School calendar to reflect growth of Muslim religion in county

The Capitol – By ELISABETH HULETTE, Staff Writer

No tests will be scheduled in the county’s public schools on two Muslim holidays this year: Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha.

Local Muslim leaders have been requesting the change for two years, arguing that students who practice Islam and are granted excused absences on those days shouldn’t have to miss exams.

School officials finally complied in the calendar for next year, acknowledging that it makes sense in light of the growing number of Muslim students.

“We don’t collect information on religions, but we do know, obviously, that the Muslim religion is growing in the western part of the county,” said Teresa Tudor, director of school and family partnerships for county schools. “You can see that when you go to the schools.”

Other religions are also acknowledged in the school calendar, most notably through the Christian holidays of Christmas and Easter, which annually are included in the winter and spring breaks. And about five years ago the schools began closing for two major Jewish holidays: Yom Kippur, the day of atonement, and Rosh Hashana, the Jewish new year.

But no Muslim holidays have appeared on the school calendar – until now.

Eid al-Fitr (Sept. 10) is a celebration at the end of Ramadan, the month of fasting, and Eid al-Adha (Nov. 17) is a day of sacrifice honoring the prophet Abraham, who was willing to sacrifice his son at God’s request. On both, Muslims pray and give to charity.

No tests will be scheduled on either holiday in the schools this year, and no sports games will be scheduled on the previous evenings, since – like the Jewish holidays – both begin at sundown, Tudor said.

The Anne Arundel County Muslim Council has been asking for two years that no tests be scheduled on the two days, said Rudwan Abu-Rumman, the council’s president. The group would have asked for the schools to close, but decided to temper their request to something more reasonable, he said.

One way or another, it’s important for those days to be considered by the district so that Muslim teachers and students feel welcome here, Abu-Rumman said. And it’s particularly important now, because schools here and elsewhere are trying to recruit Arabic language teachers.

“We try to have the community integrated,” he said. “We have a lot of Muslims who have migrated to Anne Arundel County for various reasons, and we want them to feel that they are part of the community by recognizing the religious holiday.”

Statewide, the Maryland Muslim Council also has been pushing for schools to close on the two holidays, said Rizwan Siddiqi, a spokesman for the council, which estimates there are more than 350,000 Muslims in Maryland.

The state Board of Education has been receptive, he said, but the discussion keeps touching on a disagreement within the Muslim community.

The holidays are scheduled on the lunar calendar, and for 1,400 years Muslims looked to the sky to decide whether festivities would occur the next day, Siddiqi said. Now that scientists can predict lunar cycles, some more liberal Muslims would like to schedule the holidays in advance, which would allow them to be marked on school calendars. But more orthodox observers prefer to wait and follow the moon.

“That’s one of the questions we always get from the Board of Education,” Siddiqi said. “If you can nail down two dates it’s very easy to (schedule), but unless we go with the exact schedule for (the) moon, we cannot.”

A small fight also has been brewing in Baltimore County over the two Muslim holidays. According to Charles Herndon, a district spokesman, the schools have long refrained from scheduling tests on the two Eid festivals, but now a Muslim group is asking the schools to close completely.

District officials have been refusing on grounds that the state doesn’t allow days off for religious reasons. For Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashana, on the other hand, they close for secular reasons: So many students and teachers were taking off on those days that instruction was disrupted.

No such disruption has been observed on the Muslim holidays, Herndon said.

For now, Anne Arundel County’s schools have no plans to close for the Muslim holidays. Unlike Baltimore County, Tudor said, no one has been asking them to close. The only changes will be in scheduling tests and athletics. “I would think we would have to have data on larger numbers,” Tudor said. “That gets a little harder, when you’re talking about closing schools.”



Margaret Thatcher’s family are ‘appalled’ at Meryl Streep film

Film about Margaret Thatcher’s life, which is expected to star Meryl Streep, shows the former prime minister as a dementia-sufferer looking back at her life with sadness.

Telegraph – By Tim Walker. Edited by Richard Eden

Although the prospect of Meryl Streep playing Margaret Thatcher may have pleased some admirers of the Conservative former prime minister, her children have been horrified to discover more about the film.

