Nokia N900 Smartphone

Mobile Crunch says they’ve got the scoop on Nokia’s next MID, the follow up to the N810. Called the Nokia N900 (it might also be called the “Rover”, or “Maemo Flagship”), it sports an overall smaller form factor but the same 3.5-inch touchscreen found in the N810 with a higher resolution of 800×480. Under the hood is an OMAP3430 500/600 Mhz processor and much like many of today’s handheld devices it includes an accelerometer and aGPS.

What really separates the N900 from the N810 is that this is in fact a full blown smartphone with GSM Quad-Band and WCDMA connectivity. Although their leaked documents don’t explicitly read T-Mobile they believe that the instances of “TMO” reffer to the carrier and if true mean an international launch date of July and the US following in August or September and the EU in October.

Other specs for the handset include the Maemo 5 OS, 32GB of internal storage, Firefox browser, video capture, back ground processes (run multiple programs at once), WiFi, HSPA, Flash compatibility and more.

Although it’s not unlikely that Nokia will release a new iteration of the N800 device, I have a hard time believing that it would arrive this soon and still include a QWERTY keyboard. Of note, the above image is a rendered image from the leaked images - Mobile Crunch didn’t wanna burn their source by releasing what might have been watermarked pictures.


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Google Homepage With Yellow Ribbon

Why does Google have a yellow ribbon on their homepage today? It’s because it’s Memorial Day in the US. Wikipedia writes, “Memorial Day is a United States federal holiday observed on the last Monday of May (May 25 in 2009). Formerly known as Decoration Day, it commemorates U.S. men and women who died while in the military service.” In the past, certain groups and people criticized Google for not changing their logo on this day, while others have congratulated Google for ignoring the holiday.

The Google homepage also showed ribbons of other colors before. A red ribbon was put up on World AIDS day, and a black ribbon was put up during bomb attacks in Madrid in 2004, and London in 2005.


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Capcom: Resident Evil 5

Capcom CFO Kazuhiko Abe has revealed that sales of Resident Evil 5 are at 4.97 million and swiftly rising, as the companies raises its continued estimates for the game on "very strong demand".

Talking at the Reuters Global Technology Summit in Tokyo, the Capcom CFO revealed that the firm sold 4.4 million units of RE5 just in its launch month of March 2009, according to a Reuters report.

He also revealed sales of the title of 570,000 units in April, bringing its total to 4.97 million, and making it almost certain that the title has topped 5 million units sold worldwide as of press time.

Capcom has just reported encouraging financials for the year ending March 2009, with revenues up 11% to ¥91.9 billion ($926.67 million), and net income up 3.3% to ¥8 billion ($80.77 million).

Resident Evil 5 and Street Fighter IV both launched in Capcom's fiscal Q4 following the crowded holiday season. Capcom described Resident Evil 5, at the time of the results, as a "mega hit," as the game's initial shipment was four million units.

The Resident Evil franchise overall has now sold 40 million units, and Abe also indicated that it's upping its estimates for Resident Evil 5 in the April 2009-March 2010 period from 800,000 to 1 million units worldwide, thanks to the strong April performance.


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Bing: Microsoft Launching

Microsoft, acknowledging its weakness in the web search market, plans a major ad campaign and rebrand for its Live Search product this Spring, essentially mounting an ad war against Google and Yahoo.

While the name of the new challenger has yet to be confirmed, an AdAge article published today suggests the rebrand might include a name change to “Bing”, along with an $80 to $100 million ad campaign. Google, by comparison, spent a total of $25 million on ads in 2008. Ads will appear on the web, TV, radio, newspapers and magazines.

AdAge writes:

People with knowledge of the planned push said the ads won’t go after Google, or Yahoo for that matter, by name. Instead, they’ll focus on planting the idea that today’s search engines don’t work as well as consumers previously thought by asking them whether search (aka Google) really solves their problems. That, Microsoft is hoping, will give consumers a reason to consider switching search engines, which, of course, is one of Bing’s biggest challenges….

Indeed, data show that about 65% of people are satisfied or very satisfied with online search. But Microsoft sees an opening on its own proprietary search data: 42% of searches require refinement, and 25% of clicks are the back button.

We’d like to think that what matters in search is the results: Google wins simply because it provides a better experience, serving up the information we want faster and with less effort than rival search engines.


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American in Spotlight at Suu Kyi Trial in Myanmar

Yangon - The middle-aged American man whose nighttime swim to visit democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi may cost her a chance at freedom came into fuzzy focus Thursday, as a court in Myanmar showed a home movie he allegedly shot at her lakeside residence.

However, few outsiders were able to view the unique video because the court again closed the proceedings, barring reporters and diplomats after allowing them to attend a single session on Wednesday.

The May 3 visit of John W. Yettaw, of Falcon, Missouri, who was not invited to Suu Kyi's lakeside compound, has ensnared her in a legal mess that could sink her chances of ending six years of continuous detention without trial. She has spent more than 13 of the past 19 years locked up because of her opposition to the country's military government.

Suu Kyi, two female members of her party who live with her under house arrest, and the 53-year-old Yettaw are being tried together for violating the conditions of her detention order, which bans visitors without official permission. The offense is punishable by up to five years' imprisonment.

Suu Kyi had been scheduled to be freed May 27, after which the law does not appear to allow her to be held.

The charges against her are widely seen as a pretext for the government to keep her detained through polls it has scheduled for next year as the culmination of a "roadmap to democracy," which has been criticized as a fig leaf for continued military rule.

