Widespread Confickr/Downadup Worm Hard To Kill

It's one of the most massive worm outbreaks in years, with around 9 million infected machines during the past few days, but it's not what the Confickr/Downadup attack does that's so scary as much as how easily the worm spread and how difficult it is to eradicate.

Confickr/Downadup is nowhere near the scope of predecessor worms like Blaster, which hit 16 million at its peak, Slammer, CodeRed, or Love Letter, but its success has been confounding to security experts at a time when worms are considered pass and an ineffective way to make money in cybercrime.

Still, the attackers behind this worm infection -- which experts say will likely be rolled into the world's biggest botnet -- apparently have found a lucrative way to cash in on a worm. They devised a sophisticated method of spreading the worm, using not a standard email lure, but initially via the Microsoft MS08-067 vulnerability in Windows and subsequently infiltrating enterprise networks and spreading through open network shares, weak passwords, and removable storage devices, such as USB sticks.

"These guys were very creative. They combined so many techniques to get it out there to the masses," says Jay Chaudhry, CEO of Zscaler.

Their biggest victims have been the enterprise, not the typical home user, experts note. And that could mean millions of enterprise bots. "There's still no botnet activity. But that could easily change at any given moment," says Patrik Runald, chief security advisor for F-Secure, which has been watching the worm closely. "These millions of PCs try to connect to hundreds of Websites daily, and the people behind this could easily change the behavior of an infected computer if they wanted to."

How did enterprises fall for a worm? Security experts say poor patch management, antivirus software shortcomings, and lack of detection of outbound command and control traffic contributed to the worm's success. The good news here, however, is that because most of the infected machines are in the enterprise, the worm should ultimately be easier to clean up in the long run. "The fact that most of these machines are on corporate networks means it should be easier to more quickly deal with it as well," notes Randy Abrams, director of technical education at Eset.

So far, however, cleanup has been complicated due to the mix of infection vectors. Even patched systems are at risk. "Even if you have patched your network/computer for the MS08-067 vulnerability, you can still get infected by the network spreading through [admin passwords] or by USB memory sticks," F-Secure's Runald says. "To prevent this, you need an up-to-date antivirus product, but as the worm blocks access to many vendors' sites, it could be that your antivirus software doesn't have the latest update."

That's why the newly updated Microsoft Malicious Software Removal Tool (MSRT) has not been widely effective in cleaning up the worm-infested machines, he says. "The worm blocks access to Windows Update," Runald says.

Adds Zscaler's Chaudhry: "The worm itself is not a big deal. The whole system whereby [it infects machines]" and gathers bots is the big threat.

Meanwhile, one of the largest spamming botnets today, Ozdok, is expanding its capabilities. Ozdok, which has 120,000 bots, is now collecting screenshots of its victims' machines, according to Joe Stewart, director of malware research for SecureWorks, which discovered thousands of screenshots on a crime server.

Stewart says capturing screenshots is nothing new for backdoor Trojans, but it's the first time a spamming botnet has been seen doing so. He says the spammers may be grabbing screenshots as a way to search for intellectual property or financial credentials.


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Where is Ivan Lendl?

My first memory of tennis is watching a dowdy, unattractive Czech play against a fiery young Blonde on the pristine grass of Wimbledon. It needed no deep knowledge of tennis to guess that the Czech wanted to win, BADLY (Im not sure if Lendl's famous grass-is-for-cows had been declared just before this battle). But even my 10 yr old untrained brain could somehow figure out that the dashing blonde would prevail. It was the summer of 86 - the year that Boris Becker became the youngest male title holder at Wimbledon. A strange presentiment told me that Lendl would never win at Wimbledon. And I think he knew it too.

I've been hooked to tennis since then. Through the years, I have frowned upon plodders like Lendl & Courier, saving my adulation instead for the breathtaking brilliance of an Edberg, an Agassi or a Federer. Now, I have much more respect for Lendl's tenacity and ambition.


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Google Measurement Lab

Google intoduce a measurement tool from measurement lab. Google challenges other Internet services proveder with measurement tool.Now Google is clearly protecting its cloud computing kingdom.

Google opened a new front in the network neutrality war between content providers and ISPs Jan. 28 by offering measurement tools to help computer users determine why their Web applications are balky.

The search company created Measurement Lab, an open platform upon which researchers can deploy Internet measurement tools, in conjunction with the New America Foundation's Open Technology Institute, the PlanetLab Consortium and academic researchers.

Google Chief Internet Evangelist Vint Cerf, one of the Internet's founding fathers, wrote in a post explaining M-Lab:

When an Internet application doesn't work as expected or your connection seems flaky, how can you tell whether there is a problem caused by your broadband ISP, the application, your PC, or something else? It can be difficult for experts, let alone average Internet users, to address this sort of question today.

Cerf added that while researchers today are working on tools to let users gauge their Internet connection speeds and see if their ISP is choking certain Web applications, so far they lack the computing, connectivity and collaboration resources to do so with any authority.

To address this gap, Google will provide researchers with 36 servers in 12 locations in the United States and Europe. Data collected from M-Lab will be made public for researchers' use.

The move is a warning to ISPs that prefer to manage their users' Web connectivity and fight with content providers over this on one of the biggest Internet battlefields: network neutrality.

Part of the House Stimulus Package approved today, net neutrality calls for service providers to have no restrictions on content, sites or platforms, and on the kinds of equipment that may be attached and the modes of communication allowed. It also calls for communication not to be stifled by other communication streams on the Web.

Google, as company whose livelihood and success is predicated on connecting users to content as quickly as possible through its search engine and on delivering quality Web applications to users, is a staunch network neutrality proponent, as are most content providers.


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Iraq To Deny Blackwater License Renewal

Iraq to deny license to Blackwater guards

BAGHDAD (Reuters) – Iraq will not renew the license of Blackwater Worldwide, the private security firm accused of killing Iraqi civilians while protecting U.S. diplomats, U.S. and Iraqi officials said Thursday.

"The operating permission for the firm Blackwater will not be renewed. Its chance is zero," said Alaa al-Taie, head of the press department at the Iraqi Interior Ministry.

"It is not acceptable to Iraqis and there are legal points against it, like killing Iraqis with their weapons."

A U.S. embassy official confirmed that the embassy had been informed that the license would not be renewed, and said it was working on finding a new arrangement to cover its security…

Blackwater employs hundreds of heavily-armed guards with a fleet of armored vehicles and helicopters to protect U.S. diplomats in Iraq. The firm boasts that no American officials have been killed while under its protection…

How many will die because of this fit of pique?

This is a victory of Anti-American propaganda over actual substance.

"It is not acceptable to Iraqis and there are legal points against it, like killing Iraqis with their weapons."

Perhaps Mr. Alaa al-Taie hasn’t noticed, but there are a lot of Iraqis who are also terrorists.

One is reminded of the 1960’s slogan, “the next time you need a cop call a hippie.” Or maybe a journalist.

Still, it will be interesting to see how long it is before Iraq quietly asks to have Blackwater back.


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Roddick vs Federer Australian Open Semi Final

Roddick vs Federer Australian Open Semi Final - Australian Open Semi Final tennis match will be played between Roddick and Federer, it looks like Federer will be champion again. This season Roddick looks quicker and stronger when compared to previous tennis matches of him. I think this is because he loss 15 pounds under new coach Larry Stefanki.

Most probably my favorite tennis player Federer will beat Roddick and will play in finals. But there is nothing definite, we will see the winner of Australian Open Semi Final when match ends. Below you can watch Roddick vs Federer Australian Open Semi Final full stream preview video from ESPN’s official website.


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Bill O'Reilly v. Jessica Alba

Alba and Fox TV show host Bill O’Reilly traded punches last week after the presidential inauguration. After Alba told a Fox reporter that O’Reilly was “kind of an a-hole;” he retaliated by calling her a “pinhead” for telling a reporter to “be Sweden about it,” assuming she meant Switzerland.

“I want to clear some things up that have been bothering me lately,” Alba blogged on MySpace Celebrity. “Last week, Mr. Bill O'Reilly and some really classy sites (i.e.TMZ) insinuated I was dumb by claiming Sweden was a neutral country. I appreciate the fact that he is a news anchor and that gossip sites are inundated with intelligent reporting, but seriously people... it's so sad to me that you think the only neutral country during WWII was Switzerland.”

Although Switzerland is more frequently cited as an example of neutrality, Sweden did indeed follow a policy of neutrality during World War II. History point to Alba.

