First movie studio owned by Native Americans opens in New Mexico

Last year, the Tesuque Pueblo tribe of New Mexico opened a new casino, moving out of a 75,000-square foot facility that they quickly realized could be repurposed as a studio facility.

That idea was solidified in the fall, when the Universal Pictures feature “News of the World,” starring Tom Hanks, filmed at the facility. And thus launched Camel Rock Studios, which lays claim as the first movie studio owned by a Native American tribe in the history of Hollywood.

“Casinos, inherently, if you take out all the games, are big empty spaces,” said Timothy Brown, president and CEO of the Pueblo of Tesuque Development Corporation. “So we had an events center that we did concerts in and large parties that was a big vacant space. Once we removed all the casino equipment and furniture from the casino area, that became another large vacant space, and then with any business we had an entire administrative area with cubicles and offices that became perfect for their offices to move in.”

Brown said the corporation is aiming to take advantage of a filming boom in New Mexico, spurred in part by the state’s economic incentives. Perhaps best known recently for productions such as “Breaking Bad,” New Mexico has seen filming rise to the point that Netflix has even made Albuquerque its U.S. production hub.

The Land of Enchantment continues our history as the Land of Enchanting Movies.

New Zealand gun lobby backs government ban after mosques massacre

Vincent Thian/AP Photo

❝ New Zealand will crack down on firearms ownership this week after the Christchurch mosques massacre that killed 50 people.

In stark contrast to the United States, where even the most minor curbs on gun ownership meet ferocious opposition led by the National Rifle Association, New Zealand gun owners agree action is needed.

❝ “We want to support our government in any changes to prevent a terrorist attack from happening in New Zealand again,” said Nicole McKee, secretary of the Council of Licensed Firearm Owners.

❝ Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s government announced an immediate ban on military-style semi-automatic rifles after the shooting and will put laws to parliament formalising its action on Tuesday…

Finalising such legislation can often take months but Ardern said the matter was so urgent it will be done by April 11.

❝ Further curbs – potentially including a gun register, tighter vetting and stricter gun storage rules – are set to be passed by the end of the year.

It’s not as difficult as you might think to have responsible, thoughful legislation passed in a nation where politicians are likely to count voters as taking primacy over donors and corporate flunkies.

Dubai solution to traffic problems? Ban poor from owning cars!


In many ways modern, Dubai seems like some sort of science-fiction utopia. It emerged from the Middle East’s desert seemingly overnight with some of the largest buildings in the world and it has police supercars patrolling the streets. It’s not all perfect, of course, and like many cities, it’s facing a mushrooming traffic issue. But officials may not deal with this growing congestion problem in a traditional way: the emirate is reportedly considering banning the poor from owning cars.

Hussain Lootah, Director General of Dubai Municipality, reportedly suggested during a recent business forum in Germany that the emirate could impose motoring restrictions based on income. According to emirates-focused newspaper The National, “a salary limit scheme that would restrict car ownership to those earning above a certain monthly income” is among the options on the table. Lootah blames Dubai’s rapid rise in wealth for clogging the emirate’s roads with cars and dramatically increasing rush-hour traffic. “Everybody has their luxury life, but the capacity of our roads cannot take all of these cars without ownership laws,” he said in a speech…

…Dubai authorities are committed to reducing traffic congestion. They are also considering an increase on parking fees, fuel prices, toll road fees and insurance rates to further limit car ownership. As an alternative to driving, Dubai is attempting to improve its public transport system with a new tram system that began testing this week.

I hope no one passes this idea along to the Republican Party. They’ll be all over it like flies on dog poop. No doubt part of the platform in 2016 – endorsed by both Rand Paul and Ted Cruz.

Though the alternative offered to car ownership would probably be a discount on shoes.

Canadian National sent trainloads of biodiesel back and forth over the border – made millions never unloading the tankers

Tanker cars
Well, it looked like this number – on paper

A CBC News investigation has uncovered a cross-border mystery involving unexplained shipments of biodiesel tanker cars that were sent back and forth numerous times between Canada and the U.S. by CN Rail but were never unloaded.

According to leaked internal CN documents, the rail company stood to make $2.6 million for the effort…

Here comes the papier-mâché excuse:

“CN received shipping directions from the customer, which, under law, it has an obligation to meet,” CN Rail spokesman Mark Hallman said last week. “CN discharged its obligations with respect to those movements in strict compliance with its obligations as a common carrier, and was compensated accordingly.”

When asked whether CN wasn’t helping to do something strange, Hallman responded: “CN met its obligations as a common carrier and we have no further comment.”

CN employees, although guarded, were more candid…“In 25 years, I’d never done anything like it,” one railway worker told CBC News on the condition he not be named for fear he might be fired. “The clerk told me it was some kind of money grab. We just did what we were told…”

“This unit train will move at least once daily to Port Huron starting on Tuesday, June 18,” said an email written by Teresa Edwards, CN’s manager of transportation for Port Huron/Sarnia.

It will “clear customs and return to Sarnia. If we can get in more flips back and forth we will attempt to do so. Each move per car across the border is revenue generated for Sarnia/Port Huron.

