International legal snit over Krispy Kreme doughnut


Dough-Vo (L) and Vo-Vo (R)

An Australian biscuit company has threatened legal action against US chain Krispy Kreme if does not stop selling its Iced Dough-Vo doughnut.

Arnott believes the product is almost identical to its own Iced Vo-Vo biscuit, and breaches trademarks registered in 1906. Krispy Kreme has been given until the end of today to withdraw its doughnut, but has refused to comply.

The Iced Vo-Vo biscuit is much loved by many generations of Australians.

It is topped with pink fondant, strawberry jam and sprinkled with coconut.

Krispy Kreme’s Iced Dough-Vo, part of the chain’s limited edition of Australian-themed treats, is filled with raspberry jam and topped with pink icing and coconut.

But the head of the US chain’s Australian arm, John McGuigan, remains indignant.

I think people know the difference between a doughnut and a biscuit,” he said.

Think so, eh? Americans can’t tell the difference between a conservative and a populist demagogue. Baked goods demand even more sophistication.

Climate change forces Eskimos to abandon traditional homesites


Photo courtesy Stanley Tom

The indigenous people of Alaska have stood firm against some of the most extreme weather conditions on Earth for thousands of years. But now, flooding blamed on climate change is forcing at least one Eskimo village to move to safer ground.

The community of the tiny coastal village of Newtok voted to relocate its 340 residents to new homes 9 miles away, up the Ninglick River. The village, home to indigenous Yup’ik Eskimos, is the first of possibly scores of threatened Alaskan communities that could be abandoned.

Warming temperatures are melting coastal ice shelves and frozen sub-soils, which act as natural barriers to protect the village against summer deluges from ocean storm surges.

We are seeing the erosion, flooding and sinking of our village right now,” said Stanley Tom, a Yup’ik Eskimo and tribal administrator for the Newtok Traditional Council…

Newtok is just one example of what the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warns is part of a growing climate change crisis that will displace 150 million people by 2050…

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has estimated that moving Newtok could cost $130 million. Twenty-six other Alaskan villages are in immediate danger, with an additional 60 considered under threat in the next decade, according to the corps.

Of course, we could just sit back and listen to the country club set discuss it to death for another forty years.

Stolen laptop story of the week

A stolen state government laptop computer contains personal information about more than 1 million Oklahoma residents, officials.

The state Department of Human Services said the laptop, stolen from a state employee’s vehicle in Oklahoma City on April 3, has not yet been recovered, The Oklahoman newspaper reported…

Despite the reassurances, others said the potential for the spread of personal information held on the computer is greater than officials have acknowledged because the data was not encrypted…

A DHS spokesman told the Oklahoman the computer held the names and Social Security numbers for about a million people who use such state programs as Medicaid, childcare assistance, food stamps and disability coverage.

We should probably just set up a category for “stolen government laptop with unencrypted data” – call it Stupid Government Trick or some such.

Investigators tracking swine flu outbreak in Mexico


Entering the General Hospital in Mexico City
Daylife/AP Photo used by permission

Mexican officials, scrambling to control a swine flu outbreak that has killed at least 16 people and possibly dozens more in recent weeks, shuttered schools from kindergarten to university for millions of young people in and around the capital on Friday and urged people with flu symptoms to stay home from work.

”We’re dealing with a new flu virus that constitutes a respiratory epidemic that so far is controllable,” Health Minister Jose Angel Cordova told reporters late Thursday, after huddling with President Felipe Calderón and other top officials. He said the virus had mutated from pigs and had at some point been transmitted to humans.

Mexico’s flu season is usually over by now, but health officials have noticed a significant spike in flu cases. The World Health Organization reported about 800 cases of flu-like symptoms in Mexico in recent weeks, most of them among healthy young adults, with 57 deaths in Mexico City and 3 in the central part of the country. Mexican officials confirmed 16 deaths from swine flu, and said another 45 were under investigation…

The WHO and the CDC now consider all 60 deaths as likely swine flu.

