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Faces of Our Ancestors

Posted on March 4th, 2013 at 23:27 by John Sinteur in category: News

[Quote]:

To put a human face on our ancestors, scientists from the Senckenberg Research Institute used sophisticated methods to form 27 model heads based on tiny bone fragments, teeth and skulls collected from across the globe.


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The Pirate Bay claims it is now hosting from North Korea

Posted on March 4th, 2013 at 23:06 by John Sinteur in category: Intellectual Property

[Quote]:

The controversial file-sharing website said it is now operating out of North Korea, after recently being forced out of Sweden. The Pirate Bay said Kim-Jong Un invited the website to North Korea, and the site’s logo, which is a pirate ship, now features the North Korean flag on its sails.

“This is truly an ironic situation. We have been fighting for a free world, and our opponents are mostly huge corporations from the United States of America, a place where freedom and freedom of speech is said to be held high,” a press release by the site says. “And to our help comes a government famous in our part of the world for locking people up for their thoughts and forbidding access to information.”

The world has changed. I feel it in the water. I feel it in the earth. I smell it in the air. Much that once was is lost. For none now live who remember it. It began with the forging of the great ISPs. Three were given to the UK, immortal, wisest and fairest of all beings. Seven to Europe, great miners and craftsmen of the mountain halls. And nine, nine ISPs were gifted to the US, who above all else desired power. For within these ISPs was bound the strength and will to govern the internet.

But they were all of them deceived for another ISP was made. In the land of North Korea, in the fires of East Asia, the dark Kim Jong-un forged in secret a master ISP, to control all others and into this ISP, he poured his cruelty, his malice, and his will to dominate all life. One ISP to rule them all.


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Comments:

  1. Been watching the Hobbit and LotR recently John? :-)

  2. [Quote]:

    It appears that the announcement is a hoax and a commentary on how the Western world is cracking down on file sharing and piracy. However, it’s a highly technical prank. To those using the service, it would seem that the site’s IP address is located in Pyongyang, North Korea.

    However, according to a German programmer, the service is actually using some sort of IP spoofing. This spoofing makes it seem like the links are coming out of North Korea when they are really being hosted by a site from somewhere in Europe.

  3. Quote:
    ‘Yesterday’s big story was definitely about The Pirate Bay having moved to North Korea. If you asked the Internet’s infrastructure, the net itself would tell you about the move, and The Pirate Bay issued a press release confirming the story. But reports surfaced that it could have been an elaborate hoax, and closer inspection proves that.
    http://falkvinge.net/2013/03/05/evidence-the-pirate-bay-move-to-north-korea-was-a-prank-in-understandable-terms/

Family says slain Clarksdale mayoral candidate was beaten, dragged, set on fire; suspect waives extradition

Posted on March 4th, 2013 at 23:04 by John Sinteur in category: News

[Quote]:

Clarksdale mayoral candidate Marco McMillian, found dead last week along the Mississippi River levee, was beaten, dragged and set on fire, according to his family in a statement released Monday.

“We know that Marco was brutally murdered. His body was found on Wednesday, February 26, 2013, beaten, dragged and burned (set afire),” his family said in an email released through his campaign manager Jarod Keith. “This was reported in our meeting with the local coroner on two occasions. We were informed that the official autopsy report could take two to four weeks to complete.

“We feel that this was not a random act of violence based on the condition of the body when it was found. Marco, nor anyone, should have their lives end in this manner.”

[..]

McMillan, a native of Clarksdale, announced his candidacy for mayor last month. He said he entered the race because he wanted to combat crime and bring economic development to the city of 17,000 people. He is believed to be one of the first openly gay candidates to run for office in the state.


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The Fed Is Starting To Prepare For A Future PR Nightmare

Posted on March 4th, 2013 at 22:12 by Paul Jay in category: News

[Quote]:

Everyone wants the Federal Reserve to say how it will unwind the $3 trillion balance sheet amassed from years of quantitative easing.

Indeed, this was something of a hot topic in Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke’s testimony before Congress last week.

One of the big issues the central bank faces is the inevitable loss it will have to take when interest rates rise and the value of the Fed’s bond portfolio declines.

Although not an economic problem — as “losses”  for a central bank are pretty meaningless — there could be a PR problem when the  Fed stops making payments to the Treasury from the interest income it receives on its bond portfolio.

Deutsche Bank strategist Stephen Abrahams recently explained why this could be such a nightmare:

The possibility of suspending remittances and carrying unrealized losses could complicate the Fed’s relationships with the rest of Washington and the public. While remittances help the federal government pay down debt, any shortfall in operating income leading to a suspension of remittances would require the Fed to borrow from Treasury.

