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India Lawmakers Caught Sleeping On The Job (VIDEO)

July 5th, 2009 admin No comments

Lawmakers in India were caught on camera catching up on some sleep during a speech by the speaker of the lower house of parliament.

MSNBC’s Alex Witt reports:

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Paul Krugman: Franken "A Big Policy Wonk," Will Raise Senate Discourse

July 5th, 2009 admin No comments

… First, implicit in this characterization of Franken is the notion of the Senate as a decorous gentlemen’s club. I doubt that club ever existed in reality; but in any case, these days the World’s Greatest Deliberative Body is, not to put too fine a point on it, chock full o’ nuts. James Inhofe: I rest my case.

Second, Al Franken’s dirty secret is that … he’s a big policy wonk. [...]

So what will Franken do to the level of Senate discourse? He’ll raise it.

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Marion Barry Arrested Again, Charged With Stalking

July 5th, 2009 admin No comments

WASHINGTON — Police say former Washington Mayor Marion Barry has been arrested and charged with stalking a woman.

The United States Park Police said Barry, a current D.C. Council member, was arrested Saturday in Washington after a woman flagged down an officer and complained that Barry was stalking her.

Barry was charged with misdemeanor stalking and released.

A message left seeking comment from a spokeswoman for Barry wasn’t immediately returned early Sunday.

Barry served four terms as mayor. In his third, he was videotaped in 1990 in a hotel room smoking crack cocaine in an FBI sting. He served six months in prison and in 1994 regained the mayor’s office.


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New images of the lunar surface

July 5th, 2009 admin No comments

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NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter has sent back its first photos of the moon. The photo above was taken near the moon’s Mare Nubium region. The man in the moon is just outside the frame. From NASA:

Older craters have softened edges, while younger craters appear crisp. (The image) shows a region 1,400 meters (0.87 miles) wide, and features as small as 3 meters (9.8 feet) wide can be discerned. The bottom (faces) lunar north.

LRO’s First Moon Images

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World’s oldest basketball shoes (hoax!)

July 5th, 2009 admin No comments

SEE UPDATE BELOW

These may be one of the oldest pairs of basketball sneakers in the world. The shoes were manufactured by the Colchester Rubber Company which shut down in 1893. Vintage clothing dealer Gary Pifer paid 50 cents for them at an estate sale in Vista, California. From CafeTerra:

  2Oxh8Abqcfs Sk2G5Myn3Ti Aaaaaaaaekk Wpx33L3Yazo S400 Sneakers

“In a instant, I knew this discovery would be re-writing basketball and sneaker history, as these sneakers are 25 years older than the 1917 Converse All-Stars”, added Pifer. The Colchester Rubber Co. was located in Colchester, Connecticut and was in business from 1888 to 1893.

“World’s first basketball sneakers 116 years old found at an estate sale”

UPDATE: Hey, looks like this story was a marketing ploy! (Thanks, William Gibson!)

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Matthew DeBord: Wimbledon Tennis: In Final, Roger Federer Has No Chance

July 5th, 2009 admin No comments

Andy Roddick will win the 2009 Wimbledon final 7-6 6-7 7-6 6-7 9-7, defeating Roger Federer in his bid to reclaim his All England Club crown and surpass Pete Sampras’ record of 14 Grand Slam titles. You heard it here first!

Actually, my predicted score line is the only chance Roddick has of taking Federer down this year. Fed is playing very, very well on the vaunted grass courts of England. His serve has been stupendous: When Roger Federer gets his first serve percentage into the low 80s, he’s virtually impossible to beat–or even take sets off of.

But Roddick is no slouch in the serve department, either. Among active pros, he owns one of the biggest first and second serves in the game, a deadly combination of terrifying velocity and insane spin. Since losing two Wimbledon finals to Federer, he’s modified his game and started to play up to his abilities on grass.

Still, he’ll struggle tomorrow to break Federer’s serve, as Fed will struggle to break his. So an effective strategy for Roddick would be to guard his own serve fanatically, ignore Federer’s, and save his best returns for tiebreakers. Tiebreakers are unpredictable, but Roddick is on a good tiebreak run. If he manages 3-4 aces and focuses on going after 2-3 returns, he can sprint to a quick lead and then try to hold on, edging out tiebreaks by scores of 8-6, 9-7, 10-8. With luck, he’ll then be able to eek out a single service break late on the tiebreaker-less fifth set.

