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Archive for June 2011

Father tossed his little boy into a roadside cactus patch after trying to strangle him – as part of a religious experience!

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Angel Rico, attempted murder, victim

The father of a boy found abandoned on Interstate 20 on Tuesday is facing attempted murder charges.

Sweetwater Police Detective Lance Richburg said Carlos Rico was in custody Wednesday in Nolan County Jail after being arrested in Saginaw in Tarrant County on a charge of endangering a child…

During the investigation, Richburg said officers learned that Rico claimed to have had a religious experience. “He said he had been compelled by a higher power to take his son’s life”.

Richburg said Rico had taken the boy off the interstate to a fence, in the middle of a thick stand of mesquite trees and cactus plants. He allegedly threw the child over the fence and left. Richburg said there was some physical evidence that indicated the boy had been choked or strangled.

Angel was found in the middle of I-20 east of Sweetwater about 6:30 a.m. Tuesday by the high school basketball coach and his son, who were headed to a golf tournament. Angel was bruised and covered in hundreds of cactus spines.

Why do the folks who get direct communications from their favorite invisible old fart in the sky either try to kill off some innocent member of their family – or a passerby – or try to involve the whole country in some extra-suicidal international stupidity?

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Written by Ed Campbell

June 30, 2011 at 10:00 pm

Bryan Berg builds the world’s biggest house of cards — and more

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Written by Ed Campbell

June 30, 2011 at 6:00 pm

Murdoch is a one-trick pony and MySpace ain’t his arena!

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Myspace was once the Internet’s equivalent of the hottest nightclub in town. In its heyday, the world’s dominant social network attracted some 3 million bands, 8,000 comedians and countless filmmakers and wannabes who came to see and be seen.

Now, Myspace is seemingly no place — a digital castoff that corporate parent News Corp. sold for $35 million in cash and equity to an Orange County digital media firm specializing in online advertising. That’s a fraction of the $580 million that the media giant controlled by Rupert Murdoch paid to acquire the site a scant six years ago, and well shy of its one-time $65-billion valuation.

Its dramatic fall is both a consequence of the fickle nature of today’s Internet generation as it is a tale of mismanagement, missed opportunities and miscalculations. Myspace’s decline — hastened by its failure to match the innovations of its chief rival, Facebook, speaks to what can happen when a mainstream media company seeks to capture technological lightning in a bottle…

The decision to acquire the hot social networking site landed Murdoch on the cover of Wired magazine, where he was lauded for embracing the Internet ahead of his old-media rivals, although critics ridiculed him for overpaying…

But Myspace’s red-hot success was short-lived.

The number of monthly visitors in the United States peaked in October 2008 at 76.3 million, according to measurement firm ComScore Digital Analytix. Over the last two years, the social network has shed an average of 1 million users a month, and its monthly traffic had dwindled to about 35 million users by May.

As Myspace’s users headed for the exits, so did the advertisers. Researcher EMarketer projects Myspace’s ad revenue at $184 million this year, down from $470 million in 2009. Myspace proved a drag on News Corp.’s earnings, with the division that includes the social network posting a profit only once in the last six years…

Murdoch knows how to leverage sports coverage in depth into profit in print media. He did the same with business news with the Financial Times. Dicking around with content, policy and politics at the Wall Street Journal may yet put that venerable paper into irreversible decline. All of his print acquisitions were worth siphoning capital from – while adding in deeper coverage of shallower topics when needed.

None of that had [or has] much to do with the media and information processes driving the Web. But, good old Rupert has never been someone to listen to or seek advice. Even from more knowledgeable family members.

The folks who bought MySpace for 6% of what Murdoch paid have a sensible chance to turn it into a moneymaker, again. That’s good enough. Whether they wish to go farther than that – and can – is another tale, a different opportunity.

Written by Ed Campbell

June 30, 2011 at 2:00 pm

Rhode Island rounds out Northeast USA with civil rights for all

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Less than a week after New York became the nation’s sixth state to legalize same-sex marriage, Rhode Island state lawmakers on Wednesday voted in favor of a bill that permits civil unions between gay and lesbian couples.

The measure, which passed the state Senate by a count of 21-16, is widely seen as a compromise intended to provide same-sex couples with added rights and benefits, while also preventing an expanded legal definition of marriage.

Gov. Lincoln Chafee, an independent, is expected to sign the bill into law, according to his spokesman, Michael Trainor.

