Monday, December 19, 2011

Last Call

And the big deal is now off:  AT&T has officially dropped its bid to buy T-Mobile after massive opposition from consumer groups, competitors, and the government.

AT&T had said it urgently needed to buy T-Mobile USA to help overcome a spectrum shortage, while Deutsche Telekom saw it as a way to exit the U.S. market to focus on its European operations. Once a cash cow, T-Mobile USA has been loosing customers.

An agreed $3 billion break up fee to be paid by AT&T, roaming agreements with AT&T and additional mobile licenses for T-Mobile USA will soften the blow but puts Deutsche Telekom back at square one.
"It was definitely a miscalculation (by AT&T)," said Steve Clement, an analyst at Pacific Crest Securities.

"I don't know that it's such a big deal to the extent that you're going to have people looking for a change of management (at AT&T). But they definitely miscalculated what they would be able to push through to regulators'" he said.

AT&T will have to look elsewhere for the wireless airwaves it has said it needs to support the high demand for mobile data services and to compete with larger rival Verizon Wireless, which has agreed to buy spectrum from cable operators.

Considering wireless outfits just got stung for "sticker shock"  a couple months ago and have agreed to a "voluntary" measure to send out alerts to let people know they've gone over their plan minutes, it's not like wireless carriers have any real goodwill built up with consumers or the government right now.  AT&T's muscle deal to try to obtain critical mass to squeeze out competition would have given it control of too much of the market.  We need more wireless carriers, not less.

The deal's been doomed for some time now, but it's good to know it's finally finished.

Getting Soaked ByThe Free Market

The endless drive to privatize public government services is beginning to hit consumers right in the wallet.  We're told by the corporatists that private companies can provide services and utilities more cheaply and efficiently that evil old government.  Increasingly, that list of privatized services is including basic necessities like water itself.

Ask Texas resident Robert White how that's working out.

When Robert White opened his water bill last month, his jaw dropped: $250 for a month's worth of water and sewer service. The 63-year-old construction contractor, who shares a three-bedroom home with his wife in the bucolic Springbrook Centre subdivision, said he likes to keep his lawn green and expects hefty water bills. "I just don't want to be hijacked," he said.

White's water service is provided by a private utility owned by California-based SouthWest Water Co. LLC. Just across the four-lane Pflugerville Parkway, where White's neighbors in the Springbrook Glen subdivision — a nearly identical grid of neatly arranged brick-faced homes — get their water from Pflugerville, rates are on average about 60 percent less.

And White's bill for water service may nearly double soon, if SouthWest Water gets the latest rate increase it has requested. "I have never felt so helpless," he said. 

So White and other Texans are facing up to $2,000 a year for just for water and sewer service.  No competition, bound to a company who only cares about profiting off water.  And Texas's Utility Commission is designed to make it all but impossible to fight these massive rate increases.  The private water companies say they are simply passing on the true cost of water these days...because states simply don't want to pay to fix aging pipes.  They pass it all over to the private companies and they are making a killing.

Do read the whole story.  Privatized water systems are becoming more and more common...and so are massive rate increases.

Beware Of Funny Money This Holiday Season

The Cincy office of the US Secret Service reminds us that this time of year is pretty bad for counterfeit bills, and that there's a rise in funny money being used for online transactions.

Two-thirds of fake money is now printed on ink jets, not the printing presses of years ago, and because of the low-cost options, more people are doing it according to Cincinnati Secret Service Special Agent in Charge Mark Porter.

"The better color and duplication of color, how easy that is, and now the low prices. When the first started ten years ago not everybody could afford a printer and a scanner. Almost anybody can get their hands on this now."

One technique the Secret Service is seeing more often is the bleached bill. Counterfeiters take the ink off a five dollar bill and print that piece of paper with the markings of a 100. Assistant Steve Schwarz opens a loose leaf binder with laminated real and fake money, and points to a security symbol.

"That one is fairly close, but a lot of times it will be a blur." 

I would probably never sell an item for cash like that if I did that online just for that reason alone.  Worth more to me to have the piece of mind of an eBay or PayPal transaction instead.  To each his own, however.

Be careful out there this year.

Boy Chokes To Death At School While Workers Stand By

I had to take a first aid course before I could work with kids.  We had to take a basic one and pass before we could graduate high school.  I voluntarily took a refresher course just so I knew I had practice and was prepared.  I've performed CPR twice in my life.  Once it saved the person, the other time it failed.  But I knew what to do and in the heat of the moment I was calm and confident.  This fall, I choked and if my husband hadn't been there to help me I would have died.  I was trying to do the Heimlich maneuver on myself, and it wasn't enough (that was one stubborn chicken nugget).  I was starting to get dizzy and gray out when it worked.

