Friday, February 29

American-Style Runeberg Tart

Anyone living in Finland quickly learns that many of the holidays have some sort of specific food or pastry associated with it. While not a real holiday, Finnish Poet Johan Ludvig Runeberg is celebrated every February 5th which is the anniversary of his birthday. Among other things, he wrote the National Anthem. In celebration of his birthday, the cafes are filled with lots of Runeberg tarts.
Runeberg's tart (Finnish: Runebergintorttu, Swedish: Runebergstårta) is a Finnish pastry that is seasoned with almonds and rum and it usually weighs about 100 grams. There is usually raspberry jam in a sugar ring on the tart.

The tart got its name from the Finnish poet Johan Ludvig Runeberg (b. 1804) who, according to the legend, enjoyed the tart with punsch. Runeberg's tarts are typically eaten only in Finland and are generally available from the beginning of January to Runeberg's birthday on February 5. - Wikipedia
I learned to make my own when I came back to the US because I really enjoyed them. I eventually would have made my own had I stayed in Finland, because I would prefer to enjoy them year-round instead of during the short month or so that they are currently available. So here is a photo of one that I made a couple weeks ago:

In true American fashion, mine Runeberg Tarts are not only bigger, but also contain chocolate chips, which the traditional version does not.

Here is what a traditional Finnish one looks like:

I will probably be making another batch in a week or so. By that time, if not already, it will be impossible to find them in Finland. (The most logical reason why these are available for such a short time is due to the amount of effort it takes to make one. Sure looks are deceiving, but you wouldn't think that it is difficult to make a bagel either.)

So how does my creation taste? My wife, who is a pasty chef, gives it high marks, as do her Finnish friends who she requests that I make them for when they come to visit. That's great to know that I am on the right track. Of course, the important thing is that I enjoy them, which I do;Much more than I enjoy baking them.

Here are some Finns who made their own as well, and were nice enough to include recipes:
Runeberg’s Cakes - Tofu for Two (They made mini ones)
Runeberg day - Life in Rondônia (A Finn living in Brazil)


Murtha Pork Theft Update

It is so hard to have a least-favorite member of Congress, since there is such a large pool or poor-quality talent there. However, Congressman John Murtha is surely in the top three. One of the reasons why is his constant abuse of public money (our tax money) through the awarding of earmarks for his donors. As it turns out, Congressman Murtha just had a fundraising dinner for lobbyists. Thankfully, this time around, others were willing to bring this backroom business of his into the light of day:
Too many members of Congress are securing millions of tax dollars in earmarks for campaign contributors at the expense of our nation’s legitimate needs. Rep. John Murtha secured at least 40 pork-barrel earmarks in last year’s defense bill for private companies at a cost to you of over $114 million. Every single company showered with your hard-earned tax dollars has contributed to Rep. Murtha’s campaign.

Rep. Murtha’s abuse of tax dollars not only comes at a huge cost to taxpayers, but also poses a significant risk to our national defense. Decisions on how to spend tax dollars and protect our nation shouldn’t be made based on what companies contributed to whose election campaign last year. - Americans for Prosperity

They didn't just stop with an internet campaign, they actually went to protest outside the event:

I'm happy to report that last night's "Murtha Bash - Pork Crash" was a resounding success. A solid crowd of taxpayer advocates braved brutal winter winds to help expose the connections between Congressman John Murtha's campaign contributors and the taxpayer-funded pork-barrel earmarks he secures for them. - AFP

Good for them. Here is a copy of the flier they were handing out. It is a good start for targeting this guy.

In somewhat disappointing news, it seems that the only serious contender for Murtha's seat has been thrown for the ballot because his application came in about 7 signatures too short. That's fine, let Murtha go back to Congress. We just have to get the other members of Congress to control him and get the press to finally shame his activities for what they are. There is no reason that he can’t be a great asset for Republican’s to use as the poster child for what is wrong with the Democrats in Congress, but to do that, they are going to have to stop their earmarking abuse first. As a bonus, it would be interesting to see him trip up and have his donations-for-pork activities run afoul of the law. Members of Congress have been going to jail. Murtha should be the next one. (And as bad as this guy is, his constituents must either be dumber than bricks, or looking for handouts from this guy.)

(Congressman Murtha 'covering' the ethics of earmarks)

Murtha in My Pocket - 14 Aug 07
Omnibus Spending Bill Earmarks - $78.36 From Each Of Us - 19 Dec 07
Congressman Murtha's Treasonous Statement - 21 Nov 07
$20 billion in pork = $66 Each = AMT Fix - 18 Nov 07

Thursday, February 28

The Subprime Mess Explained (SubPrime Primer)

This is by far the easiest explanation to the SubPrime Mortgage mess. It is good to understand the problem given that our Congress either does not understand or does not care as the Democrats get ready to throw billions at the problem to bailout criminals like those illustrated in this presentation.

Some of the activities portrayed in this presentation are illegal. It is called fraud. Keep that in mind too as they discuss bailing them out.

(Click to view the presentation)

I originally found this at The Real Estate Bloggers in their post "CDO Primer or How The Subprime Mess Got So Big" and thought it worth sharing.

*** Video: Real Estate Prices illustrated via a Roller Coaster Ride *** - 06 Apr 07
Interest Only - Worse than Renting - 06 Dec 07
*** Mortgage 'Rate-Freeze' Does Not Delay Loan Reset *** - 08 Dec 07

"CDO Powerpoint SubPrime Primer" Presentation uploaded to Scribd.

Never Push Your Luck II

Don't you hate it when the bad guy gets away? Me too, which is why I love stories when justice finally catches up to them. Take these two criminals who got much more than they bargained for:
Horn fatally shot the burglars, two illegal immigrants from Colombia named Diego Ortiz and Miguel de Jesus. Stephanie Storey, De Jesus' fiancée, wants to see Joe Horn prosecuted.

