Nov 20, 2010

How safe are hybrid cars in an accident?

Two years ago Motorweek warned, stay back from a hybrid in an accident. Has anything changed since then?

Hybrid-electric vehicles are as safe as conventional vehicles, but because of their high-voltage battery systems, accidents involving hybrids can pose an extra risk to the EMTs, police and firemen responding to the scene. That's why the National Alternative Fuels Training Consortium has developed a curriculum and training program for First Responders to safely identify and deal with hybrid-electric vehicles.

The photo below shows a "run-away" Prius after it was involved in a horrible accident caused by a stuck throttle.

The report at the link below continues:

The most popular hybrid, Toyota's Prius, is among those that can run silently in battery mode - and since it uses a keyless remote, the car can remain powered up even when no key is visible. In this mode, pressing the throttle could cause the car to move unexpectedly, so immobilizing the car is important.

Are any of the concerns about hybrids involved in collisions still valid with the newest models?

How many hybrid buyers even think of these potential problems?


About that hacked Federal Reserve network story

There are reports on the Internet about a man from Malaysia who hacked the Federal Reserve.

PCWorld has the complete story.

A June 2010 hacking incident that compromised a network at the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland happened on a test system and not the bank's production servers.

On Thursday, Lin Mun Poo was charged with hacking the Fed and other U.S. corporations, including payment processor FedComp and an unnamed federal defense contractor. He was arrested on Oct. 21 following a U.S. Secret Service sting.

The Secret Service says it found more than 400,000 bank card numbers on Poo's laptop at the time of his arrest. But those numbers apparently did not come from the Fed, which said Friday that none of its sensitive data was compromised during the incident.

Poo, a resident of Malaysia, was arrested just hours after landing in the U.S. after allegedly selling $1,000 (USD) worth of bank card numbers to another man at a Brooklyn diner. Prosecutors said he was in the U.S. to set up a deal to sell more stolen card numbers.


Zoo hitch hiker

A baby monkey named Miwa rides a young boar named Uribo in the Fukuchiyama City Zoo, Kyoto Prefecture, Japan.

Monarch butterflies - long distance travelers

Monarch butterflies travel up to 3,000 miles during their migration often flying more than 50 miles per day.

Nov 19, 2010

1975 Trabant -- worst car ever built?

The 1975 Trabant ranked number 27 in Time Magazines 50 Worst Cars of All Time list.

It was powered by a two-stroke, 18 hp pollution generator.

Time Magazine said the "Trabant was a hollow lie of a car constructed of recycled worthlessness (actually, the body was made of a fiberglass-like Duroplast, reinforced with recycled fibers like cotton and wood)."
Trabants smoked like an Iraqi oil fire, when they ran at all, and often lacked even the most basic of amenities, like brake lights or turn signals.

Thousands of East Germans drove their Trabants over the border when the Wall fell, which made it a kind of automotive liberator.

Once across the border, the none-too-sentimental Ostdeutschlanders immediately abandoned their cars. Ich bin Junk!

Maybe the Trabant was best utilized as a horse drawn cart as shown in the second photo above.


Penguin Santa's

Penguins wear Santa Claus costumes while promoting an amusement park in Yongin, Korea.

DA will prosecute overly touchy airport pat downs

The San Mateo County district attorney has a warning for all TSA personnel at San Francisco International Airport -- anyone innaproriately touching a passenger during a security pat down will be prosecuted.

Incoming San Mateo DA Steve Wagstaffe says any complaints of inappropriate touching during an airport security pat down will land on his desk.

"The case would be reviewed and if we could prove the elements of it, that it was inappropriately done with a sexual or lewd intent, that person would be prosecuted," he said.

The charge -- sexual battery.
"If it is skin to skin, if someone were to take their hand and put it underneath somebody's blouse and touch someone inappropriately and go skin to skin, that's a felony, and if it's done simply over the clothing, according to California law, that's a misdemeanor," Wagstaffe said.

Chances are any charges of innaproriately touching will be appealed to a higher court and summarily dissmissed.


California town may shame drunk drivers on Facebook

Huntington Beach, California is considering a new tactic against drunk driving: public shaming on Facebook.

