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Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Floating Ecopolis - Architecture of the Future (Year 2100)

According to the less alarming forecasts of the GIEC (Intergovernmental group on the evolution of the climate), the ocean level should rise from 20 to 90 cm during the 21st Century with a status quo by 50 cm (versus 10 cm in the 20th Century). As a solution to this alarming problem architect Vincent Callebaut came up with this ecotectural marvel that could serve as a luxurious future retreat for 50,000 inhabitants seeking refuge from rising waters due to global warming. He believes the world will be desperately seeking shelter from the devastations of climate change, and hopes the auto-sufficient amphibious city will serve as a luxurious solution. To bad that right now we are close to 7 billion people and this luxurious future retreat is just for 50,000 inhabitants ( just for rich people ).

Vincent Callebaut called this project “Lilypad“, but this ecotectural marvel is also called as “Floating Ecopolis for Climate Refugees”. The whole structure is covered in green walls and roofs, the top portion covered in grasses with the inner portion featuring a palm oasis, and the under portion serving as a bed for natural sea planktons and oceanic plants. Finally if you were already planning to reserve a place to this luxurious future retreat stay calm, because Vincent Callebaut hopes that “Floating Ecopolis for Climate Refugees” will make the transition from design to reality around the year 2100.

'Idol' runner-up lands record deal

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (AP) -- David Archuleta has a job lined up once his "American Idol" tour is over -- not that there was any doubt.

art.idol.ap.jpg

David Archuleta, the 17-year-old "Idol" runner-up, has signed a deal with 19 Recordings/Jive Records.

The 17-year-old "Idol" runner-up has signed a deal with 19 Recordings/Jive Records, according to a Tuesday post on the Web site of the label managed by "Idol" creator Simon Fuller.

David Cook, 25, a former bartender from Blue Springs, Missouri, won the "American Idol" title when the sixth season of Fox's top-rated singing competition wrapped up May 21. The title comes with a recording contract.

RoboCop

Chameleon TV: The 'invisible' satellite dish that blends in with your brickwork

By Daily Mail Reporter
Last updated at 1:00 PM on 09th June 2008

They're hardly the most attractive or classy addition to the exterior of a home.

So designers have come up with a satellite dish that’s less likely to incur the disapproving glances of the neighbours.

Called the Sqish, it is a receiver which blends in with its surroundings.

Scroll down for more

Your traditional, not-too-attractive satellite dish...

Your traditional, not-too-attractive satellite dish...

... The chameleon-like Sqish hides itself from view thanks to a sticker designed from a digital photo image

... The chameleon-like Sqish hides itself from view thanks to a sticker designed from a digital photo image

Whereas conventional dishes are round, concave and grey, the Sqish is a flat square, giving it its name.

Buyers decide where they want the receiver placed on their house, take a photograph of the surrounding wall and the Sqish is then supplied to match its background.

The Sqish has just arrived on the UK market and, according to those trying to sell it, it is already being ordered by homeowners who live in conservation areas which have planning restrictions.

It also appeals to those who live in areas where satellite dishes are thought to lower the tone.

This phenomenon is described by the Sqish’s suppliers as ‘dish stigma’.

Phil Millington, of UK stockist The Satellite Shop in Tunbridge Wells, Kent, declared: ‘The Sqish is a discreet alternative to a satellite dish and can be used to receive Sky and Freesat in the UK. It can be camouflaged to help it blend into its surroundings with the addition of a bespoke sticker created from a digital photo.

‘It can also be used in areas sensitive to planning restrictions or dish stigma – and in coastal towns where dishes are prone to rust – because it is made from plastic.'

The Sqish costs £149 and an extra £25 for the matt-finish camouflage sticker.

The camouflage receiver may also prove useful to households whose satellite dishes regularly become home to nesting birds, the activities of which can interfere with the quality of the TV signal.

Enlarge With some perspective: An angled shot shows how the Sqish illusion work

With some perspective: An angled shot shows how the Sqish illusion work

You can Still Have Your Joint, but Only if it's Pure





THE IRONY OF HOLLAND'S SMOKING BAN

By Frederik Hartig

PHOTO GALLERY: SMOKING BAN THREATENS AMSTERDAM'S COFFEE SHOPS



Click on a picture to launch the image gallery (6 Photos)


In July, the Dutch government will introduce a nationwide smoking ban in bars, cafes and restaurants, aimed at protecting workers. But it will also make life a lot harder for the country's infamous coffee shops, where customers will only be allowed to smoke pure cannabis.
De Tweede Kamer is located on a small side street in Amsterdam, not far from the flower market. A painting of Queen Juliana and Prince Bernhard hangs on the wall, and next to it, a little bit higher, there's one of Queen Wilhelmina. White ornaments rise up the wall like smoke rings around the portraits. The coffee shop opened in 1985, and has since become an institution in the Dutch capital, a kind of art museum for the residents of Amsterdam, owner Paul Wilhelm proudly says.

