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Wednesday, July 29, 2009

China will reduce death penalty and cut executions

China will reduce the number of people it executes and impose more suspended death sentences, a senior judicial official has said.The country is believed to be the world's most prolific executioner, with at least 7,000 sentenced to death and 1,718 executed last year, according to Amnesty International.Zhang Jun, vice-president of the supreme people's court, said it would tighten restrictions on the use of capital punishment. But he stressed that the country would not abandon the death penalty, saying it was "impossible" to do so under current conditions and that people had strongly supported it for a long time."It is an important effort to strictly control the application of the penalty by judicial organs," he said, according to the state newspaper China Daily.

"Judicial departments should use the least number of death sentences possible, and death penalties should not be given to those having a reason for not being executed."Zhang said the highest court was extremely cautious in imposing the sentence on those who killed relatives or neighbours in disputes. People who pleaded guilty, compensated their victims' relatives, or were pardoned by the latter also tended to receive more lenient punishments.He said the death penalty should be applied to "an extremely small number" of serious offenders, but offered no figures for current execution rates or reduction targets.The actual number of executions is a state secret; Amnesty's figures are drawn from recorded cases alone. Several organisations have suggested the true toll runs into several thousand.The death penalty applies to more than 60 offences in China, including many non-violent and economic crimes.

But "death penalty with reprieve" sentences are becoming more common and are usually commuted to life in prison. This can later be reduced to 20 years or less with good behaviour."If there is really a drop in the number of executions and the number of crimes to which the death penalty is applied, this is a move which Amnesty International will welcome," said Si-si Liu, a Hong Kong-based researcher for the human rights group."But right now it's really impossible for external observers to verify or double-check what officials have said about reductions in numbers, because the total is a state secret."She added that Amnesty International was concerned by other remarks from Chinese officials, citing the statement by Li Zhi, Urumqi's Communist party secretary, that violent rioters in Xinjiang would be executed.

"We question how this kind of sentencing decision, which only courts should be eligible to make, can be made by people outside the judicial system," Liu said.Last year the country's most senior judge said only "extremely vile criminals" were executed in 2007 as a result of "kill fewer, kill carefully" reforms that gave the supreme court the right to overturn capital sentences handed down by lower courts.The China Daily said the supreme people's court overturned 15% of death sentences handed down in 2007 and 10 percent in 2008.Independent analysts suggested the policy had caused a drop in executions of as much as 30% year-on-year.

New Pygmy Seahorse discovered

At under half an inch tall (13 millimeters), Satomi's pygmy seahorse—named after dive guide Satomi Onishi—is a strong contender for the world's smallest seahorse. With their tails stretched out straight, two Satomi's pygmy seahorses would fit head-to-head across the face of a penny.These miniscule seahorses from Indonesian reefs have been seen giving birth to tiny offspring, each about the size of a 12-point apostrophe.Together with two other species, Satomi's pygmy seahorses were named in a December 2008 study.

The Walea pygmy seahorse is one of five species named in a flurry of recent seahorse discoveries from coral reefs in the Red Sea and Indonesia. All five are less than an inch tall (2.5 centimeters) and are among the tiniest known vertebrates.It was thanks to the keen eyes of underwater photographers and divers that these secretive specimens came to light.The seahorses, described in December 2008 and January 2009 studies, are the first to be discovered in five years.The Walea seahorse is named after an island in central Sulawesi, Indonesia—the only place it has so far been found.

One of five newly discovered seahorses, Hippocampus debelius, or the soft-coral seahorse, was named after Helmut Debelius, the underwater photographer who led a successful campaign to track down this miniature Red Sea inhabitant.After initial sightings in 1993, it took over a decade to find the specimens described in a January 2009 study.

Severns's pygmy seahorse, named after diver Mike Severns, is one of three new species named in a December 2008 study.Study co-author Sara Lourie from McGill University in Canada credited local dive guides and photographers without whom the seahorses would have remained a mystery.All the new seahorses were officially recognized after divers had shared photographs of their discoveries with scientists.

Pontoh's pygmy seahorse, named after Indonesian dive guide Hence Pontoh, is one of many tiny specimens described in a December 2008 study.Pygmy seahorses are high on the "wish lists" of many divers, who want to spot one for themselves, co-author Lourie remarked by email."There is a lot of local pride surrounding these and other pygmy seahorses in Indonesia, where they were discovered.