After the idea was suggested Monday at a City Council meeting, the city's Police Department is looking into posting the names of suspected drunk drivers on Facebook.

The local newspaper has stopped publishing the listings of drunk drivers so the city council wants the Police Department to post the list on the city's Facebook page.

But will it work? Does anyone ever read the city's Facebook page?


George W. Bush interacts with a child at book signing

Former President George W. Bush interacts with a young child at a book signing event for his new book "Decision Points" at a Barnes & Noble bookstore in Houston, Texas.

Federal employees owe billions in delinquent taxes

From a CNBC report at the link below:

Need a quick three billion dollars, Uncle Sam? How about looking in your own pockets?

Deficit cutters struggling to make ends meet in Washington are eyeballing an unusual pot of potential revenue: back taxes owed to the government by federal employees themselves.

The federal agency with the largest back-tax bill? The US Postal Service, where hundreds of thousands of employees owed a total of more than $283 million, said the report.

Also high on the list is the Department of Veterans Affairs, where employees had more than $156 million in back taxes.

The biggest group, though, is retired military personnel. That group owed more than $1.5 billion dollars.

And even the White House folks are behind in their taxes. Employees in the executive office of the president, which includes nearly 2,000 employees, owed more than $831,000 to Uncle Sam, the IRS found.


Obama's double loss: election and rejection on world stage

From a Washington Post report called, Foreign-policy setbacks deepen Obama's election wounds.

Presidents have often turned to foreign policy after domestic setbacks - from Ronald Reagan's Latin America tour after his party's 1982 congressional losses to Bill Clinton's escape to Indonesia and the Philippines following his own midterm trouncing a dozen years later.

Barack Obama has followed suit. But since his midterm shellacking this month, he has suffered a series of foreign policy setbacks, both in Congress and abroad, that have put his agenda for improving America's standing and strength overseas at risk.

More here.

Nov 18, 2010

Australian twins shot in suicide pact at Colorado gun range

Authorities in Arapahoe County, Colorado say two Australian 29-year-old twins shot themselves on Monday in a suicide pact at the Family Shooting Center, a shooting range near Denver. One girl survived, the other girl did not.

The Arapahoe County Sheriff's Office says they spoke Thursday with the 29-year-old twin who survived the shooting. She confirmed to deputies that the two planned to commit suicide together, each firing a bullet into their head. The surviving twin is listed in serious condition.

Based on evidence and video surveillance, deputies believe the woman's statement. They say talking to the surviving twin was an important part of their investigation, but added she wouldn't say why the twins decided on a suicide pact.

The twins, from Victoria, Australia, had been staying in Colorado for about five weeks prior to the shootings. They were in the United States on a cultural exchange visa.


Oprah goes mansion shopping along the Hudson

Billionaire Oprah Winfrey is out mansion shopping along the Hudson in the New York area.

She recently toured a $68-million 30,300-square-foot, English-manor-style five-story 19-bedroom 12-bathroom mansion in Alpine, New Jersey.

Alpine last year was named by Forbes magazine as the most expensive ZIP code in the country. Its celebrity residents include Eddie Murphy, the Jonas Brothers and [Yankee pitcher] CC Sabathia.

The estate eyed by Oprah is the most expensive in Alpine, with walnut and marble floors and Venetian plaster walls.

The mansion is located about 20 miles north of Manhattan.


Two former longtime Madoff associates arrested

Two longtime aides Bernard Madoff were arrested by federal prosecutors as part of the ongoing probe into the Ponzi scheme.

Joanne Crupi was arrested at her Westfield, New Jersey, home, while Annette Bongiorno was arrested at her home in Boca Raton, Florida.

The 61-year-old Bongiorno worked for Madoff for more than 40 years as as a secretary and back office staff supervisor. Federal prosecutors already moved to seize her $1.2 million Boca Raton mansion.

Crupi was also a longtime Madoff employee. Federal prosecutors seized her $2.25 million house in Mantoloking, on the Jersey Shore.

More here.

