Saturday, January 28, 2012

Prions more mobile than thought

Disease agents can jump from one species to another

Web edition : 2:46 pm

The protein-based pathogens known as prions may pass between different species more easily than has been thought, a team of French researchers reports in the Jan. 27 Science. By infecting engineered mice with prions from goats and cows, scientists also have shown that the invaders readily target tissues other than the brain.

?We may underestimate the threat posed by some of these diseases by focusing only on the brain,? says Pierluigi Gambetti, a prion researcher at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. ?It adds a new element to the equation.?

The research also raises the possibility that new prion strains recently identified in cattle and small rodents might be able to jump to other species, including humans.

?We should, in the future, be more exhaustive when looking at the possibility of prions being passed from one species to another,? says Hubert Laude, a professor at the French National Institute for Agricultural Research in Jouy-en-Josas and a coauthor of the study.

Prions closely resemble normal proteins made by a host. When prions invade a host, they propagate by forcing these normal host proteins, actually called prion proteins, to assemble improperly. When these malformed proteins accumulate in the brain, they cause mind-wasting conditions such as Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in people and scrapie in sheep.

For the most part, intrinsic biological differences between species prevent these pathogens from jumping hosts. But some prions are known to be transmitted between species, including Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, which humans contract after being exposed to mad cow disease in cattle.

?This barrier can be very, very strong or easily broken,? Laude says. ?It depends on the species, the donor, host and also the strain of prion.?

To measure the strength of this barrier, Laude?s team used genetically engineered mice that expressed the normal human prion proteins. The scientists injected the mice with prions known to target similar proteins from cows or goats.

Laude?s team found misassembled proteins in the spleens of over half the mice, suggesting that this tissue might be more susceptible to infection. Malformed proteins were also detected in some of the animals? brains, though the mice all lived out a normal life span and didn?t exhibit any signs of disease.?

Taken together, these findings suggest that prions once believed to be limited to only one species can jump the barrier and affect other species.

Found in: Biomedicine


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Friday, January 27, 2012

Obama to target rising college tuition costs

ROMULUS, Mich. (AP) - President Barack Obama has put colleges and universities on notice to control tuition costs or face losing federal dollars. Now, schools are waiting to hear how big a stick he plans to wield to enforce his message.

Obama was expected to spell out his plan in a speech Friday at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor focused on college affordability. His plan could set a new precedent in the federal government's role in controlling the rising costs of college?a move making people in higher education nervous. Obama's speech will cap a three-day post-State of the Union trip by the president to promote different components of his economic agenda in politically important states.

The president hinted at what's ahead in education during his State of the Union address Tuesday night, which coincided with the release of a White House "blueprint" that said he wants to shift federal aid away from colleges that don't keep net tuition down and provide a good value. But it's unclear exactly what pot of federal dollars Obama plans to target and how his plan would work.

The Obama administration already has taken a series of steps to expand the availability of grants and loans and to make loans easier to pay back, and Obama spelled out Tuesday other proposals to make college more affordable such as extending tuition tax breaks and asking Congress to keep loan interest rates from doubling on July. His administration has also targeted career college programs?primarily at for-profit institutions?with high loan default rates among graduates over multiple years by taking away their ability to participate in such programs.

But until now, it has done little to turn its attention to the rising cost of tuition at traditional colleges and universities. The average in-state tuition and fees at four-year public colleges last fall rose 8.3 percent and with room and board now exceed $17,000 a year, according to the College Board. Rising tuition costs have been blamed on a variety of factors, including a decline in state dollars, an over-reliance on federal student loan dollars and competition for the best facilities and professors.

During Tuesday's speech, the president said he'd met with university presidents who described to him ways some universities through technology and redesigning courses were able to help students finish more quickly?efforts that helped curtail costs.

"The point is, it's possible. So let me put colleges and universities on notice: If you can't stop tuition from going up, the funding you get from taxpayers will go down. Higher education can't be a luxury_ it's an economic imperative that every family in America should be able to afford," Obama said.

Barry Toiv, spokesman for the Association of American Universities, said some of its members participated in the meeting Obama referred to and agree that there are good examples of things that can be done to make colleges more efficient. But he said universities are concerned that any proposal by the president "doesn't hurt students" because anything that does is "obviously counterproductive."

Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., a former education secretary, said the autonomy of U.S. higher education is what makes it the best of the world, and he questioned whether Obama could enforce any such plan without hurting students. Potentially, billions of dollars are at stake. In the 2010-2011 school year, the federal government awarded $142 billion in federal student aid?most of it directly to students in the form of grants and loans, according to the Education Department.

"It's hard to do without hurting students and it's not appropriate to do," Alexander said. "The federal government has no business doing this."

Some public institutions worry about being unfairly blamed for state cuts that led to an increase in tuition prices. Neal McCluskey, an education analyst at the libertarian Cato Institute, said it's difficult for the federal government to dictate what is a reasonable increase because some colleges and universities might have legitimate reasons to raise tuition some years, such as the need to replace buildings in disrepair.

Obama's plan reflects that in the race between subsidizing tuition with student aid and rising tuition, student aid is going to lose, said Andrew P. Kelly, a research fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. Instead of redesigning their business model or using more online programs to save money, many colleges and universities have made small changes hoping to wait out the nation's fiscal crisis that don't solve the problem long term, Kelly said.

"This signals I think a sense of how acute that problem is and the fact that it can't just be about pouring money into federal student aid programs and hoping that affordability is maintained, that there has to be some kind of way, or at least a signal sent, to the institutions that benefit, and the states, frankly ... that they just can't continue to ratchet up prices and use federal aid to fill in the gaps," Kelly said.

Even though it's not politically popular, McCluskey said a good way to control rising tuition costs would be to cut federal aid to students, which would force colleges and universities to keep tuition low.

This isn't the first time a politician has sought to control tuition costs. In 2003, Rep. Howard "Buck" McKeon, R-Calif., proposed a plan to hold back aid to colleges and universities that raised tuition much faster than inflation. It met resistance from higher education and wasn't passed.

Come Friday, "we'll be watching and listening carefully," said Molly Corbett Broad, president of the American Council on Education.


Hefling reported from Washington.



White House:

Education Department:


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'One Tree Hill': What Happened When Julia Left The Baby In The Car? (VIDEO)

Julian got a little too excited and a little too distracted when he got a call from a television series interested in possibly using his soundstage on "One Tree Hill" (Wed., 8 p.m. EST on The CW). When he returns home to share this great news with Brooke in advance of the meeting, she asks him to drop the baby off at daycare on his way.

The next scene of Julian has him picking up a bottle of scotch to celebrate when he gets a phone call. It's Brooke. "Hey, is everything okay?"

He says all is well, but she responds, "Well the day care called and said you never dropped Davis off." At this, Julian rounds the corner to find that the sirens he'd been hearing in the background was the emergency response to his vehicle. The windows are smashed -- did the first responders do this or did something worse happen? -- and a bed is being loaded into the ambulance.

Is this baby Davis? Someone else? Was the baby kidnapped? Did Jordan simply forget him in the car, or did something else happen?

Viewers will have to find out as the final season of "One Tree Hill" continues Wednesdays at 8 p.m. EST on The CW.

TV Replay scours the vast television landscape to find the most interesting, amusing, and, on a good day, amazing moments, and delivers them right to your browser.

