New Roman Polanski film soon

A 15-year-old schoolgirl has become France\’s hottest literary property after writing a book about a teenager who loses her virginity at 14.

He\’s bidding for the film rights, of course, he just can\’t decide whether to direct or take the leading male role himself.

This isn\’t that difficult you know?

A group of 40 American billionaires have pledged at least half their fortunes to charity as part of a campaign by the financier Warren Buffett and Microsoft founder Bill Gates.

Isn\’t that just lovely?

Mr Buffett has promised to donate more than 99 per cent of his estimated $47 billion (£30 billion) fortune and is giving most of it in annual instalments to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

The important word there is \”most\”.

For while Mr. Buffett has indeed made a very large indeed donation to that Gates Foundation, he\’s also made a very large one indeed (although not quite so large) to a more traditional family foundation. Some $6.7 billion if memory serves me correctly.

And why does this matter? Well, it helps to explain the first part, all these billionaires willing to donate to charity. For such family foundations allow the cash to be put into them tax free. And then the cash can be invested attracting no tax on any returns to it over the generations. Subject only to paying out 5% of assets (I think I\’ve got that right) each year in charitable works. Such 5% can be made up of paying family members to administer the trust…..

Which is why Joe Kennedy left his money to a series of family trusts, the Hewletts, Packards, Fords, Rockefellers and so on.

Leaving the money to a \”charity\” is in fact the American way of making sure that a) no tax is paid on it and b) that the heirs cannot piss away the capital.

So, given that the traditional Amercian manner of making sure you keep the money in the family is to give it to a charity the news that 40 billionaires have been presuaded to leave their money to charity really isn\’t all that surprising. Nor is it really something that might have taken a great deal of persuasion to bring about.

Jim Glass has a great piece on this somewhere in his archives.

Update: It\’s The Guardian that manages to raise this important point:

Pablo Eisenberg, a senior fellow at the Georgetown Public Policy Institute, at Georgetown University, Washington DC, said ultra-wealthy donors tend to give money to higher education, arts and established healthcare causes, with relatively little going to poverty reduction, disability causes or to disadvantaged ethnic minority communities. Billionaires generally gave away funds through tax advantageous foundations.

\”These mega-foundations, which are effectively family enterprises with no accountability, are going to dictate public policy priorities for this country,\” said Eisenberg. \”I\’m not sure that tax receipts haven\’t done a better job, over time, of meeting the needs of our neediest people, than philanthropists.\”

Not that I agree with Eisenberg either but he at least is hinting at the point I\’m making.

This internet betting ban

Back when it was all banned there was an argument that the ban had little or nothing to do with protecting gamblers. It was to protect American companies (both on and offline) who were getting their lunch eaten by foreign competitors.

Now they\’re thinking of allowing it again:

With pressure mounting on the federal government to find new revenues, Congress is considering legalizing, and taxing, an activity it banned just four years ago: Internet gambling.

Note what\’s buried in the bill:

….and prohibit companies that violated the 2006 ban from obtaining licenses.

\”Violating the 2006 ban\” will no doubt be interpreted as \”existing, anywhere, after the 2006 ban\” so none of the incumbent companies will get a licence.

Way to protect the domestic industry, eh?

Now I\’m no engineer but….

Known as GenShocks, the contraptions will mean that motorists will no longer just worry about their suspension, but regard every jolt as potentially cutting the cost of a visit to the filling station.

This in turn means that less fuel is needed to power the electrics.

This is because the devices not only absorb the impact from driving over rough surfaces but convert it into electricity as well.

The power generated from the bumpy ride is then used for the myriad of devices which rely on electricity from the car\’s alternator – such as headlights, windscreen wipers and sound system.

The question is, will it make any difference?

I\’m certainly under the impression (and do correct me if I\’m wrong) that the alternator simply runs at the same speed/power level all the time. When you switch on the lights, it\’s not revving the car more so as to generate more electricity. You\’ve a standard amount of electricity being generated all the time….if you don\’t use it then it\’s just wasted. I think the process is that the alternator runs all the time, feeds it into the battery and then, when you use some, it\’s drawn from the battery.

If this is so then having more electricity being generated elsewhere doesn\’t make any difference, does it?

If the alternator doesn\’t rev the engine to make more power, then making more power elsewhere won\’t not rev the engine and save fuel, will it?

Update….looking at the comments it\’s lucky I don\’t engineer things, isn\’t it?

