February 2007 Archives

February 1, 2007

Sea Launch Rocket Explodes on Launch

“A rocket launched in the mid Pacific Ocean by Sea Launch Co. of Long Beach exploded during liftoff, destroying the rocket and its payload late Tuesday. The rocket, which was being launched from a converted oil rig on the Equator in the Pacific Ocean, was carrying an NSS-8 satellite built at Boeing’s El Segundo factory to be used by The satellite was built for Netherlands-based SES New Skies. Before this failed effort, the company had launched 20 consecutive successful missions.”

Filed under Aerospace and Aviation by

Google to host fundraising launch for X Prize

Google, Inc. will host the launch of a fundraising event for the “X prize” – a new philanthropic organization whose mission is to create breakthroughs for the benefit of humanity based on competition. The March 3 event at Google’s Mountain View headquarters will kick off a $50 million drive and be hosted by Google founder and X Prize board member Larry Page. The benefit is intended to “encourage innovations in areas such as fuel consumption, water, medicine and more” said X Prize president Tom Vander Ark.

Filed under Philanthropy by

California’s cheese industry may pass Wisconsin

California is expected to surpass Wisconsin as the nation’s largest cheese maker within a few years, according to a report in the Fresno Bee. Last year, California’s cheese production reached a record 2.14 billion pounds, double what it produced more than a decade ago. Cheese companies with large-scale Valley factories, including Land O’Lakes in Tulare, Leprino Foods Co. in Lemoore and Marquez Brothers International in Hanford, produce more than 1 billion pounds of cheese a year. They employ more than 2,000 workers in Kings, Tulare and Merced counties. The Blue Ribbon Cheese Co. in Bakersfield recently announced plans to build a $220 million cheese plant in Fresno County, where it expects to use 6.8 million pounds of milk a day to make 680,000 pounds of cheese.

Filed under Agriculture and Food by

International Identity Theft Ring Broken in Sacramento

The Placer County Sheriff’s Department, with assistance from the U.S. Secret Service have arrested a Sacramento and Orange County resident- Tien Nguyen and charged him with operating a sophisticated international identity theft ring. The stolen information was supplied by criminals in Romania who used pop-up ads and “phishing” to acquire sensitive information such as passwords and credit card details. Nguyen then allegedly used computer software and a card reader to “upload” the victim’s identifying information to various magnetic strip cards that could be used for purchases. Authorities believe that Nguyen supplied Stefani Ruland and six others with stolen personal information, which they used to fraudulently obtain Wal-Mart credit cards. They then purchased more than $400,000 in merchandise and gift cards from Wal-Mart stores around the State. All but one of the suspects have pleaded guilty to charges and Nguyen is being held at the Placer County Jail on $1 million bail.

Filed under Legal and Criminal Issues, Romania by

Legislature starts questioning unconventional real estate loans

It may be closing the barn door after the horse has bolted, but the California Legislature has begun considering restrictions on unorthodox mortgage-lending practices. About half of all new home loans in California are something other than the traditional 30-year fixed loan and this has allowed hundreds of thousands of Californians to buy homes they otherwise could not afford. The loans use features such as no money down and variable interest rates in exchange for higher bills that kick in years later. Regulators said many of those riskier loans were taken out in 2004 and 2005 and will start resetting to higher rates this year. Some areas of the State have already experience an increase in mortgage defaults as a result of these unconventional loans.

Filed under California Legislature, Real Estate and Housing by

February 2, 2007

Ligand Pharmaceuticals slashes 267 Jobs

“Ligand Pharmaceuticals Inc., a San Diego public company developing a variety of new drugs to treat different diseases, slashed 267 people, or about 76 percent of its total staff, in a stunning move announced Jan. 31.”

Filed under Biotechnology, California Economy by

UC Berkeley wins $500 million biofuels center

“Officials of oil giant BP awarded a $500 million biofuels research program to a consortium led by researchers at the QB3 facility at the University of California, Berkeley. The consortium includes the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley Lab in Berkeley and the Joint Genome Institute in Walnut Creek as well as the University of Illinois, which will provide agricultural expertise. In June, BP said it will spend $500 million over the next 10 years to establish the BP Energy Biosciences Institute, which it described as the ‘first facility of its kind in the world.’ The facility will be a dedicated biosciences energy research laboratory attached to a major academic center in the United States or the United Kingdom.”