Suu Kyi's supporters suspect some kind of trickery by the junta was behind Yettaw's intrusion, while his family insists he is a well-meaning admirer who merely wanted to interview her, unaware of the possible consequences.

Suu Kyi's lawyers have said that she told the uninvited guest to leave, but that she allowed him to stay for two days after he pleaded that he was too ill and tired to return across the lake.

The evidence introduced so far at the trial so far raises more questions than answers about Yettaw. Among those not yet explored by the court: How did he make a first visit late last year without being detected by authorities?

On Thursday, the prosecution spent almost two hours showing a video said to have been shot by Yettaw at Suu Kyi's house during his latest visit, according to one of her lawyers, Nyan Win. The video had a voice-over, apparently by Yettaw, which was translated into the Myanmar language in the courtroom.

"The video taken by Mr. Yettaw showed the portrait of Gen. Aung San (Myanmar's independence hero and Suu Kyi's father), a bookshelf and Mr. Yettaw himself standing in front of the portrait of Gen. Aung San.

© Reuters / Kerek Wongsa
A Myanmar activist holds a portrait of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi during a protest outside the Chinese embassy in Bangkok May 24, 2009.

"He was saying he is now in Yangon, at Aung San Suu Kyi's house and that he asked permission to film Aung San Suu Kyi but she refused. 'She looked nervous and I am sorry for that,' he was saying that, in his video," Nyan Win told reporters.

On Wednesday, 23 objects seized from Suu Kyi's house were presented as evidence, the most striking items being two black cloaks or robes described as being of a type worn by Muslim women, along with scarves to cover the face, two long skirts, and sunglasses.

Clearly implying that they could be used in an escape attempt, the prosecutor asked the police officer who seized the items whether "If a person wears this woman's Muslim dress and sunglasses, will you be able to identify the person?" The officer replied "No.'

Yettaw on Wednesday also offered the first public clue to the motive for his actions, suggesting in a courtroom exchange that he had a premonition someone would try to kill the pro-democracy leader, according to Nyan Win, who attended the proceedings.

He asked his lawyer to question a policeman who was testifying whether the officer had been told by Suu Kyi that he said to her, "In my vision, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi will be assassinated, so I came here." The lawyer asked permission to pose that question, but the court declined to allow it.

His wife, Betty Yettaw, has said her husband wanted to talk to Suu Kyi as part of his research on forgiveness and resilience.

"He's a very peaceloving person, well-meaning, forgiving, mild-mannered. He meant the very best for her," she told The Associated Press. She said he had been "somewhat troubled" due to several tragedies in his life, including the death of a teenage son several years ago.

A part-time contractor, he receives veterans' disability payments for injuries suffered many years ago while serving in the U.S. military.
Slideshow Link

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The Taleban will wind up like the Tamil Tigers by 2010

COLOMBO (AFP) – Sri Lanka's Tamil Tigers have admitted for the first time that their leader was killed by government troops a week ago, but the remnants of the rebels appeared split over the future of their struggle.

Well, not so breaking. But the mainstream media appears to not be concerned with the ending of an over 30 year civil war. This is slightly surprising because in the struggle the United States finds itself in, with American forces under routine suicide attack... would think we would care about the pioneers of the modern day suicide belt being defeated.


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Obama,Netanyahu - the alternative

We'd call this week's White House meeting between President Obama and the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, a draw. Mr. Netanyahu promised to promote Palestinian independence as a basis for a state. Whether or not he mentioned "two state solution" is really irrelevant as even moderate leaders Fatah, can't bring themselves to acknowledge the right of a Jewish state to exist in the Middle East. Mr. Obama promised that his patience with Iran, and its nuclear ambitions, was limited, but aside from promising harsh sanctions if Iran doesn't restrain its ambitions promised no teeth to prevent Iran from developing these dangerous weapons.
A draw was probably the best that could be hoped for -- and far less than is needed. But it is unserious to classify the meeting as a draw. It reflects narrow thinking, which believes that diplomacy is simply a matter of who scored the most points, rather than who presented the best way forward. It's not clear that the President has done that.

Mr. Obama has concluded that to succeed in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, the United States must repair its relations with the Muslim world. This is putting the cart before the horse. For too long the Muslim world has used the Arab-Israeli conflict as an excuse for acting against American interests and as a cover for its own failings.

The Israeli leader is not likely to make that easy. His coalition government -- which reflects a broad consensus of Israeli society -- must be respected. If the Muslim world refuses to acknowledge our democratic ally we must stand by Israel.That will not be politically popular in the Muslim world, but it is in its best interest.

Mr. Obama also needs to rally Arab states to treat Israel appropriately. We don't agree with every Israeli policy and don't expect them to. However, whatever mistakes Israel makes, do not render it illegitimate. The Arab world must normalize relations with Israel, and rejecting those who refuse to accept Israel's right to exist. It's hypocritical to hold Israel responsible for the Palestinian failure to build the institutions of governance, while denying the right to vote their own populations. Palestinians must do more to prove that they are capable of self-government.

Mr. Netanyahu is, not surprisingly, uncomfortable with Mr. Obama's decision to test Tehran with an offer of negotiations. The Israelis are right that time is clearly on Iran's side.

The current plan is for the United States to join the Europeans and Russia in talks with Iran, right after Iran's June presidential elections. There is the possibility of bilateral talks to follow. Mr. Obama said he would assess progress by year's end. If diplomacy is moving forward, he should resist pressure to shut it down prematurely. We hope he is using the time now to prepare Europe and Russia for the necessity of military action if this effort fails.

