Daily Archives: September 2, 2009

Legality of red light cameras disputed

Hernando Today | Aug 28, 2009

By KYLE MARTIN

BROOKSVILLE – For the first time in 77 years, Warren Stevenson held a traffic ticket with his name on it.

He was surprised, actually, because it came in his mailbox.

At first examination, Stevenson thought the document was a public announcement about the red light traffic cameras recently installed in Brooksville. A closer look revealed he was being fined $125 for running the light at Broad Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.

“I thought ‘Oh my gosh, $125, are they out of their mind?'” Stevenson said. “It really irritated me.”

On Tuesday, he went before a hearing officer to plead his case. Stevenson said his right turn on red at that intersection seemed to be everyone else’s violation, too.

Records show there were 14 people who contested their ticket; four were dismissed. Stevenson’s ticket wasn’t.

It’s cases like Stevenson’s that attract the attention of West Palm Beach attorney Jason Weisser. Weisser and his firm, Schuler, Halvorson & Weisser, are advertising their services in the cities across the state that use cameras to catch red light runners.

Their ad showed up in Hernando Today this week.

Brooksville began installing cameras in March and expect the fifth camera to go online soon. Police Chief George Turner champions the cameras as a public safety measure that deters motorists from running red lights.

The projected annual revenue from the cameras is $1 million. Turner would like to convert that into a full-time traffic unit for the police department as a further safeguard against traffic crashes.

The cameras are not without their controversy, however. Critics argue they reek of Big Brother. Weisser has several arguments he’s using in an attempt to declare the cameras unconstitutional.

From the outset, Weisser said, a driver is considered guilty unless they can prove their innocence. He also finds fault with the fact that the owner of the vehicle, not the driver, is ticketed.

He also cites a sentence in the introduction to state traffic laws that he believes is clear-cut evidence of the illegality of red light cameras.

Specifically: “It is unlawful for any local authority to pass or to attempt to enforce any ordinance in conflict with the provisions of this chapter.”

But it’s not a black and white matter. Florida Statute 316 also allows cities to pass traffic ordinances that “regulate municipal traffic.” They are also authorized to use “official traffic control devices” and monitor traffic with “security devices,” whether by “public or private parties.”

The cameras’ operators are a private Arizona-based company called American Traffic Solutions.

The differing opinions came to a head in a 2005 opinion by then-Attorney General Charlie Crist. He decided that municipalities could not issue criminal citations using the cameras, but civil ordinances were legal. That formula remains in effect.

Back in Brooksville, Stevenson will avoid the Broad Street intersection on his near daily trips into town.

“I feel like it’s entrapment,” he said.

Biometric scanners to keep Indian bureaucrats on time

india rail
Indian railway workers unload freight from a train at the New Delhi Railway station in New Delhi

AFP | Sep 2, 2009

NEW DELHI — The Indian government on Tuesday launched a campaign to end notoriously slack time-keeping among its millions of civil servants by introducing biometric scanners at offices in the capital New Delhi.

Home Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram arrived punctually at work to kick off the drive to improve efficiency within India’s vast bureaucracy, which has a reputation for endless delays and reams of duplicated paperwork.

India’s central government employs about three million civil servants — including all railway workers — while federal states employ about another seven million.

“This is a message to the whole country that everyone must do his work for the allotted hours,” Chidambaram told reporters.

“I understand flexi time, we will introduce some flexibility. Flexibility is if you come 10 or 15 minutes late, you have to work for another 10 or 15 minutes.”

In the first stage of the scheme, 5,000 home ministry employees — regardless of rank — will have their index fingers scanned to register the time they arrive and leave work.

Any employee who is late three times in a month will have to give up a day-off.

A home ministry official said that Chidambaram, a veteran politician, had always been punctual and was “very particular about officials arriving on time.”

Rothschild replaces Merrill Lynch as Irish government adviser

Mandate will cover establishment of Ireland’s “bad bank”

Role includes potential consolidation of banking sector

Reuters | Sep 1, 2009

Rothschild to advise on Irish banking rejig

By Victoria Howley

LONDON, Sept 1 (Reuters) – The Irish government has appointed investment bank Rothschild to advise on the restructuring of the country’s banking sector, a source close to the firm said on Tuesday.

“We will advise the Department of Finance on how to shape the banking system going forward, including the establishment of the National Asset Management Agency and any possible consolidation in the sector,” the source said.

Bank of America Merrill Lynch (BAC.N) was hired to advise the government in September, although that contract expired in the summer and was put out to tender in July, a spokesman for the Department of Finance said.

