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  1. [B]By [URL='http://blogs.reuters.com/search/journalist.php?edition=us&n=andy.sullivan&']Andy Sullivan[/URL] AUSTIN, Texas Wed Feb 26, 2014[/B] [B][/B] [SIZE=6][I][B](Reuters) - In one of the country's most conservative states, newly hopeful Democrats measure their progress by ringing a bell.[/B][/I][/SIZE] For those working to turn Texas from Republican red to Democratic blue, it's the sound of one more volunteer agreeing to join their ranks. On a recent Saturday, phone-bank volunteers in a modest office here smacked the bell every five minutes or so, adding to the nearly 12,000 who have joined the effort. In the past year, alumni from Democratic President Barack Obama's 2012 campaign quietly have built a grassroots army in Texas, where gun-rights advocates brandish semi-automatic rifles on city streets and pickup trucks bear "SECEDE" bumper stickers. Battleground Texas, as the group is known, is backing Democratic state Senator Wendy Davis' underdog bid for governor this November against Republican Greg Abbott, the state's attorney general. But those involved say their larger goal - likely to take years to realize, if ever - is to make Texas as competitive in national elections as politically divided states such as Virginia and Ohio. That means identifying potentially Democratic voters, namely those in the state's booming Hispanic population, and persuading them to show up at the polls. It is an unusually ambitious effort in U.S. politics. National parties typically measure progress in two- and four-year election cycles, with less focus on longer-term operations. If Democrats succeed, they could upend the state's low-tax, low-regulation approach to governance and give their party a decisive advantage in presidential elections for years to come. Battleground Texas faces a steep climb, however. Democrats have not won a statewide race in Texas for nearly 20 years, and the party now has trouble fielding candidates for many congressional, state and local races. They also face procedural barriers that they say can make it tougher to register voters than in many other states, and often discourage minorities and low-income residents from participating. Those include a new law that requires residents to show state-issued photo IDs to vote. But the group has two factors on its side: the state's growing Hispanic population, which has favored the Democratic Party over Republicans by a 19-point margin in recent polls, and the meticulous door-to-door organizing techniques honed nationwide during Obama's two presidential campaigns. GETTING OUT THE VOTE The campaigns' on-the-ground organizing helped to give Democrats an edge over Republicans in voter data that the Texas group seeks to exploit by targeting many of the 10.5 million eligible Texans who did not vote in the 2010 governor's race. Turnout analysts say that Hispanics made up a disproportionate share of those who stayed home that year. Democrats also see opportunities to win over suburban white women who may feel alienated by the Republican Party's rightward drift and support of cuts in education. "There's a huge amount of potential there," said Jeremy Bird, who launched the Battleground Texas effort after working as Obama's national field director in 2012. Republicans acknowledge they need to do more to reach out to Hispanics and other minority groups. But so far, they see little evidence that Democrats are gaining ground in Texas, even as Davis' campaign for governor is drawing interest, and millions of dollars in donations, from across the nation. "All this work and all this money that they've spent up to now so far is not showing results," Texas Republican Party Chairman Steve Munisteri said. Democrats face long odds this year and probably won't carry the state in the next presidential election in 2016, said James Henson, who heads the nonpartisan Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas. But by 2020, the state's Hispanic population is projected to eclipse its white population, and Democrats could make Texas competitive, he said. "Certainly in 2014 everybody will be looking to see if there's a leading edge of something bigger coming," Henson said. REPUBLICAN OUTREACH Republicans say they recognize the challenge and have assigned seven staffers to reach out to Hispanics. But there have been signs that Republican candidates may be undermining that effort as they court conservative voters ahead of the March 4 party primaries. Abbott drew criticism from Hispanic groups and others this month when he said corruption in Texas' mostly Hispanic Rio Grande valley resembled "Third World country practices." He also came under fire for campaigning with 1970s rocker Ted Nugent, who called Obama a "subhuman mongrel." Nugent later apologized. Another Republican, in a four-way primary race for lieutenant governor, has said undocumented Hispanics represent an "illegal invasion" of the United States. Few prominent Texas Republicans back the immigration overhaul that passed the Democratic-led U.S. Senate last year, a top priority of Hispanic groups. The Texas Republican Party's official platform takes a hard line on immigration, saying that U.S. citizenship should be limited to those with at least one parent who is already a citizen. That could exclude from citizenship the party's own director of Hispanic outreach, who was born to Mexican parents. "It's not a deal breaker for me," said director David Zapata. When promoting Republicans' ideas to fellow Hispanics, he emphasizes job creation and school choice rather than immigration. CHICKEN-AND-EGG PROBLEM Democrats, who dominated Texas politics for decades until the early 1980s, only recently began to rebuild in the state. Republicans are unchallenged in seven of the state's 34 congressional seats and 60 of the 150 state House of Representatives districts this year. In suburban Denton County, north of Dallas, Democrats have no candidates for district attorney, county judge and other important local posts. It's a chicken-and-egg problem, said Jenn Brown, Battleground Texas' executive director. "Volunteers don't like working for bad candidates, but good candidates don't want to run unless they feel there's an infrastructure there to support them. So we decided to just go and start building," she said. A veteran of both Obama campaigns, Brown set up a neighborhood-based approach that encourages volunteers to organize phone calls and track voter responses. Having Davis at the top of the ticket has helped, Democrats say. She was popular among Texas Democrats even before her unsuccessful 11-hour filibuster against proposed abortion restrictions rocketed her to national fame last June. Davis' campaign and Battleground Texas together have raised nearly $16 million since July 2013. The two groups have $11.3 million in the bank, about one-third of Abbott's war chest. But Davis is losing ground in polls. A Texas Tribune/University of Texas survey this week had her trailing Abbott by 11 percentage points. She trailed by 6 points in October. GROUP'S TACTICS QUESTIONED Battleground Texas' tactics have come under attack by conservative provocateur James O'Keefe, whose undercover videos brought down the liberal group ACORN. O'Keefe released a video last week showing Battleground volunteers copying phone numbers from voter-registration forms they had collected from residents, which Republicans say violated state law. Brown said it was legal, but added that Battleground had discontinued the practice before the video came out. "We decided to change it because the law was unclear and we knew attacks would be coming at some point," she said. The episode reflects some of the legal hurdles Battleground faces. Besides the new law requiring voters to show a photo ID at the polls, Texas requires any individual who wishes to register new voters to get certification. That doesn't seem to deter the volunteers. Between calls in Battleground's office in Austin, University of Texas student Chris Cyrus said he and other volunteers recently registered 80 new voters in one day on campus. Cyrus, 21, said Democrats aren't as rare in Texas as he once thought. "It really seems like it's something that's kicking up this election cycle in a way I've not seen before," he said. (Editing by [URL='http://blogs.reuters.com/search/journalist.php?edition=us&n=david.lindsey&']David Lindsey[/URL] and [URL='http://blogs.reuters.com/search/journalist.php?edition=us&n=ross.colvin&']Ross Colvin[/URL]) [B][/B] [url]http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/02/26/us-usa-politics-texas-insight-idUSBREA1P1OL20140226[/url] [SIZE=5][COLOR=#ff0000][I][B]Personal Comment From Bors:[/B][/I][/COLOR][/SIZE] [B]@Bildsturmer your opinion? [/B]
  2. By Emily Flitter NEW YORK Wed Feb 26, 2014 Some Bitcoin are pictured in this photo illustration in Sandy, Utah, January 31, 2014. Credit: Reuters/Jim Urquhart REUTERS/Jim Urquhart (Reuters) - Manhattan Attorney Preet Bharara has sent subpoenas to Mt. Gox, other bitcoin exchanges, and businesses that deal in bitcoin to seek information on how they handled recent cyber attacks, a source familiar with the probe said on Wednesday. In the attacks - known as distributed denial of service attacks - hackers overwhelmed bitcoin exchanges by sending thousands of phantom transactions. At least three exchanges were forced to halt withdrawals of bitcoins on February 7, including Mt. Gox, which was the largest at the time. Mt. Gox never resumed service before going dormant on Tuesday, leaving customers unable to recover their funds. The Tokyo-based company's chief executive, Mark Karpeles, said earlier on Wednesday that he is working with others to solve the problems. "As there is a lot of speculation regarding Mt Gox and its future, I would like to use this opportunity to reassure everyone that I am still in Japan, and working very hard with the support of different parties to find a solution to our recent issues," Karpeles said in a statement posted on the Mt. Gox website. A spokesman for Bharara declined to comment. Bitcoin, a form of electronic money independent of traditional banking, relies on a network of computers that solve complex mathematical problems as part of a process that verifies and permanently records the details of every bitcoin transaction that is made. At current prices, the bitcoin market is worth about $7 billion. Investors deposit their bitcoins in digital wallets at specific exchanges, so the Mt. Gox shutdown is similar to a bank closing its doors - people cannot retrieve their funds. While proponents of bitcoin hail its anonymity and lack of ties to traditional banking, regulators have become increasingly interested in the digital currency due to its usage by criminal elements and its volatile nature. It has been a rough month for bitcoin investors, with cyber attacks on several exchanges, a sharp fall in bitcoin's value, and rising pressure from regulators. Bitcoin's price varies by exchange, but the losses were most dramatic on Mt. Gox, where it fell to about $135 from $828.99 before February 7. "Mt Gox has been broken and it was obvious there was something really bad going on there for nearly a year. They were processing withdrawals very slowly and generally being very opaque about what was going on there," said Mike Hearn, a bitcoin developer in Zurich, Switzerland. A second source familiar with the case said U.S. federal law enforcement is investigating Mt. Gox. A third source said the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation was monitoring the situation. Japan's Finance Ministry and police are also looking into the abrupt closure of Mt. Gox, according to the Japanese government's top spokesman. "MALLEABILITY" Bitcoin has gained increasing acceptance as a method of payment and has attracted a number of prominent venture capital investors, including Andreessen Horowitz and Union Square Ventures. The digital currency has also caught the eye of hackers. The recent cyber attacks exploited a process used by some bitcoin exchanges that introduced "malleability" into the code governing transactions, experts said. Simply put, this allowed hackers to slightly alter the details of codes to create thousands of copies of transactions. These copies slowed the exchanges to a crawl, forcing them to independently verify each transaction to determine what was real and what was fake. A document circulating on the Internet purporting to be a crisis plan for Mt. Gox, said more than 744,000 bitcoins were "missing due to malleability-related theft," and noted Mt. Gox had $174 million in liabilities against $32.75 million in assets. It was not possible to verify the document. If accurate, that would mean approximately 6 percent of the 12.4 million bitcoins minted would be considered missing. Developers are working on fixes to bitcoin's software to guard against cyber attacks, though many larger service providers have already implemented such changes, according to Gregory Maxwell, one of the bitcoin software's core developers. He said some malleability in the software protocol was necessary - for example, in transactions where multiple people can put in money, but the transaction is not valid until enough funds are contributed. "None of these fixes are especially complicated, but because the correctness of the software is important we use a conservative release process that avoids rushing anything out," Maxwell said, adding that the bulk of the recent work on the software is being done by four people. BITSTAMP Jacob Dienelt, who trades bitcoins and sells paper bitcoin wallets, said people he knows in the bitcoin community in New York stopped using Mt. Gox when the exchange halted dollar withdrawals several months ago and said all withdrawals had to be in bitcoin. Dienelt said has not been subpoenaed. With Mt. Gox's shutdown, Bitstamp has handled the most volume in the last two days, with more than 165,000 U.S. dollar transactions, according to Bitcoincharts. Bitstamp had temporarily halted customer withdrawals earlier this month, citing "inconsistent results" and blaming a denial-of-service attack. The price of bitcoin was lately at $588 on Bitstamp, up about 7 percent on the day. "Right now is a sweet buying opportunity. I don't think you're going to see bitcoin go this low for awhile - if ever again," said Jordan Kelley, chief executive of Robocoin, which launched the world's first Bitcoin ATM in Vancouver, Canada, in the fall. "The more that bitcoin is on the front pages, the more that people are discussing it and educating one another, the better for the currency." Kelley said Robocoin has not been subpoenaed in the U.S. regulatory probe; nor has New York-based exchange Coinsetter, according to a spokesperson. Bitstamp did not respond to requests for comment. (Reporting by Emily Flitter in New York and Jim Finkle in Boston; Additional reporting by Chris Francescani in New York and Julie Gordon in Toronto; Writing by David Gaffen; Editing by Tiffany Wu) http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/02/26/us-bitcoin-subpoena-idUSBREA1P18820140226 Personal Comment From Bors: The Iron regulator's claw draws closer.
