Breathing new life into old bicycles…

Image from Flickr user Pen Waggene

What do you do when your bike is not fit for use anymore? Many times these two-wheeled wonders get thrown away or discarded, with their end destination being the local landfill. Looking to change that reality is the Yellow Bike Project – a volunteer powered community bike shop that repairs and transforms donated bicycles into functional bikes, complete with a shiny coat of yellow paint.
With other chapters throughout the United States, the San Francisco based organization is on a mission to get more folks on bikes. To that end, they serve as a community resource by offering volunteers free instruction in bicycle mechanics, and refurbishing old bikes and parts. The spruced up rides are either distributed to local causes or can be purchased with a suggested donation.
Like other projects, Yellow Bike are using bicycles as a medium for change – which sounds like a great ride to us.


Civil Liberties in peril Down Under…

John key. NZ PM

English: Nicky Hager New Zealand author and in...

English: Nicky Hager New Zealand author and investigative journalist (Photo credit: Wikipedia

CreditSam Island

Australia and New Zealand are not among the usual suspects when it comes to state suppression of civil liberties. But both countries, stung by Edward J. Snowden’s revelations last year about their intelligence-gathering efforts, have been cracking down on the press: Australia has passed sweeping secrecy laws, while police officers in New Zealand recently raided the home of a reporter who had published information regarding a government scandal.

There has been little international outcry, and Washington is hardly likely to be upset: The two countries harbor the only major intelligence gathering facilities for the National Security Agency in the Southern Hemisphere, and, along with Britain, Canada and the United States, are members of the intelligence-sharing arrangement known as the “Five Eyes.”

In New Zealand, the journalist targeted in the raid is the country’s top investigative reporter, Nicky Hager, who has been working with Mr. Snowden and the journalist Glenn Greenwald. Mr. Hager has “long been a pain in the establishment’s neck,” a former prime minister of New Zealand, David Lange, once said, admiringly.

In 1996 Mr. Hager published his book “Secret Power,” which revealed the relationship between the N.S.A. and New Zealand. Mr. Lange said that he learned more about what the N.S.A. was doing in his country from reading Mr. Hager’s reporting than he did as prime minister.

Across the Tasman Sea, the Australian government recently amended the country’s national security laws so that journalists and whistle-blowers who publish details of “special intelligence operations” may be sentenced to up to 10 years in prison.

The measures are part of a groundswell of terrorism hysteria. September brought the largest counterterrorism raids in Australian history, in which some 800 state and federal police officers raided homes in several Sydney suburbs with large Muslim populations, acting on what officials said was an intercepted phone call about possible activity by allies of the Islamic State, also known as ISIS.

For all the forces deployed in the raids, only one person was arrested and charged with a terrorism-related crime; in a court appearance in mid-November, his lawyer said the telephone conversation had been mistranslated.

The press has added to the hysteria, spreading a story that Islamic State followers were plotting a public beheading in a square in downtown Sydney — a claim no public official has made, and a claim for which there is virtually no evidence.

A week after the raids, the ruling center-right Liberal Party proposed the national security amendments aimed at the press and leaks; the opposition Labor Party supported them, and the changes passed with little debate.

Tellingly, one of the few votes against the bill came from a former intelligence official. “This is disgraceful, absolutely disgraceful,” said Andrew Wilkie, an independent member of Parliament from Tasmania. Mr. Wilkie had resigned from the country’s intelligence service in early 2003 in protest against the lack of evidence in the claims about Iraqi weapons of mass destructio

But it seems the Australian government is motivated by more than just terrorism fears. A year ago, based on information provided by Mr. Snowden, The Guardian Australia newspaper and the Australian Broadcasting Company, the public broadcaster, reported that Australian intelligence hadbugged the mobile telephones of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono of Indonesia, his wife and eight of his top aides.