'Microsoft & Yahoo' the big deal

Microsoft's Bing search engine will power the Yahoo website and Yahoo will in turn become the advertising sales team for Microsoft's online offering.Yahoo has been struggling to make profits in recent years.But last year it rebuffed several takeover bids from Microsoft in an attempt to go it alone.Microsoft boss Steve Ballmer said the 10-year deal would provide Microsoft's Bing search engine with the necessary scale to compete."Through this agreement with Yahoo, we will create more innovation in search, better value for advertisers, and real consumer choice in a market currently dominated by a single company," said Mr Ballmer.

In return for ceding control of its search engine, Yahoo will get to keep 88% of the revenue from all search ad sales on its site for the first five years of the deal, and have the right to sell adverts on some Microsoft sites.Yahoo's search team, meanwhile, will have to brace itself for job losses over the next two years. Some staff will transfer to Microsoft, others can stay on with Yahoo, but redundancies would be unavoidable, Yahoo chief executive Carol Bartz told the BBC.Yahoo and Microsoft have announced a long-rumoured internet search deal that will help the two companies take on chief rival Google.Microsoft's Bing search engine will power the Yahoo website and Yahoo will in turn become the advertising sales team for Microsoft's online offering.Yahoo has been struggling to make profits in recent years.

But last year it rebuffed several takeover bids from Microsoft in an attempt to go it alone.Microsoft boss Steve Ballmer said the 10-year deal would provide Microsoft's Bing search engine with the necessary scale to compete.I believe it establishes the foundation for a new era of internet innovation and development."Through this agreement with Yahoo, we will create more innovation in search, better value for advertisers, and real consumer choice in a market currently dominated by a single company," said Mr Ballmer.In return for ceding control of its search engine, Yahoo will get to keep 88% of the revenue from all search ad sales on its site for the first five years of the deal, and have the right to sell adverts on some Microsoft sites.Yahoo's search team, meanwhile, will have to brace itself for job losses over the next two years. Some staff will transfer to Microsoft, others can stay on with Yahoo, but redundancies would be unavoidable, Yahoo chief executive Carol Bartz told the BBC.

Yahoo said the deal would benefit Yahoo's users and advertisers. "This agreement comes with boatloads of value for Yahoo, our users, and the industry. And I believe it establishes the foundation for a new era of internet innovation and development," said Ms Bartz.The deal became possible after Yahoo's co-founder Jerry Yang stepped down as chief executive of the company late last year."Only a Yahoo outsider like Ms Bartz could do such a deal," said Tim Weber, business editor of the BBC News website."She has no sentimental attachment to what was once the core of Yahoo, its search business. Microsoft was helped by the fact that at long last it managed to develop a search engine - Bing - that is a credible alternative to search giant Google."Yahoo said the deal would boost annual operating income by $500m and secure $200m in savings.The tie-up will give Microsoft and Yahoo a combined market share in the US search ad market of about 30%.Google would still be the dominant force with a share of about 65%.

BMW will withdraw from Formula 1

BMW will end their involvement in Formula One racing at the end of the current season, it was announced on Wednesday. The move is part of what the German car maker described as a ‘landmark’ decision to restructure its motorsport activities.The news came at a press conference held at the company’s German headquarters in Munich, attended by BMW Sauber team principal Mario Theissen, along with Dr. Norbert Reithofer, the chairman of the BMW board, and Dr. Klaus Draeger, the director for development.

BMW became Formula One entrants in 2006 after taking over the Swiss Sauber team. The company said the decision to withdraw stems from a desire to dedicate more resources to developing new, sustainable road car technologies.“Of course, this was a difficult decision for us,” explained Reithofer. “But it’s a resolute step in view of our company's strategic realignment. Premium will increasingly be defined in terms of sustainability and environmental compatibility. This is an area in which we want to remain in the lead. Our Formula One campaign is thus less a key promoter for us."

Paying tribute to Theissen’s leadership of BMW Sauber, who finished third in last year’s championship, Reithofer added: “Mario has been in charge of our motorsports program since 1999. We have scored a large number of successes in this period, including some in Formula One racing. I would like to express my sincere gratitude to Mario Theissen and his team for this.”Theissen commented: "Of course, we, the employees in Hinwil and Munich, would all have liked to continue this ambitious campaign and show that this season was just a hiccup following three successful years. But I can understand why this decision was made from a corporate perspective. We will now focus sharply on the remaining races and demonstrate our fighting spirit and put in a good result as we bid farewell to Formula One racing.”

