Local surfers' close call with a jumping shark

HUTCHINSON ISLAND, FL--Spinner sharks migrate close to the Palm Beach County and Treasure Coast shores this time of year.They look ominous when photographed from above but imagine seeing one of these up close!Three local men did and they have the amazing video to prove it!They are longtime surfers and always have a videocamera with them to document the best waves.

Recently off Hutchinson Island they saw a 6 to 7 foot spinner shark shooting out of the water and pirouetting 5 or 6 times ---all within a few feet of where they were surfing.Surfer Kevin Barry says, "After seeing the video it was more of a wow! rather than seeing the splash out of the corner of your eye..when you slowed the video down and see the size of the shark..every bit of it."

John Binchani, another local surfer says, "I haven't seen anything like it and with how frequently they jump out of the water and how many cell phones and cameras there are on the beach...it's unique we got it."Their video has made the rounds on the internet. The three surfing friends say they're working to put together a video of a "day in the life" of a Florida surfer...and this is certainly one of the highlights.


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Luck By Chance Review

He’s got a fire-in-the- belly and it’s burning ambition that’s causing it. Having run away from taking over the family business, Delhi’s Vikram Jaisingh (Farhan) arrives in Mumbai for making it big in films.
We see a roomful of wide-eyed students in Nand Kishore Acting School, (an obvious and rather unflattering reference to the customary first step for most hopefuls -- Kishore Namit acting school). A tall aspirant has a pronunciation issue—he says "Khabsurat khaaab” for Khoobsoorat Khwab and you’re smiling already. But you really laugh when the teacher (Saurabh Shukla), an impossible ham and the worst actor in the room, displays how to enact a simple scene. Still, his often contradictory advice is lapped up the eager students who don’t know better.
Vikram lives typical struggler-style in a nondescript building, sharing the room with two others –an assistant director with Mahesh Bhatt and a struggling actor who has earned a name in theater and is somewhat content with his idealism. But Vikram dislikes the word `content’; a bit of a hustler, he falls for neighbour Sona (Konkona) who’s doing fairly well with roles like the “dead sister ki saheli” and is in talks for plumper projects.

In his extravagant home, Rommy Rolli (Rishi Kapoor) a Punjabi producer, as brash as he is amusing, mops his brow with a cheery kerchief, tucking it into his expensive-but-loud shirt's pocket. He is worried because protégé ( now a big star) Zaffar Khan (Hrithik) refuses his next film. Under pressure from yesteryear star Neena Mishra (Dimple) as her daughter Nikki (Isha) is debuting with the project, Rolli decides to cast a new face. Vikram is one among the many called for a screen-test, and the story is about what happens after.
Luck by Chance (LBC) highlights the many quirks of the Hindi film industry, like film productions run like family enterprises. The casting process truly embodies the title of the film, as the family including Rolli’s wife Minty (Juhi) sporting blonde hair, diamonds and high heels at home, makes judgments on the aspirants over snacks. She worries about her husband’s high blood pressure and over playing cards with other powerful wives makes decisions on behalf of him. The director is Rolli’s younger brother Ranjit (Sanjay Kapoor with some of the best scenes) who puts incongruous scenes together because “imagination mein kuch bhi ho sakta hai”.
LBC does not mercifully focus only on the stars and instead, dives deeper into the workings of the industry: assistants angling for a break, newcomers causing insecurity, creative disagreements turning ugly, inside news floating from hairdressers to assistant choreographers to side actors to gossip journalists and so on.
The film nicely puts a spin on the `suits’ in corporate offices who speak about introducing an organized work culture with focus on the “property” (fancy term for script), but refuse good projects unless it has stars.
Debut writer-director Zoya Akhtar revels in telling us almost all, but leaving out several things unsaid. It’s these subtleties and lack of spoon-feeding the audience about how they are supposed to feel about a character, that’s likely to affect the film's longevity and repeat viewings. Zoya uses symbolism liberally to make a point: the baaware `circus’ song being an obvious metaphor for the industry; and a character walking past several worn-out film posters on the street on deciding to abort the intention of becoming a star.
The film does give the audience what it wants at times – note the mahurat shot where Zaffar Khan says dialogues like `chaand chaandni, phool khushbu’ etc. Not really used in films today, such scenes are just an extra ribbing of the industry and a few bonus laughs for the audience.
The wonderful songs (Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy) are picturised lovingly – from the riotous, immediately-happy Baaware where Hrithik is in leather dhotis teamed with sports-shoes to the sweet Ye Aaj Kya Ho Gaya. Most of all, Sapno se bhare naina: so reflective of the unrequited, tearing ambition of the character sitting in an audition room with his competitors.
Zoya cajoles fantastic performances from each cast member. Post Rock On!! Farhan Akhtar gives yet note-perfect and hugely enjoyable performance. Konkona is delightfully authentic. Isha Sharwani too impresses. Hrithik Roshan is marvelous, Dimple Kapadia lusciously diva-like (her outburst against an article is one of the highpoints of the film), Rishi Kapoor is perfectly gregarious and hyper, Juhi Chawla just perfect, and Sanjay Kapoor plain funny. Aly Khan as the slimy producer of small films is impressive, and the actor playing his wife Pinky gives a wonderfully credible rendering. Actors playing Farhan’s roommates are terribly impressive as well. Anurag Kashyap’s appearance as the nervous writer is telling and comic. Cleverly- incorporated special appearances by several stars – Shah Rukh Khan, Rani Mukherji, Aamir Khan, Kareena Kapoor, Abhishek Bachchan among several others – add to the fun.
The film is technically superior: cinematography by Carlos Catalan (Shaurya), editing by Anand Subaya (Lakshya), sound by Baylon Fonseca (Dostana, Rock On!!), styling by Arjun Bhasin (The Namesake, Dil Chahta Hai etc) and art by Anuradha Parikh (Split Wide Open) and TP Abid elevate the film several notches.
For a star kid making a debut film that’s pretty much a family enterprise, it’s interesting that Zoya Akhtar has chosen to make light of these very aspects. She has, instead, chosen to tell the central story from the point-of-view of an outsider wanting to get a foot in. Ironic…but what a film!
Rating 3.5

Luck By Chance Movie Review by Gaurav Malani/INDIATIMES MOVIES

Luck, they say, is an important factor in the film industry. But talent is equally important. Thoughtfully, Zoya Akhtar doesn’t rely on plain chance in her directorial debut but exhibits immense aptitude while largely highlighting the significance of fate in films.

Luck By Chance is the story of an aspiring actor Vikram (Farhan Akhtar) who comes from Delhi to Mumbai to make it big in films. Sona Mishra (Konkona Sen Sharma) has been struggling for more than a couple of years in B-grade cinema and wants to switch to more meaty roles.

Meanwhile film producer Rommy Rolly (Rishi Kapoor) announces a new project starring popular film-star Zafar Khan (Hrithik Roshan) alongside Nikki (Isha Sharvani), daughter of yesteryear actress Neena Walia (Dimple Kapadia).

Zafar’s exit from the project is Vikram’s entry ticket to Bollywood. Luck shines bright on him as he is short-listed for Rolly’s film and selected to play the male lead. But as he gains professional fame, his personal life goes for a toss with a failed relationship with girlfriend Sona.

The uniqueness of Luck By Chance is the cheeky spoofs it attempts on the functioning of the film industry without exaggerating the outcome (like in Nagesh Kukunoor’s Bollywood Calling ). Luck By Chance has some of the best employed cameos which are not just stuffed in for star-value but go in sync with the script. Zoya manages to pull off satire on several actors who make you laugh at their own expense (notably Mac Mohan, Sanjay Kapoor and Anurag Kashyup). Also the film-in-film setting gives ample scope for several parody pieces on Bollywood clichés.

While Bollywood is essentially employed as the backdrop of the film, it doesn’t form the backbone, with the protagonist’s character-graph taking prominence. It starts with Vikram’s self-assured struggle to get into movies, progresses with his ethical corruption resulting from fame and culminates with his remorse. However, with the rejection of his repentance, the film opts for an abrupt climax where the protagonist suddenly switches from Vikram to Sona. The movie culminates on a pragmatic note much in the Madhur Bhandarkar mould, though it evades such treatment through its run by not getting hard-hitting heavy or regressively realistic.

Nevertheless, Zoya Akhtar comes up with a taut screenplay comprising of some amusingly comic-but-credible characters. The twist in the interval point is especially noteworthy where Sona loses her chance and Vikram gets lucky. The treatment continuously alternates between humour to reality bytes but at no moment gets slapstick. The narrative even covers external factors affecting the film industry comprising of acting schools, drama-theatre, corporate studios to media houses and has interesting anecdotes on each.