Mr. Obama is scheduled to meet with Mr. Abbas at the White House next week and to give a major speech in Cairo on June 4. Aides are discouraging rumors that he will use that speech to lay out an American peace plan. With so many watching, he must speak honestly with the Muslim world, and encourage it to embrace freedom and reject antisemitism as official state ideologies.

George W. Bush, the first president to outline the responsibilities the Palestinians and the Arab world had for creating a state of Palestine never followed through sufficiently. Mr. Obama must do better.


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Cyclone kills 17 people in India and Bangladesh

KOLKATA, INDIA - At least 17 people were killed in eastern India and Bangladesh on Monday when a cyclone slammed into coastal areas and triggered tidal surges and flooding, leaving thousands homeless, officials said.

Authorities shut down operations at Bangladesh's main ports of Chittagong and Mongla as the storm bearing winds of up to 100 kph (60 mph) hit the neighbouring eastern Indian state of West Bengal.

Heavy rains triggered by the storm raised river levels and burst mud embankments in West Bengal's Sundarbans Tiger Reserve, which holds thousands of people as well as the world's biggest tiger reserve. At least 10 people died in the storm in West Bengal, mostly due to house collapses or falling trees, officials said.

Tourists were asked to stay in their hotels in West Bengal's southern coastal resort of Digha, four hours drive from Kolkata.

Tidal waves triggered by the storm in the Bay of Bengal damaged thousands of houses in Bangladesh, in mostly Khulna district near the Sundarbans. At least seven people were killed in storm surges and house collapses, officials said.

"Thousands of families have been moved to shelters and many left on their own," said Salahuddin Chowdhury, an official of the Cyclone Preparedness Centre in Chittagong.


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Bharti and S.Africa's MTN in merger talks

India's Bharti Airtel and South Africa's MTN are planning a USD 61 billion merger. The new telecoms giant would span Africa, Asia and the Middle East. The previous attempt at merger failed a year ago.
The merger would create the world's third biggest cell phone group by subscribers through the combination of India's biggest operator and MTN, which runs networks across 21 markets in Africa and the Middle East.
The largest mobile operators are China Mobile and Vodafone. The combined entity would have 200 million users with annual sales of USD 20 million.
The companies have said discussions were at an early stage and the firms had set an exclusivity deadline of July 31.


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A small bomb goes off outside a Starbucks store in New York City

The small improvised explosive device detonated outside the Starbucks at Third Ave. and E. 92nd St. in New York at 3:30 a.m. Monday, shattering the coffee shop's windows and raising fears of terrorism. || Read "Small bomb goes off outside Upper East Side Starbucks"
> The New York Post reports: A man who saw two teens running away right after the explosion says: "I believe it's just kids pissed off at Starbucks for selling coffee for $2."


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Call of Duty Game: Modern Warfare 2

I’m a big fan of the Call of Duty franchise and am looking forward to the game’s next installment which is due out this fall. Infinity Ward posted a Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 trailer and I’m sold.
I’ll probably end up buying a copy of this game for each gaming platform I own.
If you plan on playing Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 on a notebook computer you’ll need a beefy graphics card, fast processor and plenty of RAM if you want to play with high settings. The game will still run on more affordable notebooks, but don’t expect to get the full 3D experience and high frame rates.
Check out the trailer below.


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Civil War memorial controversy

WASHINGTON (CNN) — President Barack Obama decided to continue a controversial presidential tradition of honoring southern Civil War soldiers Monday by sending a wreath to Arlington National Cemetery’s Confederate Memorial, according to the White House.

The president also decided, however, to start what may become a new tradition by sending a wreath to the African-American Civil War Memorial at Vermont Avenue and U Street Northwest in Washington.

Critics had called for an end to the longtime presidential practice of laying a wreath at the Confederate site. Last week, roughly five dozen professors sent a letter to Obama calling the tradition offensive to African-Americans.

Some observers recently suggested adding the recognition of the African-American memorial as a possible compromise.

Monday morning, the president made the traditional visit to Arlington’s Tomb of the Unknown Soldier to place a wreath.

In addition to the Confederate Memorial and the African-American Civil War Memorial, wreaths also were sent to be placed on the mast of the USS Maine and the Spanish-American War Memorial, both in Arlington National Cemetery.
–CNN’s Emily Schultze contributed to this report


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Lakers 101, Nuggets 120: Postgame 4

L.A. knew the recipe for success heading into Game 4 in Denver: try to sustain the home team’s inevitable early energy, stay close on the scoreboard and out-execute the Nuggets in the fourth to try and steal a second-straight road win.

Pau and Kobe
Yet what the Lakers had no answer for, even if assistant coach Frank Hamblen warned of it before the game, was a terrific bench effort from Denver, who got 42 points from its pine to overwhelm the Lakers and even the series at two heading back to Los Angeles.

Without question, it’s a tough task to take two consecutive home games from a good playoff team, particularly when fatigue was thought to be an issue for the purple and gold heading into the contest. That Denver had to work its collective behind off against a tired purple and gold squad in staving off a 3-1 series deficit was well-defined by its 58-40 edge on the glass, including 20 offensive rebounds that produced 23 second-chance points.

Throughout the game, the Nuggets sustained their effort to open up leads only to see the Lakers hang a few buckets at the other end to stay in the game. The Lakers trailed by three after one and seven after two, but ultimately, the visitors couldn’t keep up, and the Nuggets were able to protect an 11-point lead they’d built into the fourth.

Before the game, George Karl had this to say about L.A.’s legs and his bench: “Fatigue is a part of a playoff series if it goes for a long time … I hope that does become a factor, because I think right now our bench has a little more confidence.”

