Mickey Mouse to rediscover his ‘inner rat’

Mickey Mouse is to get a makeover to heighten his appeal to youngsters of the video-game generation nurtured on computer-generated graphics and interactivity.

For decades, the Walt Disney Company has kept Mickey Mouse’s appearance and character largely unchanged, afraid that even the smallest alteration might damage a brand that earns the company $5 billion a year in merchandising sales.

But as US sales of Mickey merchandise are declining, the squeaky clean rodent is to be “re-imaged” and will acquire a cunning and cantankerous streak when he appears in a new Disney video game, Epic Mickey, next year…

Epic Mickey, designed for the Nintendo Wii console, is set in a cartoon wasteland inhabited by forgotten and retired Disney creations. Players can choose to be a co-operative, helpful Mickey or they can opt for a more destructive version who starts to resemble a rat.

Warren Spector, creative director of Junction Point, a Disney-owned game developer working on Epic Mickey, said the game would be edgy and unexpected. “By putting the mischievous Mickey in an unfamiliar place and asking him to make choices – to help other cartoon characters or choose his own path – the game forces players to deal with the consequences of their actions. Ultimately, players must ask themselves, ‘What kind of hero am I?’ Each player will come up with a different answer.”

Mickey Mouse gets to be a lot more like Walt Disney. Opportunistic, egregious and greedy.

Deadly shootout at Texas Army Base – UPDATED

Daylife/Reuters Pictures used by permission

Army soldiers shot and killed 12 people and wounded 31 in a rampage at Fort Hood on Thursday, officials said.

A military briefing at 4 p.m. said three soldiers fired shots at the Soldiers Readiness Processing Center, a complex of several buildings.

Most of those killed were also soldiers, according to the briefing by Lt. Gen. Robert Cone, the post commander. One shooter was killed and the other two were in custody, he said.

Cone said that local police responded relatively quickly and killed one of the shooters. He said he believed that one Fort Hood civilian police officer was among the dead. Fort Hood has contract and military police, he said.

ABC News identified the dead assailant as Maj. Malik Nadal Hasan of Virginia.

Cone did not speculate about a motive, but the Army released a statement saying it did not believe the shootings were an act of political terrorism.

“Its difficult enough when we lose these brave Americans in battles overseas. It is horrifying that they should come under fire at an Army base on American soil,” President Barack Obama said at a Tribal Nations conference at the Department of the Interior.

RTFA. Lots of first person tales of what happened. Not a lot of info, clarity, yet.

UPDATE: The CO at Fort Hood is holding a press conference, right now, 7:15 MST. The sole shooter in this event is not dead. He was shot multiple times and survived and is in stable condition in hospital, in custody.

3 soldiers held for questioning have been released. AFAIK this was a single shooter incident.

MORE UPDATE: My hero is Kimberly Munley, a civilian cop who responded within 3 minutes from nearby with her partner. She took down the shooter while being shot herself by Hasan.

Google Dashboard checks how public your privacy is!


In a big concession to users’ privacy rights, Google launched what it calls Google Dashboard – a tool which gives Google account holders a single view of all of the data associated with their Google accounts.

The Google Dashboard is being touted as a way for users to, at a glance, see information about their Web usage, email usage and more when they are logged into Google services such as Gmail, YouTube and Google Calendar. Google provides an overview of the Dashboard in a video in its main blog. Dashboard will let users delete information as well, a move that could help to address privacy concerns that have been raised surrounding Google’s collection of so much data about its users’ online habits.

On the left-hand side of the screen, Google Dashboard lists items such as Contacts, Docs, and Gmail, while on the right-hand side, users can drill down through functions such as “edit personal information,” “sharing documents,” and “manage chat history.” There is also a “privacy and security help” area…

Indeed, some of Google’s earlier products have bowed to users’ privacy, particularly Piracy Center, an area that educates users about Google’s privacy policies…

At the same time, though, Google has raised the privacy hackles of some users with features such as Social Search, a function which grabs relevant public content from your friends’ and contacts’ blogs and social networking pages, and Google Maps Street View.

I have to chuckle over some of the cowardly lion pretenses that thread most “outrage” about privacy on the Web.

Most of the info people whine about are self-entries. If your shorts truly are in a bunch over the rest of this crap – there are means and methods for defeating them. Starting with various flavors of anonymizers.

Preserve me from pundits who preach to the converted and don’t practice anything even elemental regarding their own personal privacy on the Web. There ain’t too many of these Freedom Fighters who don’t use Facebook and Twitter to promote their own agenda.

Senate Panel OKs climate bill without GOP around to say “NO”


The Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee has passed a climate bill despite a GOP boycott.

Democrats voted 11-1 to approve the bill, with Sen. Max Baucus of Montana the only “no” vote…

Baucus fulfilling his usual role as Republican in sheepish clothing.

The Senate bill, co-sponsored by Democratic Sens. John Kerry of Massachusetts and Barbara Boxer of California, would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent from 2005 levels by 2020, more than called for under the House climate bill. Companies would be required to hold permits to cover their emissions. During the initial phase of the program, most of the permits would be distributed for free. Companies could buy additional permits in a market created by the legislation to meet their emissions targets as needed.