Filed under Biotechnology, Energy Industry, United Kingdom by

Governor paid huge Staff Bonuses in spite of campaign debt

The Los Angeles Times has reported that Governor Schwarzenegger racked up more than $2 million in campaign debt in last year’s election. In spite of this, the Governor paid huge “bonuses” to his staff for moonlighting work on the campaign while on the state payroll. After his victory on Nov. 7 the governor paid more than a quarter million dollars in bonuses to four of his senior staff members including a payment of $100,000 to Susan Kennedy, his Chief of Staff. A spokeswoman for the Governor said, “They put in a tremendous amount of hours on the campaign trail before and after work and on weekends, and they were compensated for that time.”

Do they really expect us to believe this nonsense? Even private sector salaried workers are expected to be dedicated to their jobs and are not paid for overtime work. Government employees are never supposed to use their jobs to collect pay offs like this- especially when they involve the obvious potential for conflict of interest. With the responsibilities associated with being senior officials in the California government, exactly how much free time do these guys have? The Governor and his staff are on extremely shaky ground here. As anyone who has tried to contact the Governor’s Office knows, unless you are a big shot they are just not interested.

As the Times reported, the Governor won’t have to struggle to cover his campaign debt, “Now that Schwarzenegger is embarked on another four-year term, he can tap businesses and other special interests whose fortunes depend on state action”. This is just one baby step removed from total corruption. Every decision made by the Governor’s office involving these campaign contributors must now be considered to be tainted. This is just plain wrong, and the money should be returned without delay.

Filed under California Politics, Governor Schwarzenegger, Opinion by

February 3, 2007

Viacom wants 100,000 videos cut from YouTube

“Viacom Inc. said Friday it has demanded that YouTube Inc. remove more than 100,000 videos from its site. New York-based Viacom has started a competing service, and said the videos on San Bruno-based YouTube are mostly clips that represent more than 1.2 billion video streams and come from Viacom-owned properties including MTV Networks and BET. In a press release, Viacom sad that ‘After months of ongoing discussions with YouTube and Google, it has become clear that YouTube is unwilling to come to a fair market agreement that would make Viacom content available to YouTube users.’ The video-sharing service is owned by Mountain View-based Google Inc.”

Filed under Entertainment Industry, Internet by

Palo Alto Schools Reject Mandarin Immersion Plan

“Palo Alto school trustees rejected a pilot Mandarin immersion program that had been a 4-year effort by Grace Mah, the leader of Palo Alto for Chinese Education (PACE), reports the Chinese-language Sing Tao Daily…opponents of the immersion program said that the program is unfair because it offered language classes only to a few students. They also said that the proposal lacked long-term plans for the Mandarin immersion classes.”

Filed under China, Education and Training by

California has 37 levees at risk of failing

“California leads the rest of the nation on a list of 122 levees that are at risk of failing, according to a list released Thursday by the Army Corps of Engineers.”

Filed under Infrastructure and Construction, Water and Wastewater by

February 4, 2007

Mexican avocados finally head to California

Too late for the Superbowl, but Mexican trucks loaded with avocados headed north to the border on Friday, marking the final elimination of a decades-old U.S. ban on its import. Hundreds of locals in the western town of Uruapan, Mexico, waved at two trucks carrying Hass avocados bound for California and Florida, which along with Hawaii were the last states to lift a ban put in place in the early 1900′s as a measure to prevent plant disease.

Filed under Agriculture and Food, Mexico by

Chinese Advanced Placement Exam hits Snags

“Students at Fremont’s Irvington and Mission San Jose high schools seeking college credits have been studying hard in preparation for the spring Chinese Advanced Placement exam. Now, it turns out that about 150 students at the two schools may not be able to take it at all. The College Board, which administers the SAT and AP exams, has decided it will offer the Chinese and Japanese AP tests only online. To administer the test, a school must have computers equipped with sound cards and software to convert English letters into Chinese characters — and meet a slew of other requirements. Finding money to purchase the equipment itself would be a challenge. But more troublesome is that neither Irvington nor Mission San Jose has the Internet capabilities to permit all the students to take the test at once, administrators said.”

