Creeps cut cables in California – phone, internet outage


Crew splicing fibre-optic cables

Vandals intentionally cut fiber optic cables early Thursday in San Jose, California, knocking out phones and access to 911 emergency services to thousands of residents in the region, local media reported.

The sabotage has caused a widespread phone service outage in southern Santa Clara and Santa Cruz counties, the San Jose Mercury News said in a report posted on its website.

It appears somebody opened a manhole in south San Jose, climbed down and cut four or five fiber optic cables, John Britton, a spokesman for AT&T which owns the cables, was quoted as saying. There were also reports of underground cables being cut in San Carlos, although no phone disruptions seemed to be connected with that incident.

AT&T is offering a reward of $100,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of whoever is responsible for the sabotage.

The problem was first reported around 2 a.m. local time Thursday, the newspaper said. As of 2 p.m., one of the cables had been repaired and some service had been restored with full service expected to be restored in the evening.

Anarchist thugs drive me up a wall. At best, that’s who did this. Otherwise, it’s about the same mentality as graffiti vandalism. Spoiled, self-centered, egregious middle-class twerps incapable of public, collective struggle for whatever they believe in – this week.

Can you tell that 50 years of social activism never turned me into a pacifist?

Women cashed in on $1 million of fake funerals

Two Southern California women have been charged with staging sham funerals to collect life insurance payments and other money totaling an estimated $1 million.

Hawthorne phlebotomist Faye Schilling, 60, and Los Angeles mortuary worker Jean Crump, 66, were arrested Wednesday on a federal grand jury indictment.

The indictment said the two women bought insurance policies, waited for them to mature, then held bogus burials or cremations and arranged for phony death certificates…

Montero said the “dead” were likely fictitious people, but said identities of real people may have been stolen..>

In addition to the life insurance claims, which included a $250,000 policy, prosecutors said the women secured payments from financing companies to pay for inflated funeral costs.

Har! They had the system beat all the way.

French Assembly rejects government rule over the Web

French politicians have unexpectedly rejected a bill that would have cut off the internet connections of anyone found to be repeatedly downloading music or videos without paying for them. The legislation would also have led to the creation of the world’s first state surveillance system on web pirates…

The bill had been championed by the president, Nicolas Sarkozy, whose wife, the singer Carla Bruni, has long advocated a crackdown on piracy. On Monday, film director Steven Soderbergh urged US authorities to draw inspiration from the French bill in their fight against piracy.

Under the proposed legislation, new powers would have been granted to music and film companies to enable them to monitor internet users and report illegal downloads to a new copyright protection agency.

Anyone found to have broken the law would have been traced via their IP (internet protocol) address and handed up to three warnings before their connection was severed for up to a year. Offenders would have had to keep paying for their internet connection despite it having been cut off…

Civil liberties campaigners and members of the Socialist party said the new surveillance powers were tantamount to “the criminalisation of an entire generation”.

Others had said it could end up punishing the wrong people, for instance parents whose children download in secret or employers whose staff use computers at work to break the law.

Always heartwarming to witness politicians with enough courage to support individual liberties over profit. The system may not be perfect; but, surveillance, threats and repression are illegitimate solutions.

Will someone tell AP how its YouTube channel works?

apyoutube

At least one representative of the venerable news agency, which recently declared that it was tired of the Internet riding on its coattails, was apparently unaware the agency had an official YouTube video channel.

The AP recently sent a letter to WTNQ-FM in Tennessee–an affiliate of the Associated Press, by the way–accusing the country music radio station of copyright violation for embedding videos from the AP’s official YouTube channel on its Web site, according to a station employee’s blog. The AP channel includes embed code for its videos, which allows any Web site or blog to embed the videos on their sites–a feature that can be turned off…

Frank Strovel, WTNQ’s operations manager, writes in a blog that the station received the following message from the AP’s regional radio representative in Chicago: “I noticed you are posting our video content with out a license and have to ask you to remove the AP video content from the site ASAP. If you would like to know more about our web services please contact me.”

While this may be a simple misunderstanding, representatives for the AP and WTNQ could not immediately be reached for comment.

AP doesn’t have a clue.

Thanks to Uncle Dave for pointing this idiocy out over at our “Big Blog”.

Tobacco smoke residues in over half of non-smoking New Yorkers

More than half of non-smoking New Yorkers have elevated levels of cotinine in their blood — meaning that they were recently exposed to toxic second-hand smoke in concentrations high enough to leave residues in the body. Cotinine, a by-product of nicotine breakdown, is not harmful itself but signals exposure to environmental tobacco smoke.

A Health Department study, published online this week in the journal Nicotine and Tobacco Research, shows that 57% of adult non-smoking New Yorkers (2.5 million) have elevated cotinine levels, compared to 45% of non-smoking adults nationwide — a finding that may reflect the city’s dense, urban character. Second-hand smoke contains many harmful chemicals. It is known to cause cancer and heart disease in adults, as well as serious health problems for children.