…The law would take effect on July 1, making Rhode Island the fifth state in the union to allow civil unions between same-sex couples. Such unions are currently permitted in New Jersey and Illinois, and will be allowed in Delaware and Hawaii beginning January 1, 2012. Three West Coast states — California, Oregon and Washington — plus Nevada, also allow for “comprehensive domestic partnerships,” largely considered an equivalent to their civil union counterparts…

The legislation, which passed overwhelmingly in the state’s lower house on May 19, affords same-sex couples a host of new state tax breaks, health-care benefits and greater ease of inheritance…

The usual clot of religious nutballs and homophobes threw up their hands in a collective whine after passage.

There is a chance the law will have a sticking point over the predictable group of riders supposedly designed to protect religion-based institutions from lawsuit. This often extends all the way to defending hospitals owned by religious groups who refuse decision-making on medical services to civil union partners.

This may not seem like a big problem for our urban-dwelling readers; but, here in Santa Fe County the only for-real hospital is owned by flunkies for the Catholic Church. They’ve already removed a number of procedures formerly allowed – on the basis of ideology and superstition.

Written by Ed Campbell

June 30, 2011 at 10:00 am

Working women are central to Norway’s prosperity

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“Money is not the problem,” the union leader tells me brightly — and for a moment I feel far from debt-stricken, austerity-obsessed Europe…

“Women,” says the union leader, Mie Opjordsmoen of the Norwegian Confederation of Trade, a mother of two. “Norwegian women work, pay taxes and have babies. That’s our secret.”

I am touring one of the world’s last functioning welfare states and finding preconceptions shattered one by one. Unions here peg their wage demands to the needs of the export industry. Employers lobby for longer parental leave for fathers. Parties win elections promising not to cut taxes.

And gender equality is treated as a competitive advantage: By law, 40 percent of Norwegian boardroom seats are filled with women. Two male cabinet members, Knut Storberget, the justice minister, and Audun Lysbakken, the minister of equality (yes, this position exists), recently took three and four months off, respectively, to look after their latest offspring. The cost of full-time toddler child care is capped at the equivalent of about two Big Macs a day thanks to state subsidies…

“One Norwegian lesson,” Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg said from his modestly sized office one afternoon, “is that if you can raise female participation, it helps the economy, birth rates and the budget…”

All told, family policy, including a system of child care from a guaranteed place for 1-year-olds to after-school and vacation care, costs the Norwegian government 2.8 percent of gross domestic product. “These policies are expensive, but their cost is offset by the return in terms of female labor supply and tax revenues,” says Danielle Venn, a labor economist at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Even excluding oil, Oslo’s deficit of 5.4 percent of G.D.P. is a percentage point below the E.U. average…

Every two years, her union calculates wage demands by closely examining the cost base and demand situation of Norway’s export industries and then working back from that. “We negotiate for exporters first. No other industry gets more,” she explained…

Economically literate unions and employers may be necessary ingredients of a 21st-century welfare state. But nothing works without an electorate willing to pay taxes, the prime minister notes. Tax revenue accounts for 42 percent of G.D.P. here, compared with a 35 percent O.E.C.D. average.

“Many European countries have been trying to achieve the tax level of the U.S. and the welfare level of Scandinavia. That’s not possible,” said Mr. Stoltenberg. “We won two elections promising not to lower taxes. Voters know: Tax cuts mean welfare cuts.”

Entirely too rational for the average American voter – illiterate in history and economics. And our Congress and the Christian right wing would shriek with claims of the imminent anti-Christ. Collecting taxes from all for the common good, education and opportunity would make our hypocrite puritans hide under the bed.

Written by Ed Campbell

June 30, 2011 at 6:00 am

Will Microsoft build government snooping into Skype?

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Microsoft has filed a patent that describes a “legal intercept” of VoIP communications.

Filed in December 2009, the document was created when Microsoft may have had no intentions of acquiring Skype, but the company makes clear statements that it applies to Skype and similar services.

According to the patent – and it is just an application at this point – Microsoft envisions a variety of possibilities to use “recording agents” as a way to intercept, monitor, record and store recorded calls. The agent could be placed in a router, call server, or within the network of an organization.

The agent can also be a software module that is placed between the call server or the network. Microsoft does not mention the recording agent to be hidden part of the client software. However, since Microsoft now owns the Skype infrastructure, that may not be a problem anymore.

The good news, depending on your view, is that the technology is only targeted to become a tool that can be requested by law enforcement. The downside, also depending on your view, is that those Skype calls may not be as anonymous as you think and your private information may actually be easily accessible by government organizations.

Microsoft did not say if it already uses eavesdropping technology in Skype or other VoIP applications.

Our government, the government of sleazy Berlusconi, many self-righteous nanny states have resented the encryption built into Skype that defeats official snooping. Essentially, this is why Skype is the VOIP of choice for dissent and revolution – as well as Mafias – throughout the world.

