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Thursday, March 31, 2011

Kansas: one of the shrinking states

New census data came out yesterday and part of it showed bad news for the state of Kansas:


According to newly released census data, Americans are fleeing the Great Plains for sunnier climes in record numbers, the decades-long trend only accelerating in the 21st century.


The data, as mapped by the site New Geography, shows that North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, and Kansas all had more counties with total population decreases than increases between 2000 and 2010. 


The growers?  The states that are adding population?  They are:  The metro areas that grew the fastest were all in the west or south.


No surprise.


More Kansas data:


The data also offer information about changes in America's racial makeup. Many of the counties that saw the largest increases in their Hispanic populations were in traditional Hispanic strongholds, including southern California, Arizona, and south Florida. But others were more surprising: Counties in eastern Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming, Kansas, and Oklahoma all saw an influx of Hispanics, reflecting a trend over the last decade in which many recent Latino immigrants have spread beyond urban centers like Los Angeles and Phoenix into more rural parts of the country.


Yeah, get over it.  Don't be a racist hater.


Interesting stuff.


Now, if you're Kansas Governor Sam Brownback right now, what do you do, if anything, to see to it your state's population doesn't continue to sharply decrease?


Danged if I'd know.


I guess I'd harp on that "more jobs", thing.


I sure wouldn't try to destroy the Arts Commission.  If you don't have a state Arts Commission to help make the state more appealing, jobs alone isn't going to do it.


And the more beauty they can add to Kansas, the better.


In fact, one of the best things, I think, Kansas may have going for it, annually, that might attract more people to the state is the annual "Symphony in the Hills" when the Kansas City Symphony plays in the Flint Hills, smack dab in the middle of Kansas.


So much for that "killing the arts" idea, eh, Governor?


Link:  http://news.yahoo.com/s/yblog_thelookout/20110330/ts_yblog_thelookout/new-census-data-shows-which-areas-of-america-are-growing-shrinking

Lucky Missouri. Lucky us

News out this afternoon:

Mo. to drop extended benefits for unemployed

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Thousands of people in Missouri who have been unemployed for more than a year soon will lose their jobless benefits, marking a significant victory for Republican fiscal hawks who are crusading against government spending.
Okay, that's bad luck, by my way of thinking.
Here's the "good luck":
When eligibility ends Saturday, Missouri will become the only state to voluntarily quit a federal stimulus program that offers extended benefits.


So, the result?   "...more than 34,000 unemployed residents in Missouri could miss out on $105 million in benefits over the next nine months.  In Missouri, about 10,000 people would immediately be cut off from additional jobless payments, according to the state department of labor. And extended unemployment benefits would be denied to about 24,000 additional residents who otherwise are projected to become eligible."


As St. Louis resident Peter Gordon, who has been unemployed for a little over a year is quoted as saying:  "They can provide money for government programs to take care of the elite and rich," Gordon said. "But when it comes to a small person like me — people who are just trying to make ends meet — it seems like the rights are being taken away."


Not enough to leave things alone there, "Republican senators also are holding up federal stimulus money for education."


There's another fantastic idea--keep money for education away from the state.
Thanks, Republicans!  We appreciate the empathy it takes to bring this about!

This will be terrific for the state economy, too!
We'll be sure to remember you come election time, for sure!
Link:  http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110331/ap_on_bi_ge/us_jobless_benefits

For information on a plan to re-build our unemployment insurance program that is deficit-neutral, go here:
http://www.nelp.org/page/-/UI/UI%20Solvency%20Report%20FINAL.pdf?nocdn=1

California: It sucks to be you

Years ago, seemingly forever, no one could say enough good things about California.

Remember that?

There were songs about the State and untold movies and books and who-knows-what-all.

If there were any one place so many people wanted to go, it was California, either for the jobs or the mountains or the ocean or the mild temperatures or the palm trees or the low humidity or desert or whatever.  The list of reasons to go seemed nearly endless.

Well, 'dem days are over and by a long shot.

Check this out--on the Forbes Magazine list out today on "15 Cities Where Economies Are Getting Worse", California has 7--count 'em, 7--of the entire 15.  Nearly half of the whole list is California cities where things stink economically and will likely get worse.

