Archive for February, 2012

Free apps ‘can spy on texts and calls’

Monday, February 27th, 2012

“Daniel Rosenfield, director of app company Sun Products, said selling on the information was far more lucrative than charging for the app. He said: ‘The revenue you get from selling your apps doesn’t touch the revenue you get from giving your apps away for free and just loading them with advertisements.'”

Companies are using free smartphone apps as ‘fronts’ to allow them to spy on users’ text messages, intercept calls and even track their location, it was claimed yesterday.

By accepting little-read terms and conditions when downloading apps, consumers give developers the right to harvest vast swathes of private information.

Facebook insists that people using its Android smartphone app agree to give them permission to read their text messages, although the internet giant said it had not yet taken advantage of this right.

Social media sites Flickr and Yahoo! are also alleged to read text messages via their apps, while apps from smaller companies allow them to extract private details about users’ lives. They can even remotely take images from users’ handset cameras and even dial their phone and intercept calls without them knowing.

Privacy campaigners criticised the abuse of personal information. Nick Pickles, director of Big Brother Watch, described the apps market as ‘an unregulated Wild West’.

Emma Draper, of the Privacy International campaign group, said: ‘Your personal information is a precious commodity, and companies will go to great lengths to get their hands on as much of it as possible.’

– More…


Corporate Margins and Profits are Increasing, But Workers’ Wages Aren’t

Sunday, February 26th, 2012

– We have no shortage of proof that things are not right and that the vast majority of us are being slowly and inexorably disadvantaged by the power and financial structures around us.   And that those who’ve managed to gain control of those structures are becoming richer and richer as we become more impoverished.

– The ‘controllers’ are smart.  They know that revolutions are quite unlikely while the oppressed still have full bellies.   So, even as we get poorer in terms of what our wages can buy us, we are guided into ever more soporific satiation with the media spectacles on TV and in the movies, with ever yet cheaper junk that fills the shelves of our monster WalMart and Warehouse stores.  

– We think the political debates raging in the media are about reforming the growing injustices but they are, in fact, mere stick sword fights between the tweedle-dees and the tweedle-dums put up in the political Gamelan shows to confuse us.

– The biggest game in town is the flow of riches to the few and the slow impoverishment of the rest.   But most of us haven’t seen it yet and we go on in our lemming ways rooting about for a slightly better rate on our house mortgage or a slightly better price on the next box of crackers we buy at the market.

– Someday, the awareness of what’s happening will finally grip the majority of us and the consequences will be dire.  But, until then, we remain asleep in the midst of a planet wide robbery spree.

– dennis

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As we’ve been noting, corporate profits have made it back to their pre-recession heights (even if corporate tax revenue hasn’t followed suit). In fact, in 2011, corporate profits hit their highest level since 1950. But as Bloomberg News noted today, this hasn’t translated into wage growth or more purchasing power for workers:

Companies are improving margins and generating profits as wage growth for the American worker lags behind the prices of goods and services…While benefiting the bottom line for businesses, the decline in inflation-adjusted wages bodes ill for the sustainability of economic growth as consumers may eventually be forced to cut back. […]

Of the 394 companies in the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index that have reported since Jan. 9, earnings for the quarter ended Dec. 31 increased 5.1 percent on average and beat analyst estimates by 3.2 percent. Some 70 percent of the companies have posted better-than-projected results.

This pattern has become all too familiar during the slow economic recovery. In fact, real wages fell in 2011, despite record corporate profits. “There’s never been a postwar era in which unemployment has been this high for this long,” explained labor economist Gary Burtless. “Workers are in a very weak bargaining position.”

Between 2009 and 2011, 88 percent of national income growth went to corporate profits, while just 1 percent went to wages, a stat that is “historically unprecedented.”

– To the original…


10 Things Science Says Will Make You Happy

Saturday, February 25th, 2012

– How about some good news ?

– dennis


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– Click here to go through to the article itself.


Yet More Evidence That Banks Are Too Heavily Regulated

Saturday, February 25th, 2012

– That’s a tongue-in-cheek a title as I’ve seen in awhile.  

– When you read this, reflect that hundreds of people have spent time in jail recently for demonstrating against inequality and financial malfesance and yet, in spite of the massive global melt-down triggered by Wall Street’s greed in 2008, not one banker or Wall Street type has yet served jail time.

