When’s the last time you made a $10.7 billion “Oops?”


Daylife/AP Photo used by permission

Bank of America Corp is beefing up its internal accounting controls after it incorrectly classified as much as $10.7 billion in short-term lending and repurchase deals for mortgage securities as sales, according to a letter filed with U.S. securities regulators.

The Charlotte, N.C.-based lender said the transactions — spread over a three-year period — were immaterial to Bank of America’s earnings in a May 13 letter to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, which was publicly filed on Friday.

The error was first disclosed in the bank’s first quarter 2010 report, which noted the bank incorrectly accounted for some mortgage-backed securities as sales, rather than repurchase or short-term lending deals…

If the deals were properly accounted for, Bank of America’s Tier 1 capital ratio — a key metric monitored by bank regulators — would have declined 0.01 percent on Sept 30, 2008, when the largest such error existed.

Bank of America has since beefed up its internal accounting procedures to prevent the error from recurring and the bank has not found similar errors after an internal review, according to the bank’s letter to the SEC.

Phew! I was getting worried there for a moment.

Plutonium buried at National Lab is triple previous admissions

The amount of plutonium buried at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in Washington State is nearly three times what the federal government previously reported, a new analysis indicates, suggesting that a cleanup to protect future generations will be far more challenging than planners had assumed.

The active phrase being “previously reported”. You can assume the DOE has been lying for decades.

Plutonium waste is much more prevalent around nuclear weapons sites nationwide than the Energy Department’s official accounting indicates, said Robert Alvarez, a former department official who in recent months reanalyzed studies conducted by the department in the last 15 years for Hanford; the Idaho National Engineering Laboratory; the Savannah River Site, near Aiken, S.C.; and elsewhere.

But the problem is most severe at Hanford, a 560-square-mile tract in south-central Washington that was taken over by the federal government as part of the Manhattan Project. By the time production stopped in the 1980s, Hanford had made most of the nation’s plutonium…

The fear is that in a few hundred years, the plutonium could reach an underground area called the saturated zone, where water flows, and from there enter the Columbia River. Because the area is now arid, contaminants move extremely slowly, but over the millennia the climate is expected to change, experts say…

But more than 20 years after the Energy Department vowed to embark on a cleanup, it still has not “characterized,” or determined the exact nature of, the contaminated soil.

The department has been weighing whether to try to clean up 90 percent, 99 percent or 99.9 percent of the waste, but because the extent of contamination is unclear, so is the relative cost of the options.

In other words, the bureaucrats hope the problem will be dealt with – by someone else after they retire. Results were classified. Scientists were ordered for years to keep quiet or be arrested and charged with violating national security laws.

How many of those charged with the task have already retired? They’re sitting somewhere on their rusty-dusty laughing at the civilians who may yet acquire cancer and more – courtesy of our heroic foreign policy.

People wonder why I’m cynical about our politicians? I’m amazed we finally have an administration that let the truth out.

It’s over for another four years.


Andrés Iniesta breaks everyones’ heart in Holland

A match like many of the World Cup Finals I’ve watched in the past forty years.

Mostly played out in the midfield. Individual attacks, sometimes in pairs or threes; but, never jeopardizing the need for defense. Some of those efforts almost succeeded, should have succeeded. But, that was up to the players on the pitch.

No brilliant field general or Titan of sport. Just twenty-two skilled, talented, disciplined and well-trained athletes giving their all.

I didn’t expect more than that. It was well worth watching.

Netherlands 0 – 1 Spain

Yes, South Africa was a big winner on the day, as well.

New Mexico man set on fire after losing drinking bet – UPDATED

Here in New Mexico, we have several cultural specialties. One is driving while drunk. We have folks here who will consume enough booze to be incapable of walking. Which is why they drive instead.

Another is stupid crimes. Admittedly, smart is not a quality required of someone choosing to rob a bank or a convenience store.

But, the number of incredible decisions arrived at by New Mexico boozers must set the standard for world-class drunks. For example –

LAS CRUCES, N.M. — A 47-year-old man’s friends set his prosthetic leg on fire after he lost a drinking bet, causing him to suffer severe burns to his buttocks and lower back.

Dona Ana County sheriff’s deputies found the man naked on the side of U.S. Route 70 with his prosthetic leg in flames. Deputies learned that the man and his friends were drinking…and bet that whoever drank the least would be set on fire.

The man told investigators that at six beers, he drank the least, and agreed to let his friends set him on fire.

He said his friends ignited his prosthetic leg, and the flames spread to his body.

The sheriff’s office said the man took his clothes off because of the pain and his friends decided to take him to the hospital. But they got nervous and instead dropped him off on the side of the highway.