  3. By Ruairidh Villar, Sophie Knight and Brett Wolf TOKYO/ST LOUIS Tue Feb 25, 2014 (Reuters) - Mt. Gox, once the world's biggest bitcoin exchange, abruptly stopped trading on Tuesday and its chief executive said the business was at "a turning point," sparking concerns about the future of the unregulated virtual currency. Several other digital currency exchanges and prominent early-stage investors in bitcoin responded with forceful statements in an attempt to reassure investors of both bitcoin's viability and their own security protocols. The website of Mt. Gox suddenly went dark on Tuesday with no explanation, and the company's Tokyo office was empty - the only activity was outside, where a handful of protesters said they had lost money investing in the virtual currency. Hours later, Mt. Gox CEO Mark Karpeles told Reuters in an email: "We should have an official announcement ready soon-ish. We are currently at a turning point for the business. I can't tell much more for now as this also involves other parties." He did not elaborate on the details or give his location. Bitcoin has gained increasing acceptance as a method of payment and has attracted a number of large venture capital investors. At a current price of about $517, the total bitcoins in circulation are worth approximately $6.4 billion. Investors deposit their bitcoins in digital wallets at specific exchanges, so the Mt. Gox shutdown is similar to a bank closing its doors - people cannot retrieve their funds. A document circulating on the Internet purporting to be a crisis plan for Mt. Gox, said more than 744,000 bitcoins were "missing due to malleability-related theft", and noted Mt. Gox had $174 million in liabilities against $32.75 million in assets. It was not possible to verify the document or the exchange's financial situation. If accurate, that would mean approximately 6 percent of the 12.4 million bitcoins minted would be considered missing. A statement on Bitcoin's website said, "In the event of recent news reports and the potential repercussions on MtGox's operations and the market, a decision was taken to close all transactions for the time being in order to protect the site and our users. We will be closely monitoring the situation and will react accordingly." The digital currency has caught the eye of regulators concerned with consumer protections and bitcoin's use in money laundering. Benjamin M. Lawsky, Superintendent of Financial Services for the State of New York, said in a statement, that while all of the facts surrounding Mt. Gox are "not yet clear, these developments underscore that smart, tailored regulation could play an important role in protecting consumers and the security of the money that they entrust to virtual currency firms." Lawsky said last month that he planned to issue rules for businesses handling virtual currencies. SECURITY QUESTIONS Mt. Gox halted withdrawals earlier this month after it said it detected "unusual activity on its bitcoin wallets and performed investigations during the past weeks." The move pushed bitcoin prices down to their lowest level in nearly two months. Even with the halt on February 7, Mt. Gox still handled more transactions than any other in the past month. Over the last 30 days, Mt. Gox has handled more than one million bitcoin transactions denominated in dollars, or about 34 percent of activity, according to Bitcoincharts, which provides data and charts for the bitcoin network. Critics of the exchange, from rivals to burned investors, said the digital marketplace operator had long been lax over its security. Investors in bitcoin, who have endured a volatile ride in the value of the unregulated cyber-tender, said they still had faith in the currency despite the problems at Mt. Gox. "Mt. Gox is one of several exchanges, and their exit, while unfortunate, opens a door of opportunity," The Bitcoin Foundation, the digital currency's trade group, said in a statement. "This incident demonstrates the need for responsible individuals and members of the bitcoin community to lead in providing reliable services." United Kingdom-based Bitstamp, the second-largest bitcoin exchange by volume, said on its website that it had done an audit of its systems and that it was not subject to the same kind of "malleability" that "was apparently exploited at Mt. Gox." Similarly, BTC-E, another exchange, assured investors that it has "no vulnerabilities during client transactions." "VERY ANGRY" Bitcoin has been a roller-coaster of late, rising and falling dramatically, sometimes on an intraday basis, and its price varies greatly depending on the exchange. The program that runs the currency has been the target of hackers disrupting transactions recently. The Mt. Gox bitcoin, which traded at $828.99 before February 7, when the exchange halted withdrawals, since plunged 83.7 percent to $135. At Bitstamp, the price hit a low of $400 on Tuesday, down 40 percent since February 7. It had recovered lately to $517. Bitstamp has had more than 800,000 U.S. dollar transactions in the last 30 days, according to Bitcoincharts. In the last two days, Bitstamp has handled more volume than Mt. Gox. Mt. Gox was a founding member and one of the three elected industry representatives on the board of the Bitcoin Foundation. A bitcoin exchange since 2010, Mt. Gox is a relatively old player, having grown quickly when there were few alternatives. On Sunday Karpeles resigned from the Foundation's board. "I'm very angry," said Kolin Burges, a self-styled "crypto-currency trader" and former software engineer who came from London for answers after Mt. Gox did not tell him what happened to his bitcoins, which at one point were worth $300,000. Six leading bitcoin exchanges - which allow users to trade bitcoins for U.S. dollars and other currencies - distanced themselves from Mt. Gox. "This tragic violation of the trust of users of Mt. Gox was the result of one company's actions and does not reflect the resilience or value of bitcoin and the digital currency industry," the companies - Coinbase, Kraken, Bitstamp, BTC China, Blockchain and Circle - said in the statement. "As with any new industry, there are certain bad actors that need to be weeded out, and that is what we're seeing today." Venture capitalists, many of whom have invested in bitcoin and related services, jumped to bitcoin's defense. Fred Wilson, a partner at Union Square Ventures and a backer of Coinbase, which allows consumers to easily buy and sell bitcoins with wallets directly connected to their bank accounts, wrote in a blog post that part of the maturation of a sector "will inevitably be failures, crashes, and other messes." "The wonderful thing about a globally distributed financial network is that if one of the nodes goes down, it doesn't take the system down," he wrote, adding that he had bought some bitcoin on Tuesday. "I always feel good buying when there is blood in the streets in any market." Marc Andreessen, whose venture capital firm has invested millions in bitcoin ventures, told CNBC that other exchanges are doing fine. In Boston, Kyle Powers and Chris Yim, co-founders of Liberty Teller, a company that operates a bitcoin automated teller machine, answered customers' questions at their kiosk in South Station Tuesday. Yim said he expects a price dip in bitcoin, but no long-term problems with the currency. TEETHING PROBLEMS Virtual currency exchanges "stand to benefit from the Mt. Gox fallout," but there will be "increased expectations on the transparency and disclosures they need to make to customers," said Jaron Lukasiewicz, co-founder and chief executive of Coinsetter, a New York-based bitcoin exchange. Steve Hudak, spokesman for Treasury's anti-money laundering unit, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), said it is "aware of the reports regarding Mt. Gox" but had no additional comment. To date it is the only U.S. regulatory agency to have any oversight of Mt. Gox. Democratic Senator Tom Carper of Delaware, who chairs the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, said in a statement that Mt. Gox "is a reminder of the damage potentially ill equipped and unregulated financial actors can wreak on unsuspecting consumers. U.S. policymakers and regulators can and should learn from this incident to protect consumers." Karpeles himself, while insisting on his own exchange's reliability, has made no secret that bitcoin is, as he told Reuters last April, a "high-risk investment." "If you buy bitcoins, you should buy keeping in mind that the value could be zero the day after." The concierge at his home - an upscale apartment in the Shibuya district - said he was not answering his intercom. His mailbox was so stuffed with mail that the flap would not close. (Reporting by Ruairidh Villar and Sophie Knight in Tokyo, and Brett Wolf of the Compliance Complete service of Thomson Reuters Accelus in St. Louis; Additional reporting by Cheng Herng Shinn, Stanley White and Noriyuki Hirata in Tokyo, Dominic Reuter in Boston, Sarah McBride in San Francisco, Karen Freifeld in New York, and Chris Peters in Bangalore; Writing by William Mallard and David Gaffen; Editing by Ian Geoghegan and Tiffany Wu) http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/02/25/us-mtgox-website-idUSBREA1O07920140225 Personal Comment From Bors: "not yet clear, these developments underscore that smart, tailored regulation could play an important role in protecting consumers and the security of the money that they entrust to virtual currency firms." Translation: I'd like to see more tax from this.
