Making Unique Observations in a Very Cluttered World

Friday, 2 December 2011

WoW - Saudi Arabia says - "allowing women to drive in Saudi Arabia would cause rampant sex, porn and homosexuality" -

WoW - Saudi Arabia says - "allowing women to drive in Saudi Arabia would cause rampant sex, porn and homosexuality" - 

And now for the Friday humor which instead of capital markets... we get enough fun there every time we look at the S&P or read any headline out of Europe... focuses on cultural perspectives. Specifically, those originating in Saudi Arabia. As QMI reports "allowing women to drive in Saudi Arabia would cause rampant sex, porn and homosexuality, according to some of the country's scholars." It gets better: "Academics at the country's highest religious council submitted a report to the legislative assembly warning of the dangers of letting women behind the wheel, reports the Daily Telegraph. If the only country in the world that still bans women from driving were to change its rules, there would be "a surge in prostitution, pornography, homosexuality and divorce." Within 10 years of the ban being lifted, the report claimed, there would be "no more virgins" in the country, according to the paper." One then wonders if Britney learned to drive when she was 17. That said, we urge feminists with a penchant for sports cars to stay out of Saudi Arabia, no matter how much they love extracting the viscous substance out of the oil-rich venues: "Currently, women caught driving in the kingdom may be lashed as punishment."


I McDo: McDonald’s in Hong Kong offers fast food weddings - options include a “cake” made with stacked apple pies -

I McDo: McDonald’s in Hong Kong offers fast food weddings - options include a “cake” made with stacked apple pies - 

Would you like a wedding with that?

Marriage ceremonies are now on the menu at McDonald’s restaurants in Hong Kong for local couples looking for a cheap and easy way to celebrate their love.

Launched in January, McDonald’s Wedding Party is approaching its one-year anniversary. So far, it is only offered in Hong Kong.

The service has proven popular with a younger crowd that grew up with the golden arches, often throwing birthday parties at McDonald’s as children. Now that they’re in their 20s and 30s, it makes sense that they would want to host wedding parties there, too, according to Ruoyun Bai, a professor of Chinese culture at the University of Toronto.

“By offering engagement and wedding packages to these young people, McDonald’s might be seen as trying to tap into a sense of nostalgia,” she said. “It can be seen as evidence of how successfully McDonald’s has re-created itself as a local brand in Hong Kong.”

Some locals call themselves “diehard fans” of McDonald’s food and mascots, said Shirley Chang, managing director of McDonald’s Hong Kong.

“McDonald’s is part of the collective memories for many Hong Kong people,” she said in a news release.

Unlike customers in the West, those in Hong Kong don’t necessarily see a McWedding as tacky because they don’t perceive the brand as lowbrow, Bai said, adding that McDonald’s food is more expensive than meals at a mid-range restaurant serving local cuisine.

“I think it’s their strategy to create a high-end image in Asia, in China.”

There are now more than 200 McDonald’s restaurants in Hong Kong since the first opened in 1975. But unlike in mainland China, where the first McDonald’s opened in 1990, McDonald’s success in Hong Kong has little to do with residents’ fascination with the West, said Bai.

“Maybe in the early days of McDonald’s entry into Hong Kong, it was regarded as the symbol of the West,” she said. “But several decades later, I do not think people eat at McDonald’s in order to seek an American cultural experience.”

The basic “Warm and Sweet” wedding package starts at $9,999 Hong Kong dollars ($1,320 Canadian), including venue rental, decoration, audio equipment, MC, 50 invitation cards, a wedding gift, guest gifts and $3,000 Hong Kong dollars worth of McDonald’s food ($396 Canadian).

Other options include a “cake” made with stacked apple pies and wedding gowns constructed from balloons.

McDonald’s also offers a few kitschy themes for wedding decor and invitations, such as one with Ronald McDonald, Hamburglar and other McDonaldland characters on a Pepto-Bismol pink backdrop.


Parents Can Rent Toys At New Website - the ‘Netflix’ of toys -

Parents Can Rent Toys At New Website - the ‘Netflix’ of toys - 

When you are a kid on Christmas morning, it’s all about volume. But when you are a parent, cruising the aisles of the toy-store in December, it’s about trying to balance a happy holiday with a reasonable budget.