This was far more serious than just an embarrassment to the Australian government. It caused a serious rupture in diplomatic relations — Indonesia recalled its ambassador, and he didn’t return for six months. Indonesia looms large in Australia’s foreign policy constellation, along with the United States, and its major trading partners China and Japan. Cooperation with Indonesia is considered vital in the fight against human trafficking and terrorism.

In New Zealand, the fallout from Mr. Snowden’s leaks has been domestic. At a conference in Auckland in September, Mr. Snowden said, via a video hookup from Moscow, that the New Zealand government and the National Security Agency of the United States were engaged in vast domestic surveillance.

The country’s prime minister, John Key, vigorously denied the charges, but then backtracked after Mr. Snowden released supporting documents, saying that he “may well be right.” Mr. Key added, “I don’t run the N.S.A.”

It came as no surprise to many when, last month, five detectives and a computer engineer raided the home of Mr. Hager, the journalist who has been working with Mr. Snowden. Over a 10-hour period, they took computers, phones, papers, an iPod and a camera.

The raid may also have arisen out of Mr. Hager’s most recent book, “Dirty Politics,” in which he revealed that officials in the prime minister’s center-right National Party government had been supplying derogatory information about opposition politicians to a right-wing blogger. The justice minister was forced to resign.

Whatever the motivation, the raid, like the Australian anti-whistle-blower laws and President Obama’s anti-leak investigations, is certain to have a chilling effect. Of course, such steps are always explained as a result of a careful balancing between national security and civil liberties. What is becoming increasingly clear is that political self-interest — which serves no one except the powers that be — is just as important a factor.

Raymond Bonner is a former New York Times reporter and the author, most recently, of “Anatomy of Injustice: A Murder Case Gone Wrong.”    The move towards fascism in NZ

Toyota rolls out world’s first mass market fuel-cell car…

Tokyo (AFP) – Toyota said Tuesday it would start selling the world’s first mass market fuel-cell car in Japan next month and elsewhere in 2015, in what its top executive called an industry milestone.

The four-door Mirai sedan, powered by hydrogen and emitting nothing but water vapour from its tailpipe, will launch with a price tag of 6.7 million yen ($57,500) in Japan, where Toyota expects to sell 400 units next year.

The car — whose name means “future” in Japanese — will hit the US and some European countries, including the United Kingdom, Germany and Denmark, in 2015, it said.

“We are at a turning point in the automotive industry,” Toyota chief executive Akio Toyoda said in a video message on the company’s website.

Toyota, the world’s biggest automaker, hopes to sell more than 3,000 units of the car by the end of 2017 in the United States, and up to 100 annually in Europe.

The company added that is aiming to produce “tens of thousands” of the vehicle during the next decade.

Toyota’s hybrid gasoline-electric offerings, including the Prius, have sold more than seven million units since their launch in 1997.

But a limited driving range and lack of refuelling stations have hampered development of fuel-cell and all-electric cars, which environmentalists say could play a vital role in cutting greenhouse gas emissions and slowing global warming.

The Mirai can travel about 650 kilometres (400 miles) without refuelling, some three times further than an electric car, and its tank can be filled in a few minutes like gasoline engine vehicles, Toyota said.

“Mirai symbolises two major innovations,” Toyota executive vice president Mitsuhisa Kato said at a presentation on Tuesday in Tokyo.

“First, this is an innovative way to solve global environmental and energy problems… and the second, this innovation will help usher in a hydrogen-based society.”

Fuel-cell cars are seen as the Holy Grail of green cars as they are powered by a chemical reaction of hydrogen and oxygen, which produces nothing more harmful than water.

Japanese automakers, including Toyota’s rivals Honda and Nissan, have been leaders in the green car sector. The country’s seven major manufacturers reportedly plan to spend a record $24 billion to research the sector this year.

On Monday Honda said it was aiming to launch a new commercial fuel-cell vehicle in Japan by March 2016 and in the United States and Europe at a later date.

Tokyo has pledged to make hydrogen available at a price similar to, or less than, gasoline while boosting the number of hydrogen refuelling stations to about 100 next year.