“It will be the same cars flipping back and forth and the product will stay on the car…”

Each shipment generated bills of lading, customs import and export forms that suggest total biodiesel shipments of 1,984 cars — which, taken together, would be valued in the hundreds of millions.

The U.S. biodiesel companies listed as customers were HeroBX and Northern Biodiesel. Northern Biodiesel did not answer calls, and it is unclear whether it is still operating as a business. CBC News called HeroBX repeatedly, but it has refused to respond…

RTFA for more of the same. There is a portion of North American capitalism completely absorbed in shuffling papers – with the complicity of local, regional and national bureaucrats – which produces a profit solely on the basis of manipulation. Entirely antithetical to the intent of law, commerce and justice. But, then, that doesn’t matter if it turns a profit, eh?

How often must you change the oil – in your electric car?

The Ford Focus Electric, like other EVs on the way to market, will give owners the ability to travel without ever visiting a gas station. That’s a very compelling reason to go green, and Ford tells us that its upcoming EV has a lot more going for it than just its lack of petrol. For example, when does an electric car need an oil change? Never, and you’ll also never have to give another thought to oil, fuel or air filters.

Another typical service expense is the tune up, but without spark plugs, plug wires, a radiator or power steering fluid, there won’t be a lot to replace, flush or fill. You’ll also never have to worry about a muffler, water pump, serpentine belt or starter.

Look over Ford’s list of the top 25 things you won’t have to service in a new Focus Electric. The list includes “battery” as one of the items you won’t have to service or replace during the first 150,000 miles of life. Talk about your low-cost service experience…

I admit I hadn’t thought about this aspect of owning an electric car.

We’re already seriously considering one or another electric car as a replacement for my wife’s ancient – but still reliable – Volvo 245. The critter still gets 24mpg and was paid for sometime in the last century.

The average range of most electric cars coming into the market would allow for forgetting to charge the battery for several days. The cost of an electric commute is tantalizing. Skipping 95% of the maintenance requirements of an infernal combustion engine adds significantly to the package.

The Federal Aviation Administration loses track of 119,000 planes

Found in Colorado

The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is missing key information on who owns one-third of the 357,000 private and commercial aircraft in the US, a gap the agency says could be exploited by terrorists and drug traffickers.

The records are in such disarray that the FAA says it is worried that criminals could buy planes without the government’s knowledge, or use the registration numbers of other aircraft to evade new computer systems designed to track suspicious flights.

Next year the FAA will begin canceling the registration certificates of all 357,000 aircraft and require owners to register anew, the Associated Press news agency cited them as saying on Friday.

About 119,000 of the aircraft on the US registry have “questionable registration” because of missing forms, invalid addresses, unreported sales or other paperwork problems, according to the FAA.

In many cases, the FAA cannot say who owns a plane or even whether it is still flying or is no longer functional…

The amount of missing or invalid paperwork has been building for decades, the FAA says. Up to now, owners had to register their planes only once, at the time of purchase.

The FAA sent out notices every three years asking owners to update their contact information if needed, but there was no punishment for not doing so.

RTFA. It’s worth a chuckle over a truly incompetent bureaucracy.

It doesn’t require a great deal of smarts to be a criminal, anyway. But, it surely aids the heavy hitters when the context of day-by-day operations of a federal regulatory agency are about as thorough as Mexican border controls.

Hindu group stirs debate over who “owns” Yoga

Yoga is practiced by about 15 million people in the United States, for reasons almost as numerous — from the physical benefits mapped in brain scans to the less tangible rewards that New Age journals call spiritual centering. Religion, for the most part, has nothing to do with it.

But a group of Indian-Americans has ignited a surprisingly fierce debate in the gentle world of yoga by mounting a campaign to acquaint Westerners with the faith that it says underlies every single yoga style followed in gyms, ashrams and spas: Hinduism.

The campaign, labeled “Take Back Yoga,” does not ask yoga devotees to become Hindu, or instructors to teach more about Hinduism. The small but increasingly influential group behind it, the Hindu American Foundation, suggests only that people become more aware of yoga’s debt to the faith’s ancient traditions.

That suggestion, modest though it may seem, has drawn a flurry of strong reactions from figures far apart on the religious spectrum. Dr. Deepak Chopra, the New Age writer, has dismissed the campaign as a jumble of faulty history and Hindu nationalism. R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, has said he agrees that yoga is Hindu — and cited that as evidence that the practice imperiled the souls of Christians who engage in it.

The question at the core of the debate — who owns yoga? — has become an enduring topic of chatter in yoga Web forums, Hindu American newspapers and journals catering to the many consumers of what is now a multibillion-dollar yoga industry.

RTFA. To me, the best that religions can offer is guidance to the spirit of charity that lies at the [oft-forgotten] roots of most. I never worked construction projects with Habitat for Humanity because the inevitable prayer sessions were a distraction from the task at hand; but, I would be the last to deny the good performed by such groups.

Ownership of the brand more often comes down to conflict, armed or otherwise, over who owns which patch of ideology, ritual or a chunk of land and livelihood. The article provides beaucoup details. All pretty silly.

