Tuesday, February 27, 2007
By Jonathan Stempel
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Bank of America Corp. is defending its decision to offer credit cards to people who don't have U.S.
Social Security numbers, amid criticism that the program effectively endorses illegal immigration.
The bank's pilot program, revealed last week, focuses on Hispanics in the Los Angeles area.
It has spurred opposition in Congress and from grass-roots groups who say many illegal immigrants could benefit, and that the program might foster identity theft, money laundering and terrorism.
Bank of America Chief Executive Kenneth Lewis defended the program on Thursday in The Wall Street Journal. This came after some groups called for a boycott of the No. 2 U.S. bank by assets. They say their efforts are bearing fruit.
William Gheen, director of the National Illegal Immigration Boycott Coalition, said his group has collected hundreds of e-mails from people vowing to cancel accounts and move mortgages. The group said it has more than 11,000 signatures on its petition calling for a boycott of Bank of America.
"What Bank of America is doing is illegal, or should be," Gheen said.
For its part, Bank of America has not seen "any unusual business activity" resulting from responses to the pilot program, spokeswoman Alexandra Trower said.
"Some (customers) are very supportive, while others are not supportive," she said. "That is why we undertake pilots."
The Pew Hispanic Center estimated there were 11.5 million to 12 million illegal immigrants nationwide a year ago.
That's up from the
Census Bureau's 8.7 million estimate for 2000. The total population is 301.2 million, the bureau said.
Bank of America's roots date to San Francisco in 1904. That year, Amedeo Giannini, a son of Italian immigrants, founded the Bank of Italy to serve "the little guys," including immigrants that other banks wouldn't touch.
In his Thursday opinion piece, Lewis admitted it is not pleasant to be caught a century later in the "heated" national immigration debate, and that he was "feeling the passion."
Still, he pledged to continue the card program, which he said complies with the USA Patriot Act and other laws.
Lewis said illegal immigrants can obtain cards at many U.S. banks and businesses, and that Bank of America requires other identification to open accounts.
He also agreed with former U.S. Treasury Secretary
John Snow that the government could better enforce money laundering and terrorist financing laws by encouraging foreign national consumers to enter the "financial mainstream."
James Angel, a professor at Georgetown University's McDonough School of Business, said: "From a homeland security perspective, we want undocumented workers in the financial system, so they can be tracked."
Lewis said his bank's program can help people build credit histories -- and perhaps become long-term customers.
"Let me be clear: Bank of America does not deliberately market financial products and services to illegal immigrants," he wrote.
Nearing the end of his sixth year at the bank's helm, Lewis has faced criticism before, including for spending $82 billion to buy FleetBoston Financial Corp. and card issuer MBNA Corp. Wall Street now views those acquisitions as successes.
Lewis has led Bank of America's evolution from a regional bank into by far the largest U.S. bank by branches and deposits.
The bank is near a regulatory cap that bars acquisitions giving it more than 10 percent of U.S. deposits. It must focus on adding new customers and selling products to existing ones.
Some may need encouragement. The bank often gets mediocre scores in customer surveys, including this week's American Customer Satisfaction Index from the University of Michigan.
Academy Awards show, Bank of America will launch a new advertising campaign, with a "Bank of Opportunity" tagline replacing the 4-year-old "Higher Standards" slogan.
Some Republicans in the Democratic-controlled Congress say Bank of America is pursuing one opportunity too many.
"After September 11th, we were told that money was the lifeblood of terrorists, and that we should do everything possible to block their access to financial resources," Rep. Tom Tancredo, a Colorado Republican and prominent illegal immigration opponent, said Thursday in a statement.
"Today we are hearing a far different message," he continued. "I hope the (Bush) Administration will shut down this reckless and illegal program."
Meanwhile, CNN host Lou Dobbs, another illegal immigration opponent, has called the card program "outrageous," and the idea that Bank of America isn't marketing to illegal immigrants "fundamentally, absolutely and unequivocally a lie."
Bank of America's Trower said it is premature to say whether the card program will expand.
