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Thursday, March 5, 2009

Opel Unveils New Ampera – And it Looks Really Good

I wasn’t expecting to be impressed with the new Opel Ampera (the Chevy Volt’s European cousin). In fact, I was convinced I would find something dull, unimaginative and lacking in technical innovation.

But instead, I believe that I’ve actually found the only serious contender to replace the Audi A3 TDI that’s sitting on my driveway right now.

This week GM invited Gas 2.0 to witness the unveiling of the Opel Ampera, to go on sale in Europe in 2011.

The Ampera not only looks great but features genuinely innovative technology, which according to GM vice Chairman Bob Lutz will ‘leapfrog the competition’. With a 16 kWh advanced lithium ion battery pack the Ampera has a battery range of 60km – not far, but far enough to satisfy the average daily requirement of 80% of German drivers – after which the gasoline powered engine begins to generate electricity enabling a total range of 500km.

GM’s Frank Weber, engineering lead on the Voltec drive train which underpins the Volt and the Ampera goes to some length to explain how this approach differs from the competition. Instead of driving the wheels directly with an option for electrical assistance (as is the case in the majority of today’s hybrids), the Voltec engine generates electricity only, allowing it to operate in the most efficient part of the fuel map while the power transmission is entirely electric. The result is an estimated running cost only 1/5th that of similarly sized conventional cars.

However, what’s most impressive is the passion and enthusiasm demonstrated by the Opel team for this product. In the Ampera they have created a stunning yet practical car which ticks every box on my A3 replacement list.

In short, it is one of the few cars that I saw at this year’s Geneva Motor Show which inspires a genuine feeling of desire – of the kind that makes one forget the poor economic arguments for cars in a country well served by public transport, and makes you just want to write the cheque and own it.

The Ampera is on my shopping list..

More Images

Fast Facts:

  • 220 lithium-ion cells
  • Nearly silent electric drive unit delivers 370 Nm of instant torque
  • Equivalent of 150 horsepower,
  • Zero to 100 km/h acceleration in around nine seconds, and a top speed of 161 km/h.

Images © GM Corp, with permission.


If Women Ruled the world (35 perspectives)





Clcik here for more silly pics| digg story

Illinois Medical Marijuana Bill Passes House Committee



Medical Marijuana Bill Passes House Comm - The Illinois House Human Services Committee passed a bill Wednesday that would allow seriously ill patients with certain debilitating conditions who have their doctors’ recommendations to use medical marijuana without fear of arrest.

The bill passed by a vote of 4-3, according to the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), a marijuana policy reform organization. A companion bill, SB 1381, is sponsored by Sen. Bill Haine (D-Alton) in the Illinois Senate and is expected to receive a hearing in the Senate Public Health Committee next Tuesday, a release from MPP said.

HB 2514, the House medical marijuana bill, is sponsored by Rep. Lou Lang (D-Skokie).

This isn't the first time a medical marijuana bill was introduced in the Illinois House, the group says, but it is the first time a House committee passed such a bill.


Copyright Sun-Times News Group

Move Over Beer Pong: A Dozen Alternative Drinking Games That’ll Get You Hammered

  • By Lifestyle Mog

What’s more fun than hanging out with your friends, getting plastered, and making an ass of yourself?

Playing drinking games, hanging out with your friends, getting plastered, and making an ass of yourself, of course! I’m sure in your years of wisdom and experience, you’ve come across a few drinking games as literally hundreds of them exist; and as long as there is beer to drink and women to, ahem, converse with, there will be hundreds more.

Here are some of our favorite games here at AMOG that are great alternates to beer pong (psst, were playing them right now!)

drunk1 Move Over Beer Pong: A Dozen Alternative Drinking Games Thatll Get You Hammered

1. Beer Hunter

This is my all time favorite drinking game. It requires no thought, so it’s good for all everyone at the party, and is so easy you understand the rules when you’re already drunk. Take a bunch of cans and put them in a box. You can use a six pack or a twelve pack, but make sure there’s at least one for every person.

Shake one of the beers up and when you think it’s shaken enough, shake it some more. Make sure that it’s about ready to explode on its own. Return that beer to the box with the rest and mix them up without looking. Be sure no one else is looking either. Then, everyone takes turns by grabbing one of the beers, tilting it toward their face and opening it.

If your beer doesn’t go all over your face, you lose and have to drink the beer. If it does, then you win, and you get a smelly beer face and look like a loser with no beer to drink. Just remember, you won!

chug1 Move Over Beer Pong: A Dozen Alternative Drinking Games Thatll Get You Hammered

2. Boat Races

This drinking game is best if played with at least ten people, but the important thing is that you at least have an even number. One thing you don’t need for this game is intelligence or the ability to comprehend, which is why this game is ranked as number two on my list.

Everyone splits into two teams and sits opposite the other team on the floor or at a long table. At the start of the race, one person on each team drinks their beer as fast as they can.

When they’re done, they put their glass, can, or bottle down. Once that person sets their empty beer container down, the next person on the team is free to drink their beer, and so on. The first team in which all of the members have finished their beers wins.

shot1 Move Over Beer Pong: A Dozen Alternative Drinking Games Thatll Get You Hammered

3. Baseball

Don’t worry. I’m not suggesting at all that a bunch of drunk people go out into an open field, throw a hard ball at each other and swing a long stick around. This is a different kind of baseball. For this game, you need four shot glasses, a quarter and beer. The game is best played with at least six people, but more is even better.