But Wilhelm is worried about his company's future. On July 1, a smoking ban will come into force in Dutch restaurants, bars and cafes. The ban will also apply to the country's more than 700 coffee shops, which are infamous worldwide for selling soft drugs.

"Coffee shops will be treated in the same manner as other catering businesses," Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende told public broadcaster NOS after the government issued its decision on Friday. "It would have been wrong to move towards a smoke-free catering industry and then make an exception for coffee shops. People would not have understood that."

The chances of getting an exemption are limited, says Mark Jacobsen of BCD, a nationwide association of coffee shop owners that has been fighting to get special provisions for the cafes.

Jacobsen argues that it's absurd that the law is being applied to coffee shops. "In a cafe," he said, "you come to drink something. In a restaurant you come to eat. But when you come to a coffee shop, you come to smoke, so smoking has to be allowed in a coffee shop."

But Dutch Health Minister Ab Klink has no plans to make any exceptions. Coffee shop employees, he argues, also have the right to protection from tobacco smoke.

But Wilhelm claims it's a specious argument. After all, people who apply for jobs in a coffee shop know that smoking is the company's core business. "If the boys are old enough to be sent to Afghanistan, then you can't tell me that people want to protect them from smoke in the workplace. They're old enough to decide on their own. They can vote, they can go to war -- but now they won't even be allowed to make this decision?"

Perversely, the law, intended to protect workers from smoke, only applies to tobacco. In the Netherlands, that has resulted in a rather bizarre result: Smoking pot or hashish in coffee shops will remain legal; it just can't be mixed with tobacco. If someone wants to roll their joint with tobacco, then they have to smoke it outside. Wilhelm can only shake his head in disbelief. "That sounds a bit to me like going into a cafe and being able to buy a beer without being able to drink it there. But the cafe still lets you drink whiskey, rum and vodka."

Besides, it will be difficult to monitor whether someone has secretly rolled his joint with tobacco or not. Mark Jacobson doubts that Dutch officials will begin policing the ban immediately when it goes into effect in July. "We'll just have to see how strictly they enforce it," he says.

Under the new provision, he explains, "If an official comes into a coffee shop and sees someone smoking a joint, he must confiscate it and send it to a lab to test whether it contains tobacco. It's such an arduous procedure that it is going to create numerous problems. I don't think they will apply it very strictly during the first year."

Jacobsen feels the world has been turned on its head in Holland. "In every other country they do just the opposite -- there they check whether there is cannabis inside," he says with a laugh.


'An Absurd Decision'

There are exceptions to the ban. If an establishment can set up a separate room or add a glass partition to ensure that employees are not exposed to tobacco smoke, then smoking is permitted in those rooms as long as service is not provided.

That may be easy for larger coffee shops, but it will effectively downgrade smaller coffee shops into cannabis convenience stores where people drop in to buy pot but don't stick around. Jacobsen says he is planning to add a wall in his coffee shop, called The Rookies. The wall would separate the bar from the rest of the room, and he claims it will be the largest legal smoking space in Amsterdam.

In the smaller Tweede Kamer, though, it will be almost impossible to sufficiently protect workers from guests' tobacco smoke. Still, Wilhelm says he doesn't want to operate his coffee shop like a takeaway restaurant. "The soul of the Tweede Kamer has always been the social contact, the discussions, the chat, reading the newspaper or talking about politics. Now that's all being destroyed by what I think is an absurd decision."

Wilhelm may be fighting to preserve his coffee shop's convivial atmosphere, but Health Minister Klink has an altogether different view of coffee shop customers. In a letter to coffee shop association LOC in which he defended his smoking ban, he wrote: "A positive side effect of the smoking ban may be that consumers who spend the whole day hanging out in coffee shops will find other things to do with their time."

More than a million tourists visit Amsterdam's coffee shops each year, and Jacobsen believes more of them will now smoke pot on the city's streets. "People are going to be smoking in a lot of other places -- on the streets, in the parks, at home." With the coffee shops, he argues, you at least had a place where you could confine much of the city's pot-smoking activities.

The ban will also place additional burdens on coffee shop owners. If, for example, a crowd gathers in front of a coffee shop, it is the owners' responsibility to make sure they go away. If the shop owners aren't able to do so, despite making a visible effort, Klink has proposed banning all forms of smoking around the coffee shop.

It's a practice that's already been tested. In February 2006, the Amsterdam district De Baarsjes banned cannabis consumption on the local Mercatorplein square. Youth from other parts of the city where there were fewer coffee shops used to swarm to the 15 located in De Baarsjes. The city's statistical office confirmed that the ban had successfully reduced the number of disturbances caused by young pot smokers and that a feeling of safety had returned to the area around the square.

But both the GroenLinks and Demokratie 66 parties question the scope of the study in a report at the end of January in the Amsterdam newspaper Het Parool. They argued that residents of nearby Columbusplein square also should have been asked. Since the ban was put in place on Mercatorplein, there have been more pot-related disturbances at Columbusplein, they claim.