He says Lady Thatcher’s health will be featured, but insists that it will be “treated with appropriate sensitivity”. He adds of the film: “Although fictional, it will be fair and accurate.”

Mandrake hears that the screenplay of The Iron Lady depicts Baroness Thatcher as an elderly dementia-sufferer looking back on her career with sadness. She is shown talking to herself and unaware that her husband, Sir Denis Thatcher, has died.

“Sir Mark and Carol are appalled at what they have learnt about the film,” says a friend of the family. “They think it sounds like some Left-wing fantasy. They feel strongly about it, but will not speak publicly for fear of giving it more publicity.”

Cameron McCracken, the managing director of the film-maker Pathé, confirms: “It is true that the film is set in the recent past and that Baroness Thatcher does look back on both the triumphs and the lows of her extraordinary career.

“It is a film about power and the price that is paid for power. In that sense, it is the story of every person who has ever had to balance their private life with their public career.”



The top 100 books of all time

Full list of the 100 best works of fiction, alphabetically by author, as determined from a vote by 100 noted writers from 54 countries as released by the Norwegian Book Clubs. Don Quixote was named as the top book in history but otherwise no ranking was provided.

Chinua Achebe, Nigeria, (b. 1930), Things Fall Apart
Hans Christian Andersen, Denmark, (1805-1875), Fairy Tales and Stories
Jane Austen, England, (1775-1817), Pride and Prejudice
Honore de Balzac, France, (1799-1850), Old Goriot
Samuel Beckett, Ireland, (1906-1989), Trilogy: Molloy, Malone Dies, The Unnamable
Giovanni Boccaccio, Italy, (1313-1375), Decameron
Jorge Luis Borges, Argentina, (1899-1986), Collected Fictions
Emily Bronte, England, (1818-1848), Wuthering Heights
Albert Camus, France, (1913-1960), The Stranger
Paul Celan, Romania/France, (1920-1970), Poems.
Louis-Ferdinand Celine, France, (1894-1961), Journey to the End of the Night
Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, Spain, (1547-1616), Don Quixote
Geoffrey Chaucer, England, (1340-1400), Canterbury Tales
Anton P Chekhov, Russia, (1860-1904), Selected Stories
Joseph Conrad, England,(1857-1924), Nostromo
Dante Alighieri, Italy, (1265-1321), The Divine Comedy
Charles Dickens, England, (1812-1870), Great Expectations
Denis Diderot, France, (1713-1784), Jacques the Fatalist and His Master
Alfred Doblin, Germany, (1878-1957), Berlin Alexanderplatz
Fyodor M Dostoyevsky, Russia, (1821-1881), Crime and Punishment; The Idiot; The Possessed; The Brothers Karamazov
George Eliot, England, (1819-1880), Middlemarch
Ralph Ellison, United States, (1914-1994), Invisible Man
Euripides, Greece, (c 480-406 BC), Medea
William Faulkner, United States, (1897-1962), Absalom, Absalom; The Sound and the Fury
Gustave Flaubert, France, (1821-1880), Madame Bovary; A Sentimental Education
Federico Garcia Lorca, Spain, (1898-1936), Gypsy Ballads
Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Colombia, (b. 1928), One Hundred Years of Solitude; Love in the Time of Cholera
Gilgamesh, Mesopotamia (c 1800 BC).
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Germany, (1749-1832), Faust
Nikolai Gogol, Russia, (1809-1852), Dead Souls
Gunter Grass, Germany, (b.1927), The Tin Drum
Joao Guimaraes Rosa, Brazil, (1880-1967), The Devil to Pay in the Backlands
Knut Hamsun, Norway, (1859-1952), Hunger.
Ernest Hemingway, United States, (1899-1961), The Old Man and the Sea
Homer, Greece, (c 700 BC), The Iliad and The Odyssey
Henrik Ibsen, Norway (1828-1906), A Doll’s House
The Book of Job, Israel. (600-400 BC).
James Joyce, Ireland, (1882-1941), Ulysses
Franz Kafka, Bohemia, (1883-1924), The Complete Stories; The Trial; The Castle Bohemia
