Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #4785 on: Aug 12th, 2011, 07:32am »
California reports eighth-grade dropout rate for first time
A new system that tracks every public school student finds that about 3.5% of eighth-graders — 17,257 in all — left school and didn't return for ninth grade. The high school dropout rate is 18.2%.
By Howard Blume, Los Angeles Times August 12, 2011
An overlooked corner of the dropout problem became more visible Thursday when state officials for the first time released the dropout rate for eighth-graders.
Statewide, about 3.5% of eighth-graders — 17,257 in all — left school and didn't return for ninth grade, according to the state count now available with a system for tracking students individually.
The California Department of Education released the new dropout and graduation rates, the first such report based on unique identification numbers for every public school student. It looked at eighth-graders in the 2008-09 academic year and students who started high school in 2006 and should have graduated four years later.
Overall, 74.4% of California high school students graduated in four years, according to state data; 18.2% dropped out. The remainder were still in school (6.6%), were in non-diploma programs for disabled students (0.5%) or left high school by taking the General Educational Development (GED) Test (0.4%).
Steep gaps persist in the comparative fates of different ethnic groups. The graduation rate is 68% for Latinos, 59% for African American students and 56% for students who are learning English. This compares with 83.4% for whites and 89.4% for Asians.
"The data reveal the sad truth about our state's four-year graduation rates and California's failure to adequately serve all of our students," said Arun Ramanathan, executive director of Education Trust-West, an Oakland-based advocacy organization.
The latest numbers could still underestimate the number of dropouts, because, for example, they depend on school clerks verifying whether a student dropped out, moved or transferred to a private school.
Most experts say the new system is more reliable than what it replaced and that the data on eighth-graders are a helpful, if worrisome, benefit.
Among eighth-graders statewide, about 4,200 dropped out during the academic year; more than 13,000 finished eighth grade but didn't show up for ninth, the traditional beginning of high school.
"That transition from middle school to high school is crucial," said state Supt. of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson. "Those years are vulnerable years for many students, especially if a student loses hope, gets off track or falls behind."
He said dropping out is the culmination of a problem that probably has been building for years. Students who are behind in reading skills by the third grade, or nonnative speakers who don't make the transition from Spanish to English, can fall increasingly behind in all their subjects. And there is pressure in some families to earn money rather than stay in school.
The Los Angeles Unified School District did not provide figures for its eighth-graders, although it has the data. It did, however, deliver related news: The graduation rate in the state's largest school system has improved slightly but remains low — and worse even than the figure calculated by the state.
"The sobering reality is that the graduation rate for LAUSD is too low," said Supt. John Deasy.
L.A. Unified's estimated graduation rate for the four-year period is 55%. However, the state's new system places the district's rate at 64.2%.
And a broadly adopted formula used by the National Center for Education Statistics credits L.A. Unified with graduating 70.4% of high school students in four years.
L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who has long sided with experts who believe dropout numbers are higher than reported, expressed ongoing doubt about the new state numbers.
"We still don't have an accurate way to determine who's dropping out," he said, citing studies that estimate L.A. Unified's four-year high school dropout rate at more than 50%. (The state-calculated dropout rate for L.A. Unified is 26.1%.)
Two high schools managed by the mayor's nonprofit organization —Roosevelt in Boyle Heights and Santee south of downtown — are graduating more students than previously, but still recorded among the worst four-year graduation rates in L.A. Unified, 41% and 44% respectively, the district reported.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #4786 on: Aug 12th, 2011, 07:39am »
Aug. 12, 1981: IBM Gets Personal With 5150 PC By Randy Alfred August 12, 2011 | 7:00 am Categories: 20th century, Business and Industry, Computers and IT
IBM 5150 PC
1981: IBM introduces the 5150 personal computer. It will sweep away the competition and effectively have the field to itself, for a while.
For an operating system, IBM first went to Digital Research, which had developed CP/M. When Digital declined, IBM went to a small firm known for microcomputer adaptations of Basic: Microsoft.
Microsoft bought the rights to Seattle Computer Products’ QDOS (supposedly, “Quick and Dirty Operating System,” itself a possible hack of CP/M). In Microsoft’s hands, QDOS became PC-DOS and later MS-DOS. (The 5150 could also run the more-expensive CP/M-86 and UCSD D-Pascal operating systems, but the $40 price tag — $99 in today’s money — on PC-DOS 1.0 made it irresistible to most users.)