And while unrealized losses have no effect on Fed operations because of the way government accounts for them, they would leave a private company technically insolvent. It is unclear how Washington and the public might react to these circumstances and whether the Fed’s independence might be challenged.

The Fed appears already to be preparing for this problem.  Below is the explanation Bernanke provided in his Congressional testimony:

Another aspect of the Federal Reserve’s policies that has been discussed is their implications for the federal budget. The Federal Reserve earns substantial interest on the assets it holds in its portfolio, and, other than the amount needed to fund our cost of operations, all net income is remitted to the Treasury. With the expansion of the Federal Reserve’s balance sheet, yearly remittances have roughly tripled in recent years, with payments to the Treasury totaling approximately $290 billion between 2009 and 2012. 6

However, if the economy continues to strengthen, as we anticipate, and policy accommodation is accordingly reduced, these remittances would likely decline in coming years. Federal Reserve analysis shows that remittances to the Treasury could be quite low for a time in some scenarios, particularly if interest rates were to rise quickly. 7

That’s the bad news with regard to remittances. Bernanke goes on, though, in an attempt to mitigate it:

However, even in such scenarios, it is highly likely that average annual remittances over the period affected by the Federal Reserve’s purchases will remain higher than the pre-crisis norm, perhaps substantially so. Moreover, to the extent that monetary policy promotes growth and job creation, the resulting reduction in the federal deficit would dwarf any variation in the Federal Reserve’s remittances to the Treasury.


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Comments:

  1. I don’t follow this:

    “One of the big issues the central bank faces is the inevitable loss it will have to take when interest rates rise and the value of the Fed’s bond portfolio declines.”

    Why does the marketable value of the portfolio matter? If the Fed continues to hold the bonds, the income stream will remain the same or (if they are adjustable rate bonds) go up.

    What am I missing here?

  2. The article is quoted is sensationalism, a better description of the problem can be found in the reference to the quote I posted below.

    By law, the Fed sends most of its profits to the Treasury, and in recent years those profits have soared as the Fed has collected interest on its investments. Last year, the central bank contributed $89 billion to the public coffers — essentially refunding a significant portion of the federal government’s annual borrowing costs.
    The purpose of the investment portfolio is to hold down borrowing costs for businesses and consumers. As the economy revives, the Fed has said it will begin selling some of those holdings. But it faces potential losses on those sales because interest rates would be rising. Security prices, which move inversely to rates, would be falling, and the government would be issuing new debt at the higher rates, making the low-yield bonds that the Fed holds less valuable.

    Source:http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/23/business/fed-officials-debate-banks-losses-once-economy-mends.html

  3. Ah, thanks.

Voters in Swiss referendum back curbs on executives’ pay and bonuses

Posted on March 4th, 2013 at 22:02 by Paul Jay in category: News

[Quote]:

Swiss voters have approved measures to curb executives’ pay and outlawed golden parachutes that can result on directors pocketing multimillion-pound payoffs.

Exit polls suggested almost 68% of those who turned out for Sunday’s referendum, and all of Switzerland’s 26 cantons, were in favour of the measures, which also include giving shareholders a binding vote on executive pay, banning golden hellos and banning bonuses that encourage buying or selling firms. Boards of directors that fail to comply face jail terms.

In Zurich, Switzerland’s financial capital where polling stations remained open until 6.30pm local time – as opposed to noon in other cantons – analysts were suggesting that an overwhelming majority of 71% of voters approved the Minder initiative.

“The people have decided to send a strong signal to boards, the federal council [Swiss government] and the parliament,” Thomas Minder, the businessman and Swiss senator behind the measure, told the state broadcaster, RTS. Minder said he was not surprised by the projected results.

The draft law, which covers Swiss companies listed on Swiss or foreign stock exchanges, is likely to put pressure on David Cameron, who has signalled his intention to object to proposals put forward by Brussels for a cap on bankers’ bonuses.

The Eurogroup of finance ministers meets on Monday to debate proposals for the cap, announced last Wednesday, which would mean that bankers face an automatic limit on bonus payouts of one year’s salary, or twice their salary if a majority of shareholders agree.

George Osborne or the Treasury minister Greg Clark will represent Britain to relay what No 10 described as real concerns about the proposal.

The Swiss law would limit the mandate of board members to one year, and would ban certain kinds of compensation, including the golden handshakes or golden parachutes given to some executives when they join or leave a company.

It also outlaws bonuses paid for takeovers or for the sell-off of part of a business.


