Segal

According to the the Wire

Action guy Steven Seagal weighed in on the international dispute over Russia’s annexation of Crimea this week. Spoiler alert: he’s siding with his friend Vladimir Putin and not with President Obama, whom the action star believes is one Benghazi revelation away from impeachment. In an interview with the state-run Rossiskaya Gazeta, Seagal called Putin “one of the great living world leaders,” adding that he “would like to consider him as a brother.”

Wow, what is the world coming to?
At least Chuck Norris is still siding with the US as far as I can see, Kim K hasn’t yet found a way of monetizing this conflict and Kanye hasn’t released his upcoming Kremlim Rapfest yet.
Come to think of it, we haven’t seen anything from the Putin camp on this either, so maybe even he doesn’t want to be linked to z list actors, unlike Kim Jog un who actually let himself be photographed with Dennis Rodman

Russia

We can pretend all we like, but Russia is intent on extending its sphere of influence, and will continue to do it.

The events in the Crimea just add an exclamation point to their progress, but this is not an endgame, it is one more step in re-establishment of the 21st century  USSR or Russian Federation as it is now called

The fall of the USSR was a body blow to Putin who at that time was a mid level KGB operative, and he has been seeking opportunities to reverse it ever since he came to power. He is using various avenues to do this – soft annexation being one of them. He is making it very easy for citizens in what used to be the old soviet bloc to get Russian passports, and is then using that as a lever to extend his influence under the guise of protecting Russians. Crimea was a typical example, his pretext for takeover was protection of Russians in Crimea. He is now playing the same strategy with other regions, including the southern and eastern parts of Ukraine. The game plan is simple. Destabilize and then move.

This is a long game, it won’t come to fulfillment in the next few days, but look to weeks and months of build up and then the Crimea situation will repeat itself.

Putin is a student of history and sees the fall of the USSR as a temporary glitch. He has to this point been very patient, but with the world turning a relatively blind eye to him re-establishing control over Georgia, it was time for something a little more aggressive. Couple that with Russia’s ability to assert itself using oil and gas as a carrot or stick and the progressive centralization of control in the Kremlin, it is becoming clear that the rate of expansion is going to pick up.

 

 

Spam on the menu

I suppose I should be chuffed that this blog has reached the attention of the spammers and the trolls.

Now, oh joy oh bliss, I have the fun job each morning of looking through the comments and deciding what is or isn’t spam. There is a lot, and some quite sophisticated, so if your comment doesn’t make it, then you didn’t manage to pass both the automatic spam checker or my own eyeball.

I don’t delete responses based upon any political bias, in fact I love a good controversy, but boring, repetitive rants with bad grammar that aren’t funny or provocative won’t make it through. I regard internet trolls at the same level of spammers and hate filled drivel is at least as offensive as posts that are attempting to advertise cialis.

You have been warned, so please feel free to put your humor or sarcasm hat on and I will guarantee your post will get in, otherwise…………….

Herr Cuttz

In the whacky world that is North Korea, emulating the dear leader has just taken another step.

the haircut

kim jong un

Male university students in North Korea are now required to get the same haircut as their leader Kim Jong-un, it is reported.

The state-sanctioned guideline was introduced in the capital Pyongyang about two weeks ago, Radio Free Asia reports. It is now being rolled out across the country – although some people have expressed reservations about getting the look.

According to what one source tells Radio Free Asia

Our leader’s haircut is very particular, if you will. It doesn’t always go with everyone since everyone has different face and head shapes.

Meanwhile, a North Korean now living in China says the look is actually unpopular at home because people think it resembles Chinese smugglers. “Until the mid-2000s, we called it the ‘Chinese smuggler haircut’,” the Korea Times reports.

It seems that haircuts have been state-approved in North Korea for some time – until now people were reportedly only allowed to choose from 18 styles for women and 10 for men. Earlier, North Korea’s state TV launched a campaign against long hair, called “Let us trim our hair in accordance with the Socialist lifestyle”.

However, there are conflicting reports over the haircut mandate, with the NK News website reporting that recent visitors to Pyongyang did not notice a change in hair styles.

Late leader Kim Jong-il, who ruled North Korea for 17 years, sported a bouffant hairstyle, reportedly in order to look taller.

The next addition to the state-sanctioned guidelines will be to add greasy burgers as part of everyone’s breakfast, so that the whole population can be overweight and also fit with the profile of the dear leader.

I would imagine that this whole story is an internet hoax. North Korea may be whacky, but they don’t have a sense of humor, so this fails the smell test, but it does make a great story.

