31 May 2014

History for the day

On 31 May 1889, more than two thousand people perished when a dam break sent water rushing through Johnstown, Pennsylvania (photo, post-flood). There have been multiple large floods since then, in 1894, 1907, 1924, and 1936. Following the 1936 flood, the Corps of Engineers dredged the river within the city and built concrete rivers walls, creating a channel nearly twenty feet deep and, upon completion, proclaimed Johnstown "flood free". The new river walls withstood Hurricane Agnes in 1972 but, on the night of 19 July 1977, a severe thunderstorm dropped eleven inches of rain in eight hours on the watershed above the city, and the rivers began to rise. By dawn, the city was under eight feet of water. Seven counties were declared a disaster area, suffering two hundred million dollars in property damage, and nearly eighty people died. 
Rico says that, besides redefining 'hubris' (which the Corps is famous for) all this indicates that they didn't learn their lesson...

Oops for the day

Sam Wood has an article at Philly.com about an unusual in-flight problem:
Airline passengers often grumble about leg room and the quality of airplane food, but there’s a new complaint being aired by a few hundred souls who boarded a flight from Los Angeles to Philadelphia: not enough pooper-scoopers.
A Philadelphia-bound US Airways flight, already two hours delayed, was forced to make an emergency landing in Missouri after a passenger’s service dog defecated in the aisle.
“It was the worst smelling blowout I’ve ever smelled,” passenger Steve McCall told Inside Edition. “It wasn’t little pieces, it was full-fledged dog diarrhea.”
The crew was able to clean up the dog’s mess. But then the situation took a turn for the worse, as the dog pooped again. The stench wafting through the cabin made several passengers sick.
"The second time after the dog pooped they ran out of paper towels, they didn't have anything else,” said McCall. “The pilot comes on the intercom: ‘Hey, we have a situation in the back, we're going to have to emergency land.’"
Outraged passengers documented the incident on Twitter and other social media platforms.
“People started dry-heaving, a couple of people threw up,” McCall said. “The first time was bad, the second time people said: ‘You got to get us out of here! This is nasty.'”
The plane was diverted to Kansas City, Missouri. A cleaning crew scoured the aisle. The voyage resumed.
“You just had to laugh,” McCall said. “It was so outrageous and out of control. It was a story you couldn’t make up.”
Service dogs are "usually excellent flyers," said Bill McGlashen, spokesman for US Airways. "They know how to behave and sit in the right area. This is just one of the those incidents when the dog became ill."
Folks who rely on service dogs every day say the incident may be much ado about nothing.  "I'm sure this would not be a news story if a human had been sick on a plane," said Jim Kutsch, president and CEO at The Seeing Eye in Morristown, New Jersey and a Seeing Eye dog user since 1970. "Dogs are living beings and they, too, get sick."
Dogs routinely spend many hours without needing to relieve themselves, he said. Travelers with service dogs usually adjust the feeding schedules of their animals to accomodate a long flight. "Seeing Eye has been around since 1929, and if this is the first time that a story like this gets this much attention, it obviously doesn't happen very often."
Rico says he was once surprised by a Seeing Eye dog on a bus, but that was only because its owner showed no signs of being blind (and, okay, Rico admits he was distracted by her beauty), but, fortunately, never got sick...

Quote for the day

"If these are kids in the schoolyard, they are running around
with scissors."

Vikram Singh, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for South and Southeast Asia,
on the dangerous gamesmanship playing out among rival nations in Asia.

Outrage for the day

There are some things that render Rico almost speechless, and the BBC has an article by Divya Arya about one such:
There is outrage over police inaction in a village in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, where two teenage girls were gang-raped and hanged from a tree. The father of one victim says he was ridiculed by police when he sought help in finding his missing daughter. He said that when policemen found out he was from a lower caste, they "refused to look for my girl".
At least three men, including one policeman, have been arrested in connection with the incident. Relatives have complained that police refused to help find the missing girls, aged fourteen and sixteen, who were cousins from a low caste. "When I went to the police station, the first thing I was asked was my caste. When I told them what my caste was, they started abusing me," the father of one of the girls told the BBC.
Divisions between India's castes run deep. Violence is often used by upper castes to instil fear in lower castes. Although both the victim and the accused belonged to a caste grouping known as 'Other Backward Classes', the victims were lower in that hierarchy.
The victims had apparently gone out to relieve themselves as they had no toilet at home.
Campaigners have highlighted the lack of sanitation in rural areas as being a risk to women's security as well as their health, as they are often attacked when having to go out to go the toilet, particularly at night.
Police said two men had been arrested for the rape and murder of the girls. A constable was also detained for conspiring with the suspects and for dereliction of duty, authorities said, adding they were looking for one more suspect and one constable.
The incident has received top coverage on India's main television channels, NDTV, Times Now, and CNN-IBN.
Uttar Pradesh rape shockers reads a ticker on NDTV, which accuses the local police of being "complicit" with the attackers, and quotes relatives of the two girls saying they have "no faith" they'll receive justice.
Lawless in Uttar Pradesh read a top headline on CNN-IBN, which has started its own campaign using the hashtag #StopThisShame.
UP: 3 Rapes in 48Hrs is the lead on the Times Now channel, which reports the growing number of rape incidents in the state of Uttar Pradesh.
Outrage is the word used on the front pages of several leading English-language newspapers, including The Hindu and The Indian Express.
In an editorial, The Times of India lays the blame on the government of Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Singh, saying the hangings "exposes the state's slide into medieval lawlessness".
Senior police official Atul Saxena said there would be a "thorough investigation" into the allegations of caste discrimination by police.
People in Katra Shahadatganj, a town in Badaun district where the incident took place, say caste "plays an important role in social affairs" in the community.
One resident, named only as Teerath, said: "If media hadn't come here, the police wouldn't have done anything."
Rape cases that have shocked India:23 January 2014: Thirteen men held in West Bengal in connection with the gang rape of a woman, allegedly on orders of village elders, who objected to her relationship with a man.
4 April 2014: A court sentences three men to hang for raping a 23-year-old photo-journalist in Mumbai last year
15 January 2014: A Danish woman is allegedly gang raped after losing her way near her hotel in Delhi.
17 September 2013 : Five youths held in Assam for allegedly gang-raping a ten-year-old girl.
4 June 2013: A thirty-year-old American woman gang-raped in Himachal Pradesh.
30 April 2013: A five-year-old girl dies two weeks after being raped in Madhya Pradesh.
16 December 2012: Student gang raped on Delhi bus, sparking nationwide protests and outrage. A neighbor of one of the victims said the police "discriminated" against people from the lower castes in the town. "Even though the police has suspended some constables, the ones who replace them would not be any better," he said.
Most of the people in the village are farmers or farm laborers and many live in poverty, but Saxena denied that caste biases played any part in "influencing police behavior" in the state. "The police follows its rule book and considers all criminals equal before the law. There might be one or two cases like this one and we will make sure that the culprit doesn't go scot-free," he said.
Scrutiny of sexual violence in India has grown since the 2012 gang rape and murder of a student on a Delhi bus. The government tightened laws on sexual violence last year, after widespread protests following the attack. Fast-track courts were brought to the fore to deal with rape, and the death penalty was also brought in for the most extreme cases.
Some women's groups argue that the low conviction rate for rape should be challenged with more effective policing rather than stiffer sentences.
Rico says that we, technically, don't have a caste system in American (though money, particularly old money, still separates us), but wer refer to Other Backward Classes as Alabamans... But the death penalty sounds appropriate for a number of these cases...

30 May 2014


Rico says that his Dunkin' story is the litter its patrons throw out their car windows...

