Archive for the ‘Urban Living’ Category

Last gun shop in San Francisco – and so what?

September 29, 2015

Saw this:

san francisco gun shops

and then I saw this:

san francisco crime rates

Murder rate is 50% higher in San Francisco than in the US as a whole and robbery rates are almost 5 times higher.

Not much of a correlation then.


Now come the German single-malts

February 27, 2011

The Japanese and the Indian distillers have long been whisky manufacturers and all have their own single-malt brands. And even my favourite brand of Scotch single-malt whisky “Isle of Jura” is now owned by Vijay Mallya’s United Breweries Group.

But now German distillers are shifting their sights from schnapps to whisky.

Der Spiegel:

The Germans, it seems, are not content with just making world-famous beer and schnapps. Now they are taking on the Scots at their own game, with a growing number of distillers producing single malt whisky. And the results, say connoisseurs, are impressive.

With its exposed brick walls and floor-to-ceiling windows, the room could pass for the foyer of a boutique hotel — were it not for the gleaming copper still that occupies pride of place along one wall. It is here that master distiller Cornelia Bohn is preparing another batch of malt whisky. Her distillery is not located in the remote Highlands of Scotland, however, but in the tiny village of Schönermark in the eastern German state of Brandenburg, about an hour’s drive from Berlin.

Bohn is one of a growing number of Germans who are applying their considerable brewing and schnapps-making skills to the ancient Scottish art of single malt whisky. And they don’t lack confidence when it comes to taking on the Scots at their own game.

“My whisky will reflect the open spaces and rolling hills of my countryside,” says Bohn, who owns the Preussische Whisky distillery in Schönermark. “It will be a polarizing whisky, and it won’t be everyone’s darling.”

Bohn, who is one of very few female whisky distillers in the world, began studying the art of whisky making in 2006. She got serious about her passion when she bought and renovated a decrepit 160-year old stable in her village and began making whisky. Her first single malt will hit the market at the end of 2012, after the necessary three-year maturation period.

The label on her bottle, whose name translates as “Prussian Whisky,” shows a rearing black horse wearing a Prussian military helmet. The message is clear: This is a proud German whisky that is not trying to emulate its Scottish ancestors.

Bohn belongs to a group of around 40 malt-whisky makers in Germany, the most prominent of which are the Slyrs distillery in Bavaria and the Spreewald Brewery in Brandenburg. The Sloupisti single malt from the Spreewald Brewery was awarded the equivalent of an Oscar by the high priest of whisky, critic Jim Murray. He included it in the “superstar whiskies that give us all a reason to live” section of the 2010 edition of his “Whisky Bible.”

Plus, German malts are not cheap. The Sloupisti single malt retails at €69 euros ($95) for a 0.7 liter (24 ounce) bottle — around €30 more than an average Scotch. The German whiskies’ high prices reflect not only the time and effort required to produce the spirit, but the fact that small production quantities do not allow for economies of scale. Only about 100,000 bottles of malt were produced in Germany in 2010 — a drop in the ocean compared to the industrial quantities produced in Scotland, where a single distillery can make millions of liters of spirit each year.

Although single malt whisky can be made anywhere in the world, only the beverage made in Scotland may be called Scotch. Nevertheless, malts from other countries are becoming increasingly popular. Japan is currently one of the biggest global whisky producers, and critic Jim Murray chose the Amrut Fusion malt from India as the third best whisky in the world in his 2010 “Whisky Bible.”

Prussian whisky distillery. Cornelia Bohn at the whisky distillery in Schönermark. Photo: Patrick Pleul / dpa

From the pharmacy to the distillery

Cornelia Bohn has a weakness for whisky. Now she wants to bring her own brand  on the market. In an old horse stable in the 450-strong village Schönermark (Uckermark) the pharmaceutical engineer has a few days ago opened the “Prussian whisky distillery”

Torsten Roman Brewery of the Spreewald in Brandenburg shows off his Sloupisti single malt whisky which has been praised for its big personality.: photo Torsten Römer


Maryland and Washington begin to sound like Delhi

February 6, 2011

In India, planned blackouts are used commonly for the management of electricity load. Delhi is used to regular black-outs and there is is no likelihood in the near future that the availability and quality of electric power will be sufficient to eliminate this system of load management. There is no office or shopping mall or large home in Delhi which does not plan for this by installing diesel generators as back-up. Smaller households or those which cannot afford generators use inverters which are sufficient for lighting and perhaps a fridge during an outage but cannot supply enough power for long enough for any air-conditioners or any heating. Even when power is available, the voltage variation is so large that virtually all electrical equipment must be protected by voltage stabilisers.

