Colonel sacked over Powerpoint, boredom and incompetence

Think of how long the Russians could have stayed if they had PowerPoint?

Consider it a new version of death by PowerPoint. The NATO command in Afghanistan has fired a staff officer who publicly criticized its interminable briefings, its over-reliance on Microsoft’s slide-show program, and what he considered its crushing bureaucracy.

Army Col. Lawrence Sellin, a 61-year old reservist from New Jersey who served in Afghanistan and Iraq prior to this deployment, got the sack Thursday from his job as a staff officer at the International Security Assistance Force Joint Command in Kabul. The hammer fell barely 48 hours after United Press International ran a passionate op-ed he wrote to lament that “little of substance is really done here.” He tells Danger Room, “I feel quite rather alone here at the moment.”

The colonel’s rant called into question whether ISAF’s revamped command structure, charged with coordinating the day-by-day war effort, was much more than a briefing factory. Or, as Sellin put it, “endless tinkering with PowerPoint slides to conform with the idiosyncrasies of cognitively challenged generals in order to spoon-feed them information.”

According to Sellin, when his commanding general (whom he doesn’t want to name) saw that Sellin described IJC as a blinkered bureaucracy, he informed the colonel that it was time to pack his things. “He was very polite and shook my hand and wished me luck,” Sellin says…

RTFA. Read both.

Given where Sellin’s articles originally appeared, I imagine he’s a big deal on the conservative libertarian circuit. But, he sounds like a brainy geek who mostly is fed up with bureaucrats and other congenital diseases in Western military brassbound structures.

I think he knew what would happen. Now, he gets to go back to work at reasonable geek tasks.

Counselor to schoolgirl gets her pregnant. BTW, he’s a priest.

A Roman Catholic priest allegedly seduced a 17-year-old girl while she was a senior at a Catholic high school in Reading into a sexual relationship that resulted in her giving birth at age 19, according to a civil lawsuit filed by her parents in Berks County Court.

According to the lawsuit, the Rev. Luis A. Bonilla Margarito was removed as chaplain of Reading Central Catholic High School and pastor of St. Joseph Church in Reading after the parents secretly video-taped him having sexual intercourse with their daughter in the basement of their home in November.

By then, she had graduated from high school and had turned 18 years old, but the lawsuit alleges the sexual relationship began when she was still in high school. The lawsuit says the parents allowed their daughter to meet with the priest for counseling because she had severe mental health issues as a result of prior sexual abuse by another adult male…

The Allentown Diocese announced Bonilla was removed as priest of St. Joseph’s in November because he had a relationship with an 18-year-old woman…A church spokesman said Bonilla would be sent to a treatment facility and no criminal charges were pending.

But the lawsuit alleges church officials knew of the “illicit relationship” when it first began and that it had continued after she graduated.

The parents decided to video-tape one of the counseling sessions their daughter had with Bonilla because they had become suspicious of his intentions, the lawsuit said. The parents claim in the lawsuit they overheard Bonilla tell their daughter she didn’t have to obey them anymore because she was 18. They also claim he alienated their daughter from them by “leading them to believe his relationship with their daughter was superior to theirs…”

The lawsuit says the parents gave money to the church and school expecting that their daughter would be protected from “sexual abuse and exploitation by sexual predators such as Father Bonilla.”

Not an unreasonable expectation, I would say. If you believe.

PR firm ordered to remove phony iTunes reviews

A public relations company and its owner have been cited for having staff post glowing reviews of game applications for companies it represents at the online iTunes store.

According to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, Reverb Communications and its owner Tracie Snitker engaged in deceptive advertising by having its employees pose as ordinary consumers when posting the reviews.

“Companies, including public relations firms involved in online marketing need to abide by long-held principles of truth in advertising,” said Mary Engle, director of the FTC’s advertising practices division.

The California-based Reverb Communications represents dozens of major video game companies and developers.

The FTC, however, claims Reverb did not disclose the reviews were written by its staff, nor that they were hired to promote the games and that they often received a percentage of the sales.

That information is relevant to consumers who were using the endorsements as a guide to whether or not to buy the games…

Under a proposed settlement order, Reverb will have to remove any previously posted endorsements that misrepresent the authors as ordinary consumers.

Sleaze ain’t any less relevant when it’s geeks and gamers indulging in the practice.

Mysterious case of solar flares and radioactive elements

Daylife/AP Photo used by permission

The story begins, in a sense, in classrooms around the world, where students are taught that the rate of decay of a specific radioactive material is a constant. This concept is relied upon, for example, when anthropologists use carbon-14 to date ancient artifacts and when doctors determine the proper dose of radioactivity to treat a cancer patient…

But that assumption was challenged in an unexpected way by a group of researchers from Purdue University who at the time were more interested in random numbers than nuclear decay. Ephraim Fischbach, a physics professor at Purdue, was looking into the rate of radioactive decay of several isotopes as a possible source of random numbers generated without any human input.

