Archive for May 2, 2008

Bolivia Steals Foreign-Owned Companies

LA PAZ — President Evo Morales celebrated May Day by announcing the nationalization of Bolivia’s leading telecommunications company, Entel, and returning four foreign-owned natural gas companies to state control.

Morales said his government would take ”absolute control from this moment on” of the former state telephone company, in which Telecom Italia owns a 50 percent share.

Morales announced plans to buy back Entel last year, but negotiations with Telecom Italia have dragged out. Following Thursday’s decree, Bolivian police were dispatched to guard Entel offices in La Paz and the eastern city of Santa Cruz.

”Basic services — call them energy, water or communications — cannot be in the hands of private business. They’re public services,” Morales told a crowd outside the presidential palace during celebrations of international workers’ day.

Terms of the nationalization are not immediately clear, though Morales said the company’s employees would keep their jobs.

Morales also announced the return to state control of four former pieces of Bolivia’s state energy company YPFB, which was privatized during the 1990s. He had announced plans for that move when he declared the nationalization of Bolivia’s oil and gas sector on May Day 2006.

The president said he has signed an agreement to purchase a majority share in the gas production company Andina from Spanish company Repsol YPF.

Hydrocarbons Minister Carlos Villegas said the deal gives YPFB, long a bit player in its own country, an active role in Bolivia’s two largest gas fields, San Alberto and San Antonio.

Morales commended Repsol as the ”symbol of a business that negotiates” — while announcing the nationalization of three other foreign-owned energy companies that failed to work out a deal before his April 30 deadline.

Gas production company Chaco, controlled by British Petroleum; the pipeline company Transredes, controlled by the Houston-based Ashmore Energy International, and German-Peruvian owned distribution company CLBH will all be returned to state control.

Terms of the nationalizations were not immediately available.

Bolivia privatized the struggling Entel in 1995, handing 50 percent of the company to Stet International in exchange for the Italian company’s promise to invest $608 million to modernize its services. Stet later merged with Telecom Italia.

Telecom Italia says it has spent more than that to build Bolivia’s largest cellphone and Internet networks while maintaining a commanding share of the now-deregulated telecommunications sector.

In Venezuela, President Hugo Chávez ordered the expropriation of Venezuela’s largest steel maker after attempts by the government to acquire a majority stake in the company failed. Chávez said iderurgica del Orinoco, which was controlled by Luxembourg-based Ternium, will become “a socialist company.

Sidor, as the company is known, ”has now recuperated by the revolutionary government,” Chávebz said.

Since winning reelection in 2006 on promises to steer his country toward socialism, Chávez has made nationalizing major industries a top priority.

His government last year seized majority control of the country’s largest telecommunications and electricity companies, and of joint oil ventures run by some of the world’s largest oil companies.


Well, looks like Bolivia, too, is now aspiring to become as wealthy and successful as Zimbabwe. Attention, Foreign Companies: Do not invest in 3rd world wannabe countries unless you are paid for your investment up front.

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Guess We’re All Gonna Have to Run Out and Buy Rotary Push Mowers

TALLAHASSEE — As ethanol-blended fuel begins pouring into Florida, the state’s gas stations are making a last-ditch effort to ensure that consumers can still buy regular gas.

The state Senate on Thursday approved a measure that would ensure that fuel terminal operators will still supply some unblended gas with an octane rating of 87 for small engines, like those in all-terrain vehicles, jet skis, and generators, as well as boats and older cars whose engines could be damaged by ethanol.

The proposal still must be approved by the House before the session ends Friday at midnight. The measure was introduced a day after the Senate gave final passage to a comprehensive energy bill requiring, among many things, that all fuel sold in Florida contain 10 percent ethanol by the end of 2010.


Jim Smith, president of the Florida Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association, which represents more than 5,000 gas stations, said his organization was left with no choice but to push the amendment, which became part of a House pest control bill, after the energy bill was approved Wednesday with no language guaranteeing that at least some ethanol-free gas would be available.