– dennis

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The Wall Street Journal reports today that between 2007 and 2010 a group of six big banks conspired to artificially manipulate a key interest rate, the yen London interbank offered rate, also known as yen Libor:

The yen Libor rate is set daily by a 16-bank panel, organized by the British Bankers’ Association. Around 11 a.m. London time every day, each bank submits estimates to the BBA of what rates it would pay to borrow from other banks for different time periods. The top four and bottom four quotes are then discarded, and Libor is calculated using an average of the middle eight quotes.

The Canadian watchdog [investigating the case] said lawyers acting for the cooperating bank had told it that traders at six banks on the yen Libor panel—Citigroup Inc., Deutsche Bank AG, HSBC Holdings PLC, J.P. Morgan Chase & Co., Royal Bank of Scotland Group PLC and UBS—”entered into agreements to submit artificially high or artificially low” quotes, according to the court documents.

The traders used emails and instant messages to tell each other whether they wanted “to see a higher or lower yen Libor [rate] to aid their trading position(s),” according to a court filing. Each of the traders would then “communicate internally” with the person at their bank who was responsible for submitting the Libor quote, before letting each other know if this attempt to influence the quote had worked.

Just a few rogue traders, I’m sure. Nothing to be concerned about. Move along now.

– To the original story…



Plutocracy, Pure and Simple

Saturday, February 25th, 2012

– I have to say that George Monbiot is one of my favorites out there on the Internet.  He always seems to be able to incisively cut to the heart of the matter on whtever subject he tackles.   The piece below will not disappoint.

– dennis

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Now it’s a straight fight with the billionaires and corporations.

Shocking, fascinating, entirely unsurprising: the leaked documents, if authentic, confirm what we suspected but could not prove. The Heartland Institute, which has helped lead the war against climate science in the United States, is funded among others by tobacco firms, fossil fuel companies and one of the billionaire Koch brothers(1).

It appears to have followed the script written by a consultant to the Republican party, Frank Luntz, in 2002. “Should the public come to believe that the scientific issues are settled, their views about global warming will change accordingly. Therefore, you need to continue to make the lack of scientific certainty a primary issue in the debate.”(2)

Luntz’s technique was pioneered by the tobacco companies and the creationists: teach the controversy. In other words, insist that the question of whether cigarettes cause lung cancer, natural selection drives evolution or burning fossil fuels causes climate change is still wide open, and that both sides of the “controversy” should be taught in schools and thrashed out in the media.

The leaked documents appear to show that, courtesy of its multi-millionaire donors, the institute has commissioned a global warming curriculum for schools, which teaches that “whether humans are changing the climate is a major scientific controversy” and “whether CO2 is a pollutant is controversial.”(3).

The institute has claimed that it is “a genuinely independent source of research and commentary”(4) and that “we do not take positions in order to appease or avoid losing support from individual donors”(5). But the documents, if authentic, reveal that its attacks on climate science have been largely funded by a single anonymous donor and that “we are extinguishing primarily global warming projects in pace with declines in his giving”(6).

The climate change deniers it funds have made similar claims to independence. For example, last year Fred Singer told a French website, “of course I am not funded by the fossil fuel lobbies. It’s a completely absurd invention.”(7) The documents suggest that the institute, funded among others by the coal company Murray Energy, the oil company Marathon and the former Exxon lobbyist Randy Randol, has been paying him $5000 a month(8).

Robert Carter has claimed that he “receives no research funding from special interest organisations”(9). But the documents suggest that Heartland pays him $1,667 a month(10). Among the speakers at its conferences were two writers for the Telegraph (Christopher Booker and James Delingpole(11,12)). The Telegraph group should now reveal whether and how much they were paid by the Heartland Institute.

It seems to be as clear an illustration as we have yet seen of the gulf between what such groups call themselves and what they really are. Invariably, organisations arguing for regulations to be removed, top taxes to be reduced and other such billionaire-friendly policies call themselves freemarket or conservative thinktanks. But according to David Frum, formerly a fellow at one such group – the American Enterprise Institute – they “increasingly function as public-relations agencies”(13). The message they send to their employees, he says, is “we don’t pay you to think, we pay you to repeat.”