The black-outs in Delhi occur most often at peak times (around breakfast or dinner) and commonly at night during low load when equipment is shut off for maintenance to be carried out. Unplanned outages are apt to occur at any time. It is on summer nights that the sounds of Delhi are drowned by those of generators cutting in to keep air-conditioners running. There is no possibility of sound regulations being implemented to limit this noise and for those who have difficulty to sleep there is no alternative but to sound-proof their bed-rooms or to use ear-plugs.

The quality and reliability and availability of electric power in the more developed countries (Europe, Japan, US) is often quoted as the target for the Indian power generation and distribution system to aspire to.

But it seems that the US grid is now so weak that parts of Maryland and Washington are beginning to sound like Delhi. The Wasington Post reports:


Blackouts 2010 in Maryland and Washington

In Pepco territory, blackouts mean more home generators, more noise complaints

For Arthur Bennett, blackouts now come with a soundtrack.When last month’s “thundersnow” knocked out power in Bennett’s Montgomery County neighborhood, the preindustrial hush inside his house – when even the refrigerator seemed to hold its breath – soon gave way to the two-stroke roar of engines up and down his block.

Bennett, like many residents of Pepco‘s service area in Maryland and the District, has concluded that blackouts are likely to get even louder as the utility’s fed-up customers turn increasingly to backup power. According to retailers and electricians, home generator sales are booming in the area Pepco serves, especially since the company has been plagued by repeated, prolonged outages
over the past few years. Portable generators sold out at several home stores after the latest storm, and installers report that sales of high-end whole-house units have skyrocketed.

Jim Holt of Gaithersburg’s Holt Electrical said his sales of home generators have been climbing steadily and reached a near “level of panic” after the last blackout – mainly on Pepco’s turf. …….

…………. One thing both generator owners and their juiceless neighbors can agree on is the frustration of having to debate this issue at all. “I really think it’s kind of scandalous that in the capital of the world, we’ve got third-world reliability for electric power,” said Larry Posner of Shepherd Park in Northwest.

Read the entire article.

Beijing introduces number plate lottery to cut car sales by 75%

January 16, 2011

Last year 890, 000 cars hit Beijing’s streets contributing to the city’s legendary gridlock and traffic emissions.

Gridlock in Beijing: image

From 1st January this year a lottery for number plates will provide only 20,000 winners each month restricting sales of both new and second-hand cars in the city to 240,000 this year. 210,000 people have applied for the 20,000 licenses available for January. Winners must buy a car within six months. Losers in this month’s lottery will be included in next month’s drawing along with all new applicants.

CRIenglish reports:

Car dealerships in Beijing may opt to shift their focus on boosting sales to neighboring cities after the municipal government imposed an annual quota on new car license plates as part of efforts to ease traffic gridlock in the capital city.

Some car dealerships, especially of domestic brands, are making plans to expand sales to areas outside Beijing where the policy restriction does not apply, the China Business Times reported. The new limit means buyers will favor high-end and luxury types of cars once they obtain the hard-to-get licenses. Domestic brands and small cars, which sell mostly at below 100,000 yuan, will see lower sales in Beijing, the newspaper article said.

The policy stipulates that buyers of secondhand cars must go through the monthly lottery system to obtain a license and sellers of used cars will see their license annulled in a year if they make no new purchases. That puts dealers of both new and used cars to compete in the same arena for the annual 240,000 new car license plates.