Of this list of 15, too, California also holds the extremely dubious distinction of having 4 of the top 5 cities "where economies are getting worse" and, on top of that, they hold the number one position.

So, given all this, how badly would you want to be governor of the great state of California right now?

Another reason to be here, in Kansas City, in the heartland.

Enjoy.

Links:  http://www.forbes.com/2011/03/16/cities-where-the-economies-are-getting-worse_slide_2.html
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HPvZVdHDB4E

It's gotten worse: here's Japan's SECOND shocker for the same day

Dang it.

Japan has not one new shocking revelation for today but now two:

Japan orders more beef testing

TOKYO – Japan's health ministry says it has ordered more tests after a cow slaughtered for beef near the tsunami-stricken nuclear plant was found to have radioactive contamination slightly higher than the legal limit.

These people just can't get a break.

And as I said earlier, the "shocking revelation" and development for the day is followed closely by "reassurance" from government and nuclear officials:

Officials stressed that the meat was not ever put on the market. Contamination has already been found in vegetables and raw milk near the plant, which has been leaking radiation since the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

The cow had a total cesium level of 510 becquerels per kilogram. The limit is 500. A person could eat beef with that level of contamination for decades without getting sick.

Right.

If I'm Japanese right now, I wouldn't be feeling any better about it.

Tucked in between these last two quotes, above, was this:

Ministry spokesman Taku Ohara says the cesium was found in a cow slaughtered March 15 more than 40 miles (70 kilometers) from the plant. People within a 12-mile (20-kilometer) radius have been evacuated.

People have been evacuated from the area where the cattle have to be left, the cattle have radioactive contamination higher than the allowed limit but I'm--what?--still supposed to eat local meats?

I don't think so.

Japan's latest daily shocker

It's Thursday so it must be yet another overnight revelation from Japan:

Radioactivity 10,000 times standard at Japan plant

Okay, so, get ready.  First there's the shocking revelation of the day:


TOKYO – Officials with the company that operates Japan's tsunami-stricken nuclear plant say radioactive contamination in groundwater underneath a reactor has been measured at 10,000 times the government health standard.
Then there's the sure-to-be-given reassurance from the government and nuclear officials:
A spokesman for plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. says the company doesn't believe any drinking water supply is affected
If you go to this article (link below), you'll see the updated article seems to have quite additional alarm, too.  It seems the Japanese have now put out a plea to the world nations, asking for all the help they can get.  
Yikes.
Anyway, check out this quote from a Japanese official:
"U.S. nuclear plants aren't by the ocean, unlike Japanese ones, so we think the French may be able to help us more than the Americans," said TEPCO Manager Teruaki Kobayashi.
Excuse me?  Ever heard of San Onofre?  As in California?  On the Pacific Ocean?  
And Diablo Canyon?  Also in California?  Ever heard of those?


And then there's the Salem reactor in Salem, Delaware incidentally right next to the Hope Creek Nuclear Generating Station (link below)  but,yeah, other than those...
Anyway, for the poor Japanese people it seems things are quite desperate and getting worse.  Hopefully the bad news and additional revelations end soon--as soon as possible and as positively as possible, given all they've been through and what they're still going through.

Good news on Libya

First this:

New cracks in Gadhafi regime as minister defects

Gaddafi will stay in Libya "until the end": spokesman
And to this, Colonel, I would have to say, be careful what you wish for.  It looks as though this is going to happen sooner, rather than later.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Radiation from Japan: that's how brief a time it took

How long did you think it would take before we'd start detecting at least some radiation in our--the US'--food chain?  Longer than this?

Low levels of radiation found in US milk

WASHINGTON – Very low levels of radiation turned up in a sample of milk from Washington state, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Food and Drug Administration said Wednesday, but federal officials assured consumers not to worry.
Right.  That's how all the "officials" in Japan and here, both, end all the statements--"don't worry" and "we've got it under control" and "the levels detected are safe."

So reassuring.