Anand Subaya’s editing is crisp and he makes good use of montage mixture at several instances. The production design (Anuradha Parikh) and the costumes (Arjun Bhasin, Aparna Chandra) impart a perfect Bollywood feel to the film. The imaginatively shot opening credit song deserves a special mention for paying tribute to every uncelebrated craftsman involved in the making of a movie. Right at the onset, it defines and sets a perfect mood for the film. Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy’s musical score is engaging though a couple of songs in the second half were clearly avoidable.

Almost every character in the film has grey shades though not glorified to extreme extents. The movie reveals the double standards of industry people though not showing them in an outright negative light. The trivial scene where Hrithik as superstar Zafar is separated from the external world by his car’s glass window is a subtle metaphor for the confinements of stardom. The pre-interval confrontation between Farhan and his friends is another effective scene.

Zoya Akhtar succeeds in extracting perfect performances from each and every member of the cast. And if you think Isha Sharvani can’t act, she is used in the film to that effect. She is not supposed to act but simply look beautiful, which she does. Farhan Akhtar comes up with a natural and confident act and glides effortlessly through his role. Konkona Sen Sharma is as dependable as always and stands tall throughout the film. Rishi Kapoor gets the looks and mannerisms of his Bollywood producer character correct and is exceptionally hilarious. Dimple Kapadia is impressive as a yesteryear actress and the doting mother of her debuting daughter. Hrithik Roshan is decent in his extended special appearance.

Luck By Chance highlights how the film industry give regards to everything else but the story when making a movie and ironically weaves a fascinating story using that paradox.

'Luck By Chance', a drama focusing on the 'dream-world' of Bollywood, is the second movie of ace actor Farhan Akhtar, who won our hearts with 'Rock On!!'. The directorial venture of Zoya Akhtar, the film has an impressive cast that boasts of names like Rishi Kapoor, Konkona Sen Sharma, Dimple Kapadia, Juhi Chawla, Aly Khan, Isha Sharvani and Sanjay Kapoor. Apart from that, it also has a special appearance by Hrithik Roshan. The film will be released on 30th January 2009, under the banner of 'Excel Entertainment'.
"Luck By Chance" takes us into the world of Bollywood and the strugglers who are vying to become part of the glamour industry. Sona Mishra (Konkona Sen Sharma) is one such struggler. A highly ambitious and talented girl, she comes across Vikram Jaisingh (Farhan Akhtar). A Delhiite, Vikram wants to become an actor and in the process, is ready to manipulate situations tactfully. Slowly, they start developing feelings for each other and enter a romantic relationship. At the other end of the spectrum is Romy Rolly (Rishi Kapoor), a Punjabi producer who has launched some of the biggest stars, but still believes in luck and destiny.
Rolly is all set to launch Nikki Walia (Isha Sharvani), the teenage daughter of 70's superstar - Neena Walia (Dimple Kapadia), in his next film, opposite Zaffar Khan (Hrithik Roshan). However, an unfortunate event results in havoc on the sets on the upcoming film. Amongst numerous other strugglers, Vikram is also called for an audition, for the film, and utilizes the opportunity to the fullest. Will 'luck' be at Vikram's side when he tries to gain from the 'chance' destiny has thrown his way? What will happen to his relationship with Sona? The answers to these questions are not far away, especially with 30th January just around the corner.


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Housing Ministry to lower the down payments on the Hulhumalé flats

The Housing Ministry is discussing ways to lower the down payments on the Hulhumalé flats, even by stopping some other projects being carried out by the Government, the Ministry has said.
State Minister Aslam Shakir said on Wednesday that they were trying everything to make it affordable for those who had won the new flats and to reduce the down payment.
“We are discussing what can be done about it with the Finance Ministry,” he said. “Even if we have to stop some Government projects in order to make it so, we are ready to do it. We are trying to waive the down payment altogether or give them subsidies. However I can’t say what will be decided yet.”
He said that the biggest obstacle for reducing the down payment was difficulties in getting funds.
The period given for the new would-be tenants of the Hulhumalé flats is two weeks. If they fail to make the payment then the flats will not be handed over to them. A total of 488 flats are available to the public from the 504 available at the building.


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The Negroni: Bitter? Sweet.

There has always been a special place in my heart for the Negroni. Not always. I stayed away from them in elementary school, naturally. I don't think I even tried my first until well into my twenties. And I'm not quite certain I liked it then.

But I liked the idea of the Negroni. It was and is a sophisticated, world-weary drink-- one with Italian origins and bitter complexity, yet remarkably, charmingly straight forward. It is not a drink that should be knocked back like whiskey, nor can it be co-opted or diluted with other ingredients and still be called by its proper name. It is the sum of its equal, co-dependent parts: gin, sweet vermouth, and Campari. It must be savored and considered.

If a person could model one's self after a cocktail, I knew that the Negroni was exactly what I wanted to be when I grew up, so I kept trying. So far, so good, and with minimal damage to my liver.

The Negroni doesn't have the wide appeal of the Martini or even the Manhattan, which is, in my case, precisely the point. It isn't necessarily an exclusive drink, but it does attract discriminating drinkers. They know who they are.

Or, at least, quickly find out who they are not.

For example, several years ago, some co-workers and I took a new server out one afternoon for a drink at a place around the corner from our restaurant. It was a warm day, so we decided to sit outside at some little tables on the sidewalk, have a smoke, and get to know our new little friend over a drink or two.

My friend Greg was managing that day, so he came around to have a chat and took our drink order while he was at it. We, all of us, called for Negronis. When he asked the new girl if she would like one as well, she spoke these precious words:

"Um, sure. I'll have a nigg--oni, too."

Then came the long, extremely uncomfortable silence made all the worse by the fact that she said this to a black man. If looks were hunting knives, she would have been flayed alive by everyone present. What made it all the more surprising was that she hadn't the slightest idea what she had just said. Greg generously attributed her utterance to poor Italian pronunciation, which is more than the rest of us allowed her.

And, after all that discomfort, she told us she didn't like her Negroni and sent it back to be replaced by a sweet, vodka-based drink. When she got up to use the restroom, one of our party re-christened her "Chili's" because he felt she might be much more at home working there than with us. The name stuck around for about as long as she did. That drink we bought her as a welcome ended up being her departing gift, too, since that's precisely what she did shortly after.

Apart from its cachet of clique, what I love most about the Negroni is that it is deliciously louche. It hints at danger and moral decay more precisely than any other drink, save Absinthe. Just ask Tennessee Williams. Or don't, since he's dead. Rather, watch Lotte Lenya*, Warren Beatty, and Vivien Leigh drink them in The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone and enjoy the ensuing destruction. They weren't exactly good for Mrs. Stone, nor were they especially good for Mr. Beatty's awful Italian accent, but they certainly helped to lubricate the plot. (*After searching for a video clip from the film, I stumbled upon an article by Toby Cecchini in the New York Times referring to Lotte Lenya as, well, louche. It must be true. For a wonderful description of the drink and its components, read the article Shaken And Stirred; Dressing Italian.)

There is a time and a place for the Negroni. Swank apartments at midnight, dimly lit trysting places at any time of day, on the sly in a toney sanitarium-- appropriate situations, all of them. Never, under any circumstances are they to be drunk over a quick lunch with your parents or-- and I speak from personal experience-- are they to be ordered in the jungle borderlands between Brazil and Argentina. Especially if there is a strong language barrier between you and the bartender who only knows caipirinhas. I don't care if there is a casino on the premises, it is to be avoided.

The Classic Negroni

The cocktail owes its name and its existence to one Count Camillo Negroni of Florence, Italy. According to Eric Felten's enjoyable read, How's Your Drink?, Negroni's preferred drink at the Caffé Casoni was the Americano, an admixture of Campari, Cinzano, and club soda. One day, he asked the bartender, Fosco Scarselli, to fortify his drink with gin. The cocktail was an unqualified success and its intake spread first around the city, then the world.


Makes one Negroni

1 ounce good gin. Please do not stint.

1 ounce Cinzano Rosso vermouth

1 ounce Campari.

Ice cubes, preferably made from Italian spring water. Or tap, depending.

Orange peel or slice for garnish


Into a cocktail shaker, add all ingredients except the orange. Shake or stir, according to your own preference. Strain into chilled cocktail class. Garnish with orange.

Sit back, and enjoy the ensuing existential train wreck.

