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Thursday, February 19, 2009

Massachusetts Considering a 'Hummer Tax'

Patrick considers higher fees for gas guzzlers

By Noah Bierman, Globe Staff

Governor Deval Patrick said today he is looking at a Hummer tax -- adding higher registration fees for gas-guzzling cars and offering discounts for those that do less harm to the environment. One industry opponent said it would be the first such fee in the nation on the state level.

The suggestion comes as Patrick prepares to unveil a fuller version of his much-awaited transportation plan on Friday. While he would not release details today, Patrick said at a Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce appearance that any gas tax increase would be coupled with a freeze on toll rates.

Environmentalists applauded the registration proposal, saying it would encourage people to buy smaller and more fuel-efficient cars, which are increasingly seen as key to curbing global warming. Similar proposals have been proposed in Massachusetts since at least 2001, but without the prominent backing of a sitting governor.

“The social costs of larger vehicles include not only the additional pollution, but also higher crash risks to other vehicles,” said Representative William Brownsberger, a Belmont Democrat who is cosponsoring two bills in the Legislature that would penalize expensive and heavy cars with higher taxes or fees.

But opponents say such fees could penalize families and small businesses who need big cars or trucks and already pay higher fuel prices. And at least one influential player in the transportation debate worries that adding an environmental component to the debate could complicate it, and ultimately delay important plans to fix the state’s broken road and public transit system.

“There’s painful steps that need to be taken to fix our transportation system," said Stephen J. Silveira, a lobbyist who chaired the Massachusetts Transportation Finance Commission. "Once you bring the environmental aspect into them, you add a whole other layer of debate which makes this harder to get to at the end of the day. And this is hard enough.”

Patrick said today that his administration is looking at the Registry of Motor Vehicles fee structure to create "differential fees based on the efficiency of the vehicle or the emissions of the vehicle."

"Big gas guzzlers will pay more for their registration," he added. "Plug-in hybrids would pay less and you’d have a range, that kind of thing."

Patrick's office declined to elaborate on the proposal or say whether it would appear as part of his overall transportation plan. RMV spokeswoman Ann Dufresne said state transportation officials have been discussing a gas guzzler fee program, "but I think they’re still trying to flesh that out now.”

Patrick said today that he was continuing to look at raising the state gas tax, but did not commit to it. When asked about it during the Chamber event, he threw the question back to the audience, asking by a show of hands whether the crowd favored a gas tax increase or a toll hike. The crowd chose the gas tax, which has generally been a more popular proposal in the business community.

But Patrick cautioned that even if lawmakers raise the gas tax rate, the state would probably collect less money in the future as drivers buy more fuel-efficient cars and need less gas. Because of that, he is also considering a replacement that would charge drivers a fee for every mile they drive.

That's another reason environmentalists support the Hummer tax. If the gas tax is eventually phased out, a new fee would keep the pressure on consumers to buy more fuel-efficient cars.

“It allows for technology to evolve every year because it's always taxing the most polluting and it's always incentivizing the most efficient,” said Matt Elliott, a clean energy advocate for Environment New Jersey, where the idea is also being debated.

The federal government already has a gas guzzler tax on new cars, passed in 1978. But sport utility vehicles and trucks are exempt, so it affects mostly high-performance luxury vehicles such as Aston Martins and Lamborghinis that have high costs and very poor mileage. Any car that gets more than 22.5 miles per gallon -- the vast majority of sedans and coupes -- is exempt.

A state fee on gas guzzlers that includes SUVs and gives rebates to drivers of plug-in and other high mileage cars has been proposed in other states, including California, but has yet to pass, according to Charles Territo, spokesman for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, which represent 11 car companies, including the big three American carmakers. Territo warns of unintended consequences on families and small businesses and points out that low-mileage cars are already priced below big cars in most cases.

“Consumers that have these vehicles already pay more," said Territo, who said his group would oppose such a plan in Massachusetts.

One model, five aging looks

Here is a photo shoot with one model made up in several looks according to increasing ages.

10 years old look

20 years old look

30 years old look

40 years old look

50 years old look

60 years old look

Beautiful Fungi!!!!

Those are a nice SET of....wait mushrooms???

Griffey chooses to return to Mariners

By Jerry Crasnick

Ken Griffey Jr. Returns To Seattle

The future Hall of Famer informed the Atlanta Braves on Wednesday that he's returning to the city where he carved out a Hall of Fame career as a perennial All-Star in the 1990s.

"He's coming home. ... I can't begin to tell you how ecstatic we are. He is, too," Seattle general manager Jack Zduriencik confirmed on Wednesday night, calling Griffey "arguably one of the greatest athletes to ever play in the Seattle area."

