Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #1380 on: Oct 1st, 2010, 08:40am »
North Korea 'resumes building at nuclear reactor site' New construction is under way at North Korea's main nuclear reactor, near the site of a cooling tower destroyed in 2008, a private US research institute has said, citing a satellite photo.
Published: 2:20PM BST 01 Oct 2010
The Washington-based Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) said on its website that tracks made by heavy machinery and construction or excavation equipment were visible in the photo.
ISIS said there appeared to be the ongoing construction of two small buildings next to the site of the cooling tower at Yongbyon – which North Korea blew up in June 2008 in front of foreign media to dramatise its commitment to nuclear disarmament.
"It is unclear if the activity seen in this image represents preparation for construction of a new cooling tower or preparation for construction of other buildings or structures for some other purposes," ISIS said.
The new activity appears more extensive than would be expected for rebuilding the cooling tower, but its actual purpose cannot be determined from the image and bears watching, ISIS said.
The image, taken on Wednesday, was obtained from DigitalGlobe, an imagery and information company.
Yongbyon, 62 miles north of Pyongyang, was the source of plutonium for the North's atomic weapons programme. Its stockpile is believed to be enough to build six to eight bombs.
The North shut down the reactor in July 2007 under a six-nation aid-for-disarmament accord. The following summer, it destroyed the cooling tower as part of work to disable its facilities.
The United States contributed $2.5 million towards the demolition cost.
But six-party talks stalled in December 2008 over ways to verify the North's work to put its facilities out of action. In April 2009 Pyongyang abandoned the talks and said it had resumed reprocessing spent fuel rods to make weapons-grade plutonium.
In May 2009 it conducted an atomic weapons test, its second.
The North has indicated willingness in principle to return to the six-party talks chaired by its ally China. But it says it wants separate talks with the United States about signing a permanent peace treaty on the peninsula.
South Korea and the United States, which accuse the North of a deadly March attack on a South Korean warship, have responded warily. Japan and Russia are also members of the forum.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #1381 on: Oct 1st, 2010, 08:44am »
Annual Ig Nobel awards presented for the most 'improbable' research Roller-coaster rides can relieve symptoms of asthma, beards are a health hazard and randomly promoting workers creates more efficient companies are among a host of "improbable" scientific findings to win a spoof Nobel Prize this year.
By Richard Alleyne, Science Correspondent Published: 5:30AM BST 01 Oct 2010
The Ig Nobels, designed to honour achievements that first make people laugh and then make them think, are presented in the run up to the real awards next week.
They are given out at a Harvard University ceremony by the science humour magazine, Annals of Improbable Research.
This year the Medicine prize went to Dutch scientists who discovered that the "positive emotional stress" associated with riding on a big dipper reduced feelings of shortness of breath among asthma sufferers.
The work involved having 25 students with asthma ride on a roller-coaster and then testing their symptoms afterwards.
It was found that they suffered fewer breathing problems travelling on the amusement park ride.
Researchers from the US were awarded the Public Health Prize for finding that bearded scientists posed a risk to their families because bacteria used in the laboratory stubbornly stayed in their facial hair even after washing.
They tested the beards of scientists for three types of bacteria and found they remained present in the hair follicles even after washing and shampooing.
Italian physicists investigating organisations won the Management Prize after mathematically proving that randomly promoting employees actually made a company run more efficiently.
They found that contrary to popular opinion members of a "hierarchical organisation climb the hierarchy until they reach level of maximum incompetence".
The best way to avoid this was to either just randomly promote employees or randomly promote the best and the worst employees, the model showed.
British research was also awarded. The Peace Prize went to Keele University who discovered that swearing actually reduces pain.
They found volunteers were able to submerge a hand into iced water for longer if they repeated a swear word "you might use after hitting yourself on the thumb with a hammer".
The Zoological Society of London scooped the Engineering Prize for "perfecting a method to collect whale snot, using a remote control helicopter".
