Here – let me show you how to do that! What – now, I’m fired?

Facebook is taking full control of display ads on the world’s No. 1 social networking website, cutting short an exclusive deal that had allowed Microsoft Corp to manage part of that business.

However, Microsoft — the exclusive provider of Web search on Facebook — will continue to sell text-based search ads on the website as the partners extended the arrangement beyond 2011, when it had been due to expire. A Facebook spokesman declined to say how long the deal has been extended.

Microsoft also said it will further integrate its Bing search engine into Facebook while expanding its reach beyond the United States.

Facebook, which counts nearly 400 million users, said its own display ads feature interactive aspects and can target viewers based on their personal information, making them better suited to its social networking service than Microsoft’s standard Web banner ads…

A Facebook spokesperson would not provide details on whether the advertising deal with Microsoft entailed any revenue sharing agreement, or whether Facebook would pay Microsoft a fee for altering the deal early.

Har! Sign a short-term contract to show you the benefits of their system. Copy the system. Fire ’em.

OK, guys – line up! Who’s next in line to be a Facebook “partner”?

Fact Check: Toyota not alone in acceleration problems


Pay attention to Congress and we’d still be driving these!

Toyota Motor Corp. has recently been in the hot seat after issuing massive recalls because of problems related to the accelerator pedal in several of its auto models.

To date, 8.1 million vehicles worldwide have been recalled by the manufacturer…

Speaking on Wednesday to CNN’s Campbell Brown, Larry Webster of Popular Mechanics magazine spoke at length on the problem, saying that “in the last decade, there have been tens of thousands of reports of sudden unintended acceleration in cars made by all the manufacturers.” Is this true?

The CNN Fact Check Desk wondered: Which other car manufacturers have had a problem with sudden unintended acceleration…?

The top five manufacturers of cars driven in the United States are General Motors, Toyota, Ford, Honda and Chrysler.

The NHTSA’s online database indicates that every one of these five has received numerous consumer complaints of sudden unintended acceleration in more than one of its models. Each manufacturer has faced a formal investigation into these complaints by the NHTSA and as a result has had to recall vehicles to fix various conditions that led to the problem.

Recalls due to incidents of sudden unintended acceleration are not limited to the big five manufacturers. According to the NHTSA database, recalls have also been issued for vehicles made by Nissan, BMW, Volkswagen, Mitsubishi, Subaru, Mercedes-Benz, Kia, Mazda, Land Rover, Suzuki and Volvo…

Bottom Line: Sudden unintended acceleration is not a problem limited to Toyota. Many car manufacturers, including the other four with the largest shares of the U.S. market, have had to recall vehicles because of this issue.

Speaking as a car geek who’s been involved with everything from building hot rods to racing sports cars – there is hardly a social phenomenon more deserving of cynical disregard than a typical U.S. recall.

First, they generally are the result of some sleazy lawyer who found a case akin to the poor benighted bastard who picked up his lawnmower to trim a hedge and managed to lose a few fingers. Thereby leaving the rest of us to pay for stickers, warnings and inspection regimes on every lawnmower sold since – in the United States.

Second, absurdity triumphs in these lawsuits over reason – consistently. The first “major” recall I experienced on my 1994 Dodge Ram pickup was a special plug required to be installed in a recess in the steering column. Someone with fourteen pounds of crap dangling from his keychain managed to get a portion of it stuck into the recess – which he then blamed for a subsequent crash into something sturdy and inanimate.

Someone with a “stuck accelerator who whines about being unable to stop their motor vehicle obviously never had the brainpower to understand that turning off the ignition key also stops the engine from running.

Pope fears secularism on the rise in Scotland

Scotland is a country plagued by sectarianism and struggling with a rising “tide of secularism”, the Pope has declared, in an address to the country’s Catholic bishops in Rome…

The Pope urged his Scottish bishops to “grapple firmly with the challenges presented by the increasing tide of secularism in your country”.

He also used his speech to condemn euthanasia – comments widely interpreted as a criticism of Margo MacDonald’s attempt to pass an assisted suicide bill at Holyrood.

“Support for euthanasia strikes at the very heart of the Christian understanding of the dignity of human life,” the Pope said…

He is likely to meet a wave of demonstrations across Britain after he condemned Labour’s equality laws earlier this week. Humanists, gay groups and academics joined politicians in criticising his unprecedented intervention in domestic politics.

In a lecture to English Catholic bishops in Rome on Sunday, the Pope described Harriet Harman’s Equality Bill as “unjust”, a restriction on religious freedom and a violation of “the natural law” – in other words, Christian teaching…

In Scotland yesterday, the Pope was urged to “relax”…Patrick Harvie, the leader of the Green Party, said: “I agree Scotland is a more secular society, but I think that’s a very good thing for equality in all its forms and for all religions. I would invite his Holiness to relax about this social change and enjoy it…”

The Pope’s whine is good news for the rest of us. At least, those who have stepped forward on the highway built of science, material reality, progress and good will.

Anyone stuck trying to find the on-ramp might be better served with a GPS running on reason and knowledge – instead of superstition and unquestioning belief.

Republican hits new low in demonizing opponents


Version edited only to show sheep – and demon sheep

A bizarre campaign ad by Senate candidate Carly Fiorina featuring what has been dubbed a “Demon Sheep” has transcended California politics to become an Internet sensation, but analysts wonder if it was such a good idea.

