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Sunday, March 27, 2011

In the News: March 27, 2011

Deadly Egyptian cobra missing from Bronx Zoo
Let's stay away from the Bronx Zoo for a little while...

An Egyptian cobra, like this one photographed in Egypt in 2006, has venom that can kill a human in 15 minutes.

"A venomous Egyptian cobra went missing from New York's Bronx Zoo, prompting the closure of the zoo's reptile house until further notice.

Staff was alerted Saturday that the adolescent Egyptian cobra was missing from an off-exhibit enclosure, according to a statement from the zoo. Staff members closed and secured the reptile house.

Zoo officials said they are confident the 20-inch-long snake is contained in a nonpublic, isolated area of the building.

"Based on our knowledge of the natural history and behavior of snakes, we know they seek closed-in spaces and are not comfortable in open areas," the zoo statement said.

Record Industry: Limewire Could Owe $75 Trillion – Judge: “Absurd”
I hate the RIAA

"So we’re all pretty desensitized by now to the mind-blowing stupidity on display by the record industry in its foolhardy attempts at assigning damages in piracy cases — was anyone surprised when they told one woman, who had shared 24 songs, that she owed nearly two million dollars? Yes, ridiculous. But this — this is beyond ridiculous. This is… sublime.

The record companies suing Limewire were asked to estimate the damages that should be paid by the file-sharing service. Their estimate? $400 Billion on the low end, and at the high end — $75 trillion dollars. That’s more than the GDP of the entire world.

The judge, in a refreshing stroke of good sense, deemed these potential damages “absurd” and the plaintiff’s approach “untenable”.

K-Town is coming...
Who's excited?!


Hey, Look At That -- We Pay More Taxes Than GE
[Sorry, posted the whole article so it's a bit long, but I thought it was very interesting and important.]

"If only I had tax lawyers like GE..."

"As I recently noted, Business Insider turned a profit of $2,000 last year. We also ended the year with a few million of cash in the bank.

As a result, we had to pay the state and city of New York about $13,000 of taxes.

(This was a "capital tax" if you can believe it. I thought only places like France had "capital taxes." We had to pay a "capital tax" because it was the larger of three "alternative" taxation schemes we got socked with. One was based on our profit, one was based on my salary, and one was based on the capital we had in the bank.)

In any event...

It turns out that the $13,000 of taxes we paid last year was more than the amount GE paid.

Yes, that GE. The one with a $600 billion of enterprise value. The one with 287,000 employees. The one that generated $150 billion of revenue and $12 billion of profit last year.

GE, it turns out, according to the New York Times, paid no taxes last year.


Well, because GE has a "tax department" the size of a big law firm that has become a major profit center for the company.

GE's tax department figures out how to exploit loopholes and benefits and lobbying and so forth to make sure the company doesn't pay a penny more in taxes than it absolutely has to. And last year, apparently, GE's tax department figured out how to make sure the company paid no taxes at all.

(Mostly by gerrymandering the company's books in such a way that all "profits" are made overseas, even though they obviously aren't).

Now, we have no problem with GE employing folks to make sure it doesn't pay a penny more in taxes than it absolutely has to. We also have no problem with GE exploiting whatever loopholes and rules those folks can find to save its shareholders money. (GE isn't an American taxpayer charity. It shouldn't be expected to just donate taxes to the American government out of the goodness of its heart.)

But we do need to express some frustration about two things:

First, the inability of poor little companies like ours to afford huge "tax departments" that can figure out how to make sure we pay no taxes like GE.

Second, the patheticness of laws that allow global multi-national corporations like GE to make $12 billion in profits--including from vast US operations--and not pay a penny in US taxes. These laws seriously hurt the competitiveness of companies that don't happen to be global multi-nationals with huge tax departments (like us, for example). They also deprive our Treasury of revenue it desperately needs to close an absolutely humongous budget deficit.

So who are we pissed off at when we pay the tax bill on our puny $2,000 of profit and ~$3 million of capital and read articles about how GE pays no taxes?

Our government.

Screw you, fellas. Hope you enjoy your schmoozy dinner with GE's lobbyists tonight.
(Business Insider)

Business Insider also presents:
16 More Profitable Companies That Pay Almost Nothing In Taxes

On the bright side, at least the US Government doesn't place outrageous taxes on gasoline...
Do Americans Pay Too Little for Gas?

"Even with prices at the pump hovering around $3.50, that's a fraction of the prices in other rich countries

Every year without fail, as the days get longer and warmer, gas prices begin to shoot up. Throw in intense turmoil in the Middle East, and the annual price skyrocket and accompanying fretting began even earlier this year. But while gas prices have risen to more than $3 a gallon in the United States, remember that gas here is still cheaper than many places--especially developed nations--around the world.
(Fast Co Design)

This would never happen in the US
"A mere six days after repair work began on an earthquake-demolished section of the Great Kanto Highway in Naka the road was ready to be reopened."
(via The Daily What)

Why do men shout at women in the street?
This has always annoyed the hell out of me...

"From whistling to catcalling, and even groping, street harassment is an everyday reality for many women around the world. But now a new wave of feminist groups are organising to stop it.

One dark evening in south London, a group of men slow their car behind a young woman walking alone.

They call out to her, propositioning her to get into their vehicle.

She keeps walking, heart rate quickening, ignoring their lewd comments. The men continue to follow her and their words get more aggressive.

Just before she reaches the nearest underground station, she's had enough. She strikes the men's car and flees down the station steps.