"This man took the law into his own hands," she said. "He shot two individuals in the back after having been told over and over to stay inside. It was his choice to go outside and his choice to take two lives." - ABC News
It was the 911 dispatcher who told him to not go outside. But Mr. Horn was not about to let these two burglars get away. So he went outside when he saw them coming out. Told them not to move and shot them dead when they did.

One of them was engaged as noted in the quote above. I wonder what she was thinking in how this guy would make a suitable husband:
“I knew it was getting hard for them,” said Ms. Storey, 39, a medical assistant from Katy, west of Houston. But she said she doubted that Mr. DeJesus, an avid salsa dancer who had courted her on and off for seven years and wore paint-splattered clothes to job hunts outside the Home Depot, had made a career of theft. But she said she knew he had another identity and false Puerto Rican papers; his real name was Hernando Riascos Torres.

“If this was something he did,” she said, “he would have money and jewelry, and he never did.” - NY Times
This illegal alien had been here for at least seven years. The Times story also mentions that he was sentenced to prison in the US at least once and was also deported.
Capt. Bud Corbett of the Pasadena Police Department said Mr. DeJesus was convicted on drug charges in 1994 and sentenced to 25 years before being ordered deported 5 years later, though Ms. Storey questioned whether he ever left. - NY Times
Clearly, it was a mistake to come back. His partner in crime also had a number of relationships, and children that he didn't seem to care to much about:
Ms. Storey said Mr. Ortiz was separated from his wife, who had their baby daughter, and had a relationship with a married woman. The Houston Chronicle last week quoted a woman who said she had been living with Mr. Ortiz and described him as “a very good guy, a sweet man.” The woman said he also had a son and daughter in Colombia. - NY Times

This guy was pretty good at hurting all those he came in contact, not just his victims. Now his three children will not have a father, not that he was much good for them while alive as he seems to have left them all behind already.

He and his co-criminal made at least four other big mistakes:

  • 1. Entered the US Illegally
  • 2. Presented fraudulent identity documents, claiming to be American Citizens
  • 3. Were seen entering a house through a window.
  • 4. Failed to escape before Mr. Horn shot them dead
Well, they will not be making any more mistakes. Nor will they steal from anyone else again. So our society wins.

There is one technicality in all this in that Mr. Horn is facing serious charges because the shooting did not take place on his own property, but on his neighbor's property. I suspect that he will eventually be acquitted, but it will surely be a painful legal process to get to that point. I wouldn't be surprised if he ends up being sued by relatives of the criminals as well. The question is, will they do anything about the illegal aliens they identify in this investigation. My guess is no.

There are a couple other issues here, such as this would not have happened if the guys coming out of the house were white, and that they were shot in the back. Personally, I think they are irrelevant. The basic fact is that for some reason these two men decided to break into another person's house. This direct act on their part prompted the chain of events that resulted in their deaths.

As a side benefit, it appears that this case has brought out a scam where illegal aliens are using fake Puerto Rico birth certificates to get Texas drivers licenses. If Texas DMV's electronic records are worth anything, they should be able to quickly identify all the records with a Puerto Rico place of birth to investigate them for fraud as well.

As a reminder, this image links to a summary of how many illegal alien criminals are well known to law enforcement as they are arrested many times. This needs to stop. As noted above, Mr. DeJesus was sentenced to 25 years in jail, but was released after only 5. Had he been made to serve his time, instead of the US trying to pawn him off back on his own country, he would still be alive, albeit in jail.

Never Push Your Luck - 31 Oct 07
55,322 Illegal Alien Criminals = 459,614 Arrests - 21 May 06
Congress Should do Nothing About Illegal Aliens - 7 June 07
Mexico and the US Governments are the Immigration Problem - 25 May 07

Castle Doctrine - Wikipedia

Tuesday, February 26

Finnish Triple-Murderer Freed From Prison

Just over a year after Finnish triple-murder Juha Valjakkala was captured after walking away from a jail with no walls, comes news that he has been released from prison.

Triple murderer Nikita Joakim Foughantine, formerly known as Juha Valjakkala, has been released from a Finnish jail.

Foughantine is to be kept under close observation until July 1st, when his conditional release is made permanent, Finnish authorities said on Monday. - The Local, Sweden

Lucky him. He murdered three people in Sweden and now he is being freed to do as he pleases once again.

Here is a summary of the murders he committed from his Wikipedia page:

Juha Veikko Valjakkala (born June 13, 1965) became a part of Finnish and Swedish crime history in 1988 when he was convicted of the murder of a family of three at a cemetery in the northern Swedish community of Åmsele.

The series of events that led to the murders began when the 22-year-old Valjakkala was released from a prison in Turku on May 1, 1988, after which he started wandering through Sweden and Finland with his 21-year-old girlfriend Marita Routalammi.

On July 3 they arrived in Åmsele. After nightfall Valjakkala stole a bicycle. He was pursued by Sten Nilsson and his 15-year-old son Fredrik. The chase ended at a cemetery where Sten and Fredrik Nilsson were both shot by Valjakkala with a shotgun. Later Sten's wife and Fredrik's mother, Ewa Nilsson, went looking for the two and was stabbed to death by Valjakkala outside the cemetery. Valjakkala and Routalammi were caught in Odense, Denmark just over a week later.

Valjakkala was given a life sentence on three counts of murder, while Routalammi got off with two years for complicity in assault and battery. Routalammi was released after serving half of her time, and Valjakkala was transferred to Finland to serve out the rest of his sentence.

In April 1994 Valjakkala fled the Riihimäki prison where he was being held. He took a teacher as a hostage, but he was apprehended nearby and the hostage escaped the situation unscathed. He has also tried to escape once in 1991. - Wiki
Notice that he murdered these people shortly after being released from prison.

What will he do next, now that he is free again?

Being able to forgive is a good trait, but it should not apply universally.


Finnish Triple-Murderer to Go Free - 5 Dec 07

Finnish Triple-Murderer Escapes from an 'Open Institution' - 29 Nov 06

Monday, February 25

Maritime Monday 99 Posted at gCaptain!