Paul Reinsmith of Boston has found a great way to have plenty of toys under the tree, and all year, without breaking the bank.

Paul and his wife Pam discovered what they call the ‘Netflix’ of toys.

It’s called Toygaroo, a website that lets parents rent toys for a fraction of what they would cost to buy.

“It’s the ideal situation for the holiday time,” Paul said. “You can stuff toys under the tree for under 50 bucks. If you were out there buying them, there’s just no way you could do that.”

Paul and Pam choose the toys that are best suited for their son Will and just like Netflix, they go into a queue. Depending on the service plan, every month or every other month, a box comes in the mail with a new set of toys from the queue. When the time is up, send the toys back and a new box will be on its way.

Here’s an idea of what you get and how much it costs.

The cheapest option is $24.99/month for a box of four toys.

We chose The Toy Story 3 Speedway, The Thomas the Tank Engine laptop, Chicco’s radio controlled ATV and the Rolling Round Jungle.

The retail value of those toys is $112.96.

If there is something your child just can’t bear to send back, or if something gets lost or broken, you can purchase the toy at a discounted price.

One mom we talked with liked the concept, but wasn’t thrilled about the idea of her kids playing with toys that had already been around the block with who knows how many other kids. Toygaroo says all the toys are carefully sanitized and re-sealed in plastic before they are shipped to a new home. Paul says all the toys they’ve seen have been like new.

“We haven’t found any ick factor at all,” he said.


Armed U.S. police officers will for the first time be allowed to operate in Canada

Armed U.S. police officers will for the first time be allowed to operate in Canada - 

Armed U.S. police officers will for the first time be allowed to operate in Canada along with the RCMP as part of far-reaching changes in Canadian-American border operations to be unveiled next week by Prime Minister Stephen Harper and President Barack Obama.

The joint action plan to be announced at the White House will also break new ground by introducing exit-entry records that will track the movements of everyone who leaves the United States or Canada, with the information available to authorities in both countries.

In the months and years ahead, the deal between Ottawa and Washington will reshape security, travel and commercial arrangements at the border in a variety of profound ways — some of which have already raised alarms among Canadians.

The agreement, which has been the subject of confidential negotiations since last winter, is intended to reverse the economically damaging border tie-ups that have been growing since Sept. 11, 2001, while upgrading anti-crime and anti-terrorist security for both countries.

In contrast to the silence from Canadian negotiators, some U.S. officials have been open about what the new reality at the border will look like in the years ahead.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder revealed last fall that the deal will authorize Canada and the U.S. to designate officers who can take part in police investigations on both sides of the border. The pilot project, Holder said, will improve the two countries’ ability to deal with the “unprecedented” threats along the border from terrorists, human smugglers, illegal firearms traffickers and drug dealers.

The model for the joint policing program is the Shiprider project, a three-year-old plan under which the RCMP and U.S. Coast Guard join forces and ride in each others’ vessels when patrolling boundary waters.

As part of the measures to improve security and streamline border practices, the Beyond the Border blueprint is also expected to include greatly increased information-sharing between Canada and the U.S., including the exit-entry plan.

This secretly devised shake-up of border operations has sparked widespread concerns.

“It’s contemptuous of Canadian citizenry to unveil a program in which we’ve had essentially no input,” said Micheal Vonn, policy director of the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association.

“This process has really been conducted behind closed doors. We’ve had no white papers, no reports — nothing that we could point to to say, ‘Here are the pros and cons, here are the drawbacks, here are the things we are considering,’ ” she said.

Vonn said the call for comment by Foreign Affairs earlier this year was not a real consultation, because it was based on the loosely worded framework agreement for a border overhaul signed by Harper and Obama in February — not the actual pact negotiated in the months since by officials from Ottawa and Washington.

Still, Foreign Affairs’ consultation exercise drew 1,000 individual responses, nearly half from Canadians who opposed further integration of cross-border law enforcement. Exchanging more personal data across the border also worried individuals who responded to the proposed Canada-U.S. deal.