Fill the shot glasses with beer and line them up one behind another in a straight line (or the straightest line you can if you’re already drunk). One team starts by bouncing the quarter and trying to make it into one of the shot glasses. The first shot glass in the row denotes first base, the second one denotes second base, and so on. When the person gets the quarter in one of the shot glasses, (s)he must drink the beer from all of the shot glasses behind it.

For instance, if you get it in the front shot glass, you must drink the three behind it. After one player gets a turn, a player from the opposite team gets a turn. Make sure to keep track of how many “players” are on bases because for every “run” your team makes all of the people on the opposing team must drink.

drinking2 Move Over Beer Pong: A Dozen Alternative Drinking Games Thatll Get You Hammered

4. Quarters

Okay, here’s the old standby. Everyone knows how to play quarters, but it warrants mentioning since it’s a classic. Again, there’s no real thinking involved. You need some sort of alcohol, a quarter and a shot glass.

The object of the game is to bounce the quarter off of the table and into the glass. If you’re successful, you can choose who takes a drink out of all of the other players and you get another turn. Your turn continues until you miss. Once you miss, you must take a drink.

The real fun comes in when someone makes three in a row because then they get to make up a rule. For instance, the ever-popular rule of not being able to say “drink” “drank” or “drunk”. Anyone that does receives a penalty of having to take another drink.

beerpot Move Over Beer Pong: A Dozen Alternative Drinking Games Thatll Get You Hammered

5. Beer Pot

In order to play this drinking game, you need a large pot or pitcher. Everyone playing sits in a circle and empties one beer into the pot. The pot goes around in the circle and everyone takes turns drinking from the pot. Each person can drink as little or as much as (s)he wants.

The winner is the one who finishes what’s in the pot and the loser is the one that took a turn immediately before him/her. The loser is out for the next round and play continues. If you’re in a setting where the beers haven’t already been purchased, traditionally, the loser buys the next round of beers. The play continues until there is one single winner.

drinking1 Move Over Beer Pong: A Dozen Alternative Drinking Games Thatll Get You Hammered

6. Beer Bomb

For the two-player game of beer bomb, you need two tables (card tables work great), two cups and a ping pong balls. Spread each table apart from the other and place one cup on each table. Each player stands behind their respective table and takes one ping pong ball and attempts to get in his/her opponent’s cup by bouncing it off of his/her own table and (hopefully) into the opponent’s cup.

The other player then makes an attempt at the same thing. After one player makes it in their opponent’s cup, the other player must make it in on the next turn. If (s)he doesn’t, (s)he has to take a drink. If (s)he does, then his/her opponent must take a drink.

icetray Move Over Beer Pong: A Dozen Alternative Drinking Games Thatll Get You Hammered

7. Ice Tray Quarters

Yes, another quarters game! The play of ice tray quarters has the same rules as regular quarters except for a few minor differences. The obvious difference is that you use an ice tray instead of a glass. Another major difference is that one side of the tray is denoted for drinks given and one is denoted for drinks taken.

If you get the quarter in the “given” side, then you can chose who gets to take a drink. If it’s on the “taken” side, you must take a drink. The real fun comes in since there are multiple compartments in the ice tray on each side. If you get the quarter in the second one from the front on the “taken” side, you must drink two drinks.

If it’s in the third compartment, you must drink three, and so on. Conversely, if you get the quarter in the second compartment on the “given” side, you can chose two different people to drink one drink or you can choose one person to drink two drinks. The player continues his or her turn until (s)he misses or gets it in the “given” side.

homerbeer Move Over Beer Pong: A Dozen Alternative Drinking Games Thatll Get You Hammered

8. TV / Movie Beer Game

This drinking game is played at someone’s house and is equally good with just a few people as it is with a lot of people. Everyone agrees on a television show or movie to watch.

Before the movie or show starts, you make the rules of when everyone has to take a drink. For instance, if you’re watching The Simpsons, you could make up a rule that everyone takes a drink every time Homer says, “doh” and everyone has to drink two drinks every time Homer or Bart’s name is mentioned.

pingpong Move Over Beer Pong: A Dozen Alternative Drinking Games Thatll Get You Hammered

9. Paddle Pong

For beer pong, you need cups, ping pong paddles, ping pong balls, and a ping pong table. If you don’t have a ping pong table, you can use a rectangular table with a make shift net. For the net, use a piece of string tied to two chairs on either side of the table and paper towels draped over the string.

You can play singles or doubles, so you need two or four people to play. Each person fills a cup with beer and puts the cup one paddle width from the end of the table and in the center with reference to “side to side” for singles. For doubles, put the cup one paddle width from the edge on the side.

When playing, if you hit the ball over the net and it hits the cup of an opponent, you’re awarded one point and the opponent must take one sip from the cup. If you manage to get the ball in the cup, you are awarded five points and your opponent must drink whatever is left in the cup.

indianpoker Move Over Beer Pong: A Dozen Alternative Drinking Games Thatll Get You Hammered

10. Indian Poker

Most people have heard of Indian Poker, but it’s especially fun to play as a drinking game. You need a deck of cards to play this game. Someone deals one card face down to each player. Without looking at the card, each person puts their card on their forehead so that everyone else can see it.