Before 1980, IBM made only mini and mainframe computers. The old-line firm just wasn’t sure that the fledgling microcomputer market would be at all profitable.
But once the company decided to act, it developed the 5150 in less than a year at its Boca Raton, Florida, facility — using existing off-the-shelf components. IBM selected Intel’s 8-to-16-bit 8088 processor, because it thought both the Intel 8086 and Motorola MC68000 16-bit processors were too powerful.
IBM unveiled its new baby in Boca Raton and at New York City’s Waldorf Astoria hotel. It weighed a then-svelte 25 pounds with a 4.77-MHz Intel 8088 CPU that contained 29,000 transistors. Stripped, it had just 16 kB of RAM; standard 64 kB, expandable to 256 kB. It also featured a 40-kB ROM, a choice of zero, one or two 5.25-inch floppy drives, a monochromatic display and optional cassette drive.
The 16-kb base model, with no data-storage drives included, cost $1,565 ($3,900 today). If you loaded a 64-kB box with all the standard features, that jumped to $2,880 ($7,150 today), and souped up with color graphics and 256 kB, it’d cost you about $6,000 ($14,900 today). Available software included the VisiCalc spreadsheet, Easywriter 1.0 and Adventure, Microsoft’s first game.
IBM retailed the 5150 through ComputerLand and Sears, Roebuck. It sold 65,000 PCs in four months, with 100,000 orders taken by Christmas.
The 5150 was trouncing all the other microcomputers targeted for homes and small businesses. It established the dominance of the Microsoft operating system, pushing CP/M and proprietary operating systems out of the market. On the hardware side, its boxy design became the model for PC compatibles, and the ISA bus supplanted the old S-100 bus as standard.
It would be two-and-a-half years before the first real challenge appeared, when the original Apple Macintosh went on sale.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #4788 on: Aug 12th, 2011, 07:54am »
Boyfriend Accused Of Insider Trading Ahead of Disney-Marvel Deal
By THE DEADLINE TEAM Thursday August 11, 2011 @ 6:16pm PDT Tags: Marvel Entertainment, Securities and Exchange Commission, Toby G. Scammell, Walt Disney Co
The Securities and Exchange Commission filed a complaint today against a California man who allegedly used confidential information about Disney's planned acquisition of Marvel Entertainment -- obtained from his girfriend, a Disney employee -- to buy up Marvel stock options before the August 2009 sale and collect $192,000 after the deal was made public and Marvel shares soared.
The complaint said that Toby G. Scammell got the insider information from his girlfriend's BlackBerry and used some cash for his purchase from the account of his older brother, who was in the Army and deployed to Iraq at the time. The options raised a red flag at the SEC as Scammell, then 24, had never traded Marvel securities before buying the $5,400 in options. After the sale was announced, Marvel's stock rose 25%, giving Scammell a 3,000% profit when he sold off.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #4791 on: Aug 13th, 2011, 08:23am »
Insight: China's microbloggers rattle the censor's cage
By Chris Buckley and Melanie Lee BEIJING/SHANGHAI | Fri Aug 12, 2011 11:07am EDT
When Chinese journalist Wang Keqin found himself cornered in the countryside two years ago by police who were trying to stop him looking into a rape case involving local officials, he looked online for help.
Wang, one of China's most dogged investigative journalists, and his colleagues called a friend who posted constant updates about their stand-off with encroaching police to a Twitter-like microblog site. Authorities in Badong County, central China, were soon flooded with phone calls from citizens warning them not to detain or hurt him.
"The county public security bureau was overwhelmed by all the calls. It was like a wave of pressure. Weibo saved me that time, and I've also used it to save people being chased by officials," he said, using the Chinese term, "Weibo," for the microblogging services that have bloomed as platforms for sharing news, views, gossip and public outrage.
"For Chinese people, Weibo is creating an arena that is much more free than traditional media," said Wang, who is well known for his painstaking reports on corruption and official misdeeds.
"It's also turning more Chinese people into citizen journalists," he said. "Weibo is already a massive force. It can't be shut down, although they might try to shut down VIP users," he added, referring to online activists.
China's microblog sites, which claim 195 million users and allow people to shoot out short bursts of often strongly worded opinion, have put China's Communist rulers in a difficult spot. Fearing an uproar if they block the sites outright, the censors struggle to keep ahead of the rapid-fire messages that often spread news and opinion the government would like to contain.
