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Archive for September 2011

Holiday couple spot their carjackers 1,200 miles from home

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Some folks are prepared for carjackers

A Belgian couple on holiday in Spain spotted the armed criminals who had carjacked them at gunpoint a month previously in Liege, 1,200 miles away.

The unnamed pair saw Luc Jadoul, 47, and his girlfriend Gaëlle Deloge, 20, on a beach in Alicante.

Mr Jadoul and Miss Deloge had threatened the couple with a gun and hijacked their Nissan SUV while making a dramatic escape from a Belgian courthouse just four weeks before…

…The crime victims were amazed to see Jadoul and Deloge sunning themselves on the Torrevieja beach last weekend.

Incredibly, the stolen car was also parked nearby, just yards from where the carjackers were sunbathing.

Keeping their heads and showing a “sangfroid” praised by the police, the holidaymakers let down the tyres on the car and called the authorities, who made an “easy” arrest.

A firearm was recovered from the stolen vehicle…

Both are being held in Madrid before their extradition back to Belgium.

Jadoul was the subject of an international arrest warrant. Before becoming a fugitive, he was in prison and has multiple convictions for prostitution of a minor aged 13, violence and pimping…

No one – certainly not the criminals – could have expected an ending like this,” said a police source. “There must be more chance of winning the lottery.”

If this occurred in the UK, the coppers probably would have arrested the Belgian couple along with the carjackers. They’d leave them in custody in the same jail while they spent a week sorting out legal opinions over them being mean to the crooks.

I certainly wouldn’t expect an ending like this in the United States. They would have been told to shove off until a copy of the original paperwork traversed the mail and arrived – proving that a crime like carjacking had actually been committed. If they were lucky, they wouldn’t be arrested for causing a disturbance and malicious mischief for letting the air out of the tyres. Either way, the crooks would have been allowed on their way.

Unless they were Black or Mexican, of course.

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Written by Ed Campbell

September 30, 2011 at 10:00 pm

Convict who cooked and ate her hubby tries for parole again

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A former model who killed, cooked and ate her husband 20 years ago will make a bid for freedom next week.

Omaima Aree Nelson is slated to appear before a California parole board to plead for an early release from Chowchilla State Prison, where she is serving 27 years to life, according to KTLA-TV.

Nelson killed her 56-year-old husband, William Nelson, over Thanksgiving weekend in 1991, just a month after they married. She had come to the U.S. five years earlier from Egypt, where she worked as a model and nanny…

Nelson claimed at trial she had been abused and her husband had raped her the night before she killed him in their Costa Mesa apartment, according to the Los Angeles Times. After murdering him, Nelson boiled her husband’s head on the stove and fried his hands in oil, the Daily Pilot reported.

She once admitted, but now denies, dipping his body in barbecue sauce. Neighbors at the time said the garbage disposal was on for “a long time” and “constant chopping sounds” were coming from the home, according to the Daily Pilot newspaper…

Nelson offered ex-boyfriends $75,000 to help her dispose of some of the body parts, according to police. She found no takers and was arrested Dec. 2, 1991, after police found trash bags containing human body parts in the couple’s apartment and in the victim’s Corvette.

She tried for parole five years ago – and failed. But, prison food is a drag, man.

Got to try to get some decent civilian calories.

Written by Ed Campbell

September 30, 2011 at 6:00 pm

U.S. military chaplains now allowed to perform same-sex weddings

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Ten days after the military dumped its “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy on gays and lesbians in the military, the Pentagon has issued new rules allowing military chaplains to perform same-sex marriages, but only if allowed by law and the chaplain’s beliefs.

“A military chaplain may participate in or officiate any private ceremony, whether on or off a military installation, provided that the ceremony is not prohibited by applicable state and local law,” a memo released Friday says. “Further a chaplain is not required to participate in or officiate a private ceremony if doing so would be in variance with the tenets of his or her religion…”

The new military rules on marriages must be in line with the Federal Defense of Marriage Act and local laws.

The latest two-paragraph memo, from Under Secretary of Defense Clifford Stanley, carefully stops short of fully embracing the idea of same-sex marriage…

Don’t wish to get too far ahead of the President and Congress. Even if the Pentagon is still leading the race to catch up to the rest of the American people.

Written by Ed Campbell

September 30, 2011 at 2:00 pm

CIA drone attack kills al Qaeda cleric, Anwar al-Awlaki, in Yemen

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He will NOT be missed

Anwar al-Awlaki, a U.S.-born cleric linked to al Qaeda, was killed in a CIA drone strike in Yemen on Friday, U.S. officials said, removing a “global terrorist” high on a U.S. wanted list.

Awlaki’s killing deprives the Yemen-based al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) of an eloquent propagandist in English and Arabic who was implicated in attacks on the United States.