  4. tl;dr- Allegedly a police officer shot and killed a teenager after he answered the door with a wiimote, which she mistook as a BB gun. - EUHARLEE, Ga. – An attorney representing the family of a 17-year-old Georgia boy who was shot and killed by a police officer says the boy was holding a video game controller when he was shot after opening his door. Christopher Roupe was fatally shot in the chest Friday, Feb. 14 when Euharlee officers showed up at the door of his mobile home to serve a probation violation warrant for the boy’s father, WSB-TV reports. A female officer reportedly told the Georgia Bureau of Investigation that Roupe pointed a gun at her after he opened the door. But the family’s attorney, Cole Law, said the boy was holding a Nintendo Wii video game controller, and was about to watch a movie. “The eyewitnesses on the scene clearly state that he had a Wii controller in his hand. He heard a knock at the door. He asked who it was, there was no response so he opened the door and upon opening the door he was immediately shot in the chest,” Law told WSB. Neighbor Ken Yates said that he saw the female officer immediately after Roupe was killed and described her as being visibly distraught. “This is tragic,” Yates told the station. “She came out of this house. She put her head in her hands and she was sobbing. Supposedly, he opened the door with a BB gun and in my opinion I think he was playing a game with his neighborhood buddies.” Tia Howard, another neighbor, told WSB that she also came over to the house immediately after the shooting. Howard says she was told that “there was a Wii remote in his hand and [the officer] shot him.” Officials did not disclose if a weapon was found on the scene. The case has been turned over the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. Roupe was an ROTC student at Woodland High School in Cartersville and his family said he planned to join the Marines. A funeral has been scheduled for Friday. - source: http://www.cbsnews.com/news/attorney-georgia-teen-killed-by-cop-was-holding-wii-controller/
  5. BY BERNIE WOODALL CHATTANOOGA, Tennessee Sat Feb 15, 2014 1 OF 5. Gary Casteel, United Auto Workers (UAW) Region 8 Director, makes remarks at a news conference after the announcement that the union lost its bid to represent the1,550 blue-collar workers at the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee February 14, 2014. CREDIT: REUTERS/CHRISTOPHER ALUKA BERRY (Reuters) - In a stinging defeat that could accelerate the decades-long decline of the United Auto Workers, Volkswagen AG workers voted against union representation at a Chattanooga, Tennessee plant, which had been seen as organized labor's best chance to expand in the U.S. South. The loss, 712 to 626, capped a sprint finish to a long race and was particularly surprising for UAW supporters, because Volkswagen had allowed the union access to the factory and officially stayed neutral on the vote, while other manufacturers have been hostile to organized labor. UAW spent more than two years organizing and then called a snap election in an agreement with VW. German union IG Metall worked with the UAW to pressure VW to open its doors to organizers, but anti-union forces dropped a bombshell after the first of three days of voting. Republican U.S. Senator Bob Corker, the former mayor of Chattanooga who helped win the VW plant, said on Wednesday after the first day of voting that VW would expand the factory if the union was rejected. "Needless to say, I am thrilled," Corker said in a statement after the results were disclosed. National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix hailed the outcome: "If UAW union officials cannot win when the odds are so stacked in their favor, perhaps they should re-evaluate the product they are selling to workers." An announcement of whether a new seven-passenger crossover vehicle will be produced in Chattanooga or in Mexico could come as early as next week, VW sources told Reuters. Despite the indignation of pro-union forces, legal experts earlier had said that any challenge of the outcome, based on Corker's comments, would be difficult, given broad free speech protection for U.S. Senators. The UAW said it would "evaluate" the conduct in the vote, where 89 percent of eligible workers cast ballots. "We are outraged at the outside interference in this election. It's never happened in this country before that a U.S. senator, a governor, a leader of the house, a leader of the legislature here threatened the company with those incentives, threatened workers with the loss of product," Bob King, the UAW president who has staked his legacy on expanding into the south, said. UAW membership has plummeted 75 percent since 1979 and now stands at just under 400,000. The Tennessee decision is likely to reinforce the widely held notion that the UAW cannot make significant inroads in a region that historically has been steadfastly against organized labor and where all foreign-owned vehicle assembly plants employ nonunion workers. Before the results were announced, King had said in an interview with Reuters that his group and the German union were already at work organizing a Daimler AG factory in Alabama. "We will continue our efforts at Daimler. It's not new. We're there. We have a campaign. We have a plan. We are also very involved globally with Nissan, so that will continue," he said. He did not mention the other plants when speaking to reporters late in the evening. Dennis Cuneo, a partner at Fisher & Phillips, a national labor law firm that represents management, said earlier in the day that a loss would be a big setback for the union movement in the South, showing the UAW was unable to convince rank-and-file workers even with management's cooperation. Such a loss "makes the UAW's quest to organize southern auto plants all the more difficult," he said. Local anti-union organizers had protested the UAW from the start, reflecting deep concerns among many workers that a union would strain cordial relations with the company, which pays well by local and U.S. auto industry standards. Mike Burton, one of the anti-union leaders, cheered the results. "Not on our watch," he exulted, adding, as did VW management, that plans to find a way for a workers council to help set rules for the factory would continue. Many labor experts have said that a workers council, which is used in Germany, would not be possible at a U.S. VW factory without a union. "We felt like we were already being treated very well by Volkswagen in terms of pay and benefits and bonuses," said Sean Moss, who voted against the UAW. "We also looked at the track record of the UAW. Why buy a ticket on the Titanic?" he added. Many workers believed that the union had hurt operations at plants run by General Motors Co, Ford Motor Co and Chrysler, now a part of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, he said For VW, the stakes also were high. The German automaker invested $1 billion in the Chattanooga plant, which began building Passat mid-size sedans in April 2011, after being awarded more than $577 million in state and local incentives. VW executives have said the new crossover vehicle, due in 2016 and known internally as CrossBlue, could be built at either the Chattanooga plant or in Mexico, but Tennessee facility was built with the expectation of a second vehicle line. The vote has received global attention, and even President Barack Obama waded into the discussion early on Friday, accusing Republican politicians of being more concerned about German shareholders than U.S. workers. The vote must be certified by the National Labor Relations Board. (Additional reporting by Paul Lienert in Detroit and Andreas Cremer in Berlin; Editing byMatthew Lewis, Ross Colvin and Ken Wills) http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/02/15/us-autos-vw-election-idUSBREA1D1DP20140215 Personal Comment From Bors: In Volkswagen's defence, the company seems to have acted quite maturely throughout this affair - though the ones who really should have been looking out for a square deal for all - the politicians seem to have been as obvious as panting dogs - as usual.
  6. By GAUTAM NAIK Updated Feb. 12, 2014 2:06 p.m. ET A Short-Lived Star Is Born: Experimental Reaction Yields Energy, but Sustainability Still Proves Elusive Scientists have made a notable advance in extracting energy from nuclear fusion, the violent process that powers the stars and that one day could offer a source of cheap and boundless power on Earth. In the experiment, done at a U.S. Department of Energy laboratory last fall, researchers blasted the world's most powerful laser at a target the size of a small pea. It triggered a fusion reaction that unleashed a vast amount of energy—albeit for a fraction of a second. In effect, the process created a miniature star. "For the first time anywhere, we've gotten more energy out of the fuel than what was put into the fuel" when using this technique, said Omar Hurricane, physicist at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and lead author of the study, published Wednesday in the journal Nature. The research is still a long way from achieving what's known as ignition, where the overall set-up generates more energy than it consumes in a self-sustaining chain reaction and without which fusion power wouldn't be practical. In this experiment, much of the energy from the laser is dissipated elsewhere and doesn't reach the fuel. But the latest result marks a step forward for the U.S. project after years of setbacks. "This experiment suggests that it is possible to get to ignition with the scale" of the laser at the Lawrence Livermore lab, said Steven Cowley, director of the Culham Centre for Fusion Energy in the U.K., who wasn't involved in the study. Today's nuclear-power plants generate electricity with fission, which involves the splitting of atoms. In fusion, atomic nuclei are squashed together under intense heat and pressure to release energy. The awesome power of fusion became known in the 1950s when the first hydrogen bomb was detonated. Harnessing that energy for peaceful purposes has been a lot more difficult—many scientists would use far stronger words— though there are good reasons to keep trying. Fusion is the most efficient of any known energy-creating process. The fuel is easy to obtain from natural sources, and there are almost no risks of toxic byproducts or nuclear meltdown. The latest experiment was done at Lawrence Livermore's National Ignition Facility, or NIF. The California facility—a 10-story building the size of three football fields—was built at a cost of $3.5 billion and became operational in 2009. It has since cost hundreds of millions of dollars to operate. The NIF had originally hoped to achieve ignition by September 2013, but didn't come close. Critics have long assailed the NIF for being over-budget, behind schedule and overambitious in its key scientific goal. Even with the latest advance, it is unclear whether it will ever get there. "It's very hard. We're sort of pushing ourselves to the limit to make this happen," Dr. Hurricane said. The main rival technique for achieving fusion uses powerful magnets instead of lasers. The U.K.'s Culham Centre used this magnet approach in 1997 to extract 16 megawatts of power by injecting 24 megawatts of power—not too far off from the sought-after "net gain" in energy. The magnet-based approach has inspired 35 countries, including the U.S., to join forces and embark one of the biggest science projects in recent years: the $20 billion ITER fusion reactor being built in France, which is expected to become operational by 2020. Most labs have preferred to try the laser approach. The NIF experiment used 192 laser beams and aimed them at a tiny gold can about the size of a dime. Inside the can was a pea-size capsule containing the fuel, a mixture of two hydrogen isotopes, deuterium and tritium. When laser beams entered the gold can, they struck the inside walls and unleashed a swathe of X-rays. Those X-rays smashed into the capsule with tremendous pressure and crushed the fuel capsule to 1/35 of its radial size. As the capsule shrank, the fuel rapidly converged around the hollow center, but it had nowhere to go. That generated even higher pressures and a temperature higher than what's seen at the center of the sun, triggering fusion. In essence, the scientists created a miniature star that existed for a fraction of a second—and then blew itself apart. The energy released was 10 times as great as that achieved in any previous such experiment. In a striking finding, the data also showed that the nuclear material was self-heating, a crucial condition for ignition. But ignition remains a long way off. To get there, scientists need to compress the fuel into a nearly perfect spherical implosion, and that's not easy to do. It's one of the reasons past efforts have been fruitless. "It's like putting your fingers around a balloon and trying to squeeze it until it's a thousand times smaller" without distorting it too much, said Dr. Cowley. The researchers created about 150 gigabars of pressure in their experiment, and expect that 300 gigabars or more will yield ignition. (A gigabar is roughly one billion atmospheres of pressure.) They hope to improve the shape and speed of the implosion. One way, is to alter the shape of the gold container to the shape of a rugby ball. "Mother Nature doesn't like putting a lot of energy in small volumes, so she fights you on it," Dr. Hurricane said. "This is a way of fighting back." http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702304888404579378920296615030 --------------------------------- Nice to know that US research dollars actually are used for useful purposes! I wonder how long it will take for fusion to become a viable source of energy, and whether that will mean we skip mass adoption of current green energy sources all together.