Chinese officials, Internet operators, media and citizens are all players in an online contest over how far microblogs will be allowed to challenge the censorship demanded by the Communist Party.
Twitter itself is blocked in China, along with Facebook and other websites that are popular abroad.
"Microblogs have pushed more of the traditional media to become more liberal and challenging," said Wang Junxiu, a Beijing Internet entrepreneur and commentator who closely follows the microblogging world.
"They've also seen the role that social media played in the Middle East," he added, referring to the popular uprisings across the Arab world that rattled Chinese leaders.
"But under current conditions the government could not shut down microblogging. There are 200 million users, remember."
China's microbloggers have shown their collective potency in a string of recent official scandals, particularly the online uproar in the wake of a high-speed bullet train crash last month in which 40 people died.
These scandals have followed the same arc -- of official censorship, spin and stonewalling buckling under the weight of rowdy microblog users impatient with the slowness and fetters of traditional media.
"People online seize on anything about officials and corruption, and they don't let up," said Liu Zhengrong, an official at the State Council Information Office who oversees Internet controls said, according to a Chinese newspaper, the Xi'an Daily.
"On the Internet, the public can send out something from multiple points and then to other multiple points," Liu added, referring to microblogs. "Very quickly, the whole world knows."
"Leading officials must not underestimate the intelligence of the public," he added.
State-controlled media coverage of the train crash at first followed a familiar script, faulting nature and foreign technology, and throwing a spotlight on heroic rescue efforts.
Within days, however, that script began to collapse as skepticism and outrage spread quickly in microblog traffic, fanning public ire and emboldening journalists. Newspapers and magazines were soon spurning censors' directives to stick to positive news and began excoriating the railway ministry.
"Especially in times of disaster, such as the high-speed railway disaster, microblogs spread news to journalists who can be on the scene even before the central Propaganda Department sends out a ban," said the editor of one popular Chinese newspaper. He spoke on condition of anonymity, citing possible punishment for discussing government policies.
"Microblogs provide some additional protection, because it means that once a story breaks, everyone pitches in with information, not just official journalists, so enforcing a ban on news becomes much harder," he said.
"It magnifies the impact of media reports, but it also means that no one newspaper or reporter stands out as a target."
Nobody expects China's censorship to crumble. Indeed, by late July China's propaganda machinery had reasserted itself, forcing newspapers to cancel critical stories and magazines to pull issues off the newsstands. But shutting down microblogs does not appear to be an option.
"We see the tensions between the government officials and the public in China acting out on a daily basis on Sina Weibo, and there's just an assumption that whatever the government says it can't be true," said David Bandurski of the China Media Project at the University of Hong Kong, who studies Chinese news media and censorship.
"Social media are going to be an issue, particularly after what we've seen this year. The question is how exactly they're going to tackle it," he said of the government's response.
That question looms over Sina, the operator of China's most popular Weibo site by far with 140 million registered users.
Microblogging, the hottest social networking product to hit China's Internet scene in years, is the reason for Sina's record high stock price this year and the "buy" rating 13 analysts have on the company.
By the end of June this year, the number of Chinese using microblogs had shot up by 209 percent on late 2010 levels, according to China's official Internet information agency.
But with Internet users able to use that platform to spread news of problems such as lead poisoning outbreaks before local officials can react, operators such as Sina struggle to balance the expectations of both citizens and state censors.
"The trick for Sina will always be keeping the platform lively enough and genuine enough so that it remains relevant, while also keeping it tame enough to satisfy any government concerns," said Michael Clendenin, managing director of tech consultancy RedTech Advisors.
"You have to remember that the majority of Weibo users are young and highly educated -- not the types to be easily duped by ham-handed propaganda," Clendenin said.
This week, Weibo users were complaining that their messages about the July 23 train crash were being "harmonized," a euphemism netizens use to describe censorship and removal of their postings.
Sina's chief executive Charles Chao is a U.S.-educated former journalist. In an interview with CNN earlier this month, Chao admitted that censorship was a part of daily operations on Weibo but defended the platform, saying it has enabled greater freedom of expression.
"Weibo actually brings that freedom to the next level so not only can they express, they can also distribute their content and opinions with their Weibo account," Chao said, according to a transcript of the interview.