Malaysia Air MH370

malaysia air

malaysia air

Flight MH370 has disappeared. For some reason after communicating a routine last message to air traffic control, its transponder ceased to transmit, the plane changed course, dropped off radar and hasn’t been seen or heard from since. There were no distress calls and no wreckage has been found to this point, but there was some limited electronic communication between the plane and satellites that monitor the on-board systems well after the plane went dark.

Malaysia Air had not chosen to subscribe to the satellite monitoring of its on-board systems, a little like you having On-star in your car but choosing not to pay for the service. This service, while not subscribed to was still providing the occasional ping.

These are the only facts that can be confirmed. Everything else is supposition. There are reports of military radar possibly picking up the plane in various places, but these again are not confirmed.

Malaysian authorities have been spending a lot of time investigating various scenarios, and have put the pilot under extreme scrutiny. Leaks from the investigation painted the pilot in various lights, mostly unflattering. One of the items that was made a big thing of was the revelation that he had a flight simulator in his house. Talking heads of various persuasions and so called experts have been spouting a variety of theories, but none have been proven to this point, and it does look like that the information being leaked is intended to “steer” the media into making assumptions.

Now out of the blue comes the official announcement from the Malaysian Prime Minister no less, that the plane has been lost with all hands and a rough estimate of the area that the plane went down. SAR resources are heading that way but weather is not co-operating, and there have been reports that debris had been seen both by satellite and air, but none of this has been positively identified as belonging to flight MH370. The area in question is very remote region in the Southern Ocean where the currents and wind are strong and very confused. Debris in the water in that area is not unknown and could be from anything.

The Chinese authorities have demanded to review the evidence that has lead to these statements from Malaysia, as the majority of the passengers on the flight were Chinese, so they obviously have questions about this latest revelation.

This story is far from over.

Dealing with bullies

The situation with the Russian annexation of Ukraine is no different than any other example of bullying.

Ukraine is the 80lb weakling and Russia, the hulking neanderthal that just stole its lunch and smartphone in the schoolyard. Most of the rest of the kids in the yard are still at least watching what is going on, but some are already turning their backs away.

The kid in question used to carry a flick knife and pepper spray, but the authorities convinced him to give them up, in return they would not let him be bullied.

The authorities are watching what is going on, and are doing very little. They have asked the bully to stop, but he is ignoring them. They also gave him an ASBO, which he is waving around with a big grin on his face. The bully even went so far as to say that the cell phone and lunch were his, even though the kid had the registration papers for the phone, which he bought from a store owned by the bullies parents after their divorce.

The bullies family also does business with the school – it supplies them with heating oil and gas and is threatening to stop the supply if the school leans on him. They are threatening to sell their oil and gas to the local Chinese restaurant instead.

Sound familiar?

Making Lemonade

CNN newsman Don Lemon

CNN newsman Don Lemon

Near the end of CNN’s special primetime report on Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 on Wednesday, anchor Don Lemon read a pair of tweets he received from viewers suggesting the plane’s disappearance could be the result of a “black hole,” Bermuda Triangle or an occurence akin to the television series “Lost.”

Lemon then turned to Mary Schiavo, former inspector general of the U.S. Department of Transportation, and said, “I know it’s preposterous, but is it preposterous, do you think, Mary?”

“It is,” Schiavo replied. “A small black hole would suck in our entire universe. So we know it’s not that. The Bermuda Triangle is often weather, and ‘Lost’ is a TV show.”

“Right,” Lemon said.

It is a bit scary that someone can be in public position with that complete lack of common sense. I know we can’t expect much from a talking head, but at least some attachment to a brain might be nice. If it wasn’t such a potentially tragic situation with the Malaysian Air plane, I would send him a tweet about it being sucked into a parallel dimension through a rift in time/space. That would make his head explode, which would be rating leading TV.

Statistics on education suspensions show racial differences

Black students are more likely to be suspended from U.S. public schools — even as tiny preschoolers. The racial disparities in American education, from access to high-level classes and experienced teachers to discipline, were highlighted in a report released Friday by the Education Department’s civil rights arm.

The suspensions — and disparities — begin at the earliest grades. Black children represent about 18 percent of children in preschool programs in schools, but they make up almost half of the preschoolers suspended more than once, the report said. Six percent of the nation’s districts with preschools reported suspending at least one preschool child.

Advocates long have said get-tough suspension and arrest policies in schools have contributed to a “school-to-prison” pipeline that snags minority students, but much of the emphasis has been on middle school and high school policies. This was the first time the department reported data on preschool discipline.