– To more of this most excellent article…


Financial storm clouds for the U.S.

Tuesday, February 21st, 2012

– this was taken from a news letter (Review & Focus) sent out to customers of EverBank.   It’s written by Chuck Butler, President, EverBank World Markets.

– I highly recommend EverBank (

– dennis

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… “the U.S. debt is now more than $15 trillion.   Our GDP is about $14.5 trillion.  Our debt is greater than our GDP!   And that’s just the current debt …   When you take in the unfunded liabilities, our debt is really $117 trillion.

So, no matter what side of the aisle you sit on, our country has built up a debt that will be difficult to even pay the debt servicing on never mind the repayment of the debt!   With the current path of deficit spending, in 2017 the tax receipts of this country will be eaten up by debt servicing (interest payments on bonds), and it could become sooner if interest rates begin to return to normal levels in the next couple of years!

If I were running for President, I would point out that in a very short time, relatively speaking, the Chinese have become the largest foreign holder of our debt, and that two different Chinese leaders have expressed disappointment in our debt levels, and have suggested that the Chinese look elsewhere.   When the Chinese fail to show up for a bond auction, the world as we know it will come crashing down, with the dollar in tow.”

Ditches and sun

Friday, February 17th, 2012

After the cow adventures last night, we returned today to deal with putting the pipes down in the ditch.   This will be a ‘french drain’ system which means that the water that is down in the ground because of rain will go into perforated pipes buried in gravel  under the ground and be carried away and not cause the water table to rise so high that the local septic system will fail.

So, the ditch that the cow got into last night is the same one we worked with all day putting in pipes.

All day we used a surveyor’s to measure the hight of the pipe under the ground to ensure that water that flowed into it will proceed downhill as desired.   Pipes were glued together, gravel was carried, ditches were crossed and climbed into and out of again.  And all of this under the hot sun.

After all the cold unseasonable weather in Christchurch, it was nice to feel the heat here in Takaka as we worked.

It was a type of work I’ve done many times when I used to be part of a nursery business but I haven’t done it for some time now.   Today, I enjoyed working out under the open sky and sweating.   Good honest labor.

And thus ends a Friday in Golden Bay.

The Day of the COW

Friday, February 17th, 2012

16/02/2012 – Today, I drove my motorcycle from Christchurch to Golden Bay up at the northern end of the South Island; a distance of about 250 miles, roughly.   I’m going to spend several days up here visiting friends. It was a good ride though I worried during the first leg, if the weather was going to be bad.   From Christchurch to Culverden, it got progressively grayer and colder and I seriously considered turning around and packing it in.   But, I pressed on and not long after, the blue skies and sunlight began to return and from there out, the day will brilliant.  

The road up here took me through the central parts of the northern half of the South Island.   Towns with names like Culverden, Springs Junction, Murchison and Motueka rolled by sporadically.  But most of the country is beautiful farming country with green forested mountains around it.   Too rural for me, I think but beautiful none the less.

Some where around 5 pm, I arrived at Bob’s place outside of Takaka.   I really love this area and always have.   I’ve said often that just about the only rural area in New Zealand that I would seriously consider living in would be Golden Bay.  

It’s beautiful and it is progressive and that’s a nice combination.   It is one of New Zealand’s best kept secrets and I only know about it because of my friend, Bob.  

He and I met when he still lived in Christchurch and I followed his move up here with great interest.   Golden Bay is an isolated area in the northeastern corner of the South Island.  There’s basically one road in and out and it goes up and over the mountains (Takaka Hill)  that stand between Golden Bay on the west and Motueka on the coast to the east.   There’s less that 10,000 people in the entire area and it is wildly beautiful.

Bob and I sat drinking beers for a bit and catching up.   Then he went down and milked his goats and I joined him.   At some point, later in the evening after tea (Kiwi’s call the evening meal, ‘tea’), the phone rang. 

It was the girl who’s living as a tenant on a  property that Bob’s daughter owns here in Golden Bay a mile or so from Bob’s place.   Bob’s daughter is in Australia just now working. The problem was that Bob’s been digging a big drainage ditch on his daughter’s property and one of the two cows that live on the property had walked into the ditch from the shallow end and had continued walking up it until she’d got stuck far up the ditch and at a level where her head was below the surrounding ground level.   So much for cow curiosity. The tenant had found the cow stuck and called Bob to see if he could sort the situation out.