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Comments:

  1. The Swiss may want to limit the bankers slush fund -surely that’s a more correct term than bonus, since they seem to get it however badly they behave – but they are less fussy when it comes to property purchases. Take for example Gulnata Karimova’s 25 million dollar house in Geneva, There was little questioning about where that money for this property purchase came from. The story behind the attempt to ring the doorbell of this dwelling and the subsequent police investigation about this outrageous act was featured in Craig Murray’s blog, yesterday see http://www.craigmurray.org.uk/archives/2013/03/fascist-switzerland-strikes-back/

15,000 Volts

Posted on March 4th, 2013 at 17:38 by Paul Jay in category: News

15,000 Volts from Melanie Hoff on Vimeo.


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Comments:

  1. Electric fractals! Neat! :-)

Denmark wants $1 bln in back-taxes from Microsoft

Posted on March 4th, 2013 at 16:33 by John Sinteur in category: Microsoft

[Quote]:

Denmark wants Microsoft to pay 5.8 billion Danish crowns ($1 billion) in back taxes in one of the biggest tax cases in the country’s history, local media reported on Monday.

The Danish tax authority is in negotiations with Microsoft over unpaid taxes stemming from the 10.8 billion-crown ($1.88 billion) takeover of Danish software company Navision in 2002, Danish Radio DR said, quoting unnamed sources.

The tax authority claims Microsoft sold the rights to Navision’s successful business planning software, now under the name of Dynamics NAV, at below market value to a subsidiary in Ireland, DR said.

As a result the tax authority is claiming 5.8 billion crowns in back taxes and interest from sales of Dynamics NAV, the public service radio broadcaster said.


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Either Boehner is confused or he thinks you’re confused

Posted on March 4th, 2013 at 16:28 by John Sinteur in category: News

[Quote]:

Watching House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) on “Meet the Press” yesterday, it was hard not to wonder about the Republican leader’s frame of mind. Given the distance between reality and his rhetoric, one question hung over the interview: does Boehner actually believe his own talking points?

For example, the Speaker insisted, “[T]here’s no plan from Senate Democrats or the White House to replace the sequester.” Host David Gregory explained that the claim is “just not true,” leading Boehner to respond:

“Well, David that’s just nonsense. If [President Obama] had a plan, why wouldn’t Senate Democrats go ahead and pass it?”

Now, I suppose it’s possible that the Speaker of the House doesn’t know what a Senate filibuster is, but Boehner has been in Congress for two decades, and I find it implausible that he could be this ignorant. The facts are not in dispute: Democrats unveiled a compromise measure that required concessions from both sides; the plan enjoyed majority support in the Senate; and Republicans filibustered the proposal. That’s not opinion; that’s just what happened.

[..]

Honestly, Boehner came across as a man who’s just terribly confused about the basics of the ongoing debate. Putting aside ideology and preferred policy agendas, the Speaker just doesn’t seem to keep up on current events especially well — he doesn’t remember the 2011 spending cuts; he doesn’t remember last week’s Senate filibuster; he doesn’t remember President Obama’s offers to cut more spending; he doesn’t remember his own op-eds; and he doesn’t remember the economic growth that followed tax increases in the 1980s and 1990s.

I’m tempted to take up a collection to help buy Boehner some remedial materials, but I’m not sure what he’d need first: an Economic 101 textbook or a subscription to a daily newspaper.


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Comments:

  1. Boehner isn’t confused. He is just an out-and-out liar… Just my opinion, of course!

What Coke Contains

Posted on March 4th, 2013 at 16:25 by John Sinteur in category: News

[Quote]:

The number of individuals who know how to make a can of Coke is zero. The number of individual nations that could produce a can of Coke is zero. This famously American product is not American at all. Invention and creation is something we are all in together. Modern tool chains are so long and complex that they bind us into one people and one planet. They are not only chains of tools, they are also chains of minds: local and foreign, ancient and modern, living and dead — the result of disparate invention and intelligence distributed over time and space. Coca-Cola did not teach the world to sing, no matter what its commercials suggest, yet every can of Coke contains humanity’s choir.


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Pithy title goes here

Posted on March 4th, 2013 at 15:50 by John Sinteur in category: News

Every Fucking Website


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Comments:

  1. Pithy Title: WTF! Give Us A Break!

    Actually, ROFLMAO on this one – great link John!

  2. So true!

  3. I think they should make up their minds as to whether “god damned” is one word or two :-)

  4. @SueW in fact inconsistent spelling makes it all the more true…

Inside the prosecution of Aaron Swartz

Posted on March 4th, 2013 at 15:29 by John Sinteur in category: News

[Quote]:

Quinn Norton — who was romantically involved with Aaron Swartz for a long time, and was also his close friend — has written a brutal, honest, infuriating, and brave account of her dealings with Steve Heymann, the prosecutor who hounded Aaron over his downloading of scientific journal articles. Heymann is a terror among Aaron’s friends. Everyone I know who has met him has described him as a vicious, vindictive, authoritarian thug who destroys lives for giggles and notches on his bed-post.

