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Archive for October 2010

Dilma Rousseff wins Brazil election

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Passing the torch – Dilma Roussef and Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva
Daylife/AP Photo used by permission

Dilma Rousseff has won Brazil’s presidential election and will become the first woman to lead the Latin American economic powerhouse. Rousseff was declared winner of Sunday’s poll by more than 10 percentage points, beating rival Jose Serra with 55.5 per cent of valid votes cast to his 44.5 per cent.

The 62 year-old former guerilla leader will be sworn in as the country’s president on January 1 after running a campaign that highlighted her links to outgoing president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

Rousseff vowed on Sunday to eradicate poverty affecting 20 million people in her nation, in her first pledge as president-elect.

“I reiterate my fundamental promise: the eradication of poverty,” the leftwinger said in her victory speech in Brasilia…

Rousseff will take power in a nation on rise, a country that will host the 2014 World Cup and that is expected to be the globe’s fifth-largest economy by the time it hosts the 2016 Summer Olympics…

Rousseff never has held elected office and lacks the charisma that transformed Silva from a one-time shoeshine boy into one of the globe’s most popular leaders.

In the 1960s she fought against the military dictatorship ruling Brazil in the 1960s, spending time in prison before studying economics and making a name for herself as a compentant technocrat…

About 135 million voters were obliged to cast ballots on Sunday. Under Brazilian law, voting is mandatory for citizens between the ages of 18 and 70.

Bravo! Hasta la victoria siempre.

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Written by Ed Campbell

October 31, 2010 at 10:00 pm

Vietnam signs major nuclear power contracts

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Dimitry Medvedev and Nguyen Minh Triet celebrate the contract signing
Daylife/AP PHoto used by permission

Russia and Vietnam on Sunday signed a deal worth an estimated 5.6 billion dollars for the energy-hungry Southeast Asian country’s first nuclear power plant…

An official with Russian state nuclear conglomerate Rosatom has told AFP the construction cost of a two-reactor plant is estimated at more than four billion euros…

Vietnam wants to build eight nuclear facilities in the next two decades. Initial government plans call for four reactors, with a total capacity of 4,000 megawatts and at least one of them operational in 10 years’ time.

Sergei Kiriyenko said a 2020 timeframe for the Russian plant was “absolutely realistic”.

Russian President Medvedev earlier held talks with Vietnamese officials centred on expanding his country’s presence in Vietnam, which he said is “actively developing” on various fronts.

On all these directions Russia will assist Vietnam, which is our close friend,” he said after paying his respects at the mausoleum of Vietnam’s revolutionary hero Ho Chi Minh…

Japan’s Prime Minister Naoto Kan, also on a visit to Hanoi, announced with his Vietnamese counterpart that the two countries will join forces to build two other nuclear reactors.

Moscow is willing to provide a loan to help finance the Russian plant’s construction…The two sides signed additional agreements on construction of a hydro power station and cooperation in the oil sector.

If the United States government, U.S. industry had brains located anywhere near their heads instead of the nether portions of their anatomy, we could have been providing those services to developing nations in Asia and elsewhere.

Back in the day, when I worked for a vendor to the nuclear power industry, I became fed-up with the policy of treating nuclear power generation as a short-term cash cow to supplement welfare for American capital goods producers. I quit. Went on to other aspects of metallurgy. Literature, Philosophy. Politics. You understand how that works.

When a couple of world-class safety screw-ups made nuclear power unpopular – and we had plenty of wars serving up supplemental income – our nation walked away from the dance. Leaving us decades behind productive commerce on the world stage.

Add to that the political history of America’s imperial adventures in the 3rd World…and you understand why there’s no American participation in any signing ceremonies like this.

Written by Ed Campbell

October 31, 2010 at 6:00 pm

Hairdressers training to tackle Japan’s suicidal housewives

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Officials in Toyama, a city 186 miles northwest of Tokyo, have launched the nation’s first scheme in which hairdressers are used as mediators between suicidal customers and professional counsellors.

The move taps into the renowned universal skill of hairdressers to lend a sympathetic ear to customers who often feel comfortable confiding in them about their problems.

More than 650 hairdressers in the city are involved in the new project, which involves taking part in training lectures with clinical psychologists to help them identify those in need of specialist help.

