Police not only stop cyclists and give them helmets, they hug the cyclists.
(actually, I suspect this is a clever bit of viral capitalism.)
Gordon Brown today rejected controversial proposals from the chief medical officer to establish a minimum price for alcohol, which would double the price of many beers and spirits. The prime minister said that he would protect the interests of the "sensible majority of moderate drinkers" when responding to proposals from Sir Liam Donaldson for a minimum charge of 50p per unit of alcohol to be imposed on beer and wine.And Scotland, well, how do you like that devolution now?
The Scottish government is planning to introduce minimum prices for alcohol and these could come into force by the end of the year. It would make Scotland the first country in Europe to introduce minimum pricing, which would be accompanied by a ban on certain drinks promotions.Cheers.
The conservative government in Reykjavik, in power for 18 years, collapsed this week, the first government to fall as a result of the financial meltdown which has wrecked the Icelandic currency, the krona, wiped out savings and pensions, required a massive IMF bailout, sparked unprecedented riots in Reykjavik, and forced the formation of a caretaker centre-left government until new elections can be held, probably on 9 May.~ Gov. Rod Blagojevich is gone, but let's not forget that he wasn't the only one behaving badly. As I've written, the Senate refusal to seat Roland Burris was a bad idea - you don't get to refuse someone just because you don't like them. And that bad judgment seems to have extended to the House, where Adam Bonin found - buried in the stimulus bill - the following:
SEC. 1112. ADDITIONAL ASSURANCE OF APPROPRIATE USE OF FUNDS. None of the funds provided by this Act may be made available to the State of Illinois, or any agency of the State, unless (1) the use of such funds by the State is approved in legislation enacted by the State after the date of the enactment of this Act, or (2) Rod R. Blagojevich no longer holds the office of Governor of the State of Illinois.Yes, that says what you think it says. Adam explains:
Got that, Illinois Senate? If you want the money, remove Blagojevich from power or otherwise pass a bill making clear that you trust him with the money. This provision was inserted by Reps. Bill Foster (D-IL) and Mark Kirk (R-IL), and could cost the state $50 billion in federal aid. Beyond the general yuck factor, does anyone else remember the Bill of Attainder clause in the Constitution? It basically says that Congress can't pass a law punishing an individual without judicial trial; that's the courts' job. Similar concerns rest here: it's not for Congress to decide who's fit to be Governor of Illinois; that's something to be handled in Springfield.A circus, it seems, and everyone wants in on the action. ~ Rep. Peter King of the GOP - party of limited government, remember - wants to save you from camera phones. ~ Ugly:
[A] CNN investigation has uncovered evidence that for hundreds of Rohingya refugees -- members of a Muslim minority group -- abuse and abandonment at sea were what awaited them in Thailand, at the hands of Thai authorities. Extraordinary photos obtained by CNN from someone directly involved in the Thai operation show refugees on their rickety boats being towed out to sea, cut loose and abandoned. One photo shows the Thai army towing a boatload of some 190 refugees far out to sea.And who will speak for these refugees? No one, I'm guessing. ~ Once a Nazi, always a Nazi. ~ 13 year old girls can rock:
The dollar is increasingly money backed by financiers-manipulated debt. The euro is fundamentally money backed by real economic activity. The distinction will matter. And the finance industry will follow.Interested? Read more. (The kid in me misses the Deutsche Marks, the Pesetas, the Guilders. My interest in currency fluxuation began when we moved to West Germany, and I discovered the wonderful thing that was aribtrage - I could get so much more when I turned my dollars into marks (and that's not even touching the experience of turning dollars into East German marks on the black market). Of course, with the current exchange rate being €1 = $1.40, I now have some appreciation for the other side of that. )
[A] recent such lunch proved very awkward, thanks to its guest of honour: the country’s Eurosceptic president, Vaclav Klaus. He was politely asked about EU policies and how they might be handled when the Czechs take over the rotating EU presidency on January 1st. Each time the president growled that he was against the EU, so had no reason to answer such questions. The Czech presidency was an insignificant event, he added, because the EU is dominated by its big founding nations. Mr Klaus turned to the envoy from Slovenia, a former Yugoslav republic that was the first ex-communist newcomer to hold the rotating presidency, earlier this year. Everybody knows the Slovene presidency was a charade, he ventured. It was scripted by big countries like France or Germany.Awkward, indeed. Klaus' distrust of the big EU members is somewhat mutual:
A mood of impatience with the enlarged Europe helps to explain a mysterious plan, briefly floated by senior French officials, for France’s president, Nicolas Sarkozy, to continue hosting European summits after his country’s shot at the EU presidency finishes on December 31st. Such summits, it was briefed in Paris, would be reserved for heads of government from the inner core of countries that are in the single currency, the euro (possibly with Britain added). The Czechs, of course, are not: a detail that would allow Mr Sarkozy to continue running things in 2009, in case Czech leaders “sabotage” the EU during their presidency, as an official from the Elysée Palace tactfully put it to French reporters.While I've long thought that the EU's rapid expansion was a bad idea, ignoring the system after it's been put in place is an even worse one. Undermining the Czech Presidency will only serve to reinforce the suspicion that EU governance is largely a Franco-German affair, with the occasional assist from Britain. With that perception out there, there will be little chance that the EU can move beyond being mired in struggles over organizational matters. It would be far preferable to be able to focus on the merits of the Czechs' stated goals for their term - financial deregulation, energy diversification/security, and reapproachment with Russia - than internal squabbles over who's backyard will host the next EU summit on carbon emissions.
