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Be careful what you wish for in 2009!

Posted on December 31st, 2008 at 18:22 by John Sinteur in category: News

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All Together Now!: 30GB Zunes Failing Everywhere, All At Once

Posted on December 31st, 2008 at 14:37 by John Sinteur in category: Microsoft



Right, so this is a weird one: we’re getting tons of reports—tons—about failing Zune 30s. Apparently, the players began freezing at about midnight last night, becoming totally unresponsive and practically useless.

The crisis has been dubbed by Zune users ‘Y2K9’, due to the apparently synchronized faceplantings across the country. According to tipster Michael, the Zune users experienced something like this:

Apparently, around 2:00 AM today, the Zune models either reset, or were already off. Upon when turning on, the thing loads up and… freezes with a full loading bar (as pictured above). I thought my brother was the only one with it, but then it happened to my Zune. Then I checked out the forums and it seems everyone with a 30GB HDD model has had this happen to them

This report is consistently corroborated by literally hundreds of others across the various Zune support and fan forums.

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Breaking Up Is Harder to Do After Housing Fall

Posted on December 31st, 2008 at 12:43 by John Sinteur in category: News


Chalk up another victim for the crashing real estate market: the easy divorce.

With nearly one in six homes worth less than the mortgage owed on it, according to Moody’s Economy.com, divorce lawyers and financial advisers around the country say the logistics of divorce have been turned around. “We used to fight about who gets to keep the house,” said Gary Nickelson, president of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers. “Now we fight about who gets stuck with the dead cow.”

As a result, divorce has become more complicated and often more expensive, with lower prospects for money on the other side. Some divorce lawyers say that business has slowed or that clients are deciding to stay together because there are no assets left to help them start over.

“There’s an old joke,” said Randall M. Kessler, Ms. Needle’s lawyer. “Why is a divorce so expensive? Because it’s worth it. Now it better really be worth it.”

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  1. the attorney is a self seeking narsacistic promoter of his law firm. i hope he has qualified attorneys to handle the business he gets. he is the don king of the legal world. her can only promote and hopes that his legal abilities don’t get tested.

Just like Jezus would have wanted

Posted on December 31st, 2008 at 11:41 by John Sinteur in category: Pastafarian News


A Federal Way megachurch won approval Monday to add a helicopter takeoff and landing area, called a helistop, on its property.

It will enable Pastors Casey and Wendy Treat of Christian Faith Center to shuttle by air between the 15-month-old Federal Way church and its Everett campus.

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Court tosses sex offender’s 28-year prison term

Posted on December 31st, 2008 at 11:34 by John Sinteur in category: ¿ʞɔnɟ ǝɥʇ ʇɐɥʍ


A federal appeals court has ruled that a convicted sex offender’s 28-year prison sentence for failing to properly update his home address with authorities was too harsh.

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Private firm may track all email and calls

Posted on December 31st, 2008 at 10:59 by John Sinteur in category: Privacy, Security


The private sector will be asked to manage and run a communications database that will keep track of everyone’s calls, emails, texts and internet use under a key option contained in a consultation paper to be published next month by Jacqui Smith, the home secretary.

A cabinet decision to put the management of the multibillion pound database of all UK communications traffic into private hands would be accompanied by tougher legal safeguards to guarantee against leaks and accidental data losses.

But in his strongest criticism yet of the superdatabase, Sir Ken Macdonald, the former director of public prosecutions, who has firsthand experience of working with intelligence and law enforcement agencies, told the Guardian such assurances would prove worthless in the long run and warned it would prove a “hellhouse” of personal private information.

“Authorisations for access might be written into statute. The most senior ministers and officials might be designated as scrutineers. But none of this means anything,” said Macdonald. “All history tells us that reassurances like these are worthless in the long run. In the first security crisis the locks would loosen.”

And a security crisis can easily be arranged…

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U.S. seeks 147-year sentence in torture case

Posted on December 31st, 2008 at 10:40 by John Sinteur in category: ¿ʞɔnɟ ǝɥʇ ʇɐɥʍ


U.S. prosecutors want a Miami judge to sentence the son of former Liberian President Charles Taylor to 147 years in prison for torturing people when he was chief of a brutal paramilitary unit during his father’s reign.