“Their submissions generally questioned the need to share more information, and they sought assurance that any information sharing would be governed by Canadian privacy laws and that practices and procedures would respect the due process of law and Canada’s civil liberties,” according to a summary of the submissions compiled by Foreign Affairs.


7 Foods You Should Never Eat - Scientists are shedding light on items loaded with toxins and chemicals -

7 Foods You Should Never Eat - Scientists are shedding light on items loaded with toxins and chemicals - 

Food scientists are shedding light on items loaded with toxins and chemicals--and simple swaps for a cleaner diet and supersized health. 
Clean eating means choosing fruits, vegetables, and meats that are raised, grown, and sold with minimal processing. Often they're organic, and rarely (if ever) should they contain additives. But in some cases, the methods of today's food producers are neither clean nor sustainable. The result is damage to our health, the environment, or both. So we decided to take a fresh look at food through the eyes of the people who spend their lives uncovering what's safe--or not--to eat. We asked them a simple question: "What foods do you avoid?" Their answers don't necessarily make up a "banned foods" list. But reaching for the suggested alternatives might bring you better health--and peace of mind.

1. The Endocrinologist Won't Eat: Canned Tomatoes
Fredrick Vom Saal, is an endocrinologist at the University of Missouri who studies bisphenol-A.

The problem: The resin linings of tin cans contain bisphenol-A, a synthetic estrogen that has been linked to ailments ranging from reproductive problems to heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. Unfortunately, acidity (a prominent characteristic of tomatoes) causes BPA to leach into your food. Studies show that the BPA in most people's body exceeds the amount that suppresses sperm production or causes chromosomal damage to the eggs of animals. "You can get 50 mcg of BPA per liter out of a tomato can, and that's a level that is going to impact people, particularly the young," says vom Saal. "I won't go near canned tomatoes."

The solution: Choose tomatoes in glass bottles (which do not need resin linings), such as the brands Bionaturae and Coluccio. You can also get several types in Tetra Pak boxes, like Trader Joe's and Pomi.

Budget tip: If your recipe allows, substitute bottled pasta sauce for canned tomatoes. Look for pasta sauces with low sodium and few added ingredients, or you may have to adjust the recipe.

2. The Farmer Won't Eat: Corn-Fed Beef
Joel Salatin is co-owner of Polyface Farms and author of half a dozen books on sustainable farming.

The problem: Cattle evolved to eat grass, not grains. But farmers today feed their animals corn and soybeans, which fatten up the animals faster for slaughter. But more money for cattle farmers (and lower prices at the grocery store) means a lot less nutrition for us. A recent comprehensive study conducted by the USDA and researchers from Clemson University found that compared with corn-fed beef, grass-fed beef is higher in beta-carotene, vitamin E, omega-3s, conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), calcium, magnesium, and potassium; lower in inflammatory omega-6s; and lower in saturated fats that have been linked to heart disease. "We need to respect the fact that cows are herbivores, and that does not mean feeding them corn and chicken manure," says Salatin.

The solution: Buy grass-fed beef, which can be found at specialty grocers, farmers' markets, and nationally at Whole Foods. It's usually labeled because it demands a premium, but if you don't see it, ask your butcher.

Budget tip: Cuts on the bone are cheaper because processors charge extra for deboning. You can also buy direct from a local farmer, which can be as cheap as $5 per pound. To find a farmer near you, search eatwild.com.

3. The Toxicologist Won't Eat: Microwave Popcorn
Olga Naidenko, is a senior scientist for the Environmental Working Group.

The problem: Chemicals, including perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), in the lining of the bag, are part of a class of compounds that may be linked to infertility in humans, according to a recent study from UCLA. In animal testing, the chemicals cause liver, testicular, and pancreatic cancer. Studies show that microwaving causes the chemicals to vaporize--and migrate into your popcorn. "They stay in your body for years and accumulate there," says Naidenko, which is why researchers worry that levels in humans could approach the amounts causing cancers in laboratory animals. DuPont and other manufacturers have promised to phase out PFOA by 2015 under a voluntary EPA plan, but millions of bags of popcorn will be sold between now and then.

