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Archive for July 2011

Where else might you find a babe who crashes her Bentley into a Mercedes, Porsche, Ferrari and Aston Martin?

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When in Monte Carlo, everything is done in style. And that includes crashing your car.

This was the moment when a woman driver caused a £700,000 five-car pile-up as her Bentley collided with a Mercedes, Ferrari, Porsche and Aston Martin.

Disaster struck as the hapless blonde negotiated the traffic around the Place du Casino in her £250,000 Bentley Azure. The driver of a white Mercedes S Class worth £75,000 was the first victim as the 2.7-ton Bentley scraped down the side of it before ploughing into a £143,000 black Ferrari F430.

Hope you’re insured, madam: A policeman tries to sort out the chaos beside Monte Carlo’s Place du Casino
An Aston Martin Rapide worth £150,000 and an £80,000 Porsche 911 also came a cropper. The driver and her two passengers then suffered the embarrassment of being surrounded by tourists as they were unable to open the doors of the convertible.

It is estimated the crash will cost more than £40,000 with the Ferrari, Porsche and Aston Martin requiring new front wings and bumpers. The Bentley will need the same repairs, plus a new door.

Chaos: A staggering £685,000 worth of supercars were involved in the inpromptu game of demolition derby
Ruud Poot, editor of European motoring website Autogespot, said: ‘You probably couldn’t find a worse place in the world to crash your car than outside Monaco’s Place du Casino in the middle of the summer.’

Maybe she thought she was practicing for next year’s Formula One race – everyone was supposed to get out of her way.

Thanks, Ursarodinia

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Written by Ed Campbell

July 30, 2011 at 6:00 am

LNG platform will be worlds biggest ship – anchored off Oz

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Shell has unveiled plans to build the world’s first floating liquefied natural gas (FLNG) platform. The 600,000-tonne behemoth – the world’s biggest “ship” – will be sited off the coast of Australia. But how will it work?

Deep beneath the world’s oceans are huge reservoirs of natural gas. Some are hundreds or thousands of miles from land, or from the nearest pipeline.

Tapping into these “stranded gas” resources has been impossible – until now.

At Samsung Heavy Industries’ shipyard on Geoje Island in South Korea, work is about to start on a “ship” that, when finished and fully loaded, will weigh 600,000 tonnes. That is six times as much as the biggest US aircraft carrier.

By 2017 the vessel should be anchored off the north coast of Australia, where it will be used to harvest natural gas from Shell’s Prelude field.

Once the gas is on board, it will be cooled until it liquefies and stored in vast tanks at -161C.

Every six or seven days a huge tanker will dock beside the platform and load up enough fuel to heat a city the size of London for a week.

The tankers will then sail to Japan, China, Korea or Thailand to offload their cargo…

Johan Hedstrom, an energy analyst in Australia with Southern Cross Equities, told the BBC: “The FLNG concept is an elegant solution because you don’t need so much fixed infrastructure

Mr Gilmour said Shell had to overcome a “raft of technical challenges”, ensuring for example that the vast amount of equipment on board would work in choppy seas.

The Prelude field is in the middle of what is known as “cyclone alley”, an area prone to extremely stormy weather. But Mr Gilmour said the vessel had been built to withstand category-five cyclones and even a “one-in-10,000-years’ storm” producing 300km/h (185mph) gusts and 20m-high (65ft) waves.

The double-hulled vessel is designed to last 50 years.

When the Prelude field is exhausted, in 25 years’ time, it will be completely refurbished and packed off to start work on another field off the coast of Australia, Angola, Venezuela or wherever.

RTFA for the details of this amazing floating factory. Hopefully, Discovery of one of their peers will produce a documentary on the construction and early days.

Looking forward to following the adventure. As much as I support alternatives to fossil fuel, natural gas is still an essential natural resource for native and export use for many nations.

Written by Ed Campbell

July 30, 2011 at 2:00 am

Religious folks who live up to the standard – arrested in Capitol

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Frustrated that their pleas to the Administration and Congress to protect funding for the nation’s most vulnerable are being ignored, nearly a dozen leaders from the faith community were arrested inside the U.S. Capitol Building on Thursday.

