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Archive for June 2010

Man jailed for posing as deputy to get free rent

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San Antonio — Bexar County authorities Monday night arrested a man accused of posing as a sheriff’s deputy in order to live for free at a Northeast Side apartment.

Joe Luis Gonzales, 46, was being held without bail in Bexar County Jail on one count of impersonating a public servant and another of contempt of court for failing to pay child support.

Authorities said Gonzales filled out an application March 6 for a courtesy officer position and signed a lease to live rent-free at the Artisan at Salado Falls Apartments in the 3700 block of Binz-Engleman Road. It’s a common practice for deputies and officers to pay subsidized rent or none at all in exchange for performing security duties, according to authorities.

Gonzales wore a sheriff’s office uniform, carried a gun and had a deputy’s badge when he applied for the apartment, according to an arrest warrant affidavit…

Deputy Chief Dale Bennett said it didn’t appear the apartment complex called the county to confirm Gonzales’ employment. Recently, a resident attempted to file a complaint against him with Bexar County, Bennett said.

We realized that this guy’s not an employee of ours,” he said.

Not a bad deal for coppers in South Texas. As long as someone checks to see if they’re real.

Har.

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Written by Ed Campbell

June 30, 2010 at 10:00 pm

The Afghan women jailed for having bad character

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We are sitting in Badam Bagh, or Almond Garden, Afghanistan’s only prison for women in the capital Kabul.

The prison is a window on a world where, outside these walls, women are constantly judged against a standard that makes many of their stories difficult to fathom.

Sixteen-year-old Sabera, with a pretty yellow head scarf, frets that she is missing school.

“I was about to get engaged, and the boy came to ask me himself, before sending his parents. A lady in our neighbourhood saw us, and called the police,” she explains.

She was sentenced to three years but, in an act of mercy, it was shortened to 18 months.

Fellow inmate Aziza was accused of running away from her husband. She says she was acquitted two months ago, but still languishes in prison.

A senior official in Afghanistan’s Ministry for Women’s Affairs told a recent UN workshop that about half of Afghanistan’s 476 women prisoners were detained for “moral crimes”. That includes everything from running away from home, refusing to marry, marrying without their family’s wishes, and “attempted adultery”.

In many cases women run away because they can’t bear the domestic violence and then they are picked up and taken into custody for a long time,” explains Nader Nadery, a commissioner at Afghanistan’s Independent Human Rights Commission…

About 40 young children also share their mother’s fate, living in Badam Bagh…

Prison authorities say children are taken away to a boarding school after the age of five.

Regular readers know I generally support other nations’ independence from the rule of Western ideology and so-called morality. We usually can figure out how to be as corrupt and inhuman as anyone else on the planet – given the opportunity.

I also have a measure of confidence in commerce being likely to move reactionary nations forward to some better place on the planet. If people can learn to deal with each other in the course of making a living – we might be less likely to kill each other.

But, that friendly support for commercial interchange doesn’t mean avoiding criticism of folkways and mores, the delightful tidbits of stupidity and anti-human behavior left dangling from many religions, many cultures, like political dingleballs. My old business acquaintances in China, Taiwan, Japan, Iran, Philippines and on and on – would know exactly what I mean.

Treating women as chattel is over, folks. Lose the stupid hangups!

Written by Ed Campbell

June 30, 2010 at 6:00 pm

Gene leads to longer shelf life for tomatoes – and more

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A Purdue University researcher has found a sort of fountain of youth for tomatoes that extends their shelf life by about a week.

Avtar Handa, a professor of horticulture, found that adding a yeast gene increases production of a compound that slows aging and delays microbial decay in tomatoes. Handa said the results…likely would transfer to most fruits.

“We can inhibit the aging of plants and extend the shelf life of fruits by an additional week for tomatoes,” Handa said. “This is basic fundamental knowledge that can be applied to other fruits.”

The organic compound spermidine is a polyamine and is found in all living cells. Polyamines’ functions aren’t yet fully understood. Handa and Autar Mattoo, a research plant physiologist…and collaborator in the research, had shown earlier that polyamines such as spermidine and spermine enhance nutritional and processing quality of tomato fruits.