I know the terror and pain of being unable to breathe.  I have seen the moment firsthand when you realize this may be it, you may die right here and now.  I hurt now realizing a 9-year-old boy's last memories will be of this, while the adults who worked at the school stood around unsure of how to help him.

NEW YORK -- Family members and a witness say a New York City fourth grader choked on meatballs during lunch earlier this month while school cafeteria workers stood by. The boy later died.

A parent at the school, Andrea Perez, told the newspaper she saw the boy choking but cafeteria workers did nothing. She said at one point they yelled at him to put his fingers down his throat.

"He was on the ground and not moving after a while," Perez said through a Spanish-speaking translator. "Nobody was paying attention and they didn't know how to give aid, nobody knew what to do."

Jonathan Jewth later died from the brain damage he suffered. A room full of people, and nobody knew how to perform the Heimlich?  My first job ever was at McDonald's.  My shiny CPR card meant nothing, we were trained in the Heimlich maneuver before we were allowed to work in food service, no exceptions.  Did the school lapse in training, or did the employees just forget in the panic?  Nobody knows yet and the comments are few and far between from those who were there.

Please, if you don't know basic medical aid sign up for a course.  They're often free, and can save lives.  The world is missing an adorable and gifted child because of ignorance.  That is inexcusable.

Viral Happiness - It's Catching

Okay, I laughed and I also got a bit teary at the pure damn happiness of this guy.  But first, a foreword from Jezebel:

The Surprise Pregnancy Announcement Youtube Video is practically its own genre, but this one has a twist: The expectant and delighted grandparents are two men. And they're jump-up-and-down excited.

I won't ruin the delight of watching the whole thing yourself, but suffice to say, their joy is contagious. If this is what happens when "traditional" families are destroyed by gay couples, then sign me up.

Tell me again why this is so dangerous to the world?

Legacy Of The Big Mistake

The most brutal casualty of the Iraq war from a political standpoint is that without Saddam keeping sectarian violence in check, Saudi Arabia and Iraq are now bitter enemies as the Saudis believe that Iraqi PM Al-Malaki is an Iranian puppet.

The Saudis charge that Iraq has come under the sway of Saudi archrival Iran. But they themselves have also tried to affect Iraqi internal politics: they've thrown their support and funds behind Ayad Allawi, Maliki's main political rival, who's blocked the appointment of top security officials in the Iraqi government.

"We're trying to contain them ... it's a sectarian government," said an adviser to the Saudi government who agreed to discuss the delicate Saudi-Iraqi relations anonymously because he wasn't authorized to speak to the media.

For its part, Iraq charges that insurgents are still infiltrating from Saudi Arabia. "There are a lot clerics and religious organizations that encourage and incite people to go to Iraq and fight in a so-called jihad," Labeed Abbawi, Iraq's deputy foreign minister, told McClatchy in Baghdad, skirting direct criticism of the Saudi government.

The enmity between Saudi Arabia and Iraq is just one of the many fissures in the Middle East that have widened in the almost nine years since the U.S. toppled Saddam. Now, the Arab Spring has exacerbated already existing sectarian tensions in the region at a time when the U.S. departure from Iraq leaves it with less capacity to act in the region to intervene if military conflict seems imminent.

The biggest fissure is the division between Sunni-led Saudi Arabia and Shiite-led Iran. The two countries have been at loggerheads for centuries, in large part over whose branch of Islam should lead the Muslim world. But the replacement of Saddam Hussein's Sunni-led regime with Maliki's Shiite-led government unsettled the playing field for the two countries.

And without that balance of power which we promptly wrecked over nine years, Iraq and Saudi Arabia aren't even talking anymore.  The Iraqi-Saudi border is now a major flashpoint in the world.  We knocked the Saudis off their block, something the neocons fail to mention...or wanted to happen.

Strange Definition Of "Not Hating"

Michele Bachmann doesn't hate Muslims, she just wants to compare them to Nazi Germany as the greatest threat to America right now.

Fox News host Mike Huckabee told Bachmann Saturday that he had never seen her act like she hated Muslims.

“You never have because I never have said anything that foolish,” Bachmann explained. “What I believe is that I love the American people and I love this country, and I want this country to be safe, sovereign and free.”

“Let’s address that specific allegation that you hate Muslims,” Huckabee pressed. “Do you hate Muslims?”

“Of course not,” Bachmann insisted. “I don’t hate Muslims. It’s outrageous to say that, but I do recognize that we have a very real threat. Just like when Hitler was building up the threat prior to World War II. All of the signs were there and they were evident, and there were people that wanted to bury their heads in the sand.”

So if we just rounded them up and put them in internment camps, I'm sure we'd be fine or something, right, Michele?  Just awesome.


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