Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #5490 on: Nov 13th, 2011, 12:55pm »
Foot in lake not linked to foul play
By Doug Ward, Vancouver Sun November 8, 2011
There is no evidence linking a human foot discovered this weekend at Sasamat Lake - the ninth found in southwest B.C. in the past four years - to foul play, a BC Coroners Service official said Monday.
The latest foot, unlike the eight that came before it, was found in fresh water rather than salt water - and is also the first to be found in a hiking boot rather than a running shoe, said Coroner Stephen Fonseca.
The foot found in Sasamat Lake, like the earlier ones, appears to have "disarticulated naturally" through decomposition after spending a long time in water, he added.
"There were no tool mark impressions or cut marks that would suggest possible suspicious activity," added Fonseca, manager of the Identification and Disaster Response Unit.
The boot was first sighted Friday, floating some metres off shore, by a youth attending a camp at the Port Moody lake.
The youth and others from the camp noticed the boot had washed up onshore Saturday and reported their discovery to the police.
The boot is a black Cougar-brand hiking boot, men's size 12, with blue interior felt lining.
The metal eyelets were very rusted, suggesting the boot could have been in the water for some time. Fonseca said the Coroners Service will be working with police agencies to determine a possible identity, including checking missing persons cases.
There will also be DNA testing on the foot, which will determine its gender, he added.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #5492 on: Nov 13th, 2011, 1:17pm »
Will this Red Planet rover send groundbreaking data over?
The Mars Science Laboratory − nicknamed Curiosity − was developed at JPL and will be the fourth rover to traverse the planet's harsh terrain. But unlike the earlier Martian vehicles, Curiosity will do more than look for evidence of water.
By Mike Anton, Los Angeles Times November 13, 2011
A model of the Mars rover "Curiosity "is tested at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. (Gary Friedman)
One of the most sophisticated space vehicles ever made inches along the rocky landscape, aluminum wheels grinding like a spoon in a garbage disposal.
Here in the Mars Yard at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, what passes for the Red Planet looks like a vacant lot in Hesperia. The vehicle being tested, a replica of the latest Mars rover that will soon be crawling around up there, looks like a giant mechanical insect — six wheeled legs, an articulating arm and a pair of blue camera lenses like eyes peering from a boxy head.
This month, NASA's most ambitious Mars rover mission to date is scheduled to lift off from Cape Canaveral, Fla., aboard an Atlas V rocket. It's a $2.5-billion gamble scientists hope will give unparalleled insights into how Mars evolved and whether it ever could have supported life.
The Mars Science Laboratory — nicknamed Curiosity — was developed at JPL in La Cañada Flintridge and will be the fourth rover to traverse the planet's harsh terrain. But unlike the earlier Mars rovers — Sojourner, Spirit and the still-cruising Opportunity — Curiosity will do more than look for evidence of water.
Curiosity is a robot astrobiologist. During a mission expected to last at least two years, the rover will use a battery of scientific instruments to analyze Mars' geology and atmosphere, looking for the elements and chemical compounds that are the building blocks of life.
Scientists hope the information Curiosity gathers will exponentially increase their understanding of Mars and bring us closer to answering the most profound and tantalizing of questions: Could life exist beyond Earth?
"Humans are hard-wired to want to know the answer to that," said Bill Nye, executive director of the Planetary Society, the Pasadena-based nonprofit that advocates for space exploration. "If we found life on Mars, it would change everybody's view of our place in space."
Curiosity will take 8.5 months to travel the 354 million miles to Mars — and two years to cover about 14 miles of its surface.
The rover is expected to land Aug. 5 near the Martian equator inside Gale crater, a chasm about the combined size of Connecticut and Rhode Island with a 3-mile-high mountain of layered sedimentary rock at its bottom.
Scientists believe the crater, thought to date back billions of years to when Mars was warm and wet, will reveal the planet's evolutionary story the way the Grand Canyon's strata expose the history of Earth.
"It's going to be like reading a novel — and it's a long one," said John Grotzinger, the project's chief scientist. "It's going to be a wild journey looking into the guts of the history of Mars."
