Friday, January 31, 2014

Ahhhh, Retirement...Why Did I Wait So Long?

An 85-year-old man was requested by his doctor for a sperm count as part of his physical exam. The doctor gave the man a jar and said, "Take this jar home and bring back a semen sample tomorrow." The next day the 85-year-old man reappeared at the doctor's office and gave him the jar, which was as clean and empty as on the previous day. The doctor asked, what happened and the man explained. "Well, doc, it's like this--first I tried with my right hand, but nothing. Then I tried with my left hand, but still nothing. Then I asked my wife for help. She tried with her right hand, then with her left, still nothing. She tried with her mouth, first with the teeth in, then with her teeth out, still nothing. We even called up Arleen, the lady next door and she tried too, first with both hands, then an armpit, and she even tried squeezin' it between her knees, but still nothing." The doctor was shocked! "You asked your neighbor?" The old man replied, "Yep, none of us could get the jar open."

An elderly gentleman was telling his friend about a new restaurant he and his wife recently visited. “The food and service were great!” he said. His friend asked, “What’s the name of the place?” “Gee, I don’t remember,” he said, “What do you call the long stemmed flower people give on special occasions?” “You mean a rose?” asked his friend. “That’s it!” he exclaimed and turning to his wife, asked, “Rose, what’s the name of that restaurant we went to the other day?”

An elderly Canadian gentleman of 83 arrived in Paris by plane. At the French customs desk, the man took a few minutes to locate his passport in his carry-on bag. "You have been to France before, monsieur?" the customs officer asked, sarcastically. The elderly gentleman admitted he had been to France previously. "Then you should know enough to have your passport ready." The Canadian said, "The last time I was here, I didn't have to show it." "Impossible, Canadians always have to show your passports on arrival in France!" The Canadian senior gave the Frenchman a long hard look, then he quietly explained, "Well, when I came ashore at Juno Beach on D Day in 1944 to help liberate this country, I couldn't find any Frenchmen to show it to."

A retired gentlemen went into the social security office to apply for Social Security. After waiting in line a long time, he got to the counter. The woman behind the counter asked him for his drivers license to verify his age. He looked in his pockets and realized he had left his wallet at home. He told the woman that he was very sorry but he seemed to have left his wallet at home. “Will I have to go home and come back now?” he asks. The woman says, “Unbutton your shirt.” So he opens his shirt revealing lost of curly silver hair. She says, “That silver hair on your chest is proof enough for me.” and she processes his Social Security application. When he gets home, the man excitedly tells his wife about his experience at the Social Security office. She said, “You should have dropped your pants, you might have qualified for disability, too.”

Two old men in a retirement village were sitting in the reading room and one said to the other, ''How do you really feel? I mean, you're 75 years old, how do you honestly feel?'' ''Honestly, I feel like a new born baby. I've got no hair, no teeth, and I just peed myself.''

There was this couple who had been married for 50 years. They were sitting at the breakfast table one morning when the old gentleman said to his wife, "Just think, honey, we've been married for 50 years." "Yeah," she replied, "Just think, fifty years ago we were sitting here at this breakfast table together." "I know," the old man said, "We were probably sitting here naked as jaybirds fifty years ago." "Well," Granny snickered, "What do you say...should we get naked?" Where upon the two stripped to the buff and sat down at the table. "You know, honey," the little old lady breathlessly replied, "My nipples are as hot for you today as they were fifty years ago." "I wouldn't be surprised," replied Gramps. "One's in your coffee and the other is in your oatmeal."

A retired man who volunteers to entertain patients in nursing homes and hospitals went to one local hospital in Brooklyn and took his portable keyboard along. He told some jokes and sang some funny songs at patients’ bedsides. When he finished he said, in farewell, “I hope you get better.” One elderly gentleman replied, “I hope you get better, too.”

An elderly woman decided to have her portrait painted. She told the artist, “Paint me with diamond earrings, a diamond necklace, emerald bracelets, a ruby broach, and a gold Rolex.” “But you are not wearing any of those things,” replied the artist. “I know,” she said. “It’s in case I should die before my husband. I’m sure he will remarry right away, and I want his new wife to go crazy looking for the jewelry.”
Hope this look doesn't catch on
Latest Geezer fashion

Thursday, January 30, 2014

US 'concern' at Syria stalling on chemical weapons clean-up

Navy officers are seen on the board the Norwegian frigate HNoMS "Helge Ingstad", in Latakia in this handout photo from January 2014 released to Reuters on January 26, 2014 by the Norwegian Armed Forces

Norway and Denmark are providing transport for Syria's weapons from the port of Latakia

The US says only around 4% of the chemical weapons declared by the Syrian government has been removed. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said he was "concerned" that the UN-backed plan to remove Syria's chemical arsenal was behind schedule. Mr Hagel told reporters in Poland that Damascus "had to take responsibility for fulfilling its commitment".
Delegates from Syria's government and opposition have attended peace talks in Geneva for a sixth day.UN mediator Lakhdar Brahimi told reporters that there had been both tense and promising moments. He said a minute's silence was held by the delegations on Thursday for all those killed in the conflict, which began in March 2011.
In a separate development, a report from Human Rights Watch has accused the Syrian government of "deliberately and unlawfully" demolishing thousands of homes in opposition strongholds.

The organization said this was "collective punishment of communities suspected of supporting the rebellion."

Chuck Hagel: "The Syrian government has to take responsibility"

Syria's chemical weapon stockpiles are due to be removed and destroyed by June 30th. Chuck Hagel's comments regarding the painfully slow efforts on the part of the Syrian government to dispose of its chemical weapons stockpiles should not come as a surprise to anyone.
He said he did not know why the process was so far behind schedule, but, regardless, President Bashar al-Assad's government "need to fix this".
White House spokesman Jay Carney, a world away from Warsaw, told reporters something very similar: "We expect them to meet their obligations."

Syria has said it possesses about 700 tons of deadly chemicals and 500 tons of precursor chemicals, the kind that become toxic when combined with other compounds. Almost all 1,200 tons were supposed to be removed by February 5th. Mr Hagel said he had asked the Russian defence minister to try to influence the Syrian government to comply with the agreement.
The first consignment of 16 tons, from two Syrian sites, left the port of Latakia on January 7th.