As an added bonus, while I'm on the topic of train wrecks, enjoy a clip from a famous television personality I would never in a million years expect to see drinking a Negroni. In my opinion, she doesn't get it quite right, just pouring everything over the rocks without proper mixing as she does. Then again, she does only have 30 minutes to make an entire meal.



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Rafael Nadal vs Fernando Verdasco Live Streaming | Aus Open Live

Rafael Nadal vs Fernando Verdasco News:

RAFAEL NADAL: No, I never like the comparisons between years. This year I am playing more regular than last year, no? I think last year I played against Troicki saving set points, against Serra I think easy. Next I played against Simon, saving set points. Today tough match, too, without playing very well, and against Mathieu I didn’t play very well.

The feeling I am playing well. I only had little bit worse match the second round, but for the rest I played very good third round. Against González and Simon I think was very good matches.

Today was tough, because play against Simon is always difficult. I can’t play exactly my rhythm because when I play my rhythm with the forehand trying to change directions with the forehand for him is good, no? I think he feels very well two meters behind the line and running all the time.

I think I had to change a little bit the strategy, trying to play a little bit more slice, short balls, try to change the rhythm, no? Play higher, play lower. So that’s what I try today.
Rafael Nadal vs Fernando Verdasco Live Score

Please Do not Comment Copyrighted Streaming Links : Sopcast links - TVU links - TVAnts Links - Flash Links - OOX Links - SPVod Links


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The Internet Says Goodbye To Martin Schaedel

Martin Schaedel, who was a slightly mysterious and very excellent person, died yesterday in a plane crash at the Santa Monica airport. You can read about his life and death in this well-reported Los Angeles Times story.

One of the most noteworthy things about Martin was the fact that he knew people everywhere. He was ostensibly an Internet deal guy, but I have a sneaking suspicion that meeting people was Martin’s primary pursuit. Which means that there are many people who are are saddened about his death, but not many of us know each other.

But right now many of us are meeting after the fact. Venture capitalist Fred Wilson has written a nice tribute to Martin on his blog, and commenters are sharing their memories of Martin there. They’re also doing it via Twitter, and you can keep track of those exchanges here.

I think he’d be happy to learn that he brokered so many introductions. RIP.


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Cecil Suwal, Spitzer-Linked New York Madam, Gets Six Months

NEW YORK — A woman who helped run the prostitution ring that brought down former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer has been sentenced to six months in prison.

Cecil Suwal (SEE’-sil soo-WAHL’) was sentenced Thursday by a federal judge in Manhattan.

Prosecutors had asked the judge to give the young madam around two years in prison for her role in managing the Emperors Club VIP escort service.

Her lawyer says she deserved leniency. The defense says she got involved in the business through a much older boyfriend who psychologically dominated her.

Suwal had pleaded guilty last spring to charges involving money laundering and promoting prostitution.


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Octuplets' mother Angela Suleman has 6 other children

The woman who gave birth to octuplets this week has six other children and never expected to have eight more when she took fertility treatment, her mother said.

Angela Suleman said her daughter expects a big challenge raising 14 children. The good news, she said, is all the babies appear healthy.

"I looked at those babies. They are so tiny and so beautiful," Suleman told The Los Angeles Times on Thursday.

Suleman's daughter gave birth to the octuplets Monday at a hospital in Bellflower but has requested that doctors keep her name confidential. Media knew little about the woman until a family acquaintance told CBS' "The Early Show" on Thursday that the mother is "fairly young" and lives with her parents and her six children, including twins.

Within hours, media had camped out at the family's home in Whittier, where the babies' grandfather pulled up in a minivan in the evening and briefly spoke to The Associated Press. Beside him were two children - a 7-year-old and 6-year-old - who said they were excited to have eight new siblings.

But the grandfather warned that media may have a tougher time finding the family after the babies are released from the hospital.

"We have a huge house, not here," said the man, who would only identify himself as Ed. "You are never going to know where it is."

Suleman said her daughter had embryos implanted last year, and after finding out she was pregnant with multiple babies was given the option by doctors of selectively reducing the number of embryos. The woman declined.

"What do you suggest she should have done? She refused to have them killed," Suleman told the Times. "That is a very painful thing."

Dr. Harold Henry said the woman was already pregnant when she came to Kaiser Permanente Bellflower Medical Center, and she was counseled on the option of aborting some of the fetuses. Doctors had been expecting only seven babies, but an eighth was born in the cesarean delivery.

The six boys and two girls, the second octuplets born alive in the United States, have garnered worldwide attention as media have attempted to find out more about the mother and her family. Hours after media gathered outside the Whittier home, Kaiser issued a statement on behalf of the mother requesting privacy.

"Please know, in our own time, we will share additional details about this miraculous experience," the statement read. "The babies continue to grow strong everyday and make good progress. My family and I are ecstatic about all of their arrivals. Needless to say the eighth was a surprise to us all, but a blessing as well."

Dr. Mandhir Gupta said seven of the babies were breathing without assistance. One was still receiving oxygen through a tube in his nose.

Seven of the infants were being tube-fed donated breast milk. One of the boys was expected to begin feedings Friday.

All babies continued to receive an intravenous nutritional combination. They were expected to remain in the hospital for several more weeks.

Some fertility specialists have said the children face increased health risks because they are octuplets and born nine weeks premature. At birth, they ranged between 1 pound, 8 ounces and 3 pounds, 4 ounces.

Doctors say they advise against higher-order births, but acknowledge the decision is not theirs to make.

"Who am I to say that six is the limit?" said Dr. Jeffrey Steinberg, medical director of Fertility Institutes, which has clinics in Los Angeles, Las Vegas and New York City. "There are people who like to have big families."

Dr. James Grifo, professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the NYU School of Medicine, added: "I don't think it's our job to tell them how many babies they're allowed to have. I am not a policeman for reproduction in the United States. My role is to educate patients."

Associated Press writer Shaya Tayefe Mohajer in Bellflower and AP science writer Alicia Chang in Los Angeles contributed to this report.


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Somali pirates hijack German gas tanker, 13 crew

Somali pirates hijacked a German tanker loaded with liquefied petroleum gas Thursday off the Horn of Africa. The ship's 13-man crew was reported safe, even though gunshots were heard over the ship's radio.

The MV Longchamp is the third ship captured by pirates this month in the Gulf of Aden, one of the world's busiest shipping lanes.

Piracy has taken an increasing toll on international shipping in the key water link between the Mediterranean Sea and the Indian Ocean. Pirates made an estimated $30 million hijacking ships for ransom last year, seizing more than 40 vessels off Somalia's coastline.

More than a dozen warships from countries including Britain, France, Germany, Iran, China and the United States now patrol Somali waters to protect vessels. But the warships were not near the Longchamp when it was taken, said Lt. Nathan Christensen, a Bahrain-based spokesman for the U.S. 5th Fleet.

Seven pirates boarded the Bahamas-registered Longchamp early Thursday, the tanker's manager, Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement, said in a statement.

Spokesman Andre Delau said the ship's master had been briefly allowed to communicate with the firm and had said the crew of 12 Filipinos and one Indonesian were safe.

"We think that everything is in order, nobody is injured," he told The Associated Press.

No ransom demands have been made yet, the company said.

Robin Phillips, deputy director of the Bahamas maritime authority in London, said the Longchamp had been traveling in a corridor secured by EU military forces when it sent a distress signal before dawn.

"Ships and helicopters were dispatched, but they arrived too late," said Phillips, adding that gunshots could be heard over the radio.

He said the ship later set a course for Somalia, to the south.

Christensen said the ship was seized off the southern coast of Yemen, about 60 miles (95 kilometers) from the town of al-Mukalla, the capital of the Hadramaut region.

He also said 21 ships since Dec. 1 have taken "aggressive, evasive maneuvers" and successfully evaded pirate attacks.

Noel Choong, who heads the International Maritime Bureau's piracy reporting center, said Thursday's hijacking was the first attack since Jan. 14. For the past two weeks, strong winds have made it difficult for pirates to launch their small boats, but the weather has now improved, Choong said.

There have been 15 attacks so far this year, and three ships seized, he said.

Cyrus Mody of the International Maritime Bureau said 166 crew on nine ships were still being held off the coast of Somalia, not including the Longchamp. Six other hijacked ships have been released this month, including an oil tanker freed for a reported $3 million ransom.

Somalia, a nation of about 8 million people, has not had a functioning government since warlords overthrew a dictator in 1991 and then turned on each other. Pirates see its lawless coastline as a haven.

Also Thursday, an official said the breakaway Somali region of Puntland had agreed to a French request that it take custody of nine suspected pirates arrested Tuesday by France.