  7. By MANNY FERNANDEZ FEB. 2, 2014 Texas Republicans Vying for Lieutenant Governor Lean Heavily Right HOUSTON — One candidate has called for the impeachment of President Obama. Another wants the National Guard to help secure the border. Yet another criticized the openly lesbian mayor here for marrying her longtime partner in Palm Springs, Calif., saying it was “part of a larger strategy of hers to turn Texas into California.” And all of the leading contenders want to allow Texans to carry handguns in holsters on their hips. Four powerful state Republican officials have been locked in a tight race for lieutenant governor — a job that in Texas is no mere sinecure, but one with powers that rival the governor’s when it comes to controlling what comes out of the Legislature. A month before the March 4 primary, the race is illustrating the increasing shift to the far right for Texas Republicans as the rivals — Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, who is seeking re-election; State Senator Dan Patrick of Houston; Todd Staples, the agriculture commissioner; and Jerry Patterson, the land commissioner — try to appeal to the grass-roots and Tea Party conservatives who make up the bulk of the electorate in Republican primaries. The Republicans vying for Texas lieutenant governor, from left: Jerry Patterson, the land commissioner; State Senator Dan Patrick; Todd Staples, the agricultural commissioner; and the incumbent, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, at a debate last week. There has been much talk lately in national political circles about the demographic forces that might make Texas a competitive state for Democrats by 2020. But the battle to win the state’s No. 2 seat shows that much of Texas remains, for now, neither blue nor even purple, but a deep shade of red. Mr. Dewhurst and Mr. Patrick have talked about repealing the 17th Amendment, which established the election of United States senators by popular vote rather than by state legislatures, a favorite states'-rights cause of the Tea Party. Mr. Staples has touted his sponsorship of the state constitutional amendment defining marriage as between one man and one woman. And all four candidates want the religious theory of creationism taught in public schools, despite the Supreme Court’s 1987 decision that banned it from classrooms. “Our children must really be confused,” Mr. Patrick said. “We want them to go to church on Sunday, and we teach them about Jesus Christ, and then they go to school on Monday and they can’t pray. They can’t learn about creationism.” The candidates have been criticized by Democrats and even some Republicans for pandering to the far right. Asked if there had been Tea Party pandering, Mr. Patterson, 67, a former Marine who wrote the law that gave Texans the right to carry concealed handguns, replied, “Absolutely,” though he said it was being done not by him but his rivals. “It’s the propensity, particularly of Patrick, to tell people whatever he thinks they want to hear.” The race has also served as a postscript to one of the biggest legislative showdowns in Texas — State Senator Wendy Davis’s filibuster last year over a Republican-backed bill restricting abortion. The filibuster on the Senate floor turned Ms. Davis into a national Democratic star and laid the groundwork for her run for governor against Greg Abbott, the Republican attorney general. But it also put Mr. Dewhurst on the defensive, as many party colleagues blamed him for mismanaging the filibuster as the presiding officer of the Senate and for helping facilitate Ms. Davis’s rise to fame. Mr. Dewhurst was already seen as politically vulnerable, following his loss in a 2012 runoff to Ted Cruz for the state’s open United States Senate seat. Mr. Dewhurst’s three rivals said he had failed to use procedural rules to end the legislative session before the filibuster even began and failed to ensure the bill remained intact rather than stripped of a key provision, a move that set the stage for the filibuster when the bill came back to the Senate. “That whole episode was just absolutely failed leadership, and where does that all lead?” Mr. Patrick said. “That leads to Wendy Davis raising $12 million, a lot of it from out of state, to come in and put a target on Greg Abbott and Republicans.” Mr. Dewhurst, 68, has disputed those criticisms, pointing to the ultimate outcome — the signing of the abortion bill into law —– as evidence of his leadership. He said he had learned from his loss to Mr. Cruz, who defeated him with Tea Party support. No one on his current campaign was on his 2012 campaign, he said, and he rattled off the names of Tea Party activists supporting him, including some who had backed Mr. Cruz in 2012. “Certainly in the Senate race, we let others define me, before I had reminded voters who I am,” he said. Mr. Dewhurst, the candidate who called for the president’s impeachment at a Tea Party forum in October, disagreed with Mr. Patterson that he was pandering to primary voters. “I’m running for re-election on my own record of conservative success as lieutenant governor,” said Mr. Dewhurst, 68, who has held the office since 2003. The lieutenant governor’s office has long been considered one of the most powerful ones in Texas because the job includes controlling the Senate’s agenda. Although a few of the 41 lieutenant governors have gone on to become governor — including Gov. Rick Perry — the position has been not so much a steppingstone to the higher office, but a behind-the-scenes platform to shape the state. Political analysts believe Mr. Dewhurst will be forced into a runoff in May. Although there is debate over who he will face, Mr. Patrick has emerged as a strong contender. Mr. Patrick, 63, the candidate who criticized the Houston mayor’s marriage, has a built-in soapbox — he hosts a radio talk show — and has gained a Tea Party following. Mr. Staples, 50, has carved out a niche for himself on border security, writing a book on the subject and creating a website, ProtectYourTexasBorder.com, to draw attention to the claims by South Texas farmers that Mexican drug-cartel violence was spilling over the border. Mr. Patterson has earned high-profile endorsements, including from Ron Paul, the former Texas congressman and presidential candidate. On the stump, he comes across as a straight-talking Texan, often telling voters that if they want someone they can agree with 100 percent of the time, “then you need to run, that’s the only way.” At such a partisan moment in Texas politics, such a view might work against him. Julie McCarty, president of the Northeast Tarrant Tea Party in the Fort Worth region, said she respected Mr. Patterson, but worried that once in office, “I will have very little sway with him.” She said she was planning to vote for Mr. Patrick, who had “proven that he will listen to and work with the Tea Party, and it’s important to us to know that we will have a voice.” The Texas land commissioner, Jerry Patterson, in San Antonio last year, accused rivals of pandering to the Tea Party bloc. has won former Representative Ron Paul’s support. http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/03/us/politics/texas-republicans-vying-for-lieutenant-governor-lean-heavily-right.html?_r=0 Personal Comment From Bild: "Deliver us, O Lord, from the fury of the Neo-Conservative Republicans."