With the rules that aces are the highest and 2s are the lowest, each player determines whether they think they have the highest card. The person to the left of the dealer starts the betting (in drinks). The next person calls, raises or folds. This goes around until everyone has folded or called.

If you fold, you must drink however many drinks as you previously bet. If you call and lose, you must drink as many drinks as you bet. The winner drinks nothing. It’s rather simple and sounds a bit stupid, but once you get a few drinks in you, half the fun is watching everyone else with cards on their forehead looking like a dork.

wordgame Move Over Beer Pong: A Dozen Alternative Drinking Games Thatll Get You Hammered

11. The Word Drinking Game

The way you play this game is very simple. Someone thinks of a word that’s prohibited to say and whoever says it has to take a drink. You can make it a game where people get drunk fast by designating the word “the”, “it, or “and” as the word or you can choose a word that’s not quite as common. Obviously if you’re trying to get loaded, pick something simple.

drunk12 Move Over Beer Pong: A Dozen Alternative Drinking Games Thatll Get You Hammered

12. One Big Chicken

All you need for this game is a group of people, beer and someone that knows all of the phrases to this game. The first person says the first phrase on the list of ten. The next person must say the second phrase and then the first phrase. It goes in the same fashion as The Twelve Days of Christmas in that if you’re on the fifth phrase, you must recite the fifth one and then the other four in decreasing order.

If you mess up, you must take as many drinks as the number of phrases you were suppose to complete and then the game starts over with the next person. The game is over when all ten phrases are said correctly or everyone is too drunk to care, whichever comes first. Here are the phrases.

  • One big chicken
  • Two cute ducks
  • Three brown bears
  • Four hairy running hares
  • Five fat females sitting, sipping scotch and smoking cigarettes
  • Six sheets slit by Sam the sheet slitter
  • Seven sexy Siamese sailors sailing the seven seas Eight echoing egotists echoing egotistical ecstasies
  • Nine naughty knocked up nuns navigating the Nigerian Desert towards the nunnery
  • Ten fig pluckers plucking figs; I’m not a fig plucker or a fig pluckers son but I’ll pluck figs until the fig plucking’s done!

Without drinking games, who would ever get drunk and hit on your girlfriend, or decide to start the lawnmower at 3 in the morning (it’s still funny to this day!) While I’m sure some of these excuses to get hammered brought back some memories, there must be a million others like them.

What kinds of drinking games do you play to get hammered and make bad decisions you’ll learn to forget?

Public Enemies Tralier


Upscale Font The official trailer for Universal Pictures' Public Enemies courtesy of Apple.

In the action-thriller Public Enemies, acclaimed filmmaker Michael Mann directs Johnny Depp, Christian Bale and Academy Award® winner Marion Cotillard in the incredible and true story of legendary Depression-era bank robber John Dillinger (Depp)the charismatic bank robber whose lightning raids made him the number one target of J. Edgar Hoovers fledgling FBI and its top agent, Melvin Purvis (Bale), and a folk hero....

The Worst Cars for the Money

By Lauren DeAngelis

 2009 Pontiac G5
2009 Pontiac G5

No carmaker is perfect. Each has best and worst sellers, hits and misses. And while plenty of cars are generally good values, there are a few that don't make as much sense when you work out the calculations over time. That's where our new list comes in: the Worst Cars for the Money.


The Worst Cars for the Money were identified using data from the U.S. News car rankings, which are based on the collective opinion of the automotive press. This tells us how "good" or "bad" a car is within its class, according to a large number of critics. We then weigh the rankings against how much value the car packs in compared to others within its class. Using data from IntelliChoice, an industry leader in determining ownership costs, we include how much buyers can expect to spend up front, how much they'll spend on maintenance and fuel, and how much of a hit they'll take from the car's depreciation during the first five years.


The result is a list of cars you may want to think twice about before buying. But also keep in mind the unwritten part of a car's value: if you really like one of these models, then chances are you'll be happy driving it no matter what - which means that in the end, it could be the best car for your money.


Compact Car: Pontiac G5


The G5 trails the majority of compact cars when it comes to comfort, quality and performance, leading to a poor U.S. News ranking. Its sticker price is also a bit higher than many competitors, and it's expected to depreciate as much as 60 percent within the first five years of ownership - twice as fast as its top-ranked competitors. In addition, five years of fueling and maintaining the G5 is estimated to cost you $5,000 to $10,000 more than Honda's Fit or Civic. The G5's future is unclear since GM has announced plans to shrink the Pontiac model line significantly. Pontiac sold just 767 G5s nationwide in January.


Better values: If you're in the market for a compact car, consider the Honda Fit and Hyundai Elantra.