"We consider them to be a real threat for the regional security and the world, as well," said Abdullahi Said Samatar, the Puntland security minister.

The German military reported two more suspected attempts by pirates to attack ships in the Gulf of Aden early Thursday.

A German navy frigate received an emergency call from a cargo ship, the European Champion, which reported that it was being followed by a skiff. A military statement said the skiff backed off after the German ship sent its on-board helicopter to the scene.

A second cargo ship, the Eleni G., radioed that it was being pestered by several skiffs. A German frigate sailed toward the ship, which shook off the suspected pirates.

Associated Press writers Katharine Houreld in Nairobi, Barbara Surk in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Mike Melia in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Simone Utler in Hamburg, Germany and David Rising in Berlin contributed to this report.


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Bacon belly bomb is a big hit

Never underestimate the power of bacon — or the Internet.

Two local barbecue-lovin’ guys have found themselves the toast of the bacon world thanks to a recipe calling for just two main ingredients: bacon (two pounds of it) and Italian sausage (two pounds of that). The sausage is wrapped in a basket-weaved blanket of bacon, and for good measure there’s even more bacon inside. Sweet KC-style sauce, too.

Then you smoke it. In a backyard smoker.

Aaron Chronister and Jason Day, who compete in barbecue circles as Burnt Finger BBQ, call this meat missile “Bacon Explosion.” And explode it has: first online (it helps that Chronister is an Internet marketer), then Wednesday on the cover of The New York Times’ food section (headline: “Take Bacon. Add Sausage. Blog”), then online some more.

Anyone doubt that Kansas City is the barbecue capital of the world?

All told, Chronister and Day say the Bacon Explosion recipe on their site, www.bbqaddicts.com., has attracted 510,000 page views since it was posted just before Christmas; 90,000 alone on Wednesday.

Now, thanks to the Times story, the bacon buds are bound for New York, where they’ll smoke their sausage Friday morning in Times Square. That’ll be on Fox News Channel’s “Fox & Friends” show. Then they’ll head south to Tampa, Fla., to do some Super Bowl tailgating Sunday on another Fox channel. Two book publishers e-mailed Wednesday and want to talk.

This whole thing started when a Web site called Bacon Today asked Chronister and Day if they had any bacon barbecue recipes. “The longer I thought about it,” Day wrote on bbqaddicts.com, “the more I wanted to step it up a notch and clog a few arteries for those guys.”

Chronister, 32, of Kansas City, and Day, 27, of Roeland Park, admit they’re not the first foodies to combine the two pork products in a barbecue recipe. But you have to give ’em credit for a catchy name.

More than that, you have to give them credit for knowing how to exploit the Internet. Chronister’s brilliant move was posting on Twitter, a site that sends out short Web-based text messages. His 1,200 Twitter “followers” — mostly other Internet marketers and “social network influencers” — took it from there.

Some of them thumbs-upped the Bacon Explosion post on a site called StumbleUpon, which suggests Web pages based on a user’s interests. The recipe became so hot there it went to the site’s front page.

Other sites, such as Digg and Del.icio.us, also helped the recipe go viral. There’s a Bacon Explosion fan page on Facebook. On YouTube, you can watch gas grills catching on fire when the Bacon Explosion log almost literally explodes. (Hint: Cooking in a smoker, with indirect heat, is the recommended method. Dripping bacon grease and an open flame are a dangerous combination.)

Chronister and Day do not claim, by the way, that Bacon Explosion is health food. Just one little sandwich — a couple of 1/4 -inch to 1/2 -inch rounds of meat on a buttermilk biscuit — “sits heavy,” Day says. The entire meat log contains something like 5,000 calories and 500 grams of fat.

One of the first comments posted in response to the recipe: “They should make drive-through angioplasty. It would make this much easier.”

Amy Winn of the Kansas City Barbeque Society hadn’t heard of the Bacon Explosion until The Star called her, but she’d like to try it.


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Dell choosing between Windows Mobile and Android for its phone — is there really a choice?

It seems that the number of computer makers entering the smartphone market is growing daily now. Just one day after it was revealed that Acer would unveil a smartphone at next month’s Mobile World Conference, Dell is apparently thinking about doing the same thing. At the very least, it has been working on its phone for about a year now, and has some prototypes, sources tell The Wall Street Journal.

Dell’s situation is fairly interesting. As the number one computer maker in the U.S. and number two in the world, Dell clearly has manufacturing capabilities. After seeing the success Apple has had with the iPhone, and after watching its own market share (and stock price) slip in the past few years, the mobile market presents an area of growth for Dell, as it does for other computer makers. But Dell isn’t interested in building the entire phone itself, according to WSJ, instead, it would build the hardware, but would rely on another party for the software.

And this is where things get even more interesting: Apparently the two mobile operating systems Dell is considering are Microsoft’s Windows Mobile and Google’s Android. As if those two needed anything else to fuel their rivalry.

I can’t for the life of me think of a reason why Dell would go with Windows Mobile over Android, unless Microsoft has shown Dell some killer new features it is working on for Windows Mobile 6.5 — also rumored to be unveiled at MWC — or Windows Mobile 7, which has been delayed. From the leaked information and screenshots, Windows Mobile 6.5 looks a bit better, but is most likely still a dog when compared to a fresh, new platform like Google’s Android.

Also interesting is that Dell apparently has two prototypes going around. One is a device with just a touch screen like Apple’s iPhone, the other has a physical keypad that slides from behind the screen like G1, the first Android phone, and the Palm Pre. It’s not clear if Dell would pick one of those or make both. (But I think you know where I stand on that.)

And of course, there is always the possibility that it won’t release a mobile product at all. Dell has a history of prototyping devices and then canning them. It did it just last year with a music player it had been testing, as WSJ points out. That was probably a smart move, the stand-alone music player market will soon start to shrink as those capabilities are wrapped into phones and other devices. That’s one reason why I think it’s silly that Microsoft insists on pushing forward with the Zune device even as sales plummet and revenues get cut in half. The mobile market is the hardware market to be in.

As for what such a device by Dell would be called, Silicon Alley Insider got a tip saying that it would be called the “MePhone.” I think that has to be a joke. That would be hands down the dumbest name I’ve ever heard of for a device and such a poor rip on the “iPhone” name that Dell would just be ridiculed unless its device was much better than Apple’s — a tall order.

Also, seeing as Dell has played well in the business sector with its computers, for any phone they make, they might be wiser to go after more professional customers, those that currently use RIM’s BlackBerry. Perhaps that’s another reason why they’re thinking of using Windows Mobile — the obvious tie-in with Microsoft’s other products which many businesses use.

SAI also heard that the device would focus on “customization,” whatever that means, and that it would be available on September 9 — 9/9/09 — cute.

The WSJ notes that Dell chief executive Michael Dell has been eyeing the mobile space since he returned to lead the company in 2007. Since that time, he’s hired a few key Motorola execs with plenty of mobile experience.

I’ll go ahead and pass on making the obvious, “Dude, you’re getting a Dell” joke here — but if they can make a solid phone, you just might be.


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Georgia Peanut Butter Plant Knowingly Shipped Food With Salmonella For Over A Year For Over A Year

Georgia Peanut Butter Plant Knowingly Shipped Food With Salmonella For Over A Year For Over A Year. The FDA and the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention have been investigating this most recent salmonella outbreak and have recently found that the Peanut Corporation of America detected salmonella in internal tests twelve times in 2007 and 2008.
They received positive salmonella results from different laboratories. Yet despite these positive detections,they still sold their products to companies who make peanut butter products.
So, what we have is a maker of peanut butter linked to a nationwide outbreak of salmonella shipped tainted product, that knew they had tested positive for salmonella bacteria.
This company is the Peanut Corporation of America Their plant with the salmonella poisoning is in Blakely, Georgia.