  8. By JULIÁN AGUILAR FEB. 1, 2014 As Gaming Halls Make a Comeback, a Crackdown Loses Steam A gaming hall, or eight-liner, in Laredo, Tex. State law limits prizes to $5 a game, but it is an open secret that the payoffs can be much higher. LAREDO, Tex. — The lights coming from the digital slot machines danced on rows of empty chairs on a recent night in a South Texas gaming hall that was only partially filled. But employees were content with what business they had. “Are you a member?” an employee asked a reporter in Spanish. “You have to be a member, and only the owner can approve you. He’s not here.” The lukewarm reception for strangers is common in these gaming halls, which are legal, provided that players do not walk away with prizes — either cash or goods — worth more than the state’s limit of $5 a game. But it is an open secret that the payoffs can be much higher, luring residents here to spend what critics say is money that is hard to come by in a county with a 30 percent poverty level. After a crackdown in Laredo a few years ago, such gaming rooms are again common, and officials have mixed opinions on whether to enforce or adjust the law. “I don’t get many complaints here about maquinitas; I get complaints about burglaries and stolen vehicles,” said Carlos Villarreal, Laredo’s city manager. “So it’s a law that was destined to fail since its inception.” Even at church or city events, Mr. Villarreal added, Laredoans tell him in Spanish, “Mr. Villarreal, those places are my Las Vegas.” The Webb County district attorney’s office declined to comment on the gaming halls, also called eight-liners, or “maquinitas” (Spanish for little machines). In 2008, Laredo’s former police chief and two high-ranking officers were convicted on federal conspiracy charges. They pleaded guilty after taking cash and other goods for not disclosing that some gaming halls were exceeding the state limit on payouts. After that, city officials and the police cracked down on the halls, and several were closed. But the gaming halls are again common — some tucked away in strip malls and others plainly visible from highways and busy streets. And city leaders like Mr. Villarreal appear less fazed this time around. They say that in this town there are bigger problems than senior citizens chain smoking and drinking sodas as they spend their money in hopes of a bigger payday. Officials add that when the law is enforced, the penalty levied on owners hardly warrants the resources used to make a bust. If convicted of illegally operating a gambling place, owners face a maximum penalty of a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail and no more than a $4,000 fine. Because owners or operators are selective about who enters their establishments, officers have to work undercover, often multiple times, to establish a relationship and get proof of illegal activity. State Representative Richard Peña Raymond, Democrat of Laredo, said residents and local governments would benefit if the law were adjusted. He is renewing his proposal for a constitutional amendment that would allow voters to determine whether eight-liners should be legalized or prohibited in certain areas. Mr. Raymond said his proposal would be modeled on alcohol sales laws in the state. In Texas, some establishments can serve alcohol in counties that have been designated “wet.” Within counties, some precincts are designated “wet” or “dry.” “You wouldn’t have it in all 254 counties; you’d have it in some,” Mr. Raymond said of gaming halls. Under his proposal, a portion of the proceeds from those halls would go to local governments, he added. The state would get the remainder, and Mr. Raymond said he envisioned the funds going toward law enforcement. Though the measure has failed in the past, he said there could be a potential window next session, depending on the outcome of this year’s elections. “Every session is a different animal,” he said. http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/02/us/as-gaming-halls-make-a-comeback-a-crackdown-loses-steam.html?ref=texas Personal Comment From Bild: I'm not sure why we even have such frivolous laws. There's a "game room" within walking distance of where I live that even the police go to gamble at. All such laws do is pump our money into Lousiana since everyone in Texas just hops across the border to Lake Charles to gamble in comfortable freedom.
  9. Man dressed as Santa Claus robs Florida bank By Erik Ortiz, Staff Writer, NBC News This Santa is no saint. Police in Port Orange, Fla., were looking for a man who robbed a SunTrust Bank on Monday wearing a red Santa Claus hat, a white, long beard and shades before making off with an undisclosed amount of cash. The bad Santa carried a gift-wrapped package into the bank at about 3:13 p.m., and passed a note to a teller demanding money. He insinuated that the parcel was harmful, said Assistant Chief of Police Wayne Miller. After getting the cash, the suspect left the package on the counter and walked out. He was seen fleeing in a dark-colored vehicle. The bank was immediately evacuated and the Volusia County bomb squad determined that the package wasn’t an explosive device, Miller said. The holiday getup is the first one Miller said he’s seen a robber wear. “We usually see costumes worn during Halloween, but I’ve been here 29 years and I can’t recall something like this,” he added. Santa-like costumes have been used as holiday disguises in other bank robberies across the country. This month, an armed robber wearing a Santa hat and shades held up a Bank of America in Dundee, Mich., while a man in a dirty gray beard robbed a PNC Bank on Saturday in Laurel, Md. PNC tellers described him as a criminal Kris Kringle, although local cops said he could have been disguised as someone from the reality show, “Duck Dynasty.” The SunTrust Bank suspect is described as a white male, 6-foot, with a medium build. Anyone with information is asked to call Port Orange detectives at 386-506-5895. http://usnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/12/24/22037146-man-dressed-as-santa-claus-robs-florida-bank?lite Personal Comment: Is that an eye patch? That's no Santa... IT'S A PIRATE!
  10. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-24343698 Enjoying your freedom, America? It's a shame you don't have a head of state who can put their foot down and stop this sort of thing like the Commonwealth does.
  11. Social networking giant Facebook has posted a 60 percent surge in revenue in the third quarter. Shares initially soared at the news, but later fell amid fears that teenagers may be losing interest. Facebook Inc. beat Wall Street expectations for the second straight quarter on Wednesday when it posted a 60 percent revenue increase between July and September. Revenue grew to $2 billion, (1.5 million euros), from $1.26 billion in the third quarter, generating a profit of $425 million, Facebook reported. According to financial research company FactSet, analysts, on average, had been expecting revenue of $1.91 billion. The figures are also a marked improvement on the $59 million loss posted in the same period last year. "The strong results we achieved this quarter show that we're prepared for the next phase of our company as we work to bring the next 5 billion people online and into the knowledge economy," CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a statement. The third quarter results were primarily driven by advertising revenue, which rose to $1.8 billion, up 66 percent from a year earlier. Almost half of that was generated by revenue from mobile adverts which appear on mobile devices. Facebook has made a concerted push to become "mobile-first" and the boosted mobile ad figures - which stood at just $150 million in the same period last year - suggest that strategy could be paying off. Trading spike short-lived Facebook's quarterly figures prompted an initial surge in trading with shares soaring as much as 15 percent after hours. The stock quickly took a downturn, however, falling to $47.40, down 3 percent from its $49.10 close. The stock settled at $49.16. The drop followed a remark made by Facebook finance chief David Ebersman in an earnings call, which appeared to spook investors. Ebersman said the company had witnessed a decrease in daily use among young teenagers, an important but fickle demographic. "Our best analytics shows use by US teens overall stable, but a decrease in use by younger teens," Ebersman said. According to Facebook its number of monthly active users stood at 1.19 billion at the end of September, up 18 percent from a year ago. Of these, 728 million logged in every day during the month of September - a 25 percent increase on a year earlier. ccp/jr (AFP, Reuters, dpa) http://www.dw.de/facebook-posts-revenue-surge-on-mobile-ad-sales-but-stocks-fall/a-17195703 Personal Comment From Bors: Fagbook.
  12. By Roberta Rampton WASHINGTON | Tue Oct 29, 2013 (Reuters) - President Barack Obama is facing fresh attacks for his pledge that Americans who like their current healthcare plans can keep them under Obamacare, as reports pile up of thousands of Americans facing cancellation notices. Accusations that the pledge was misleading are potentially a deeper threat to Obama than the website glitches that have plagued Healthcare.gov since its October 1 launch and allowed only a trickle of people to sign up on new federal insurance exchanges. Obama has downplayed the problems with the website, saying it's like a cash register not working, and has stressed that the underlying product of the 2010 Affordable Care Act is "actually really good". But critics of Obamacare have seized on the hundreds of thousands of Americans due to lose their current plans because they fail to include essential benefits required by the law, and are asking whether Obama misrepresented the law. "Can you understand the level of frustration and concern about what many Americans perceive to be a false claim from the administration?" asked Representative Peter Roskam, an Illinois Republican, during a House oversight hearing on Tuesday featuring Marilyn Tavenner, a top U.S. official overseeing the law's rollout. Tavenner, the administrator of the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), apologized for problems with Healthcare.gov, but quickly came under fire about the Americans losing their current coverage plans. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, who has faced Republican calls for her resignation, is scheduled to testify before another House panel on Wednesday and will likely confront similar questions about whether the administration misled the public about the benefits of Obamacare. Obama is heading to Boston, Massachusetts, on Wednesday to promote Obamacare at the same spot where Mitt Romney signed Massachusetts' own healthcare law in 2006 as governor. Obama is expected to highlight how Massachusetts' health overhaul, which relied on similar insurance exchanges, also got off to a slow start. The people at risk for policy cancellations are a portion of those in the pool of 15 million consumers, often self-employed, who do not get coverage through their employers or the government, and have individual policies. The dropped policies are also reviving debate on a core premise of the healthcare law - that all Americans should have adequate coverage so that the costs of healthcare are spread across the population. Democrats are also saying Obama could have phrased his plan retention pledge more accurately. "I think preciseness would have been better," House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, the second-ranking Democrat in the House, told reporters. Obama in 2009, while building support for the bill that would become the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, repeatedly said that Americans who liked their doctors or current healthcare plans could keep them. He reiterated the promise as recently as March. 'ESSENTIAL' BENEFITS Now that the law is fully coming into effect, Americans are receiving notifications from their insurers that their current plans cannot continue because they do not cover certain "essential" benefits such as preventive care and mental health services as required by the law. The idea was to phase out bare-bones plans that do not cover catastrophic events, sometimes to the surprise of the consumer, and also have the effect of increasing costs across the healthcare system. When asked by a reporter on Tuesday whether Obama misled the public, White House spokesman Jay Carney redirected the conversation to state that it was not fair for taxpayers to absorb costs of the uninsured or under-insured. "There was a debate about this and I'm sure there will continue to be a debate that a fundamental premise of the Affordable Care Act is that there ought to be minimum standards for insurance coverage for everybody," Carney said. But some Americans are reporting sticker shock about the new plans their insurers are offering. Kevin DeLashmutt, 53, who is self-employed in real estate in Seattle, Washington, said that over the summer he received a letter from his insurance company saying the plan he now has is no longer available. The cheapest plan he could buy would cost $411, about twice his current premium, while the plan most like the one he has would cost about 150 percent more - $542.59. "You used to be able to choose what to get based on what you need and what you can afford, including a high deductible," DeLashmutt said. "Let me manage my own risk. Those people in Washington, D.C., shouldn't get to make that decision for me." MULTIPLE HEADACHES Besides the rocky Obamacare rollout, Obama is facing protests from allies, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, after it was revealed that the United States for years has spied on foreign heads of state. The issues are distracting him from other policy goals, including comprehensive immigration reform. It is unclear exactly how many Americans may lose their current coverage and whether they truly will be forced into more expensive plans. The law does protect plans that were created before the March 2010 law and have not changed since then, but it is common industry practice for insurers to tweak plans year to year, leading to a flood of cancellations. These people can either seek new "off exchange" policies from insurers, or try to find cheaper plans through the exchanges that come with a federal tax subsidy if their income is low enough. If the glitches in the online marketplaces fail to be resolved, the government might have to reinforce low-tech alternatives such as call centers and paper applications, one expert said. "If they can't enroll before the end of this year ... it's a serious burden on those people," said Joel Cantor, a public policy professor at Rutgers University who advises New Jersey on issues with the healthcare law. Republicans have been able to harness the frustration to energize their latest attack on Obamacare. "The problems don't stop at the technical failures of a website," said Representative Sam Johnson, a Republican from Texas, at the oversight hearing on Tuesday. "The real problem stems from the colossal failure to deliver what this law promised the American people." (Reporting By Roberta Rampton; Additional reporting by Lewis Krauskopf, Sharon Begley, David Morgan and David Lawder; Writing by Karey Van Hall; Editing by Tim Dobbyn) http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/10/29/us-usa-healthcare-obama-idUSBRE99S1AV20131029 Personal Comment From Bors: It's hard to keep taking Obama seriously when he doesn't ever get angry at all - its not that he carries a big stick and speaks softly, its that he speaks softly and left the stick by the front door when he came to work this morning.