Kalidasa, India, (c. 400), The Recognition of Sakuntala
Yasunari Kawabata, Japan, (1899-1972), The Sound of the Mountain
Nikos Kazantzakis, Greece, (1883-1957), Zorba the Greek
DH Lawrence, England, (1885-1930), Sons and Lovers
Halldor K Laxness, Iceland, (1902-1998), Independent People
Giacomo Leopardi, Italy, (1798-1837), Complete Poems
Doris Lessing, England, (b.1919), The Golden Notebook
Astrid Lindgren, Sweden, (1907-2002), Pippi Longstocking
Lu Xun, China, (1881-1936), Diary of a Madman and Other Stories
Mahabharata, India, (c 500 BC).
Naguib Mahfouz, Egypt, (b. 1911), Children of Gebelawi
Thomas Mann, Germany, (1875-1955), Buddenbrook; The Magic Mountain
Herman Melville, United States, (1819-1891), Moby Dick
Michel de Montaigne, France, (1533-1592), Essays.
Elsa Morante, Italy, (1918-1985), History
Toni Morrison, United States, (b. 1931), Beloved
Shikibu Murasaki, Japan, (N/A), The Tale of Genji Genji
Robert Musil, Austria, (1880-1942), The Man Without Qualities
Vladimir Nabokov, Russia/United States, (1899-1977), Lolita
Njaals Saga, Iceland, (c 1300).
George Orwell, England, (1903-1950), 1984
Ovid, Italy, (c 43 BC), Metamorphoses
Fernando Pessoa, Portugal, (1888-1935), The Book of Disquiet
Edgar Allan Poe, United States, (1809-1849), The Complete Tales
Marcel Proust, France, (1871-1922), Remembrance of Things Past
Francois Rabelais, France, (1495-1553), Gargantua and Pantagruel
Juan Rulfo, Mexico, (1918-1986), Pedro Paramo
Jalal ad-din Rumi, Afghanistan, (1207-1273), Mathnawi
Salman Rushdie, India/Britain, (b. 1947), Midnight’s Children
Sheikh Musharrif ud-din Sadi, Iran, (c 1200-1292), The Orchard
Tayeb Salih, Sudan, (b. 1929), Season of Migration to the North
Jose Saramago, Portugal, (b. 1922), Blindness
William Shakespeare, England, (1564-1616), Hamlet; King Lear; Othello
Sophocles, Greece, (496-406 BC), Oedipus the King
Stendhal, France, (1783-1842), The Red and the Black
Laurence Sterne, Ireland, (1713-1768), The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy
Italo Svevo, Italy, (1861-1928), Confessions of Zeno
Jonathan Swift, Ireland, (1667-1745), Gulliver’s Travels
Leo Tolstoy, Russia, (1828-1910), War and Peace; Anna Karenina; The Death of Ivan Ilyich and Other Stories
Thousand and One Nights, India/Iran/Iraq/Egypt, (700-1500).
Mark Twain, United States, (1835-1910), The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
Valmiki, India, (c 300 BC), Ramayana
Virgil, Italy, (70-19 BC), The Aeneid
Walt Whitman, United States, (1819-1892), Leaves of Grass
Virginia Woolf, England, (1882-1941), Mrs. Dalloway; To the Lighthouse
Marguerite Yourcenar, France, (1903-1987), Memoirs of Hadrian



Erin Andrews: glamorous ESPN reporter sues hotels ‘after stalker filmed her naked’

A glamorous ESPN sports reporter, Erin Andrews, has launched legal action against the Marriot and Radisson Hotel chains after she was secretly videotaped nude by a stalker in their rooms.

Telegraph – By Andrew Hough

The 32 year-old, also a recent finalist on the latest American “Dancing With the Stars” television series, is suing the multi-million pound hotel chains for negligence, emotional distress and invasion of privacy. Her $1.2 million (£784,000) lawsuit follows a series of incidents in 2008, in which Michael David Barrett videotaped her naked through their hotel room peepholes before posting the footage on the internet, where they went viral.

Miss Andrews started with ESPN in 2004, covering the NHL Ice Hockey Stanley Cup Finals before expanding her roles to Major-league baseball and later college sports. Earlier this month she signed a new multi-million pound contract, which will involve her also becoming a regular contributor to “Good Morning America”, the morning breakfast programme on the ABC Television network.