The FDA has reported that the Peanut Corporation of America’s own testing program found strains of salmonella 12 times in 2007 and 2008 at its Blakely, Georgia, plant. The problem does not appear to have been resolved.
FDA inspectors visited the PCA plant this month, they reported finding still more salmonella contamination. In that report, the FSA reports that the “firm’s own internal microbiological testing” found salmonella in peanut paste, peanut butter, peanut meal, peanut granules and oil-roasted, salted peanuts.
FDA concluded that, “After the firm retested the product and received a negative status, the product was still shipped.”
The Georgia Department of Agriculture is working with the FDA on the investigation of the outbreak, which has been linked to the plant.
“The inspection also revealed no steps were taken in terms of cleaning or cross-contamination” after the salmonella was found in the plant, said FDA’s director of the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, Dr. Stephen Sundlof.
The company did not clean the production line after Salmonella Typhimurium, the bacterium implicated in the outbreak, was found there last September, according to the FDA report. This is the same type of bacteria found in 502 people who have become ill in 43 states and Canada since September. At least eight deaths have been linked to the outbreak.
Food violations also included contamination of plant surfaces and equipment by other microorganisms, the discovery of roaches near production and packaging areas and the inability of the company’s ventilation system to prevent the salmonella from contaminating other parts of the plant. Sounds like one pretty nasty food processing plant to me. One I could not even work in.
The FDA investigation began January 9, 2009, as soon as the manufacturer was implicated as the original source of the salmonella outbreak.
The PCA plant produces peanut butter sold to institutions, such as nursing homes and cafeterias, as well as peanut paste, which is used in cookies, crackers, ice cream and pet treats, with than 300 products using PCA’s peanut paste and peanut butter products recalled and the FDA has urged consumers to check the agency’s Web site frequently for updates.
Federal health officials recommend that consumers throw away any recalled products and not consume any products whose safety cannot be verified.
The American Peanut Council has compiled a list of companies not implicated in the recall on www.peanutsusa.com. But remember that PAC, theGeorgia Peanut Butter Plant Knowingly Shipped Food With Salmonella For Over A Year . Can you trust them? I don’t.
For more information go to CNN News and read these BBAC posts about Georgia Peanut Butter Plant Knowingly Shipped Food With Salmonella For Over A Year.


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Alaskans brace for Redoubt Volcano eruption

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Hardware stores and auto parts shops scored a post-holiday run of business this week as Anchorage-area residents stocked up on protective eyewear and masks ahead of a possible eruption of Mount Redoubt.

Monitoring earthquakes underneath the 10,200-foot Redoubt Volcano about 100 miles southwest of Anchorage, scientists from the Alaska Volcano Observatory warned that an eruption was imminent, sending experienced Alaskans shopping for protection against a dusty shower of volcanic ash that could descend on south-central Alaska.

"Every time this happens we do get a run on dust masks and goggles," said Phil Robinson, manager of an Alaska Industrial Hardware store in Anchorage. "That's the two main things for eye and respiratory protection."

Customer Ron Cowan picked up gear at the store Thursday before heading off to an auto parts store for a spare air filter.

"I'm older now and I'm being a little more proactive than I was the last time," Cowan said.

When another Alaska volcano, Mount Spurr, blew in 1992, he waited too long.

"The shelves were cleared, so I thought I wouldn't wait until the last minute," Cowan said.

Unlike earthquakes, volcanoes often give off warning signs that usually give people time to prepare.

The observatory, a joint program between the U.S. Geological Survey, the University of Alaska Geophysical Institute and the state Division of Geological and Geophysical Surveys, was formed in response to the 1986 eruption of Mount Augustine.

It has a variety of tools to predict eruptions. As magma moves beneath a volcano before an eruption, it often generates earthquakes, swells the surface of a mountain and increases the gases emitted. The observatory samples gases, measures earthquake activity with seismometers and watches for deformities in the landscape.

On Nov. 5, geologists noted changed emissions and minor melting near the Redoubt summit and raised the threat level from green to yellow. It jumped to orange _ the stage just before eruption _ on Sunday in response to a sharp increase in earthquake activity below the volcano.

Alaska's volcanoes are not like Hawaii's. "Most of them don't put out the red river of lava," said the observatory's John Power.

Instead, they typically explode and shoot ash 30,000 to 50,000 feet high _ more than nine miles _ into the jet stream.

"It's a very abrasive kind of rock fragment," Power said. "It's not the kind of ash that you find at the base of your wood stove."

The particulate has jagged edges and has been used as an industrial abrasive. "They use this to polish all kinds of metals," he said.

Particulate can injure skin, eyes and breathing passages. The young, the elderly and people with respiratory problems are especially susceptible. Put enough ash under a windshield wiper and it will scratch glass.

It's also potentially deadly for anyone flying in a jet. "Think of flying an airliner into a sandblaster," Power said.

Redoubt blew on Dec. 15, 1989, and sent ash 150 miles away into the path of a KLM jet carrying 231 passengers. Its four engines flamed out.

As the crew tried to restart the engines, "smoke" and a strong odor of sulfur filled the cockpit and cabin, according to a USGS account. The jet dropped more than 2 miles, from 27,900 feet to 13,300 feet, before the crew was able to restart all engines and land the plane safely at Anchorage. The plane required $80 million in repairs.

The observatory's first call after an eruption is now to the Federal Aviation Administration. The observatory's data collection has become far more advanced in 19 years, as has the alert system.

"Pilots are routinely trained to avoid ash and in what to do if they encounter an ash cloud," Power said. "That kind of thing was not routinely done in the 1980s."

The jet stream can carry ash for hundreds of miles. Ash from Kasatochi Volcano in the Aleutians last August blew all the way to Montana and threatened aircraft, Power said.

Particulate is mildly corrosive but can be blocked with masks and filters.

Power advises Alaskans to prepare as they would for a bad snowstorm: Keep flashlights, batteries and several days' worth of food in the house, limit driving and prepare to hunker down if the worst of an ash cloud hits.

Merely going indoors is a defense against ash. The American Red Cross recommends wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants outside, plus goggles and glasses instead of contact lenses. If no dust mask is available, an effective respiratory filter is a damp cloth over nose and mouth.

But potential danger all depends on the wind. Mount Spurr erupted three times in 1992. When it blew that June, only climbers on Mount McKinley _ about 150 miles north of Anchorage _ were affected, Power said. An August eruption dumped significant ash on Anchorage and a September blow sent ash about 40 miles north of Anchorage to Wasilla.

Dust mask customer Elizabeth Keating said Thursday that if the volcano erupts, she expects to stay inside. She bought masks for her school-age grandchildren to carry in their backpacks.

"I want to make sure they're carrying these in case they're en route," she said.

On the Net:

Alaska Volcano Observatory: http://www.avo.alaska.edu

Ash hazards: http://volcanoes.usgs.gov/hazards


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What Obama should say about the House Republicans not supporting the stimulus package...

While I have my own gripes with the House stimulus packages (wasting 1/3 of it on tax cuts that are patently unfair), we need to pass something because things are bad. Hopefully Obama will use the addition of the tax cuts to argue that he tried to give the Republicans what they wanted - he even devoted a full 33% to 40% (House bill vs. Obama's proposal) to tax cuts, and the House Republicans still refused to come together in a moment of national crisis. As I've said, I think the bill stinks in parts. But at this point, better to settle for second best (or third) than not have a bill at all.


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AAUW Applauds President Obama for Signing Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act into Law

WASHINGTON – AAUW applauds President Barack Obama for signing the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which restores the long-standing interpretation of civil rights laws and EEOC policies that allow employees to challenge any discriminatory paycheck they receive.

"President Obama has put pay discrimination at the top of the agenda, right where it belongs.

The wage gap doesn't just hurt working women, it hurts families as well," said AAUW Executive Director Linda D. Hallman, CAE, who attended the signing ceremony. "We are especially pleased that this measure is the first bill moved by Congress and signed by our new president, sending a strong message that economic issues and pay equity are a top priority."

Statistics on women in the workplace speak to the need for action. The average woman earns just 78 cents of every dollar earned by her male counterparts, and disparities appear just one year out of college — even for those with the same job and the same major. Women of color make even less.
Read balance of article by clicking here.


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Super Bowl XLIII: Which ads will score, which will fumble?

Assuming you've been reading our prior blogs about getting the right TV and right HD service for Super Bowl XLII, you're now properly outfitted with all the gear you'll need to watch the Arizona Cardinals battle the Pittsburgh Steelers down in Tampa.

But not all the "Big Game" action is going to take place between the goal posts. For many viewers whose teams are sitting on the sidelines—like me, a long-suffering NY Jets fan—the day is just as much about checking out the high-profile Super Bowl ads and half-time entertainment as it about the game itself.

We can safely assume the half-time fare will be a hit—Bruce Springsteen hasn't had a bad live show, well, ever, and it's unlikely he'll experience any wardrobe malfunctions. As for the ads, the Big Three car companies are on the sidelines, leaving it to the soft-drink makers, beer companies and pharmaceutical manufacturers to make their Big Game mark. Or in some instances, miss that mark spectacularly, which is often even more amusing.