A further shipment left on  January 27th, according to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).
The international watchdog, which is overseeing the destruction of Syria's chemical arsenal, is meeting in The Hague to discuss the operation's progress. That meeting is likely to continue into Friday given "the gravity of the situation," a spokesman said.
In a statement to the OPCW, the US ambassador to the body, Robert Mikulak, said "the effort to remove chemical agent and key precursor chemicals from Syria has seriously languished and stalled".

"The spotlight now is on Syria to proceed without further delay to comply with its obligations and make this effort a success," he added.
Under the terms of the UN-backed plan to destroy Syria's arsenal, the Syrian authorities are responsible for packing and safely transporting the chemical weapons to the Mediterranean port of Latakia.
Denmark and Norway are providing cargo ships and military escorts to take them to Italy, where they will be loaded onto a US Maritime Administration cargo ship, MV Cape Ray.

The materials will be destroyed in international waters.

Norwegian cargo vessel Taiko at Latakia (Jan 2014)
The task force ships left Syria with a second consignment on January 27th

Syria's chemical weapons
  • Syria believed to possess 1,300 tons of chemical agents including sarin and more potent nerve agent VX
  • US believes arsenal can be "delivered by aircraft, ballistic missile, and artillery rockets"
  • Syria acceded to Chemical Weapons Convention on 14 September; it signed Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention in 1972 but never ratified it
Millions of Syrians have fled the violence and are living in refugee camps in neighbouring countries.

The current round of peace negotiations in Geneva is scheduled to end on Friday. The UN envoy Lakhdar Brahimi has said he hopes for more progress in next week's second round of talks between the two sides.
Both sides stood together in silence on Thursday to remember those who had died, he confirmed.

"The opposition suggested a minute of silence for all the dead in Syria, irrelevant of which camp they belong [to] and the government delegation immediately agreed and we had that minute of silence," he told reporters.

The agreement to remove Syria's chemical weapons followed an attack in Damascus on August 21st 2013 in which hundreds of people were killed. The United Nations concluded that the deadly nerve gas sarin had been used. Inspectors also found that chemical weapons were "probably used" at a further four sites in Syria.
The Syrian government denies using chemical weapons, saying the attack was carried out by rebel fighters. But the chief UN investigator said in an interview published on Thursday that the Syrian government had failed to explain how the rebel fighters might have obtained and delivered sarin.
Ake Sellstrom told the specialist publication CBRNe World that Syrian officials had "quite poor theories".
"If they really want to blame the opposition they should have a good story as to how they got hold of the munitions, and they didn't take the chance to deliver that story," he said.

Map of the Mediterranean

Ask Maxy

Dear Maxy ,
I'm so tired  of being  the only one  in my family  who takes  responsibility  for anything. I am the  youngest  child  who makes the most money . I have been helping out my  siblings  for years . I pay for one niece's college tuition . I pay for my brother's  mortgage several months out of the year, whenever he  does not have  steady employment . I feel like the family ATM, but whenever I stop helping they, they all accuse  me of being selfish.
I actually  enjoy helping my family  in some ways, but I do not appreciate  them thinking  that it is my responsibility  to take them for a free ride . How can I create a better balance ?
Feeling Used

Dear Feeling Used ,
You are in a predicament that is common  in many families . The one  or ones  with means often help  those that is less fortunate . And as  you already know, the fine line can be difficult  to navigate  between being of help and enabling . What  you may want  to do is invest  in a financial planner  who works  with you  and with your family  members . You can determine  what you will do  for yourself  for now  and your future  including  a finite  amount of money that you will give  to your loved ones . For them , the planner can help  them figure out how to be more stable  in their financial dealing  so that they  can learn to live  within their means  and establish independence .

Dear Maxy ,
"We are here ! We are here !"  This is a gentle suggestion  to consider  reminding your readers  that they can  contact their local YWCA for help  with many of the issues  you address in your column .
The YWCA has been in existence  since 1858 . Each branch  embraces  the following mission : "YWCA is dedicated  to eliminating  racism , empowering women  and promoting peace, freedom , and dignity for all ."
As an example  , our local YWCA provides  shelter  for  victims  of domestic  violence  and sexual assault . Please let  your readers  know they can  contact  their local YWCA when they need help .
Jennifer Graf and Heather  Farwell ,  co-chairs  YWCA  Clinton Iowa

Dear Jennifer Graf and Heather Farwell ,
I am happy to recommend  that  my readers  contact  the YWCA , as well as other service and counseling agencies  I often mention  . Your organization  does give a wonderful  service to the community, I  appreciate  the reminder .

Dear Maxy ,
I was married  for 20 years  when my husband left me for another woman .
At first I was upset , but in the intervening  years I have changed my mind .
"Please print this for her ."
Dear Other Woman.
I bet you thought you were a winner  when my husband left me for you .
You have dealt with his drinking, pot smoking, heart disease, emphysema, baldness , toothless smile, erectile  dysfunction  and bad moods .
You had to support  him because  he was chronically unemployed  and now you are his nursemaid 24/7 .
Because  of you, I have had the freedom  to love, live and travel . I also drive a new car  and have paid off a home  he didn't want . I have enjoyed  children and grandchildren . I thank you . You may have saved my life .
Women if you think  that man you want who belongs  to someone else is a real prize, you haven't  seen the whole picture  .
Grateful Granny

Dear  Granny ,
I appreciate  your voice  of experience . More importantly, you have  underscored  that having a man  in your life  does not  determine  your level  of happiness .
Too many women  believe otherwise .

Here We Go Again

The ex-boyfriend of Mayor Rob Ford's sister has filed a lawsuit, which accuses the mayor of involvement in a jailhouse assault.
Toronto Mayor Rob Ford has been named in a statement of claim that alleges he was behind the jailhouse assault of his sister's ex-boyfriend. CBC News' Jamie Strashin first reported that Scott MacIntyre has filed a statement of claim against Ford. Ford's lawyer, Dennis Morris, later confirmed the legal action to reporters.
"They are without fact or foundation," Morris told reporters at city hall.
The incident in question occurred in March of 2012, while MacIntyre was in custody in the Metro West Detention Centre. The Globe and Mail reports the lawsuit alleges that Aedan Petros orchestrated the assault, which left MacIntyre with shattered teeth and a broken leg.