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Serena sweeps Dementieva to advance to Australian Open final, will face Zvonareva-Safina winner

MELBOURNE, Australia - Second-seeded Serena Williams advanced to the Australian Open final, beating Elena Dementieva of Russia in straight sets.
With the roof closed at Rod Laver Arena due to outside temperatures of 111 degrees, the American beat the fourth-seeded Dementieva 6-3, 6-4 on Thursday.

Dementieva had a 3-0 lead in the second set before Williams, helped by consecutive double faults by the Russian in the fifth game, won four games in a row. After the pair exchanged service breaks, Williams held her serve to clinch the match.

Williams won the Australian Open in 2003, 2005 and 2007.

No. 3 Dinara Safina played No. 7 Vera Zvonareva in the second semifinal. The match was not complete at press time.

On the men’s side, the way Rafael Nadal sees it, one good thing will come from the first all-Spanish semifinal in a hotly contested Australian Open.

A Spaniard will reach the final.

After improving one round on each of his previous four trips to Melbourne Park, odds are it will be top-ranked Nadal, who finished off a 6-2, 7-5, 7-5 win over No. 6 Gilles Simon on Wednesday as the temperature dipped to 93 from a daytime high of 109 degrees.

Nadal will meet another Spanish left-hander for a spot in the final after Fernando Verdasco ousted 2008 runner-up Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 7-6 (2), 3-6, 6-3, 6-2.

“I think it’s incredible for us,” Nadal said. “One will be in the finals, so we have to be happy with that.”

No Spanish man has won the Australian title. Nadal reached the semifinals last year without dropping a set, but was upset by Tsonga.

He rebounded from that to win the French Open for the fourth straight time, then ended Roger Federer’s five-year reign at Wimbledon and his 237-week stretch at No. 1.

Verdasco had his time in the sun in November, when he guided Spain to victory in the Davis Cup final at Argentina while Nadal was absent, recovering from knee tendinitis.

If he thought the atmosphere was intense in Argentina, he agreed it was stifling in Melbourne. But that hasn’t stopped Verdasco from going past his best previous run of a fourth-round exit at a major.

Wednesday marked the start of what weather forecasters were predicting would be a once-in-a-century heat wave for the city. Hardy trees accustomed to a decade of drought were wilting. Dead or dying moths flopped onto the courts.

Nadal, a Majorca native, was relieved he’d been given a night match, and joked about burning his feet when he went outside to practice earlier in the afternoon.

“Believe me, I never feel the same like today when I was warming up outside,” he said. “The conditions were very hot. I couldn’t walk.”

The women’s quarterfinalists didn’t see the humor in it.

Serena Williams agreed the cool air conditioning revived her game after she’d dropped the first set against Svetlana Kuznetsova in her quarterfinal. With the temperature nudging 104, the Extreme Heat policy came into play and the stadium roof was closed.

Williams still had to work to force a third set, breaking Kuznetsova in the 10th game of the second when the Russian was serving for the match. That was the start of a dominating run, when she won nine of the next 10 games in a 5-7, 7-5, 6-1 victory.

Williams said playing in the brutal heat felt like an “out-of-body experience.” The break to close the roof after the first set had Kuznetsova fuming.

“Why should I not be?” Kuznetsova said. “Game going my way. I was very comfortable playing outside. It’s two different games.”

Williams moved within two wins of a fourth Australian title and will meet Olympic gold medalist Elena Dementieva in Thursday’s semifinals.

The fourth-seeded Dementieva beat 20-year-old Spaniard Carla Suarez Navarro 6-2, 6-2 in a match played entirely in the baking sun.

The 27-year-old Russian said she couldn’t understand the tournament’s heat policy or why the roof wasn’t closed for her game.

But the two-time Grand Slam finalist said she’ll take conditions as they came on Thursday, when she’s one of three Russians in the semis. Tournament organizers said they couldn’t make a decision on closing the roof based on forecasts and had to wait until closer to the match to decide whether to close the roof.

No. 3 Dinara Safina played No. 7 Vera Zvonareva in the second semifinal.

Federer, seeking a record-equaling 14th Grand Slam singles title to match Pete Sampras’ career record, was playing American Andy Roddick in the night semifinal.

No. 2 Federer, who is 15-2 against Roddick and 6-0 in Grand Slams, lost in the semifinals to Novak Djokovic last year. No. 7 Roddick beat Djokovic in the quarterfinals on Tuesday.

No. 14 Verdasco became the lowest ranked of the semifinalists when he beat Simon and is hoping to replicate Tsonga’s ‘08 run.

Nadal owns a 6-0 record against him, including a French Open quarterfinal last year when Verdasco won only three games. But the 22-year-old Nadal has seen vast improvement in Verdasco, who reached the final in Brisbane in a tuneup event and has now won five straight matches on hard courts for the first time.

His five-set win over Andy Murray, considered by many as a tournament favorite after recent wins over Nadal and Federer, grabbed attention.

“Fernando is playing at his best level,” Nadal said. “I never played against him when he’s playing at the level like right now, because I think he never played at this level before.”

Verdasco said the Davis Cup victory, when he had to rally from 2-1 down to win the deciding singles match, was a turning point.

“That Davis Cup, it change my life so much and gave me a lot of confidence,” the 25-year-old Verdasco said. “Mentally made me much stronger for these matches here, five-set matches, and also with a lot of pressure, because it’s a Grand Slam.

“That (win) in Argentina makes me grow up a lot.”

Until then, he was more famous for posing nude for a magazine to promote men’s health.

Verdasco did some off-season work with Gil Reyes in Las Vegas and had a two-hour discussion with Andre Agassi, a four-time Australian Open champion.

“For me, Rafa is the toughest player in five-set matches ... (and) is going to be the toughest match possible, Verdasco said.

“Right now I’m believing so much about me, about my game,” he added. “I’m feeling pretty good, and I just think that I can beat anyone.”


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Use Gmail Without an Internet Connection

With a new feature in Gmail Labs, the Google development apps, well you can now use Gmail while offline.

Basically it works by Google Gears downloading a cache of your mail, by synchronizing with Gmail’s servers

The features switches Gmail to offline mode if you have bad or none connection at all.

It also send/receives messages once a connection is detected.

Basically Google’s goal is so you can use “browser-based Gmail experience” whether you’re online or offline. Cool eh!


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Google Announces M-Lab, a New Weapon in the Net Neutrality Fight

In mid-2008 I wrote that Google was working on a net neutrality detector. On Wednesday Google finally announced the previously unnamed initiative, now called Measurement Lab (M-Lab).

The project was announced in concert with the New America Foundation's Open Technology Institute, the PlanetLab Consortium, and academic researchers. M-Lab is an open platform that researchers can use to deploy Internet measurement tools.

In other words, M-Lab is aimed at helping researchers and end users determine if their connections are being throttled or otherwise interfered with. Part of the problem is having the necessary servers to run that test, and according to Google:

Over the course of early 2009, Google will provide researchers with 36 servers in 12 locations in the U.S. and Europe. All data collected via M-Lab will be made publicly available for other researchers to build on. M-Lab is intended to be a truly community-based effort, and we welcome the support of other companies, institutions, researchers, and users that want to provide servers, tools, or other resources that can help the platform flourish.
For now, Google is providing three tools. The first, Glasnost, developed by the Max Planck Institute, I've discussed before. It tests to see if your ISP is slowing BitTorrent connections.

The second, the Network Diagnostic Tool,
provides a sophisticated speed and diagnostic test. An NDT test reports more than just the upload and download speeds -- it also attempts to determine what, if any, problems limited these speeds, differentiating between computer configuration and network infrastructure problems.
The last, Network Path and Application Diagnosis (NPAD),
diagnoses some of the common problems effecting the last network mile and end-users' systems. These are the most common causes of all performance problems on wide area network paths.
Two additional tools are listed as "coming soon." DiffProbe attempts to detect if an Internet access provider is classifying certain kinds of traffic as "low priority." Sound familiar? Yes, much like the recent de-prioritization congestion "solutions" developed by Comcast and Cox.

NANO will require an application download and install, unlike the other tests. It will attempt to detect whether an ISP is degrading the performance of a certain subset of users, applications, or destinations.

However, anything good is likely to be popular. Right now, all the tests are unusable, either because there are over 100 people waiting (NPAD), or the servers are just too busy (NDT). And naturally, at least for me, when I did reach the front of the line, the tests failed. Still a work in progress.

At least, however, when they do get things working properly, there will be a way for consumers to check up on what their ISPs are truly doing. Not that we'll have that much choice in terms of which ISP to sign up with, but at least we'll know what they're doing.


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Britney Spears in Bikini top

Britney Spears got a big jump in her career now. She is looking more confident and happy with her life. She is gaining very different and sexy figure for her new musical tour.

