Alaska inquiry unanimously concludes Sarah Palin abused her powers

Gov. Sarah Palin abused the powers of her office by pressuring subordinates to try to get her former brother-in-law, a state trooper, fired, an investigation by the Alaska Legislature has concluded. The inquiry found, however, that she was within her right to dismiss her public safety commissioner, Walt Monegan, who was the trooper’s boss.

A 263-page report released by lawmakers in Alaska found that Ms. Palin, the Republican vice-presidential nominee, had herself exerted pressure to get Trooper Michael Wooten dismissed, as well as allowed her husband and subordinates to press for his firing, largely as a result of his temperament and past disciplinary problems.

“Such impermissible and repeated contacts,” the report states, “create conflicts of interests for subordinate employees who must choose to either please a superior or run the risk of facing that superior’s displeasure and the possible consequences of that displeasure.” The report concludes that the action was a violation of the Alaska Executive Branch Ethics Act.

What now lies ahead is not fully known at this point. Ms. Palin could be censured by the Legislature, but that is unlikely…

No kidding.

Results like this are always complicated by politicians taking care of their own. The Legislative Committee which issued this report is bipartisan. Their trepidation about mandating sanctions for lousy ethics are probably bipartisan as well.

How will American voters react?

F1 teams, drivers ready to lead eco-technology

Formula One teams and drivers have signalled their readiness to embrace eco-technology and other environmental initiatives being championed by the sport’s governing body.

There is widespread agreement that the fuel-guzzling sport must respond in a responsible way to the environmental challenges of the modern era, with unique green-grooved tyres being run at this weekend’s Japanese Grand Prix.

The tyres are largely symbolic although next season energy-regenerating hybrid devices, which store energy otherwise lost during braking and convert it into power, will be introduced to Formula One.

This KERS (kinetic energy recovery system) technology is part of the FIA’s push to improve its environmental credentials and, ultimately, help increase awareness of fuel-efficient technology on public roads.

“The pressure on the modern world to address the causes of climate change is continually increasing and Formula One is not exempt from this,” Honda team principal Ross Brawn said.

Fair number of smart quotes in the article from Friday’s press conference. Truth is, the best of motorsports engineers and designers understand that everything they do can be dual purpose.

Every feature which results in increased efficiency usually can serve to get you further for less energy consumed – as well as getting you there quickest.

Global mediator Martti Ahtisaari wins Nobel Peace Prize

The Norwegian Nobel Committee has awarded its 2008 peace prize to Martti Ahtisaari, the former Finnish president who has been associated over decades with peace efforts and quiet, cautious diplomacy from Asia to Africa and Europe.

The committee said, Ahtisaari had been chosen “for his important efforts in several continents and over three decades to resolve international conflicts.”

To outsiders, Ahtisaari, 71, has often seemed an undemonstrative and aloof figure. But some people who worked with him praised what Gareth Evans, the head of the nongovernmental International Crisis Group in Brussels called “charm and humor” in dealing with his various negotiating partners.

He has played a central role in ending conflicts that took root in the late 20th century and threatened the early 21st century with conflagrations in many places, some of them remote and all of them complex, presenting mediators with tangles of ethnic, religious or racial passions.

Specifically, the committee mentioned his work in ending South African domination of Namibia, the former South-West Africa, from the 1970s to the late 1990s , and peace efforts in the Indonesian province of Aceh, Kosovo, Northern Ireland, Central Asia, the Horn of Africa and, most recently, in Iraq.

Read the article. Read the details. Learn just a wee bit about man dedicated to moving the lives of all of us – another step forward.

Reflect on it a bit – before you do something silly with your vote.

Instead of burying carbon compounds, turn them back into fuel

You might have thought that recycling is limited to paper, plastics and glass. Well, think again. A Californian company is developing a new technique for recycling carbon dioxide, or CO2, and turning it back into fuel.

Their biocatalytic process converts CO2 into basic hydrocarbons – C1 (methane) C2 (ethane) and C3 (propane) — which can then be utilized to make higher-grade fuels like gasoline and jet fuel…

By employing biocatalysis — using natural catalysts to perform chemical reactions — Carbon Sciences hope to bypass the problem of inefficient energy ratios which can render many CO2 recycling projects pointless.

“We don’t use high temperatures or high pressures, which is a huge advantage in terms of scaling the project up,” Derek McLeish said.

In the future, McLeish envisages Carbon Sciences setting up shop next door to large CO2 emitters — coal, gas-fired plants and oil refineries — recycling concentrated streams of CO2 discharged from fossil fuel plants. Trying to take CO2 out of natural air just wouldn’t be worth it…

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Warren Buffett passes Bill Gates to be richest American

Warren Buffett has overtaken Bill Gates to become the richest American in the Forbes 400 list, Bloomberg said, citing a recalculated list to be published later this month.

The magazine, in its October 27 issue, recalculates the effect of September’s financial news on the wealthiest Americans, those who make up its Forbes 400 list, the agency said.

The Berkshire Hathaway chairman added $8 billion to his net worth in a 33-day period, August 29 to October 1, to reach $58 billion, the agency said, citing the magazine.

