Saturday, April 11, 2009

Fraudulent Banking Caused Economic Collapse

This article from Bill Moyers journal is an interview with William K Black, former bank regulator during the loans crisis of the 1980s. He puts the blame squarely on the shoulders of the Wall Street top bankers who created a scenario of trust, forcing others to invest in what turned out to be bad loans. Remember money is created when a mortgage is lent, so if you don´t check on your ability to pay, you can create money by offering loans to people who can´t pay. Create enough of these and then say that they are low-risk (whch they aren´t) and then sell them to other companies to make a profit. The executive bonus program was effectively unregulated during the Bush administration, allowing CEOs of eventual loss making companies to run up huge personal profits at the expense of others.

Even though the FBI warned in 2004 about mortgage fraud, 500 agents were transferred to handle terrorism and were not replaced, so the resources available are less than that for the previous loans crisis. This is one reason why no-one has yet been made accountable for the current woes. Also the laws created to regulate banking after the Great Depression were removed under the Clinton administration (as if we´re clever now and have learnt our lessons). Then Bush removes regulation altogether so banking fraud runs rife. At the end the government has to bail out using billions of dollars of US taxpayers money. Fraud.

The CEOs should be thrown out and replaced with people with good records of financial management, real integrity and clean out the bad blood. Will it happen under Obama, or will the illusion that the banks are solvent (when how can they be if so much money is required) and be propped up with tax dollars be used to cover the public´s eyes?

RIP Dave Arneson, D&D Founder

A year after Gary Gyax passed away and now Dave Arneson who is also credited with co-creating D&D and the foundation for modern role-playing has also left us. Ars Technica pays tribute to him here, explaining how he came up with idea of character development outside of traditional wargaming.

Sun In A Box Cooker

The Kyoto box is a cardboard box painted black that can be used as a cheap method for boiling water or cooking food in developing nations. The BBC reports that the Kenyan inventor has won a prize for green ideas, which should provide an alternative to burning wood and thus helping to alleviate deforestation in poor regions.

Dead Mayor Re-elected

You know people love you when they still vote for after you´ve died. The BBC reports the population of Winfield Missouri voted mayor Harry Stonebraker back in as mayor, even though he died in March of a heart attack.

US Electricity Grid Penetrated

The Chinese are getting the blame for cyber crime again following this report from the Wall Street Journal about how the US grid has been penetrated and is being spied upon by foreign interests. I´m not sure how much of this is scaremongering again, though the potential damage to critical infrastructure and SCADA systems from cyber attacks has already been demonstrated by the likes of the Slammer worm. This isn´t really news I´m afraid. How much of this is and its timing is related to political interests in the Far East and the pitiful state of the US economy?

Lapdancer Turned Nun

No comments on this report from the BBC about Anna Nobili, a former lapdancer turned Nun and now using dance as a means of celebrating God, touring prisons and hospitals.

Jade Goody ¨exploited till the day she died¨

Following the media circus surrounding cancer victim Jade Goody´s marriage and funeral, respected talk show host Michael Parkinson has stated that Jade Goody was a pawn for the media according to the BBC. I´ve never followed Big Brother and certainly not the British version, but I do remember how she got the piss taken out of her and that she made racist remarks to fellow inmate (for want of a better term) Shilpa Shetty. When she was diagnosed with cancer last year she was jumped on by the media again and at the end treated like some kind of angel. I´ll give her credit for exploiting the media right back by selling her final weeks for money to support her family, but Parkinson is absolutely right that she was always the victim of the gutter press and media. May she rest in peace now.

Goce Feels The Pull

The most streamlined looking satellite ever launched was fired up this week, its purpose to monitor gravity waves and subtle changes at different points on the Earth. The data is hoped to provide information about ocean behaviour, magma and loss of mass in ice sheets. More information from the BBC, including its British made ion engine can be found here.

EU ISP Big Brother Law Enforced

Since Monday 6 April ISPs in the EU will record details of every email you send and Net call you make for a full year. The BBC reports that telecom companies already have to keep track of phone calls for a full year. The measure was introduced after the London tube bombings, but some countries like Sweden and Germany are showing opposition to the directive.