The Internet video, which features a man in a sheep costume with glowing red eyes crawling around a meadow, has gone viral — with the official version clocking nearly 450,000 views on YouTube as of Friday.

Since its release on Wednesday, the Demon Sheep also has inspired a Facebook group, Twitter feeds and a T-shirt line.

But political experts say the point behind the three-minute, 21-second blurb, attacking Fiorina’s top rival for the Republican nomination, Tom Campbell, as a “fiscal conservative in name only,” may have been lost…

Fiorina, a former Hewlett-Packard chief executive, is making her first foray into politics, and her opponents seized on the ad to charge that she is not ready for prime time.

“Carly Fiorina’s campaign is in full Mutton Meltdown mode, with an increasingly bizarre fixation on farm animals,” Campbell, who leads both Fiorina and state Assemblyman Chuck DeVore in polls, said in a statement posted on his website.

DeVore, who is running third in the race to challenge Democratic incumbent Senator Barbara Boxer in the November election, launched a website for the “society for the eradication of demon sheep from our political discourse.”

Double-Har! They deserve each other.

Shackleton’s whisky a treasure trove in Antarctica

Three crates of Scotch whisky and two crates of brandy left beneath the floorboards of a hut by the polar explorer Ernest Shackleton in 1909, at the end of a failed expedition to the South Pole, have been unearthed by a team from the Antarctic Heritage Trust.

Al Fastier, who led the team, said the discovery of the brandy was a surprise, according to a news release posted online by the trust. The team had expected to find just two crates of whisky buried under the hut. The trust reported that that ice had cracked some of the crates and formed inside, “which will make the job of extracting the contents very delicate.”

Richard Paterson, a master blender for Whyte & Mackay, which supplied the Shackleton expedition with 25 crates of Mackinlay’s “Rare and Old” whisky, described the unearthing of the bottles as “a gift from the heavens for whisky lovers,” since the recipe for that blend has been lost. “If the contents can be confirmed, safely extracted and analyzed, the original blend may be able to be replicated.”

Mr. Paterson addressed the question of what the whisky might taste like in a post on his blog when the plan to dig it up was first announced, last year:

Whiskies back then — a harder age — were all quite heavy and peaty as that was the style. And depending on the storage conditions, it may still have that heaviness. For example, it may taste the same as it did back then if the cork has stayed in the bottle and kept it airtight.

The trust’s Web site has a detailed history of the failed expedition, as well as this video on its efforts to preserve the hut built as a base for the Shackleton expedition at Cape Royds, Antarctica, in 1908:

I would give my late father’s left whatchamacallit to sip a dram or two of that whisky. The spirit of Earth’s adventure.

Puerto Rico activates National Guard in crime war


Daylife/AP Photo used by permission

About 1,000 National Guard soldiers will report for duty Saturday in Puerto Rico, activated by the governor this week to help fight a drug-fueled crime tsunami that has flooded the Caribbean island.

The military personnel will repair police cruisers and join local authorities on patrols in the most crime-ridden areas of Puerto Rico, mainly in poor parts of the commonwealth’s largest cities. One soldier will accompany a police officer on each patrol, said the National Guard chief, Maj. Gen. Antonio Vicens.

“The problem that exists now is that the police are short of personnel,” Vicens said. “What we are going to do solely is to help them. First, we are going to help them with mechanics, provide them with more than 100 mechanics so that their fleet of patrol cars can go out on the street. Once we have that, we are going to have joint preventive patrols.

“You won’t see military vehicles on the street. What you’ll see are police patrols on the street…”

Gov. Luis Fortuno announced the call-up in his annual state of Puerto Rico speech Monday night, saying the help is needed until more officers can be trained. He did not set a timetable.

In a separate development, Fortuno announced Tuesday that U.S. Attorney Rosa Emilia Rodriguez Velez had reached an agreement with the U.S. Justice Department and the Puerto Rican Police Department for the federal agency to have jurisdiction over a series of major crimes. Puerto Rico is an unincorporated territory of the United States and more stringent federal U.S. laws can apply…

Rodriguez said the agreement will streamline the prosecution of cases and allow federal agents immediate access to some crime scenes.

“We feel very strongly about fighting crime,” she said Thursday. “It’s much better to fight crime together. This is an additional crime-fighting measure.”

There certainly seems to be enough crime to fight, eh?

Danish Special Forces storm and free hijacked ship

Danish special naval forces have freed all 25 crew members of a Slovenian cargo ship captured by Somali pirates in the Gulf of Aden, an EU naval spokesman has said.

A distress signal from the Ariella was picked up by an Indian warship on Friday that relayed it to a French aircraft which then spotted the pirates and alerted a Danish naval ship that was nearby.

The Danes approached the Ariella in dinghies and scaled the side of the ship to free the crew who had locked themselves in a secure room, Cmdr. John Harbour, the EU naval spokesman, said…

Warships typically do not intervene in hijackings because of the danger that crews may be hit by crossfire.

Forces were able to intervene in this case because the ship had registered with naval authorities, was travelling along a recommended transit corridor and was part of a group transit, ensuring the ships had a helicopter within 30 minutes’ reaction time, Harbour said.

“There’s been many instances where there’s been excellent co-operation and three, four or even five nations have helped deter a pirate attack, he said.

“But this is the first where a warship has been able to send forces to stop a hijacking while it was in progress.”

Bravo!