Filed under China, Education and Training by

Download of Governor’s Audio Files was Legal

“The former Democratic gubernatorial candidate’s campaign did not commit a crime when it downloaded an audio file of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger saying Cubans and Puerto Ricans are feisty because of their mixed black and Latino blood, the state police said Friday. The campaign of former state Treasurer Phil Angelides said it obtained the file from a public portion of the Republican governor’s Web site, but Schwarzenegger’s staff said the audio files were obtained without authorization from a password-protected area and asked the Police to investigate. The California Highway Patrol concluded in a report released Friday that the administration itself put the recording on a Web site devoted to Schwarzenegger’s speeches, and that a password was not necessary to access the file. Cathy Calfo, who was Angelides’ campaign manager, said in an e-mail statement that the investigation ‘confirms what we stated from the outset: The governor’s taped remarks were publicly available on a publicly funded state Web site.’ She called the CHP investigation ‘phony’ and said it was launched ‘to intimidate.’ “

Filed under Governor Schwarzenegger, Legal and Criminal Issues by

Group Protests Israel Philharmonic in LA

“Two Los Angeles-area groups are planning protests against a talk by former Mexican President Vicente Fox on Monday at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion and two performances in early February by the Israel Philharmonic at Disney Hall. A Los Angeles affiliate of the international Women in Black organization held one demonstration outside Disney Hall on Jan. 14 and plans a second one for 1 p.m. Sunday before the scheduled 2 p.m. L.A. Philharmonic performance of Schumann’s Second Symphony. Other protests will coincide with the Israel Philharmonic’s scheduled concerts Feb. 5 and 6. The group earlier had petitioned the L.A. Philharmonic to cancel the concert as part of its attempt to bring international pressure on Israel to change its policies toward Palestinians, including its occupation of Gaza. In a letter to WIB-LA, Deborah Borda, president of the L.A. Philharmonic Assn., rejected calls for a boycott of the Israeli orchestra. ‘We will never support the silencing of artists from any culture as a means of political action’, Borda wrote. ‘Whenever this unfortunate course of action has been pursued by governments and political entities, it is always to the detriment of society at large, and certainly the artists’. “

Filed under Foreign Relations, Israel by

Jerry Brown Moving Forward with Automaker Lawsuits

“California Attorney General Jerry Brown said Thursday he will move ahead with a lawsuit that accuses the six largest American and Japanese automakers of damaging the environment by producing vehicles that contribute to global warming. ‘We think we have a solid case, and we’re going to pursue it vigorously’, said Brown, who had expressed ambivalence about the suit when he campaigned for attorney general last year. ‘The ultimate objective is … to prevent the catastrophic consequences of this global warming problem.’ At the same time, Brown offered to meet with the automakers — Chrysler Motors Corp., General Motors Corp., Ford Motor Co., Toyota Motor North America Inc., American Honda Motor Co. and Nissan North America Inc. — to discuss ways to resolve the lawsuit and address climate change.”

Filed under Environment and Climate, Legal and Criminal Issues by

Taiwan Launches Manhunt for Omni Bank Owner

“A San Gabriel Valley bank has found itself the focus of unwanted attention after an international manhunt was launched for one of its Taiwanese owners following the collapse of several of his family’s Asian holdings… For more than a month Taiwan authorities have been attempting to arrest Wang, founder of the Rebar Group, and his wife, Chin Shih-ying. They fled Taiwan in late December as news broke of the failure of several companies, including the Chinese Bank in Taipei. Prosecutors in Taipei issued warrants on Jan, 15 for the pair on charges of embezzlement, insider trading and fraud.”

Filed under Banking and Financial Services, Legal and Criminal Issues, Taiwan by

February 6, 2007

Two Apples settle long standing dispute

Apple Inc. of Cupertino and The Beatles’ company Apple Corp. Ltd. of London have settled a long standing dispute about the use the Apple name and logos. Apple Inc will own all of the trademarks but will will license certain of those trademarks back to Apple Corp. for continued use. According to the San Jose Business Journal, details of the settlement were not disclosed: “We love the Beatles, and it has been painful being at odds with them over these trademarks,” said Apple CEO Steve Jobs. “It feels great to resolve this in a positive manner, and in a way that should remove the potential of further disagreements in the future.”

Filed under Entertainment Industry by

LinkedIn hires new CEO

Palo Alto based LinkedIn has hired Dan Nye, previously an Executive Vice President at Advent Software, as its new CEO. Linkedin is a business and social network that uses the “six degrees of separation” model to allow members to make connections with other professionals. Nye replaces Reid Hoffman, who founded LinkedIn and who will remain as Chairman and President, Products. LinkedIn is well funded with backing by Sequoia Capital, Greylock, Bessemer Venture Partners, and the European Founders Fund.

Filed under Internet, People on the Move by

Boeing building four C-17s Cargo Jets for Canada

“The Boeing Co. and the Canadian government signed an agreement for four C-17 Globemaster III cargo jets. The freighters will be used by Canada’s Department of National Defence. One C-17 costs approximately $200 million and is built on Boeing’s production line in Long Beach.”

Filed under Aerospace and Aviation, Canada by

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