UPDATE: Police are now looking for the “victim”. Turns out he set himself on fire – with his crack pipe!


Or you can spend the weekend staring at a 42-foot long Roadrunner

Asteroid Lutetia – up close and personal

Asteroid Lutetia has been revealed as a battered world of many craters. ESA’s Rosetta mission has returned the first close-up images of the asteroid showing it is most probably a primitive survivor from the violent birth of the Solar System.

The flyby was a spectacular success with Rosetta performing faultlessly…

The images show that Lutetia is heavily cratered, having suffered many impacts during its 4.5 billion years of existence. As Rosetta drew close, a giant bowl-shaped depression stretching across much of the asteroid rotated into view. The images confirm that Lutetia is an elongated body, with its longest side around 130km.

“I think this is a very old object. Tonight we have seen a remnant of the Solar System’s creation,” says Holger Sierks, OSIRIS principal investigator, Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research, Lindau, Germany.

Rosetta raced past the asteroid at 15 km/s completing the flyby in just a minute. But the cameras and other instruments had been working for hours and in some cases days beforehand, and will continue afterwards. Shortly after closest approach, Rosetta began transmitting data to Earth for processing…

The flyby marks the attainment of one of Rosetta’s main scientific objectives. The spacecraft will now continue to a 2014 rendezvous with its primary target, comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko. It will then accompany the comet for months, from near the orbit of Jupiter down to its closest approach to the Sun. In November 2014, Rosetta will release Philae to land on the comet nucleus.

RTFA. Lots of great photos.

As the ESA Director of Science and Robotic Exploration, David Southwood, said – “It has been a great day for exploration, a great day for European science.”

Extending, expanding knowledge of our solar system is a natural goal for inquiring scientific minds. Every step forward opens more avenues for study and learning, understanding the context of our evolution.

Dead for a century, Mark Twain finally says what he meant

Wry and cranky, droll and cantankerous — that’s the Mark Twain we think we know, thanks to reading “Huck Finn” and “Tom Sawyer” in high school. But in his unexpurgated autobiography, whose first volume is about to be published a century after his death, a very different Twain emerges, more pointedly political and willing to play the role of the angry prophet.

Whether anguishing over American military interventions abroad or delivering jabs at Wall Street tycoons, this Twain is strikingly contemporary. Though the autobiography also contains its share of homespun tales, some of its observations about American life are so acerbic — at one point Twain refers to American soldiers as “uniformed assassins” — that his heirs and editors, as well as the writer himself, feared they would damage his reputation if not withheld.

“From the first, second, third and fourth editions all sound and sane expressions of opinion must be left out,” Twain instructed them in 1906. “There may be a market for that kind of wares a century from now. There is no hurry. Wait and see.”

Twain’s decree will be put to the test when the University of California Press publishes the first of three volumes of the 500,000-word “Autobiography of Mark Twain” in November. Twain dictated most of it to a stenographer in the four years before his death at 74 on April 21, 1910. He argued that speaking his recollections and opinions, rather than writing them down, allowed him to adopt a more natural, colloquial and frank tone, and Twain scholars who have seen the manuscript agree…

Continue reading

Soccer fans prefer restaurants, museums to hookers. Huh? Wha?

The influx of thousands of soccer fans would increase demand on South African sex workers; at least that was the belief of a leading expert prior to the start of the 2010 World Cup.

But it seems fans of the beautiful game that traveled to the Rainbow Nation have created a flop in sex-worker business — leaving prostitutes out-of-pocket and out of work — in favor of more high-brow pursuits.

“The World Cup has been devastating. We thought it was going to be a cash cow but it’s chased a lot of the business away. It’s been the worst month in my company’s history,” the owner and founder of one of Johannesburg’s most exclusive escort companies told CNN.

“No one is interested in sex at the moment. I think we’ve had three customers who traveled here for the World Cup which has seen my group’s business drop by 80 percent. I enjoyed watching the games, but I can’t wait for everyone to just go home now!” the madam, who works under the alias of “Tori,” added…

The tournament in 2010, if anything, has seen the modern-day soccer fan attracted to art galleries and museums over brothels.

“People went to the bars and stadiums to watch the games and afterwards they went home. They didn’t bother themselves with coming to us,” Zobwa, who works as a prostitute told CNN.

“Before the tournament we were getting good money but [over the month] it has not been busy at all. We thought it was going to be much better but it has been boring. I’ve actually left Johannesburg now because there has been so little trade.

RTFA for the details. Amazing to me. Is the sport attracting a better educated, more perceptive crowd?

Dare I hope?