The spokesman confirmed Rothschild’s new role.

Rothschild will also advise on dealings with the European Commission and recommend how relationships with lenders participating in the “bad bank” scheme should be managed, according to a tender document posted on Ireland’s public procurement website.

Dublin plans to take over risky property loans with a book value of up to 90 billion euros ($129.2 billion) from Allied Irish Banks (ALBK.I), Bank of Ireland (BKIR.I) and other lenders and park them in a National Asset Management Agency, or bad bank, to free up the flow of credit.

Government bonds issued in return for the assets will boost Ireland’s national debt by 60 billion euros, according to the median forecast of 6 economists in a Reuters poll on Tuesday, compared with a national debt level of 67 billion euros at the end of July.

Summer of 2009 one of 15 coolest ever

STATE JOURNAL-REGISTER | Aug 31, 2009

By JOHN REYNOLDS

If the numbers add up as expected, the summer of 2009 will go down as one of the 15 coolest ever recorded for Illinois.

Jim Angel, the state’s climatologist, said Monday the final calculations haven’t been made, but it appears that Illinois’ average temperature for June, July and August was 71.4 degrees. That would tie 1917 as the 11th coolest in Illinois since 1895.

That’s not quite top-10 category, but the cooler weather has been noticeable.

“Statewide, we’re about 2.4 degrees below average,” Angel said from his office in Champaign. “As far as departures from normal, the northern part of the state was a little cooler. They really felt it in the northwest corner of the state.”

The cooler weather has been an economic stimulus of sorts for people who usually run their air conditioners during the summer.

Amber Sabin, spokeswoman for City Water, Light and Power, said the utility’s retail load was down 12 percent for the month of July due to the below-normal temperatures. A continuation of that trend in August is expected to produce similar results.

As of Monday, meteorologists at the National Weather Service in Lincoln hadn’t compiled the numbers yet to see where 2009 ranked in terms of coolest summers for the Springfield area.

Angel said the state’s lower-than-normal average was mostly due to a cool July.

August’s temperatures were closer to normal, he said, though the weather of the past few days hasn’t felt like it.

On Sunday, for instance, Springfield’s low was 51 degrees. That’s only three degrees warmer than the record low of 48 for Aug. 30 set in 1986. The early morning temperature today is expected to drop to 45, just 2 degrees above the record low of 43 set in 1984.

The primary reason for the colder temperatures is air that’s usually bottled up in Canada pouring down into central Illinois. Usually, warm, humid air from the Gulf of Mexico heats up the area’s summers.

“It’s unusual to have that in the summer months — very strange,” Angel said.

Angel doesn’t expect that the cooler summer will translate into colder-than-normal temperatures the rest of the year. That’s because an El Nino pattern of ocean currents has developed in the Pacific.

In the past, El Ninos have resulted in milder winters in the Midwest.

Angel also noted that while Illinois’ summer was cooler than average, that wasn’t the case in all other parts of the country.

“If you went out West or to the Southwest this summer, they were as hot as we were cold,” Angel said.

Wildlife Group Condemns a 9/11-Tsunami Ad

911 planes tsunami
An ad proposed by a Brazilian advertising agency, which shows dozens of planes heading for Lower Manhattan, was rejected by the World Wildlife Fund.

cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com | Sep 1, 2009

By Jennifer  Lee

An ad proposed by a Brazilian advertising agency, which shows dozens of planes heading for Lower Manhattan, was rejected by the World Wildlife Fund. An ad proposed by a Brazilian advertising agency, which shows dozens of planes heading for Lower Manhattan, was rejected by the World Wildlife Fund.

The World Wildlife Fund on Tuesday condemned an unauthorized advertisement that depicted dozens of planes heading into Lower Manhattan, with a tag line reading, “The Tsunami Killed 100 Times More People Than 9/11.”

The ad had been pitched to the Brazilian branch of the World Wildlife Fund by an advertising agency and rejected, said Steve Ertel, a spokesman for the group. “It was a concept to our office in Brazil and it was rejected. From that point, we have not been able to get a hold of the agency to find out how it got out.”

A statement released by the group on Tuesday afternoon said:

“The concept was summarily rejected by W.W.F. and should never have seen the light of day. It is an unauthorized use of our logo and we are aggressively pursuing action to have it removed from Web sites where it is being currently featured.”

Beneath the text comparing 9/11 with the tsunami, the ad reads: “The planet is brutally powerful. Respect it. Preserve it.” The text stands next to the group’s familiar black and white giant panda logo.