Link to original story:  http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110330/ap_on_re_us/us_japan_earthquake_us_milk

Europe and Europeans will do what Americans can't and won't

I reported here, earlier this week, that Germany was already making plans to rid themselves of nuclear power, given the already-horrible results from Japan's Fukushima nuclear reactor problems resulting from the earthquakes and tsunami.

More evidence that came out yesterday showing Europeans can and will do what Americans either can't or won't or both:

Report: EU working to ban gas and diesel-powered cars by 2050

According to new reports, the European Union will announce plans to ban all fossil fuel-powered cars in Europe by 2050. The detailed plan will be outlined in the European Union's Roadmap on Transport, which will come out on Monday. By 2030, the EU plans to have reduced fossil fuel traffic by half, particularly in urban areas.


And given that the world is either already beyond, at or close to "peak oil", doesn't it seem prudent to plan for the future so your entire nation isn't caught off guard, so to speak, and without an energy source?  I mean, already the stuff--oil--is getting so bloody expensive at the pump it's threatening, yet again, to wreck any economic recovery we may have going.

And then there are the other, additional costs like pollution, climate change and the fact that we get most all of it from the craziest and most overly emotional and war-torn part of the entire world, the Middle East.

But no, let's not make any plans yet.

We've got plenty of time.

Link:  http://www.autoblog.com/2011/03/28/report-eu-working-to-ban-gas-and-diesel-powered-cars-by-2050/
http://www.americablog.com/2011/03/eu-working-on-plans-to-ban-gas-and.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+Americablog+%28AMERICAblog%29





Quote of the day: on real "monsters"

He who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster. 


And when you gaze long into an abyss the abyss also gazes into you.  --Friederich Nietzche, "Beyond Good and Evil", Aphorism 146 (1886)


Link:  http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Friedrich_Nietzsche

Uh-oh--this isn't going anywhere good

It seems leaders in China just keep pushing and pushing for change when it comes to the monetary system of the world, specifically as the US' dollar is the basis for the rest of the world:

China economist blasts dollar dominance on eve of G20

BEIJING (Reuters) – Dollar dominance is sowing the seeds of financial turmoil, and the solution is to promote new reserve currencies, a Chinese government economist said in a paper published on the eve of a G20 meeting about how to reform the global monetary system.

Let there be no doubt, if this goes their way, the Chinese' way, it won't be pretty for us, ladies and gentlemen.


And after that last financial/economic debacle we caused that went global, what with the creation and then selling of what were supposed to be AAA grade securities that ended up being junk and then, on top of that, not punishing anyone for it or fundamentally changing virtually anything in our system so we're sure it never happens again, you can't too much blame 'em, can you?


I hope this party doesn't end while I'm at it.

The irony of "Captain America" coming out now

Chris Evans in Captain America costume (from fan-made poster)
I can barely get over the irony of the movie "Captain America" coming out right now.

I confirmed, in researching, that this comic was begun in the 1940's, during the Great Depression.

That it would come back out now, in our "Second Great Depression" or the "Mancession" or whatever you want to call it, since it's the worst economic times since then, over the last 80 years, is just too great.  A subtle comparison it's not, but still, there it is.

And sure, we have far better technology now and it's been wholly refreshed and it's great for, what?  15-year-old boys or some such but, come on, the timing of this is just too rich to pass on.

The thing that gets me most about it is the whole "bringing back the America we once knew" aspect of it.  Clearly, we'd like to pretend we live in a bygone era but we can't go back to when it was all white people and no global warming or pollution or Mexicans coming into the country or Japanese earthquake/tsunami/nuclear meltdown, etc., etc.

Besides blowing great wads of money, I think our civilization--the US--will also, one day, be known for not learning (e.g., Vietnam, housing booms and busts, Afghanistan, etc.), ignorant, obnoxious bravado (Geo. W. Bush, the Iraq War, etc.) and sticking our collective heads in sand, at minimum.

Pass the popcorn.