“At least a few hundred genes are influenced by polyamines, maybe more,” Mattoo said. “We see that spermidine is important in reducing aging. It will be interesting to discover what other roles it can have.”

Savithri Nambeesan, who was a graduate student in Handa’s laboratory, introduced the yeast spermidine synthase gene, which led to increased production of spermidine in the tomatoes. Fully ripe tomatoes from those plants lasted about eight days longer before showing signs of shriveling compared with non-transgenic plants. Decay and rot symptoms associated with fungi were delayed by about three days…

“Shelf life is a major problem for any produce in the world, especially in countries such as in Southeast Asia and Africa that cannot afford controlled-environment storage,” Mattoo said.

Maybe this is what’s keeping Ozzie on stage so long?

More to the point, there are a couple of ways to go about extending knowledge gained from this research. Gene splicing – or what was the modern route of testing cultivars containing some greater amounts of Spermidine. The latter is now “traditional” – mostly to appease those who fall apart over suggestions that modifying DNA can produce anything other than Frankenfood.

When they start growing and consuming only heritage varieties of everything from eggplant to cows, send me a penny postcard. Maybe throw in growing their own flax and weaving linen underwear, too.

Fundamentalists with 14th Century minds feared Burpee’s hybridization techniques when they came along. Feared the same disasters – cripes, even made the same monster movies to hustle those fears.

Written by Ed Campbell

June 30, 2010 at 3:00 pm

Parking lot attendants training to fight terror

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The next time you pull into a parking garage and the attendant gives you the once-over, he or she may be taking note of more than just the shiny rear spoiler on your new car. As part of a new government initiative, parking lot attendants and other transportation workers are being trained as the next line of defense in the fight against terrorism.

The First Observer program was introduced to parking lot professionals at a Las Vegas, Nevada, convention in May, days after a vendor in New York’s Times Square spotted a suspicious vehicle and helped thwart what could have been a deadly terrorist attack…

“No matter how banal it seems, if something seems different to you or suspicious, we want you to report it,” said Jeff Beatty, a former CIA and FBI agent.

And our government will tell you what is suspicious!

Beatty led the First Observer program’s pilot training session Monday in Atlanta, Georgia. He and a team of Transportation Security Administration officials trained some 60 parking lot officials and representatives on how to spot suspicious vehicles carrying hazardous materials or other activity that may signal the planning phases of a terrorist attack…

The training is part of a $15.5 million program funded by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and administered by the Transportation Security Administration…

“We like who you are as parking lot professionals. We want you to ‘observe, assess and report.’ “

Har!

Any innocent act can be deemed suspicious in the eyes of a bureaucrat governed by fear. Fear of terrorists, fear of people who look different, fear of people whose thinking doesn’t fall into official pattern recognition.

Our federal government is incapable of understanding the difference between neighbors keeping an eye on things next door when the family is away for a picnic – and spying on a garage band that dresses funny. That’s not especially new. Governments seem to have that problem forever.

What stinks is when paranoia becomes institutionalized. When peering under your bed at night becomes part of education, law and policing.

Written by Ed Campbell

June 30, 2010 at 12:00 pm

Is it your cell phone that’s killing bees?

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A new study has suggested that cell phone radiation may be contributing to declines in bee populations in some areas of the world.

Bee populations dropped 17 percent in the UK last year, according to the British Bee Association, and nearly 30 percent in the United States says the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Parasitic mites called varroa, agricultural pesticides and the effects of climate change have all been implicated in what has been dubbed “colony collapse disorder” (CCD). But researchers in India believe cell phones could also be to blame for some of the losses.

In a study at Panjab University in Chandigarh, northern India, researchers fitted cell phones to a hive and powered them up for two fifteen-minute periods each day. After three months, they found the bees stopped producing honey, egg production by the queen bee halved, and the size of the hive dramatically reduced…

But the UK’s Mobile Operators Association — which represents the UK’s five mobile network operators — told CNN: “Research scientists have already considered possible factors involved in CCD and have identified the areas for research into the causes of CCD which do not include exposure to radio waves.”

Norman Carreck, Scientific director of the International Bee research Association at the UK’s University of Sussex says it’s still not clear how much radio waves affect bees.

“We know they are sensitive to magnetic fields. What we don’t know is what use they actually make of them. And no one has yet demonstrated that honey bees use the earth’s magnetic field when navigating,” Carreck said.