Quinn’s piece sheds light on the awful cruelty of the system, for which Aaron’s case was a microcosm. America imprisons more people than any other country in the history of the world. 97% of those indicted by federal prosecutors are intimidated into pleading guilty, which means that if a prosecutor like Heymann decides you should go to jail, 97% of the time, you will be coerced into prison without even getting a chance to make a defense (the coercion relies on threats of decade upon decade of prison and bankruptcy for you and all you love should you try to fight).


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Frequent Fliers, Prepare to Pay More

Posted on March 4th, 2013 at 15:27 by John Sinteur in category: Privacy

[Quote]:

The world’s largest airlines have agreed to adopt a new standard for distributing airfare information that could significantly compromise the privacy of customers and allow carriers to charge travelers different prices for the same trip. Airlines, of course, already charge different fares based on when a ticket is purchased, whether a Saturday stay is included and so on, but they are now looking to go much further by seeking to differentiate among fliers based on personal characteristics.

The new standard, which was agreed to at a meeting of the International Air Transport Association in October, will allow airlines to ask customers searching for airfares through travel agents or Web sites to first provide their names, frequent flier numbers, contact details and other information before presenting them with prices. A few airlines are expected to test this approach this year, and it could be widely adopted in a few years, according to the trade group. A majority of the group’s 240 members, which include most American airlines though not Southwest, voted for the standard.

[..]

Many airlines have struggled with high fuel costs and aggressive competition from low-fare carriers. They may be counting on the new airfare pricing standard to increase revenue and profits. It is hard to see how this approach could result in more competition or anything but higher costs for many travelers.


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Comments:

  1. The most boneheaded decision I can imagine. Of course I do not expect any corrupt U.S. gov agency to fight them despite the fact that it rubbishes restraint of trade, anti-racketeering, anti-trust laws not to mention privacy concerns. It will be up to other nations to say no at which time John and I can start our new business offering ‘identity free’ airline price shopping via an off ‘US’ shore location.

  2. It’s hard to undertsand how this will function in the presence of aggregators like Expedia and Skyscanner. Will those be forced out of business in favor of a new airline-run flight search engine?

Today in Well, Duh

Posted on March 4th, 2013 at 11:43 by John Sinteur in category: News

[Quote]:

Ezra Klein mans up and admits he was wrong. He had written a piece suggesting that if only Republicans knew how much Obama has been willing to offer, they might be willing to make a deal. Jonathan Chait set him straight, informing him that no matter what Obama put on the table, Republicans would find a way to say that it’s not enough. And sure enough, a Twitter exchange lets Klein watch that process in real time, as a top Republican consultant, confronted with evidence that Obama has already conceded what he said was all that was needed, keeps adding more demands.

So Klein admits that Republicans just don’t want to make a deal. Their objections to the deals on the table aren’t sincere; if convinced that Obama has met their demands, they just make more demands.


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Comments:

  1. I think in retrospect we know that the sequester was set up wrong: instead of defense cuts, it should have had a big whammy of tax increases in it, the only thing that the Republicans are interested in avoiding.

  2. @Desiato – agree – but the fact that it did not happen that way underscores the point that there is little difference between the parties when it comes to kowtowing to the wishes of the rich.

  3. Not that anyone cares what I think; but setting up a “poison pill” that is actually attractive to the Tea Party was a little shortsighted. Much better options would have been cutting the salaries of all federally elected politicians and making the current incumbents ineligible for future public office.

    Call the Legions home, chaps. The Revolution has begun.

Cardinal Keith O’Brien admits inappropriate ‘sexual conduct’ following allegations

Posted on March 4th, 2013 at 9:05 by John Sinteur in category: Pastafarian News

[Quote]:

In a statement issued by the Catholic church in Scotland, Cardinal Keith O’Brien has addressed allegations made against him by five priests within the church, and admitted that his “sexual conduct” has been “below the standards expected” of him.


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  1. It would be hard to have a standard of behaviour below what I expect of a Catholic clergyman.

    Still, he doesn’t get it, does he? It’s not the sexual conduct (nothing wrong with asking a person for a fuck) so much as the hypocrisy, lying, covering up criminal behaviour. (I presume he’s not been “inappropriate” with children – that’s a different matter.)

Wealth Inequality in America

Posted on March 4th, 2013 at 8:06 by John Sinteur in category: News


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  1. The video ends with Wake Up and Realize. Right, I doubt that will happen. Average Americans are to entertainment focused. That said, the discussion needs to rapidly become ‘the whys for this’, and it needs to be depicted in as simple terms as possible so the “average joe” begins to get it – to the extent that is even possible.