As mentioned last week, Maritime Monday has moved over to gCaptain.

You can find last week’s edition here.

You can find Maritime Monday 49 from last year here. (Published 05 March 2007)

Previous Editions:
As linked below or click on the label ‘MaritimeMonday’.
1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 6 - 7 - 8 - 9 - 10 - 11 - 12 - 13 - 14 - 15 - 16 - 17 - 18 - 19 - 20 - 21 - 22 - 23 - 24 - 25 - 26 - 27 - 28 - 29 - 30 - 31 - 32 - 33 - 34 - 35 - 36 - 37 - 38 - 39 - 40 - 41 - 42 - 43 - 44 - 45 - 46 - 47 - 48 - 49 - 50 - 51 - 52 - 53 - 54 - 55 - 56 - 57 - 58 - 59 - 60 - 61 - 62 - 63 - 64 - 65 - 66 - 67 - 68 - 69 - 70 - 71 - 72 - 73 - 74 - 75 - 76 - 77 - 78 - 79 - 80 - 81 - 82 - 83 - 84 - 85 - 86 - 87 - 88 - 89 - 90 - 91 - 92 - 93 - 94 - 95 - 96 - 97 - 98 - 99 - 100

Sunday, February 24

Attempted Murder Headline = "Armed woman arrested after entering police HQ"

I read the following in the Police Blotter section of the DC Examiner:
Armed woman arrested after entering police HQ

A woman was arrested after she walked into the Metropolitan Police headquarters Thursday afternoon, pointed a gun at one of the armed security guards, demanded his weapon, then pulled the trigger on her handgun, according to court documents.

When the gun failed to fire, the security guard grabbed the woman, Cynthia Marlene Nixon, and wrestled her to the ground. Police found 36 rounds of ammunition and two plastic bags of marijuana. Nixon told detectives that she wanted to rob a police officer of his weapon, court documents state. - Scott McCabe, DC Examiner

Of course, only in a place like Washington, DC would a case like this end up tucked away on the side of page four. This probably should have been a major story. The only reason it was not, was simply because, for one reason or another, her gun failed to fire when she pulled the trigger.

Had she murdered the guard and been caught, she most likely would not have faced the death penalty unless the Federal Government stepped in. (Not likely since she targeted a guard and not a police officer) Even then, the local community sitting as part of a jury would never give it to her anyway.

If I was the security guard I am pretty sure that I would have shot her down once I realized that I was really not dead. At the very least, I would be facing police brutality charges for 'overreacting' to her attack. Imagine the balls of this lady to walk right into police HQ with the goal of stealing a gun from a cop. The question I have is why attempted murder has a much lower punishment than actual murder? Like in this case, she had intended to kill the man. Why is it that the death penalty would only come into play if she was successful? She will be rewarded for failing in her goal even though the failure was due to a technicality and not due to any hesitation or second thought on her part. Even the title of this crime report totally fails to convey what took place. you can bet that many people in DC reading only the headline will tkae the story as another example of overreaction on the part of the police. According to this Washington Post Story she is so far only being charged with assaulting an officer:
Nixon was charged with assaulting a police officer while armed, authorities said. She was ordered held without bond by a judge yesterday in D.C. Superior Court. - Washington Post
What about attempted robbery? Illegal use of a firearm? Illegal possession of a firearm? Trespassing? Attempted Murder? How about drug charges as well? Not surprisingly, the Washington Post also glosses over the seriousness of the criminal act in their headline which is "Armed Va. Woman Arrested After Scuffle With Guard". The only reason there was a scuffle was because she failed to kill the guard outright. So far there is no word on whether this woman was charged with any additional crimes such as attempted murder or not. (At least she was ordered held without bail which might mean that they are investigating what else they can charge her with to better reflect the crimes she committed.)

The Washington Post mentions that this woman Cynthia Nixon is from Northern Virginia. This is relevant because it is legal to buy handguns in Virginia. So what motivated this woman to go into Washington, DC to steal a gun from a policeman instead of trying the same stunt in VA? Why didn't she just go and buy a gun? Could it be that she has a criminal record preventing a gun purchase? Could it also be that she wanted to commit her crime in the District because it is a 'Gun Free Zone'? Surely, this is yet another example on why the DC gun ban should be eliminated. After all, despite having a gun ban, this woman traveled to DC to shop for a gun, once again proving that criminal will find a way to obtain guns, despite banning them. Then again, perhaps DC should disarm their police force to prevent others from trying to obtain weapons by attacking police around the city. I bet the police would really love that idea!

This is an unbelievable story on a number of levels. The paper notes that nobody was hurt. I bet the security guard might disagree with that statement. I know that I would.

Note: Be sure to read the comments to the Washington Post story. They are very interesting and provide more details about the incident.

Saturday, February 23

ACLU - The Company You Keep - Update

When outside the US I had always assumed that the US Government was listening in, at least tracking where the call came from and where it was going as well as having a computer listen in on the conversation, provided that they didn't have more interesting calls to listen in at that moment. After all, the calls were coming across the border and I always understood that the Government had the right to search anything crossing the boarder, like your luggage, and mail, so why not phone calls as well. Here is a simple explanation of Custom's right to search:
Be aware that under U.S. law, CBP officers are authorized to examine luggage, cargo, and travelers. Under the search authority granted by the U.S. Congress, every person who crosses a U.S. border may be searched and questioned about their travel. To stop the flow of illegal drugs and other contraband into our country, your cooperation is appreciated.
Of course, after 9/11 the Government decided to carry out wiretapping of foreign calls in secret until it was outted by a seditious press to be doing exactly this. Their problem was not only were they taping conversations, but that they were doing it without first getting a warrant. Had the calls been taking place entirely in the US, then yes, a warrant would have been required, but in these cases either one or both parties to the phone conversation were outside the US.