The Orlando market, notably, was to have been completely transitioned to a 10 percent ethanol fuel, known as E10, by Friday because Houston energy company, Kinder Morgan, began supplying only ethanol blends from the region’s sole terminal near the Orlando airport.

Joe Hollier, a spokesman for the company, said the company would be able to provide unblended, though on a restricted basis.

”In the Orlando area, . . . members that need conventional gas for marinas have to go to Jacksonville, Tampa or Fort Lauderdale to get that fuel. That adds a tremendous cost for transportation, which the consumer is ultimately going to pay,” Smith said.

Several oil companies with terminals in the Port Everglades already have retrofitted their facilities to provide the blended fuels exclusively.

David Mica, a lobbyist with the Florida Petroleum Council, said the amendment was potentially catastrophic.”


”It really screws up the marketplace for gasoline,” Mica said, If you run out of the [unblended] fuel, you would be in violation of the law.”

If the amendment fails, South Florida could be an all-E10 market by August. ExxonMobil said most of its stations will start selling only E10 fuels by the end of next week. So will BP. Hess stations changed over several months ago. Shell began in March. Chevron makes the switch July 1.


So, we can’t ride ATVs, cut our grass, run generators, ride jet skis, go boating, or drive older cars because……we can’t get gas without ethanol in it.

Dumbass Florida legislators. This is what happens when stupid people try to save the planet.

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Amber Alert Linked to Death in Melrose, Florida; Perps Headed to Houston

PUTNAM COUNTY, FL — Authorities have linked the murder of a 66-year-old man to an Amber alert for a teenager from Putnam County.

Investigators are looking for 15-year-old Morgan Leppert of San Mateo. They say she may be with 23-year-old Toby Lowry, a person of interest in a death in Melrose.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement says Lowry and Leppert have been spotted in a silver 2003 Toyota Tacoma with Florida tag number 193KLR. Investigators say the truck is registered to 66-year-old James Thomas Stewart.

Police in Putnam found Stewart’s body in his home around 10:30 Thursday morning.

Detectives say there were obvious signs of foul play.

Investigators believe Leppert and Lowry may be traveling to Houston.

Call 911 or Crime Stoppers at 1-888-277-TIPS if you see them. You’ll remain anonymous and could receive a cash reward.

Source: First Coast News and Missing and Murdered Children.

He/they have committed murder, are dangerous, and may be on the road toward you.

There are increasing numbers of parents that are not allowing their children internet access. Sounds like this would have been a good thing in this case.

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U.S., Indonesia at odds over “spy lab”.

NEGOTIATIONS over whether a controversial US military laboratory should remain in Indonesia have reached a knife-edge, as officials argue about biological sample-sharing and the diplomatic status of staff in the facility.

Politicians and sections of the media have joined the fray over the work of US Naval Medical Research Unit No2, known as NAMRU, which was established in Jakarta in 1970 and is one of five such facilities worldwide.

Harnessing the anti-US rhetoric of founding president Sukarno, Health Minister Siti Fadilah Supari has been among those leading the charge, telling weekly news magazine Gatra in its latest edition, on stands yesterday, that “there are many amongst us … who forget that we are a sovereign nation. (On this issue) I will sacrifice everything”.

Dr Supari may in fact be close to sacrificing her job, after a senior government source told The Weekend Australian that her bellicose rhetoric, including comments on the bird flu epidemic in a rambling treatise entitled “Time for the world to change: the hand of God in bird flu” – had made life “awkward” for fellow ministers.

The heated debate over NAMRU boils down to the facility’s work on tropical diseases including malaria, dengue fever and infant diarrhoea as well as bird flu – work that Dr Supari said had been of “minimal use” because the complaints had still not been eradicated. The Americans argue that NAMRU’s value is significant, including in training and research.

However, Dr Supari and others have also been playing the international espionage card, suggesting the US wants diplomatic immunity for centre staff so they can spy on Indonesia.

Parliamentary foreign affairs committee member Effendy Choirie warned this week that any evidence of spying at the facility “must be pursued – if it’s there, however small, NAMRU must be closed”.