Links:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Captain_america
http://captainamerica.marvel.com/

A great idea from the president they'll want to shoot down

If President Obama comes up with it, there will be lines of people--mostly Conservative and/or Right-wing and/or Republican and/or Tea Party, etc.--that will be staunchly against it.  This is just one more:

Obama wants to curb U.S. oil imports by a third


WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Barack Obama will set an ambitious goal on Wednesday to cut U.S. oil imports by a third over 10 years, focusing on energy security amid high gasoline prices that could stall the country's economic recovery.
Obama will outline his strategy in a speech after spending days explaining U.S.-led military action in Libya, where fighting, accompanied by popular unrest elsewhere in the Arab world, has helped push gasoline prices toward $4 a gallon.
Discussing the speech, the Democratic president said the country must increase its energy independence.
"What we were talking about was breaking the pattern of being shocked at high prices and then, as prices go down, being lulled into a trance, but instead let's actually have a plan," Obama told party activists in New York late on Tuesday.
"Let's, yes, increase domestic oil production, but let's also invest in solar and wind and geothermal and biofuels and let's make our buildings more efficient and our cars more efficient. Not all of that work is done yet, but I'm not finished yet. We've got more work to do," Obama said.
The White House says this is a deliberate turn toward energy security and will be followed by other events to highlight his strategy.
So come on, who could be against this?  We know we need to reduce our energy dependence, particularly that that comes out of the looney-filled Middle East, what with their dictators, insanity, 2000-year-old wars and terrorists.
Yet against it they will be, whoever they are.  
The oil companies will most assuredly be against this because they're making ga-zillions from the oil in the Middle East and they like what's coming in so naturally, they'll give money--probably in the range of $2000.00 to $5000.00--to their Senators who will, in turn, then, say it's a crazy idea and imprudent and we should go another way.
Man, I hope we've learned we need to do this.
And if we haven't learned already, I hope we do shortly.

Do Democrats stand up--really stand up--for ANYTHING?

Further proof of how Democrats are all-too-happy to "cooperate" and "bend" and "give" and "collaborate" when, all the while, the Republicans and now, additionally, the Tea Party don't so much as flinch:

Dems hint at flexibility in budget talks

Of course they do!

From the article:

WASHINGTON – Democrats indicated Tuesday they may be willing to accept Republican-backed curbs on the Environmental Protection Agency and other federal regulators as part of an overall deal on spending cuts, a rare hint of compromise in private negotiations marked by public rancor.

The good news, if there is any, is that this could, hopefully, supposedly, get the Republicans to come off their figure of $61 billion they wanted cut from the budget, in order to get a spending bill and not shut down the government.

I'll believe it when I see it's inked.

In the meantime, we have this president who doesn't know how to negotiate tough deals from his adversaries.

(banging head against wall).

Link:  http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110329/ap_on_re_us/us_spending_showdown

On Japan's nuclear meltdown: Here we go again

Indeed, here we go again.

First there's this:

On Wednesday, nuclear safety officials said seawater 300 yards (meters) outside the plant contained 3,355 times the legal limit for the amount of radioactive iodine — the highest rate yet and a sign that more contaminated water was making its way into the ocean.
Then, predictably, there's this:
The amount of iodine-131 found south of the plant does not pose an immediate threat to human health but was a "concern," said Hidehiko Nishiyama, a Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency official. He said there was no fishing in the area.
These reports seem to follow this pattern virtually daily and the pattern is this:  first there's news of some new, significant report, telling of surprising radioactive exposure somewhere in or around the area and then, not surprisingly, there's some nuclear or government "official" there to say, just as quickly, that everything is a-okay and, like here, that it "does not pose and immediate threat to human health...", trailing off.
Right.
Now, about that ocean front property I'd like to show you in Nevada.

Explaining 8 years


Unless we remember we cannot understand.
--E. M. Forster 

Keeping in mind, of course, that if you never "knew", you can't remember.

To any and all of those who voted, even once, for this man, we thank you.

Actually, scratch that, we blame you.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Calling all Libertarians!

To our Libertarian brothers and sisters--y'all are gonna' love this:

Belgium's World Record


The European country has gone nearly 300 days without a governmentBy Brian Palmer, Slate Magazine

Belgium tied Iraq on Tuesday for a very special world record: Number of days without a new government. (It's been 289 days since the inconclusive June 13, 2010, election.) Has living without a government made any difference to the Belgian people?