Health officials in the United States were working to determine whether the Mexican outbreak was tied to the unusual strain of swine flu that has been circulating among people in the American Southwest but is not known to have caused any deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The agency, which has found only seven cases in the United States, expects to find more now that it has begun looking intensively for them…

Dr. Cox of the disease control center said officials did not yet know whether the flu shot this year protected against the new swine strain.

Well, I had my flu shot and I’m still nervous. 🙂

The New Yorker sued by New Guinea tribesmen


Thanks, Rhonda – for a link to the parties in the suit

The profiles of the two legally warring parties could not be further apart.

On the one side are two poor tribesmen living in a remote part of New Guinea; on the other a Pulitzer Prize-winning bestselling author and arguably the world’s most urbane magazine, The New Yorker.

The tribesmen this week filed a $10m lawsuit for defamation in a Manhattan court claiming that Jared Diamond had portrayed them wrongly as vengeful, bloodthirsty killers. The two-page complaint said they were falsely accused of “serious criminal activity and intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress, including murder”…

The contentious New Guinea article is no longer available from the New Yorker’s magazine, presumably for legal reasons, but an abstract still carried by the magazine’s website bills it as a work of anthropology. It explores the story of a New Guinean highlander whose uncle was killed in a battle against a neighbouring clan and who thus felt duty-bound to seek revenge.

The tribesman named in the article is Daniel Wemp, a member of the Handa clan, who is one of the two individuals that have brought the lawsuit. In the New Yorker he is said to have prosecuted his public fight over three years, at the cost of 29 lives in the course of six battles and the theft of 300 pigs.

The other man listed in the legal action is Henep Isum Mandingo, who Wemp is said in the article to have held responsible for his uncle’s murder…

But key elements in the story have been challenged by a self-appointed media monitoring website called stinkyjournalism.org. It claims to have looked into the article, to the lengths of sending three fact-checkers to the highlands of New Guinea to interview the central characters.

Diamond has yet to respond to the allegations.

You mean the readership of The New Yorker in New Guinea is sufficient that neighbors are standing round hollering at these two guys – because of an article by an anthropologist?

Follow-on interviews since the story hit the Web indicate the plaintiffs claim they told the stories to Diamond – but, they weren’t the principals in the tales.

Congressman proposes law on personal data privacy on the Web


Privacy? Har, har, har…
Daylife/Reuters Pictures used by permission

An internet privacy law is coming, Congressman Rick Boucher promised, as he steered his committee into the marshes of online behavioral advertising, deep packet inspection and location-tracking services.

Boucher, a Virginia Democrat and longtime ally of digital rights groups, now heads the House subcommittee on Communications, Technology and the Internet. He said wants the committee to write a broad online privacy law this year.

For instance, Boucher made it clear he’s concerned about ISPs using so-called deep packet inspection technology, or DPI, to examine the data packets it delivers to and from its customers. “The thought that a network operator could track a user’s every move on the Internet, record the details of every search and read every email or attached document is alarming.”

But the Center for Democracy and Technology’s Leslie Harris warned the committee not to get too wrapped up with any particular technology, since the privacy threats change quickly — pointing out that current privacy laws are good in some areas — video rental records, for one — and non-existent in others…

It’s not clear how broad a law Boucher has in mind, though it’s likely to be some codification of generally accepted data-privacy practices. Those include telling people when you collect data and why, letting them choose to join in or not, using the data only for the reason you collected it, letting people see and correct the information and destroying it when its not longer needed…

The Free Press’s Ben Scott summed up what he and many consumer advocates would like to see in an overarching privacy bill.

“It needs to cover intentionality, behavior, and outcome,” Scott said. “Why do you want my information? What are you going to do with it? And what does that mean for me?”

I’ll second that.

Oz coppers appeal for public assistance in nail gun murder

Australian police have released an X-ray image showing the skull of a murdered Chinese immigrant shot repeatedly with a nail gun.

Police are appealing for help to solve the murder of Chen Liu, 27, whose body was found by two children last year in marshland in south Sydney. Detectives said the weapon was a gas nail gun used in construction, firing nails up to 85mm (3.3in) long.