That certainly proved true, particularly from Chris Andersen - who grabbed 14 boards and blocked two shots in 24 minutes - and J.R. Smith, who put in 24 points with four assists. The Lakers, on the other hand, got little from their bench, relying instead on Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol to carry the day on some tired All-Star legs. Though both were terrific - Bryant scored 34 points with seven boards and five assists while Gasol put up 21 points, 10 boards, four assists and three blocks - their lack of support ultimately doomed the Lakers.

Still, there was no panic in the postgame locker room, as the Lakers knew Denver had to completely empty its tank on Monday before taking a flight to L.A. for Wednesday’s Game 5 at STAPLES Center. There, the Lakers feel like they’ll be the team with the extra skip in their step.

Until then, some numbers:

Missed shot in seven attempts for Andrew Bynum, for whom Denver didn’t have an answer in the paint. Bynum scored 14 points, grabbed five boards and blocked a shot, though he did get caught behind the play a few times en route to five personal fouls.

Fourth quarter technicals called on the Nuggets (J.R. Smith, Carmelo Anthony and Kenyon Martin drew one each). Also the number of days it rained in Denver during L.A.’s stay.

Turnovers for the Nuggets, which helped keep the Lakers to just five fastbreak points.

Denver’s advantage in the paint, from where it outscored the Lakers 52-34.

Offensive boards from the Nuggets, to just nine from the Lakers. This stat as much as any showed Denver’s energy level.

Three-pointers attempted by the Lakers, who converted on nine (29 percent).

Bench points for the Nuggets, compared to 22 for L.A.

Free throws taken by the Nuggets, including 31 in the second half. L.A. attempted 35 from the charity stripe.

Times Denver’s Detroit-style PA announcer annoyed the band of Lakers fans who made the trip from Los Angeles. Swiping the “Chauncey Buh Buh Buh Billups” line from the Pistons probably wasn’t a California favorite.

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Nokia Ovi Store in Australia

Nokia has soft launched its Ovi Store downloads store to handsets in Australia and around the world, providing a direct application download to several various models of the company’s handsets.

The store itself is a free application download from Nokia to compatible Nokia handsets, which include the E71, E75, 5800 XpressMusic, 5310 XM and 5220 XM handsets. Nokia estimates the reach of the new Ovi store to be around 50 million mobile phone users worldwide.

Those interested in installing the new Ovi client can find it in the Downloads folder on their phone's main menu. To use the store, Nokia handset owners must first create an Ovi profile at the Ovi website. When purchasing an app customers will have the choice to pay via their phone bill, or by selecting a form of credit card payment. Phone billing is available to Telstra, Vodafone, Optus and Crazy John's customers only.

Nokia showed the Ovi store first at CES earlier this year, announcing that the store will be pre-installed on the upcoming Nokia N97 smartphone, expected to be released in the first half of June. The store features application downloads to Nokia handsets submitted to the store by third-party developers, but unlike Apple's App Store, Ovi also includes audio and video content, as well as ringtones and wallpapers.


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Jay Bennett, Former Wilco , Dies At 45 yrs

URBANA, Illinois — Jay Bennett, a former member of the band Wilco, has died at age 45, according to his record label.

"We are profoundly saddened to report that our friend died in his sleep ... Jay was a beautiful human being who will be missed," read the posting Sunday on Undertow Music Collective's Web site.

Wilco lead singer Jeff Tweedy said in a statement Monday he was "deeply saddened" by Bennett's death.

Tweedy said Bennett made significant contributions to Wilco's songs and the band's evolution. He said Bennett would be remembered "as a truly unique and gifted human being."

Bennett died at his Urbana home early Sunday, friend and fellow musician Edward Burch told the Chicago Sun-Times.

Champaign County Coroner Duane Northrup said an autopsy was scheduled for Tuesday.

Bennett worked as a sound engineer and played instruments for Wilco from 1994 to 2001.

Earlier this month, Bennett sued Tweedy, claiming he was owed royalties for songs during his seven years and five albums with the group.

In the breach-of-contract lawsuit filed in Cook County Circuit Court, Bennett also claimed that he deserved money from the band's 2002 documentary, "I Am Trying to Break Your Heart." The film documents the making of Wilco's album "Yankee Hotel Foxtrot."


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North Korea Conducted Nuclear Test

SEOUL, South Korea — The United Nations swiftly condemned North Korea for its test of a powerful nuclear bomb, and South Korean announced Tuesday it would join a U.S.-led initiative to intercept ships suspected of spreading weapons of mass destruction.

The U.N. Security Council said the test was a "clear violation" of a 2006 resolution banning North Korea from conducting nuclear development, and that it would start work immediately on a new resolution that could result in even stronger measures.

Russian officials said the nuclear bomb that the North detonated underground Monday was comparable to those that obliterated Hiroshima and Nagasaki, raising fears that the communist country could spread such technology abroad.

In a further sign of the North's mounting standoff with the world, a report said the country was likely preparing to fire short-range missiles Tuesday off its western coast.

South Korea's Yonhap news agency, citing a defense source it did not identify, said North Korea banned ships from waters off its western coast and would probably fire short-range missiles as early as Tuesday.

A Defense Ministry spokesman in Seoul said he was aware of the report though could not confirm it. He added that the North has routinely issued such shipping bans at this time of year due to military exercises.

South Korean spy chief Won Sei-hoon told lawmakers Tuesday that North Korea fired a ground-to-ship missile from its eastern coast Monday and there is a possibility of another missile launch, according to the office of opposition lawmaker Park Young-sun, who attended the closed-door session.