The world’s leading automakers have long been aiming at a big-selling green vehicle. Honda already sells a fuel-cell car, the FCX Clarity, on a small scale in a few markets.

37 million bees found dead in Ontario – after large GMO cornfield was planted…

37 Million Bees Found Dead In OntarioImage –

It’s time for this insanity to be stopped. Millions of bees dropped dead after GMO corn was planted few weeks ago in Ontario, Canada. The local bee keeper, Dave Schuit who produces honey in Elmwood lost about 37 million bees which are about 600 hives

“Once the corn started to get planted our bees died by the millions,” Schuit said. While many bee keepers blame neonicotinoids, or “neonics.” for colony collapse of bees and many countries in EU have banned neonicotinoid class of pesticides, the US Department of Agriculture fails to ban insecticides known as neonicotinoids, manufactured by Bayer CropScience Inc.

Two of Bayer’s best-selling pesticides, Imidacloprid and Clothianidin, are known to get into pollen and nectar, and can damage beneficial insects such as bees. The marketing of these drugs also coincided with the occurrence of large-scale bee deaths in many European countries and the United States.

Nathan Carey another local farmer says that this spring he noticed that there were not enough bees on his farm and he believes that there is a strong correlation between the disappearance of bees and insecticide use.

In the past, many scientists have struggled to find the exact cause of the massive die-offs, a phenomenon they refer to as “colony collapse disorder” (CCD). In the United States, for seven consecutive years, honeybees are in terminal decline.

US scientists have found 121 different pesticides in samples of bees, wax and pollen, lending credence to the notion that pesticides are a key problem. “We believe that some subtle interactions between nutrition, pesticide exposure and other stressors are converging to kill colonies,” said Jeffery Pettis, of the ARS’s bee research laboratory.

The collapse in the global honeybee population is a major threat to crops. It is estimated that a third of everything we eat depends upon honeybee pollination, which means that bees contribute over 30 billion to the global economy.

The madness continues:

A new study published in the Journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences revealed that neonicotinoid pesticides kill honeybees by damaging their immune system and making them unable to fight diseases and bacteria.

After reporting large losses of bees after exposure to Imidacloprid, it was banned for use on corn and sunflowers, despite protestations by Bayer. In another smart move, France also rejected Bayer’s application for Clothianidin, and other (sensible) countries, such as Italy, have banned certain neonicotinoids as well.

After record-breaking honeybee deaths in the UK, the European Union has banned multiple pesticides, including neonicotinoid pesticides.

The pesticide companies are only interested in profits. Their business is the business of killing and they will use any means within their power to ram their agenda through. Don’t listen to their lies. Original article source (reprinted with permission) –

Further reading: Canadian beekeepers are suing the makers of popular crop pesticides for more than $400 million in damages, alleging that their use is causing the deaths of bee colonies:

ps. In addition to NOT spraying pesticides (just don’t do it!), something simple you can do to help bees is to plant flowers that bees love. Here’s a list: Top 10 Plants To Encourage Bees To Your Garden

How a pregnant Canadian woman ended up with a $950,000 bill giving birth in the US…


A Canadian woman’s Hawaiian vacation came with an unexpected surprise: a $950,000 medical bill when her water broke two months early.Jennifer Huculak-Kimmel, a resident of Saskatchewan, ultimately spent six weeks on bed rest at the hospital before giving birth. Her daughter, born premature, stayed in the hospital for two months. And Saskatchewan Blue Cross — a private insurer in Canada that sells travel policies, which cover medical emergencies abroad — has declined to pay the nearly $1 million bill. It says that “her medical emergency is excluded from coverage under the terms of her pre-existing condition provision.”Huculak-Kimmel’s experience is uniquely expensive; most births in the United States do not cost anywhere near $1 million. But at the same time, having babies in America is still way more expensive than anywhere else.

Data from the International Federation of Health Plans shows that it costs, on average, $10,002 to have a normal delivery in the United States and more than $17,000 for a C-section. That’s more than any other country the group looked at.