Charles McArthur Emmanuel, also known as Charles “Chuckie” Taylor Jr., is scheduled to be sentenced Jan. 9 by U.S. District Judge Cecilia M. Altonaga. His conviction was the first use of a 1994 law allowing prosecution in the U.S. for acts of torture committed overseas.

A recent Justice Department court filing describes torture — which the U.S. has been accused of in the war on terror — as a “flagrant and pernicious abuse of power and authority” that warrants severe punishment of Taylor.

“It undermines respect for and trust in authority, government and a rule of law,” wrote Assistant U.S. Attorney Caroline Heck Miller in last week’s filing. “The gravity of the offense of torture is beyond dispute.”

The jokes almost write themselves…

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Homeless Shelter Evicted After Prayer Debate

Posted on December 31st, 2008 at 10:37 by John Sinteur in category: Pastafarian News


A Bergen County homeless shelter is homeless itself — again.

The First Reformed Church of Hackensack dismissed the FAITH Foundation in a dispute over rules at its Christmas dinner for about 100 homeless people last week.

Church officials say they wanted a sermon and carols before dinner was fed. But shelter director Robin Reilly started serving food first, saying some patrons hadn’t eaten for 24 hours.

How very Christian of the church…

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SEC halts alleged $23 million Ponzi scheme

Posted on December 31st, 2008 at 10:32 by John Sinteur in category: News


U.S. securities regulators obtained an emergency court order to stop an alleged Ponzi scheme that collected more than $23 million from thousands of investors in Florida’s Haitian-American community, the Securities and Exchange Commission said on Tuesday.

The SEC alleged that Creative Capital and its principal, George Theodule, launched a scheme as early as November 2007 urging investors to form investment clubs to funnel funds to Theodule and Creative Capital.

The SEC looking into ponzi schemes… I wonder what happened recently to start that..

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Sex offenders must hand over passwords

Posted on December 31st, 2008 at 10:25 by John Sinteur in category: ¿ʞɔnɟ ǝɥʇ ʇɐɥʍ


Privacy advocates are questioning an aggressive Georgia law set to take effect Thursday that would require sex offenders to hand over Internet passwords, screen names and e-mail addresses.

Georgia joins a small band of states complying with guidelines in a 2006 federal law requiring authorities to track Internet addresses of sex offenders, but it is among the first to take the extra step of forcing its 16,000 offenders to turn in their passwords as well.

Very useful – that way if the government wants them back in prison, all they have to do is log on with those credentials, do something illegal, and arrest the suspect.

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NASA faults equipment in Columbia shuttle disaster

Posted on December 31st, 2008 at 10:02 by John Sinteur in category: News


NASA report on the last minutes of Space Shuttle Columbia cited problems with the crew’s helmets, spacesuits and restraints, which resulted in “lethal trauma” to the seven astronauts aboard.

But the report also acknowledged that “the breakup of the crew module … was not survivable by any currently existing capability.”

The spacecraft broke up while re-entering Earth’s atmosphere near the end of its mission on February 1, 2003.

The NASA report found the astronauts knew for about 40 seconds that they did not have control of the shuttle before they likely were knocked unconscious as Columbia broke apart around them.

A synopsis on Wikipedia provides a good, brief review.

And the full report:
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4.

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Posted on December 30th, 2008 at 21:32 by John Sinteur in category: Software

A Philadelphia Inquirer article, when rendered for their website, has an interesting artifact of (I suspect) a simple-minded automatic URL recognition algorithm. Is it okay to assume that three consecutive w’s won’t occur in English, and need not be lexically distinct to start a URL?

Check it for yourself..

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Posted on December 30th, 2008 at 20:13 by John Sinteur in category: Great Picture



Perfect picture reply when someone comes running with a piece of toast with an image of the “virgin” Mary.