The Gang Slayer

True West magazine has an article by Bob Boze Bell about a famous, if little known, ambush:
December 19, 1854. Three American prospectors are traversing a miner’s trail in California’s Sierra Nevada MountainsCaptain Jonathan Davis, James McDonald, and Dr. Bolivar Sparks. As they walk up the trail, they are ambushed by a large gang of bandits (two Americans, one Frenchman, two Britons, four Mexicans, and five Sydney Ducks, members of an Australian gang of criminals wreaking havoc in San Francisco). This gang has been on a two-day violent crime spree, killing and robbing six Chinese and four Americans. Jumping out of the brush with pistols blazing, the outlaws cut down McDonald, who dies without drawing his weapon. Dr. Sparks yanks his six-shooter and gets off two shots before he is badly wounded and drops to the ground.
Captain Davis pulls two pistols and begins returning fire, dropping outlaws with almost every shot. Several outlaw balls rip through the captain’s clothing (a friend later counts six bullet holes in Davis’ hat). Despite his two slight flesh wounds, Captain Davis stands his ground, emptying both pistols with deadly accuracy. Seven of his attackers lay writhing and dying in front of him on the rocky terrain.
Four more robbers— all armed with Bowie knives, and one with a short sword— warily advance on the captain to finish him off. Davis pulls his own Bowie knife and engages the two leaders, stabbing one to death and knocking the knife out of the other’s grasp, a maneuver that slices off the leader’s nose and the finger on his right hand.
The last two attackers fare no better, as Captain Davis dispatches them both with ease (they are weakened by their wounds from previous raids). As the gunpowder and dust clears, one lone fighter has bested nearly a dozen of the worst “lawless ruffians” California has to offer, with seven of the would-be robbers dead and four desperately wounded (all four will die from their wounds). The three remaining outlaws flee for their lives.
Ignoring his own wounds, Captain Davis removes his shirt and tears it into strips to help bandage Dr. Sparks and the wounded robbers.
When three more armed men come up the trail, Davis leaps to McDonald’s body and retrieves his dead friend’s revolver, shouting: “Halt!” To his relief, the three turn out to be members of a mining hunting party camped a mile distant, on a creek running into the North Fork of the American River. While out hunting, they saw the entire fight from a nearby hilltop.
The bodies of the dead outlaws were searched, and the miners recovered $491 in gold and silver coins, four ounces of gold dust, and seven gold and two silver watches. At Captain Jonathan Davis’ request, the bounty was given to Dr. Bolivar Sparks.
Dr. Sparks was carried down the mountain by Captain Davis to the doctor’s home near Coloma, California, where he died from his wounds on 26 December.
Even though the fight garnered extensive coverage in the newspapers (eventually across the country), some doubters thought it too fantastic to be true. Stung by the criticism, Captain Davis challenged anyone to come along to Rocky Canyon, where he would show him or her the attackers’ graves. No one took him up on his offer.
Three months after the battle, Davis and three eyewitnesses to the fight— John Webster, Isaac Hart, and P.S. Robertson— appeared at the offices of the Mountain Democrat newspaper. Before Judge R.M. Anderson and a delegation of prominent citizens, the men presented written and verbal depositions of the fight, to everyone’s satisfaction.
Even though Captain Davis’ peers finally accepted his story, it’s hard to believe that, a hundred and sity years later, hardly anyone remembers the fight. That’s a shame. The incredible gunfight was rediscovered in the 1980s by researcher and author Bill Secrest Sr. With further research by John Boessenecker, the fight has a chance of reclaiming its rightful honor, Boessenecker states, as “the single most extraordinary feat of self-defense by an American civilian in the annals of frontier history.”
Rico says today it'd take a machine gun...

Missing jet Is outside the search area

Eliana Dockterman has a Time article about the latest on Flight 370:
The Malaysia Airlines plane missing since March is outside the region of the Indian Ocean that search teams have been scouring for weeks, officials said on Thursday.
A US Navy underwater vehicle had been searching the ocean floor for Flight 370 since early April, after searchers detected acoustic signals in the area that they believed to be coming from the plane’s black box. But the Australia-based joint search agency said that the plane is not in the vicinity of those pings.
The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) has advised that the search in the vicinity of the acoustic detections can now be considered complete and, in its professional judgement, the area can now be discounted as the final resting place of Flight 370,” the Joint Agency Coordination Centre said in a statement.
The plane, bound from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, went missing on 8 March 2014, and has become the longest disappearance—and the most expensive search—in modern commercial aviation history. Transmission data suggests the plane took a sharp turn off course and landed somewhere in the Indian Ocean. The search will now move to a much wider section of the ocean, encompassing up to twenty-four thousand square miles.
Rico says this ain't over...

Ballmer buys Clippers

The BBC has an article about a rich guy named Steve enriching another rich asshole named Donald:
Microsoft's former CEO Steve Ballmer has reached a deal to buy the Los Angeles Clippers basketball team for a potential record deal of two billion dollars.
Shelly Sterling, who owns the Clippers with her husband through a trust, said she was "delighted" with the deal. Donald Sterling was banned from the sport for life after he was recorded making racist remarks.
The National Basketball Association (NBA) later agreed to begin the process of selling the team.
However, Sterling's lawyer Bobby Samini argues that, as a co-owner of the team, he has to consent to the Clippers' sale and is refusing to back the deal. "That's his position. He's not going to sell."
Local media reports say that details of the deal are unclear and many questions relating to it are unanswered. NBA owners are due to meet in New York City to consider Sterling's remarks. The latest development could pre-empt a move by the NBA to force Sterling to sell his interest in the team.
Ballmer said in a statement that he was honored to have his name put forward to the NBA for approval. He thanked the league for "working collaboratively" with him throughout the sale. "I love basketball. And I intend to do everything in my power to ensure that the Clippers continue to win in Los Angeles," he said. "LA is one of the world's great cities, a city that embraces inclusiveness, in exactly the same way that the NBA and I embrace inclusiveness."
A forced sale of the LA Clippers would require the approval of three-quarters of the thirty team owners in the NBA.
In her statement, Shelly Sterling said Ballmer "will be a terrific owner". "We have worked for over thirty years to build the Clippers into a premier NBA franchise. I am confident that Steve will take the team to new levels of success," she said. The statement said that she made the deal "under her authority as the sole trustee of The Sterling Family Trust, which owns the Clippers".
Ballmer is believed to have outbid two rival groups for the team, one of which was led by media mogul David Geffen and included talk show host Oprah Winfrey.
Ballmer retired from Microsoft in February, but he still owns shares in the company.
Rico says that, as ever, it is good to be the prince...