For his part, Wilhelm is still hoping to secure an exemption from the smoking ban. In July, Tweede Kamer will prohibit its guests from smoking cigarettes. He will also inform his customers that they are not permitted to roll tobacco into their joints. But he said he has no intention of monitoring every joint rolled in his shop.

It's also possible that officials will place a low priority on policing the smoking ban in coffee shops and, in a typically Dutch fashion, a situation would be created in which smoking would be officially banned but still tolerated.

"But that may also be wishful thinking," says Wilhelm.

URL:

http://www.spiegel.de/international/europe/0,1518,559030,00.html

RELATED SPIEGEL ONLINE LINKS:

Photo Gallery: Amsterdam's Coffee Shops
http://www.spiegel.de/fotostrecke/0,,32368,00.html
Marijuana Malcontent: Germany's "McDope" Problem (08/17/2006)
http://www.spiegel.de/international/spiegel/0,1518,432078,00.html
Boom in Locally Grown Drugs: Cannabis Factories in Germany Growing Like Weeds (03/05/2008)
http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/0,1518,539502,00.html
Pass the Dutchie: Maastricht Coffee Shops Drop Plans For Biometric Security System (06/22/2007)
http://www.spiegel.de/international/zeitgeist/0,1518,490198,00.html
Dimming the Red Light: Amsterdam Cuts Prostitute Displays (09/21/2007)
http://www.spiegel.de/international/europe/0,1518,507132,00.html

3 of the World's Most Amazing 3D Graffiti Artists [PICS]


Some of these are old...but I never get bored at looking at the masterpieces.



Most people tend to think of graffiti as subversive art spray-painted in the dead of night on walls. Some artists, however, including Edgar Mueller, Julian Beever and Kurt Wenner, defy that stereotype, painting and chalking openly on city streets and sidewalks. Beyond merely entertaining crowds, their work has at times even broken world records!

read more | digg story

5 Brilliant Startup Ideas From MIT’s Class of 2008


MIT is Division I in academia, and like their counterparts in sports, lots of students turn pro before graduation. As the Class of 2008 tosses their high-tech hats in the air, we look at projects—from a Google Android program out to beat the new iPhone, to a low-tech solution for Sudanese farmers—with the potential to shake things up.

read more | digg story

50 Unsually Useful (and Bizarre) Kitchen Hacks


You know all of those helpful kitchen-related suggestions that old-timers are so willing to share with the younger generations? These little tips and tricks might be called “kitchen hacks” these days, but they’re still the same good old nuggets of wisdom that they always were.

read more | digg story

The Quick 10: The 10 Best-Paying Jobs in America

by Stacy Conradt - June 10, 2008 - 1:22 PM


For those of you out there looking for a career guaranteed to make you big bucks, you’re welcome. These 10 jobs will earn you a six figure salary, according to Forbes magazine. The magazine made the list without considering stock options, overtime and that sort of thing. It does include bonuses.

It doesn’t include self-employed people, owners and partners in unincorporated firms or household workers. It’s also the average salary, which probably explains why people in the sports professions don’t make the list - sure, there are a handful of basketball players making bank, but the ones who play smaller-time leagues average it out. Tomorrow’s Quick 10: The 10 Worst-Paying Jobs. By the way, can you believe “blogger” doesn’t make the top 10 best list? Huh.

The 10 Best-Paying Jobs in America

1. Anesthesiologists
Mean Annual Wage: $184,340
One-Year Change: 5.8%
No. In Employment: 29,890

2. Surgeons
Mean Annual Wage: $184,150
One-Year Change: 3.6%
No. In Employment: 51,900

3. Obstetricians And Gynecologists
Mean Annual Wage: $178,040
One-Year Change: 3.6%
No. In Employment: 22,520

4. Orthodontists
Mean Annual Wage: $176,900
One-Year Change: 8.3%
No. In Employment: 5,200

5. Oral And Maxillofacial Surgeons
Mean Annual Wage: $164,760
One-Year Change: 2.6%
No. In Employment: 5,320

6. Internists, General
Mean Annual Wage: $160,860
One-Year Change: 2.8%
No. In Employment: 48,700

7. Prosthodontists
Mean Annual Wage: $158,940
One-Year Change: 8.8%
No. In Employment: 480

8. Psychiatrists
Mean Annual Wage: $149,990
One-Year Change: 2.6%
No. In Employment: 24,730

9. Family And General Practitioners
Mean Annual Wage: $149,850
One-Year Change: 6.8%
No. In Employment: 109,400

10. Chief Executives
Mean Annual Wage: $144,600
One-Year Change: 3.4%
No. In Employment: 299,520

The Hottest Micro-Bikini Site on the Web - Just Hit Refresh



A fantastic site, just your average consumer site, to purchase Bikinis; just hit refresh for a different pose.