President Barack Obama told South Korean President Lee Myung-bak that the United States will protect his country from any possible North Korean aggression, Lee's spokesman Lee Dong-kwan said after the two leaders spoke by telephone Tuesday.


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Star Trek: The Original Series :Movie Review

As a self-described "Trekker" since "Star Trek: The Original Series" first warped into syndication, the prospect of this movie inspired in me feelings of both keen anticipation and dread. For years, many of us Trek fans have wanted a movie about the Starfleet Academy days of the original crew, but we wanted it to be true to the spirit of "Star Trek" while adhering to established canon.

Nowadays, however, such sentiments are likely to cause you to be labeled a "diehard Trek supergeek" and berated for being such a dour spoilsport nitpicking over details instead of sitting back and letting this flashy new thing carry you off on a wave of giddy delirium. Well, I don't mind being called a geek, but when other geeks call me a geek, then they need to shut up. In other words, you really can't point out the mote of dust in someone else's eye if you have an action figure stuck in yours.

Anyway, I went to see director J.J. Abrams' big, new, glittering, pulsating, eye-popping STAR TREK movie today, and I must say first of all that it is a grandly entertaining cherry-red fire engine of a space flick. Watching it is like getting up on Christmas morning and finding out that Santa Claus really went all out on your house because you were extra good that year. There's an endless parade of stunningly imaginative set design, amazing special effects, and some action setpieces that made me glad sci-fi movies were invented. The new USS Enterprise looks great on the outside, and the bright, snazzy interiors felt like home after I had some time to settle into them.

Best of all, there was actually a story buzzing around amidst all these cool state-of-the-art visuals. It involves an enormous Romulan warship that has elements of both (a scaled down) V'ger from STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURE and the Romulan warship "The Scimitar" from STAR TREK: NEMESIS, and a vengeful Romulan commander named Nero (Eric Bana) who is reminiscent of the vengeful Khan from STAR TREK: THE WRATH OF KHAN and the vengeful Romulan commander Shinzon from STAR TREK: NEMESIS. (An aside: the widely-reviled NEMESIS is one of my favorite Trek movies. Shows you what I know.) So basically, Nero is really pissed-off, he hates Earth, he hates Vulcan, he has a practically invincible starship that can travel through time and destroy worlds, and he's coming to get us. Check.

Meanwhile, we get to see young Kirk and Spock in their formative years, with Kirk a rebellious orphan born in battle and raised in Iowa, and Spock the half-Vulcan, half-human misfit who's unsure which path to take in life and must suffer discriminatory taunts from his full-Vulcan peers. Spock chooses to enter Starfleet (partly to spite the smug Vulcan tight-asses who patronizingly deem him fit to attend the Vulcan Science Academy despite his "inadequacies") while Kirk stumbles into it like a bull in a china closet.

We see Kirk cheating his way through that fabled Kobiyashi Maru test, meeting Spock under less-than-friendly circumstances, hitting on Uhura, and being whisked into a frantic mission to rescue the planet Vulcan from oblivion even though he's been suspended from duty, thanks to an obliging Dr. Leonard "Bones" McCoy. Once aboard the Enterprise, of course, it isn't long before the young hot-shot proves himself Alpha Male #1 and is sitting in the captain's chair. But first, he must get forcibly ejected from the Enterprise in an escape pod, meet both Scotty and the original Leonard Nimoy version of Spock on an ice planet, get beamed back aboard the Enterprise during warp, and fight to the near-death against Spock to prove the emotion-prone Vulcan unfit for command.

Just how much of this sticks to that pesky "Star Trek" canon that us diehard supergeeks are so nitpicky about becomes irrelevent as soon as the time travel factor enters the equation. Nimoy's "Spock Prime" is there to remind us that whatever happened between the moment the TV series first became a gleam in Gene Roddenberry's eye to the last time Patrick Stewart said "Make it so" is now part of a different timeline that has gone on its merry way into history. Thanks to the Romulan villain Nero and his temporal meddling, we now have a Star Trek universe in which most of the old characters are still there but in which anything can happen.

This rules out what many of us have wished for over the years--a retro-Trek origin story that accurately sets up the later adventures with a steadfast adherence to continuity--but maybe by this point it's not such a bad approach to take. I certainly don't like the idea of ignoring the old fans who have been loyal to Star Trek for all these decades and courting new ones who don't care about its history. Indeed, if it weren't for us the show would've died back in the late 60s and we wouldn't even be discussing it as a big-budget summer blockbuster here in the 21st century.

But after seeing this modern reboot, and being, frankly, dazzled by it, I must say that J.J. Abrams and company seem to have had the old fans well in mind every step of the way. There's an awful lot about this movie that can only be appreciated by viewers who are already familiar with the characters and their history. And seeing all the little details fall into place, even if the fit is a good deal different this time around, is a satisfying experience.

As a film, STAR TREK is killer entertainment that starts out with a bang and doesn't let up. The pre-titles sequence is awesome, with the USS Kelvin under the command of Captain George Kirk going up against Nero's ship in a hopelessly one-sided battle while his wife is in sickbay giving birth to their son James. Later, there's a thrilling parachute freefall involving Kirk and Sulu over the planet Vulcan which leads to aerial hand-to-hand combat atop a drilling platform suspended miles in the air. (In one of several nods to the original series, Sulu even gets to display his fencing prowess here.) The space battles which occur throughout the film are intense, action-packed, and beautifully rendered. And as in Spock's demise in WRATH OF KHAN and the destruction of the Enterprise in THE SEARCH FOR SPOCK, there are a couple of major death scenes here that are stunning and totally unexpected.

