruitman says. "We don't stand up for ourselves like we should.

Fruitman says the Retail Council doesn't go far enough in making the public aware of the seven-year-old code – "It's sort of just sitting there," he says – and recommends more signage.

Beazley says a survey of 255 stores conducted for the Retail Council showed 87 per cent were well-versed in the code and 84 per cent had signs displayed at every checkout and entrance.

Customers with a complaint can call the store directly or call a complaint hotline at 1-866-499-4599.

"I don't think you can jump to the conclusion this is showing an increase in the number of errors," Beazley says. "It may just be that consumers are more aware of the actual program."

All the complaints phoned in last year were resolved, Beazley says.

Fruitman says, with our reliance on technology, it may not occur to many customers to double-check their bill.

"Most consumers accept that we're in an electronic world and don't think too much about it anymore," he says.

'Hell's Kitchen' Claims about Araxi a Tad Overdone


A famous restaurant might throw a party to announce the arrival of a new top chef. There's no party for the hiring of a new busboy. Tuesday night in Whistler, Araxi is throwing a big party to celebrate an event that falls somewhere in the middle. Araxi will be crowded with folks eager to see who comes out on top after the two-hour finale of Hell's Kitchen, the Fox-TV reality series (airing locally on City TV). Three contestants are left. The winner, we have been told, gets the position of Head Chef at Araxi. That sounds exciting. But would big audiences watch a 13-week audition for a line cook supervisor?

Hell's Kitchen is hosted by Gordon Ramsey, the celebrity chef and human aneurysm who has been entertaining Fox TV audiences for years with his particular brand of staff abuse. Every year he scythes through stands of culinary hopefuls to find one chef who can take the heat. This is the sixth season for the American version of the show, based on an earlier U.K. version. Past prizes have included top positions in Ramsey's restaurants, or places such as Green Valley Ranch Resort's Terra Verde restaurant in Las Vegas. This year it's head chef at Araxi. Quite an honour, considering the many awards Araxi has been winning under executive chef James Walt.

Ah yes, James Walt -- who still works at Araxi. And will continue to do so. So won't it be rather awkward for poor James to toil under the direction of some youngster whose recent work experience mostly involves trying not to flinch when struck by Chef Ramsey's spittle?

"The Hell's Kitchen winner won't be running the kitchen," Walt said while signing copies of his new Araxi cookbook at a recent launch. "I run the kitchen."

So then -- will the winner be second in command? Third?

Walt pondered a moment. "Maybe fourth," he said.

New solar farm can provide power for 1,000 homes


New solar farm can provide power for 1,000 homes

October 14, 2009

Tyler Hamilton

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Michelle Chislett, a Skypower vice-president, Jason Gray, of SunEdison and Michael Henderson, construction manager, show off solar first in Napanee.

WAYNE HIEBERT FOR THE TORONTO STAR

STONE MILLS, Ont.–Construction manager Michael Henderson beams with pride as he gazes out at a black sea of 126,040 solar panels, each resting majestically against 36 hectares of south-sloping terrain.

Canada's largest solar generating station, called First Light, made history on Sept. 26, when at 10:16 a.m. it became the first multi-megawatt solar farm in the country to connect to the electricity system. First Light covers an area large enough to fit nine Rogers Centres and convert enough sun rays each year to power 1,000 homes cleanly.

At 9.1 megawatts, and woven together with more than a million feet of electrical wire, it's also the third-largest solar farm in North America to turn sunlight directly into electricity.

Henderson, who led the construction effort for solar power developer SunEdison Canada and its joint venture partner, SkyPower Corp. of Toronto, said the project had its challenges.

The land was uneven, rocky and covered in shrubs; installation took place in an unusually wet season that submerged the work area in water and mud.

Efforts were made not to disturb the habitat of the eastern loggerhead shrike, a highly endangered songbird that feeds on mice and grasshoppers on the sprawling lot, next to the Goodyear tire plant in Napanee. "The site conditions were the worst I've seen in 25 years," said Henderson. "But for all the trades, all the guys involved with this, it was a badge of honour to work it."

This is the changing face of Ontario's electricity system, where high-polluting coal power is phased out and clean energy is enthusiastically embraced as the replacement for dirty sources. Many consider it a noble direction to take in an era of climate anxiety. But critics point out it won't come cheap.