Two baseball sources said that Griffey made his decision after two days of debating between Atlanta, which is close to his home in Orlando, Fla., and Seattle, where he's been a fan favorite since breaking in with the Mariners as a 19-year-old phenom in 1989.

"Ken is extremely excited to be coming back to Seattle," Zduriencik said.

The contract is for one year and $2 million guaranteed and includes incentives that could bring the total value of the deal to $4.5 million, a source said.

I know in his heart of hearts, he probably wanted to be here all along.

-- Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik

As of late last week, it appeared a virtual certainty that Griffey would return to Seattle. But Griffey reached out to the Braves and received a warm reception from manager Bobby Cox and third baseman Chipper Jones, among others.

The Braves were hoping to sign Griffey as a platoon partner for Matt Diaz in left field, and Griffey appeared energized by the prospect of playing so close to home and spending spring training in Orlando.

But the Griffey-to-Atlanta momentum hit the skids Tuesday afternoon, when the sentimental lure of Seattle apparently began to tug at him. One person close to Griffey said he had an "agonizing'' 24 hours trying to decide between the Braves and Mariners.

"We were informed tonight that Ken Griffey Jr. has decided to return to Seattle," Braves general manager Frank Wren said. "We will continue to be open to other possibilities to improve our outfield offense and, at the same time, give our young players an opportunity to show us they can win that job."

Griffey is extremely close to Mariners president Chuck Armstrong and chairman Howard Lincoln from his previous tenure with Seattle from 1989 through 2000. He made the All-Star team and won a Gold Glove with the Mariners every year during the 1990s, and received a hero's welcome when he returned to the city with the Cincinnati Reds in 2007.

It's believed that the Mariners would like to continue their association with Griffey in some fashion when he retires -- although it's uncertain in what role.

Zduriencik said the Mariners were the beneficiaries of Griffey wanting to cement his legacy in Seattle.

"Oh, I don't think there's any doubt about that," he said. "Everyone knows Ken Griffey is a first-ballot Hall of Famer, and he's returning to his roots. That doesn't happen too often."

Griffey is likely to spend time in left field in Seattle, where Endy Chavez is currently the starter, and could also be a DH for new manager Don Wakamatsu. He turned 39 in November, and underwent arthroscopic surgery on his left knee in the offseason.

Griffey's return is a jolt for the Mariners, the first team with a $100 million payroll to lose 100 games -- last season.

"A rejuvenated Ken Griffey coming back to where he started has to be a fabulous motivator for him," Zduriencik said.

The GM had been trying to add a power hitter, and specifically a designated hitter, for months and was also talking to the agent for free agent Garret Anderson. The Mariners prefer a left-handed bat because the dimensions of pitcher-friendly Safeco Field are shortest in right field.

The configuration fits the left-handed Griffey so well, the Mariners presented him with a framed photo of their stadium before a Reds-Mariners game in 2007, with the words "The House that Griffey Built" across the top. Griffey played just half a season in it before getting the trade he demanded.

Yet the fans in Seattle still love "Junior."

Griffey has been hampered by injuries since he left and had arthroscopic knee surgery following the 2008 season, the last half of which he spent with the White Sox. Zduriencik said the Mariners' extensive research, which ended with Griffey passing a physical in Arizona on Sunday, convinced the team he is as healthy as he's been in years.

He is the Mariners' career leader in home runs (398), slugging percentage (.569) and trails only Edgar Martinez in team history in games played with 1,535. He's also second to Martinez in Seattle history in hits, RBIs, extra-base hits, at-bats, doubles, runs and total bases.

Seattle's starting outfield currently has Ichiro Suzuki in right field, Franklin Gutierrez in center and question marks in left, and Zduriencik left open the possibility Griffey could play in the field.

The loss of Griffey to Seattle marked another setback in a challenging offseason for the Braves, who traded for starter Javier Vazquez and signed free agents Derek Lowe and Kenshin Kawakami, but failed to complete a trade for Jake Peavy and fell short in the pursuit of free agents A.J. Burnett and Rafael Furcal.

Wren also took some heat when longtime Atlanta mainstay John Smoltz signed with the Boston Red Sox.

It's likely that Atlanta will have an acquisition to announce shortly, however. A source said the Braves are moving closer to bringing back pitcher Tom Glavine on a one-year contract, and a deal could be announced as soon as Thursday.

But Griffey is coming back to where he spent the heyday of his career -- to Seattle.

"I know in his heart of hearts," Zduriencik said, "he probably wanted to be here all along."

Jerry Crasnick covers baseball for Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

Buddhist temple built out of one million beer bottles

A temple has been built by monks in northeast Thailand who used over a million recycled beer bottles to make the walls and roof.