Managing generals; like herding cats, doesn't work, and only irritates the cats

Delanceyplace.com has a selection from The Most Dangerous Man in America by Mark Perry:
Perhaps the most critical job in fighting the Germans and Japanese in World War Two was insuring the cooperation and managing the considerable egos of some of America's most senior American commanders, a list that included Douglas MacArthur and George Patton. This most delicate job regularly fell to the top general of them all: General and Army Chief of Staff George C. Marshall, who kept a little black book of the most talented military leaders, which he used as a reference in addressing the war's acute global need for combat leadership:
"As Marshall scanned the list of senior officers capable of higher command to be stationed in Australia and lead the war against Japan in the south Pacific, General Douglas MacArthur's name stood out. While MacArthur was 'shrewd, proud, remote, highly strung, and vastly vain,' as a British senior officer later described him, he was also experienced, courageous, imaginative, a brilliant organizer, and the sole senior American officer who had actually commanded large formations in wartime.
As Marshall scanned his list of potential army, corps, and division commanders— Dwight Eisenhower, Mark Clark, George Patton, Omar Bradley, Courtney Hodges, Robert 'Nelly' Richardson, and a half dozen others (all of them listed in the little black book he kept in the drawer of his office at the War Department)— he noted that none of them had MacArthur's experience. Eisenhower was untested, Clark a sniveler, and Patton a marplot; Bradley had never heard a shot fired in anger; Hodges lacked ambition; and Richardson was unwilling. MacArthur was the only one who wouldn't have to learn on the job and who had the experience necessary to reassure the frightened Australians.
In fact, MacArthur was much less of a headache for Marshall than other American commanders, such as Eisenhower's subordinates George Patton and Mark Clark. Patton, a bombastic showman, cultivated public acclaim and feuded with nearly everyone he met. His ego might have been unrivaled, except for Clark's. Despite being Eisenhower's best friend, Clark trailed a coterie of worshipful reporters and regularly disparaged anyone whose fighting qualities garnered public acclaim. Patton and Clark weren't the only problems Marshall had. Cultivating public attention was a virus among American commanders, sparking constant inter-service and inter-Allied feuding: Fleet Admiral and Commander in Chief of  the United States Fleet Ernie King despised Patton, Hap Arnold couldn't bring himself to speak to King, and Eisenhower thought British commander Bernard Law Montgomery 'conceited'. The animus didn't end there: Patton held all British commanders in disdain, Clark stewed over the headlines given his peers, and General Omar Bradley plotted ways to take advantage of Patton's antics. Meanwhile, General Terry de la Mesa Allen, one of the best American combat leaders, described Bradley as 'a phony Abraham Lincoln'.
Among all these interpersonal rivalries, MacArthur's efforts to push himself into the limelight stand out. He failed to publicize his subordinates' demonstrations of perseverance and valor. For example, when the Australians caved in the right flank of the Japanese position at Buna in Papua New Guinea, MacArthur's headquarters remained silent, and when General Robert Eichelberger's soldiers were assailing the Triangle (where rotting Japanese corpses were piled so high that the defenders wore gas masks), MacArthur issued a circular to the press: 'On Christmas Day our activities were limited to routine safety precautions. Divine services were held'.
MacArthur praised Eichelberger in a personal letter, awarded him the Distinguished Service Cross, bragged about him to visitors to his headquarters, but was irritated when Eichelberger was featured in the pages of the Saturday Evening Post and Life. 'Do you realize I could reduce you to the grade of colonel and send you home?' he asked, but then relented: 'Well, I won't do it.'"
Rico says the guy was an egomaniac, and smoked that stupid-looking corncob pipe...

29 May 2014

History for the day

On 29 May 1953, Mount Everest was finally climbed, as (later Sir) Edmund Hillary of New Zealand (photo, left) and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay of Nepal (photo, right) became the first to reach the summit.

Yeah, but...

The New York Times has two articles that seem to conflict:

The first, by Charlie Savage, says that we're trying to censor the memo approving drone strikes on Americans:
The Obama administration said the passages in the memo, which cleared the way for a drone strike in Yemen that killed Anwar al-Awlaki, discussed classified information.
The second, by Eric Schmitt and Ben Hubbard, says that the suicide bomber in Syria was a citizen:
The bomber is believed to be the first American involved in such an attack, officials said.
Rico says, if you're trying to kill Americans, you're fair game...

See you in court

The New York Times has an article by Jennifer Medina about a concept fraught with legal challenges:
After the recent attack near UCSB, California lawmakers are championing legislation that would permit the pursuit of a restraining order to keep people with a potential propensity for violence from buying or owning guns.
Rico says it's an interesting concept, but defining 'a potential propensity for violence' will be difficult. (Some would say Rico's bad attitude about some people would qualify.)


The New York Times has the bad news:
Recent Hubble Space Telescope measurements have confirmed that the Milky Way will collide with a sibling galaxy known as the Andromeda Nebula (photo) in about two billion years.
Rico says he won't be here (by a couple billion years), but hopefully we'll figure out a solution by then.

Judy Garland, the first teen idol

Delanceyplace.com has a selection from Teenage: The Prehistory of Youth Culture: 1875-1945 by Jon Savage:
Long before the Beatles hit Shea Stadium, the relatively unknown Judy Garland found herself as perhaps the very first teen idol, and was stunned by the overwhelming reception she received, primarily from teenagers, on a whirlwind publicity tour for the release of The Wizard of Oz. Garland and her frequent co-star, Mickey Rooney, thus helped usher in an age of teenage idols:
The studio had planned The Wizard of Oz as an epic to compete with the market domination of Fox' Shirley Temple, the biggest box-office draw of 1936, 1937, and 1938. It ended up at nearly double the cost of a typical major MGM picture. The studio had some serious recouping to do, and set in motion a massive promotional blitz that began in May of 1939 and continued building over the next three months up to the saturation booking of the film nationwide.
The film's theme tune, Over the Rainbow, had been intended by writers Yip Harburg and Harold Arlen as 'a song of yearning'. Performed by the film's sixteen-year-old female lead, Judy Garland, it was, by August of 1939, the most frequently played tune in the country.
MGM decided to send Judy Garland out on tour to coincide with the film's premiere in each city. The rising star would be accompanied by the country's top juvenile: Garland and Mickey Rooney had already been established as duo in 1938's Love Finds Andy Hardy, and the studio wished to promote the forthcoming musical Babes in Arms. Both were accomplished and popular vaudeville veterans, but no one could have predicted the response that began with the pair's first appearance in Washington on 9 August 1939 and that built over the next three days in Connecticut.
In New York City, the pre-hype reached a crescendo. The competition to be one of the hundred-and-fifty-strong 'official welcoming committee' had attracted a quarter million replies. When Garland and Rooney arrived in Manhattan at midday on 14 August 1939, the selected few were swamped by a 'screaming, delirious, perspiring roped-off mob' of ten thousand fans who filled Grand Central Station. The New York Daily News pictured Judy Garland stretched in a crucifixion pose between two rescuing policeman, her face contorted in a rictus of pain and shock.
On the day of the official opening at the Capitol Theater, the seventeenth, the queue began forming on Broadway at 5:30 am. By the time the five thousand tickets went on sale at 8 am, police estimated that fifteen thousand were outside the theater, eventually forming a line that went five and six deep around the block between 50th and 51st Streets, Broadway and Eighth Avenue. This time, reporters took a closer look at this predominantly female swarm and observed that 'about sixty per cent of the multitude were minors'.
Stunned by their reception, Garland and Rooney quickly recovered themselves and gave their professional best in the dance and vocal numbers that interspersed the performances of the film itself. By the end of the day, they had given seven shows to over thirty thosuand customers, according to the Hollywood Reporter: 'The overflow filled almost all the other Broadway houses, jammed the restaurants, soft drink parlors, and candy stores.' With rave notices, this pattern continued for nearly two weeks until Rooney's final appearance on 30 August: packed performances, jammed streets, mobbed stars."
Rico says he never liked the movies either made, but many do...