BMW’s original Formula One involvement began in the 1980s as an engine supplier. With Brabham from 1982 to ’85, the company clinched eight Formula One victories and one world title, courtesy of Nelson Piquet in 1983. Following a final win with Benetton in 1986, BMW were absent from F1 competition until 2000 when they began supplying engines to Williams, taking 10 victories over the following five years.In 2006 the company took over the Sauber team and enjoyed a positive first season as a fully-fledged works entry, finishing fifth in the constructors’ championship, with two podium finishes. The team went from strength to strength in 2007, occupying the ‘best of the rest’ slot behind Ferrari and McLaren. Scoring in all 17 races, BMW Sauber eventually finished second in the standings, behind Ferrari.

Worlds longest waterfalls

Angel Falls:

Angel Falls is the tallest waterfall in the world, as well as the tallest single drop in the world. The falls consist of a 2648 foot plunge, where the water comes out of the face of Auyan Tepui, then it cascades down steep talus before dropping over another 100 foot cascade. Total Height: 3,212 feet or 979 meters.

Tugela Falls:

The Tugela River drops over 3000 feet in 5 major tiers. It is located in Kwazulu Natal, South Africa. Total Height: 3,110 feet or 948 meters.

Three Sisters Falls:

The falls is located in Rio Cutivireni, Peru. Total Height: 3,000 feet or 914 meters.

Oloupena Falls:

The most volumnous waterfall in Hawaii. Total Height: 2,953 feet or 900 meters.

Yumbilla, Catarata:

Several sites claim a height of 870m, but Peru’s IGN (Instituto Geografico Nacional) claims a height of 895.4m.


The small stream does flow all year long and can, at times, produce a significant volume. The waterfall is located in More Og Romsdal, Norway. Total Height: 2,822 feet or 860 meters.


The falls appear to be fed primarily by several small lakes and tarns, but it’s likely that seasonal snowfields contribute the majority of the stream’s water. The falls is located in Hordaland, Norway. Total Height: 2,788 feet or 850 meters.

Puukaoku Falls:

Located in Hawaii, USA, the north coast of Molokai has the tallest sea cliffs in the world. Total Height: 2,756 feet or 840 meters.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Inglourious Basterds Trailer

Cuil celebrates its first birthday

A year ago today, Cuil hit the web.With ex-Google staff and claims that it indexed three times as much of the web as the leading search engine, pundits eagerly suggested the Irish-named search engine would take down Google.It hardly seems sporting to mock in hindsight, especially on its birthday, but Cuil hasn't made much of a dent in market share, leaving Yahoo and Microsoft's newly-launched Bing to compete for second.

Privately-funded Cuil doesn't seem too worried about how many users it's drawing a year on, even though the best its managed is one per cent of the market. By February, it was down to just 130,000 users a month, but Cuil has apparently said that's been doubling every month since then.Co-founder Tom Costello told us last year that it's going to take time. "Even when you see Google – built to the kind of dominant position they have - it took them 10 years to build to that position. Search is not a business where you have overnight success. It’s not a business where you change the behaviour of billions of people worldwide who use search overnight."

But time, and cash, is on his side, he added - despite rumours the company might be spending a bit too carelessly. "It turns out that one of the great things about search is that it’s a very, very profitable business. Search traffic is extra valuable. Even with a very small, negligible market share, you can still easily be profitable. So we’re in this for the long term."

What now?

A report in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Technology Review has suggested Cuil is planning a comeback by trying to be the first search engine to look inside social networks."We are trying to leverage the information found on users social networks to enhance search results. This is similar to what Amazon or eBay already does: 'People who bought this book, also liked this one'," Cuil's vice president of finance Seval Oz Ozveren told the publication.Sounds cool (sorry, we couldn't help it) but only time will tell if it will be enough to make sure Cuil has a second birthday.

How to create a retro bedroom

When one thinks of the word “retro”, their mind automatically goes to the decorating styles of the 1960’s and 1970’s. For more and more people, however, the 1980’s is also considered retro. Here are some ideas you can use to create a retro bedroom for yourself. The 1960’s was the time of hippies, and free love. Even more than that, it was a time for people to discover love of their fellow man with the emergence of Martin Luther King, Kennedy, and war protests. Home décor was as bold and free as the youth of the generation.

Walls: Room décor did not necessarily come from wall colors. They came from what was hung on them. On your white or neutral wall colors, hang colorful bold flower print fabrics in two or three colors.

Fabrics: Use bold color blocked fabric for your bedding
and window treatment. For example, a white background with orange circles or uneven squares. Colors to look for are orange, brown, white, celadon green, and mustard.