"We will analyze the results from the Los Angeles pilot, from a business and environmental perspective, to determine our next steps with this program," she said.
(Additional reporting by John Poirier in Washington, D.C.)
Monday, February 26, 2007
by Linda Deutsch, AP Special Correspondent
LOS ANGELES - Two young New York men accused of trying to extort $150,000 from MySpace.com by developing code that tracked visitors pleaded no contest Monday to illegal computer access in a bargain with the prosecution.
Two counts of attempted extortion and another illegal computer access count were dropped in the deal, which gave the defendants three years probation. Each had faced up to nearly four years in prison.
Shaun Harrison, 19, and Saverio Mondelli, 20, of Suffolk County, N.Y., were accused of demanding the money as a "consulting fee" from the News Corp. subsidiary. The pair were offering the code on their own Web site for $29.95 and claimed to be developing an unbreakable version. MySpace had blocked the existing version after it was discovered.
The popular MySpace social-networking site — where people create elaborate profiles and personalize them with photos, music and video — is supposed to offer anonymity to visitors who browse the pages.
But Harrison and Mondelli's program collected e-mail addresses and Internet Protocol addresses, prosecutors said. Such information could have been used by stalkers trying to locate MySpace users, said Deputy District Attorney Jeffrey A. McGrath.
The men sold access to several versions of the code to computer users, who could then apply it to their own MySpace profiles. That type of traffic monitoring violates MySpace's rules.
The men boasted they had around 85,000 registered users of their tracking program, but investigators have not determined how much information users were able to cull, McGrath said.
The plea bargain, also agreed to by Paul L. Gabbert, attorney for the young men, severely restricts their access to computers, limits them to one e-mail address each, and requires they do 160 hours of community service and pay MySpace $13,500 in restitution.
Superior Court Commissioner Kristi Lousteau told the defendants that if they violate their agreement they could go to prison. She said they will be subject to search of their computers at any time and they may not access MySpace.com directly or indirectly.
The defendants stood before the commissioner and acknowledged the terms of the agreement, but neither spoke other than to answer "yes."
Outside court, Gabbert said that the agreement came from "the recognition that they are young and made a mistake and to give them a second chance."
He said they set up their business right out of high school, are going to college and "they will continue to be creative and not transgress the law."
McGrath said the young men, who were extremely proficient in the Web multimedia program Flash, were discovered by the operators of MySpace and were sent a "cease and desist" order by e-mail.
The pair sent a reply saying, "We will neither cease nor desist" and announced on their Web site that they were developing an even more sophisticated system that would soon be for sale, prosecutors said.
The problem for MySpace was that the pair's identities were not known because they were operating under pseudonyms.
The prosecution said the company then began "quasi negotiations" with the two. They were arrested last May when they flew to Los Angeles to collect the $150,000 but actually met with undercover
Secret Service and district attorney's investigators, prosecutors said.
Hemanshu Nigam, chief security officer for MySpace, said the site is committed to protecting users.
"We are pleased with outcome of this case and hope that it sends a message to anyone thinking about causing harm to the MySpace community," Nigam said in an e-mail statement.
McGrath said there are other companies offering similar services on the Internet and that MySpace is constantly trying to shut them down.
Tuesday, February 13, 2007
No Bees, I heard Einstein predicted we wouldn't last more than three or four years if all the honeybees died..,oh no...
20 Things You Didn't Know About... Beesby Liza Lentini by Discover.com
1 There are 16,000 species. Most are solitary insects; only about 5 percent are social bees, the most common being the honeybee. As many as 80,000 of them colonize a single hive.
2 Drones—the male honeybees—live only for mating with the queen. If there is a shortage of food in the hive, the workers kick their lazy, gigolo asses out.Worker bees have strictly regimented roles, including that of undertakers
3 To die for: When drones mate, they die afterwards from a ruptured abdomen. Sex detaches their endophallus, which gets stuck inside the queen.