The University of Bristol won the Biology award after they studied the foreplay of fruit bats. They found that they creatures used oral sex to prolong intercourse.
BP and associated scientists were honoured with the Chemistry prize for "disproving the old belief that oil and water don't mix" and the Economics prize went to Goldman Sachs, AIG, Lehman Brothers and Bear Stearns, for their role in the credit crisis.
Marc Abrahams, editor of the magazine and the award host, said if anything scientific research was getting weirder all the time – and Britain was at the forefront.
"For good or its opposite humanity is producing more and stronger candidates every year and that is especially true of Britain," he said.
"We like to think that the Ig Nobels make the Nobels shine even more brightly."
In the past, winners have included a British radiologist who discovered that sword swallowers can suffer "major complications'' when they are distracted or while gulping down more than one blade.
Barcelona University was honoured for discovering that rats sometimes cannot differentiate between people speaking Japanese backwards and people speaking Dutch backwards.
Medicine - Roller-coaster rides reduce asthma symptoms
Public Health - Beards carry germs
Management - Random promotions make better business
Peace - Swearing increases pain threshold
Engineering - Remote control helicopter used to collect whale snot
Chemistry - BP and scientists for proving oil and water does mix
Economics - Banks for their role in the credit crunch.
Biology - the foreplay of fruit bats
Transportation - slime moulds can design public transport networks
Physics - wearing socks over shoes increases grip on ice
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #1382 on: Oct 1st, 2010, 08:49am »
Alt Text: Why I Would Make a Perfect Alien Liaison By Lore Sjöberg October 1, 2010 | 7:00 am | Categories: Current Affairs, sci-fi
The United Nations has appointed an “alien liaison” to act as an ambassador to any extraterrestrial explorers, invaders or skin-harvesters that might visit Earth, London’s Sunday Times and other news sources reported this week.
However, alleged liaison Mazlan Othman issued a statement denying she had been hired as any sort of alien account executive, which is good news because that means the position is open, right?
I’d like to apply.
Repeated calls to the United Nations asking how I can get to be the guy who makes friends with the space creatures have resulted only in an ominous visit from the FBI, so I’m forced to make my application here, in hopes that it will get me the job I was born to think about doing, maybe.
• In 1981, I negotiated a settlement between my Death Star Droid and Lobot action figures over who got to ride the tauntaun figure with the hatch in the back to stick your legs in. (For the record, Lobot got the tauntaun with the understanding that my mom would buy me a patrol dewback as soon as possible.)
• I have read Stranger in a Strange Land three times, which gives me a number of skills I can use in case our alien visitors are free-love hippies. (Fingers crossed!)
• My extensive perusal of the various Star Trek series and movies has given me the ability to identify more than 40 aliens and alien-human hybrids based on the subtle differences in their forehead ridges.
• I devil a mean egg.
• I have one of those memory-erasing things from Men in Black, although to be honest I’m not sure where I put it.
• I speak the binary language of moisture vaporators.
• I have watched many episodes of The Twilight Zone, preparing me for the possibility that we are the true aliens.
• My studies have indicated that certain forms of communication are universal among all sentient life forms. For instance, throwing the horns and banging your head means “rock on, dude” everywhere in the universe.
• In case our alien visitors turn out to be hostile, I will make sure to stockpile many well-known invader-defeating substances like cold germs and ordinary water.
• If we are visited by aliens who breathe methane gas instead of oxygen, I’ll tell them to just keep moving along. We don’t want their type around here.
• If, upon my taking office, aliens don’t immediately show up and demand a liaison, I will dedicate myself to throwing a constant series of high-quality, elegant and very expensive “practice parties.”
• We’ll probably want to give our new inhuman pals a little memento of Earth to bring back to their planet and remember us by. Luckily, I know how to wrap a platypus.
• If we are visited by the Man from Mars, I will endeavor to make sure he stops eating cars and eating bars and, from now on, will only eat guitars.