So, Bob and I piled into his car with some ropes and such and took off to see the situation.   It was not long before sundown so we needed to get to it if anything could be done. When we arrived, it was much as described.   A cow was 50 feet or so up the ditch from the end wedged in with the sides lightly pressing her flanks and her head two feet below ground level.

Cows don’t seem to have any idea about how to back up.   And no one was keen on getting down into the ditch either in front of her or behind her least she panic and trample them.  

Bob first tried tying the rope onto her horns and pulling her backwards but that only had limited success as she’d turn her head backwards and look at us rather than backing up. Then we tried putting the rope around her neck arranged so it would not cinch-up and strangle her.   She backed up a bit with that approach but, in the end, Bob got down in the ditch behind her and tried a combination of a rope tied to one of her back legs and pulling on her tail while I kept a pull on the rope around her neck pulling her backwards.

Lot’s of fussing and pulling ensued.   At one point, she went down on her front knees and wouldn’t get up and Bob had to jump down in front and help her up. It looked for awhile if we might have to leave her in the ditch for the night and have the digger operator come in the morning and dig a big hole beside her so she could turn around. But, with a lot of pulling and encouragement and a few close calls, she finally backup up until the surrounding ground was low enough that she could clamber out of the ditch.   

Once she was out, Bob grabbed her head and soothed her (he’d bottle-raised her from a calf so she trusted him) and he took the loop off around her neck and I cut the rope looped around her back leg (staying vary carefully to the side so I wouldn’t get kicked senseless).

When all of this was done, we could barely see our way around in the dark.  He dropped some boards and clutter into the shallow end of the ditch so she wouldn’t enter it again and we were off.

So, it was an interesting day all told.   A beautiful motorcycle ride up the South Island followed by a nice welcome and a meal at Bob’s and then a big adventure in the near dark with a cow in a ditch.

Life can be quite surprising and fun at times.

Syngenta PR’s Weed-Killer Spin Machine: Investigating the Press and Shaping the “News” about Atrazine

Monday, February 13th, 2012

– These are corporations whose sole aim is not the good of the people, not the betterment of the world, but it is only for the maximuization of return on their shareholder’s investments.  

– Beyond that, truth, polution, harm to humans and all such consideration only matter if they begin to interfere in the bottom line: the maximuization of return on their shareholder’s investments.

– I know this rap sounds so cynical and over the top, but the more I look at such stories and reflect on what motivates corporations, the more I think it is a fair analysis.


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Documents obtained by the Center for Media and Democracy, recently unsealed as part of a major lawsuit against Syngenta, reveal how the global chemical company’s PR team investigated the press and spent millions to spin news coverage and public perceptions in the face of growing concerns about potential health risks from the widely used weed-killer “atrazine.”

his story is part of a new series about this PR campaign to influence the media, potential jurors, potential plaintiffs, farmers, politicians, scientists, and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the midst of reviews of the weed-killer’s potential to act as an endocrine disruptor, over the past decade or so.

– More…

Ohio Lawmakers Introduced 33 Bills Last Year Based on ALEC Model Legislation

Monday, February 13th, 2012

– Thank tanks created and supported by Corporate America generating lists of legislation that would be ideal for their interests.   And now they are funneling these ‘suggestions’ into their croneys in the Ohio legislature and working to get them passed as law.

– Stories like this make it pretty hard to argue that the corporate world has not captured significant parts of the American political process.


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The American Legislative Exchange Council’s (ALEC) influence weighs heavy in the Ohio’s GOP-controlled legislature, where brazen attempts to crush the collective bargaining rights of public workers and change voting rules in favor of Republicans have made national headlines in recent months. Over the past year,Ohio lawmakers introduced 33 bills that are identical to or “appear to contain” elements of the ALEC’s infamous model legislation that promotes a pro-corporate agenda, according to a report released this week by watchdog groups.

At least nine of the 33 bills have passed the State Legislature, including the now-defunct Senate Bill 5, which was poised to strip public employees of collective bargaining rights until Ohioans overwhelmingly voted for a repeal in November.

– More…