German minister has limo brought to Spain for official appointments

So, I said – Bring the car. We’ll have a good time. Do a little sightseeing.
Daylife/Reuters Pictures used by permission

Germany’s Social Democrat health minister came under pressure Sunday to explain why she took her official limousine, complete with chauffeur, to Spain where the vehicle was stolen.

Thieves stole the keys from the chauffeur’s accommodation near Alicante, a ministry spokeswoman said on Saturday, adding Ulla Schmidt had used the Mercedes for official meetings to discuss healthcare and pensions with Germans who had retired to Spain.

German media reported that Schmidt had paid for her own flight to Alicante, where she was also taking a holiday, but a driver had brought over her limousine to Spain from Berlin.

“I would like to know which of Mrs Schmidt’s appointments required an official car and chauffeur in Alicante and why it was not possible for the embassy to arrange transportation,” Otto Fricke, an opposition Free Democrat, told Bild am Sonntag.

Greens budget expert Alexander Bonde told the Saarbruecker Zeitung: “Why does the minister need an armored limousine in Spain? The budget committee will insist that just referring to official appointments is insufficient and implausible.”

Doesn’t anyone in the German press have as cynical an outlook as mine?

How close was the minister’s accommodation – to the chauffeur’s, eh? Connecting doors?

Global ocean surface temperature warmest on record for June

The world’s ocean surface temperature was the warmest on record for June, breaking the previous high mark set in 2005, according to a preliminary analysis by NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C. Additionally, the combined average global land and ocean surface temperature for June was second-warmest on record.

* The combined global land and ocean surface temperature for June 2009 was the second warmest on record, behind 2005, 1.12 degrees F (0.62 degree C) above the 20th century average of 59.9 degrees F (15.5 degrees C).
* Separately, the global ocean surface temperature for June 2009 was the warmest on record, 1.06 degrees F (0.59 degree C) above the 20th century average of 61.5 degrees F (16.4 degrees C).
* Each hemisphere broke its June record for warmest ocean surface temperature. In the Northern Hemisphere, the warm anomaly of 1.17 degrees F (0.65 degree C) surpassed the previous record of 1.12 degrees F (0.62 degree C), set in 2005. The Southern Hemisphere’s increase of 0.99 degree F (0.55 degree C) exceeded the old record of 0.92 degree F (0.51 degree C), set in 1998.
* The global land surface temperature for June 2009 was 1.26 degrees F (0.70 degree C) above the 20th century average of 55.9 degrees F (13.3 degrees C), and ranked as the sixth-warmest June on record.

* El Niño is back after six straight months of increased sea-surface temperature anomalies. June sea surface temperatures in the region were more than 0.9 degree F (0.5 degree C) above average…
* Arctic sea ice covered an average of 4.4 million square miles (11.5 million square kilometers) during June, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center. This is 5.6 percent below the 1979-2000 average extent. By contrast, the 2007 record for the least Arctic sea ice extent was 5.5 percent below average. Antarctic sea ice extent in June was 3.9 percent above the 1979-2000 average.

Just checking in on the weather – since the nutball skeptics tend to skip the bits which don’t fit their religion.

The pilots in the family are as bad as farmers when it comes to being weather freaks. We do a monthly discussion of El Niño/La Niña. Keep Skype in business between Asheville and Santa Fe.

Nissan shows off new Versa-based electric vehicle prototype

A week before it shows the world what its new dedicated electric vehicle will look like, Nissan is showing off its latest-generation prototype. The company’s previous iteration was based on the original Cube, but the new test units are based on the Versa/Tiida. A 108 horsepower / 206 pound-feet electric motor designed in-house at Nissan drives the front wheels, while a lithium ion battery pack created by Automotive Energy Supply Corp. stores electricity. The 24 kWh pack is fitted under the floor and is expected to yield a 100-mile range.

Nissan is aiming to make life as stress-free as possible for its EV drivers. To that end, the navigation system will automatically display the driving radius that the current battery state of charge will support. It can also download information about currently available charging stations. Drivers can also access the charging status of their cars remotely via a cell phone, so no doubt an iPhone app will be on the way…

From the press release:

The timer function enables the air-conditioner or battery charging to begin at a specified time. The air-conditioner can be pre-set while the vehicle is plugged-in to cool the cabin to a desirable temperature before driving begins, without taxing the vehicle’s battery. Meanwhile, the battery charging can be set to start at a specified time at night to benefit from more favorable electricity rates…

Nissan plans to unveil the design of the production EV at its new Global Headquarters Opening in Yokohama on August 2nd. A Nissan Zero-emission Website will also go live on Aug. 2nd.