Flooring: Floor tiles were very popular during this time. Purchase floor tiles in two colors and install like in a checkerboard pattern. Add several throw rugs to warm your feet in the morning.

Accessories: Accessorize the room with pop art reminiscent of Andy Warhol who was famous for his paintings of Campbell’s soup and Marilyn Monroe. Lava lamps and Hawaiian tiki carvings are also great room accessories of the time.As the baby boomers came of age in the 1970’s, free love, war protests, and overall cultural awareness faded as disco and nightclubs became the obsession of the generation who needed to work off steam as they worked themselves up the corporate ladder. Home décor and fashions evolved greatly during this time from wild and crazy to clean lines, but bold colors remained.

Walls: Paint the room in a two-toned design like a beige on top and brown on the bottom. Two tones of any color will work well.

Fabrics: Floral designs continued to remain dominant, but more colors were added to the color palate. For your bed, purchase a cozy chenille bedspread and matching sheer curtain panels for your windows.

Flooring: Shag carpet would look great in your 70’s inspired bedroom, but you do not need to stick with the mixed shades of brown that was used to camouflage spills. Purchase your shag carpet in solid colors instead, and stick to area rugs to save money because shag carpet does not have a long shelf life.

Accessories: Mirrors and glass became the main room accessories during this period. Cover a wall with mirrors and add a mirrored disco ball to reflect the light in your room.During the 1980’s the baby boomers became parents and so home décor became more grown up. Patterns became more subtle, subdued, and traditional. Victorian elements re-emerged during this time.

Walls: There was a return to white and neutral colored walls. You can paint your 1980's inspired bedroom walls white with pastel colored trim, or antique white with high gloss white trim.

Fabrics: Pastel colors became the popular color scheme during this period interspersed with subtle florals by designers like Ashley Stewart. For a more masculine room, stick with classic stripes and argyle patterns.

Flooring: During the 1980’s, carpet got colorful and shorter. Short twisted pile carpet in pinks, blues, and greens would work well in your room.

Accessories: Accessories during this period were also a bit more grown up. Glass figurines became popular for adults and hand made bunnies and stuffed animals were the main décor in children’s rooms. Photography became the wall hangings
of choice from candid pictures of family members to posters of rock stars, to black and white landscapes by photographers like Ansel Adams.

King Kong of Skull Island

Spirit Pictures is looking to breathe new life into King Kong and a project initially developed by effects legend Ray Harryhausen.Producers at the shingle have picked up the rights to the book "Kong: King of Skull Island," a prequel to the well-known tale of the big ape.Penned by Joe DeVito and Brad Strickland, book focuses on the backstory of Skull Island and how the giant gorilla became king there. It introduces other giant gorillas and dinosaurs only hinted at in the previous films.The book was published at the same time Peter Jackson was producing his remake of "King Kong."

Rights to make the movie were brokered with the Merian C. Cooper family, who own the Kong property. Cooper co-directed the original "Kong," released in 1933."We're very concerned with honoring Merian C. Cooper's legacy in Hollywood. We want to make sure that whatever we deliver will honor his memory," said Spirit's Steve Iles, who worked on videogames for the "Star Wars" and "Pirates of the Caribbean" franchises through his Pocket Studios game company.The plan is to produce the film using motion-capture technology such as Robert Zemeckis used to make "The Polar Express," "Beowulf" and the upcoming "A Christmas Carol." Spirit's own facility would produce the CG work.

Spirit also is developing "War Eagles," a project Cooper and Harryhausen had developed together and were nearly set to produce before the outbreak of WWII. The period actioner is set in 1939 and revolves around an ace fighter-pilot who tests a new jet and winds up crash-landing in the arctic, where he encounters a lost civilization that's been thriving there for centuries."It's one of those films that a certain level of the industry is aware of," said Arnold Kunert, producer on both "Kong" and "Eagles." "It's a combination of all the things that have worked in adventure films for the last 70 or 80 years."Andy Briggs is working on the scripts for both films, with Spirit also developing offshoots like graphic novels, videogames and toys.Iles and Kunert will produce both pics through Spirit, which is still seeking production partners on the projects.

How to Quit Smoking?

