• led light 01.03.2012 No Comments

    Internet tycoon Kim Dotcom has broken his silence to talk about life inside jail, the difficulty he has had settling into the country he wants his children to call home - and how he will beat the United States.

    In his first interview since being granted bail, Dotcom said he was stunned to be locked up in prison over claims of criminal copyright infringements when accused murderers were bailed to await trial.

    He said his month behind bars at Auckland Central Remand Prison had led him to consider appealing to the Department of Corrections to review treatment of those who had yet to be convicted of any crime.

    “The first night I didn’t have a blanket, soap, toothpaste or toilet paper. They didn’t provide us with the basic things.

    “Every two hours, they would wake me up. I was deprived of sleep. I wrote a complaint. I said, ‘This is torture, this is sleep deprivation’.”

    During the day, Dotcom - who court records stated earned $50 million last year - would mix with other prisoners being kept on remand.

    He met methamphetamine cooks who claimed to have prior convictions for manslaughter, and an inmate who showed him a criminal record with an extensive history of convictions.

    “I’m thinking, ‘What am I doing in here?”‘

    Despite the notoriety of his case, Dotcom said had no bad experiences with any of the inmates.

    If there was a bright side to his time in jail, he said, it was weight loss - he dropped 16kg in the month inside.

    Dotcom, who founded the filesharing website Megaupload, denied any deliberate copyright infringement by his company. He said the US could not win the case - although it would take years of fighting through courts to prove his innocence.

    Dotcom and three others were arrested in a January 20 raid by New Zealand police after a request from the US Department of Justice. In a co-ordinated global move, the US authorities shut down Megaupload - which carried 4 per cent of global internet traffic - and froze hundreds of millions of dollars in assets.

    He was bailed last week to a $5m home north of urban Auckland.

    Yesterday, he faced down an appeal over bail, defeating claims he was a flight risk. He shares his home, which is next to his former $30 million mansion, with wife Mona, who is pregnant with twins, and their three children.

    Dotcom, who was granted residency under the National government’s investor category, said he still wanted to live in New Zealand and raise his family here.

    He said it had been difficult fitting into the country after encountering people whose opinions appeared to be shaped by what they had read about him online, which was inaccurate.

    He had become the unwelcome centre of a neighbourhood controversy, which included complaints to the office of Prime Minister John Key about his driving at speed.

    He said he and Mona left the property increasingly less as they felt more and more unwelcome.

    Odd reactions from people began almost from the moment he decided to move to New Zealand, he said. He visited a car yard to buy a Mercedes using his credit card, which cleared and confirmed the payment.

    However, after leaving the car yard, he was phoned and told the sale had been cancelled.

    He was told the decision had been made after someone put his name through a Google search.

    “This is the country where I want to live and where I want my children to grow up. I love it here.”

    Dotcom said the indictment used by the US Department of Justice to trigger the raid represented only a fraction of the real picture. “For every email they have in the indictment, I have 100 others that disprove it.”

    He said the evidence that would clear him was also held by US authorities and questioned why prosecutors had presented such a one-sided picture.

    The evidence included email trails in which Dotcom had personally requested sites carrying links to infringing material to stop linking to Megaupload.

    “How do you cherry-pick in a way which is so misleading and so malicious? For me, sitting in my cell, I’m thinking, ‘Why are they doing this? They can’t win it’.”

    Dotcom said there was clear evidence he and his team had worked to stop copyright infringement.

    The evidence stemmed from Megaupload’s terms of service, which forced users to agree they would not post copyrighted material to the website.

    He said the first indictment, used to trigger the January 20 worldwide assault on his company, had not included the company’s terms of service.

    He said it was a critical piece of evidence to leave out of the indictment, which had convinced authorities around the world to co-operate with the United States.

    The second indictment, issued a month later, did include parts of the terms of service.

    Dotcom also said firms with concerns were given their own direct access to Megaupload to delete infringing links. There were also 20 staff dedicated to taking down material which might infringe copyright, he said.

