France recognizes state’s guilt in Holocaust

The top French judicial body Monday recognized the government’s responsibility for the deportation of Jews during World War II, the clearest such recognition of the state’s role in the Holocaust.

The Council of State said that the government of Nazi-occupied France held the “responsibility” for deportations.

Thousands of Jews were deported from France to Nazi death camps during the occupation. After the war, subsequent French governments took decades to acknowledge any role by the Vichy regime in the Holocaust.

A Paris court had sought the Council of State’s opinion on a request by the daughter of a deportee who died at Auschwitz for reparations from the French state. She was also asking for material and moral damages for her own personal suffering during and after the occupation. The council left it up to the lower court to rule on her request.

But the council in its decision said that it “considers that because the acts and actions by the state led to the deportation of people considered Jews by the Vichy regime,” they constituted errors and became “its responsibility.”

At half a million, France, today, has the largest Jewish community in Western Europe.

Pirate Bay copyright test case begins in Sweden

The trial against the Pirate Bay has started in Sweden and file sharers and P2P journalists alike can hardly contain themselves. The Times of London has dubbed it the “Internet piracy trial of the decade,” and the Pirate Bay’s staff and supporters have planed an ongoing spectacle in front of the courthouse, involving, among other things, a brass band, rallies and an old bus that will be used as a press center.

But what is the case really about? Who are the people involved, what can we expect to happen in court, and what’s at stake in case of a guilty verdict? For our definitive primer, read on:

What is the Pirate Bay? Good question, actually. Most people know the Pirate Bay’s web site, which lists torrents for countless movies, TV show episodes, albums, applications and other digital loot. Those torrent files are used as a starting point for BitTorrent-based file swapping, which means that the Hollywood flicks in question are transmitted straight from one user’s hard disk to another…

How did the trial come about? The entertainment industry has been trying for years to get Swedish authorities to shut down the Pirate Bay. Swedish police finally raided a data center housing the Bay’s servers in May of 2006, confiscating a number of servers and briefly taking more than 100 web sites offline. However, the Pirate Bay was back online just three days later. Public prosecutor Hakan Roswall announced charges against the three admins and a suspected accomplice in January of 2008.

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Unemployed workers are heading back to school


Janice McFadden’s story hardly stands out. The Pennsylvania woman was laid off in November after working at the same company for nearly 20 years.

But when McFadden talks about the future, she has found some cause for hope. In January, the 43-year-old enrolled in the tuition assistance program at Montgomery County Community College in Blue Bell, Pennsylvania. The program offers county residents who have been laid off since September 2008 the opportunity to take 12 college credits — usually four courses — for free.

McFadden said the program will allow her to reassess her options while she improves her marketability and salary potential.

She is one of more than 1,100 Pennsylvanians taking tuition-free community college courses as they search for a job. Many are concentrating on new job skills, such as computer programming and accounting, to retrofit their résumés so they can compete in a turbulent job market.

It’s a trend echoed at community colleges across the country. George Boggs, president of the American Association of Community Colleges, said he has heard from 75 college presidents reporting double-digit enrollment increases this semester. “Community colleges are a big part of the solution to this economic downturn,” Boggs said. “We are the institutions that are on the ground bringing these individuals into our institutions and preparing them for a new career.”

Many community colleges have cut or frozen tuition for laid-off workers, established scholarship programs or offered financial assistance to pay for textbooks and transportation costs.

Potential expansion of programs like these were cut from the Stimulus Bill by Republicans.

I trudged through a few recessions in my day. The worst being under the thumb of Republican administrations. We were lucky if there were enough liberal or progressive votes in Congress to get an extension to unemployment compensation much less education opportunities.

I won’t take space here to make suggestions to the unemployed about what skills should be polished for the future. You’ll find someone to do that locally. My advice is throw the sleazy bastards out of office who refuse to help you get a job.

TI chipset enables 20-megapixel camera phones, 1080p video

Present-gen OMAP3 series in the Palm Pre

TI today unveiled a mobile-phone platform at the Mobile World Congress, capable of recording 1080p video, shooting 20-megapixel images, and playing MP3s for a week on one battery charge. The OMAP 4 platform is the first to use ARM’s multi-core Cortex-A9 processor, which can offer up to seven times the computing performance of today’s top smartphones, according to TI.