The solution: Pop natural kernels the old-fashioned way: in a skillet. For flavorings, you can add real butter or dried seasonings, such as dillweed, vegetable flakes, or soup mix.

Budget tip: Popping your own popcorn is dirt cheap

4. The Farm Director Won't Eat: Nonorganic Potatoes
Jeffrey Moyer is the chair of the National Organic Standards Board.

The problem: Root vegetables absorb herbicides, pesticides, and fungicides that wind up in soil. In the case of potatoes--the nation's most popular vegetable--they're treated with fungicides during the growing season, then sprayed with herbicides to kill off the fibrous vines before harvesting. After they're dug up, the potatoes are treated yet again to prevent them from sprouting. "Try this experiment: Buy a conventional potato in a store, and try to get it to sprout. It won't," says Moyer, who is also farm director of the Rodale Institute (also owned by Rodale Inc., the publisher of Prevention). "I've talked with potato growers who say point-blank they would never eat the potatoes they sell. They have separate plots where they grow potatoes for themselves without all the chemicals."

The solution: Buy organic potatoes. Washing isn't good enough if you're trying to remove chemicals that have been absorbed into the flesh.

Budget tip: Organic potatoes are only $1 to $2 a pound, slightly more expensive than conventional spuds.

5. The Fisheries Expert Won't Eat: Farmed Salmon
Dr. David Carpenter, director of the Institute for Health and the Environment at the University at Albany, published a major study in the journal Science on contamination in fish.

The problem: Nature didn't intend for salmon to be crammed into pens and fed soy, poultry litter, and hydrolyzed chicken feathers. As a result, farmed salmon is lower in vitamin D and higher in contaminants, including carcinogens, PCBs, brominated flame retardants, and pesticides such as dioxin and DDT. According to Carpenter, the most contaminated fish come from Northern Europe, which can be found on American menus. "You could eat one of these salmon dinners every 5 months without increasing your risk of cancer," says Carpenter, whose 2004 fish contamination study got broad media attention. "It's that bad." Preliminary science has also linked DDT to diabetes and obesity, but some nutritionists believe the benefits of omega-3s outweigh the risks. There is also concern about the high level of antibiotics and pesticides used to treat these fish. When you eat farmed salmon, you get dosed with the same drugs and chemicals.

The solution: Switch to wild-caught Alaska salmon. If the package says fresh Atlantic, it's farmed. There are no commercial fisheries left for wild Atlantic salmon.

Budget tip: Canned salmon, almost exclusively from wild catch, can be found for as little as $3 a can.

6. The Cancer Researcher Won't Drink: Milk Produced With Artificial Hormones
Rick North is project director of the Campaign for Safe Food at the Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility and former CEO of the Oregon division of the American Cancer Society.

The problem: Milk producers treat their dairy cattle with recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH or rBST, as it is also known) to boost milk production. But rBGH also increases udder infections and even pus in the milk. It also leads to higher levels of a hormone called insulin-like growth factor in milk. In people, high levels of IGF-1 may contribute to breast, prostate, and colon cancers. "When the government approved rBGH, it was thought that IGF-1 from milk would be broken down in the human digestive tract," says North. As it turns out, the casein in milk protects most of it, according to several independent studies. "There's not 100% proof that this is increasing cancer in humans," admits North. "However, it's banned in most industrialized countries."

The solution: Check labels for rBGH-free, rBST-free, produced without artificial hormones, or organic milk. These phrases indicate rBGH-free products.

Budget tip: Try Wal-Mart's Great Value label, which does not use rBGH.

7. The Organic-Foods Expert Won't Eat: Conventional Apples
Mark Kastel, a former executive for agribusiness, is codirector of the Cornucopia Institute, a farm-policy research group that supports organic foods.