I hope the introduction shows us something more exciting and up-to-date than 95% of Nissan’s design studio products. Yes, I realize that’s meaningless to function; but, if the critter looks as vital as a double pack of chewing gum – sales will suffer. I’d rather see what something like this can achieve in a competitive marketplace.

Nissan says the EV-11 will retail for $30,000 or less. And that’s before the federal tax credit of $7,500.

UPDATED: See the production version today over here.

Why are Republicans afraid of government? Why are Democrats afraid of Republicans?

Health care reform has gotten off track. The president’s news conference fell flat. Polls show growing unease with the proposals currently in play. And Congress will not meet the deadline that President Obama imposed.

The status quo, as the president correctly explained to reporters, is not sustainable. Our health care system is not working. Millions of people lack insurance, costs are out of control, businesses and workers are struggling to keep up with premiums, and there are tremendous inefficiencies plaguing many parts of the system…

When Congress returns in September, Obama will only be able to revitalize the prospects for health care reform if he offers Americans a stronger argument about what government can do to improve this situation.

After years of being in the opposition, Democrats are still scared about defending the value of government. Their political nerves have been exacerbated by polls showing the public is growing increasingly concerned about the size of government spending. This reticence about government, in the aftermath of the Democrats’ dramatic 2008 election victory, has been one of the most striking aspects of the administration’s rhetoric in the past few months.

Before the 1970s, Democrats were full of confidence when pushing for federal programs. Indeed, 44 years ago this week, on July 30, 1965, President Lyndon Johnson signed the legislation that created Medicare and Medicaid. The event took place at Harry Truman’s presidential library in Independence, Missouri.

Sitting beside the 81-year-old former president, Johnson announced: “No longer will older Americans be denied the healing miracle of modern medicine. No longer will illness crush and destroy the savings that they have so carefully put away over a lifetime so that they might enjoy dignity in their later years.”

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Oh, the anticipation – for a sweet, fizzy, milky ‘vibrancy’ drink!


It may not quite sound the real thing but consumers are being asked to decide whether milk goes better with sparkling water, cane sugar and fruit flavouring.

Coca-Cola is trialling a new carbonated “vibrancy” drink and it will depend on Americans’ tastebuds whether other countries experience what the company claims is “a refreshing sensory experience“.

The soft drinks giant has so far launched its new Vio products only in New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles, but milk-based products are popular in Asian markets such as Hong Kong and Japan.

The new offering, which has “a hint” of skimmed milk, comes in four flavours – citrus burst, peach mango, tropical colada and very berry – and is being sold in 8oz aluminium bottles for $2.50.

Is it pronounced “Vaio”?

How it feels to be sued for $4.5 million for sharing music

To a certain extent, I’m afraid to write this. Though they’ve already seized my computer and copied my hard drive, I have no guarantee they won’t do it again. For the past four years, they’ve been threatening me, making demands for trial, deposing my parents, sisters, friends, and myself twice – the first time for nine hours, the second for seven. I face up to $4.5m in fines and the last case like mine that went to trial had a jury verdict of $1.92m.

When I contemplate this, I have to remind myself what I’m being charged with. Investment fraud? Robbing a casino? A cyber-attack against the federal government? No. I shared music. And refused to cave.

No matter how many people I explain this to, the reaction is always the same: dumbfounded surprise and visceral indignance, both of which are a result of the amazing secrecy the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) has operated under. “How did they get you?” I’m asked. I explain that there are 40,000 people like me, being sued for the same thing, and we were picked from a pool of millions who shared music. And that’s when a look appears on the face of whoever I’m talking to, the horrified “it could have been me!” look.

The reason this has remained so silent despite passionate opposition is that nearly all people settle. My story of becoming an exception started four years ago.

In my mind, the RIAA are the ultimate example of incompetent corporate greed – channeled through the sewer of unprincipled lawyers. Shit for brains. Slime for ethics.

RTFA. And you can follow Joel Tenebaum’s trial in the world of digital communications. Wonder – as I do – if Fair Use will be allowed again by an American court?

The trial starts today, 27 Monday July. Regrettably, it won’t be webcast as we requested due to the RIAA’s successful opposition, but we will tweet (with the hashtag #jfb) and blog as much as possible, and there is a website where you can follow us and learn more.