More Apple for the day

Time has an article by Doug Aamoth about the Beats deal:
After weeks of rumors, the Apple-Beats deal has finally become official. Here’s what’s happening.
Which parts of Beats is Apple buying?Apple is buying all of Beats, meaning the Beats Music streaming music service, and Beats Electronics, meaning the headphones and speakers. It’s a software, hardware, and talent deal.
How much is Apple paying?Both companies– Beats Music and Beats Electronics– are being scooped up (pending regulatory approval later this year, of course) for a total of three billion dollars; $2.6 billion of that is up-front, with a relatively tiny four hundred million to vest later.
When will the deal close?Assuming it clears regulatory approval, sometime in fiscal Q4 of 2014.
Will Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine be Apple employees?Yes, indeed. They’ll commute back and forth between Los Angeles and Silicon Valley. Their titles at Apple will simply be “Dre” and “Jimmy.” Iovine is leaving Interscope Records to join Apple full-time.
What will happen to the Beats brand?It’ll live on as a standalone brand even though it’s owned by Apple; “a first for the company,” says the Wall Street Journal.
Why didn’t Apple just build its own streaming music service?Tim Cook told Re/code’s Peter Kafka that he thinks Beats Music “is the first subscription service that really got it right”. Cook made no mention of Spotify, instead alluding to the human curation angle as being Beats Music’s biggest strength. Cook continued: “The thing that Beats provides us is a head start. They provide us with incredible people, that don’t grow on trees.”
How big of a purchase is this for Apple?Big. Cook told Kafka that Apple snapped up 27 companies between fiscal year 2013 and now, but the company’s second biggest buy after this three billion dollar Beats deal was buying Steve JobsNeXT Computer in 1997 for just north of four hundred million dollars.
Rico says sure, there's been some inflation since 1997, but three billion is still a lot of money, so these guys better be real smart...

Apple for the day

The BBC has an article about a rich guy, now a lot richer:
In an image provided by Apple (above), from left to right, music entrepreneur and Beats co-founder Jimmy IovineApple CEO Tim CookBeats co-founder Dr. Dre, and Apple senior vice president Eddy Cue pose together at Apple headquarters in Cupertino, California. 
Apple has confirmed it will buy headphone maker and music-streaming service provider Beats Electronics.The deal is worth a total of three billion dollars, and is thought to be Apple's largest acquisition to date. As part of the acquisition, Beats co-founders Jimmy Iovine and Dr Dre will join the technology firm.
Apple boss Tim Cook said the deal would allow the firm to "continue to create the most innovative music products and services in the world".
In a statement, Apple said it is paying an initial two-and-a-half billion for Beats, and approximately four hundred million "that will vest over time".
Beats was founded in 2008 by music producer Jimmy Iovine and hip-hop star Dr Dre and until recently was best known for its headphones (photo, top). It started a subscription-based music streaming service earlier this year.
Apple has its own iTunes store, the world's largest music download service, and launched iTunes Radio last year. But, despite having been an early pioneer of digital music, the California firm has been facing increased competition from subscription services such as Spotify, Pandora, and Rdio.
There had been speculation that Apple might drastically cut its offer price for Beats or pull the deal altogether, after a video of Dr Dre describing himself as hip-hop's first billionaire leaked online. But the deal has now been confirmed for only two hundred million less than what had originally been reported.
The press release announcing the tie-up mentions Beats' "premium sound entertainment", but there has been criticism of its headphones' sound quality. However, there's no doubting their popularity or the skill of Beats' co-founders Jimmy Iovine and Dr Dre in building up the brand.
It's questionable whether Apple's co-founder Steve Jobs would have been willing to share the limelight with two such outspoken personalities. But the challenge for the more reserved Tim Cook is to bring the two firms' very different cultures together, and to make the most of the Beats brand, as he delivers on a promise to launch new products this year.
However, Beats' music service only has about a quarter-million paying subscribers, compared with Spotify's ten million.
The deal with Beats also marks a departure for Apple, which has a reputation for developing new products in-house, rather than buying up smaller firms, a method preferred by rival Google.
But, in an interview with The New York Times, Cook hinted that Beats' founders may have been part of the attraction. "Could Eddy's team [referring to Eddy Cue, Apple executive in charge of iTunes] have built a subscription service? Of course," he told the newspaper. "You don't build everything yourself. It's not one thing that excites us here. It's the people. It's the service. These guys are really unique," Cook added. "It's like finding the precise grain of sand on the beach. They're rare and very hard to find."
The Apple boss also said that Dre and Iovine would be coming up with "products you haven't thought of yet".
Technology writer Benedict Evans tweeted: "If you think Apple's lost it, Beats deal is confirmation. If you don't, it's… perplexing. Few really convincing rationales."
Beats co-founder Jimmy Iovine, who made his name as chairman of the Interscope Geffen A&M record label, welcomed the deal. "I've always known in my heart that Beats belonged with Apple," he said.
Apple analyst Jim Dalrymple hinted that it may be Iovine's talent that the technology firm is after. Writing on his website The Loop, Dalrymple said: "In my opinion, Jimmy is going to play an important role going forward. Maybe not that you always see, but he'll be there".
As well as headphones, Beats sells earphones and portable speakers, and has even developed partnerships with carmakers and computer manufacturers to include its BeatsAudio software technology in their products. The company's flagship products have also received several celebrity endorsements, with stars including Lady Gaga, Lil Wayne, and Nicki Minaj designing their own customized Beats headphones.
Subject to regulatory approvals, Apple said it expects the deal to close in the fourth financial quarter of this year.
Rico says it is, as ever, good to be the prince...

Idiot for the day

Dylan Segalbaum has an article in The Philadelphia Daily News about yet another gub-toting idiot:
A student brought a gun to the Community College of Philadelphia yesterday, leading to a shutdown of the main campus and lockdowns at two nearby schools, police said. No one was hurt, and it was not considered an active-shooter situation, said Lieutenant John Stanford, a police spokesman.
Police arrested Ryan Fitch, 23, of Torresdale, Pennsylvania, who later was charged with terroristic threats, simple assault, reckless endangerment, and related offenses. A police source said that Fitch did have a permit to carry a gun.
Stanford gave this account:
Just before noon, police received a call about a person with a gun at the college, and college security officers told them of "some type of disturbance."
The man showed a gun and made "somewhat of a threat" toward another student during an argument. CCP prohibits anyone from having a gun on campus. The argument, apparently over a woman, took place in a chemistry lab in the West Building at 17th and Spring Garden streets.
The student left the building and contacted his parents. But, because police were not aware he had left, a SWAT team evacuated the building.
CCP's main campus was closed because of the evacuation and was to reopen today, according to notices posted on several campus buildings. Two nearby schools, Benjamin Franklin High School and Julia R. Masterman School, were placed on lockdown as well, authorities said.
Rico says, okay, some people should not have gubs (and this guy was certainly old enough to know better, and will now deservedly lose his permit as a result)...

