Show up at car lot – notice 81 cars and 3 executives missing. Hmm.

TOOELE, UT…Three auto executives with Tooele County ties were taken into custody in connection with the theft of 81 vehicles from a Scottsbluff, Neb., dealership they were running together.

Legacy Auto Sales owner Allen Patch, controller Rachel Fait, and general manager Rick Covello allegedly arranged to have the vehicles — identified as Fords and Toyotas — transported by truck to be sold at auctions in a number of western states including Utah. An investigation was launched Monday when employees at the dealership showed up for work and noticed an empty lot. Investigators reported that the trio’s desks had been cleaned out and their homes vacated.

The Scottsbluff County Attorney’s Office issued warrants to bring the threesome in for questioning, estimating the value of the missing cars at $2.5 million.

Patch, a former Tooele resident, is the previous owner of Quality Automotive in Tooele. Fait and Covello are part-time Tooele residents who worked for Patch at Quality and have remained business associates.

Patch turned himself in to Utah Motor Vehicle Enforcement Division authorities this morning, according to Charlie Roberts, public information officer with MVED. “He was arrested on the outstanding warrant and transported to the Tooele County Jail,” Roberts said.

Fait was taken into custody by the Tooele County Sheriff’s Office Wednesday evening at a family home in Tooele and booked into the Tooele County Jail, according to Sheriff Frank Park. Covello turned himself in earlier Wednesday in Nebraska.

The investigation into the case is ongoing. Roberts said his department recovered 18 vehicles from Bargain Buggies in Erda at around 11:30 a.m. today, with others popping up at dealerships in the Salt Lake Valley.

Har! I’ll bet those buggies were bargains.

Cheaper, more sustainable construction with concrete beams

Dr. Sami Rizkalla

People are always looking for ways to make something less expensive and more environmentally friendly – and a team of researchers from North Carolina State University has figured out how to do both of those things at once when building the parking garages of the future.

More specifically, the researchers have figured out a way to use 30 percent less reinforcing steel in the manufacture of the concrete beams, or spandrels, used in the construction of parking garages – without sacrificing safety. Dr. Sami Rizkalla, one of the leaders of the research team, says they developed design guidelines that use less steel while maintaining safety and reliability. The new spandrel design “simplifies construction for precast concrete producers,” Rizkalla says. In addition to using less steel, the new design cuts labor and manufacturing time in half – significantly decreasing costs.

Greg Lucier, a doctoral student at NC State who was also crucial to the research effort, says the new design guidelines include a significant margin for safety. For example, Lucier says the spandrels could handle two to three times the maximum weight they would be expected to bear. Lucier is also the lab manager of the Constructed Facilities Laboratory at NC State, which oversaw the testing of the new spandrel design…

The success of the project is already drawing interest from the concrete industry, with individual companies coming to NC State to get input on how to improve their products and manufacturing processes.

Rock on! So much of commercial structures is founded on concrete beam technology – this is terrific news. Even if you aren’t excited [unless you’re a construction geek like me] about the tech, saving construction costs is always a tempting treat.

Pope says, “We should have Googled Holocaust bishop”

Daylife/AP Photo

The Pope has admitted making mistakes over the lifting of the excommunication of a Holocaust-denying bishop, saying the church will make much greater use of the Internet in the future to help avoid such controversies.

In a letter to church leaders, Pope Benedict XVI says the church should have been aware of the views of Bishop Richard Williamson.

“I have been told that consulting the information available on the Internet would have made it possible to perceive the problem early on.

“I have learned the lesson that in the future the Holy See will have to pay greater attention to that source of news…”

Uh, how much of that excuse do you think is pure bullshit?

Internet or not, are we supposed to believe the Pope didn’t have easy access to the statements from a leading light of the most reactionary wing of Roman Catholicism?

Yale student sues airline for $1 million over lost Xbox

A Yale University student from Ohio has filed a lawsuit seeking $1 million from US Airways for a video game console he says was taken from his luggage.

Twenty-one-year-old Jesse Maiman alleges that during a flight from New Haven, Conn., to Cincinnati in December, his Xbox 360 with a specialized hard drive disappeared from his luggage.

Maiman says he got what he called “an unconscionable run-around” from the airline. He’s asking $1,700 for the loss of the gaming system and for the maximum damages allowable, or $1 million.

Sounds about right for a Yalie.

Israel Lobby wins one over Obama

Do these schoolchildren count as much as Israeli schoolchildren?
Daylife/AP Photo by Anja Niedringhaus

The Obama administration’s candidate for a top US intelligence post has withdrawn, after his past criticism of Israel came under heavy fire.

Charles Freeman had been named to head the National Intelligence Council, which produces security assessments. But his comments about Israel, as well as links to China and Saudi Arabia, had enraged dozens of US lawmakers…

Some observers are interpreting it as a test case of the Obama administration’s willingness to stand up to powerful pro-Israeli forces in US politics.

Mr Freeman has served as a former ambassador to Saudi Arabia, a senior diplomat in China and an assistant secretary of defence. His background and past statements had caused dozens of members of Congress – mainly Republican – to question his appointment.