• If a mostly human-looking guy steps out of a spaceship and he’s holding a cat or a plant or a shiny box or something, I will address the cat/plant/box instead of the guy because, trust me, that’s how it works.
• I am nonjudgmental and not inclined to make assumptions. For instance, if aliens descend upon the planet, incinerating the trees and crops with a wave of fire before sending out screeching flying drones to pluck people from the streets and drag them off to labor in the mercury mines of Pluto and the plutonium mines of Mercury, I will consider the possibility that it’s what their culture considers a ceremonial message of peace.
• Upon meeting them, I won’t say, “Beep beep! Does not compute!” That’s a robot thing, not an alien thing.
• I have trained for hours in the art of understanding the complex and often unintelligible communications of beings with thought processes so alien that it’s hard to say whether they really think at all, because I read web forums.
Call me, United Nations! I’m quite certain that I can make sure that our world can live together in peace and understanding with extraterrestrial beings. Or, barring that, I’m pretty sure I can get some sort of overseer job in the ritual battle pits.
Born helpless, nude and unable to provide for himself, Lore Sjöberg eventually overcame these handicaps to become a liaison, a horizon and a Higgs boson.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #1383 on: Oct 1st, 2010, 08:52am »
Wired Danger Room
Darpa to Teen Geeks: Build Us Better Robots By Katie Drummond September 30, 2010 | 3:45 pm | Categories: DarpaWatch
Darpa’s got ambitious goals when it comes to revolutionizing the outmoded, expensive process of defense manufacturing. The Pentagon’s blue-sky research arm wants fast-tracked timelines and widespread collaboration, all facilitated by web 2.0. And they’re looking to assemble an army of teenaged brains to help them do it.
The agency’s putting $10 million into a new program, Manufacturing Experimentation and Outreach, or Mentor, that aims to “develop and motivate a next generation cadre of system designers and manufacturing innovators.”
Darpa’s looking for legions of high school students with a firm grasp on tools like Facebook and Twitter, who can work in teams “within a single high school and across multiple high schools” to design and develop “cyber-electro-mechanical systems” like go-carts, robots and even unmanned aircraft. Social networks, the agency hopes, can facilitate collaboration as well as inter-group competitions.
Mentor is only the latest Darpa program hoping to transform today’s youth into tomorrow’s Pentagon hot shots. Earlier this year, the agency requested proposals that would boost the number of teens pursuing bona fide geekdom. That program was catalyzed by concerns over the country’s “ability to compete in the increasingly internationalized stage.” This time around, Darpa’s looking for the brawniest brains worldwide, noting that “substantial participation by foreign high schools is essential to leveraging best-of-kind talent.”
But teens won’t just be handed cash money and flung into the development biz. Darpa’s looking for non-profits, academic institutions and businesses to develop proposals, and then spearhead participation from schools and provide them with the necessary manufacturing equipment. And Darpa’s thinking big: the agency wants 1,000 schools involved by the program’s fourth year.
And lest ambitious adolescent geeks think they’ll make a killing from their programs, designs or unmanned amphibious go-carts, Darpa’s making one thing very clear: you work for us.
“DARPA desires to receive complete, fully functional algorithms, source code, documentation, binaries, and test use cases,” the agency solicitation reads. “[And] Unlimited Rights to all deliverables… to enable their industry-wide promulgation in the course of and subsequent to this program.”
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #1384 on: Oct 1st, 2010, 08:57am »
Oct. 1, 1950: Come Fly With Me, Says BBC By John C Abell October 1, 2010 | 7:00 am | Categories: 20th century, Communication, Transportation
1950: The BBC airs the first live, in-flight TV broadcast, from a specially outfitted plane flying over London. It is not free of glitches, but once TV stations are introduced to the concept of air supremacy, news coverage will never be the same.
Live TV from an aircraft was bound to happen — this wasn’t a serendipitous Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups event. And this modest experiment — with no audio! — has been left in the dust in the annals of live TV history.