Petros is described by the Globe as a "300-pound, violent criminal who played defensive tackle for Mr. Ford when he was the coach of the football team at Don Bosco Catholic Secondary School."
Petros was arrested alongside Rexford Williams on Aug. 19, 2011, and charged with armed robbery, threatening death and aggravated assault, among other offences, in connection to an early-morning home invasion.

According to previous reports, by both the Sun News Network and the Toronto Star, Justice Paul French determined in a sentencing hearing that MacIntyre was viciously beaten in an episode of "jail-house justice" because "of his being a bother to [Mayor] Ford."
In an article published by the Toronto Sun's Joe Warmingon on Wednesday, Ford said he was sick of rumours that he was behind the attack on MacIntyre. He said the idea that he had directed a former football player to assault someone in jail was "far-fetched."
"It pisses me off," Ford is quoted as saying.
Ford also denied rumours that he was involved in the death of Anthony Smith, a young man he posed with in a photograph linked to Ford's crack video scandal. None of the allegations have been proven in court.

(Video courtesy The Canadian Press)

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Canadian Journalist Charged With Terrorism


The family of an Egyptian-Canadian journalist imprisoned in Cairo issued an urgent appeal for Ottawa's help Wednesday, as they learned the man had abruptly been charged with being a member of a terrorist group.

Mohamed Fahmy was among 20 employees of satellite news broadcaster Al Jazeera who were charged with several offences in what's believed to be the first time Egypt has referred journalists to trial for terrorism.
Fahmy was charged with using illegal equipment, broadcasting false news that endangered national security and being a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, a group Egypt's military-led government has branded a terrorist organization, his family said.
"It's become a very desperate situation," Fahmy's brother Adel told The Canadian Press.
"We are very proud Canadian citizens. We became Canadian citizens because we know that Canada is the most decent country and always protects its people. We need the Canadian government to save my brother."
Mohamed Fahmy and his two colleagues — Australian Peter Greste and Egyptian Baher Mohamed— were taken into custody on Dec. 29 at a hotel room in Cairo where they were working after authorities raided the offices of Al Jazeera English.
Egyptian authorities characterized the arrest as part of a crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood, and depicted Al Jazeera as being biased towards former Islamist president Mohammed Morsi — who was ousted by the military in July — and his Muslim Brotherhood-led supporters.
Al Jazeera, which no longer has journalists reporting in Egypt, has denied any bias and decried the latest developments.
"The world knows these allegations against our journalists are absurd, baseless and false," a spokesman said. "This is a challenge to free speech, to the right of journalists to report on all aspects of events, and to the right of people to know what is going on."
A statement from Egypt's prosecutor said the journalists accused Wednesday — eight of whom are said to be in custody — had established a media network which used two suites in a luxury hotel in Cairo as a media centre, supported with cameras, broadcasting equipment and computers.
The statement said they allegedly "manipulated pictures" to create "unreal scenes to give the impression to the outside world that there is a civil war that threatens to bring down the state" and broadcast scenes to aid "the terrorist group in achieving its goals."
Fahmy, Al Jazeera English's acting bureau chief in Cairo, was singled out by an official investigating the case.
The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the Egyptian-Canadian was an alleged member of the Muslim Brotherhood, led the media operation that "fabricated footage" and aired it on Al-Jazeera and CNN with the "aim of harming Egypt's reputation."
Fahmy's family said evidence they and Al Jazeera had provided to refute those allegations didn't appear to have been taken into account.
"All the progress that we achieved with the lawyer, the interrogations, have become nullified today," said Fahmy's brother. "My brother is the furthest from such ideologies or such connections with these groups."
Fahmy's parents — who travelled to Cairo from Montreal two weeks ago — informed Canadian officials of the latest developments but said they were aware there was only so much consular staff could do.
Canadian officials have said they are providing consular services to Fahmy and his family and have raised this case with senior Egyptian officials.
Wednesday's developments were condemned by the Canadian Journalists for Free Expression, which said it was "extremely concerning" Fahmy was being treated solely as an Egyptian national despite holding Canadian citizenship.

Stargazing..Storm-Watching and Aurora Borealis in One Remarkable Video

Please watch full screen to appreciate fully

Stargazing and storm-watching are two of my favorite pastimes, and photographer Randy Halverson has combined both to amazing effect in this video, which he titled Huelux.
Filmed over a period of seven months in 2013, the video captures spectacular thunderstorms, stunning views of the Milky Way and even some truly mesmerizing displays of the Northern Lights. The Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis) seen in person is incomparable and awe inspiring but you can get a fair idea from the video. Planes and satellites zip across the view as well, and he even captured a few meteors (although you have to watch closely for those, as they only last for one frame of the video). I highly recommend watching it on full-screen mode to get the best experience.

Southerners Warned of Icy Mess

Southerners warned of icy mess

Southerners warned of icy mess
Southerners warned of icy mess

Traffic is at a complete standstill as officials work to clear abandoned vehicles Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2014 in Hoover, Ala. Overnight, the South saw fatal crashes and hundreds of fender-benders. Jackknifed 18-wheelers littered Interstate 65 in central Alabama. Ice shut down bridges on Florida's panhandle and the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway, one of the world's longest spans, in Louisiana.
Some commuters pleaded for help via cellphones while still holed up in their cars, while others trudged miles home, abandoning their vehicles outright. (AP Photo/Hal Yeager)Traffic is at a standstill on Interstate 65 northbound as officials work to clear abandoned vehicles Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2014 in Hoover, Ala. Overnight, the South saw fatal crashes and hundreds of fender-benders. Jackknifed 18-wheelers littered Interstate 65 in central Alabama.
 Ice shut down bridges on Florida's panhandle and the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway, one of the world's longest spans, in Louisiana. Some commuters pleaded for help via cellphones while still holed up in their cars, while others trudged miles home, abandoning their vehicles outright.