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Stir in poisoned DNS and add a dash of transparent proxying…

Posted on December 30th, 2008 at 19:49 by John Sinteur in category: Security


The embargo has been lifted on the newest research on growing internet infrastructure insecurity. Using an army of Playstations, researchers have managed to forge a RapidSSL (owned by Verisign) CA certificate in a couple hours due to known flaws in MD5.

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List of Troubled Banks

Posted on December 30th, 2008 at 18:07 by John Sinteur in category: News


A few days ago, a friend of mine called me to ask if I had any idea how to figure out which banks would be the next to fail. Some extensive googling revealed that while lists of troubled banks obviously exist, none of them seem to be readily available to the public. Why? Because the bankers do not want you to have this. Just watch the president of the American Bankers Association in this interview talk about how important it is to keep this private.

This is a list of all of the banks in the United States and the corresponding Texas Ratio for each one. Developed by Gerard Cassidy, the Texas ratio is a measure of a bank’s credit troubles. Basically, the higher the ratio, the worse the situation is for that particular bank. Banks with a ratio of 100 and higher are in very serious danger of collapse, and banks with a ratio of 50 or higher are vulnerable.

This is the formula I used:
100 * ((Non-performing Assets – U.S guaranteed loans) + Other REO) / (Equity + Loss Reserves)

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Carrying Gunpowder through Airport Security

Posted on December 30th, 2008 at 13:13 by John Sinteur in category: Security


Mind you, I had packed the stuff safely. It was in three separate jars: one of charcoal, one of sulphur, and one of saltpetre (potassium nitrate). Each jar was labeled: Charcoal, Sulphur, Saltpetre. I had also thoroughly wet down each powder with tap water. No ignition was possible. As a good citizen, I had packed the resulting pastes into a quart-sized “3-1-1″ plastic bag, along with my shampoo and hand cream. This bag I took out of my messenger bag and put on top of my bin of belongings, turned so that the labels were easy for the TSA inspector to read.

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A song in my head…

Posted on December 30th, 2008 at 12:58 by John Sinteur in category: Cartoon


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ABN Amro boss gets 8 million euro farewell

Posted on December 30th, 2008 at 11:43 by John Sinteur in category: Robber Barons


The departing head of ABN Amro Nederland, Jan Peter Schmittmann, is leaving his post with an 8 million euro golden handshake.

A judge ruled on Monday that Schmittmann was entitled to a bigger pay-out than the 2.4 million euros which ABN Amro wanted to pay. In his contract, the golden handshake totalled 16 million euros, but the former CEO had already agreed to halve that amount.

The 8 million euro pay-out is notable because the bank has been nationalised since October. It was bought by the state as part of its rescue of financial services group Fortis which was on the point of collapse.

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The $37 Million Park Ave. Apartment Your Bailout Bought

Posted on December 30th, 2008 at 11:26 by John Sinteur in category: Robber Barons


Where is the government’s bank-bailout money going? In part to pay for Wall Street banker Peter Kraus‘s $37 million Park Avenue spread.

Kraus had excellent timing. He signed on as a top executive at Merrill Lynch in May, negotiating a $50 million pay package, with much of that guaranteed if the company was sold. He didn’t officially start until September. A couple of days later, Merrill CEO John Thain sold the company to Bank of America for $50 billion, triggering a $25 million payout under Kraus’s contract.

Bank of America got a $25 billion capital injection from the government. Kraus resigned and collected his cash, taking a job as CEO of AllianceBernstein, a money-management firm. And then he bought, for an estimated $37 million, an apartment at 720 Park Avenue from Democratic fundraisers Carl Spielvogel and Barbaralee Diamonstein-Spielvogel.

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Posted on December 30th, 2008 at 10:30 by John Sinteur in category: Cartoon


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Excellent deal!

Posted on December 30th, 2008 at 10:25 by John Sinteur in category: News


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Gaza: ‘The Horror’

Posted on December 30th, 2008 at 8:47 by John Sinteur in category: News


It is an Israeli Shock and Awe (and you remember how that turned out).  Ehud Barak has prepared a veritable 12 course feast of blood, gore, and mayhem for Gaza.  It is Barak’s ultimate political play for the coming elections.  If he wins, then he helps Labor maintain its ever-fainter role in Israeli national politics.  If he fails, then he and Labor sink together.