Britney Spears and her group practiced in Los Angeles rehearsal studio. All these photos are from her website, giving a glimpse of what you will see in her performance.
Tour will be started in March, starting in her home state of New Orleans. There will be 44 performances in four months in the U.S., Canada and London, with plans to expand to the rest of Europe.

After birth of two children and her some of mental problem, Britney was out of shape for several years. After losing 20 pounds she is happy and healthy now.

She told to the Glamour magazine that she had to work hard to get her body back as in past.

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La alta costura (también) aparca los excesos - El País, es - link (aqui)

Tras la exhibición de fuerza del septuagenario Karl Lagerfeld en Chanel, Jean Paul Gaultier, de 56 años, demostró ayer en París por qué es el más legítimo heredero de la estirpe de los grandes costureros. Mientras corrían ríos de tinta sobre el papel blanco de los tocados florales de Chanel (obra del peluquero japonés Katsuyo Kamo, el nombre más susurrado en las esperas), Gaultier mostró lo aventajado de su escritura con una colección cargada de filigranas, arabescos y recursos caligráficos. Tan seguro está de la precisión de su trazo que hizo que la penúltima modelo utilizara una pluma para estampar su rúbrica en una pantalla gigante.

La palabra impresa se lleva estos días en París: la alta costura parece buscar la complicidad de otro oficio artesanal. Pero Gaultier fue más allá y le puso música (y fiesta) a la reivindicación. Utilizó letras, pero también notas y pentagramas, para escribir, en blanco y negro, una canción que homenajeaba al singular músico alemán Klaus Nomi (que acompañó a David Bowie y fue una de las primeras celebridades en morir de sida, en 1983) y a la cultura española. Quedándose sólo con la espina dorsal de sus referentes, esquivó hábilmente los topicazos. Monteras como decorativos relieves de una falda de torero, estampados de chales o cuerdas de guitarra y el perfil de un abanico convertido en un mínimo vestido fueron algunos retazos españoles de una colección, fundamentalmente, muy parisiense. Sobre todo, cuando Inés de la Fressange, de 41 años, se comió la pasarela (en un guiño pícaro a Catherine Deneuve o cayéndose para escapar a la persecución final de Gaultier) con dos vestidos esmoquin.

A la efervescencia creativa de Gaultier le ha sentado bien la obligada contención que la crisis impone. Una bofetada de realidad que estos días ha provocado extraños compañeros de cama. Sólo así se explica que sensibilidades tan dispares como las del explosivo libanés Elie Saab y el tenebroso Ricardo Tisci (el italiano de 35 años que ha resucitado Givenchy) coincidan en algo. Pero, al aparcar sus respectivos excesos, ambos tiñeron sus colecciones de alta costura de plácidos tonos (maquillaje, lavanda, verde jade) y eligieron dúctiles plisados y líquidos drapeados.

Un plácido punto de partida que, obviamente, cada cual interpretó a su manera. La lacerante modernidad de Tisci se tradujo en sugerentes vestidos de día en los que sus habituales referencias eróticas apenas estaban apuntadas. Sobre un lecho de pétalos importado de una pintura de Lawrence Alma-Tadema y con Pina Bausch como guía espiritual, entregó su colección más serena y luminosa hasta la fecha. Por su parte, Elie Saab, famoso por vestir a mujeres como Beyoncé con abundante pedrería, tomó elementos de la cultura japonesa y los combinó con el glamour del cine de los años treinta.

De las mujeres diosa libremente inspiradas en la Grecia antigua al vocacional carácter mitológico de las sirenas de Josep Font. Para su tercera incursión en el calendario oficial de la alta costura, el diseñador catalán imaginó 10 muñecas subidas a una plataforma rotatoria para exhibirse como en el interior de una caja de música. La inspiración era el paisaje marino y sus criaturas, pero el mejor momento de la colección lo depararon (también aquí) los tocados oníricos y un vestido de lo más terrenal. En gasa color arena y con fluidos drapeados (una vez más esta semana) y cubierto por una capa de escamas de organza y plumas de marabú, demostró que el talento de Font puede exhibirse en los gestos más sencillos y que no siempre necesita sumergirse en las profundidades de su fértil imaginación.


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Billy powell--Musical career

Billy powell--Musical career

Billy returned to Jacksonville where he enrolled at Bishop Kenny High School. It was here that he met Leon Wilkeson, future bassist for Lynyrd Skynyrd. The two soon became close friends. When he graduated in 1970, he enrolled briefly in a community college, majoring in Music Theory. Around this time he found work as a roadie for Lynyrd Skynyrd.

Powell remained a roadie for Skynyrd until 1972, when the band was hired to play the Bolles School prom. After setting up the band's equipment, Billy sat down at a piano in the corner of the room and began to play his own version of 'Free Bird'. Lead singer Ronnie Van Zant was impressed, and invited Powell to join Lynyrd Skynyrd officially as their new keyboard player.

In 1973, Lynyrd Skynyrd was signed to MCA Records and received national exposure with the release of their first album, (pronounced 'lĕh-'nérd 'skin-'nérd). The bands popularity soared in 1974 with their follow-up album, Second Helping, which featured their highest-charting single, "Sweet Home Alabama". The band enjoyed great popularity over the next three years, culminating in the 1977 release of Street Survivors, which many considered to be their strongest effort to date.

However, three days after the release of Street Survivors, Skynyrd's chartered plane crashed into a forest near McComb, Mississippi. The crash took the lives of singer Ronnie Van Zant, guitarist Steve Gaines, his sister and backing vocalist Cassie Gaines, and assistant road manager Dean Kilpatrick. The remainder of the band suffered injuries ranging from mild to severe. Powell suffered severe facial lacerations, almost completely losing his nose but was otherwise relatively uninjured. He was the first to be released from the hospital, and the only member able to attend the funerals of his fallen bandmates.

During the time between the plane crash and the Lynyrd Skynyrd reunion in 1987, Powell briefly joined a Christian rock band named Vision. His keyboard playing was often spotlighted in Vision concerts. Powell also spoke during the concerts about his newly found faith in Jesus Christ.

Powell rejoined Lynyrd Skynyrd in 1987 for a tribute tour, and remained with the band until his death. Guitarist Gary Rossington is the only member from the classic lineup who continues to record and perform with the reunited band today.

His son Brandon Powell is a guitarist in the Jacksonville based rock band Syntenic.


On Tuesday January 27, 2009, Powell missed an appointment with his physician for a cardiac evaluation. On Wednesday January 28, 2009, Powell died at his condominium in Orange Park, Florida. He had telephoned 9-1-1 just before 1 a.m. complaining of difficulty breathing. Paramedics found him unresponsive in his bedroom still holding the phone. A heart attack is suspected. Orange Park Police reported Powell had a history of heart trouble, and that his cardiologist would sign the death certificate, negating the need for an autopsy.


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Reality Kings Username and Password

Reality Kings Username and Password
Reality Kings is a video site that offers videos intended for adults. I just knew about Reality Kings a few moments ago because I discovered that the keyword "Reality Kings Username and password" is at the 11th place in Google Trends. So, driven by curiosity, I googled "Reality Kings Username and Password" and found no real, informative results. And I thought, why not look for 'Reality Kings'. There it is, the Reality Kings site. Wow, a site full of rubbish! You have to have an account to access Reality Kings, and if I were not mistaken, you have to pay for your account. So, that's why people, especially pervs are looking for Free Reality Kings Username and Password. Why, pervs, don't think a RealityKings Username and Password is worth a cent? Yeah, you are right. It doesn't worth a cent. The site is such a time-waster! Then why bother to look for Free Reality Kings Usernames and Passwords, huh?


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“UFC Primetime” Episode 3 preview (final episode)

Can’t want to wait for tonight to see the final episode of “UFC Primetime” which features a 24/7 behind the scenes look at champions Georges St.Pierre and BJ Penn? Well no sweat the UFC has once again released a preview of tonights episode.


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NFL Football Sports Betting - Super Bowl XLIII - Pittsburgh Steelers vs Arizona Cardinals

This Super Bowl is a very tough game to handicap. It looks like Vegas made this line perfect. If it was a regular season game, I probably won’t bet it. My record is 53-33 on the rest of the season, and I already have 6 prop bets going on this game.

That said, it’s the freaking Super Bowl, so let’s try to find an edge.

It’s an odd match up and one that clearly favors the Steelers. The Steelers have a solid defense and a potent offense. Based on the Cards regular season play, this line is a little low. Arizona’s defense was middle of the road, they’re running game suffered, and the greatest weapon that this team had was the pass.

Pittsburgh was also challenged more during the regular season. They went 4-4 against teams that were 500 or better while the Cards went 2-6 against winning teams. Arizona also lost 4 of their last 6 heading into the playoffs.