Perhaps the most important element in this film's success or failure is in the casting. Chris Pine captures the brash arrogance and boyish likability of James T. Kirk without doing a full-on Shatner impression, while Zachary Quinto seems to have been born to play the young Spock. Other actors--Zoe Saldana as Uhura, John Cho as Sulu, and Simon Pegg as Scotty--convey the essence of their characters while bearing little resemblance to their predecessors. As Pavel Chekov, Anton Yelchin manages to actually make me like the character for the first time ever, giving the proceedings a hefty dose of highly-effective comedy relief. Ben Cross and Winona Ryder aren't great as Spock's parents, but they're pretty good, and Bruce Greenwood makes a fine Captain Christopher Pike. Best of all, however, is Karl Urban as Leonard McCoy. He inhabits the role as though somehow possessed by the late DeForest Kelley, and it's a real pleasure to watch him forming an instant kinship with Kirk, developing his adversarial relationship with Spock, and saying things like "Dammit, I'm a doctor, not a physicist!" for the first time.

Somehow, though, I didn't find the film all that cathartic at the end. Maybe repeated viewings will change this, I don't know. It just didn't seem to do that "climax" and "denouement" thing as successfully as an adventure of this magnitude should, leaving me somewhat less than ecstatic after the fadeout. It could be that this hyperkinetic, visually intoxicating thrill ride lacked the kind of deep, emotional resonance that previous "Star Trek" movies have always had to one degree or another. Maybe these revamped characters and this rebooted universe are so new and unfamiliar that they aren't yet capable of making us feel the old magic. Maybe the emphasis on flash and sensation gives the whole enterprise a slightly superficial quality. Or, most likely, maybe we'll just have to wear this new pair of shoes for awhile before they start to feel as comfortable as the old ones.


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ASEAN says Suu Kyi trial a 'grave concern'

BANGKOK, May 19 - Myanmar's Southeast Asian neighbours expressed "grave concern" on Tuesday at the trial of democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi, but the chair of their regional group, Thailand, ruled out sanctions.

As a "responsible" member of the 10-member Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), Myanmar "has the responsibility to protect and promote human rights", Thailand's government said in a statement.

"It is therefore called upon to provide timely and adequate medical care to Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, as well as to accord her humane treatment with dignity," it said, noting the generals had ignored ASEAN's previous calls to free her.

Suu Kyi, whose latest detention began in May 2003, is charged with violating the terms of her house arrest after an American intruder spent two days in her home this month. The trial started on Monday and was due to resume today.

Critics say the charges, which could see her jailed for five years, are aimed at keeping the Nobel Peace laureate in detention until after elections in 2010. She has denied the charges.

Since joining ASEAN in 1997, the generals have been a thorn in the group's relations with the West, which has repeatedly urged ASEAN to exert more pressure on the regime.

Critics fear a proposed human rights body under a new ASEAN charter signed in 2007 will have no teeth, given the charter's commitment to the group's mantra of non-interference.

Thailand, which holds the rotating chair of ASEAN, said the group was ready to "contribute constructively" to national reconciliation and a peaceful transition to democracy in Myanmar.

But it also warned that with the eyes of the world on Myanmar, "the honour and credibility of the Government of the Union of Myanmar are at stake".

The military has ignored the international outrage over Suu Kyi's trial as it pushes ahead with a "roadmap to democracy" expected to culminate in elections next year. The West calls it a sham aimed at entrenching the military's grip on the country.


The European Union threatened tougher sanctions against the regime on Monday, four days after the United States renewed its measures against the military government.

But some EU ministers said Asian countries could exert a stronger influence on Myanmar. They planned to discuss the situation with their Asian counterparts at a meeting of foreign ministers in Hanoi next week.

The Europeans are unlikely to secure tough measures from ASEAN, which has shunned sanctions in favour of engaging the generals, although neither policy has worked over the years.

China and India - which have strong commercial ties to the impoverished but resource-rich former Burma - have been silent on Suu Kyi's trial.

Thailand, which shares a 1,800 km border with Myanmar and is a major trading partner, has made clear sanctions are not an option.

"Thailand will not use strong measures or economic sanctions against Myanmar because it is not an appropriate resolution for the current problem," Foreign Ministry official Chavanond Intarakomalyasut told reporters yesterday.

Aside from Thailand and Myanmar, ASEAN's membership includes Singapore, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei and the Philippines.


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48 Per Cent Disapprove of San Fran Nan’s Speakership

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is now as popluar as the Congressional GOP and sinking fast.
Nearly half of all Americans — 48 percent — disapprove of how the California Democrat she is handling her job as Speaker of the House in a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll released Monday, while 39 percent approve of her performance.

ra635686436jpgx400y299q 48 Per Cent Disapprove of San Fran Nans Speakership
That rating makes her less popular than other members of her party — congressional Democrats drew a 51 percent approval rating in last month’s CNN/ORC survey — and roughly in line with the congressional GOP, which drew positive ratings in April from just 39 percent of those polled.

That puts her approval rating at roughly the levels Newt Gingrich had in his first year as Speaker of the House. (Back in 1995, Gingrich’s approval rating was 37 percent; by 1997 — at the same point in his speakership that Pelosi is now — that had dropped to just 25 percent.)

The telephone poll of 1,010 Americans was conducted May 14-17, and has a sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.


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Rapper “Dolla” Killed Outside Of Los Angeles Mall

Atlanta-based rapper Roderick Anthony Burton II, aka “Dolla,” was fatally shot yesterday.