Temple of a Million Bottles - Beer temple built using recycled bottles
Buddhist monks have recycled over one million used bottles to build their temple in Khun Han, Thailand near the Cambodian border Photo: BRONEK KAMINSKI/BARCROFT MEDIA

Wat Pa Maha Chedi Kaew, also known as Wat Lan Kuad or 'the Temple of a Million Bottles', is in Sisaket province near the Cambodian border, 400 miles from the capital Bangkok.

The Buddhist monks began collecting bottles in 1984 and they collected so many that they decided to use them as a building material.

They encouraged the local authorities to send them more and they have now created a complex of around 20 buildings using the beer bottles, comprising the main temple over a lake, crematorium, prayer rooms, a hall, water tower, tourist bathrooms and several small bungalows raised off the ground which serve as monks quarters.

The bottles do not lose their colour, provide good lighting and are easy to clean, the men say.

A concrete core is used to strengthen the building and the green bottles are Heineken and the brown ones are the Thai beer Chang.

The monks are so eco-friendly that the mosaics of Buddha are created with recycled beer bottle caps.

Altogether there are about 1.5 million recycled bottles in the temple, and the monks at the temple are intending to reuse even more.

Abbot San Kataboonyo said: "The more bottles we get, the more buildings we make."

The beer bottle temple is now on an approved list of eco-friendly sight-seeing tours in southeast Asia.

Turn-by-turn GPS iPhone driving app on display at MWC

By Zach Spear

A company versed in downloadable GPS driving apps for smartphones is showing off a turn-by-turn solution running on the iPhone at this week's Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

The app, produced by Sygic, most likely amounts to an unsanctioned proof-of-concept that may face resistance from Apple when it's submitted shortly to the App Store.

Nevertheless, the iPhone Blog reports that the software, on display at the TeleAtlas booth at MWC, has turn-by-turn GPS directions with voice prompts, points of interest, support for multiple countries, and locally-stored maps. This comes as Apple has been slow to provide its own GPS turn-by-turn solution or the necessary tools for third party developers wishing to write their own.

Last July, the iPhone maker seeded a beta version of iPhone Software 2.1 with a version of the CoreLocation framework that could recognize the cardinal direction of an iPhone through GPS as well as its velocity -- both necessary ingredients for turn-by-turn directions.

Two weeks before the beta seed, two veteran GPS companies, TeleNav and TomTom, said they were developing more advanced navigation software than what's offered in the iPhone edition of Google Maps. At the time, Apple product chief Greg Woswiak confirmed the hardware inside the device is just as capable as other GPS-aware phones that provide live directions.

iPhone GPS Concept

But when Apple finally got around to release iPhone Software 2.1 last September, GPS capabilities were nowhere to be found and were presumed to have been pulled alongside experimental push notification support that was also seeded to developers as part of 2.1 pre-releases. Since then, there has been no word from the Cupertino-based company about addressing the iPhone's lack of true turn-by-turn GPS navigational software.

An app like Sygic's might have significant hurdles to overcome before it could ever be available for customers to purchase. It's believed that the iPhone SDK prohibits GPS driving apps in its current form, making it hard to see a way that Sygic's app could be approved.

iPhone GPS Concept

Nonetheless, Sygic's app provide an interesting proof-of-concept of what turn-by-turn GPS could look like when it successfully arrives on the Apple handset. The app reportedly worked well from what could be gathered amidst a technology conference with limited space, although it took a lengthy 30 seconds to initialize.

The 27 Club: Musicians Who Died At The Age of 27

Kurt Cobain once quoted Neil Young who said “it’s better to burn out than to fade away” and then he (allegedly) shot himself in the face. Kurt, who would have turned 42 this coming Friday, is part of the unlucky group of musicians who died at the tender age of 27 when their careers were still in bloom (oh, bad pun). As homage to the Nirvana frontman, we take a scroll through memory lane and honor the five greatest musicians who are part of the cursed 27 club; May they rest in peace.

Jimi Hendrix – The Jimi Hendrix Experience (died 1970)

There was nothing about Jimi Hendrix that didn’t stick out; from his flamboyant outfits, to his left-handed guitar or his use of amp overdrive. After being turned down by The Rolling Stones, Jimi was introduced to Chas Chandler via Keith Richard’s girlfriend. They went on to form The Jimi Hendrix Experience a rock band that would revolutionize the genre forever. In 1969, he headlined the biggest music festival of all time, Woodstock. One year later, Jimi Hendrix was found dead after overdosing on pills and drowning in his own vomit (Asphyxiation).