Caffeine Reduces Sense Of Muscle Pain

There´s nothing like a good cup of coffee. According to this abstract it also reduces the perception of muscle pain, the results coming from a test on caffeine lovers and abstainers taking caffeine before a muscle workout.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Yahoo Tribute to Communication Evolution

We´ve come a long way since the modem...

British Steam Car Challenge

Steam may seem old hat, but a British team have developed a steam powered car with the intention of breaking a record held for over 100 years. A web site including videos of test runs can be found here. The car will be transported to the US in April and the record attempt will be performed at Edwards AFB in the Mojave Desert.

HIV and TB Double Whammy

This report from the BBC provides new figures regarding the number of people infected with Tuberculosis. A Horizon programme a couple of years ago highlighted the risks of drug resistant TB developing, especially as a result of HIV patients with a reduced immune system contracting TB. The HIV and TB combination is a double whammy, with the potential of more people developing drug resistant TB if untreated and spreading it on to the general population.

Virus Batteries The Cells Of The Future?

The BBC reports on how a new technique using viruses and nanotubes could be used to create rechargable batteries. The method uses a genetically engineered virus to create the anode and cathode of the battery which could result in a method of creating batteries that are strong enough to power cars more quickly and cheaply. The viruses build nanowires from a cocktail of materials to effectively grow the anode and cathode. Currently the experiment is only small scale and allows up to 100 recharges, though genetically engineered viruses provide more flexibility in testing different materials before scaling the whole process up.

Billion Dollar Charlie Wants Net Copyright Debate

In a follow up to ongoing coverage of the case against Joel Tanenbaum, Ars Technica reports how the government doesn´t agree with Harvard law professor´s Charlie Nessons views, but that it doesn´t bother him. As far as he is concerned there needs to be a larger discussion regarding internet copyright and piracy, since the current laws are designed to cover commercial piracy and the damages claimed in such cases are too high to be paid individuals. So is it right to bankrupt someone for downloading an MP3 file, and is there are electronic copies even properly handled by existing legislation. As far as I´m concerned anything that goes against the RIAA´s bully tactics and forces the recording industry to look for more appropriate business models is a welcome thing.

Granny Shoots Mugger With .357 Magnum

Don´t mess with Grandma reports The Register. A mugger in NYC got more than he bargained for when the ex-bus driver who´s grandad was Haarlem crime boss Ellsworth Johnson, shot him in the elbow. People have a right to defend themselves, but granny with a .357 Magnum is a frightening prospect. Apparently the mugger is sueing for damages. Oh what a wonderful country.

South Park Hit By The Credit Crunch

The economy is on its knees and even South Park are covering it. A clip from the upcoming episode Margaritaville.

NIF Nuclear Fusion Laser Fires Up

The BBC reports that the construction of a huge laser experiment for conducting inertially confined fusion has been completed. The US National Ignition Facility will use the laser to shoot a pellet containing hydrogen fuel. The hope is that the temperatures involved will be sufficient to overcome the natural repulsive force of the atoms and cause them instead to stick together and form helium, the same process that takes place in the sun. Should it succeed, then the process will deliver 10 to 100 times more energy than the 500 trillion watts sued to fire the device, a process that in the future could satisfy the world´s increasing energy demands.

North Korea Rocket Test Goes Ahead

A space launch by North Korea which many believe to be a cover for a ballistic missile test has gone ahead today, according to the BBC. North Korea originally reported that they had put a satellite into orbit playing pro-North Korean songs, but the US stated that the attempt had failed. The launch took the rocket over South Korea and Japan, the first stage dropping off in the waters between the two countries. Japan had said they would take action against any debris that fell into their territory. The action contravenes UN resolution 1718 which states any form of ballistic missile launch demands international action.

Climate Change - Antarctic Ice Bridge Breaks

The BBC reports that an ice shelf connecting the Charcot and Latady islands to mainland Antarctica has finally broken after radar images showed the structure threatened to break away. This is a further indication of rapid warming along with increased number of icebergs and the region has been shown to be one of the most rapidly warming locations on earth in the last 50 years.