The ads we're most looking forward to are 3D spots by Pepsi's SoBe Lifewater and DreamWorks Animation, and a 1-second ad run by beermaker MillerCoors. To see the DreamWorks commercial—a preview of its upcoming Monsters vs. Aliens 3D movie—and the SoBe spot in 3D, you'll need 3D glasses, which are available for free at SoBe displays in supermarkets. You'll be able to reuse the glasses a night later for a special 3D presentation of NBC's comedy, “Chuck.” The DreamWorks and SoBe spots are slated to run at the end of the second quarter, right before half time.

Another groundbreaker: 1-second spots from Miller High-Life, which says the going rate for this year's ads—$3 million for a 30-second spot—doesn't make sense for a brand that touts high value. Instead, it'll run a 1-second commercial starring pitchman Wendell Middlebrooks. Although the company won't say exactly what will air, you can check out 30 1-second spots on http://www.1second.com, the website MillerCoors created for the event. Unfortunately, not everyone will see the ad (and not because they blink or sneeze while it's on). Apparently, Anheuser-Busch is the official national alcohol advertiser, so Miller had to buy commercials time from the various local NBC affiliates.

Adding to the fun: Our colleagues over at The Consumerist will be live-blogging the commercials, offering their running commentary on the best and worst of the lot "for those who don’t have any friends or whose friends don't make interesting enough commentary." Make sure you check them out.

—James K. Willcox

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The Real Shame of Wall Street Bonuses

This entry is cross-posted on DMI Blog.

As easy a mark as Wall Street bonuses have become for those critical of corporate greed and corruption, President' Obama's calling them "shameful" and citing Wall Street's actions as the "height of irresponsibility" may signal a significant shift in the government's tone towards corporate culture. For all his Christian bluster and talk about the axis of evil, former President Bush rarely had much to say on the morality of corporate America and the financial services industry. As the scandals at Enron grabbed headlines and predatory lending poisoned the financial well of this country, there was little executive outrage to be found.

Still, it's hard for me not to respond with cyncism to the media's and government's sudden religion regarding the unseemliness of year-end Wall Street bonuses. The financial meltdown didn't begin yesterday. Why didn't Congress and the press express similar outrage a year ago, when I and a group of activists huddled around the Wall Street bull and challenged the leading investment banks to forego their end of 2007 bonuses and put their ill gotten gains towards foreclosure prevention? What may have seemed to some as protest gimmickry, turns out to have been an act of poetic prescience. Barely months after that protest, the big five investment houses went out of business, leaving all Americans to pick through the dust and nuclear fallout of credit-default swaps and mortgage-backed securities.

There is no joy in being able to say "I told you so" as this country stands on the precipice of an economic free fall. But as the President and Congress stand "shovel ready" to pour more TARP billions into the black hole coffers of financial institutions, there remain no measures that ensure corporate accountability. And homeowners remain, after almost two years of twisting in the wind, in foreclosure distress. The shame, my friends, lies not just with Wall Street, but with ourselves.


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Update: Turkey, Israel, and the Crash in Davos

It was an extraordinary scene yesterday at the World Economic Forum held in Davos, where hundreds of participants and millions in front of their televisions witnessed Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s denunciation and his departure before the session was closed.

Erdogan targeted Israeli President Shimon Peres, claiming his “high-toned statements” were made to “hide his guilt”. Both Israeli actions in Gaza and the applause after President Peres’s speech were “crimes against humanity”.

Asking for an extra minute from the moderator, Erdogan accused Israelis of “being good in killing” before quoting the 6th commandment of the Torah: “Thou should not kill.” When the moderator tied to interject, Erdogan warned him not to interrupt and said, “Davos is over for me.”
In Turkey, hundreds of party members and citizens, Turkish flags in their hands, have been waiting outside the airport to welcome Erdogan, after his ‘heroic attitude’ in Davos. On the other hand, there is a shock in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, according to diplomatic sources. Senior officials are afraid that this strained relationship with Tel Aviv may diminish the Jewish lobby’s support in the US for Turkey’s position on Armenia.

For Israeli diplomatic sources, Erdogan’s speech was just another part of his “attack against Israel”. They labelled his behavior on the Davos stage an incoherent step in Turkey’s efforts to become a rational and constructive part of European Union.

A reaction from the Israeli side is expected tomorrow.


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AAUW Applauds President Obama for Signing Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act into Law

WASHINGTON – AAUW applauds President Barack Obama for signing the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which restores the long-standing interpretation of civil rights laws and EEOC policies that allow employees to challenge any discriminatory paycheck they receive.

"President Obama has put pay discrimination at the top of the agenda, right where it belongs. The wage gap doesn't just hurt working women, it hurts families as well," said AAUW Executive Director Linda D. Hallman, CAE, who attended the signing ceremony. "We are especially pleased that this measure is the first bill moved by Congress and signed by our new president, sending a strong message that economic issues and pay equity are a top priority."

Statistics on women in the workplace speak to the need for action. The average woman earns just 78 cents of every dollar earned by her male counterparts, and disparities appear just one year out of college — even for those with the same job and the same major. Women of color make even less.

"AAUW is hopeful that the swift action on this important law is a harbinger of what we can expect from both the new Congress and the new administration," said Lisa Maatz, AAUW director of public policy and government relations. "Thanks to the remarkable Lilly Ledbetter, who stood up to injustice despite great personal sacrifice, women and others in her shoes will be able to seek a fair day in court."

Lilly Ledbetter is perhaps the best-known face of pay equity. She worked for nearly two decades at the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company in Gadsden, AL. Despite receiving top performance awards, Ledbetter discovered that she had been paid significantly less than male co-workers with the same job. After her November 1998 retirement, she filed suit under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and was awarded back pay and other remedies in a jury trial. The U.S. Supreme Court's 5-4 decision not only erased Ledbetter's award, but also left women, minorities, and others in Ledbetter's situation with virtually no recourse to pay discrimination.

"The wage gap not only affects a woman's paycheck, it can eventually reduce retirement and social security income. That could mean the loss of $1 million or more over one woman's lifespan," Hallman said.

"This victory has energized us," said Maatz. "President Obama and Congress have made a good down payment on their promise to close the wage gap, but we're not resting on our laurels. The House also passed the Paycheck Fairness Act, a bill which would close loopholes in the Equal Pay Act, and AAUW and our allies are determined to see the Senate do the same."

Read more about AAUW's "Keep the Change" pay equity campaign at www.aauw.org/advocacy/issue_advocacy/actionpages/payequity.cfm.

To read Lilly Ledbetter's letter in support of both bills, go to www.aauw.org/advocacy/issue_advocacy/actionpages/upload/LillyLedbetterletter.pdf.

Go to www.aauw.org/advocacy/issue_advocacy/transition.cfm to see AAUW's recommendations to the new administration and the new Congress on workplace opportunity, pay equity, education, work/life balance, and other key issues.


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FDA Provides Updates on Peanut Recall

This morning I slathered peanut butter onto my toast. Soon thereafter, a Democracy Now! broadcast reminded me that the Food & Drug Administration had recalled numerous peanut butter products after discovering that a Georgia peanut plan had knowingly shipped salmonella-tainted foods over the past two years. You can read a transcript or listen to the broadcast on the Democracy Now! website.

Consumers should visit the FDA's website for the latest guidelines and updates on an FDA/CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) investigation, which indicates that the source of an outbreak of Salmonella Typhimurium is peanut butter and peanut paste produced by the Peanut Corporation of America at its plant in Blakely, Georgia. CDC information on the salmonella outbreak can be found here.

Wondering what products you should eliminate from your pantry or refrigerator? On this FDA web page you can browse a list of recalled products or search for items by brand name, UPC code, or product description. The FDA is also posting recall updates on its Twitter page and an RSS feed.

Food contamination has been in the international spotlight in the last several months--see our September blog post on melamine contamination in China.

For additional resources about food safety issues, check out our guide to Food Supply.


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Turkish PM Erdogan Admonishes Israel President Shimon Peres over Gaza, and Walks Off

Turkey’s prime minister walked off the stage at the World Economic Forum red-faced Thursday after reproaching Israel’s president over the Gaza offensive by saying “You kill people.” May Allah reward you Erdogan. Way to go! At least someone has the you-know-what. And Shimon quoted Mubarak and Abbas, accusing Hamas for everything. May Allah also reward these two sell-outs with what they deserve.

After he walked off, our Br. Abu Eesa was in the audience:

Well, across perhaps 30-40 bodyguards when I shouted across to him in Arabic, “Jazākallāhu khayran for speaking the truth!” he turned around, and came through the crowd to give me a hug and say, “Hayyākallāh wa bārakallāhu feek!” My Turkish colleague then said to him, “May Allah be pleased with you for what you said!” to which he replied pointing to his heart, “My imān forced me to say it.”