The hairdressers are also being given guidebooks to hand out to customers who they believe may be suffering from depression or suicidal thoughts and are able to put them in touch with professional psychological counselors…

As part of the new scheme, hairdressers will be taking part in training sessions organised by city officials with professional psychologists focusing on problems relating to suicide.

Japan is home to one of the highest suicide rates among industrialised nations, with more than 30,000 people killing themselves every year.

Hairdressers across the city appeared to welcome the initiative, with a growing number of premises displaying government-provided stickers in their window to show they are taking part in the project.

Hey – marketing is marketing. Increased traffic into a retail business is always welcome.

Written by Ed Campbell

October 31, 2010 at 3:00 pm

Berlusconi gave €7,000 to 17-year-old belly dancer

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Daylife/Getty Images used by permission

The latest sex scandal threatening Silvio Berlusconi has deepened after a 17-year-old Moroccan belly dancer linked to the Italian prime minister said he had given her €7,000 and jewellery when she sat next to him at a Valentine’s Day dinner held this year for 10 women at his mansion near Milan.

The girl, named in the Italian media as Karima Keyek but known more widely by her stage name Ruby Rubacuori, or Stealer of Hearts, denies sleeping with Berlusconi.

“It is the first time in my life that a man has not tried to take me to bed. He behaved like a father, I swear,” she told La Repubblica from Genoa, where she is hiding out in an apartment allegedly lent to her by a former porn star.

But she has painted a vivid portrait of private parties held by the 74-year-old prime minister, known by the Italian media as lavish affairs that often transformed into “bunga-bunga” sessions involving after-dinner sex between male and female guests.

In La Repubblica yesterday, Keyek said her host had told her not to come to see him any more after discovering she was not, as she had claimed, 24. “Berlusconi said he had had enough problems in the past with another underage girl,” she said…

“He gave me an envelope with €7,000 in it and I told him I dreamed of gaining Italian citizenship and becoming a policewoman.” She told La Repubblica: “It was like going to the church charity where they give you a bag of shopping…”

Yesterday the respected Corriere della Sera newspaper reported that Berlusconi had personally informed a senior police official that Keyek was related to Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak. Berlusconi says he merely told police he was dispatching a colleague to take temporary custody of Keyek should she be released – from charges of theft.

My kin in Italy wouldn’t vote for Berlusconi on a bet. He reminds him too much of the Fascisti they fought against 80 years. That’s not just style, either.

In Italy – it is surprising how often a four-flusher can succeed by pushing the Right buttons. Patriotism, piety, bigotry have always been more profitable than civil rights and civil liberties. But, then, Italy doesn’t have the world market cornered on sophistry, Old colonial powers have been forced to share that with the 20th Century’s champion.

Written by Ed Campbell

October 31, 2010 at 12:00 pm

Hero grabs great white shark by the tail to save girl

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He saved the girl – then walked away from the Press

A snorkeler has been hailed a hero after he pulled the tail of a great white shark that was attacking a young woman.

Rescuers said he had undoubtedly saved Elyse Frankcom, 19, from fatal injuries.

Ms Frankcom had been leading a swim-with-the-dolphins tour south of Perth when the 3m shark bit into her hip and left buttock.

Last night she was in a stable condition in Royal Perth Hospital after undergoing surgery.

The attack, which occurred off the north end of Garden Island Naval Base, comes only 10 weeks after a surfer was killed by a great white off the coast of Gracetown in WA’s South-West.

The snorkeller who saved Ms Frankcom declined to be interviewed, or give his name. “All I want is the girl to be OK.” he said…

Frank Pisani, senior skipper for Fremantle Sea Rescue, said that the shark attack could have been fatal if not for the quick thinking of one of Ms Frankcom’s tour group.

“As the shark bit her, it brushed aside a fairly large male who grabbed hold of the tail of the shark, which then made it let go,” Mr Pisani said.

“The girl then started to sink to the bottom and he grabbed her and brought her to the surface and got her back on board the boat. He certainly was instrumental in making this a good outcome.

Elyse Frankcom was brave enough on her own – punching the shark on the nose trying to thwart the attack. About all she asked on the way to emergency surgery was safety of a child who was in the group she had been guiding.

And a hefty “Right on!” for the geezer who saved her.

Written by Ed Campbell

October 31, 2010 at 9:00 am

Expatriate fugitive finally busted in Mexico

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Rebecca Parrett may have seemed like a typical retired expatriate in the small resort town of Ajijic, Jalisco, in central-western Mexico. But, Parrett, a fugitive of two and a half years, was living under a made-up identity, escaping U.S. officials and a 25-year prison sentence.

