Archive for July, 2011

-Submitted by David Drumm (Nal), Guest Blogger

There are two ways to increase your chances of winning an election, get more voters to cast their ballots for you, or get fewer voters to cast their ballots for your opponent. The GOP had decided to pursue the latter option.

There is nothing more sacred in a democracy that the right to vote, so an attack on voting rights is an attack on democracy. That is exactly what is happening in many states across our land. Republican governors and legislatures are passing laws making it extremely difficult for certain Americans to vote.

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We left Gascony with the kids with a deep love for the region and its people. Leslie and I joined our friends in climbing to the top of the église du Heux next to the Chateau to look over the Gascon countryside one last time. The Church was built in the 13th Century with additions in the 17th Century. After obtaining the keys from Madam Fezas (of the winemaking family next door) we climbed the ancient wood stairs to the top. It is quite a journey in which you have to crouch up winding stairs occupied at night by bats. When you emerge, you are greeted by a wonderful sight of rolling hills and vineyards.
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Submitted by Gene Howington, Guest Blogger

The July 24th catastrophic crash of a high speed train in Wenzhou, eastern China, made world wide headlines. The dead and injured totals as of today, July 30th, stand at 40 dead and 192 injured although earlier reports indicated as many as 210 injured including 2 foreigners. The cause of the accident is still under investigation, but the preliminary facts indicate that train D301 in service from Beijing South Station to Fuzhou (in Fujian province) and train D3115 in service from Hangzhou to Fuzhou, were derailed when D301 struck the stationary D3115 at around 8:30pm local time. Although both trains are limited to traveling at a maximum of 250km/h (~155 mph), it is uncertain how fast D301 was moving at the time of the accident.

This is more than just a human tragedy for China, but possibly an economic tragedy as well. With China looking to compete globally to sell high speed rail systems that are going to become increasingly important to countries around the world as fuel prices rise, their systems have been plagued by unstable performance and this crash caused the stock of state owned CSR Corporation to plummet 14 points on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange. Although CSR is technically the world’s largest manufacturer of high speed rail equipment, it faces stiff competition from German and Japanese manufacturers who have more mature and refined products. While none of this is unfamiliar to anyone who has followed businesses in the wake of a disaster in the West, what is unusual is what happened next.

Lawyers were told not to take plaintiff’s cases related to the rail accident.

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Submitted by Mark Esposito, Guest Blogger

Bonneau is a quiet little town in the “Low Country” of South Carolina.   Boasting plenty of southern charm, it covers about 2.9 square miles and sports 354 residents. Not much going on except good red beans and rice and some pleasantly hot summer boat rides on Lake Moultrie. Pretty Mayberry-esque except  it’s also the epicenter for  a debate on South Carolina’s obscenity laws which prohibit motorists from  displaying bumper stickers, decals, or devices depicting “sexual acts, excretory functions, or parts of the human body in an offensive way as determined by contemporary community standards.”

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Submitted by Gene Howington, Guest Blogger

While everyone was distracted with the hullabaloo surround the artificial “debt ceiling crisis”, Congress did manage to get some work done.  Unfortunately that work was in furtherance of eroding your right to privacy.  Thursday, July 28, the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee submitted a bill (H.R. 1981) under the politically motivated and misleading name Protecting Children From Internet Pornographers Act of 2011, which was quietly lobbied for by conservative Republicans and the Department of Justice, voted in committee to advance regulations requiring Internet service providers to retain your account information.  This information preserved would include not just your IP address, but customers’ names, addresses, phone numbers, credit card numbers and bank account numbers as well.  The Judiciary Committee approved this bill in a 19-0 vote, rejecting a last minute amendment that would have required the retention of IP addresses only by 7-16.

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-Submitted by David Drumm (Nal), Guest Blogger

Kelly Thomas, a 37-year-old homeless schizophrenic, is shown on the left, after his confrontation with Fullerton California police officers, and on the right before his brutalization. He was taken to UC Irvine Medical Center in Orange County in critical condition on life-support and died five days later. Kelly was unarmed, had a slight build, and of medium height.

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Photos courtesy of Allison Mabe McBane

One of the greatest finds of this trip was not that difficult to find.  Surrounding the Chateau Du Heux of my host are great fields of wine grapes.  These vines belong to Domaine Chiroulet – run by Phillipe Fezas and this family.  They are the latest of their family who have made wine in the Ténarèze soil for 150 years in six generations. The Fezas are a prototypical Gascon family – joyful, friendly, and generous.  They are also incredible winemakers.  Phillippe is a fascinating study.  He may be the most knowledgeable man I have ever met on oak and its role in wine-making.  A consultant for the leading houses in France and widely respected in the field, he has a variety of Russian, French, and American oak barrels at his operation.  More on this later.  What he also has is a splendid Gascon wine that should find itself in every American wine store.
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