Read more on AlJazeera news.

The confrontation saw Peres and Ergodan raise their voice - highly unusual at the elite gathering of corporate and world leaders, which is usually marked by learned consensus seeking and polite dialogue. It showed how emotions remain frayed over Israel’s offensive against Hamas that ended less than two weeks ago. [Forbes]

I find it interesting that Shimon, who is thought to be a “man of peace” was so strong in his defense of the massacre. Also find it interesting how people can lie with a straight-face so easily. And shame on him for bringing up the statements from the Hamas charter about Muslims and Jews related to end-times, but obviously forgetting to mention the OFFICIAL ARMY Rabbi urging maximizing murders of gentiles in Gaza’s massacre in the last month(and not in end-times):

The booklet contains quotes from a nationalist rabbi which declares that showing mercy during the battle would be “terribly immoral” and quotes a medieval sage who cautioned Jews not to “be enticed by the folly of the Gentiles who have mercy for the cruel.” [Anti-War / Independent]

The following is a short-clip of Erdogan’s response and walk-out, followed by a video spanning the entire debate (over an hour long):


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AAUW Applauds President Obama for Signing Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act into Law

WASHINGTON – AAUW applauds President Barack Obama for signing the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which restores the long-standing interpretation of civil rights laws and EEOC policies that allow employees to challenge any discriminatory paycheck they receive.

"President Obama has put pay discrimination at the top of the agenda, right where it belongs.

The wage gap doesn't just hurt working women, it hurts families as well," said AAUW Executive Director Linda D. Hallman, CAE, who attended the signing ceremony. "We are especially pleased that this measure is the first bill moved by Congress and signed by our new president, sending a strong message that economic issues and pay equity are a top priority."

Statistics on women in the workplace speak to the need for action. The average woman earns just 78 cents of every dollar earned by her male counterparts, and disparities appear just one year out of college — even for those with the same job and the same major. Women of color make even less.
Read balance of article by clicking here.


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The Buzzsaw Will Win Super Bowl XLIII

The Arizona Cardinals already made history by making it to the Super Bowl, but they won't stop there. The Arizona Cardinals, not the Pittsburgh Steelers, are winning the Super Bowl. The Steelers are 7 point favorites, but the Patriots were favored last year too and we know how that finished. The Cardinals will win due to a few reasons and they all relate, ironically, to classic, old school, rough, physical football that the Steelers are known for.

Everyone expects the Cardinals to try to win this game by airing the ball out, which seems reasonable considering they had three different 1,000 yard receivers. They expect to see Kurt Warner chucking balls up to Larry Fitzgerald all night long. That would be ignoring the three great games of football that the Cardinals have played in these playoffs. They've played well balanced football - asserting the running game and stopping it.

Of course, the passing game will still be important to the Cardinal's chances. Larry Fitzgerald will probably need a 100 yard game in order to win the Super Bowl. However, is it much of a stretch to assume he'll get that? He's the most talented receiver in the game and is playing out of this world right now. He could very well be the Super Bowl MVP.

However, the more important player may be Edgerrin James. His play in the playoffs has been very important to Arizona. The Cardinals have averaged 111 yards per game rushing in these playoffs. This has been huge, and that very well may be an understatement. It has created an offensive balance for Arizona, making their offensive attack even more lethal. They are more than just an air-it-out offense now. They can beat you on the ground and through the air. Its not easy to stop that, let alone contain it.

Equally, if not more, important is the Cardinals sudden ability to stop the run. In their three playoff games the Cardinals haven't allowed a single team to rush for over a 100 yards. Arizona has only given up 77 yards rushing per game, forcing teams to beat them through the air. As the Cardinals know themselves, its not easy beating teams with a one dimensional offense. This is what the Steelers are known for, and its how the Steelers will be beaten on Sunday.

What adds on to that problem for the Steelers is their very weak offensive line. No quarterback was sacked more times than Big Ben this past year. Roethlisberger spent a whole lot of time laying on his back this year and unfortunately for him there was usually a 300 pound man on top of him. When Arizona stops Willie Parker on the ground, this will become quite an issue for the Steelers. Not only has Big Ben been sacked a ton this year, but as Steve Young has pointed out repeatedly this week, he's been scramble happy. While every once in a while this ends in a highlight reel type play (like the Santonio Holmes TD in the AFC title game), Steve Young and Donavon McNabb both said that this cripples an offense. When the running game is shut down, the last thing the Steelers will need is to have their passing game fall apart.

Put all that together and you have yourself the most improbable Super Bowl champion of all time, the Arizona Cardinals. Buzzsaw football would be forever changed, and 2009 would be well on its way to be the strangest year in a long while (or EVAR). The crazy thing is that this is the type of football the Cardinals have been playing in January and that's why they will win the Super Bowl.


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What Obama should say about the House Republicans not supporting the stimulus package...

While I have my own gripes with the House stimulus packages (wasting 1/3 of it on tax cuts that are patently unfair), we need to pass something because things are bad. Hopefully Obama will use the addition of the tax cuts to argue that he tried to give the Republicans what they wanted - he even devoted a full 33% to 40% (House bill vs. Obama's proposal) to tax cuts, and the House Republicans still refused to come together in a moment of national crisis. As I've said, I think the bill stinks in parts. But at this point, better to settle for second best (or third) than not have a bill at all.


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Illinois Senate Votes 59 to 0 to Convict and Remove Rod Blagojevich from Office of Governor | Pat Quinn Becomes Governor

The Illinois Senate has voted unanimously 59 to 0 to convict Rod Blagojevich of impeachment and remove him from Office of the Governor of Illinois, effective 4:52pm by the declaration of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Illinois.

Mr. Blagojevich is further disqualified from holding public office in future, also by unanimous vote.

Pat Quinn has been sworn-in as the 41st Governor of Illinois.

Blago held a press briefing outside his home and thanked the people of Illinois for the opportunity to serve them and says he will continue to fight for them and to clear his name.

Blago's statement after the removal of office


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Modern Romance Contest!

Ok everyone, Valentine's Day is fast-approaching, and what better way to wile away the days than a contest! I am happy to announce that the fabulous folks over at Wedding Paper Divas, which offer beautiful, modern wedding invitations, and Beau-Coup.com, which offer lovely, romantic wedding favours, are both offering a $100.00 gift certificate for my blog readers!

The theme of this contest is MODERN ROMANCE. And here is what you need to do to win the prize of one x $100 gift certificate at both Wedding Paper Divas and Beau-Coup.com

1. Visit www.weddingpaperdivas.com and select one "modern" wedding invitation & then mosy on over to www.beau-coup.com and select a "romantic" wedding favor from the many showcased on their site in a colour/theme that coordinates with your invitation selection. Both the invitation and favor should fulfill YOUR unique sense of a modern, romantic wedding.

2a. Save the unique wedding invitation as a "favorite" on the Wedding Paper Divas website. This is done by clicking on the "Save in Favorites" button on the desired wedding invitation page.

2b., subscribe to the Beau-coup newsletter: http://www.beau-coup.com/newsletter.htm.

3. Then, come on back to this blog post, and comment with links to your two selections that best fit your idea of a MODERN ROMANTIC wedding. You must include a link to your selected invite and favor to be eligible to win.

I will randomly select a winner on February 14th, so watch this space for your name! Contest is valid worldwide. Good luck!


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P.W. Singer's "Wired for War"

P.W. Singer is a Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution; at 34 years old, he's the youngest person ever to hold that position. He's written for or appeared on a wide variety of media, from "60 Minutes" to the New York Times. He has worked for the Pentagon and Harvard University, and in his personal capacity, served as the coordinator of the defense policy advisory task force for the Obama campaign. In his previous two books, Singer foretold the rise of private military contractors and the advent of child soldiers - predictions which proved to be all too accurate.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his latest book, Wired for War: The Robotics Revolution and Conflict in the 21st Century, and reported the following:

Something big is going on in the history of war, and maybe even humanity itself. The US military went into Iraq with just a handful of drones in the air and zero unmanned systems on the ground, none of them armed. Today, there are over 5,300 drones in the US inventory and another roughly 12,000 on the ground, with the latest models armed with a lethal armory of missiles, rockets, and machine guns. And these are just the first generation, the Model T Fords compared to what is already in the prototype stage. For my book Wired for War, I spent the last several years trying to capture this historic moment, as robots begin to move into the fighting of our human wars. The book features stories and anecdotes of everyone from robotic scientists and the science fiction writers who inspire them to 19 year old drone pilots and the Iraqi insurgents they are fighting. The hope wasn’t just to take the reader on a journey to meet this new generation of warriors—both human and machine, but also to explore the fascinating, and sometimes frightening, political, economic, legal and ethical questions that our society had better start facing in how our wars will be fought and who will fight them. In other words, “What happens when science fiction becomes battlefield reality?”