4 She continues to mate—the drones aren’t terribly smart, apparently—until she collects more than 70 million sperm from multiple males.
5 The queen was known as the king until the late 1660s, when Dutch scientist Jan Swammerdam dissected the hive’s big bee and discovered ovaries.
6 Someone call Homeland Security! Australian researchers discovered that honeybees can distinguish human faces. The insects were shown black-and-white pictures and given treats for right answers.
7 Oh, someone did call Homeland Security. In the Stealthy Insect Sensor Project, Los Alamos scientists have trained bees to recognize explosives.
8 The term “honeymoon” is derived from an old northern European custom in which newlyweds would consume a daily cup of mead, made with fermented honey, for a month.
9 The term “bee’s knees” was coined by American cartoonist Tad Dorgan, who was also responsible for “the cat’s pajamas,” “the flea’s eyebrows,” “the canary’s tusks,” and (apropos of nothing) “Yes, we have no bananas.”
10 During World War I, honey was used to treat the wounds of soldiers because it attracts and absorbs moisture, making it a valuable healing agent.
11 Honey never spoils. Ever.
12 Bumblebees can estimate time intervals. Researchers have found that the insects extend their tongues in tandem with the rhythm of a sweet reward. This aids in the hunt for nectar, whose availability waxes and wanes.
13 Melittosphex burmensis, recently found preserved in amber in a mine in northern Myanmar, is the oldest bee known. It lived 100 million years ago.
14 After he had pioneered the laws of genetics with pea plants, Austrian monk Gregor Mendel bred a strain of hybrid bees. Unfortunately, they were so vicious he had to kill them.
15 The buzz that you hear when a bee approaches is the sound of its four wings moving at 11,400 strokes per minute. Bees fly an average of 15 miles per hour.
16 A newly hatched queen immediately kills all other hatched and unhatched queens in the hive.
17 The Honeybee Boogie: In 1943 Austrian zoologist Karl von Frisch published his study on the dances bees perform to alert fellow workers. A round dance indicates that food is close by; a waggle dance means it is distant.
18 Worker bees have strictly regimented roles, including that of undertakers who drag their dead siblings from the hive.
19 On the April 1984 Challenger flight, 3,300 bees, housed in a special but confining box, adapted perfectly to zero gravity and built a nearly normal comb. But they didn’t go to the toilet. Since bees excrete only outside the hive, they held it in for seven days. A NASA spokesperson said the space hive was “just as clean as a pin.”
20 According to an old wives’ tale, a bee entering your house means a visitor is on his way, and if you kill the bee, the visitor won’t be a pleasant one. Suffice to say, invite that unexpected honeybee guest to sit down to tea.
Mystery ailment killing bees
By GENARO C. ARMAS
The Associated Press
A mysterious ailment is threatening the livelihood of commercial beekeepers like Charlie Vorisek of Linesville, Pa.
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- A mysterious illness is killing tens of thousands of honeybee colonies across the country, threatening honey production, the livelihood of beekeepers and possibly crops that need bees for pollination.
Researchers are scrambling to find the cause of Colony Collapse Disorder.
Reports of unusual colony deaths have come from at least 22 states. Some affected commercial beekeepers -- who often keep thousands of colonies -- have reported losing more than half of their bees. A colony can have roughly 20,000 bees in the winter and up to 60,000 in the summer.
"We have seen a lot of things happen in 40 years, but this is the epitome of it all," said Dave Hackenberg of Lewisburg-based Hackenberg Apiaries.
The country's bee population has been shocked in recent years by a tiny parasitic bug called the varroa mite, which has destroyed more than half of some beekeepers' hives and devastated most wild honeybee populations.
Along with being producers of honey, commercial bee colonies are important to agriculture as pollinators, along with some birds, bats and other insects. A recent report by the National Research Council noted that in order to bear fruit, three-quarters of all flowering plants -- including most food crops and some that provide fiber, medicines and fuel -- rely on pollinators for fertilization.
Hackenberg, 58, was first to report Colony Collapse Disorder to bee researchers at Penn State University. He notified them in November when he was down to about 1,000 colonies after starting the fall with 2,900.