Despite repeated warnings from the U.S. Capitol Police, the leaders refused to end their public prayers asking the Administration and Congress not to balance the budget on the backs of the poor.

Among those who were arrested were the Rev. Michael Livingston, former president of the National Council of Churches, now director of the NCC’s poverty initiative; and Jordan Blevins, director of peace witness for the Church of the Brethren and the NCC.

“Congress is paralyzed by toxic partisan politics while people suffer,” said Livingston. “Our elected officials are protecting corporations and wealthy individuals while shredding the safety net for millions of the most vulnerable people in our nation and abroad. Our faith won’t allow us to passively watch this travesty unfold. We’ve written letters, talked with and prayed for our elected officials, and prayed together daily in interreligious community. Today, we ‘offer our bodies as a living sacrifice’ to say to congress ‘Raise revenue, protect the vulnerable and those living in poverty…’”

Others arrested include Jim Winkler, General Secretary, General Board of Church and Society, United Methodist Church; Rabbi Arthur Waskow, Shalom Center in Philadelphia; Rev. Jennifer Butler, Executive Director, Faith and Public Life; Rev. Paul Sherry, Director of the Washington Office, Interfaith Worker Justice; Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson, Director of Public Witness, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.); Sandy Sorenson, Director of Washington Office, United Church of Christ; Martin Shupack, Director of Advocacy, Church World Service; and Rev. Dr. Bob Edgar, President of Common Cause. Edgar is a former general secretary of the NCC…

Capitol Hill police asked them to clear the rotunda but the religious leaders continued praying. As they were being arrested, Rep. Chellie Pingree (D.-Maine) announced on the floor of the House of Representatives that religious leaders are being arrested for standing up for persons in poverty…

There was no response from those members of the House of Representatives who campaign for office as Christian conservatives.

Written by Ed Campbell

July 29, 2011 at 10:00 pm

War Texting lets hackers unlock cars via OnStar

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Cellular-based automotive roadside assistance services like GM’s OnStar and BMW Assist allow remote unlocking of vehicles by communicating with remote servers via standard mobile networks. Now a pair of security systems engineers have managed to prove it takes just a few hours of clever reverse engineering to crack the in-car cellular network-based technology to gain access to vehicles. They call their method “War Texting.”

Don Bailey and Mathew Solnik of security company iSEC Partners set up an ad-hoc GSM network, which allowed them to communicate directly with the in-car system, posing as authorized servers. A proprietary protocol that is normally in use proved not be secure enough. All they eventually needed to do, was to send simple messages from a laptop to the car’s computer.

Bailey and Solnik will present their findings during the upcoming Black Hat USA conference in Las Vegas in a briefing entitled “War Texting: Identifying and Interacting with Devices on the Telephone Network,” although they will skip the details regarding the attack, to allow manufacturers to fix vulnerable systems.

However, apparently not just car security technologies are defenseless against the “War Texting” hacking method, as cellular networks are also utilized by SCADA systems that monitor and control industrial infrastructure, or facility-based processes.

Isn’t it a little overdue to require manufacturers of systems like these to build-in security protocols to guarantee safety and security. I surely hope no one is counting on wireless providers to do it.

Written by Ed Campbell

July 29, 2011 at 6:00 pm

Crook ran ID theft scam while in Missouri prisons

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A former Missouri prison inmate has admitted running an identity theft scheme from behind bars, the U.S Attorney’s office said.

Danwine Dewayne Renard, 47, pleaded guilty Wednesday afternoon to four felony charges: conspiracy to commit mail, wire and bank fraud; aiding and abetting bank fraud; and two counts of aiding and abetting aggravated identity theft.

Renard was serving time in various Missouri prisons for check kiting and other charges. For more than two years beginning in July of 2008, Renard advised his co-conspirators via phone calls and letters from prison, prosecutors said.

Renard and others obtained personal information in the name of others and Renard’s co-conspirators used those IDs to open bank accounts in Madison and St. Clair counties and elsewhere, prosecutors said.

They would then deposit bogus checks in the accounts and use ATMs to withdraw money that didn’t really exist. They also wrote bad checks on the accounts, prosecutors said. Losses due to the scheme topped $200,000, court documents show.