Some of the self-censorship measures taken by Sina's Weibo and other Chinese microblogging sites include taking down politically sensitive posts, blocking the search of certain keywords and preventing posts that contain those keywords.
Those steps have drawn catcalls from users, as have recent comments on state television scolding microbloggers for spreading "rumors." But even supporters of tightened controls on microblogs said shutting down the sites would risk sparking much worse public outrage.
"Now everyone -- users, the government, site operators -- are wondering about how to manage the microblogging sphere that's developed so quickly," said Dou Hanzhang, a Beijing-based researcher who has helped form a "Rumor Quashing Alliance" on Sina's Weibo site.
"If the government shut down Weibo, that would trigger outrage and show that the government lacks the competence to manage it," he said.
(Additional reporting by Don Durfee; Editing by Jonathan Thatcher and John Chalmers)
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #4792 on: Aug 13th, 2011, 08:28am »
BART’s Interference In Subway Protests, A Step In The Wrong Direction For Digital Freedoms 12 August 2011 by Rip Empson
As many may be aware by now, Bay Area Rapid Transit, also known fondly as BART and San Francisco’s version of a municipal subway system, has been on the receiving end of quite a bit of criticism over the last 24 hours. The criticism stems from BART temporarily interfering with cell service in four of its stations in order to stifle potentially violent protests that centered around an earlier shooting by a BART police officer.
The incident, which occurred on July 3rd, involved 45-year-old Charles Blair, who was shot and killed by a BART officer after the (apparently homeless) man pulled a knife and rushed the officer and his partner, according to SFGate.com. Organizers and activists had organized a protest in select BART stations to speak out against what they deemed to be another rash and unjustified response by authority to violence in its transportation systems.
Unfortunately, this is something that BART has been through before, with the much-publicized killing of Oscar Grant in 2009. After a fight in a BART station, officers attempted to detain Grant, whereupon one officer drew his gun and shot Grant in the back. The whole incident was captured on cellphone cameras, was then later posted on YouTube, reaired on national news, and was viewed hundreds of thousands of times.
As CNET reported at the time, many people took to Twitter and other forms of social media to receive updated information on the incident and ensuing trial, in which the officer was convicted of involuntary manslaughter. Many disagreed with the verdict, however, and the many protests and violence that followed this case was no doubt prompted by the mass availability of information (including the sensitive footage of the actual killing) on the Web and social media. For good or ill.
That is not to say that BART had reason to censor cell phone activity in this most recent situation, but there’s no doubt they were fully aware of the precedent, and it wouldn’t be ridiculous to assume that this (and other situations liked it) may have influenced their reaction.
Now, as to the legality of BART’s cell communications jamming, as has been reported by SFAppeal among others, BART did not necessarily employ blocking methods that are explicitly outlawed by the FCC and, instead, according to a statement issued by the transit authority, simply “asked wireless providers to temporarily interrupt service at select BART stations as one of many tactics to ensure the safety of everyone on the platform.” Which is not necessarily out of line.
However, as CNET and tweeters have pointed out, it is still difficult to avoid comparisons to Egypt’s dictator Hosni Mubarak, who ordered Egyptian carriers to essentially turn of the Internet to prevent citizens from organizing. Naturally, Twitter has already created its own hashtag for the BART kerfuffle: #MuBARTek. Although the comparison may be a little dramatic, it’s certainly understandable.
Even if one takes the stance that BART was acting under the law, and acknowledges that BART will probably regret its actions (if it doesn’t already), the United States was outspoken in its condemnation of Mubarak for the Egyptian government’s interference in digital communication and, while this certainly isn’t an incident of nearly the same scale, it does make the U.S. look hypocritical, as the U.S. government pushes for macro web freedom and freedoms in all forms of digital communication. If we are to supposedly hold ourselves to high (or higher) standards, then this kind of action is really not acceptable.
As Marvin Ammori, an oft-cited lawyer and expert in internet law, media law, freedom of speech, and cybersecurity, pointed out in an insightful and well-written post, though many have been up in arms over BARTgate being a prime example of a glaring first amendment violation, in the big picture, it’s hard to argue the case. There’s a lot of wiggle room in the courts for scenarios in which a government agency suppresses free speech not because of its content, but in content-neutral terms to protect citizens from violence or danger. Higher courts will often rule against it being some kind of sweeping violation of first amendment rights.