The ACLU fearing (rightly so in my opinion) that their lawyers were 'victims' of this eavesdropping, because of their ongoing communication with suspected terrorists and terrorist sympathizers, sued the Government to stop the program. Back in 2006 I reasoned that since you have no right to privacy when crossing the border, then you shouldn't expect a right to privacy when communicating over it either.
So who gave these interest groups the illusion that communicating across the border is somehow sacred? Sure their communications within the US are protected. What about the Government on the other side of the conversation. Do they expect the Pakistani Government to respect their right to privacy? What about the Saudis? Listening to the news, you would think that those filing the lawsuits are somehow victims. Well they have to sound like victims in order to sue. But they have made a huge error portraying that the Government is spying on them.

The program concentrated on the communications of suspected terrorists and their associates. If the Government did obtain their phone or email details, then it was because they either contacted or were contacted by one of these people of interest. Sure, they might be dealing with these people in the course of their jobs. This does not let them off the hook. THEY chose to associate with these people. THEY chose to represent these people. People who were in the country ILLEGALLY. People who were fighting in Afghanistan in violation of the Geneva Convention, and are now detailed in Gitmo. People who are suspected of killing Americans. People who are going to be charged with crimes against the United States.

Those suing are claiming that they communicate with suspected terrorists. After all, this is who the Government is ‘spying’ on. - Jan 2006
Interestingly enough, the Supreme Court has just declined to hear this case, after a lower court decided that the ACLU couldn't prove that they had been harmed by the law. In order to prove that they were harmed by the law, they needed evidence that they were spied on, which they couldn't get without the case going ahead and the Government provided data to confirm their allegations. Of course, it would have been easier to prove their point had the Government gone and arrested some ACLU Lawyers as a result of the wiretapping, but that hasn't happened. (At least not yet)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court dealt a setback Tuesday to civil rights and privacy advocates who oppose the Bush administration's warrantless wiretapping program. The justices, without comment, turned down an appeal from the American Civil Liberties Union to let it pursue a lawsuit against the program that began shortly after the Sept. 11 terror attacks.

The action underscored the difficulty of mounting a challenge to the eavesdropping, which remains classified and was confirmed by President Bush only after a newspaper article revealed its existence.

"It's very disturbing that the president's actions will go unremarked upon by the court," said Jameel Jaffer, director of the ACLU's national security project. "In our view, it shouldn't be left to executive branch officials alone to determine the limits."

The Terrorist Surveillance Program no longer exists, although the administration has maintained it was legal.

The ACLU sued on behalf of itself, other lawyers, reporters and scholars, arguing that the program was illegal and that they had been forced to alter how they communicate with foreigners who were likely to have been targets of the wiretapping.

A federal judge in Detroit largely agreed, but the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed the suit, saying the plaintiffs could not prove their communications had been monitored and thus could not prove they had been harmed by the program. - AP

By their own admission, they are communicating with people that the Government is likely to be tracking. We already know that lawyers have assisted their terror clients in the past. So what is their problem? Maybe the Government wiretapping will allow the government to learn that their clients are innocent!

By the way, what is the American Civil Liberties Union doing representing people who are not Americans and are not living in the United States? This would seem to be outside their bounds. Aren't there any needy Americans who could use heir assistance?

Still unanswered in all this is the real possibility that the Government where the other end of the phone conversation is taking place is listening in on their conversations. That is where the real risk lies for them and their clients because some of those Governments have facilities that make GITMO look like a vacation resort.

Funny, despite all the commotion, nobody is in jail in the US because of what was heard during a foreign wiretap. This is much like the fake rage over waterboarding. All that hot air and it has only been used on three very evil people, and that was years ago. (Not including the clown below who was waterboarded by his fellow protesters.)

The Company You Keep - 18 Jan 06

Thursday, February 21

US Assistance to Russia Funding Iranian Nukes

Back in August of last year I asked why are we still giving Russia about a billion dollars a year when they clearly have money to act as a rogue country. Since then their actions have continued to grow, such as bomber overflights of US Navy carriers and threats to start a new arms race, as well as once again threatening to point their missiles at Eastern Europe. (Notice how nobody bothers to ask where they have them pointed now.) All the while we continue to pay to clean up the nuclear messes of the Soviet Union.

Now there is news that our assistance money is reaching as far as Iran's nuclear program:

In the continuing US Congressional investigation of a post-Soviet programme to employ Russian nuclear weapons scientists to prevent them from selling their expertise, a congressional committee has said US Department of Energy (DOE) funding has assisted in building Iran’s Bushehr reactor. - Bellona

And, the following confirms a point I have made before, in that giving Russia money frees them up to use their own money to do things that are harmful to the US.

At the hearing last month on the anti-proliferation program, a State Department official, Richard Stratford, acknowledged that “you could argue if you give Russia a dollar for whatever purpose, it frees up a dollar that can then be spent elsewhere.” But he said the programme would reduce the risk of proliferation. - Bellona

This is what I said last year. The problem is that Russia is not going to clean up their mess with their own money. As far as I'm concerned, if they want their country littered with nuclear radiation, then so be it. Giving them a free pass may very likely result in a much larger mess later on as there is no incentive to be responsible. This is just like providing support to North Korea. Providing aid money provides a lifeline that keeps enemy regimes afloat where they might have collapsed otherwise.

We can thank President Clinton for the fact that we are dealing with North Korea problems at all. North Korea lost it's major aid provider when the Soviet Union collapsed. As a result, most of North Korea, including all of the factories spiraled into collapse. Then there was a severe drought that killed around a million North Koreans. With the country falling apart around them, North Korea managed negotiations with the US that resulted in aid in exchange for the North quitting it's nuclear program. In reality, they took the aid to keep the regime afloat, and continued on developing the weapon in secret.