Compact Crossover: Suzuki XL7

Some critics note that while it's a competent people hauler, the Suzuki XL7 can't match the acceleration, handling and interior quality of top rivals. Its five-year cost of ownership is quite high - almost $47,000 as compared to the Honda CR-V, which is about $37,000. Depreciation is the major cause - like the Pontiac G5, the XL7 is expected to lose more than 60 percent of its value over five years. We should note that while the XL7 may have some shortcomings, this SUV has stellar crash test ratings and should be on the list for small SUV shoppers concerned about safety.


Better values: If you're in the market for a compact crossover, you may do better with the Mazda Mazda5 or the Ford Escape Hybrid.


Full-Size SUV: Jeep Commander

The Jeep Commander is a good choice for off-road enthusiasts, but buyers who spend the majority of their time on the pavement should look elsewhere. U.S. News ranks the Commander last among large SUVs. Its cost of ownership over five-years is $10,000 more than the Mazda CX-9 crossover and even higher than the popular Chevrolet Tahoe, another off-road-ready vehicle. While the Commander's sub-$30K sticker may look appealing, this big SUV is expected to depreciate 50 to 60 percent over five years. Sales were down 56 percent last year, and there's speculation that it may be discontinued after 2009.


Better values: If you're in the market for a full-size SUV, the Chevrolet Tahoe and Mazda CX-9 are worth a look.


Full Size Pickup: Nissan Titan

 2009 Nissan Titan
2009 Nissan Titan

With rugged practicality and a strong powertrain, the 2009 Nissan Titan isn't out of place in the full-size truck market. However, after more than three years on the market, the Titan still hasn't pulled in a lot of American buyers. Sales were down almost 50 percent in 2008. That may be because the Titan's value equation just doesn't make sense. It's generally well liked, but it costs up to $5,000 more than solid American options. The Titan also lags the competition in fuel economy, with only 13 miles per gallon in the city for the base model. Nissan has announced it will end production of the Titan in 2010 and is planning to replace it with a pickup based on the Dodge Ram.


Better values: Consider the Ford F-150 and Chevrolet Silverado.


Upscale Car: Volvo S60

The Volvo S60 is based on a nine-year-old design and has been left in the dust by continually improved competitors like the Infiniti G37 and BMW 3-Series. On the plus side, the S60 could save you two or three thousand dollars over five years, compared to the 3-Series or the Cadillac CTS. But consider that the existing S60's deprecation will likely only get worse: Volvo debuted a new concept at this year's Detroit Auto Show that will make the current S60 extinct.


Better values: If you're in the market for an upscale car, consider the Infiniti G37 or Lexus ES.


Sports Car: Mitsubishi Eclipse

The Mitsubishi Eclipse offers aggressive sports car styling, but critics claim it lacks the power and agility they expect in a sports car. This contributes to an underwhelming performance in the U.S. News rankings. The Eclipse isn't such a bad deal if you just want to look the part of a speed racer - there are just other sports cars that are better. The Eclipse's sticker price undercuts most of its rivals. The car will run you about $40k + to own over five years - about $5,000 less than the Honda S2000. The Eclipse's sales numbers confirm that it has loyal buyers. Sure, sales are down about 38 percent from a year ago, but the Eclipse still sold better than the S2000 or Mazda Miata. The Eclipse just received a refresh for 2009, which means it probably won't be going anywhere soon.


Better values: Still, for cars that perform better within the mainstream sports car class, take a look at the Mazda MX-5 Miata and Nissan 370Z.

NIN: Burn Live from on stage, Melbourne 2.25.09 [HD]


CLICK HERE FOR HD...............NIN: Burn Live from on stage, Melbourne 2.25.09 [HD] from Nine Inch Nails on Vimeo.

Nine Inch Nails performing "Burn" live from the stage at Festival Hall, Melbourne, Australia, 2.25.09.



Filmed by Rob Sheridan with the Canon 5D Mark II. Audio mix by Blumpy.

Family Guy' to parody 'Return of the Jedi'



Family"Family Guy" will extend its full-episode "Star Wars" parodies to the third film in the George Lucas series, "Return of the Jedi."

The show's cast completed a table read yesterday for a "Jedi" spoof script, which is tentatively titled “Episode VI: The Great Muppet Caper" (Ewok jokes never get old).

The animated hit's parody of "A New Hope" (which was titled, sort of confusingly at this point, "Blue Harvest," which is actually the production code name for the third film, "Return of the Jedi") was one of ... that parenthetical was so convoluted the start of the sentence is lost now, isn't it?

Do over: The animated hit's spoof of "A New Hope" was one of the show's all-time top-rated episodes and producer 20th TV sold the movie as a stand-alone DVD. For a studio, nothing beats having an episode so desirable that they can sell it solo, as it were, without needing to include the rest of the season.

The show's previously announced parody of "The Empire Strikes Back" is titled "Something-Something-Something Dark Side." Unfortunately, Fox won't air "Dark Side" until the fall. But with Carrie Fisher playing a recurring role on "Family Guy" as Peter Griffin's boss, there's some hope around the show's campfire that she'll do a voiceover in the "Empire" spoof (not as Princess Leia, since Lois plays Leia, but as another character...)

Here's a choice clip from the show's debut "Star Wars" spoof:




cool corn starch and speaker experiment

Albany Takes Step to Repeal ’70s-Era Drug Laws


Published: March 4, 2009

ALBANY — The State Legislature took pivotal steps on Wednesday toward repealing much of what remains of the state’s 1970s-era drug laws, which have tied judges’ hands and required them to impose mandatory prison terms for many nonviolent drug offenses.


