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Archive for August 2009

BMW Vision EfficientDynamics – Wow!

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Click on photo for video – and click on HD!

We were as shocked as anyone when BMW announced it was quitting Formula 1 to devote more resources to developing cleaner, greener automobiles. [Not as shocked as Mario Thyssen, I'll bet!] There was some skepticism, but BMW wasn’t blowing green smoke. It’s serious about building eco-friendlier pavement-peeling cars.

First up is a slick 356-horsepower all-wheel-drive plug-in diesel-hybrid concept that BMW claims accelerates like an M3, sips gas like a Toyota Prius and can go 31 miles on battery power alone. It’s called the Vision Efficientdynamics Concept, and we’ll see it later this month at the Frankfurt auto show…

The EfficientDynamics is a 2+2 four-door hybrid that combines M Series performance with better fuel efficiency and less emissions than you see in many compacts. BMW performs this magic by marrying its ActiveHybrid technology with an extremely economical engine and excellent aerodynamics. The result is a concept car with a top speed governed at 155 mph and a zero-to-62 acceleration time of 4.8 seconds. More impressive, the car gets 62.2 mpg and emits a Prius-like 99 grams of CO2 per kilometer.

RTFA for details and specifications.

Yes, I want one, too.

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Written by Ed Campbell

August 31, 2009 at 10:00 pm

Posted in Culture, Geek, Technology

Tagged with , , , ,

Financial investigators gave squeaky-clean rating to Ponzi scheme

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backgroundchecks

Kroll, the secretive investigations consultancy, is facing embarrassment after giving a clean bill of health to a pair of alleged fraudsters who are accused of running a $248 million Ponzi scheme.

The revelation is a blow for Kroll as the American firm is still reeling from the discovery that one of its top investigators gave a similar endorsement to Sir Allen Stanford, the Texas billionaire accused of orchestrating a $7 billion Ponzi scheme.

In June 2007 Kroll was asked to investigate Barry Tannenbaum, a South African, and Dean Rees on behalf of a New York-based asset management firm that was considering investingplacing a large investment with the pair.

The due diligence investigation found nothing untoward with either Tannenbaum or Rees and is said to have shown both men in a “very positive light”, according to sources.

Since then Tannenbaum and Rees have been accused of running a scheme involving the importation of antiretroviral drugs into South Africa for the treatment of HIV. They are being investigated by South African police…

The finished Kroll report is understood to have been passed on to others, unwittingly pushing even more potential victims into Tannenbaum’s alleged fraud.

Kroll declined to comment on the report…

Electri International, a Maryland based foundation for electrical contractors, is suing Kroll over $6.3 million it placed with Stanford International Bank, Sir Allen’s Antigua-based operation, even though it paid Kroll Associates $15,000 in fees, plus expenses, to conduct due diligence on the bank.

It turned out that one Kroll official was Allen Stanford’s buddy. Not that it would have colored their report. Right?

Written by Ed Campbell

August 31, 2009 at 6:00 pm

A.C.L.U. lawyers dig info out of the government, mine it for truth

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Amrit Singh and Jameel Jaffer

In the spring of 2003, long before Abu Ghraib or secret prisons became part of the American vocabulary, a pair of recently hired lawyers at the American Civil Liberties Union noticed a handful of news reports about allegations of abuse of prisoners in American custody.

The lawyers, Jameel Jaffer and Amrit Singh, wondered: Was there a broader pattern of abuse, and could a Freedom of Information Act request uncover it? Some of their colleagues, more experienced with the frustrations of such document demands, were skeptical. One made a tongue-in-cheek offer of $1 for every page they turned up.

Six years later, the detention document request and subsequent lawsuit are among the most successful in the history of public disclosure, with 130,000 pages of previously secret documents released to date and the prospect of more.

The case has produced revelation after revelation: battles between the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the military over the treatment of detainees at the Guantánamo Bay prison camp; autopsy reports on prisoners who died in custody in Afghanistan and Iraq; the Justice Department’s long-secret memorandums justifying harsh interrogation methods; and day-by-day descriptions of what happened inside the Central Intelligence Agency’s overseas prisons…

But Mr. Aftergood said the case also illustrated how costly litigation was often necessary to unearth documents the government preferred to protect. “The law gives you standing to fight,” he said. “It doesn’t guarantee victory.”

Nor, in reality, does it guarantee the American people an open and trustworthy government. The months and years of stonewalling by the Republican administration and the bureaucrats loyal to obfuscation rather than the Constitution they were sworn to uphold – leave us with only a few lawyers dedicated to the task.

