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Archive for February 2009

Republican leaders may just gift a 60th Senate seat to Dems

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Already in conflict with his party’s leaders, Sen. Jim Bunning has reportedly said privately that if he is hindered in raising money for his re-election campaign he is ready with a response that would be politically devastating for Senate Republicans: his resignation.

The Kentucky Republican suggested that possible scenario at a campaign fundraiser for him on Capitol Hill earlier this week, according to sources who asked not to be identified because of the politically sensitive nature of Bunning’s remarks.

The implication, they said, was that Bunning would allow Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear, a Democrat, to appoint his replacement — a move that could give Democrats the 60 votes they need to block Republican filibusters in the Senate.

“I would get the last laugh. Don’t forget Kentucky has a Democrat governor,” one of the sources quoted Bunning as saying.

One source said he contacted a Bunning campaign official and warned, “This is going to get out — there were 15 to 20 people who heard this and it’s newsworthy.”

It’s not because he’s old and senile — he’s always been like that.”

Har!

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Written by Ed Campbell

February 28, 2009 at 10:00 pm

Dead fugitive left “unexpected” momento behind

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A desperate federal fugitive who killed himself last week after a Broward County police chase left behind in a suburban Boca Raton home a deadly memento of his troubled life.

Friends mourning George Simonson, a 69-year-old man accused of trying to blow up his Pennsylvania home with timed explosives and gasoline, went Monday to the house he rented and found among his things a pipe bomb.

The friends, whose names were not made public, did not spot the bomb tucked away in Simonson’s belongings, which they planned to send to his family, until they had unwittingly carted it back to their home west of Boca Raton.

After realizing they were handling an explosive, they picked up the phone and, rather than dial 911, called an FBI agent they knew, the sources said.

The agent inspected the pipe bomb and then called local authorities. Palm Beach County firetrucks and the sheriff’s office bomb squad roared onto Black Olive Lane, in the gated Boca Isles West neighborhood near Yamato Road and U.S. 441, about 1:30 p.m.

Neighbors said they watched from a safe distance as a sheriff’s robot hoisted the bomb into an explosion-proof container.

The pipe bomb served as a last frightening reminder of Simonson, who was in the midst of an arson trial in Pike County, Pa., when he disappeared in November, leaving angry written screeds taped to the door of his attorney’s office…

On Wednesday, a Wilton Manors police officer ran the plates on a Mazda Miata on North Federal Highway and realized the driver was Simonson, who pulled over briefly before speeding off, according to a Broward County sheriff’s statement.

Police chased Simonson through six cities before he made a U-turn in Deerfield Beach and shot himself dead.

Five days later, his friends west of Boca Raton went to gather what he had left behind.

Surprise, surprise!

Written by Ed Campbell

February 28, 2009 at 6:00 pm

Posted in Crime, Culture

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DoCoMo halts BlackBerry Bold sales owing to overheating

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The smiles are gone this week
Daylife/AFP/Getty Images

NTT DoCoMo Inc, Japan’s biggest mobile phone operator, said on Friday it has halted sales of Research In Motion’s BlackBerry Bold because the phone can overheat while the battery is being recharged.

The company said it has received no reports of users getting burned or of phones catching on fire.

“This issue appears to be specifically limited to the BlackBerry Bold devices sold in Japan since last week and sales of BlackBerry Bold devices in other countries are unaffected by this matter.”

RIM said it had ruled out a battery problem, but said the root cause is still being investigated.

The latest I’ve seen says they’re overheating at the keyboard. WTF?

Written by Ed Campbell

February 28, 2009 at 4:00 pm

Posted in Business, Geek

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Porn in the U.S.A. or how the Republican base gets off…

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Americans may paint themselves in increasingly bright shades of red and blue, but new research finds one thing that varies little across the nation: the liking for online pornography.

There are some trends to be seen in the data. Those states that do consume the most porn tend to be more conservative and religious than states with lower levels of consumption, the study finds.

“Some of the people who are most outraged turn out to be consumers of the very things they claimed to be outraged by,” Edelman says…

After controlling for differences in broadband internet access between states – online porn tends to be a bandwidth hog – and adjusting for population, he found a relatively small difference between states with the most adult purchases and those with the fewest…

Eight of the top 10 pornography consuming states gave their electoral votes to John McCain in last year’s presidential election – Florida and Hawaii were the exceptions. While six out of the lowest 10 favoured Barack Obama.