Earlier this year, the Obama administration issued guidance encouraging schools to abandon what it described as overly zealous discipline policies that send students to court instead of the principal’s office. But even before the announcement, school districts have been adjusting policies that disproportionately affect minority students. Overall, the data show that black students of all ages are suspended and expelled at a rate that’s three times higher than that of white children. Even as boys receive more than two-thirds of suspensions, black girls are suspended at higher rates than girls of any other race or most boys.

The data doesn’t explain why the disparities exist or why the students were suspended.

“It is clear that the United States has a great distance to go to meet our goal of providing opportunities for every student to succeed,” Education Secretary Arne Duncan said in a statement.

“This critical report shows that racial disparities in school discipline policies are not only well documented among older students, but actually begin during preschool,” Attorney General Eric Holder said. “Every data point represents a life impacted and a future potentially diverted or derailed. This administration is moving aggressively to disrupt the school-to-prison pipeline in order to ensure that all of our young people have equal educational opportunities.”

There are three interesting statements here – the first is

the data doesn’t explain why the disparities exist or why the students were suspended

. The other two are from the Education Secretary and the Attorney General who from their responses are making the case that this is solely due to racial bias.

Lets get more information and then we can act on facts not ideology

Celebrities and bad science

jennymcThere is a serious measles outbreak in New York City. As of Tuesday, 20 confirmed cases (11 adults and 9 children) have been identified, according to the New York Times, and city officials are warning unvaccinated New Yorkers to get shots or, in some cases, to get revaccinated.

Measles is a highly infectious viral disease that causes a blotchy rash, fever, and tiny white spots inside the mouth and can lead to further complications such as pneumonia, conjunctivitis, ear infections, and even death, says the Centers for Disease Control. it spreads person-to-person, usually by airborne droplets from a sneeze or cough or from direct contact from touching contaminated surfaces. It can be prevented with a measles vaccine hence doctors recommend that children receive shots between the ages of 12 and 15 months and again between 4 and 6 years.

If measles sounds like an old-fashioned disease, that’s because it was. Measles was virtually eliminated in the United States from 2000 to 2011, and the last U.S. outbreak was in 1967. In the UK, the numbers are similar, with cases in the single digits up until. 2006.

Since that time the number of cases has grown dramatically, with the UK showing over 2000 cases for 2012, and now we are seeing similar trends in the US.

The basis for any immunization campaign is what is called herd immunity. Not everyone has to be vaccinated, but a significant proportion of the population does. For herd immunity to kick in you have to hit a certain threshold, and that threshold is based upon how infectious the disease is. In the case of Measles – it is a very infectious disease, so the threshold is between 83 and 94 percent. With a less infectious disease it would be lower.

Now here comes the celebrity connection. In 1997 the medical journal the Lancet published a small study of one dozen children with behavioral and intestinal problems. Eight had been vaccinated with the MMR vaccine, a shot that prevents measles, mumps, and rubella. As a result of the report, many parents stopped vaccinating their children.  One of these parents was Jenny McCarthy, whose 10-year-old son was vaccinated and was also diagnosed with autism in 2005. McCarthy has been an outspoken critic of vaccination since and other celebs have also taken a similar position.

The problem: The study was majorly flawed. The British Medical Journal found that British study author Dr. Andrew Wakefield had misrepresented or altered the medical histories of the children and basically the study was a fake. Not only that, the Wakefield study had been funded by a law firm that was suing vaccine manufacturers (a fact that Wakefield never disclosed). Wakefields medical license was subequently revoked and other researchers have been unable to reproduce similar results.

The result has been that the percentage of the population that is getting immunized has dropped and in the case of measles, it has dropped below the threshold.

Now is Jenny McCarthy responsible for this? No – you cannot establish a causal link between the two, but it is certainly an influencing factor.

Plug for us

According to CIRA’s Internet FactBook, only 41 per cent of small businesses have an online presence, even though the average Canadian visited 3,731 web pages per month last year and three-quarters of us use the Internet to research purchases.

Even if it is just a simple site that says who you are, where you are and what you sell, most Canadian businesses need to have an on-line presence. I’m not going to say that each and every one needs to sell their products via the internet.

Far from it in fact, as for many small businesses it would prove to be adding an additional overhead to not having enough hours in the day already. Also, if you are a convenience store then no, you won’t get anything out of it, but if you need to advertise in any way then the Internet should be seen as just another advertising venue.

How far you go with it is up to you – and some advice may be needed before you move forward, but move forward you should.