If Curiosity were a car, it would be advertised as fully loaded: six aluminum wheels that can be steered independently. A mounted laser to vaporize rock. Seventeen cameras to take high-definition images, scientific measurements and navigate the rover. A robotic arm to drill into rock and scoop up samples. Instruments to detect in those samples organic compounds and elements associated with life on Earth.
And under the hood: a nuclear-powered engine that will give Curiosity a top crawling speed of 2 inches per second.
All that hardware gives the rover a curb weight of a ton. That's five times heavier than its predecessor, which bounced along the Martian surface nestled inside huge protective air bags before coming to rest, like a beach ball tossed from a low-flying airplane.
"The air bags needed to land Curiosity would have been two or three times the weight of the rover itself," said Adam Steltzner, a JPL engineer in charge of ensuring the rover lands in one piece. "There's no landing rocket that could have handled that weight."
So Steltzner's team has engineered an innovative, multi-staged system that, unlike the beach ball approach, will use sensors and advanced computer software to guide Curiosity's descent to a relatively pinpoint landing.
As planned, the craft carrying the rover will hit Mars' atmosphere at 13,000 mph. Thruster rockets will slow and steer the craft, positioning it for landing. At about 1,000 mph, a parachute will deploy and slam on the brakes. Finally, a "sky crane" will emerge from the craft's descent stage and gently lower a tethered Curiosity to the ground.
All this in just six minutes.
"It looks kind of crazy. And it's definitely novel," Steltzner said. "But we believe it to be a very simple process."
A lot is at stake.
The Curiosity rover is one of most complex projects in NASA's history. It's also $900 million over budget and two years late.
An audit released earlier this year by NASA's inspector general criticized managers for repeatedly underestimating the cost of working around the project's numerous technological hurdles — a common complaint of the agency through the years.
All this comes at a time of budget cutting at NASA and a lack of consensus among scientists and politicians as to where the U.S. space program ought to devote dwindling dollars.
"If this fails, it's going to be a disaster," said Nye of the Planetary Society. "Congress will become ever less trusting of the true costs of these missions and the ability of the people doing it."
But Nye says the 26-month delay has a huge upside: it reduced the risk of failure.
"Everyone involved is working very hard to make sure that this succeeds," he said.
The sky crane landing system is key to a more ambitious future mission: a planned partnership with the European Space Agency to send a rover to collect rock and soil on Mars and cache the samples for an eventual return to Earth.
"There's no such thing as a perfect landing system on Mars," said Steve Squyres, lead scientist for the Spirit and Opportunity rovers. "It's a highly unpredictable environment. It's always possible that a gust of wind or a pointy rock could ruin your day."
The hold of Mars on the imagination of humans is eternal.
The ancients viewed the Red Planet with the naked eye and imbued it with the spirit of war. Galileo was the first to study Mars through a telescope. Novelists imagined civilizations of green men more advanced — and dangerous — than those on Earth.
"The death agonies of a fellow being are, to these strange creatures, provocative of the wildest hilarity," Edgar Rice Burroughs wrote a century ago in "A Princess of Mars," "while their chief form of commonest amusement is to inflict death on their prisoners of war in various ingenious and horrible ways."
Over the last 50 years, more orbiters, probes and rovers have been flung at Mars than any other corner of the cosmos except our moon.
Getting there isn't easy. About half of the dozens of spacecraft sent to Mars have either malfunctioned, crashed or disappeared.
Because it's the only planet in our solar system that could have sponsored life — the rest are too hot, too cold or made of gas — public expectations of early trips to Mars were so high that the results seemed disappointing even when the missions succeeded.
In 1965, when Mariner 4 sent back the first extraordinary close-up pictures of the Martian surface, thoughts of "green men" and cities abruptly came to an end.
"Hope that a future astronaut might some day find life on Mars faded deeper than ever into science fiction," Time magazine glumly reported at the time. "The bleak, pocked surface of the red planet looked dead indeed."
In the years since, Mars missions have methodically built a scientifically rigorous portrait of the planet that offers insights into Earth's early history and future.
