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Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Does This Look Like The Face of Man Who Would Resist Arrest By Farting On A Cop?

SOUTH CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- As if getting a DUI wasn’t enough, a man arrested for driving under the influence got in a lot more trouble at the police station. Police stopped Jose Cruz on Route 60 in South Charleston Monday night for driving with his headlights off.Then, he failed sobriety tests and was arrested. When police were trying to get fingerprints, police say Cruz moved closer to the officer and passed gas on him. The investigating officer remarked in the criminal complaint that the odor was very strong. Cruz is now charged with battery on a police officer, as well as DUI and obstruction.

Ah, the last refuge of a desperate man. The old fart bomb. Honestly who hasn’t been here before? You’ve just been pulled over and failed a sobriety test. You’re about to go to jail. Your entire life is flashing before you. The cops are moving in to finger print you. Time is running out. What options do you have left? Yup, it’s time to rip a fart to end all farts and hope the stench is enough to ward the police off and give you time to escape. It’s the type of non lethal resistance and quick thinking that Ghandi himself could be proud of. Godspeed Jose Cruz. Godspeed.

— elpresidente, (

iNap Wakes You Up When You Get There

iPhone only: iPhone application iNap uses your location-aware iPhone to set off an alarm to alert you when you're nearing your destination. Say, for example, you're riding the train to work but want to catch some shuteye on the way. Just fire up iNap, set your stop as the destination, and let iNap worry about the rest. You can tweak the alert radius to make sure you're up in plenty of time, from 0.1 to 100 miles. iNap works with any iPhone, but the results will be most accurate with an iPhone 3G. Also, you'd definitely want to make sure you've got a signal near your destination; the app obviously won't work if it can't determine where you are. iNap costs $1 from the iTunes App Store.

11 Pieces of Skateboard Furniture [PICS]

Skateboarders are making nearly everything these days out of skateboard components such as skateboard clocks, lamps, benches, bookshelves, tables, loungers, chairs and even a skateboard wall.

read more | digg story

Cheerleaders ditch revealing shorts after complaints from spectators

A team of university cheerleaders have ordered more modest uniforms after spectators complained that their outfits were too revealing.

By Matthew Moore
Cheerleaders from the NFL, like those pictured, wear revealing outfits, but some university sports fans are opposed
Cheerleaders from the NFL, like those pictured, often wear revealing outfits, but some sports fans are opposed to their use at university games Photo: REUTERS

Fans of the Vandals, the University of Idaho’s American football team, were upset that the cheerleaders’ two-piece uniforms – tops little bigger than a bra, and short skirts that looked like more hot pants – showed too much flesh.

Bruce Pitman, the university dean, said that although there were “a number of fans who liked them”, the outfits had now been deemed inappropriate.

Some of the cheerleaders had also complained that the outfits were not comfortable and did not suit their figures.

"Girls are just bigger these days, not everybody's a size zero," said Shelly Robson, a fundraiser for the university's athletics department. "We're not being a bunch of prudes."

The new uniforms, ordered at a cost of $2,200 (£1,200), feature less revealing tops and skirts that are six inches longer. The outfits will not arrive for a few weeks, so for their most recent game the cheerleaders wore football jerseys and black shorts.

This is the second time this year that the Vandals have altered uniforms for taste reasons. The American football team took the university logo – an “I” – off the seat of their trousers after the first game of the season.

Rob Spears, the university's athletic director, says nobody realised just how the logo placed in the centre of the players' behinds would look before they tried on their uniforms.

What else could you buy with $700 billion? [Slideshow]

3.5 billion iPhones! 233,333 Super Bowl ads! 400 Space Shuttles! 12 Bill Gateses! And of course, 56,000 Victoria Secret diamond and ruby encrusted bras! Why waste $700 billion on bailing out Wall Street? Think of the possibilities, man!

read more | digg story

Track your missing laptop with Adeona

By Nathan Willis

Almost every laptop on sale today comes equipped with the Kensington security slot on the side or back, through which you can connect a theft-deterring locked steel cable. The system's down sides are (a) that a would-be thief can damage or destroy your equipment trying to yank the cable out, and (b) that you have to buy the cable separately. As an alternative, the free software utility Adeona won't preemptively deter theft, but it will help you track down your stolen equipment and better the chances of its recovery by police.

Adeona runs in the background, and works its magic by waking up at random intervals to record data about the equipment's location and status, which it encrypts and then silently uploads to off-site storage. If your laptop (or, for that matter, your co-located server) goes missing, you can retrieve its latest records from elsewhere, learning such information as its internal and external IP address, local network configuration, and more. Armed with that info, you can call John Law and take a big step toward recovering your goods.

Adeona is distinct from commercial equipment tracking alternatives in that it takes multiple measures to ensure that the off-site status records are anonymous, untraceable, and encrypted. To accomplish this, the system randomizes many of its parameters -- the length of time between status checks, the time between status check and upload, and the destination node of the off-site storage.

You can download the Adeona client for Linux, Mac OS X, and Windows; the latest version is 0.21, and is available under the GPLv2. The OS X and Windows packages are binaries, and the Linux package is source code. Compiling the code is straightforward; the standard ./configure; make; make install three-step will suffice on any standard Linux distribution. You will also need the OpenSSL, traceroute, and cron packages, all of which are widely available.

Once you have compiled Adeona, the make install step will prompt you to create an Adeona password that is used to encrypt a local credentials file. The file contains seed data that you will need in order to retrieve stored status checks in the event that your machine is lost or stolen, so don't forget your password. The installer will also provide you with a sample cron job that you should add to your machine's crontab in order to keep Adeona running regularly.

You can install Adeona clients on multiple machines, and you can retrieve entries for all of them from a single machine, provided that you have a copy of each client's credentials file. If you are monitoring multiple laptops, desktops, or servers, it pays to have a copy of each credentials file on each machine, since you never know which ones will turn up missing. Each file is encrypted with its own password.

The OS X version of Adeona sports one feature not yet present in the others: the ability to take a snapshot using modern Macs' built-in iSight video camera, potentially catching thieves on screen. If that bothers you or if you are just shy, a separate no-camera build is available too.