The data come from the New York City Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, which was conducted in 2004, one year after New York City’s smoke-free air law took effect. Although the law protects non-smokers from the dangers of second-hand smoke at work and in some public places, this study shows that many non-smokers are not fully protected. Creating a smoke-free home is the most important step that New Yorkers can take to protect their families…

The study provides more evidence of the pervasiveness of second-hand smoke,” said Jennifer Ellis, PhD, a former Health Department epidemiologist and the study’s lead author. “It’s not clear why New Yorkers experience more exposure, despite the city’s relatively low smoking rate. It may be that living and working in close quarters with one another puts us at higher risk.”

One thing I’m happiest about – where I live – is clean air. Not that we don’t have dust storms in the spring 🙂 but, in general, the air we breathe in northern New Mexico is free from urban pollutants.

Especially cigarette smoke during my weekly trips to town and civilization.

Six years on, huge protest marks Baghdad’s fall to U.S. invasion


Daylife/AP Photo

Tens of thousands of followers of anti-American Shi’ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr thronged Baghdad to mark the sixth anniversary of the city’s fall to U.S. troops, and to demand they leave immediately.

“Down, down USA,” the demonstrators chanted as a Ali al-Marwani, a Sadrist official, denounced the U.S. occupation of Iraq that began with the fall of Baghdad on April 9, 2003, and the toppling of Saddam Hussein’s statue in Firdos Square.

The crowds of Sadr supporters stretched from the giant Sadr City slum in northeast Baghdad to the square around 5 km (3 miles) away.

Protesters burned an effigy featuring the face of former U.S. President George W. Bush, who ordered the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, and also the face of Saddam…

“God, unite us, return our riches, free the prisoners from the prisons, return sovereignty to our country … make our country free from the occupier, and prevent the occupier from stealing our oil,” Sadr said in a message read by a Sadr movement aide Asaad al-Nassiri…

Hammering home the nationalist message, Nassiri exhorted the demonstrators to shake hands with each other and Iraqi police and soldiers overseeing the march. Long queues formed to kiss the police and troops on the cheeks and shake their hands.

It’s a good time to hold such a demo. After all, the results are pretty much guaranteed by Obama’s latest treaty with Iraq. Har!

Pulte becomes largest homebuilder in U.S. – buying rival Centex


Daylife/AP Photo

Pulte Homes Inc., the second-largest U.S. homebuilder, said it would buy Texas-based Centex Corp., the third largest homebuilder in the U.S., in a 1.3-billion-U.S. dollar deal that could create the largest U.S. homebuilder and spark further consolidation in the industry.

The deal, one of the largest such mergers in the U.S. homebuilding industry, will be made with stock exchange and assumption of 1.8 billion dollars in debt.

The new company, to be based in Michigan, would be the largest homebuilder in the U.S.. It will have twice the revenue of its next largest rival D.R. Horton Inc….

“Centex’s significant presence in the entry level and move-up categories is complemented by Pulte’s strength in both the move-up and active adult segments, the latter through our popular Del Webbbrand.” “Together we will have considerable presence in more than 59 markets across America,” he said.

For me, this is a sign at least as positive as the small pop we’re starting to get in permits pulled and new housing starts. Understand, U.S. home prices are still overvalued by 25% or more. I’d be happier to see them fall – even if the recession is extended – because we’d gain a more stable market.

What this article and others don’t mention is that I’ll bet the $1.8 billion in debt that Pulte is assuming includes a hell of a lot of land. Land prices don’t ever diminish. Centex probably has a 3-5 year cushion of land in their portfolio. Perhaps more. That’s what Pulte wants as much as anything else. It’s land better situated for lower-price development as we come out of this recession.

Dumb counter-terrorism story of the week [UPDATED]


Newspapers added the dark bits

Twelve men have been arrested in the north west of England after Britain’s most senior counter-terrorism police officer sparked a security alert.

Assistant Commissioner Bob Quick said he “deeply regretted” revealing a secret document to photographers when he arrived for a briefing at No 10. The document, clearly marked “secret”, carried an outline briefing on an ongoing counter-terrorism operation.

The 12 suspects were later arrested at locations across north-west England.

It is understood raids took place at 10 addresses sooner than planned due to the documents being revealed.

Opposition MPs criticised Mr Quick, with the Liberal Democrats describing him as “accident prone” and the Conservatives condemning his “very alarming” lapse of judgement.

But former Labour Mayor of London Ken Livingstone said it would be wrong for such an experienced officer to resign “for holding a piece of paper the wrong way”.

I don’t agree. He probably knows the right way to hold his toilet paper. Learned at an early age.

UPDATE: He resigned, this morning.