RTFA. Think about it. We’re supposed to be the freedom-loving nation that shines the light for the rest of the world – if you accept the propaganda. Then why should we even need a Freedom Of Information Act – and why do we have to sue our elected officials to wring out the truth of what they do in office?

Written by Ed Campbell

August 31, 2009 at 3:00 pm

If you’re a Brit with a conscience, sign the Turing petition! – UPDATED

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Thousands of people have signed a Downing Street petition calling for a posthumous government apology to World War II code breaker Alan Turing…

In 1952 Turing was prosecuted under the gross indecency act after admitting to a sexual relationship with a man. Two years later he killed himself.

The petition was the idea of computer scientist John Graham-Cumming. He is seeking an apology for the way the young mathematician was treated after his conviction. He has also written to the Queen to ask for a posthumous knighthood to be awarded to the British mathematician.

Alan Turing was given experimental chemical castration as a “treatment” and his security privileges were removed, meaning he could not continue work for the UK Government Communications Headquarters.

This added insult and humiliation ultimately drove him to suicide,” said gay-rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, who also backs the campaign. “With Turing’s death, Britain and the world lost one of its finest intellectual minds. A government apology and posthumous pardon are long overdue.”

No one expects bumbling Brown to follow the thoughtful requests of folk – ranging from geeks to civil libertarians – for an apology. He doesn’t seem to get the quality of humanity that distinguishes genuine political leaders. Still, the petition campaign has managed official status on the Downing Street website and the Blimps can’t avoid seeing what people feel on the issue.

Only British citizens – including ex-pats – can sign on. Another reason I’m pleased at the number of readers this blog has in the U.K..

Hopefully, we can move a few more people of conscience to act. You can sign here.

UPDATE: PM Gordon Brown has apologized on behalf of the British government.

Written by Ed Campbell

August 31, 2009 at 12:00 pm

Japan awakes to the potential of a new era

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Daylife/AP Photo used by permission

Japan’s new prime minister, Yukio Hatoyama, began the delicate task of forming a new government this morning, hours after inflicting a devastating defeat on the ruling Liberal Democratic party [LDP].

The euphoria of the night before, when his Democratic Party of Japan [DPJ] secured 308 out of 480 seats in the lower house, quickly gave way to the business of addressing record unemployment and deflation as Japan struggles to emerge from its worst recession since the second world war.

Questions are already being asked about his government’s ability to end the bureaucracy’s stranglehold on economic policy and to focus on the interests of consumers rather than those of powerful corporations.

Japan’s politicians set the bar for being in the pocket of their Zaibatsu corporations. A standard for corruption our Republicans/Democrats still strive to reach.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Ed Campbell

August 31, 2009 at 9:00 am

Posted in Culture, Politics

Tagged with , , , , ,

Special “Stimulus Program” catches crooks with outstanding warrants

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They flocked by the dozens to the War Memorial Auditorium, lured by promises of fat stimulus checks. What they got was something else entirely.

In total, more than 100 qualified recipients scheduled appointments last week to see officials with the South Florida Stimulus Coalition in the hopes of a quick buck from a company with the slogan, “Helping jump start our economy.”

But instead, they found Fort Lauderdale police officers. And instead of a stimulus check, they were handcuffed and led off to jail.

Police announced the results Thursday of the two-day sting targeting Fort Lauderdale residents with outstanding warrants: 76 arrests of fugitives wanted for offenses ranging from grand theft to fraud to attempted murder…

Sousa said “Operation Show Me The Money” worked like this: Police searched through a Broward Sheriff’s Office list of wanted Fort Lauderdale residents and sent out letters offering a sum of money from the fake organization to those who called a phone line and set up an appointment.

Those who arrived Wednesday and Thursday to collect checked in, took a seat and later were led to a second room after their identities were confirmed. Sousa would not describe exactly what happened from there on, but the appointments ended in police custody for those who had outstanding warrants.

What a delightful idea. Can we try it on Congress?

Written by Ed Campbell

August 31, 2009 at 6:00 am

Former Israeli Prime Minister Olmert indicted for corruption

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Olmert_Bush_Masada
So, you left the envelope under the pillow?

The former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has been indicted in three corruption cases, the attorney general’s office says.

The series of probes was a key factor in Mr Olmert’s resignation last year. The charges relate to the periods when Mr Olmert was mayor of Jerusalem and a cabinet minister, but before he became prime minister in 2006…

The office of Attorney General Menahem Mazuz confirmed in a statement he had decided to press charges and that the charge sheet had been presented on Sunday in Jerusalem district court…

Israelis are split over what this episode tells them about their politicians. Many believe that the political class is the lousiest in Israel’s short history.

Mr Olmert is the first former prime minister in Israeli history to face criminal charges, the office said.