The OMAP4430 and 4440 chipsets will include the following processor cores: a dual-core Cortex-A9 main processor running at 1 GHz or higher, a DSP, and a dedicated graphics chip. The chipsets will support WUXGA screens—that’s 1920 by 1200 resolution, the ideal standard resolution for watching 1080p video. And they’ll record 4 hours of video on a single charge…

The OMAP 4 chipset will support Windows Mobile, Symbian, and all Linux-based OSs, including Android and Palm’s WebOS, Tolbert said. For an OS to take advantage of the OMAP 4’s power, it will need to support symmetric multiprocessing…

“The OMAP 4 platform lends itself well to a variety of equipment from smartphones to MIDs to netbooks,” Product Marketing Manager Robert Tolbert said.

OMAP 4 chipsets will go into production in the second half of 2010, so you should see phones based on these chips sometime in 2011. (The Palm Pre 3, perhaps?)

TI always raises itself from the ashes of whichever marketplace it chooses. Stellar R&D.

US army wants to recruit more immigrants

Immigrant soldiers receiving citizenship – in Baghdad
Daylife/AP Photo by Petros Giannakouris

Stretched thin in Afghanistan and Iraq, the American military will begin recruiting skilled immigrants who are living in this country with temporary visas, offering them the chance to become United States citizens in as little as six months.

Immigrants who are permanent residents, with documents commonly known as green cards, have long been eligible to enlist. But the new effort, for the first time since the Vietnam War, will open the armed forces to temporary immigrants if they have lived in the United States for a minimum of two years, according to military officials familiar with the plan.

Recruiters expect that the temporary immigrants will have more education, foreign language skills and professional expertise than many Americans who enlist, helping the military to fill shortages in medical care, language interpretation and field intelligence analysis.

The program will begin small — limited to 1,000 enlistees nationwide in its first year, most for the Army and some for other branches. If the pilot program succeeds as Pentagon officials anticipate, it will expand for all branches of the military. For the Army, it could eventually provide as many as 14,000 volunteers a year, or about one in six recruits.

Is this a negative commentary about the state of American education or the willingness of immigrants to do damned near anything to acquire U.S. citizenship? In peacetime it’s no big deal to keep an army staffed. In fact, there’s a whole discussion begging attention on revising the tasks of a peacetime army.

But, that’s not where our government thinks we’re at.

UK mobile phone firms to sell customer Web info

“You want me to buy what…?”
Daylife/AP Photo by Ramon Espinosa

The UK’s mobile phone networks are to start selling data about the internet sites visited by their customers to advertisers.

The companies have been collecting the information over the past year and will use it in an attempt to generate more advertising. News that the industry has been monitoring what users do on the mobile web is likely to infuriate privacy campaigners.

“You can really start to build up a compelling case that says if you are a media company or advertising company, this is where you should be targeting your spending…” – says their flunky spokesman.

In the fixed-line world, BT has come under intense criticism for using technology developed by Phorm to snoop on what its customers are doing on the web, even though customers must give their permission before their traffic is watched and all information about which sites are being visited is immediately anonymised.

The GSMA stressed that the traffic data it had been collecting in the UK had also been anonymised and it had checked with European regulators to ensure that its service complied with the relevant laws.

Michael O’Hara described the data as “a real measurement of what people are doing with their mobile device.”

I know, I know. It’s Opt-in and I do, in fact, opt in for a couple of services accessing my home entertainment system and network.

The Brits serve as stalking horse for most of the Western Establishment’s assault on civil liberties and I’m doubly suspicious of anything their teleco gatekeepers come up with.

Thanks, Cinaedh

Venezuelan leader wins key electoral reform

Hugo Chavez – and his wee grandson – celebrate
Daylife/AP Photo by Fernando Llano

Venezuelans have voted to lift limits on terms in office for elected officials, allowing President Hugo Chavez to stand for re-election. With 94% of votes counted, 54% backed an end to term limits, a National Electoral Council official said.

“The doors of the future are wide open,” Mr Chavez shouted from the balcony of the Miraflores presidential palace after the results were announced.