A Store that Sells Husbands....Hmmm

housewife photo: 50s dinner 1950s-housewife.jpg

A store that sells husbands has just opened where a woman may go to choose a husband from among many men. The store is composed of 6 floors, and the men increase in positive attributes as the shopper ascends the flights. There is, however, a catch. As you open the door to any floor you may choose a man from that floor, but if you go up a floor, you cannot go back down except to exit the building.
  So a woman goes to the shopping center to find a husband. On the first floor the sign on the door reads: Floor 1 - These men have jobs. The woman reads the sign and says to herself, "Well, that's better than my last boyfriend, but I wonder what's further up?" So up she goes.
The second floor sign reads: Floor 2 - These men have jobs and love kids. The woman remarks to herself, "That's great, but I wonder what's further up?" And up she goes again.
The third floor sign reads: Floor 3 - These men have jobs, love kids and are extremely good looking. "Hmmm, better" she says. "But I wonder what's upstairs?"
The fourth floor sign reads: Floor 4 - These men have jobs, love kids, are extremely good looking and help with the housework. "Wow!" exclaims the woman, "very tempting. BUT, there must be more further up!" And again she heads up another flight.
The fifth floor sign reads: Floor 5 - These men have jobs, love kids, are extremely good looking, help with the housework and have a strong romantic streak. "Oh, mercy me! But just think... what must be awaiting me further on?" So up to the sixth floor she goes.
The sixth floor sign reads: Floor 6 - You are visitor 6,875,953,012 to this floor. There are no men on this floor. This floor exists solely as proof that women are impossible to please.

Dumb Blonde Jokes are Wrong on So Many Levels

Dumb Blonde - blondes arent dumb! we're just misunderstooded

A young ventriloquist is touring the clubs and one night he's doing a show in a small club in a small town in Arkansas. With his dummy on his knee, he's going through his usual dumb blonde jokes when a blonde woman in the fourth row stands up and starts shouting: ''I've heard enough of your stupid blonde jokes. What makes you think you can stereotype women that way? What does the color of a person's hair have to do with her worth as a human being? It's guys like you who keep women like me from being respected at work and in the community and from reaching our full potential as a person, because you and your kind continue to perpetuate discrimination against, not only blondes, but women in general...and all in the name of humor!''
 The ventriloquist is embarrassed and begins to apologize, when the blonde yells,
 ''You stay out of this, mister! I'm talking to that midget on your knee!''

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Amnesty for Protesters....Ukraine

 Protester on barricade in Kiev. 28 Jan 2014

 Despite concessions, protesters show no sign of abandoning barricades in Kiev

Ukraine's parliament is due to debate amnesty for scores of protesters arrested in anti-government demonstrations. President Viktor Yanukovych has said he wants to make the amnesty conditional on protesters leaving official buildings and taking down barricades. The opposition has so far ruled this out and is demanding early elections.

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Mykola Azarov and his cabinet resigned after months of protests.

Parliament also scrapped a controversial anti-protest law in the biggest concessions yet to opposition protesters.

Demonstrations began in November when Mr Yanukovych pulled out of a planned trade deal with the EU in favour of a $15bn bailout from Russia to bolster ailing public finances in the former Soviet state.
Hours before MPs in Kiev were due to discuss a possible amnesty for protesters, the White House said the issue had been raised in a telephone conversation between Vice-President Joe Biden and President Yanukovych on Tuesday. The White House said Mr Biden welcomed "progress made today" and called on Mr Yanukovych to sign the repeal of several anti-protest laws.

"He strongly encouraged President Yanukovych to continue to work with the opposition to find compromises critical to a peaceful solution," a statement said.

"These include an amnesty law and a new government that can bring political unity, win the confidence of the Ukrainian people, and take Ukraine in the direction of Europe by strengthening democratic institutions and making the reforms necessary to achieve economic prosperity."

On Tuesday, Mr Azarov said he was stepping down to create "social and political compromise".

Parliament, in an emergency debate, voted to repeal anti-protest legislation, which among other measures banned the wearing of helmets by protesters and the blockading of public buildings.

Correspondents say Mr Azarov was deeply unpopular with the opposition, who accused him of mismanaging the economy and failing to tackle corruption.

Feelings against him grew after the protests started in November, when he described demonstrators as extremists. He was also blamed for excessive use of force by the police. Meanwhile, Russia's President Vladimir Putin has criticized what he called foreign "interference" in Ukraine.

Speaking at the end of an EU-Russia summit in Brussels, Mr Putin said visits by overseas envoys were adding to the unrest.

Riot police face protesters in Kiev. 28 Jan 2014

Riot police and protesters have endured freezing temperatures in Kiev

"I think that the Ukrainian people are capable of solving this on their own," Mr Putin said.

"I can only imagine how our European partners would respond if in the heat of a crisis in a country like Greece or Cyprus, our foreign minister would appear at one of their anti-European rallies and begin addressing them."

Correspondents say his comments appear to be a thinly veiled criticism of the EU and other Western nations that have sent a string of diplomats to Ukraine in recent weeks.

The EU's High Representative for Foreign Affairs, Catherine Ashton, has flown out to Kiev on her latest visit while the bloc's Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fuele was also back in Ukraine for his second visit in four days.

In December, the assistant US Secretary of State Victoria Nuland handed cakes to protesters while US Senator John McCain addressed 200,000 pro-EU opposition supporters in Kiev, telling them that "America stands with you".

Protests have spread in recent days across Ukraine - even to President Yanukovych's stronghold in the east - and official buildings in several cities have been occupied. On Tuesday the interior ministry reported that protesters had stabbed and wounded three policemen in the southern city of Kherson, one of whom later died.

In total, at least five people have been killed in violence linked to the protests. Despite the president accepting their resignations, the Ukrainian cabinet can remain in their posts for 60 days until a new government is formed.

Deputy Prime Minister Serhiy Arbuzov is to assume temporary leadership of the cabinet.

State of the Union: Action on Inequality...Big Promise

US President Barack Obama: "Whenever I can take steps without legislation to expand opportunity for more American families, that's what I'm going to do"

President Obama has promised to bypass a fractured Congress to tackle economic inequality in his annual State of the Union address. He pledged to "take steps without legislation" wherever possible, announcing a rise in the minimum wage for new federal contract staff.

On Iran, he said he would veto any new sanctions that risked derailing talks. The Democratic president is facing some of his lowest approval ratings since first taking office in 2009.
"Let's make this a year of action," Mr Obama said.