(click on cartoon to enlarge)

DHS calls computer virus Stuxnet a 'game changer'

From a CNN report at the link below:

A highly complex computer attack that may have been targeting Iran's nuclear power plants is posing a serious security threat to critical infrastructure worldwide, according to government and cyber-industry experts testifying Wednesday on Capitol Hill.

This computer worm specifically targets computers that run critical infrastructure such as the electric power grid, water treatment and oil and gas pipelines.

The head of the Cybersecurity Center at the Department of Homeland Security said Stuxnet is an incredibly large, complex threat with capabilities never seen before.

More here.

Iraq President refuses to sign death order for Tariq Aziz

The Tariq Aziz photo on left was taken eight years ago at the height of the Saddam Hussein regime. Photo on the right shows Aziz as he appears today at age 74.

The President of Iraq has said he will not sign the death order for one of Saddam Hussein's closest confidants, Tariq Aziz.

President Jalal Talabani's decision sets the stage for a possible battle over the fate of the man known as the international face of the dictator's regime.

Talabani yesterday cited a number of reasons for refusing to approve the execution.

"I cannot sign an order of this kind because I am a socialist," Mr Talabani said. "I feel compassion for Tariq Aziz because he is a Christian, an Iraqi Christian."

"In addition, he is an elderly man - aged over 70 - and this is why I will never sign this order," Mr Talabani said.

If the President does not sign the death order there are mechanisms for the execution to be ordered by parliament.

Death penalties in Iraq can be carried out regardless of the president's refusal to sign an execution order.


Democrats keep Pelosi as House leader

House Democrats have re-elected Nancy Pelosi (pictured) as their leader in the next Congress where she will be the new House minority leader.

The closed-door vote Wednesday will let the California congresswoman shift from House speaker to minority leader in January, despite concerns by some Democrats that the party needs new leadership after suffering huge midterm election losses and pinned party's losses on stubbornly high unemployment.

Pelosi has refused to take the blame.

But wasn't it her relentless effort to cram Obama-care through by cajoling and bribes that angered enough voters to give Democrats a 'shellacking' [Obama's description] on November 2?

Can't you just hear Republicans applauding? Keeping Pelosi as leader of House Democrats may be a gift to Republicans -- a gift that may keep on giving all the way to the 2012 elections.


Nov 17, 2010

John Boehner to be next House Speaker

As expected, House Republicans have picked House Minority Leader John Boehner (pictured) to be Speaker of the House on January 2.

Republicans met behind closed doors to select leaders after winning control of the House
from Democrats in the Nov. 2 elections.

John Boehner will be the 61st House Speaker on his 61st birthday.

Boehner's bid for the position was uncontested.


Pelosi: the Democrats Hindenburg disaster

Prince William gives Kate Diana's ring

Prince William has given his fiancée Kate Middleton his mother's engagement ring as the couple announced they will marry next year.

Nine years after they met, Prince William proposed to his long-term girlfriend while on holiday in Kenya last month.

Diana's ring, now worn by Kate Middleton, is shown above along with Kate and William.

At a press conference Miss Middleton said that joining the Royal Family was a "daunting prospect" but added: "Hopefully I'll take it in my stride."

Her husband-to-be Prince William said: "The timing is right now, we are both very, very happy."

He added that giving Kate his mother, Diana's engagement ring was "my way of making sure my mother didn't miss out on today and the excitement".

The Royal wedding will take place in London in the spring or summer of 2011.

After getting married the couple will live in north Wales, where the Prince is serving as an RAF search and rescue helicopter pilot.


Debt collectors use Facebook to embarrass those who owe

Debt collectors will do almost anything to collect a past due amount. Almost anything - even using Facebook!

A Florida woman is filing suit alleging the company that financed her car loan began harassing family members and friends over the social networking website Facebook.

Facebook may soon become a standard way of collecting past due accounts by bill collectors.

It's fast and easy to find people on Facebook. Once the person is found it is just as easy to find their list of friends.


Kansas City Police fire at backfiring van

Two Kansas City police officers who thought they were being shot at from inside a van returned fire.