The shooting went down at approximately 3:10 pm in the valet area of the Beverly Center, and the alleged killer drove away in a silver Mercedes SUV. Thankfully, police arrested the alleged killer at LAX.

This seems soooo Notorious B.I.G. / Tupac. Rapper shootings are lame and sad.


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Jon Gruden: Monday Night Football

Gruden replacing Kornheiser on MNF team. ESPN

Pens hold off ‘Canes for 1-0 lead in East finals. FOX Sports

LB Harrison to skip Steelers’ White House visit. Sportsline

2009 Is Year Undie Runs Started To Include Dance Contests At University Of Texas.Busted Coverage

For Once, The San Francisco Giants Do Something Smart With Their Money. Deadspin

Nuggets, WWE Fighting Over Pepsi Center Time. Sports By Brooks

Former NBA star Brian Grant deals with diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease. Ballhype

Top 10 NBA-Celebrity Look-a-likes. The Hoop Doctors

Bresnan and Anderson rout Windies. Cricinfo

Michael Irvin Takes Care of Paralyzed Scout, Pumps His New Reality Show. Fanhouse

Who should be Chelsea’s manager next season? The Spoiler


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American Idol Contestants Kris Allen & Adam Lambert First Press Conference

The remaining contestants of American Idol season 8 Adam Lambert and Kris Allen had their first press conference at the Nokia Theater yesterday. The question that was everybody mind if Adam was straight or gay wasn't even asked (shocker), guess they won't "reveal" it yet till the season is over cause they don't want to "ruin" his image to young girls yet but we already know he's gay. When Adam was asked if he wanted to give out anymore secrets about Kris, he said there is nothing else to tell. Why is it all about Adam and not Kris. I hate how the press is throwing Kris under the bus when he is the better one out of the two and will be successful when the season is over. Anyways, check out the interview they did at the Nokia theater yesterday below courtesy of E online.

Kris, there's been talk that since you are active in your church, that the Christian vote is helping you. What do you think of it?
Kris Allen: I hope that having the Christian vote does not help with anything. I hope it has to do with the talent and the performance that you give. It's not about religion and all that kind of stuff.
Adam Lambert: This is a singing competition, not a church thing.

Kris: Yeah, totally.
Adam: I would hope people vote based on what they like to hear. I don't think it has anything to do with your religious background, what color you are, gender. It doesn’t have anything to do with that.

Do you have any pre-show rituals leading up to the big night?
Adam: Just get some sleep, which has been tough. We both are used to a lot lower pressure situations…a little bit. I think we're both really excited.
Kris: I'm just gonna spend a little bit of time alone and make sure that I'm focused.

Adam, what did you think of Katy Perry putting your name on her cape last week?
Adam: Oh wow, I mean, I'm a huge Katy Perry fan so that was really cool to see my name. I don't know. She might have been making a double reference to Elvis. I don't know what she was doing. It was very clever. And, it was incredibly flattering. It made my night.

Adam, a lot has been made about your professional experience. What do you think about it and Kris, what do you think about how much experience Adam has come into this with?
Adam: Well, um, this isn't theater. So I don't really see how it affects it at all. I mean, obviously I've had experience onstage performing, but so has Kris just in different venues. Kris has worked with a band. I've worked in theater. We both have experience. I think the thing that is really cool about this competition is that it's an equal opportunity situation. It doesn't matter. The only rule that is set up is that you cannot be in a recording contract. And, American Idol has played by those rules and so have we.
Kris: He's done the theater thing…and, me, I've had as much experience as he has just not in Wicked.

How do you protect your voices before two big shows like these?
Kris: Don't talk too much and don't sing too much right now.
Adam: I think during rehearsals we try not to push it. We're kind of holding back a bit for rehearsals.
Kris: Texting more than talking on the phone.
Adam: On our AT&T phones. [Laughs]

Do you have any superstitions going into the finale?
Kris: I don't, personally. Just make sure that I'm focused. That's it for me.
Adam: I'm not very superstitious either. The one thing I will say for me is that I try to think all in positives, nothing negative. Positive thought is really powerful. Like we said a million times, Kris and I are friends. At this point, we both feel like we've already won. We've arrived. We've gotten to the finales. We get to do a great show tomorrow and on Wednesday. We're just going to enjoy it.

On a scale of 1-10, how nervous are you?
Adam: Five.
Kris: Five or six.
Adam: I'll get more nervous right before.
Kris: Yeah, tomorrow we'll be like 10.

How do you size each other up?
Adam: We're just very different types of artists. And at this point, it's not about out-singing each other. It's not like a direct competition; it's about both of us staying really true to what we do.
Kris: For me, I'm not going to go out there and out-sing Adam. We are two totally different artists. I do my thing and he does his thing. And, it's whoever America votes for.

Simon recently commented on an old photo of you Adam when you were blond and said if you hadn't changed your hair to dark, you might not be where you are right now. What do you think of that?
Adam: My hair has been every color I can think of. I just like to change it up. There's blue in it right now. That's really interesting. Maybe if I was blond I wouldn't have done as well. Who knows?
Kris: And, maybe if I was blond I wouldn't have done as well?

What is your next day going to be like?
Adam: I'm going to get a really big room service breakfast. I'm gonna get a really good breakfast. Do it up right, Hollandaise sauce, the whole nine yards.

