‘Flying’ boat hopes to circle globe in 40 days

The captain of a huge “flying” boat that has smashed world records for speed on water now plans to sail round the world in under 40 days.

Frenchman Alain Thebault, skipper of “Hydroptere,” a revolutionary sailing boat that looks more like a plane, says his next project is to circumnavigate the globe in half the time of the Jules Verne novel “Around the World in 80 Days…”

“Hydroptere,” currently the world’s fastest sailing boat, gets its speed from foils, or underwater “wings” that lift the boat and enable it to “fly” several meters above the water. This innovation, which uses principles similar to those of airplanes, avoids drag and allows the 18- by 24-meter boat to achieve previously unimaginable speeds…

“When you sail at very high speeds, around 100 km/hour, the water becomes like a rock,” he said. “So yes, it is dangerous.Sailing at very high speeds is similar to high altitude for alpinists — up there, you have to spend the least time possible.”

Thebault and his team rebuilt “Hydroptere” [after a 2008 crash] and in late 2009 it became the fastest boat on the planet, traveling at over 50 knots over 500 meters and one nautical mile.

Thebault is currently building a larger version of the boat, “Hydroptere Maxi,” to make his attempt at crossing the world in under 40 days…

But before all that, the maverick sailor, who admits this project is both his profession and obsession, has another goal: He will attempt to cross the Pacific in three days in 2011.

Good luck, dude. I’ve had close friends with some experience at high speeds on water and the biggest risk is the one you never see. What may be floating in the water in your path.

EPA is punk’d by GAO and phony Energy Star-ratings

The Government Accountability Office Punk’d Energy Star recently by submitting fake products and companies for certification. The Environmental Protection Agency’s arbiters of efficiency standards rubber-stamped 15 out of 20 bogus products and a handful of fake firms became Energy Star Partners. Here are three of our favorite fabrications.

1. Tropical Thunder Appliances

To perform this investigation, the Government Accountability Office’s (GAO) March 26, 2010, report states that it “used four bogus manufacturing firms and fictitious individuals to apply for Energy Star partnership…”

Dummy websites emblazoned with Energy Star Partnerships remain online for each of the four front companies—Cool Rapport (HVAC equipment), Futurizon Solar Innovations (lighting), Spartan Digital Electronics, and Tropical Thunder Appliances.

2. The Feather-Duster Fly-Strip Air Freshener

Ostensibly an indoor air purifier, this item is actually a standard space heater spangled in strips of flypaper, with a feather duster perched up top.

The product was submitted without a standard safety file number from the Underwriters’ Laboratories. Plus, the product’s website did not include a disclaimer required for Energy Star certification. Last but not least, the garish photo submitted with the product’s application portrays what is clearly a feather duster rigged to space heater. Nevertheless, these obstacles proved surmountable—the product was approved in 11 days and became listed on the Energy Star website…

3. The Gasoline-Powered Alarm Clock

On the application for Energy Star certification, this product’s description stated that “the item is the size of a small generator and is powered by gasoline.” The GAO never devised an image of this piece of nonexistent indoor power equipment, which would presumably make enough noise to temporarily wake consumers before carbon monoxide fumes sent them back to sleep for good. The dimensions are listed as 18 inches tall, 15 inches wide and 10 inches in depth. “Gas-powered clock radio is sleek, durable, easy on your electric bill, and surprisingly quiet,” the product’s marketing description states.

All were approved!

BTW – I don’t think anyone in our federal government gets to have more fun than GAO investigators.

Janitor used patients’ files for ID theft

Showing off jewelry from fraudulent purchases – Facebook

In what Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart described as a “sophisticated identity-theft ring,” a janitor stole data from as many as 250 patient files at a Northwestern University physicians’ group and, with the help of her two sisters and friends, used the personal information to charge more than $300,000 in jewelry, furniture, appliances and electronics. They sold the goods to friends and relatives, pocketing the profits.

Seven suspects have been arrested, while three others, including janitor Tijuana Leonard, are wanted on felony warrants, according to the sheriff’s office…

While working the night shift for Millard Cleaning Service, Leonard, 33, of Chicago, stole personal information from patient files in the Northwestern Medical Faculty Foundation’s offices and passed it along to others, Dart said.

In some cases they would use the personal information to open credit accounts at retailers either online or in the store, Dart said. In other cases they added their names to victims’ accounts. They then often went on an immediate shopping spree — sometimes charging in excess of $5,000 at a time, according to the sheriff.