An interesting question or two are raised by the study: If correct, would people stop using cellphones? Or would lobbying be next to change the frequencies to something less lethal? A question raised in the article.

Poisonally, I think it’s a lousy experiment. It’s like the studies done every decade or so “proving” that consuming an excess of water can “poison” you. An excess of anything can kill you. It’s all proportionate.

I set up camp one night after dark – after hiking the day along the beaches out at the easternmost tip of Long Island, New York.

I was dismayed the next morning to see I’d been sleeping directly in front of an enormous military radar antenna beaming out into the Atlantic defending American from invaders of one or another flavor. I was lucky I didn’t glow in the dark.

Written by Ed Campbell

June 30, 2010 at 9:00 am

Grayheads watch more TV than younger people – enjoy it less

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ESPN plans on the World Cup starting the spin for 3D TV

We usually scold our children and teenagers for watching too much TV. It turns out that their grandmas and grandpas spend even more of their time watching TV, and it is not good for them either, according to researchers…

In a study published online in advance of publication…UCSD researchers examined television use in a large, nationally representative sample that was collected by the Center for Health and Well Being at Princeton University. Using an innovative, diary-like assessment strategy called the Day Reconstruction Method, study participants were asked to measure how they spent their time and describe their experience of everyday activities.

“We found that older people spent a great deal more time watching TV than younger people did, yet they enjoyed the experience less,” said first author Colin A. Depp, PhD…“What the study underscored is that alternatives to television as entertainment are needed, especially in older adults…”

The authors were surprised to find that older adults experienced TV watching as less enjoyable than younger people. “It is reasonable to expect that older adults may enjoy TV more than younger ones do, because they have fewer demands on their time. Prior studies also suggest they may use TV to regulate negative emotions,” said co-author Dilip V, Jeste, MD…

“Yet, our study indicates that older adults report lower levels of positive emotion while watching TV when compared to other activities – which is not the case in younger adults.”

The researchers concluded that increasing public awareness of alternatives to TV watching and reducing barriers to alternative activities that are more socially and physically engaging could reduce TV use in older people and diminish the potential for associated negative health effects.

I fit the profile for more TV watching since I retired. The extra is sports and movies.

Accessibility to movies has increased with the addition of high definition quality. My favorite sport – proper football – has three channels dedicated to the task on DirecTV with ESPN adding more every season.

I think I balance much of the viewing time with dedicated walking, tightly scheduled exercise. I try.

My first reaction to the article only concerned the paucity of content for a proper news junkie like me. Since CNN disappeared into the maw of Time-Warner, there is damned little of interest or accuracy or need to watch TV news. DirecTV and their peers still lack the courage to open viewership to worldly sources like BBC World or AlJazeera English.

Do I enjoy it less? Well, it pisses me off more. The content that is.

Written by Ed Campbell

June 30, 2010 at 6:00 am

Google negotiates rerouting in their China conflict

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Daylife/Reuters Pictures used by permission

Google is tweaking its China website in a last-ditch effort to save its search business in the world’s largest Internet market after butting heads with Beijing over Web censorship.

The google.cn search site will stop automatically redirecting users to Google’s uncensored search portal in Hong Kong — instead, visitors will be required to click a link to access the Hong Kong site…

“It’s clear from conversations we have had with Chinese government officials that they find the redirect unacceptable, and that if we continue redirecting users, our Internet Content Provider license will not be renewed,” Google Chief Legal Officer David Drummond wrote on the company’s corporate blog.

“Without an ICP license, we can’t operate a commercial website like Google.cn so Google would effectively go dark in China,” he wrote…

The website tweak is Google’s latest attempt to strike a delicate balance between standing up to China’s policy of Internet censorship while maintaining a presence in a market considered key to its future growth…

Google, which battles Baidu for China’s 380 million Internet users, said in January it might quit the country over censorship and after it was hit by a hacking attack that it said came from within China.