In a rage, the men leap out of their car, chase her, grab her by the neck and pin her to the wall.

This was an experience that drove Vicky Simister to take action and found Anti-Street Harassment UK.

It's one of a new wave of groups tackling an age-old problem. At the forefront of the movement is the international Hollaback! campaign group. Having started in the US, it will open another dozen chapters next week, everywhere from India to Croatia.

"In an online study by stopstreetharassment.com, 95% of respondents said they had been the victims of leering, honking or whistling and a large proportion have been groped or grabbed in public."

""It stems from a broader culture of gender based violence," says May. "To shift that culture it takes people standing up and saying street harassment is not okay because most people in our society don't want it to exist."

When a man shouts "hi gorgeous" or "come over here love", the recipient of the comments might be annoyed, but the remarks are often disregarded by bystanders, so the problem goes largely unaddressed.

"Women are advised to ignore it, and we don't speak up about it. Therefore, these men keep on doing it and push boundaries further and further," says Simister.

And it's dangerous because it's difficult to distinguish which men simply shout and which ones may use catcalls as a gateway to violence or sexual aggression.

Frequent churchgoers frequently fatter

Awesome stock photo selection, CNN (Not that I had anything better...)

"Young, religiously active people are more likely than their non-religious counterparts to become obese in middle age, according to new research. In fact, frequent religious involvement appears to almost double the risk of obesity compared with little or no involvement.

What is unclear from the new research is why religion might be associated with overeating.

"Churches pay more attention to obvious vices like smoking or drinking," said Matthew Feinstein, lead author of the research and fourth-year medical student at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. "Our best guess about why is that...more frequent participation in church is associated with good works and people may be rewarding themselves with large meals that are more caloric in nature than we would like."

The new research, presented at an American Heart Association conference dedicated to physical activity, metabolism and cardiovascular disease, involved 2,433 people enrolled in the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA) study. The group was tested - at first between 20 and 32 years old - for various cardiovascular disease risk factors such as diabetes, hypertension, and smoking. Those same tests were repeated in the same group over the next 25 years.

The results were mixed for many risk factors for cardiovascular disease, but as researchers analyzed the data, one disparity stood out. Those who reported attending church weekly, or more often, were significantly more likely to have a higher body mass index than those who attended infrequently, or never.

I would just think it's geographically related...
The Southern and Midwest United States tend to be more overweight, and they also happen to be more religiously conservative.

Comcast Begs Employees To Vote For Charter In Worst Company In America Poll

"We know that none of the companies in this year's Worst Company In America tournament want to be on the list. But reigning Golden Poo holder Comcast has decided that, rather than actually do anything about the problems that make it a perennial favorite, it will just beg its employees to vote — multiple times — for the other guy.

We received a copy of this message from Comcast HQ posted to its employee network (and yes, the above artwork is an actual screengrab from TeamComcast.com):


We need your help to show that Comcast is a great company.

The Consumerist website is currently hosting its poll of the "Worst Companies in America." Comcast is part of the first round of this poll, which started today and ends at 9 a.m. (ET) this Friday. Unfortunately, this same poll named us as their worst last year. If you feel that Comcast does not deserve this label, we hope that you will participate and vote for the company that is paired against Comcast.

To vote, just click on the following link and place your vote: http://consumerist.com/2011/03/worst-company-in-america-round-one-comcast-vs-charter.html.

Of course, your participation is voluntary. Naturally, we don't want to vote for any company to receive this label; unfortunately that is how the Consumerist poll is structured.

You can only vote one time from a single IP address, so we hope that you will consider voting today/tonight and at home from your cell phone, iPad, personal computer or other web-enabled devices with a unique IP address. You can use company devices as well as your personal devices. (If you are having trouble voting, please send an email to us here and someone will contact you to assist you.)

We have all worked very hard to make Comcast the terrific company that it is today and to create a customer experience that we are all proud of. We hope you will consider defending our company name by participating in this poll. Thanks in advance for your assistance and for the great work you do every day.
(Consumerist thanks to Adam)

And just interesting:
15 places kids should see by age 15

"It took us hours of heated debate, weeks of research, and years of experience to whittle down America's monuments to a definitive list of 15 musts for anyone under 15. Not only are these attractions fun and (shhhh) educational, they're especially magical through the eyes of a child."

The list:
Grand Canyon - Arizona
Redwood National Park - California
Monticello - Virginia
The Freedom Trail - Massachusetts
Niagara Falls - New York
The National Mall - Washington, D.C.
Williamsburg - Virginia
Walt Disney World Resort - Florida
Independence Hall - Pennsylvania
Alcatraz Island - California
Ellis Island - New York
Yellowstone National Park - Wyoming, Montana and Idaho
Fenway Park - Massachusetts
Craters of the Moon National Monument & Preserve - Idaho
San Diego Zoo - California

A little past age 15... but at least I've been to more than half (8- just barely).

1 comment:

gman said...

This letter is classic when comparing to other media articles about Comcast’s blunders. I had the privilege of reading the letter that The Consumerist sent to Comcast along with the unsolicited award and it mentioned some of the complaints and news worthy headlines they have garnered the previous year. In all my years working for DISH Network I couldn’t help but wonder how Comcast could even stay in business but now that people know that satellite is a worthy competitor I have had the pleasure of speaking to many of those disgruntled (former) customers. Keep up the good work Comcast; the rest of us (competitors) thank you.