Only later did police realize that the van was actually backfiring and the man inside was not armed. He was not injured by the shots fired by police.


After a sound beating Democrats argue over Pelosi's power

Behind closed doors, Nancy Pelosi (pictured) argued that she was demonized in Republican campaign ads precisely because she is the party’s political rainmaker.

The fact is, Pelosi presided over the loss of at least 60 Democratic seats earlier this month. How can she not accept much of the blame?

The leadership election follows on the heels of a brutally long, contentious and divisive leadership meeting Tuesday, and it will determine not only whether Speaker Nancy Pelosi remains the head of the House Democratic contingent but just how much authority she will wield in the new Congress come January.

The majority of House Democrats who were voted out at the polls earlier this month were more centrist than most of the Democrats who were re-elected. This will make the Democrat caucus in the House even more liberal after January 2.

However, for the remainder of 2010, many of the lame-duck Democrats will blame Pelosi for their loss at the polls and will do their best to keep her from retaining a leadership roll.


Nov 16, 2010

Prince William and Kate Middleton to marry next year

The love affair between Prince William, second in line to the British throne, and Kate Middleton has grown from student fun into a thoroughly modern Royal romance.

Dubbed "Waity Katie" for her patience as she waited for her Prince to pop the question, after a long courtship, Kate is to finally become a bride, a royal wife and one day Queen.

Now the headlines in the British media read: "Waity Katie has her matey.

Kate's wealthy middle class background differs greatly from the elite aristocratic circle of European princesses often earmarked as potential brides for William.

But despite her lack of blue blood, sensible Kate's down to earth nature and mature outlook have her pegged as an ideal royal consort.

More here.

Congressman Rangel convicted of ethics violations

A House ethics panel has found Congressman Charlie Rangel (pictured), a long-serving Democrat lawmaker, guilty on 11 counts of breaking House rules.

The reason for the rapid trial of Rangel is to get it done during the lame-duck session when the Democrats still have the majority in the House but more importantly Democrats will be in charge of the punishment for the ethics challenged Rangel.

The ethics trial of 80-year-old Rangel is an embarrassment for Democrats who are still reeling from losing their majority in the House to Republicans in the Nov. 2 election. Rangel has represented New York's Harlem district for 40 years.

Possible punishments include a House vote deploring Rangel's conduct, a fine and denial of privileges.

Look for Rangel to receive the House vote deploring his conduct or some other "slap on the wrist."


Buy a truck and get a free AK-47

A Florida truck dealer is giving away a free AK-47 assault rifle with truck purchase in honor of veterans.

Car dealers are known for trying anything to make a sale, but one Florida dealership's special offer may be the country's most outlandish.

At Nations Trucks in Sanford, Fl., the deal is simple: "Buy a truck, get a free AK-47."

Though the rifles aren't actually given away on the spot at the dealership, the truck buyer is given a $400 voucher to be used at a local gun shop, where shoppers can purchase an AK-47 or the weapon of their choosing.

If they don't want a gun, they can take the $400 in the form of a check instead.


A wandering mind is an unhappy mind

A study has found that a wandering mind and daydreaming can make you unhappy.

The massive amounts of daydreaming that people do, may be less beneficial than was previously thought.

Although people feel like thinking about places they’d rather be isn’t doing them too much harm, psychologists have now found that this often contributes to the feelings of unhappiness that attack many people.

“A human mind is a wandering mind, and a wandering mind is an unhappy mind. The ability to think about what is not happening is a cognitive achievement that comes at an emotional cost,” said the two head psychologists working on the study, Matthew Killingsworth and Daniel Gilbert. Killingsworth and Gilbert are both from Harvard University, and the study was published in ‘Science’.


Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano listens to a reporters question, at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, Monday, Nov. 15, 2010, where she kicked off the holiday travel season announcing the "If You See Something, Say Something" campaign.

It's for sure Napolitano and her Transportation Security Administration (TSA) workers will "see something" quite often as they use the controversial naked scanners at major airports.

Constables use Pittsburgh Steeler van to serve warrants

Two constables in western Pennsylvania decided driving around in a car resembling a police cruiser was preventing them from serving warrants. So, they decided to use a van decorated in Pittsburgh Steeler black and gold.