Pre-term births can be especially costly. The Institute of Medicine estimated in 2005 that each pre-term birth requires an average of $33,200 in medical costs. That’s much lower than Huculak-Kimmel’s bill, but also well above what many American families can afford to spend on a medical emergency .





Bob Marley to live on through top-end marijuana brand…


Washington (AFP) – Thirty-three years after his untimely death, ganja-loving reggae icon Bob Marley is being remembered with an eponymous brand of top-end marijuana, his family said Tuesday.

Marley Natural is being pitched as “a premium cannabis brand rooted in the life and legacy” of one of Jamaica’s greatest cultural exports, just as the United States slowly shifts towards legalized pot.

“It just seems natural that Daddy should be part of this conversation,” said Cedella Marley, 47, the singer-songwriter’s daughter.

“As Daddy would say, ‘make way for the positive day’,” she said in a video aired by NBC television, the first to report the development.

The marijuana brand is being developed with a Washington state based company and is intended to be sold in the US and possibly internationally starting next year.

Marley, who died of cancer in May 1981 at the age of 36, embraced marijuana as a key part of his Rastafari faith. He considered pot a sacrament and supported its legalization.

Recreational pot now is legal in the US states of Colorado and Washington.

Alaska, Oregon and the District of Columbia are poised to follow suit after referendums supported legalization earlier this month.

Several other states have decriminalized pot and authorized the sale of marijuana for prescribed medical purposes. Federal law, however, still bans the substance, putting it on a par with heroin and LSD.

Seattle-based Privateer Holdings is working with the Marley family on the pot venture and plans to market Marley Natural as loose-packed buds, oils or concentrate. Sales are expected to begin in late 2015.

“Bob Marley started to push for legalization more than 50 years ago. We’re going to help him finish it,” Privateer’s chief executive officer Brendan Kennedy told NBC.

Marley’s 42-year-old son Rohan Marley added: “Herb is for the healing of the nation; herb is for the meditation; herb is for the higher vibrations.”

Cannabis shrinks the brain, but increases connectivity…

Health News:

Cannabis can increase the connectivity in the brain even as it shrinks the brain, but prolonged use has damaging effects…

Regular cannabis use shrinks the brain but increases the complexity of its wiring, a study has found.

To some extent the loss of brain volume is balanced by larger numbers of connections between neurons, scientists discovered.

But they warn that those who take the drug for too long are likely to suffer damaging effects.

The brain scan study of cannabis users is one of the first to investigate the drug’s long-term neurological impact in living people.

Dr Sina Aslan, from the University of Texas at Dallas, US, co-led the research.

“What’s unique about this work is that it combines three different MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) techniques to evaluate different brain characteristics,” she said.

“The results suggest increases in connectivity, both structural and functional that may be compensating for grey matter losses. Eventually, however, the structural connectivity or ‘wiring’ of the brain starts degrading with prolonged marijuana use.”

The team studied 48 adult cannabis users aged about 20 to 36 who were compared with a group of matched non-users.

On average, the cannabis users took the drug three times a day.

Although tests showed that regular users had lower IQs than non-users, this did not appear to be related to brain abnormalities.

The scans revealed that smoking cannabis every day was associated with shrinkage in the orbitofrontal cortex region of the brain, which is involved in mental processing and decision making.

It also influences responses to rewards and adversity, and is strongly linked to empathy – the ability to sense other people’s feelings.

Neuroscientists believe damage to the orbitofrontal cortex may underpin some forms of psychopathy.

Earlier onset of cannabis use induced greater structural and functional connectivity, the research showed. The greatest connectivity increases occurred as an individual started taking the drug.

After six to eight years of continually taking cannabis the increases in structural wiring declined, but users continued to display higher connectivity than non-users.

This may explain why chronic, long-term cannabis users appeared to be “doing just fine” despite having smaller OFCs, said co-author Dr Francesca Filbey, also from the University of Texas.