Brian Jones – The Rolling Stones (died 1969)

Brian Jones was the founder of a little known band named The Rolling Stones. While on the phone to secure a gig with a venue owner, Brian came up with the name “Rollin(g) Stones” by reading it off an album that was laying around. Their music consisted mostly of R&B covers and it wasn’t until Andrew Loog Oldham joined that they began shifting their focus to newer, more original material. This transition reduced Jones' role in the band which was further accelerated with his drug habit and alcohol abuse. He became alienated from The Rolling Stones and eventually, he was no longer a member of the band he helped form. One month later, he was found face down in his swimming pool.

Janis Joplin – Big Brother and The Holding Company (died 1970)

Janis’ big break came in 1966 when she became the lead vocalist of the psychedelic hippie rock band, Big Brother and The Holding Company. She was renowned for her strong powerful vocals during a male dominated rock era. Janis Joplin performed at Woodstock after having several shots of heroin and being highly inebriated. In 1970, she flew to Brazil where she cleaned up her act and remained sober for a while. She would later return to the US where her drug habits would resurface and ultimately, get the better of her as she died from an apparent heroin overdose in October 1970.

Jim Morrison – The Doors (died 1971)

Jim Morrison was a poet, a writer, a filmmaker and of course, the lead singer for the rock band, The Doors. Controversy surrounded The Doos when they were asked to perform on the Ed Sullivan show. Fearing that the lyric “Girl We Couldn’t Get Higher” was too risqué for television, Ed Sullivan requested that the band modify the sentence to be more TV friendly to which they agreed. When they played, Jim proceeded with original wording which infuriated Ed Sullivan. The Doors had great success in the late 60s but Jim Morrison started to get out of control. He was constantly drugged or drunk and would oftentimes show up late for live performances. In 1971, he moved to Paris and a few months later, Jim Morrison was found dead in his apartment. The circumstances surrounding his death are still unclear as an autopsy was never performed.

Kurt Cobain – Nirvana (died 1994)

We began with a left-handed guitarist, so it’s only fitting that we end with one as well. In an era where rock music was all about long hair and leather jackets, Kurt Cobain sported short hair and wore flannel clothing. Nirvana became an overnight success when they took Michael Jackson off the number one slot in the Billboard music charts with their smash hit, Smells Like Teen Spirit. Grunge music would go on to flood the radio airwaves throughout the early nineties. In 1992, Cobain wed the equally unorthodox Courtney Love with whom they had daughter Frances Bean Cobain. In 1993, Nirvana, known for their grungy loud music, were approached by MTV and asked to perform a quieter, more intimate acoustic set. Kurt Cobain’s emotional performance in “Where Did You Sleep Last Night” still sends chills down our spines.

Faith No More denies guitarist Jim Martin from reunion dates

Rumors are gaining momentum that the hugely infuential '90s alt-metal band FAITH NO MORE is planning to reunite for a number of European festival appearances this summer. A source close to guitarist Jim Martin, who was in the group from 1983 until 1993, has told BLABBERMOUTH.NET that the axeman expressed interest in taking part in the reunion after being recently contacted by keyboardist Roddy Bottum and a member of FAITH NO MORE's management team, but that the band inexplicably decided to utilize a different guitarist — believed to be one of several musicians that were in FAITH NO MORE following Martin's exit from the group — for the upcoming dates.

Although Kerrang! magazine reported in November that a number of U.K. concert venues had been placed on hold for FAITH NO MORE dates next spring, bassist Billy Gould downplayed the speculation, saying, "If anything like this were to happen, it would have to come from the band, and I haven't spoken with any of them in over a year."

Meanwhile, U.K. promoter Andy Copping also said FAITH NO MORE's return this year was unlikely, telling Metal Hammer, "FAITH NO MORE haven't managed to get that PR machine together ... All of the band members haven't agreed to do it."

Martin left FAITH NO MORE in 1993 due to "internal conflicts" and was replaced by FNM singer Mike Patton's MR. BUNGLE bandmate Trey Spruance. Trey also exited soon after recording 1995's "King for a Day... Fool for a Lifetime", just before the band was to begin a world tour. Spruance was replaced by Dean Menta, the band's guitar roadie. FAITH NO MORE's final studio CD, "Album of the Year", was released in 1997 and featured yet another new guitarist, Jon Hudson, who was a former roommate of Billy Gould.

Michael Jackson Auctions Off Bizarre Items // pics

From his limo and paintings to his Edward Scissorhands gloves, Michael Jackson is auctioning off a bizarre range of possessions from the Neverland Ranch. Some real treasures here...

click here to read more and see all the auction items... | digg story

Amazing Goal

"Some or born into greatness, other's have it thrust upon them."

Not sure where Alexander Ovechkin lands in that mix, but boy can he skate!