It is no secret that an addiction to cigarettes is one of the toughest habits to break. While there are some people who can quit by the strength of will power alone, the vast majority of the smoking population requires the assistance of cessation aids and numerous attempts before quitting cigarettes for good. But with medical reports and statistics piling up over the years detailing the dangers of nicotine, the need to stop smoking has become more of a trend than smoking ever was.According to some figures, there are still over 1.1 billion people in the world who smoke cigarettes. In the United States alone, nearly 20 percent of the population still claims an affinity for cigarettes, though that number has decreased by more than half since 1965. But as society puts more of a focus on healthy living and positive lifestyle choices, in addition to entire cities across America outlawing smoking in public places, people are finding the motivation to quit the habit.

Quitting cigarettes requires more than will power for most people, though. The addiction to tobacco is not only physical but mental and emotional. Smoking a cigarette becomes part of life for the addicted, and many need to completely readjust their lifestyles in order to successfully kick the habit.The first order of business to quitting the habit is to set a date for the last cigarette, which allows the person to get rid of extra packs of cigarettes, lighters, and ashtrays, as well as begin cleaning clothes, blankets, curtains, and any other household items that retain the smell of smoke. It is important to begin the first day of non-smoking with a fresh environment and little to no remnants of the smoking lifestyle.

Setting the date also allows the person to stock up on items that may help during the first 72 hours, when nicotine still resides in the body and the cravings for a cigarette will be the strongest. A person may choose to stock up on items like nicotine gum or patches to gradually let the body know that the process has begun. It also may be helpful to gather items that will help the oral fixation, such as straws or toothpicks, chewing gum, candy or lollipops, and snack items like carrots, celery sticks, and grapes. It may also be helpful to buy extra mouthwash and dental hygiene items to keep the mouth smelling and feeling fresh.In addition to sharing the plan with family, friends, coworkers, and neighbors, it can also be helpful to start a journal. While it will be helpful to lean on everyone involved in daily life for encouragement and support, a log of thoughts and feelings may help put the process in perspective, especially if the journal focuses on the motivations for quitting.

A complete change in daily routine might be necessary. If smoking with coffee in the morning was a habit, there may be a need to start the day with water or juice instead. If smoking after meals was the norm, it might be helpful to immediately go for a walk after meals. Some form of exercise should be integrated into daily life as well, since the body will be craving some form of adrenaline that could be found in the healthy feeling that exercise provides.After the first few days or weeks, it can be motivational to figure out the amount of money saved from not buying cigarettes and use it to buy something fun. Whether it is something that can aid the new, healthy lifestyle or simply something rewarding, it can further prove that cigarettes were more than a physical threat to one’s life but a financial strain as well.

The most important thing to keep in mind when quitting cigarettes is that the person has more control than the cigarette or the tobacco in it. Self-control is an asset, and remembering that you are in control of your life is the key to quitting. The assistance of others and cessation aids may be integral to success, but ultimately it is the person that is in control of habits and lifestyle choices. But if it so happens that a cigarette works its way into the person’s hands and he or she falls off the wagon, there is no reason to give up the process entirely. One mistake does not ruin the plan, and resuming the quitting process should be automatic.It took time to become addicted to smoking, and it may take time to quit the habit. But your body, mind, pets, friends, and family will be forever grateful if the process of quitting is successful.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Ads that people love or hate

Here are some of the ads that have come up repeatedly in our discussion. But we're not done yet! Just because an ad isn't listed does not mean it can't still top the contest. Describe it in the comments.

I'm not quite sure what computer-generated roller-skating rapper babies has to do with drinking Evian, but darn if this ad doesn't stop me in my tracks and make me watch. Has anyone actually seen this on TV yet, or just on YouTube? Here's an article about the ad's popularity.

This Prius commercial, in which people dressed like flowers, grass and other bits of nature pop up as the car drives by, is still a favorite of many, and a leading contender. But some people just find it creepy.Front-front, back-back, side-to-side. The Kia Soul ad with giant hamsters driving a Kia past others of their species stuck in dull wheels entertains some, but others think it's a weird way to sell cars.Why so many car ads among your faves this year? In this VW ad, a Jetta TDI and an old Beetle talk to a neighbor who owns a Prius. Reader Dan O. says: "I love the VW commercial that compares itself to the Toyota Prius -- after its owner makes the quiet engine noise the VW still says 'that's cool'.... That's cool."

Some commercials create a fictional spokesperson that just makes people hate the product he or she represents. (Plastic-headed Burger King, that's your cue!) But Dos Equis' Most Interesting Man in the World seems to be earning more fans than foes. ("Police often question him just because they find him interesting. ... His blood smells like cologne.")