How it works

Current location checks are run approximately once every 30 minutes. Each time Adeona runs, it collects your machine's internal IP address from the operating system, the external IP address from a third-party reporting service, the name (if any) of the wireless network to which it is connected, the names of nearby routers as reported by traceroute, and (if available) a photo via iSight camera. It stores this information securely in an encrypted local cache. At some random point in the future, it uploads the collected report to the distributed, decentralized OpenDHT network.

By randomizing the interval between location checks and between uploads, Adeona makes it harder for would-be attackers to foil the system by switching the computer off before the check or by observing the upload. By randomizing which OpenDHT nodes receive the upload, Adeona can spread the information across multiple servers. Because the key used to index the upload on OpenDHT is randomized, attackers cannot retrieve your reports or discover which sets of reports are associated with the same machine.

Of course, the key values cannot be truly random -- they are generated by a pseudo-random number generator, and therein lies the key to retrieving the location reports. The intervals, nodes, and keys are completely predictable if you know the initial seed value, and that is stored within the credentials file. Armed with that file, Adeona can calculate the timestamps of every location report, and how to retrieve them from OpenDHT. Since that file is password-encrypted using AES, it is secure from all but a brute-force attack.

Naturally, a thief with physical access to your machine can do things to disable Adeona -- uninstall it, erase the hard drive, or just keep it disconnected from the Internet. In such situations, no other security product can help you discover your missing machine's location either. Adeona's service is just as strong as any proprietary solution, but with the added strength of anonymity and security.

Test drive

In practice, Adeona is unobtrusive: once you have installed the data collection client, you can forget it is there. That is true even of the camera-enabled OS X build, which I tried along with the Linux package. The green camera LED blinks once when a picture is taken, but I didn't notice a flash until after several hours of continuous use. Compiling and installing the Linux version is a piece of cake; there are no obscure dependencies and it needs no complicated configuration.

In the field, report retrieval is more important than the unobtrusiveness of report generation. If your laptop is stolen, you may have only a short window in which to act, after which your machine could be wiped or shut down to sit on a pawn shop's shelf. The retrieval command on Linux requires command-line switches that specify the start and end times and the number of location reports to fetch. The Mac version is a bit easier to use; it comes as a clickable Terminal script with pop-up windows that request the same information. The same could be done for Linux with Zenity.

In either case, the retrieval process provides human-readable output as it requests and fetches each location report from OpenDHT. The only problem I encountered with the system at all was with OpenDHT itself. OpenDHT is a decentralized database of hashed key-value pairs running on PlanetLab nodes. As such, it provides some fault-tolerance should any particular node become unreachable. But for the first few days of my Adeona test drive, the entire OpenDHT system was down.

I talked to Adeona developer Gabreil Maganis about the issue, because the error message I received from the retrieval script did not indicate OpenDHT was at fault. He assured me that the error message would be fixed in the future, and suggested checking the URL to determine whether OpenDHT was currently up and running.

As to whether OpenDHT storage constitutes a single point of failure that undermines Adeona's utility, Maganis says that there are alternatives in the works. "Additional online storage options is an engineering issue. We plan to have a 'wish list' of some sort on the Web site to invite enthusiasts to maybe implement an Azureus DHT module for Adeona. We were conscious about making the code easy to extend and add to during development and hopefully that is the case."

The Adeona project is hosted at the University of Washington. If you are interested in learning more details of the exact security protocols that make it run, its creators have published a paper describing the system and the attack vectors it counteracts. It not only keeps your location information secure from prying eyes, but it protects your privacy in other ways that a common thief might not have thought of. If you have ever considered purchasing a proprietary device tracking application, read the paper to get up to speed on exactly what makes Adeona superior. And read the source code if you're still not convinced.

Most of us will be lucky enough to never have a laptop or desktop computer lost or stolen, and Adeona's location abilities will only serve as a precaution. But at this price, it is well worth taking that precaution.

Awesome new Nintendo ad on youtube

What a cool ad on youtube - making the site move with the video... check it out!

read more | digg story

Ben and Jerry's to use human milk

Category: Weird
by Steve Higgins

steve_icon_medium.jpg well... if PETA had their way they would.

WATERBURY, Vt. -- People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals sent a letter to Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, cofounders of Ben & Jerry's Homemade Inc., urging them to replace cow's milk they use in their ice cream products with human breast milk, according to a statement recently released by a PETA spokeswoman.

"PETA's request comes in the wake of news reports that a Swiss restaurant owner will begin purchasing breast milk from nursing mothers and substituting breast milk for 75 percent of the cow's milk in the food he serves," the statement says.

PETA officials say a move to human breast milk would lessen the suffering of dairy cows and their babies on factory farms and benefit human health.

Hmm.. I'm feeling a great business plan coming on here that shouldn't cause any problems whatsoever... I'm going to be impregnating women and then artificially keep them lactating all the while confining them to cages in order to harvest their breast milk. If that doesn't work I guess I can just open up a milking center at the mall so that I can get new mothers to stop by for a few minutes while I milk them. I could even offer them.. well lets see I could probably extract less than a gallon at a at current rates - maybe offer them 10 cents for their time? I'll bet I could get at least enough milk from 100 malls to maybe provide enough ice cream for 1 mall.


Does anyone want to invest in my idea? All I need... a few trucks, a few refrigerators, and a whole shit load of breast pumps.

Designer vagina trend 'worrying'

cosmetic surgery
More and more women are seeking cosmetic vaginal surgery

A leading urogynaecologist has spoken out against the growing popularity of cosmetic vaginal surgery.

Professor Linda Cardozo, of King's College Hospital, London, says little evidence exists to advise women on the safety or effectiveness of procedures.

These include operations to make the external appearance more "attractive" and reshaping the vagina to counter laxity after childbirth, for example.

She discussed the issues at a medical meeting in Montreal, Canada.

Women want to emulate the supermodel. It's part of a trend
Professor Cardozo

A Google search showed over 45,000 references to cosmetic vaginal surgery, yet on medical databases such as PubMed or Medline there were fewer than 100.

Professor Cardozo said the most established vaginal cosmetic procedure was reduction labioplasty - a procedure to make the labia smaller - which is requested by women either for aesthetic reasons or to alleviate physical discomfort.

"Women want to emulate the supermodel. It's part of a trend. But they should know that all surgery can be risky.