Italian president and media baron Silvio Berlusconi said today that he would use his country's imminent presidency of the G8 group to push for an international agreement to "regulate the internet". Speaking to Italian postal workers, Reuters reports Berlusconi said: "The G8 has as its task the regulation of financial markets... I think the next G8 can bring to the table a proposal for a regulation of the internet."Thanks, Italy. ~ Vivian Paige laments the loss of her weekly milk & eggs delivery from Yoder Dairies. I'm with her, if only in spirit. The last place I had milk delivery was in Nottingham in the mid-80s. ~ I am shamed to say that I didn't lift a glass in celebration of the 75th anniversary of the repeal of Prohibition last Friday (to be clear, I was lifting several glasses in celebration of other things - the anniversary just got lost in the shuffle). Amit Singh had a brief note about it up at Bearing Drift. That post kicked off a discussion that turned into an amusing reminder that the (remaining) Republican rank and file are more concerned with the fact that someone somewhere may be enjoying themselves than actually living up to that small government and personal freedom gloss they love to claim. ~ Oh, and a begrudging congratulations to the dolts in Louisiana's 2nd Congressional District, who finally ousted that crook, Rep. William Jefferson (D). It's begrudging because that district's voters apparently weren't smart enough to do it the last time they had the opportunity. Anyway, it's good to see him gone, and terribly amusing to see Minority Leader Rep. John Boehner hold up the Republican winner of that race as "the future" of the Republican Party. If relying on the Democratic incumbent to get found with a freezer full of cash and indicted is the Republican plan to win, well, I can live with that. Note also that the winner - Ahn Cao - will be gone in two years. He may be an entirely competent and decent fellow, but there's no way a Republican wins reelection in a D+28 district.
If there has been one truly effective stick to beat the EU with over the years, it has been the bizarre and Byzantine reams of regulation it is accused of promulgating. The classic anti-EU story is that "faceless eurocrats" were banning the curved cucumber. It was all the more powerful for having a solid basis in truth. Namely, Commission Regulation (EEC) No 1677/88 of 15 June 1988. Class I cucumbers must "be reasonably well shaped and practically straight (maximum height of the arc: 10 mm per 10 cm of the length of cucumber)". Class II "slightly crooked cucumbers may have a maximum height of the arc of 20 mm per 10 cm of length of the cucumber". These are allowed to have some blemishes and discolourations. Any cucumber more crooked must be packed separately and must be otherwise cosmetically perfect. So if a cucumber is crooked and has a blemish on it, it cannot be sold in a shop or market. It is allowed to go for processing, but often the cost of transport to a manufacturer is prohibitive and the produce is simply allowed to rot.As of next summer, this regulation (for cucumbers and 25 other similarly regulated fruits and vegetables) will be repealed. And it only took 20 years!
The organizers of the October 26 City Bikes DCCX, the only cyclocross race held within the city limits of the U.S. Capital, have announced that their "Lil’ Belgians" Free Kids Race will actually be sponsored by the Belgian Embassy. "Lil’ Belgians" racing, a traditional part of every BikeReg.com MABRAcross event, is a free fun-race for young children that occurs just prior to the Elite races, and it’s not unusual to see Elite and Amateur racers "assisting" their training-wheel -equipped youngsters by pushing them around their own special course.
Until now, the Lil’ Belgians moniker had been just a cute tribute to the homeland of cyclocross. But at the City Bikes DCCX, Belgium will be involved in an official capacity as the Belgian Embassy will be offering all participating kids a special (and tasty) prize. The kids won’t be the only ones getting a tasty Belgian prize, however, because the City Bikes DCCX organizers will keep the Belgian ambience rolling by serving free Frites to riders and spectators alike. For more information, see BikeReg.com
(Oct 26th. I'll be there (watching, not racing, I'm afraid.))