South Korea also paid for the North's nukes as part of their 'Sunshine Policy.' Funny, that the 'sunshine' that the North is going to send back might be in the form of nuclear radiation. - FFI (Follow a chart summaring US Aid to North Korea which started in 1995 by President Clinton)

We all know how well paying North Korea to stop its nuke program worked out. When will we wake up and stop making the same mistakes over and over? What next, humanitarian aid to Hugo Chavez's Venezuela? You know, in order to help the 'people'.

When looking at the following two articles, one wonders if there who was plagerizing who:
US –Russian aid programme said to help finance Iran’s nuclear ambitions - Bellona
Energy Dept. Funding Institutes with Iranian Ties - NY Times

US Assistance to Russia (2006) $949.3 Million - 15 Aug 07 - FFI
President Clinton, savior of North Korea? - 8 Oct 06 - FFI

Wednesday, February 20

United Nations Shame IV

Here is the latest roundup of various UN misdeeds. You could call this the 'UNDP edition' considering how many times this one organization is mentioned. A summary of UNDP problems can actually be found on their own website's 'For the Record' page where they try to clarify issues, however reading them, they sound pretty hollow. (For the Record - UNDP)

Feel free to email me anything I have missed or add it to the comments.

UNDP - Continued use of Vendor Banned for Bribing a UN Officer

On UNDP’s decision to use a vendor suspended by the UN Secretariat
In early 2006 UNDP purchased tents from a company called Corimec for the victims of Pakistan’s December 2005 earthquake. By the time a second batch of tents was needed in 2007, Corimec had been suspended from the UN Secretariat’s procurement list for bribing a UN Secretariat procurement officer in 1993. UNDP decided to procure the second batch of tents after conducting due diligence on Corimec, and learning in the process that the company had completely changed ownership and management since the illegal activity had occurred. Four months after announcing the suspension, the UN Secretariat decided to reinstate Corimec, subject to the latter implementing an ethics training program. This implementation process is still ongoing. While UNDP did not break any rules in purchasing the tents from Corimec, we are looking into the matter as the decision to use a vendor suspended by the Secretariat does not conform to the spirit of UN coherence in procurement policies. Contrary to some suggestions, UNDP has not engaged in any financial activities with firms banned for terrorism or on the Security Council terrorism list. - UNDP's own website

UNDP - "Massive Irregularities in UN’s North Korea Development Aid"

The North Koreans picked the bank, the currency, and the people who handled all of the money. It kept the records and severely limited the UNDP’s access to them. In some cases, unidentified North Koreans would show up at the UNDP compound, say they represented “development” projects, demand cash, and get it (the UNDP disputes this). The foreign UNDP staff couldn’t even inspect the projects they were funding without advance notice and an escort of government minders. All of this violated UN S.O.P.’s and “best practices.” And when even that level of control wasn’t sufficient, the North Koreans tapped the UNDP workers’ phones and rummaged through their quarters. - One Free Korea

UNDP - Facilitating Illegal Transfer of Technology to North Korea

Of all the evidence turned up by the U.S. concerning irregularities in the United Nations Development Program's operations in North Korea, some of the most disturbing concerns the transfer of dual-use technology.

As reported last month, the U.S. has uncovered documents showing the UNDP procured and delivered to North Korea in May 2006 technology that could be used for military purposes: global positioning system (GPS) equipment, a portable high-end spectrometer and a large quantity of high-specification computer hardware. - North Korea Tech Transfer - Why was the U.N. helping Pyongyang obtain militarily useful computers and GPS systems? - WSJ
UNDP - Fraud in Burma

The same modus operandi was on display in response to U.S. inquiries about the UNDP's operations in another Asian dictatorship -- Burma, where the agency appears to be following the same practices that got it into trouble in North Korea. Inspection of projects is limited by the government and a percentage of U.N. outlays is required to be in foreign currency. Given what we've learned about North Korea, the U.S. is right to worry that UNDP aid -- $107 million from 2002 to 2006 -- may have been diverted to the regime.

The UNDP has responded with its usual transparency. While deigning to release the information that it has conducted two internal audits of the Burma program in the past decade, it won't give the U.S. access to the audits or let it review the line-by-line details of the budgets. This is the equivalent of a CEO refusing to let a member of his board of directors see the company's financials -- and is hardly the way to treat the country that has donated $1.2 billion to the agency over the past decade. In addition, there has been no external audit of the Burma program for more than 10 years. - WSJ

UNDP - Censorship

Rather, Inner City Press was notified by "Google Team," with no further attribution, that it would be de-listed from the Google News service, in which it had been included since 2005. Google's notification referred to "user complaints." Inner City Press immediately asked to be informed of the identity of any institutional complainant, including Google itself. Beyond that, certainly, there are others with complaints about Inner City Press' investigative coverage, at the UN, in Myanmar, UNDP and elsewhere.

In fact, UNDP sources describe communications from the UN system to Google executives, asking that Inner City Press be de-listed from Google News, and that a well-read blog, UNDP-Watch, be striken from that data base. Recently a whistleblower in UNDP's legal department had his office computer impounded and was told, you have visited multiple times. While the interrogation reflected contempt for the freedom to read and freedom of the press, the issue goes far beyond the corporate culture at UNDP, to that of Google. - Inner City Press

I wonder if this is execution of their discussed plan to ignore or ban bloggers as media.

At least three UN agencies have in the interim adopted policies of not answering questions from bloggers, no matter how widely they're read. - Inner City Press

I guess things like this will get easier once they get control of the internet. There is no reason why Google would do this on their own without some sort of external prodding and the only ones who would have reason to complain would be those inside the UN itself.

UNHCR Commishioner - Tacit Support of Iran

This idiotic UN official decides to sit with the delegation of Iran. When will UN Officials get it through their thick skulls that some countries are not equal to others.

Tehran, Iran, Sep. 03, 2007 - UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour attends what was billed as a human rights conference in Tehran. - Eye on the UN
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Louise Arbour (seated right in a scarf), embodies the same level of detachment from reality as the council she heads. Why she would even bother to give any measure of credibility to the anti-human rights conference gathered in Tehran with her beyond me. - Tundra Tabloids
Maybe it was for money?