The Israeli government had seemed to be preparing Israelis for a tactical short-term operation meant to punish Hamas for recent rocket barrages against southern Israel.  But Operation Solid Lead seems anything but that.  It may fall short of the full-scale invasion and reoccupation of Gaza which some had feared, but it won’t fall short by much:

Ehud Defense Minister Ehud Barak told Sky News on Saturday that he would not rule out widening the offensive in the Gaza Strip to include a ground invasion.

“There is a time for calm and a time for fighting, and now the time has come to fight,” he said.

Asked whether Israel would follow up the air strikes with a ground offensive, Barak said, “If boots on the ground will be needed, they will be there.”

“Our intention is to totally change the rules of the game,” he said.

How many times have we heard this delusional thinking before?  Lebanon 1982, Lebanon 2006, countless Gaza operations, and on and on.  And how many times has the IDF changed the rules of the game?  Not once.  It has never eradicated opposition whether in Gaza or Lebanon, and it never will by military means.  In fact, as George Bush discovered in Iraq, instead of eliminating a terrorist threat, by taking the fight to the “enemy” (whether Iraqi or Gazan) you actually create enemies you never had before.

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  1. Au contraire, Bush thinks he learned that if you surge the number of troops, things get better.

  2. Actually, the incursion it will be a nice recruitment program for Hamas


Posted on December 30th, 2008 at 8:32 by John Sinteur in category: Cartoon

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The daily irrelevant

Posted on December 29th, 2008 at 18:26 by John Sinteur in category: News

iPhone users should now see a fully iPhone-optimized version of the site…

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  1. Pretty cool how it preloads it all – images too! Now I can read on the subway without an RSS reader. Thanks!

    p.s.- Where can I find the “search” function in the new layout (non-iPhone)? Maybe it’s right in front of me, but I seem to be missing it.

  2. I forgot to put in a search box – it’s now at the bottom of the page (except on iPhones)

  3. Yay! My search for search is over!
    hurrr.. 8-|

    Thanks again!

  4. When someone begin to optimize websites for a single kind of mobile phones, you can realize this is a really fucked up world, or a really fucked up mobile phone.

  5. or both.

Giant US air travel data suck fails own privacy tests

Posted on December 29th, 2008 at 17:17 by John Sinteur in category: Privacy


A US Department of Homeland Security privacy report published earlier this month reveals that the DHS remains in violation of both US law and the DHS-EU agreement on the handling of Passenger Name Record (PNR) data. The report itself claims that the DHS is in compliance on both counts, but according to the Identity Project, it “contains multiple admissions that support exactly the opposite conclusion.”

For several years now the DHS has forced airlines carrying passengers to the US to collect and hand over PNR data for screening purposes prior to flights. Data collected within the EU is subject to EU data protection legislation, and its handover is permitted – subject to “safeguards” – under the DHS-EU agreement of 2007. The operation of this is subject to joint reviews of compliance, although none has so far been conducted, while the US end of the deal (covering PNR data in general) is subject to US review, where the US Privacy Act applies.

The outcome of this, paradoxically, is that the supposedly tougher EU privacy regime is in this case more relaxed than the US one. The DHS-EU agreement allows the DHS to retain EU passenger data for a period, while the Identity Project doubts that there is any legal basis for US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to retain the Automated Targeting System Passenger (ATS-P) database which contains the PNR data at all.

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Microsoft Certified Professional examination passed by nine year old

Posted on December 29th, 2008 at 17:10 by John Sinteur in category: Microsoft


It might come as a surprise to many of us but a nine year old girl has been able to pass a Microsoft Certified Professional examination, and has become the youngest person to ever pass this test.

M. Lavinashree, who belongs to the rural Tamil Nadu, cleared the exam, taken by techies for better job prospects, with very good marks. The exam measures problem-solving skills.

She even broke the record held by Arfa Karim, a ten-year-old Pakistani girl.