In a statement, Boxer, who is the chairwoman of the EPW panel, defended the decision to move forward with a vote without participation from committee Republicans.

“The committee and Senate rules that have been in place during Republican and Democratic majorities are there to be used when the majority feels it is in the best interest of their states and of the nation to act,” she said. “A majority of the committee believes that S. 1733, and the efforts that will be built upon it, will move us away from foreign oil imports that cost Americans one billion dollars a day, it will protect our children from pollution, create millions of clean-energy jobs, and stimulate billions of dollars of private investment.”

Why didn’t the Dems demonstrate this level of courage early on with the Healthcare Bill, all the important changes Obama campaigned on, the issues that saved the bacon of a herd of do-nothing Democrats from know-nothing Republicans?

It’s been clear from Day 1 the Republican view of bi-partisan means paying off sleazebags like Lieberman and Baucus to join their boycott of humanity.

A modicum of backbone would surely do our Congress a lot of good. They might even get round to helping out us folks down here on the streets who don’t own K Street lobbyists.

Bank employees used client’s accounts for investments – WTF?

Revolving doors were invented for Wall Street bankers
Daylife/Getty Images used by permission

Swiss bank UBS has been slapped with an $13+million fine, the third-largest ever levied by the City regulator, after it was discovered that four of the bank’s employees were able to use customer money to trade in currencies and metals markets.

As a result of the trading activity, the bank has been forced to pay compensation of more than $42million although the FSA established that it had not itself profited from the trading…

At one stage as many as 50 unauthorised transactions a day were taking place in foreign exchange and precious metals by four employees who were using customers’ money without authorisation and allocating losses to customer accounts. The events took place between January 2006 and December 2007 and were only uncovered by an internal whistleblower…

The FSA concluded that UBS had failed to manage and control key risks, failed to respond to warning signs that the internal controls were inadequate and failed to provide an appropriate level of supervision over customer-facing employees.

The bank made apologies, blah, blah – swore to implement oversight and regulation, blah, blah – it will never happen again, blah, blah.

Regulators are satisfied, blah, blah.

Don’t hold your breath!

Turn on metal detector – walk several paces – find gold!

Daylife/Getty Images used by permission

Safari park keeper David Booth, 35, had owned his metal detector for five days when he discovered four 2,000-year-old gold neckbands in a Stirlingshire field. The neckbands date from between the 1st and 3rd century BC and represent the most important hoard of iron age gold in Scotland to date…

“I’d just practised around the house with nails and bits and pieces. I went with it for the first time, parked the vehicle up, got out, picked a direction to set off on, and about seven yards away that was the first thing I came across. I was completely stunned, there was a bit of disbelief. This was my first find…”

Under Scottish law, the crown can claim any archaeological objects found in Scotland. Finders have no ownership rights and must report any objects to Scotland’s Treasure Trove Unit. But Booth may receive a reward equal to the value of the jewellery. “There are loads of figures getting bandied about, so you just need to wait and see what the valuation committee values it at,” he said. “I’m trying not to speculate about it at the moment.”

Despite the realisation that he might never match his initial find, Booth said he would stick with his new hobby. “A lot of people say you might as well throw it away, but I’ll keep on going, there might be other stuff out there,” he said. “It’s a good hobby and it gets you out in the fresh air…”

Dr Fraser Hunter, iron age and Roman curator at the National Museum of Scotland, said he “almost fell off my seat” when he first saw photographs of the discovery.

“The archaeological value is stunning,” he said. “Archaeologically speaking, this is a remarkable find. It’s one of the most important hoards from Scotland ever. We haven’t found anything of this quality.

All you might find out back of our place would be tin cans from the old stagecoach road – and maybe some beer cans.

Lose the little labels. Get laser-etched fruit and veggies!

Laser labeling of fruit and vegetables is a new, patented technology in which a low-energy carbon dioxide laser beam is used to label, or “etch” information on produce, thereby eliminating the need for common sticker-type labels.

The technology has been licensed for use on a variety of fruits and vegetables and is being used in New Zealand, Australia, and Pacific Rim countries. It has been been approved in Asia, South Africa, Central and South America, Canada, and the European Union. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is in the final stages of approving the use of laser etching in the United States.

Of course. We’ll figure it out after the licensing and royalties are sorted.

During commercial production, citrus fruit is waxed before being labeled, packed, stored, and transported. Whereas common sticker-type labels do not deteriorate during storage, researchers postulated that water loss resulting from laser etching may distort the physical appearance of the fruit’s surface, making it less effective and appealing…

The researchers concluded that, when compared with sticker-labeled fruit, laser etching provides a relatively tamper-free labeling method, while “the fruit quality remains high as the invasion of the epidermis does not incite decay, provide an avenue for food pathogens, and water loss is easily controlled. The technology will offer the grapefruit industry a safe alternative to adhesive sticker labeling without enhancing decay susceptibility.”

I wonder who will be the first to start laser-etching a logo – or a sales message.

Or politics. Florida lemons that say, “Pucker up for Jeb Bush!”