The combined factors have driven many companies to stock up cars, including used cars, in preparation for the coming hike in rental businesses. Car dealerships are tapping into this market, putting types of cars idling for sale ready for renting….. Meanwhile, industry experts predict the big automakers will likely adapt by focusing more on smaller cities further inland, the China Daily quoted Zhong Shi, an independent analyst in Beijing as saying.

“The best and most efficient way for automakers to offset the declining sales in Beijing and maybe other first-tier cities in the near future is to shift rapidly their dealer network expansion inland,” said Zhong.

Besides easing traffic jams, the new policy will help address serious air pollution problems in the Chinese capital city. Car emissions account for around 50 percent of the air pollution in Beijing.

Haiti: The UN cholera tragedy continues…..

December 26, 2010

Port-au-Prince, Haiti (CNN) — At least 45 people, most of them voodoo priests, have been lynched in Haiti since the beginning of the cholera epidemic by angry mobs blaming them for the spread of the disease, officials said.

“People who practice voodoo have nothing to do with the cholera epidemic,” said Max Beauvoir, the head of a voodoo organization in the Caribbean country.

Beauvoir said Thursday that he has appealed to authorities to help before the situation gets worse.

Some of the victims were killed with machetes, others were burned alive by mobs that added tires and gasoline to stoke the fires. The cholera outbreak started in October.

Forty of the victims were found in a southwest area of Haiti called Grand Anse, said Moise Fritz Evens, a communications ministry official.

The victims have been targeted because of “misinformation” that had been circulating in the community that voodoo practitioners were spreading cholera by using witchcraft, according to communications Minister Marie-Laurence Lassegue.

“It was necessary to increase awareness of the disease and educate the population countrywide instead of getting into a religious war that has no ending,” Lassegue said.

The killings add to ongoing woes that have hit the island after the devastating earthquake in January. About 220,000 people were killed in the earthquake, and countless others left homeless. A cholera outbreak after the earthquake has killed more than 2,000 people, health officials said.

Before the current outbreak introduced by UN troops, Haiti had not seen cholera for over 100 years.

Rome embassy bombs set by “eco-terrorists”

December 23, 2010

From the Telegraph:

Anarchists are suspected of having launched parcel bomb attacks on the Swiss and Chilean embassies in Rome.

Swiss Embassy Rome: image

The first explosion, which occurred at midday (11amGMT) seriously injured a caretaker at the Swiss embassy. The second, which occurred at around 3pm (2pm GMT), was at the Chilean embassy, also injuring one person. The Rome prosecutor’s office has opened an investigation on suspicion of “an attack with terrorist aims,” ANSA news agency reported

One of the investigators said that one of the main lines of inquiry was on “anarchist circles of the eco-terrorist movement.”

The parcel bomb delivered to the Swiss embassy in Rome exploded in the hands of a mail worker who opened the package. “A device hidden inside a package exploded in the embassy. at midday (1100 GMT),” the Swiss embassy said in a statement. “The postal worker’s hands were injured and he was immediately taken to hospital,” it added. The embassy said there had been no claim of responsibility. The injured man is a 53-year-old Swiss national and he risks the amputation of one or both his hands but his life is not in danger.


Haiti cholera death toll revised up to 2,000, elections this weekend

November 25, 2010

The UN has has released revised information about the cholera outbreak in Haiti. What they are reporting now is what others were reporting already last week:

A baby and other patients suffering from acute diarrhoea lie on the floor of St. Nicholas Hospital in Haiti: photo UN

The number of reported cases of cholera in Haiti is now approaching 50,000, but health experts have cautioned that the figure could be higher because data on the epidemic has not been received from some rural communities, a United Nations relief official said today. Nigel Fisher, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Haiti, said that epidemiologists in the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO) – the regional arm of the World Health Organization (WHO) – estimate that the number of cases could be as high as 70,000.

The experts have said that the disease might have claimed as many as 2,000 people, with some fatalities in remote areas going unreported. Speaking via a video link from the capital, Port-au-Prince, Mr. Fisher told a news conference in New York that PAHO epidemiologists have also revised their projections of the spread of the disease and now anticipate that cases could rise to 200,000 over the next three months. The experts had earlier estimated that the number of cases could rise to that figure in six months.

