Pakistan’s Interior Minister urges unity against Taleban

Daylife/AP Photo

Pakistan’s interior minister has urged the country to unite against insurgents after gunmen launched a deadly attack on a police academy in Lahore. Rehman Malik said the country had a choice between letting the Taleban take over and uniting to fight them.

He also pointed the finger at other extremist groups, while suggesting that a foreign state may have been involved.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for Monday’s attack, which left at least 18 people dead…

It came less than a month after gunmen attacked the Sri Lankan cricket team in Lahore, killing six policemen.

Until this year, the city, Pakistan’s cultural capital, had remained relatively free of post-9/11 militant violence.

But Pakistan’s militants appear to be running riot, the BBC’s Damian Grammaticas reports from Lahore.

Here is the earlier story of the attack on the police academy.

Push may be coming to shove – and politicians will have to move beyond banal and trite declarations in their usual hope of getting swing votes from that small minority of Pakistan’s population dedicated to Islamist terror. It’s time to commit to the needs of the whole nation.

U.S. plans for Afghanistan and Pakistan will be coming into play over the next several months and it’s liable to be one of those trains that passes through town just once. You get on board – or you miss the ride.

Supreme Court refuses to revive Virginia anti-spam law

Daylife/AP Photo

The Supreme Court will not consider reinstating Virginia’s anti-spam law, among the nation’s toughest in banning unsolicited e-mails.

The court on Monday said it will leave in place a ruling by the Virginia Supreme Court that the law was unconstitutional because it prohibited political, religious and other messages in addition to commercial solicitations.

Virginia was the only state to ban noncommerical spam e-mail.

The decision also cements the reversal of the conviction of Jeremy Jaynes, who once was considered one of the world’s most prolific spammers. Jaynes bombarded Internet users with millions of pieces of spam, all of it commercial.

The creep is still serving time for securities fraud, anyway. Someone should show up for his eventual parole hearing and jump up and down and shout that he’s a sexual predator or something equally popular.

Brawn, Button, Barrichello all winners at Oz Gran Prix – UPDATED

Daylife/Reuters Pictures

Jenson Button says he and teammate Rubens Barrichello will not be underestimating their F1 rivals after a triumphant 1-2 in the season-opening Australian Grand Prix. The Brawn GP pair dominated Sunday’s race at Albert Park, leading many to predict they will take a stranglehold on this season’s title race.

Who’s predicting that? Some ninny who never follows Formula One?

But Melbourne winner Button is warning against complacency…

“Rubens and I are both going to be very competitive, pushing each other very hard. But I’ve a feeling other teams are going to be on us very quickly, and when we get to a different type of circuit, maybe in Malaysia, some other cars which weren’t so competitive here will be.”

Sunday’s sweep of the first two places completed a fairytale recovery for a team which was rescued from bankruptcy by Ross Brawn and team chief Nick Fry after Honda pulled out of F1 late last year.

Not since 1954, when legendary five-time champion Juan Manuel Fangio led home Karl Kling for Mercedes in the French Grand Prix, has a team taken the top two places on their debut.

An exciting race. Including the disastrous crash 2 laps from the finish that took out Kubica and Vettel. Lewis Hamilton was moved to 3rd after a penalty on Trulli for passing while the safety car was out.

Could be a hell of a season.

UPDATE: FIA back to normal, reversing earlier ruling on Trulli – DQ for Lewis Hamilton and reinstating Trulli’s 3rd place.

Transsexual man expecting twins – nutballs go bonkers!


A 25-year-old transsexual man in Barcelona has announced that he is pregnant with twins, prompting debate in Spain about the ethical use of reproductive technology. Rubén Noé Coronado Jiménez, who is reportedly nine weeks pregnant, interrupted hormone treatments and postponed plans to have a full sex-change operation in order to get pregnant because his 43-year-old girlfriend could no longer have children.

I can just hear the furor among True Believers. “The Anti-Christ has come. Runaway! Runaway!”

After emailing the 158 fertility clinics in Spain, he found one in Barcelona willing to help him prepare his atrophied uterus for insemination by donated sperm. “I have a right to have a baby,” he told reporters. “We are going to be a father, a mother and two children. I don’t see the problem.”

