Making Unique Observations in a Very Cluttered World

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Feds Seize 307 Sports-Related Domains Ahead of Super Sunday -

Feds Seize 307 Sports-Related Domains Ahead of Super Sunday - 

Federal authorities said Thursday they had seized and shuttered 307 domains, 16 allegedly engaged in unauthorized live sports streaming and the remainder accused of selling fake professional sports merchandise, including National Football League paraphernalia.

The seizure, the biggest to date under the Immigration and Customs Enforcement crackdown known as Operation in Our Sites (.pdf), brings to more than 650 domains shuttered since the program began in June 2010. The latest seizures, which quietly began in October, were announced days ahead of Super Sunday, when the New England Patriots play the New York Giants in the NFL Super Bowl, one of the world’s most popular sporting events.

“While most people are focusing on whether the Patriots or Giants will win on Sunday, we at ICE have our sights on a different type of victory: defeating the international counterfeiting rings that illegally profit off of this event, the NFL, its players and sports fans,” said ICE Director Morton. “In sports, players must abide by rules of the game, and in life, individuals must follow the laws of the land. Our message is simple: abiding by intellectual property rights laws is not optional. It’s the law.”

The sites allegedly sold fake jerseys, caps, shirts, jackets and other paraphernalia. The government said it had also seized $4.8 million worth of fake NFL goods, up from $3.72 million the same time a year ago.

Federal authorities are taking .com, .org. and .net domains under the same civil-seizure law the government invokes to seize brick-and-mortar drug houses, bank accounts and other property tied to alleged illegal activity. The feds are able to seize the domains because Verisign, which controls the .net and .com names, and the Public Interest Registry, which runs .org, are U.S.-based organizations. Under civil forfeiture laws, the person losing the property has to prove that the items were not used to commit crimes.

The program come under intense scrutiny in December, when Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) asked the government why it kept a hip-hop music site’s domain for a year without affording its New York-based owner a chance to challenge the seizure of dajaz1. Another site, Rojadirecta, a Spanish sports-streaming site, is contesting its seizure last year, saying it is innocent of infringement and only provided links to streaming sites to which it has no affiliation.

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State Department jacks up passport fees, imposes $450 fee to renounce US citizenship -

State Department jacks up passport fees, imposes $450 fee to renounce US citizenship - 

U.S. citizenship is priceless to some, worthless to others. But now the U.S. State Department has a dollar figure: U.S. citizenship is worth $450.

At least that’s what it will cost to renounce it.

New consular fees took effect Thursday. According to the Federal Register, the cost to process a formal renunciation of U.S. citizenship went from free to $450.

The State Department does not say how or why it calculated the cost. Citizenship is free for most Americans who are accorded the privilege at birth. The department says only that it “has decided that the renunciant should pay this fee at the visit during which he or she swears the oath of renunciation.”

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The Fed Has Purchased 91% Of All Gross Issuance In Long-Dated US Treasurys -

The Fed Has Purchased 91% Of All Gross Issuance In Long-Dated US Treasurys - 

One of the salient questions asked of Bernanke by Congress relates to a Kevin Warsh oped in the WSJ, in which he said the following: "Private investors are crowded out of the market when the Fed shows up as a large and powerful bidder. As a result, the administration and Congress make tax and spending decisions—with huge implications for our standard of living—with heightened risks around future funding costs." This is arguably the question that dominates Fed policy making under the Operation Twist doctrine, in which the Fed buys up long-dated paper and sells Short dated (under 3 years), the second leg of which however is completely irrelevant, as the Fed has already guaranteed ZIRP until 2014, in essence confirming that Twist was nothing but a stealth QE3 as we have claimed all along, as the Fed's ZIRP4EVA policy effectively offsets any and all short-dated sales. Needless to say Bernanke's response was irrelevant. However, here is the most jarring statistic. As Barclays showed a few days back, under Twist, the Fed has monetized virtually all, and specifically 91% of all gross issuance in the 20-30 year maturity bucket. In other words, Warsh is absolutely spot on, and once again we are left with an artificial market in which it is only the Fed that defines the UST curve shape by molding the long end. What happens when Twist ends? Will the 30 Year collapse? What happens when there is no explicit back stop to the long end? Is this the reason why Bill Gross yesterday said that he fully expects much more check writing by the Fed for the next '12, 24, 36 months." And how can it not: we don't have a market of rational players any more - the entire market is merely one irrational player, whose biggest counterparty incidentally, the ECB, is beyond broke. Finally, what happens to the Fed's balance sheet when interest rates start rising? Holding a portfolio with a duration greater than it has ever been, the DV01 is currently well over $2 billion (i.e. a $2 billion loss on every basis point increase in rates). And rising.

NASA Probe Captures 1st Video of Moon's Far Side -

NASA Probe Captures 1st Video of Moon's Far Side - 

A gravity-mapping spacecraft orbiting the moon has beamed home its first video of the lunar far side — a view people on Earth never see.

