Calendar promotes French farm-fresh fromage

From last year’s calendar

They are soft, round and all in the best possible taste – the cheeses that is, not the pin-up girls promoting them.

But the “From Girls” are a group of cheese fans prepared to pose in their underwear for a pictorial calendar promoting regional French fromage.

The pin-up calendar was the idea of the Association of traditional French cheesemakers, “Fromage des Terroirs”, who say that far from being a cliche, the calendar smashes the unflattering stereotype of the frumpy French farm wife…

“Barbara Munster”, “Roxane Cantal” and the other From Girls pictured in the calendar aren’t professional models or cheese industry employees either. They just have a passion for one of the bare essentials of French food.

Most of my life, I haven’t differentiated especially between food and sex. Both are special pleasures.

Did get me in trouble a few times, though. Har.

Citigroup gets greenlight to pay back $20 billion bailout

Daylife/AP Photo used by permission

Citigroup has been given the go-ahead by the US treasury to repay its $20bn of government bailout money, a day after President Barack Obama accused Wall Street institutions of handing back funds simply in order to escape curbs on multimillion dollar bonus payouts.

The US bank, which teetered on the brink of collapse at the height of the financial crisis last year, is one of the few major US banks still supported by taxpayers’ funds. Its repayment plan follows a similar move earlier this month by Bank of America, leaving Wells Fargo as the last nationwide bank yet to institute repayment.

To raise the money, Citigroup intends to issue $20.5bn of stock and debt.

In total, the treasury pumped $45bn into Citigroup to prevent the bank from collapsing, although $25bn of this was converted into a 34% stake. The government, which has benefited from a 20% appreciation in Citigroup’s share price, said it will sell its shares in an “orderly fashion” over the next 12 months.

The plunge in Citigroup’s fortunes during the worst of the crisis was so severe that the bank was ejected from the blue-chip Dow Jones Industrial Average. Its share price slipped 4% on Monday as investors anticipated dilution in their holdings by Citigroup’s plan to issue a large amount of new stock.

I don’t give investment advice – though I’ve been having a good year – so, I have no suggestions about how to treat Citi’s stock issue.

I’m certainly pleased to see that taxpayers will be making 20% on our share of this TARP bailout.

Nasa sky survey probe blasts off

A Nasa satellite designed to uncover hidden cosmic objects has blasted off from California.

The Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) blasted off from Vandenberg Air Force Base on a Delta II rocket just after 1409 GMT…

The probe is expected to uncover objects that have never seen before, including some of the coolest stars and the most luminous galaxies. The $320m mission will do this by scanning the entire sky in infrared light with a sensitivity hundreds of times greater than ever before.

The satellite will also have a role in planetary protection: WISE will be able to detect some of the darkest near-Earth asteroids and comets.

This would help efforts to determine whether any of these objects could strike Earth in the near future…

Wise joins two other infrared missions in space: Nasa’s Spitzer Space Telescope and the European Space Agency’s Herschel Space Observatory.


Marijuana Mom helps son “grow” his business

Diane Irwin spent most of her life as a hairdresser and salon owner in a Denver suburb.

“I was into makeup and high-heeled shoes and fancy clothes and working — a lot,” she said. “I sold my salon and moved down to the country. I wanted a change of pace.”

While Mom was looking for a midlife career change, her son was building a medical marijuana business, legal in Colorado since 2000. Diane Irwin loaned him $10,000 from the sale of her salon, and he opened Highland Health, a dispensary where patients who have been certified by the state can buy marijuana…

“He called me one day and he said, ‘Mom, I think we should buy this land’ and ‘How do you feel about growing medical marijuana?’ And I said, ‘OK.’ It was just a faith thing.”

Jason Irwin bought 37 acres in rural southern Colorado, tucked up against the Greenhorn Mountains. That’s where his mom’s new life began. In June, they paid $3,000 for two greenhouses, supplies and marijuana seedlings. Diane Irwin lived in an old camper and tended the plants.

It was like an Outward Bound course for me,” she said. “Living off the grid, roughing it. We didn’t have heat. We didn’t have running water. We didn’t have electricity most of the time. The batteries were always going dead. The greenhouse blew away a couple of times…”

By early November, the plants were ready to harvest. The Irwins filled several SUVs and pickup trucks with their crop and moved to a house they rented in nearby La Veta.