A post-mortem examination revealed that Mr Liu was shot 34 times in the head and neck with a high-powered nail gun, police said.

The weapon has not yet been recovered. Police have appealed for information from anyone who may have been in the area at the time of Mr Chen’s death.

“In 36 years, I’ve never seen a murder of this nature,” Homicide Squad Superintendent Geoff Beresford told reporters. “It’s a particularly brutal and vicious murder and hence the reason we are seeking information from the public,” he said.

Mr Chen’s badly decomposed body was found on 1 November 2008, wrapped in plastic, wire and an electrical cord.

Obvious from this article and others that the killer(s) tried their best to keep the body from being discovered. Earlier coverage noted Chen Liu’s car was first discovered in the area after he went missing.

I hope they catch the cruds who did this, soon.

Copper’s ‘perfect’ blog wins Orwell prize

The pages of a policeman’s notebook, clumped as they are with impenetrable acronyms and tales of suspects proceeding in northerly directions, seldom crackle with urgent prose or lapse into howls of sardonic anger and moments of compassion.

But one serving officer, who used his daily jottings and professional experiences as raw material for a blog, has just been rewarded with the Orwell special prize for blogs.

According to the judges, the pronouncements of “Night Jack – An English Detective” provided a perfect example of the medium’s power and importance.

“The insight into the everyday life of the police that Jack Night’s wonderful blog offered was – everybody felt – something which only a blog could deliver, and he delivered it brilliantly. It took you to the heart of what a policeman has to do – by the first blogpost you were hooked, and could not wait to click on to the next…”

Although he suspended his blog activities this month, Jack posted a message to accept the prize – the need to stay anonymous meant he did not attend in person.

He said he had pledged the £3,000 winnings to the Police Dependents’ Trust, and is adamant that no one outside his family and friends will learn his true identity. He is also currently working on a novel.

“It would appear I can write so I’m trying to see whether I can write more than a chapter of a police procedural,” he said. “After 20 years on the job, it’s all I know about.”

RTFA. I’m recommending it – and Night Jack – to a couple of mates who are coppers, retired or otherwise.

It’s worth a grin to fellow blogging insiders to note that Night Jack also happens to live in the realm of wordpress.com.

This is UPDATED here.

Afghan “terps” risk their lives – and do more than translate


Afghan interpreter and U.S. Marine working at route clearance
Daylife/Reuters Pictures used by permission

Ahmad Shakib says he knows he is risking his life to work for U.S. troops in Afghanistan, but with a casual shrug and an idiomatic American twang, he laughs off the danger.

“Afraid of the Taliban? No, I’m the man,” said Shakib, 22, one of thousands of Afghans recruited to work with U.S. and NATO forces as interpreters, or “terps.”

Terps have been killed alongside U.S. and NATO colleagues on operations, and others have been targeted by militants who accuse them of collaborating with foreign forces.

The U.S. government offers military interpreters the prospect of an immigrant’s visa to the United States after two years. Shakib says that’s what tempts some. But he’d do it anyway. “I like this job. I like helping the people, helping the Americans. The way they do their job, I just love it,” he said…

His job means he can no longer go back to Kandahar, the southern city that was the birthplace of the Taliban in the 1990s, where he went to school and his brother still lives.

“(A relative) could say ‘oh by the way, my cousin is an interpreter, he’s working with the Americans’. So they (the Taliban) will be like let’s go and pop him,” Shakib said, using U.S. slang for an assassination…

Captain Christopher Garvin, who trains the Afghan army in Farah, a desert province on the Iranian border, says he relies on his terps for more than just the language.

“Coming here the first challenge was to fully understand the culture and how they like to operate,” said Garvin. “Having a good interpreter is the key.”

RTFA. The military has always come up with field expedients like this to compensate for lousy preparedness and all the other political crap that surrounds imperial hubris.

Fortunately, good officers learn early on about smart solutions. If they’re going to survive in the field.