Not really. It's not quite accurate to say the country is without a government. In parliamentary systems like that of Belgium or the United Kingdom, the existing ministers remain in office when Parliament is dissolved in anticipation of an election. In the event that the elections are inconclusive, the ministers continue to perform their functions. They can't undertake controversial new initiatives, because they don't have a parliamentary majority to approve it, but they can accomplish administrative tasks. The Belgian federal government has a fairly limited portfolio by European standards, dealing mainly with defense, foreign relations, social security, and the judiciary. In these areas, it's been able to manage. For example, Belgium sent four F-16 jets and 150 military personnel to help with the Libyan no-fly zone.


Quick, Sevesteen!  Fly to Belgium and enjoy!

Link to original post:  http://www.slate.com/id/2289797/?from=rss

The "disease cluster" in our backyard

A report came out Monday tells of possible "disease clusters" occurring in the US:

Report: 42 disease clusters in 13 U.S. states identified


At least 42 disease clusters have occurred in 13 U.S. states since 1976, according to a report Monday by environmentalists calling for further study of the cause of these health problems."Communities all around the country struggle with unexplained epidemics of cancers, birth defects and neurological diseases," report co-author Gina Solomon, a senior scientist at the Naural Resources Defense Council, said in announcing the findings. "The faster we can identify such clusters, and the sooner we can figure out the causes, the better we can protect residents living in the affected communities."  


On Tuesday, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee has scheduled an oversight hearing on the issue.


The 13 states, you ask?  They include:  Texas, California, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Florida, Ohio, Delaware, Louisiana, Montana, Tennessee, Missouri and Arkansas.  (Go to the first link, below, to read of some examples.  The one on Camp Lejeune, North Carolina was a stunner since it was happening to males and with breast cancer.  You have to figure the federal government would possibly be responsible for that one, what with a huge military base there). 

I thought you'd want to know.

Now, I'd like to know where in Missouri this "disease cluster" is.  Is it in Sugar Creek?  Cameron, as some people have claimed up there?  Across the state in the St. Louis area?  Where, exactly?

Having Googled it, I can tell you it's in Herculaneum.  (see link below)

At least that's the one in the state that is recognized.  Who knows?  There may be more than one.

Further proof, as though we needed it, that the way we live is unsustainable.

Go read this article

Just do it:

How Western Diets Are Making The World Sick

In an essay published last November in Canada's Maisonneuve journal, physician Kevin Patterson described his experiences working as an internist-intensivist at the Canadian Combat Surgical Hospital in Kandahar, Afghanistan.
One detail he noticed: The Afghan soldiers, police and civilians he treated in Kandahar had radically different bodies from those of the Canadians he took care of back home.
"Typical Afghan civilians and soldiers would have been 140 pounds or so as adults. And when we operated on them, what we were aware of was the absence of any fat or any adipose tissue underneath the skin," Patterson says. "Of course, when we operated on Canadians or Americans or Europeans, what was normal was to have most of the organs encased in fat. It had a visceral potency to it when you could see it directly there."
"Type 2 diabetes historically didn't exist, only 70 or 80 years ago," says Patterson. "And what's driven it, of course, is this rise in obesity, especially the accumulation of abdominal fat."
Go.  Read it.  It isn't that long.  You'll learn things.

More vegetables, folks, more vegetables.  It's not that complicated.

Quote of the day: on individuality and creativity

"The surest way to corrupt a youth is to instruct him to hold in higher esteem those who think alike than those who think differently."  --Friedrich Nietzche, The Dawn, Sec. 297


Link:   http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Friedrich_Nietzsche

Fortunately we don't have a Republican governor

Unlike Florida, where their Republican Governor Rick Scott declined taking $2.4 billion (yes, two point four BILLION DOLLARS) for his state, so they could start creating better light rail mass transit between their cities, our Democratic Governor Jay Nixon is going for it:

Gov.: Missouri To Apply For High-Speed Rail Funds

And thank goodness. 

Wouldn't it be nice to be able to go quickly and easily  across that state, maybe to Columbia or St. Louis?

Wouldn't it make sense, if, one day soon, we could go, again, quickly and easily, by train on up to Chicago, too?  It could take some pressure off our truly dangerous 4-lane freeway that is I-70?