United Press International

Gov. Nelson A. Rockefeller signed the drug laws that bear his name on May 8, 1973. This image was scanned from a file print that was hand-retouched before initial publication to suit the photoengraving methods then in use.

Mike Groll/Associated Press

Assemblyman Jeffrion Aubry called the strict laws "a failed policy that we can no longer sustain."

The Assembly approved legislation, 96 to 46, that would restore judges’ discretion in many lower-level drug-possession crimes that are felonies by eliminating laws that require a prosecutor’s consent before judges can send certain felons to drug treatment instead of prison.

In addition, the measure would permit about 2,000 prisoners to apply to have their sentences reduced.

The same bill was introduced on Wednesday in the Senate, where Democratic leaders vowed to quickly take it up. But the task now confronting legislative leaders and Gov. David A. Paterson is to reconcile the Assembly bill — which is considered the widest-reaching of the proposals under consideration — with the governor’s plan and the bill that Senate Democrats expect to pass after amending the Assembly bill.

Arriving at a proposal that all 32 Senate Democrats can agree on may prove difficult. “I don’t think we have a consensus right now,” said Eric T. Schneiderman of Manhattan, the lead sponsor of the legislation in the Senate. “But I think we have a better sense of the questions we need to answer going forward.”

Efforts to change the state’s drug laws have for years prompted one of the most divisive debates in Albany. Bills aimed at broadly overhauling the statutes, known as the Rockefeller drug laws because Gov. Nelson A. Rockefeller championed their approval, have routinely passed the Democratic-controlled Assembly only to die in the Senate, which until this year was controlled by Republicans.

With Democrats now in the majority in the Senate and with Mr. Paterson an avowed champion of repealing the laws, supporters see this year as offering the best chance to pass a plan that essentially does away with mandatory sentences for drug crimes.

“I think the stars are aligned,” Sheldon Silver, the speaker of the Assembly, said at a news conference Wednesday morning. “Its time has come.”

Before a three-way compromise can be reached, several elements of the governor’s plan that are not in the Assembly bill need to be addressed. They include requiring drug offenders to plead guilty as a condition of being sent to treatment and to be certified as addicted before they can enter treatment.

Another issue expected to be debated is whether the legislation should allow current prisoners to apply for resentencing.

The Legislature has already eliminated the stiffest provisions of the Rockefeller laws, doing away in 2004 with life sentences for drug crimes and reducing other penalties for the most serious offenses.

But supporters of the Assembly bill believe that their plan is an opportunity to finish what began in 2004 and fix a policy that they say singles out minorities.

“It hasn’t worked,” said Jeffrion L. Aubry, a Democratic assemblyman from Queens who has led efforts in the Assembly to rewrite drug sentencing laws. “It’s a failed policy that we can no longer sustain.”

Those supporting changes said the legislation would give New York an opportunity to catch up after falling behind states that have greatly expanded drug treatment programs as alternatives to prison.

“The general theme is states are making greater efforts to divert people into treatment programs, and they’re starting to use prison not as a first resort but a secondary or last resort,” said Gabriel Sayegh, the director of organizing and policy for the Drug Policy Alliance Network, a national drug law reform group.

“If the Legislature follows through with moving toward a public health approach, New York could potentially go from having some of the worst laws in the country to having some of the best.”

District attorneys have expressed concern that the changes would strip them of an important function as a check against too much judicial discretion.

“We’ve achieved a balance where we’ve preserved public safety and reduced our prison population,” said Michael C. Green, the district attorney of Monroe County, which includes Rochester. “I look at that and say, ‘Why do we want to take this system and make a seismic shift?’ My fear is that you’re going to disturb one of those trends.”

Michael Jackson appears in London to announce shows


Michael Jackson will play 10 shows at London's O2 Arena, beginning July 8.

Michael Jackson will play 10 shows at London's O2 Arena, beginning July 8.

Photograph by: (Getty Images), (Getty Images)

Thousands of fans gathered outside of London's O2 Arena today to hear news they could have just read on the Internet hours earlier: Michael Jackson will play the mega-venue this summer.

Jackson gave an official press conference in London today (which was streamed live via his website) to announce that he'll play 10 shows at the O2, beginning July 8.

"This is it! This is it!" said Jackson, his skeletal fists punching the air, soon after arriving at the conference some 90 minutes after the official start time. (According to BBC News, Jackson didn't leave his hotel until the conference's scheduled start time.)

"I just wanted to say that these will be my final show performances in London. This will be it," said Jackson, once again echoing the tagline displayed on the banners around the stage and on concert posters that reportedly began appearing throughout London earlier today.

"I'll be performing the songs my fans want to hear," Jackson revealed. "I'll see you in July."

Earlier Thursday, Tim Leiweke, the CEO and president of AEG -- the company which will put on Jackson's London concerts -- told Billboard that plans to mount a comeback concert have been in the works for some time. "We spent two years working with Michael trying to get him comfortable with this," Leiweke told Billboard.

It's been 12 years since Jackson's been on a world tour, and he hasn't played a concert since 2001. His last album, Invincible, came out that same year.

