Police in India arrest 9 from Hindu terrorist cell


Daylife/Reuters Pictures

For the first time in this Hindu-majority nation of 1.1 billion people, the police have announced the arrest of people who are accused of being part of a Hindu terrorist cell.

Police officials in western Maharashtra State said they had arrested the nine suspects and charged them with murder and conspiracy in connection with the bombing in September of a Muslim-majority area in Malegaon, a small city. Six people, all Muslims, died in the explosion, which was among a string of terrorist attacks in Indian cities in recent months…

Among those arrested by the police antiterrorist squad in Maharashtra over the past two weeks is a Hindu nun with links to the principal opposition party, the Bharatiya Janata Party, and an army colonel, who is suspected of having supplied ammunition and provided training to the bombers.

The Indian Army has long viewed itself as being free of ideological or political bias, so the arrest of an army officer was deeply troubling to the military. “I can tell you that we are taking it seriously,” said the defense minister, A. K. Antony…

Officials in the Central Bureau of Investigation told reporters in New Delhi on Saturday that investigators had established a link between the Nanded group and the Malegaon bombing…

Dinesh Aggarwal, an inspector in the antiterrorist squad, said that the suspects were part of a larger conspiracy. “Their precise role will be known after the investigation is completed,” he said.

I preface my feelings about politics in India by admitting I know only historic generalities. My expertise in terrorism is something – gained over years – usually under accusation of supporting so-called terrorists fighting for national liberation against colonial rulers.

Above all, this means I’ve never supported military action against civilians. Something my own nation used to hold dear – a very long time ago. The foolishness of supporting sectarian politics, friends against enemies, whether religious or political definitions group combatants – only comes back to bite you on the ass, sooner or later.

Eventually, sectarian, anti-democratic sophistry comes down to supporting “your” terrorists or “mine”?

Euro car glass cartel hit with 1.4-billion-euro fine


Daylife/Reuters Pictures

The EU’s antitrust chief on Wednesday fined car glass producers Asahi, Pilkington, Saint-Gobain and Soliver more than 1.3 billion euros ($1.66 billion) for price-fixing, the largest sum ever levied by the EU for a cartel.

The European Commission said the four companies control 90 percent of the glass used to make European cars, a market worth 2 billion euros in 2003.

EU Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes said the companies fixed prices over a period of five years. She said the fines were high because European industry had to “learn the lessons the hard way.”

If you cheat, you will get a heavy fine,” she said. “These companies cheated the car industry and car buyers for five years.”

Regulators said Asahi, Pilkington and Saint-Gobain — the three major suppliers of glass to European automakers — met regularly to discuss target prices, shared out markets and allocated car maker customers from early 1998 to early 2003. Soliver only joined some of these meetings.

Collusion, corruption and greed. The holy trinity of modern corporate governance.

Like roaches, broadband over powerline doesn’t go away


Catherine Chalmers

By now even I am tired of pointing out that broadband over power lines as a viable broadband option just doesn’t work. Many, including Google, have spent millions of dollars to make a go of this technology with microscopic success, but that doesn’t stop others from trying. My friend Karl Bode in October said that 2008 was the year BPL died. Apparently not. Now there is news that International Broadband Electric Communications, a startup working to sign up electric cooperatives in rural U.S. areas where there are no broadband options.

The technology involves sending data on the same wires that provide electricity. Every half a mile or so, a device clamped to the line perpetuates the signal…The key innovation introduced in the past few years, Blair said, is the ability to remotely control the devices fixed to power lines. That way it can be told to switch frequency when it meets interference.

IBEC has signed up IBM, which is going to get $9.6 million to provide and install the BPL equipment on a network that would reach 340,000 homes in Alabama, Indiana, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia and Wisconsin. The venture’s promoter and CEO, Scott Lee, says the cost of the network would be as much as $70 million, an amount that they have received as $70 million in low-interest loans from the Department of Agriculture. I gotta be honest — this is going to be money down the drain.