Noting that inequality has deepened and upward mobility stalled, he would offer "a set of concrete, practical proposals to speed up growth, strengthen the middle class, and build new ladders of opportunity into the middle class".
"America does not stand still - and neither will I," he said. "So wherever and whenever I can take steps without legislation to expand opportunity for more American families, that's what I am going to do."
Just over a year after his re-election, Mr Obama must contend with determined opposition from the Republican Party, which controls the House of Representatives and has the numbers in the Senate to block his agenda.

During his address, Mr Obama appealed to Congress to restore unemployment insurance that recently expired for 1.6 million people, and asked Republicans to stop trying to repeal his signature healthcare overhaul. The botched rollout of the website on which Americans could sign up for healthcare has dented the president's popularity.

Mr Obama stressed the importance of early childhood schooling, better value university education, and equal opportunities in the workplace for women. He also appealed to Congress to approve a rise in the national minimum wage, currently $7.25 per hour. His executive order raising the hourly rate of federal contract workers to $10.10 will only apply to future contracts. House Speaker John Boehner said the impact would be "close to zero" and warned that such a move would cost jobs. He told reporters his party would watch to ensure the president did not exceed his authority through the use of such executive actions.
The president also urged the Republican House of Representatives to support a broad overhaul of the US immigration system, saying it would "make our country a more attractive place for businesses to locate and create jobs for everyone". (One American child in five lives below the poverty line)

Last year, the Senate passed a bill that included a path to citizenship for some of the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in the US.  The House has thus far declined to hold a vote on that legislation, although in recent days US media have reported the chamber's Republican leaders are weighing a series of more limited measures.

On foreign policy, Mr Obama pledged to:

  • support a unified Afghanistan as it takes responsibility for its own future
  • back the opposition in Syria "that rejects the agenda of terrorist networks"
  • make sure any long-term deal on Iran's nuclear program is "based on verifiable action".
He also said that, with major US operations in Afghanistan due to end, "this needs to be the year Congress lifts the remaining restrictions on detainee transfers and we close the prison at Guantanamo Bay".
After Mr Obama's speech, three Republicans offered several rebuttals, a departure from the tradition of the opposition choosing a single voice to follow the president. ( Have you ever asked yourself why they give him such a hard time ?)

Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington gave the official response on behalf of the Republican Party, calling on Mr Obama to take action "by empowering people, not making their lives harder with unprecedented spending, higher taxes, and fewer jobs".

Republican Kentucky Senator and presumed 2016 presidential hopeful Rand Paul, a favorite of the party's libertarian wing, released a taped address.
"Economic growth will come when we lower taxes for everyone," he said. "Government spending doesn't work."
Utah Senator Mike Lee offered a response on behalf of the anti-tax tea party movement, saying he shared the frustration of Americans with "an ever-growing government that somehow thinks it is OK to lie to, spy on and even target its own citizens.'' ( Records show that surveillance of persons of interest in America and over-seas has been in effect for decades. There are a lot of home grown terrorists and it is a matter of national security. After 9/11 security was beefed up considerably and with good reason.)

The US has one of the highest income gaps in the developed world

Monday, January 27, 2014


Getting ready to go out

Will anyone Be Listening to the State of the Union Address ??

White House Spokesman Blames Congress
Jay Carney
Americans' confidence in President Obama's leadership is slipping as he prepares to deliver his sixth State of the Union Address on Tuesday.
A new Washington Post/ABC News poll finds that 50 percent of Americans disapprove of the way Obama is handling his job as president; 55 percent disapprove of the way Obama is handling the economy; 59 percent disapprove of the way Obama is handling the implementation of the new health care law; 62 percent think things in this country have "gotten pretty seriously off on the wrong track"; 51 percent say Obama is not a strong leader; 52 percent say he does not understand the problems of "people like you." And 63 percent have low -- or no -- confidence in Obama's ability to "make the right decisions for the country's future."
"How can the president lead when barely a third trusts his ability to make the right decisions," Jon Karl, the fill-in host of ABC's "This Week," asked White House spokesman Jay Carney on Sunday.

"Jon, I think what we saw last year in 2013 was a Washington that did not deliver for the American people. And the president sees this as a year of action, to work with Congress where he can and to bypass Congress where necessary to lift folks who want to come up into the middle class," Carney said.
Karl noted that President Obama, in last year's State of the Union, called for a higher minimum wage, immigration reform, and expanded background checks for gun buyers -- and none of it happened. Why would 2014 be any different,he wondered.
"Those were calls for action that involved Congress," Carney responded. "The president is very disappointed that the Senate failed to heed the will of the vast majority of the American people when it came to expanding background checks.
"On immigration reform, we're actually optimistic that 2014 will be the year that Congress delivers to the president's desk a bipartisan, comprehensive immigration reform bill that meets the principles he laid out and that he can sign into law."
As for Americans' disapproval of Obamacare implementation, Carney said "it is absolutely worth it, no matter what happens politically."
"I just disagree that Republicans are going to have a winning issue on this, if they decide to run on it, because they got to explain what repeal means," Carney said.
On another topic, income inequality -- which is expected to be a key element of Obama's speech -- Carney said it's a problem  that's been in the making for "over 30 years."
And he said Republicans who blame Obama for pushing millions of Americans into poverty are overlooking "the worst recession since the Great Depression, which was in full bloom when President Obama was sworn into office."

How are humans going to become extinct? Is it Inevitable?

Artificial intelligence 
Prepare to meet your maker: Will humans become extinct at our own hand?
What are the greatest global threats to humanity? Are we on the verge of our own unexpected extinction? An international team of scientists, mathematicians and philosophers at Oxford University's Future of Humanity Institute is investigating the biggest dangers. And they argue in a research paper, Existential Risk as a Global Priority, that international policymakers must pay serious attention to the reality of species-obliterating risks.

Last year there were more academic papers published on snowboarding than human extinction.

The Swedish-born director of the institute, Nick Bostrom, says the stakes couldn't be higher. If we get it wrong, this could be humanity's final century.

So what are the greatest dangers? First the good news. Pandemics and natural disasters might cause colossal and catastrophic loss of life, but Dr Bostrom believes humanity would be likely to survive.