“In 2012 there will be presidential elections, and unless God decides otherwise, unless the people decide otherwise, this soldier is already a candidate.”

Crowds of the president’s supporters filled in the streets, letting off fireworks, waving red flags and honking car horns.

More than 11 million voters out of almost 17 million who were eligible took part in Sunday’s referendum, said the head of the electoral body. International observers said the ballot was free and fair, and opposition leaders were quoted as saying they would not contest the vote.

Term limits are one of my pet peeves. As pissed off as I get about reactionary politicians being re-elected, I have no right to demand that voters have no choice to vote for them, again. Right-wingers only bring up the question when there are popular left-wing or liberal candidates in office.

In fact, the archetype for this was the 2-term limit passed in the United States after World War 2 – passed by conservatives afraid there might be another liberal Democrat candidate in the mold of Franklin Roosevelt. They have the same fears over Barack Obama, nowadays.

Texas prison cellphone smuggling widespread

Cellphone-sniffing dog. Har!

Authorities say they are closing in on at least four groups of convicts and their supporters — both inside prison and out — who are believed to have helped smuggle dozens of cell phones into Texas’ death row…

The cell phone that condemned killer Richard Lee Tabler used to call a state senator probably was not his. It’s believed to have been sneaked into the maximum-security Polunsky Unit near Livingston in East Texas by a convict who probably then “brokered” it to Tabler and other inmates for favors and cash.

Instead of the phone being smuggled by a single corrupt guard, as originally thought, investigators now say it and dozens of others might have been put in the hands of Texas’ worst killers by an intricate network of supporters and their families who used code words, fake names, money transfers, prearranged drop sites and even a secret compartment at the bottom of a garbage can to get the phones inside what is supposed to be the most secure part of Texas’ prison system.

You can stop contraband from coming into prisons if you want to,” said Sen. John Whitmire, the Houston Democrat whom Tabler threatened. “It may be complicated, but they keep it out of county jails and federal prisons and airports. This is not rocket science…”

Smuggled cell phones have been on the rise in prisons across the country, according to news reports. The phones have been used from inside prison to order a murder of a witness in Maryland, to orchestrate a prison riot in Oklahoma and to arrange drug deals and threaten witnesses in several other states.

Great article with lots of info. Perhaps, now that the country club libertarians no longer have complete control of Congress, a law can be passed permitting prisons to selectively block cellphone communications.

And then there’s the possibility of requiring ID to purchase cellphones and SIM cards? The cellphone manufacturers and all the largest retailers oppose that one as well. Perish the thought a purchase might take an extra minute – for an honest citizen.

Buffalo plane crash reignites deicing debate

Daylife/Reuters Pictures

As the families of the victims prepare to identify the remains of their loved ones, crash investigators and air safety experts also have a difficult task ahead: determining how frozen water could have brought down a brand new plane with high tech deicing equipment…

Former Federal Aviation Administration chief investigator Steven Wallace says propeller planes, even large ones like the one that crashed near Buffalo, are far more susceptible to ice buildup than jets.

“Jetliners, one, they tend to climb up and down through the altitudes faster and icing only occurs in a 10 to 15 degree centigrade span,” Wallace says. “And one difference with a big jet airliner, they typically have heated wings. They bleed air off the engines to heat the wings.”

Turboprops, on the other hand, tend to have inflatable devices called boots mounted on the edges of the wings to knock ice off…

Last October, the NTSB renewed its criticism of the FAA over its snail-paced revisions of its recommended deicing procedures. In a blistering release it accused the FAA of complacency: “The FAA has stated that no unsafe conditions exist that warrant actions beyond those that have already been completed or are in the process of being completed. The Board is concerned that the FAA has reached this conclusion based on a lack of accidents or serious incidents.”

“You do a rash of wing icing accidents,” Robert Benzon said. “We rattle our sword. The industry gets its act together and then as time passes, things start to slip and 10 years down the road you get another rash of this type of accident. It’s a difficult thing to overcome.”

Good article – a great deal of detail and history. Worth reading if you want to have an educated opinion on the topic – and you should. You or your loved one might be on one of these critters some winter.