Coronado is not the first transsexual to become pregnant, but is reportedly the first to have twins.

Mar Combrolle, president of the Association of Transsexuals of Andalusia, denied Coronado’s pregnancy was “a contradiction”. She said: “The desire to have a child knows no sex. I think any biological man who wanted a child would give birth if he could.” She added that she recognised that not every transsexual would postpone a sex change in order to become pregnant.

Cripes. Does everyone have to turn an essentially private, family matter into a public soap opera?

If you took the religious moral panic out of the equation, this wouldn’t even make to to the newspapers.

Survival lessons for U.S. papers – from Europe?


As the death toll in the American newspaper industry mounted this month, the German publisher Axel Springer, which owns Bild, the biggest newspaper in Europe, reported the highest annual profit in its 62-year history.

At Springer’s headquarters in Berlin, there has been no desperate talk of how to survive the recession and the digital revolution, the daily preoccupation of many U.S. publishers. Instead, Mathias Döpfner, Springer’s chief executive, said he was looking for opportunities to expand, scouting around for acquisition targets in Germany, Eastern Europe and maybe — in what would be a first for the company — the United States.

“I don’t believe in the end of the world; I don’t believe in the end of journalism,” Mr. Döpfner said. “On the contrary, I think the crisis can have a positive impact. The number of players will diminish, but the strong players may be stabler after the crisis.”

Viewed from Europe, “there is a certain irony” in the plight of the U.S. newspaper industry, he said: America created the companies that dominate the Internet globally, yet its newspaper companies have struggled to adapt to the technology. Perhaps because there is no homegrown European equivalent to Google, Amazon or eBay, he added, “there has been more pressure on European publishers to change in a more progressive way.”

Around the world, American newspapers are often held up as the gold standard of quality journalism. But now that the business of American newspapers has tarnished, could those papers learn a thing or two from their European counterparts?

Perhaps so. In Europe, some publishers — not just financial newspapers like The Wall Street Journal — have figured out how to raise money from their readers, reducing their reliance on fickle advertisers. Others have created successful new Web sites from scratch, giving their Internet divisions the heft that many American newspaper publishers’ online units lack. And still others have taken maverick approaches to competing with the likes of Google, which in many countries mops up more online ad revenue than all newspapers combined.

Thoroughgoing article. Worth reading.

Though, I approached it with some trepidation. You’re seeing this article appearing in the Online Global Edition of the New York Times – instead of where I originally bookmarked it – the online edition of the International Herald Tribune.

I have read the IHT for as long as I have read the Times. I’ve always considered it a better paper – especially before it was purchased by the Times.

We’ll see what happens. It as, after all, part of the process discussed in this article.

President Obama lays down terms for Auto Bailout

Daylife/Getty Images

The White House on Sunday pushed out the chairman of General Motors and instructed Chrysler to form a partnership with the Italian automaker Fiat within 30 days as conditions for receiving another much-needed round of government aid.

The decision to ask G.M.’s chairman and chief executive, Rick Wagoner, to resign caught Detroit and Washington by surprise, and it underscored the Obama administration’s determination to keep a tight rein on the companies it is bailing out — a level of government involvement in business perhaps not seen since the Great Depression.

Mr. Obama’s auto industry task force, in a report released Sunday night assessing the viability of both companies and detailing the administration’s new plans for them, concluded that Chrysler could not survive as a stand-alone company.

The report said the company would get no more help from the government unless it can finalize a proposed alliance with the Italian automaker Fiat by April 30. It must also reduce its debt and health-care obligations.

If a deal is reached between Chrysler and Fiat, the administration says it would consider another loan of $6 billion to Chrysler.

G.M., on the other hand, has made considerable progress in developing new energy-efficient cars and could survive if it can cut costs sharply, the task force reported. The administration is giving G.M. 60 days to present a cost-cutting plan and will provide taxpayer assistance to keep it afloat during that time.

The plan Mr. Obama announced today will also include government backing of warranties for G.M. and Chrysler cars and trucks, to give consumers enough confidence to buy them, even if one or both are forced into bankruptcy.

Most of the TV talking heads wasted my time. They didn’t have anyone commenting with experience in business, automobiles or consumers.