He planned and directed attacks against the United States,” one U.S. official said. “In addition, Awlaki publicly urged attacks against U.S. persons and interests worldwide and called for violence against Arab governments he judged to be working against al Qaeda.”

Earlier in his career, Awlaki preached at mosques in the United States attended by some of the hijackers in the September 11, 2001 attacks by al Qaeda, whose leader, Osama bin Laden, was killed in a U.S. raid on his hideout in Pakistan in May…

A Yemeni government statement said Samir Khan, an American of Pakistani origin, and two others were killed with Awlaki. Khan, from North Carolina, was an editor of AQAP’s English-language online magazine Inspire, which often published Awlaki’s writings…

U.S. drone aircraft targeted but missed Awlaki in May. The United States has stepped up drone strikes in Yemen to try and keep al Qaeda off balance and prevent it from capitalizing on the strife and chaos gripping the nation that borders oil giant Saudi Arabia and lies near vital shipping routes…

AQAP, which established itself in Yemen after Saudi Arabia defeated a violent al Qaeda campaign from 2003-6, has emerged as one of the network’s most ambitious wings, attempting daring, if unsuccessful, attacks on U.S. and Saudi targets.

“If he is dead, Awlaki will be difficult to replace,” said Jeremy Binnie, a terrorism and insurgency analyst at IHS Jane’s in London. “It’s a blow for AQAP’s international operations. Awlaki has helped the group build its international profile.”

Overdue.

Written by Ed Campbell

September 30, 2011 at 10:00 am

Test pic – again

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Yes, I changed cameras, again.

Good old Amazon’s exchange/return policy comes to the rescue.

I was less and less happy with the Canon I bought a couple of weeks ago. One of the oldest truisms in photography still holds, e.g., the quality of the lens is most important. So, as pissed off as I am at Panasonic about their battery protocols, I still want a camera in my pocket that takes the best quality for the price.

I returned the Canon and bought a Panasonic ZS8. $70 lower price. 16X zoom. It fits fine in my pocket. And as far as I’m concerned, the image quality with the Leica lens is lightyears ahead of the Canon.

BTW – I wasn’t trying for depth of field. That was taken at a 500th/second.

Written by Ed Campbell

September 30, 2011 at 9:00 am

New material claimed to store more energy and cost less money than batteries

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Researchers from the National University of Singapore’s Nanoscience and Nanotechnology Initiative (NUSNNI) have created what they claim is the world’s first energy-storage membrane. Not only is the material soft and foldable, but it doesn’t incorporate liquid electrolytes that can spill out if it’s damaged, it’s more cost-effective than capacitors or traditional batteries, and it’s reportedly capable of storing more energy.

The membrane is made from a polystyrene-based polymer, which is sandwiched between two metal plates. When charged by those plates, it can store the energy at a rate of 2 farads per square centimeter – standard capacitors, by contrast, can typically only manage an upper limit of 1 microfarad per square centimeter.

Due in part to the membrane’s low fabrication costs, the cost of storing energy in it reportedly works out to 72 cents per farad. According to the researchers, the cost for standard liquid electrolyte-based batteries is more like $7 per farad. This in turn translates to an energy cost of 2.5 watt-hours per dollar for lithium-ion batteries, whereas the membrane comes in at 10-20 watt-hours per dollar.

No details, yet. But, the quest fits into the range of energy and cost saving topics near and dear to us all – so, I’m posting this brief note from the UK.

Keep your eyes open for more on this from Dr. Xie Xian Ning in Singapore. He calls this a supercapacitor.

Written by Ed Campbell

September 30, 2011 at 6:00 am

Portable technology takes banking agents to rural India

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State Bank correspondents Rashan and Nashir Penkar and their daughter, Icra

Time was, banks employed armies of human tellers. Later, they replaced many of them with automated teller machines. Now, India is using a hybrid of the two — the human A.T.M. — to expand banking to its vast rural population.

Swati Yashwant, a 29-year-old mother of one, is part of a growing legion of roving tellers intent on providing bank accounts to the nearly 50 percent of India’s 300 million households that do not have them. Using a laptop computer, wireless modem and fingerprint scanner, Ms. Yashwant opens accounts, takes deposits and processes money transfers for farmers and migrant workers in this small town 70 miles south of Mumbai, India’s financial capital.

To reduce the risk of robbery or theft, no transaction by law may exceed 10,000 rupees (about $212). And in practice, many amount to no more than a dollar or two. But with the bulk of India’s population living in villages that have never had a bank branch, Ms. Yashwant, with her electronic devices, is a missionary of financial modernity.

Many Indians “don’t know anything about banking,” she said in her small office here, which is decorated with a garlanded picture of Ganesh, the Hindu god believed to remove obstacles. “I want to open their accounts and help them understand banking.”