As Ammori points out, BART officials believed that protests in its stations “could lead to platform overcrowding and unsafe conditions for BART customers, employees and demonstrators”, which do indeed “sound like content-neutral reasons”.
Of course, as Ammori goes on to say, BART did indeed turn off “the phone network at a specific time that it expected a protest, and a protest directed at transit police”. And the transit authority’s reasons for doing so were certainly due to the fact that they expected that the protests could potentially turn violent. Thus, “if BART was trying to suppress speech because of its content or to stop violence”, he says, “it likely can’t meet the constitutional test and has violated the First Amendment”.
Whether or not BART is guilty of violating first amendment rights, and is eventually taken to court, many experts are calling for further FCC scrutiny of this decision, and there likely will be.
And as scrutiny, investigation, and analysis of these types of incidents are slow-moving, especially when they involve a government agency, many hackers have of course already begun tweeting in support of the protestors, and Anonymous has already released a digital flyer with the hashtag #MuBARTek, as first reported by CNET.
Whatever the case, many of us can likely agree that this is a step in the wrong direction for freedom of speech in the U.S., especially as it relates to freedom of communication by digital means and cannot allow the silencing or interference of government agencies in protests or demonstrations. How, if not for potentially violent demonstrations, would this country have accomplished any sort of civil, philosophical, or governmental progress forward?
Undermining the authority of Internet or cellular discourse, no matter how small the incident, sets the wrong precedent and sends mixed signals to other countries and burgeoning digital communities around the world. It’s just not good policy, and it makes us look stupid.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #4793 on: Aug 13th, 2011, 08:33am »
Forget Obama -- will.i.am's Now Stumping for ... Science! Published: August 12, 2011 @ 3:59 pm By Jake Weinraub
Will.i.am, science teacher?
With flashing lights, electric dance breakdowns and even some of his own robot-esque moves, the Black Eyed Peas singer is no stranger to the intersection of art and science.
Now, in his latest project, he's has teamed up with Segway inventor Dean Kamen’s FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) program, to take his new message to kids.
Based on an international youth K-12 robotics competition of 30,000 educators, students and parents in St. Louis, Missouri, in April -- which will.i.am pumped up with live performances from the Peas and Willow Smith -- the rapper has executive produced a one-hour ABC special based on the event.
Its goal: to get students more excited about science by emphasizing innovations in everyday life.
Scheduled for Aug. 14 and called "The i.am FIRST: Science Is Rock & Roll Back-to-School Special," the show also features Bono, Justin Bieber, Miley Cyrus, Britney Spears, Snoop Dogg, Justin Timberlake, Steven Tyler and more sharing testimony to the importance of the sciences.
“[Kids] love technology,” will.i.am told TheWrap. “Think about our world right now with the economic crash. Apple stock is cool ... and for some reason everyone’s still signing up for Google+. Google is cool, Facebook is cool -- think about what’s sitting comfy when everyone else is uncomfortable: technology.”
(Story continues after will.i.am's new video, "My Robot Is Better Than Your Robot," promoting science, featuring Justin Timberlake, Snoop Dogg, Justin Bieber, Bono, "Doctor of Thinkology" Steven Tyler and others.)
“Who’s making the Wii and the Xbox Kinect?” he said. “You’d probably think these people are geeks, but you can’t wait to get that gear.”
Kamen’s FIRST program provides tools that can be integrated with educational curriculum to increase access to quality education in the sciences. With over 2,500 schools already on board, it has been lauded by companies such as Google, Microsoft, CNN, GE.
As for his own scientific prowess, the Los Angeles native laughed, “Not even gonna front. I wasn’t good at science in school, but that doesn’t mean I don’t like it,” he told TheWrap.
will.i.am gained wide video notoriety during as an early supporter of Barack Obama in the 2008 presidential election, with his video “Yes We Can.”
When asked if he will revisit political organizing for the upcoming 2012 election, he said that his educational initiatives are how he sees himself involved this time around.
“I want to surround myself with whoever has solutions, he said -- refusing to endorse any particular candidate. “I endorse the youth. I vote for giving the youth the opportunities they need to go out in the world and contribute, so we can compete with other developing countries. I endorse good solutions to change inner-cities, that give kids educational opportunities they don’t have.”