But after keeping its promise to end self-censorship by automatically rerouting users to its Hong Kong site, Google now seems reluctant to abandon the Chinese market entirely…

China’s foreign ministry on Tuesday declined to comment on Google’s decision to end automatic rerouting, but Drummond said he hoped it would be acceptable to the Chinese government…

I don’t recall all of the chronology; but, I recall an interview on Chinese TV with one of the founders of Baidu. He’d been involved with folks from Yahoo and borrowed start-up money from them. When he went to pay it back – I believe it was a million dollars – he offered them cash or stock in Baidu. They took the cash.

About right for Yahoo.

Disclaimer: I own enough BIDU to get a couple of good Chinese meals if I sell it.

Written by Ed Campbell

June 30, 2010 at 2:00 am

Darwin Award – Ukrainian style

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Three members of a Ukrainian family have died from carbon monoxide poisoning after an attempt to exterminate rats in their basement using a car’s exhaust fumes.

A couple in their 70s and their granddaughter died in the incident, while another granddaughter is said to have been lucky to survive, Pravda reports.

The three were found dead in the basement of their home in Dnepropetrovsk, on the Dnieper River in the east of the country. It transpired that the grandfather, 71, had attached a hosepipe to his ZAZ Zaporozhets car’s exhaust pipe and put the other end through the window of the family basement, and started the engine.

After retiring upstairs for some time, he came downstairs to see whether any rats had died. However, the concentration of carbon monoxide in the basement’s atmosphere caused him to lose consciousness.

When he failed to return, his wife, 77, followed him to see what had happened, and also fainted. The same later happened with their 29-year-old granddaughter.

The three bodies were found when a second granddaughter went to investigate. Authorities said she was herself lucky to survive.

I suppose the only one who deserves – and gets – the Darwin award is grampa. Does he get extra credit for taking out a couple of innocent bystanders?

Written by Ed Campbell

June 29, 2010 at 10:00 pm

Oil broker banned for drunk trading binge

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Britain’s financial regulator has fined and banned a former broker for manipulating oil prices by buying more than 7 million barrels while on a drinking binge.

The Financial Services Authority (FSA) said it fined Steven Perkins, a former employee of PVM Oil Futures Ltd, $108,000 and banned him from working in financial services for at least five years for carrying out trades without the authority of clients or his employer.

The FSA said Perkins bought huge volumes of Brent crude oil

in the early hours of the morning on June 30, 2009 after drinking heavily for several days and then lied repeatedly to his employer to cover up his actions…

The trades landed PVM with a loss of $10 million last summer. The company is the world’s largest independent oil broker, executing trades on behalf of clients but not carrying out trading for its own account…

Perkins’ unauthorized trading pushed the price of Brent crude oil futures up to almost $73.50 a barrel — at that point the highest level prices had hit on the InterContinental Exchange in 2009.

In the days leading up to the trades, Perkins had been drinking heavily at a company golf weekend and had carried on drinking on the Monday afternoon, the FSA said…

The ruling marks only the second action by the FSA against market abuse in commodities in London…

“I suspect they’re trying to seem tough, to look like they’re doing something,” one broker said. “I remain unconvinced they truly understand commodity markets or can get to grips with them.”

What do you think the odds might be, say, of the SEC walking into the NYSE some Monday morning and having traders pee in a cup – to check for cocaine?

Har!

Written by Ed Campbell

June 29, 2010 at 6:00 pm

New Australian prime minister is an atheist

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Daylife/Getty Images used by permission

Julia Gillard, the new Australian prime minister, has said that she does not believe in God, but has “great respect for religion”.

Why? Hasn’t served much of a purpose since the Stone Age.

Ms Gillard, who replaced Kevin Rudd as leader of the country in a dramatic political coup last week, said she had been brought up in a Baptist family, but had “made decisions in my adult life about my own views”.

I’m not going to pretend a faith I don’t feel,” she said. Ms Gillard’s views on religion are in stark contrast to those of Mr Rudd, who was a regular at Canberra church services, and those of her rival, Tony Abbott, who once trained as a priest and is known as a devout Catholic.

Since taking over from Mr Rudd and becoming the country’s first female prime minister, Ms Gillard has presided over a lift in the polls for the Labour government.

The last Nielsen Poll on the topic found that 75% of Australians could care less if political leaders believe in God – or Yahweh – or Allah – or [cripes] even the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

Only a century or two ahead of American voters.

Written by Ed Campbell

June 29, 2010 at 3:00 pm

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