  13. Sea Serpent!: Rare Giant Oarfish Washes Up In California Dammit dog, what part of 'Cheese!' don't you understand? This is the 5.5-meter (~18-foot) giant oarfish a snorkeler spotted just offshore Catalina Island in California. It was dead. Giant Oarfish normally frequent depths as deep as a kilometer (~2/3 of a mile) and are only seen near the surface when sick and dying. Apparently a lot of sea monster tales are the result of oarfish. So -- you think oarfish are the real mermaids? Because that would suck. They don't even have boobs. Unless that's what the two guys in the red shorts near the head are holding, in which case, still, no thanks. "But they ARE smiling." I don't care, I wouldn't poke those tits with an elbow. Thanks to Dave S and becca, who heard the Kraken story was actually started by a bunch of pirates who got drunk and were too embarrassed to admit they crashed their ship on a reef while joyriding. http://geekologie.com/2013/10/sea-serpent-rare-giant-oarfish-washes-up.php Personal Comment: Yes! I knew they were real. Now I'm off to explore the deep blue sea in my military surplus nuclear sub.
  14. On the House floor, Congressman Chris Van Hollen decided to get a clarification on the rules of the shutdown. Apparently, normally any congressperson can call for a vote on any bill at any time. But just before the shutdown happened, the GOP quietly passed a measure that said only House Majority Leader Eric Cantor can call for the shutdown to end (unless he gives a designee permission). Not even the most senior GOP congressperson, Speaker of the House John Boehner, is allowed to do it, without permission from his own guy. Here's the thing. Democrats are not always right. Neither are Republicans. The political system is messed up from top to bottom. But this is just crazy. The guy in charge of the GOP can't end the shutdown. Watch and see. At 5:00, we get to the reality of the situation. [video=youtube;0Jd-iaYLO1A] http://www.upworthy.com/congress-did-something-so-spectacularly-creepy-that-its-too-unbelievable-to-make-up?c=o98
  15. tl;dr: 29 year old guy named Ross Ulbricht in San Francisco got arrested after the FBI found him out as the operator of Silk Road. --- Authorities have arrested a man in San Francisco, California accused of operating an underground website that allowed users to purchase guns and drugs from around the world using encrypted, digital currency. Ross William Ulbricht, a 29-year-old graduate of the University of Pennsylvania School of Materials Science and Engineering known by the online alias “Dread Pirate Roberts,†was arrested by the Federal Bureau of Investigation on Tuesday for his alleged involvement in the Silk Road online marketplace, according to court papers published this week. The Silk Road website was shut down following Ulbricht's arrest on Tuesday. A sealed complaint dated September 27 was unearthed by security researcher Brian Krebs, in which Ulbricht is accused of narcotics trafficking conspiracy, computer hacking conspiracy, money laundering conspiracy and more. According to prosecutors, Ulbricht aided in the trafficking of controlled substances from January 2011 up until last week. Through a government investigation, authorities determined that several thousand drug dealers used Silk Road to distribute hundreds of kilograms of illegal drugs to over a hundred thousand buyers, laundering hundreds of millions of dollars in the process. Additionally, prosecutors say Ulbricht solicited a Silk Road user in March of this year to “execute a murder-for-hire.†The would-be victim, according to the FBI, was another user of the website who “threatened to release the identities of thousands of users of the site.†According to the complaint, Ulbricht eventually agreed to pay an online hitman the equivalent of approximately $150,000 to execute the user who threatened to leak customer details. “Ulbricht has been willing to pursue violent means to maintain his control of the website and the illegal proceeds it generates for him,†the FBI attests. The special agent who filed the criminal complaint wrote that law enforcement has no record of the homicide ever occurring. Elsewhere in the complaint, authorities quote from a private message between Ulbricht and another user of his site in which the administrator claimed to have previously ordered a “clean hit†for $80,000. The FBI says that law enforcement agents participating in the Silk Road probe made over 100 individual undercover drug deals from Silk Road vendors since November 2011. Sellers, authorities say, came from no fewer than 10 foreign countries. By relying on users to conduct deals through anonymizing software and with the encrypted Bitcoin digital currency, Silk Road has made waves since 2011 as an online hub for illegal activity. Prior to being shut down, customers computer savvy enough to navigate through the site were presented with a plethora of products to be purchased using Bitcoin, including illegal firearms, drugs or, reportedly, assassins. In the complaint, FBI Special Agent Christopher Tarbell testifies that Silk Road “served as a sprawling black-market bazaar, where illegal drugs and other illicit goods and services have been regularly bought and sold by the site’s users.†“All told, the site has generated sales revenue totaling over 9.5 million Bitcoins,†the FBI estimates, or roughly $1.2 billion in sales. The computer hacking conspiracy charge against Ulbricht has been brought by authorities because the website also offered the opportunity for customers to purchase “malicious software designed for computer hacking, such as password stealers, keyloggers and remote access tools.†As recently as last month, the FBI said it was able to browse advertisements on Silk Road for products that could be purchased on the site including multi-kilogram quantities of heroin, cocaine and meth, as well as forged government IDs and firearms. Source: http://rt.com/usa/silk-road-bitcoin-shut-650/ Personal Comment: Was going to happen sooner or later. "29. ... For example, on July 21st alone, DPR received approximately 3,237 separate transfers of Bitcoins into his account, totaling approximately $19,459." I knew he was making a fuckton of money, but over $19k a day? If that's the type of money he was making, I'm about to invest time in making "Sponge Road."
  16. President Barack Obama has spoken hours into the first US government shutdown in 17 years. Earlier, the US Senate again voted 54-46 along party lines to reject a House funding plan that would strip health care reform. Speaking in the White House Rose Garden on a day when 800,000 federal employees received orders to stay home, US President Barack Obama blamed Tea Party Republicans for the failure of Congress to pass legislation to extend temporary funding to the government beyond a deadline that expired at midnight on Monday. Obama said the partial shutdown of the federal government had been caused by "one faction of one party in one house of Congress." "We may not know the full impact of this Republican shutdown for a long time," Obama said. "The longer this shutdown continues, the worse the effects will be," the president added. "More families will be hurt, more business will be harmed." Nonessential civilian defense staff have the day - and potentially many other days - off, as is the case for other federal government services and programs not seen as imperative. Regulatory agencies, federal museums, national parks and NASA were among the institutions facing closure; exemptions were granted to civil servants including air-traffic controllers, most food inspectors and Border Patrol agents. Temporary spending bills usually pass with bipartisan support. The last two shutdowns proved unpopular when a Republican-led House forced them, both in the winter of 1995-1996, severely damaging the party's election prospects and reviving then-President Bill Clinton's political standing. "Unlike 1996, our economy is still recovering from the worst recession in generations," Obama said. Fighting health care The crisis has its roots in a campaign by the most right-wing faction of the Republican Party, known as the Tea Party, to overturn the 2010 Affordable Care Act, which is meant to allow better access to health services for millions of previously uninsured Americans. Key portions of the act, known popularly as Obamacare, came into force on Tuesday, the same day as the shutdown did. "They've shut down the government over an ideological crusade to deny affordable health insurance to millions of Americans," Obama said. He then challenged Republicans in the House of Representatives to "allow the public servants who have been sent home to return to work." The shutdown began when Congress missed a midnight deadline at midnight on Monday to pass a temporary funding bill, stalled by conservative efforts to push through a delay in the health care law. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of the Democrats said he would not negotiate as long as Republicans continued to hold up a straightforward spending bill to keep the government operating. Earlier on Tuesday, Obama's communications director, Jennifer Palmieri, told the US cable news channel MSNBC that the White House remained open to changes in the health care law in future negotiations, but not as part of passing a seemingly unrelated budget bill. She compared this to negotiating with "a gun pointed to your head." 'Completely irresponsible' In South Korea on Tuesday, US Defense Secretary Hagel said that allowing domestic policy differences to trigger a government shutdown was a poor move on the part of Congress. Hagel said that roughly half of the Department of Defense's 800,000 civilian staff would be told to go home when they reported to work on Tuesday. "This dark cloud of uncertainty ... affects our missions around the world. It affects our allies questioning our commitment," Hagel said in Seoul. "It does cast a very significant pall over America's credibility with our allies when this kind of thing happens. It's nonsensical ... It's completely irresponsible." On Monday evening, shortly before the midnight deadline passed, Obama had recorded a message to the armed forces, saying the rival parties in the US had reached a deal to continue paying 1.4 million military employees around the world. mkg/pfd (Reuters, AFP, dpa, AP) http://www.dw.de/as-congress-battles-obama-addresses-us-on-day-1-of-shutdown/a-17130707 Personal Comment From Bors: Double dissolution would come in handy here I think.
