Thursday, March 27, 2008

Argentina, Brazil to drop U.S. dollar in bilateral commercial transactions

BUENOS AIRES, March 15 (Xinhua) -- Argentina and Brazil are to scrap bilateral commercial transactions in U.S. dollars and start using their own currencies from August, an official in charge of currency settlement at the Argentine Central Bank said here Saturday.

The new payment system is aimed at reducing costs in commercial transactions and would benefit small and medium-sized enterprises, the official said.

Under the new system, there will be a unified exchange rate between the real and peso, the so-called reference rate, which will be applied by Brazilian and Argentine central banks at the end of each day.

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva reached an agreement to establish a new payment system with his Argentine counterpart Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner during his visit to Argentina in February.

Technical preparations are underway for the new system, which the two countries will adopt in several steps due to the large amount of bilateral trade.

Brazil is Argentina's largest trading partner, while Argentina is Brazil's second-biggest trading partner after the United States.

Bilateral trade stood at around 23.6 billion U.S. dollars last year.

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The 37th Button On Your Remote Control

The 37th Button On Your Remote ControlOur headline today comes from a line used by innovation expert Scott Anthony in the excellent post Innovation Gone Overboard.

His point: Companies often try to freshen their existing products with too much innovation; the 37th button on the remote. But their mistake is your opportunity.

Automakers, for example, are trying hard to replace the time-tested, simple, and easy-to-use starter key with push-button starters that can only be activated with a wireless owner-verification device. Says Anthony:

Saving 10 seconds is wonderful in today’s hectic world, but there’s a catch. In exchange for saving those 10 seconds, drivers have to make sure they don’t walk away with the activation device in their pocket when they valet-park their car. More importantly, they have to hope that their new key doesn’t run out of batteries or malfunction. While some activation systems include manual keys, using those keys involves following a complicated set of instructions, with helpful owner’s manual advice like “call your dealer.”

Missing The Mark

In the literature on disruptive innovation, this is called “overshooting.” Companies want to keep upgrading their existing products with incremental innovations, but at some point they overshoot. A feature is added that the customer will accept but not pay for. And that’s when trouble sets in. “Overshooting creates conditions that encourage the formation of disruptive attackers who change the game through simplicity or low prices,” says Anthony.

Here are some classic overshoots I’ve noticed:

  • Too Wordy. Microsoft Word is the classic whipping boy for unusable innovation. Many writers I know have jumped ship to simpler tools such as Scrivener and WriteRoom.
  • Just Suck. High-end vacuum cleaners come with more features than a new Gulfstream. Keep your HEPA filters, all-terrain drive, and dog hair attachment — I just want more suck at a reasonable price.
  • Snail Mail. Heard at the Post Office: “Would you like to send this overnight? Ground? Insurance? Receipt verification? Priority mail? Express mail? Parcel Post? Media mail? Registered? Delivery confirmation? Certified?

Sometimes an overshoot is not really an overshoot — just bad execution. Take the attempt by cell phone makers to cram as many features as they could — camera, calendar, SMS, GPS, Internet access, ring tones, world clocks, eye-brow trimmer — into their tiny handhelds. But using these features was difficult to the point of why bother, and it drove a little bit of resentment in me that I was paying for things I couldn’t use.

Along comes the iPhone and suddenly, with some smart design, all these features are a breeze to use. And people were willing to pay more for the experience.

Share some overshoots you have noticed creeping into the market.

(Car key image by billaday, CC 2.0)

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Police: Girl Dies After Parents Pray for Healing Instead of Seeking Medical Help

WESTON, Wis. — An 11-year-old girl died after her parents prayed for healing rather than seek medical help for a treatable form of diabetes, police said Tuesday.

Everest Metro Police Chief Dan Vergin said Madeline Neumann died Sunday.

"She got sicker and sicker until she was dead," he said.

Vergin said an autopsy determined the girl died from diabetic ketoacidosis, an ailment that left her with too little insulin in her body, and she had probably been ill for about 30 days, suffering symptoms like nausea, vomiting, excessive thirst, loss of appetite and weakness.

The girl's parents, Dale and Leilani Neumann, attributed the death to "apparently they didn't have enough faith," the police chief said.

They believed the key to healing "was it was better to keep praying. Call more people to help pray," he said.

The mother believes the girl could still be resurrected, the police chief said.

Telephone messages left at the Neumann home by The Associated Press were not immediately returned.

The family does not attend an organized church or participate in an organized religion, Vergin said. "They have a little Bible study of a few people."

The parents told investigators their daughter last saw a doctor when she was 3 to get some shots, Vergin said. The girl had attended public school during the first semester but didn't return for the second semester.

Officers went to the home after one of the girl's relatives in California called police to check on her, Vergin said. She was taken to a hospital where she was pronounced dead.

The relative was fearful the girl was "extremely ill, dire," Vergin said.

The girl has three siblings, ranging in age from 13 to 16, the police chief said.

"They are still in the home," he said. "There is no reason to remove them. There is no abuse or signs of abuse that we can see."

The girl's death remains under investigation and the findings will be forwarded to the district attorney to review for possible charges, the chief said.

The family operates a coffee shop in Weston, which is a suburb of Wausau, Vergin said.