But what Arizona has accomplished in the playoffs has been great. Their defense has been able to create turnovers, they have revitalized their running game, and their passing game has made Larry Fitzgerald and Kurt Warner household names.

In fact if you just handicap this Super Bowl based on these teams playoff performances, this line would favor the Cards. So based on these teams’ playoff performances, I'm betting:

Arizona Cardinals +7 (-115) over Pittsburgh Steelers

That’s the pick. Let’s root for the dog.


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Fed Keeps Rate near Nil, Markets in the Green

Markets rebounded today in anticipation of the Federal Reserve decision on Interest Rates. The benchmark rate was set in a range of 0% to 0.25% so there wasn't any further down it could go. It's not like the Fed will pay people to take money, will they?

Anticipation of the Fed was going toe-to-toe with headlines of President Obama urging swift action on a huge stimulus package for Americans to get a slowly degrading job market and teetering economy back on a track towards growth. Some of the key statements in the Fed decision were made regarding recovery and overall improvement to the liquidity of credit markets, which still after all these months have yet to really take off. As businesses cut more jobs, cut expectations and cut spending into 2009, the Fed expects a gradual recovery to start sometime in the latter part of the year.

The Fed also clarified that the expanding weakness in the overall economy would keep rates at these low levels for some time if little to no improvement was seen. While rates can't go any lower than 0% the Fed is expanding its arsenal of tools to provide a lift to the macroeconomics plaguing the United States. The Fed has raised its limits on how much banks can borrow directly from the Fed and it has been involved in the purchase of commercial paper from numerous corporations in order to apply liquidity in areas that desperately need it.

All these tools seem to be making a difference at least in the marketplace, if not yet economically. The Dow's green days have certainly outnumbered the red of late as buyers are starting to not only appreciate company valuations but also see a plan that will eventually lead to recovery being formulated by the Nation's new Government.

Only one truly giant hurdle remains! Turning this plan into reality, and that is by no means a trivial effort.


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Offline? Google's Gmail will still be available

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Now there's one less excuse for not dealing with your e-mail.

Google Inc. is giving people a way to manage their e-mail even when they're offline, marking the Internet search leader's latest move to unshackle its services from the Web.

The offline feature introduced this week is aimed primarily at workers who rely on Google's Gmail service as part of their jobs. But anyone with a standard account can choose the option. (This can be accomplished by clicking on "settings" and then entering Google's "labs" section.)

After the e-mail box synchronizes with a computer's hard drive, virtually all of Gmail's usual tools become functional offline — except for the ability to send and receive messages. Those chores are handled the next time a computer connects to the Internet.

Google is trying to lessen its dependence on Internet advertising by selling an online package of commonly used business programs that include a souped-up version of Gmail. The offline feature makes the e-mail program more competitive with rival Microsoft Corp.'s Exchange and Outlook programs, which are widely used by corporations.

Google previously added an offline feature to its word processing and spreadsheet programs, as well as its Picasa service for digital photography. The Mountain View, Calif.-based company plans to take its calendar application offline later this year.

By adding offline capability to Gmail, Google also catches up with rival Yahoo Inc., whose larger — and also free — e-mail service has been able to work without Internet access since last July.

To take Yahoo mail offline, users first have to download the company's Zimbra software to their computers. The Zimbra program also can be used to work offline on competing services, including Gmail.

Gmail is making its offline leap through Gears, a Google-owned service that the much smaller Zoho relied on to provide offline access to its e-mail program last year.


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CPSIA: One little law that will drastically change life as we know it.

Think I’m exaggerating? If you’ve heard of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act then you already know that I’m not. If you haven’t, imagine this:

As of February 10th, every single item manufactured for children ages 12 and under — everything E-VER-Y-THING that a child MIGHT use — will be required to undergo costly testing for lead and pthalates, or be destroyed. It will be illegal to sell these items, and therefore they must be discarded, thrown away, into our landfills. Everybody who sells these items, large companies, small companies, home business, second hand stores, that cannot afford to meet these new requirements will be forced to stop selling children’s products or go out of business. These people, now without a job, will be forced to find a new way to provide for their families, in an already difficult job market. Our fragile economy, will be dealt a serious blow (and let’s face it - can it really handle this kind of blow without crossing the line into full-blown Depression??) because of one well-intentioned, but poorly executed law.

It gets worse. Those who CAN afford to comply with the law, will have to raise the prices on their products. Drastically. Because the cost of each and every one of their component materials will increase drastically since the tests required are highly expensive and required for each component even if already tested for another product (some people suggest there are other efficient methods of testing that are significantly less expensive.) The big companies will still be able to make and sell their products, at a higher price, but who will be able to buy them? Many people will be out of jobs, and many others - effected by a tight economy worsened by a sudden influx of bankruptcies - will not have room in their budgets. Since clothing, shoes, ponytail holders, toothbrushes, and backpacks will now cost so much more, people will have to curb their spending on toys, board games, books, craft supplies and other accessories. And what about children’s furniture? Already expensive, the prices are sure to skyrocket. Don’t believe me? See THIS. Or any of THESE.

Even organic items, items whose testing process is much more strict than the requirements of this law, will have to undergo these specific tests. Organic items are already more expensive and like everything else, they will either fall by the wayside or undergo a price hike. Bye bye lovely organic fill-in-the-blanks. And can you IMAGINE baby items? Diapers, bottles, wipes, rattles, toys, teethers - You’d sure better hope they can get some replacement diapers back on the shelves - PRONTO!

Imagine also what this does for schools. As of February 10th, everything in their classrooms will not be tested and approved materials. I don’t think they’ll be required to throw that all away, but when they look to replace those things - crayons, books, scissors, glue, paper, tissue, tape, desks, chairs, math manipulatives, you name it - they’ll have to look for approved ones - and they’ll have to pay the higher price, too. Similarly, libraries will have to pull all the books from their children’s section, as they’ll no longer be allowed to loan them out to children.

On top of that - second hand stores, yard sales, etsy, ebay, craigs list - say goodbye to finding children’s items here. You won’t be able to run out and buy used items to avoid paying the higher prices because nobody will be selling them. Small businesses can’t afford the tests, individuals CERTAINLY can’t. And I’m not sure whether or not we’ll be able to give stuff away with places like Freecycle or not. The law is very broad and very vague. And the penalties so steep that people will not want to risk it.

I’m not even sure how long it will take for the fortunate companies to put out new products. How long will we have to wait for new books, clothes, shoes, toys, games, hair accessories, toiletries and all the many things affected by this law?

The worst part is that the children will be the ones who suffer the most, and this law was created to protect them. Don’t get me wrong - safer products is a GREAT idea. But as I said in the beginning, the execution of this idea STINKS. This law is TOO broad and TOO vague and combined with the fact that it will placed into immediate effect (rather than, say, a transition period) the end results are sure to be disastrous.

So what can we do? There is little much that CAN be done. But we CAN do, we MUST do, and we must do it NOW.

This law has already been passed. It will take effect on February 10th. There is a committee that has been put together to further define and regulate this law, but they have not had enough time to fully address all the issues at hand. There is really only one person who can choose to delay this law and allow more time for improvement of the CPSIA law before it goes into effect. That person is Representative Waxman, and you can read more about why you NEED to contact Waxman over at The Common Room. You can and should contact your representatives as well, asking them to Contact Waxman as well and encourage him to delay this law for further review. And by contact, I mean phone calls. At this point, we’ve written all the letters we can write, we need to CALL them.

Maybe I am exaggerating. Maybe when it goes into effect, it will have been improved and made better and things won’t get this bad.

And then again, maybe I’m right. Maybe they’ll rush this through without making the necessary changes. How will our country fare if that happens? What will happen to our economy then? How will we adapt and cope with the giant void created by mass product abandonment? How will our landfills accept the hoards of items now deemed toxic across the board with one wave of a hand? The world I envision is a dark and troubled place. And my friends, I pray that I’m letting my imagination run away with me. I really do.

I’m not saying this is the end of the world. I’m just saying, this will completely change life as we know it.

Please, spread the word. Don’t think this won’t effect you just because you don’t have young kids.

Call your representatives. Call Mr. Waxman. Call the commitee. Call the President! Call anybody you can call. In the early stages, Mr. Waxman was quoted as saying he didn’t think there’d be much response to this if they held a hearing. So. He. Thinks. CALL.


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Surprise! President Barack Obama Told Al Arabiya TV ‘I Have Lived in Muslim Countries’ (Plural)

I want to know the names of any and all Muslim countries in which President Barack Obama has lived. After all, as he told an Al Arabiya interviewer Monday night, he has lived in more than one.