28 May 2014

Another great one gone

The BBC has an obituary for Maya Angelou:
President Barack Obama (photo, bottom) has led the tributes to Maya Angelou (photo, top), describing the poet, author, and activist as "one of the brightest lights of our time". He hailed Angelou, who has died at the age of 86, as "a brilliant writer, a fierce friend, and a truly phenomenal woman". She made her name with the memoir I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, which charted a childhood of oppression and abuse in the Deep South in the 1930s.
Her family described her as "a warrior for equality, tolerance and peace". In a statement on Facebook, they said she passed away quietly at home in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. "Her family is extremely grateful that her ascension was not belabored by a loss of acuity or comprehension," they said. "She lived a life as a teacher, activist, artist, and human being... The family is extremely appreciative of the time we had with her and we know that she is looking down upon us with love."
Obama gave her the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the country's highest civilian award, in 2011. He said: "Over the course of her remarkable life, Maya was many things; an author, poet, civil rights activist, playwright, actress, director, composer, singer, and dancer. But above all, she was a storyteller, and her greatest stories were true."
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings dealt with the racism and family trauma of Angelou's upbringing "A childhood of suffering and abuse actually drove her to stop speaking, but the voice she found helped generations of Americans find their rainbow amidst the clouds, and inspired the rest of us to be our best selves."
Raised by her grandmother in Stamps, Arkansas, Angelou was raped by her mother's boyfriend at the age of seven. After she told her family what had happened, the boyfriend was killed. "I thought my voice had killed him, so it was better not to speak, so I simply stopped speaking," she said. She remained mute for five years, but read voraciously.
Former President Bill Clinton, who invited Angelou to read at his 1993 inauguration (photo, middle), said America had lost a national treasure, and he and wife Hillary had lost "a beloved friend. The poems and stories she wrote and read to us in her commanding voice were gifts of wisdom and wit, courage and grace," he said. "I will always be grateful for her electrifying reading of On the Pulse of Morning at my first inaugural and, even more, for all the years of friendship that followed."
Others paying tribute included civil rights campaigner Reverend Jesse Jackson, who wrote: "The renaissance woman has made a peaceful transition. She acted, sang, danced, & taught She used poetry as a road for peace."
Harry Potter author JK Rowling posted one of Angelou's quotes: "'If you are always trying to be normal, you will never know how amazing you can be.' Maya Angelou, who was utterly amazing."
A statement from Wake Forest University, where Angelou had been professor of American studies since 1982, said: "Dr. Angelou was a national treasure whose life and teachings inspired millions around the world."
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, which dealt with the racism and family trauma of her upbringing, spent two years on the US best-seller list after its publication in 1970. It was the first of seven memoirs. After the poverty, violence and segregation of her childhood, she became a singer, a dancer, cocktail waitress, prostitute, and an actress before beginning her writing career. Her career had many outlets, straddling television, theater, film, children's books and music. Angelou was also a prominent civil rights activist and a friend of both Martin Luther King and Malcolm X.
Through her writing and interviews, her strength and eloquence as a role model for those seeking to overcome inequality and injustice won her many admirers.
In her final Facebook post, she said an "unexpected medical emergency" had forced her to cancel an engagement.
Rico says he's not overly fond of poetry, but the lady should sure crank out the good stuff, and recite it, too. (And "after she told her family what had happened, the boyfriend was killed", is a great solution...)

GlaxoSmithKline investigated for fraud

The BBC has an article about GSK, in trouble:
Drugs giant GlaxoSmithKline is to have its "commercial practices" investigated by the Serious Fraud Office (SFO). The British company, which is already facing allegations of bribery in several countries, said it would "co-operate fully" with the SFO.
Earlier this month, Chinese authorities accused GSK staff of bribing government and hospital officials in the country.
GSK refused to comment on whether the SFO criminal investigation was connected to any specific incident. In a short statement, the firm said it was "committed to operating its business to the highest ethical standards".
The pharmaceutical giant, which is one of the largest companies in the UK, is also facing inquiries into similar allegations in Poland and Iraq. If the allegations are proved, GSK may have violated both the UK Bribery Act and the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.
It is illegal for companies based in the US or UK to bribe government employees abroad.
In a statement, the Serious Fraud Office confirmed it had "opened a criminal investigation into the commercial practices of GlaxoSmithKline plc and its subsidiaries".
The agency added that "whistleblowers are valuable sources of information to the SFO in its cases" and that it welcomes "approaches from anyone with inside information on all our cases, including this one".
In April of 2014, BBC Panorama heard from whistleblower Jarek Wisniewiski, a former sales rep for GSK in the Polish region of Lodz, who told the program that doctors had been paid to promote the company's asthma drug Seretide. Eleven doctors in the country and a GSK regional manager were charged over alleged corruption between 2010 and 2012, BBC Panorama revealed.
Last July, Chinese authorities announced they were investigating GSK, detaining four Chinese GSK executives.
GSK has previously confirmed that it informed the SFO, as well as the US Department of Justice and the US Securities and Exchange Commission, about the Chinese investigation.
Rico says that, as a former employee of GSK in the States, he can only say tee-hee... (But is there a Minor Fraud Office?)

British scam for the day

Rico says that the UK is back...
From: "Mrs Sussie David" <info@mail.com>
Sent: Friday, 23 May, 2014 06:33
Dear Beloved:
I hope my message meets you well, I am Mrs. Sussie David, presently at the
hospital, I am married to the late Paul David, who was a cocoa merchant and an
oil explorer in London, England for many years before he died in the year 2008. We
were married for twenty-nine years without a child. Before his death we
were both born-again Christians. Since his death, I decided not to re-marry
or get a child outside my matrimonial home which the Bible is against.
When my late husband was alive he deposited the sum of thirteen million, five hundred thousand dollars with a Bank in London.
Presently, this money is still with the Bank. Recently, my Doctor told me that I would not last for the next three months due to cancer problem, though what disturbs me most is my stroke. Having known my condition, I decided to donate this fund to a church, a mosque, or, better still a individual that will utilize this money the way I am going to instruct here in. I want a church, mosque, or individual that will use this to fund churches, mosques, orphanages, and widows propagating the word of God and to ensure that the house of God is maintained. The Bible made us to understand that blessed is the hand that giveth.
I took this decision because I don't have any child that will inherit this money, and my husband relatives are not born-again, and I don't want my husband's hard-earned money to be misused by unbelievers. I don't want a situation where this money will be used in an ungodly manner, hence the reason for taking this bold decision. I am not afraid of death hence I know where I am going. I know that I am going to be in the bosom of the
Lord. Exodus 14 VS 14 says that the Lord will fight my case and I shall hold my peace. I don't need any telephone communication in this regard because of my health, and because of the presence of my husband's relatives around me always.
I don't want them to know about this development. With God all things are possible. As soon as I receive your reply I shall give you the contact of the Bank and Certificate of Deposit which you will need to claim the money. I will also issue you a letter of authority that will empower you as the original beneficiary of this fund. I want you and the church to always pray for me, because the Lord is my shepherd. My happiness is that I lived a life of a worthy Christian. Whoever that wants to serve the Lord must serve him in spirit and truth. Please always be prayerful all through your life. Any delay in your reply will give me room in sourcing for a church, mosque, or individual for this same purpose. Please assure me that you will act accordingly as I stated herein, so I can give you my lawyer's
contact information, because he his the one monitoring the fund since my late husband died, and he knows everything concerning it. Hoping to hear from you. I know my God has directed me to you Remain blessed in the name of the Lord and get back to me via my email address: mrssussied2233@gmail.com 
Best Regards
Mrs Sussie David 
The information contained in this email and any attachments is confidential and may be subject to copyright or other intellectual property protection. If you are not the intended recipient, you are not authorized to use or disclose this information, and we request that you notify us by reply mail or telephone and delete the original message from your mail system.
Rico says that, yet again, two different emails... (And isn't everyone a 'cocoa merchant and an
oil explorer'?)

Japanese scam for the day

Rico says Japan is back...
From: "Mrs. Juliana Patrick" <somala.l@bidc.com.kh>Sent: Saturday, 24 May, 2014 05:19 
Dearest Friend,My name is Mrs. Juliana Patrick, I am married to Engineer Mr. Pius Patrick fromUnited Kingdom (U.K) who has an appointment in Tokyo, Japan as the chiefmanaging director to Abbes Suzuki Association Tokyo-Japan under engineeringproject/contract awarding section.My husband died as a result of brief illness called heart attack, while he wascoming back from a new location area on project inspection on Saturday, 10th December 2006. Before his death, as a result of our joint account venture, we have twenty million dollars in our fixed deposit account.Dear one, I was brought up as an orphan and was married to my late husband fornine years without a child and am of age, I am 68 years now and am suffering fromkidney infection and a long time cancer of the lungs, which has affected my brain, and from all indication my condition is really deteriorating.According to my doctors, my health is very poor because of the cancer ailment,I cannot stay to live up three months ahead, and I am having serious problemwith my husband's family members. I am not afraid of death hence I know where Iam going. I know that I am going to be in the bosom of the Lord.Exodus 14 VS 14 says that the Lord will fight my course and I shall hold mypeace. Therefore I need a God-fearing person who will assure me that he/shewill use this fund to help the motherless babies, orphanages, charity organizations, and less privileged ones, and using for work of God.I took this decision because I don't have any child that will inherit thismoney. As soon as I receive your reply and consider it right, I shall give youthe contact of my attorney who will assist you towards the claim. I want you toalways pray for me because I don't have many days to live, reply me on email.
Rico says he wonders why is he always their 'dearest friend' when he's never heard of them? (And why do they always have different emails coming and going?)