Constables Hubie Coleman and Albert Younkin used a van decorated in Steelers colors and the team logo.
Coleman says they drove up to houses and honked the horn. People came out to see them because they were curious about the van. That's when they served the court papers.
The constables borrowed the van from a car dealership.

They won't use the van again since their cover is blown, but they are looking for other unique ways to get their job done.


Biggest underreported election story is the GOP takeover in states

From a report in the Washington Post:

The intense focus on the coming struggles between President Obama and congressional Republicans obscures one of the most important and underreported results of the midterm elections: the GOP takeover in the states.

Republicans picked up at least 675 state legislative seats Nov. 2. As with the increases in the House, that gain is the biggest any party has made in state legislative seats since 1938 and is far larger than the GOP's tally in its 1994 landslide.

Changes in four states mentioned in the report:

Michigan changed from a Democrat majority of 64-42 to a Republican majority of 63-47.

Minnesota changed from a Democrat Majority of 87-47 to a Republican majority of 72-62.

Iowa changed from a 12-seat Democrat advantage to a 20-seat Republican advantage.

Texas has a Republican gain of at least 23 seats.

More here.

Nov 15, 2010

Countdown with Keith Olbermann drops all journalistic pretense

Boys busted for cupcake sale

A New Castle, New York town councilman called the cops on boys' cupcake sale.

Two thirteen-year-old boys from Seven Bridges Middle School in Chappaqua, New York were selling cupcakes, cookies, brownies and Rice Krispies treats they had baked.

Their first day of sales in a city park came to $120.

The second day the boys had sold $30 when a town councilman came along and called the cops on the boys.

Soon after police arrived at their stand and asked them to shut it down. It was against the law to sell on city property without a license.

More here.

Congressman Rangel walks out on his ethics trial

Charlie Rangel (pictured), Democrat Congressman from Harlem, walked out of his House ethics trial after the committee weighing his fate refused to delay the proceeding.

Rangel, who faces 13 counts of violating House rules, appeared Monday morning without a legal team beside him, saying he could not afford representation and requesting the delay until he could do so.

Rangel had previously said he would represent himself without a lawyer.

Despite Rangel's absence, the committee's staff attorneys continued with their case against him, making an early motion for a summary judgment against the long-serving Democrat, meaning that no further witnesses or evidence would be heard before the committee votes on each count against Rangel.

More here.

New nutrition rules may be no party for students

No more cake, cookies and candy at school parties if the state of Pennsylvania approves new nutrition guidelines.

Parent organizers would have to pick just one sweet treat per party and will be encouraged to order anything else from a menu of healthy snacks from their district’s food services department.

“I’m frustrated to hear that (the state) felt like they’d have to do that,” said Michelle Sierk of Hempfield, president of the parent-teacher organization at West Point Elementary near Greensburg. The group already encourages parents to find creative ways to limit sugary snacks.

“We tell the party moms to send in one sweet snack, something salty, something healthy and one drink,” Sierk said. “We try to regulate ourselves in the sense that it’s our kids.”

But that's not enough for the "Nanny State" Pennsylvania State Board of Education.

One commenter wrote:

Once upon a time in America, people who stole candy from babies were considered to be really, really bad people, the lowest of the low. Now they run the government.


Hobbled Democrats and eager Republicans enter lame-duck session today

From a Boston Globe report at the link below:

It's still seven more weeks before the Republicans' dream election becomes a reality, but change already is in the air as lawmakers return Monday for a post election session of Congress.

More than 100 freshmen, 90 percent of them Republicans, arrive on Capitol Hill to be schooled on the jobs they will assume when the next Congress convenes in January.

The report says lame-duck sessions are usually unpopular and unproductive, and that's more the case this year.

Republicans are looking ahead to January, when they will take back control of the House while many Democrat lawmakers and staff are more focused on cleaning out their desks and looking for new jobs.

That doesn't mean the lame-duck Democrats won't be busy. Democrat leadership in the House will see to that as they plan last-minute legislation.