Related on HuffPost:

MONDAY, JANUARY 23: "Gossip Girl"

1? of ?19

"Gossip Girl" (8 p.m. EST, The CW) "Clueless" writer/director Amy Heckerling makes her first foray into TV directing since 2005 for Blair's bachelorette party, as others scheme behind Queen B's back to make it a night to remember. After discovering the truth behind Chuck and Blair's car accident, Nate joins forces with a surprising ally to gather the evidence, while Serena and Dan pretend to be dating again to protect Blair's secret. "Gossip Girl" (8 p.m. EST, The CW)
"Clueless" writer/director Amy Heckerling makes her first foray into TV directing since 2005 for Blair's bachelorette party, as others scheme behind Queen B's back to make it a night to remember. After discovering the truth behind Chuck and Blair's car accident, Nate joins forces with a surprising ally to gather the evidence, while Serena and Dan pretend to be dating again to protect Blair's secret.

MONDAY, JANUARY 23: "Gossip Girl"

"Gossip Girl" (8 p.m. EST, The CW) "Clueless" writer/director Amy Heckerling makes her first foray into TV directing since 2005 for Blair's bachelorette party, as others scheme behind Queen B's back to make it a night to remember. After discovering the truth behind Chuck and Blair's car accident, Nate joins forces with a surprising ally to gather the evidence, while Serena and Dan pretend to be dating again to protect Blair's secret. "; var coords = [-5, -72]; // display fb-bubble FloatingPrompt.embed(this, html, undefined, 'top', {fp_intersects:1, timeout_remove:2000,ignore_arrow: true, width:236, add_xy:coords, class_name: 'clear-overlay'}); });


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Thursday, January 26, 2012

Ky. men sue Andy Dick over alleged W.Va. assault (AP)

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. ? Two Kentucky men who say they were sexually assaulted by comedian Andy Dick at a West Virginia nightclub two years ago have filed a lawsuit against the comedian.

The 26-year-old from Ashland and the 35-year-old from Catlettsburg are also involved in a pending criminal case against Dick, their attorney said Tuesday. Dick's trial on two counts of felony first-degree sexual abuse is set for May 1 in Cabell County Circuit Court in Huntington.

Dick pleaded not guilty last summer to charges he grabbed a bouncer's crotch, and groped and kissed a patron while performing a series of shows in Huntington at a comedy club. The alleged acts occurred Jan. 23, 2010, at the Rum Runners nightclub.

Attorney Mike Woelfel said he filed the case earlier this month, seeking unspecified damages, to comply with the statute of limitations, which expired Monday. He said the complaint and the criminal case speak for themselves.

"What I see is a desire by the state and by the victims to assert that there is zero tolerance for sexual misconduct in whatever form it takes," he said.

The complaint says the men were victims of "battery and sexual abuse" and demands compensatory and punitive damages for emotional distress, outrageous conduct, assault and invasion of privacy. The Associated Press does not generally identify the victims of alleged sexual abuse.

The complaint also alleges that Dick, of South Pasadena, Calif., "has a history of sexual misconduct which is serial in nature."

Dick's attorney, Marc Williams, dismissed the accusations.

"This proves what we've known all along," he told the Herald-Dispatch of Huntington ( "This was only about getting money from a celebrity."

Williams told The Associated Press in an email Tuesday afternoon that he was too busy to discuss the case further.

Dick has been in trouble with the law several times before.

He's been arrested in California on drug and battery charges, to which he pleaded guilty in 2008, and on charges of being drunk and disorderly in a restaurant last May. A Texas man also sued Dick last year, claiming the comedian exposed his genitals at a Dallas performance.

Dick had a long-running stint in the 1990s on NBC's "NewsRadio." He briefly had his own program, "The Andy Dick Show," on MTV. He also has had roles in several movies, including "Dude, Where's My Car?" and "Old School."


Information from: The Herald-Dispatch,


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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Thrun leaving Stanford for online startup

When a Stanford University professor first offered a free online version of his "Introduction to Artificial Intelligence" class, he attracted 160,000 students from around the world. Now he has given up his tenured academic position to create a startup that could deliver university-level education for low cost to anyone with an Internet connection.

The move by Sebastian Thrun, a computer scientist who has worked on Google's self-driving cars, came as a surprise announcement first reported by Reuters at the Digital Life Design conference held in Munich, Germany, Jan. 22-24. But his startup idea, called Udacity, joins a growing number of tech-driven efforts to revolutionize the traditional classroom model that has prevailed for hundreds of years.

"Having done this, I can't teach at Stanford again," Thrun said. "You can take the blue pill and go back to your classroom and lecture to your 20 students, but I've taken the red pill and I've seen Wonderland."

Thrun cited the inspiration of Salman Khan, a hedge fund analyst in Boston, who first created online videos about math to tutor his younger cousins. Khan has since created more than 2,700 videos for the nonprofit Khan Academy with backing from Google and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Another initiative, by The Jack Parker Corp. and Big Think, called " The Floating University," aims to offer online Ivy League courses a la carte for a relatively cheap cost.

The new Udacity startup offers two courses so far ? "Building a Search Engine" and "Programming a Robotic Car." The first course is taught by David Evans, a computer scientist formerly at the University of Virginia, and Thrun teaches the second course.

The first online course Thrun offered at Stanford gave him plenty of personal lessons. He was shocked by the dizzying popularity of the online course, but even more surprised as the students attending the actual Stanford lecture dwindled from 200 in-person attendees to just 20 or 30 students.

"These are students who pay $30,000 a year to Stanford to see the best and brightest of our professors, and they prefer to see us on video?" Thrun recalled in his Digital Life Design presentation. "This was a big shock to us."

Apparently even the Stanford students preferred watching the classroom lectures as online videos on their own time. Thrun and Peter Norvig, director of Google Research and a Stanford colleague at the time, spent hours creating such videos with nothing more than a camera, pen and napkin, and quizzed students through online software.

Online education can also leverage the "flipped classroom" technique used by a few innovative educators, Thrun said. Students watch lectures on their own so that teachers can spend their time and energy helping students solve problems.

Many of his online students have written to share their stories with Thrun. One student told of finishing online assignments in between mortar and rocket attacks in Afghanistan. Another described herself as a single mother of two young children who suffered from both job and family worries.

"I took the midterm this weekend, mostly while holding a teething infant," said the anonymous mother. "None of my other issues have gone away. But I feel more determined than ever to see this through ? for myself."

You can follow InnovationNewsDaily senior writer Jeremy Hsu on Twitter @ScienceHsu. Follow InnovationNewsDaily on Twitter @News_Innovation, or on Facebook.

? 2012 All rights reserved. More from


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Calming the GOP Establishment (Taegan Goddard's Political Wire)

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Tuesday, January 24, 2012

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Add a Weight-Stabilizing Hook to Your Camera Tripod [Photography]

Add a Weight-Stabilizing Hook to Your Camera TripodShooting from a camera mounted to a tripod rather than handheld usually results in better images as the camera is more stable and less likely to move during the shot. A heavier tripod generally is more stable, but you don't want to lug one around on an outdoor shoot. Instead, attach a weight-bearing hook to the center column of your tripod. Now you can hang your camera bag, your backpack, or even a workout weight onto the the hook and enjoy the stability provided by a heavier tripod.