Mexican scam for the day

Rico says Mexico is new...
From: "John Maxwell" <headoffice@myanmareasenet.com>Sent: Saturday, 24 May, 2014 13:23Subject: FUND RELEASE DELIVERYDear Valued customer,I will not believe this until i hear back from you at this crucial point, did you at any point in time asked Mr Carlos Alberto from the country of Mexico to claim your fund on your behalf? He said you are not interested in the transaction anymore, This is very strange and I can't imagine that you said you are not interested anymore in your payment/delivery. I want to hear from you as soon as possible before it is too late for us to allow him divert the fund to another country as he is claiming right now. 
1. Your full name2. Full address (street address, city, state and zip code)3. Direct Phone4. Occupation, age and marital status5. Copy of driver's license for identification 
John Maxwell

Another Nigerian scam for the day

Rico says you gotta give them Nigerians credit; they keep at it...
From: ".JEFF DANIELS" <jdan@eonet.ne.jp>
Sent: Sunday, 25 May, 2014 05:20
Subject: Re; NNPC Details 
I am Jeff I. Daniels, Lawyer & World Bank Senior Auditor (Washington DC USA). World Bank, in conjunction with the NNPC, has appointed me to audit the financial books and records of Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) from 2002 to 2012. Because there have been so many unclaimed and unpaid contract funds lying fallow and not paid for years, the World Bank, together with the Federal Government of Nigeria, has ordered the immediate audit review of all financial books and records of Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC including contract papers between 2002—2012 to ascertain reason or reasons why these numerous contract funds are not paid. In the course of my audit and accounting investigation at the Petroleum Corporation as World Bank Appointed Independent Auditor, one of the unclaimed numerous contract funds amounting to multi-million US Dollars caught my attention.
The contract has been long executed and the contract payment approved and ready for release but the foreign expatriate contractor, Hansen-Lee Bucker, an Asian-American who executed the contract, has died since 2005 in the South American island of Martinique while on vacation. Since December 2005, the Contract Fund has been ready to be paid to either his Associate or Representative, but the contract documents did not specify or made mention of the name of either his Associates or Representatives to receive the fund. As a Lawyer and Auditor that worked on the contract details and have all facts and documents about the contract, I have the legal contract documents to present you to the Corporation as his Associate or Representative to enable us claim the fund as I have copies of all Original Contract Documents/Papers. I audited the Corporation and with these original documents, the contract fund is as good as claimed.
The good news is that the Corporation has approved the payment to be released via the Corporation's Offshore Bankers in USA, JP Morgan Chase Bank New York. The contract fund is to be paid to the Associate or Representative to the deceased Contractor, Hansen-Lee Bucker. I need your partnership to claim the contract fund. I shall present you to the Corporation as his Associate or Representative and I will back it up with the Original Contract documents at my disposal and the fund will be released to us while we share it accordingly in a percentage that will be good both of us.
I will give you my details, copy of my identification and further details of the Contract once I receive your response agreeing to partner with you to claim this fund.
I wait for your reply. 
Jeffrey I Daniels
Lawyer & World Bank Senior Audit
Direct Tel: + 1 646 363 6825
Rico says, ignoring all the other copious bullshit here, doesn't Hansen-Lee Bucker sound like an Asian-American to you?

EU scam for the day

Rico says he's quite sure the EU has better things to do:

From: "Payment Notification" <secretary@torbaymdc.co.uk>
Sent: Sunday, 25 May, 2014 07:40
Subject: Ref: Your Unpaid Lottery/Contract/Inheritance Fund
European Union Office for Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)
EU/UN High Commission Plaza, Washington DC, USA
Our Ref: EU/UN/OCHA-WA/511
Ref: Your Unpaid Lottery/Contract/Inheritance Fund 
Dear Sir/Madam,
Consequent to the clamoring appeals and petitions leveled against the Federal Government by the esteemed lottery, contract, and Inheritance fund claimants due to the non-payment of their overdue fund; the European Union High Commission has been conferred the sole responsibility to carry out a thorough and satisfactory scrutiny of the issue affected beneficiaries, and thus we discovered with dismay that your payment sum of $10.5m has also been unnecessarily delayed by the corrupt officials.
However, we are unaware that most unpaid and affected beneficiaries harbors some odd sentiment, disenchantment and discontentment about the Federal Government, but you are to be re-assured that in every adversity carries its proportional advantage.
Nevertheless, our discovery during our Investigation is that you have been scammed and mis-led by some syndicates in Government offices, especially in Africa. So many of these corrupt officials have been sacked, probe and detained in jail custody, after they were found guilt of the petition written on them by fund beneficiaries. Be advised to desist from further communication with every offices/Authorities/Banks you have been dealing with in regards to your fund to avoid anything that will jeopardize our efforts towards your payment. 
Yours faithfully, 
Mr. Frank Thomas

Nigerian scam for the day

From: "Mrs. Sarah Powell" <info@cancer-clinic.co.uk>
Sent: Sunday, 25 May, 2014 08:34
Dear Beloved:
Greetings in the name of God. Please let this not sound strange to you, for my only surviving lawyer who would have done this, died early this year. I prayed and got your email id from your country's guest book which I have been with my late husband and liked to visit once more if God will in his Infinite mercies.
I am Mrs. Sarah C. Powell from Australia, 58 years old, am suffering from a long-time cancer of the lungs which also affected my brain, from all indication my conditions is really deteriorating and it is quite obvious that, according to my doctors, they have advised me that I may not live for the next two months, this is because the cancer stage has gotten to a very bad stage. I was brought up from a motherless babies home, was married to my late husband for twenty years without a child, my husband died in a fatal motor accident. Before his death we were true Christians. Since his death I decided not to re-marry, I sold all my inherited belongings and deposited all the sum of 10.5 million dollars with KeyStone Bank Plc, Nigeria.
Presently, this money is still with them, and the management just wrote me as the true owner to come forward to receive the money for keeping it so long, or rather issue a letter of authorization to somebody to receive it on my behalf, since I cannot come over because of my illness, or they get it confiscated.
Presently, I'm with my laptop in a hospital in London where I have been undergoing treatment for cancer of the lungs. My doctors have told me that I have only a few months to live. It is my last wish to see that this money is invested to any organization of your choice and distributed each year among the charity organization, the poor, and the motherless baby's home. I want you, as a God-fearing person, to also use this money to fund churches, orphanages and widows; I took this decision, before I rest in peace, because my time will soon be up.
As soon as I receive your reply I shall give you the contact of the KeyStone Bank Plc. I will also issue you a letter of authority that will prove you as the new beneficiary of my fund. Please assure me that you will act accordingly as I stated herein. You are requested to send to me the following information to enable me use it to write a Letter of Authorization on your behalf to the bank so that they will release the money to you as my new next of kin. 
(1) Your Full Names:_________________
(2)Personal or Official Contact Address:_________________
(3)Home or Office Phone#: Cell Phone#:_________________
(4)Your Age:_________________
(6)Sex/Marital Status:_________________
(7)Your Private E-Mail Address:_________________
Please reply me through my private email address.
Awaiting your kind response while craving your appreciation of my predicament. 
Your Sister In Christ,
Mrs. Sarah C. Powell
Rico says another remedial writing candidate...