"Going from a living Mars to a dead Mars set the agenda of missions for years to come," said John Grunsfeld, a former astronaut and chief scientist for NASA who is now deputy director of the Space Telescope Science Institute. "We focused on basic science, how planets are formed and what that says about Earth."
With this in mind, JPL scientists are downplaying the likelihood that Curiosity might actually find organic matter — a key ingredient for life. Finding conditions that would signal that Mars once could have supported life would be breathtaking in itself.
"You can't promise more than you can deliver. That's what happened" before, said Grotzinger, the mission's chief scientist, a geologist new to the space game.
As wet sediment hardens to rock, organic material is destroyed. Finding even a shred of the stuff in early Earth rocks is extremely rare, Grotzinger said.
Detecting organic matter in one narrow stretch of Mars shouldn't define whether Curiosity is a success, Grotzinger said.
"This is like looking for a needle in haystack — and the haystack is the size of Mars," he said. "But that doesn't mean we won't try."
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #5493 on: Nov 14th, 2011, 08:27am »
U.S.-Russian Crew Blasts Off for Space Station
Published November 14, 2011 Associated Press
MOSCOW – A Russian spacecraft carrying an American and two Russians blasted off Monday from the snow-covered Kazakh steppes in a faultless launch that eased anxiety about the future of U.S. and Russian space programs.
The Soyuz TMA-22 lifted off as scheduled at 8:14 a.m. (0414 GMT) from the Russian-leased Baikonur cosmodrome to carry NASA astronaut Dan Burbank and Russians Anton Shkaplerov and Anatoly Ivanishin on a mission to the International Space Station.
The launch had been delayed for two months due to the crash of an unmannned Progress cargo ship in August. The failed launch raised doubts about future missions to the station, because the rocket that crashed used the same upper stage as the booster rockets carrying Soyuz ships to orbit.
NASA had warned that the space outpost would need to be abandoned temporarily for the first time in nearly 11 years if a new crew could not be launched before the last of the station's six residents flew back to Earth in mid-November.
Russian space officials tracked down the Progress launch failure to an "accidental" manufacturing flaw and recalled all Soyuz rockets from space launch pads for a thorough examination. The successful launch of a Progress ship last month cleared the way for the crew to be sent off.
The new crew are to arrive just in time to keep the orbiting station manned. The three crew members currently on board the station are set to return to Earth on Nov. 21. Another launch next month is to take the station back to its normal six-person crew mode.
The 39-year-old Shkaplerov and 42-year-old Ivanishin are making their first flights into space. Burbank, 50, who will take over command of the space station, is a veteran of 12-day shuttle missions in 2000 and 2006. The three men are to remain aboard the space station until March.
Even in the case of an engine failure like the one that led to the Progress crash in August, a Soyuz crew would be rescued by an emergency escape system. But any further launch trouble would have prompted NASA to rethink the space station program, which now relies exclusively on Russian spacecraft after the retirement of the U.S. space shuttle fleet in July.
The Progress crash was one in a string of spectacular launch failures that raised concerns about the state of Russia's space industries. In the latest failure, an unmanned probe intended to collect ground samples on Phobos, a moon of Mars, in the most ambitious Russian interplanetary mission since the Soviet era, suffered an equipment failure shortly after Wednesday's launch and got stuck in Earth orbit.
Russian space officials have blamed the botched launches on obsolete equipment and an aging workforce. The space agency said it will establish its own quality inspection teams at rocket factories to tighten oversight over production quality.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #5495 on: Nov 14th, 2011, 09:09am »
New York Times
November 13, 2011 Banks Quietly Ramping Up Costs to Consumers By ERIC DASH
Even as Bank of America and other major lenders back away from charging customers to use their debit cards, many banks have been quietly imposing other new fees.
Need to replace a lost debit card? Bank of America now charges $5 — or $20 for rush delivery.
Deposit money with a mobile phone? At U.S. Bancorp, it is now 50 cents a check.
Want cash wired to your account? Starting in December, that will cost $15 for each incoming domestic payment at TD Bank. Facing a reaction from an angry public and heightened scrutiny from regulators, banks are turning to all sorts of fees that fly under the radar. Everything, it seems, has a price.