In a post yesterday, I brought to light the fact that he had responded to a question from Al Arabiya TV’s Hisham Melhem by saying, “I have lived in Muslim countries.”

Last time I checked, “countries” was the plural version of the word, “country.” The phrase, “Muslim countries,” therefore, indicates more than one Muslim country. Last time I checked, Indonesia was a single, solitary and sovereign country. And so I press on.

Twenty-four hours after publishing my post about President Obama’s interview with Al Arabiya TV, I wondered whether any of my colleagues in the mainstream news media had yet seen fit to pursue a similar line of questioning. To satisfy my curiosity, I ran a Google News Advanced Search.

After typing “Obama” in the space next to “All the Words” and “Muslim countries” in the space next to “Exact Phrase,” I narrowed the time parameter of my search to the past week and hit “Enter.” The search produced 532 results.

In perusing articles that appeared in the 50 most-recent results, none of the writers — not at the World Tribune, Foreign Policy, Washington Post or Los Angeles Times and not Reuters, Chicago Tribune, Charleston Daily Mail or TimesOnline — had dared to raise a question about whether Obama lived in any Muslim country other than Indonesia.

Unbelievably, the statement — “I have lived in Muslim countries” — by President Obama has been ignored by the world’s journalists.


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Sure, the “bomb” is a 1954 Jughead, but I’m thinking the writers were really talking about Charles Widmore and Daniel Faraday. Which was the bigger bomb dropped tonight? LOST was very interesting tonight. I felt like I was getting closer to the truth, but nothing made sense while I was watching. So I’ve got to work it out here. If what I write doesn’t make sense to you, oh well. Because I’m trying to work it all out on the blog rather than in my head. Pretty quick we figured out that its the early 1950s on the island, and that Daniel Faraday is a “Jumper.” But what is he after on that island? Why does he care about the bomb so much? Why does he recognize that female soldier? Wait, do they have female soldiers back in the 1950s in the British Royal Army? Because I’m guessing the soldiers become The Others that we love to hate in present day. This is why The Others are wearing dirty torn up military style clothing and no shoes. Because they have been stuck on that Island for all those years. And what is all this talk about a hydrogen bomb that the Americans have come looking for?

Then it hit me, a little clue from the writers. Remember when they mentioned Archie and Meathead? And the other dude says no, you mean Archie and Jughead and the first guy said, no, another Archie. I’m thinking Daniel Faraday is Jughead, and Desmond and Charles Widmore are the Archie and Meathead.

Roll with me for a moment. Who are Archie and Meathead? Remember All in the Family, one of the best shows ever? Remember the epic battle between father and son-in-law? Were the producers using them as metaphors for Charles Widmore and Desmond? Archie and Meathead grew a bit closer by the end of the show. Will the same happen for Mr. Widmore and Desmond? Tonight, after Desmond burst into his office, looking for Daniel’s mother, they have a moment … because they both love Penny and want what is best for her.

Who is the cartoon Jughead? I remember him as an oddball with no luck with the ladies. Daniel denied being a romeo to Ellie, the girl with the gun. Jughead traveled with a Reggie (Asian ghost whisperer … aka Miles) and Veronica (Charlotte) and was extremely intelligent. He also had a crush on Betty. So, the love trio between Daniel and Charlotte and Ellie has its beginnings in this episode. I think the girl in the vegetative state in the bed that Daniel abandoned is a time traveler who must have came from the island. Is it Charlotte? After all, her sister said that she said she was talking to her dad one day and saying something else weird the next. So who is his Archie? No other than his constant Desmond.

Remember when Daniel landed on the island and he said that rescuing them was not his primary objective? Was he there to dismantle the bomb? It was supposed to be a question to Ben … but is it because of radiation poisoning … or electromagnetism, or is it to save the island, or someone on it? Don’t forget Ben used gas to kill the entire Dharma Initiative … and that Rousseau’s group died from a mystery sickness. We know the Jughead bomb was leaking in 1954 on the island, but what state is in during present day 2007?
Here’s the real Jughead of tonight’s episode of LOST:

Ellie … that could be short for Eloise, right? As in Ms. Eloise Hawking, the woman who could see the man in the red shoes death and who told Desmond that his destiny was The Island and who was also the woman with Ben in the flash forward.
Who is she? Mother of Charlotte? Mother or girlfriend to Daniel? Love of Charles Widmore?

Also, does anyone remember that when Richard did come to visit John Locke as a child he placed that compass that John just gave to him tonight … and that John should have picked it, rather than the knife, and that is why Richard walked away from him that day? I was so damn impressed that I remembered that moment.

And am I the only one to find it odd that Charlie and Charles Widmore both could be the namesake for Desmond and Penny’s son Charlie?


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Gaza, Israeli army threaten cease-fire

President Barack Obama’s efforts to stabilize a tenuous cease-fire between Israel and Hamas were jeopardized Jan. 27 when a roadside bomb planted by Palestinian militants hit an Israeli patrol along the Gaza Strip border, killing one officer and wounding three others.

Israel launched a series of counterstrikes after the explosion, killing a farmer, according to Palestinian medical officials.

The tit-for-tat assaults cast a cloud over the arrival in Cairo, Egypt, of George Mitchell, Obama’s Middle East envoy, who’s on a mission to cement the 10-day-old cease-fire.

The former U.S. senator headed to Jerusalem Jan. 28 with Israeli leaders warning that they’ll inflict punishing responses to cease-fire violations.

“Whoever hits us will receive a severe blow,” Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Jan. 27. “We cannot achieve peace unless we are willing to stand determined, ready with the left hand looking for any opening for peace and the right hand on the trigger.”

Gaza residents had anticipated the Israeli retaliation, and braced for more.

Residents in central Gaza said they’d seen small numbers of Israeli tanks and Special Forces units slowly pushing into the isolated Mediterranean strip. Gaza health officials said Israeli forces killed a Palestinian farmer soon after the morning bomb attack. An Israeli airstrike later hit a moped in Khan Younis, injuring a driver who Israeli military officials said had taken part in the morning attack.

No Palestinian group has claimed responsibility for the roadside bomb. Jan. 27, Palestinian militants released a high-quality video to local journalists showing the explosion and subsequent shootout along the border.

The incidents were the most severe test so far of the uneasy cease-fire that took hold when Israel unilaterally ended its three-week military campaign to destabilize Hamas rulers in Gaza and halt persistent Palestinian rocket fire aimed at southern Israel.

Hamas and the other main Palestinian militant groups soon followed the Israeli cease-fire declaration with their own unilateral truce. Since then, Gaza militants have fired no rockets into southern Israel, though they did launch several mortars one day last week.

The Israeli strikes killed more than 1,200 Palestinians during the 22-day military campaign in Gaza, making it the most deadly Israeli operation in Gaza since it seized the Mediterranean strip in the 1967 war.

During the campaign, nine Israeli soldiers were killed in Gaza, and Palestinian rocket fire killed four Israelis in southern Israel.

During the early days of the truce, Israeli naval ships repeatedly fired on fishing boats along the Gaza coast. At least 11 Palestinians were injured by the Israeli shelling, which ended last Jan. 23.

When Israeli leaders announced the unilateral cease-fire, they warned that Gaza would face a painful response if militants resumed their attacks.

Amnon Lipkin Shahak, a former Israeli army chief of staff, told Israel Radio on Tuesday that “there needs to be a painful strike against those responsible” for the bombing.

“We need to make rules that will protect the residents of the south,” he said. “We cannot accept attacks from Gaza.”

Ihab Ghusain, a spokesman for the Hamas-led Interior Ministry in Gaza, said Tuesday that Palestinian militants had every right to launch such attacks because Israel had broken the calm repeatedly with its attacks on Gaza in the past week.

Residents in Gaza have been on edge for days as rumors have swept across the area that Israel was preparing to resume its airstrikes.

During the weekend, Palestinians cleared out of government offices and security compounds amid rumors that Israel was going to attack.

Hamas guards temporarily closed the Rafah Jan. 25 crossing with Egypt amid rumors that Israel was preparing to hit the network of adjacent smuggler tunnels, which were a prime focus of airstrikes during the military campaign.

(c) 2009, McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

UNF’s Pro-Isreali Group

• The Student’s Organization for Israel scheduled it’s first meeting of the semester 5:45 p.m. Jan. 28 in
Building 14, room 1603.

• The centerpiece for the meeting will be President Jason Kroitor’s discussion on his experiences in
Israel during the recent Hamas-Israel conflict in Gaza and the West Bank.

• SOFI Vice President Brandon Eady is also presenting a report on the importantce of lobbying members
of Congress about Israel.


