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Corporations and execs need penalties that hurt

By Michael Hiltzik
January 5, 2013, 10:18 a.m.

If you're concerned about corporate crime, 2012 looked like a pretty successful year for the good guys.

The Thousand Oaks biotech giant Amgen paid $762 million in fines and penalties and pleaded guilty to a federal charge related to illegal marketing of its anemia drug Aranesp. Britain's GlaxoSmithKline and Illinois-based Abbott Laboratories paid $3 billion and $1.5 billion in government penalties, respectively, in connection with their off-label promotions of blockbuster drugs. Glaxo's was the biggest drug company settlement in history.

The global bank HSBC paid a record $1.92 billion to settle federal accusations that it operated a huge money-laundering scheme for Mexican drug dealers and Middle Eastern terrorists. BP agreed to pay $4.5 billion and plead guilty to 11 felony counts in connection with the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. It was the biggest federal criminal penalty ever.

To the companies, however, these big numbers are just chump change. Typically they don't even represent repayment of ill-gotten gains — more often merely the cost of doing business. And to the public, they're insults piled atop the injuries caused by the firms' wrongdoing.

"These fines are a carny act to keep the rubes happy," according to William K. Black, who was a thrift regulator during the savings and loan crisis of the 1980s. "It's cynical — the art is to make the amount sound large but make sure that it has no material effect."

What might really get the attention of the CEOs and other top executives of lawbreaking companies would be some time in the hoosegow. Does that sound quaint? If so, it's because not a single high-ranking executive of any of the companies mentioned above faced indictment or was even forced to step down.



The Indian Mr. T.

PUBLISHED: 11:35 EST, 4 January 2013

It is often said that money can't buy love.

But trying telling that to a wealthy Indian man who splashed out £14,000 on a solid gold shirt in the hope it will attract female attention.

Money-lender Datta Phuge 32, from Pimpri-Chinchwad, commissioned the shirt which took a team of 15 goldsmiths two weeks to make working 16 hours a day creating and weaving the gold threads.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2257209/Wealthy-Indian-Datta-Phuge-spends-14-000-shirt-GOLD-impress-ladies.html

He needs a mohawk, and to work out more, though! Got the Chains!

Old couple drives home wrong car, keeps for several days

ONTARIO, Ore., (KBOI) - A vehicle reported to local police as stolen was found several days later by a couple who accidentally took the wrong car from an eastern Oregon grocery store parking lot.

Ontario Police chief Mark Alexander says an elderly driver parked their white 1992 Oldsmobile Cutlass at the Red Apple parking lot Sunday evening and left the keys inside.

Sometime later, an elderly couple mistakenly got inside the Cutlass, Alexander said, and took the vehicle home. The owner of the Cutlass, another elderly resident, filed a stolen vehicle report with Ontario PD.

On Wednesday, police received a phone call from employees at the Red Apple grocery store complaining about a white 1993 Chrysler LeBaron that had been left in the parking lot for several days. When officers arrived, they ran the license plate and traced it to the couple.

"When we called them we asked them why their vehicle was left in the parking lot," Alexander said.

The couple told police that their vehicle wasn't at Red Apple, and insisted it was parked at their home. When officers went to the couple's home, however, police realized what had happened.

To top it off, the cars look NOTHING like each other....

Toon- 2013 Headlines

A bluefin tuna sells for record $1.76M in Tokyo

TOKYO (AP) — A bluefin tuna sold for a record $1.76 million at a Tokyo auction Saturday, nearly three times the previous high set last year.

In the year's first auction at Tokyo's sprawling Tsukiji fish market, a 489-pound tuna caught off northeastern Japan sold for 155.4 million yen, said Ryoji Yagi, a market official.

The fish's tender pink and red meat is prized for sushi and sashimi, but bluefin tuna stocks have fallen globally over the past 15 years amid overfishing.

The winning bidder, Kiyoshi Kimura, president of Kiyomura Co., which operates the Sushi-Zanmai restaurant chain, said "the price was a bit high," but that he wanted to "give Japan a boost," according to Kyodo News agency. He was planning to serve the fish to customers later Saturday.

Kimura also set the old record of 56.4 million yen at last year's New Year's auction, which tends to attract high bids as a celebratory way to kick off the new year — or get some publicity. The high prices don't necessarily reflect exceptionally high fish quality.

The price works out to a stunning $3,603 per pound.


Lisa Kristine photographs slavery

by Meredith May
Updated 8:05 am, Saturday, January 5, 2013

Humanitarian photographer Lisa Kristine of Mill Valley had captured the dignity of indigenous people in 100 countries on six continents, yet never realized that modern-day slavery was in the shadows everywhere she traveled.

That all changed when Kristine, whose color-saturated photos are set to go on world tour this year, met an abolitionist while exhibiting her work at the 2009 Vancouver Peace Summit. The advocate told Kristine that 27 million people are enslaved worldwide - more than twice the estimated number of people taken from Africa during the Atlantic slave trade between the 16th and 19th centuries.

"I almost fell over," said Kristine, whose images hang in the Palace of Bhutan, have been auctioned at Christie's to benefit the United Nations, and have drawn accolades from the Dalai Lama. "It blew me away that I, whose whole job is to see, didn't know."

Within a week, she was in the Los Angeles offices of the advocacy group Free the Slaves, offering to use her 19th century, 4-by-5 camera to expose slavery: the impoverished children and adults given false promises of money, education and a better life, only to be tricked into indentured labor and held in captivity by fear, force and coercion.

Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/art/article/Lisa-Kristine-photographs-slavery-4167748.php

Bulletproof fashion design- for kids!