Femur of a dodo
The femur of a dodo: An estimated 99% of all species that have existed have become extinct

This is because as a species we've already outlasted many thousands of years of disease, famine, flood, predators, persecution, earthquakes and environmental change. So the odds remain in our favour. And in the time frame of a century, he says the risk of extinction from asteroid impacts and super-volcanic eruptions remains "extremely small".
Even the unprecedented self-inflicted losses in the 20th Century in two world wars, and the Spanish flu epidemic, failed to halt the upward rise in the global human population. Nuclear war might cause appalling destruction, but enough individuals could survive to allow the species to continue. If that's the feelgood reassurance out of the way, what should we really be worrying about?
Dr Bostrom believes we've entered a new kind of technological era with the capacity to threaten our future as never before. These are "threats we have no track record of surviving". Likening it to a dangerous weapon in the hands of a child, he says the advance of technology has overtaken our capacity to control the possible consequences.
Nick Bostrom says there is a plausible threat of extinction in the next century. Experiments in areas such as synthetic biology, nanotechnology and machine intelligence are hurtling forward into the territory of the unintended and unpredictable. Synthetic biology, where biology meets engineering, promises great medical benefits. But Dr Bostrom is concerned about unforeseen consequences in manipulating the boundaries of human biology.

Nanotechnology, working at a molecular or atomic level, could also become highly destructive if used for warfare, he argues. He has written that future governments will have a major challenge to control and restrict misuses.

There are also fears about how artificial or machine intelligence interact with the external world. Such computer-driven "intelligence" might be a powerful tool in industry, medicine, agriculture or managing the economy.  But it also can be completely indifferent to any incidental damage. These are not abstract concepts. Seán O'Heigeartaigh, a geneticist at the institute, draws an analogy with algorithms used in automated stock market trading.

Such computer systems can "manipulate the real world", says Dr O'Heigeartaigh, who studied molecular evolution at Trinity College Dublin. In terms of risks from biology, he worries about misguided good intentions, as experiments carry out genetic modifications, dismantling and rebuilding genetic structures.

"It's very unlikely they would want to make something harmful," he says. But there is always the risk of an unintended sequence of events or something that becomes harmful when transferred into another environment.

"We are developing things that could go wrong in a profound way," he says.
"With any new powerful technology we should think very carefully about what we know - but it might be more important to know what we don't have certainty about."
And he says this isn't a career in scaremongering, he's motivated by the seriousness of his work. "This is one of the most important ways of making a positive difference," he says.

This eclectic group of researchers talk about computers able to create more and more powerful generations of computers.  It won't be that these machines suddenly develop a line in sarcasm and bad behaviour. But research fellow Daniel Dewey talks about an "intelligence explosion" where the accelerating power of computers becomes less predictable and controllable.

DNA molecule
  There are fears of unintended consequences from biological engineering

"Artificial intelligence is one of the technologies that puts more and more power into smaller and smaller packages," says Mr Dewey, a US expert in machine super-intelligence who previously worked at Google.

Along with biotechnology and nanotechnology, he says: "You can do things with these technologies, typically chain reaction-type effects, so that starting with very few resources you could undertake projects that could affect everyone in the world."
The Future of Humanity project at Oxford is part of a trend towards focusing research on such big questions. The institute was launched by the Oxford Martin School, which brings together academics from across different fields with the aim of tackling the most "pressing global challenges".

There are also ambitions at Cambridge University to investigate such threats to humanity.

"This is the first century in the world's history when the biggest threat is from humanity," says Lord Rees of Cambridge.

He says that while we worry about more immediate individual risks, such as air travel or food safety, we seem to have much more difficulty recognizing bigger dangers.
Lord Rees also highlights concerns about synthetic biology.
"With every new technology there are upsides, but there are also risks," he says.

Geneticist Seán O'Heigeartaigh warns of the uncertain outcomes of biological experiments. The creation of new organisms for agriculture and medicine could have unforeseen ecological side-effects, he suggests. Lord Rees raises concerns about the social fragility and lack of resilience in our technology-dependent society.

"It's a question of scale. We're in a more inter-connected world, more travel, news and rumours spread at the speed of light. Therefore the consequences of some error or terror are greater than in the past," he says.
So should we be worried about an impending doomsday? This isn't a dystopian fiction. It's not about a cat-stroking villain living inside a volcano.  Dr Bostrom says there is a real gap between the speed of technological advance and our understanding of its implications.

"We're at the level of infants in moral responsibility, but with the technological capability of adults," he says. As such, the significance of existential risk is "not on people's radars". But he argues that change is coming whether or not we're ready for it.

"There is a bottleneck in human history. The human condition is going to change. It could be that we end in a catastrophe or that we are transformed to something greater by taking more control over our biology.

"It's not science fiction, religious doctrine or dinner conversation .

"There is no plausible moral case not to take  this subject seriously."

Syrian Talks Move to Issue of 'Transition of power'

A delegation of the Syrian opposition walks outside of the United Nation Offices in Geneva on 26 January 2014
 The opposition and government are fundamentally divided over the aims of the conference

The Syrian peace talks in Geneva are due to move on to wider political questions such as the divisive issue of transfer of power in the country. But discussions are also expected to continue on aid convoys reaching the besieged area of Homs.

On Sunday, the Syrian government delegation said women and children may leave the city - but demanded a list of names of men who want to leave. Some opposition delegates expressed reservations over the conditions.
"The regime keeps asking for lists," Obeida Nahas of the Syrian National Council said.
"We feel that these are lists that they will use in detaining people and maybe torturing them."

Officially the negotiations are due to tackle the potentially explosive question of transferring power in Syria on Monday . Those talks may still happen - but there is likely to be new pressure on President Bashar al-Assad's government over whether it will comply with a UN plan to send humanitarian aid to Homs.