Federer isn’t ultimately that worried about Roddick because he long ago cracked the American’s game. They’ve met three times in Slam finals (Fed also defeated Roddick to win the 2006 U.S. Open), and in each case, the Swiss has neutralized Roddick’s main weapon. This has typically frustrated Roddick, who’s accustomed to holding serve easily against most players. Roddick is intelligent and competitive, but against Federer he needs more metal toughness than usual.

He showed this in his semifinal victory against Andy Murray, the Scottish player who had become the best chance for a British Wimbledon champ since Fred Perry in 1936. When he needed the big serves, he came up with them. And when the match became a battle of who could overcome the tightness that a pressure-filled match induces, Roddick demonstrated that he could hit through the anxiety.

He probably has a game plan for Federer, so I don’t expect him to take my advice. Playing for breakers isn’t necessarily in the big server’s playbook; 6-4 6-4 6-4 is how they generally want to beat opponents. However, Roddick doesn’t have the game to break Fed’s serve even once of twice. So he should push for the breakers and roll the dice. This year’s All England final is a great chance for him to win a title he should probably have claimed at least once already. And he can do it if he does what he’s currently doing best, which is win tiebreakers.

UPDATE: Pressure’s on for Federer! Playing for history with Bjorn Borg, Rod Laver, Ilie Nastase–and Pete Sampras all in the house! In suits! This could be good.


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Magda Abu-Fadil: Ex-AP Hostage Terry Anderson Back in Beirut to Teach U.S. J-Students How to Report Accurately on Middle East

July 5th, 2009 admin No comments

The aviator glasses are a bit rounder. So is the man.

But the dry humor that helped ex-marine Terry Anderson overcome near seven years of Hezbollah captivity testifies to stamina and resolve in returning to Lebanon with American journalism students to teach them that not all Lebanese, Arabs and Muslims are terrorists.

“We have to make sure the labels we use are accurate,” insisted the former regional correspondent for The Associated Press, noting that U.S. media were generally very sloppy. “You cannot see mention of Islam in the United States without a connection with terrorism or fundamentalists.”

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Terry Anderson (Abu-Fadil)

He said there were over a billion Muslims in the world — most of who were not Arabs – and more Muslims in the United States than Presbyterians, who looked just like everybody else.

“It would be nice if we could be more careful, more accurate in our simplifications,” he said.

Anderson said U.S. media had not done a good job of reporting conflicts in which America had been involved and told Lebanese intellectuals at a gathering that Arabs had much better news sources available to them than most Americans.

A key reason for his program, and one for which he made a documentary about Lebanon, was his disgust with the prevailing view of Islam and Lebanon in the United States after his release.

“In 1983, when I took over the Beirut office, I banned the word terrorist from AP copy. I thought it was politically loaded and dangerous,” he said.

But some people still use the term, he admitted, asking whether one could explain the difference between a man who straps a bomb to his waist and blows himself up in a public place and a man who puts on an olive drab uniform, finishes his cup of tea, climbs into his F-16 and bombs a (Palestinian) refugee camp, or a small village in Afghanistan.

“I teach classes in Middle East affairs,” said Anderson who criticized the Bush administration for encouraging stereotypes and misunderstandings by fomenting xenophobia of Muslims and the Middle East.

He lauded President Barack Obama for understanding the need to reach out to the Arab and Islamic worlds by feeling with them, instead of demonizing them.

“And that’s encouraging,” said Anderson who also instructs his charges in fully packed classes at the University of Kentucky on good journalistic practice and was in Beirut this week to prepare for next summer’s five-week trip with his students that involves meetings with journalists, politicians and scholars.

The assignment includes a journalistic project to be posted on a website and made available for publication. A three-year commitment by Lebanese philanthropist Issam Fares to fund the project allows Anderson to bring up to six students during summer breaks.

“The point of the program is to allow future foreign correspondents to understand how people in the Middle East look at Middle East affairs – a point of view that, unfortunately, they do not get in the United States,” said Anderson. “And I think it’s important.”

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Time magazine cover of Anderson’s release in 1991

It’s a brighter picture than that of Anderson as the longest held Western hostage during Lebanon’s 15-year civil war

It was amusing hearing him complain to a waiter at a trendy Beirut restaurant with an avant-garde French name that he preferred Arabic coffee to espresso.

Walking around the Hamra district he could not find a single place that served Lebanese coffee, he lamented. It was all espresso.

People have asked him since his release in 1991 if he’d go back to cover Lebanon, and he said he would probably make the same decision, but wouldn’t want to be kidnapped for seven years again.

“I wish I had not gone to play tennis that particular morning,” he said of the day he was nabbed on a West Beirut street in 1985.