read more | digg story

Amazing Works of Art using only One Sheet of Paper


Artist, Peter Callesen creates some of the world's most fascinating works of art using only one sheet of paper. Imagine what this guy could do with a whole sketchbook.

read more | digg story

8 Countries Where Human Organs Are Harvested


Imagine if you could afford $10,000 (China) for a kidney instead of waiting in line at the hospital; you’d most likely head to China as soon as possible before you kick the bucket. This is an issue that China, Brazil, India and many countries live with everyday.

read more | digg story

The Phone Sex Operators on the other End


The phone sex industry is a paradox. Intensely personal yet entirely faceless at the same time. Ever wonder who belongs to that sultry voice on the other end of the call? Check out this photo series that gives a glimpse into the lives of phone sex operators.

read more | digg story

Subaru DC Mountain Lab 1.5

Heineken Advertising in Holland






How much sleep do you *really* need?


In 2002, he compared death rates among more than 1 million American adults who, as part of a study on cancer prevention, reported their average nightly amount of sleep. To many his results were surprising, but they've since been corroborated by similar studies in Europe and East Asia.

read more | digg story

17 Classic Pop-Culture Beards and 'staches


As hirsute rockers ZZ Top release a new live DVD, we're serving up shots of whiskers -- see our favorite fuzz-ified faces


It's time for the beard to make a comeback.

read more | digg story

The 51-year-old Television Set Wired for the Digital Age

By Daily Mail Reporter
Last updated at 11:41 AM on 09th June 2008

With the digital deadline looming most people are forking out for the latest in cutting edge TV sets.

But not antique enthusiast Richard Howard who is sticking with a set he bought 51 years ago.

Instead of buying a fancy new TV he's keeping the 1957 flame walnut encased set and has had it converted to receive digital channels.

His father bought the set when he was aged eight and the television has been a cherished feature in the family home ever since.

Richard Howard

Antique enthusiast Richard Howard bought his television for £113 in 1957

Not only is it in perfect working order, the classic set, which enthralled Mr Howard through his boyhood years and brought him the first images of the moon landing, is now wired up to receive the 20 plus channels of the digital age.

According to Digital UK, the body coordinating the switch to digital, it is the oldest set ever to be converted to digital.

The 59-year-old furniture restorer can now watch Madonna music videos and glossy Australian soaps play on the tiny 17" black and white screen.

"It was my family's first TV", Mr Howard said.

"My father was walking past the store and was just taken by it. I think there were cheaper ones available but he liked the way it looked like a piece of furniture instead of just a big screen sitting in corner of the room."

Richard Howard

Mr Howard enjoys watching Madonna music videos on the tiny 17" black and white screen

He has even kept and framed the receipt for the £113 purchase of the Bush Television Receiver.

"I was away at boarding school at the time but I remember coming home and being amazed. I think the first programme I saw on it was the Lone Ranger.

"I have a lot of fond memories of Christmas time when the whole family would gather round and watch it together. I could never bear to throw it away it had too much value attached to it."

He had been unable to use the set since the late Eighties, when television pictures switched from the old 405-line format to 625 lines. But a specialist repair shop fitted an electronic converter, available only in America, so modern programmes can be shown on the 405-line screen.

Richard Howard

The furniture restorer feared he may have to get rid of the set due to the digital switchover

And by plugging in a Freeview box he can now see digital shows. As part of the £200 revamp, the experts also replaced 13 old capacitors, the brightness knob and a lead so the tube would keep from burning out.

The set takes ten seconds to warm up and antiques expert Mr Howard still gets the 'old TV smell' from the warming of the paxolin resin insulators.

The analogue signal is gradually being switched off across the UK and will affect Anglia his TV region in 2011.

With that in mind Mr Howard contacted Digital UK - the independent body co-ordinating switchover in the UK - who said there was no reason for his TV not to work in the digital age.

He took the set to a repair shop in Norwich and they fully restored and converted the set in a matter of weeks.

He added: "Nowadays there's a culture of forced obsolescence. We supposedly live in a hi-tech age but most modern electronic equipment you buy needs replacing after a couple of years and yet this has seen half a century and still sounds and looks great.

"I think I would have been heartbroken if they hadn't have been able to convert it."

Jon Steel at Digital UK, said: "We'd like to congratulate Mr Howard for proving that virtually any television, no matter how old, can be converted to digital.

"It's great to know that he can now look forward to many more years of happy viewing, even after the old analogue signals have been switched off."

Mr Howard's favourites include Foyles War and Waking the Dead and Inspector Morse re-runs.

As well being able to receive Freeview the adapter has allowed him to relive his favourites of yesteryear on DVD.

"There were brilliant shows in the late 50s, I remember Jimmy Edwards in Whacko, CrackerJack and Dixon of Dock Green. Watching them all again on the same TV is quite a nostalgic experience."

"I watched old musical hall shows and remember laughing at George Formby and Arthur Askey with my dad.

"I also watched the news and saw events like Churchill's funeral, the assassination of John Kennedy and Neil Armstrong landing on the moon."