We’ve witnessed Jack Ruby murdering Lee Harvey Oswald. It’s been 41 years now since we first saw live TV from the surface of the moon. We’ve seen a string of space shuttles screaming to reach escape velocity, viewed from cameras bolted to their solid-rocket boosters.
Still, broadcasting live to a TV audience under inhospitable conditions remains a thing of wonder — witness a mere two months ago the coverage of the coverage of NBC embed Richard Engle broadcasting live from a combat vehicle accompanying U.S. combat troops as they departed Iraq. This “Because We Can” spirit, which in 1950 required taking a behemoth of a camera to stream real-time video from a lumbering air freight is a feat geeks still find tantalizing six decades later.
In 1950 television was in its infancy, still trying to unseat radio as humanity’s primary medium. So even though the BBC’s proof-of-concept stunt was bound to be done by someone someday somehow somewhere, actually doing it was really something.
Indeed, one of the most iconic moments in the history of live TV was still more than a year in the future. Edward R. Murrow dazzled a U.S. audience tuning into the Nov. 18, 1951, premiere of See It Now with live shots of both San Francisco’s Golden Gate and New York’s Brooklyn bridges on a split screen. And that was from fixed, terrestrial camera positions.
The logistics and risks of BBC’s 1950 “Operation Pegasus” were daunting. Cameraman Duncan Anderson was outfitted like a member of the crew — sporting a (now) vintage, fur-collared flight jacket totally necessary as he stood at an open, doorless hatch to do his job, while the Bristol Freighter aircraft cruised over London and the surrounding countryside for about an hour. The BBC did test flights for a week before the live Sunday broadcast and solved the last of the problems with only a couple of days to spare.
“Everything seemed set for another page in television history,” intones an uncredited (but possibly tuxedoed) BBC news reader in a filmed story about their story. (Coverage of the coverage goes way back. See video above.)
The Beeb continues:
But throughout a week of test flights the flying television crews were faced by difficulties that threatened the outcome of the proposed program. Thanks to nonstop work by the engineers, all the problems have apparently been solved. But it was not until Friday that one of the most difficult — interference on the waveband used by the airborne television transmitter — was overcome.
Perhaps not entirely. There was no recording made of the live broadcast, and the British Film Institute (BFI) says of the test transmission: “Images are of poor quality with a great deal of interference.”
The unprecedented program that the network had gone to considerable lengths to make possible was somehow not earth-shattering enough for BBC Head of Television Programmes Cecil McGivern. He wrote two nasty memos to subordinates, vexed that the “Operation Pegasus” broadcast had run 30 minutes into what should have been the start of The Children’s Programme — without any warning from an announcer.
McGivern’s concern may seem like typical British uptightness, but in a way he was quite prescient about viewer expectations. A similar scenario played out in reverse 18 years later, during the infamous Heidi game. NBC was airing an American Football League game between the New York Jets and the Oakland Raiders on Nov. 17, 1968. At the stroke of 7 p.m. EST, the network was contractually obliged to cut to the classic children’s movie Heidi.
The Jets were leading 32-29. There were only 65 seconds left in the game. What could possibly go wrong?
The Raiders scored twice and won. The NBC phone switchboard melted down. The incident became the next day’s leading story, with one rival network news anchor reading passages from Heidi over clips from the Jet-Raiders game, Daily Show style.
Strangely, the BBC didn’t go airborne again for another five years — perhaps McGivern put the kibosh on things. And fixed-wing aircraft would play basically no role in live electronic newsgathering.
Helicopters became the must-have aircraft. Local stations started making helos standard in the ’70s, when microwave technology was widely embraced, and a lot of Vietnam era pilots were suddenly available. Helicopters remain a staple of daily reporting on traffic in many markets and, of course, of such breaking news as high-speed car chases and wildfires.