SunEdison and SkyPower will get 42 cents for every kilowatt-hour of solar electricity they sell to the province, or seven times more than what we are used to paying on our monthly power bill. A new program launched this month will pay up to 80.2 cents for homeowners and businesses that install "micro" solar-power systems on rooftops.

The McGuinty government, engaged in a kind of green-energy balancing act, is betting the investment will pay off. The trick is to support enough solar development to lure foreign investors, stimulate local manufacturing and create jobs, but control costs by keeping solar relatively small in the mix of hydro, nuclear and wind power.

Assuming another 100 projects the size of First Light are added to the grid – nearly 1,000 megawatts – it would add only 0.4 cents per kilowatt-hour to the average cost of electricity in Ontario. If another 1,000 megawatts of rooftop solar were added, even at 80.2 cents per kilowatt-hour, it would add just 0.8 cents to what we see on our bills.

Solar advocates note most of the power we get from the sun comes when we need it most, during the summer when air conditioners are blasting and high-cost electricity tends to come from natural gas "peaker" plants. So, they argue, Ontario can become a North American solar leader without burning a gaping hole in the wallets of ratepayers.

In reality, Ontario is just getting started in a market where jurisdictional bragging rights change daily. First Light, as big as it is, won't retain its ranking for very long. Later this month, Florida Power & Light will flick the switch on a 25-megawatt solar plant, giving the U.S. utility top ranking on the continent, bumping First Light down a notch.

Ontario competition is also nipping at First Light's heels. The Canadian subsidiary of French developer EDF Energies Nouvelles Co. is building a 23.4-megawatt solar park in Arnprior, west of Ottawa. EDF expects to have more than 20 megawatts of that project connected to the grid by Dec. 31, installing more than 300,000 sun-worshipping panels 65 hectares.

Near Sarnia, natural gas giant Enbridge Inc. recently bought two 10-megawatt solar farms from California panel maker First Solar. Connected by year-end, adding another 20 megawatts of solar to the grid.

Not to be outdone, SunEdison and SkyPower will soon expand First Light, adding another 7.8 megawatts in a second phase and 10 megawatts in a third phase. Developers across the province have dozens more projects in the pipeline.

However, companies must grapple with new land restrictions and local content rules. Last month, Ontario said large utility-scale solar projects could no longer be developed on Class 1 and 2 prime agricultural lands, and Class 3 lands only used under certain conditions.

Such farmland, ideal for growing crops, comes at a premium but is easier and less costly to build on. It also gets better sun exposure.

New regulations require that Ontario labour and technology make up at least half the content of all new utility-scale solar developments. On Jan. 1, 2011, that threshold jumps up to 60 per cent.

Still, rich incentives may prove too alluring for an industry that just three years ago never gave Ontario serious consideration.

Leo Scope Sounds Right To Me

Leo (July 23 — Aug. 22)

Look at the criticism and doubt that is being directed toward you. It may be emanating from someone who has a hidden agenda. Something a little suspicious is now taking place. Today brings a chance to get to the bottom of it.

Seniors in the park need a permit!


It was a beautiful day in Humber Bay Park. The seniors group had just finished an hour-long walk along the water, a regular event organized to warm them up before a twice-weekly fitness class at a nearby community hall.

They didn't get far before the bylaw officer's truck appeared.

"We were just leaving the park to go back to the hall and (the city worker) parked his car right in our path," said Margaret Guthrie, 71, describing the Sept. 21 encounter. "He totally obstructed our pathway."

According to Guthrie he also took photographs of the group and followed them.

The city maintains that taking photos and information is normal if a bylaw violation is suspected.

The problem here? There is a fee for classes held in the park.

Guthrie, with partner Don Foster, takes a fitness class Mondays and Wednesdays at the Polish Alliance Hall on Lake Shore Blvd. W. If the weather is good, some of the group warms up in the park.

Under Municipal Code Chapter 608, Parks, anyone who holds events for profit such as a yoga class or boot camp in a park must pay the city $28.65 an hour (plus GST). Violating the bylaw means a ticket and potentially a $250 fine.

Organizer Anne Wheatley said she uses the park only occasionally, and the group walks through. Wheatley said the same worker approached her in a different park last year, causing her to relocate.

"Parks are put there for the public and they are denying them the use of it," she said.

Advocacy groups for seniors agree.