13 iPhone Applications for Saving Money During Recession.

During these tough times everyone wants to save some money. For those who thought iPhone is expensive and they can do without it, think again!.

read more | digg story

Marijuana Inc. - Inside America's Pot Industry

Obama Gets Autographed Shaquille O'Neal Sneaker


PHOENIX — What's the ideal gift for a basketball-obsessed president? Try a size 23 sneaker personally autographed by Shaquille O'Neal.

The Phoenix Suns center couldn't be around himself when President Barack Obama arrived at Sky Harbor International Airport Tuesday afternoon. So when the president stepped off of Air Force One, Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon's son Jake made the presentation at the foot of the stairs.

The orange-and-white sneaker made a big impression.

Obama set it on the ground next to his own, much smaller shoe, and grinned as photographers captured the moment. Then Obama scooped it up and took it with him as he stepped into the presidential limo.

In Sunday's NBA All-Star game, O'Neal shared MVP honors with Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers.


What If All Tokyo's Pavement Was Replaced With Grass? (pics)

One of the more innovative green projects I've ever seen.

Click here to read more and see the amazing pics | digg story

'Ferris Bueller' Cast: Where Are They Now?


read more | digg story

MC Hammer to star in A&E reality series

IMG_6331 copy A&E has picked up a new series starring '90s rapper MC Hammer.

The performer, his wife and five children will be the focus of a half-hour, 11-episode reality series set to premiere this year.

The title, naturally, is "Hammertime."

Executive producer J.D. Roth said the show likely will play similar to an unscripted version of the Huxtable family from "The Cosby Show."

"Here's a dad with five kids, married to the same woman for more than 23 years, living in the same place where he grew up and going to church every Sunday," Roth said. "He's had his ups and downs, and it's what makes him such a character you root for."

Hammer had a spectacular rise and fall in the early 1990s, becoming a household name and selling millions of records before falling into debt and bankruptcy because of overspending on a lavish lifestyle. Hammer "now lives a more economically balanced life," according to the show's press materials, as a "new-age dad" in Oakland, Calif. This month, he appeared with Ed McMahon in a Cash4Gold Super Bowl ad.

"MC Hammer is an iconic figure in American pop culture, but many people only know him for his music and fashion sense. Now A&E takes an unprecedented look behind his larger-than-life personality and into his life as a devoted husband, father and business entrepreneur," said Robert Sharenow, senior vp alternative at A&E.

Hammer has been offered reality shows before. Roth said he told the rap star he wanted to focus on his future rather than the past.

"I really wanted to tell the future of MC Hammer," Roth said. "What kind of dad is he?"

Roth noted that having one of Hammer's catchy early hits in the opening credits, however, would be welcome if the production can obtain the rights.

Shooting on the series starts next week, with Roth, Hammer, Sharenow, Todd Nelson, Scott Lonker and Stephen Harris executive producing.

(Yes, avoided writing "it's Hammertime" or "he's 2 legit to quit" for entire story)

'Cosby Show' Kids: Where Are They Now?

Remember Theo's best friend Cockroach? He's now playing stepfather to Bobby Brown's (yes, THAT Bobby Brown) oldest son. Oh, and he's a bit of a chunk.

read more | digg story

David Ortiz speaks on the steroid issue

by Mark Fuery,

Red Sox slugger David Ortiz said he wants to see players who test positive for steroids banned for one year.

“I think you clean up the game by testing…You test positive, you’re going to be out. Period,” Ortiz said Monday after the first day of workouts.

Ortiz said he wants every player to be tested three or four times a year. Anyone who fails one of those tests will face a harsh suspension, which Ortiz feels will help clean up the game.

Ortiz also added that he thinks recent testing has worked as a deterrent and makes players think twice about taking any performance enhancing drugs because of the potential penalties for a failed test. A harsher punishment, like the one-year suspension proposed by Ortiz, should make players think even more about the consequences of doping.

The current penalties are a 50-game suspension for the first offense, 100 games for the second, and a lifetime ban for the third. Any player receiving the lifetime ban may apply for reinstatement after two years.

His comments come one week after the shocking revelation that New York Yankees star Alex Rodriguez failed a steroid test in 2003. Rodriguez later admitted to using performance enhancing drugs during his time with the Texas Rangers, but claimed that he did not know exactly what he took.

Ortiz gave Rodriguez credit for coming clean and admitting guilt, but also acknowledged that the controversy surrounding Rodriguez has done damage to the game.

“It was a little bit tough for the game," Ortiz said. “At the same time, people have to give the guy credit because he came out with what he said at the point of his career where he had done it all."

Like Rodriguez, Ortiz will be looking to put the past behind him in 2009, but for different reasons. Ortiz is coming off an injury plagued season in 2008, which resulted in his least productive season since coming to Boston.