Oh, very good indeed

The scale of online activism was unprecedented. Bloggers like Simon Perry and Zeno took the BCA membership head on: they waded through every single members website, checked if they were claiming to treat infant colic, and if so, referred them to the the General Chiropractic Council, a statutory body who are obliged to investigate all complaints. One in four chiropractors in the UK are now being investigated by the GCC for allegedly making misleading claims, including officers of the BCA. The GCC has had to recruit six new members of staff to deal with all the complaints.

Daily Mail question of the day

Is electro smog causing your headache?

No.

Next question?

The computer industry airily dismisses any concerns, claiming that Wi-Fi uses only a few watts of energy – \’less than a lightbulb\’.

But this ignores the fact that light and microwaves are different kinds of electromagnetic radiation, so the analogy with the lightbulb is meaningless.

Erm, forgive me, for I might well be wrong here as physics isn\’t my strong point: but aren\’t light and microwaves exactly the same kind of electromagnetic radiation, just at different wavelengths?

BTW, this piece comes from:

Alasdair Philips is the director of Powerwatch, an independent organisation researching electromagnetic fields and health.

These blokes.

Oh look, they sell Woo.

Lots of Woo.

Incredible amounts of Woo.

Truly Woo.

Pill Woo.

Even petrol Woo.

So, who at the Daily Fail is on a commission here?

Snigger

In small print accompanying its annual report, the OFT admitted that the alleged fraud had not been detected because of a “control weakness” in the accounts payable department. The problem saw the OFT lose £97,000 last year and £153,000 the year before.

Anyone got the details? The OFT refuses to say because \”the police are involved\”.

Operation Ore

Looks like that edifice is finally going to come tumbling down.

A test case is to be heard in the chourt of appeal within weeks, which will challenge the investigation for the first time and could expose a \”huge miscarriage of justice\”, lawyers claim.

Chris Saltrese, the solicitor representing the convicted man, Anthony O\’Shea, said: \”If his appeal is successful the convictions of others for the same offence will fall too.

\”We are talking in the hundreds and we say this is a huge miscarriage of justice.\”

Ooops!

The South African task force is reported to be considering freezing or confiscating Mr Tannenbaum\’s assets. He is reported to have lured hundreds of investors with the promise of monthly returns of 11.5pc linked to pharmaceutical imports in an alleged fraud reported to be worth as much as $1.2bn.

Investors were told that Frankel Chemicals traded Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients (API) on a \”continuous global basis\”. Frankel, it was claimed, were \”the exclusive agents for the distribution of API material for many overseas multi-national prime pharmaceutical manufacturers\”. A number of major drug companies have denied the claims.

11.5% a month, eh?

It\’s possible to make such returns of course. Charles Ponzi\’s original scheme did indeed have high returns (something to do with postage stamps I think). The problem is in scaling up: as basic economic theory would have it, if there\’s an opportunity to make such excess profits then everyone piles in and those profits get competed away.

That\’s making the assumption that it wasn\’t a scam right from the start of course.

Why bother

Having licences for medicines when they\’re going to be handed out to homeopathic remedies?

Prof Colquhoun said that the claims could contravene consumer protection laws which ban \”falsely claiming that a product is able to cure illnesses\”.

The pills are labelled \”a homoeopathic medicinal product used with the homoeopathic tradition for the symptomatic relief of sprains, muscular aches, and bruising or swelling after contusions.\”

The average consumer is unlikely to know that \”used with the homoeopathic tradition\” is a form of weasel words that actually means \”there isn\’t a jot of evidence that the medicine works,\” Prof Colquhoun wrote in a letter published online by the British Medical Journal (BMJ).

This is a new one

Hello,

How are you doing?hope all is well with you, i am sorry that i didn\’t inform you about my traveling to England for a Seminar.

I need a favor from you as soon as you receive this e-mail because i misplaced my wallet on my way to the hotel where my money,and other valuable things were kept, i will like you to assist me with a  loan urgently.

Please I will be needing the sum of $1,500 to sort-out my hotel bills and get myself back home.i would have called you on phone but i didn\’t come along with my mobile line to england so i cannot make calls the only means of communication i have right now is through my e-mail account.

I will appreciate whatever you can afford to help me with, I\’ll pay you back as soon as i return. Kindly let me know if you can be of help? so that i can send you my details to send the money to.