The New York Times has an article by Mark Landler:

U.S. Troops to Leave Afghanistan by End of 2016
The move will bring to an end more than a decade of American military engagement in Afghanistan following the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks.
Rico says that the Afghans should hire themselves some of the Brigade of Gurkhas; a good kukri charge would put the fear of Allah into the Taliban...

27 May 2014

Satellite data

David Stout has a Time article with the latest on Flight 370:
Malaysia Airlines passenger jet missing since March of 2014 ran out of fuel and crashed somewhere deep in the Indian Ocean, according to satellite data made public recently. The data had long led authorities to conclude that Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 went down without survivors, but an international hunt has yielded no sign of the plane, and family members of those on board pushed hard for release of the data. British satellite company Inmarsat released a forty-plus-page dossier after holding off for months in deference to the Malaysian government, which has headed up search operations for the plane. Both parties announced last week that they had agreed to publish their records.
The plane departed from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia en route to Beijing, China early on 8 March 2014 with 239 people aboard, but the plane disappeared from radar screens approximately forty minutes later.
Authorities have had to rely largely on the British firm’s data, which consisted of hourly maintenance signals sent from the craft. Based on Inmarsat’s information, experts concluded that the craft likely went down in the southern Indian Ocean. No physical evidence has yet been recovered from the large swath of ocean where the plane is believed to have crashed.
Some family members remain skeptical of where the search is focused and wary of information released by a Malaysian government, in whom they place little trust. “I think far too much has been left to experts who have remained behind the curtain,” K.S. Narendran, whose wife Chandrika Sharma was on the flight, told CNN.
Rico says at least they had the Inmarsat data; without that, we might never know...

Elizabethan England

DelanceyPlace.com has a selection from The Economic History Review, Poor relief in Elizabethan English communities: as analysis of Collectors' accounts, by Marjorie K. McIntosh:
Although welfare has often been portrayed as a modern development, there is ample evidence that laws of this type were present in societies centuries ago. In medieval and Elizabethan England, for example, laws existed that mandated rates (or taxes) be collected from citizens in parishes and boroughs by Collectors for the Poor and then distributed as income to the needy. They were appointed by parishes and incorporated boroughs in accordance with the poor laws of 1552 and 1563, but few of their fragile records survive. The accounts document early use of compulsory rates to provide income for the poor. Adult male recipients outnumbered women in many of the parishes; children were frequently helped directly; and cities and towns assisted a smaller fraction of their total populations than did villages but awarded larger per capita payments. Elizabethan Collectors were moving away from the late medieval practice of providing only occasional aid; increasingly they awarded regular payments to a selected subset of the local poor.
The standard historical narrative has been that a formal system of relief based upon compulsory rates was introduced by the poor laws of 1598 and 1601. Scholars working on assistance to the needy, however, have long observed that the late Elizabethan legislation built upon earlier local experiments and Parliamentary measures. Paul Slack pointed out that many of the country's major urban centers, facing severe problems with poverty starting in the mid-sixteenth century, imposed poor rates and distributed that income. Slack and Steve Hindle noted that, in the late Elizabethan period, a few parishes in smaller communities, located mainly in south-east England, were likewise starting to use rates. Dyer pushed the history back several centuries earlier, showing that some late medieval parishes or 'the village community' administered charitable bequests to the poor, on a one-time or continuing basis. The statutes of 1552 and 1563 required all parishes and incorporated boroughs to name Collectors for the Poor to gather money from those who could afford to pay in order to assist people unable to work for their own support. The help given by Elizabethan Collectors was sometimes augmented by ad hoc assistance to people in special need as provided by churchwardens out of general church income or from bequests. A few fortunate communities had endowments of land whose rental income was earmarked for the poor. Additional aid might come from private charities or almshouses, and the government's orders for 'general hospitality' in the later 1590s instructed householders to provide food for the needy. Such help joined the entirely informal support given by relatives, friends, and neighbors.
Rico says we call them the IRS now... 

26 May 2014

Boko Haram for the day

The BBC has an article about the latest from Nigeria:
The Nigerian military say they know where the girls kidnapped by Boko Haram are, but they will not attempt a rescue. Nigeria's Chief of Defense Staff said it was "good news for the parents," although he admitted the military would not risk "going there with force".
More than two hundred girls were abducted by Boko Haram gunmen from their school in northern Nigeria in April of 2014.
Earlier, the BBC learned that a deal to release some of the girls was close but was called off by the government. The BBC's Will Ross in Abuja says an intermediary met leaders of the Islamist group and visited the place where they were being held. He says agreement was almost reached to release fifty of the girls in exchange for the release of a hundred Boko Haram prisoners.
But the Nigerian government pulled out of the deal after President Goodluck Jonathan attended a conference on the crisis in Paris, France. The reasons for the withdrawal are unclear.
Nigeria's government is under pressure to do more to tackle the group and bring about the girls' release. Thousands of people have died since Boko Haram began a violent campaign against the Nigerian government in 2009 and in the subsequent security crackdown.
Chief of Defense Staff Air Marshal Alex Badeh said that "the good news for the parents of the girls is that we know where they are" but said he couldn't reveal the location. "But where they are held, can we go there with force? We can't kill our girls in the name of trying to get them back," he added. Badeh was addressing demonstrators who had marched to the Ministry of Defense in Abuja to protest against the government's response. "Nobody should come and say the Nigerian military does not know what it's doing," he told the crowd. "We know what we are doing. The president is solidly behind us. The president has empowered us to do the work," he said.
The girls, who were mainly Christian, are thought to be held in a remote forested area of the north-eastern Borno state, close to the border with Chad and Cameroon.
Nigeria previously insisted it would not agree to free Boko Haram members in return for their release but the information ministry insisted that all options were on the table.
The UK, the US, China, and France are among those countries to have sent teams of experts and equipment to help to locate the girls.
Rico says the Nigerians are setting themselves up to fail, so they better hope the SEALs save their butts... (And let Rico be the first to say that the Nigerian military does not know what it's doing.)