Even when he was in the lineup, his injured wrist affected his production as he hit only 23 home runs and saw his batting average drop to .264. Both were his lowest since joining the Red Sox in 2003.

So far Ortiz has reason to be positive. Just last week Manager Terry Francona said he expects Ortiz to be healthy in 2009.

Ortiz shares the positive outlook of his manager. “I’m feeling fine right now,” Ortiz said.

Ortiz will face his first test on Wednesday, when the team holds its first full squad workout.

Amy Fisher Taking Up Stripping

This summary is not available. Please click here to view the post.

Who's Hiring in Tech? 2009 Numbers So Far

hiringlogo.jpgIt may be dismal economic times, but some companies are continuing to make new hires in tech and new media. That's what we track on our Jobwire site and below you'll find aggregate hiring numbers for the first 6 weeks of the new year.

We last covered aggregate stats in the middle of December and the new numbers are similar to what we saw then. IT and software companies are hiring more than anyone else, but marketing firms are now hiring more than publishing and social media companies, a switch since our last report.

January - Feb. 16th 2009 Hires in Tech and New Media
Total reported: 239 Source:

The "Other" category includes the long tail of "hard to categorize" companies, like government hires, health care tech and gaming. Who are all these companies and people hired? You can see the lists at these links:
Social Media/Social Networking/Publishing
All new hires

We didn't break out hires by job title for this report but we did when we reported hiring numbers in November and December. Just for interest, here's those numbers from that report.

Paul Simon Reunites With Art Garfunkel, Revisits Rich Solo Catalog in New York

Photo: Gershoff/WireImage

Paul Simon’s first show at New York’s renovated Beacon Theatre this past Friday night ended with his former partner Art Garfunkel coming onstage to stunned applause by an A-list crowd that included Paul McCartney, Mayor Mike Bloomberg, Jon Bon Jovi, Rosie O’Donnell and many others. Nobody expected Garfunkel to show since he had a solo show in Key Largo, Florida, the night before and another one in Fort Piece Florida the following evening, but he flew up on his day off to join Paul for heavily nostalgic performances of Simon & Garfunkel’s “Old Friends,” “The Boxer” and “The Sounds of Silence.” I’m sure it was an amazingly powerful moment, but I wouldn’t know since I went to the Saturday show. The Springsteen rule of concert-going says always go to the final concert of a multi-night stand, but that doesn’t take into account Art Garfunkel’s packed calendar.

This wasn’t like missing a spontaneous Who reunion at the end of a Roger Daltrey solo concert. Since breaking with Garfunkel in 1970 Paul has released 10 diverse solo albums whose styles literally span the globe. During the nearly three-hour show, Simon drew from all of them with the exception of 2000’s You’re the One. For a man who will be 70 in just three years, Paul Simon’s voice is remarkably preserved. Many of his peers (Bob Dylan, Elton John, Peter Gabriel) can make no such claim. As usual, he was backed by an ace band that was equally prepared to tackle the complex Brazilian rhythms of “Cool, Cool River” and “Proof” as the gentle harmonies of “Slip Slidin’ Away” and “The Boxer.” Nuggets from his 1986 classic Graceland were sprinkled liberally throughout the night, drawing huge applause each time.

After a 20-minute intermission, Simon uttered words few wanted to hear: “We’re going to do some songs from The Capeman now.” A large doo-wop choir came onstage and you could feel the crowd stifling a collective groan. Eleven years ago, after nearly a decade of work and $11 million, the Paul Simon-penned Broadway play about a Puerto Rican gang member went belly up after a disastrous three-month run. The massive failure stung Simon hard and he’s been searching for redemption ever since, most recently with a five-night run of Capeman performances at the Brooklyn Academy of Music last year. Paul joined the singers and tried to make the most of the material, but removed from their context it was impossible to follow the story and the whole thing never took off. Simon wisely followed it up with a slowed down, trippy version of “Mrs. Robinson.”

Simon’s pair of Beacon shows commemorated the grand re-opening of the Theatre, which just underwent a $16 million renovation. The place looked truly spectacular and it remains one of the best spots in town to see a show. There was no red carpet Saturday night, and no Beatles or mayors were in the audience. The only celebrity I saw was Wallace Shawn, who seemed to thoroughly enjoy himself, particularly during “You Can Call Me Al.” When Paul toured with Garfunkel in 2003/04 he played to his biggest crowds in many years, but the set list was confined to a tiny sliver of his overall career. It was great to see him push most of those tunes aside in favor of gems like “Train In The Distance” and “Born At The Right Time.” I have little doubt that same night the crowd at the Sunrise Theater in Fort Pierce Florida saw Garfunkel sing “Bridge Over Troubled Water”; it was likely a killer nostalgia trip, but one Simon didn’t need to take back in his hometown.