Adding to this experience is what Mr Howard describes as 'old TV smell' caused by the heating of the paxalin insulator used to mount the electrical components inside.

Mr Howard has a passion for preserving memorabilia. Along with furniture he restores classic cars and still lives in the family home his grandfather built in rural Norfolk in the 1920s.

He added: "I think it is important to respect the past otherwise people will forget it. If it weren't for eccentrics like me nothing would be preserved.

And I think that would be a very sad world."

World's first commercial bionic hand



By Roger Highfield, Science Editor

Last Updated: 12:01am BST 10/06/2008




The world's first commercial bionic hand has grabbed Britain's top engineering prize.

  • Gripping stuff - the bionic hand
  • Revolutionary bionic arm unveiled
  • Computer operated by power of thought
  • For years, the best doctors could do was equip disabled people with a glorified claw, a pincer-like device that mimics the opening and closing of a thumb and forefinger.


    Ray Edwards gets to grips with his i-LIMB hand - World's first commercial bionic hand
    Ray Edwards getting to grips with
    his i-LIMB hand

    That has all changed thanks to a more realistic bionic hand unveiled by the Scottish company Touch Bionics, called the i-LIMB Hand, the culmination of decades of research.

    The Livingston based company has now won the 2008 Royal Academy of Engineering MacRobert Award for its i-LIMB Hand, a prosthetic device that looks and acts like a real human hand with five individually powered digits.

    Ray Edwards, 53, who had all four limbs amputated in 1987 after developing blood poisoning (septicaemia) in the wake of cancer treatment, had the i-LIMB hand fitted a month ago.

    "When I heard about this hand that looked like a human hand I had to get one. I'm right-handed and have got used to a carbon-fibre hook worked by a cord on that arm. So I asked Touch Bionics to put the i-LIMB hand on my left arm instead.

    "When I first looked down and saw the i-LIMB hand I just cried - i-LIMB has helped me more psychologically than physically. That was the first time in 21 years that I had seen a hand opening there - it made me feel I was just Ray again. You can do so much with technology but it's got to make the user happy - and i-LIMB does."

    advertisement

    As if to underline this, Edwards, who works for the Limbless Association charity, went skiing over the weekend at Xscape in Milton Keynes and managed to get down the nursery slope. And he has his first flying lesson on Tuesday.

    The hand started life in 1963 in a research programme at Edinburgh's Princess Margaret Rose Hospital to help children affected by Thalidomide.

    The i-LIMB Hand is one of the most compelling devices in the world prosthetics market," says Touch Bionics CEO Stuart Mead. "Since we launched it in July 2007 over 200 patients have been fitted with it all over the world - in just a few months it has evolved from an exciting new technology into a new benchmark in prosthetic devices."

    HRH the Duke of Edinburgh presented the team with a £50,000 prize and the solid gold MacRobert Award medal at the Academy Awards Dinner in London last night.

    "As a project, it scored very highly on all three of our criteria," says Dr Geoff Robinson, Chairman of the MacRobert Award Judging Panel. "In addition to many specific innovations in the design and fabrication of the artificial hand, Touch Bionics have fundamentally changed the benchmark for what constitutes an acceptable prosthesis.

    "Their approach to marketing, in what is universally acknowledged to be a difficult market to penetrate, showed a very high standard of focus, commitment and success. The social benefit for those involved must be obvious to everyone. Having tried it myself, I can vouch for the fact that it really does work in the way portrayed, even if one is fortunate enough to still have one's own real hand alongside."

    The three team members sharing the prize are: chief executive officer Stuart Mead, director of research and founder David Gow, project manager Stewart Hill, director of technology and operations Hugh Gill and director of marketing Phil Newman, all based at Touch Bionics in Livingston.

    Touch Bionics faced tough competition to win the award - also shortlisted for this year's MacRobert Award were:

  • The Automation Partnership, for Polar, a new robotic system designed specifically for the UK Biobank based near Stockport - the world's leading programme to create a large-scale resource for medical research.
  • Johnson Matthey, for their compact catalysed soot filter for diesel cars.
  • Owlstone Ltd, for their 'dime' sized chemical sensor on a silicon chip that provides a miniature detection system for trace amounts of a wide variety of chemicals. Owlstone's chip can detect explosives at airports, protect workers against gas exposure in heavy industry or detect fires before they begin from precombustion fumes.
  • London's Science Museum will be showcasing the iLIMB prosthetic hand in a special display in the Antenna science news gallery. The free exhibition runs from Thursday 12 June for three months.

    Information appearing on telegraph.co.uk is the copyright of Telegraph Media Group Limited and must not be reproduced in any medium without licence. For the full copyright statement see Copyright

    APOD: Dextre Robot at Work on the Space Station

    See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download  the highest resolution version available.

