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Electricity bills to sky-rocket in France due to higher costs of nuclear plants and financing renewable energy

© Photo: Kadmy - Fotolia.com
Electricity bills are set to rocket 30% from now until 2016 - with a large part of the increase being due to investment in developing renewable energy supplies.

The energy watchdog Commission de Régulation de l'Energie (CRE) has released projections showing that households will bear the brunt of the rise with a 30% increase in the tarif bleu for householders and small businesses, 23.7% for businesses on tarif jaune and 16% for tarif vert businesses.

Efforts to make renewable energy supply 23% of France's needs make up about one-third of the increase with the remainder for the building of new power supply networks and increasing power production. However, a boost could come from wind-power with the sector becoming less reliant on aid and able to contribute to the economy.

EDF chief executive Henri Proglio has said that he is going into negotiations with the government to renegotiate electricity prices and wanted a "reasonable rise in the years to come".


Practice of eating horses ancient but inconsistent

© Christian Hartmann/Reuters
Dining on horsemeat -- hippophagy -- is culturally and historically significant, for good reason.

Everyone who seriously studies French or Italian food on scholarly (gluttonous) research trips eats horsemeat. Most every village in France, particularly the southwest and northern border regions with Belgium, and in Italy, particularly the northeast around Verona and Venice, will have a butcher shop specializing in horsemeat, marked with disconcerting gilded horseheads over the shop windows revealing trays of bright lean red meat. Anyone who visits Eastern Europe, especially the Stans, is likely to be used into a restaurant whose specialty is horse cuisine. It's a rite of passage, like watching a pig slaughter and eating fresh blood pudding right afterward.

So I've had horse tournedos, horse sausage, and horse ragu. Several times. For reasons I'll explain, I wasn't eager to continue this line of exploration. But given the recent storm in the media over tainted burgers and ground beef in Europe and possibly all over Europe, I did look further into why eating horse, a seemingly archaic custom that should have died along with other staples of the paleo diet, has persisted.

First, for catchup on what the discovery of horse DNA implies about food safety and what corrective measures might ensue, see Marion Nestle's chronological links. For a good summary of the media's reaction, see Jack Shafer's column (and the Dish debate it provoked).

Eye 1

Los Angeles hotel where the body of Elisa Lam was found in water tank has 'long, dark history'

Cecil Hotel
© Robyn Beck /AFP/Getty Images
The Cecil Hotel in Los Angeles, which advertises "low monthly rates."
The gruesome discovery this week of a young woman's body inside a rooftop water tank at the Cecil Hotel in Los Angeles is not the Cecil's first brush with such notoriety, as Southern California Public Radio's KPCC reports.

Chris Nichols, associate editor at Los Angeles Magazine, told KPCC about the hotel's "long, dark history."

"There were murders there in the '20s and '30s," he said, "and a woman jumped out a window in the '60s."

"Night Stalker" Richard Ramirez, now on California's death row,was a frequent resident in the 1980s, Nichols said. Back then, KPCC writes, "room rates were as cheap as $14. It's reported that he stayed in a room on the 14th floor while killing 14 people [he was convicted of 13 murders]."

Austrian murderer Jack Unterweger, KPCC adds, also stayed there in the '80s. "He picked up some prostitutes nearby and they ended up dead," Nichols said. The Guardian reminds us that "between 1990 and 1993 Unterweger murdered 11 prostitutes in Vienna, Prague and Los Angeles, strangling them with a self-styled ligature constructed from his victims' bra straps." Unterweger killed himself in an Austrian prison in 1994.

Dollar Gold

Rich get richer with IRS loophole in sunny Bermuda

money bermuda
Billionaire hedge-fund moguls are getting comfortable with a US tax loophole to fatten their already plump bottom lines.

All it takes to avoid tens of millions of dollars in taxes is a short trip to Bermuda - not by them, but their cash.

Hedgies like John Paulson and Steve Cohen are forming reinsurance companies in tax-free havens like Bermuda or the Cayman Islands - and then transferring cash from their funds to the reinsurance companies.

The cash, classified as insurance company reserves, is then transferred back into the funds as reserves to be invested for future claims.

Thanks to an IRS loophole, profits from these insurance companies aren't taxed - until the stake in the fund is sold, and that could be years down the line.

And here's the kicker: The taxes, when paid, are at the lower capital-gains rate and not as ordinary income.