“Banks tried the in-your-face fee with debit cards, and consumers said enough,” said Alex Matjanec, a co-founder of MyBankTracker.com. “What most people don’t realize is that they have been adding new charges or taking fees that have always existed and increased them, or are making them harder to avoid.”
Banks can still earn a profit on most checking accounts. But they are under intense pressure to make up an estimated $12 billion a year of income that vanished with the passage of rules curbing lucrative overdraft charges and lowering debit card swipe fees. In addition, with lending at anemic levels and interest rates close to zero, banks are struggling to find attractive places to lend or invest all the deposits they hold. That poses another $8 billion drag.
Put another way, banks would need to recoup, on average, between $15 and $20 a month from each depositor just to earn what they did in the past, according to an analysis of the interest rate and regulatory changes on checking accounts by Oliver Wyman, a financial consulting firm.
For consumers, the result is a quiet creep of new charges and higher fees for everything from cash withdrawals at ATMs to wire payments, paper statements and in some cases, even the overdraft charges that lawmakers hoped to ratchet down. What is more, banks are raising minimum account balances and adding other new requirements so that it is harder for customers to qualify for fee waivers.
Even the much-maligned debit usage charges have effectively been bundled into higher monthly fees on checking accounts. Bank of America abandoned its $5 a month debit card usage fee in late October amid a firestorm of criticism. Yet, it more quietly raised the cost of its basic MyAccess checking account by more than $3 a month earlier this year. Monthly maintenance fees now run $12 a month, up from $8.95.
Chase and Citigroup, which quickly distanced themselves from the debit card usage fee, ratcheted up the price of their entry-level checking products without the public relations nightmare. This month, Citigroup’s basic checking account jumped to $10 a month, up from $8. Chase raised the fee on its standard checking account to $12 a month in February; many of those customers were previously charged nothing at all.
Officials at all of those banks are adamant that they have been transparent about the price increases and are providing ample ways for customers to avoid the monthly charges, like maintaining a minimum balance or signing up for direct deposit. Given the uproar, some bankers say the ultimate answer lies in enticing customers to give them more of their business in other services — not by making up the lost revenue on checking accounts.
“The long-term game is improving customer experience scores, so over time you win more business and make more money,” said Todd Maclin, the head of Chase’s retail and commercial bank.
It costs most banks between $200 and $300 a year to maintain a retail checking account, from staffing branches to covering federal deposit insurance premiums. In the past, the fees banks collected from merchants each time customers swiped their debit card or overdrew their account covered much of that expense. Banks offered “free checking” to the masses as a result.
But the economics have drastically changed over the past two years. Income earned on deposits has fallen, while the revenue gained from fees has plunged by as much as half because of the new regulations. Today, according to Oliver Wyman, banks are expected to take in, on average, between $85 and $115 in fees a year per account — making it especially hard to turn a profit on customers with low balances.
“They have got to make up the income some place,” said Vernon Hill II, the founder of Commerce Bank whose retail-oriented approach transformed it into a large regional player before it was sold to TD Bank. He added: “I think we will see a lot more fees.”
Some policy makers are already fed up. This month, two Democratic senators, Richard J. Durbin of Illinois and Jack Reed of Rhode Island, urged the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to adopt a more consumer-friendly disclosure form, akin to the nutrition label on food packaging, for all the fees attached to a checking account.
“Simply put, consumers have had enough of banks that try to sneak fees past them that are hidden in fine print or imposed with no notice at all,” they wrote. Last year, a Pew Charitable Trusts study found that bank customers could potentially incur 49 different fees on a typical checking account.
New fees, of course, will cover a small part of the gap in profits. Banks are also hoping that new products catch on. Some are steering lower-income customers to prepaid cards, which were not affected by the reduction in debit card swipe fees.
TD Bank officials say one of their hottest products is a simple checking account with no minimum balance requirement introduced in March. Even though it comes with a $2.99 monthly fee, almost 300,000 customers have signed up. And nearly every major bank has embarked on a cost-cutting campaign, eliminating branches and staff. After a 15-year expansion, the number of branches has fallen almost 1.4 percent to 98,202 from its peak in 2009, according to SNL Financial.