She claims hotel management confirmed to Barrett where Miss Andrews was staying, disclosed her room number without permission and then allowed the stalker to stay in adjacent rooms. According to legal papers tendered last week in the Cook County Circuit Court, Chicago, Barrett, 49, subsequently modified the peephole devices from the hotel doors and secretly videotaped her with his mobile phone.

The divorced father then tried to sell it to TMZ, the celebrity website, who declined. Barrett then posted the footage online himself. In one video Miss Andrews, one of the sports channel’s most high profile reporters, is seen curling her hair naked in front of a mirror. Several TV networks and newspapers aired clips or printed screen grabs from the videos after they went viral online.

In March, Barrett, a former insurance executive, was jailed for two and half years after admitting a series of stalking charges. The Federal Court in Los Angeles was told Barrett, of Westmont, near Chicago, had contacted 14 hotels in total, asking for Miss Andrews’ reservation information. He then rented hotel rooms next to her in three American cities before altering the peepholes so he could see the sports reporter.

The court heard that he filmed her in only two locations, the first in Columbus, Ohio, in February 2008, then again in Nashville, Tennessee, seven months later. He did not film her while she stayed at an airport hotel in Milwaukee. Prosecutors said Barrett posted as many as 10 videos to the internet.

In a statement issued through her lawyers, Miss Andrews, who mainly covers college sports, said she hoped the lawsuit would force the hotels to be more vigilant with their check in procedures. She has said the incident had left a “devastating impact” on her and her family.

“I’ve filed this lawsuit to hold accountable those who put my personal safety at risk, who allowed my privacy to be invaded while I was a guest at their hotel … for actually stalking me and making my most personal moments public,” she said. “Although I’ll never be able to fully erase the impact that this invasion of privacy has had upon me and my family, I do hope that my experience will cause the hospitality industry to be more vigilant in protecting its guests.”

Also named in the suit are seven hotels affiliated with Marriott International and Radisson Hotels International as well the Ohio State University and Summit Hotels & Resorts. She is also suing Barrett for “severe and permanent emotional distress”. The hotel groups declined to comment. Barratt has said he is “penniless”.



Oil runs deep in L.A. history

The Southland is replete with examples of the petroleum industry’s handiwork, and here’s a guide to some of the more notable oil-related sites.

LA Times – By Christopher Reynolds

As those doomed fiberglass mammoths in the bubbling ooze at La Brea Tar Pits attest, oil in Los Angeles is an old story. But how much of that story do you know? Have you seen the Echo Park parking lot where two desperate prospectors dug Southern California’s first oil well? The tiki-tinged oil well islands of Long Beach? The derrick in disguise at Beverly Hills High School?

When you’re awash in dire news about the BP spill in the Gulf of Mexico, it’s easy to forget that Los Angeles is a major petroleum producer. That may be because much of the machinery is disguised by stagecraft, or because Southern California’s last high-volume spill was a side effect of an even larger crisis: In the 1994 Northridge earthquake, an Arco pipeline broke and sent 190,000 gallons of oil into the Santa Clara River in Ventura and Los Angeles counties.

No sightseeing excursion in Los Angeles is far from an oil well or pipeline. As of January, state officials counted 3,071 active oil and gas wells in Los Angeles County, 842 of them offshore. Together, they produce more than 66,000 barrels a day. (In mid-June, government scientists said the BP disaster could be spilling up to 60,000 barrels a day.)

This L.A. petro-tour shines a light on just a few of this area’s derricks and pumpjacks (a.k.a. nodding donkeys), and it draws heavily from “Urban Crude,” an exhibition and daylong tour assembled last year by the Center for Land Use Interpretation in Culver City.

“Most people are vaguely aware of the oil infrastructure around Los Angeles,” said Matthew Coolidge, director of the center. “But to actually get the big picture — a sense of the scale of it — is something most people haven’t done.”

1. We begin at the parking lot of the Echo Park swimming pool (a.k.a. Echo Deep Pool, 1419 Colton St., Los Angeles; [213] 481-2640). There’s no plaque and no other hint I could find of this place’s historic significance. But this parking lot covers the spot where Edward Doheny and Charles Canfield sank the first oil well in Southern California, a 460-foot hole that yielded oil in 1892. The results not only enriched the drillers but also changed Southern California’s landscape forever.

2. For the next chapter in the Doheny story, head 3.8 miles southwest to Mount St. Mary’s College, Doheny campus (10 Chester Place, Los Angeles; [213] 477-2500, http://www.msmc.la.edu. Before Mount St. Mary’s took over, this was the Doheny estate, and the family’s three-story 1899 mansion remains. You can park outside the small campus and walk in. Photography is forbidden without advance permission, and the mansion interior is usually closed, but there are occasional Saturday tours that include the first floor (usually 2 1/2 hours, $25 a person). The next tour dates: Sept. 18 and Dec. 18. Also, gatherings of 10 or more adults can arrange their own group tours. (More info: [213] 477-2962, http://www.dohenymansion.org.) Whether or not you get inside the mansion, be sure to head to the top level of the campus’ Ken Skinner Parking Pavilion. From there, you can look down and see that oil extraction continues. Behind discreet fencing, the 23rd Street oil site on campus has eight wells that together yield about 16,000 barrels a year.

3. La Brea Tar Pits (5801 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles; [323] 934-7243, http://www.tarpits.org), neighbored by grassy fields and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, have been attracting visitors for more than a century. Popularity jumped after a particularly bracing Sunset magazine headline in October 1908 (“Death Trap of the Ages”), and the Hancock family donated the land to the county in 1924. Visitation increased in the 1960s, when the county’s Natural History Museum opened a formal viewing platform at Pit 91 and the fiberglass beasts assumed their positions. In 1977, the Natural History Museum opened its satellite Page Museum at the site.

4. You don’t need to set foot on the campus of Beverly Hills High School (241 S. Moreno Drive, Beverly Hills; [310] 229-3685, http://www.bhhs.bhusd.org) to see its oil derrick. In fact, you shouldn’t. Instead, park nearby or just drive past to check out the derrick, which is clad in flowery slipcovers that serve as soundproofing. For decades, on-campus operations have included more than a dozen wells. For the year ending June 30, interim Assistant Supt. Mary Anne McCabe said, the wells yielded $550,000 for the district. Lawsuits blaming the wells for illnesses among students have been dismissed.

For two more variations on oil extraction in disguise, head east a few blocks to Pico Boulevard and Cardiff Avenue (we’re in the city of Los Angeles now), where machinery is sheathed by a mysterious beige tower that reaches 10 stories above neighboring storefronts and offices. Or head to nearby Pico and South Genessee Avenue, where another drilling operation is hidden inside an ersatz office building. (Peek into the locked building’s atrium and you realize there’s no roof.) Then head south on the 405 Freeway. In Carson, about 25 miles from Beverly Hills, you’ll see an enormous American flag at an industrial site to the south. That’s the BP Carson refinery (1801 E. Sepulveda Blvd., Carson).

5. The next stop, about 30 miles southeast of Beverly Hills, is Signal Hill. This tiny city was carved from Long Beach in 1924, largely because of the discovery of oil. Start with a burger and beer at Curley’s Café (1999 E. Willow Ave., Signal Hill; [562] 424-0018; open for lunch and dinner), a longtime bar and grill that shares its parking lot with a pair of pumpjacks. Inside Curley’s, don’t miss the old oil-field photos and decorative cans of petroleum products.

6. Still in Signal Hill, drive up Skyline Drive to 3.2-acre Hilltop Park (2351 Dawson Ave.). The park is about 365 feet above sea level, in a neighborhood where upscale ranch homes and working pumpjacks dwell cheek by jowl. The scent of petroleum is often in the breeze, the juxtaposition is striking, and the wraparound views are spectacular, especially west to the ocean and north to the Santa Monica Mountains. There’s an interesting mist-producing sculpture up top too. More than 260 wells operate in Signal Hill, which was nicknamed Porcupine Hill in the 1920s because it was dotted with so many derricks. Besides the pumpjacks operating next to private houses, others these days do their work next to Starbucks, McDonalds and recently built upscale houses.

7. Last stop: Long Beach Shoreline Marina. From the end of the jetty, you can see the closest of the four man-made oil well islands known as THUMS. (The name dates to the islands’ creation in the 1960s, when Texaco, Humble, Union, Mobil and Shell oil companies made a joint drilling deal with the city and named the project by combining the first letters of their names. Occidental Petroleum operates them now.) The wells — about 1,100 of them on the four 10-acre islands — sit in 20 to 45 feet of water, reaching down about 5,000 feet. Some people never give them a second look because they’re concealed by 700 palm trees and curvy abstract sculptures and waterfalls. These are Midcentury Modern oil wells, with a touch of tiki thrown in. (By Occidental’s reckoning, it cost $8 million in 1965 to building those oil islands, $4 million to landscape them and $10 million to camouflage them. Total revenue so far: $13 billion.) Arrive at sunset and you may catch the islands’ colored lights glowing under a pink sky.



Paris Metro’s cheaters say solidarity is the ticket

Scofflaws who jump the turnstiles or enter through the exits have formed an insurance fund that pays if they get caught.

LA Times – By Henry Chu

Once more to the barricades! And over them too. The fare dodgers who jump the turnstiles or sneak in through exit barriers on the Paris Metro are practically as much a fixture of the city as the subway itself. Those who get caught without a proper ticket, though, face fines of up to $60. So what’s a poor freeloader to do?

The answer, here in the land that gave the world the motto “All for one, one for all,” is as typically French as it is ingenious: They’ve banded together to set up what are, essentially, scofflaw insurance funds, seasoned with a dollop of revolutionary fervor. For about $8.50 a month, those who join one of these raffish-sounding mutuelles des fraudeurs can rest easy knowing that, if they get busted for refusing to be so bourgeois as to pay to use public transit, the fund will cough up the money for the fine.

It provides a little peace of mind, however ethically dubious, in a time of economic uncertainty. But for many of these fraudeurs, cheating the system and forming a co-op isn’t just about saving money; it’s about striking a blow against a capitalist state that favors the haves over the have-nots. Fare dodgers of the world, unite! “It’s a way to resist together,” declared Gildas, 30, a leader of the mutuelle movement. “We can make solidarity.”

He was speaking late one morning at a small Parisian cafe, where he fortified himself with orange juice but declined to give his last name or other personal details. (“We don’t like this type of questions.”) Free rides on the Metro may not have been exactly what the architects of the French Revolution had in mind when they rose up in the cause of “liberte, egalite, fraternite” more than two centuries ago.

But for Gildas, a rebel whose unshaven cheeks, longish hair and John Lennon glasses seem straight out of French central casting, a straight line can be drawn from the left-wing principles and idealism of the 18th century to the present day.

“There are things in France which are supposed to be free — schools, health. So why not transportation?” he said. “It’s not a question of money…. It’s a political question.” Tres bien. But it’s hard not to bring money into the equation, at least a little bit. It costs about $9 billion a year to maintain and operate the public transit system in the greater Paris region, including trains, subway, trams and buses, said Sebastien Mabille, a spokesman for the transportation union STIF.

If the fraudeurs “want free travel, they’ll have to come up with some sort of solution to find” the $3.9 billion of the budget generated by ticket sales, Mabille said. The fare cheats counter by saying that simply jettisoning everything related to ticket sales and enforcement, the government would save a bundle. Higher taxes for the rich are, of course, a no-brainer. Gildas rides the subway at least three times a day, and avoids payment as “a political act.” Besides, he said, “it’s quite easy.”

Back in 2001 or so, he and a group of fellow travelers, in both the literal and metaphorical senses, formed the Network for the Abolition of Paid Transport, “the beginning of our struggle,” Gildas calls it. The group’s initials in French mimic those of the agency that runs the Metro and buses, and to the agency’s logo, which looks like the outline of a face, abolitionists added a raised fist.

Their shared laments about oppression by official fines inspired about a dozen adherents to set up the first mutual insurance fund a few years ago. Now at least six or seven such funds exist around Paris, some based at universities, others organized by arrondissement, or district.

The original group boasts about 20 to 30 members, people mostly between the ages of 20 and 40, including students, workers and some who are jobless, Gildas said. They meet once a month, most recently in a building on a street named for Voltaire, the philosopher whose writings influenced the revolution, near a bookshop featuring anti-fascist badges and anarchist magazines.

Alas, despite its anti-authority streak, the mutuelle has had to lay down some rules. Dues are collectable each month. Members who get nailed by Metro ticket inspectors are strongly encouraged to pay their fines on the spot if they can, to avoid incurring higher charges. To be reimbursed, a member must appear in person at the group’s monthly meeting.

The mutuelle pays out for two to four fines a month, on average. At each get-together, the fund’s ledger is open for all to see, in pursuit of maximum transparency among this group of dedicated cheaters.

“It’s a system that functions on trust,” Gildas explained, with no hint of irony. Official efforts to stamp out fare evasion, which costs the Metro and bus system an estimated $100 million a year, have proved fruitless. Several dutiful ticket buyers interviewed at a Metro stop in eastern Paris mostly offered a Gallic shrug at the mention of freeloaders’ activities, or even expressions of support.

“I open the door for them,” said Anais Saiagh, 22, a financial analyst who shells out $74 for a monthly pass. Without the pass, it costs $2 for a single journey, with the price set to rise July 1 by about 12 cents. “The Metro is very expensive …and not everyone can buy a ticket,” Saiagh said. Now that the mutuelle seems firmly established, Gildas talks about taking fare-dodging to another level.

One idea is to compile a database of tips for the successful scofflaw: which stations are the easiest to sneak into, which are diligently patrolled by inspectors and therefore to be avoided, so as not to “be injurious to the mutuelle,” Gildas said. That would reinforce the sense of community and mutual support that the insurance fund was founded on. It could also help attract new members, especially those who might now be too timid to become fraudeurs on their own.

Some members were once in that position, Gildas said. But now, feeling strength in numbers, they not only break the law but are bold enough to deliver a political diatribe when caught. “They were frightened by the system,” he said, “but the mutuelle gives them a sense of solidarity.”

With that, the long-haired rebel finished his orange juice, and it was once more into the breach — by public transit, of course, and preferably without paying.





BP’s Deepwater Oil Spill – Taking it Day by Day

The Oil Drum – Posted by Gail the Actuary

Doug Shuttles was the BP representative on this morning’s (Sunday morning) technical update. Mr. Shuttles said that pressure is now at 6,778 psi, and continues to build at one to two psi per hour, and this is encouraging. BP still does not see any problems.

BP now thinks that there is a possibility that the test can continue from now until the well is killed by the relief well, probably in August. But this is not a decision that can be made all at once. Instead, careful monitoring will be continued, and a decision made on a day by day basis. Admiral Allen and government representatives will no doubt be involved in decision making as well.

Mr. Shuttles said that when the cap is left on, this is really continued testing, rather than shutting the well in.

BP is using a number of types of tests to make sure that no hydrocarbons are escaping from the well bore. The types of tests being used include

  • Seismic
  • Sonar
  • Monitoring by NOAA Pieces
  • ROV’s looking for visual and sonar evidence
  • Monitoring temperature at the BOP

Regarding monitoring temperature at the blowout preventer (BOP), they would expect to see the temperature to rise, if any hydrocarbons were escaping. The temperature is at a steady 40 degrees, so this is not showing evidence of any escape.

Yesterday, Kent Wells mentioned that some bubbles had been seen. BP has not yet been able to gather samples of these bubbles, but is working on this effort. If these bubbles were methane, they would expect to see methane hydrates forming, but none have been seen so far. So this would seem to be evidence that the bubbles that have been seen are something else.

Mr. Shuttles indicated that really would like to keep the cap on if conditions permit. If it is necessary to take the cap off, oil can be expected to flow into the gulf for up to three days.

Relief Well 1 is now at 17,864 feet. The next step is casing the well, and that will take about a week. After that, they can start drilling–very slowly–the remaining distance. The well intercept is expected to take place about the end of July, but the kill procedure will take until perhaps mid-August.



end

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