"We are going to take bees we got and make more bees ... but it's costly," he said. "We are talking about major bucks. You can only take so many blows so many times."
One beekeeper who traveled with two truckloads of bees to California to help pollinate almond trees found nearly all of his bees dead upon arrival, said Dennis vanEnglesdorp, acting state apiarist for the Pennsylvania Agriculture Department.
"I would characterize it as serious," said Daniel Weaver, president of the American Beekeeping Federation. "Whether it threatens the apiculture industry in the United States or not, that's up in the air."
Diana Cox-Foster, a Penn State entomology professor investigating the problem, said an analysis of dissected bees turned up an alarmingly high number of foreign fungi, bacteria and other organisms and weakened immune systems.
Researchers are also looking into the effect that pesticides might be having on bees.
In the meantime, beekeepers are wondering if bee deaths over the last couple of years that had been blamed on mites or poor management might actually have resulted from the mystery ailment.
"Now people think that they may have had this three or four years," vanEnglesdorp said.
Monday, February 12, 2007
By Harry R. Weber, AP Business Writer on Yahoo.com
Feb. 9, 2007
ATLANTA - The head of the Cartoon Network resigned Friday following a marketing stunt that caused a terrorism scare in Boston and led police to shut down bridges and send in the bomb squad. The announcement of Jim Samples' resignation came in an internal memo to Cartoon Network staff members.
"It's my hope that my decision allows us to put this chapter behind us and get back to our mission of delivering unrivaled original animated entertainment for consumers of all ages," said Samples, who was the network's general manager and executive vice president.
He said he regretted what had happened and felt "compelled to step down, effective immediately, in recognition of the gravity of the situation that occurred under my watch."
On Monday, Turner Broadcasting and an advertising agency involved agreed to pay $2 million in compensation for the emergency response the devices had spurred in Boston. The Cartoon Network is a division of Atlanta-based Turner Broadcasting, whose parent is media giant Time Warner Inc.
The agreement between Turner, Interference Inc. and several state and local agencies resolves any potential civil or criminal claims against the two companies.
By Phil Stewart...Yahoo.com
VALDARO, Italy (Reuters) - Italy won't split up its Stone Age "lovers."
In a gift to the country, scientists said they are determined to remove and preserve together the remains of a couple buried 5,000 to 6,000 years ago, their arms still wrapped around each other in an enduring embrace.
Friday, February 09, 2007
|Waste to Watts: Portable Refinery Transforms Trash into Power|
|Kitchen trash stinks, unless it can be turned into electricity, starting in Army field kitchens|
| By David Biello from www.Sciam.com|
Mr. Fusion. If you're a fan of the Back to the Future" trilogy, you will recognize that as the name of the Cuisinart-like machine that converted beer and banana peels into nuclear power for the vaunted "flux capacitor" that allowed Dr. Emmett Brown to time travel. It is also the name—"whether we like it or not"—of a new, mobile refinery that turns kitchen waste into fuel and, ultimately, electricity, according to Jerry Warner, president of Defense Life Sciences, the company that has coordinated the research to build the first working prototype of such a machine for the U.S. Army.
The real "Mr. Fusion," or "tactical hybrid refinery" to use Army-speak, processes the waste produced by a typical kitchen—food, plastics, paper—into fuel that runs a standard diesel generator. Roughly the size of a van—13.3 feet long by eight feet wide and eight feet tall—the refinery can fuel 90 percent of the energy needs of a generator able to pump out 150 amps of electricity.
It works via parallel processes. The waste is first sorted—already standard practice at Army field kitchens, its first potential home—and then run through an industrial-strength shredder. The "ugly-looking gruel" that results, Warner says, separates into more liquid organic materials that funnel into a biocatalytic vat, and more solid materials—plastics—that find their way to a gasifying chamber. Inside the vat, enzymes and yeast—with a leavening of antibiotics for safety—digest the organic gruel into ethanol. Inside the gasifier, the plastic pellets turn to gas at temperatures of 600 degrees Celsius.