    Dextre Robot at Work on the Space Station
    Credit: STS-124 Crew, Expedition 17 Crew, NASA

    Explanation: What's the world's most complex space robot doing up there? Last week, Dextre was imaged moving atop the Destiny Laboratory Module of the International Space Station (ISS), completing tasks prior to the deployment of Japan's Kibo pressurized science laboratory. Dextre, short for the Canadian-built Special Purpose Dextrous Manipulator, has arms three meters in length and can attach power tools as fingers. Behind Dextre is the blackness of space, while Earth looms over Dextre's head. The Kibo laboratory segment being deployed during space shuttle Discovery's trip to the ISS can be pressurized and contains racks of scientific experiment that will be used to explore many things, including how plants brace themselves against gravity, and how water might be inhibited from freezing in cells under microgravity.

    Highest-Quality Luxury Cars



    The high-end sets of wheels drivers are happiest to own.Mercedes-Benz E Class buyers enjoy a burl walnut interior trim, dual-zone automatic climate control, 10-way power-adjustable front seats and rain-sensing intermittent windshield wipers.They also get the satisfaction of knowing they are behind the wheel of one of the industry's highest-quality cars.That's because the E-Class is among the 15 luxury cars named to J.D. Power's annual Initial Quality Study. The Infiniti M-Series, Audi A6, Lexus ES350 and Porsche Cayman also make the list.

    read more | digg story

    BBC uncovers lost Iraq billions

    A BBC investigation estimates that around $23bn (£11.75bn) may have been lost, stolen or just not properly accounted for in Iraq.

    The BBC's Panorama programme has used US and Iraqi government sources to research how much some private contractors have profited from the conflict and rebuilding.

    A US gagging order is preventing discussion of the allegations.

    The order applies to 70 court cases against some of the top US companies.

    War profiteering

    While Presdient George W Bush remains in the White House, it is unlikely the gagging orders will be lifted.

    To date, no major US contractor faces trial for fraud or mismanagement in Iraq.

    The president's Democratic opponents are keeping up the pressure over war profiteering in Iraq.

    Henry Waxman, who chairs the House committee on oversight and government reform, said: "The money that's gone into waste, fraud and abuse under these contracts is just so outrageous, it's egregious.

    "It may well turn out to be the largest war profiteering in history."

    In the run-up to the invasion, one of the most senior officials in charge of procurement in the Pentagon objected to a contract potentially worth $7bn that was given to Halliburton, a Texan company which used to be run by Dick Cheney before he became vice-president.

    Unusually only Halliburton got to bid - and won.

    Missing billions

    The search for the missing billions also led the programme to a house in Acton in west London where Hazem Shalaan lived until he was appointed to the new Iraqi government as minister of defence in 2004.

    Judge Radhi Hamza al-Radhi
    Judge Radhi al Radhi: "I believe these people are criminals."
    He and his associates siphoned an estimated $1.2bn out of the ministry. They bought old military equipment from Poland but claimed for top-class weapons.

    Meanwhile they diverted money into their own accounts.

    Judge Radhi al-Radhi of Iraq's Commission for Public Integrity investigated.

    He said: "I believe these people are criminals.

    "They failed to rebuild the Ministry of Defence, and as a result the violence and the bloodshed went on and on - the murder of Iraqis and foreigners continues and they bear responsibility."

    Mr Shalaan was sentenced to two jail terms but he fled the country.

    He said he was innocent and that it was all a plot against him by pro-Iranian MPs in the government.

    There is an Interpol arrest warrant out for him but he is on the run - using a private jet to move around the globe.

    He stills owns commercial properties in the Marble Arch area of London.

    How to Recover Deleted Files with Free Software


    You delete an important file, somehow it skips your Recycle Bin altogether, and for all practical purposes, it's disappeared into the ether. But before you hit the big red panic button, there's a very good chance that your file is still alive and kicking somewhere on your hard drive—you just need to know how to find it.

    read more | digg story

    TRANSPORTER 3 - First Trailer!

    Plus d'infos sur ce film

    Jason Statham returns as Frank Martin for a third Transporter movie. This international teaser trailer gives us a glimpse of what's in store.

    iPhone VoIP Apps: The Top Softphones For iPhone


    For the average user the tariffs for iPhone usage, specifically in relation to voice calls, are more than enough to suffice. However, even several hundred minutes included for free per month aren’t enough for some users. And if you are a globetrotter making a lot of long distance and international calls then you’ll know just how costly a call home can be. So what do you do about?

    The answer: VoIP for iPhone. With a choice of softphones available now for iPhone, there’s literally no limit to the number of calls that can be made for free or at a massively reduced rate.

