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Archive for December 4th, 2012

Woman wins court case against ex-husband – her lawyer plans to foreclose on her home for payment!

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A B.C. woman stands to lose her home to her lawyer, who is moving to foreclose on her to pay his six-figure bill.

“My friends and family say this can’t be happening. There’s got to be a mistake,” Dale Fotsch said.

Fotsch got into the predicament after being sued by her former common-law husband, even though she won the case and the court ordered him to pay her costs…”I won, but I lost,” Fotsch said…

A decade ago, her common law ex-husband Leigh Wilson went after Fotsch, trying to get a piece of her property after their breakup. The case took nine years to resolve, which was years longer than her lawyer had predicted, she said.

“There was a three-week trial – three weeks! For my little place in the country. I mean, it just seems a little overboard and ridiculous,” Fotsch said. “There were three tables of binders, with papers stacked sky high.”

She said she had already paid thousands in legal fees when the case finally went to trial in 2007. As it advanced, her lawyer said he wouldn’t continue unless she allowed him to secure a $100,000 mortgage against her property, at 18 per cent interest per year.

Vancouver divorce lawyer Jonas Dubas charges $300 an hour. His invoices to Fotsch include charges like $148.40 to simply call another lawyer and leave a voicemail message…

When she finally won, in 2010, the B.C. Court of Appeal ordered Fotsch’s former husband to pay her court costs. That would have covered at least part of her bill from Dubas — which, by then, had reached $90,000.

“When they said he was responsible for the costs, I thought that meant that he was going to pay them,” Fotsch said.

However, her ex-husband has since declared bankruptcy, so he hasn’t paid and she can’t force him to. Meanwhile, her legal bill has mushroomed — with $88 a day in interest charges — and has now reached $180,000…

I’ve gone to court like they told me I had to, to save my place. And now the very person that I got to help me is taking it…”

I have this discussion once in a while when folks say I’m too hard on lawyers.

Look, I’ve known some great lawyers – who fit the design of folks who fight to defend the rights of ordinary citizens. Spent some great times with Bill Kuntsler and Ted Koskoff. Ted had a rule of thumb that a third of the cases he took on would end up being unpaid – for folks who could never afford the head of the National Trials Lawyers Association; but, needed a great lawyer to help them battle some sleazy corporation or rightwing police department. They were kind of folks who accepted the Bill of Rights as the mantra for their career in law.

And then there are grasping, greedy and unprincipled types who don’t care whether or not they give their clients timely service at honest rates. Which kind do you think represents the majority?

You don’t even have to count in the lawyers in Congress.

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Written by Ed Campbell

December 4, 2012 at 8:00 pm

Unintended consequences: Physicist finds rain data breakthrough

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John Lane looks over data recorded from his laser system

A physicist and researcher who set out to develop a formula to protect Apollo sites on the moon from rocket exhaust may have happened upon a way to improve weather forecasting on Earth.

Working in his backyard during rain showers and storms, John Lane, a physicist at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, found that the laser and reflector he was developing to track lunar dust also could determine accurately the size of raindrops, something weather radar and other meteorological systems estimate, but don’t measure.

The special quantity measured by the laser system is called the “second moment of the size distribution,” which results in the average cross-section area of raindrops passing through the laser beam.

It’s not often that you’re studying lunar dust and it ends up producing benefits in weather forecasting,” said Phil Metzger, a physicist who leads the Granular Mechanics and Regolith Operations Lab, part of the Surface Systems Office at Kennedy.

Lane said the additional piece of information would be useful in filling out the complex computer calculations used to determine the current conditions and forecast the weather…

The breakthrough came because Metzger and Lane were looking for a way to calibrate a laser sensor to pick up the fine particles of blowing lunar dust and soil. It turns out that rain is a good stand-in for flying lunar soil…

“The Apollo sites have value scientifically and from an engineering perspective because they are a record of how these materials on the moon have interacted with the solar system over 40 years,” Metzger said. “They are witness plates to the environment…”

As research continues into the laser sensor, Lane expects the work to continue on the weather forecasting side of the equation, too. Lane already presented some of his findings at a meteorological conference and is working on a research paper to detail the work. “This is one of those topics that span a lot of areas of science,” Lane said.

I probably should add the old economics phrase to my list of categories – “unintended consequences”. It functions as often and as well in general science.

Written by Ed Campbell

December 4, 2012 at 4:00 pm

Canadian National sent trainloads of biodiesel back and forth over the border – made millions never unloading the tankers

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Tanker cars
Well, it looked like this number – on paper

A CBC News investigation has uncovered a cross-border mystery involving unexplained shipments of biodiesel tanker cars that were sent back and forth numerous times between Canada and the U.S. by CN Rail but were never unloaded.