Last night Susan Eng, vice-president for advocacy with CARP, wrote to Mayor David Miller, asking the city to "take whatever steps are necessary to ensure that all Torontonians, but especially older residents, are welcome to walk in parks without a licence."

Guthrie said, the worker told Wheatley she needed a permit, then asked for her name and phone number.

When no information was offered, the man pulled out a camera.

"He was snapping pictures left right and centre, and people started getting nervous," Guthrie said.

They left, and the man followed in his truck. He entered the hall and tried again to get Wheatley's information, then according to Guthrie took photos of people's licence plates.

Andy Koropeski, director of parks, said area residents have complained about classes being held in the park, which is why bylaw officers were in the area. "People are thinking there are fees charged to seniors walking in the park. The issue is dealing with those who rely on commercial enterprises that use the public space," he said.

He said the issue was being investigated, and Wheatley has not been issued a ticket.

Guthrie said they have since emailed "everyone and their uncle," including the mayor and Councillor Mark Grimes (Ward 6 Etobicoke-Lakeshore). They got an email from Grimes' office that suggested Wheatley might be charged, said Guthrie.

"We are not even in there an hour," said Guthrie. "I think it is just a money grab."

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Airport scanner sees through your clothes


A controversial virtual strip search may be peeking under airline passengers' clothes at Pearson airport soon.

Up until now, Kelowna International Airport in B.C. was the only Canadian airport to try the technology that can see right through passengers' clothes to their bodies, showing everything from concealed weapons to piercings to non-metal explosives — to the outline of breasts and genitals.

Janelle Turpin, a spokesperson for Kelowna airport, told The Star Tuesday that their six-month trial was the first for Canada. Now, she says, they're looking at trying it out at bigger airports, including Pearson. The machine, created by RapiScan Systems of Torrence, Calif., would be used for secondary screening — after a person has set off a metal detector. The passenger could choose between the machine and a pat-down.

Turpin went through the full-body machine herself and said she preferred it to a frisking. "That makes me much more uncomfortable. I didn't find it evasive."

Guylaine LeCouteur, spokesperson for the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority, said Tuesday a report from the Kelowna trial is with the federal privacy commissioner and Transport Canada, to examine the equipment from both privacy and efficiency points of view.

She had no idea when a decision might come to try whole body scanning at major Canadian airports, including Pearson.

"Ninety-five per cent of the people who tried it (in Kelowna) preferred it," she said. "There's nobody touching them. It's simpler."

Scott Armstrong, a spokesperson for Pearson International Airport, said there is no indication when the scanner will be used at the airport.

"We have no idea...we haven't been told anything about it," he said.

The machine is installed at 19 U.S. airports as a primary screener, an alternative to metal detectors that is supposed to be voluntary.

Manchester Airport in Britain unveiled its first whole body imaging scanner Monday and announced its arrival Tuesday.

"Our passengers tell us that they don't like being patted down by security staff," said Sarah Barrett, the British airport's head of customer experience.

As for privacy concerns, Barrett explains that the security staff looking at the images are in a separate room, the images aren't stored and can't be forwarded and, most of all, "imaging technology does not allow security staff to see passengers naked."

"It's not erotic or pornographic," Barrett told The Star Tuesday. She's been scanned herself and found the image "dull and boring. You couldn't tell it was me."

"The image produced is a black-and-white, ghost-like outline without any distinguishing features, making it impossible to recognize people but simple to detect concealed threats."

The images do outline breasts and genitals, however, and that's already caused debate at the European Commission Parliament and among U.S. lawmakers.

U.S. Representative Jason Chaffetz's bill to ban full-body screeners as a primary security device passed the U.S. lower house in June but has not yet been voted on in the Senate.

"Nobody needs to see my wife and kids naked to secure an airplane," the Utah congressman declares at the top of his web site.

Barrett stresses that the current initiative is just a trial. Among the U.S. airports using the device are the Rochester Airport in New York, Cleveland airport in Ohio and George Bush International Airport in Houston. Internationally, it's used at Amsterdam, Melbourne, Moscow and Helskini airports.

The scanner uses what's called Terahertz radiation, a band that lies between microwaves and infrared. The so-called "T-rays" carry much less energy than X-rays, which means that while they can penetrate a layer of clothing, they cannot penetrate materials such as water and metal. This also makes them much safer than X-rays. According to Barrett, 20,000 T-ray scans would be equal to one medical X-ray.

