Scandal forces Murdoch to close News of the World

Well, not really, not now

News International announced on Thursday that it is closing the News of the World after this Sunday’s edition, with no end in sight to the political and commercial fallout from the phone-hacking scandal after 72 hours of mounting crisis.

Sunday’s edition of the paper will be the last, News International chairman James Murdoch told News of the World staff on Thursday afternoon.

Murdoch told employees at the 167-year-old title: “The News of the World is in the business of holding others to account. But it failed to when it came to itself”…

It is the first national newspaper to close since Rupert Murdoch shut News International mid-market tabloid Today in 1995.

The News of the World was Rupert Murdoch’s first UK newspaper acquisition in 1968 and its profits helped him build his publishing and broadcasting empire in this country and the US.

A spokesman for the company would not comment on whether News International will continue to publish a tabloid title on a Sunday. I imagine they will.

Murdoch told staff some of them would be leaving the company and said that was a matter of regret. He paid tribute to their “good work”.

There will be no adverts in Sunday’s edition and any money already received will be donated to good causes…

Labour MP Tom Watson, who has been highlighting the phone-hacking scandal at the paper for two years, said: “Rupert Murdoch did not close the News of the World. It is the revulsion of families up and down the land as to what they got up to. It was going to lose all its readers and it had no advertisers left. They had no choice.”

RTFA for the details. More and more of the truly dirty details are still coming out – which is an essential part of the decision by the Murdochs – Daddy Rupert and James – to bail before the tsunami crushes them altogether.

Baidu + Microsoft = English search in China

Daylife/Reuters Pictures used by permission

China’s Baidu is to partner with Microsoft for English-language search, giving the U.S. software giant a chance to expand its tiny Web presence in a market Google has stepped back from, and helping the Chinese company’s international ambitions.

The tie-up will direct English searches from Baidu to Microsoft’s Bing, which will deliver the results back to Baidu’s Web pages…

Baidu has about 80 percent of the search market in China — a nation with almost half a billion Internet users and still only about 30 percent penetration — after Google left mainland China in a high-profile fallout with Beijing over censorship.

Bing — which filters out results in China relating to controversial subjects, such as political dissidents, Taiwan or pornography, to be able to operate in the country — has a negligible share of the market, while Google has nearly 20 percent counting visits to its offshore sites…

The new tie-up, due to be launched later this year, builds on existing cooperation between Baidu and Bing on mobile platforms and page results.

Bing is one of the few software packages that Microsoft hasn’t managed to screw-up with complexity. The usual outcome for their products that just work well – and need little touching up over time – is that they get bored with it and drop it. Microsoft MONEY being the best example of that practice.

Though I don’t use it on a regular basis, Bing seems to work well – in most cases as well as Google. Habits are hard to break though and I know most of the quirks of Google. Plus – their gmail still does the best job around of defeating spam and phishing.

Frankly, I think this is another smart move by Baidu, another example of a lost opportunity by Yahoo who once were in on the ground floor.

Clarification: I own enough Baidu shares to buy half a Yaris.

Why the United States is not a Christian nation

As America celebrates its birthday on July 4, the timeless words of Thomas Jefferson will surely be invoked to remind us of our founding ideals — that “All men are created equal” and are “endowed by their Creator” with the right to “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” These phrases, a cherished part of our history, have rightly been called “American Scripture.”

But Jefferson penned another phrase, arguably his most famous after those from the Declaration of Independence. These far more contentious words — “a wall of separation between church and state” — lie at the heart of the ongoing debate between those who see America as a “Christian Nation” and those who see it as a secular republic, a debate that is hotter than a Washington Fourth of July…

While president in 1802, Jefferson wrote: “Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man and his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should ‘make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,’ thus building a wall of separation between Church and State … ”

The idea was not Jefferson’s. Other 17th- and 18th-century Enlightenment writers had used a variant of it. Earlier still, religious dissident Roger Williams had written in a 1644 letter of a “hedge or wall of separation between the garden of the church and the wilderness of the world.”

Williams, who founded Rhode Island with a colonial charter that included religious freedom, knew intolerance firsthand. He and other religious dissenters, including Anne Hutchinson, had been banished from neighboring Massachusetts, the “shining city on a hill” where Catholics, Quakers and Baptists were banned under penalty of death.