Five Brain-Manipulating Technologies That Prove Dollhouse Exists Right Now

Joss Whedon's new show Dollhouse is about a secret organization that supplies mind-wiped sex ninjas to the rich. It's not set in the future because neuromanipulated technoslaves could exist today. Here's proof.

1. We can erase people's memories.
Back in October a study was published in Neuron that proved an enzyme called CaMKII can erase bad memories while you recall them. In Dollhouse, the "actives" have their own memories erased first, and then new memories implanted. The brain-erasure technology is actually the cornerstone of the operation, as it's what turns the actives into blank slates ready to be reprogrammed. Right now, with the cooperation of desperate people, scientists could be using CaMKII to erase their old lives. Then they'll just need to implant new personalities and emotions.

2. We can regulate people's moods with microchips.
Right now, there are a series of implantable microchips on the market that send out electrical impulses over your nerves that can soothe a depressed person or reduce seizures. Some call them neurological pacemakers, and we are discovering new things about them every day - such as the fact that some can cause instant orgasm. Wipe somebody's brain, then install these brain pacemakers, and you might start shaping a whole new person by controlling what gives them pleasure and what makes them depressed.

3. We can use brain implants to steer animals left and right.
Several years ago, neuroscientists invented a little rat-sized brain implant that sent directional signals to the rodent's brain. Using a handheld remote, scientists sent electrical signals to the parts of the rats' brains connected to right and left whisker sensations - and could induce the rats to turn right or left at the press of a button. Dubbed the "robo-rat," the creatures could be used for complicated search and rescue efforts that require crawling into small places. Or they could be the beta version for a more nefarious technology implanted into humans' brains that would allow a corporation like the Dollhouse to remote-control an active's every move, right down to which street they turn on.

4. Infrared brain scans can predict what people want.
As we reported last week, researchers have discovered that a simple infrared brain scan can reveal patterns in brain activity that show simple preferences. Ask a person whether they'd rather have a dog or a cat, and this scan will give you the answer. This is the first step towards knowing how to shape people's preferences. If scientists could trigger a reaction in your brain that reversed the pattern, they might be able to turn a cat person into a dog person and vice versa.

5. Human-computer interfaces link human brains directly to computers.
You may have heard of BrainGate, a technology that uses electrodes sunk into your gray matter to convert electrical impulses from your brain into computer commands. It is currently used by people who are profoundly paralyzed to communicate by moving a cursor around. If we can open up communication between brain and computer like that, it stands to reason that the communication might be two-way. Who is to say there is no secret organization using a BrainGate-esque technology to reprogram people's thoughts?

See the original image at — Free Service Unblocks Private Phone Calls

By Kevin Poulsen Email


A new service set for launch Tuesday allows cellphone users to unmask the Caller ID on blocked incoming calls, obtaining the phone number, and in some cases the name and address, of the no-longer-anonymous caller.

The service, called TrapCall, is offered by New Jersey's TelTech systems, the company behind the controversial SpoofCard Caller ID spoofing service. The new service is likely to be even more controversial — and popular.

"What’s really interesting is that they’ve totally taken the privacy out of Caller ID," says former hacker Kevin Mitnick, who alpha-tested the service.

TrapCall's basic unmasking service is free, and includes the option of blacklisting unwanted callers by phone number. It also allows you to listen to your voicemail over the web. It's currently available to AT&T and T-Mobile subscribers, with support for the other major carriers due within weeks, says TelTech president Meir Cohen.

Logobeta "It’s not meant for spies, it’s not meant for geeks, it’s not meant for any specific target audience,” Cohen says. "Everybody hates getting blocked calls, and in this day and age they want to know who’s calling, and they want the option of taking the call or not."

Consumers have had the option of shielding their number from display since Caller ID was introduced in the early 1990s, either by dialing *-6-7 before placing a call, or asking their carrier for blanket anonymity for their line. But TrapCall takes advantage of a loophole in Caller ID blocking that’s long benefited corporate phone customers: Namely, calls to toll-free numbers are not blocked, because those calls are paid for by the recipient.

TrapCall instructs new customers to reprogram their cellphones to send all rejected, missed and unanswered calls to TrapCall’s own toll-free number. If the user sees an incoming call with Caller ID blocked, he just presses the button on the phone that would normally send it to voicemail. The call invisibly loops through TelTech’s system, then back to the user’s phone, this time with the caller’s number displayed as the Caller ID.