And now anyone can be a broadcaster — a narrowcaster, anyway — with a smartphone, a Qik account and in-flight internet.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #1390 on: Oct 2nd, 2010, 07:28am »
New York Times
October 1, 2010 CNN Fires Rick Sanchez for Remarks in Interview By BRIAN STELTER
Rick Sanchez, a daytime anchor at CNN, was fired on Friday, a day after telling a radio interviewer that Jon Stewart was a bigot and that “everybody that runs CNN is a lot like Stewart.”
The latter comment was made shortly after Mr. Stewart’s faith, Judaism, was invoked.
CNN said in a statement Friday evening, “Rick Sanchez is no longer with the company. We thank Rick for his years of service and we wish him well.”
Mr. Sanchez’s comments came Thursday during a contentious conversation with the comedian Pete Dominick on satellite radio. By Friday afternoon, a recording of the conversation had circulated widely on the Internet.
In the conversation Mr. Sanchez, who is Cuban-American, repeatedly suggested that he had experienced subtle forms of discrimination in his television career.
He said that “a lot of elite Northeast establishment liberals” viewed him as someone “who belongs in the second tier and not the top tier.”
Among those establishment figures, he said, was Mr. Stewart, the host of “The Daily Show” on Comedy Central and a friend of Mr. Dominick’s.
At first, Mr. Sanchez called Mr. Stewart a “bigot,” but later took the word back, calling the comedian “prejudicial” instead.
Prejudicial “against who?” Mr. Dominick asked.
Mr. Sanchez said, “Against anybody who doesn’t agree to his point of view, which is very much a white liberal establishment point of view.”
One of the co-hosts of the radio show brought up the fact that Mr. Stewart was a Jew, saying to Mr. Sanchez that he was a minority “as much as you are.”
Mr. Sanchez answered sarcastically, “Yeah. Yeah. Very powerless people.” He let out a high-pitched laugh.
“Everybody that runs CNN is a lot like Stewart,” Mr. Sanchez said. “And a lot of people who run all the other networks are a lot like Stewart. And to imply that somehow they — the people in this country who are Jewish — are an oppressed minority? Yeah.”
Mr. Stewart has made jokes about Mr. Sanchez more than 20 times in the last five years, according to a search of the show’s Web site. Or as Mr. Sanchez put it, “You watch yourself on his show every day and all they ever do is call you stupid.”
Mr. Stewart was far from the only person known to mock Mr. Sanchez, who was once tasered on camera for a segment. He was a polarizing figure within CNN, but under the channel’s former president, Jonathan Klein, he was rewarded with more air time, most recently a two-hour block in the afternoons. Mr. Klein was fired last week.
On Wednesday, Mr. Sanchez ended two months as an interim prime-time anchor. He appeared on the radio show as part of tour to promote his book “Conventional Idiocy.” Attempts to reach Mr. Sanchez were unsuccessful.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #1391 on: Oct 2nd, 2010, 07:30am »
New York Times
October 1, 2010 Sarkozy to Propose New Bond With Russia By STEVEN ERLANGER and KATRIN BENNHOLD
PARIS — President Nicolas Sarkozy of France plans to propose a new security and economic relationship between Europe and Russia when he meets with President Dmitri A. Medvedev of Russia and Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany this month in Deauville, senior French officials said Friday.
The idea is to have a single zone of security and economic cooperation, the officials said, that will pull Russia closer to Europe but apart from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. The alliance itself is holding a key meeting in November intended to approve a new strategic doctrine, and American officials are unhappy with the idea of France and Germany talking to Russia — without the United States present — about security in advance of the talks.
“Since when, I wonder, is European security no longer an issue of American concern, but something for Europe and Russia to resolve?” asked a senior American official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “After being at the center of European security for 70 years, it’s strange to hear that it is no longer a matter of U.S. concern.”
Still, NATO’s relevance is in question as it struggles to hold together in the fight against the Taliban in Afghanistan, and Russia seems to many to be a natural part of Europe and an important, if difficult, ally on issues like Iran and global terrorism.