In 2006, Jackson made a rare public appearance to sing on the World Music Awards. That touted comeback, however, wound up amounting to a few seconds of the so-called King of Pop warbling along to "We Are the World."

More recently, there's been speculation that Jackson, 50, is in poor health, and not up to the challenge of performing.

Leiweke, however, has shot down such allegations, telling Billboard: "Despite everything you read about him, he was fine. ... The man took a physical for us to go do these concerts."

Tickets go on sale to the general public March 13.

Bionic eye gives blind man sight

Advertisement

Ron explains how being fitted with a 'bionic eye' has changed his life.

A man who lost his sight 30 years ago says he can now see flashes of light after being fitted with a bionic eye.

Ron, 73, had the experimental surgery seven months ago at London's Moorfield's eye hospital.

He says he can now follow white lines on the road, and even sort socks, using the bionic eye, known as Argus II.

It uses a camera and video processor mounted on sunglasses to send captured images wirelessly to a tiny receiver on the outside of the eye.

My one ambition at the moment is to be able to go out on a nice, clear evening and be able to pick up the moon
Ron
In turn, the receiver passes on the data via a tiny cable to an array of electrodes which sit on the retina - the layer of specialised cells that normally respond to light found at the back of the eye.

When these electrodes are stimulated they send messages along the optic nerve to the brain, which is able to perceive patterns of light and dark spots corresponding to which electrodes have been stimulated.

The hope is that patients will learn to interpret the visual patterns produced into meaningful images.

The bionic eye has been developed by US company Second Sight. So far 18 patients across the world, including three at Moorfields, have been fitted with the device.

FROM THE TODAY PROGRAMME

It is designed to help people, like Ron, who have been made blind through retinitis pigmentosa, a group of inherited eye diseases that cause degeneration of the retina.

The disease progresses over a number of years, normally after people have been diagnosed when they are children.

It is estimated between 20,000 to 25,000 are affected in the UK.

Encouraging progress

Ron, who has not revealed his surname, told the BBC: "For 30 years I've seen absolutely nothing at all, it's all been black, but now light is coming through. Suddenly to be able to see light again is truly wonderful.

"I can actually sort out white socks, grey socks and black socks."

"My one ambition at the moment is to be able to go out on a nice, clear evening and be able to pick up the moon."

Ron's wife Tracy is also hugely encouraged by the progress he has made.

How the bionic eye works.

She said: "He can do a lot more now than he could before, doing the washing, being able to tell white from a coloured item.

"I've taught him how to use the washing machine and away he goes. It's just the ironing next."

Consultant retinal surgeon Lyndon da Cruz, who carried out Ron's operation said the patients were starting to get meaningful visual stimuli from the technology.

He said: "We are very encouraged by the trial's progress so far.

"The implants have been stable and functioning for six months, with consistent visual perceptions generated by the device.

"The trial remains inspiring in terms of presenting a very real and tangible step forward in treating patients with total vision loss.

"But with more than two years of the trial left to run, these are early days and continued testing will be crucial in determining the success of the new technology."

Gregoire Cosendai, of Second Sight, is convinced the technology will prove to be invaluable - but also admits there is still much work to be done.

He said: "We are trying to see what level of vision we can provide with this.

"Theoretically, the people should be able to have reasonably good level of vision.

"We are not there yet, but what we are trying to see how best they can use it in their normal life."

• Ron's progress will be featured on a BBC Inside Out documentary in the London area at 1930 GMT on 4 March.

Are we alone in the universe? Nasa set to launch first mission to find Earth-like worlds

By Daily Mail Reporter


Nasa is set to launch a £428million space mission to hunt for Earth-like worlds that may harbour alien life.

Scientists believe that the three-and-a-half year voyage of the Kepler telescope, considered one of the agency's most exciting unmanned spacecraft, will help answer the centuries-old question: 'Are we alone?'

telescope

An artist's impression of the Kepler Telescope. It will be Nasa's first mission capable of finding Earth's size planets

Due to blast off from Cape Canaveral in Florida on Friday, it will look for evidence of planets in the 'Goldilocks zone' around 100,000 stars, so named by scientists because conditions there are not too hot, not too cold, but just right for liquid water - and therefore life - to exist.

They say the search could yield 50 or more potentially habitable planets beyond our solar system.

'If we find that many, it will certainly mean life may well be common throughout our galaxy,' said Bill Borucki, the project's principal investigator at Nasa's Ames Research Centre in California.

'On the other hand, if we don't find any, that is still a profound discovery. It will mean that Earth must be very rare - we may be the only life in our universe. It'll mean there will be no Star Trek.'

Enlarge kepler

The Kepler will be able to search a region of space 3,000 light years across

The spacecraft will carry a highly sensitive light meter, or photometer, that will stare constantly at an area of the Milky Way to measure the brightness of each star in Nasa's target group every 30 minutes for over three years.

When a planet passes in front of the star, the brightness will dim, like a blink. By measuring precisely how much the light fluctuates, and for how long, Kepler can calculate the size and temperature of the planet - information that will tell scientists whether or not that planet is habitable.