Mr. Ertel said the World Wildlife Fund had never seen the ad before Tuesday, when his phone started ringing and people began forwarding various blog posts about the ad. It was a scramble to figure out where the ad had come from, he said.

“There were a number of calls to a number of people,” he said.

__________

Related

The 1001 Club and the World Wildlife Fund

Commentary on Dangers of Genetically Modified Foods

GBC News | Sep 1, 2009

By Edem Srem

Sad to say, Genetically Modified foods have been introduced to the African Market. It is now up to African consumers to reject them. This will save lives and cost for the treatment of the side effects of consuming Genetically Modified foods.

The history of controlling the food industry in the world by the then American Government in 1973 under President Nixon started by introducing the “Food for Peace” programme which was led by Henry Kissinger, Nixon’s Secretary of State and National Security Adviser.

According to the New African Magazine, Kissinger controlled absolutely the US foreign policy and summarized his activities as “Control oil and you control nations, control food and you control the people”. His idea of capturing the worldwide food industry started with the introduction of what was termed as the gene revolution.

The revolution did not succeed until 1990. a member of the South African consumer movement, Andrew Taynton explains that where-as natural breeding techniques select plants or animals with desirable traits and cross breed within a species to create better crops or animals, genetically modified are developed in laboratories by splicing genes from unrelated species into the host organism.

For instance, bacterial genes can be spliced into food crops and it will reproduce itself in each cell in the plants. Also scientists are now transferring anti-freeze genes from fish to tomatoes to keep it longer in the cold. There is also the splicing of pig genes into rice and daffodils to corn. All these have devastating effects, because of its imprecise processes.

The main effects of consuming genetically modified foods includes; allergies, new toxins, new diseases, antibiotic resistance and change in nutritional values. One other thing which needs to be mentioned is the “V Gurts” Varietal Genetic Use Restriction Technology which is popularly called the “Suicide Seeds” or terminator technology.

One expert believes Africa is in great danger now as genetically modified seeds are made in forms of herbicides and pesticides. These are normally exported to Africa and the Caribbean. The centre for Disease Control of the United States says that at lease 80% of food related illnesses are cause by viruses or pathogens that scientist cannot even identify.

Prince Charles, the heir to the British Throne, was once reported to have stated that “growing genetically modified crops in the developing world represents the biggest environmental disaster of all times”.

With the realities of climate change, it is just an option to reject these kinds of foods on the market. More revelations have been made by Dr. Arpad Pusztai, when he found out that rat fed on genetically modified potatoes had smaller livers, hearts, testicles and brains.

It was also revealed that their immune systems have been damaged with a lot of structural changes in their white blood cells, making them vulnerable to infections and other diseases as compared to rats which were fed on normal organic foods. The same changes occur in humans who also take genetically modified foods.

Thus, the whole world could be exterminated if nothing is done to stop it. We have all become lab rats in mass human experiment with huge risks. The risks will be too late to detect and save the world especially Africa because it will take longer times to find the antidotes. By then the genetically modified companies would have made their money.

Apart from South Africa which has started growing genetically modified crops, the remaining African countries must reject and fight against governments who want to adopt the technology. Ghana should also try to establish strict checks on imported foods, seeds, herbicides and pesticides to control, if not to stop the spread of the genetically modified crops in the country.

The solution is to accept nuclear foods which are done through induced mutations. World examples of induced mutations include; Tek Bankye which has been developed by the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in collaboration with the IAEA.  The Biotechnology and Nuclear Agricultural Research Institute has carried out researches that show that the Tek bankye yields as high as 17.84 tons per acre.

Kenya has also developed a high yielding and drought resistant wheat. Hopefully all Africans, especially, Ghanaians would reject genetically modified foods for a sustainable environment and good health.

Farmers say no to dangerous GM fruits, veggies

Times of India | Sep 1, 2009

MARGAO: Navelchea Xetkariancho Ekvott (NXE), a farmers’ club from Navelim, at its meeting held recently, resolved to oppose any moves by the government to introduce genetically modified (GM) fruits and vegetables in Goa.

Expressing concern over the dangers of using GM food products, the NXE urged all farmers to be vigilant and not to allow the entry of such food items into Goa.

Joseph Vaz of the Navelim Civic and Consumer Forum, who addressed the meeting, sought to prevail upon the farmers how “the whole farming activity will be controlled by a few private companies like Monsanto (USA)”.