"It goes down well with frequent flyers," Barrett says. "They can leave their jackets and belts on and their money in their pockets."

Comments on the BBC News website included "absolutely disgusting" (Z, Birmingham); "how long will it be before the airport pictures are being trafficed on the net" (Angela Smith, Annan, Dumfriesshire); and "this is for our own safety" (Julie Harris, Farnham, Surrey).

The scan is voluntary and is designed to make Manchester more the airport of choice for travellers, Barrett said, because the scan eliminates the need for a "physical pat-down."

RapiScans in early October announced a $25 million contract with the U.S. Transportation Security Administration for the next generation of full-body scanners, which don't require passenger to turn around for a back view.

Airport scanner sees through your clothes


A controversial virtual strip search may be peeking under airline passengers' clothes at Pearson airport soon.

Up until now, Kelowna International Airport in B.C. was the only Canadian airport to try the technology that can see right through passengers' clothes to their bodies, showing everything from concealed weapons to piercings to non-metal explosives — to the outline of breasts and genitals.

Janelle Turpin, a spokesperson for Kelowna airport, told The Star Tuesday that their six-month trial was the first for Canada. Now, she says, they're looking at trying it out at bigger airports, including Pearson. The machine, created by RapiScan Systems of Torrence, Calif., would be used for secondary screening — after a person has set off a metal detector. The passenger could choose between the machine and a pat-down.

Turpin went through the full-body machine herself and said she preferred it to a frisking. "That makes me much more uncomfortable. I didn't find it evasive."

Guylaine LeCouteur, spokesperson for the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority, said Tuesday a report from the Kelowna trial is with the federal privacy commissioner and Transport Canada, to examine the equipment from both privacy and efficiency points of view.

She had no idea when a decision might come to try whole body scanning at major Canadian airports, including Pearson.

"Ninety-five per cent of the people who tried it (in Kelowna) preferred it," she said. "There's nobody touching them. It's simpler."

Scott Armstrong, a spokesperson for Pearson International Airport, said there is no indication when the scanner will be used at the airport.

"We have no idea...we haven't been told anything about it," he said.

The machine is installed at 19 U.S. airports as a primary screener, an alternative to metal detectors that is supposed to be voluntary.

Manchester Airport in Britain unveiled its first whole body imaging scanner Monday and announced its arrival Tuesday.

"Our passengers tell us that they don't like being patted down by security staff," said Sarah Barrett, the British airport's head of customer experience.

As for privacy concerns, Barrett explains that the security staff looking at the images are in a separate room, the images aren't stored and can't be forwarded and, most of all, "imaging technology does not allow security staff to see passengers naked."

"It's not erotic or pornographic," Barrett told The Star Tuesday. She's been scanned herself and found the image "dull and boring. You couldn't tell it was me."

"The image produced is a black-and-white, ghost-like outline without any distinguishing features, making it impossible to recognize people but simple to detect concealed threats."

The images do outline breasts and genitals, however, and that's already caused debate at the European Commission Parliament and among U.S. lawmakers.

U.S. Representative Jason Chaffetz's bill to ban full-body screeners as a primary security device passed the U.S. lower house in June but has not yet been voted on in the Senate.

"Nobody needs to see my wife and kids naked to secure an airplane," the Utah congressman declares at the top of his web site.

Barrett stresses that the current initiative is just a trial. Among the U.S. airports using the device are the Rochester Airport in New York, Cleveland airport in Ohio and George Bush International Airport in Houston. Internationally, it's used at Amsterdam, Melbourne, Moscow and Helskini airports.

The scanner uses what's called Terahertz radiation, a band that lies between microwaves and infrared. The so-called "T-rays" carry much less energy than X-rays, which means that while they can penetrate a layer of clothing, they cannot penetrate materials such as water and metal. This also makes them much safer than X-rays. According to Barrett, 20,000 T-ray scans would be equal to one medical X-ray.

"It goes down well with frequent flyers," Barrett says. "They can leave their jackets and belts on and their money in their pockets."

Comments on the BBC News website included "absolutely disgusting" (Z, Birmingham); "how long will it be before the airport pictures are being trafficed on the net" (Angela Smith, Annan, Dumfriesshire); and "this is for our own safety" (Julie Harris, Farnham, Surrey).