Instructables user Andrew Axley came up with the design. Simply drill a hole through the center column of your tripod, use a bolt and nut to fit the hole you've drilled, bend the top of an S-hook to fit inside the center column, and hang the S-hook from the the bolt. Of course, complete directions and step-by-step photos can be found at the source link below.

This mod gives you a sturdy hook that you can attach any convenient object to stabilize your tripod. It's definitely a nice upgrade for a cheap tripod.

Tripod Stabilizer Weight Hook | Instructables


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Monday, January 23, 2012

Obama's State of the Union: Jobs, re-election time (AP)

WASHINGTON ? Vilified by the Republicans who want his job, President Barack Obama will stand before the nation Tuesday night determined to frame the election-year debate on his terms, using his State of the Union address to outline a lasting economic recovery that will "work for everyone, not just a wealthy few."

As his most powerful chance to make a case for a second term, the prime-time speech carries enormous political stakes for the Democratic incumbent who presides over a country divided about his performance and pessimistic about the nation's direction. He will try to offer a stark contrast with his opponents by offering a vision of fairness and opportunity for everyone.

In a preview Saturday, Obama said in a video to supporters that the speech will be an economic blueprint built around manufacturing, energy, education and American values.

He is expected to announce ideas to make college more affordable and to address the housing crisis still hampering the economy three years into his term, people familiar with the speech said. Obama will also propose fresh ideas to ensure that the wealthy pay more in taxes, reiterating what he considers a matter of basic fairness, the officials said.

His policy proposals will be less important than what Obama hopes they all add up to: a narrative of renewed American security with him at the center, leading the fight.

"We can go in two directions," Obama said in the campaign video. "One is toward less opportunity and less fairness. Or we can fight for where I think we need to go: building an economy that works for everyone, not just a wealthy few."

That line of argument is intended to tap directly into concerns of voters who think America has become a nation of income inequality, with rules rigged to help the rich. The degree to which Obama or his eventual Republican opponent can better connect with millions of hurting Americans is expected to determine November's presidential election.

Obama released his video hours ahead of the South Carolina primary, where Republican candidates fought in the latest fierce contest to become his general election rival.

The White House knows Obama is about to get his own stage to outline a re-election vision, but carefully. The speech is supposed to an American moment, not a campaign event.

Obama didn't mention national security or foreign policy in his preview, and he is not expected to break ground on either one in his speech.

He will focus on the economy and is expected to promote unfinished parts of his jobs plan, including the extension of a payroll tax cut that is soon to expire.

Whatever Obama proposes is likely to face long odds in a deeply divided Congress.

More people than not disapprove of Obama's handling of the economy, and he is showing real vulnerability among the independent voters who could swing the election. Yet he will step into the moment just as the economy is showing life. The unemployment rate is still at a troubling 8.5 percent, but at its lowest rate in nearly three years. Consumer confidence is up.

By giving a sneak peek to millions of supporters on his email list, Obama played to his Democratic base and sought to generate an even larger audience for Tuesday's address. He is unlikely to getter a bigger stage all year.

More people watched last year's State of the Union than tuned in to see Obama accept the Democratic presidential nomination in Denver in 2008.

The foundation of Obama's speech is the one he gave in Kansas last month, when he declared that the middle class was at a make-or-break moment and he railed against "you're on your own" economics of the Republican Party. His theme then was about a government that ensures people get a fair shot to succeed.

The State of the Union will be the details to back that up.

But even so, the speech will still be a framework ? part governing, part inspiration.

The details will be rolled out in full over the next several weeks, as part of Obama's next budget proposal and during his travels, which will allow him more media coverage.

On national security, Obama will ask the nation to reflect with him on a momentous year of change, including the end of the war in Iraq, the killing of al-Qaida terrorist leader Osama bin Laden and the Arab Spring protests, with people clamoring for freedom. He is expected to note the troubles posed by Iran and Syria without offering new positions about them.

Despite low expectations for legislation this year, Obama will offer short-term ideas that would require action from Congress. For now, the main looming to-do item is an extension of a payroll tax cut and unemployment benefits, both due to expire by March.

His travel schedule following his speech, to politically important regions, offers clues to the policies he was expected to unveil.

Both Phoenix and Las Vegas have been hard hit by foreclosures. Denver is where Obama outlined ways of helping college students deal with school loan debt. Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and Detroit are home to a number of manufacturers. And Michigan was a major beneficiary of the president's decision to intervene to rescue the American auto industry.

Republican leaders in Congress say Obama has made the chances of cooperation even dimmer just over the last several days. He enraged Republicans by installing a consumer watchdog chief by going around the Senate, which had blocked him, and then rejected a major oil pipeline project the GOP has embraced.

Obama is likely, once again, to offer ways in which a broken Washington must work together. Yet that theme seems but a dream given the gridlock he has been unable to change.

The address remains an old-fashioned moment of national attention; 43 million people watched it on TV last year. The White House website will offer a live stream of the speech, promising extra wrinkles for people who watch it there, and then invite people to send in questions to administration officials through social media such as Twitter and Facebook.

Obama's campaign is also organizing and promoting parties around the nation for people to watch the speech.


AP deputy director of polling Jennifer Agiesta and Associated Press writer Ken Thomas contributed to this report.



White House:


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No. 6 Kentucky women beat Florida 57-52 (AP)

LEXINGTON, Ky. ? Kastine Evans scored all of her 10 points in the second half to help No. 6 Kentucky hold off Florida 57-52 Sunday.

The Wildcats (18-2, 7-0 Southeastern Conference) created separation early in the second half. After playing to a 21-all halftime tie, Evans scored eight points during a 17-2 Kentucky run to open the second half.

Florida led for much of the opening 20 minute, while the Wildcats couldn't find an offensive rhythm. Kentucky leading scorer A'dia Mathies was scoreless at halftime and finished with a season-low two points.

Jordan Jones led the Gators (13-7, 3-4) with 13 points.

Florida slowly chipped away at the lead, limiting the Wildcats to just three field goals in the game's final 10 minutes. The Gators pulled to 50-48 with 25.2 seconds left on Lanita Bartley's layup, but the Wildcats hit seven of eight free throws in the final 30 seconds to hold on.

Mathies, the SEC's third-leading scorer, averaged 16.1 points prior to Sunday but shot 1 of 7 from the floor in 27 minutes against the Gators.

Mathies has averaged 5.7 points in the three games since she scored 34 in a win over Tennessee on Jan. 12. She missed a pair of free throws with 1:01 left that allowed Bartley's layup to put Florida within one possession for the first time in about 19 minutes of play.

Kentucky stretched its second-half lead as wide as 15 with 13:19 to play before the Gators had a 6-0 run to trim the deficit to single digits.


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Sunday, January 22, 2012

Megaupload site wants assets back, to fight charges (Reuters)

WASHINGTON (Reuters) ? The Internet website, shut down by authorities over allegations that it illegally peddled copyrighted material, is trying to recover its servers and get back online, a lawyer for the company said on Friday.

The company and seven of its executives were charged in a 5-count, 72-page indictment unsealed on Thursday accusing them of engaging in a wide-ranging and lucrative scheme to offer material online without compensating the copyright holders.

Authorities in New Zealand arrested four of those charged, including one of its founders, who legally changed his name to Kim Dotcom. Assets were also seized money, servers, domain names and other assets in the United States and several countries.