Dart was critical that the stores weren’t more suspicious when the ring members opened credit accounts and then quickly bought as many as four plasma TVs at a time…

Do you think?

Investigators began noticing that many the victims saw doctors on floors 19-21 of the medical facility and narrowed the search down to Leonard, the janitor assigned to those floors

The Northwestern Medical Faculty Foundation has set up a hot line for patients to call.

Well, the Medical group is really on top of things, aren’t they?

Republican elite ousts ideologue David Frum – for telling the truth

David Frum is a Republican, a former speechwriter for George Bush best known for crafting the phrase “axis of evil.” But he thinks for himself, and he doesn’t always like what he sees on the Republican side of the aisle.

When he disagrees with Republicans, he criticizes them. On his blog last Sunday, he issued a harsh critique of the GOP’s strategy of refusing to negotiate on the health care bill:

“Conservatives and Republicans today suffered their most crushing legislative defeat since the 1960s. . .A huge part of the blame for today’s disaster attaches to conservatives and Republicans ourselves…

“Could a deal have been reached? Who knows? But we do know that the gap between this plan and traditional Republican ideas is not very big. The Obama plan has a broad family resemblance to Mitt Romney’s Massachusetts plan. It builds on ideas developed at the Heritage Foundation in the early 1990s that formed the basis for Republican counter-proposals to Clintoncare in 1993-1994.

“Barack Obama badly wanted Republican votes for his plan. Could we have leveraged his desire to align the plan more closely with conservative views?…Too late now. They are all the law.”

For that, apparently, he has just been kicked out of his job at the conservative American Enterprise Institute.

From the WaPo:

“Three days after calling health-care reform a debacle for Republicans, David Frum was forced out of his job at the American Enterprise Institute on Wednesday…

“Frum made clear, in a letter to AEI President Arthur C. Brooks, that his departure after seven years as a resident fellow at the conservative think tank was not voluntary. “I have had many fruitful years at the American Enterprise Institute,” he wrote, “and I do regret this abrupt and unexpected conclusion of our relationship.”

“If conservatives can’t tolerate dissent, they’re likely to be wandering in the political wilderness for a long time.”

I’ll second that emotion.

Murdoch proceeds with PPV online news in the UK

Daylife/Getty Images used by permission

The Times and the Sunday Times are to start charging for content online in June. Users will be charged £1 for a day’s access and £2 for a week’s subscription for access to both papers’ websites.

The News International chief executive, Rebekah Brooks, implied in a statement that its other titles, the Sun and the News of the World, would follow…

The Times and the Sunday Times are the first UK papers to fully charge for digital content. While a daily payment will give users access to both sites, the weekly subscription will also include an e-paper and new applications. Access to the digital services will be included in the seven-day subscriptions of print customers to the Times and the Sunday Times…

In August 2009, Rupert Murdoch announced that he would introduce charges for all his newspapers, saying that News Corp wanted to prevent readers moving to free sites by making its content better and differentiated from other publishers.

He obviously feels he can milk a useful amount of money from online readers who prefer his flavor of conservative balderdash over more traditional flavors. Maybe Flash and sports is enough?


Alleged Holocaust soap prompts outrage

Jewish groups in Montreal are denouncing a curiosity shop where a bar of soap allegedly made from Holocaust victims’ fat is for sale.

The beige bar of soap, in a store on Montreal’s Plateau-Mont-Royal, is inscribed with a swastika and displayed in a glass case with a card that says “Poland 1940.”

The store owner – who is Jewish – claims the soap was “made out of people … the fat of people,” but he wouldn’t grant an interview about his stock, explaining he thought it was important to display and sell such items to remember the Holocaust.

Fake or real, the soap is outrageous, and “this individual, and others like him, are not preserving history in any way,” said Alice Herscovitch, director of Montreal’s Holocaust Centre. “The sale of objects which glorify Nazism and hatred, to me, do nothing. They certainly don’t help us remember…”

Most Jewish historians and Holocaust experts say stories about mass-produced soap using human remains are untrue, even though there is evidence Nazis experimented with saponification during the Second World War in European concentration camps.

The purchase or sale of items with swastikas is not illegal under Canadian law, but selling soap made with human remains is, explained B’nai Brith Canada’s chief legal counsel, Anita Bromberg.

And claiming it is – if it isn’t – is also illegal because it is fraud, she added.

I can’t describe in a few words the disgust and contempt I feel for a creep like this. Whatever the rationale overlaid to aid defenders of this slimy business – feeding a morbid interest in the era of Naziism is despicable.