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #4794 on: Aug 13th, 2011, 11:51am »
Published online 12 August 2011
Close-up of Vesta poses puzzle
Astronomers keen to look into strange hole on second-largest asteroid.
by Ron Cowen
Planetary scientists thought they knew what to expect when NASA's Dawn spacecraft returned the first close-up portrait of the giant asteroid Vesta last month. Fuzzy images from the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) taken in 1996 seemed to show that something had taken a big bite out of the asteroid's south polar region1.
The crater was posited as the source of Vesta-like fragments that populate the asteroid belt, and of a surprisingly large fraction of the meteorites found on Earth.
But seconds after viewing the first image, Peter Thomas of Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, shot off an e-mail to other members of the team: "Looks like HST results were fantasy!"
Thomas later realized he had misjudged Dawn's location when he sent that e-mail, but his words give an idea of scientists' surprise. Vesta's huge depression isn't like those of most impact craters: it is ringed by a wall for only about half its circumference, says Dawn team member Paul Schenk of the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston, Texas. It also has a large rounded mound in its middle, rather than the usual conical uplift.
Perhaps strangest of all is a series of troughs ringing the asteroid's equator, a feature not seen in any other body in the Solar System and which may be related to the impact and its huge scale.
If it was caused by an impact, the crater is shaping up to be one of the biggest puzzles of the mission, says Chris Russell, principal investigator of the Dawn mission at the University of California, Los Angeles.
Looking for answers
Russell has commissioned a task force of scientists on the Dawn team to solve the puzzle in time for two conferences in October.
New, sharper, images and spectra will help, as will maps of the asteroid's gravity. Dawn is now orbiting Vesta at a distance of about 2,700 kilometres, some six times closer than when the initial observations were made last month.
The task force will use the data gathered from this closer approach to hunt for evidence of whether the hole really was caused by some sort of collision. Tell-tale signs would include rock that has melted and resolidified on the floor of the depression, and a mixture of broken rock and melted material splashed out of the hole by the force of the blow.
Researchers have already come up with several possible explanations for the hole's strange shape. These all assume that the roughly 460-kilometre-wide crater was gouged out by a piece of space debris measuring 40-80 kilometres across.
One idea is that Vesta, which, at 530 kilometres across is the second-largest asteroid in the Solar System, was struck not at its south pole but midway between the pole and the equator. Because it spins rapidly, completing a full rotation in about five hours, Vesta would have reoriented itself so that the gouged-out region became the rock's new south pole.
This would be the most stable configuration for the damaged asteroid, says Schenk. "I don't think we've ever seen before a body with such a large impact and such a high rotation rate," he says.
In January, Martin Jutzi of the University of Bern in Switzerland and Erik Asphaug of the University of California, Santa Cruz, modelled the impact that walloped Vesta and obtained some surprising results2.
They calculate that Vesta completed an entire revolution while the crater was forming. As a result, the debris thrown up by the impact did not settle evenly around the crater, but fell in uneven clumps. This lopsided excavation might explain why a wall runs around only half of the impact site.
The cause of the equatorial troughs remain a mystery, says Asphaug, but they might be the result of material rushing back into the hole created by the impact. "We really don't know the physics when the crater gets to be about the size of the body [it strikes]," he says.
Russell is also hoping that Dawn will explain why Vesta is the brightest member of the asteroid belt, reflecting some 40% of the sunlight that hits it.
Images from the craft have already showed that some regions of the asteroid are brighter than average, and revealed dark streaks on the inside of craters. Compositional information recorded by Dawn's spectrometers may also show whether the bright regions are made from different material or whether they simply have a more crystalline structure, which scatters more light, Russell says.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #4795 on: Aug 14th, 2011, 08:15am »
New York Times
August 14, 2011, 9:01 am Pawlenty Drops Out of Republican Race By JEFF ZELENY
Tim Pawlenty, the former governor of Minnesota, told supporters on a conference call Sunday morning that he is ending his candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination after a disappointing third-place finish at the Iowa straw poll.
Mr. Pawlenty thanked his supporters in an early-morning call, two participants said, but acknowledged that he had decided overnight that his candidacy could not proceed.
Mr. Pawlenty, who had been weighing a presidential campaign for years, had developed a robust plan to win the party’s nomination. But his strategy did not take into account the rising popularity of a fellow Minnesotan, Representative Michele Bachmann, whose candidacy had overshadowed Mr. Pawlenty’s. He had staked his entire campaign around a strong finish at the Iowa straw poll, which he did not achieve.