A child clears damage and debris in the besieged area of Homs on 26 January 2014
The siege on parts of Homs has left hundreds of people trapped for months

Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad said women and children were free to leave the city. He alleged armed groups were preventing them from doing so. UN mediator Lakhdar Brahimi said the opposition had agreed to give the government lists of detainees held by armed groups.
He said he hoped a humanitarian convoy from the UN and the Red Cross would be able to go to Homs on Monday. Hundreds of people are reportedly trapped in besieged parts of the city, including some who are very ill and vulnerable.
Mr Brahimi admitted the talks were proceeding slowly but said that on Monday he "expected the two parties to make some general statement about the way forward". He said it was "too early" to assess the prospects of a comprehensive deal.
The opposition and government are fundamentally divided over the aims of the conference. The government delegation has said the main issue of the talks is finding a solution to foreign-backed "terrorism". The opposition, however, had insisted that the regime commit in writing to the Geneva I communique, which called for a transition process. It urged Syria to form a transitional governing authority that "could include members of the present government and the opposition and other groups".
The opposition has also been asking for the release of thousands of prisoners in government detention. Mr Brahimi said he expected the talks on Monday to follow Sunday's format; he would hold a joint session with the government and opposition in the morning before meeting the sides separately in the afternoon. The UN envoy said he had been encouraged by the atmosphere at the talks on Sunday, saying they had been characterized by "respect and exchange".
Syria's civil conflict has claimed well over 100,000 lives since it began in 2011. The violence has also driven 9.5 million people from their homes, creating a major humanitarian crisis within Syria and for its neighbours.

Friday, January 24, 2014

"Step into the Void"

A French tourism company has suspended a glass cube with a see-through bottom from a peak in the Alps, offering a breathtaking view a kilometer down. The new "Step into the Void" attraction at the peak of Aiguille du Midi is 12,604 feet high.

glass platform

glass platform

Ukranian Riot Police Strip Protester Naked in Sub-Freezing Temperatures

Pro-EU Ukrainians protest in Kiev
KIEV, Jan 23 (Reuters) - Ukrainian riot police made a detained protester strip and then stand naked in the snow while they took pictures of him, a video posted on a newspaper's website showed.

The video, published by Ukrainska Pravda, showed a man of around 40, wearing only socks, standing in snow near a police bus. Daytime temperatures on Thursday when the video was shot were minus 10 Celsius (14 Fahrenheit). After being forced to pose holding a piece of metal tubing while a police officer took a picture, saying "a photo for the memory books", he was allowed to go on to the bus.
As he did so, another officer kicked him in the leg.

In a statement later, police apologized for the 'inadmissible action' and said they were launching an investigation. Three protesters have been killed and more than 150 police have been wounded in days of violent clashes in the centre of Kiev. Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich has called for an emergency session of parliament to end the violent unrest.

Police detained protesters during a clash in central Kiev, Ukraine, Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2014. City health officials and police said that two people died of gunshot wounds during the clashes Wednesday morning. But the opposition charges that as many as five people have died. The mass protests in the capital of Kiev erupted after Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych spurned a pact with the European Union in favor of close ties with Russia, which offered him a $15 billion bailout.  

Rob Ford Late for Speech....Trapped in Elevator... and Latest Drunk Video

TORONTO – Mayor Rob Ford’s re-election pitch to some of the city’s movers and shakers was nearly derailed Thursday when he almost missed the event, saying he had been stuck in an elevator.
Ford was scheduled to deliver a lunch-hour speech at the Economic Club of Canada — an event that was set to run from noon to 1:30 p.m., but the mayor only made it to the podium shortly before 1:15 p.m.
“I want to thank the Economic Club of Canada for hosting today’s event and getting me stuck in the elevator for 45 minutes,” he told the crowd of roughly 180 business people.
He went on to tout his fiscal record and highlighted what he considers key issues in the fall’s municipal election, including transit and infrastructure.
The president and CEO of the Economic Club of Canada said she was trapped in the same hotel elevator with the mayor.
Rhiannon Traill said the group — which included members of the mayor’s staff as well as hotel employees — took a freight elevator to “avoid all the traffic” in the lobby, where dozens of reporters were waiting for Ford’s arrival.
But she denied it was an attempt to avoid the media.
Ford was “so calm and gracious” during the ordeal, Traill said, noting they discussed his speech and his campaign for re-election.
There was no cellphone service inside the elevator, but the group was able to call for help using the built-in emergency system, she said.
“Unfortunately, we were stuck in between floors so they couldn’t get us out for a while,” she said.
Despite their best efforts, the group wasn’t able to alert event organizers of the reason for the delay, Traill said.
The hotel refused to comment on the incident.
Several members of the business crowd left before Ford’s arrival, however, with one saying he had too much work to do and couldn’t wait any longer.
Tony Chow said he was “a little bit” disappointed by the lag.
Some of those who caught the mayor’s talk said they were impressed by his resilience.
“I commend him for being able to address an audience after being stuck in an elevator for 45 minutes,” said Jim Regan.
Regan said he signed up for the event to show support for Ford, and refused to discuss the mayor’s latest controversy — a YouTube video that shows him in a rambling, profane rant in a Jamaican accent.
Ford — who had vowed last year that he had given up alcohol — has admitted he was drinking and called Monday’s videotaped incident at a restaurant called Steak Queen a “minor setback.”
The clip posted anonymously on Tuesday shows an incoherent Ford using Jamaican swear words and other profanities, at one point aiming his curses at Toronto’s police chief.
Minor setback?... or falling off the wagon?? Get real Rob; you haven't given up your debauched lifestyle for a minute. What happened to those earnest promises of rehab? Your character is showing again.

Nearby supernova dazzles astronomers


The supernova may be visible to stargazers through binoculars - and could grow brighter in coming weeks
An exploding star has been spotted in the night sky - the closest supernova to Earth that has been seen in decades. The dramatic event happened 12 million light years away in Messier 82 - known as the cigar galaxy for its shape. It was discovered by undergraduates during a telescope class at the University of London Observatory.

"One minute we're eating pizza then five minutes later we've helped to discover a supernova. I couldn't believe it," said student Tom Wright.

"It reminds me why I got interested in astronomy in the first place."

Supernova before and after 
Before and after: The supernova appears like a 'new star' in the lower image

The students from University College London were taking part in a 10-minute lesson with astronomer Dr Steve Fossey when they noticed what appeared to be a "new star".

"We pointed the telescope at Messier 82 - it's quite a bright galaxy, quite photogenic. But as soon as it came up on screen, it didn't look right to me," Dr Fossey said.

"We fired up another telescope, we got another frame - and that was when we knew it was a supernova."

The "fluke" discovery led to a global scramble to acquire confirming images and spectra from the dazzling object. It has now been confirmed by the International Astronomical Union as a supernova - a violent blast of energy and light that is hurled out as a star dies. It has taken 12 million years for the light to reach us. But though this may seem like a long way away, scientists say this is the closest supernova to be spotted since the late 1980s.