Are we supposed to trust Microsoft to confront government snoops and the several flavors of Patriot Act enacted in the fearfilled West and come down on the side of privacy, liberty?

Written by Ed Campbell

June 30, 2011 at 2:00 am

Trades reveal China and Russia shifting away from the dollar

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Uh-oh… Swiss mega-bank UBS completed a survey of 80 central bank reserve managers that control about $8 trillion this week and more than half predicted the US dollar would be replaced as the world’s reserve by a “portfolio of currencies” sometime in the next 25 years.

That UBS even conducted a survey on the dollar’s validity represents a sea change in attitude…

“The results [of the survey],” according to The Financial Times, “are the latest sign of dissatisfaction with the dollar as a reserve currency, amid concerns over the U.S. government’s inability to rein in spending and the Federal Reserve’s huge expansion of its balance sheet…”

Russia and China are doing their part to accelerate the dollar’s demise. The two nations’ central banks have signed an agreement to conduct trade in rubles and yuan.

“This agreement,” says Russian Central Bank Deputy Chairman Viktor Melnikov, “allows for settlements through Russian and Chinese banks not only in the freely convertible currencies but also in the yuan and the ruble.” It builds on a handshake deal between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao…

“Dollar’s Reserve Currency Status at Risk Following Russia-China Deal,” reads a breathless headline on this story at oilprice.com.

“The headline is a bit overblown,” says our acquaintance, the veteran U.S. diplomat Chas Freeman, “but it – and the underlying story – is a step in the direction it posits.”

No one is surprised at the move. Well, maybe a few Republicans and a couple of Texans in the Oil Patch. Not any likelihood this time of Uncle Sugar invading China or Russia – or even Mexico – because trades are leaving the dollar the way Saddam Hussein was doing before Bush and Cheney found it convenient to invade Iraq.

Written by Ed Campbell

June 29, 2011 at 10:00 pm

Space junk almost clobbers International Space Station

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A piece of space debris narrowly missed the International Space Station on Tuesday in a rare incident that forced the six-member crew to scramble to their rescue craft, space agency officials said.

The high-speed object hurtled toward the orbiting lab and likely missed it by just 1,100 feet. The crew moved to shelter inside two Soyuz spacecraft 18 minutes before the debris was expected to pass, NASA said.

“It was probably the closest object that has actually come by the space station,” said the US space agency’s associate administrator for space operations, Bill Gerstenmaier. “We didn’t have any information that it was coming until it was very, very close…”

They spent about half an hour in the Russian space capsules and then went back to their regular day…

Space experts say such events are only becoming more frequent as the amount of waste — from nuts and bolts to rocket parts — is on the rise due to everything from basic wear and tear to controversial military testing.

Millions of chunks of metal, plastic and glass are whirling round Earth, the garbage left from 4,600 launches in 54 years of space exploration.

The collision risk is low, but the junk travels at such high speed that even a tiny shard can cripple a satellite costing tens of millions of dollars…

The ISS is currently manned by three Russians, two Americans and a Japanese astronaut…The crew usually stays for six-month stretches aboard the space station.

Phew! Ultra-high-speed impact even with a small object is worse than being shot. In the vacuum of space it’s easily deadly.

Written by Ed Campbell

June 29, 2011 at 6:00 pm

German police vulture scheme fails to fly!

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That’s Sherlock on the right

Police in Lower Saxony, Germany, who decided to teach a vulture to sniff out corpses of missing people have run into difficulty two months into training.

Reasoning that it could fly over miles of wasteland, then descend where it found a missing person, they had wanted to fit it with a transmitter. But it transpires that Sherlock, as the bird is known, is not very interested.

On top of that, it is shy, confuses human with animal remains and actually prefers to walk, Spiegel magazine says.

Sherlock has been in training in the Walsrode bird park on Lueneburg Heath near Hanover, along with two vulture side-kicks also named after famous fictional detectives, Columbo and Miss Marple…

But according to Spiegel: “Sherlock’s success has been limited. While he can locate a stinking burial shroud which the police gave the bird park to use for training purposes and which is clearly marked with a yellow plastic cup, Sherlock doesn’t approach the shroud by air.

He prefers to travel by foot…”

The vulture also finds it hard to distinguish between dead people and dead animals, which is a problem in the vast heathland of that part of Germany…

I’ve known police dogs who seemed as bright as their trainers. Vultures aren’t exactly capable of establishing the level of companionship to enable real communications.

Written by Ed Campbell

June 29, 2011 at 2:00 pm

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