"Most of the procedures are done in the private sector and it's totally unregulated."

The exact numbers of procedures carried out are unknown.

In the past five years there has been a doubling of the number of labial reductions carried out on the NHS from 400 in 2000/1 to 800 in 2004/5.

Growing trend

The evidence from existing case studies shows that the procedure, which costs about £2,000 at a private clinic, does have positive aesthetic results but it is unclear whether it resolves feelings of psychological distress or improves sexual functioning, she said.

And there was little evidence that "vaginal rejuvenation" - the surgical repair of vaginal laxity, with a price tag of about £3,000 - improved symptoms and was any better than doing simple pelvic floor muscle exercises.

She said robust research was needed so that doctors could properly advise their patients. In the meantime, she urged surgeons to remain cautious and operate only as a last resort.

In her presentation at the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists 7th International Scientific Meeting, Professor Cardozo said: "Cosmetic vaginal procedures raise a number of serious ethical questions.

"Women are paying large sums of money for this type of surgery which may improve the appearance of their genitalia but there is no evidence that it improves function."

here is a video:

Pictures here (NSFW)

Glowing Red Fish Discovered

PHOTOS: Glowing Red Fish Discovered

September 22, 2008--
The reef fish Enneapterygius pusillus has found a creative way to communicate with other fish in a world dominated by blues and greens: The fish literally glows red.

At least 32 species of reef fish that live at depths below 33 feet (10 meters) possess this unique method of signaling, researchers said in a September 2008 study.

Because the color red has a longer wavelength and fish are better attuned to seeing colors with shorter wavelengths (such as green and blue), scientists had thought red was irrelevant to fish.

"Marine fish are generally assumed not to see or use red light, with the exception of some deep-sea fish," lead researcher Nico Michiels of the University of Tuebingen in Germany said in an email.

"Our discovery shows that there is a lot of red fluorescence that is very indicative of an active role of red in fish communication."

(See photo: "Blind Sea Creature Hunts With Light" [July 8, 2005)

The study appeared recently in the journal BMC Ecology.

--Kimberly Johnson
—Photographs by Michiels et al./BMC Ecology 2008

PHOTOS: Glowing Red Fish Discovered
The common labrid fish, Pseudocheilinus evanidus, emits a red luminescence that can be seen at close distances.

Seawater absorbs sunlight's red wavelengths, making normally red objects look black or gray below 33 feet (10 meters), researchers said in September 2008.

The fish do not produce light but instead use pigments to convert incoming blue-green light wavelengths into red, lead researcher Nico Michiels of the University of Tuebingen in Germany said in an email.

"In some cases, the red fluorescence may actually be part of camouflage, as the reef itself fluoresces in very irregular, but partly strong patches," Michiels added.
—Photographs by Michiels et al./BMC Ecology 2008
PHOTOS: Glowing Red Fish Discovered
It's not just fish that appear red--several species of invertebrates and algae, including this calcareous alga in the genus Amphiroa, also send out a scarlet glow.

More research is needed into the role color plays in how fish see the world, scientists say.

"This is a phenomenon that deserves further investigation, but its functional significance remains unclear," Gary Grossman of the University of Georgia, said of the September 2008 study.

"It is possible this fluorescence serves as a signaling function in fish, but one wonders what its significance could be in … invertebrates that lack eyes."
—Photographs by Michiels et al./BMC Ecology 2008

Official Google 10th Birthday Site

Features a cool interactive timeline that lists major milestones in Google history, as well as all the various birthday logos!

click here

Gilmour plays Pink Floyd tribute

By Ian Youngs
Music reporter, BBC News

David Gilmour on Later...
Richard Wright had been due to accompany David Gilmour on the show

Pink Floyd star David Gilmour has performed one of the band's early songs in tribute to the group's keyboardist Richard Wright, who died last week.

Gilmour gave a poignant rendition of Remember A Day, written by Wright, who died from cancer at the age of 65.

The song was on Pink Floyd's 1968 second album Saucerful of Secrets.

"He created a sound that glued the whole Pink Floyd thing together," Gilmour said on BBC Two music show Later... With Jools Holland.

"He was just a very self-effacing but very talented, lovely chap. We're incredibly sad to have lost him."

Wright had been due to accompany Gilmour on the TV show, but sent the guitarist a text message three weeks ago saying he would not be able to play.

After his death, Gilmour decided to play Remember A Day. It is thought that the song had not been performed live for many years.

Wright sang lead vocals on the original version, which was recorded just before Gilmour joined the group.

Gilmour recalled meeting Wright in 1965, when his first band supported Pink Floyd in "schools and big old youth clubs".

Pink Floyd reformed for Live 8 in 2005
Pink Floyd reformed for Live 8 in 2005, with Gilmour (left) and Wright (right)

Wright was "so shy and quiet", he told host Jools Holland.

Asked about Wright's contribution to Pink Floyd, he replied: "He brought a slightly more jazzy and ethereal element to it all.

"He had some elusive quality, let's call it soul, that glued the whole thing together. You notice it when it's missing."

One edition of Later... was broadcast on Tuesday, with a longer version to be aired on BBC Two on Friday.

For the Friday episode, Gilmour also performed The Blue, from his 2006 solo album On An Island.

The album version of that song featured Wright on backing vocals, and Wright had also accompanied Gilmour on tour.

The keyboardist was "revelling in what he was doing" in recent years, Gilmour said.

"He had so much joy in him."

The show also featured Mercury Prize winners Elbow, new US pop star Katy Perry and British hip-hop artist Roots Manuva.

David Gilmour - Remember a Day (live) Later... with Jools Holland is on BBC Two at 2335 BST on Friday.

The Original (
Pink Floyd goof around while miming "Remember a Day" on French TV in 1968. Updated audio. )

How to watch TV at work (without getting fired)

Get a new job

Ten ways to maximize your on-the-job TV watching (click on each image above)

By Michael O’Connell, Special to Metromix

Work is hard enough without the sweet comfort of your loving television set. But until the blessed day when some government mandate grants us all the freedom to watch loud and proud, the best most of us get is the promise of a full DVR when we finally make it back home.

But watching your favorite shows during office hours can be simple. Check out our list of gadgets, shortcuts and software that'll let you put the "Montel Williams" back in your workday.