Banks are also lowering the rates they pay savers. The average interest rate for deposits has fallen to 0.74 percent from 0.8 percent during the first six months of this year, according to Market Rates Insight. Most consumers barely notice, but it translates into real money — about $1.5 billion a month in savings industrywide.
Banks may also be betting that consumers will not notice the quiet creep of existing fees. As Richard K. Davis, U.S. Bancorp’s chief executive, told investors on a recent conference call: “We’ll see if our customers complain and move, or just complain,” he said.
Some consumers suspect that banks have deliberately made it difficult to move into a cheaper checking accounts.
Ben Ryan, a 33-year-old novelist in Manhattan, said he recently spent 45 minutes on the phone with several Citibank representatives just to switch out of a midtier checking account that would carry a $20-a-month fee and into a more basic one, where he could avoid a charge. Citi officials say they would violate the law if they automatically switched a customer into a different account, and believe requiring a conversation with a representative helps customers better understand their choices.
But Mr. Ryan said the experience left him more confused. “You call, and they don’t know what you are talking about. And then there all these different options,” he said. “There is no simple way to switch.”
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #5497 on: Nov 14th, 2011, 3:12pm »
Wired Danger Room
Darpa’s New ‘Fast Track’ Okays Hacker Projects in Just Seven Days By Dawn Lim November 14, 2011 | 3:00 pm Categories: DarpaWatch
It’s an open secret: For years, hackers and feds have been strange bedfellows in the mission to defend military networks. Three-letter agencies set up recruiting booths with schwag at security conferences like Black Hat, and feds party it up with the computer nerds at the so-called “underground hacking conference” DefCon after enlisting intelligence help.
Darpa, with the help of former hacker Peiter “Mudge” Zatko, wants to find a way for the government make that alliance even easier. With an eye on hacker-minded researchers who operate on small budgets and in their free time, Darpa is awarding small, short-term contracts to those who have a knack for discovering holes in network defenses. It’ll harness some of the creativity brewing at hacker-conferences and experimental hacker-spaces — which, incidentally, already underpin some of the multi-million, multi-year defense contracts being inked.
The program is called Cyber Fast Track. And in the two months since it was launched, seven contracts have been awarded to nontraditional players, such as small boutique companies and independent researchers. Average time for award money to be okayed in this program? Seven days: the military equivalent of a nano-second. ”Actually, four is the median because we got better and faster at it,” said Zatko, who spoke about the program at a New York University-Poly campus in Brooklyn last week. (The video above is from an earlier, more formal presentation at the University of Rhode Island.)
The idea is to push funding quickly so that the military will have a ready catalogue of new ways to fix security issues that emerge as defense networks grow and get more complicated. Researchers keep commercial intellectual property rights over their work. Zatko hopes to generate a hundred projects out of the program in a year.
“The government needs agile cyber projects that are smaller in effort, have a potential for large payoff, and result in a rapid turnaround, creating a greater cost to the adversary,” said the Cyber Fast Track research announcement. It added that “of particular interest are efforts with the potential to reduce attack surface areas, reverse current asymmetries, or that are strategic, rather than tactical in nature.”
That’s jargon for network defense. But Darpa may be interested in cracking networks, as well as securing them. At a “colloquium” with hacker-types in Virginia last week, Darpa director Regina Dugan also said that the agency was interested in developing offensive cyber capabilities.
Cyber Fast Track’s focus on unconventional, smaller players might attract more offensive-minded types, said Dino Dai Zovi, an independent security researcher, aka the “Mac hacker,” who is going to submit some proposal ideas of his own. Big corporations tend to steer from picking apart systems, he added, erring on the side of caution to avoid being sued. Smaller firms may be more willing to take a risk.
CFT is already funding the work of a self-described former “worker bee” at the National Security Agency, the secretive signals intelligence agency. Consultant Charlie Miller is focusing on the security of “Near Field Connections,” which allows a smartphone to transmit credit-card account information to a reader, so you can pay for things by tapping your phone against a terminal. “I’m looking at the security of the software that runs NFC,” he said. “If I walked over to you, could I take over your phone?”