Mr. Bachmann topped the straw poll on Saturday, edging out Representative Ron Paul of Texas. Mr. Pawlenty was a distant third.
It was an ironic and sudden end to the presidential candidacy of a former two-term governor, who had once talked about bypassing the straw poll. But a poor showing at a debate two months ago made him change his mind, associates said, and left him no choice but to throw everything into the straw poll.
On the morning conference call, a participant said, he did not say whether he intended to endorse another candidate.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #4796 on: Aug 14th, 2011, 08:18am »
Indianapolis stage collapse: Death toll could rise from Sugarland concert accident
August 14, 2011 | 12:45 am
Officials in Indianapolis said early Sunday that the toll could rise beyond the four confirmed dead after rigging and scaffolding collapsed onto a crowd waiting for the country band Sugarland to perform at the Indiana State Fair.
“I want to be very forthcoming -- we could have other deaths,” said Indiana State Police Sgt. Rich Myers. “We hope everyone will be praying for the injured.”
In a dramatic scene captured on a YouTube video, the towering stage equipment tumbled forward onto fans against a backdrop of darkened skies, a massive dust storm and gusty winds. One woman could be heard saying, “Oh my God, oh my God!”
“It was like it was in slow motion,” concertgoer Amy Weathers told the Indianapolis Star. “You couldn't believe it was actually happening.”
At least 40 people were injured and taken to local hospitals, where triage and family reunification rooms were set up.
Shortly after the accident, Sugarland said on Twitter: “We are all right. We are praying for our fans, and the people of Indianapolis. We hope you will join us. They need our strength.”
In the choas afterward, scores of concertgoers rushed to the stage to lift broken scaffolding and equipment off people, Myers said during a televised press conference about five hours after the 9 p.m. accident.
“People put themselves in jeopardy…and it’s gratifying to know that at a moment’s notice people will jump in to help others,” he said.
No one was performing at the time of the collapse. The opening act had finished, and the crowd was waiting for Sugarland to take the stage.
At the same time, the weather was worsening; there had been heavy rain and winds were picking up. State police were monitoring radar weather reports on their Smartphones. They had just decided to evacuate the grandstands and were putting officials in place to carry out the plan. But it wasn’t fast enough.
"What hit wasn't a storm, it was a significant gust of wind," Myers said. "That gust upset the rigging and structure up on the stage and caused the collapse."
State police said that those hospitalized had suffered a range of injuries from minor to critical.
Athough there were no accounts of missing people, authorities were searching the fairgrounds early Sunday for possible victims.
“We are making sure no one was in a state of confusion, injured or dazed and could have wandered,” Myers said.
Officials are putting together a detailed timeline of events and weather reports leading up to the accident to gain an “understanding of everything that occurred.”
He did not have information about how the stage structure was assembled, but said investigators will probe those issues.
Associated Press photographer Darron Cummings was in the audience as a fan shortly before the collapse. Cummings said he and his friends sought shelter in a nearby barn after seeing the weather radar.
“Then we heard screams. We heard people just come running,” Cummings said.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #4797 on: Aug 14th, 2011, 08:22am »
Owner of Video Rental Stores Stocked With Pirated DVDs Sentenced to Prison By David Kravets August 12, 2011 | 1:31 pm Categories: Copyrights and Patents, Crime
A California man has been sentenced to 18 months imprisonment for running three Sacramento-area video stores offering mostly pirated music and movies for sale or rental.
The jig was up for 46-year-old defendant Yan Akhumov in July 2009, when local police responded to a disturbance at one of his Music Land shops. An angry customer caused a commotion and wanted her money back when the DVDs she rented did not play, and the discs themselves looked like forgeries, according to court documents.
A federal judge ordered Akhumov earlier this week to surrender to federal prison authorities in September — an ordeal he could have avoided had he only listened to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Instead, he ended up pleading guilty to one count of unauthorized distribution of copyrighted works. http://www.wired.com/images_blogs/threatlevel/2011/08/videoplea.pdf
FBI agents had visited one of his stores in 2007, and warned him to stop selling and renting unauthorized works. As it turned out, he had eventually burned some 55,000 discs and dressed them with low quality artwork and packaging.
“Some of the DVDs were labeled simply with a black permanent marker and none of the cases contained security seals like the packaging on legitimate product released by the motion picture industry,” a Sacramento County sheriff’s deputy said in a court filing. Other discs, the deputy said, had a “white paper label with the title typed in blue printer ink.”
