Not exactly the Sons of Anarchy
Sentinel Source/L.A. Times, 9/23
LOS ANGELES – Los Angeles officials vowed to arrest and prosecute bicyclists for incidents like the one Friday night in which hundreds of riders swarmed a grocery store parking lot and broke out beer and marijuana, with some riding into the store and through the aisles.
Participants would be cited for violating traffic rules that endanger motorists or pedestrians, said police Commander Andy Smith. Those who engaged in violence would be immediately arrested.
The warning during a news conference at the downtown Los Angeles Police Department headquarters comes ahead of a mass ride scheduled for Friday and is aimed at protecting the rights not only of cyclists but also of those who share the roads and sidewalks with them.
Facebook Hopes Credits Make Dollars
Facebook began testing its virtual currency, called Credits, more than a year ago with some popular games on Facebook. This month, Credits passed a milestone when it became the exclusive payment method for most of the games created by Zynga, the No. 1 developer of Facebook applications.
Zynga is expected to have $500 million in revenue this year, according to the Inside Network, which tracks Facebook applications, as millions of users pay real money to buy virtual goods on games like FarmVille and Mafia Wars. Through Credits, Facebook will take a 30 percent cut.
By the end of the year, Facebook expects that Credits will be used to buy the vast majority of virtual goods sold on Facebook. The fast-growing market is expected to reach $835 million on Facebook this year, according to the Inside Network. To bolster that market, Facebook began selling Credits gift cards at Target stores across the country this month.
Can Someone Explain Facebook Credits to Me?
To me, this sounds like an ultimately futile attempt to keep marketing spin one step ahead of the real world. Unless I’m missing something basic, Credits should be crushed by another competitor–Dollars. The value of Credits, supposedly, is that you don’t have to enter your credit card number every time you want to by something. This is true because you are logged into Facebook, which keeps track of your balance and deducts from it as necessary. But that has nothing to do with Credits themselves; Facebook could just as easily have used Dollars instead of Credits and gotten the same result (you use your credit card to put money in your Dollars account, and then when you buy things, Dollars come out of your Dollars account).
So why use Credits instead of Dollars? I can think of three reasons: (1) people are more likely to buy things with Credits than with Dollars, even if the real financial impact is the same, because Credits feel more fun, and Dollars remind them of their rent payments; (2) if Facebook tried to take a 30 percent cut out of Dollar payments, no one would go along; and (3) Credits sound much more exciting if you’re trying to build media hype and drive up the value of your company (something I’m very familiar with from the Internet bubble). Note that all of these are actually bad.
Snohomish Co. couple offers homeless free showers
EVERETT, Wash. – Frank Fargo leans against a wall at First Presbyterian Church of Everett, holding a large sign that reads, “Shower to the People.”
The 57-year-old carpenter hands out laminated tickets to some of the men and women attending the church’s free community dinner on this weekday evening.
Those with tickets go outside the church where a beige fifth-wheel trailer is parked in the alley.
Louise Fargo, Frank’s wife, leafs through a magazine while classical music plays in the background. Towels are neatly stacked behind her. Toiletries peek out of plastic containers on the floor: toothbrushes, soap, deodorant and so on. New underwear, socks and clean, used T-shirts are available, too.
You Can Change Your School’s Food
by Ed Bruske
Common Dreams, 9/23
The problem, of course, is that school food operations nationwide have been allowed to slip into a state of perpetual poverty, making them easy prey for corporate vendors and food processors. Meanwhile, our first inclination is to heap more government standards onto the program in the mistaken belief that we can somehow legislate our way out of this mess without providing the money schools need to serve healthy food.
What I’ve learned over a period of months photographing school meals, blogging about them and traveling around the country investigating the school meals program is that while the movement for healthier school food has clearly identified where cafeteria meals go wrong, it has failed to articulate a clear message about what a healthy school meal should look like and how it’s to be paid for. Too many Americans see this movement as “elitist” and unnecessary. They need to be convinced otherwise. In our current economic and political climate, moms need talking points they can take to their PTA meetings and win with.
Handling Homelessness with Free Drinks
Giving drinks to chronically homeless drunks may be just what the Tenderloin needs. A recent story on ABC reported that San Francisco is considering setting up “wet houses:” government-funded locations where chronic drunks can receive alcohol rations. It sounds crazy, but it’s actually worked in Seattle. What ABC won’t tell you is exactly why the first pilot program in Canada, upon which Seattle’s program was based, worked. It worked because it dispensed small amounts of alcohol to drunks throughout the day, making overdoses less likely, and thus reducing health care costs to the city.
Water Scarcity: Pictures of Lake Mead on Colorado River at 54-Year Low
September 23, 2010
Links to various articles about Lake Mead. Down, down, down.
Fires, drought point to climate shift
The second consecutive hot, dry summer in central and northern B.C. produced the biggest burned area since the province started fighting forest fires, and the lowest northern river levels ever recorded.
Fall rains have mostly doused the 2010 forest fires, but not before they burned 350,000 hectares of land. That’s an area larger than Metro Vancouver, and it’s nearly a third bigger than last year’s total burned area.
The summer of 2009 holds the distinction of being the most expensive B.C. forest fire season ever, with $382 million spent, much of it to protect Lillooet and other communities threatened with destruction. The total for 2010 is expected to come in at a relatively modest $230 million, still more than twice the average for the past 10 years.
The Squeeze on Global Rubber Supplies
Business Week, 9/23
Extreme weather across the globe this year, from drought conditions in Russia and Ukraine to flooding in Pakistan and Canada, is lighting a fire under commodity prices. Wheat prices have spiked since June, while corn rallied to a 23-month high, coffee reached a 13-year peak, and cotton advanced to its most expensive levels since 1995. Now the price of rubber, a key industrial commodity, is taking off.
Goodyear Tire & Rubber (GT) and Cooper Tire & Rubber (CTB), the two largest U.S. tiremakers, have begun notifying customers they will raise tire prices by as much as 6.5% by early November. Bridgestone, the largest tiremaker by sales, said in late August that it’s increasing prices by up to 6% in Europe, the Japanese company’s second price increase this year.
The industry is facing supply problems owing to bad weather that hit rubber production in Asia. “Drought earlier this year and heavy rains later on hampered tree-tapping across Asian plantations,” says Pongsak Kerdvongbundit, managing director of Von Bundit, a big natural-rubber producer and exporter based in Phuket, Thailand. “Global production will lag behind soaring demand for at least another two years.”
Also, the Amazon is experiencing its worst drought in 47 years, and Argentina its worst drought in 70 years.
Abu Ghraib, USA
By Anne-Marie Cusac
Utah Prison Watch
I’ve been reporting on abuse and mistreatment in our nation’s jails and prisons for the last eight years. What I have found is widespread disregard for human rights. Sadism, in some locations, is casual and almost routine.
Reporters and commentators keep asking, how could this happen? My question is, why are we surprised when many of these same practices are occurring at home?
For one thing, the photos of prison abuse in the United States have not received nearly the attention that the Abu Ghraib photos did. And maybe we have so dehumanized U.S. prisoners that we have become as distant from them as we are from foreign captives in faraway lands.
In February 1999, the Sacramento Sheriff’s Department settled a class-action lawsuit alleging numerous acts of torture, including mock executions, where guards strapped inmates into a restraint chair, covered their faces with masks, and told the inmates they were about to be electrocuted.
When I read a report in The Guardian of London of May 14 that it had “learned of ordinary soldiers who … were taught to perform mock executions,” I couldn’t help but remember the jail.