The caller hears only ringing during this rerouting, which took about six seconds in's test with an iPhone on AT&T. Rejecting the call a second time, or failing to answer it, sends it to the user’s standard voicemail.

Step1The service comes as bad news to advocates for domestic violence victims, who fought hard to make free blocking an option in the early days of Caller ID. "I have huge concerns about that,” says Cindy Southworth, director of technology at the National Network to End Domestic Violence, in Washington, D.C. Southworth fears that abusers will use the new service to locate partners fleeing a violent relationship.

In a notable case in 1995, a Texas man named Kevin Roberson shot his ex-girlfriend to death after locating her through the Caller ID device on her roommate's phone line.

The problem is serious, because domestic violence victims who've fled an abusive relationship often have to stay in contact with their abuser by phone, particularly in situations where the former couple share custody of their children,” Southworth says.

"The judge will require that the victim contact the offender to discuss where they’re dropping the children off, for example," says Southworth. "And there’s often court-mandated phone contact between the abusive partner and the victim." In those cases the victims often rely on Caller ID blocking to keep their former partner from knowing where they’re living.

Cohen dismisses that concern, arguing that Caller ID blocking was never secure to begin with. "It’s very simple for somebody to forward a phone to an 800 number in their office, and right there, they’re picking up the phone number of the person who is calling," he says. At least now the false illusion of Caller ID privacy will be dispelled by TrapCall, he adds.

Step3In addition to the free service, branded Fly Trap, a $10-per-month upgrade called Mouse Trap provides human-created transcripts of voicemail messages, and in some cases uses text messaging to send you the name of the caller — information not normally available to wireless customers. Mouse Trap will also send you text messages with the numbers of people who call while your phone was powered off, even if they don’t leave a message.

With the $25-a-month Bear Trap upgrade, you can also automatically record your incoming calls, and get text messages with the billing name and street address of some of your callers, which TelTech says is derived from commercial databases.

TelTech is no stranger to controversy. Its Spoofcard product lets customers send any phone number they want as their Caller ID. Among other things, the spoofing service has been used by thieves to activate stolen credit cards, by hackers to access celebrities’ voicemail boxes, and by telephone hoaxsters to stage a dangerous prank called "swatting," in which they spoof an enemy’s phone number while calling the police with a fake hostage situation. The goal of swatting — realized in hundreds of cases around the country — is to send armed cops bursting into the victim's home.

Cohen’s company has cooperated in law enforcement investigations of Spoofcard abuse, which have led to several prosecutions and convictions. Despite the spoofing-linked crimes, he insists that most Spoofcard users are just privacy-conscious consumers, including celebrities, government officials, private investigators and even spousal abuse victims and shelters.

He also expects his new business will be good for his old one.

“The only way to block your number after this is released is to use Spoofcard,” he says with a laugh.

(Photo: Jon Snyder/ Illustrations courtesy TelTech Systems)

56 Percent of Facebook Users Want the Old ToS Back

… and 38 percent simply “don’t know” what they want, according to a poll being conducted by Facebook in selected user’s news feeds discovered by CNET.

The poll, which asks whether or not Facebook should return to its previous Terms of Service, follows yesterday’s blog post by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, in which the company’s founder defended the social network’s policy of keeping your content indefinitely, even after you delete your account.

The uproar began over the weekend, when it was discovered that Facebook had altered their terms of service, to among other things, grant the company an “irrevocable, perpetual, non-exclusive, transferable, fully paid, worldwide license to use, copy, publish, stream, store, retain, publicly perform or display, transmit, scan, reformat, modify, edit, frame, translate, excerpt, adapt, create derivative works and distribute [your content].”

Looking at the results of the poll so far – which is presumably being conducted with a representative sampling of Facebook users – just about no one likes the change, as only 6 percent have indicated that Facebook shouldn’t change the ToS back. And while “Don’t Know” makes up a sizeable portion of the poll result, it’s clear that the story has moved beyond technology blogs to become an issue at least a fairly significant portion of Facebook users are aware of.

[img courtesy of cnet]

Along those lines, the same type of protest we saw around the Facebook re-design is starting to transpire within the social network itself. The group “People Against the new terms of service” has swelled to more than 60,000 members and appears to be adding dozens every few seconds. And in perhaps an even more serious concern, The Electronic Privacy Information Center is set to file a formal complaint with the Federal Trade Commission about Facebook’s ToS, according to PC World.

As with Facebook’s past transgressions, the problem seems to be less about the net result than the poor communication on the company’s part. While they blogged about changes to their terms of service back on February 4th, the changes to the part everyone is now furious about was omitted from that post. And once again, the company’s increasingly well-known CEO is hung out to dry, defending unpopular changes, as opposed to promoting all the exciting things going on at Facebook.