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School Bus Rapes Are Of No Concern To School Districts

What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. That’s the motto of the city, but does it also apply to other locations?

While things that happen between consenting adults in Las Vegas are par for the course, a recent news story has raised serious questions about other venues where the Las Vegas motto may apply.

It seems that it’s a free-for-all on public school buses and vans, just like in Las Vegas, except that these are our children and the acts can be far from consensual.

In Ohio, a seven-year-old girl was repeatedly molested, raped and sodomized over a period of at least a year and a half. This is an accepted fact by the court because the emotionally disturbed 16-year-old boy who sexually assaulted the little girl on a special education school van gave a full confession to the police. His confession correlates with what the child reported to her mother, and what her mother reported to the school and the police. He also did not attempt to defend himself in a civil lawsuit brought against him by the victim’s mother.

However, prosecuting the rapist in this case doesn’t go very far in protecting this child and others from sexual predators on school buses. In this case, the school district and the driver of the van do not admit that the sexual attacks even happened. From the driver’s seat of the special education van, the driver cannot see what goes on at the back benches of the 7-passenger van. Since he did not see the attacks, he says that they never happened and that the sexual attacks that the 7-year-old described, and that the 16-year-old confessed to, are the product of the little girl’s imagination. The school district takes the same stance on the issue and stands firm on their position that the child was not raped on the school’s special education van although the 16-year-old has a lengthy rap sheet and school disciplinary record.

To add insult to injury, the mother’s attempt to sue the school district on behalf of her child has failed. A rational person might think and believe that when a child is on a school bus or van, that the school has a duty to protect that child. With this case, we find that is not the case and that the school, by virtue of being a government entity, is immune from liability. Rather than being held to a higher standard, government agencies are instead protected by sovereign immunity.

Initially, a judge in Stark County, Ohio ruled that a jury should hear the case to decide if the school district was negligent. The district, of course, appealed that decision.

The Ohio Court of Appeals recently ruled that the child who was raped has no right to sue the school district. Several courts in Ohio have previously ruled that the operation of school vehicles does not involve protecting the children from harm, including sexual assaults.

Now the child and her mother are waiting to see if the Ohio Supreme Court will hear the case. Although the school district denies that the sexual assaults ever happened, that is not the issue at stake. The real issue is whether or not the school district has a responsibility to ensure the safety of students who rely on transportation provided by the schools. Ohio courts have repeatedly protected the schools by ruling that they do not have a duty to protect students while they are being transported on school buses and vans.

So, unless the Ohio Supreme Court decides otherwise, what happens on school vehicles is of no concern to the school districts. After all, why should they be concerned when the courts say that they aren’t liable?

Fox News has the only report of this story that we have found. The YouTube video can be found here: 7 Year Old Raped On Special Needs School Van

Original here

Circus "slave" forced to swim with piranhas

ROME (Reuters) - Police rescued two teenage Bulgarian sisters from a circus in southern Italy which forced one of them to swim with flesh-eating piranhas for the amusement of guests, police said.

While the 19-year-old sister swam in a transparent tank, the younger, 16-year-old was forced into a container where the circus staff tossed snakes at her. She was injured by one of the snakes, police said.

Police arrested three Italians who ran the circus south of Naples, in Salerno province, accusing them of forcing the sisters to live in virtual slavery.

The women were paid 100 euros ($155.8) per week and lived in a trailer that had previously been used to transport animals, they said.

(Writing by Phil Stewart; Editing by Caroline Drees)

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300 million dead

Last night, I attended a talk by Sherman Alexie, who was hilarious and at times, biting. One of the curious things he noted, though, was that he had said something about the disastrous conduct of the wasteful war in Iraq, and despite this being an audience of collegiate liberals, no one applauded. He noted that this is his common experience — it used to be that voicing your objections to an unjust war got clapped, but nowadays, it's old hat. Even people who once supported the war are backing away from it (although it's rare for them to plainly say "I was wrong"), and the futility of the war has simply lapsed into the status of a given. It has become the background noise of our country. Protest has been ground out of us by the dreary dun of corruption and destruction and the unresponsiveness of our government — we are in a democracy with a large majority opposed to the war, to no effect and with no expectation that our representatives will actually act to end the killing.

So now we have reached the nice round milestone of 4,000 dead in Iraq. 4000 dead American soldiers, that is; it's almost as if the two orders of magnitude greater number of slaughtered Iraqis, the millions of refugees, the destruction of an entire country, simply don't matter and don't count. Americans find it hard to gather outrage over thousands of our own dead, and tens of thousands wounded, and they sure as hell aren't going to get stirred up over hundreds of thousands of dead foreigners.

I don't get it.

As a nation, we stand atop a pedestal of bones and ruined lives. The disruption of families is ongoing, and our honor has been thrown away by the greed and ignorance of our leaders. And yet we carry on as if nothing is happening, nothing is wrong, no action need be taken. We will have an election, and one of the candidates stands for amplifying our involvement in this evil chaos … and he stands a chance of winning. The monsters who have perpetrated this crime will walk away to fat retirement checks and lives of wealth in the service of bloated corporate sponsors, and they will not pay — you will.

We all have blood on our hands, and no one cares.

Once, four dead in Ohio could stir us. Now, four thousand dead, a hundred thousand dead, it doesn't matter … we have all become dead inside.

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