France is taking over the presidency of the Group of 20 in November, which will also be a topic at the meetings in Deauville Oct. 18-19. Mr. Sarkozy is planning a series of initiatives to turn the group from a body concerned primarily with crisis management to one focused more on long-term coordination among major economic powers.
To that end, he has been consulting with Chinese officials for more than a year about the thorny issue of exchange rates and his ambitious idea for a new global monetary system, including a new institution to better coordinate movements in major currencies.
The idea of a new European “security architecture” has been raised by Mr. Medvedev as something more appropriate for the post-cold-war world than the Atlantic alliance and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
American officials have been skeptical, saying that they will agree to nothing that would dilute the alliance or the organization, but instead seek to pull Russia into closer cooperation with NATO.
But Mr. Sarkozy has argued in the past that Russia is now a partner of the West, not a threat to it, and must be treated as such. For those reasons he has defended the sale to Russia of French Mistral ships, which can carry tanks and helicopters, despite concerns from Georgia and the Baltic nations that Russia could use them to expand its zone of influence.
The Mistral is only one part of a much broader charm offensive with Russia by France, intended to win more business from its oil- and gas-rich neighbor to the east.
The two countries are currently engaged in a “France-Russia year,” a giant mutual marketing exercise comprising 400 cultural events and a flurry of high-level political visits.
Mr. Sarkozy is known for raising large ideas that do not always come to fruition, with a recent example being the Union for the Mediterranean, a project for cooperation among countries rimming the Mediterranean.
He is facing severe political problems at home, with low approval ratings, lingering scandals and a series of protests over his plans to raise the minimum retirement age. He is looking to the presidency of the Group of 20 and that of the smaller Group of 8 beginning in January to raise his international profile and improve his standing at home as a world leader ahead of the 2012 presidential election.
As the head of the Group of 20, Mr. Sarkozy intends to ask individual heads of state to run a series of working seminars on critical issues, leading to a summit meeting at the end of his one-year term. Two of these issues are how to provide more stability both to exchange rates and to commodity prices.
The seminars would be held in different countries. Mr. Sarkozy has often spoken of the need for a new Bretton Woods, the 1944 conference that set up a system of fixed exchange rates.
He speaks now of coordination, not fixed rates, and of bringing China more fully into the international system, with responsibilities to match its new stature.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #1392 on: Oct 2nd, 2010, 07:41am »
First class passenger's account of Titanic disaster finally published A first class passenger's account of the sinking of the Titanic has been published for the first time nearly 100 years after the disaster.
Published: 10:24AM BST 01 Oct 2010
Laura Francatelli wrote of hearing an 'awful rumbling' as the famous liner went down and 'then came screams and cries' from 1,500 drowning passengers.
Miss Francatelli worked as a secretary for baronet Sir Cosmo Duff-Gordon and his wife Lady Lucy Christiana and travelled with them on Titanic.
The employee told of how the three of them boarded one of the last lifeboats containing just five passengers and seven crew - and admitted they didn't consider going back for survivors.
Wealthy baronet Sir Cosmo later paid the crew members £5 each - about £300 in today's money - and some say this was blood money for saving their lives.
She wrote her account in a signed affidavit which was presented to the official British enquiry into the 1912 disaster.
The historic document has now come to public light for the first time and is being tipped to sell for £15,000.
Miss Francatelli, who was aged 31 at the time, stated how she woke her employers when water seeped into her cabin after the liner struck an iceberg the night of April 14, 1912.
She wrote: "A man came to me and put a life preserver on me assuring me it was only taking precautions and not to be alarmed.
"When we got on the top deck...I noticed the sea seemed nearer to us than during the day, and I said to Sir Cosmo Duff Gordon 'we are sinking' and he said 'nonsense'."
The party initially refused to go into a lifeboat as Sir Cosmo was not allowed on as only women and children were permitted but they were then offered places on a smaller rowing boat.
Miss Francatelli said: "The officer saw us and ordered us in, and we said we would go if Sir Cosmo could come also.