Passwords can never be too strong

John Timpane has an article in The Philadelphia Inquirer about eBay:
Can any password ever be strong enough?
About 233 million people, somewhere between the populations of Brazil and Indonesia, may well be asking that question right now. That's the number who have accounts on eBay, the world-beating auction site. Their question tells much about this fascinating moment in the history of e-commerce.
This week, it emerged that hackers had compromised a big cache of eBay accounts. eBay said no financial information had been compromised, but it strongly suggested everybody change his or her passwords anyway. Then it offered some rather goofy advice about "a good, secure password". But can any password ever be strong enough?
There's an answer, and you're not going to like it.
eBay is just the latest big site to suffer hacking most cruel. In the last six months, barbarians have swarmed the battlements of Gmail, Facebook, and Twitter in one swoop, Target in another. In April of 2014l came dismaying news of Heartbleed, a bug that, for two years, siphoned off private info from some of the biggest sites on the web. The upshot:wait for your sites of choice to bolster their protections, then change all your passwords.
Back to eBay. What's shocking is what the site was not protecting. eBay's financial stuff is done via PayPal and is encrypted and thus protected. But customer names, e-\mail addresses, physical addresses, phone numbers, and birthdays: not! How could this be?
"I wish it were amazing," says Eric McCloy, deputy CIO at Arcadia University, "that large corporations don't protect data well." Why is he not surprised? "Because hacking techniques have progressed exponentially, while companies have been slow to recognize it."
Tom Kellermann is chief security officer for Trend Micro, a cyber-security firm in Irving, Texas. "I don't want to take anything away from the good work of places like eBay," he says, "but any site that handles the personal information of hundreds of millions of people has to be working harder to protect that information."
We're at a turning, tipping, or flopping point in the history of e-commerce and e-piracy. Many, many of the forty percent of the human race who are online have long since embraced e-commerce. It's quick, easy, gets delivered to your door, cool. It's cheaper than brick-and-mortar stores for businesses, too.
"So you'd think big sites would be investing more in security," says Kellermann. Granting that a security firm executive would say that, you also have to grant that, no matter what you do, the pirates will always be sailing ahead of the good guys. "For a thousand dollars or so," Kellermann says, "you or I can lease software that can defeat the protection systems used by most major websites." Now.
Clearly, the big guys' standard protection systems are not good enough. Behind the times, even. What happens if consumers cease to trust? Will they go elsewhere? Or will industry get better at this?
eBay tried to give advice about a "good, secure password." You know, "a combination of at least six to eight letters, numbers, and special characters." But the witty blogger Troy Hunter submitted a monster, ,83eQYr$m76H>ojqj [Em, to eBay's evaluating tool and got back medium.
Sincere advice followed about other measures. "Do not use single words that can be found in the dictionary," such as kangaroo. And "Do not use your name, your spouse's name, your pet's name, birthday, favorite food, or any personal information that others can easily guess." Good advice; since 1994.
So is "create a different password for each of your online accounts." Problem: almost no one, no one, will ever do this. As McCloy points out: "People are satisfied with a single layer of protection. A lot of people will use their single password on every website they're on." He recommends a password manager, software "that you access with a single password, and generates different passwords for each of the sites you use."
Besides, as Kellermann points out, "passwords are not enough. There are too many ways to crack them or steal them. In Eastern Europe every day, there are black-market auctions of thousands of passwords and e-mail addresses." Even the strongest password is but a momentary stay. (McCloy quotes Randall Munroe's fabulous site xkcd: "Through twenty years of effort, we've successfully trained everyone to use passwords that are hard for humans to remember, but easy for computers to guess.")
Will companies invest in better security? Or will e-consumers just have to strap on bandolier after bandolier of self-protection? Questions to ask, about ten years ago.
Rico says this is why he has a totally separate card for on-line purchases, but every IT guy that gets hacked should be ashamed, if not fired...

Giant asteroid coming

CNN has a report on impending doom:
If astronomers are right, all life on this planet could be extinguished in less than thirty years from now. Scientists at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory have detected a large object the size of Manhattan possibly on a collision course with Earth. Using their Near-Earth Object Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (NEOWISE), the ten-mile wide object was found approximately fifty million miles from Earth. Scientists believe that, during a close encounter with Mars, the asteroid was nudged slightly off its usual orbit and may currently be on a high speed collision course with our fragile planet.
The asteroid is calculated to have a potentially lethal encounter with the Earth on March 35, 2041. Astronomers have placed the odds of an impact at 1 in 2.04, which is by far the most unprecedented risk ever faced to humanity, let alone from asteroids. Such an impact could potentially end civilization as we know it.
More information will be posted here as the story develops...
Rico says he'll be dead before it gets here, but the grandkids are screwed, if they can't figure out to to deflect it... (And didn't they try that in Asteroid?) But, unless Rico is mistaken (or CNN is) March does not have 35 days in it...

Memorial Day

Rico says it's easy to forget those who paid the price for our freedom, but we shouldn't:
One action by a single person can reverberate across decades. When America entered the Great War in 1917, Moina Michael was deeply moved by a poem entitled In Flanders Fields. Written by the Canadian physician Lieutenant Colonel John McCrea following the death and subsequent burial of his friend on the battlefield at Ypres, France, the poem exhorted the living to remember the dead and honor their cause. Moina Michael was so inspired by the poem's eloquence and the imagery of the red poppies that she wrote a response and pledge entitled We Shall Keep the Faith:
"And now the torch and Poppy red;
Wear in honour of our dead.
Fear not the ye have died for naught:
We've learned the lesson that ye taught…"
After that, Moina Michael always wore a red poppy to remember those who had served and given their all. She used the red poppy for fundraising campaigns to help those returning from war transition back into everyday life. She died nearly thirty years later on 10 May 1944, less than one month before the D-Day landings at Normandy in France, and the beginning of the liberation of Europe from tyranny.
Today we, along with many others around the world, wear red poppies to remember our fallen servicemen and women. At The National World Wart Two Museum, we are dedicated to ensuring that those who made the ultimate sacrifice during World War Two are remembered today and for generations to come. Moina's gift to those who served has lasted lifetimes.
Your contribution of ten dollars or more can be just as powerful, because it will tell younger generations that the men and women of World War Two did not die for naught, and that we will continue to remember and honor their cause.
Dr. Gordon "Nick" Mueller, Ph.d
President & CEO
The National WWII Museum

25 May 2014

SS United States for the day

The Associated Press has an article about a local landmark:
A massive piece of the historic SS United States is for sale, as the conservancy trying to save the ship is running out of money and time. The SS United States Conservancy is looking to sell a massive propeller sitting on its deck in Philadelphia.
The sixty-thousand-pound propeller will go to the bidder with the highest offer over the scrap value of approximately a hundred thousand dollars. The purchaser will be responsible for removing and transporting the four-blade, eighteen-foot diameter propeller.
It costs fifty-five thousand dollars a month to berth and maintain the thousand-foot long vessel. The conservancy is talking with potential developers and investors to repurpose the ship as a museum and mixed-use destination.
If a buyer is not found by 1 June 2014, the propeller will be sold to a scrapper.
Rico says, yet again, that Philly needs to look to Long Beach, California for the Queen Mary solution...

24 May 2014

Attack at Jewish museum in Brussels

The BBC has an article about yet another idiot who hates Jews:
A gunman has shot dead two men and a woman at the Jewish Museum in Brussels, Belgium. A fourth person was seriously wounded, emergency services said. The attacker arrived by car, got out, fired on people at the museum entrance, and returned to the vehicle which then sped away, Belgian media report. One person has been arrested and police are hunting a second, officials say. Security has been tightened at Jewish sites across Belgium.
Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo said all Belgians were "united and show solidarity in the face of this odious attack on a Jewish cultural site".
Belgian public prosecutor's spokeswoman Ine Van Wymersch told a news conference that one suspect had been detained at the wheel of his car, although there was no proven connection to the attack. A second suspect was still being sought, who was thought to have fled on foot, she added.
Foreign Minister Didier Reynders, who was one of the first people to arrive at the scene, said "I heard bursts of gunfire, rushed here and saw the bodies on the ground".
The gunman arrived at the museum carrying a backpack and opened fire before fleeing in an Audi, local media report.
They say one eyewitness may have made a note of the number plate and given it to police.
Brussels Mayor Yvan Mayeur said three men and a woman had been caught up in what he thought was probably a "terrorist act. It's clearly extremely serious," he was quoted as saying, "and at the Jewish Museum, too, which isn't a coincidence".
Eyewitness Alain Sobotik told the AFP news agency he had seen two bodies in the lobby of the museum. One was "a young woman with her head covered in blood", he said. "She was holding a leaflet and looked like a tourist."
Interior Minister Joelle Milquet said everything pointed to an anti-Semitic attack. Belgium has a Jewish population of some forty-two thousand, about half of whom live in the capital. Jewish community leader Julien Klener agreed the motive was probably anti-Semitic: "The assumption, and it is an assumption, is that it was someone who didn't try to target the museum but the adjective 'Jewish'".
A number of people were treated for shock after the shooting in the central Sablon area of the city. Di Rupo expressed his condolences and support for the victims' families.
Rico says 'everything pointed to an anti-Semitic attack'. Ya think?

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