    Some of the iPhone VoIP solutions we’ve listed below are so slick and well integrated that they’ll blow your mind, while others require a little bit of tinkering. Nevertheless, if you’re looking to save money on your calls, particularly if you frequently travel internationally, there’s plenty to get started with!

    iCalliCall
    Without doubt, iCall is one of the slickest implementations of VoIP on the iPhone. iCall, who are fully approved members of the iPhone developer program, can make and receive calls when connected via WiFi. If a call comes in over the cell network and you are also on WiFi, you can easily transfer the call to iCall and save minutes. iCall is fully integrated with the iPhone, so you can access the same contacts in the iPhone address book.

    fringfring
    If you have contacts on multiple networks, then fring is for you. This innovative app lets you stay in touch via IM and VoIP with contacts on Skype, AIM, MSN, GTalk and Yahoo! Messenger using your WiFi connection. While fring lets you make calls with your SkypeIn / SkypeOut account, it is also (awesomely) compatible with SIP.

    PhoneGnomeiPhoneGnome
    Unlike iCall and fring, iPhoneGnome is a web app for the iPhone. It lets you call any of your PhoneGnome contacts, anyone using a SIP-based service or on FWD, MSN, Yahoo! and GTalk. PhoneGnome is a niche VoIP service, but having access to your PhoneGnome contacts and being able to make cheap international calls from your iPhone may make the service more feasible.

    JajahJAJAH
    This is one of the top web-based VoIP clients who were quick off the mark in announcing their support for the iPhone. The JAJAH web app looks just like your standard iPhone dialing pad, but instead connects you and the caller via the internet. Upon visiting the JAJAH web app in iPhone’s Safari browser, you enter your friend’s number and a local telephone number you have access to, then JAJAH will call you and your friend and connect you. This makes JAJAH a compelling service if you are travelling internationally with your iPhone on a regular basis.

    TalketyTalkety
    This is another web app that works just like JAJAH. You setup an account with Talkety and then visit their website with Safari on your iPhone. You’ll be able to select your current phone number and enter the number you wish to call, Talkety will call you both via the internet and save you money on the cost of calling internationally, nationally or to another mobile. Interestingly, you can easily setup a voice conference with up to 50 participants with Talkety on your iPhone, but you’ll need a pro account. Another benefit of using Talkety is the ability to sync your contacts with the Mac OS X Address Book.

    sipgatesipgate
    The standards-based sipgate VoIP client for iPhone is an app that can be installed that allows users to make SIP VoIP calls via your WiFi connection. With sipgate you can hook up with any SIP service provider and save money on your calls where WiFi is available. For instance, you can join a free wireless network while on the road in the UK and call a number in the USA at vastly cheaper rates from your iPhone.

    RaketuRaketu
    Just like JAJAH and Talkety, Raketu is a web app for the iPhone rather than an installed app. When you hit their website you can login to your Raketu account and purchase credits if needed. You enter your number and the number of your friend, Raketu calls both and connects you.

    RingFreeRingFree
    RingFree was one of the first iPhone VoIP services, offering a web-based softphone for the iPhone since the beginning of 2008. The RingFree phone is licensed by PhoneGnome and is also a fully accredited member of the iPhone developer program.

    The RingFree dialer uses a GSM voice connection and allows a user to make free calls and IM with contacts on Skype, GTalk, MSN, Yahoo Messenger users and many other IM services. You do not even have to be a registered user with these services to make calls to their users. (In other words, you can make a free call on your iPhone to a Skype user without registering with Skype).

    With RingFree you can make calls through the VoIP service provider of your choice (SIP credentials required, of course), including PhoneGnome, Vonage, VoicePulse, Gizmo Project, vBuzzer, ViaTalk, and many others. It is also possible to make calls through an office phone system or PBX, including Asterisk and other standards-based PBX products. SIP URI calls are also supported.

    V for Vendetta indeed

    This Cadillac has five-point harnesses. Its hand-stitched leather dash has a bunch of non-production toggles and buttons for stuff like the fire extinguisher. Also odd is that there's a guy in the driver's seat wearing a helmet. This would be John Heinricy, the man who has taken many a GM car to its limit on the Nürburgring Nordschleife, and who has pushed this very Cadillac CTS-V to a time of 7:59:32 on that 13.9-mile track. Today, the venue is a bit less auspicious but no less important: Heinricy is about to demonstrate the CTS-V on a couple of hot laps around GM's newest test track at its Milford Proving Ground. This handling loop was built four years ago at the behest of one Robert A. Lutz, and it is a tangle of some seriously demanding turns, many of them inspired by that little country circuit in Germany. As with the Nürburgring, there is a Karussell and a downhill double-right-hander like Pflanzgarten. Hence, the place's nickname: The Lutzring. It's a wonder that a company as large and as powerful as GM hasn't had something like this until now, but it also explains why, until quite recently, so many of GM's cars handled like drunken rhinos.

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    I'm just riding along today, not driving, but the point of this exercise is to get a small, passenger-seat taste of the new CTS-V as it goes through its final exam. The V is here for a 24-hour pounding at racetrack speeds, testing suspension robustness, engine-and-brake cooling, tire wear, and the overall durability implicit in a sport sedan of this caliber.