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Postmaster Proposes a Cutback in Mail Delivery

What’s next? No electricity between 12 noon and 4 p.m.?

Postmaster General John E. Potter asked Congress to allow him to cut mail delivery from six days to five days a week.

In testimony prepared for a Senate hearing this afternoon, Potter said he needs “flexibility in the number of days we deliver mail.”

“The ability to suspend delivery on the lightest delivery days, for example, could save dollars in both our delivery and our processing and distribution networks, he said. “I do not make this request lightly, but I am forced to consider every option given the severity of our challenge.”

He said the cut in mail delivery would be no more than one day a week.

The last time we visited cutbacks to the mail service was during Saint Reagan’s tenure, when his unsubstaniated taxcuts blew a hole in the Federal budget and his economic team was left scrambling to try and stop the hemorrhaging.


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Daring Bakers: Tuiles

This month's challenge is brought to us by Karen of Bake My Day and Zorra of 1x umruehren bitte aka Kochtopf. They have chosen Tuiles from The Chocolate Book by Angélique Schmeink and Nougatine and Chocolate Tuiles from Michel Roux.

"What? Wait a minute, " I hear you say. "You wrote that the recipe is savoury tuiles are from Thomas Keller's The French Laundry, but the next paragraph says the challenge is chocolate tuiles from either Angélique Schmeink or from Michel Roux for what's suspiciously resonant of sweet tuiles.

Well, yes. The original challenge was for sweet tuiles...but the savoury recipe kindasorta snuck its way into a challenge variation.

Hurrah for savoury choices!

Don't get me wrong, I love my sweets, but my sweet tooth has been on strike for a while, so when given the choice between savoury or sweet, I choose the former.

"What the heck are tuiles," I hear some of you say. "I thought that was ballet tutus were made of."

That's tulle.

A tuile is a crisp and thin biscuit, usually shaped. According to our lovely hostesses, traditionally they are gently molded over a rolling pin or arched form while they are still warm. Once set, their shape resembles the curved French roofing tiles for which they're named. In The Netherlands, this batter was used to bake flat round cookies on 31st December, representing the year unfold. On New Years day however, the same batter was used but this day they were presented to well-wishers shaped as cigars and filled with whipped cream, symbolizing the New Year that's about to roll on. And of course the batter is sometimes called tulip-paste....

Tulle is a very fine, starched, light netting that's used for bridal veils, foofoochichi gowns and ballet tutus (which one could argue is a foofoochichi gown in its own right).

"No, I meant that thin cottony cloth."

That's toile. My word...how old are you that you recall ballet tutus made of cottony cloth? Depending upon how you use the word, toile can be a painter's canvas, or a dressmaker's pattern or a repeated pastoral scene on an off-whiteish cottony cloth.

"Isn't that a person who follows Islam...what you claim the dressmaker's pattern is."

No. An adherant of Islam is a Muslim...not muslin. And yes, muslin is a material used to mock up dresses and clothes.

"Then what's Muesli?"

An oaty cereal made with oats and fruit. It's like granola.

"I thought that was French for "frog."

Non. Le mot pour "frog" est "la grenouille."

"Isn't that in the Alps?"

Grenoble is a city in the French Alps. Les grenouilles are found in ponds and rivers and other wetlands...although there may be ponds in Grenoble..."

"The Alps. Isn't that a god or something?"

You're thinking of Apollo, who's in both Roman and Greek mythology. He's associated with music, light, intellectualism and a raft of other things.

"Yeah, but wasn't he in the stars or something."

Maybe you're thinking of the Apollo missions and the moon landing.

"I love looking at the moon and stars and all that outer space stuff."

(SIGH) Yes. I know (even though, if I were you, I'd be more concerned with your inner space).

"Hey. You know French. What's the French for moon and stars?"

The moon is "la lune."
Stars are "les étoiles" or the singular is "l'étoile."

Etoile. Isn't that a cookie?

That's a tuile...as in this month's Daring Baker's challenge.

The recipe called for black sesame seeds to be sprinkled on the biscuit before baking. That, I did. But I also sprinkled on some nigella seeds (hey, January is her birthmonth) on some others. We were asked to pair our biscuits with a light-ish topping. Well...it's January. In Canada. I'm not so into light and am firmly entrenched in hearty. Sorry ladies...well, not really. I paired the sesame seed tuiles with black olive tapenade (store bought) and the nigellan lotus cups (square biscuits cooled in cupcake bowls) with a white bean hummous, specked with nigella seeds.


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House Passes $819 Billion Stimulus Bill With No Republican Votes

The House passed the $819 billion stimulus plan President Barack Obama sought, signaling the formal beginning of the new administration’s attempts to start to patch up the economy — and also how bipartisanship may be much easier in concept than to put into practice.

The double whammy reasons: (1) The bill will go to the Senate where few expect it will be stalled or not pass. (2) Not a single Republican voted for the plan, which could be a smart move if the plan fails or the public seems not to want it, but otherwise could be yet another step in the Republican party’s seemingly steady march away from majority party status to a party with a more select tent of supporters.

The big winner was Obama (he won the vote). The big loser was Obama (no Republicans supported him despite his efforts).

The big winner was the Democrats (feeling their majority work). The big loser was the Democrats (sticking in all kinds of things into the plan that could be ridiculed by pundits and talk show hosts, proving that politicians are politicians are politicians).

The question now is whether the bigger loser is going to be the Republicans (seen as obstructionists whose moves can be predicted if you listen to Rush Limbaugh). And, when it’s all said and done and the plan is totally passed, whether the American people and the U.S. economy will be the biggest winners (it helps, even a bit) or losers (it does little or nothing but run up a bigger deficit).

But if there was ever a victory that proved to be a bittersweet victory, this one was it.

Although Obama made extraordinary efforts — for a President in recent years — to get Republican support, not only did GOPers not support him but when you watch the CBS news report HERE you will note the use of the word “liberal” as a way to characterize the plan and the usual tax and spend boilerplate rhetoric used in campaigns. GOPers were clearly in full campaign mode in their comments; it was as if Campaign 2008 had not ended (and perhaps it hasn’t).

The issue for Obama: to gain clout to be a bipartisan President he needs some Republicans to join him, even though it’s unlikely in this vote he will be blamed as being the one who wouldn’t put out his hand to the other side. The issue for Republicans: time (and opinion polls) will tell if the majority of the public views them as obstructionist and whether this vote coupled with the high profile remarks of talk show host Rush Limbaugh wind up burning already tattered bridges the party has to the majority of independent voters, more conservative Democrats and even some more moderate Republicans.

Here’s an AP report:

The Washington Post framed the vote this way:

With no Republican support, the House approved an $819 billion stimulus plan that will serve as the cornerstone of President Obama’s efforts to resuscitate the economy, an early victory for the new president but still a disappointment because of the lack of Republican votes.

The measure passed 244 to 188, with 11 Democrats and 177 Republicans voting against it.

The two-year economic package includes $275 billion in tax cuts and more than $550 billion in domestic spending on roads and bridges, alternative-energy development, health-care technology, unemployment assistance, and aid to states and local governments. It would also provide up to $500 per year in tax relief for most workers and more than $300 billion in aid to states for funding to help rebuild schools, provide health-care to the poor and reconstruct highways and bridges.

Despite a last-minute lobbying campaign by Obama — including coming to the Capitol yesterday for separate closed-door meetings with House and Senate Republicans — Republicans opposed the measure and argued that it spent hundreds of billions of dollars on Democratic initiatives that would do little to stimulate the economy or create jobs.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) heralded the legislation as the first down payment on Obama’s pledge, in his inaugural address, to provide “bold and swift” action to revive an economy that is losing more than 500,000 jobs a month, including 65,000 layoffs announced just this week.

“He said he wanted action, bold and swift, and that is exactly what we are doing,” Pelosi told reporters before the vote.

The New York Times had a similar lead but also included this:

But the size and substance of an economic stimulus package remain in dispute, as House Republicans blamed Democrats for a package that tilted heavily toward new spending instead of tax cuts

All but 11 Democrats voted for the plan and 177 Republicans voted against it. The 244-188 vote came a day after Mr. Obama traveled to Capitol Hill to seek Republican backing — if not for the package then on future issues.

“This recovery plan will save or create more than three million new jobs over the next few years,” Mr. Obama said in a statement after the vote. “I can also promise that my administration will administer this recovery plan with a level of transparency and accountability never before seen in Washington. Once it is passed, every American will be able to go the Web site recovery.gov and see how and where their money is being spent.”

The administration remains hopeful that some Republicans will support the final compromise between the House and Senate. Mr. Obama followed the House vote with cocktail party at the White House for the Congressional leaders of both parties. The House Republicans, including Minority Leader John A. Boehner of Ohio, were fresh from their votes against the recovery package.