This gets big smiles from that portion of my extended family formerly working in the world of Anaconda. There were a few clients over the years who wasted significant chunks of money in R&D dedicated to this futility. BPL should be laid to rest.

And has anyone heard any stellar results advertised from DirecTV’s short-distance experiments with PL-LANS down in Texas?

Sun shows signs of life – (if you were worried)

After two-plus years of few sunspots, even fewer solar flares, and a generally eerie calm, the sun is finally showing signs of life.

I think solar minimum is behind us,” says sunspot forecaster David Hathaway of the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center.

His statement is prompted by an October flurry of sunspots. “Last month we counted five sunspot groups,” he says. That may not sound like much, but in a year with record-low numbers of sunspots and long stretches of utter spotlessness, five is significant. “This represents a real increase in solar activity.”

Even more significant is the fact that four of the five sunspot groups belonged to Solar Cycle 24, the long-awaited next installment of the sun’s 11-year solar cycle. “October was the first time we’ve seen sunspots from new Solar Cycle 24 outnumbering spots from old Solar Cycle 23. It’s a good sign that the new cycle is taking off…”

Phew! Some of my really paranoid friends will have to go back to worrying about chemtrails.

Pentagon launches TroopTube – for dummies!


Daylife/Getty Images

The U.S. military, with help from Seattle startup Delve Networks, has launched a video-sharing Web site for troops, their families and supporters, a year and a half after restricting access to YouTube and other video sites.

TroopTube, as the new site is called, lets people register as members of one of the branches of the armed forces, family, civilian Defense Department employees or supporters. Members can upload personal videos from anywhere with an Internet connection, but a Pentagon employee screens each for taste, copyright violations and national security issues.

Part of Delve’s work was to build speedy tools for approving and sorting incoming videos. Its technology also crunches video files into several sizes and automatically plays the one that best suits viewers’ Internet connection speeds.

But the startup’s real forte is making sure searches on the site turn up the best video results.

Uh, no – TroopTube’s real forte will be identifying malcontents and turning their butt in to commanders.

Who really will participate in this “social mashup”? Mostly butt-kissers, I imagine. Producing stellar rock videos about how much they love their officers and the military.

Stuck on tarmac? Airlines not required to do a damned thing!


Daylife/AP Photo by Akira Suemori

A federal task force that spent nearly a year wrestling with ways to assist people delayed for hours aboard planes parked on tarmacs has finalized its recommendations — none of which requires airlines and airports to do anything.

If you wondered why Americans have nothing but contempt for government – read the article.

The tarmac task force, as it is informally known, is expected to vote on guidelines for airlines and airports on how to craft their own contingency plans for dealing with lengthy tarmac delays.

Kate Hanni, a task force member and passenger rights advocate, said Tuesday there is nothing in the draft document that requires airlines or airports to provide additional services for passengers stranded aboard airplanes going nowhere…

“We were hoping at a bare minimum to come out of this task force with a definition of what is an extensive on-ground delay,” Hanni said, but that didn’t happened because the airline industry “doesn’t want anything that is remotely enforceable.”

Perish the thought that our elected officials and assorted lackeys might come up with a solution to problems that might inconvenience corporate America. So – one more time – the essential message from Washington is Screw the Consumer!

Non-conformist fruit and vegetables escape regulation ghetto

EU nations have given the green light for bent cucumbers and other “wonky” fruit and vegetables to be sold in supermarkets and elsewhere, as part of a drive to cut red tape…

Which is where they belong. Except in terms of quantity, they’re still in place.

In all, marketing standards for 26 fruits and vegetables are being scrapped, paving the way for the return to shopping trolleys of forked carrots, onions that are less than two thirds covered with skin and the bent cucumbers among other deviant vegetables.

“This marks a new dawn for the curvy cucumber and the knobbly carrot,” said EU Agriculture Commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel…

She added that in the current climate of high food prices and economic woes “consumers should be able to choose from the widest range of products possible. It makes no sense to throw perfectly good products away, just because they are the ‘wrong’ shape…”

Standards are kept in place for 10 others, including several of the most popular items in European kitchens; apples, citrus fruit, kiwi fruit, lettuces, peaches and nectarines, pears, strawberries, sweet peppers, table grapes and tomatoes…

Vendors will be able to sell deviant versions of the still proscribed items as long as they are labelled as a “product intended for processing” or similar.