What's the best advice you've received and where do you get your strength, courage and confidence for tomorrow?
Adam: One of the biggest constructive pieces of criticism I got was from Kara [DioGuardi] who was like, 'it's great and there's no question about your voice and you look great. But, I just don't believe it.' And, so something that I've taken to heart from early in the competition is to really come into it emotionally and try to make it come from a real place. And, that's actually something that with theater that I had to kind of break my habits with. Everybody goes, 'Oh. He has an advantage because he's in theater.' It's a totally different thing than theater. You're playing to a giant audience in front of you. There's no camera up in your face. So, one of the big things I had to do was kind of turn it around and approach my material differently and make it real and make it come from my heart.
Kris: Probably the Simon [Cowell] [comments] about him giving me so much more confidence because I think at the very, very beginning of the competition I was comparing myself to everyone else and [saying] 'I don't know if I can sing like that' or 'I'm not like that person.' And, so I didn't really believe I could win it.

You guys are friends. What's a little known fact that Adam knows about Kris and Kris knows about Adam?
Adam: I think everybody knows everything now. It's kind of like everything's cracked open. I don't know if there [are] any more secrets.
Kris: We've done press before and I've talked about Adam's nail polish in the bathroom and stuff.
Adam: I've got a very messy bathroom situation. Kris has like three products and I have like every one I can get my hands on.


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Obama statements encourage Palestinian jihadists

Why shouldn't they be encouraged? PLO Ambassador to Lebanon Abbas Zaki said this last month: "With the two-state solution, in my opinion, Israel will collapse, because if they get out of Jerusalem, what will become of all the talk about the Promised Land and the Chosen People? What will become of all the sacrifices they made - just to be told to leave? They consider Jerusalem to have a spiritual status. The Jews consider Judea and Samaria to be their historic dream. If the Jews leave those places, the Zionist idea will begin to collapse. It will regress of its own accord. Then we will move forward."
"Palestinians see Obama statehood comments encouraging," from Reuters, May 18:

...After meeting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Washington, Obama said it was in the interests of both Israel and the Palestinians "to achieve a two-state solution".
Netanyahu, in his remarks after the meeting, reiterated that he supported self-government for the Palestinians but made no mention of a state, a position underscoring a rare rift in U.S.-Israeli relations.

"The statements by Mr. Obama are encouraging while those by Prime Minister Netanyahu are disappointing," Senior Abbas aide Nabil Abu Rdainah said.


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Sri Lanka: What happens now?

Via Matt Yglesias, Kevin Drum states one of the big unanswered questions about today's big news from Sri Lanka:

And now the hardest part: can the Sinhalese majority bring itself to treat the defeated Tamil minority charitably after a quarter century of brutal war and nearly 100,000 deaths? Stay tuned.

Another question, if the remaining pro-Tamil extremists do indeed return to their "guerilla roots," as many are predicting, to what extend will the internaitonal Tamil diaspora continue to fuel the conflict. Bringing in a COIN perspective, Abu Muqawama's "Carlos" gets at this question though I think he may be overstating the degree to which diaspora support for the Tigers is the result of coercion. As Nirmala Rajasingam wrote for FP last week:

The Tamil diaspora community is isolated by its own nationalism. Co-opted by the LTTE, it has made no contribution to peace. While the ravages of war encouraged Tamils in Sri Lanka to rethink the LTTE's secessionist project, the diaspora embraced it even more firmly, not having been affected by the collateral damage of that war directly.

In other words, even if the Sri Lankan government can improve conditions in the Tamil regions and bring separatists into the political process, it might not be enough if the Tamil communities abroad continue to side with the irreconcilable elements of the independence movement.

One final question, to what extent will we ever really know what happened during the last stand of the LTTE? Throughout this phase of the conflict, reliable information has been frustratingly hard to come by, with most battlefield reports and statistics coming directly from the combatants themselves.

Yes, the fact that the Sri Lankan military blocked journalists from the conflict area didn't help, but I can't help the feeling that the international media dropped the ball on this one. (Notice, for instance, that yesterday's decisive New York Times piece on the Tigers' defeat was written by reporters in New Dehli and Bangkok.)

Not that it's entirely the newspapers' fault. Given the economic realities big news organizations are facing, and the fact that this conflict flared up at the same time that Pakistan was falling into chaos and the world's biggest election was happening in India, Sri Lanka was sadly just one South Asian conflict too many. As the International Crisis Group's Andrew Stroehlein wrote a few weeks back, the battle that just ended in Sri Lanka is a pretty good preview of what a world without foreign correspondents will be like, and it's a discouraging vision.

With the conventional war ending, Sri Lanka will quickly fall from even its peripheral spot in the international media spotlight. At the same time, whatever pressure that international organizations and governments had brought to bear will also dissapate. This means that it will be entirely up to the Sinhalese and Tamil communities (and their international diasporas) to put together a full account of what happened and devise a way of moving forward that avoids more bloodshed. They're on their own now.


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Notre Dame and Obama

A nice policy to come out of the Notre Dame scandal would be a Catholic prohibition on honoring sitting politicians of any kind.

Notre Dame President Fr. Jenkins' motivation in the whole affair is obviously a just a crass desire to gain influence with a powerful man.

Any time an honorary degree or award of any kind is given to a powerful person, it's always safe to assume that the entire event is just a transaction to buy influence. Giving out the award brings a chance to have dinner with (or get attention from) the powerful honoree, and make him or her more likely to remember you: "Here, Senator So-and-so. Please accept this award for being so wonderful. Now let's go chat so I can feel important."

Fr. Jenkins is just a groupie for anyone who can make him feel important and connected, and he seized an opportunity to kiss a sitting president's back side in exchange for a little attention. It's quite sad to watch, actually, and outrageous.

Of course, the fact that Obama has ordered bombs to be dropped on women and children on numerous occasions (like Bush and Clinton before him) causes no one to bat an eye.


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