Blogger girl looking for semen donor

Shes not looking for a source of child support or a baby-daddy in the sense that he should have any supportive role in the pregnancy or in raising the child, I just need some good, hearty seed.

read more | digg story

Beyond the DVR- Hulu is the new way to watch TV.

"To me, this is the way media always should have been," says Hulu CEO Jason Kilar.
Illustration: Todd Alan Breland

What's a hulu? In August 2007, this question ricocheted through the blogosphere to a chorus of derisive laughter. Fox and NBC were going to make the Internet safe for television! They were building a "YouTube killer"! And they were calling it Hulu! It was almost too perfect—an absurdist topper to the idea that two major broadcast networks could devise an Internet video service people would actually use. The name was even more delicious than the venture's placeholder moniker, NewCo., which the online world had changed to Clown Co. And now Hulu? It means "snoring" in Chinese, one blogger declared. "'Cease' and 'desist' in Swahili," Michael Arrington reported on TechCrunch. "Perhaps they should have just stuck with Clown Co.," he added.

Jason Kilar read these posts and winced. A 36-year-old executive newly relocated to Los Angeles, Kilar had followed—even admired—many of these bloggers for years. Now he was Hulu's CEO, and their ridicule wasn't so funny.

What's a Hulu? Kilar had gotten the same question from Jeff Zucker, chief of NBC Universal, and Peter Chernin, president of News Corporation, Fox's corporate parent. In English it means nothing. In Mandarin, when pronounced another way, it means not snoring but "bottle gourd," which, in an old Chinese proverb, stands for a "holder of precious things." If you say so, they responded.

Even Kilar was starting to wonder whether he could make this thing work. Along with the new name, he had just announced that Hulu, which he had been running for only seven weeks, would launch in beta in two months—much later than expected but far too soon for a team that had barely gotten started. He was heading an operation of 20 people holed up in an office suite in West LA. To meet the deadline, he had turned the place into a bunker: Newspapers covered every window. People were sleeping on air mattresses on the floor. Half-eaten pizzas littered the empty cubicles. Fruit flies were the only visitors.

But Kilar would make it work. He and his crew would emerge from their dismal cave with the sleekest, easiest-to-use, most professional video site on the Internet. Not only would it deliver shows and movies from Fox and NBC Universal, it would take you to programs from every other major network and studio. Full-length episodes. Entire seasons. For free. Within months of that late-August announcement, Hulu would be among the top 10 US video sites in number of clips streamed. Om Malik, one of the bloggers who had ridiculed it from the start, would pronounce it "brilliant." TechCrunch readers would vote it best video startup of 2007. "Game Over. Hulu Wins," Arrington would declare in a conciliatory post. How did that happen?

Find out here:

The Lowdown on Android

Mobile move: T-Mobile’s G1 is the first phone that uses Google’s Android operating system.
Credit: Google/T-Mobile

At a press conference in New York yesterday, Google and T-Mobile showed off the long-anticipated G1, a powerful smartphone that runs Google's Android operating system for mobile devices.

The handset, priced at $179, will be available from T-Mobile on October 22. It boasts features to rank it at the top end of the smartphone market, and its software offers some neat surprises and tricks. At the same time, the G1 undoubtedly lacks the sparkle of the iPhone, probably its closest competitor. Furthermore, some experts question whether Google's scheme for delivering new applications for the phone--an online store called Android Market--could run into problems that slow down mass adoption.

As expected, the G1 has a touch screen and a pullout QWERTY keypad, which make it thicker than the iPhone and some other smartphones. It can make use of T-Mobile's faster 3G mobile network, and it has GPS and Wi-Fi capabilities built in. The G1 comes equipped with a 3.1 megapixel camera (but no video camera), an accelerometer to measure motion of the device and orientation of the screen, and a Bluetooth receiver for hands-free devices. The G1 also has one unusual hardware feature: a built-in compass that can determine the direction in which the phone is pointed.

While the G1's hardware doesn't make it stand out from the crowd, its software is already causing excitement. Android is designed to enable easy access to Google's Web applications--including its calendar, e-mail, and mapping services--and to instant messaging applications like Google Talk and AOL's Instant Messenger. The G1's Web browser, based on the same software used to make Google's recently released desktop browser, produces scaled-down Web pages that look, for the most part, as they do on a normal computer screen. And the phone's built-in compass has been integrated into Google Maps Street View to let users pan around a streetscape by moving the handset in the corresponding direction.

These applications come as standard, but Google and T-Mobile representatives say that third-party applications could take the device well beyond these basics. A slew of applications have already been released, and some have won funding via Google's Android Challenge, a competition to encourage software engineers to develop for the platform. Locale changes the phone's settings based on the time of day, the phone's location, and the owner's calendar, automatically turning the ringer off during meetings, for example. Another downloadable application, Shop Savvy, lets users take a picture of a product's barcode with the built-in camera and instantly compare prices from around the Web.

"Several years ago all phones were controlled by handset [makers] with requirements coming from carriers," says Rich Miner, vice president of mobile at Google. "First with Microsoft, then Apple, and now Google, you have people who really understand software and the user experience on these devices. You combine that with higher speed networks and better screen resolution, and all of a sudden, the mobile Internet is here."

Applications Galore: Owners of the G1 can download applications such as Locale and ShopSavvy for their phones. Locale (left three images) automatically changes the G1’s settings based on, for instance, the phone’s location, calendar events, and the time of day. ShopSavvy (right image) lets people compare prices of an item by scanning its bar code with the phone’s camera and checking other Web sources.
Credit: MIT/Big In Japan

Software apps will be available through Android Market, an online store that can be accessed via the phone. Android Market is similar to Apple's iPhone App Store, in that it is the main method of application distribution. But, crucially, Google will play no central role in vetting applications before they are posted. Instead, developers and users can vote and comment to let others know if an application works as promised or if it drains the phone's battery or makes it crash. According to some experts, this free-for-all approach might lead to quality-control issues in the near future.

"I'm totally cheering Android on," says Jonathan Zittrain, a professor of law at Harvard University. "But from what I can tell, [Android Market] is banking on a ratings/reputations systems and common sense for people to know what's okay and what's not."