The scan is voluntary and is designed to make Manchester more the airport of choice for travellers, Barrett said, because the scan eliminates the need for a "physical pat-down."

RapiScans in early October announced a $25 million contract with the U.S. Transportation Security Administration for the next generation of full-body scanners, which don't require passenger to turn around for a back view.

Monday, October 12, 2009

The Scope Today

Leo (July 23 — Aug. 22)

Success is a fine thing. Never mind the stress it creates or the sense of isolation that comes with it. Never mind, too, the fact that failure teaches a more valuable lesson. Success is what we all want. So, accept an imminent good turn of events.

Scorpio (Oct. 24 — Nov. 22)

Today's big decision is very much a matter of personal preference. You have to do what suits you. If, in some way, it doesn't suit a certain someone else, you can try to be sensitive. Ultimately, however, you can't allow yourself to be dissuaded.

Gemini (May 21 — June 21)

We often put ourselves through untold and unnecessary misery by projecting our fears into the future. Instead of taking life moment by moment, we read endless levels of meaning into it. Put your trust in a benign universe. Good things are in store.

Cancer (June 22 — July 22)

The best friendships are based on a natural rapport and shared experience. They need neither to be subjected to constant analysis nor to be kept artificially alive with polite gestures born out of obligation. Keep this in mind today and relax.


Source


Sunday, October 11, 2009

Where they grow our junk food

Where they grow our junk food

October 11, 2009

Margaret Webb

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Dave Ferguson grows mostly corn and soybeans on his 364-hectare farm.

CRAIG GLOVER FOR THE TORONTO STAR

Follow the flow of food. That's what any farmer will tell you. Because apples don't grow in supermarkets.

So to get to the root of the exploding obesity epidemic, I went in search of a junk food farm.

Such farms are not so easy to spot. No fields of Dorito bags waving in the breeze, no orchards blooming with soda pop, no soil bursting with 99-cent burgers.

What you do see are vast operations growing the raw materials for junk food: soybeans and corn.

The two crops go into the production of many things: pharmaceuticals, industrial products, animal feed – and inexpensive calories.

Tonnes of soybeans and corn are turned into "edible food-like substances," as food system critic Michael Pollan calls them, used in virtually all processed foods, beverages and junk food.

Last year, Ontario farmers planted 2.4 million acres of soybeans and just over 2 million acres of corn. That's nearly half of all cropland in the province, a near-colonization of Ontario farms by the soy and corn industry.

It has provided an abundance of cheap calories for a food system that operates by Doritos economics. A bushel of corn produces some 440 two-ounce bags of 99-cent chips. Farmer grosses $3.70 for the bushel of corn, Doritos more than $440.

Dave Ferguson grows ingredients for junk food on his 364-hectare farm about an hour west of London, Ont. With no market for local food in his area, he has few other options than to grow soybeans and corn, along with wheat and a little alfalfa.

A portion of his harvest heads to Windsor, to American-owned ADM Agri-Industries Ltd., and to London, to Casco Inc., an affiliate of U.S.-based Corn Products International.

ADM crushes soybeans, producing feed for livestock, which helps make the 99-cent burger possible, while extracting the oil for lards, frying oils, shortening and margarines. Soybean oil is responsible for much of the added fat in our diets.

From corn, Casco produces syrups, sweeteners, starches and oil. Some 55 per cent of the sweeteners used in the food and beverage industry derive from corn. Corn supplies our diet with its sugar high.

Ferguson, a fit 50-year-old, says the demand for cheap food, combined with competition from ever cheaper global imports, has placed relentless pressure on farmers not only to grow these crops, but to expand (Ontario is beginning to sprout 2,000- to 4,000-hectare crop farms, which dwarf Ferguson's and are even less environmentally sustainable than his).

He says the demand for cheap food also puts pressure on farmers "to work every corner, every square inch" – eliminating woodlots, wetlands and buffer strips near vulnerable waterways. He knows that current farming techniques – growing too few crops in limited rotation, with chemical fertilizer, and returning too little organic matter to the soil – is mining his land of fertility, and that the current methods will not feed increasing populations.

Ferguson is trying to turn things around. He is the volunteer chair of the Rural Lambton Stewardship Committee. When he's not farming, he encourages fellow farmers to create wetlands and native grass buffers to protect waterways in the local Sydenham River watershed. Ferguson himself has taken several acres out of production for such "ecological functions" – at his cost, he says, though it's society that benefits.