Scientists says it could grow even brighter over the coming weeks, before fading away.

If this happens, astronomers in the northern hemisphere may be able to spot it with binoculars, by looking between the Great Bear and the Little Bear.

Things You Didn't Know...Compliments of the Wizard

   wizards photo:  wizard41.jpg

  1. It takes glass one million years to decompose, which means it never wears
    out and can be recycled an infinite amount of times!
  2. Gold is the only metal that doesn’t rust, even if it’s buried in the ground
    for thousands of years .
  3. Your tongue is the only muscle in your body that is attached at only one
    end .
  4. If you stop getting thirsty, you need to drink more water. When a human
    body is dehydrated, its thirst mechanism shuts off.
  5. Each year 2,000,000 smokers either quit smoking or die of tobacco-related
  6. Zero is the only number that cannot be represented by Roman numerals.
  7. Kites were used in the American Civil War to deliver letters and newspapers.
  8. The song, Auld Lang Syne, is sung at the stroke of midnight in almost every
    English-speaking country in the world to bring in the new year.
  9. Drinking water after eating reduces the acid in your mouth by 61 percent.
  10. Peanut oil is used for cooking in submarines because it doesn’t smoke
    unless it’s heated above 450F.
  11. The roar that we hear when we place a seashell next to our ear is not the
    ocean, but rather the sound of blood surging through the veins in the ear.
  12. Nine out of every 10 living things live in the ocean.
  13. The banana cannot reproduce itself. It can be propagated only by the hand
    of man.
  14. Airports at higher altitudes require a longer airstrip due to lower air
  15. The University of Alaska spans four time zones.
  16. The tooth is the only part of the human body that cannot heal itself.
  17. In ancient Greece , tossing an apple to a girl was a traditional proposal
    of marriage. Catching it meant she accepted.
  18. Warner Communications paid $28 million for the copyright to the song Happy
  19. Intelligent people have more zinc and copper in their hair.
  20. A comet’s tail always points away from the sun.
  21. The Swine Flu vaccine in 1976 caused more death and illness than the
    disease it was intended to prevent.
  22. Caffeine increases the power of aspirin and other painkillers, that
    is why it is found in some medicines.
  23. The military salute is a motion that evolved from medieval times, when
    knights in armour raised their visors to reveal their identity.
  24. If you get into the bottom of a well or a tall chimney and look up, you can
    see stars, even in the middle of the day.
  25. When a person dies, hearing is the last sense to go. The first sense lost
    is sight.
  26. In ancient times strangers shook hands to show that they were unarmed.
  27. Strawberries are the only fruits whose seeds grow on the outside.
  28. Avocados have the highest calories of any fruit at 167 calories per hundred
  29. The moon moves about two inches away from the Earth each year.
  30. The Earth gets 100 tons heavier every day due to falling space dust.
  31. Due to earth’s gravity it is impossible for mountains to be higher than
    15,000 meters.
  32. Mickey Mouse is known as “Topolino” in Italy.
  33. Soldiers do not march in step when going across bridges because they could
    set up a vibration which could be sufficient to knock the bridge down.
  34. Everything weighs one percent less at the equator.
  35. For every extra kilogram carried on a space flight, 530 kg of excess fuel
    are needed at lift-off.
  36. The letter J does not appear anywhere on the periodic table of the elements.
   Have you got a question for the Wizard?

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Ask Maxy

Dear Maxy,
I am having the hardest time getting my children to complete  their homework , especially their reading . I have used egg timers  and timeouts  and punishments . I have talked to their teachers, but it all boils down  to them rarely  getting the work done .
When I come into the room  where they are supposed to be reading, they are often playing videos  games  or watching TV . I take these privileges  away, but  the work  rarely gets finished .
Any suggestions  on getting them  to focus . ?
Read please .
Dear Read Please ,
You can remove  the distractions  from your home. Take the video games away  and put them under lock and key . Remove  the television  from the room  where they do their studying .  Make it clear  that you will not reinstate  their ability  to use these  electronics  until they  can compete  all of their studies  in a timely  and effective manner .
Limit  your own engagement with  electronics . Your children  watch  your example more closely  than you know . And , by all means, read  ! You should  cultivate  a daily interest  in reading . If you sit  with your children  and read as they  are reading, chances are great  that they will want to read right along with you .
Dear Maxy ,
I just saw a report on the news  that says  that if you  drink three  alcoholic  beverages a day, you are considered a binge drinker . That is so scary . My friends  and I go out  every weekend  and we always drink  that much, if not more . I mean  everybody knows I drink  that much . I mentioned this study to my friends  who totally blew it off . It's not  like we are drinking every night . I'm wondering, though , if the study  is exaggerating, or we have something to worry about . I've heard  about other studies  that say drinking a glass of  red wine  every night is good for you .
Dear Confused ,
The Centers for Disease Control  and Prevention  says  that binge  drinking  for men equals  five or more drinks  in one sitting  and four or more  for women .
The point  is  that excessive  drinking , which you and your friends are doing,  can lead to health  and safety concerns . While your friends  may brush  this off  as nonsense , you are smart to take heed .
Start  by making the choice  not to drink  at all the next time you go out  or to limit your alcohol to one drink . If you  are unable  to adhere  to your limitation , you will know  that you have a problem . Get help now  before  you succumb  to what  could be a perilous  future  if your  drinking  goes unchecked . You are doing the right thing .
Dear Maxy ,
My wonderful husband  delivers  oil to people's homes and works hard  keeping homes toasty  and warm throughout the winter . It is a demanding  job but for the most part, he enjoys it .
The problem is, some  customers don't  plow or shovel  paths to their tanks .
Their driveway  are cleared  and the paths to their bird feeders, but my husband  has to pull a heavy hose  through knee-high snow to reach  the tanks .
By the time he gets home he is soaked to his thighs, cold and exhausted . He would appreciate   it if people  could make his job easier  by shoveling  a path to their tank .
Please be Kind
Dear Please ,
Thank you for reminding  the readers  that all service  people  who  to have access  outside areas  of their homes  should  not get lost  in a snowdrift  because  the path  isn't plowed . If you know  someone is coming, please make sure that  they can get there .