"The company is looking at its legal options for getting back its servers and its domain and getting its servers back up online," Megaupload's lawyer Ira Rothken told Reuters. "Megaupload will vigorously defend itself."

He said the company simply offered online storage. "It is really offensive to say that just because people can upload bad things, therefore Megaupload is automatically responsible," he said.

No decision has been made yet about whether they will fight extradition from New Zealand to the United States, Rothken said.

U.S. authorities have painted a much darker picture of the company's operations, saying that Megaupload readily made available copyrighted material including music, television shows, movies, pornography and even terrorism propaganda videos.

Users could upload material to the company's sites, which then would create a link that could be distributed so others could download it, according to the indictment. Some paid subscription fees for faster upload and download speeds.

Despite complaints from copyright holders, the Megaupload did not remove all of the material when requested to do so, prosecutors said. The company's executives earned more than $175 million from subscription fees and advertising, they said.


Less than a day after U.S. authorities shut down the site and several of its sister sites, there appeared to be an attempt to resurrect the site.

Twitter was flooded with messages circulating a new Internet Protocol address, but the site offered no substantive content immediately and it did not appear that it was sanctioned by Megaupload.

The new website, which is being hosted in the Netherlands, looked similar to the original website. The company's lawyer said that he was not directly familiar with the new site.

"We're not familiar with any official effort at this point to get the site back up in light of the fact that its major servers are in the possession of the United States government and other governments," Rothken said.

One of those arrested on Thursday was Bram van der Kolk, who has citizenship in the Netherlands and New Zealand. He oversaw programming and the network structure for Megaupload's websites, according to court papers.

U.S. officials were asked on Thursday about the risk of the site reappearing elsewhere in the future, a key issue that has confronted authorities in the past when they've tried to shut down Internet sites selling counterfeit goods.

"Right now we're in the process of executing search and seizure warrants and certainly it's not going to pop up again today. But I couldn't speculate as to what may or may not happen in the future," one Justice Department official said on Thursday.

Another official said "maintaining and running and assembling a site like this is very expensive. And obviously the seizure of financial assets is critical in this type of investigation and prosecution in preventing it from going forward."

The case, which started as an investigation in March 2010, emerged just as lawmakers in Congress have been battling over new legislation sought by the television, movie and music industries that was aimed at making it harder for such material to be so easily peddled over the Internet.

Some major technology companies, including Google and Facebook, have sought to derail the current versions of the legislation because they were concerned they would lead to censorship and lengthy litigation.

Earlier on Friday, Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid postponed a vote on one bill that was set for Tuesday until several issues are resolved.

(Additional reporting by Jim Finkle in Boston; Editing by Howard Goller, Gary Hill)


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Sea Change: Apple Guts Textbook Publishing

shutterstock_77959174The days of the $500 college textbook bills are, it seems, over. With Apple's announcement of iBooks 2, the world of textbooks is changed forever. Education is a hard nut to crack. There are bright spots and clever new ideas, but technology hasn't quite figured out how to do a better job than the "old ways." That's why Apple's decision to launch iBooks 2 and the attendant editing tools is so important: it tears down a number of entrenched technologies while maintaining the scaffolding of familiarity. It leaves the stuff that works and saves the schools, students, and parents money and time. In short, it stabs the publishing industry while it embraces it, ensuring that its old methods are no longer profitable but offering it new tools to go forward. Whether they survive the initial thrust, though, is anyone's guess.


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Saturday, January 21, 2012

Murdoch to pay Jude Law and others hacking damages (AP)

LONDON ? Rupert Murdoch's British newspaper company on Thursday agreed to pay damages to 36 high-profile victims of tabloid phone-hacking, including actor Jude Law, soccer player Ashley Cole and former British Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott.

In the 15 settlements whose financial terms were made public, amounts generally ran into the tens of thousands of pounds (dollars) ? although Law received 130,000 pounds (about $200,000) to settle claims against the now-shuttered News of the World tabloid and its sister paper, The Sun.

News Group Newspapers admitted that 16 articles about Law published in the News of the World between 2003 and 2006 had been obtained by phone hacking, and that the actor had also been placed under "repeated and sustained physical surveillance." The company also admitted that articles in The Sun tabloid misused Law's private information ? although it didn't go so far as to admit hacking.

In a statement, Law said Murdoch's tabloids had been "prepared to do anything to sell their newspapers and to make money, irrespective of the impact it had on people's lives."

"I changed my phones, I had my house swept for bugs but still the information kept being published," Law said. "I started to become distrustful of people close to me."

"For me this case was never about money. It was about standing up for myself and finding out what had happened. I owed it to my friends and family as well as myself to do this."

Law was one of 60 people who have sued News Group Newspapers, claiming their mobile phone voicemails were hacked. Other cases whose settlement was announced at London's High Court on Thursday include claims by former government ministers Chris Bryant and Tessa Jowell, rugby player Gavin Henson and Sara Payne, the mother of a murdered girl.

Law's ex-wife and actress Sadie Frost received 50,000 pounds (about $77,000) in damages plus legal costs for phone hacking and deceit by the News of the World. Bryant received 30,000 pounds (about $46,000) in damages plus costs, while Prescott ? a prominent member of the Labour Party ? accepted 40,000 pounds (about $62,000).

After each statement, News Group lawyer Michael Silverleaf stood to express the news company's "sincere apologies" for the damage and distress its illegal activity had caused.

The claimants described feeling mistrust, fear and paranoia as phone messages went missing, journalists knew their movements in advance or private information appeared in the media.

Frost said the paper's activity caused her and Law to suspect one another. Henson said he accused the family of his then-wife, singer Charlotte Church, of leaking stories to the press.

Other claimants included Guy Pelly, a friend of Prince William, who was awarded 40,000 pounds (about $62,000), and Tom Rowland, a journalist who wrote for one of Murdoch's own newspapers, the Sunday Times. He received 25,000 pounds ($39,000) after News Group admitted hacking his phone.

In some cases the company admitted hacking into emails, as well as telephone voice mails. Christopher Shipman, son of serial killer Harold Shipman, had emails containing sensitive legal and medical information intercepted by the News of the Word. He was awarded "substantial" undisclosed damages.

The slew of settlements is one consequence of the revelations of phone-hacking and other illegal tactics at the News of the World, where journalists routinely intercepted voicemails of those in the public eye in a relentless search for scoops.

The wide-ranging scandal prompted Murdoch to close the 168-year-old paper in July, and several of his senior lieutenants have since lost their jobs.

British politicians and police have also been ensnared in the scandal, which exposed the cozy relationship between senior officers, top lawmakers, and newspaper executives at Murdoch's media empire. A government-commissioned inquiry set up in the wake of the scandal is currently investigating the ethics of Britain's media ? and the nature of its links to police and politicians.

The settlements announced Thursday amount to more than half of the phone-hacking lawsuits facing Murdoch's company, but the number of victims is estimated in the hundreds. Mark Lewis, a lawyer for many of the phone hacking victims, said in an email that the fight against Murdoch wasn't over.

"While congratulations are due to those (lawyers) and clients who have settled their cases, it is important that we don't get carried away into thinking that the war is over," Lewis said. "Fewer than 1 percent of the people who were hacked have settled their cases. There are many more cases in the pipeline. ... This is too early to celebrate, we're not even at the end of the beginning."

