Archive for November, 2013

“I Rolled the Dice, But It Didn’t Work Out”

November 23, 2013

The New York Times, Business Day, Friday, November 22, 2013

Derelict in Detroit, and Hard to Sell, by Bill Vlasic

“Two Deals to Buy Packard Pland Fall Through, Underscoring Decline:

Detroit–It is the ultimate abandoned building in the city that has become America’s unofficial capital of blight.  For decades, the ruins of the Packard Motor Car plant–a collection of more than 40 crumbling buildings that make up a ghost town of graffiti and garbage and rubble–have been a symbol of Detroit’s decay and a stubborn obstacle to the revitalization of its surrounding, and tattered, east side neighborhoods.

Now with the city awaiting court approval of the biggest municipal bankruptcy in history, the decrepit plant, often referred simply as the Packard, has somehow become a hot commodity of would-be developers from as far away as South America.

Or has it? In a public auction process that has lasted months, six investment groups have bid to buy the 40-acre Packard site out of foreclosure.  The two highest bidders have already dropped out for lack of money. Now the prospects for an eventual sale are murky at best.”

William Hults, who tried twice to buy the plant, could not raise the money.  ‘I rolled the dice,’ but it just didn’t work out,’ he said.”

Gamblers roll dice, but so do other bidders, such as Mr. Hults.  He was hoping to win the bid for the Packard Plant in Detroit, but it didn’t work out.

Japan Pitches Its High-Speed Train

November 20, 2013

New York Times, Business, Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Japan Pitches Its High-Speed Train With an Offer to Finance, by Eric Pfanner

Tsuru, Japan–“As the world’s fastest train raced through central Japan, former Gov. George E. Pataki of New York hoisted his 6-foot-5 frame into the  aisle and marveled at the smoothness of the ride…’This is amazing. The future.’

The future for Japan, perhaps.  For the United States, the future is less clear. Mr. Pataki and other former American politicians were in Japan Saturday for a special test ride of the train, which uses a technology called magnetic, or maglev. They are trying to bring a maglev train to the crowded Northeast Corridor that will cruise between New York and Washington at more than twice the 150-mile-an-hour top speed of Amtrak’s Acela, the fastest train int the United States.

Maglev trains could make the journey in an hour, compared with just under three hours, on a good day, for Acela…

‘In the past, the United States led the way in transport technology,’ said Yoshiyuki Kasai, the company’s chairman, at the control center of the maglev test track here. ‘Now the U.S. transportation infrastructure is in bad shape.  This time, why don’t the U.S.A. and Japan lead the world together?”

The baseball season is over here in the United States, but pitching is still going on without pitchers on the mound.

Surfing the Deep Web

November 11, 2013

Time Magazine, November 11, 2013

THE DEEP WEB: by Lev Grossman and Jay Newton -Small

“Ten years ago the government built a totally private, anonymous network.  Now its a haven for drugs and child pornography…


Unlike conventional Internet browser’s, Tor’s allows users to surf the Web anonymously. But Tor is also the portal to illegal commerce sites like Silk Road.  Here’s how it works: (Graphic)

Silk Road (is) a wildly successful online bazaar where people bought and sold illegal goods–primarily drugs but also fake IDs, fireworks and hacking software.  They could do this without getting caught because Silk road was located in a little-known  region of the Internet called the Deep Web…

…the Deep Web is a specific branch of the Internet that’s distinguished by the increasingly rare commodity: complete anonymity.  Nothing you do on the Deep Web can be associated with your real-world identity, unless you choose it to be.  Most people never see it, though the software you need to access it is free and takes less than three minutes to download and install.  If there’s a part of the grid that can be considered off the grid, it’s the Deep Web…, a vital tool for intelligence agents, law enforcement political dissidents and anybody who needs or wants to conduct their online affairs in private…”

Some of the sources for this article (8 pages), which includes graphics, is “Tor Project: University of Luxembourg; Electronic Frontier Foundation; Bright Planet.”

One can surf ocean waves and surf the internet,  the latter metaphorical use is ubiquitous, almost replacing the original use of the term.

This is from the Tor site:  “Tor was originally designed, implemented, and deployed as a third-generation onion routing project of the Naval Research Laboratory. It was originally developed with the U.S. Navy in mind, for the primary purpose of protecting government communications. Today, it is used every day for a wide variety of purposes by the military, journalists, law enforcement officers, activists, and many others…

(…Users) protect their privacy from unscrupulous marketers and identity thieves. Internet Service Providers (ISPs) sell your Internet browsing records to marketers or anyone else willing to pay for it. ISPs typically say that they anonymize the data by not providing personally identifiable information, but this has proven incorrect. A full record of every site you visit, the text of every search you perform, and potentially userid and even password information can still be part of this data. In addition to your ISP, the websites (and search engines) you visit have their own logs, containing the same or more information.”

There is more on the Tor site.  A lot of it relates to privacy and firewall issues.

Playing Hardball

November 4, 2013

The New York Times, Monday, November 4, 2013

Playing Hardball:

Cloak and Dagger Tactics on Both Sides of the Rodrquez Case

This article is by Steve Eder, Serge F Kovaleski and Michael S. Schmidt

“…In the nine months since Mr. Rodriquez and more than a dozen other (baseball) players were linked to a South Florida anti-aging clinic that is believed to have distributed banned substances to professional athletes, baseball officials and one of their star players (Mr. Rodriquez) have engaged in a cloak-and-dagger struggle surpassing anything the sport has seen.  The extraordinary tactics, playing out in multiple locations, reflect Major League Baseball’s resolve to prove one of its star players cheated, and that player’s determination to discredit baseball officials.

Witnesses for both sides in the pending arbitration proceedings claim to have been harassed and threatened.  Some were paid tens of thousands of dollars for their cooperation.  One said she became intimately involved with an investigator om the case.  And some witness accounts have shifted, leaving each side scrambling to defend the sometimes inconsistent stories provided by former employees and associates of the now-defunct clinic, Biogenesis of America.

This article began on the front page of the New York Times and continued on two subsequent pages in the Sports Section.  Hardball is usually used as a metaphor for tough tactics.  The term itself refers to a ball which is smaller and harder than the soft, larger ball used in softballCloak and dagger is an old term for secret techniques, even criminal ones, particularly in older crime stories as in the Sherlock Holmes series.