Zittrain says the approach might even hinder Android's progress. "I think [Android Market] may work," he says, "but if there are a couple of well-publicized incidences of code run amok, that can really scare people away from the platform and into Apple's waiting arms."

Zittrain says a novel solution to quality control could come in the form of an application that warns users automatically. "I'd love to see an app that reports each phone's vital signs. We need some sense of a nervous system for this thing," he says, so that less tech-savvy people feel comfortable trying out different applications.

Miner is confident that the Android Market approach will pay off. "Look at YouTube," he says. "Good things bubble to the top, and if the apps are bad, they will float down to the bottom."

Miner adds that the Android platform has built-in security features to limit access to certain types of data and certain functions on the phone. "With Android, our philosophy was [to] make it easy for people to put apps up, but make it so when an app is on a platform, the user knows what functions it's going to be accessing."

The first Android phone may not surpass the iPhone in popularity, but its applications will play a vital role in the future of the platform. Within the next two years, says Zittrain, it should be clear whether or not Google's gamble has paid off.

The Portable DNA Detector

On-site CSI: After a blood sample is collected from the scene of a crime, this briefcase-sized device can be used to extract and analyze its DNA in six hours or less.
Credit: University of California, Berkeley

A new portable DNA analyzer performs real-time analysis of blood samples left at the scene of a crime. Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, developed the device, which packs microfluidics, electronics, optics, and chemical detection technology into a single briefcase-sized unit. "While previous groups have developed lab-on-a-chip systems, none of them have succeeded in making a completely portable, robust system that can be used at a scene," says team leader Richard Mathies.

The new device can be used for short tandem repeat (STR) analysis, a technique that has become routine in modern forensic work since it was first applied in 1991, but one that normally takes place in the lab. The researchers carried out real-time STR profiling at a mock crime scene set up by the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office. Blood stain samples were collected and DNA extraction and analysis were performed at the crime scene within six hours.

The researchers stress, however, that while their system is very reliable, it is not yet commercially available and can be used only to provide preliminary evidence for police investigations. "The advantage is that the police could now have almost immediate information on who the most likely criminal actually is," explains Mathies. "This enables them to find the person and get crucial evidence before he or she leaves the region or destroys evidence."

Mathies is the inventor of capillary electrophoresis arrays and energy-transfer fluorescent dye labels--two technologies commonly used in modern DNA sequencers. These technologies combine miniaturized chemical and biochemical analysis with high-sensitivity fluorescence detection.

After a sample is obtained at the scene of a crime, DNA strands are amplified and separated to detect a "signature." Inside the device, a DNA fragment is replicated within a 160-nanolitre polymerase chain reaction (PCR) reactor coupled with an on-chip heater and temperature sensor. The biological sample and PCR reagents are exposed to three distinct temperatures for a certain amount of time, and a seven-centimeter-long separation channel is used for analyzing DNA by capillary electrophoresis. Using the device, the researchers succeeded in producing reproducible STR profiles of DNA samples in as little as two-and-a-half hours.

The detector measures 30 by 25 by 10 centimeters and weighs 10 kilograms. It consumes 20 watts of power, which can be supplied by a car battery. "It can thus be easily carried in a suitcase and checked in as flight luggage," says team member Peng Liu.

One of the biggest challenges in designing a portable DNA sequencing device is controlling the flow of samples through the system. To overcome this issue, Mathies and coworkers built a multilayer plastic chip containing an intricate system of etched channels. This system was fabricated with using the same techniques used to manufacture computer chips.

Most U.S. states now collect DNA samples from suspects upon arrest. So the ability to quickly match crime scene samples with records from this database could dramatically speed up the identification of criminals, Mathies says.

The Berkeley team plans to improve the sensitivity and throughput of the device by integrating other analytical steps, such as post-PCR "cleanup." By integrating more units, it will be possible to analyze several DNA samples at the same time, explains Liu. The device could appear on the market in as little as three to five years, the researchers say.

"One of the barriers to developing lab-on-a-chip technology is systems and process integration, and it is this aspect of the new work that is really exciting," says Stephen Haswell of the University of Hull, UK, who is also working on crime-scene DNA matching. "The work is an important development for both the forensic community and those striving to develop truly lab-on-a-chip technology."

Cell Type Counts in Spinal Therapy

Starring role: A specific type of astrocyte--star-shaped support cells found in the central nervous system--may have healing effects for spinal cord injuries. Researchers grew astrocytes (green) from embryonic stem cells and found they improved motor function in rats with injured spinal cords.
Credit: Stephen Davies/University of Colorado

Small differences in the type of cells used for transplantation therapies can have a big impact on outcome. In experiments published in the current edition of the Journal of Biology, scientists from the University of Rochester and the University of Colorado found that transplanting a certain type of cell improved motor function in rats whose spinal cords had been severed. However, transplantation of a closely related cell type had little benefit and actually made the animals more sensitive to pain.

The findings illustrate the importance of differentiating stem cells before transplanting them into injured tissue, an issue that has been under great debate as stem cell-based therapies approach human testing. "This study demonstrates for the first time the dynamics of developmentally different populations of [cells], which we need to take into account," says Martin Marsala, a professor of anesthesiology who teaches at the University of San Diego and was not involved in the study.

Stem cells have the potential to grow into new neurons and other cell types, a property scientists aim to exploit to treat spinal cord injury. Transplanted cells might bridge severed nerves in the spinal cord or encourage recovery of existing cells. However, scientists working toward this goal have run into two main problems: stem cells transplanted into the spinal cord have a hard time forming lasting neurons, and these same cells tend to induce nerve-related pain.

One problem is that transplanting undifferentiated, or "naïve," stem cells into injured tissue cells tends to cause the formation of scar tissue, instead of regenerating healthy neurons, says Stephen Davies, associate professor of neurosurgery at the University of Colorado. "It might be that scars form to protect an injury site from infection, so the injured tissue goes into lockdown mode and will recruit whatever precursor cells are present to form scars," he says. The alternative is to differentiate cells into specific cell types before transplanting them.

Davies and his associates at the University of Rochester found that the right kind of cells for repairing spinal cord injuries may be a subtype of support cells found throughout the central nervous system, called astrocytes. These star-shaped cells have various forms and functions, but are largely involved in providing nutrients to the brain and repairing injury.