Comment: Google tax dodge: Sheltered revenues in no-tax Bermuda soar to $10 billion


Slavery-math questions cause uproar at New York City school

© Fotolia
A school principal said she's "appalled" by a homework assignment that used scenarios about killing and whipping slaves to teach math.

Adele Schroeter has ordered sensitivity training for the entire staff of Public School 59 in Manhattan following last month's assignment, the Daily News reported Friday.

Che Guevara

Crows attack Russian MPs' cars with stones


The crows had apparently been planning the attacks for some time
In a scene reminiscent of Alfred Hitchcock's thriller The Birds, a murder of crows has stoned several expensive vehicles parked near a regional legislative body in the Russian Urals, prompting internet jokes about possible political motives.

"When leaving the office, I saw a group of drivers of ministers' and deputies' cars who were moving chaotically and swinging their arms," local lawmaker Maksim Ryapasov wrote in his blog.

The drivers told the MP that fuss was caused by crows that were grabbing rocks from the roof of the building and "bombarding" cars with them for several hours.

The MP noted that there is a "stone garden" on the assembly's roof, which was set up under the initiative of the legislature's chairwoman Lyudmila Babushkina. Apparently, it was those stones the crows used as weapons.

As a result of the "bird protest," the windshields of at least three cars were broken.

Comment: Well if the humans won't do something about the corrupt politicians, it looks like the animals will have to do it for them...


Reality Check: Growing national divide over guns and gun control

Alarm Clock

Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, a land of sinkholes: will cost trillions to fix


The outbreak of over 50 sinkholes all over Harrisburg began when this dumpster got stuck in the road...
Grandma's grandma was but a wee lass, and the quickest way to get from here to there had four legs when many of Harrisburg's water and sewer pipes were put in.

It should be no great surprise they're giving up the ghost.

Mayor Linda Thompson said the Cameron Street water main that broke Tuesday night dated back to the late 1800s.

1884 to be exact.

The leak that's believed to have started the massive Fourth Street sinkhole that opened its maw on New Years day appeared to have come from an old clay pipe.

For years, we've taken our aging infrastructure for granted - replacing bits here and there when they failed, but generally avoiding the political backlash that comes with the higher bills required to replace wholesale the increasingly frail systems.

And the older the pipes get, the more often they crack a joint.

According to the EPA, one large water utility in the Midwest went from 250 water main breaks per year to 2,200 per year in just under two decades as the system outgrew its useful life.

There will be more breaks and more sinkholes in Harrisburg.

Comment: The question is, why are sinkholes suddenly opening up all over the place? Burst water mains don't cause outbreaks of sinkholes
all by themselves...


TSA apologizes after picking wheelchair-bound child for security check

screenshot from youtube video by user alschultes
© screenshot from youtube video by user alschultes
Even though she passed through a security checkpoint at Missouri's Lambert-St. Louis International Airport, TSA agents picked a three-year-old girl in a wheelchair for additional screening. The agency is now apologizing for the incident.

Lucy Forck, who was on her way to Disney World, suffers from Spina bifida, a developmental disorder that prevents vertebrae and the spinal cord from fully forming. Lucy's spinal cord is partially exposed as a result.

"They specifically told me that they were singling her out for this special treatment because she's in a wheelchair," Nathan Forck, Lucy's father, told Fox News about the February 8 incident. "They are specifically singling out disabled people for this special scrutiny. It's rather offensive to me as a father of a disabled child."

Lucy's mother took out a video camera to catch the 45-minute incident on film after TSA agents insisted on patting the child down.

"It is against the law for you to record," a TSA agent is heard telling her at one point during the video. However, Nathan, who is a lawyer, knew this was untrue - so his wife continued to film the ordeal.

"You can't do touch my daughter unless I record it," she says in response.


Cardinal who covered up pedophilia says he forgives those who are mad at him

Cardinal Mahony
© latimes.com
The disgraced Cardinal Mahony
Documents from the 1980s have been unearthed which conclusively show Archbishop Roger M. Mahony purposefully and intentionally worked to cover-up the sexual abuses of children. Due to this vile revelation the public has scorned Mahony, to which he says he forgives them for their anger. How generous of him.

Taking to his personal blog to discuss the allegations, and how unprepared he was for the public backlash, Mahony writes:
I am being called to something deeper--to be humiliated, disgraced, and rebuffed by many.
It is Mahony's apparent belief that God wanted him to cover-up the sexual abuses of children so that he could be humiliated in public.