Parrett fled in March 2008 after a jury in Columbus, Ohio, convicted her of charges including securities fraud, wire fraud and conspiracy in a $1.9 billion corporate fraud case…

Parrett was the only person to flee her conviction despite being a co-defendant with her former husband, Donald Ayers, and several other executives of a company she co-founded, National Century Financial Enterprises, in Columbus.

National Century was supposed to pay medical companies for future insurance bills and claims to be re-sold as bonds. But the company eventually became a giant Ponzi-like scheme, officials said…

Parrett described herself as an innocent woman from West Virginia without a college degree who worked her way up to become a medical billing executive.

“It’s very sad to be the victim of a political bureaucracy that has abused its power beyond imagination over and over again,” she wrote in the preface. “There were many victims. I am only one small dot on a giant map that the government controls…”

She can start her own Tea Party chapter in the slammer.

Parrett told people she had testified in a fraud case in the United States and was living in Mexico for her safety.

Joseph Scott, a former defense lawyer in Ohio for Parrett and her sister, Linda Case, described Parrett as “definitely successful” at several business endeavors before her career began at National Century.

“She was a very hard-working woman,” Scott said. “She put in a lot of hours and stayed up to date with modern technology. She was not afraid of a challenge.”

Probably will work her way up to supervisor of the prison laundry.

Written by Ed Campbell

October 31, 2010 at 6:00 am

If you haven’t kept up with this week’s murders in Mexico…

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Mexicans get to celebrate the Day of the Dead – every day
Daylife/Reuters Pictures used by permission

Gunmen ambushed and killed nine policemen in the sixth mass killing in Mexico this week. Ten officers survived the attack in the western state of Jalisco Thursday, state police told the state-run Notimex news agency, and one officer was missing.

A police statement said the 20 officers were on patrol in a convoy when they were attacked by gunmen in at least 10 sport utility vehicles, armed with assault rifles and grenade launchers, the BBC reported.

After a battle that lasted hours, the gunmen fled to the neighboring state of Michoacan.

Separately, at least five people were wounded in grenade attacks in a suburb of Guadalajara, capital of Jalisco.

Earlier Thursday, five women in Ciudad Juarez were killed and 14 wounded when buses taking them home from work were ambushed by gunmen.

In Mexico City, six youths were shot dead in what police say may have been a gang-related feud.

On Wednesday, 15 people were slaughtered at a car wash in the western state of Nayarit.

Gunmen killed 13 people at a drug rehabilitation clinic in the border city of Tijuana on Monday.

Of course, this is just the result of a quick glance through news sources. We may have missed a few. Or a dozen. Or more.

Written by Ed Campbell

October 31, 2010 at 2:00 am

Researchers engineer miniature human livers in the lab

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Researchers at the Institute for Regenerative Medicine at Wake Forest…have reached an early, but important, milestone in the quest to grow replacement livers in the lab. They are the first to use human liver cells to successfully engineer miniature livers that function – at least in a laboratory setting – like human livers. The next step is to see if the livers will continue to function after transplantation in an animal model.

The ultimate goal of the research…is to provide a solution to the shortage of donor livers available for patients who need transplants. Laboratory-engineered livers could also be used to test the safety of new drugs.

“We are excited about the possibilities this research represents, but must stress that we’re at an early stage and many technical hurdles must be overcome before it could benefit patients,” said Shay Soker, Ph.D., professor of regenerative medicine and project director. “Not only must we learn how to grow billions of liver cells at one time in order to engineer livers large enough for patients, but we must determine whether these organs are safe to use in patients…”

The engineered livers, which are about an inch in diameter and weigh about .20 ounces, would have to weigh about one pound to meet the minimum needs of the human body, said the scientists. Even at this larger size, the organs wouldn’t be as large as human livers, but would likely provide enough function. Research has shown that human livers functioning at 30 percent of capacity are able to sustain the human body…

The researchers said the current study suggests a new approach to whole-organ bioengineering that might prove to be critical not only for treating liver disease, but for growing organs such as the kidney and pancreas. Scientists at the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine are working on these projects, as well as many other tissues and organs, and also working to develop cell therapies to restore organ function.