Economists and policy makers say mobile agents like Ms. Yashwant — who also are employed in countries like Brazil, Mexico and Kenya — represent one of the most promising ways to help the rural poor save and protect their money. Many people in India who do not have bank accounts, for instance, buy gold necklaces or simply keep cash in their unlocked homes…

The banking agents enable the poor to easily save money they otherwise might be tempted to spend, Mr. Banerjee said. And when times are lean, people could withdraw money they had saved, instead of borrowing cash at high rates of interest…

Ms. Yashwant is one of an estimated 60,000 of what Indian bankers call “business correspondents,” who are not bank employees but earn commissions that the banks pay them for each transaction…

For India’s banks, it is a relatively inexpensive way to recruit customers. While about 70 percent of India’s population is dispersed among more than 600,000 villages, the entire country has only 33,500 bank branches. Correspondents like Ms. Yashwant have set up 74 million bank accounts in India.

“Frugal innovation” — magic words from the Indian subcontinent across Southeast Asia to China for decades. From home-made irrigation systems powered by people – to freight companies that start with bicycles and scooters – technology that is cheap and “good enough” has been a success at modernizing economies.

Later on, when folks are making the money required for tech and infrastructure advancements, no doubt they will be incorporated within and on top of this generation of minimalist technology.

RTFA for individual tales. Follow Ms. Yashwant as she establishes her personal banking network, village-by-village.

Pic of the Day

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From the GUARDIAN Eyewitness.

Written by Ed Campbell

September 29, 2011 at 10:00 pm

Anonymous donor leaves 10 million yen in public toilet

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An anonymous donor has left a wad of cash worth $131,000 in a public toilet in Japan, with instructions it be used to help victims of the March earthquake and tsunami…

A plastic shopping bag, containing 10 million yen, was found on September 22 in a toilet for disabled people in the city hall of Sakado, a commuter town north of Tokyo, a city official told AFP.

The city will give the money to the Japanese Red Cross if the anonymous donor doesn’t reclaim it within three months, city spokeswoman Masumi Sekiguchi said.

She said a hand-written note was attached to the cash, reading: “I’m all alone. I have no future so let the people in Tohoku use it.”

Tohoku is the country’s northeast region devastated by the catastrophe that killed 20,000 people and triggered an emergency at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

“There was no witness to the act and we cannot guess what kind of person has been involved,” she said. “We were really surprised. We also feel thankful for such kindness.”

The kind of person was an ordinary human being. Someone guided more by kindness than greed. Someone guided more by love for fellow human beings than gold.

An ordinary human being.

Written by Ed Campbell

September 29, 2011 at 6:00 pm

Public interest paparazzi serve a purpose – for pay – in South Korea

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Learning in-car technique at a ssu-parazzi school

With his debts mounting and his wages barely enough to cover the interest, Im Hyun-seok decided he needed a new job. The mild-mannered former English tutor joined South Korea’s growing ranks of camera-toting bounty hunters.

Known here sarcastically as paparazzi, people like Mr. Im stalk their prey and capture them on film. But it is not celebrities, politicians or even hardened criminals they pursue. Rather, they roam cities secretly videotaping fellow citizens breaking the law, deliver the evidence to government officials and collect the rewards.

“Some people hate us,” Mr. Im said. “But we’re only doing what the law encourages.”

The opportunities are everywhere: a factory releasing industrial waste into a river, a building owner keeping an emergency exit locked, doctors and lawyers not providing receipts for payment so that they can underreport their taxable income.

Mr. Im’s pet target is people who burn garbage at construction sites, a violation of environmental laws.

“I’m making three times what I made as an English tutor,” said Mr. Im, 39, who began his new line of work around seven years ago and says he makes about $85,000 a year… Wow!

Snitching for pay has become especially popular since the world’s economic troubles slowed South Korea’s powerful economy. Paparazzi say most of their ranks are people who have lost their jobs in the downturn and are drawn by news reports of fellow Koreans making tens of thousands of dollars a year reporting crimes.

There are no reliable numbers of people who have taken up the work since governments at all levels have their own programs, but the phenomenon is large enough that it has spawned a new industry: schools set up to train aspiring paparazzi…

The outsourcing of law enforcement has also been something of a boon for local governments. They say that they can save money on hiring officers, and that the fines imposed on offenders generally outstrip the rewards paid to informers…

For most infractions, rewards can range from as little as about $5 (reporting a cigarette tosser) to as much as $850 (turning in an unlicensed seller of livestock). But there are possibilities for windfalls. Seoul’s city government promises up to $1.7 million for reports of major corruption involving its own staff members…

Not a new idea; but, certainly the most extensive implementation of civilian policing I can recall. Being a bounty hunter – without a gun and the crap ideology it’s wrapped in here in the USofA – is an old and usually honorable profession. Only the crooks and corrupt are serious about their complaints. And honest civilians who criticise the craft – should take a look at the standards they’re using to judge their fellow citizens who own both a conscience and a camera.

Written by Ed Campbell

September 29, 2011 at 2:00 pm

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