Notes from a bemused canuck
Posts Tagged “news from the stupid”
03 06 2015admin in uncategorized, tags: news from the stupid
10 12 2014admin in uncategorized, tags: news from the stupid
It costs 50$ for a 750ml bottle. The frosted, corked bottles are emblazoned with hand-applied, Swarovski crystals. It’s the talk of the fashionistas and the glitterati. The drink has shown up at the Grammy’s, Emmy’s and MTV Video Music Awards in the hands of celebrities.
Bling H2O is the creation of a Hollywood writer-producer who knows the importance of image and what your choice in bottled water conveys to the public. In Hollywood it seems the bottled water one carries has become an important prop.
According to researchers at Newcastle University in the UK, the card system developed by VISA for use in the United Kingdom fails to recognize transactions made in non-UK foreign currencies and can therefore be tricked into approving any transaction up to 999,999.99.
What’s more, because the cards allow for contactless transactions, wherein consumers need only to have the card in the vicinity of a reader without swiping it, a thief carrying a card reader designed to read a card that’s stored in a wallet or purse could conduct fraudulent transactions without the victim ever removing their card.
Since the transaction is done offline without going through a retailer’s point-of-sale system, no other security checks are done.
In tests the researchers conducted, transactions took less than a second to be approved. In the UK, contactless payments are limited to a maximum value of £20, requiring a PIN for anything more than this. But the researchers found that the system doesn’t recognize foreign currency transactions and therefore doesn’t require a PIN for these.
Anti-vaxxers, u mad!
11 06 2014admin in uncategorized, tags: brought to you by the fda, god bless the land of the free, news from the stupid
A sense of disbelief and distress is quickly rippling through the U.S. artisan cheese community, as the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) this week announced it will not permit American cheesemakers to age cheese on wooden boards.
Recently, the FDA inspected several New York state cheesemakers and cited them for using wooden surfaces to age their cheeses. The New York State Department of Agriculture & Markets’ Division of Milk Control and Dairy Services, which (like most every state in the U.S., including Wisconsin), has allowed this practice, reached out to FDA for clarification on the issue. A response was provided by Monica Metz, Branch Chief of FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition’s (CFSAN) Dairy and Egg Branch.
In the response, Metz stated that the use of wood for cheese ripening or aging is considered an unsanitary practice by FDA, and a violation of FDA’s current Current Good Manufacturing Practice (cGMP) regulations. Here’s an excerpt:
In an email to industry professionals, Rob Ralyea, in the Department of Food Science and the Pilot Plant Manager at Cornell University in New York, says: “According to the FDA this is merely proper enforcement of the policy that was already in place. While the FDA has had jurisdiction in all food plants, it deferred cheese inspections almost exclusively to the states. This has all obviously changed under FSMA.”
Ah, FSMA. For those of you not in the know, the Food Safety Modernization Act is the most sweeping reform of American food safety laws in generations. It was signed into law by President Obama on January 4, 2011 and aims to ensure the U.S. food supply is safe by shifting the focus from responding to contamination to preventing it.
While most cheesemakers have, perhaps, begrudgingly accepted most of what has been coming down the FSMA pike, no one expected this giant regulation behemoth to virtually put a stop to innovation in the American artisanal cheese movement.
Many of the most awarded and well-respected American artisan cheeses are currently aged on wooden boards. American Cheese Society triple Best in Show winner Pleasant Ridge Reserve from Uplands Cheese in Wisconsin is cured on wooden boards. Likewise for award-winners Cabot Clothbound in Vermont, current U.S. Champion cheese Marieke Feonegreek, and 2013 Best in Show Runner-Up Bleu Mont Bandaged Cheddar.
Wisconsin cheesemaker Chris Roelli says the FDA’s “clarified” stance on using wooden boards is a “potentially devastating development” for American cheesemakers. He and his family have spent the past eight years re-building Roelli Cheese into a next-generation American artisanal cheese factory. Just last year, he built what most would consider to be a state-of-the-art aging facility into the hillside behind his cheese plant. And Roelli, like hundreds of American artisanal cheesemaekrs, has developed his cheese recipes specifically to be aged on wooden boards.
“The very pillar that we built our niche business on is the ability to age our cheese on wood planks, an art that has been practiced in Europe for thousands of years,” Roelli says. Not allowing American cheesemakers to use this practice puts them “at a global disadvantage because the flavor produced by aging on wood can not be duplicated. This is a major game changer for the dairy industry in Wisconsin, and many other states.”
As if this weren’t all bad enough, the FDA has also “clarified” – I’m really beginning to dislike that word – that in accordance with FSMA, a cheesemaker importing cheese to the United States is subject to the same rules and inspection procedures as American cheesemakers.
Therefore, Cornell University’s Ralyea says, “It stands to reason that if an importer is using wood boards, the FDA would keep these cheeses from reaching our borders until the cheese maker is in compliance. The European Union authorizes and allows the use of wood boards. Further, the great majority of cheeses imported to this country are in fact aged on wooden boards and some are required to be aged on wood by their standard of identity (Comte, Beaufort and Reblochon, to name a few). Therefore, it will be interesting to see how these specific cheeses will be dealt with when it comes to importation into the United States.”