The new video was captured by one of NASA's twin Grail probes using a novel camera called MoonKAM, which will eventually be used by students on Earth to snap photos of the lunar surface as part of an educational project. The two spacecraft have been circling the moon since they arrived in orbit over the New Year.

"The quality of the video is excellent and should energize our MoonKAM students as they prepare to explore the moon," said Maria Zuber, Grail principal investigator from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, in a statement accompanying the video's release today (Feb. 1).

Because the moon is tidally locked with Earth, it only presents one face to the planet's surface (the near side). The side of the moon that faces away from Earth is the far side. Only robotic spacecraft and Apollo astronauts who orbited the moon in the 1960s and 1970s have seen the far side of the moon directly. 


Mona Lisa’s ‘twin sister’ discovered in Spain’s Prado art museum -

Mona Lisa’s ‘twin sister’ discovered in Spain’s Prado art museum - 

A file photo of Leonardo da Vinci's original "Mona Lisa" (L) which hangs in the Louvre in Paris, and a recently discovered and restored copy of the "Mona Lisa" painting as it was displayed at Madrid's El Prado Museum is seen in this combination photo. The recently restored copy was completed by one of Da Vinci's apprentices most likely at the same time as the master himself painted the original.

Spain’s Prado art museum said Wednesday it had discovered an unusual copy of Leonardo da Vinci’s “La Gioconda,” painted by one of the master’s pupils at the same time that the original was being completed.

The copy had been on display at the Madrid art museum for years without experts being aware of its importance.

A routine restoration led experts to discover that the dark background behind the female figure popularly known as Mona Lisa had been added afterward and that it covered an Italian landscape similar to that in da Vinci’s original.

The copy artist had also repeated da Vinci’s corrections, leading experts to conclude that he had copied “La Gioconda” in the master’s workshop in Florence while the original was being painted.

The painting is the same size as “La Gioconda” and dates from the first third of the 16th century, as does the original. It is believed to have been painted by either Andrea Salai or Francesco Melzi, who were among da Vinci’s closest pupils.

The origin of the copy has been confirmed by experts both at the Prado and at the Louvre in Paris, which hosts the original painting.

The copy has been better preserved than the original, making Mona Lisa look younger than in da Vinci’s painting.


Coughing and sneezing on crowded trains and buses can spread deadly flesh-eating superbugs -

Coughing and sneezing on crowded trains and buses can spread deadly flesh-eating superbugs - 

The bacteria are more virulent than the infamous hospital MRSA, can affect otherwise healthy people and are spreading across Britain. 
They can be transmitted through skin-to-skin contact and hugging as well as sneezing and coughing. 
One strain, called USA300, can lead to blood poisoning or a form of pneumonia that eats away at lung tissue. 
The bacteria are usually resistant to several types of antibiotics and can cause large boils on the skin. 
Chris Williams, professor of molecular genetics at the University of Birmingham, said: ‘It breaks down tissue. If it gets into your heart, bacteria can get into your bloodstream and take hold of different parts of your body. That could lead to death quite easily.’ 
The dangers of the ‘community- acquired’ superbugs are raised in a new study, examining the way they spread. Researcher Dr Ruth Massey said USA300 was ‘causing huge problems in America and is being reported here increasingly’. 
She added: ‘These community- acquired strains seem to be good at affecting healthy people – they seem to be much better than the hospital ones at causing disease.’ 
Dr Massey said there were 1,000 cases of so-called PVL-positive community-acquired MRSA in England in the last year, of which 200 were USA300 strains. 
Prof Williams added: ‘If you’re on a crowded tube or bus and you sneeze you can spread the bacteria. 
‘But your sneeze can also land on a metal surface and when someone else gets up from their seat and steadies themselves on the hand rail they can catch it.’ 
However, MRSA was also prevalent in the nose and the hair so might be spread by scratching the head and then shaking hands, he said. 

Read more: http://www.metro.co.uk/news/889131-flesh-eating-bug-spread-by-sneezes-and-coughs

Microsoft Buys Stake in Facebook - pay $240 million for a 1.6 percent stake in Facebook -

Microsoft Buys Stake in Facebook - pay $240 million for a 1.6 percent stake in Facebook - 

Microsoft has won a high-profile technology industry battle with Google and Yahoo to invest in the social networking upstart Facebook.

The two companies said on Wednesday that Microsoft would pay $240 million for a 1.6 percent stake in Facebook. The investment values Facebook, which is three and a half years old and will bring in about $150 million in revenue this year, at $15 billion.

The deal throws the value of the holdings of Facebook investors into the stratosphere. Mark Zuckerberg, the 23-year-old Facebook founder who followed the path of Bill Gates by dropping out of Harvard to build a company, owns a 20 percent share that may now be worth as much as $3 billion. Accel Partners, the venture capital firm that invested $12.7 million in May 2005, now holds stock that could be worth $1.65 billion.

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