  17. tl;dr: Despite there being trained navy officers with weapons, one guy was able to kill 12 people at a Navy Yard before the police killed him. WASHINGTON — A shooting rampage at a U.S. Navy command complex in Washington left at least 13 people dead Monday, including one man identified as a gunman, authorities said. Aaron Alexis, 34, a civilian contractor from Fort Worth, was identified by officials as a gunman. The carnage and desperate efforts by responding officers to stop the shooting gripped the nation's capital city in a tense, day-long drama. Officials said at least three people were wounded in the gunfire inside building 197 at the Naval Sea Systems Command headquarters at Washington Navy Yard, including a law enforcement officer. Hospital officials said all three were expected to recover. Hundreds of workers in the Navy complex were forced to hide in place or flee for safety while gunshots echoed from a gunman firing into the cafeteria and other parts of the building. Just a mile or so away at the U.S. Capitol, the Senate temporarily locked down all its offices and buildings. The U.S. House was not in session but did not suspend office functions. President Obama said he is mourning "yet another mass shooting" and vowed to ensure "whoever carried out this cowardly act is held responsible." Washington Mayor Vincent Gray said the death toll, including a gunman, was 13. The situation remained fluid, and officials cautioned that the death toll could change. Gray said the shootings did not appear to be terrorism related but said the possibility had not been ruled out. The Washington Nationals baseball team, which plays its home games at a stadium close to the shooting scene, canceled its evening game. At nearby Washington Reagan National Airport, flights were disrupted and departures temporarily halted. Helicopters filled the skies around the Navy complex on the Anacostia River in the Southeast quadrant of the city, an area that has seen a development revival in recent years. Some of the copters airlifted the injured away in baskets suspended beneath the aircraft. Washington Metropolitan Police Chief Cathy Lanier said one shooter was killed in an exchange of gunfire with authorities and one police officer was wounded. Federal officials identified the dead shooter as Alexis. Internal security at the Navy Yard building had already "identified and engaged the shooter" by the time the first D.C. police arrived, Lanier said. She said police exchanged gunfire with the shooter "multiple times" before the final gun battle. Source: http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/09/16/navy-yard-shooting/2819543/ More info: http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/09/16/navy-yard-shooting/2819543/ Personal Comment:
  18. Things are getting serious for Bitcoin this month: a federal judge declared it real money, Bloomberg gave it an experimental ticker (XBT), and New York’s financial regulator announced an interest in regulating it. Declaring Bitcoin “a virtual Wild West for narcotraffickers and other criminals,†the New York State Department of Financial Services is stepping into the sheriff’s boots. “We believe that – for a number of reasons – putting in place appropriate regulatory safeguards for virtual currencies will be beneficial to the long-term strength of the virtual currency industry,†said NYSDFS superintendent Benjamin Lawsky in a statement. The department is starting out by subpoenaing 22 digital-currency companies and investors to get a lay of the Bitcoin land. They sent letters to the major Bitcoin players asking them to hand over information regarding their money laundering controls, consumer protection practices, source of funding, pitch books (for Bitcoin start-ups) and investment strategies (for Bitcoin investors). The recipients of the subpoenas are nationwide and include everyone on the “people making real money on Bitcoin†list, such as Bitcoin exchanges and processors, “ mining equipment†maker Butterfly Labs, and major investors, such as the Winklevosses, Marc Andreessen & Ben Horowitz, and Google’s venture fund. (Full list below.) A subpoena doesn’t mean criminal activity has taken place. A person familiar with the matter says the two-year-old department wants to make sure Bitcoin isn’t a conduit for illicit activities and is gathering information in order to decide whether to issue regulation for virtual currencies. The department has the authority to create regulation if there is no other primary regulator. Liberty Reserve — a virtual currency recently taken down by the feds for its use in money laundering and child porn rings — is on the mind of the department as it investigates Bitcoin. In addition to rooting out illegal activity, the department says it wants to make sure Bitcoin company customers’ funds are “safe and sound,†expressing concern about consumer complaints “about how quickly virtual currency transactions are processed.†On the same day the inquiry was announced, some Bitcoiners with Android wallets for their digital coins discovered their banks are not so sound: they are at risk of theft thanks to a flaw in a number of Android apps, reports BBC News. The virtual currency Bitcoin has already been getting lots of attention on the federal level. The IRS has been encouraged to make sure people pay tax on it. The FBI realizes it’s useful as a currency for illicit activity. The SEC has argued that it is indeed money and that people should go to jail for using it in Ponzi schemes. And the Department of Treasury has issued guidance for Bitcoin money transmitters. State regulators paying attention will help to further legitimize the currency, but it will also increase the start-up costs for Bitcoin money transmitters. The NYSDFS notes in its statement that “virtual currency exchangers may be engaging in money transmission as defined in New York law, which is an activity that is licensed and regulated by DFS.†That means ponying up bond money, as pointed out in the Wall Street Journal: Although a growing number of bitcoin exchanges have registered their businesses with the U.S. Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, they have moved more slowly at the state level. In part, that is because the process of getting a license in each of the 48 states that require them is complicated and lengthy. In addition, states also typically require companies to put up a bond that could run as much as several million dollars. “We look forward to working with the virtual currency industry and other stakeholders as our inquiry proceeds, and we move to put in place appropriate regulatory guardrails to protect consumers and our national security,†said NYSDFS superintendent Benjamin Lawsky in a statement. In addition to responding to the subpoenas, a few of the Bitcoin companies below are likely going to need to register as money transmitters in New York. And New York is not the only state paying attention to Bitcoin businesses. Earlier this summer, California sent out at least one warning letter to the Bitcoin Foundation. Personal comment: I don't think anyone wasn't expecting this, but one of the most cited appeals of Bitcoin has been that the decentralized nature makes it resistant to government regulation. Considering it's pretty difficult (impossible) to prevent Bitcoin laundering, this is just going to end with the criminals who use Bitcoin for illegal purchases/sells continuing to do their thing and people who use it for legitimate reasons suffering from the same regulation they started using Bitcoin to avoid. However, it is a currency, so it does make sense to be legally treated as such. also, Illegally Acquired Bitcoins Wallet > Bitcoin laundering Hidden Service > Proxy Wallet > Fraudulent payment for some form of service > 'Clean' Bitcoins Wallet > Legitimate Bitcoin to USD Service > gg, government. or Illegally Acquired Bitcoins Wallet > Illegitimate Bitcoin to USD Service > gg, government.
  19. http://www.bit-tech.net/news/hardware/2013/08/21/proxies-illegal/1 US court has ruled that simply changing one's IP address is enough to fall foul of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, if done to circumvent a deliberate block on accessing a site or service. Introduced back in 1986 to replace 18 USC § 1030 - the snappily-titled Fraud and Related Activity in Connection with Computers - the CFAA was designed to limit federal involvement in cases unless there was a particular nationwide interest, such as an attack on a major financial institution or that crosses multiple state lines. Despite numerous amendments - six so far, with the latest being the introduction of the Identity Theft Enforcement and Restitution Act in 2008 - there are still legal niggles that lawyers use in their arguments. It's one of these niggles that has been ruled by a court to come down hard against those who make use of proxy servers, or even who just manually change their IP address, to access systems from which they have been blocked on a previous IP. Even using a service like Google Translate could translate to a criminal offence, thanks to a new ruling on the CFAA by a US court. ... ....... ............
  20. tl;dr - Jackasses and their children almost die at sea because they're too stupid to buy a boat or plane ticket after deciding they need to flee from the US and it's gays and abortions. An extremist religious family with two small children have been rescued after being lost of sea for nearly three months when they attempted to abandon the U.S. in a small boat and sail 3,300 miles to the Polynesian island nation of Kiribati. The Gastonguays from northern Arizona set sail from San Diego in May with their newborn infant and 3-year-old daughter after deciding to 'take a leap of faith and see where God led us.' They believed that they needed to flee the nation because of what they see as government support for homosexuality and abortions and restrictions on their religious freedom. The family were almost immediately beset by storms that overwhelmed their small vessel and their limited nautical knowledge. They drifted for months and were running law [sic] on supplies before they were picked up by a passing tanker. On Friday the family landed in Chile and are expected to be flow home today on flights book by the U.S. State Department. The months-long journey has been 'pretty exciting' and 'little scary at certain points,' 26-year-old Hannah Gastonguay told The Associated Press by telephone on Saturday. She said they wanted to go to Kiribati because 'we didn't want to go anywhere big.' She said they believed the island to be 'one of the least developed countries in the world.' Kiribati is a group of islands just off the equator and the international date line about halfway between Hawaii and Australia - more than 3,000 miles from the U.S. coastline. The total population is just over 100,000 people of primarily Micronesian descent. The nation has a long history with missionaries and is 96percent Christian. It has a higher Human Development Index than South Africa or India. Hannah Gastonguay said her family was fed up with government control in the U.S. As Christians they don't believe in 'abortion, homosexuality, in the state-controlled church,' she said. 'We were in the thick of it, but we prayed. Being out on that boat, I just knew I was going to see some miracles.' Hannah Gastonguay, 26, on being lost at sea with her two children U.S. 'churches aren't their own,' Gastonguay said, suggesting that government regulation interfered with religious independence. Among other differences, she said they had a problem with being 'forced to pay these taxes that pay for abortions we don't agree with.' The Gastonguays weren't members of any church, and Hannah Gastonguay said their faith came from reading the Bible and through prayer. 'The Bible is pretty clear,' she said. The family moved in November from Ash Fork, Arizona, to San Diego, where they lived on their boat as they prepared to set sail. She said she gave birth to the couple's 8-month-old girl on the boat, which was docked in a slip at the time. In May, Hannah, her 30-year-old husband Sean, his father Mike, and the couple's daughters, 3-year-old Ardith and baby Rahab set off. They wouldn't touch land again for 91 days, she said. She said at first, 'We were cruising.' But within a couple of weeks 'when we came out there, storm, storm, storm.' The boat had taken a beating, and they decided to set course for the Marquesas Islands. Instead, they found themselves in a 'twilight zone,' taking more and more damage, leaving them unable to make progress. They could have used a sail called a genoa, she said, but they risked snapping off the mast and losing their radio and ability to communicate. 'They were looking for a kind of adventure; they wanted to live on a Polynesian island but they didn't have sufficient expertise to navigate adequately.' Chilean police prefect Jose Luis Lope They had been on the ocean for about two months and were low on supplies. They were out of food and were down to 'some juice and some honey.' She said they were able to catch fish, but they didn't see any boats. Still, we 'didn't feel like we were going to die or anything. We believed God would see us through,' she said. At one point a fishing ship came into contact with them but left without providing assistance. A Canadian cargo ship came along and offered supplies, but when they pulled up alongside it, the vessels bumped and the smaller ship sustained even more damage. They were getting hit by 'squall after, squall, after squall.' 'We were in the thick of it, but we prayed,' she said. 'Being out on that boat, I just knew I was going to see some miracles.' They watched the surrounding storms disperse, and 'next thing you know the sun is out. It's amazing.' Eventually, their boat was spotted by a helicopter that had taken off from a nearby Venezuelan fishing vessel, which ended up saving them. 'The captain said, "Do you know where you're at? You're in the middle of nowhere,"' she said. They were on the Venezuelan ship for about five days before transferring to the Japanese cargo ship, where they were for nearly three weeks before landing in Chile on Friday. The Chilean newspaper Las Ultimas Noticias reported the story of their arrival. 'They were looking for a kind of adventure; they wanted to live on a Polynesian island but they didn't have sufficient expertise to navigate adequately,' police prefect Jose Luis Lopez, who took the family's statement at San Antonio, told the newspaper. Sean Gastonguay's brother Jimmy, who lives in Arizona, said he had provided a description of the family's vessel to the U.S. Coast Guard and exchanged emails with them once they were picked up by the first boat. 'There was some concern, but we were hoping for the best, and they eventually popped up,' he said. He was able to keep track of the family with the help of the Coast Guard as they were transferred from ship to ship. 'We're all happy. We have good peace of mind now,' he said. Hannah Gastonguay said the family will now 'go back to Arizona' and 'come up with a new plan.' http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2389291/Gastonguay-family-abandoned-U-S-religious-reasons-sailed-Kiribati-lost-sea-3-months.html Personal Comment: Luke 4:12 "And Jesus answering said unto him, It is said, You shall not test the Lord your God." Deuteronomy 6:16 "Ye shall not tempt the LORD your God, as ye tempted Him at Massah."