Jefferson regarded this law so highly that he had his authorship of the statute made part of his epitaph, along with writing the Declaration and founding the University of Virginia. (Being president wasn’t worth a mention.)

RTFA. Re-examine the history that most Americans sorely have not understood – for the first time.

Christian revisionists of American history absolutely understand they are lying to support their ideology, they absolutely recognize their actions as counter to the spirit of history as understood by the Founding Fathers and Mothers – and they don’t care.

They assume their religious ideology supersedes the achievements of our Constitution and would rather return to the religious wars of the Crusades in exactly the same way their counterparts on the fringe of Islam would do. They are equally bereft of understanding, deserving of as little support and coddling as any poison in the gut of this modern world.

Kerry David Martin — RIP

Kerry and Hank

Kerry David Martin
April 28, 1951 – July 4, 2011
Garland, TX

Kerry was one of my peers and friends online, contributing editors together at Dvorak Uncensored and the Cagematch. He lived a rich life of discovery in the world of astronomy.

Like many of us joined in common tasks online we never met in person. But, our online dialogue, publicly – and much more privately about science and astronomy – was fulfilling. We could understand our disagreements as well as enjoying what we shared.

He will be missed.

Farmers expand revenue stream with pig poop

What to do with 12,000 tonnes of pig poo? That’s the question farmers James Hart and Jeremy Iles found themselves asking two years ago when contemplating how best to supplement their dwindling incomes.

Thanks to the buying power of the major supermarkets, pig farming is no longer as profitable as it once was, and Mr Hart in particular was looking at ways to make the most of the resources at his disposal.

The solution they came up with was beautifully simple; turn the huge amount of pig faeces generated on the farm – not to mention cow dung and chicken droppings – into hard cash…

Glebe Farm near the sleepy village of Hatherop in Gloucestershire is an unlikely place to stumble across a state-of-the-art, million pound biogas station of which there are just a handful in the UK.

The plant itself is wholly unremarkable to look at, but what goes on inside could help to revolutionise not just this farm, but hundreds of others just like it across the country.

In fact, the technology is proven and, given the government subsidies available, profitable. It’s just that, like with most renewable energies, the UK has been painstakingly slow on the uptake. In Germany, for example, there are thousands of similar plants.

In essence, vast quantities of animal waste are mixed with lots of grass in a cylindrical tower – “basically a 3,000 tonne cow’s stomach,” says Mr Hart.

Bacteria then break down the mixture, producing methane, which is siphoned off, cleaned and filtered.

This gas is then used to power what is effectively a £200,000 Mercedes truck engine, which in turn powers a generator, electricity from which is fed into the National Grid.

A by-product of the process is large quantities of fertiliser that remain in the tower once the bacteria have worked their magic.

The heat generated by the process is also captured and used for central heating at the farm house. It is, then, in renewable-energy speak, an efficient ‘closed-loop’ system.

No doubt the inevitable whine will burp from the blowhole of conservative critics – exclaiming over there being any sort of subsidy for new technology. Conveniently forgetting all the established “old” technology has always managed a government subsidy for the good of the people.

RTFA for lots of interesting detail.

Ugandan school found using unexploded bomb as bell

NOT a bomb – but used as a bell at a school in Uganda

A mine awareness team in Uganda was horrified to find an unexploded bomb being used as a bell when they visited a school to teach children how to spot bombs, a local newspaper reported.

The Anti-Mine Network organization saw teachers banging the bomb with stones to call children to lessons in a 700-pupil school in a rural area, the Daily Monitor said.

“Its head was still active, which means that if it is hit by a stronger force, it would explode instantly and cause untold destruction in the area,” Wilson Bwambale, coordinator of the organization, told the newspaper…

The Ugandan military has fought two rebel insurgencies over the last two decades and mines and bombs still litter former battlefields around the country.

This is the second bomb that the Anti-Mine Network have found in a Ugandan school in the last six months. Another was found being used by children at lunchtime as a toy and put away in a storeroom during lessons.

I’ll bet you thought having insufficient paper and pencils was a tough schoolday problem.