Saturday, October 25, 2014

Tracking Down The Iraqi Cash

The single stupidest action of the Bush Administration was carrying out this staggeringly-stupid idea. Stuart Bowen is to be deeply-and-endlessly thanked for all his hard work here (but, of course, no one in government will ever do so):
WASHINGTON — Not long after American forces defeated the Iraqi government of Saddam Hussein in 2003, caravans of trucks began to arrive at Andrews Air Force Base outside Washington on a regular basis, unloading an unusual cargo — pallets of shrink-wrapped $100 bills. The cash, withdrawn from Iraqi government accounts held in the United States, was loaded onto Air Force C-17 transport planes bound for Baghdad, where the Bush administration hoped it would provide a quick financial infusion for Iraq’s new government and the country’s battered economy.

Over the next year and a half, $12 billion to $14 billion was sent to Iraq in the airlift, and an additional $5 billion was sent by electronic transfer. Exactly what happened to that money after it arrived in Baghdad became one of the many unanswered questions from the chaotic days of the American occupation, when billions were flowing into the country from the United States and corruption was rampant.

Finding the answer became first the job and then the obsession of Stuart W. Bowen Jr., a friend from Texas of President George W. Bush who in 2004 was appointed to serve as a special inspector general to investigate corruption and waste in Iraq. Before his office was finally shut down last year, Mr. Bowen believed he might have succeeded — but only partly — in that mission.

Much of the money was probably used by the Iraqi government in some way, he concluded. But for years Mr. Bowen could not account for billions more until his investigators finally had a breakthrough, discovering that $1.2 billion to $1.6 billion had been stolen and moved to a bunker in rural Lebanon for safe keeping. “I don’t know how the money got to Lebanon,” Mr. Bowen said. “If I knew that, we would have made more progress on the case.”

Mars - Once Wet; Now Dry

Checking in on the MAVEN mission, finding an artist's conception of what a once-watery Mars might have looked like.

Aguascalientes - Mexican Powerhouse

This interesting article came out last month:
Mexico has leapfrogged other auto producing nations. In 2009, Mexico was the world’s 10th largest auto producer. But it’s soared past Spain and France, and earlier this year it surged by Brazil to become the world’s No. 7 automaker and the fourth largest exporter. Experts say Mexico is one of the most dynamic hubs of the global auto industry.

Gone are the days when Mexico produced only compact sedans and pickup trucks. Later this decade, new plants will be producing premium vehicles, BMWs and Mercedes, Infinitis and Audis. Many Nissan vehicles that roll out of the existing plants in Aguascalientes are bound not for domestic showrooms or to auto dealers in the United States but for Brazil, Colombia, the United Arab Emirates and dozens of other markets.

The huge growth comes not just because of Mexico’s good highways and railways, its healthy steel industry and its cheap wages. It’s also because of plentiful engineers and the skill of global automakers at keeping quality high, wherever their cars are built.

“The quality and cost of Mexican (automotive) products have no equal in Latin America,” said Luis Lozano Soto, automotive team leader at the Mexico City offices of PricewaterhouseCoopers, a global consulting firm.

There’s another key factor. President Enrique Pena Nieto, in announcing in August that the South Korean automaker Kia would build a $1 billion plant outside Monterrey, noted that Mexico has free-trade agreements with 45 nations. The United States, in contrast, has free-trade accords in force with only 20 countries. Brazil has only eight free-trade agreements.

Coffee With Hitler

Mr. Cerf said the mishap had occurred when an outside company asked ELSA, a dairy manufacturer and Migros subsidiary, to supply a series of 55 coffee cream containers based on vintage cigar labels, two of which featured the dictators.

He said that the outside company had provided the controversial designs, and that ELSA typically produced plastic creamers with charming and innocuous images on them — not fascists.

“I can’t tell you how these labels got past our controls,” Mr. Cerf said. “Usually the labels have pleasant images like trains, landscapes and dogs — nothing polemic that can pose a problem.”

...But Mr. Cerf emphasized that the accidental circulation of the plastic Hitler creamers had nothing to do with the country’s social mores, but rather reflected an isolated mistake.

Migros is not the first company to run into such trouble. In the spring, a German furniture chain apologized for selling ceramic mugs with Hitler’s face on them, saying a Chinese designer had mistakenly used an old image of a stamp bearing the dictator’s image behind an antique motif of roses.

Saturn's Moon Mimas May Have An Ocean

But the scientists noticed something strange – the moon seemed to be wobbling, or “librating,” about twice as much as they expected. After going through several different explanations, they settled on two main possibilities. Either this round moon has a football-shaped core that’s causing the wobble, or there’s a liquid water ocean underneath the icy surface.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Well, That's Disturbing

Looked up and saw a pedestrian sprawled in the crosswalk in front of a turning car. Apparently she got bumped. Glare from the setting sun may be a factor. She didn't look seriously hurt, but still....

Car shop receptionist looked out and said, "Oh yeah, that happens a lot there." (!!!)

The Periodic Table Of Storytelling

Sealed evil in a can?