When he gets out of prison, next time, he’s going to work for Goldman Sachs. Or Congress.

I doubt if federal regulators or anyone charged with Congressional oversight does their job any better than whoever is supposed to be keeping an eye on Missouri felons.

Written by Ed Campbell

July 29, 2011 at 2:00 pm

Are you upset over the breast-feeding baby doll?

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Little girls love mimicking their mommies. They clomp around in high heels, push toy Dyson vacuums and tenderly strap stuffed animals into baby strollers. Big sisters — and brothers — who see their mothers nursing a new baby sibling often pretend to do the same. Lifting their tiny tees, they smush a doll or, in my daughter’s case, a panda to their chest. As parents, we race for the camera and post the adorable pics on Facebook. So why all the brouhaha over the The Breast Milk Baby?

“Yuck” is the general reaction that the sweet-faced Spanish import is receiving in the U.S. It’s apparently a hit in Europe, but more prudish Americans are clamoring to decry the inappropriateness of a doll that lets a young girl pretend to breast-feed. The six models — Cameron, Jeremiah, Lilyang, Jessica, Savannah and Tony — are sold with a flowered halter top for your breast-feeder-in-training to wear. Hold the baby to the strategically placed flower “nipple,” and the doll moves its mouth and makes associated suckling sounds.

Granted, it’s — pardon the pun — pretty over the top. But it’s hardly odder than the anatomically correct boy-doll my mother-in-law bought my son; fill it with water and it obediently wet the plastic potty it came with. Yet while urinating — and defecating — dolls are commonplace, major retailers have shied away from Breast Milk Baby so far, although manufacturer Berjuan Toys intends to tout the doll’s appeal at a mega-trade show later this month in Las Vegas…

Berjuan, meanwhile, is milking its 15 minutes of fame for all it’s worth. On its website, the company trumpets that “God Supports The Breast Milk Baby” and U.S. spokesman Dennis Lewis complains of being labeled “perverts and pedophiles” for promoting breast-feeding. “Churches all over the world are filled with images of Mary nursing baby Jesus, and yet we can’t imagine letting our daughters learn how important breastfeeding is for our society?” he says on the site.

Religious guilt aside, it’s undeniable that the doll is a good match for children, who are naturally curious about biology. The Breast Milk Baby simulates the miraculously complex way a woman’s body can produce all the food her baby needs for many months. It’s one thing to castigate Bratz dolls with their sultry, made-up eyes and Angelina Jolie lips or Barbies with their infinitesimal waists and big boobs; they ooze sexuality and project unattainable body ideals. If anything, The Breast Milk Baby is a refreshing change from the doll-as-tarted-up-playmate paradigm: it’s not about sex; it’s about eating.

Not that there is anything unusual about Americans blurting out their ignorance and archaic fears over sex and/or food. You probably could turn out a joint Christian/Tea Party demonstration against a local retailer offering this doll – ten times faster and easier than, say, the equivalent herd showing up at a public exposition on neutering stray dogs and cats. Though the latter addresses longterm questions our society should deal with and the former – well, the former is a historic footnote on the insecurities of this nation.

Written by Ed Campbell

July 29, 2011 at 10:00 am

Vaults full of gold? How about warehouses filled with aluminum?

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In a rundown patch of Detroit, enclosed by a cyclone fence and barbed wire, stands an unremarkable warehouse that investment bank Goldman Sachs has transformed into a money-making machine.

The derelict neighborhood off Michigan Avenue is a sharp contrast to Goldman’s bustling skyscraper headquarters near Wall Street, but the two operations share one important element: management by the bank’s savvy financial professionals.

A string of warehouses in Detroit, most of them operated by Goldman, has stockpiled more than a million tonnes of the industrial metal aluminum, about a quarter of global reported inventories. Simply storing all that metal generates tens of millions of dollars in rental revenues for Goldman every year.

There’s just one problem: only a trickle of the aluminum is leaving the depots, creating a supply pinch for manufacturers of everything from soft drink cans to aircraft.