'An Earth-like planet moving in front of a star is going to cause that star to dim by one part per 10,000. That's like looking at a car headlight from a great distance and trying to sense the brightness change when a flea crawls across the surface - but the Kepler instrument is designed to detect such small changes,' explained project scientist Patricia Boyd.

She added: 'We have an innate curiosity about our origins. Is life in our galaxy common, does it exist, are we alone, how unique is life here on Earth? And the Kepler mission is one step in answering that question.'

rocket

Preparing for launch: The fairing is moved into place around Nasa's Kepler spacecraft atop the United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket at Launch Pad 17-B, Cape Canaveral

The craft is named after Johanes Kepler, a 17th-century German scientist noted for his pioneering studies on planetary motion. It will look at a region of the sky located between two constellations - Cygnus the Swan, and Lyra - where a total of 3.5 million stars lie. Nasa has selected 100,000 of those stars for the study.

Over the past decade, man has discovered more than 250 giant planets orbiting stars beyond our solar system, most of them huge balls of gas. Kepler will be hunting for smaller, terrestrial planets - rocky globes like Earth.

Its telescope is the largest of its kind ever built, allowing it to gaze at an area of the galaxy equivalent to the width of 20 Moons.

Mr Borucki said: 'With this cutting-edge capability, Kepler may help us answer one of the most enduring questions humans have asked throughout history: are there others like us in the universe?'

The hunt, he stressed, will establish whether there are other habitable planets, and not whether those planets are actually inhabited. That will be down to a follow-up expedition already being considered by Nasa.

'Kepler will not find ET,' he said. 'But it's finding ET's home.'

Asus soups up Lamborghini laptop with 1TB SSD

Lamborghini VX5 also sports a Blu-ray drive


March 3, 2009 (Computerworld) Asustek Computer Inc. unveiled a new laptop at the CeBIT show in Hannover, Germany, today that comes equipped with a 1TB solid-state disk (SSD) drive, a 16-in. high-definition display, a Blu-ray drive and leather-covered panel rests.

The Asus Lamborghini VX5 laptop comes with an LCD cover designed to remind users of the Lamborghini Reventon sports car's aluminum-alloy fuselage.

Its piano-painted mirror surface is also supposed to mimic the car's finish. The notebook comes with a 1TB SSD from pureSilicon Inc., which launched the compact flash-memory drive in January.

The purSilicon SSD boasts a data-transfer burst speed of 300MB/sec., a sustained read speed of 240MB/sec. and a sustained write speed of 215MB/sec.
Asus' new Lamborghini VX5. Pricing and release date have yet to be determined.

The pureSilicon SSD boasts a data-transfer burst speed of 300MB/sec., a sustained read speed of 240MB/sec. and a sustained write speed of 215MB/sec.

The Lamborghini VX5 will also come with an Intel Core 2 Quad CPU and 4GB of RAM. "It features a 'twin turbo' mode that users can utilize to accelerate CPU and GPU performance via a speed key," Asus said.

The notebook also has an illuminated "chiclet" keyboard that automatically lights up in low light conditions.

The laptop's display is a 16-in. "full HD" screen -- 1080p, or 1920 by 1080 pixels -- along with a dedicated Nvidia GeForce GT 130M graphics chip with 1GB of GDDR 3 video RAM.

The laptop's Blu-ray drive and the onboard HDMI socket allow output to an HDTV for watching movies.

Asus has not yet set a release date or price for the new laptop.

Megan Fox lines up two film projects

Actress circling comic adaptations 'Jonah Hex,' 'Fathom'

By Borys Kit

Megan Fox is ditching the robots and taking her career to Western and underwater frontiers.

Fox is in final negotiations to star opposite Josh Brolin and John Malkovich in "Jonah Hex," Warner Bros.' action Western based on the DC Comics character. She also is attached to star and develop "Fathom," Fox Atomic's comic book-based underwater adventure.

In "Hex," being directed by Jimmy Hayward, Fox will play Leila, a gun-wielding beauty and love interest of Hex (Brolin), a scarred bounty hunter tracking a voodoo practitioner (Malkovich) who wants to raise an army of undead to liberate the South.

The movie is prepping for a shoot in April, with Mad Chance's Andrew Lazar and Weed Road's Akiva Goldsman producing. Legendary Pictures is co-producing and co-financing.

"Fathom," a comic created by recently deceased artist Michael Turner, follows a young woman named Aspen who learns she is a member of a race of aquatic humanoids who possess the ability to control water.

The project was at one point set up at James Cameron's Lightstorm Entertainment. When the option lapsed, producer Peter Safran scooped it up and began packaging it, eventually attracting Fox, a fan of the comic since its 1998 debut, when it became the top-selling comic of the year. Fox had been seeking Turner to investigate "Fathom's" rights availability.

Fox is now helping develop and shape the adaptation, which is being written by Jordan Mechner, the creator of video game "Prince of Persia." (The ICM-repped scribe also wrote on Disney's Jerry Bruckheimer-produced adaptation.)

Safran is producing with Steve Bessen and "Terminator: Sarah Connor Chronicles" actor Brian Austin Green. Fox also will produce in some capacity.

Turner will be credited as exec producer. Frank Mastromauro also is exec producing. Zak Kadison and Eric Lieb at Atomic will oversee.