When you first see this ad, for Boost Mobile, you may think that's just the girl's lovely long tresses blowing back into her boyfriend's face. Then you realize it's her armpit hair, which apparently has grown to Sasquatch-length. (Boost Mobile also has this horror, where a man carries another adult man in a baby carrier strapped to his chest. In the end, the man in the carrier says, "I also like breast milk.")

Here's another major contender for worst: In Dannon Light and Fit's ad, a beautiful blonde so can't resist their product that she opens it and sucks it down right in the supermarket. The slurping noises send the ad right into "disturbing" territory.When I first mentioned this Quizno's ad, where the oven wants the employee to "put it in me, Scott," a couple of readers accused me of homophobia, apparently because the employee is male and the oven has a male voice. I can assure you, I was creeped out by the idea of any employee, male or female, putting any body part in a hot sandwich oven. The sexuality of the oven in question never once entered my mind.Red Bull's slogan is "Red Bull gives you wings" (or, in their lingo, "wiiings") but in this ad, the drink, and a woman on a nude beach, are apparently giving the little cartoon guy something else, as indicated by the way his black censorship bar takes an upward twist.

I can imagine the pitch session for this series of Geico commercials: We're saving them money, why not show them the money? And make it cute, with googly Muppet eyes. But why is it stalking me? That creepy-but-catchy Rockwell song doesn't help matters.Are any of these ads your pick for the best or worst of the year, or do you think other commercials need to be mentioned here? The comments are open.

Kelly Clarkson's latest music video

Smart phones now used to educate kids

Smart phones now have hundreds of applications meant to educate kids — from graphic calculators to animation programs that teach spelling and phonics.And while most public schools don't allow the devices because they're considered distractions — and sometimes portable cheating tools — some school districts have started to put the technology to use.The key, educators say, is controlling the environment in which they are used.In St. Mary's, Ohio, a school district of 2,300 students is continuing a pilot program where third-, fourth- and fifth-graders are assigned PDAs for use as a learning tool in the classroom, and at home. They use applications created by a company called Go Know! to draw pictures and create sketches, journal and write essays, said Kyle Menchhofer, the district's technology coordinator. Other applications create flash cards for spelling and math.

Students took the phones on a museum field trip where they took photos, uploaded them to a server where the teacher could view the assignment and wrote blurbs about what they saw.In addition to the applications that students use, having the PDA teaches them responsibility, he said."Cellphones aren't going away. Mobile technology isn't going away," he said. "Right now, what we're telling kids is 'You go home and use whatever technology you want, but when you get to school, we're going to ask you to step back in time.' It doesn't make any sense," he said.The district started the program last school year with $40,000 and 60 Palm personal data devices that were handed out to students. Menchhofer said teachers who used to wait weeks to use computer labs were now able to use technology right in their classrooms — and students love it.

But there are many questions districts face before opening the door to allow cellphones: If children had their own, fancier phones, would they be allowed those instead of school-issued devices? How would they fund PDAs in larger districts?And do kids really need technology always at their fingertips?Orlando, dad Ken Schneider says he doesn't want his two daughters, ages 12 and 19, to be distracted in class by buzzing phones or text messages. Still, he says a limited, school-sponsored version is a good idea."A very controlled form of communication would be great," he said. "To the extent you can build computer literacy at the youngest age, it's great. That's where the world is moving."In St. Mary's, parents and district officials decided to expand the program for the upcoming school year. Text and cellphone applications are shut off, so the data plan will cost about $17 a month per phone. The phones are free because of government pricing, but students will have to foot the bill if they're lost or broken.

It's worth it, Menchhofer argues. "We need to teach them to be responsible users of cellphones," he said. "There's a right time and a wrong time to use them."Elliot Soloway, the creator of Go Know!, which developed the software, said trying to sell it was a slog for years because of the cellphone ban in most schools. But he said he thinks it's about to change because he's been getting increasing requests."Kids want to use the same tools inside school they use when they walk out the door," he said. "Kids don't worry about small screen sizes or typing trouble. Kids today are the mobile generation and it's time we embraced this as a way to better educate our students."But the purported educational value of the cellphones doesn't seem to sway most school districts, including New York, the largest in the country with a million students. Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who is in charge of the schools, emphasized his opposition in a recent speech to National Urban League executives, who exploded into applause.

Working on Michael Jackson Theories

The strange circumstances surrounding the death of Michael Jackson have law enforcement personnel working overtime to figure out exactly what happened.It seems that the longer the investigation into just how the superstar passed away continues, the more disturbing and perplexing some of the details become.