The resulting spike in prices has sparked a clash between companies forced to pay more for their aluminum and wait months for it to be delivered, Goldman, which is keen to keep its cash machines humming and the London Metal Exchange (LME), the world’s benchmark industrial metals market, which critics accuse of lax oversight.

Analysts question why London’s metals market allows big financial players like Goldman to own the warehouses which store huge quantities of metal even as they trade the commodity.

Robin Bhar, a veteran metals analyst at Credit Agricole in London says the conflict of interest is so acute he wants U.S. and European anti-trust regulators to weigh in.

“I think it makes a mockery of the market. It’s a shame,” Bhar said. “This is an anti-competitive situation. It puts some companies at an advantage, and clearly the rest of the market at a disadvantage. It’s a real, genuine concern. And I think the regulators have to look at it…”

The inflation Goldman Sachs bakes into every ton of aluminum they store affects the whole North American market. It sound like a little – only a few percent – and adds up to millions of dollars.

RTFA. Long, detailed, well-researched – and disgusting. Manipulating supply in this manner certainly should be illicit if not illegal.

Written by Ed Campbell

July 29, 2011 at 6:00 am

Bible Belt copper puts woman on trial for truck testicles

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The police chief of a small South Carolina town will ask a jury to decide if a woman broke the state’s obscenity laws by driving a pickup truck with plastic testicles hanging from the back.

Bonneau Police Chief Franco Fuda ticketed Virginia Tice, 65, in early July at a local convenience store after spying the adornment dangling from her truck.

South Carolina law considers a bumper sticker, decal or device indecent when it describes, in an offensive way as determined by contemporary community standards, “sexual acts, excretory functions, or parts of the human body…”

The Charleston law firm Savage & Savage will represent Tice for free, attorney Scott Bischoff said. The trial had been scheduled for next week but was delayed because the defendant will be out of town.

“She’s such a sweet lady and she just says ‘I don’t want to pay the fine.’ We’ll let a jury decide whether this is really criminal behavior. I don’t want to take away from the importance of free speech, but it’s really comical,” he said…

Fuda said if the fake testicles were a free speech issue, “I don’t know what they would be trying to express.”

I think what they’re trying to say is that a certain segment of the American population has the sense of humor of a horse’s ass.

The fact remains it isn’t up to the local commissar in blue to decide what your free speech is saying or laughing about. You have the right to decide, think and speak – or laugh!

Written by Ed Campbell

July 29, 2011 at 2:00 am

Chinese supermarket trying wifi/tablet-equipped shopping carts

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It doesn’t have quite the appeal of sending a robot to do your shopping, but this Smart Cart service being trialed by SK Telecom could definitely take some of the hassle out of trolling the supermarket aisles.

Just launched at the Shanghai Lotus Supermarket in China, the system consists of WiFi-enabled, tablet PC-equipped shopping carts and a smartphone app that can be synchronized with the tablet. By utilizing indoor positioning technology and augmented reality, the shopping “Smart” cart becomes a virtual shopping aide.

The Smart Cart application allows customers to search for shopping and discount information, store coupons, as well as to create a shopping list.

After getting to the market, the app synchronizes with the tablet PC mounted to the cart’s handle, uploads the shopping list and authenticates the user. Wandering through the store’s aisles, customers get product and discount information linked to their current location within the store, which is established to within three feet via a WiFi network.

Way cool. I’m the sort of regular shopper who knows aisle-by-aisle what I’m looking for; but, that doesn’t allow for new goodies to tempt the palate.

Written by Ed Campbell

July 28, 2011 at 10:00 pm

Inside the giant cavern of the Hang Son Doong in VietNam

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Click for large view + slide show

These breathtaking images capture the hidden depths of the world’s biggest cave passage – so large the end is yet to be found. Hidden in the depths of the Vietnamese jungle lies The Hang Son Doong, part of a network of over 150 caves.

Surrounded by jungle and used in the Vietnam war as a hideout from American bombardments, the cave passage is so large that it could hold a block of 40-storey skyscrapers. Its entrance was only rediscovered by British cavers in 2009.

Wow!

Written by Ed Campbell

July 28, 2011 at 6:00 pm

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