Then There's The ABQ Stuff Too

Looking for cash:
Garza pointed his gun at the clerk and demanded cash, while there was talk between the suspects about shooting him. Meanwhile, Lucero aimed his gun at the clerk’s family members, which included his parents and a young girl, who were made to lie face down on the floor.

Lucero also attempted to shoot out the store’s video surveillance cameras, but missed.

Garza grabbed a necklace, a watch and about $100 in cash and the two took off.

Once the suspects had left the store, the clerk, who had a gun but kept it hidden since both suspects were armed and already had his family in their sights, went to the lock the door behind them. At that point, according to the clerk, one of the suspects aimed a gun at him and the other said, “Shoot!”

“The clerk fearing for his life shot at the two suspects,” said Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Sgt. Aaron Williamson.

...“We heard a big ol’ crash and went outside, and saw all the cops pulling up right in front of it,” said 17-year-old Mariah Padilla, who also lives nearby.

Crazy Stuff On The Sacramento Street

Wild gun action in the NE part of town:
A day of carnage by a suspect armed with a rifle left two area deputies dead, a motorist gravely injured and another deputy wounded in a 30-mile crime spree that triggered a massive manhunt by hundreds of law enforcement officers.

Just before 4 p.m., officials announced the arrest of Marcelo Marquez, 34, who had been hiding in an Auburn home for hours.

...The events of the day, which Jones called a “perfect storm” of attacks by a suspect whose motive remains unknown, began at 10:22 a.m. when Oliver and his partner approached a vehicle in the parking lot with a man and a woman inside. Jones said it still is not clear what led Oliver, a 12-year veteran of the problem-oriented policing team, to approach the vehicle.

But he said the man inside fired a rifle at Oliver at close range, striking him in the forehead before Oliver could return fire. The deputy’s partner was able to return fire, but it was unclear whether he struck the assailant, who fled and attempted to carjack another vehicle down the street in the 700 block of Howe Avenue.

The driver of that vehicle apparently refused to surrender the keys and was shot in the head. The victim, whose condition was not known Friday afternoon, fell backward into their car and the assailants fled. A short distance away, the pair carjacked a white convertible Ford Mustang, then abandoned it several blocks away in a residential neighborhood.

There, they confronted a gardener and demanded his pickup truck. After helping the man to unhitch his landscaping trailer from the red Ford truck, the couple took off, leaving the bloodied Mustang on the street.

From there, the pair apparently fled up Fair Oaks Boulevard to Carmichael, where a Sacramento County parks ranger spotted them changing clothes and reported the sighting to authorities. A massive police response shut down access to the area near Fair Oaks and Van Alstine and forced 19 San Juan Unified Schools, as well as Jesuit High School, to lock down for a time.

But those precautions were canceled after it became clear that the pickup had fled the area and headed up Interstate 80 to Auburn. Placer County sheriff’s deputies responding to sightings of the pickup approached the vehicle and were wounded by gunfire from it. Both were taken to Sutter Rosevillle Medical Center; the sheriff’s department confirmed about 4:20 p.m. that one of the deputies had died but the other would survive.

At some point after that, the female who accompanied the gunman was apprehended, and authorities believe the suspect fled into an residential area near Placer High School, forcing that school and others to lock down their campuses.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Met Kara Wall - She Does Softball

Scouting Empty Swimming Pools

Violating every single tenet of common sense, I just bought a skateboard.

Preseason Game - Sacramento Kings vs. Israel's Maccabis

Went with J. to see this game on October 18th. Scarcely paid any attention to the proceedings, enjoying the company instead.

Apparently the Kings won:
The Kings: The crowd of 10,128 was rather uninspired for much of the game. The largest cheer came in the game's closing seconds when 7-foot-5 rookie center Sim Bhulllar made a basket. ... Cousins did not play in Beijing against the Nets due to an aggravated Achilles tendon. He started against Maccabi Haifa and played 26 minutes.

Maccabi Haifa: The Greens arrived in Sacramento following nearly a 10-hour bus ride from Portland. ... The team plays in the Israeli Basketball Super League and is owned by U.S. businessman Jeffrey Rosen. ... Maccabi Haifa won the Super League championship in the 2012-13 season, its first Israeli title since the team's founding in 1953.

Monday, October 20, 2014

CORE - "The Doorway - 2014"

An absolutely AWESOME opening show October 16th at the Benvenuti Performing Arts Center at Natomas Charter School!

So many new aspects revealed. "After The Afterlife" was revealed to be hyper-colorful, almost like the Oz's Lullaby League and Lollipop Guild.

The Birthday Party was great. The curtain opened and there was the birthday cake - layered, colorful dancers, with Blair Cacanando perched right on top! Perfect! I was amused when Tucker Harrah-Ferguson crassly announced "Let's sing happy birthday to the Old Lady" (meaning Tina DeVine). Tina's journey to recover the Magical Hat linked all the segments together.

The Bird Cage revealed in Act II was just as magical as the Birthday Cake in Act I.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Someone Wrote A Check

On E.'s closed checking account. Recipient may be a known car thief. Troublesome.