Like many UN Officials, Louise Arbour has a history:
Rwandan Genocide controversy - A report by French magistrate Jean-Louis Bruguière has alleged that Arbour refused to examine certain avenues of investigation concerning the downing of the flight carrying the Presidents of Rwanda and Burundi in 1994, which sparked the Rwandan Genocide. Allegedly, Arbour in 1997 (then the war crimes prosecutor based in The Hague) ordered investigators to cease examining whether current President of Rwanda Paul Kagame was responsible for the missile launch that downed the plane. - Wikipedia

IAEA - Admits Failure to monitor Iran's Nuclear Program
VIENNA (AFP) — The UN atomic watchdog said Thursday it was in the dark about Iran's disputed nuclear programme, as its 35-member board seemed divided on how to get Tehran to shed more light on its activities.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) "has so far not been able to verify some important aspects of Iran's nuclear programme," its director general Mohamed ElBaradei told a board meeting here.

He specifically cited key questions related to the scope and nature of Iran's centrifuge enrichment activities, "as well as those relevant to alleged studies and other activities that could have military applications".

As a result, the UN watchdog was "unable to provide credible assurance about the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities," ElBaradei complained. - AFP (ound at LGF)
This is the same person who has criticized the US and others for demanding action on Iran.

UNAids - Systematically Overestimating the Aids Problem in a number of countries

In 2005 the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/Aids (UNAids) claimed there were 5.7 million people infected with HIV in India - the highest number in the world. But the Indian National Aids Control Organisation (Naco) figures for last year, released yesterday, lowered the number to 2.5 million - and UNAids has had to admit the new estimate is more accurate.
The HIV overestimates made or accepted by UNAids in recent years total about 10 million - so who is the real denialist?

Since 2001, UNAids has been forced to acknowledge drastically reduced HIV prevalence estimates in more than a dozen African, Caribbean and Asian countries as a result of well-designed 'population-based' HIV surveys (randomly selected samples of urban and rural populations).

Kenya's HIV estimate was reduced from 2.3 million to 1.1 million in 2003. Ethiopia's estimate was reduced from nearly two million to about half a million in 2005. And Haiti's estimate of almost 250,000 HIV-infected adults in 2001 was cut to fewer than 100,000 last year.

However, UNAids continued to defend its exaggerations up through last year, as I pointed out earlier this year in my book The Aids Pandemic: The Collision Of Epidemiology With Political Correctness.

UNAids was quick to respond to my charges, with spin rather than substance, referring vaguely to its 'scientific approach' to calculating HIV numbers and the fact that it collaborates with experts and governments. It refused to acknowledge that its approach was wrong or that the figures were bogus until the Indian revision exposed both. UNAids has simply glossed over the new estimates as being the result of better data and improved methods that are constantly evolving. - Critical Opinion

UN Report - Refuses to name Russia as aggressor as Russia is a member of the Security Council(All the more reason to kick them off.)

The missile incident disturbingly resembles a March incident in which a missile was fired at a government building in Abkhazia, a Georgian territory that is home to pro-Russian rebels. Then, too, the evidence pointed to Russian aggression, but a United Nations report stopped short of blaming Russia -- probably because the Russians had to sign off on the document. - Publius Pundit

UN Aid Program in Dafur - Not much more that a Profit-making business:

I recently listened with great interest to an account of the situation in Darfur from a Russian politician who had traveled there as a tourist. In addition to showing me some extremely interesting photos, he confirmed that the whole system of humanitarian aid distribution in Darfur was nothing but a highly profitable business run by companies with tribal connections to the nobility. - La Russophobe

World Bank - "Graft inquiry condemns World Bank"
The World Bank has not taken corruption seriously enough and has resisted the efforts of anti-graft investigators, an official inquiry has found. Paul Volcker, former head of the US Federal Reserve Bank, said his inquiry into the bank had revealed a "siege mentality" at the troubled institution.

He spoke of "ambivalence" in the way it viewed anti-corruption work. - BBC
Note: the World Bank is not part of the UN. I just threw it in here to make the comment that they are completely unaffiliated generators of fraud and corruption.

UN Mission in Liberia - Payment of local staff with much reduced salary in violation of its own rules
UNITED NATIONS, January 25 -- The UN Mission in Liberia pays workers eight dollars a day, then outsources the jobs to non-Liberian companies when faced with complaints, according to the UNMIL National Staff Association. In a letter sent to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on January 21, the Staff Association asks for action on what it contends is a pattern of racist hiring, corrupt outsourcing, retaliation against whistleblowers and, in their words, "neo-colonialism." - Inner City Press

UN - Hundreds of active fraud investigations
UNITED NATIONS, Jan 10 (Reuters) - The United Nation's internal auditing agency said on Thursday it was investigating some 250 corruption cases including alleged sexual abuse by peacekeepers and financial irregularities, and it has found the extent of misbehavior surprising.

"Our caseload has been very steady over the last three months, around 250 cases," Inga-Britt Ahlenius, head of the U.N. Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS), told reporters. "We can say that we found mismanagement and fraud and corruption to an extent we didn't really expect."

Ahlenius said two-thirds of the cases under investigation related to peacekeeping missions. Of those, around 80 were allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse in countries including Haiti and Liberia. - Reuters
As a result of member-state nationals being charged with fraud and corruption, member-states demand closure of the UN internal fraud investigators"
The team, set up two years ago in the wake of the scandal over the UN oil-for-food programme in Iraq, identified more than 10 cases of significant fraud involving contracts worth $610m. The loss to the UN through corruption was at least $25m.