I hope we catch up, soon.

One of the charges against Mr Olmert is that he accepted cash envelopes from US businessman Morris Talansky with sums amounting to hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Mr Olmert admits taking money, but insists the funds were legal donations to help his campaigns for re-election as mayor of Jerusalem and for the leadership of the Likud, his former party.

In the second case, Mr Olmert is accused of duplicating funding for his trips abroad. Police have said they suspect the “considerable sums” that remained after the travel expenses were paid for were transferred by Mr Olmert to a special account his travel agency administered for him.

The third case involves alleged conflict of interest. Officials have alleged Mr Olmert arranged investment opportunities for a friend, Uri Messner, while he was industry minister.

The sort of ally the United States has loved over our years of interfering with the Middle East.

Written by Ed Campbell

August 31, 2009 at 2:00 am

Cheney says He will decide whether he cooperates with probe

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The arrogance of the Bush-Cheney White House continues unabated – at least the Cheney half – even though they were kicked out the door months ago.

Former Vice President Dick Cheney said he might refuse to speak with a prosecutor investigating suspected CIA prisoner abuses, a probe he branded as political and bad for national security…

Asked whether he would talk to prosecutor John Durham if eventually sought out, Cheney told “Fox News Sunday”: “It will depend on the circumstances and what I think their activities are really involved in…”

Cheney said he did not know at the time which methods were used in specific cases but defended the interrogators, saying “the enhanced interrogation techniques were absolutely essential in saving thousands of American lives…”

On Sunday, Republican lawmakers renewed their concerns about the investigation while one of Obama’s key allies sought to distance the president from Holder’s decision…

Prominent Republicans including Senator John McCain, a former presidential candidate and torture survivor during the Vietnam War, said they were concerned about the investigation’s impact on morale at the CIA.

A Washington Post report on Sunday cited former intelligence officials saying CIA morale was sagging.

I’ve said it before. I’ll say it, again. If Christians hadn’t beaten them to it – the Republican Party would have invented hypocrisy for them.

All these creeps who maunder about Law and Order at election time are confident that the Law part doesn’t apply to them. They needn’t obey or answer questions or even consider cooperating with lawful investigations because they are above the law.

Written by Ed Campbell

August 30, 2009 at 10:00 pm

General Motors continues to expand in China

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General Motors has signed up to a $293 million joint venture with the Chinese state-owned carmaker FAW to make light trucks and vans.

The vehicles will initially be sold in China under the FAW brand, but could in future be exported under the GM brand.

They will be produced at existing FAW facilities in the cities of Changchun and Harbin.

GM sold 818,442 vehicles in China in the first six months of 2009, compared with 1,094,561 in the whole of 2008…

“We are well established in passenger vehicles and mini commercial vehicles and we haven’t had a presence in the truck segment.”

Yes, they may show up on the streets of North America, someday soon.

Written by Ed Campbell

August 30, 2009 at 6:00 pm

Posted in Business, Politics

Tagged with , , , , ,

Nitrous Oxide now #1 ozone-depleting emission

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oxide2
Do you think scientists aren’t “Enemies of the State” anymore? :)

Nitrous oxide has now become the largest ozone-depleting substance emitted through human activities, and is expected to remain the largest throughout the 21st century, NOAA scientists say in a new study.

For the first time, this study has evaluated nitrous oxide emissions from human activities in terms of their potential impact on Earth’s ozone layer. As chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), which have been phased out by international agreement, ebb in the atmosphere, nitrous oxide will remain a significant ozone-destroyer, the study found. Today, nitrous oxide emissions from human activities are more than twice as high as the next leading ozone-depleting gas.

Nitrous oxide is emitted from natural sources and as a byproduct of agricultural fertilization and other industrial processes. Calculating the effect on the ozone layer now and in the future, NOAA researchers found that emissions of nitrous oxide from human activities erode the ozone layer and will continue to do so for many decades.

The study…appears online in the journal Science [subscription]…

Though the role of nitrous oxide in ozone depletion has been known for several decades, the new study is the first to explicitly calculate that role using the same measures that have been applied to CFCs, halons and other chlorine- and bromine-containing ozone-depleting substances…

Nitrous oxide is also a greenhouse gas, so reducing its emission from manmade sources would be good for both the ozone layer and climate, the scientists said.

I’ll look around for someone hosting the whole report for free. You may do the same. I’d love to read the details of the study.

Meanwhile, be prepared, of course, for a new wave of “skeptics” who will further display the atrophy of their brains with wit and humor, lies and deceit – over nitrous oxide. Since they never felt CFC’s were a concern either.

Written by Ed Campbell

August 30, 2009 at 3:00 pm

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