The problem: If fall fruits held a "most doused in pesticides contest," apples would win. Why? They are individually grafted (descended from a single tree) so that each variety maintains its distinctive flavor. As such, apples don't develop resistance to pests and are sprayed frequently. The industry maintains that these residues are not harmful. But Kastel counters that it's just common sense to minimize exposure by avoiding the most doused produce, like apples. "Farm workers have higher rates of many cancers," he says. And increasing numbers of studies are starting to link a higher body burden of pesticides (from all sources) with Parkinson's disease.

The solution: Buy organic apples.

Budget tip: If you can't afford organic, be sure to wash and peel them. But Kastel personally refuses to compromise. "I would rather see the trade-off being that I don't buy that expensive electronic gadget," he says. "Just a few of these decisions will accommodate an organic diet for a family."

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/health/2011/12/01/7-foods-should-never-eat/?test=faces

'Ugly Meter' App - scans facial details and then assigns a rating of 0 to 10 on the so-called "Ugly Scale." -

'Ugly Meter' App - scans facial details and then assigns a rating of 0 to 10 on the so-called "Ugly Scale." - 

A popular app in iTunes called "Ugly Meter" has parents and anti-bullying organizations concerned. 
"Ugly Meter" has reached the 3 million downloads mark in the iTunes app store. The latest version of the app, released on Nov. 29 by the app creator Dapper Gentlemen, touts new features including "Bully Mode" with meaner insults and the ability to post “Your Ugly Photos” to Facebook and Twitter.  
The app claims to scan facial details in a photograph and then assign a rating of 0 to 10 on the so-called "Ugly Scale." Ratings come with a joke-style description such as "When you walk past a bathroom, the toilet  flushes." Low scores on the scale receive more favorable descriptions, such as “Winning!” 

The ugly truth  
Despite its crackling green simulated scan, the results appear to be random. In tests, the same face received rankings between 0.5 and 7 — a chair got a 7. Even as a joke or novelty app, some experts say its effects could be harmful, especially to those unaware that the app’s ratings are random.  
"There's a fine line between teasing and razzing one another ... [This app] is just hurtful. It could have crushing blows on kids with low self-esteem," Gwenn O'Keeffe, author of "Cybersafe: Protecting and Empowering Kids in the Digital World of Texting, Gaming and Social Media" (American Academy Of Pediatrics, 2010), said in a statement. “There's just nothing good that could come from an app like this."  
"When we created the Ugly Meter, we never expected it to hit #3 top paid and #3 top grossing in the app store," the creators wrote. It was just a little way to have fun with their friends, they said, but "it ended up turning into a world wide crazy fest, thanks to a media system that likes to lie and overreact to get people's attention."  

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/scitech/2011/12/02/ugly-meter-app-raises-ire-with-cyberbullying-opponents/?test=faces

COPS: 20% of 911 cell calls 'butt dials'...

COPS: 20% of 911 cell calls 'butt dials'...

If you’ve ever received a call because someone you know “butt-dialed” you, you know how annoying it can be. But when someone “butt-dials” 911, it’s not just an inconvenience, it’s a public safety issue.

As CBS 2’s Vince Gerasole reports, officials in Evanston say that nearly 20 percent of the wireless calls they get each month are “unintentional” or “abandoned” calls; and they believe the vast majority of those unintentional cell phone calls are butt dials.

Emergency workers said those kinds of calls waste valuable time and could put people at risk.

About 500 times each month, someone mistakenly dials the Evanston 911 center from their cell phone and that’s only part of the story.

“I don’t think the public realizes how often this happens,” Evanston 911 Coordinator Perry Polinski said.

He said about 90 percent of those unintentional calls are the result of someone fumbling around in their purse or sitting on their cell phone and accidentally speed dialing 911.

“When you consider the number of these types of calls that we receive, it really taxes our resources,” Polinski said.

Operators have to stay on the line until the call drops, then call back the number to see if there’s a real emergency. Since cell phones can only be tracked by general location, in extreme cases officers are dispatched to find whoever might be in distress.

“The chances of that happening are slim, but we’ve – a couple times probably, over the past few years – have had to basically launch a search party to locate somebody,” Polinski said.

Read more - http://chicago.cbslocal.com/2011/12/01/with-growing-cell-phone-use-butt-dials-to-911-also-rising/