One more let’s-sue-a-successful-geek lawsuit

A few days ago, at the Allen & Co. mogul conference in Sun Valley, Mark Zuckerberg was approached by a “fan” apparently seeking an autograph. The fan was actually a process server who handed him a lawsuit. And now we know what that lawsuit was about.

Some guy in New York state claims he owns 84% of Facebook based on a two-page “contract” he entered into with Mark Zuckerberg 7 years ago–9 months before Facebook was founded…

Now, this claim sounds (and almost certainly is) ridiculous–especially coming 7 years after the fact. But Paul Ceglia was apparently persuasive enough that a New York court has issued a temporary restraining order that bars Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg from transferring any assets.

The restraining order was filed by a state court, and state courts do occasionally go batty. Facebook has since filed to have the lawsuit transferred to a Federal court, which will probably help the company’s cause…

In his suit, Mr. Ceglia claims he signed a contract with Mr. Zuckerberg on April 28, 2003, to develop and design a website, paying a $1,000 fee but getting a 50% stake in the product. The contract stipulated that Mr. Ceglia would get an additional 1% interest in the business for every day after Jan. 1, 2004, until it was completed…a suitable website for the project Seller [Mr. Zuckerberg] has already initiated that is designed to offer the students of Harvard university [sic] access to a wesite [sic] similar to a live functioning yearbook with the working title of ‘The Face Book.'”

The contract was signed 8 months before Mark actually registered the domain in January 2004.

One other fact worth mentioning: Last year, New York State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo accused Ceglia of defrauding the customers of his wood-pellet fuel company.

I hear he sells bridges in Brooklyn. And oceanfront property in Arizona.

Potential sale of gay teen database invokes privacy concerns

A row has erupted in the United States centering on the ownership of a gay teenagers’ database.

The owner of XY Magazine and its associated website – which catered for young homosexual boys – filed for bankruptcy earlier this year. XY’s creditors have applied for the firm’s one remaining valuable asset: its database of one million users. But the Federal Trade Commission has expressed its concerns and said the sale “could violate Federal law”.

The issue of selling databases is not new, but it is the sensitivity of this particular database that is catching the attention of lawmakers.

The list contains details of tens of thousands of young men, the majority of whom will be gay.

Writing on the technology blog Read Write Web, Curt Hopkins summed up the concern felt by many users.

The selling off of private information, gathered under the supposition of privacy, is bad enough,” he wrote.

“Even worse if you’re forced into it.

“And positively untenable when the information is connected to kids who are dealing with a dawning sexual reality that in some instances is even more fraught than what straight kids go through,” he added.

The point is made by a UK commentator that “information shouldn’t be used for a purpose other than for which it was originally intended.” Hard to administer or enforce in the era of data-mining. A process which – in and of itself – is free of value judgements.

However – the big word – when you add the context of many societies governed by ideologies ranging from dislike to hatred, fear to bigotry, questions of privacy originally guaranteed by an online contract should be substantial. And pre-eminent.

Return to Catholicism – but, you can’t take the property with you!

When the Vatican announced last week that it would welcome groups of traditionalist Anglicans into the Roman Catholic Church, leaders of one Episcopal parish celebrated as if a ship had arrived to rescue them from a drifting ice floe.

“We’d been praying for this daily for two years,” said Bishop David L. Moyer, who leads the Church of the Good Shepherd, a parish in the Main Line suburbs of Philadelphia that is battling to keep its historic property. “When I heard the news I was speechless, then the joy came and the tears.”

This parish could be one of the first in the United States to convert en masse after the Vatican completes plans for a new structure to allow Anglicans to become Catholic while retaining many of their spiritual traditions, like the Book of Common Prayer and married priests.

They will share the ideology they have in common: misogyny, homophobia, fear of science and reality, no divorce, oppose birth control, choice…

The arrangement is tailor-made for an “Anglo-Catholic” parish like this one, which has strenuously opposed the Episcopal Church over decisions like allowing women and gay people to become priests and bishops. Mass here is celebrated in the “high church” style reminiscent of traditional Catholic churches, with incense, elaborate vestments and a choir that may sing in Latin…

The Church of the Good Shepherd has long been at loggerheads with the Episcopal Church, the American branch in the global Anglican Communion. This year, the Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania sued to take over the church’s building, a magnificent stone replica of a 14th-century English country parish that was built in 1894. The church’s property is estimated by its accounting warden to be worth $7 million…

Bishop Moyer acknowledged that some of his parish’s 400 members would choose to leave rather than become Catholic. Some are former Catholics who may not want to go back. Others feel loyalty to the Episcopal Church, despite the conflict…

Bishop Moyer lives in a rectory on the church’s property. He said he hopes to resolve the church’s “legal quagmire” over the building before they decide to jump to the Catholic Church.

But, then, if you decide to waste a certain portion of your life studying Catholic history, you’ll learn priests used to be married – as were Popes – and the core of the conflicts that split apart the Catholic Church was property. The more things change, the more they stay the same.