    One difficulty Megaupload faced was it was issued “take down” notices by copyright holders which turned out to be links to material legally owned by its users.

    “We determined that 10 per cent of all take-downs were false but we continued to take down every link that was reported to us.”

    Dotcom said US authorities knew his movements before the raids, and would have known he was planning to visit the US.

    Instead of waiting, they acted in New Zealand, forcing everyone into an expensive and time-consuming extradition battle.

    “They knew Mona and I were planning a trip to the US about six months after the twins were born. If you look at how long extradition can take, they could have waited for us to arrive in the US.”

    He said that during his time in jail, he made trips to and from the North Shore court for bail hearings in a prison van which felt as if it had no suspension.

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  • When we came back from winter break we were in a cab and as we crossed 5th Avenue on 34th Street cop cars were convening on the corner, racing up with lights and sirens, cops jumping out of their cars and running. A man was tearing down 5th Avenue carrying something, and we saw the cops tackle him to the ground before the taxi drove on. And these are just ordinary days in NYC, never mind when there are terrorist threats, protests, parades, crowds gathering for any reason.

    Cops are living on that edge all the time, and they are putting their lives at risk, we all know that. And when I’m talking about aggression I’m not even talking about the obvious cases, like the recent killing of a young, unarmed black man in front of his family when he ran because he was scared and was carrying a little pot. Or the even more obvious cases of excessive use of force and brutality that get all over the news. I’m talking about little, everyday encounters where cops have the chance to show restraint and goodwill, or to make a show of coercion and authority.

    Last fall I was walking home with my son on 9th Avenue in the late afternoon of a beautiful day. We were approaching the corner of 30th when I heard a cop say something through his car’s megaphone—that’s what drew my attention. I looked and there was a guy on his bike in the bike lane and the cop car was right behind him. So I put together the cop said something like “move that bike out of the bike lane.”

    I just watched with curiosity since the man didn’t move but stood stock-still. He was standing astride his bike, looking straight ahead. Then the lights on the cop car went on. The car was right up behind the guy’s bike. The guy on the bike still didn’t move. He stared straight ahead. Then the cop actually nudged the guy’s bike with his car.

    The guy looked back at his tire—the position of his bike had shifted and he righted it—and then continued to stare straight ahead. Moments later the traffic light changed and he started to ride across the street. The cop put the siren on and swung around wide to block him, then leaped out of his car and started yelling at the guy to get his bike back up on the sidewalk. He was in a rage and though he didn’t touch the guy he shoved the bike at one point. Suddenly another cop car careens up with lights and siren on and that guy jumps out of his car. The first cop’s bitching at this guy and the other cop chimes in, talking about issuing him a summons. The second cop’s in a long-sleeved white shirt so I take him to be a superior officer.

    I couldn’t imagine what on earth the guy on the bike did and he’s standing there trying to explain to them why he didn’t move—that he didn’t want to ride his bike out into traffic. As soon as the light had changed I walked over and got right up in the scene.

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  • Global Tungsten & Powders Corp. announced Wednesday that it is eliminating 150 positions at its Towanda plant.

    The reduction in employees is occurring because the plant has experienced a dropoff in sales in its wire and phosphor business, according to a press release from the company.

    “The phasing out of incandescent light bulbs and technology changes that require less phosphor in fluorescent lamp manufacturing” has a resulted in a decrease in sales in GTP’s wire and phosphor business, GTP said in its press release.

    The positions being eliminated are all associated with the plant’s production of wire products, which are used in a variety of industries, primarily lighting, said Craig Rieder, director of human resources at GTP.

    The elimination of the positions is expected to begin in September 2012 and be completed by February 2013, the release said.

    The reduction of the positions will be accomplished through retirements of employees, the elimination of temporary positions, the transfer of some employees to other departments, and layoffs, Rieder said.

    Most of the 150 positions will not be eliminated through layoffs, although the exact number of layoffs that will occur is not known yet, Rieder said.