Church-goers bought less online porn on Sundays – a 1% increase in a postal code’s religious attendance was associated with a 0.1% drop in subscriptions that day. However, expenditures on other days of the week brought them in line with the rest of the country, Edelman finds.

Residents of 27 states that passed laws banning gay marriages boasted 11% more porn subscribers than states that don’t explicitly restrict gay marriage.

All of which reinforces something the rest of us have always known. Hypocrisy was perfected by conservatives and christians.

Thanks, Justin

Written by Ed Campbell

February 28, 2009 at 2:00 pm

Blood-spattered weapons cache turns out to be 13,000 years old

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This is the only camel we have left in New Mexico

Landscapers excavating for a koi pond in Boulder, Colo., found a cache of blood-spattered weapons and tools, but instead of calling the police, they summoned an archaeologist from the University of Colorado, six blocks from the site.

Douglas B. Bamforth initially thought the stone implements might have been a few hundred years old, but further studies showed that they were left behind about 13,000 years ago, making them one of only two caches of tools from that period known to exist, the university announced. The other cache was found in Washington state.

An analysis by anthropologist Robert Yohe of Cal State Bakersfield showed that the blood came from horses, sheep, bears and a now-extinct camel — the first time a camel’s blood has been found on such a tool…

The find was made in May, but was not announced until the blood was analyzed.

I can’t help but be curious about these goodies. I live across the valley from the southern half of the Caja del Rio mesa. When the original stagecoach road was built out from El Camino Real [Mexico City to Santa Fe], a series of fossilized camel tracks was discovered.

I can just picture those critters wandering through my neighborhood.

Written by Ed Campbell

February 28, 2009 at 12:00 pm

Posted in Earth, Science

Tagged with , , , , ,

Walk this way! 1.5 million-year-old footprints look modern

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The second-oldest human footprints ever found show that mankind’s ancestors walked out of Africa on feet indistinguishable from our own.

The 1.5 million-year-old footprints, found in sediment deposits in northern Kenya, are the oldest identified since Mary Leakey found 3.75 million-year-old tracks preserved in volcanic ash in northern Tanzania. Those prints belonged to Australopithecus afarensis, and provided clear evidence of bipedalism.

Though the short-legged, long-trunked A. Afarensis was able to walk upright, its feet were still apelike, possessing a telltale splayed-out big toe. Because the early fossil record contains no foot bones, scientists didn’t know when modern feet — a defining human characteristic necessary for long-distance running — evolved.

The new footprints, described in Science, apparently belong to Homo erectus. Maker of the first stone tools, H. erectus was also the first hominid to leave Africa, migrating to Asia about two million years ago.

I wonder if the dweebs who believe humankind was magically squirted from a wand waved by some omnipotent deity 6,000 years ago ever read any of this news? It’s striking stuff for me. Paleontology is one of those 17 other careers I wish I had time for.

What do the bible-thumpers research? Are they still stuck on how many angels fit on a pinhead?

Written by Ed Campbell

February 28, 2009 at 10:00 am

Posted in Earth, Science

Tagged with , , , , ,

George Monbiot: Climate change and the semantics of denial

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I was hoping to stage round four of the fight for the prestigious Christopher Booker prize for climate change bullshit this week, after the reigning world champion promised to come out of retirement to defend his title. But sadly David Bellamy, despite his extravagant promises to destroy the competition, hasn’t yet weighed in, so we’ll have to hold on for another tantalising week.

I hope he doesn’t chicken out. He could be the only person who can now secure this beautiful trophy for the United Kingdom against the Michigan Mauler, John Tomlinson.

In the meantime, I want to take issue with a comment by my colleague James Randerson. In his excellent blog this week about our dear friend from the Sunday Telegraph James said the following:

I have always disliked the phrase “climate change denier”. Global warming will have extremely serious consequences for people around the world, but making the link with the 20th century’s most colossal work of industrial-scale evil – the Holocaust – plays into the hands of those who want to convince the waverers that this is purely a political argument.

James’s comment is already causing a measure of delight among – ahem – the climate change deniers. That’s hardly surprising: they have spent the past few years furiously denying that they are deniers, using the argument that James has adopted…

Whether we’re talking about people who are paid to deny that climate change is happening, or those who use the materials these flacks produce, denial is a precise and concise description of what they do. Their attempt to wriggle out of it by insisting that – by calling them what they are – we are somehow debasing the Holocaust is as contrived as all the other positions they take. We shouldn’t fall for it.