“This epidemic is moving faster,” Mr. Fisher said.

Meanwhile, general elections will proceed on Sunday as planned, despite the cholera outbreak and the recent streets protests in the country, Edmond Mulet, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), told the same press briefing.

Operational Biosurveillance had reported similar figures last week and now says:

  • In some areas of Haiti, we have confirmation that in-patient statistics are under-reported by as much as 400%. In many areas of Haiti, we are documenting outbreaks that are not being accounted for in the official statistics.  We therefore estimate the upper bound of estimated total (subclinical and clinically apparent) case counts to be nearly 375,000.
  • It is likely the elections will facilitate the spread of the epidemic due to population mixing.

Time to postpone Haitian elections?: UN cholera “unusual, swift and severe”

November 21, 2010


Upplopp i Port-au-Prince under fredagen.

Protests in Port-au-Prince on Friday 19th November: image Svenska Dagbladet

The cholera in Haiti has spread to the prison in Port-au-Prince. Of the 2000 prisoners over 30 have shown signs of infection and 13 have died. The official death toll in Haiti is now over 1200 and the official number of those infected is over 20,000. The actual number infected is probably approaching 100,000.

AFP reports that:

Haiti is facing an “unusual” cholera epidemic that could be more severe than figures suggest, according to a French cholera expert who is advising Haitian health authorities. And determining who is to blame for bringing the disease here won’t help solve the crisis, he added.

The outbreak, which threatens to overwhelm Haiti as it struggles to recover from January’s cataclysmic earthquake, has left nearly 1,200 dead and prompted riots in several cities including the capital as citizens accuse the United Nations of importing the cholera.

But Doctor Gerard Chevallier, who is advising Haiti’s Health Ministry, warned that the country needs to focus on trying to halt the spread of the disease detected in Haiti one month ago.

“The mechanics of the epidemic are unusual, swift and severe,” Chevallier told AFP in an interview. “The whole country is not affected, but the epidemic will spread.” Chevallier noted that in such epidemics, especially in impoverished nations like Haiti, the toll is “under-assessed” and almost always higher than the official figure. “Reports are imperfect. There are areas where people die and nobody knows,” Chevallier said. “Two thirds of the territory is accessible only on foot.”

Chevallier is working with a French team seeking to provide Haitian authorities with tools that allow for a more complete and reliable picture of the epidemic.

To merely ignore or deny the cause of the outbreak because containing it is now the highest priority does not address the emotions in the local population which are running very high. In the local population fear is exacerbated by anger that the UN which is virtually running the country is not owning upto its responsibilities.  After a hundred years without cholera Haiti is now condemned to many decades of having the disease and the UN cannot continue in denial.

It is not the fault of the Nepalese troops who were the carriers of the disease but it is a terrible indictment of sloppy UN processes which allowed them into the country without testing and without adequate precautions.

It is time for the elections due to be held on 28th November to be postponed. Trying to pack people into polling booths while the epidemic is raging seems to be the height of stupidity. AFP also reports that four Haitian presidential candidates have called for postponing elections set for Nov 28 as the country struggles with a cholera epidemic that has claimed nearly 1,200 lives amid protests targeting UN peacekeepers.


Haiti response inadequate and UN Head of Mission seems incompetent

November 20, 2010

The UN after having introduced cholera to Haiti – which will now remain for many decades – is providing an “inadequate response” according to Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) says the BBC.

MSF said that despite the huge aid agency presence in Haiti, urgent needs were not being met. MSF’s chief in Haiti, Stefano Zannini, said the charity had treated more than 16,500 people but that there had been “no real and efficient response from other organisations. This is alarming in the sense that we haven’t reached the peak yet, that might take some time, and so the number of patients might still go up while we still don’t see actions on behalf of other people,” he said.