    “Our other businesses (at the Towanda plant) are very strong,” so they will be able to absorb some of employees whose positions will be eliminated, he said.

    The plant offers a retirement incentive plan for employees who are eligible to retire, he said, explaining how retirements will contribute to the reduction of the 150 positions.

    GTP’s primary emphasis is the manufacture of tungsten and molybdenum powders with an additional emphasis on other specialty products.

    Despite the reduction of employees, Andreas Lackner, GTP’s president & CEO, confirmed the company’s commitment to continued growth at the Towanda plant, saying: “Since 2008, GTP has invested over $60 million (at the Towanda plant) in their core tungsten powders business and the launch of a new product line (at the Towanda plant), components for solid oxide fuel cells. We plan to continue this investment level (at the Towanda plant), which is significantly higher than in previous years.”

    Rieder said that part of that investment will involve a planned expansion of the solid oxide fuel cell business at the Towanda plant.

    Commercial production of components of solid oxide fuel cells recently began at the Towanda plant, he said. The planned expansion of the solid oxide fuel cell business will result in an addition of jobs at the plant, but it is not known yet how many positions will be added, he said.


  • When Luke Backer was 2 years old he sat on Santa’s lap and asked for a green extension cord for Christmas.

    Now the Kirkwood High School sophomore uses some 800 feet of extension cords to run an over-the-top synchronized light show that stops traffic outside his home on Cranbrook Drive.

    Backer, 16, has been helping his parents light up their home since he was just 3 or 4 years old. By the time he was in fifth grade, he was handling the decorating himself.

    He stuck to the typical multi-colored lights strung along the gutters and around the windows for a few years. Then he figured out how to synchronize his display to music and rigged up a loudspeaker in the yard. Last year he began broadcasting the music over an FM frequency so visitors could tune in from their cars.

    “I just researched it,” Backer said. “I’d seen it done before and it just interested me.”

    This year he doubled his show, spending hours synchronizing some 6,700 lights to flash in time to a four-minute version of “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen,” using a 16-channel light controller hooked up to a computer in his garage.

    He installed two 15-amp breakers and outlets in the garage to handle the load because last year’s display caused the lights inside his house to flicker and the dishwasher to falter.

    “My granddad taught me how to install breakers and outlets, so it’s pretty easy for me,” he said. “I know a lot about sound and lights from running plays at Nipher (Middle School.)”

    Backer, a defensive tackle on the junior varsity football team, pumped up the show with Kirkwood spirit, adding the high school fight song as the finale. Visitors can tune in to 88.5 FM to get the full effect.

    Backer has long been mechanically minded, his mother said.

    “I remember reading him that Magic School Bus electricity book over and over until I couldn’t read it any more – I had to hide it,” she said.

    “In first grade he built a generator for the Kirkwood Science Fair and he won a blue ribbon for it,” she said. “He went on to the Greater St. Louis Science Fair and won a blue ribbon there, too. ”

    Now his flashing red-and-white light show is stopping traffic.  In fact one young visitor was so impressed when she “saw Luke’s lights on the radio,” she proclaimed him “an artist of lights,” Julie Backer said.

    Luke Backer said his friends just roll their eyes and say, “You couldn’t just have normal Christmas lights, could you?”

    “But they enjoy it and they bring their parents over,” he said. “I did it for me just because I thought it would be fun, but it’s kind of nice to see other people enjoy it too.”

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  • “It’s probably unusual for a zoo of our size to have a display this size,” said Jonnene McFarland, the zoo’s director. “We’ve learned a lot. Instead of doing a lot of things, we do a few things that work well.”

    Pat Ponce, a retired teacher, was the zoo’s marketing director when ElectriCritters started in 1993. She consulted with other zoos to learn how to establish such an event. The advice she got proved invaluable.

    “Three pieces of advice stuck with me: Always have music; don’t be afraid to charge admission; and don’t expect to make money for 10 to 20 years,” Ponce said during a telephone interview from her home in Baltimore.