Buffett overtook the Microsoft co-founder, whose net worth declined $1.5 billion to $55.5 billion during the 33-day period, the agency said.

Bill Gates had been number 1 on the Forbes list for 15 consecutive years.

Bill is probably heartbroken, eh?

NSA spies on Americans’ intimate conversations

Congress is looking into allegations that National Security Agency linguists have been eavesdropping on Americans abroad. Government linguists say the U.S. eavesdropped on Americans, including military officers serving in Iraq.

The congressional oversight committees said Thursday that the Americans targeted included military officers in Iraq who called friends and family in the United States.

The allegations were made by two former military intercept operators on a television news report.

Adrienne Kinne, a former U.S. Army Reserves Arab linguist, told ABC News the NSA was listening to the phone calls of U.S. military officers, journalists and aid workers overseas who were talking about “personal, private things with Americans who are not in any way, shape or form associated with anything to do with terrorism.”

David Murfee Faulk, a former U.S. Navy Arab linguist, said in the news report that he and his colleagues were listening to the conversations of military officers in Iraq who were talking with their spouses or girlfriends in the United States.

According to Faulk, they would often share the contents of some of the more salacious calls stored on their computers, listening to what he called “phone sex” and “pillow talk.”

Relying on Congressional oversight is worse than letting the fox guard the henhouse. The fox has a vested interest in eating the hens. Congress only cares about lining their pockets and exercising enough political power to tickle their testosterone.

They will “question” the crooks and parrot their answers.

Iceland suspends stock trading, creates new bank

Iceland suspended trading on its stock exchange for two days and took control of the country’s largest bank — the third to be placed under its protective umbrella — on Thursday as it grappled with a banking crisis that is threatening to engulf the entire country.

The Nordic nation’s government also used sweeping new emergency powers to create a new bank that will take over the bulk of the domestic operations of another one of its collapsed banks…

The crisis is also causing ripples throughout Europe, where tens of thousands of people have accounts with subsidiaries of the Icelandic banks.

The OMX Nordic Exchange Iceland said Thursday that equity trading would remain halted until Monday because of “unusual market conditions.”

The government’s decision to take control of Kaupthing, the country’s leading bank that has assets and debts across the continent, means that the Financial Services Authority now has control of all three of the country’s major banks. The other two, Landsbanki and Glitnir, are in receivership.

Some of the Continental banks have been drooling over Iceland for weeks – ready to swoop and put the whole country into receivership. Now that there is a global banking meltdown – well, at least a Western meltdown – that threat may disappear. Doesn’t make things any easier for citizens.

Cripes – even West Ham is probably screwed!

British Ministry loses hard drive with military personnel data

Downing Street has described the loss of data from a Ministry of Defence computer hard drive, which contained the private details of armed forces personnel, as “regrettable”.

The portable drive is believed to contain more than 1.5 million bits of information, including the names, addresses, passport numbers, dates of birth and driving licence details of around 100,000 serving personnel across the army, navy and RAF, as well as their next-of-kin, an MoD spokeswoman said.

It also has data on 600,000 services applicants and the names of their referees.

Officials were “not ruling out” the risk that bank account details of personnel were held on the drive, which belonged to its IT contractor, EDS.

BTW – this is National Identity Fraud Prevention Week in the UK. Stellar example.

Serbia wins bid to review independence of Kosovo

In an unusual resort to international law, Serbia has won a bid to have the International Court of Justice review the manner in which Kosovo declared its independence.

The vote in the United Nations General Assembly was sharply polarized, with 77 countries supporting Serbia’s request, 6 opposed, including the United States, and 76 nations abstaining.

Anyone remember far enough back to when the United States supported the international Rule of Law?

Serbia’s foreign minister, Vuk Jeremic, said the nonbinding decision from the court “will serve to reduce tensions in the region and facilitate our efforts at reconciliation” by transferring the dispute to a judicial arena. Serbia, calling Kosovo a breakaway province, believes that it acted illegally by announcing what Serbia considers a unilateral declaration of independence, and that the court case will make other states hesitate before extending diplomatic recognition.

The court, based in The Hague, is often called upon to mediate border disputes and the like, but requests from the United Nations for legal rulings are rare.

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Yom Kippur riot in Israeli city of Acre

Riots have broken out in the mixed city of Acre, reportedly triggered when an Israeli Arab man drove his car during the Yom Kippur religious holiday. Dozens of cars and shops were damaged as hundreds of people took to the streets

The Arab man was reportedly attacked by youths who said he was making noise intentionally, Haaretz said. The Arab man is reported to have said he was simply driving to a property he owned in the eastern part of the city.

The unrest erupted around midnight local time, with hundreds of people pouring onto the streets as news spread of the alleged assault.

A crowd gathered on Ben Ami Street, a key commercial street in the city, and caused “extensive damage” to vehicles and property in “large-scale” Jewish-Arab rioting, the report said.

Living in a theocracy really gives you a sense of history, doesn’t it. Especially the injustice part.