Yet the failure to win Republican support in the House seemed to echo the early months of the last Democratic administration, when former President Bill Clinton in 1993 had to rely solely on Democrats to win passage of a deficit-reduction bill that was a signature element of his presidency.

Mr. Obama’s chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, had met Tuesday night at the White House with 11 moderate House Republicans, none of whom ended up supporting the bill.

Several reports recently have noted that the nation’s Governors have been rooting for this plan to pass. USA Today tells why:

States and local governments would be the big winners in an $825 billion economic stimulus program set for a House vote Wednesday.

More than $200 billion would go to states, enough to offset $100 billion in projected budget shortfalls they now face in the next two years, plus fund big spending increases. The money could spare states from politically painful program cuts, tax increases or both. Two-thirds of the federal money is aimed directly at states’ biggest spending items: education, health care and roads.

California would get $22 billion over two years, estimates the Federal Funds Information for States (FFIS), a state-financed research group. Texas and New York would get $16 billion each. The smallest take: $578 million for Wyoming, which has a surplus and is considering a property tax cut.

“This will let us balance our budgets in a way that avoids making draconian cuts,” says North Carolina House Speaker Joe Hackney, a Democrat and president of the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL).

His state, which would get $5.5 billion over two years, faces a $2 billion shortfall through June 30.

Nationally, states confront $32 billion in projected budget shortfalls this year and $64 billion in 2010, according to a December estimate by NCSL. NCSL spokeswoman Michelle Blackston says states still will watch their budgets tightly. “This will supplement, not supplant, state spending,” she says.

President Obama supports a large stimulus plan, including aid to state and local governments, and is scheduled to meet today with Republican congressional leaders.

The question: will it help stimulate the economy? A Reuters report points out some of the things that have raised eyebrows:

Will spending $50 million to promote arts in the United States help stimulate the U.S. economy? How about $335 million to educate people about sexually transmitted diseases?

Those items and more form part of an $825 billion economic stimulus that may grow larger, creating a feeding frenzy in Congress as lawmakers seek to fund their wish lists.

On Wednesday night, stimulus legislation cleared the House of Representatives, where members hew more closely to party ideology than the Senate. The 244-188 vote was along party lines, with every Republican voting against the bill designed to fight the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said he would seek to begin debate in the Senate on Monday. President Barack Obama wants the package approved by mid-February.

There are plenty of spending measures in the legislation aimed at directly helping generate economic growth and assisting people in need, from $275 billion in temporary tax cuts to $300 billion in assistance to the unemployed and to cash-strapped states reeling from the economic downturn.

But it is the litany of other, seemingly nonemergency items that is upsetting some stomachs on Capitol Hill, like the $15.6 billion in Pell grants for college students, $6 billion for modernizing college buildings, $600 million to buy new cars for government workers and $150 million in repairs to the Smithsonian Institution.

Alabama Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions, a conservative, called the bill a huge mistake that he would vote against.

“I’m convinced that they (Democrats) are seizing this as an opportunity to fund programs to a degree that they could never have funded before simply by calling it a way to create jobs,” he said.

House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, has a letter of support for the bill from 146 economists, including five recipients of the Nobel Prize for Economics. Democrats argue the legislation will do what it is intended to do — give the economy a fast jolt.

Meanwhile, weblog opinion was predictable and mirrored the Congressional partisan polarization on the issue. Most writers who strongly supported Obama felt the measure should pass and those who didn’t like Obama echo the points raised by GOPers and talk show hosts.

Here’s a sampling of some opinion (including some excerpts from two mainstream newspapers who have gotten blogging down to a fine art):

–The New York Times’ lively The Caucus blog:

Oh, how we’d love to be a fly on the wall at the White House reception, where President Obama has invited Congressional leaders — including major House Republicans who voted against the economic stimulus package just a short while ago.

Granted, the bill still has to go through the Senate, where it’s sure to get more fly-specking, even though the Democratic leadership has picked up several seats through this last election. House Republicans tried to offer a plan to include more tax cuts, to no avail.

….Want to guess the vote in the Senate, given the fact that a lot will go through the meat grinder next week?

–Andrew Malcolm on the LA Times’ equally lively Top of the Ticket blog:

So much for bipartisanship for now.

Today’s House vote on the $819-billion economic stimulus package was a stark one — 244 to 188.

244 Democrats on one side.

177 Republicans and 11 dissenting Democrats on the other.

Despite President Obama’s very public bid for Republican support, he got none. Nada. Zippo. A slap in the face for the Great Change Agent in return for a good faith reaching out?

Or a clever move by his savvy staff, lead by ex-House member and Democratic political infighter Rahm Emanuel to dramatically portray the GOP in isolation, showing Republicans as opposed to the “economic stimulus” to help the nation’s troubled economy and families? Not every Democrat went along with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s proclamation.

On the Republican side of the aisle, the vote showed that despite their shellacking at the polls in the last two congressional elections, Republicans are one thing for sure — united. House Minority Leader John Boehner and his enforcers were perfect disciplinarians, and they drilled home the message that their party suffered there not because it opposed expanded government spending but because it insufficiently opposed such spending.

–Mover Mike:

Obama sought to make this a bi-partisan bill, seeking cover in case it doesn’t work. Republicans thinking there’s a better way, voted against the bill. If it works, then Democrats can take all the credit. If it fails, Republicans can say, “Can we try our way, now?”

–John Amato:

The HOUSE just passed the economic stimulus plan 244-188 as not one Republican voted for the bill. Wow, what a shock. Giving the Boehner’s all that bipartisan love really served President Obama well.


Wouldn’t you just know it. The evening of the day the House votes on the stimulus bill with every last republican voting no…along with 13 democrats…is when the Obamas are having senate and house leaders of both parties to dinner. A toast. Who’ll give it?

–Hot Air’s Allahpundit:

Final vote: 244-188. It was 242-190 moments before they gaveled it — with every last Republican voting no — but two no votes switched at the last minute and they didn’t say who they were. I assume they’re Blue Dogs, but I’ll check. Either way, for good or ill, this is entirely the Democrats’ baby now.

Update: Here’s the guest list on that White House shindig, which should be loads of fun after this vote.

–My DD’s Todd Beeton:

See, Mr. President, we told you you don’t need Republicans.

…To Obama’s credit, notice The AP’s frame here: it’s a “swift victory” for Obama who has been making “pleas for bipartisan support.” Obama is winning this debate even though the Republicans think they can make him out to be the bad guy who is going back on his promises. Well played, Mr. President, so far. Unfortunately, presumably the Senate version IS going to need at least one Republican vote although I suspect that won’t be as difficult for Obama to secure as it was in the House. Debate in the Senate could begin as early as Monday.

–Marc Ambinder:

Not a single House Republican voted in favor of the stimulus bill.

It may well be the third inning of nine — this is a Robert Gibbs analogy — but it’s Democrats who are crowding the plate.

–Washington Monthly’s Steve Benen:

If the House Republican caucus, en masse, isn’t willing to support a stimulus package in the midst of a global economic crisis, it’s hard to imagine when, exactly, GOP lawmakers are going to work with the majority party in a constructive way.

After lengthy debate, Republicans weren’t swayed by the evidence, or the polls, or the president. They came into this in united opposition, and with Democrats unwilling to give them more of Bush economic policies, that’s the way they stayed.

This isn’t exactly a surprise. I suspect the Republican Party looked at this as a pragmatic political test — if the stimulus plan works, and the economy improves, Obama and Democrats will claim credit and reap the political rewards, whether the GOP supported the proposal or not. If the stimulus plan falls short, and the economic effects are limited, Republicans want to be able to say, “We told you so.” Given this dynamic, there really wasn’t much of an incentive for the GOP to do the right thing.

Of course, the last time we saw a vote like this one was probably the 1993 vote on Clinton’s first budget — every single Republican in the chamber voted against it, hoping to prove, once and for all, that they were right about economics and Democrats were wrong. If memory serves, that budget was the first step towards the longest economic expansion on record, the creation of 22 million jobs, and the total elimination of the federal budget deficit.

–Stephen Green aka Vodkapundit quotes Nancy Pelosi and then has his own comment:

“The ship of state is difficult to turn,” said the California Democrat. “But that is what we must do. That is what President Obama called us to do in his inaugural address.”

True that. But the ship of state isn’t at all hard to scuttle — which is exactly what is going to happen if we keep spending like this.


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Rose Flack — Audition — American Idol 8

Rose Flack auditions for American Idol 8 in Salt Lake City

So here’s another sob story from the endless run of sob stories American Idol has been inflicting on us this season.