    Today, music is a major component of ElectriCritters, with holiday songs projected through speakers throughout the grounds. Admission the first year was $1 (it’s now $6 for adults). And the event, which has 13 major sponsors, is a money-maker, netting between $50,000 and $65,000 annually, according to McFarland.

    “It’s really, really important to the zoo as far as keeping us operating year-round,” said McFarland. “I think the public doesn’t realize how much money we use to keep the animals warm, feed them, take care of them.”

    In McFarland’s estimation, electricity costs for the display are about $1,500. The biggest concern when the event started was being able to properly light everything without losing power everywhere else. Larry’s Electric helped increase and modernize the zoo’s electrical capacity; now special outlets are placed at locations all over the zoo grounds to handle the annual surge and provide walkway lighting for visitors.

    McFarland said she used to tease everyone by saying, “If we plug in one more thing, we’re gonna blow the whole South Side.”

    About 10 years ago, just as someone turned on the display to test it, the power went out. Everywhere. Fortunately, for everyone at the zoo, it turned out that a transformer on nearby Thatcher Avenue had blown at the same moment the ElectriCritters switch was flipped.

    LED technology has helped the zoo cut electric expenses significantly, although rising rates negate some of those savings. Each of the last four years, the zoo has spent $1,000 on new LED lights to replace some of the older Christmas lights. Eventually, the entire display will operate on the lower-energy strands.

    The original idea has grown to be a favorite holiday event for local families and, McFarland said, out-of-towners who enjoy the zoo’s smaller size and single-level grounds. More than 140 lighted animals greet the public, in addition to thousands of lights strewn on trees and fences and over walkways. Another display is added each year; 2011’s new resident is a fire-breathing dragon.

    Gloria Madrill, the zoo’s marketing coordinator, swears that even the residents get excited for the event. She said the zebras and red panda, in particular, appear to anticipate each evening’s crowds.

    The first year was nothing like the wonderland that awaits visitors today. In 1993, there were six displays and some decorated trees along the sidewalk between the zoo’s main building and the Ecocenter. Volunteers had to stand along the walk with flashlights so people could see where to go. Tarps were placed over the fencing because the zoo didn’t have privacy screening to keep passersby from viewing the lights for free.

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  • A TOWN Mayor said the Christmas lights switch-on was bigger than ever before and panto star, Jonathan Wilkes, had the children in the audience “eating out the palm of his hand.”

    On Friday night hundreds gathered in Princes Risborough town centre to see Johnny, who is playing Dick Whittington in Aylesbury Waterside Theatre’s panto, switch on the lights.

    Beforehand carols were sung by schoolchildren from the area and Father Christmas made his appearance on stage.

    Princes Risborough mayor, Eunice Clifford, said: “It was absolutely fabulous. It was the best it has ever been. There was more people there than ever before.

    “Jonathan Wilkes was fabulous. He got the kids eating out the palm of his hand. The whole thing went off so well. It was a complete success.”

    There was a raffle for two sets of tickets for two families for Dick Whittington at the Waterside Theatre.

    On the Saturday Father Christmas was in his grotto in the George and Dragon car park and was visited by lots of children.

    Cllr Clifford added: “People were in high spirits and considering the times we are in- this time of hardship- it was just wonderful that people actually got into the spirit of things and enjoyed themselves.”

    There is a food and craft market and Santa’s Grotto in the George and Dragon car park in Princes Risborough from 10am-4pm on Saturday.

    It’s a special time of the year here in Taos … a time when farolitos line sidewalks and rooftops, and holiday lights are everywhere. The Christmas tree in the Plaza is lit up and if you’re lucky, there might be a little snow on the ground to make it all the more merry and beautiful.

    The winter holiday season, as it is elsewhere, is a wonderful and magical time; in fact we like to think we have more magic and wonder than most places.

    With fantastic events like the Lighting of Ledoux, the annual Plaza Christmas lighting and holiday-themed block parties on historic streets such as Kit Carson Road and Bent Street, there are ample opportunities for locals and visitors to get into the holiday spirit.