The book is also written in a style that reflects my generation, and is thus a bit of insurgency against the staid, often inaccessible, way that people in my field write on the most important issues of our day. So, with that, I thought it fun to do the “99 Test” in a way that reflects this goal as well. That is, my generation has such short attention spans that when we pick up a book (if we are not downloading it onto our Kindle instead), we wouldn’t just lock in on just one page, but would be more likely flip the pages. So the following 99 Test includes a clip from p. 99, p. 199, and p. 299 of Wired for War. The p. 99 clip is from a section entitled “To Infinity and Beyond: The Power of Exponential Trends.” It’s a bit of a scene-setter for explaining Moore’s Law and the looming technology changes before us (I also loved having a Depeche Mode shout out in a book about war). The second clip from p. 199 is from a section called “Deep Fried Robots” that explores how even our most advanced technologies are not always triumphant in war. Finally, the clip from p. 299 is from a section called “Un-Manslaughter,” which opens with a discussion of a man (Daraz Khan) mistakenly killed in a US military drone strike because he had the unfortunate luck to resemble Bin Laden and goes on to look at some of the legal complications that are starting to arise when you digitize war.

Excerpt, p. 99:

When Moore first wrote on the phenomenon in 1965, a single transistor cost roughly five dollars. By 2005, five dollars bought five million transistors. With lower exponential costs comes greater exponential demand. In 2003, Intel made its one billionth microchip after thirty-five years of continuous production. Only four years later, it had made its next one billion chips. The same changes have happened with the ability to store data. The cost of saving anything from the military’s Predator drone footage of Iraqi insurgents to your old Depeche Mode songs is going down by 50 percent roughly every fifteen months.

Moore’s law explains how and why we have entered a world in which refrigerator magnets that play Christmas jingles have more computing power than the entire NORAD nuclear defense system had in 1965. Exponential change builds upon exponential change and advancements in one field feed advancements in others. And lower prices in one field help feed new development in others. A good example is how advancements in microchips made portable electronics accessible to consumers. As more and more people bought such items as video and then digital cameras, it dropped the cost of equipping robots with the same kind of cameras (their electronic vision systems) by as much as 75 percent. This eliminated the barriers to entry for robots to be used across the marketplace, further dropping costs for robots as a whole, as more people could buy them. Rodney Brooks at iRobot calls this kind of cross- transfer “riding someone else’s exponentials.”

Excerpt, p. 199:

Whether it is Superman and Kryptonite or Wimpy and hamburgers, everything has a weakness. Indeed, even the Death Star, the most powerful weapon ever imagined in science fiction, was taken out by a young insurgent (yes, that’s what Luke Skywalker was) dropping a bomb through a ventilation shaft. The same is true with real technologies of war. As writer and retired army colonel Ralph Peters explains, “The more complex any system becomes, the more inherent vulnerabilities it has. You just need to find one chink in the armor, change one integer in the code.”

Excerpt, p. 299:

The causes of these mistakes are often in great dispute. Sometimes the blame is placed on the humans behind the machines. In a U.S. airstrike in 2001, for example, twelve out of fourteen smart bombs inexplicably missed their target by a wide margin. It turned out the humans who had programmed the weapons’ targeting back at the base had punched in the wrong coordinates. Other times, the data itself is bad. As we know from the case of Daraz Khan, as well as all that Iraqi WMD we found, our intelligence is sometimes flawed and unmanned attacks don’t always get the right person. In 2005, U.S. officials said that on at least two occasions, “The Predator has been used to attack individuals mistakenly thought to be bin Laden.” Garbage in, garbage out.


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English Channel AIS Ship Tracking

Track English Channel commercial ship movements in Google Earth with EarthNC’s new English Channel Ship Tracking Automatic Identification System (AIS) feed. Our map updates every 5 minutes with the latest ship positions.

The EarthNC English Channel AIS Feed is provided by the English Channel Ship Movements Website run by Mike Fallon. The AIS antenna is located near Brighton on England’s south coast, overlooking one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world. In normal radio conditions, ships are visible within 60nm of the antenna. During enhanced propagation reception is possible out to ~500nm.

Click HERE to open the English Channel AIS Ship Map in the Google Earth Client. Scroll down for our new embedded 3D View.


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Tracking Vessels in Microsoft Virtual Earth

Port Metro Vancouver is Canada’s largest and busiest port, a dynamic gateway for domestic and international trade and tourism, and a major economic force that strengthens the Canadian economy. Its mission is to lead the efficient and reliable movement of cargo and passengers in a manner that supports Canadian growth and prosperity, now and in the future. No surprise to me that they selected Microsoft Virtual Earth as their mapping platform for the interactive map on their Port Metro Vancouver web site to allow users to locate and track vessels and more.

This application is really slick. It takes advantage of Microsoft Silverlight to provide an interface that is fast, smooth, easy to operate, and just really cool. The site uses a map control that is customized and different from what you may be used to seeing in other Virtual Earth applications. All functional options are included here and displayed when you mouse over the menu items. The menu option to the far right (noted in red in the screenshot below) provides a full screen view of the application and really blew me away! ALL Virtual Earth applications should offer this!

Original Source

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The State of Illinois During Impechement Trial

Watch The Video
State Senators in Springfield are focusing on the realities of running a government who's top official has been arrested and remains in office.
This is day three of the impeach trial of Governor Rod Blagojevich.
Senators are submitting questions to the Chief Judge who is them reading them out loud for witnesses to answer.

Wednesday morning, Representative Chapin Rose was answering questions about the state's poor financial condition. Illinois' credit rating was lowered after the Governor's arrest, which means higher interest rates on loans the state is paying back.

It was also revealed, no one is sure who would help the state work through a natural disaster because Blagojevich has had his security clearance revoked by the Department of Homeland Security.

"If a natural or man–made disaster were to occur while Gov. Blagojevich's security clearances were revoked, who would acgt as a liaison to the federal government?
Is this individual duly elected by the people of Illinois?
I simply don't know the answer to that question."

The president of the Illinois Senate is challenging Blagojevich to show up for his impeachment trial instead of spending his time on national news shows.


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Northrop Grumman Receives Nationwide Automatic Identification System Contract From Coast Guard

RESTON, Va., - Northrop Grumman Corporation has been awarded a contract potentially valued at $68 million to design, integrate, install and test the U.S. Coast Guard’s Nationwide Automatic Identification System (Nationwide AIS) core data exchange capability.

This new capability will serve as the foundation for Nationwide AIS, which will enhance maritime security, marine and navigational safety, search and rescue efforts and environmental protection.

Nationwide AIS will be a two-way maritime digital communication system, which will continually transmit and receive voiceless vessel data, including vessel identity, position, speed, course, destination and other data of critical interest for navigation safety, marine mobility and maritime security. In addition, data collected by Nationwide AIS will be combined with other government intelligence and surveillance data and shared with authorized government operators, contributing to maritime situational awareness, in part by identifying and locating vessels offshore.

“Nationwide AIS is a critical Coast Guard program providing operational decision makers with the data they need to forecast maritime risks and more rapidly and efficiently respond to safety and security threats. It will also improve national security through the detection and identification of possibly threatening vessels while they are still far from shore,” said Mike Twyman, vice president of the Northrop Grumman Mission Systems sector’s Integrated Command, Control, Communications and Intelligence Systems operating unit. “The Coast Guard’s approach is to design and field a low-risk solution while meeting their operational capability milestones. To meet the challenge, we integrated proven non-developmental items from the commercial and defense sectors to provide the best-value solution.”

The single award contract includes an $11.5 million, two-year base period and six 12-month options. If all options are exercised, the contract could be valued at $68 million and will facilitate Nationwide AIS coverage for all ships approaching the coastline and ports of the United States and its territories, significantly enhancing the security of the nation’s ports and coastal areas.

The win strengthens Northrop Grumman’s leadership position in the Coast Guard command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (C4ISR) market.

“Northrop Grumman has a long history of providing the Coast Guard with C4ISR systems. This win positions Northrop Grumman for continued growth in the Coast Guard C4ISR and maritime domain awareness markets,” Twyman said. “Three years of preparation and a significant investment of our own resources resulted in a best value proposal for the Coast Guard.”


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