Many victims had earlier settled with the company, including actress Sienna Miller and the parents of murdered teenager Milly Dowler, who were awarded 2 million pounds (about $3.1 million) in compensation.

Ten further cases are due to go to court next month, though lawyers said more settlements are likely.


Associated Press Writer Raphael Satter contributed to this report.

Jill Lawless can be reached at:


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Watch This Delightful Crowdsourced Star Wars Fan Film Immediately

shotsYou can't always count on the wisdom of crowds. But this particular project turned out not merely good, but amazing. Star Wars Uncut is a project by filmmakers Aaron Valdez and Michael Pugh, in which Star Wars: A New Hope was divided into 15-second segments, each of which was replicated by fans in whatever way they chose. Connect the new segments and voila! Crowdsourced magic. Watch the video inside.


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Friday, January 20, 2012

WeAreChange Myrtle Beach joins Ron Paul supporters at First in the South GOP Debate

WeAreChange Myrtle Beach & Cory Ayers ( joins Ron Paul supporters at the ?First in the South? GOP Presidential debate on 1/16/2012.

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YouTube Video: South Carolina?s Choice: Liberty or Death (Ron Paul 2012 Rap Song)

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Myrtle Beach for Ron Paul:

Thank you to all the Ron Paul supporters out there, especially to the men and women of our armed forces who have taken the stand to support the Ron Paul campaign.


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Thursday, January 19, 2012

Climate Disasters Jack Insurance Rates Up ? Climate Denial Crock ...

Celsias: ?

There is no doubt in the mind of major reinsurance company Munich Re that climate change is increasing the severity and frequency of extreme weather events and that this will have a major impact on the insurance industry.

And just maybe, where the science has not been able to make an impact on the world taking action on climate change, just maybe money and insurance premiums ( or lack thereof ) might get the point across.

One of my little life rules is to listen to people who are smarter than I am.
Insurers employ some of the world?s smartest people to figure out what bets to make on what?s going to happen, or not happen, in the future. They have to get it right, because, if they don?t, they make a lot of bad bets, and go out of business.
Early on, in the 1990s, larger insurance companies, re-insurer giants like Munich Re,?- the insurance companies that insure insurance companies ? recognized that climate change was an existential threat to their business model.

The standard climate denier response is that

a) disasters are costing more because more people live in desirable areas where disasters occur, so individual events are more costly.

b) Greedy insurance companies are using the nonexistent threat of climate change to overcharge hapless consumers. (funny how free market tea baggers can turn on a dime and blame the damn capitalists)

The ?problem with ?a? is ? if true, we should be seeing an increase in disaster costs across the board, as much from say, earthquakes, as from extreme weather -?- as noted below.
But that?s not what we see. It is extreme weather events that are exacting the rising toll, exactly as predicted by scientists.

Moreover, the fact is, I believe in markets, and what they tell us. I believe in markets much more than the climate denialists who claim to revere the market system. If evil companies want to charge you more for nonexistent threats to your beach house ? the market will soon bring us groups of equally smart actuarial experts who will come in and undercut those prices ? and make billions by charging only for ?real? risks ? ignoring phony climate change ? because it doesn?t exist, right?

Except, we don?t see that, either.

LA Times:

Insurance companies don?t care if you believe in climate change or not: Your premiums are going up anyhow.

NPR reported?Monday that home insurance premiums are going up across the board in response to the record number of tornadoes, floods, fires, blizzards and other heavy weather that hit the country in 2011.

The piece features insurance executives at major firms such as Allstate and State Farm saying they are raising rates as much as 10%.

The president of the Insurance Information Institute, a New York-based industry association, says the weather caused about $35 billion of insured damages last year in the U.S. in events that caused a total of $70 billion in economic losses.

Climate change is not mentioned in the piece, but scientists who have been studying the climate and atmospheric conditions for decades say global warming may be contributing to more severe drought, bigger storms and increased precipitation.

The insurance execs interviewed allude to this by noting that in the past certain areas of the U.S. were targeted for higher rates because of earthquakes or frequent hurricanes or flooding. Now? There are so many disasters year upon year that the whole country is being reassessed for risk.

Transcript excerpt below



When it comes to weather-related catastrophes in the U.S., 2011 was a record year. A dozen disasters each caused damage costing at least a billion dollars. And one result, reports NPR?s David Schaper: those tornados, blizzards, floods, fires and hurricanes are driving up homeowner insurance rates.

DAVID SCHAPER, BYLINE: Some of the nation?s largest insurance companies, including Allstate, State Farm and Travelers, are indicating they will be increasing homeowners? and other property insurance rates as much as 10 percent this year, and it?s largely because of what happened last year.

ROBERT HARTWIG: 2011 was really one of the most dramatic and most expensive years in global history, as well as here in the United States.

SCHAPER: Robert Hartwig is president of the Insurance Information Institute, a New York-based insurance industry trade association. He says weather-related catastrophes caused close to $35 billion in insured damages last year in the U.S., and more than $70 billion in total economic losses.

HARTWIG: And the year was extraordinary, because it wasn?t characterized here in the United States by a single large event. It was actually a large number of more modest events, modest being one or two billion.


HARTWIG: We have, the last four years in a row, really seen extreme weather away from the coasts, away from seismically active areas, areas that historically haven?t got that much attention, from a modeling perspective. And that?s likely to change.

SCHAPER: So as insurance companies revise and recalculate their risk models, most of us will be paying more for property insurance coverage this year. David Schaper, NPR News.

Munich Re:

Munich Re has been analysing climate change for nearly forty years and set up the largest database documenting natural catastrophes worldwide, which now contains over 30,000 events. The database shows that the number of registered loss occurrences from extreme weather throughout the world has almost tripled since 1980. The number of flood loss events has gone up by a factor of more than three and the number of windstorm natural catastrophes has more than doubled.

Whereas the increasing losses are primarily due to socio-economic develop-ments (population growth, rising values, settlement patterns), the strong rise in the number of weather-related catastrophes can probably not be fully explained without climate change, especially as the number of earthquakes, volcanic erup-tions and other geophysical events has only increased slightly. Prof. Peter H?ppe, Head of Munich Re?s Geo Risks Research: ?It?s as if the weather ma-chine had shifted up a gear. We believe that we can already see this in retro-spect in our last 30 years? data for some regions, although the most severe impacts of global warming are still to come.?


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NJ high court weighs Mexican telephone testimony (AP)

TRENTON, N.J. ? A man deported from the New Jersey shore for fathering two children with a 15-year-old girl can probably try to overturn his conviction by calling in to court from a pay phone in Mexico.

Whether or not he should be allowed to is a decision the New Jersey Supreme Court will make soon.

The justices heard arguments Wednesday on the efforts of Juan Pablo Santos, who wants to overturn his 2008 conviction for child endangerment. He asserts his previous lawyer didn't inform him that by pleading guilty to the crime, he would automatically be deported.

Now the 29-year-old Santos is asking the high court to let him testify from a pay phone in an unspecified Mexican community. Because of his criminal conviction, the former Lakewood resident is not eligible to return to the United States to appear in court to try to overturn the conviction on the grounds that he received inadequate legal advice, according to his attorney, Ubel Velez.

"He was not illegal," she told the high court. "This conviction forced this defendant to be deported. We want this court to establish procedure for a defendant in Mexico, in Haiti, in Tanzania to testify from a pay phone from remote places."