28 05 2014admin in uncategorized, tags: brought to you by the fda, god bless the land of the free, news from the stupid
Emplasis mine. Good quote about the NRA: “If the NRA ran the tobacco industry, the solution to lung cancer would be more cigarettes!”
07 05 2014admin in uncategorized, tags: brought to you by the fda, god bless the land of the free, news from the stupid
Historically, lethal injection has been plagued with problems just like those that occurred in Lockett’s case, and they are due in large part to the incompetence of the people charged with administering the deadly drugs. Physicians have mostly left the field of capital punishment; the American Medical Association and other professional groups consider it highly unethical for doctors to assist with executions. As a result, the people willing to do the dirty work aren’t always at the top of their fields, or even specifically trained in the jobs they’re supposed to do. As Dr. Jay Chapman, the Oklahoma coroner who essentially created the modern lethal injection protocol, observed in the New York Times in 2007, “It never occurred to me when we set this up that we’d have complete idiots administering the drugs.” Dr. Jay Chapman said that were he to do it once more, he would not recommend the three-drug concoction now in widespread use.
29 04 2014admin in uncategorized, tags: news from the stupid, the british way
A few days after it was revealed that an NHS group is considering charging patients for the crutches, walking sticks and neck braces it issues, we discovered that David Cameron has intervened to keep the cost of gun licences frozen at £50: a price that hasn’t changed since 2001. The police are furious: it costs them £196 to conduct the background checks required to ensure shotguns are issued only to the kind of dangerous lunatics who use them for mowing down pheasants, rather than to the common or garden variety. As a result they – sorry, we – lose £17m a year, by subsidising the pursuits of the exceedingly rich.
The Country Land and Business Association – the armed wing of the Conservative party – complains that it’s simply not fair to pass on the full cost of the licence to the owners of shotguns; unlike, say, the owners of passports or driving licences, who are charged on the basis of full cost recovery.
Three days later the government announced it would raise the subsidy it provides for grouse moors from £30 per hectare to £56. Yes, you read that right: the British government subsidises grouse moors, which are owned by 1% of the 1% and used by people who are scarcely less rich.
While the poor are being forced out of their homes through government cuts, it is raising the payments – across hundreds of thousands of hectares – that some owners use to burn and cut the land (helping to cause floods downstream), shoot or poison hen harriers and other predators, and scar the hills with roads and shooting butts.
While the rest of us can go to the devil, the interests of the very rich are ringfenced.
Before examining the wider picture, let’s stick with the shooting theme for a moment, and take a look at the remarkable shape-shifting properties of that emblem of Downton Abbey Britain: the pheasant. Through a series of magnificent legal manoeuvres it can become whatever the nation’s wealthy want it to be.
When pheasants are reared, they are classed as livestock: that means the people who raise them are exempt from some payments of value added tax and certain forms of planning control, on the grounds that they are producing food.
But as soon as they’re released they are classed as wild animals. Otherwise you wouldn’t be allowed to shoot them. But if you want to re-capture the survivors at the end of the shooting season to use as breeding stock, they cease to be wild and become livestock again, because you aren’t allowed to catch wild birds with nets.
If, however, pheasants cause damage to neighbouring gardens, or to cars, or to the people travelling in those cars, the person who released them bears no liability, because for this purpose they are classed as wild animals – even if, at the time, they are being rounded up as legal livestock.
The pheasant’s properties of metamorphosis should be a rich field of study for biologists: even the Greek myths mentioned no animal that mutated so often. In the treatment of pheasant and grouse shoots we see in microcosm what is happening in the country as a whole. Legally, fiscally and politically, the very rich are protected from the forces afflicting everyone else.
But to call on the government to make rational and progressive fiscal decisions, as many of us do, is to misunderstand what it is attempting. It is not seeking to save the country from fiscal ruin – there are many ways of doing that without cutting essential services. It is re-engineering the United Kingdom as a plutocrats’ paradise, in which the rich are scarcely troubled by laws or taxes, while the poor are plunged into a brutal world of casual labour, insecurity and legal restraint. It is creating a world in which the rich may live by their own rules.
So back we go to the hazy days of Edwardian England: a society dominated by rentiers, in which the city centres are set aside for those with tremendous wealth and the countryside is reserved for their bloodsports. As the queues lengthen at the foodbanks, our money is used to subsidise grouse and shotguns. That is all you need to know about how and by whom we are governed.
20 03 2014admin in uncategorized, tags: god save the queen, news from the stupid
British workers have suffered the longest fall in living standards since the 1870s, and the Tory offer is making pints of beer 1p cheaper and cutting bingo tax. Oh, and the Bingo Association has pointed out that reducing duty of bingo hall profits from 20% to 10% will have “no money-in-the-pocket effect for customers”, so let’s park that in the “patronising and irrelevant” box.
According to the polls, over half of the population believe that the Tories only represent the interests of the rich. The cabinet is dominated by white, privately educated men, the sort of government that would not look out of place in 19th century Britain.