He did not regret coming to Lebanon, where he developed a considerable affection for the country and its people, and even acquired a Lebanese wife at the time.

In 1995 he published a bestseller memoir of his captivity, Den of Lions (http://www.amazon.com/Den-Lions-Terry-Anderson/dp/0345390547).

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Den of Lions memoir of captivity
(Random House)

Asked about the hazards correspondents faced and whether fear played any role in reporting, Anderson replied: “Absolutely. If it doesn’t, you’re a fool. “

Anyone who goes into a dangerous situation and is not scared was not somebody he wanted to be with, since they would probably get him killed.

But Anderson acknowledged that fear was good for journalists as it made them cautious.

“Unfortunately, I wasn’t scared enough, and I wasn’t cautious,” he admitted. “I got caught because I refused to take the precautions that I probably should have.”

And, he strongly believes his abduction was political — never about religion.

Who were the abductors? The Shiite militia Hezbollah (Party of God), specifically, Imad Mughnieh, he insisted.

“Hassan Nasrallah denied it of course when I interviewed him in 1995. But there’s no doubt about it. Mughnieh, of course, has gone on to his just reward” (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/magda-abufadil/how-to-cover-a-hijacking_b_87411.html).

How did he know Mughnieh was in charge of foreigners’ kidnappings?

“I’m a journalist. I did a year-and-a-half of research afterward and gathered an awful lot of information. It was not very difficult. I actually have the names of nine members of Islamic Jihad,” he said.

Anderson agrees he was luckier than thousands of kidnapped Lebanese who never made it, because he was foreign.

When he asked Hezbollah leader Nasrallah about the kidnapping and whether it was wrong, the cleric replied it was just something that happened during the war.

“I didn’t really disagree with him,” Anderson said, adding that it nonetheless took away many years of his life, and that kidnapping for political purposes was wrong.

It was especially difficult to understand how people who prayed five times a day to “Al Rahman Al Rahim”(God the Merciful, the Benevolent) could kidnap others.

“But it has nothing to do with Islam either. Islam is not the only religion to be used to justify bad acts,” he said. “If you’ve ever listened to the Rev. Ian Paisley in Northern Ireland, you’d know what I’m talking about.”

So what does it mean to be a journalist in the 21st century, given the tremendous changes from traditional practices? To Anderson, the tools, or medium used, have nothing to do with whether or not one is a journalist.

“I don’t think blogs Twitter, Facebook or any of that stuff is going to replace journalism,” said the traditionalist who loves the Web and is on Facebook. “Journalism can only be (practiced) by professionally trained, dedicated, ideologically committed people.”

Anderson, an Iowa State University alumnus with a degree in broadcast journalism, also taught at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism and the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University before moving to the University of Kentucky.

He’s been involved in press freedom issues with the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (www.cpj.org) and ran as a Democrat — but failed — to land an Ohio congressional seat. His opponent accused him of dealing with terrorists.

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AKMuckraker: Huffington Post Blogger in Palin’s Cross Hairs

July 5th, 2009 admin No comments

There is an old expression which says, “In a crisis, do nothing.” Wise words indeed, which means that soon-to-be-ex-governor Sarah Palin no doubt would never heed them. She’s sort of adopted another philosophy. It’s more like, “In a crisis, fly off the handle, be reactionary and threaten to sue someone for defamation in the hopes of intimidating the entire blogosphere and all national print and televised media into not talking about something.” I’m not an oddsmaker, but this strategy seems destined to become a crumpled up tin can on the refuse pile of epic failure.

There’s no doubt that the week has been a bad one for the governor. It started with an unflattering Vanity Fair article. This was followed by a CBS piece detailing several leaked emails in which she asked the McCain campaign to lie about Todd Palin’s 7-year membership in a secessionist party. McCain strategist Steve Schmidt responded to her request saying that Todd was a member, and it was a secessionist party and he wasn’t going to create an issue in the media if it didn’t exist already, nor would he lie for her.

The statement you are suggesting be released would be innaccurate. The innaccuracy would bring greater media attention to this matter and be a distraction. According to your staff there have been no media inquiries into this and you received no questions about it during your interviews. If you are asked about it you should smile and say many alaskans who love their country join the party because it speeks to a tradition of political independence. Todd loves his country.

We will not put out a statement and inflame this and create a situation where john has to adress this.”

Palin’s week culminated, of course, in a strange, twitchy, impulsive announcement from her home on the shore of Lake Lucille, that she would be stepping down from office, and resigning. The last time Alaskans were this gobsmacked by the governor was when she said ‘yes’ to John McCain when he popped the question back in August.