But the Ocean County Prosecutor's Office opposes the request, saying it needs the defendant to be physically present in court in order for the judge and prosecutors to evaluate his credibility. That includes looking him in the eye, observing his body language and overall demeanor ? all things that are impossible to do over the telephone. It would also be impossible to verify that the person speaking is actually Santos, prosecutors argue.

"Someone on this end would have to identify him as the defendant," Justice Barry Albin said. "Take that as a given."

Supervising Assistant Prosecutor Samuel Marzarella told the justices Santos can try to get a federal court to give him special permission to return to the U.S. to appear in court. But the prosecutor's office will not agree to telephone testimony because it would undermine long-established legal norms, and deprive the victim of their right to confront the witness in court.

"There's a reason we go to the symphony in person rather than watching it on TV or listening to the CD," Marzarella said. "We get more data. It's a different experience."

He also said that just because a particular technology exists, that doesn't mean the courts are obligated to use it.

Santos first ran afoul of the law in 2005 when police went to his home in Lakewood and found him in bed with a teenage girl. His lawyer said Santos was 22 at the time. The girl, who Santos describes as his common-law wife, was 15.

"That sounds outrageous, but it is customary for Latinos to marry young," Velez told the justices.

Albin replied, "We have something called statutory rape. A person under the age of 16, and a person four years older than that who has sex with that person is guilty of a crime."

Velez said after court that the couple had two children together, and that the family was broken apart by Santos' deportation.

"They were in love," she said.

Several of the justices appeared disinclined to allow telephone testimony, suggesting instead that Santos testify via video link from a U.S. Embassy or a Mexican governmental office. Deputy Attorney General Michael Williams said that would be a better option than taking testimony by phone, which a lower court judge in Ocean County said last year would be OK. Williams also suggested Santos be allowed to testify over the Internet using the Skype online phone service.

But that would lead to a whole new array of questions that are not easily answered: Who would administer the oath to the witness? How would the oath to testify truthfully be enforced if the defendant is already out of the country and beyond the reach of U.S. law enforcement? Who would pay for all this?

Chief Justice Stuart Rabner said much more legal argument is needed before the court can resolve the case, and ordered both sides to submit additional briefs.

In the meantime, Velez said she would contact Santos to see if he has access to a law office in Mexico. She said having him travel to a distant city to appear at a consulate or governmental office would be an extreme financial burden.

That may be, Albin replied, but it might be a small price to pay for someone trying to overturn a conviction they maintain was wrongly imposed.


Wayne Parry can be reached at


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Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Greeks strike against austerity as EU, IMF visit (Reuters)

ATHENS (Reuters) ? Thousands of angry Greek workers marched to parliament on Tuesday to protest against austerity, waving banners reading "EU, IMF out!" as Athens' lenders arrived for talks in a race against the clock to avert a messy bankruptcy.

Greece's private sector creditors warned on Monday that the government must urgently break a deadlock in negotiations on a plan to slash the country's debt if is to avoid a disorderly default when a major bond redemption comes due in late March.

A team of EU, IMF and ECB officials start combing through Athens' books on Tuesday as part of efforts to put together a 130-billion-euro rescue package the country needs, together with the debt swap deal, to stay afloat.

But ordinary Greeks, who have been hit hard by tax hikes and spending cuts which were part of a first bailout agreed in 2010, fear more austerity and wage cuts with the second bailout and say they cannot take more belt-tightening.

"We want them to get lost. They are pushing the country towards collapse with these measures. They are selling off Greece," said Yannis Tsalimoglou, a 51-year old dockworker, whose income has taken a 30-percent hit with the crisis.

Greece has entered its fifth consecutive year of austerity-fuelled recession, with unemployment reaching a record high of 17.7 percent in the third quarter of 2011.

"We must resist," said 52-year old mother of two Evgenia Panagiou, a private sector employee who has not been paid since October. "Why are they doing this to us? It's not our fault. They (politicians) devoured the money and they are still getting the same big salaries."

The strike brought the Athens metro to a standstill on Tuesday and no ferries left from its main ports. Journalists walked off the job and buses will run for only part of the day.

Strikes and protests last year did not make the government budge from the austerity path required by its lenders in return for aid, and technocrat Prime Minister Lucas Papademos has vowed to do what it takes to avoid a disorderly default.

The EU/IMF inspection visit is closely linked with Greece's efforts to agree with banks on a deal to slash its debt of over 350 billion euros by 100 billion euros.

Without the so-called "PSI" deal, which would see creditors voluntarily giving up a lot of their promised returns, the EU and IMF have warned they will consider that Athens' debt is not back on a sustainable track and will not release further aid.

But talks broke down on Friday over the interest rate on new bonds Greece will offer and a plan to enforce investor losses. Negotiations were suspended until Wednesday, and Athens sent senior officials to Washington to consult with the International Monetary Fund and the private lenders.

(Additional reporting by Tatiana Fragou and Lefteris Papadimas; Writing by Ingrid Melander; editing by Stephen Nisbet)


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Melting buildings could help solve the energy crisis (Yahoo! News)

No, really ? a special gel added to the walls of buildings may soon keep us all cool

As a measure to?save energy, the new?Molecular Engineering and Sciences building at the?University of Washington melts in the heat of day. Seriously.

The outer structure of the?futuristic building is, of course, structurally sound. But to save energy in cooling costs, scientists have developed a special all-natural phase-changing gel that they've encapsulated inside the walls of the building. As the temperature rises, the gel in the walls will melt, helping to keep the building cool.

The brilliance of the vegetable-oil-based gel is that it takes advantage of a basic thermodynamic principle: As a substance changes phases from solid to a liquid, it absorbs energy without changing in temperature.?During the day when temperatures are high, the gel in the building's walls will melt, absorbing energy without changing in temperature. At night, the gel in the building's wall will solidify due to the colder air, readying the walls to absorb more energy the next day. The net result: Less air conditioning will be needed, reducing the building's energy needs.

The phase changing material is just one of many?innovative cooling techniques currently being tried by scientists to?reduce energy usage. And though these gels are not widely used today, researchers believe that over the next decade, phase change materials manufacturing will grow into a multi-million dollar industry.

[Image credit:?garryknight]


This article was written by Fox Van Allen and originally appeared on Tecca

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Tuesday, January 17, 2012

"Artist," "Descendants" shine at Golden Globes (Reuters)

LOSS ANGELES (Reuters) ? Silent-era film "The Artist" and family drama "The Descendants" were the top film picks at the Golden Globe Awards on Sunday in a loose-lipped awards show that even had host Ricky Gervais walking onto the stage with a drink in his hand.

"The Descendants," starring George Clooney as a man steering his family through a tragic time when his wife is in a coma, won two Golden Globe trophies, including the top honor of best dramatic movie and another for Clooney as best dramatic actor.

Onstage he thanked writer/director Alexander Payne and backstage told reporters, "he knows how to tell stories. He knows how to make something funny and how to turn it around."

Clooney called the movie "a coming-of-age film for a 50-year-old and a lot of us have dealt with people like that."

"The Artist," a romantic tale about a failing actor who finds love at a time when movies were changing from silents to talkies, picked up three awards including best musical or comedy and best actor in a musical or comedy for its star, French actor Jean Dujardin.