Your reply will be greatly appreciated.

Mac.

Got to say the 419 ers are inventive at least.

 

So that\’s all right then

An official Parliamentary inquiry ruled last night that Mrs Spelman had "inadvertently" broken the rules on expenses. Mrs Spelman apologised and said she would immediately repay the money.

Phew, bit of a relief, eh? I\’ll use that next time I "inadvertently" walk out of the bank with ten grand that\’s not mine shall I?

Ooops, sorry, here it is back again?

More Stanford Loveliness

The complaint against Pendergest-Holt said she failed to tell investigators she had served on the Antigua bank\’s investment committee and that the investment portfolio holding more than 80 per cent of its assets included a $1.6 billion loan to Stanford "Executive A" – evidently Stanford himself.

It said Pendergest-Holt also wrongly denied she had prepared with company officials before her SEC interview on Feb. 10 and said a Stanford attorney had sought to keep the top executives from being questioned.

The complaint details sometimes stormy preparation sessions for Pendergest-Holt in January and February during which the bank\’s shaky asset base became apparent to a wider circle of officials and to the lawyer – "Attorney A" – who later quit.

During those preparations, the complaint said, Pendergest-Holt and other officials learned of the $1.6 billion loan and that $541 million credited as a capital contribution in December 2008 consisted of assets already bought by the bank just months before for $88.5 million.

It described "Executive A" – Stanford – as "pounding the table" and insisting "the assets are there."

Did they really not know?

Snigger

Sir Allen:

Last night, US television channels reported that Stanford had attempted to leave the country by private jet from Houston to Antigua, but the plane leasing company refused his credit card.

Oh dear

There were also reports last night that five players in the victorious Stanford Super Series final side – Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Ramnaresh Sarwan, Kieron Pollard, Sylvester Joseph and Dave Mohammed – had reinvested their personal winnings of $1m each with Stanford, and now risk losing it all.

I want my flying car now!

The \’Autovolantor\’ – based on a £200,000 Ferrari 599 GTB – is being developed by "Moller International".

It will have the ability to take off vertically and hover thanks to eight powerful thrusters which direct air down for take off. Vents then tilt so the car can fly forward.

The car is expected to be able to do 100mph on the ground and 150mph in the air.

The calculated airborne range is 75 miles and ground range is 150 miles.

Ermm, no. It won\’t fly and it won\’t be available.

Here at the Reg, a lot of us tech fancier Vultures are flying-car friendly. We want our personal aerial ride and we want it now. But we\’re getting a bit tired of Dr. Paul Moller and the way people keep breathlessly writing him up. (Even the Reg has fallen into his trap on occasion.)

The technology won\’t work as it hasn\’t for the past few decades.

Jeepers

The Department of Homeland Security is testing a type of body scanner that seeks out invisible clues that a person might be harbouring criminal intent, such as raised body temperature, pulse and breathing rate.

The system, called MALINTENT, uses a raft of "non-invasive" sensors and imagers to detect such factors remotely – subjects are not hooked up to anything. It also evaluates a person\’s facial expression to help to gauge whether they could be planning to commit an attack or crime.

The technology, developed by the Human Factors division of Homeland Security\’s directorate for Science and Technology, would be used at border checkpoints, airports and special events that require security screening.

Essentially they\’re building a lie detector that you walk through rather than being wired up to.

Given that lie detectors don\’t work….

Those Passport Chips

Bravo to The Times for this piece of research:

New microchipped passports designed to be foolproof against identity theft can be cloned and manipulated in minutes and accepted as genuine by the computer software recommended for use at international airports.

Tests for The Times exposed security flaws in the microchips introduced to protect against terrorism and organised crime. The flaws also undermine claims that 3,000 blank passports stolen last week were worthless because they could not be forged.

….

Using his own software, a publicly available programming code, a £40 card reader and two £10 RFID chips, Mr van Beek took less than an hour to clone and manipulate two passport chips to a level at which they were ready to be planted inside fake or stolen paper passports.

A baby boy’s passport chip was altered to contain an image of Osama bin Laden, and the passport of a 36-year-old woman was changed to feature a picture of Hiba Darghmeh, a Palestinian suicide bomber who killed three people in 2003. The unlikely identities were chosen so that there could be no suggestion that either Mr van Beek or The Times was faking viable travel documents.

No, they won\’t take the lesson from this and apply it to ID cards, of course they won\’t.