To test their healing potential, Davies' team grew two different kinds of astrocytes from the same line of embryonic stem cells by exposing them to different cocktails of signaling molecules--molecules that stimulate stem cells to grow into specific cells. One sample yielded astrocytes that were flat and broad, called GDAbmp. The other produced more elongated astrocytes, called GDAcntf.

The researchers then surgically severed rats' spinal cords at the base of the neck--a common location of spinal injury in humans--and injected the animals with naïve stem cells, stem cell-derived GDAbmp, and stem cell-derived GDAcntf.

Neuron bridge: Two different astrocyte populations grown from the same stem cell line have different effects when injected into the injured spinal cords of rats. Above, an injury site injected with one type of astrocyte (red) is full of new nerve fibers that successfully bridge the injury. Below, a similar injury site injected with a different type of astrocyte (red) shows fewer nerve fibers (green) that fail to bridge the gap.
Credit: Stephen Davies/University of Colorado

Every three days after surgery, the researchers tested the rats' ability to walk across a horizontal ladder. They found that the rats that received GDAbmp injections quickly recovered motor skills and were able to walk across the ladder as well as they could before the surgery. By contrast, the rats injected with GDAcntf showed much less recovery, and those with naïve stem cells exhibited none, similar to rats that received no injection at all.

Images of each injury site after cell injections showed that GDAbmp astrocytes successfully formed new neurons that bridged the injury site, while GDAcntf astrocytes and naïve stem cells were not able to regrow neurons.

In addition, Davies' colleague and wife Janette Davies discovered that rats with injected GDAcntf astrocytes were much more sensitive to pain than rats with GDAbmp astrocytes. Furthermore, in histological samples, the team found that rats with GDAcntf exhibited sprouting of nerve fibers associated with neuropathic pain, whereas rats with GDAbmp did not show such sprouting.

"So far, these [GDAbmp astrocytes] are the gold standard astrocytes that have been discovered," says Davies. "Not only do they not promote neuropathic pain, but they have robust regeneration of neurons, and [they lead to] locomotor recovery in two to three weeks."

Davies says manipulating stem cells before transplanting them into injured sites may have beneficial effects not just for repairing spinal cords, but also for treating injuries in other parts of the body. For now, he and his team are exploring methods to make GDAbmp for humans, either from embryonic stem cells or from adult stem cells, with a view toward transplanting these cells into humans in clinical trials in the next two or three years.

Conferencing in the Car

The latest innovation in talking while driving

Aura Mobile BT: Photo by Spracht

Driving around while seemingly talking to an imaginary friend in the front seat is no longer strange, and in California, it's the law. But "hands-free" can still be painful for the other half of the conversation, and the ear you choose to clip a gadget onto. The Aura Mobile BT from Spracht is a Bluetooth conference phone that works just as well in the car as it does in your hotel room-turned-office. On a three-hour trek through northern California driving 80 mph in a noisy car, we tested whether it's worth the $129.99 price tag.

Over the course of eight or so calls, there was universal agreement that the sound quality was better than putting a cell phone on speaker or the average Bluetooth headpiece. People on the other line could still tell it was on speaker, but the words didn't appear chopped and there was no need to repeat constantly. Several felt that there was less ambient noise. A few key technical specs from Spracht:

  • full-duplex (93%) operation for simultaneous two-way conversations without clipping
  • multiple acoustic profiles, which are automatically adjusted based on the type of communication.
  • full 3-wattamplifier
  • dual speakers generating 95 dB
  • noise-cancelling internal microphone at 44 db ± 4 dB
  • 4 hours talk time on a single charge, standby time 24 hours

No software is necessary to get started, and the cell phone connected quickly and easily. A slick embedded visor clip deploys out of the speaker bottom for use in the car, ensuring you won't lose some add-on accessory. The spring-loaded design collapses it back into the device for use on a table or desk. Placing calls still requires using the phone keypad, but maybe a voice-activated model will come next? Incoming calls ring quite loudly, but a slight disappointment was finding no ringer options. However, if the incoming call registers in your address book, the Aura Mobile will actually read out the name (so be careful with your nicknames). A car charger is included for long trips.

For corporate folks, the conference-room capability is also worth noting and probably justifies the cost. Putting a standard cell phone on speaker only works if everyone in the room is within six inches of the microphone. The Aura Mobile eliminates that need, and slips easily into your computer bag. It also functions with PCs or Macs for VoIP calls. So is it worth the $129.99? Tough to say, but it's still hanging on our visor.

A Water Lens for a Better Camera

New liquid lens technique could lead to cheaper, lighter and more energy-efficient cameras in a range of devices

See it Better: Rensselaer/Carlos A Lopez
The next time you take a trip to the water cooler, just think, what you're about to drink isn't just good for hydration; it makes for a very effective, energy-efficient lens, too. That's what researchers at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute have announced after designing and testing an adaptive liquid lens—comprised of a pair of water droplets—that captures 250 pictures per second.

Unlike existing techniques used in liquid lenses, the new version does not manipulate the size and shape of the surface area the liquid touches to get an image to focus. The latest imaging technology leaves the water at a constant on the surface area and uses high-frequency sound waves to vibrate the water droplets back and forth at a significant speed through a cylindrical hole. This in turn changes the focus of the lens. During this process, imaging software automatically captures streaming frames that are in focus and rejects those that are not. Rensselaer researchers say the method uses substantially less energy overall than present liquid lenses and could be the next step in a new generation of light-weight, low-cost cameras in cell phones, cars and even security equipment.

Planners Save, Hedonists Squander

How we treat time is key to happiness, say psychologists

Eat Now, Think Later: People stuck in the present tend to have poor impulse control, as demonstrated in the famous Stanford Marshmallow Study. Photo by

Give a four-year-old a marshmallow, and she’ll eat it, no hesitation. Unless she’s promised a second if she waits 15 minutes before eating the first. Stanford psychologist Walter Mischel tested the ability of kids to delay gratification in this way in the 1960’s. Behind the one-way mirror, Mischel noticed that some kids—I’ll call them the planners—might squirm and sniff and squeeze the prize but ultimately managed to resist temptation. Others could not. They gobbled right away.