The nine year old Lavinashree has a photographic memory and she made news when she was just three as she recited 1,330 couplets of Universal Thirukural, a Tamil classical poem composed by a Tamil sage, Thiruvalluvar, 2000 years ago.

The basic versions of these tests don’t test any problem solving skills at all – they measure how well you remember the instructions on how to fix a certain problem, so a 9 year old with photographic memory passing the test is no surprise at all.

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Amateur crimefighters are surging in the US

Posted on December 29th, 2008 at 15:48 by John Sinteur in category: ¿ʞɔnɟ ǝɥʇ ʇɐɥʍ


There are, according to the recently launched World Superhero Registry, more than 200 men and a few women who are willing to dress up as comic book heroes and patrol the urban streets in search of, if not super-villains, then pickpockets and bullies.

They may look wacky, but the superhero community was born in the embers of the 9/11 terrorist attacks when ordinary people wanted to do something short of enlisting. They were boosted by a glut of Hollywood superhero movies.

In recent weeks, prompted by heady buzz words such as “active citizenry” during the Barack Obama campaign, the pace of enrolment has speeded up.

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  1. Well, militias and self proclaimed crime fighters are always welcome. I mean, it’s your god give right to beat up a bully. Or a pickpocket. And if you made a mistake, well, you can always say ‘Sorry’.

Study: ‘Virginity pledges’ are ineffective

Posted on December 29th, 2008 at 15:28 by John Sinteur in category: News


Teenagers who pledge to remain virgins until marriage are just as likely to have premarital sex as those who do not promise abstinence and are significantly less likely to use condoms and other forms of birth control when they do, according to a study released today.

The new analysis of data from a large federal survey found that more than half of youths became sexually active before marriage regardless of whether they had taken a “virginity pledge,” but that the percentage who took precautions against pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases was 10 points lower for pledgers than for non-pledgers.

“Taking a pledge doesn’t seem to make any difference at all in any sexual behavior,” said Janet E. Rosenbaum of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, whose report appears in the January issue of the journal Pediatrics. “But it does seem to make a difference in condom use and other forms of birth control that is quite striking.”

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Outgoing Secretary Of State Shares Thoughts With Sunday Morning

Posted on December 29th, 2008 at 15:10 by John Sinteur in category: News


“You and the president have both described your relationship as almost family – brother and sister and cousin – like that… What do you think that the public doesn’t know about him – what don’t we understand?” Braver asked.

“I think how much he gets into the detail,” [Condoleezza] Rice said. “I have seen many an aide and myself I’ve been in that position or a cabinet secretary, go in with a very fine presentation and the president just takes it apart. People would be amazed.”

Yes, I would be very, very amazed.

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  1. She means the ones where they used ‘words.’ He gets into the detail of the words, trying to work out what each one means. If people would just use more pictures in their presentations, then they’d find it a lot easier to explain things to him 😉

  2. I agree with John. “And Condi, that comma with a dot over it, what does it mean there?”

Dumb money and dull diligence

Posted on December 29th, 2008 at 15:08 by John Sinteur in category: Robber Barons


WRITING about one of the great swindles of the 1930s, J.K. Galbraith pointed to three traits of any financial community that he believed put it at risk of fraud. There was the tendency, he wrote in 1961, to confuse good manners and good tailoring with integrity and intelligence. There was the sometimes “disastrous interdependence” between the honest man and the crook. And there was the “dangerous cliché that in the financial world everything depends on confidence. One could better argue the importance of unremitting suspicion.”

The case of Bernard Madoff, a New York financier who has allegedly confessed to running a pyramid scheme that destroyed up to $50 billion of his clients’ money, has all three traits (see article). The former chairman of NASDAQ was as well known to insiders on Wall Street as he was in the posh Palm Beach Country Club in Florida, where he was a pillar of Jewish philanthropy. His clients were fiercely loyal; they had to be or he would cut them out of his hallowed investment circle and month-after-month returns of metronomic regularity. And he thrived in an era of cheap credit, when greed and gullibility became far more powerful than fear and suspicion.

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