The Column of Lasting Insignificance: September 30, 2006
WITH A LANGUAGE services bill that already exceeds one billion Euros (around $1.5m) the European Parliament has agreed to spend another $1m adding Irish (spoken by only five MEPs and 1.3m Irish)) to its translation roster. This has prompted demands from the Welsh and the Catalans (7 million of them) for equal treatment. The Independent says the parliament is becoming an expensive “tower of Babel”.
NATIVE AMERICAN TRIBES have been expelling members right and left so they can increase their individual shares of casino money says Harper’s which reveals that just one tribe, the Pechanga, rakes in more than $200million a year which works out to $290,000 for each member. Checking DNA and ancient records as well as reciprocating against those who question tribal policies are all being used as good reasons to cut people from the rolls and in California alone, the mag says, 1,000 people are fighting ejection from various tribes.
WHO OWNS THE WORLD? is the title of a book to be published in November by Kevin Cahill who says the world is not divided into rich and poor but those who own land and those without it. The latter are the poor. If divvied up accurately, the 6,500 million men, women and children in the world would be entitled to 2.5 acres of fertile land apiece (an acre is about the size of a football pitch) but 49 monarchs, the Catholic church and other faiths and the U.S. Federal government (which owns one-third of America’s 750million acres) have a disproportionate share. Half the land in Europe is owned by 0.2% of the population and 0.7% of the USD population owns 44% of the country.
MOST AMERICANS DON’T KNOW that there are 1,200 different varieties of bananas because the $4 billion-a-year worldwide banana export trade is almost entirely based on one kind, the Cavendish, which some experts regard as relatively tasteless. The danger in relying on one species alone is that it is at risk of extinction if a deadly fungus comes along and the current threat comes from a disease called black sigatoka which is spreading through Asia, Africa and Latin America. Such a doomsday scenario has happened before, says the Smithsonian magazine. In the 1950s a pathogen known as Panama disease wiped out the (tastier) Gros Michel banana forcing the forerunner of the United Fruit Company to replant their vast plantations with Cavendish. After rice, wheat, and corn, bananas are the world’s biggest crop — a food staple in many countries — and whereas Americans eat an average of 26 pounds of them a year, many Africans consumer almost 20 times as many.
AMERICA’S COTTON SUBSIDIES are “an absurdity” in the view of the Economist which reveals that $4bn a year is spent propping up largely to big companies, at least four times more government cash than other crops. The biggest sufferers are the world’s poorest farmers, the mag says, with cotton prices halving in the past decade as American subsidies have doubled. “The end of this gravy train is long overdue.”
THE OCULAS IS DESCRIBED by The Robb Report as “a cocoon-like space where people could entertain themselves, relax and recharge”. It’s actually a totally-enclosed leather and fiberglass chair containing DVD, video conferencing tools, computer, climate control, internet access and thousands of lighting variations. It costs $45,000.
JELLYFISH, DON’T YOU HATE ‘EM? Well, with good reason it turns out if only because some have tentacles 120 feet long and collectively they kill more people every year than do Great White Sharks. Last year fishermen hauled in nearly half a million tons of jellyfish, more than twice as much as a decade ago. Why? The Week suggests global warming which has promoted breeding by raising some seawater temperatures four degrees, and “overdosing” the oceans with more and more pollutants. These “feed the growth of primitive organisms that dominated the seas before the advent of fish”. Says oceanographer Jeremy Jackson: “We’re pushing the oceans back to the dawn of evolution”.
THE WILCOCK WEB: About 7,000 young men enter Polish seminaries every year reports Warsaw’s Gazeta Wborcza and they’re being snapped up by countries such as Ireland, France, Spain and Italy whose priests are dying off and not being replaced…. University of Illinois researchers have discovered the obvious fact that serving food on smaller plates encourages people to eat less…. “Stupidity has a knack of getting its way” wrote Albert Camus, who died in 1960…. Hamburg scientists concluded after a lengthy study that redheads have the busiest sex lives…. For the first time, reveals the Daily Telegraph, the number of overweight people in the world exceeds the number — an estimated 800,000 — of malnourished folk…. “Some days you’re the dog, some days the hydrant” observed some unknown wiseass…. A new Japanese device enables the storage of smells. Fifteen microchips pick up the odor, from which it creates a “digital recipe” which can be “replayed by assembling vapors from a bank of the relevant chemical elements…. Stallholders selling T-shirts at England’s Royal Norfolk Show emblazoned with Bollocks to Blair were fined $150…. For a additional cost of about $3 passengers buying tickets via the internet for train journeys in England can arrange to sit next to somebody compatible…. Airline analysts predict a boom in small “niche” airlines that will spring up before the end of this year to service underserved regions in Africa, Russia, Asia, and the Middle East…. More than 25 billion non-biodegradable paper cups end up in landfills every year — 22.75 pounds of waste per drinker — according to Experience Life magazine…. “In a consumer society there are inevitably two kinds of slaves”, wrote Ivan Illich, “the prisoners of envy and the prisoners of addiction”…. London columnist Frederick Forsyth says the Ten Commandments should be renamed the Ten Suggestions…. Motorcycle thieves in England leave their helmets at home since the introduction of a police policy not to give chase in case an accident resulted in an insurance claim…. “The great majority of mankind is satisfied with appearances as though they were realities.” — Niccolo Machiavelli (1469-1527)