Idiots. Where have governments gotten to when they feel called upon to act on behalf of the Straight Fruit Growers Guild or some such nonsense – when all they accomplish is additional traffic management and higher costs to the consumer?

Canadian city embarrassed over polygraph questions


Justice Louis Brandeis

Just when you thought Halifax couldn’t embarrass itself any more, news breaks that the municipality asks job applicants if they have had sex with animals.

Now, I don’t imagine that practising bestiality is a necessary qualification for a job with Halifax Regional Municipality. So I’m guessing that this lie detector question is intended to weed applicants out…

Other questions on the test also show that Halifax is going to the dogs. In a direct assault on common decency and personal privacy, Halifax also probes applicants about drug use and suicidal thoughts, which they’re more likely to have after going through the ordeal of a polygraph…

The real issue here is what I would call the right to privacy, if only such a right existed in Canada. Prospective municipal employees were asked not only about their own drug use; they were also expected to divulge any history of domestic abuse, incest and substance abuse counselling.

This not only probes deeply into personal lives; it also at tempts to unearth personal medical histories, which I thought were supposed to be private in this country…

Anyway, Canada has consistently failed to fully protect the privacy of its citizens. And neither the Canadian nor the U.S. constitution explicitly recognizes a right to privacy.

Still, it was a judge, the late Louis Brandeis of the U.S. Supreme Court, who came closest to describing the truth of the matter. In a 1929 decision, Brandeis referred to “the right to be left alone.”

Now, there’s a rule that would appear in a proper crank’s Bill of Rights!

Frozen embryos safer for health of IVF babies, studies say

Using frozen rather than freshly collected embryos during IVF treatment reduces the risks of stillbirth and premature delivery, according to three separate studies.

The findings, from the US, Finland and Australia, suggest the act of stimulating a woman’s ovaries with powerful drugs and then collecting the extra eggs she produces temporarily disrupts any IVF attempt conducted shortly afterwards.

The researchers said the results argue for more IVF cycles to be completed using frozen embryos, which goes against current practice…The new data suggests this preponderance of fresh cycles puts IVF babies at higher risk of being born prematurely and underweight, or dying soon after birth.

The new data poses a dilemma for IVF clinics, because fresh cycles tend to be more successful at resulting in pregnancies – 31% of fresh cycles in 2006 for under 35s resulted in a birth, compared with 20.1% for frozen cycles.

Maybe my logic is countered by the demands of parents seeking IVF pregnancy – and their physicians. I’d rather work against a lower likelihood of pregnancy if it increased the odds for a healthy baby.

Wouldn’t you?

Canadian trucker caught smuggling cash into the U.S.

An Ontario man told U.S. border patrol agents that he was coming into the United States with $700 cash. But a scanning device that can X-ray vehicles for hidden compartments and a vigilant patrol dog showed his declaration was more than $2 million short of reality.

Eskender Mafarani of Richmond Hill, Ontario, appeared for a detention hearing in federal court in Detroit in what border patrol agents are calling the largest bulk cash smuggling case ever in the eastern district of Michigan.

Mafarani, 52, was crossing the Ambassador Bridge into the United States in a blue Volvo truck Friday when a border patrol officer asked him if he had anything to declare, according to a U.S. District Court affidavit. Mafarani said he had nothing to declare and was traveling with $700, the affidavit states.

However, border patrol officers used X-ray images to find hidden compartments in the truck. A patrol dog also alerted the officers to two different areas near the side walls of the truck, authorities said.

Once they searched the truck, officers found more than $2 million in cash wrapped in 138 bundles in hidden compartments, along with six cell phones, a laptop computer and $1,220 in Canadian cash.

Oops! Spare change for the toll booth?