As he keeps looking for security ideas from people like Miller, Zatko has a delicate dance to do: convincing the military brass that it should put money into what may well turn out, high-risk research, and addressing the “pain points and difficulties for brilliant individuals who should be worthy of receiving contracts.”
Seated comfortably in a casual sweater on the stage in an NYU-Poly auditorium on Wednesday, Zatko cracked jokes and made references to friends in an audience of 50, as piano music tinkled in the next room.
“The big goal was: How will we legally put something together that will enable us to reach out to this community and not try to co-opt them, but engage them and treat them the same way we treat the traditional performers?” he said.
It’s no surprise that it took nine months of working with lawyers to work out kinks in the program. “I never worked with legal staff and lawyers that much in my life before,” Zatko added. But now, hackers who want to work on projects for Darpa won’t have to deal with the same kind of hassles.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #5498 on: Nov 14th, 2011, 3:19pm »
Supreme Court agrees to hear Obama healthcare law
By James Vicini WASHINGTON | Mon Nov 14, 2011 1:29pm EST
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Supreme Court agreed on Monday to decide the fate of President Barack Obama's healthcare law, with an election-year ruling due by July on the healthcare system's biggest overhaul in nearly 50 years.
The decision had been widely expected since late September, when the Obama administration asked the country's highest court to uphold the centerpiece insurance provision and 26 states separately asked that the entire law be struck down.
The justices in a brief order agreed to hear the appeals. At the heart of the legal battle is whether the Congress overstepped its powers by requiring all Americans to buy health insurance by 2014 or pay a penalty, a provision known as the individual mandate.
Legal experts and policy analysts said the healthcare vote may be close on the nine-member court, with five conservatives and four liberals. It could come down to moderate conservative Justice Anthony Kennedy, who often casts the decisive vote.
The law, aiming to provide more than 30 million uninsured Americans with medical coverage, has wide ramifications for company costs and for the health sector, affecting health insurers, drugmakers, device companies and hospitals.
A decision by July would bring the healthcare issue to the heart of the presidential election campaign. Polls show Americans are deeply divided over the overhaul, Obama's signature domestic achievement.
A ruling striking down the law, months before the U.S. elections in November 2012 as Obama seeks another four-year term, would be a huge blow for him legally and politically.
A ruling upholding the law would vindicate Obama legally, but might make healthcare an even bigger political issue for the leading Republican presidential candidates, all of whom oppose it.
Also on Monday the administration, in the latest in a string of executive moves to sidestep a divided Congress, announced up to $1 billion for a program to support healthcare innovation to cut costs and improve care.
The high court could leave in place the entire law, it could strike down the individual insurance mandate or other provisions, it could invalidate the entire law or it could put off a ruling on the mandate until after it has taken effect.
A Supreme Court spokeswoman said oral arguments would take place in March. There will be a total of 5-1/2 hours of argument. The court would be expected to rule during its current session, which lasts through June.
WHITE HOUSE PLEASED
White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer said the administration was pleased the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case. "We know the Affordable Care Act is constitutional and are confident the Supreme Court will agree," he said.
Those challenging the law also voiced optimism.
Karen Harned of the National Federation of Independent Business said: "We are confident in the strength of our case and hopeful that we will ultimately prevail. Our nation's job-creators depend on a decision being reached before the harmful effects of this new law become irreversible."
Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, whose state is leading the challenge to the law, said: "We are hopeful that by June 2012 we will have a decision that protects Americans' and individuals' liberties and limits the federal government's power."
BernsteinResearch, which provides investment analysis, predicted the most likely outcomes were the law being upheld or a decision being delayed until 2015.
Paul Heldman, senior analyst at Potomac Research Group, which provides Washington policy research for the investment community, said he still leaned toward the view that the law's requirement that individuals buy insurance will be upheld.
"We continue to have a high level of conviction that the Supreme Court will leave much of the health reform law standing, even if finds unconstitutional the requirement that individuals buy coverage," he wrote in a recent note.