    And if rich tradition is your thing, events at Taos Pueblo, Las Posadas, Los Pastores and Hanukkah parties are all calendar-worthy options. The American Indian and Spanish heritage of our area offer numerous long-standing traditions that our as sacred as they are colorful.

    And for the shoppers among us, trying to track down the perfect unique Christmas present, variety abounds from the Pueblo to the Plaza, and from Arroyo Seco down to Ranchos de Taos. And don’t forget that art is a gift that lasts a lifetime.

    And after a long day of celebrating and shopping (and maybe working in a little skiing), nothing fits the bill quite like a delicious meal. Many local restaurants have holiday hours and will be more than glad to offer you a familial atmosphere.


  • Where can I see Christmas lights around Austin?

    December is here, and the countdown to Christmas is on.

    Last Christmas was my first in Austin, and I remember being pleasantly surprised by all of the holiday sights and sounds the city has to offer. I also remember many people wrote into KVUE asking where they could find Christmas lights displays. So this year, I thought I would do my best to compile a master list of illuminations:

    37th Street lights — The homes on 37th Street at Guadalupe do their part every year to keep Austin weird. Grab the family and the camera and come marvel at a creative take on Christmas decorations.

    Cedar Park tree lighting — The Holiday Tree Lighting and Santa’s Workshop will be Friday, Dec. 2 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Heritage Oak Park (875 Quest Parkway) in Cedar Park. The tree will remain lit until Jan. 1.

    Chinati Court in Cedar Park — Get into the spirit of the season with a stroll through the thousands of lights at Chinati Court. Donations of toys for Williamson County Brown Santa are collected at the light display and funds are raised by selling hot chocolate. Chinati Court is located just off Sun Chase in the Ranch at Cypress Creek in Cedar Park. It is suggested to park on Sun Chase and walk down Chinati Court to view the display. Click here for Chinati’s Court’s Facebook page.

    The Domain — Weave through The Domain’s shopping area in North Austin as you enjoy the lights and the large Macy’s Christmas tree. There is also often live music, and even opportunities to get photos with Santa himself! Click here for his schedule and more information.

    Georgetown light show – The Schmidt family’s home in Georgetown is getting a lot of attention this holiday season. They have programmed their Christmas lights to a set of popular songs. Catch the show each night at 5:30 p.m. until 11:30 p.m. The spectacular display will continue through the first weekend of January. Click here for more information. The family also takes donations for a local charity.

    Mozart’s Coffee Roasters — The local coffee shop is once again spreading Christmas cheer with its annual holiday lights and music show. This year the local coffee shop has doubled the length of the show to 10 minutes, and added thousands of LED lights.

    Round Rock light show — Another Central Texas family has also transformed their home into a holiday light and music show. The owner tells me they have 20,000 LED lights, one inflatable, and five “dancing” trees all computerized by 16 channels of Light O Rama and a laptop. To see the show, head to 1805 Rusty Nail Loop, Round Rock, 78681, and tune your car radio to 88.5 FM to listen to the music. The show runs every night from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m.

    Texas Baptist Children’s Home Trail of Lights –  The Texas Baptist Children’s Home in Round Rock will host a Trail of Lights on Thursday, Dec. 8, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. on the TBCH campus. Families will get to drive by light displays at 10 campus cottages that will be decorated for the holidays. TBCH will also have a large Christmas tree on display through Jan. 1. For more information about both displays, click here.

    Zilker Park tree – The Christmas tree created out of thousands of lights and a replica moonlight tower will be lit on Dec. 4. It will remain lit for spinning contests, admiration, and general holiday cheer until Dec. 31 from 6p.m. – midnight every night.

    Be sure to share your pictures from the Zilker Holiday Tree lighting in our YouNews section.

    It should also be noted that HolidayFest Austin will take place at the Zilker tree on Dec. 5 through Dec. 11 from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. nightly. Santa and his elves will make appearances for photos, there will be face painting, food, dancing, and singing at the Hillside Theater Community Stage.

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