I think the way death is presented on this show really devalues it in my opinion since it is used to characterize a contestant. So Rose Flack is the girl “who’s parents died”. What kind of description is that? I would rather be known as someone with great talent first. What Idol is doing is an insult to people whose loved ones who have died.

She sang “I Feel the Earth Move”

Video clip:


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Prepping for Duke-Wake Forest

A tasty top-six treat from Winston-Salem tonight. Duke, now being top-ranked, can be properly hated, as it should be. The Freakin’ Deacons and Screamin’ Demons will do their best Cameron Crazies impression. Last week at this time, Wake Forest was clutching the No. 1 ranking, then promptly fell at home to Virginia Tech. Will it be two straight Wednesday night losses at home?

It’s the first time in four season that Duke has been able to climb its way to the top of the polls. No matter; Duke is measured by March. For Wake Forest, the task seems to be clear (and quite possibly achievable): Stop Kyle Singler — at all costs. Singler leads Duke in points (16.5), rebounds (8.1), assists (2.9) and steals (1.8). If Wake wants to risk Gerald Henderson’s points for keeping Singler in check, it may be worth its while.

And as for the Deacs, it seems that many an inked word has been written about Jeff Teague. That’s fine, but Al-Farouq Aminu, in my opinion, is the most dynamic freshman in the country. How does Duke shut him down? Teague turns the ball over, and kind of frequently, so I’m not sure Duke settles its gameplan around stopping him tonight; he’ll get his 20 points, five assists and four turnovers, probably.

It should be a fine defensive battle, and I’d be shocked if either team cracks 70.

Also: Duke is going for its 11th consecutive victory. Let’s hope the game finishes before LOST begins.


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House Passes Obama's Stimulus Package

By Jackie Calmes / New York Times

WASHINGTON — Without a single Republican vote, President Obama won House approval on Wednesday for an $819 billion economic recovery plan as Congressional Democrats sought to hold down their own difference over the enormous package of tax cuts and spending.

As a piece of legislation, the two-year package is among the biggest in history, reflecting a broad view in Congress that urgent fiscal help is needed for an economy in crisis, and at a time when the Federal Reserve has already cut interest rates almost to zero.

But the size and substance of an economic stimulus package remain in dispute, as House Republicans blamed Democrats for a package that tilted heavily toward new spending instead of tax cuts

All but 11 Democrats voted for the plan and 177 Republicans voted against it. The 244-188 vote came a day after Mr. Obama traveled to Capitol Hill to seek Republican backing — if not for the package than on future issues.

"This recovery plan will save or create more than three million new jobs over the next few years," Mr. Obama said in a statement after the vote. "I can also promise that my administration will administer this recovery plan with a level of transparency and accountability never before seen in Washington. Once it is passed, every American will be able to go the Web site recovery.gov and see how and where their money is being spent."

The administration remains hopeful that some Republicans will support the final compromise between the House and Senate. Mr. Obama followed the House vote with cocktail party at the White House for the Congressional leaders of both parties. The House Republicans, including Minority Leader John A. Boehner of Ohio, were fresh from their votes against the recovery package.

Yet the failure to win Republican support in the House seemed to echo the early months of the last Democratic administration, when former President Bill Clinton in 1993 had to rely solely on Democrats to win passage of a deficit-reduction bill that was a signature element of his presidency.

Mr. Obama's chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, had met Tuesday night at the White House with 11 moderate House Republicans, none of whom ended up supporting the bill.

"The most important number here for this recovery plan is how many jobs it produces, not how many votes it gets," Mr. Emanuel said.

As Senate Democrats prepare to bring their version to the floor on Monday, Democrats from the House and the administration indicated they would ultimately accept a provision in the emerging Senate package that would adjust the alternative minimum tax to hold down many middle-class Americans' income taxes for 2009.

The provision, which would drive the overall cost of the package to nearly $900 billion, was not in the legislation passed by the House.

That would exceed the $850 billion limit that Mr. Obama set for Congress, according to House Democratic aides, and leave no room for other proposals that senators of both parties are sure to seek during the Senate debate next week.

While the House and Senate measures are similar, they are most likely to differ in several ways that could snarl a conference committee and delay getting a measure to the president. In particular, House and Senate Democrats are split over how to divide $87 billion in relief to the states for Medicaid, with senators favoring a formula more beneficial to less populous states.

Democrats' own differences aside, they also are under pressure from the White House to be open to proposals from Senate Republicans who might support the final legislation if their interests are accommodated, and which might draw a few House Republican supporters on a final vote next month.

The provision on the alternative minimum tax, for example, was a top priority for Senator Charles Grassley, a Republican of Iowa, who successfully added it during the Finance Committee's work on the legislation on Tuesday.

Democrats' goal is to have the stimulus package, which is roughly two-thirds new spending and one-third tax cuts, to Mr. Obama's desk for his signature by Feb. 13, before Congress leaves for its Presidents Day break.


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Mexico vs Sweden Live International Friendlies 28/1/2009

The live commentary and live online radio broadcast international friendly match between Mexico and Sweden at Estadio Azteca should provide the hosts with a rare victory in recent times. Mexico have not done well recently and this live international friendly online streaming football game must end positively for them. If they fail again to convince their supporters in the live commentary and live online TV telecast international friendly match between Mexico and Sweden at Estadio Azteca that they are improving, then the criticism will start to grow stronger.

Sweden will not be with all their best players in the live commentary and live streaming radio broadcast international friendly match between Mexico and Sweden at Estadio Azteca as they tour the Americas. Sweden might also be more tired in this live international friendly online streaming soccer game having played on Sunday. They will not give any excuses though in the live commentary and live streaming TV telecast international friendly match between Mexico and Sweden at Estadio Azteca and hope to get at least a draw.

After beating Sweden on Saturday night in its first match of the year and only tuneup before World Cup qualifying begins, the U.S. men's national team now stands just 17 days away from its crucial qualifying showdown vs. Mexico.

That means we can start thinking about which 11 players Bob Bradley will call on to start in the latest installment of 'La Guerra Fria'. As much as there are some young and inexperienced players that U.S. fans would like to see get a chance to place, you can bet that Bradley will be calling on a mostly experienced squad to take the field at Crew Stadium.

Barring injuries, the defense and goalkeeper should be easy enough to predict. The front six is also pretty easy to call, especially after Sacha Kljestan made a very strong case for inclusion with his hat-trick against Sweden.

So what lineup should we see against Mexico? Here is what the lineup should look like barring injuries:






Positions that you can say are up in the air include left back, where Heath Pearce gets the nod, and central midfield, where Kljestan should be the choice. Pearce has struggled for minutes with Hansa Rostock, and also had some shaky moments in 2008 qualifying, but he's still the pick ahead of Jonathan Bornstein.

Kljestan gets the nod ahead of the likes of Ricardo Clark and Maurice Edu to start alongside Michael Bradley. Kljestan and Bradley work well together, with Bradley being able to provide the defensive cover to let Kljestan focus more on attack, but Kljestan's improved defensive work is really what makes him a viable option vs. Mexico.

Brian Ching will get the nod, and showed against Sweden why he should. He doesn't score as many goals as you would like, but he makes his teammates better, is a constant threat to draw dangerous free kicks and his defensive work is unmatched. He also works very well with Landon Donovan, a partnership that could prove very instrumental to the U.S. team's chances of breaking down Mexico's defense.

Who would get the call if Ching wouldn't? If Ching were unavailable you would have to go with Jozy Altidore, who hasn't gotten minutes in recent weeks for Villarreal, but who is still the best option among the remaining forward options. You will recall his header goal in the last USA-Mexico match a year ago.

Steve Cherundolo is the pick at right back, but if a lingering hamstring injury keep him out, Bob Bradley will have an interesting decision to make between veteran right back Frankie Hejduk and young but promising Marvell Wynne.

Some might be surprised to see Beasley included considering he isn't playing at all for Rangers, but he is still far and away the best option at left wing. Eddie Lewis might have been an option in the past but with memories of him getting torched at Guatemala still fresh, it would be tough to imagine him getting the call ahead of a healthy Beasley. Jose Francisco Torres would certainly be a favorite to start if Beasley were unavailable, but he is more likely to see playing time in central midfield as a substitute.

There are questions about whether it will be Donovan up top and Dempsey on the right wing, or vice versa, but it's safe to say that Dempsey's form on the right for Fulham and Donovan's form at forward for Bayern Munich will make their deployment easy enough for Bob Bradley to decide on.

What do you think of the above lineup's chances against Mexico? Are you confident the group can secure a victory? What positions worry you? Which change would you make to the above lineup?


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