Miguel Caballero, Colombia's famed purveyor of bespoke bulletproof fashions to the global elite, is getting into children's clothing following the Sandy Hook shooting:

In his factory in Bogota, Miguel Caballero makes bullet-proof vests attached to bullet-proof backpacks which he has tested with machine guns and handguns to show they can withstand a barrage of bullets.

Mr Caballero said that following the December 14 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, his company received a surge in customer interest in this kind of item.

"We started getting e-mails from customers asking for protective clothing because they were afraid to take their kids to school," said Mr Caballero on the factory floor where his company's clothing is made.

Caballero has never been shy about exploiting shooting incidents for marketing purposes. His last boom in business occurred after Vice President Dick Cheney accidentally shot his friend in the face on a 2006 hunting trip. His clients have included the British royal family, Spain's Prince Felipe, Hugo Chavez, and he has a branch in British department store Harrod's.

Sadly, from a U.S. point of view, he says the new backpacks are being designed exclusively for the American market.


The Church of England Still Won't Let Its Gay Bishops Have Sex

On Friday the Church of England announced that it's decided that to allow gay clergy to be elevated to bishop, even if they are in a civil partnership — provided they aren't actually having sex with anyone. The ruling affirms a 2005 decision that allowed gay civil partners to become lower-ranking clergy, while extending the same rule to bishops.

Unlike the Catholic Church, Anglicans do not require celibacy of heterosexual clergy and many bishops and priests are married. The Episcopal Church, which is the Anglican denomination practiced in the Untied States, has ordained gay bishops and even allowed for the blessing of gay marriage where it is legal. However, the Anglican Church will still require celibacy of gay clerics, as well as atonement for past homosexual behavior.

The other snag with the new Anglican ruling is that despite removing the ban on gay clergy members over a decade ago, the chance of one of them actually reaching the status of bishop is basically zero. Only one openly gay cleric has ever been promoted to bishop in the Church of England, and he was forced to resign the post before he ever started, due to massive infighting among church members. An attempt to renominate him for Bishop of Southwark in 2010 was rejected outright.

So while today's ruling basically confirms that a civil partnership won't be an automatic block to becoming a bishop, sexual orientation remains a pretty high bar to get over in the Church. Reverend Colin Coward, who supports the inclusion of homosexual and transgender people in the Church said today, "I don't believe that there is serious intent in the announcement and I won't until the moment when somebody who is in a civil partnership is appointed as a bishop."


Pedagogy of the Depressed: experiences as a special ed student in the 1990s.

by Anonymous at 6:00 am Sat, Jan 5

In May 2013, "Asperger's Syndrome" will be removed as a diagnosis from the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V), leaving "high functioning autism" in its place. I agree with this change. Given the importance of the manual, however, it's caused a lot of consternation and caused me to reflect upon my experiences.

I was diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome in 1998. Expelled from two schools in quick succession—first a private Catholic school in the third grade, then a the local public school in the fourth—I was placed in Northwoods, an approved private school for students with emotional disturbances or autism. Northwoods served the entire county; each district sent a shortbus with a few kids.

I never felt like I had symptoms severe enough to warrant a diagnosis of Asperger's. I have some issues with anxiety and depression, but I can trace these back to my "treatment" at Northwoods.

People with Asperger's are supposed to be "mindblind" - unable to process emotions or sarcasm. They are loners. None of this describes me—I'm a gregarious PhD student with a wide circle of friends who has scored severals jobs and internships through schmoozing at conferences.

But in the mid 90s, I was not a successful doctoral candidate. I was told that I was "a danger to myself and others" and consigned to a "partial hospitalization program" which catered specifically to boys like me. (Northwoods was ostensibly co-ed, but the male to female ratio was about 20:1)



A Temperature Below Absolute Zero: Atoms at Negative Absolute Temperature Are the Hottest Systems

Jan. 4, 2013 — What is normal to most people in winter has so far been impossible in physics: a minus temperature. On the Celsius scale minus temperatures are only surprising in summer. On the absolute temperature scale, which is used by physicists and is also called the Kelvin scale, it is not possible to go below zero – at least not in the sense of getting colder than zero kelvin.

According to the physical meaning of temperature, the temperature of a gas is determined by the chaotic movement of its particles – the colder the gas, the slower the particles. At zero kelvin (minus 273 degrees Celsius) the particles stop moving and all disorder disappears. Thus, nothing can be colder than absolute zero on the Kelvin scale. Physicists at the Ludwig-Maximilians University Munich and the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics in Garching have now created an atomic gas in the laboratory that nonetheless has negative Kelvin values. These negative absolute temperatures have several apparently absurd consequences: although the atoms in the gas attract each other and give rise to a negative pressure, the gas does not collapse – a behaviour that is also postulated for dark energy in cosmology. Supposedly impossible heat engines such as a combustion engine with a thermodynamic efficiency of over 100% can also be realised with the help of negative absolute temperatures.

In order to bring water to the boil, energy needs to be added. As the water heats up, the water molecules increase their kinetic energy over time and move faster and faster on average. Yet, the individual molecules possess different kinetic energies – from very slow to very fast. Low-energy states are more likely than high-energy states, i.e. only a few particles move really fast. In physics, this distribution is called the Boltzmann distribution. Physicists working with Ulrich Schneider and Immanuel Bloch have now realised a gas in which this distribution is precisely inverted: many particles possess high energies and only a few have low energies. This inversion of the energy distribution means that the particles have assumed a negative absolute temperature.

“The inverted Boltzmann distribution is the hallmark of negative absolute temperature; and this is what we have achieved,” says Ulrich Schneider. “Yet the gas is not colder than zero kelvin, but hotter,” as the physicist explains: “It is even hotter than at any positive temperature – the temperature scale simply does not end at infinity, but jumps to negative values instead.”


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