Follow-up studies of the same kids as teenagers revealed a remarkable divide. Those who could wait longer were far better off. The planners were more confident, attentive, respectful, trustworthy, and calm under pressure. They were more eager to learn and, in fact, earned SAT scores that were more than 200 points higher than those of the hedonistic gobblers.

The psychologist Philip Zimbardo, a colleague of Mischel’s, uses the elegant experiment as a hook for his new book, The Time Paradox: The New Psychology of Time That Will Change Your Life. Part research report, part self-help guide, Zimbardo and co-author John Boyd (a research manager at Google) explain what this all means for you. Your perspective on time, they say, can make or break your well-being.

I saw Zimbardo speak with zeal on the topic at the New York Academy of Sciences last week. If you’re a future-oriented person—able to wait for your marshmallows—you likely set goals and meet them, save money, and finish your work on time. For the gobblers among us, the present-oriented, well, I’m afraid the gobblers are a bit screwed. Pain, sickness, financial ruin, addiction, death, and hell. That’s verbatim from one of Zimbardo’s Power Point slides. Sorry—probable pain, sickness, financial ruin, addiction, death, and hell.

Hyperbole aside, Zimbardo has spent decades refining a way to quantify what he feels is an overlooked predictor of a person’s aptitude for long-term success. His tool to measure time perspective is called the ZTPI: the Zimbardo Time Perspective Inventory. The ZTPI will identify what level and shade of past-, present-, and future-oriented you are. You can then compare it to a so-called optimal profile, giving you a new excuse for why you haven’t accomplished what you wanted to this year.

So is it carpe diem or carpe annum for you? You can measure your personal ZTPI here. But never fear: Zimbardo says time perspective can be readjusted. To learn how, though, it seems you’ll have to buy the book.

Ghost Heart

Reanimating lifeless organs brings new hope for the millions on transplant waiting lists

Born to Beat: a rat heart fused with rat cells incubates in a bioreactor at the University of Minnesota: Photo by Courtesy Emily Jensen

In late 2005, cardiac researcher Doris Taylor revived the dead. She rinsed rat hearts with detergent until the cells washed away and all that remained was a skeleton of tissue translucent as wax paper—a ghost heart, as Taylor calls it. She injected the scaffold with fresh heart cells from newborn rats. Then she waited.

What she witnessed four days later, once the cells had a chance to make themselves at home, was astonishing. "We could see these little areas that were beginning to beat," says Taylor, director of the University of Minnesota's Center for Cardiovascular Repair. "By eight days, we could see the whole heart beating. The first time that happened, it was like ‘yes!' "

The experiment, which was reported this year in the journal Nature Medicine, marked a watershed moment: the first time scientists had created a functioning heart in the lab from biological tissue. For the 62 million people living with congestive heart failure, a condition in which the heart is no longer fit enough to pump blood through the body, drugs and heart-repair procedures frequently fall short; 60 percent of patients die within five years of diagnosis. A recellularized heart like Taylor's represents the first real hope for a cure—and she recently brought it one step closer to reality by devising a way to populate it with blood vessels. "There's a lot of smoke and mirrors in this field," says Todd McAllister, the CEO of Cytograft, a California-based tissue-engineering company. "Some people say they can grow a heart from scratch in 10 years, which is ridiculous. But Dr. Taylor's approach is more realistic because it's so simple and elegant. By using an existing heart, she's taken away all of the structural issues."

Taylor's system involves flushing animal hearts of cells using a cleanser, at which point only the extracellular matrix remains and "the hearts look almost clear," Taylor says. The next step is to infuse the hearts with a mix of mature and progenitor cardiac cells, which can come from a patient's own body to ensure compatibility. Incredibly, for reasons the team still doesn't understand, the cells seem to know how to divide and proliferate into cardiac tissue inside the empty-shell hearts.

This year, Taylor has continued to forge ahead toward her goal of creating transplantable, made-to-order human organs. Soon after she published her rat-heart results, she started working on making recellularized pig hearts—closer in size and shape to the human equivalent—that could pump blood and generate electrical impulses. "Our hope is that someday we'll be able to take a cadaver or pig organ, decellularize it, and transplant your own cells into the matrix to make an organ that matches your body," Taylor says.

Before a reliable human donor heart can be grown from a matrix, however, scientists must coax it to do more than just beat. "A heart isn't just a muscle. It also needs arteries and other tissues," explains cardiologist Robert Bonow of Northwestern University. "Doris Taylor has replaced the motor inside the chassis, so to speak, but she's got to find a way to get the other parts in there too."

She's working on it. Taylor's team has washed away the cells inside a rat aorta, for example, which is about the same size as a human coronary artery, and successfully seeded it with rat endothelial cells. The blood vessels grown in the lab are strong enough to withstand 19 pounds of pressure per square inch, a high enough performance threshold to make them viable in transplant hearts.

Taylor is focused on starting human clinical trials in the near future; she envisions a transplantable organ becoming available in "years, not decades." But she's also looking at the incredible number of other possible uses for her cell-seeding procedure. "The coolest thing is, it's not just about hearts—we could do this with kidneys, lungs and livers as well."

Face Of: G1 vs. Iphone

Android and Apple go head to head. Who will emerge victorious?

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BillShrink, the startup that helps users cut costs on their phone bills, is expanding its automated advisor to an entirely new field: Credit Cards. The site’s recommendation engine will now include a database of over 200 major credit cards, helping users choose an ideal card after entering only a few basic criteria.

To begin using the system, users first decide if they’re interested in a card that will reward them for keeping their bills paid off, or one that will minimize the interest accrued on balances that are being paid off over time. Next, they’re asked to enter the amount of money the typically spend in a month, their current credit standing, and the places they spend the most money (for example, “groceries” or “airline tickets”).

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BillShrink is headed by ex-Photobucket exec Peter Pham, and offers a similar comparison service for mobile phones which launched in beta last April. Using signal maps, plan rates, and usage habits, the site recommends what kind of service plan each user should be on, or if they should switch carriers entirely. While the service got off to a rocky start, it has made great strides and will be incorporating the revamped interface that launches today alongside the credit-card portion of the site.

Financial startup Mint also offers credit card recommendations, though these are not nearly as comprehensive as those seen on BillShrink.