One of the theories investigators are exploring, according to TMZ, is that the singer's personal physician, Dr. Conrad Murray administered Propofol to him.After giving Jackson the hospital-grade anesthesia, the mere possession of which is probably enough for him to face criminal charges, Murray left the room.When he returned, he discovered Michael Jackson's dead body.

We emphasize that this is only a theory. However, it would explain the timeline gap between when Murray says he found MJ and when a 911 call was made.Sources say when paramedics arrived Michael Jackson was already dead - even though Murray would not let them pronounce him as such on the scene - and found with an IV in his arm, an IV stand nearby along with an empty IV bag and oxygen tank.The paramedics on the scene say Dr. Conrad Murray's conduct was "strange" - he was "hard to deal with" and was "getting in the way" of emergency responders.

The paramedics wanted to pronounce Michael Jackson dead at the house but Dr. Murray, who has higher authority, insisted they transport the singer to a hospital.At the UCLA Medical Center, doctors gave up on resuscitation efforts because Jackson was clearly dead, but Dr. Murray - now the target of a manslaughter investigation - continued CPR, which some of the doctors found odd, to say the least.

Luck released

This is a film about subverted heroes. People who need big money so desperately they are willing to participate in a crazy game of life and death orchestrated by a man who has turned betting on human beings into a galloping global industry.Sanjay Dutt strides across the wide screen and its accompanying pomp and paraphernalia with aplomb. He’s accompanied by a cast that knows this film means macho business.However, the real heroes of this tale of perverse heroism are the action by Allan Amin, dialogues by Soham Shah, locations — ranging from the super-rugged to the ultra-chic — the thundering background score by Amar Mohile and the cinematography of Santosh Thundiyil.All these technical components enrich the experience of watching an extended video-game done at an adrenaline-defying speed.

So is “Luck” just a series of action sequences threaded together? To a large extent the skills that have gone into Shah’s storytelling tend to be eclipsed by the sheer volume and impact of the virile action. Even the female characters (Shruti Haasan and Chitrashi) are devoted to money and machismo.So, play the game. Shah displays a penchant for pyrotechnics that hit you in your face and rev up the proceedings from the word go. Every principal character (barring debutante Shruti Haasan) is given a back story done with an economy of narration that impresses with its austere suppleness.Particularly riveting is Imran Khan’s introductory episode where in a Harshad Mehta-like scam the boy’s life and finances come undone because of his father’s economic misadventures. Here, the character’s desperation of monetary redemption comes alive as much through Imran’s clenched jaws and anguished eyes as the small details that go into constructing an ambience of desperate destiny.Then there’s Danny Denzongpa, filled with smothered anguish at the thought of a dying wife (Roopa Ganguly) and the millions needed to keep her alive.

Most interesting of all is Ravi Kishan. As a psycho on death row who cheats death, he gets some of the juiciest lines in this well-written jigsaw of fallen lives and scamsters. Kishan makes the best of the situation and comes up with a performance that pervades the screen with a wolf-like wackiness.Also a treat is Chitrashi, who as the zestful stowaway from Pakistan comes up with a great performance. Her sequence from the hospital bed after mechanical sharks bite off her limb is the sort of foolproof emotional intervention in the rugged plot that cannot go wrong.You love Shah for making such telling use of Mithun Chakbraorty and Danny’s immense rabble-rousing personalities.Why didn’t other directors think of casting these actors in such tailor made roles? Like the cinema of Sanjay Gupta, Shah’s film shows materialism to be the motivating mantra of modern times.

Money makes the world of “Luck” go around unapologetically.Some of the pauses dividing the five-six principal action scenes don’t quite succeed in giving the goings-on a sense of rhythm and grace. But you can’t really fault “Luck” for its ration of kinetic momentum. The narration is propelled forward by a pulsating integrity to the genre of action movies.Original in concept and engaging in execution, “Luck” is cinema at its macho peak. It pumps up the octane to an optimum level and lets the plot devise its own pauses and porous outlets.You don’t come away liking too many characters in this tale of guns and deaths. But you don’t dislike these people for their monstrous materialism either. That’s the real success of “Luck”.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Beautiful cities in the world - 1






Tempe Town Lake



Bill Gates received Indira Gandhi award

Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates Saturday received the Indian government's prestigious Indira Gandhi prize the work done by his foundation in fighting poverty and illness, specially HIV-AIDS, in India. "When a technological giant like Bill Gates joins the cause of changing the lives of people through philanthropy, we have reasons to be optimistic," Indian President Pratibha Patil said in presenting the award at a ceremony in the Indian capital.