The Sydenham is a lazy stretch of water that oozes through the last remnants of Carolinian forest south of Lake Huron. It has the greatest diversity of flora and fauna of any Canadian river, including some 80 species of fish and 32 kinds of mussels.

The Sydenham once supplied drinking water to some area communities. But it has turned the colour of chocolate milk. Bacterial levels are high, the water quality too poor for swimming. Some 14 aquatic species have been designated endangered, threatened or of special concern.

Muriel Andreae, co-chair of the Sydenham River Recovery Team and a biologist, can pinpoint the cause of the damage – topsoil erosion and runoff from intensive crop farms and livestock feeding operations, as well as some outdated septic systems. "Nitrogen and phosphorous from manure and chemical fertilizers are big issues," she says, as well as "historically high levels of glyphosate," a widely used agricultural herbicide.

Walk upstream of the Sydenham, or any waterway in Ontario's agricultural belt, and you can find a junk food farm. Turns out environmental degradation and junk food farming go together like fries and a Coke. Or a Coke and insulin.

The Sydenham is just a snapshot of what's happening to waterways around the world. Nutrient runoff from agriculture starves water of oxygen, fish of life, and us of a healthy, once-reliable source of protein.

In all, some $1.5 million in grants have been spent on 240 projects in the Sydenham watershed. That doesn't include the value of land voluntarily retired, without compensation. Not surprisingly, only about 5 per cent of landowners have done so.

Ferguson says farmers alone can't shoulder the expense of caring for the environment. "Until society gets in their mind that they have to pay to get these farms sustainable ..."

"If you want cheap food, that's what you're going to have."

In the 1950s, before farming started to industrialize in Ontario, we spent about 20 per cent of our income on food. Most of us spend less than half that now, less than any other nation in the world.

But we're paying in other ways – environmental degradation, health-care costs and transportation (half of Ontario's soybean harvest, for example, is exported).

Instead of an official food policy, Canada has an unofficial cheap food policy that no one voted for, yet it shapes our food system all the same. It lets private companies largely drive our food system, without paying for health and environmental repercussions. They have had a heyday.

Ferguson recommends a read of the report, "Compare the Share," written by his father, Ralph, a former Liberal MP. The National Farmers Union has produced similar research, "The Farm Crisis and Corporate Profits."

The reports show that an incredibly small number of large food processors, retailers and agricultural businesses are generating massive profits delivering cheap food by squeezing farmers' incomes, forcing farmers into environmentally unsustainable practices – or out of business.

Those corporations also manage to make massive profits from cheap food by cheapening food.

Just follow the flow.

"Unfortunately, there is a real disconnect between agriculture, food and health," says David Jenkins, one of Canada's top nutritional researchers. "We've compartmentalized too long."

Jenkins, a professor at the University of Toronto, is conducting a study of 720 Toronto families to find out what level of intervention is required to get people to eat healthier. He says it's a massive challenge to turn families off processed food and toward fruits, vegetables and grains.

Former federal health minister Carolyn Bennett said the same thing at a 2006 conference on food policy organized by the McGill Institute for the Study of Canada. Bennett voiced frustration at being unable to make progress on health issues because there's no Ministry of Food. Instead, responsibility falls between the silos of government: Health, Education, the Environment and Northern Affairs, which must deal with the consequences of Industry, Agriculture and Fisheries treating food as commodities produced for profit rather than public good.

Jenkins would like to see policy changes: better food labelling, health claims on fruits and vegetables, healthy food cheaper than junk food, government support for farmers who grow good food in an environmentally sustainable manner.

Improving our diets through education and persuasion alone will take decades, Jenkins believes. What's required is an overhaul of Canada's food system through focused public policy. "We're paying too little for our food. We're losing farmers like soil erosion. They're being lost to factory farms. What we're doing is screwing the land and screwing the farmers. It's almost a crime. We've got cheaper food and we've become fatter. We've got pollution closing beaches. We have built ourselves a mini hell and food is part of that problem."

But there is good news in this bleak harvest.

Food is powerful. Change is possible with every purchase we make, in every link we forge between good food and good farming, and in every bite we take.

And instead of an unofficial cheap food policy, we can create an official good food policy.

If we built this food hell then we can also fix it.

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