Congress must act before year's end on expiring Bush-era tax cuts to protect millions of people from significant tax increases. Lawmakers have failed to pass even a single annual spending bill this year, so they must now act to keep federal agencies financed and avoid a government shutdown. They also may shield doctors from a crippling cut in Medicare reimbursements.

Democrats still have large majorities until January and it will be interesting to see how much they can get done.

Congress will be in session for a week, break for Thanksgiving week and then return on Nov. 29, staying until lawmakers either complete their work or give up.


Nov 14, 2010

Worst 10 days of Obama's political life

Barack Obama has returned home from his overseas trip pretty much empty-handed.

After watching his party take a beating in the midterm elections, Obama wasn't able to secure even a symbolic victory on a trip that was expected to give him plenty of opportunities to claim a win.

"This certainly was the worst 10 days of his political life," said Barych College political scientist Doug Muzzio.

"Given that he's not going to be able to get any domestic achievements with the Republicans in control of the House ... if he doesn't do it in foreign policy that's a big problem for him.

"He came back with bupkis [Yiddish for 'nothing']."

Obama's inauspicious 10-day, four-nation trip included a failure to land an anticipated slam dunk free trade agreement with South Korea.

More here.

San Francisco mayor vetoes ban on fast food toys

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors passed legislation prohibiting fast-food restaurants from giving away toys in kids meals sold in the city unless they meet a strict set of nutritional standards of reduced calories, salt, fat and sugar, and also contain fruits and vegetables.

The measure, passed by a vote of 8-3, has been vetoed by mayor Gavin Newsome.

The goal, say the legislative sponsors, is to use government regulation to help combat childhood obesity. Newsom called the intent laudable but imprudent.

"There are times when a city can go too far. There's a time when we even cross the line," Newsom said.

The 8-3 vote shows the board has enough votes to override a veto by the mayor.


U.S. Postal service loss in 2010 more than twice the 2009 loss

The U.S. Postal Service more than doubled its losses in fiscal year 2010, despite cutting billions of dollars in expenses and trimming its staff.

The Postal Service said its net loss totaled $8.5 billion in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30. That compares to a loss of $3.8 billion the prior year.

Chief Financial Officer Joe Corbett said the losses were worsening despite cuts that generated cost savings of $9 billion over the past two years.

Those savings came primarily from the elimination of 105,000 full-time positions -- "more than any other organization, anywhere," Corbett said.


FDA wants cigarette warning labels showing corpses and diseased lungs

The federal government hopes new larger, graphic warning labels for cigarettes that include images of corpses, cancer patients, and diseased lungs and teeth will help snuff out tobacco use.

The new warning labels are to take up half of the cigarette pack on both front and contain color graphics depicting the negative health consequences.

Warning labels must also constitute 20 percent of cigarette ads.


Struggling Newsweek joins fledgling Daily Beast

Sidney Harman (pictured) purchased Newsweek in August for $1. Mr. Harmon agreed to absorb Newsweek’s considerable financial liabilities.

Actually, the $1 may have been too much even without taking on the magazines huge debt and other financial obligations.

How can Newsweek, or Daily Beast for that matter, gain strength by bonding with a looser?

Newsweek was a good read at one time -- but that was 30 years ago.

From one commenter:

Newsweek, a once honorable newsmagazine has stooped to MSNBC's mantra of all liberal - all the time.

Will their names change? How about News Beast or Daily Weak? Or, how about Beastly News?

Oh, rats - these suggestions are too late -they have already decided on a name.

The combined entity is to be called the Newsweek Daily Beast Co.

The name of the magazine itself will not change nor will the name of the Daily Beast website.


Olbermann is back ranting on MSNBC

When MSNBC suspended Keith Olbermann (pictured) indefinitely they forgot to define the word indefinite.

He was reinstated almost a week ago.

What wasn't reinstated was the Olbermann segment called "Worst Person" award.

Actually, Olbermann dropped "Worst Person" before he was dropped (temporarily) by MSNBC.

"Worst Person" may have been dropped because the network wouldn't allow Olbermann to award it to himself -- a deserving candidate. But, maybe not.