As the researchers pored through published data on specific isotopes, they found disagreement in the measured decay rates – odd for supposed physical constants.

Checking data collected at Brookhaven National Laboratory on Long Island and the Federal Physical and Technical Institute in Germany, they came across something even more surprising: long-term observation of the decay rate of silicon-32 and radium-226 seemed to show a small seasonal variation. The decay rate was ever so slightly faster in winter than in summer…

On Dec 13, 2006, the sun itself provided a crucial clue, when a solar flare sent a stream of particles and radiation toward Earth. Purdue nuclear engineer Jere Jenkins, while measuring the decay rate of manganese-54, a short-lived isotope used in medical diagnostics, noticed that the rate dropped slightly during the flare, a decrease that started about a day and a half before the flare.

If this apparent relationship between flares and decay rates proves true, it could lead to a method of predicting solar flares prior to their occurrence, which could help prevent damage to satellites and electric grids, as well as save the lives of astronauts in space…

Jenkins and Fischbach guessed that the culprits in this bit of decay-rate mischief were probably solar neutrinos, the almost weightless particles famous for flying at almost the speed of light through the physical world – humans, rocks, oceans or planets – with virtually no interaction with anything…

Their findings strengthened the argument that the strange swings in decay rates were caused by neutrinos from the sun. The swings seemed to be in synch with the Earth’s elliptical orbit, with the decay rates oscillating as the Earth came closer to the sun (where it would be exposed to more neutrinos) and then moving away…

Continue reading

Facebook is trying to trademark “face”

Chief Farcical Officer
Daylife/Getty Images used by permission

Facebook, which has gone after sites with the word “book” in their names, is also trying to trademark the word “face,” according to court documents.

But the social networking site has met with a familiar foe. As TechCrunch first reported, Aaron Greenspan has asked for an extension of time to file an opposition to Facebook’s attempt. Greenspan is the president and CEO of Think Computer, the developer of a mobile payments app called FaceCash.

I’d bet against ‘face’ being awarded to Facebook,” said Henry Sneath, a patent and trademark lawyer based in Pittsburgh. “You cannot overtake the use of a generic word people use in everyday speech…”

Facebook’s separate fight over “book,” on the other hand, has been more of a David vs. Goliath saga.

As CNNMoney reported Thursday, Facebook is suing start-up site — which claims it is merely a teacher’s community. The social networking giant also forced the travel site PlaceBook to change its name to TripTrace earlier this month.

In the case of Teachbook, Facebook would have to prove the site caused “a likelihood of confusion,” said Sneath, the trademark lawyer. That’s a steep burden, he said, but Facebook could succeed.

I thoroughly understand the need for existing copyright-holders to press to defend their mark against every interloper no matter how small. No matter how laughable.

In this case, I think “egregious,” greedy and grasping might be a better fit.

Waiting for “Ghost Train”, man hit by Real Train

A “ghost hunter” waiting for a phantom train on a North Carolina trestle was killed by a real one Friday after trying to save a woman, witnesses said.

Christopher Kaiser, 29, was killed and the woman was seriously injured investigators said.

Kaiser and 12 fellow ghost hunters had gathered on the 119th anniversary of North Carolina’s Bostian Bridge train wreck, The Charlotte Observer reported…

A woman who was with the group was seriously injured and airlifted to a hospital. Witnesses said Kaiser pushed her out of the way before he was hit.

I wonder if this will turn into the “curse” of the train of North Carolina’s Bostian Bridge train wreck. Superstition always finds a way to modify itself to avoid extinction.

Thanks, Morey.

Barbie-man bandit holds up Long Island store – for a Gatorade

Some men can wear pink – some can’t

The blonde bandit with the handbag and the handgun was no lady.

A cross-dressing crook in a pink jumpsuit held up a Long Island stationery store, only to find his efforts thwarted when the cash register wouldn’t open, Nassau County police said.

The white male, believed to be in his late 20s or early 30s, sported the blonde wig and the summery outfit Thursday afternoon when he entered the C&R Stationery Store in Lynbrook.

The pretty-in-pink bandit pulled a handgun from his off-white purse and ordered the female store clerk to empty the register, police said Friday.

When the panicked clerk couldn’t get to the cash quickly enough, the bandit settled for swiping a bottle of Gatorade before fleeing on his bicycle from the storefront shop on Union Ave., cops said…

Police planned to review footage from the store’s surveillance camera in their effort to track down the suspect.

And then pass it along to Jon Stewart, I imagine.