Noting this was the first time a business leader had been given the award, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation was an inspiration for business leaders around the world."Others have also showed the world how to create wealth from knowledge, but very few before him (Gates) have worked as hard and as selflessly as he has to share that wealth with marginalized people and also create knowledge in that process," Singh said.

Singh hoped more Indian business leaders would follow Gate's example and share their wealth by investing in education and healthcare for the elderly and disabled.The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has to date committed nearly 1 billion dollars for health and development projects in India. Most of the money has been targeted to prevent AIDS and eradicate polio.The foundation launched an initiative called Avahan in 2003 which works closely with the Indian government's HIV-AIDS prevention programme in six states and along the national trucking routes.Previous winners of the Indira Gandhi peace prize include Medecins sans Frontieres, Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai and former United States president Jimmy Carter.

Tiniest animals in the world

Okeanos Explorer new developement

Docked off San Francisco's Pier 27 and rocking calmly in the bay, the Okeanos Explorer awaits its return to sea.The ship--once a U.S. Navy vessel now under control of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)--is in the midst of being outfitted exclusively for deep-ocean exploration and discovery. Its purpose will be to investigate unknown, misunderstood, and other below-the-surface phenomena. It is expected to be fully operational by next summer.With up to 95 percent of the ocean unexplored, there are vast amounts of research for the ship to pursue. However, the Okeanos Explorer will have a second function as well: education.On Friday, NOAA announced a five-year partnership with San Francisco's Exploratorium that will enable the public to learn about discoveries in real time as the vessel crisscrosses the globe.

"Imagine being there as discoveries are made," said Richard Spinrad, assistant administrator for NOAA. "That's what we'll be able to do with this partnership." Cameras cover the ship. With the 224-foot-long vessel's live broadcast and satellite capabilities, scientists hope to engage students, teachers, and the general public. Data will be available to anyone who is interested."This new partnership is intended to engage the public with a special focus on oceans and science," said Jane Lubchenco, who holds the joint title of NOAA's administrator and the Commerce Department's under secretary for oceans and atmosphere. "(We) need partners who are experts to help us create a scientifically literate society."To bring this information to the public, the Exploratorium is in the midst of creating an online package for the Okeanos Explorer, complete with blogs, video and audio clips, RSS feeds, and even tweets from the ship's scientists. They will post information on recent discoveries, as well as general information on climate change and weather phenomena. Tried and true fans will even be able to track the ship through Google Earth and live streaming video.

At first glance the Okeanos Explorer doesn't look particularly high tech--it has the typical life boats, anchors, and an average looking deck. But jutting out of the mast, high above the ship's bridge, is what looks like a giant white soccer ball. This is its satellite dome."The first time in there can be pretty scary," said Richard Conway, chief electronic technician for the vessel, "especially because it moves, tilting down and tilting up." As it moves, the 12-foot diameter satellite dome is transmitting data to scientists, shifting to find the best connection. It live-feeds videos and information to the "Exploration Command Centers" based on land--and to the Exploratorium. The dome can send information anywhere in the world and "can even track well in rough waters," said Conway.Working in conjunction with the dome is the control room, the nerve center of the ship. It's a windowless, black-walled room, covered floor to ceiling with high-definition computer screens that beam colorful topographical maps and videos of the ocean floor. All data, from the ocean's surface to its floor, is collected and tracked here. Using telepresence technology, this same data is transmitted to more scientists, based on land, who can then examine the information more thoroughly.

One of the means of gathering information about oceans are remotely operated vehicles (ROVs). The Okeanos Explorer will have two ROVs equipped with high-definition cameras, lights, and sensors, tethered to a 19,700-foot cable.ROVs are perfect for searching underexplored parts of the ocean, including shipwrecks.One specific shipwreck in the Black Sea has particularly caught Okeanos Explorer scientists' interest. The vessel is 2,000 years old and is perfectly preserved because it is in a part of the sea where oxygen doesn't exist. They intend to explore it once the Okeanos Explorer is fully operational.Even though the Okeanos Explorer is not yet completely up and running, it has done some preliminary missions and has even discovered an anomaly near Cape Mendocino, Calif. In May, with a multibeam sonar mounted on the ship's hull, it detected a 4,500-foot plume of what the scientists believe to be methane gas rising from the seafloor.Next week, the ship sets sail for Honolulu where it will continue to work out kinks and conduct field trials. When ready, it will embark on its first official exploratory trip--a voyage to Indonesia, where it will closely study the surrounding geology, sea volcanoes, and biological hotspots.