  21. Spoilered for page stretch http://www.democracynow.org/2013/8/13/exclusive_owner_of_snowdens_email_service Personal Comment: If you haven't heard, Lavabit was an email service that, if you paid, encrypted your email, but the owner abruptly shut it down so that he wouldn't have to do some mysterious thing for the US government that he feels violated his customers' rights to privacy and he can't talk about what the government was requesting because if he does, he'll be tossed in prison. Murica. More importantly, the lavabit accounts I used are gone and I didn't save my emails so it's all lost and I have no way of continuing some emailing I was doing with another lavabit user. And they were all the free service accounts which weren't even encrypted.
  22. http://abcnews.go.com/m/story?id=19883948 Murrica, where you're so free you'll go to prison for buying someone a drink.
  23. By Matt Haldane WASHINGTON | Thu Aug 8, 2013 An unmanned scan-eagle gets hooked in its trap as its technicians look on onboard USS Ponce during the International Mine Countermeasures Exercise (IMCMEX) at the Middle East Gulf, May 13, 2013. Credit: Reuters/Hamad I Mohammed (Reuters) - The Federal Aviation Administration's recent certification of two expensive unmanned aircraft for commercial use further opens up the U.S. market for drones, but cheaper unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) will still have to operate in regulatory limbo. The drone industry was heartened by the FAA's decision in late July to greenlight Boeing Co's (BA.N) Insitu ScanEagle and AeroVironment Inc's (AVAV.O) Puma, in the first such U.S. certification of drones for commercial use. These remote aircraft weigh less than 50 pounds 22 kilograms), have wingspans of about 4.5 feet and come with a hefty estimated price tag of $100,000 each. Their approval is seen as a first step in unleashing a potentially multibillion-dollar industry that so far has been largely limited to military and law enforcement applications. In the meantime, however, dozens of companies are chomping at the bit for the FAA to certify their own more affordable drones, saying there is no way farmers and many others can invest in the type of UAVs that received certification last month. The Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI), an industry group, hailed the FAA's certification of the two drones. "This is a huge step forward and this is a big deal for our industry," said Ben Gielow, government relations manager for the group. Congress in early 2012 passed legislation calling on the FAA to write rules by 2015 that would govern the commercial operation of drones that can be used for everything from spraying pesticides on farmland to catching exotic-animal poachers to monitoring sport events. Aviation and aerospace industry research firm Teal Group has estimated that annual spending on drones around the world will almost double to $11.4 billion by 2022. AUVSI has estimated the industry could contribute more than $80 billion to the U.S. economy over a decade. The FAA is taking a cautious approach to the controversial aircraft. The U.S. government's use of weaponized drones to remotely kill foreign combatants has sparked a fierce debate, while privacy advocates fear a commercial explosion of big-brother-like drones. Rory Paul, chief executive of Volt Aerial Robotics, a St. Louis-based company, said the efficiency gains from using UAVs to scout and map farmland have prompted some farmers to use lower-priced drones in spite of FAA regulations. "The FAA doesn't have inspectors running around the heartland looking for people with UAVs," Paul said. Paul has provided a number of farmers with his company's Octane quadcopters, which cost $10,770 each. He also sells a fixed-wing UAV called the WaveSight for about $50,000. The FAA says it will try to stop unauthorized commercial activity if it becomes known but adds that it will resort to civil penalties only in extreme cases. "We really would only pursue a civil penalty if someone was operating an unmanned aircraft in a reckless manner," said FAA spokesman Les Dorr. 'GIANT LEAP' The FAA's interest in nudging along the commercial drone industry predates the 2012 legislation. The agency in 2009 created a Unmanned Aircraft Program Office to better organize its certification process, and in March of this year said it is still developing a plan to speed integration of civil drones into the national air space. To date, the FAA has mostly issued certifications for public safety and law enforcement purposes, including firefighting, border control and search-and-rescue missions. As of February 15, 2013, there were 327 active drone certifications. But once a regulatory framework is in place, the FAA estimates, 7,500 commercial drones will be viable within five years. The FAA called its certification of the ScanEagle and Puma a "giant leap" in the commercialization of drones. In a statement after it certified the Boeing and AeroVironment drones, the FAA said a major energy company plans to fly the ScanEagle off the Alaska coast in August to survey ice flows and whale migration in Arctic oil exploration areas. The Puma, meanwhile, will be used for oil spill monitoring and wildlife surveillance over the Beaufort Sea in the Arctic Ocean. Oil major ConocoPhillips (COP.N) confirmed it has been working with the FAA on the "regulatory and safety aspects" of unmanned aircraft but deferred further explanation until later this summer. In its next major step, the FAA is expected later this year to announce six test sites for unmanned aircraft, completing another requirement of the 2012 legislation. Still, not everyone is happy with the FAA's pace. Gielow from the industry group AUVSI said that despite the FAA's commitment to the sector, he is concerned that the agency is not on track for the 2015 congressionally mandated target. And Paul of Volt Aerial Robotics said the FAA has not yet done enough to tap into one of the biggest customer bases - farmers. "(The FAA) thinks they're going to have systems like the ScanEagle operating in agriculture, but that's not the case," Paul said. "They're simply too expensive." (Reporting By Matt Haldane; Editing by Karey Van Hall) http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/08/08/us-usa-drones-commercial-idUSBRE97715U20130808 Personal Comment From Bors: It could make a Courier Company's overheads melt away.
  24. Canadian Broadcasting Corporation http://www.cbc.ca July 28th, 2013 U.S. President Barack Obama called into question the number of jobs that would be created from the controversial Keystone XL pipeline in an interview with the New York Times released on Saturday. Republicans have said that this would be a big jobs generator," Obama said, according to the newspaper. "There is no evidence that that's true. The most realistic estimates are this might create maybe 2,000 jobs during the construction of the pipeline, which might take a year or two, and then after that we're talking about somewhere between 50 and 100 jobs in an economy of 150 million working people." TransCanada Corp's proposed pipeline is designed to carry 830,000 barrels of crude oil per day from the Canadian oil sands and the Bakken shale in North Dakota and Montana south to refineries on the U.S. Gulf Coast. It would cost about $5.3 billion US to build. Obama's administration is under pressure from Republicans and business groups to approve the project because of the economic benefits they say it will bring. Environmentalists oppose the project because of the carbon pollution they say it would generate. Carbon emissions are blamed for contributing to global warming. The project was first proposed in 2008 but is still making its way through a State Department study process. The Times said Obama disputed an argument that the pipeline would bring down gasoline prices. He said it might actually increase prices somewhat in the U.S. Midwest, which would be able to ship more of its oil elsewhere in the world, the paper reported. Obama said in June the project would serve U.S. interests only if it did not "significantly exacerbate" carbon pollution. The Times quoted him as saying that Canada could potentially be doing more to "mitigate carbon release." Trans Canada released a breakdown of the economic benefits of Keystone, including 42,100 jobs during the construction phase. In its latest review of the Keystone XL Pipeline, the State Department’s Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement described the economic benefits that construction of the pipeline would create: “This employment would potentially translate to approximately $2.05 billion in earnings. Direct expenditures such as construction and material costs (including construction camps) would total approximately $3.3 billion. Short-term revenues from sources such as sales and use taxes would total approximately $65 million in states that levy such a tax.†The administration's final decision is expected later this year or early in 2014.
  25. http://abcnews.go.com/US/george-zimmerman-emerged-hiding-rescue-family-trapped-suv/story?id=19735432 Why is he so based? Bounty on his head and half the country calling for his death and he still helps people in need.
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