"The officers gave orders to us to row away from the ship. We kept on rowing and stopping and rowing again. I heard some talk going on about the suction if the ship went down.
"We were a long way off when we saw the Titanic go right up at the beck and plunge down. There was an awful rumbling when she went. Then came screams and cries. I do not know how long they lasted.
"When the ship had gone all was darkness. I did not hear any discussion or proposal about going back nor did I say anything about it.
"We had hardly any talk. The men spoke about God and prayers and wives."
She recalled how Lady Duff Gordon was "deadly sick" but was unable to reach the side of the boat due to some oars that were in the way.
She also told how a crew member kept putting his hand on her knee while he was rowing for her to rub to keep it warm.
She wrote how the survivors huddled in the bottom of the boat to keep warm until they were rescued by the ship Carpathia two hours after the sinking.
Miss Francatelli said: "Later on I heard the men speaking about losing their kits. Sir C Duff Gordon said he would make it all right for them...he would give them £5 each.
"A day or two after we had got on board Carpathia Sir Cosmo told me to write out cheques for 5 pounds each for the seven men in the boat."
Andrew Aldridge, of auctioneers Henry Aldridge and Son of Devizes, Wilts, which is selling the document, said: "So many books and articles have been written about Titanic but this is an original first-hand eye-witness account written shortly after the disaster.
"In hindsight the lifeboat the party boarded was rather controversial. As she confirms in her own words, there were more crew on board than passengers and room for potentially 40 or 50 more people who could have been saved.
"There was also great controversy surrounding Sir Cosmo because when they arrived in New York he gave the seven crew members five pounds each.
"There was one train of thought that he was being very kind and generous and was compensating the men for the items they lost in the sinking, certainly that is what Miss Francatelli thought.
"But the payment was also interpreted as blood money at the time. Was he paying the men for a place in the lifeboat and his own life?"
Miss Francatelli, from London, died in 1967. The document remained in her family until after her death and has been since been owned by two private collectors.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #1393 on: Oct 2nd, 2010, 07:45am »
Bell officials cut police pensions while boosting their own Under a two-tiered system approved in 2006, newly hired officers had to work until the age of 55, rather than 50.
By Jeff Gottlieb, Los Angeles Times October 2, 2010
As Bell provided record high pensions for Robert Rizzo and 40 other officials, the city cut the pensions for new police officers, claiming it could no longer afford their full retirement benefits.
Rizzo, the longtime Bell city manager who was charged with public corruption last week stands to receive an annual pension of an estimated $1 million thanks to major enhancement the City Council approved beginning in 2003.
But three years later, the city created a two-tiered pension system for Bell police officers, with officers hired after that year receiving less generous pensions than other police employees.
Before the change, Bell police officers were eligible to receive their full pension at the age of 50, which has traditionally been the model for police officers and firefighters in the state. They usually receive higher pensions at a younger age in recognition of the danger and physical demands of their jobs.
Under Bell's two-tier system, officers hired after 2006 must work to the age of 55 to receive their full pensions, according to the memorandum of understanding negotiated between the Bell police union and the city.
Bell police officers said they didn't know that Rizzo and the 40 other officials were receiving a supplemental pension plan on top of their regular pensions until The Times reported it Wednesday.
"We all feel deceived," said Police Sgt. Albert Rusas, who was a leader of the Bell Police Officers Assn. when the police labor deal was negotiated. "We feel we were treated as less than employees by a man who had nothing but greed running through his veins."
Others at the Police Department said the revelations are just the latest blow to a city already reeling from the salary scandals that led to criminal charges against eight former and current city officials.
"It's par for the course," said Capt. Anthony Miranda, who is not a union member. Officers"feel completely betrayed and shocked because they acted in good faith and this guy was lying to us, negotiating in bad faith. We come to find out Rizzo was upping his own ante and lowering ours."