Her reason for resigning? Here’s where it got really strange. The media was unfair. People were filing ethics complaints against her. Bloggers were making silly photoshops. She didn’t want to be a lame duck. The state would be better off without her. We kept waiting to hear the real reason, the reason that would explain it all. We waited for the reason that would come at the end, after all the silly stuff. But it never came. That was it.

We were left scratching our heads. A woman who was the Vice Presidential candidate for the Republican Party, and who has been deemed in some circles to be a plausible contender for her party’s presidential nominee in 2012, is quitting her job as governor, 17 months before the end of her first term, because people are picking on her? This just didn’t compute. Even in the wildest contortionist spin of her most ardent supporters, this was not going to improve her chances in 2012.

What this means is that now, the line on her resume right underneath “Almost-one-term governor” reads “Mayor of a small Alaskan town with a population of 7000 people.” This is not the way to be taken seriously. Yes, she draws crowds, but so does Brittany Spears, and I sure wouldn’t vote for her to take up residence at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Naturally, with the overwhelming doubt in the minds of the public that these could possibly be the real reasons she was stepping down, questions were asked. Phones started ringing in Alaska from friends and relatives who wanted the “real story.” Alaskans were even asking each other what they thought was really going on. Questions were many and answers were few.

There seemed to be dozens of rumors circulating about the governor at any given point in time, and this week was no different. People were muttering about personal family problems, about new ethics complaints, about legal cases involving her use of personal off-the-radar Yahoo email accounts to conduct state business. Then there was talk about the legality of her legal defense fund which is currently being questioned, or maybe even personal illness. But the ones that seems to have gotten under the governor’s skin were reports involving rumors floating about town that there was some kind of shenanigans going on with the simultaneous building of the governor’s house, and the Wasilla Sports Complex, and a supposed IRS investigation. Was this the infamous rumor of an “iceberg” that could sink the S.S. Palin as had been reported on another Alaskan blog? Are any of these rumors actually true? Who knows. Are they being talked about in open conversation at holiday barbeques all over the state today? Oh, yes.

And all this brings us to the issue at hand which involves Palin, her attorney Thomas Van Flein, and a certain Shannyn Moore. Moore is a radio personality, a Huffington Post blogger, and frequent guest on MSNBC’’s Countdown with Keith Olbermann. There were scads of blogs, both local and national that reported on the rumors above, many in greater detail and with more certainty than Moore did. But Moore really got under the soon-to-be-ex governor’s skin. Why? Presumably because Palin watches TV more than she reads.

Today Van Flein issued a four page letter regarding the reporting of these rumors and it was sent by SarahPAC spokeswoman Meghan Stapleton to media outlets across the state.

Van Flein’s letter threatening legal action specifically pointed the finger at Alaska blogger Shannyn Moore as “most notably” claiming as “fact” that Palin resigned under federal investigation.

Van Flein, asked why he singled out Moore, said it’s because she went on national television and talked about it. Moore was on with MSNBC’s David Shuster on Friday, the day Palin said she will resign.

“There is a scandal rumor here that there is a criminal investigation into some activities and that’s been rumored for about, I don’t know, probably six weeks or two months,” Moore told him.

Despite the fact that she specifically refers twice to the report as a “rumor,” Van Flein says she portrayed the story as fact. The only fact is that there are rumors. I know because I’ve been hearing them since last October. They even have a name – “Housegate.” If you Google “Palin Housegate,” you get 8,600 references, beginning back with an article that appeared in the Village Voice. Googling “Palin sports complex scandal” gets you 230,000. How many mentions are required to constitute a rumor? It’s probably less than 230,000. I’m not exactly sure how the legal dynamic duo of Palin-Van Flein is planning to un-rumorize almost a quarter of a million online references to a rumor that started 8 months ago, but it will be interesting to watch.

“I’ll sue you for defamation!” is the toothless wonder of the legal world. The bluster is meant to scare people, intimidate them, and get them to be quiet. In this particular case, it’s not going to work. Moore has already discussed the threat on her radio show, where she said emphatically, “Bring it on.” She said she already gotten legal advice, and has a long list of attorneys who had emailed her, stepping up and eagerly offering to depose Sarah Palin in such a case. Now that would make for some damn good blogging material.