After Obama signed the law in March 2010 following a bruising political fight in Congress, the legal battle began, with challenges by more than half of the states and others. The Supreme Court has long been expected to have final say on the law's constitutionality.
The administration has said other landmark laws, such as the Social Security Act, the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act, faced similar legal challenges that all failed.
The Obama administration in its appeal to the Supreme Court argued that Congress could adopt the insurance purchase requirement under its powers in the U.S. Constitution to regulate interstate commerce.
The 26 states argued that Congress exceeded its powers and that all of the law should be struck down. The group representing independent business took the same position as the states.
The states also challenged the expansion of Medicaid, a federal-state partnership that provides healthcare to poor Americans, on the grounds Congress unconstitutionally forced the expansion on the states by threatening to withhold funds.
The dispute reached the Supreme Court after conflicting rulings by U.S. appeals courts.
Appeals courts in Cincinnati and Washington, D.C., upheld the individual mandate. An appeals court in Atlanta struck it down, but refused to invalidate the rest of the law. An appeals court in Virginia ruled the mandate could not be decided until 2015, when the penalties for not having insurance are imposed.
The Supreme Court cases are National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius, No. 11-393; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services v. Florida, No. 11-398; and Florida v. Department of Health and Human Services, No. 11-400.
(Additional reporting by Alister Bull and Lewis Krauskopf in New York; Editing by Howard Goller and Eric Beech)
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #5499 on: Nov 14th, 2011, 3:22pm »
NBC Greenlights Futuristic Drama Pilot
By NELLIE ANDREEVA Monday November 14, 2011 @ 12:14pm PST Tags: Bautiful People, Michael McDonald, NBC, Pilot
EXCLUSIVE: NBC has given a pilot order to Beautiful People, a character-driven futuristic drama spec by Scrubs consulting producer/director (and occasional actor) Michael McDonald. ABC Studios and Universal TV are producing. Beautiful People is described as an imaginative and thematically rich ensemble “what if” drama set 10 minutes into the future where families of mechanical human beings exist to service the human population… that is until some of the mechanicals begin to “awaken.”
Former Mad TV co-star McDonald wrote Beautiful People 10 years ago. About two-and-a-half years ago, the script was set up at ABC and ABC Studios. ABC ended up passing on it, but ABC Studios kept rights to the spec, which was recently taken out with the studio attached. Beautiful People will mark NBC’s third off-cycle pilot order this season, along with comedies Isabel and Save Me, which are now casting.
Additionally, the J.J. Abrams/Eric Kripke adventure thriller Revolution and crime drama Blue Tilt have pilot production commitments at the network. Beautiful People marks the first major foray into drama for actor-writer-director McDonald, who directs half of the episodes of ABC’s Cougar Town each season. UTA-repped McDonald also directed a slew of episodes of Bill Lawrence’s previous comedy series, Scrubs.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #5502 on: Nov 15th, 2011, 08:23am »
Technology - SCITECH
Google Maps Reveals Strange Patterns in China Desert
Published November 15, 2011 | FoxNews.com
What's going on in the Gobi Desert?
Conspiracy theorists are having a field day with the latest set of images to be ripped from Google Maps. This time around, they show a series of giant structures in the Gobi Desert, on the Chinese side of the border with Mongolia.
Two different sets appear to show giant grid patterns, one of which theorists claim is a replica of the Washington, D.C., street layout.One shows a spiral pattern (image below). Zoom in on it and you'll see some planes scattered around, inside rings of what look to be military trucks.
The rest are perhaps best left up to your imagination, if only because they are inexplicable: Another giant grid over 18 miles long. Giant metallic squares or holes. Two enormous reflective rectangles.
The UK Telegraph says the sites are scattered around an area 93 miles from the headquarters of China's space program in Jiuquan. It's quickly become known as China's Area 51, mirroring the secret U.S. base where it is claimed UFOs are hoarded.
The book "Area 51: An Uncensored History of America's Top Secret Military Base" exposed some of the reality behind the U.S. base earlier this year. China's strange patterns remain a mystery, however.
Officially, the same areas hosts similar circular arrangement such as the one found in China. They're missile test ranges to record weapon effects, one expert told the Telegraph.