The enhanced pensions received by the 41 officials — including many City Council members — were paid for entirely by Bell tax funds, allowing the city to circumvent retirement limits set by California's state retirement fund. The changes, which created a supplemental pension plan for those officials, increased the size of their pensions by as much as 85%.
When the first increase to the pensions were made in 2003, Rizzo wrote in a memo that "The new plan has been designed to provide you with retirement benefits similar to that of our Public Safety represented employees."
The City Council approved a second increase in the pensions of the 41 officials in 2007, placing their benefits well above police.
Meanwhile, the handful of new police officers hired at the 32-officer department received the lesser benefits package.
Many at the department feel betrayed by Rizzo.
"I remember specifically during those negotiations when Rizzo told the [Bell Police Officers Assn.] that the city could not afford [the police pensions], so we did the responsible thing and reformed our pension," Sgt. Art Jimenez said.
After The Times revealed the enhanced pension plan, Bell's Interim Chief Administrative Officer Pedro Carrillo said he would push to end it.
But the hefty pension has worsened the city's financial problems. In 2007, the Bell City Council increased the city's "retirement tax" rate to cover rising pension costs. Last month, the state controller said the levy had been increased illegally and ordered Bell to refund $2.9 million and roll back the tax.
The supplemental pension costs Bell $600,000 to $650,000 a year. Even before the state deemed the 2007 retirement tax illegal, the city's overall retirement fund had been running at a deficit for the last seven years, reaching $1.2 million last year.
Gilbert Jara, president of the police union, said officers, currently working without a contract, have not received a raise in three years.
"There's not much we can do at this point because now the city is really in a financial crisis," he said. "We don't want to make the situation worse by crying and asking for more. We've been told over and over there's no money yet we find out about all these outrageous salaries."
Rizzo and other Bell officials stepped down in July after The Times revealed their salaries. Rizzo earned nearly $800,000 a year, making him one of the highest-paid city leaders in the nation. Some have complained that top city officials were getting hefty pay at a time when Bell was making cuts at the Police Department.
Capt. Anthony Miranda said that he joined the department in 1991, the department had 45 sworn officers and 26 civilians as support staff. Today there are 32 sworn officers and 12 support staff.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #1394 on: Oct 2nd, 2010, 07:51am »
Stephen J. Cannell, bestselling novelist and Emmy-winning TV producer of hits like "The Rockford Files" and "21 Jump Street," died at his Pasadena home of complications of melanoma on Thursday. He was 69.
Cannell's family released the following statement about the producer who wrote for iconic series including "Adam-12," "Mission: Impossible" and "It Takes a Thief" before founding a company that churned out classic action adventure series "The A-Team," "The Greatest American Hero" and a string of other franchises:
"Aside from being a legendary television producer and prolific writer, Stephen was also a devoted husband, loving father and grandfather, and a loyal friend. Mr. Cannell is survived by his high school sweetheart and wife of 46 years, Marcia, their three children, Tawnia, Chelsea and Cody and three grandchildren. Stephen was a pillar of strength within his family and he touched everyone he met. He will be most deeply missed."
Cannell, who famously wrote scripts on an old IBM Selectric typewriter, told Success magazine recently that he'd been getting up at 4 a.m. for 40 years to write and that he never tired of the process, even though he'd battled dyslexia as a youngster. (He employed what he called "a mop and pail crew" to clean up his prose.)
"One of my work ethic traits comes from the fact that I absolutely love what I do. I've never felt that writing was work," he told the publication. "I get up every morning, and I'm not going to work, I'm going to play. I get to play cops and robbers."
His latest novel, "The Prostitutes' Ball," the 10th in the Shane Scully series, is set for publication Oct. 12.
There's already a fan outpouring of affection and condolences on Cannell's Facebook page, with one commenter writing, "your creativity and imagination helped mold my childhood and influenced me as a burgeoning writer."
Donations may be made to the American Cancer Society or the International Dyslexia Assn., the family said, with details about a memorial service still to come.