“The interest of a majority of people will be controlled by a few capitalists. Thus, we should be vigilant and protect our freedom and reject GM vegetables and fruits outright,” Vaz was quoted as saying at the meeting in a press note issued by the NXE.

Concerned over the “indiscriminate” use of inorganic fertilizers by farmers, NXE further urged all farmers and agro-entrepreneurs to desist from using chemical fertilizers “which kill the natural organisms present in the soil” and to use local traditional organic manures instead. “The farmers noted that indiscriminate use of chemical fertilizers had drastically reduced the population of frogs. Tadpoles eat mosquito larvae, hence the mosquito population is controlled naturally. Excess fertilizers also flow into various water bodies and affect the fishes and other living organisms thus disturbing the ecological chain,” the press note says.

The NXE members further also noted with regret the delay in convening a meeting of the affected farmers to resolve the “Ravanfond issue”. It may be recalled that the farmers have been agitating over the acquisition of paddy fields at Ravanfond by the government to rehabilitate vendors affected by the widening of Ravanfond junction.

The farmers also noted with regret the drought condition in other parts of India and the rising food prices and urge all the fellow Goans to cultivate their land and not keep it fallow.

Tesco ‘will not stock GM foods’ because the public don’t want them

Bounty | Sep 1, 2009

Despite wide spread speculation that the UK’s largest supermarkets are in talks to reinstate genetically modified (GM) foods back onto their shelves, Tesco has claimed that it has no intention of doing so.

The supermarket claimed that it is not considering introducing the controversial GM crops into their stores because the public don’t want them.

A spokesperson told the Daily Mail: “Our position is we are led by customers and customers do not appear to want them at the moment.”

This comes after stores banned GM ingredients a decade ago after reports surfaced that they could have ill effects on our health, while Friends of the Earth senior food campaigner Clare Oxborrow recently dubbed it “Frankenstein food”.

Parents who are concerned about what to feed their children when sending them back to school this week were recently advised to ditch pre-packaged foods.

Examiner journalist Raina Granger claimed that lunchboxes should instead be packed with fresh foods, from ham and cheese wraps to crunchy carrots and pita bread pizzas.

Rothschild pitches motorway privatisation plan

London Times | Aug 30, 2009

by Robert Watts and Dominic O’Connell

A radical plan to raise £100 billion by privatising the motorway network has been presented to the three main political parties by NM Rothschild, the influential investment bank.

Rothschild, an architect of several privatisations, made its pitch in the weeks running up to the summer recess on July 21, Whitehall sources said. Bankers told leading politicians that the sale of the roads overseen by the Highways Agency — all motorways and most big trunk roads — could help revive battered public finances.

Toll-road companies and infrastructure funds would compete to operate and maintain stretches of the network.

In one version of the scheme, the government would pay for upkeep through a system of “shadow” tolls. A more radical, and less politically palatable, option would be for companies to charge motorists directly through toll booths or electronic card readers. The RAC Foundation, a motorists’ group, advocated privatisation in a report last week.

The Rothschild plan has already won the support of Vince Cable, the Liberal Democrats’ deputy leader and Treasury spokesman.

“This is an attractive, positive idea which could release considerable resources to the public finances and may have real environmental merits,” Cable said. “The scale of it is vast — it makes rail privatisation look like small beer.”

Theresa Villiers, the shadow transport secretary, said the Conservatives had “no plans” to back Rothschild’s proposals: “Rothschilds, like many other banks and consultancies, have approached me and my team on a range of ideas for our transport network, including their ideas for our road infrastructure, but we are not working on any proposals for privatisation of the strategic road network and have no plans to do so.”

Motorway privatisation was considered by John Major’s Conservative administration, which sold British Rail, but was rejected.

A spokesman at the Department for Transport said: “It is not unusual for organisations to suggest ideas to government departments but ultimately all policy is decided by ministers and there are no plans to sell off a stake in the Highways Agency.” Rothschild declined to comment.

The bank was behind many of the key privatisations of the 1980s and 1990s, including British Steel, British Gas and British Coal. It has close links to the Conservatives, having employed several senior Party figures including Lord Lamont, John Redwood and Lord Wakeham. Oliver Letwin, the former shadow chancellor, works there part-time.

Politicians of all Parties are seeking ways to decrease the need for large tax rises or heavy cuts in public services. The bank bailouts and a recent collapse in tax revenues has seen public sector debt rise to more than £800 billion, 56.8% of GDP — up from 35.5% just two years ago.

Road tolls are unpopular, however. When Labour mooted road pricing two years ago, more than 230,000 signed a petition on the Downing Street decrying the plan .