Among their stated concerns were remarks attributed to Mr Freeman in 2007, in which he said: “The brutal oppression of the Palestinians by Israeli occupation shows no signs of ending,” and “American identification with Israel has become total”

In a message posted on the website of Foreign Policy magazine, Mr Freeman said he believed the “barrage of libellous distortions of my record would not cease upon my entry into office…

He said the incident showed “Americans cannot any longer conduct a serious public discussion or exercise independent judgment about matters of great importance”.

Nothing new, of course. American foreign policy in the Middle East has been supervised by the Israeli government for decades.

Mexican drug lord on Forbes rich list

How Guzman makes his billion$

Forbes magazine’s latest list of the world’s billionaires includes Mexico’s most wanted man – Joaquin Guzman. The 54-year-old, who is said to be the head of one of Mexico’s most powerful drug cartels, is 701st on the list with an estimated fortune of $1 billion.

Mr Guzman, who escaped from a Mexican prison on 2001, is understood to be at large in Mexico or Central America.

Forbes estimates that last year Mexican and Colombian traffickers made between $18 billion and $39 billion. Mr Guzman’s slice of that pie comes from his assumed control of the Sinaloa cartel, which is named after the Mexican state in which it is based.

For over a year the Sinaloa Cartel has been trying to oust a rival gang from the border city of Ciudad Juarez; the turf war has left more than 2,000 people dead.

Those who have met Mr Guzman, who stands at just 5 feet tall (152cm), describe him as a man of extraordinary charisma and intelligence.

I always get pissed off when people waste my time describing the positive qualities of a scumbag. What does charisma have to do with a thug who orders the murder of thousands of people?

It’s like – if George W. Bush or Dick Cheney walked up my driveway and asked for a drink on a hot day – I’d pee in a glass.

Google introducing phone services suite

Saw this a few places, this morning. Just before posting based on news services, I discovered that Om Malik was already a GrandCentral customer. So, he’s already in on the beta:

GrandCentral, a “one number for life” service provider acquired by Google in July 2007 is being reborn as Google Voice, a comprehensive service that is essentially a Microsoft Office-type suite of communications-related services. I say that because the new service is a collection of VoIP-related features that one can typically get from different startups. New features include:

1. You can use your GrandCentral number to send and receive SMS messages, and have them forwarded to your current wireless phone. You can send messages from the mobile or from the phone.

2. Make phone calls using the web or your mobile/landline phone.

3. You can get transcripts for voicemails left on Google Voice. These transcripts, based on internal Google technology currently being used by GOOG-411 service, can be sent to you via SMS.

4. Create conference calls by dragging phone numbers onto existing calls. This will be useful for small businesses and web workers.

5. Free calls to all U.S. numbers. You can make international calls but that will cost you, depending on the country you are dialing.

Continue reading

Lithium-Ion batteries get supercharged

Now, can I have one of these?

A new twist on the familiar lithium ion battery has yielded a type of power-storing material that charges and discharges at lightning speed. The finding could offer a boost for plug-in hybrid and electric vehicles and possibly allow cell phone batteries to regain a full charge in seconds rather than hours.

Rechargeable lithium ion batteries are small and light, yet can store copious amounts of energy, making them ideal for use in everyday electronic devices such as iPods and laptops. This valuable property, called energy density, can be scaled up for hybrid cars as well as for the all-electric Roadster built by Tesla Motors that relies on lithium ion batteries…and the similarly powered Chevy Volt plug-in electric, about to hit the market.

One downside: lithium ion batteries do not dispense their charge—carried by lithium ions and electrons, hence the power source’s name—very quickly compared with some other types of storage batteries. Like a huge auditorium that only has a few doors, getting a large volume of patrons (lithium ions) in and out is a drawn-out affair…The slow exchange of ions also means lithium ion batteries recharge slowly—just think of how long you have to charge your tiny cell phone.

In an attempt to pick up the pace, the M.I.T. researchers coated the lithium iron phosphate material with an ion conductor, which in this case was a layer of glasslike lithium phosphate. Sure enough, the charge-carrying ions traveled much faster from their storage medium; a prototype battery the scientists built completely charged in about 10 to 20 seconds…

Two companies have already licensed the technology, according to Byoungwoo Kang. Researchers are not sure how much these batteries will cost when they hit the market, but Kang says they should be reasonably priced, given that it should be relatively cheap to produce them.

I’m ready to get in line. I already have plans for photo-voltaic panels for our home; but, if I can afford to get off the grid altogether I’d love it.

AT&T to put 8,000 natural-gas vehicles on road

2006 Ford Transit All Wheel Drive (AWD)

AT&T will spend up to $350 million over five years to buy more than 8,000 Ford Motor Co. vans and trucks, then convert them to run on compressed natural gas.

It is the largest commitment by a U.S. corporation to vehicles using alternative fuels, the phone company said.

Natural gas is a fossil fuel, but burning it produces 25 percent less carbon emissions than using gasoline, AT&T said. Compared with oil, the U.S. produces a greater proportion of the natural gas it uses.

The company said it will spend the money over five years. While AT&T will buy the chassis from Ford, it has not yet selected a vendor to perform the conversion to natural gas.

The vehicles will be used by technicians who perform installations and maintain the telecommunications network. The company will build 40 natural-gas filling stations to keep them rolling.

AT&T will also spend $215 million over 10 years to replace 7,100 passenger cars with hybrids, and eventually cars powered by other fuel sources, it said.

When they pass through Santa Fe, we already have a couple of CNG filling stations waiting for them.