Onstage, Dujardin did the most appropriate thing -- gave his speech, thanked his colleagues, then signed off by not saying a word. And true to stealing almost every scene of his in the movie, little dog Uggie detracted from an emotional speech by the film's director, Michel Hazanavicius, when the dog begged for a treat.

Other key winners included Meryl Streep for best actress in a film drama with her portrayal of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in "The Iron Lady." Streep, who is typically reliable with a funny acceptance speech had a difficult time reading hers this year when she forgot her glasses.

Michelle Williams took the trophy for best actress in a comedy or musical with her role as Marilyn Monroe in "My Week with Marilyn.

"I consider myself a mother first and an actress second. The person I most want to thank (is) my daughter, my little girl," Williams said referring to her child with the late actor Heath Ledger. "I want to say thank you for sending me off to this job everyday with a hug and a kiss."

Veteran Christopher Plummer, 82, won supporting actor with his portrayal of an elderly man who comes out as gay to his family in "Beginners," bringing both poignancy and a touch of humor to their lives. Octavia Spencer, playing a beleaguered housemaid in the U.S. South during the civil rights era in "The Help" was best supporting actress.

Woody Allen was given a Golden Globe for his screenplay for "Midnight in Paris" and Steven Spielberg won best animated film with his rollicking "The Adventures of Tintin."

Iranian film "A Separation" was named best foreign language film, and its director, Ashgar Farhadi, used the opportunity to tell world audiences that "my people. I think they are a truly peace-loving people."


The Golden Globe Awards are given out by the roughly 90 members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association at what annually is among the key events during Hollywood's awards season because of the media exposure it brings.

Many of the movies and stars that win here also go on to compete for Oscars later this year, and "The Artist," which was the most-nominated film coming into the Golden Globes with six nods overall, will certainly become a frontrunner for the world's top film honors, as will "Descendants" and "The Help."

Oscar nominations from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will given out on January 24.

Unlike the Oscar voters, HFPA members also vote on their favorite TV shows and performances and in that arena "Homeland," about a modern-day CIA agent tracking returning war soldiers who may be terrorists, took home two Golden Globes for best drama series and best actress in a drama for Claire Danes.

Best actor in a drama TV series went to Kelsey Grammer for his role as a stern corporate manager in "Boss."

"Modern Family," a take on extended families in current-day America, took the prize for best comedy and its stars enjoyed one of the more memorable moments of the night when star Sofia Vergara gave their acceptance speech in Spanish, with English translation from creator Steve Levitan.

Best actress in a TV comedy went to Laura Dern for "Enlightened" and the comedic actor trophy was won by Matt LeBlanc for "Episodes."

Coming into the show, all eyes were on host Gervais, who ruffled the feathers of many a Hollywood celebrities last year at the Golden Globes. While he didn't tone down his jokes for the 2012 audience -- making fun of Johnny Depp, Jodie Foster, Kim Kardashian and the HFPA itself -- it seemed the stars were in the mood for his biting wit this time around.

"I thought he did a great job," Clooney told reporters backstage. "I think he handled tonight like a proper good host again ... people were expecting a lot of trash talk, and he did a little bit of that, and he made me laugh, he was very funny."

In fact, it seemed Gervais' humor was rather tame at some points compared to others who made penis jokes onstage and used foul language. At one point, Gervais came onstage drinking a beer, but somehow that seemed fitting for an awards show that bills itself as one big Hollywood party.

(Reporting By Bob Tourtellotte; Editing by Sandra Maler)


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Thai police raid warehouse in terror probe (AP)

BANGKOK ? A foreign suspect with alleged links to Hezbollah militants led Thai police Monday to a warehouse filled with materials commonly used to make bombs, as Thailand and the U.S. disagreed over whether Bangkok was the target of a terror plot.

Police confiscated more than 8,800 pounds (4,000 kilograms) of urea fertilizer and several gallons of liquid ammonium nitrate during the early morning raid of a warehouse in Samut Sakhon, on the western outskirts of Bangkok, according to police and media reports.

The raid came after the U.S. Embassy issued an "emergency message" Friday warning of a possible terror threat against Americans in Bangkok, and Israel sent out a similar warning to its citizens. A dozen other embassies have since urged their citizens to exercise caution.

The warnings come during heightened tension over U.S. and Israeli responses to the prospect that Iran is moving ahead with its nuclear program.

Thai authorities were caught off-guard by the U.S. announcement, hastily revealing they had detained a Swedish national of Lebanese origin with alleged links to pro-Iranian Hezbollah militants on Thursday and that intelligence indicated a plot could be carried out between Jan. 13 and 15. The defense minister said the news was not released earlier to avoid panic that could hurt Thailand's tourism industry, one of the country's biggest revenue earners.

Damage control continued Monday, with the prime minister calling for calm.

"I'd like to tell people not to panic. The situation is under control. There is no problem," Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra told reporters, adding that security was increased and intelligence agencies were closely following the situation. "We can assure the safety of the (Thai) people and foreign tourists."

Details of the alleged plot remained hazy Monday due to a variety of conflicting accounts from Thai officials, some of whom said that Thailand appeared to have been a staging ground but not the target of any plot.

"I think Thailand is likely a transit point for other regions of the world," national police chief Gen. Prewpan Dhamapong told reporters after the raid. "It is unlikely that they would have staged terror attacks in Thailand."

The U.S. Embassy said Monday it stood by its warning of a possible attack in Bangkok.

"Whenever we have specific, credible, not-counterable threats, it is our responsibility to inform Americans in Thailand," said embassy spokesman Walter Braunohler. "That's what we did Friday. We issued an emergency message, and that remains in effect."

Police were led to the warehouse by the suspect, identified as Atris Hussein. Hussein told police that he and other accomplices had rented the warehouse a year ago, according to a police official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

The official said that police also found shipping containers, leading them to believe the materials were destined for shipment elsewhere, though he declined to say where.

Hussein was charged later Monday with illegally possessing explosive materials and faces up to five years in prison. He was detained by police Thursday at Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi airport, trying to leave the country.

Police were still looking for another Lebanese suspect.

Thailand has rarely been a target for foreign terrorists, although a domestic Muslim insurgency in the country's south has involved bombings of civilian targets.


Associated Press writer Jocelyn Gecker contributed to this report.


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Monday, January 16, 2012

IBM stores bits on arrays of atoms, shrinks magnetic storage to the scientific limit

IBM's Almaden Research Center is filled with some of the best and brightest minds in the world, and its researchers just released new findings that detail how just how far IBM has come in the realm of magnetic storage. Andreas Heinrich is leading the team at Big Blue that figured out how to create atomic storage based on the fact that atoms of ferromagnetic material align their spins in one direction -- so the ability to control the spin direction is what's needed to make such minature memory possible. Heinrich and his crew were able to accomplish the trick by supercooling 12 atoms to four degrees kelvin (-452 fahrenheit), and arranging them using an electron microscope in such a away that nonvolatile storage became possible. As this is only a proof of concept, we won't be seeing atomic memory at, say, CES any time soon, but you can dig into the deep science behind the breakthrough at the source link below.

IBM stores bits on arrays of atoms, shrinks magnetic storage to the scientific limit originally appeared on Engadget on Sat, 14 Jan 2012 13:02:00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Sunday, January 15, 2012

UN: Value of Afghan opium up 133 percent in 2011 (AP)

KABUL, Afghanistan ? Revenue from opium production in Afghanistan soared by 133 percent last year to about $1.4 billion, or about one-tenth of the country's GDP, according to a United Nations report received Friday.

