Thursday, October 9, 2014

They’ll Scare The Cash Out Of You

Where there’s a crisis, there are pigeons to be plucked.

The first patient diagnosed with Ebola on U.S. soil may have died Wednesday, but health experts say Americans don’t need to stock up on survival gear.

“I really can’t see that that’s an appropriate or reasonable response,” Arthur Reingold, Head of Epidemiology at the University of California, Berkeley, told The Huffington Post. “It’s reasonable for people to be concerned, though I would argue they should be more concerned about the dreadful situation in West Africa.”

“The fact is we don’t have transmission on the Ebola virus here in the community,” Reingold said. “I just can’t see why anybody would want to spend money on those kinds of things in response to concern about Ebola.”

Nonetheless, fears about the spread of Ebola have led to a spike in sales of disease protection supplies. LifeSecure, a Chicago-based emergency preparedness company, has sold more than 100 “Extended Infection Protection” emergency supply kits since officials confirmed the first case of Ebola in the U.S. last week, according to owner David Scott. Typically, LifeSecure sells just a handful of such kits per week.

I’m sure I’m going to start seeing Ebola prevention kits sold on late-night TV wedged in between the boner pills and the Bumper Thumper.  No one ever lost a dime by exploiting fear and paranoia.

More people in the U.S. have died of gunshots in the last 24 hours than have died from Ebola in the last ten years.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Saturday, October 4, 2014

COMCAST, YOU SUCK — Updated

Do not tell me a service call will be free and then hit me up for a $60 service charge.

I was getting sporadic drop-outs and freezes on my TV in my living room.  I called for a service appointment, and the last question I asked was would it cost me anything.  “Oh, no sir, since it seems to be our equipment, it will be free.”  Okay, so I set the appointment and the guy came out.  Of course by that time the TV was working fine.  He didn’t bother to do more than look at the back of the TiVo where the cable card is hooked up.  Then he went outside to see if everything was working outside.  Apparently it was okay as well, so he said it looks okay.  He left the card of his boss, we shook hands, and that was the end of it.

Or so I thought.  I got my cable bill today they have hit me for the service call.  I called Comcast to say WTF, and they said, “Oh, if we determine that it’s not our equipment, we hit you up for the call.”  I told them that no one told me that and if they had, I would not have scheduled the appointment.  I’m afraid I got loudly insistent with the customer service person and they agreed to meet me half-way and cut the service charge in half.

Comcast has the reputation for the worst customer service among internet service providers, which is like being the winner at a warthog competition.

I am now waiting for a supervisor to come on the line and tell me why I shouldn’t go to DirecTV or Uverse or just plain old TV.

Update: Persistence pays… as well as posting about the ordeal here and on Facebook and Twitter.  After an hour’s wait, a supervisor came on line and waived the whole fee.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Short Takes

Twenty-six NATO foreign ministers pledged to combat ISIS.

Secretary of State Kerry says U.S. is open to talking with Iran about ISIS.

GM will pay compensation for 19 deaths caused by faulty ignitions.

President Obama presented the Congressional Medal of Honor to two Vietnam veterans.

August 2014 was the warmest August since they started keeping records.

Tropical Update: TS Odile is battering Baja California.

The Tigers beat the Twins 8-6.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Monday, August 25, 2014

Timbits On Tamiami Trail?

Burger King is thinking about heading for the True North.

Tim_Hortons_logo_(original).svgBurger King announced Sunday that it is in talks to buy Tim Hortons and form a new publicly listed company that would be based in Canada.

The two fast-food companies said that Burger King majority owner 3G Capital would continue to own the majority of shares of the new company, with the remainder held by existing shareholders of Tim Hortons and Burger King.

The companies’ statement says Miami-based Burger King Worldwide Inc. and Ontario-based Tim Hortons Inc. would continue to operate as standalone brands but would share corporate services.

The Wall Street Journal first reported the talks and that the companies say there’s no assurance a deal will happen.

The new company would have 18,000 restaurants in 100 countries worldwide. The companies say that would make it the world’s third-largest fast-food restaurant company.

The reason for the BK move is to make it a Canadian-based company and do the tax-inversion shuffle.  But I wonder if that means that there will be Tim Hortons here in South Florida.  I’m always ready for a box of Timbits.

“Have Fun Slaughtering Your People”

What do you do when you’re a former prime minister and need a few quid to keep the polish on the Bentley?  Why, if you’re Tony Blair you sell your advice and what’s left of any decency to the highest bidder and help them get out of a rough PR patch.

Tony Blair gave Kazakhstan’s autocratic president advice on how to manage his image after the slaughter of unarmed civilians protesting against his regime.

In a letter to Nursultan Nazarbayev, obtained by The Telegraph, Mr Blair told the Kazakh president that the deaths of 14 protesters “tragic though they were, should not obscure the enormous progress” his country had made.