A closet in the house is filled with marijuana that is drying out. The radio is set to NPR as Diane Irwin’s fellow farmers trim the stems and leaves off the plants. The leftover twigs are run through a screen to form a powder that is packed by hand to form hashish…

“I’m in for the long haul. I really do feel like we’re pioneers bringing new life to medical marijuana,” she said.

How long must we put up with the stupidity, ignorant so-called morality and just plain pig-headed politicians who afford carte blanche to the booze industry and devote enormous sums of taxpayer dollars to an unproductive “War on Drugs”?

Let cottage industry grow. Legalize and tax marijuana production. The big boys will roll on in, sure. Every major tobacco giant maintains “experimental” pot farms, if for nothing else, for executive consumption. But, consumers will support local homegrown the same way we prefer local and regional restaurants over Burger King.

Potential tag team with Google and T-Mobile – UPDATED

It is almost fun wandering through the Web bumping into bloggers who want to be known as pundits. Or even analysts. Hilarious – excepting their incompetence and lack of understanding of how the business world generally functions – couldn’t be further from their guesses at the future, a twittery fear of any corporation larger than a corner ice cream stand.

That is why my initial post referenced Om Malik’s post. Which he ended with email messages to personal contacts at Google and HTC. I’m certain there will be for-real updates at his business site.

Today’s update is from Reuters and ZDNet. Not much of any punditry there, either:

Google Inc plans to sell its own cellphone direct to consumers as soon as next year, bypassing wireless operators in a rare strategic move.

Called the Nexus One and made by smartphone maker HTC, the phone will run on the search giant’s Android operating system — around which Motorola and other cellphone makers have built devices — and will be sold online, the WSJ cited persons familiar with the matter as saying.

Cellular service will have to be bought separately, it added.

Yes, most of the article was offering analysis derived from info reported in the Wall Street Journal – and so credited. So much for Rupert Murdoch’s plan for a paywall.

The “Google phone,” HTC’s Nexus One, was approved this morning by the U.S. Federal Communications Commission as model number PB99100.

The trio of filings confirm a few technical details, such as microSD expansion, 802.11b/g Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR.

The report also raises new questions about the device’s potential carrier landing spot, with support for quad-band GSM/GPRS/EDGE with UMTS/HSUPA on 850/1700/1900 frequencies.

Translation: Hello T-Mobile, and perhaps AT&T, too.

UPDATE: Latest news from Reuters says the phone hits the stores in January with two versions: one to be sold with contract by T-Mobile and another to be sold unlocked.

Mexican gangs siphon $1 billion oil from Pemex Pipelines

Mexican criminal gangs during the past two years have stolen $1 billion in oil from the country’s state-run oil company.

Using a fleet of stolen tanker trucks, miles of rubber hose and high-tech drills, the notorious gang known as the Zetas have established sophisticated operations to siphon off petroleum from the state-run Petroleos Mexicanos, or Pemex, robbing the Mexican treasury of revenues, The Washington Post reported Sunday.

The Zetas, many of whom are former Mexican soldiers, have graduated from their roles as enforcers for drug cartels to running their own criminal enterprises in the oil-rich states of Veracruz and Tamaulipas, the newspaper said.

The Zetas are a parallel government,” Eduardo Mendoza Arellano, a federal lawmaker who heads a national committee on energy, told the Post. “They practically own vast stretches of the pipelines, from the highway to the very door of the oil companies.”

Free enterprise – in parallel with politics and corruption. And power.

Our politicians fritter around trying to differentiate these gangsters from Al Qaeda – for example. Neither is more or less religious than the other. In truth.

Nanjing Massacre remembered after 72 years

People come to the Nanjing Massacre Memorial Hall to mourn the victims of the Nanjing massacre committed by Japanese invading troops during World War II, in Nanjing, capital of east China’s Jiangsu province, Dec. 12, 2009. Dec. 13, 2009 is the 72nd anniversary of the Nanjing massacre, which left 300,000 Chinese people dead.

I’ve written about this before. People in China haven’t forgotten. Why should I?