According to leaked internal CN documents, the rail company stood to make $2.6 million for the effort…

Here comes the papier-mâché excuse:

“CN received shipping directions from the customer, which, under law, it has an obligation to meet,” CN Rail spokesman Mark Hallman said last week. “CN discharged its obligations with respect to those movements in strict compliance with its obligations as a common carrier, and was compensated accordingly.”

When asked whether CN wasn’t helping to do something strange, Hallman responded: “CN met its obligations as a common carrier and we have no further comment.”

CN employees, although guarded, were more candid…“In 25 years, I’d never done anything like it,” one railway worker told CBC News on the condition he not be named for fear he might be fired. “The clerk told me it was some kind of money grab. We just did what we were told…”

“This unit train will move at least once daily to Port Huron starting on Tuesday, June 18,” said an email written by Teresa Edwards, CN’s manager of transportation for Port Huron/Sarnia.

It will “clear customs and return to Sarnia. If we can get in more flips back and forth we will attempt to do so. Each move per car across the border is revenue generated for Sarnia/Port Huron.

“It will be the same cars flipping back and forth and the product will stay on the car…”

Each shipment generated bills of lading, customs import and export forms that suggest total biodiesel shipments of 1,984 cars — which, taken together, would be valued in the hundreds of millions.

The U.S. biodiesel companies listed as customers were HeroBX and Northern Biodiesel. Northern Biodiesel did not answer calls, and it is unclear whether it is still operating as a business. CBC News called HeroBX repeatedly, but it has refused to respond…

RTFA for more of the same. There is a portion of North American capitalism completely absorbed in shuffling papers – with the complicity of local, regional and national bureaucrats – which produces a profit solely on the basis of manipulation. Entirely antithetical to the intent of law, commerce and justice. But, then, that doesn’t matter if it turns a profit, eh?

Written by Ed Campbell

December 4, 2012 at 12:00 pm

Hotels “help” geeks through their holiday without a hookup

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With the advent of smartphones we’ve become used to being constantly connected, even when we’re on the road or on vacation. But now a growing number of hotels are adding “digital detox” packages to their roster of offerings.

Detox packages are nothing new. For decades, hotels and vacation retreats have enticed guests to “clean out,” often with the help of a specialized diet plan and fitness regimens (with a massage thrown in for good measure). These days, the concept is being pushed to help us disconnect from technology. The World Travel Market Global Trends Report even listed digital detox as one of the next big trends to hit the hospitality industry in the coming year…

“We’ve witnessed the increased dependency people now have on their electronic devices,” notes Andrew Henning, the general manager at The Westin Dublin, in Ireland.

In March, the hotel introduced a digital detox package to combat this gadget addiction – recently classified in the media as “nomophobia”. Guests that partake in the package stash their electronic devices in a safe, and in exchange get a detox survival kit, which includes a board game, a walking map, a tree-planting kit, and other reminders that life exists beyond the confines of an iPad.

Via Yoga, a company that hosts yoga retreats in Mexico and Costa Rica, feels so strongly about the need for its guests to unplug that it decided to offer a 15% discount as an incentive for anyone willing to give up their iPhone…

Via Yoga’s detox package is popular, but other venues offering similar packages admit that while there’s interest, they’re not flooded with bookings.

The Hotel Monaco Chicago provides guests with a “black-out” option, whereby they surrender their gadgets to reception upon checking in.

“We were constantly hearing from guests how they loved that the Monaco was an escape from the hustle and bustle of the city,” says Marco Scherer, the hotel’s general manager. “We decided to allow our guests the option to experience the ultimate seclusion by voluntarily forfeiting all methods of electronic communication at check-in.”

Though guests are intrigued by the package, Scherer says very few actually opt to give up their devices…”Most guests prefer our free wi-fi,” he admits.

Cripes. Neurotics worrying about being neurotic.

Electronic gadgets serve useful functions. It’s why cameras were invented. Same goes for the apps, If you have no control over your life, paying someone else to “help” you with the problem – during a holiday stay – is absurd. Unless you’re spending your money to head off on a therapy holiday.

Probably cost less to get your therapy while maintaining your normal daily life.

Written by Ed Campbell

December 4, 2012 at 8:00 am

How long can you hold out against construction?

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REUTERS/China Daily

A car stops beside a house in the middle of a newly built road in Wenling, Zhejiang province, China…An elderly couple refused to sign an agreement to allow their house to be demolished. They say that compensation offered is not enough to cover rebuilding costs, according to local media. Their house is the only building left standing on a road which is paved through their village.

The Reuters photographer says they reached an acceptable price a few days later. They surely drove the road-building crew crazy. :)

Written by Ed Campbell

December 4, 2012 at 2:00 am

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