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    For a little context, here's the caliber we're talking about: 556 horsepower; 551 lb-ft of torque; 0-60 in 3.9 seconds; quarter-mile in 12.0 seconds at 118 mph; top speed of 191 mph (with the manual transmission). GM is claiming that this is the fastest production sedan in the world; it made its epic Nordschleife pass on stock PS2 tires, in a car equipped with an automatic transmission (top speed: 175 mph).

    Indeed, it's kind of amazing how little — besides the obvious powertrain changes — it took GM to get the stock CTS there. It's got new brakes, magnetic dampers, and a revised rear axle assembly; but the control arms, the steering rack, and even the anti-roll bar bushings are the same. The goal here was to retain the easy-driving character of the stock sedan, but to add a layer of mind-bending performance to the proceedings. From what I can tell as a passenger, the results are staggeringly successful: The car feels imperturbable, both from the standpoint of chassis stability and power delivery.

    The V gets its stability from GM's second-generation Magnetic Ride Control (MRC) dampers. Like the system that made its debut in the current STS, MRC uses a magnetic field to get ferrous particles inside the damper to line up and provide resistance in proportion to the field applied. Now, however, the magnetic fluid reacts even faster than before (the old system was already the quickest-responding damper technology out there), and makes even better use of the accelerometer data to take an anticipatory, rather than a reactive, approach to cornering and ride control.

    The car's driveline characteristics have been cleaned up, too. One major flaw with the old CTS-V was its dominant axle hop. Not so surprising, really: Anytime you get a lot of horsepower together with a rear-wheel-drive, limited-slip-equipped, independently suspended chassis, there will be some wind-up (although not, it must be said, as much as in the previous CTS-V). Other carmakers pull all kinds of torque-mitigating tricks to eliminate axle tramp, but GM's performance division got to the root of the problem. Besides using a cast-iron diff casing, upsizing the propshaft, and reducing driveline lash with CV joints, GM also found a way to defeat the phenomenon itself. A slipping wheel will wind up its half shaft until the wheel hooks up, at which point it sends that force back through the shaft to the opposite side, setting up a spring-like effect through the axle. GM unbalanced the half shafts (the left side's diameter is 55 mm, the right side's is 35 mm) to decouple the forces and eliminate the spring effect. The result is a car that launches like the space shuttle. Power has nowhere to go but down to the ground.

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    Obviously, the car needed more robust brakes, but GM also thought hard about how to keep them from adding more unsprung mass. The 380-mm front/373-mm rear Brembo discs are co-cast, meaning the aluminum hat is cast in, rather than bolted onto, the steel rotors (they are clamped by six-piston calipers at the front, and four-piston calipers at the rear). This saves about a pound at each corner, and helps quell rotational inertia. Other places GM saved weight: Forged alloy wheels, reduced NVH insulation, and lower-mass tires, all of which help to keep weight within about 200 pounds of the base CTS.

    ctsv5_wrap_13.jpgBut what's a little weight when you've got a 556-hp V-8 underhood? This is the supercharged LSA small-block — it's essentially a lower-compression, 6.2-liter LS3 from the Corvette with a 1.9-liter-displacement version of the blower you've no doubt salivated over in the ZR1. It uses a rotor design with four lobes, a single-brick air-to-water intercooler, and it will simply not give up. Dave Mikels, the CTS-V's powertrain integration engineer, says, "In most supercharged cars, you have to let them rest between runs or you'll see horsepower drop off. That doesn't happen here." Mikels demonstrates this on the road where he does his performance testing, dropping the clutch for yet another quarter-mile sprint. As he goes through the gears, I see little red lights crawl up the tachometer, letting him know that the soft-limiter is about to intervene. "The torque curve's so flat," he says over the low rumble of the exhaust, "that we had to let people know when to shift."

    Back at the Lutzring, Heinricy slaps the car into drive and we're off through the first turn, a very technical and slow right-hander. Then he boots it and a huge wave of power sends the car over three uphill blind sweepers. There is a ton of lateral grip — the tires don't even squeal through here — and Heinricy is on the power before you or I would ever dream of tapping the gas pedal. The track sends us through its version of the Karussell, putting full compression into the suspension and unloading it completely in the corner exit. I've been in other cars through here, and my helmet inevitably bangs up against the headliner when the bowl empties out. Not in the CTS-V. The car stays controlled and fluid even as it gets subjected to physical extremes. I, too, remain demonstrably fluid, if not exactly controlled.

    A fast left-hander comes up and Heinricy is adjusting the car's cornering attitude with the throttle. The CTS-V is just dancing through here, and it's easy to see how he could have turned eight-minute 'Ring laps in it all day. He doesn't appear to be working too hard. Some of this might be his incredible skill, but a lot of it is undoubtedly the car. It never gets squirrelly or bent out of shape, even when it's drifting ever so slightly. Somehow, in spite of all its earth-reversing power, it exacts no price for its performance (it's not even that expensive; it goes on sale this fall at an estimated $58,000). The V is a car you could run for 24 hours straight without complaint, from you or it. On the road or on the track the CTS-V remains cool, calm, and collected. It remains a Cadillac

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