So why would this bizarre comical scenario be taking place at all? Remember how McCain strategist Steve Schmidt had to intervene and explain to Palin that it just wasn’t a good idea to over-react and start making grand statements to the media about negative things being said about her? He firmly told her no. And he had to do it twice. Her personal attorney, on the other hand, is being paid to do what she wants. After a recent online fundraiser, Palin’s legal defense fund may be well stocked, so it’s no skin off the nose of her legal counsel who has been appearing on talk radio shows, and now writing intimidating letters. And there’s obviously nobody in Palin’s inner sanctum who feels like telling her it’s a really bad idea. So she marches on.

Using the substantial might of the Executive branch of government to bring down unenforceable legal threats on a private citizen in Alaska, and attempting to curtail free speech through intimidation on the Fourth of July? Not a particularly brilliant PR move. By specifically singling out and naming Moore, Palin has done two things; she has shown herself to be a reactionary immature politician, and she has made Shannyn Moore a lot better known. And she is not the only one in Sarah Palin’s crosshairs, mind you. You stand warned Huffington Post, New York Times, MSNBC and The Washington Post! You just better knock it off!

The New York Times and Washington Post haven’t written anything about this, but Van Flein said he believed they were asking questions. “What I’ve been informed is that they’ve been interviewing people in Wasilla about this, and have tried to interview the governor’s parents about it,” Van Flein said.

OK, in the case of The New York Times and the Washington Post, you’d better stop even thinking about asking questions about it.

In solidarity with my friend and fellow Alaskan blogger, may I be the next to report to the team of Palin-Van Flein, and to the entire blogosphere at large:

THERE ARE RUMORS.

There. I said it.

Sue me.

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Cherry, The Mobile Operator That Doesn’t Care Whether You’re On Wi-Fi Or Not

July 5th, 2009 admin No comments

The chances of me being genuinely amazed at something I see a Belgian tech company achieve are rather slim. But occasionally, it happens. Last week I went to local entrepreneur meetup BetaGroup and saw five startups pitch their stuff to the 200-headed audience.

The last one to get its five minutes of fame was Cherry, a new mobile operator that promised to “revolutionize the telecom world”. Needless to say, I was as curious as I was skeptical.

Then the company’s CEO got up on stage, introduced himself, took out his Nokia smartphone, called some random guy in the audience and had him call him back on his phone afterwards. Projecting his mobile phone screen on a bigger screen for everyone to see, he demonstrated how he didn’t need to launch an application and just browsed his contact list to call the other person. Standard functionality, sure, but the cool part of it was the fact that the phone was lacking the presence of a SIM card, which is supposed to identify you as a subscriber of a telephony service.

I was intrigued. By now you’ll have guessed that the calling was done over Wi-Fi, which I suppose isn’t really unique even if it made me wonder how they did it without launching a third-party app like Skype. Looking to learn more, I went to their official coming-out event the evening after, when they presented the newly founded company to a host of local geeks in more detail, giving them the chance to beta-test the service for a couple of weeks to iron out bugs before launching publicly.

Here’s how it works: Cherry – which is essentially an MVNO – pre-installs software (so yes, in the demo there was actually an application running in the background) on smartphones which it will sell as a packaged product, starting with a Symbian version for Nokia E-Series phones and expanding to other platforms later. Once activated, Cherry lets you call your contacts either over Wi-Fi or the GSM network when you insert a SIM card. Take out the card, and you can only call over a wireless Internet connection.

The funky part? Cherry automatically switches you from one to the other. This process, called a handover, can seriously cut into your current calling and roaming costs when you’re a frequent traveler or on the road often, and it doesn’t even require you to change numbers. You could easily dial your office number from your home over Wi-Fi, leave the house and have the software automatically have Cherry switch you over to a carrier’s cellular network once you’re out of range. There’s no interruption of service during the handover, which means you won’t even notice – until you receive your bill, since it’s obviously cheaper to call over Wi-Fi than the GSM network. Please correct me if I’m wrong, but I think this automatic handover is a quite unique value proposition.

I did a short interview with Cherry CEO Bernard Noël De Burlin and Telco Service Manager aka mobile guru Davy Van De Moere after the event (apologies for the abrupt ending, my Flip’s batteries ran out of juice).

And just in case you don’t have a couple of minutes to watch the video, let me save you the trouble of asking: support for Apple’s Iphone and Android are on the top of their list and a Windows Mobile-compatible version should be available soon.

(Full disclosure: the company gave me a Nokia E51 and free calling minutes so I could try out the service under normal circumstances on a daily basis. I need to return or pay for the phone end of August 2009.)

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Yemenia crash jet signal detected

July 5th, 2009 admin No comments

A signal is detected from the flight data recorders of the Yemenia plane that crashed in the Indian Ocean this week, officials say.

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