Mr Blair, who is paid millions of pounds a year to give advice to Mr Nazarbayev, goes on to suggest key passages to insert into a speech the president was giving at the University of Cambridge, to defend the action.

Mr Blair is paid through his private consultancy, Tony Blair Associates (TBA), which he set up after leaving Downing Street in 2007. TBA is understood to deploy a number of consultants in key ministries in Kazakhstan.

Human rights activists accuse Mr Blair of acting “disgracefully” in bolstering Mr Nazarbayev’s credibility on the world stage in return for millions of pounds.

The letter was sent in July 2012, ahead of a speech being given later that month by Mr Nazarbayev at the University of Cambridge.

A few months earlier, on December 16 and 17 2011, at least 14 protesters were shot and killed and another 64 wounded by Kazakhstan’s security services in the oil town of Zhanaozen. Other protesters, mainly striking oil workers, were rounded up and allegedly tortured.

Mr Blair had begun working for Mr Nazarbayev in November 2011, just a few weeks before the massacre.

In the letter, sent on note-paper headed Office of Tony Blair, Mr Blair wrote: “Dear Mr President, here is a suggestion for a paragraph to include in the Cambridge speech. I think it best to meet head on the Zhanaozen issue. The fact is you have made changes following it; but in any event these events, tragic though they were, should not obscure the enormous progress that Kazakhstan has made. Dealing with it [the massacre] in the way I suggest, is the best way for the western media. It will also serve as a quote that can be used in the future setting out the basic case for Kazakhstan.”

In his own handwriting, Mr Blair added at the bottom of the letter: “With very best wishes. I look forward to seeing you in London! Yours ever Tony Blair.”

It’s all one big episode of “Mad Men” for these people.

HT to FC.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Don’t Drink The Water

From the AP via TPM:

TOLEDO, Ohio (AP) — Long lines formed at water distribution centers and store shelves were quickly emptied of bottled water after Ohio’s fourth-largest city told residents not to drink from its water supply that was fouled by toxins possibly from algae on Lake Erie.

The warning effectively cut off the water supply to 400,000 people in Toledo, most of its suburbs and a few areas in southeastern Michigan.

Worried residents told not to drink, brush their teeth or wash dishes with the water emptied store shelves and waited hours for deliveries of bottled water from across Ohio as the governor declared a state of emergency.

Gov. John Kasich pledged that state agencies were working to bring water and other supplies to areas around Toledo while also assisting hospitals and other businesses impacted. The state also was making plans to make more deliveries if the water problem lingered, he said.

“What’s more important than water? Water’s about life,” Kasich said. “We know it’s difficult. We know it’s frustrating.”

The governor said it was too early to say how long the water advisory will last or what caused toxins to spike suddenly in the drinking water.

“We don’t really want to speculate on this,” Kasich told The Associated Press. “When it comes to this water, we’ve got be very careful.”

Samples of water were flown to the federal and state Environmental Protection Agency offices in Cincinnati and Columbus and a university in Michigan for additional testing, officials said.

Residents waking up to the warning on Saturday morning lined up outside just about any store selling water. Some were mothers concerned about how they would make formula for their infants and other were worried about their elderly parents.

The water system that handles that part of the state is aging and has been in need of serious upgrading for decades.  It’s fragile and expensive; my mom tells me that when they lived there, it wasn’t uncommon to get a $500 water/sewage bill per quarter.

Now, of course, it’s up to the government — state, local, and ultimately the federal — to come up with ways to supply safe and plentiful drinking water for the citizens.  Our infrastructure is crumbling, and when we’ve gotten to the point that it’s safer to drink the water in Tijuana than it is in Toledo, something needs to be done.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Monday, July 7, 2014

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Friday, June 6, 2014

Short Takes

The White House says the Taliban threatened to kill Sgt. Bergdahl if news of the swap had leaked.

One dead in shooting at a university in Seattle.

GM released the internal report that said corporate negligence and incompetence led to the ignition switch flaws.

Senate confirms Sylvia Mathews Burwell as the new Secretary of HHS.

VA reform bill gains bipartisan support in the Senate.

The Tigers lost again to the Jays.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Short Takes

China made sure that no one openly marked the 25th anniversary of Tiananmen Square.

The Supreme Court allowed same-sex marriage in Oregon to continue by declining to put a hold on the ruling declaring the ban unconstitutional.

Mississippi Sen. Thad Cochran (R) will be in a run-off for his seat against a Tea Partier.

Sprint and T-Mobile agree to merger.

R.I.P. Chester Nez, 93, the last of the Navajo Code Talkers.

The Tigers lost to the Jays 8-2.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Monday, April 21, 2014

Tuesday, April 15, 2014