"As the waste material is introduced you can produce your gas from the gasifier within an hour and you'll start getting ethanol at six hours. By about 12 hours you can displace the diesel fuel to less than 10 percent," Warner notes. "It's scaled to take in about 2,500 pounds of mixed waste per 24-hour period."
|Image: © TOM CAMPBELL/PURDUE AGRICULTURAL COMMUNICATION|
|WASTE REFINERY: This machine can transform 2,500 pounds of trash a day into electricity. [Click on image to enlarge.]|
The prototype at Purdue University cost $950,000 to build, most of which came from the Army. More tests and demonstrations are in the waste refinery's future and the engineers are optimistic that it may be capable of achieving even greater efficiency—reducing diesel requirements to as low as one or two percent of the fuel mix. "There's a lot more energy in there," Warner says. "[Plastic] is just solidified petroleum."
Defense Life Sciences and its partners hope to have "Mr. Fusion," under another, more sober name, available for purchase within a year at roughly one third the cost of the prototype. And they are looking beyond military applications. "You might go into a large skyscraper and allow them to manage their solid waste stream right there in the building," Warner adds. "You'd eliminate the generator and hook it up to a boiler, providing a portion of the building's hot water and heating needs." The future of waste certainly seems to be power.
That was probably the best half-time show I've ever seen, or maybe I'm biased because it's Prince...
Hawkins Stunned by Prince Tribute
The Foo Fighters' Taylor Hawkins is still scratching his head after watching Prince cover the group's "Best of Me" during his Super Bowl halftime performance -- he thought the pop superstar hated the rockers.
The band recorded a cover of Prince's "Darling Nicky" in 2004 and asked the "Purple Rain" hitmaker for permission to release the track, prompting the reclusive star to rage at them.
Drummer Hawkins recalls, "We wanted to put it out here in the States, but Prince wouldn't let us. I heard that he didn't like our version. Or maybe he just didn't like us doing it."
Prince then publicly blasted the Foo Fighters, urging them to write their own songs, so Hawkins was bemused when the superstar performed "Best of You" at the Super Bowl in Miami, Fla., on Sunday.
Hawkins tells MTV News, "I have no idea why he did it, but I'd love to find out. ... The thought went through my head that maybe he was doing it as a sort of '[Bleep] you' to us, or maybe he really likes the song.
"Either way, it was pretty amazing to have a guy like Prince covering one of our songs -- and actually doing it better than we did.
"I was watching the game at our producer's house. I mean, I'm outside smoking a cigarette and someone sticks their head outside and goes, 'Uh, dude, Prince is doing your song.'"
Sunday, February 04, 2007
Saturday, February 03, 2007
Thursday, February 01, 2007
Hoax Jokesters Laugh their Way out of Charlestown Courtroom
by Michael McPhee, Jessica Fargen, Laurel J. Sweet
Two “starving artists” whose moronic Mooninite masterpieces brought Boston to a standstill yesterday were promised only $300 apiece by a guerilla marketing firm for a stunt that will cost taxpayers nearly $1 million.
Peter Berdovsky, 27, of Arlington and Sean Stevens, 28, of Charlestown - who this morning had to scratch up $2,500 cash bail each for possession of a hoax device and disorderly conduct - haven’t even been paid by Interference Inc., according to a close friend.
Prosecutor Grossman explained the reason Boston reacted as it did is because bomb cops are trained to examine foreign objects for a power source and a circuit board and both were present in the Sullivan Square Mooninite, as well as duct tape attached to a red wire.
Over the course of several hours yesterday, police also dismantled Mooninites at Fenway Park [map], the Boston University Bridge, Downtown Crossing and in the Theater District. The Mooninites have reportedly been up for weeks.
>>MassArt Alums makin' big moves...heh...And being a wiseass is to be expected of performance artists...What a media circus...Boston looks ridiculous...I would just like to state for the record that mullets are dead, Peter...