Some UN members – including Singapore, which cited the force’s alleged high-handed treatment of one of its citizens serving at the UN – balked at renewing the mandate. The US, which has been most active in prosecuting cases that emerged from the inquiries, argued for an extension. - Financial Times
UN Financial Disclosure - Requires no disclosure at all

There’s just one catch, or two, or three, or — hey, who’s counting, anyway? There’s almost no information in all this “disclosure.” Senior UN officials are now supposed to file a financial statement in-house, but there is no requirement that any information therein be disclosed to the public. Among officials who have volunteered to disclose, there is an option on the public disclosure form which consists of (stay with me, this gets good) choosing “to maintain the confidentiality of the information disclosed by me in order to comply with the Financial Disclosure Program.” Translation: public disclosure at the UN can consist of signing a statement in which the only information imparted to the public is that you refuse to disclose anything except… your refusal to disclose. - The Rosett Report

UN Peacekeepers - Destruction of historic artifacts

UN Peacekeepers are accused of trashing prehistoric rock engravings in Western Sahara with spray paint. - Gateway Pundit

UN Headquarters - A person in the UN made this edit in Wikipedia:

"Wikipedia EditGate: United Nations Edits Fallaci: 'Racist Whore'" - Little Green Footballs

I guess things like this will get easier once they get control of the internet.

Previous Editions:

-- Don't worry. There is more coming in future updates. --

-- --

Tuesday, February 19

McLean Housing Bubble - Half Off & Bank Owned

I have to say that I was not surprised to see a for sale sign outside my favorite McLean housing bubble home. This newest listing advises that the current owner is a bank. That is not surprising either:

$664,900 is lots of money for this house. Way too much, especially once you get to see the other half of the property that is not included in the listing's photos. The price however is almost one half what was being asked about a year ago when the house first went up for sale after the first flipper renovated it. Here is a snapshot from what I believe was the first withdrawn listing:

Spectacular whole house renovation includes 4 bedrooms and 4 fabulous baths, plus a 2 car garage. Plus, a major price reduction from $1,250,000 to $825,000. Nice corner lot with plenty of expansion room. - Paton Real Estate
Clearly, the house did not sell due to the unrealistic goals that the flippers had when they first started trying to sell this house.

The last sale price for this house was $815,000 at the end of April 2007, just weeks after a scheduled auction for 1 April 07 where the opening bid was set at $600,000 with an undisclosed reserve. (Then owners were listed on the auction site as Gabriel Ode and Ola Olasimbo)

Now this 'jewel' is the property of a bank. Surely one of many bank owned properties. I don’t know how long it will take for the bank to get rid of this one, but there are a number of places in the area that are nicer and are not located right on a major road.

Previous Coverage:
McLean Housing Bubble - Auction - 1 April 07
Update: McLean Housing Bubble - *** Failed Auction? *** - 29 April 07

Monday, February 18

Maritime Monday 98

Welcome to this weeks edition of Maritime Monday.

You can find Maritime Monday 48 here. (Published 26 February 2007)

You can find last week's edition here.

It is with great enthusiasm that I inform you that Maritime Monday is moving to gCaptain starting with next weeks issue.

This move will greatly increase the expose of Maritime Monday and as a rising tide lifts all boats, I hope that this will result in increased exposure for all the blogs highlighted each week as well.

This Weeks Photos:
This weeks photos comes from the website of South Africa's Unicorn Shipping:
Unicorn Shipping is the shipowning arm of Grindrod Limited, and with roots dating back to the 1860's, is South Africa's oldest national ship owner.


Cargo Plan



Newbuildings for Unicorn

More photos on their website here.

This Weeks Items:

Eagle Speak covers "Iran's Strategic Weakness". Eagle Speak also has a weekly series Sunday Ship History. (Latest entries can be found here) UPDATE: This week's edition is titled "Sunday Ship History: Special Presidents Day Monday Edition"

Chaotic Synaptic Activity should have his weekly series Monday Maritime Matters posted sometime later today. (Latest entries can be found here)

Lloyd's List Newsroom Blog notes that UK tax policy over the last couple years has resulted in growth of the UK Shipping Industry, and that those gains are now being put at risk, also thanks to proposed tax policy.

Tax Research UK believes that "There is no ethical justification for keeping the domicile rule in UK taxation."

The Monitor remembers "S.S. Caribou’s last surviving crew member dies" The Canadian ferry was sunk in 1942 by a U-Boat with heavy loss of life.

Sea * Fever has amazing photos of "The Harbour Crane Hotel"

MarEx Newsletter has "Retail Container Traffic Ends Four-Month Slump" Does this mean that the fake recession is over?

BitterEnd has the amusing "Wayne's World and the 72 ColRegs"

gCaptain has "Sea Stories - Training At Sea"

gCaptain also has photos of "Ships In Concrete - Best Maritime Inspired Architecture"

Maritime Accident Casebook has "Lifeboats - The Pinto Of The Sea". Not good.

Robin Storm presents "Improving ship safety and efficiency with proactive use of Voyage Data Recorders"

Steeljaw Scribe has part II of "Flightdeck Friday: Implementing the Maritime Strategy-Quantity vs Quality (II) CV OPS"

IMC Brokers has "Sulisker: from patrol boat to superyacht"

The February Edition of Marine Log is online: (LINK)

Tugster has photos of "Government Boats 6"

THIS IS NOT MY COUNTRY has an update on charges of brutality made against the Greek Coast Guard by Afghan migrants.

News Balita PH notes that crews of Indian-Flag ships will most likely include large numbers of Filipino sailors due to a shortage of Indian seafarers. (But oddly enough there is a large number of Indian seafarers sailing foreign flag, not recognized as seafarers in their own country.)

The Maritime Sentry has video of "Coast Guard's Newest Cutter Takes to the Sea"

Marine Buzz has "Indian Navy to Host Indian Ocean Naval Symposium - IONS 2008"

Marine Buzz also has "Fusion Fuel Accountability and Management System for Ships"

Car Buyer's Notebook covers the recovery of construction equipment stolen in France and shipped to the US thanks to LoJack equipment installed. According to the story the signals were detected in every port the ship called in. That is pretty impressive.