Bravo! Pretty special to see this coming from an institution with religious roots that manages to sort out the needs of human beings separate from ideology.

Written by Ed Campbell

October 30, 2010 at 10:00 pm

L.A. doctors busted for bilking Medicare out of million$

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Two physicians were arrested Friday for allegedly subjecting mentally ill homeless people to unnecessary tests and other procedures at a North Hollywood clinic in order to submit fraudulent bills to government insurance programs.

Dr. Eleanor Santiago Arthur and Dr. Rodney Stephen Barron participated in a scheme in which “cappers” recruited Medicare and Medi-Cal enrollees from as far away as Long Beach and drove them to the Victory Boulevard clinic in exchange for a fee…

The “patients” were subjected to abdominal ultrasounds and other procedures that were unwarranted, the complaint says. In some instances, their blood was drained into unsanitary, open containers, it says. One official said the clinics submitted the blood for tests under multiple patients’ names so they could bill multiple times.

After the visits, the cappers drove the patients back to where they picked them up and paid them $100 each, according to the complaint.

The clinic billed the government for up to $1,000 worth of medical care per patient, and each physician saw 30 to 50 patients a day, city attorney’s officials said in a news release. The investigation carried out by the Los Angeles County Health Authority Law Enforcement Task Force found that the scheme cheated the government out of millions of dollars over six months.

Santiago Arthur and Barron each face up to seven years in prison if convicted of charges that they conspired to cheat Medicare and Medi-Cal, the government medical insurance programs for seniors, the poor and disabled.

These are the cruds protected by lobbyists, insurance companies and teabaggers.

Throw away the key!

Written by Ed Campbell

October 30, 2010 at 6:00 pm

Yemeni forces make arrest in cargo bomb-plot — UPDATED

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UPS 747-400 crashed a few minutes after takeoff from Dubai on September 3rd

Yemen has arrested a woman suspected of mailing the explosive parcels from the country to the US that sparked a global security alert. The arrest took place on Saturday in the Yemeni capital Sanaa, after security forces surrounded a house where a suspect believed to have sent the packages was hiding.

A Yemeni security official said that the woman had been traced through a telephone number she left with a cargo company…

Security officials have been on high alert since the UK and the United Arab Emirates intercepted two packages containing explosive material that were being shipped by air from Yemen to synagogues in Chicago…

Al Jazeera’s Monica Villamizar, reporting from Washington, DC…said that US investigators will now look at previously shipped packages from Yemen to determine if they were used as a “dry run” by al-Qaeda.

Police in Dubai said the package they found bore the hallmarks of al-Qaeda. They also said that the ink cartridge found at the sorting facility was packed with pentaerythritol tetranitrate, or PETN…the same substance that was packed into the underwear of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Nigerian man who attempted to ignite a bomb on board an airliner over the US on December 25 last year. The police said the explosive materials were wired to a mobile phone SIM card hidden inside the printer…

The screening of cargo has been a point of debate in the US; in 2007, congress directed the Transportation Security Administration to screen all cargo carried on passenger flights beginning this year, according to US media.

“Cargo is in big pallets, it’s wrapped, its prepared for shipment,” Bob Ayers, security analyst, said. “You can’t X-ray the large pallet in many cases. You don’t tear it apart because its already been pre-packaged, so cargo has always been less rigorously inspected than baggage going into a passenger aircraft.”

Both UPS and FedEx said they had halted all packages being sent from Yemen to the US while the incident is investigated.

In September, a large fire broke out in the cargo hold of a UPS cargo jet shortly after it took off from the Dubai airport. The plane crashed, killing both crew members. Our correspondent said that investigators will probably now check to see if any cargo from Yemen was on board.

Lots of ways to build a better bomb if you’re trying to bring down a cargo plane. Cellphone triggers are the latest, preferred by many in the Middle East. By no means are methods limited to what you see used in this case.

I’m not taking the occasion to review trigger tech or bomb building. I get enough attention from the Feds as it is. But, it appears that simple and effective logistics and traffic management will be complicated by attention to palletizing air and sea shipment. With emphasis on the former.

Fire in the hold of an ocean freighter is comparatively easy to control – with early detection. Airplanes are flimsy critters at best.

UPDATE: Engineering student released after authorities discover a different woman had used the student’s name and personal information when shipping the bombs.

Written by Ed Campbell

October 30, 2010 at 3:00 pm

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