Fellow committee member Mutamimul Ula called on Thursday for an “investigation into (the spying) allegations”, adding that “there is this flavour of intelligence activities”.

US officials threw open the doors of the centre this week to a small number of news organisations, including The Weekend Australian.

The mostly Indonesian research staff expressed surprise that their efforts had become such a topic of concern.

“As Indonesians we are proud to be working in a top-notch laboratory,” pediatric specialist Narain Punjabi said. “Our papers are also published in top-notch journals.”

Another researcher at the centre, bemoaning a recent decision by Dr Supari to halt all sharing of biological samples with NAMRU scientists, said: “As scientists, we don’t think about profits, just what we can contribute to society … there is here a very real danger, for instance, of developing a bird flu treatment that doesn’t include the Indonesian form of the virus.”

And there lies the key to the mess: Dr Supari’s indignation at the notion that US companies might be developing commercially profitable bird flu vaccines based on Indonesian samples of the virus.

Her paranoia led to a recent moratorium on sending bird flu biological samples out of the country, something the World Health Organisation warned was putting Indonesian lives at risk.

US deputy ambassador John Heffern was at pains this week to point out the facility operates under the direction of Dr Supari’s ministry.

As officials on both sides negotiate a new memorandum of understanding for the centre’s continued existence, the issue of diplomatic immunity for its 19 US staff members could yet become a sticking point.

Indonesia so far is refusing to budge on that, and Mr Heffern admitted that “the US decision to remain here will be based on what status Indonesia accords NAMRU’s direct-hire staff”.


Additional story here:

Well, let me recap. They’ve done little to nothing to eradicate the virus in poultry, they have the highest death rate from the H5N1 virus of any nation, the lab has mostly Indonesian employees and works under the direction of Dr. Supari’s ministry, they’re refusing to share viral samples so that a vaccine could be developed, and they’re accusing the U.S. lab directors of wanting to “spy” on Indonesia.

Sounds like a demand for baksheesh to me. Close the damn lab and then refuse to let Indonesians or anybody that has traveled to Indonesia into countries that are concerned about the mutated virus. Heh.

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Emmmmm, breakfast.

SwampMan is a grits purist, so he didn’t want to have anything to do with the garlic grits with green chilis and with a cup of grated sharp cheddar cheese mixed in after it was cooked that I made for MY breakfast, (along with left over mustard greens and pork chops with hot sauce) so I was under orders to fix him some plain ol’ grits for breakfast.

PLAIN grits? Where’s the artistry (and taste) in THAT? I couldn’t help myself. I added a lil’ garlic for taste, but (sigh) nothing for color. He does not like broccoli and cheese grits. He does not like chopped ‘maters and onions and bacon and cheese grits.

He has a tendency to look all squinty-eyed when I make cornbread and demand “what did you put in it THIS TIME?” before he’ll try that, too.

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Plantar Fasciitis Update

Plantar fasciitis has been giving me a lot of foot pain, right more than left. I reduced my walks/jogs from 6 miles to 4 miles to 2 miles to 0 with no appreciable effect; in fact, the pain continued to worsen to the point that I was hobbling around like an arthritic Grandma (hey, wait….) when I got out of bed or even stepping out of the vehicle after a short car truck ride. Stretching wasn’t really helping either.

So, I got one of those foot braces for plantar fasciitis from CVS pharmacy. I kept waking up the first night I wore it because of discomfort. However, when I gingerly put my foot on the floor in the morning, I didn’t experience the familiar shooting pain but instead, a dull ache that I could deal with.

This morning again, no sharp pain, just a dull ache. I have a friend that just underwent surgery for her plantar fasciitis and has not seen appreciable benefit, so I hope that this will be sufficient to treat my condition. I would like to start walking/running again for the weight control aspect but may have to go back to bicycling (dang) which I’m less fond of. I can’t keep up with the Swampman on his bicycle, and he’ll often look over his shoulder to find I’m not there, bicycle back, and be annoyed to find me taking pictures of a snake or a cloud or a flower.

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