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Inside the £800m Dubai hotel boasting a £13,000-a-night suite and dolphins flown in from the South Pacific

This is how Chismillionaire would do it right here:

It's the latest word in Gulf excess - a sprawling £800million resort boasting a £13,000-a-night suite and dolphins flown in from the South Pacific, all atop a palm tree-shaped island.

Environmentalists have long criticised both the island and some of the features of the Atlantis hotel, set to open tomorrow.

Analysts wonder, separately, if global financial turmoil could someday crimp Dubai's big tourist dreams.

But Dubai is not blinking: the 113-acre resort on an artificial island off the Persian Gulf coast is among the city-state's biggest bets that tourism can help sustain its economy once regional oil profits stop flowing.

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Sea view: A bedroom looks onto the giant aquarium

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Water pleasure: Journalists watch a stingray swimming in the aquarium at a press preview

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Fantasy island: The Atlantis hotel has been built on an artificial island off the coast of Dubai

'You don't build a billion-and-a-half dollar project just anywhere in the world,' said Alan Leibman, president and managing director of Kerzner International, the hotel operator that teamed with Dubai developer Nakheel on the resort.

With its own oil reserves running dry, Dubai hopes to woo those eager to make money and those who know how to spend it - even as much of the global economy sours.

For years, the emirate - one of seven semi-independent states that make up the United Arab Emirates - has been feverishly building skyscrapers and luxury hotels.

Atlantis hotel, Dubai

A swirling glass sculpture by Dale Chihuly graces one of the lobbies

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Even the corridors are sumptuous

A key piece of the strategy has been to cultivate an image in the West as a sun-kissed tourist destination despite its soaring summer heat, conservative Muslim society and relative dearth of historic sites.

Fueling the interest are belief-defying projects such as an indoor ski slope, the as-yet-incomplete world's tallest skyscraper and a growing archipelago of man-made islands such as the Palm Jumeirah - the smallest of three such projects planned.

Much of the focus at Atlantis, modeled on a sister resort in the Bahamas, is on ocean-themed family entertainment.

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Bathtime - with water cascading from high up in the ceiling

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... Or you might prefer to soak up the splendours of the aquarium while you bathe

The resort contains a giant open-air tank with 65,000 fish, stingrays and other sea creatures and a dolphinarium with more than two dozen bottlenose dolphins flown in, amid controversy, from the Solomon Islands.

But the hotel's top floor aims squarely at the ultra-wealthy. A three-bedroom, three-bathroom suite complete with gold-leaf 18-seat dining table is on offer for £13,000 a night.

Dubai's development has long been criticized by environmental activists, who say the construction of artificial islands hurts coral reefs and even shifts water currents. They point to growing water and power consumption.

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Special guest: One of the dolphins flown in from the far-off Pacific

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A tourist takes a picture of her husband as he slides down the Leap of Faith chute at the Atlantis resort

Last year, environmental groups and some residents of the Solomon Islands protested the decision to sell the dolphins, plus the 30-hour plane flight needed to get them to Dubai.

Developers seem undaunted. For the moment, the resort shares the sprawling island only with rows of high-end houses and construction sites. But other international names are set to move in.

Donald Trump plans to open a hotel straddling the center of the palm, and the storied QE2 ocean liner will become a hotel and a tourist attraction docked alongside the island tree's 'trunk'.

Atlantis hotel, Dubai

Another hotel suite gives a more traditional view of the actual sea

Atlantis hotel, Dubai

The decor is uncluttered but exotic

An 1,800-seat theatre nearby will house a permanent Cirque du Soleil show beginning in summer 2011.

'Palm Jumeirah in and of itself will become one of Dubai's major tourist attractions,' said Joe Cita, chief executive of Nakheel's hotel division.

Boosting the number of attractions on the island will not only entice more visitors, he said, but also persuade them to spend more time and money in the city.

By 2010, Dubai aims to attract a staggering 10 million hotel visitors annually, up from about 7 million in 2007. Atlantis alone will increase the city's hotel capacity by 3 percent.

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Fish food: Diners can also gaze at the stunning sea life in the giant aquarium

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Colourful murals line the upper walls

So far, demand appears strong. The Middle East had the highest hotel occupancy rates in the world during the first half of the year, with Dubai leading the region at 85.3 percent, according to professional services firm Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu.

Dubai also had the highest room rates in the region, although revenue growth is slowing, Deloitte noted.

Atlantis' backers are optimistic they can fill its 1,539 rooms despite the economic uncertainty wracking some of the world's richest economies. Their focus is on well-heeled travelers from Europe, Russia, Asia and elsewhere in the Middle East.

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An eye-catching oven is the centrepiece of this restaurant area

Atlantis hotel, Dubai

An alcove gives onto a quiet, discreet dining room

'People will still take family holidays,' Leibman said. 'Dubai is still good value when you're paying in pounds, (or) you're paying in euros.'

Nakheel and Kerzner are both privately held companies and do not release sales data. Leibman said demand from tour groups looks strong well into the first part of next year.

Yet Marios Maratheftis, head of regional research for the Middle East, North Africa and Pakistan at Standard Chartered Bank in Dubai, said there is 'good reason' to be concerned that global financial problems could hit Dubai's tourism industry. Nevertheless, he said, the city's long-term outlook remains positive.

Atlantis hotel, Dubai

Another dining area provides a moody retreat

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The hi-tech entrance of Italian celebrity chef Giorgio Locatelli's restaurant at the hotel

Kerzner has grown increasingly close to Dubai in recent years. In 2006, the company took itself private in a £2 billion deal partially bankrolled by a division of Nakheel's state-owned parent, Dubai World. Nakheel retains a large stake in the company.

Meanwhile, Nakheel's hotel division has expanded rapidly. The company's holdings include New York's Mandarin Oriental, the Fontainebleau in Miami Beach, and the W Hotel in Washington.

Its parent also owns a minority stake in MGM Mirage Inc., and is teaming with the casino operator and Kerzner to build a massive multibillion-dollar casino on the Las Vegas Strip.

But don't expect to find roulette wheels at Dubai's Atlantis. Islamic prohibitions against gambling ensure casinos remain off-limits.

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Jumeira Palm Island seen from a helicopter. The Atlantis Hotel is in the distance

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Luxury on tap: A view of the seven star Burj Al Arab Hotel and Palm Island Jumeirah and the Atlantis Hotel in the background