November 12, 2011

Renewed call for Britain to issue a medal for WWII Arctic convoy veterans

Filed under: Britain, History, Military — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 11:36

A video report at the BBC website (no embedding allowed, unfortunately) looks at the campaign on the part of Arctic convoy veterans for a specific medal to recognize their amazing story.

There are calls for recognition for the sailors on the WWII Arctic Convoys who risked their lives to transport crucial supplies and munitions from Scotland to Russia.

Although the bravery of the crews is not disputed, the men who served on the ships have never been officially recognised with a British campaign medal.

The BBC’s Robert Hall reports.

Mission Hill wins InterVin 2011 Winery of the Year award

Filed under: Cancon, Randomness, Wine — Tags: — Nicholas @ 11:21

Margaret Swaine reports on the recent Intervin 2011 competition:

Competitions like the InterVin International Wine Awards can and do make wines better. It’s a bit of a chicken-and-egg situation, as wineries strive to produce medal winners and competitions aim to attract entrants worthy of medals. Happily, as a competition matures, so does the wine industry in the country where it’s held. Both can emerge victorious.

This year’s three-day blind-tasting competition was held in August at White Oaks Resort & Spa in Niagara-on-the-Lake. Nearly 1,100 wines from 15 countries were judged by a panel of sommeliers, vintners and wine writers, including yours truly.

When all was said and sipped, the 2011 InterVin Winery of the Year medal went to a Canadian winery, Mission Hill, a well-deserved victory. Results for the honours were based on the top five scores from a winery’s entries. The Okanagan Valley-based Mission Hill Family Estate reigned supreme, winning 20 medals spread across virtually every category. Their award-winning wines covered most grape varieties and quality levels within their portfolio, with major awards being earned by top-tier luxury wines and value labels alike.

Scottish Conservative Party goes non-conservative with new leader

Filed under: Britain, Politics — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 11:09

It sounds like the set-up to a joke, but it really is true: the new party leader is a lesbian kick-boxer:

The 32-year-old former BBC journalist edged out Murdo Fraser by only 566 votes in the bad-tempered contest after he argued the Tory brand was too mistrusted north of the Border for the party ever to succeed.

But Miss Davidson, who is openly gay and a kick boxer, said she will unite the deeply-divided party and attract new support from sections of Scottish society that have stopped listening to the Conservatives.

The result marks the culmination of a remarkably rapid political ascent. She joined the party two years ago and only won election as a Glasgow MSP in May after the Tories’ first-choice candidate was forced to stand down over his financial history.

She won the endorsement of only two other MSPs during the campaign, with the largest group backing Mr Fraser and his plan to replace the Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party with a new organisation.

Still no charges in the Gibson Guitar case

Filed under: Bureaucracy, India, Law, Media, USA, Woodworking — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 11:00

An update in the Wall Street Journal just recaps the background to the case, and has an interview with Henry Juszkiewicz, the CEO.

On Aug. 24, federal agents descended on three factories and the Nashville corporate headquarters of the Gibson Guitar Corp. Accompanied by armored SWAT teams with automatic weapons, agents from the Fish and Wildlife Service swarmed the factories, threatening bewildered luthiers, or guitar craftsman, and other frightened employees. A smaller horde invaded the office of CEO Henry Juszkiewicz, pawing through it all day while an armed man stood in the door to block his way.

“I was pretty upset,” Mr. Juszkiewicz says now, sitting outside that same office. “But you can only do so much when there’s a gun in your face and it’s the federal government.” When the chaos subsided, the feds (with a warrant issued under a conservation law called the Lacey Act) had stripped Gibson of almost all of its imported Indian rosewood and some other materials crucial to guitar making.

The incident attracted national attention and outrage. Like Boeing — whose plans to locate new production in South Carolina are opposed by the National Labor Relations Board — here was an iconic American brand under seemingly senseless federal fire.

This week in Guild Wars 2 news

Filed under: Gaming — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 10:40

I’ve been accumulating news snippets about the as-yet-to-be-formally-scheduled release of Guild Wars 2 for an email newsletter I send out to my friends and acquaintances in the Guild Wars community. Third slow news week in a row. This time, the Arenanet folks have been prepping for the G*Star show in Korea, so we’ve got a few new bits from that, but nothing really major.


QotD: The uses of junk science

Filed under: Environment, Health, Media, Quotations — Tags: — Nicholas @ 00:05

The Sierra Club campaign against coal is motivated by a desire to reduce CO2 emissions to prevent global warming. But since global warming skepticism and global warming fatigue are widespread, the club has opted for a junk science approach to reach its goals. The club tells people that their babies will die, or at least get asthma, if coal plants continue to operate. Although the cause of asthma is not known, it is suspected that it is related to the high levels of cleanliness in advanced countries that denies children and their immune systems exposure to the dirt and filth found in primitive places. This is known as the hygiene hypothesis. The incidence of asthma is about 50 times higher in developed countries compared to rural Africa. For all the Sierra Club knows, coal plants may prevent asthma. Given the hygiene hypothesis, that seems plausible.

With junk science, it is easy to scare people. There are many things that are bad for us that are present at low levels in the environment — for example, mercury, lead, radiation, or tobacco smoke. The junk science approach to trace toxins is to claim that if a high level of the bad thing would cause X people to get sick, then a level 10,000 times smaller must cause 1/10,000 as many people to get sick. Given 300 million people in the country, this math can give you thousands of people getting sick from low levels of mercury, lead, radiation, or secondhand tobacco smoke. This approach is known as the linear no threshold hypothesis.

The Sierra Club and its ally, the Environmental Protection Agency, lean on the small emissions of mercury from burning coal to work up a calculation of deaths from coal. They minimize the fact that much of the mercury falling on the U.S. comes from China, volcanoes, or even from burning dead bodies with mercury-based fillings in their teeth. Mercury pollution becomes an excuse to get rid of coal. Arguing the science behind such claims often degenerates into a paper chase about statistics and what studies are good or bad. From the bureaucratic point of view, the linear no threshold hypothesis is wonderful because it means that problems are never solved and there is always a need for more bureaucratic activity.

Norman Rogers, “Sierra Club at the Metropolitan Club”, American Thinker, 2011-11-11

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