In a statement, Mr Zannini said more help was urgently needed to treat the sick and implement preventative measures. “There is no time left for meetings and debate – the time for action is now,” he said. Cholera was previously unknown in Haiti, so MSF said much work had to be done to reassure the population, particularly of the low risk and positive benefits of having treatment centres close to areas where people live.

Haiti - Insecurity : The alarmist statements of Edmond Mulet !

Edmond Mulet: image

But the need for this reassurance to the local population is apparently not something understood by Edmond Mulet, the head of MINUSTAH (the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti). He seems to be mainly engaged in justifying the UN deficiencies by blaming the lack of action on “the violent protests by people who blame peacekeepers for the spread of the disease (who) were wasting time and costing lives”.

But local Haitians are incensed by the alarmist posturing of the UN head of mission Edmond Mulet who is accused of not taking action. He is busy blaming everybody else and seems to be incompetent at basic public relations.

Judging by the response to his statements in he is providing little reassurance and only succeeding to alienate the local population. They write

The alarmist statements of Edmond Mulet !

The perpetrators of these “criminals and irresponsible” acts said Mr. Mulet, “prevent the delivery of medical and sanitary assistance to the thousands of patients recently hit by the cholera epidemic, thus condemning to an unquestionable death.”

It is time to stop speaking and start acting Mr. Mulet before it is too late and that violence will spread throughout the country. 12,000 men strong, very well equipped and (with) armored vehicles, what awaits Minustah to release these roads and to restore the order in the zones concerned ? If Minustah’s mission is to maintain peace, she must first begin by eliminating the causes of these disorders, not with dramatic speeches.

If M. Mulet can only respond to the fear of people by blaming them instead of addressing their fear and anger then his competence is in question.

UN cholera and protests against UN reach Port-au-Prince

November 19, 2010
Map of Haiti

Haiti: image via Wikipedia

With its official population of 1 million and its estimated population of perhaps 3.5 million with many in refugee camps, Port-au-Prince is particularly susceptible to a cholera epidemic. The hope of containing the outbreak of UN cholera and preventing it from getting established in the capital are fading as more cases appear. Yesterday the protests against the UN also spread to the capital. So far 3 protesters and over 1100 cholera victims have been killed, directly or indirectly, by the UN. The number of infected is officially said to be over 18,000 but in reality may be as many as 100,000.

The BBC reports:

Protests linked to the outbreak of cholera in Haiti have spread to parts of the capital, Port-au-Prince.

Police fired tear gas as demonstrators set up barricades and threw rocks at United Nations vehicles. On Monday, clashes between residents and UN troops in the north had left two people dead. Some Haitians blame UN peacekeepers from Nepal for bringing cholera to the country – a claim denied by the UN. Sporadic gunfire could be heard on Thursday as protesters took to the streets of Port-au-Prince, which was devastated by a massive earthquake in January.

In its latest update, the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control (CDC) said the course of the disease was “difficult to predict” as it was the first cholera outbreak in Haiti for more than a century.  “The Haitian population has no pre-existing immunity to cholera, and environmental conditions in Haiti are favourable for its continued spread,” it said. The CDC said about 1.3m Haitians remained in camps following the earthquake and the camps’ “ability to provide centrally treated drinking water, adequate sanitation, handwashing facilities, and health care varies”. Just 17% of Haitians had access to adequate sanitation before the quake, the CDC said, adding that the situation had considerably worsened since then. US health experts say Haiti is vulnerable to further outbreaks.

It is thought that the cholera originated from septic tanks at a base for UN peacekeepers from Nepal. While the UN denies this and undercounts the number of cases in a totally misguided public relations exercise, the Swedish sources (Ambassador Claes Hammar and Svenska Dagbladet) are adamant about the UN being the source. Over 80% of people who carry the bacteria show no symptoms and since cholera is endemic in Nepal it is very likely that the troops from Nepal exhibited no symptoms but it is apparent that the UN did not test them to ensure that they were not carriers.

Elections in Haiti are due on November 28th and the UN’s communications “experts” seem to be incompetent. Spinning the truth to under-play the extent of the disease and and to deny responsibility is a fundamental PR mistake.

%d bloggers like this: