Warren Ellis wrote the following in December 2006, gods bless him:

Since writing this, I have received a note which read in part, “Barak [sic] Obama will not run for Prez. To suggest so means one doesn’t have an understanding of the racial politics in America.” To which I replied, I’m not sure if anyone’s told Obama that yet.

Warren Ellis » Snakepit 2008.

Is it a double win? In Tuesday’s live text, we mentioned that two American bison – named John and Barack – were engaged in a popularity contest among staff at the UK’s Whipsnade zoo. Well, the law of the jungle – or is that the prairie? – dictated that only one beast could succeed. A zoo spokeswoman says: “Barack won hoofs down, thanks to his friendly personality and hairy good looks. He is currently munching on his carrot, triumphantly, while John watches from the sidelines. Keepers have commiserated with him and he’s had some hay to compensate.” A bitter taste indeed, one imagines.

BBC NEWS | World | Americas | Live text: US election 2008.

The UK’s Whipsnade Zoo solemnly informs the BBC that two American bison – named Barack and John – are involved in a tightly fought popularity contest, to be judged by staff. The winner receives a carrot. Surely it beats the sort of crunch their human counterparts are going to have to deal with.

BBC NEWS | World | Americas | Live Text: US election day 2008.

I always end up scrabbling around for actual numbers whenever talking about the National DNA Database so, in light of , I’m compiling a summary:

  • Number of records: 4 million (; 05/09/07) or 3,785,571 at 31/03/06 ( p29; 05/09/07)
  • Percentage of population: 5-6%, higher than any other country (Derived from above; 05/09/07). The official figure is 5.2% (; 05/09/07)
  • Percentage of US population on their DNA database: 0.5% (; 05/09/07)
  • Age: 12 Years (; 05/09/07)
  • Monthly growth: 30,000 (; 05/09/07)
  • Number profiles of unconvicted 10-17 year olds: 24,000 (; 05/09/07)
  • Official stance on children on the database: Under 18s make up 23% of all arrests, and so a comparative proportion of profiles is to be expected. There are no legal powers to take a DNA sample from anyone under ten without the consent of a parent or legal guardian. (Source; 05/09/07)
  • Number of crimes solved per year using DNA database: 20,000 (; 05/09/07). The official figure is 45,000 crimes in 2005 & 2006 (; 05/09/07)
  • DNA profiles deleted in 2005: 21,661 (; 20/06/07).
  • DNA profiles deleted in 2006: 8,860 (; 20/06/07)
  • Cost: £300 million over last five years (; 05/09/07)
  • Gender split: 80.26% Men, 18.72% Women and 1.02% Unknown ( p32; 05/09/07)
  • Percentage of database by ethnicity (men): 76% White European, 9% Unknown (41% of which is collected in Scotland which does not track this data), 7% Afro-Caribbean, 5% Asian, 2% Dark-skinned European, 1% Arab ( p34; 05/09/07)
  • Percentage of population with a DNA record: 40% of Black population has DNA record, 13% of Asian population and 9% of White population, and (; 05/09/07)
  • Number of replicated profiles: 646,890 or 16% (Source; 03/12/07)

I’m sure there’ll be more as I find them…

Updated 4/12/07: Replicated profiles

I was reading an article about the continuing , when I encountered this paragraph:

Among the miles and miles of devastated houses, rubble still there today in New Orleans, we found dry, beautiful homes. But their residents were told by guys dressed like Ninjas wearing “Blackwater” badges: “Try to go into your home and we’ll arrest you.”

And it was then that I realised that I’ve been hearing about and their activities far too much recently for me to be totally comfortable about it. Their Wikipedia article describes them as:

a private military company and security firm. Founded in 1997 by Erik Prince and Al Clark, it is based in North Carolina. The company markets itself as being “The most comprehensive professional military, law enforcement, security, peacekeeping, and stability operations company in the world”.

It seems their remit is wide and their operations diverse, from private security contracts, police training to operations in Iraq. It would seem that private military company is a non-too subtle way of saying “mercenaries”. Such companies have always existed, but it’s more concerning how often these people pop up in the employ of the US government.

And, as a final note, what exactly are “stability operations” and why do they sound suspiciously like the kind of stuff the CIA used to do to prop up regimes in the Developing World.

Well my mum is currently staying with us, until she departs tomorrow. It’s been great to have her over, see the place and actually spend a little time with Penny but it’s been pretty draining. We managed to see the exhibition at the V&A too, which was good.

The Government, as part of it’s , has launched an site. The pro-hunt crowd have jumped on this whole-heartedly and have the most signatories so far. In second place we have the ID cards petition.

Now I’m not exactly holding out my hopes here, since I’ve never had much faith in petitions for a start and I would actually venture that online petitions have even less weight as it’s so easy to organise an internet campaign. See, for example, the pro-hunting and their 7000 odd signatories. But what the hell, I’m sure the anti-ID card group can manage more than 2190, surely?

So today our American cousins go to the polls for their to decide the balance of power of Congress. Let’s be clear here:
a) It won’t shift very far and b) both sides have already got their scapegoats should they fail to win/retain the majority.

Should the Democrats (or “traitors” according to right-wing mudslinger Ann Coulter) lose they will blame (a survey by Gallup last month showed that only one in four Americans is “very confident” his or her vote will be accurately counted) or the fact that that, by sheer coincidence, the announcement about was made so close to the election.

Should the Grand Old Party (or “corrupt corporate lackeys” according to left-wing mudslinger Michael Moore) lose, they will most likely start by turning on before turning around and blaming the general lack of patriotism.

Whichever way the result goes, expect a huge two year battle for the presidency to kick off by about Monday morning. And it’s going to be an ugly one. There’ll be blood in the water before the primaries.