Rising the bow wave of electoral politics from the presidential election there are new faces, new voices – and not much of any added insight from American media.

Related Posts from are here and here.

Banks starting to walk away from foreclosures

Mercy James thought she had lost her rental property here to foreclosure. A date for a sheriff’s sale had been set, and notices about the foreclosure process were piling up in her mailbox.

Ms. James had the tenants move out, and soon her white house at the corner of Thomas and Maple Streets fell into the hands of looters and vandals, and then, into disrepair. Dejected and broke, Ms. James said she salvaged but a lesson from her loss.

So imagine her surprise when the City of South Bend contacted her recently, demanding that she resume maintenance on the property. The sheriff’s sale had been canceled at the last minute, leaving the property title — and a world of trouble — in her name.

“I thought, ‘What kind of game is this?’ ” Ms. James, 41, said while picking at trash at the house, now so worthless the city plans to demolish it — another bill for which she will be liable.

City officials and housing advocates here and in cities as varied as Buffalo, Kansas City, Mo., and Jacksonville, Fla., say they are seeing an unsettling development: Banks are quietly declining to take possession of properties at the end of the foreclosure process, most often because the cost of the ordeal — from legal fees to maintenance — exceeds the diminishing value of the real estate.

The so-called bank walkaways rarely mean relief for the property owners, caught unaware months after the fact, and often mean additional financial burdens and bureaucratic headaches. Technically, they still owe on the mortgage, but as a practicality, rarely would a mortgage holder receive any more payments on the loan. The way mortgages are bundled and resold, it can be enormously time-consuming just trying to determine what company holds the loan on a property thought to be in foreclosure.

So much of the mess reflects the unregulated, unlicensed that still is mortgage loans. Unlike genuine banks, storefront mortgage loan companies are about as regulated and orderly as your friendly neighborhood payday loan shark. Though reasonable, appropriate record-keeping at the level of proper banks will produce necessary documentation.

Oh, regulation? Congress is still discussing it. Republicans and conservative Dems aren’t certain their favorite lobbyists will approve.

Britain may update some of the “anachronistic” royal laws

A troika of Neds

Britain may end centuries of discrimination by reforming 300-year-old laws that ban the monarch from marrying a Catholic and give male heirs prior claim to the throne, the government said. Prime Minister Gordon Brown has held talks with Queen Elizabeth, who had no brothers, on changing the 1701 law on succession that was drawn up at a time of widespread hostility to Roman Catholics…

Brown said the reform of one of the central planks of British law is overdue but will be complicated by the need for the approval of all 53 Commonwealth countries. Cripes!

The prime minister’s office said in a statement that it hoped to reform part of the law, but had no plans to drop the ban on a Roman Catholic from becoming king or queen.

The monarch is head of the Church of England and has to be a Protestant unless the link between the Church and the state is dissolved…

Graham Smith, of the anti-monarchy group Republic, welcomed the proposed reforms, saying: “The more we try to apply modern standards to this insane institution the weaker it will become.”

Smith is obviously the only sane person commenting on this crap. As always I’m reminded of Bakunin’s quote – though I shan’t repeat it because there’s been enough violence in today’s snooze. 🙂

Eat your carrots – and play video games!

Here’s some evidence that video games may be good for you after all.

People who played 50 hours of action video games showed significant improvement in contrast sensitivity function, a key aspect of vision, according to a study published online in Nature Neuroscience.

Contrast sensitivity function refers to the ability to detect small differences in shades of gray, and it is one of the most vulnerable elements of vision. Scientists believe it is affected by deterioration of the eye itself.

But a team of researchers from University of Rochester and Tel Aviv University suspected that changes in the brain played a role as well. If so, they reasoned, mental exercise could offer some improvement…Those who played the Sims improved, but not as much as those who played the action games, according to the study. The benefits lasted for months and even years.

“The very act of action video game playing also enhanced contrast sensitivity,” the authors wrote. “More generally, our results establish that time spent in front of a computer screen is not necessarily detrimental to vision.”

I could never downgrade carrots. I was addicted to ’em when I was a kid. It became my bloody nickname in elementary school.