I agree with Monbiot more often than not. 99% agreement on this topic.

Since part of my life as blogger and contributing editor is as skeptic – politics, junk science, religious tomfoolery, etc. – I resent the way the Killer Klown Brigade have captured that word. Sophistry is not skepticism. And skepticism about science without scientific answers is generally hypocrisy.

Written by Ed Campbell

February 28, 2009 at 8:00 am

Couple offered to swap bird and cash for kids

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Donna Louise Greenwell – scary or what?
Daylife/AP Photo

Police in Louisiana said three people have been arrested after they allegedly planned to trade $175 cash and a $1,500 cockatoo for two children.

Brandy Romero, 27, and Paul Romero, 46, were each charged with one count of aggravated kidnapping after they allegedly agreed to give up the money and the bird in exchange for a 4-year-old girl and a 5-year-old boy, the (Opelousas, La.) Daily World reported.

The Romeros were each released after posting $95,000 bond.

Donna Louise Greenwell, 51, was charged with kidnapping and was being held in lieu of $100,000 bond in the Evangeline Parish Jail. Police said the children had been living with Greenwell for about a year, but she is not their biological mother.

She (Greenwell) is a convicted pedophile. This case could have wider implications,” Fontenot said.

What is there to say? These people are demented and disgusting.

Written by Ed Campbell

February 28, 2009 at 6:00 am

Posted in Crime

Tagged with , , , ,

Stringer axes Ryoji Chubachi – declares himself Emperor of Sony

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Stringer in front as his predecessor fades into the background
Daylife/Getty Images

Sony chief executive Sir Howard Stringer has won a decisive battle in his quest to rebuild Sony as a global consumer electronics superpower with the announcement that he will replace the firm’s president, Ryoji Chubachi.

The surprise move, which leaves Stringer firmly in control as Sony braces itself for its first operating loss for 14 years, mirrors executive shake-ups at other major corporations hit hard by the collapse in global demand for cars and consumer electronics.

Stringer, the 67-year-old Welshman who already holds the positions of chief executive and chairman, said the reorganisation “is designed to transform Sony into a more innovative, integrated and agile global company with its next generation of leadership firmly in place”.

Today’s shake-up will consolidate Stringer’s position as the firm attempts to ride out the financial storm…

Stringer announced the creation of two new business groups, headed by younger executives, to break down the “silos” that have prevented full integration of the company’s hardware and software, and to devise “cool new products” that will appeal to digital-savvy young people around the world.

“Silo” is one of those magic new critical terms guaranteed to make bankers happy.

The “epoch” of Stringer’s rule has seen R&D closed down and many of the bright designers and engineers who could devise “cool new products” looking for jobs in competing firms.

Written by Ed Campbell

February 28, 2009 at 2:00 am

A standoff over knockoffs in China’s Silk Street Market

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Vendors protest at law firm offices
Daylife/Reuters Pictures

Any tourist who has stepped foot in this city’s famous Silk Street Market can testify that it is home to some of the wiliest, most tenacious vendors who ever tried to pawn off a fake handbag on a naïve foreigner.

So when the market managers temporarily shut down 29 stalls this month for selling counterfeit goods, no one expected the merchants to quietly acquiesce to the loss of business. “We expected trouble,” said Zhao Tianying, a legal consultant with IntellecPro, a Beijing intellectual property firm representing five foreign luxury-brand manufacturers who sued the market for trademark violations. “But we never imagined this.”

The vendors have responded with the same ferocity with which they nail down a sale. Dozens of them have staged noisy weekly protests at the law firm, mocking the lawyers as bourgeois pawns of foreigners. They have confronted witnesses who had provided evidence of trademark violations and filed their own countersuit, claiming only the government can shutter a business…

China’s government has pledged to crack down and faces increasing pressure to show progress. But some doubt much will change until China graduates from manufacturing goods to designing them and has more to lose than to gain.

The Silk Street Market case suggests that change is slow and painful.

RTFA. China faces many obstacles in the path to a complete modern economy. This is but one step.

Written by Ed Campbell

February 27, 2009 at 10:00 pm

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