Instead of running for president in 2012 like the Florida governor, ours is pushing for us, for Missouri, for the state, for the citizens.  

Jobs, better transportation and mass transit so maybe we also get off some Middle Eastern oil.  We get a trifecta of benefits from this, at minimum.  

Here's  hoping he's successful with it.   

If he's not, at least he tried.

Big ecnomic news today that can't be overlooked

What with all the other major world catastrophes going on right now, most especially the Japanese earthquake/tsunami/nuclear power plant meltdown, it would be easy enough to overlook a rather small but hugely important article I saw today online:

Home prices falling in most major US cities

Home prices falling in 19 major US cities, with 4 now at lowest level in 11 years 

NEW YORK (AP) -- Home prices are falling in most major U.S. cities, and the average prices in four of them are at their lowest point in 11 years. Analysts expect further prices declines in most cities in the coming months.
Home values in Atlanta, Las Vegas, Detroit and Cleveland are now below January 2000 levels. A majority of the metro areas tracked by the index now have home prices at levels dating back to 2003, just as the housing boom began.
"The housing market recession is not yet over, and none of the statistics are indicating any form of sustained recovery," said David M. Blitzer, chairman of the Index Committee at Standard & Poor's.
As either an economist or just a regular old citizen of this United States, that is big.  
Not finished there, there is also this out today: 

Inflation worries push consumer confidence lower

Soaring gas prices and soured outlook on income push consumer confidence down in March 

My point?

It is not to say "the sky is falling", I can tell you that.

My point is that, as Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman is pointing out more and again, lately, is that now is decidedly not the time to try to cut $61 billion out of the government's spending.  

I'm not all about big spending and we do need to address it and our debt and deficit spending, but to repeat Mr. Krugman, now is decidedly not the time.

I'm concerned that either the Right-wing and Republicans and Conservatives aren't listening and/or don't care because a) they have to cater to the "Tea Party" and extremists in their party so they can be re-elected OR they simply want/need this president and his policies to fail so, again, they can be re-elected.

My biggest concern is that all of those are true.

Japan: Too little, tragically late

From the "far too late" file:

Japan vows to review nuclear safety standards

TOKYO – Japan's government vowed Tuesday to overhaul nuclear safety standards once its radiation-leaking reactor complex is under control, admitting that its safeguards were insufficient to protect the plant against the March 11 tsunami.
Okay, they didn't do this--they didn't have stringent enough "nuclear safety standards" in place and in effect.
Could we take this, as a country--heck, as a world?--and learn from this, now, ahead of time, far before anything remotely close to this ever happens again? 
We need to learn these lessons and we need to learn them now.

Surprise! Yet more bad news from Japan

Or rather, no surprise, sadly:

Japan Finds More Foods Tainted By Radioactive Material

As more radioactive material from the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant finds its way into the environment, Japan's health ministry is compiling a growing list of foods that have been contaminated.



First came reports of tainted milk, spinach and other leafy greens. Then on Sunday, the health ministry released a new list with a total of 99 different products that had tested positive for radioactive iodine-131 and cesium-137 in Tokyo and five other prefectures. Some of those foods might surprise you.


--Wasabi (Japanese horseradish)

--Cucumbers

--Chrysanthemum (Shungiku)

--Mustard greens (Mizuna)

--Green onions

Unfortunately, that's not the only bad news for and from Japan today, either:

Japan in 'Maximum Alert' as It Struggles to Contain Nuclear Crisis

Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan said his government was "in a state of maximum alert" as the crisis at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant continues to spread, with radioactive contamination in the air, soil and water near the plant. Crews used sandbags to prevent radioactive water from the plant from leaking into the Pacific Ocean, and plutonium found in some soil indicates a possible melting of one of the plant's reactors. If a reactor were to completely melt down, massive amounts of radioactive material would be released.

The "ultimate takeaway", for me, from this Japan Fukushima reactor meltdown, due to the earthquake and tsunami?

I bet we learn very little from this multi-level tragedy but end up pressing on, blindly, with nuclear energy.  (With the exception of Germany, who already said they were wisely, singularly, apparently going to bail on the technology).

Wanna' bet?