An investigator with the Recording Industry Association of American and the Motion Picture Association of America verified that the discs were not authorized, according to court documents.
The authorities said they seized more than 32,000 counterfeit DVDs and more than 23,000 bogus CDs. The defendant could have faced up to five years in prison.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #4798 on: Aug 14th, 2011, 08:28am »
Trouble in paradise as plumbing problems hit Dubai’s Palm island
Residents of the Palm Jumeirah, Dubai’s man-made island that is shaped like a giant date palm, are being forced to wash in the sea and visit lavatories at a nearby mall after a water pipe in one its exclusive apartment blocks ruptured.
Aerial view of 'The Palm' Jumeirah Islands Photo: REX FEATURES
By Bonnie Malkin 2:16PM BST 12 Aug 2011
Severe plumbing problems hit the gated, seven-building Oceana complex on Sunday, and so far the property managers have not been able to fix them.
The crisis means that, in temperatures of 107F (42C), Oceana residents have had to endure the ignominy of showering at nearby pools and scrubbing themselves down in the Arabian Gulf. For anyone needing to use the lavatory, there is only one option: public amenities at the local shopping centre.
And management of the Oceana have given no timetable for when the pipes will be fixed.
The dire sanitary situation is a far cry from the glossy images used to sell apartments at the Oceana.
Flats in the complex, which is located on the Palm’s trunk – or Golden Mile -, sell for between £280,000 for a one-bedroom unit and £500,000 for a three bedroom flat.
The company’s website claims that each apartment in the complex provides "spacious layouts, high quality finishes and panoramic views to the garden, beach and marina".
Fortunately, the units are also "within walking distance to the Village Centre Shopping Mall".
While the plumbing problems do not extend to the multi-million pound villas, lavish hotels and apartment blocks on the rest of the Palm, the extravagant project has not been without its own problems.
Stretching almost four miles into the sea and big enough to be seen from space, the Palm’s trunk and 16 fronds, which were constructed from rock and sand dredged from the seabed of the Arabian Gulf, were once some of the most coveted pieces of real estate in the world – especially among Britons, who own about 25 per cent of properties on the island. When the first 2,000 villas and town houses on the island went on sale in 2002, they sold out in a month.
Styled by its owner, the government-backed Nakheel property development company, as the "eighth wonder of the world", the Palm captured worldwide attention when David Beckham, Michael Owen and nine other members of the England squad bought "signature villas" there when they visited Dubai en route to Japan and South Korea’s 2002 World Cup.
But there has been trouble in paradise.
Some of the "Palm pioneers", who were among the first to move onto the island, complained of their expensive villas being squeezed together like sardines, sky-high air-conditioning bills and repeated snags that led some to joke it should be renamed the "eighth blunder" of the world.
Then, during the height of the global financial crisis in 2008, property prices fell by as much as 40 per cent. Villas that had been selling for £1.8 million were suddenly fetching just £1.2m.
The economic turmoil also affected the pace of construction of the artificial archipelago, and two other palms that were being built beside it, setting completion dates back by several years.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #4799 on: Aug 14th, 2011, 08:59am »
Times are tough. You do what you gotta do!
Dunkin' Donuts Cashier Used Drive-Thru To Offer Her 'Services,' Police Say
"Extra sugar" took on a new meaning at Dunkin' Donuts when a cashier converted a Rockaway, N.J., branch of the national chain into a veritable red light district, police say.
Melissa Redmond, 29, allegedly was using her night shifts to offer the coffee shop's customers her services as a prostitute on the side.
Redmond was nabbed Monday in what was known as "Operation Extra Sugar," according to a report in the Daily Record of Parsipanny. The incident took place at a branch of Dunkin' Donuts located just off Route 46 in northern New Jersey, some 20 minutes outside of New York City.
"I had gotten an anonymous tip," Detective Sgt. Kyle Schwarzmann told The Press. "She was a night-time employee, supposedly a very good one." (The night shift runs from 9 p.m to 5 a.m.)
The tip, which was handed over to the police six weeks ago, set in motion your classic police sting. First, Schwarzmann parked on site, and noticed that Redmond was making visits to customers' cars. On average, the trips lasted 10 to 15 minutes, he said. Policemen also pretended to be prospective johns, in the market for Redmond's extra service.