The U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime said the price rise was due to a plant disease that wiped out much of the opium crop in 2010. Although yields returned to pre-blight levels in 2011, the prices have remained high, the survey said.

Definitive statistics are hard to obtain in Afghanistan, but the survey said the value of the crop may now be the equivalent of nine percent of the country's GDP.

"Opium is therefore a significant part of the Afghan economy and provides considerable funding to the insurgency and fuels corruption," said Yury Fedotov, director of the Vienna-based agency.

He called for a stronger commitment from Afghan and international partners "to turn this worrying trend around."

Income from opium finances weapons and equipment purchases for the Taliban.

Afghanistan provides about 90 percent of the world's opium, the raw ingredient for heroin. The U.N. and the Afghan government have long tried to wean the country off the lucrative crop.

The largest areas of opium poppy cultivation are in the violent south of Afghanistan, where it can be hard to make money on legal crops and where criminal networks exist to buy and sell the poppy crop.

Most farmers surveyed said they were primarily motivated by the high prices gained by opium poppy cultivation, particularly in comparison with wheat, which suffered a fall in price last year.

The survey showed that 6,400 tons (5,800 metric tons) of opium were produced last year, in comparison with 4,000 tons (3,600 metric tons) in 2010.

It said rising opium prices drove Afghan farmers to increase cultivation of the illicit opium poppy plants by 7 percent in 2011, despite a major push by the Afghan government and international allies.

Most of the opium from landlocked Afghanistan is shipped through Iran and Pakistan. Russia, which has around 2 million opium and heroin addicts, is also a principal route for drugs headed for Europe.

Moscow has repeatedly urged the U.S. military to take stronger action against Afghan drug labs. Russia has also trained several hundred Afghan counternarcotics agents.

"Counternarcotics is not the exclusive domain of specialized units alone, but the shared responsibility of everybody concerned with security, stability, governance and development in Afghanistan and the wider region," Fedotov said.


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Alaska Car Insurance | Cheapest Car Insurance

The auto insurance laws and requirements in Alaska are quite strict. People who own vehicles are required to have an active by the state to have active car insurance and the proof of it should always be in place when taking the vehicle in the road or any public place. The state of Alaska also has the highest minimum coverage in the country and that just proves that they are really serious about this campaign. They would require the motorist to have coverage worth $50,000 for any injuries or death of a person, $100,000 for total injuries, and $25, 000 for property damage. This large amount can really make sure that people that are victims of vehicular accidents in the state don?t have to worry about expenses like care repairs or medical bills that may reach really high amounts.

Motorists in Alaska are also required to carry a proof of their auto insurance at all times.? You will be asked to present a proof of your Alaska car insurance when you get into an accident regardless if it?s your fault or not. The authorities would just have to check if your coverage is enough to cover the minimum amount of damages.? Filling out a Certificate of insurance which will be available through the officers that are on the scene is also necessary.

People who fail to provide a proof of their car insurance or who has an insurance that doesn?t meet the minimum requirements would have to face some penalties. The most common penalty for first time offenders is a suspension of 90 days up to 1 year depending on the record of accidents.? Those who are involved in a collision who fails to present a proof on insurance will be facing a 90 day to 1 year suspension that will be based on the driving record of the motorist. So if you are a motorist in Alaska, you must have the proof of your insurance ready at all-time just in case you will be asked to stop by the authorities. This simple task can help you avoid a lot of hassles and headaches in the future.

There are a lot of Alaska car insurance companies that completely understand these laws that can provide you with the coverage that you need at a really reasonable price. If you want to save money in getting car insurance in the state it would be wise if you collect some quotes and choose among them. Comparing quotes has proven to be really effective in helping auto insurance buyers come up with a smart buying decision. There are some websites and other car insurance quote search engine tools in the internet that can actually assist you in making those comparisons.? If you follow these tips you are not just making sure that you save some money to get your car covered but you are also avoiding a lot of inconvenience whenever you get into an accident. There is nothing worse than being a victim of a car accident and then get your registration suspended just because you were not able to follow some really simple car insurance laws in the state.

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Saturday, January 14, 2012

Remembering the 'Miracle on Hudson'

Steven Day / AP file

In this Jan. 15, 2009, file photo, airline passengers wait to be rescued on the wings of a US Airways Airbus 320 jetliner that safely ditched in the frigid waters of the Hudson River in New York after a flock of birds knocked out both its engines.

By Harriet Baskas, contributor

This Sunday marks the third anniversary of the emergency landing of US Airways Flight 1549 in the Hudson River near Manhattan. Several survivors will visit the airplane now housed at an aviation museum in Charlotte, N.C.,?some for the first time since the crash landing, and share memories of their experience.

On Jan.15, 2009, the Airbus A320 was beginning a trip from New York?s LaGuardia Airport to Charlotte/Douglas International Airport when it was disabled after striking a flock of Canada geese. Unable to return safely to an airfield, the crew ditched the airplane in the river and the incident became known as the ?Miracle on the Hudson? after the safe evacuation of all 155 occupants from the still intact, but sinking, airplane.?

Courtesy Beth McHugh

Beth McHugh, pictured with Capt. Chesley B. 'Sully' Sullenberger, right, and co-pilot Jeff Skiles.

?I was one of those people who really thought we were going to die,? Beth McHugh, one of the passengers aboard Flight 1549, told from her home in Lake Wylie, N.C. ?I was in the back of the plane where the water was coming in quickly and didn?t realize that the front of the plane wasn?t underwater yet. When I got to the front of the plane, I thought I wouldn?t drown but maybe die of hypothermia instead.?

All aboard the flight survived, and the pilot, Capt. Chesley B. ?Sully? Sullenberger was hailed as a hero.

The plane was recovered from the river, and since last June, the fuselage has been on display in a hangar at the Carolinas Aviation Museum, which is adjacent to the Charlotte/Douglas International Airport. Attendance at the museum has tripled, to about 3,800 visitors a month.

The airplane?s wings, where many passengers waited to be rescued, are now also at the museum.?Executive director Wally Coppinger said the museum is ?displaying and preserving the airplane, not trying to re-build it? so, for now, has placed the left wing on the hangar floor next to the plane. ?The wing will be connected to the fuselage later.? The right wing, currently on a ramp outside the hangar doors in an area with limited viewing, will also be put in place next to the fuselage, Coppinger said, but not in time for this weekend?s anniversary.

On Saturday, McHugh will join a panel of passengers from US Airways Flight 1549 at the museum between 1 and 4 p.m. to share their memories of the experience and to answer questions from museum visitors. ?People don?t always get to talk to survivors of a plane crash,? said McHugh. ?They have a need to ask questions. They wonder how they?d behave in a similar situation.?

Courtesy Carolinas Aviation Museum

The partially reassembled Miracle on the Hudson plane is on display at the Carolinas Aviation Museum in Charlotte, N.C.

The museum is expecting a large crowd, Coppinger said: ?There were 155 people on that flight, and there are 155 different stories.?

On Sunday, the museum will be closed for a private event as part of a reunion for passengers. ?It will be the first time a lot of them will be seeing the aircraft,? Coppinger said. ?We?re going to allow them to go into the plane and sit in ?their? seats if they want to.?

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