The Triton-Megayacht News explains the new way to track ships in "Long-range ID, tracking have arrived". The article mentions that there is a shortage of equipment. I have heard questions of the necessity of this system since plans are in place to get global coverage of AIS from space.

Thinking on the Margin has a Safe Harbor quote by Mark Twain.

Telegraph (UK) covers "James Bond fanatic creates underwater car".
Unlike the Bond original, which featured an enclosed passenger cabin, the modern version has an open top with the occupants exposed to the elements.

The Swiss car designer explained: "The passenger compartment is three square metres of air - you'd need to add about three metric tonnes of added weight to pull it down under the surface."

Go check out the cool photos of it in action.

Lloyd's List has "Norway tax overhaul deals blow to owners profits"
THE EXTENT of the cost of Norway’s controversial shipping tax overhaul has been spelt out by two of the nation’s largest owners, BW Gas and Wilh. Wilhelmsen, which have posted huge losses to meet their share of a NKr21bn back tax bill.

Neptunus Lex has "You only think your job is a pain in the a**". It's Monday. Do you want to do this guys job?

Cruise Bruise has "Crew Member Alleges She's Being Held Aboard As A Slave - Carnival Glory"

Offshore Shipping Online has the "Largest X Bow ship launched by Ulstein Verft" the ISLAND CONSTRUCTOR.

The Stupid Shall Be Punished has "Russian Provide Valuable Training For U.S. Navy"

Deputy Dog has great photos of the TROLL A offshore gas platform, which is the ‘tallest structure ever moved by humans over the surface of the earth’.

Maritime Compass has the job opening for 'Collections and Research Access Associate' at Mystic Seaport.

Kiwi at Sea manages to find an internet connection in Costa Rica in order to provide an update on what he has been up to the last couple months.

Time Magazine has the story "Is it Getting Too Warm for Penguins?"

Bellona has "Floating nuclear power plants attracting interest of the oil industry in Russia and abroad" and they don't see the interest in the idea as good news:
KALININGRAD - The extremely hazardous use of floating and underwater atomic energy stations to supply power to tap remote oil and gas reserves is gaining currency among not only Russian gas giants but their Norwegian counterparts as well, despite vociferous environmental criticism.
Russia and anything nuclear is a bad combination.

Popular Mechanics has "Super Boats: 5 New Designs Go Fast, Far—Even Fly! (With Videos)"

BoingBoing has a story of unintended consequences "Nicaraguan town wealthy from cocaine bricks that wash ashore" It is an ongoing 'problem'.

Haight's Maritime Items has:
Senate hearing on marine vessel emissions reductions - On February 14, the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works conducted a legislative hearing on the Marine Vessel Emissions Reduction Act of 2007 (S. 1499). Committee Chair Barbara Boxer (D-CA) discussed the harmful air emissions from ships and the measures that would be required if her proposed legislation were enacted. Ranking Member James Inhofe (R-OK) pointed out that adoption of MARPOL Annex VI is preferable to enacting unilateral legislation. Senator David Vitter (R-LA) expressed concern about unintended consequences of this unilateral legislation, particularly for ports that are currently in compliance with applicable clean air requirements. Mr. Bryan Wood-Thomas, EPA, explained his agency’s and IMO’s efforts to date to reduce air emissions from ships. He stated that the ability of the United States to influence further tightening of standards in MARPOL Annex VI will be undermined if the US does not soon ratify the Annex. Ms. Lisa P. Jackson, New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, stated that reduction in the harmful air emissions from ships is better addressed on a national or international basis than on a local basis. Dr. Barry R. Wallerstein, South Coast Air Quality Management District, stated that the United States should not wait for the IMO to adopt acceptable standards. Ms. Jennifer J. Mouton, Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality, pointed out that the bill should provide for preparation of air emission inventories for each port and should include funding for the costs of implementation. Mr. Richard Kassel, Natural Resources Defense Council, stated that the proposed legislation will provide an incentive for the IMO to move forward with enhanced air emission standards. Dr. John G. Miller, Fellow of the American College of Emergency Physicians, discussed the Southern California Diesel Death Zone of the Port of San Pedro. Mr. Jonah Ramirez, Youth Community Member from Southern California, testified concerning the impact of air emissions from ships on his asthmatic condition. Mr. Joe Accardo, Ports Association of Louisiana, recommended that, rather than enacting the proposed legislation, the United States should ratify MARPOL Annex VI and work through IMO to enhance the international standards. Mr. Joel Chaisson, Port of South Louisiana, testified that enactment of this unilateral legislation would harm efforts to achieve international agreement. Mr. Ken Wells, Offshore Marine Services Association, testified that there are a number of practical difficulties with the proposed legislation and that the problem of air emissions from ships is better handled on an international basis. (2/14/08). - Dennis Bryant Holland & Knight homepage (Used with Permission)

Fairplay Daily News has:
Sea Diamond faces legal threat - GREECE. 12 February – Sea Diamond's owner has been warned of severe financial and legal repercussions if it abandons the oil-leaking wreck at Santorini's sea bottom. Last month Louis Hellenic Cruises said it had finished cleaning up the area of the accident that took place in April 2007. Speaking yesterday, Greek shipping deputy minister Panos Kammenos threatened Louis with arrest of its representatives and assets. "If they withdraw the clean-up company, then they will have committed the crime of willful cause of wreck and pollution," he said, adding that the administration had the means to force Louis to meet the cost of the wreck removal. Louis responded by stressing that pumping the remaining oil from the hull was not technically feasible and that an attempt to raise the wreck might cause a larger fuel spill. The company has denied responsibility for the accident, blaming it on faulty maps. - Fairplay Homepage (Used with Permission)

Submissions for future editions:

Please submit articles for inclusion in next week' edition using the following submit form at Blog Carnival. You are also welcome to email stories and photos to for inclusion in future editions as well as suggest area of coverage.

Previous Editions:
As linked below or click on the label 'MaritimeMonday'.

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