Although Fox began her acting career with the comedy "Hope and Faith," it was her feature debut in "Transformers" that set her on the road to becoming one of the top female names in Hollywood. Her appearance on the cover of GQ late last year propelled her to become a sex symbol, setting records for the magazine's sales and its Web site.

ICM-repped Fox next appears in this summer's "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen" and stars in the Diablo Cody-penned comedic supernatural thriller movie "Jennifer's Body," which opens in the fall. She recently appeared in the comedy "How to Lose Friends and Alienate People."

Megan Fox lines up two film projects

Actress circling comic adaptations 'Jonah Hex,' 'Fathom'

By Borys Kit

March 3, 2009, 08:57 PM ET

Megan Fox is ditching the robots and taking her career to Western and underwater frontiers.

Fox is in final negotiations to star opposite Josh Brolin and John Malkovich in "Jonah Hex," Warner Bros.' action Western based on the DC Comics character. She also is attached to star and develop "Fathom," Fox Atomic's comic book-based underwater adventure.

In "Hex," being directed by Jimmy Hayward, Fox will play Leila, a gun-wielding beauty and love interest of Hex (Brolin), a scarred bounty hunter tracking a voodoo practitioner (Malkovich) who wants to raise an army of undead to liberate the South.

The movie is prepping for a shoot in April, with Mad Chance's Andrew Lazar and Weed Road's Akiva Goldsman producing. Legendary Pictures is co-producing and co-financing.

"Fathom," a comic created by recently deceased artist Michael Turner, follows a young woman named Aspen who learns she is a member of a race of aquatic humanoids who possess the ability to control water.

The project was at one point set up at James Cameron's Lightstorm Entertainment. When the option lapsed, producer Peter Safran scooped it up and began packaging it, eventually attracting Fox, a fan of the comic since its 1998 debut, when it became the top-selling comic of the year. Fox had been seeking Turner to investigate "Fathom's" rights availability.

Fox is now helping develop and shape the adaptation, which is being written by Jordan Mechner, the creator of video game "Prince of Persia." (The ICM-repped scribe also wrote on Disney's Jerry Bruckheimer-produced adaptation.)

Safran is producing with Steve Bessen and "Terminator: Sarah Connor Chronicles" actor Brian Austin Green. Fox also will produce in some capacity.

Turner will be credited as exec producer. Frank Mastromauro also is exec producing. Zak Kadison and Eric Lieb at Atomic will oversee.

Although Fox began her acting career with the comedy "Hope and Faith," it was her feature debut in "Transformers" that set her on the road to becoming one of the top female names in Hollywood. Her appearance on the cover of GQ late last year propelled her to become a sex symbol, setting records for the magazine's sales and its Web site.

ICM-repped Fox next appears in this summer's "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen" and stars in the Diablo Cody-penned comedic supernatural thriller movie "Jennifer's Body," which opens in the fall. She recently appeared in the comedy "How to Lose Friends and Alienate People."

The World's Best Street Food


Street cooks are magicians: With little more than a cart and a griddle, mortar, or deep-fryer, they conjure up not just a delicious snack or meal but the very essence of a place.This is a list of some of the world's best street food vendors, and don't be afraid to try something new. But pack a little Pepto—just in case.

read more | digg story

Vermont legislators move to soften harsh marijuana laws

State legislators move to soften harsh marijuana laws



Toolbox

By Peter Hirschfeld Vermont Press Bureau - Published: February 4, 2009

MONTPELIER – At least 20 House lawmakers have attached their names to legislation that would eliminate criminal penalties for the possession of small amounts of marijuana.

The bill, introduced by Rep. David Zuckerman, would treat possession of an ounce or less of pot as a civil violation punishable by a $100 fine. Zuckerman, a Burlington Progressive, said Tuesday that the time has come for Vermont to replace criminal marijuana statutes that are heavy handed and out of touch.

"This is about policy falling in line with common culture and removing the criminal label from something commonly used as a recreational drug," Zuckerman said Tuesday.

The issue earned widespread attention in the Statehouse last year when Senate lawmakers considered a similar proposal. Though a public hearing, attended by about 100 people, and extensive committee testimony revealed popular support for the measure, the bill never passed through the General Assembly.

Prospects don't look any brighter this year. House Speaker Shap Smith indicated Tuesday that his body will be focusing on the state's immediate economic crisis – likely to the exclusion of marijuana decriminalization.

Rep. William Lippert, the Democratic chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said his committee is too overwhelmed with a huge sex crimes bill to dedicate any time right now to the issue.

"I see no likelihood we will be taking up anything other than S.13 between now and Town Meeting Day," Lippert said. "What happens after then I don't even know."

Still, decriminalization proponents said Vermont would be well served to at least consider the debate. Windsor County State's Attorney Robert Sand, among the more respected advocates of marijuana decriminalization, said too much police work is focused on too benign a crime.

"I think how we respond to marijuana creates more public harm than the use of the substance itself, and to me that suggests we should find a way to change our response," Sand said Tuesday.

People caught with an ounce or less of marijuana aren't languishing in jail cells, Sand said. But police are expending valuable public safety resources on arrests and related paperwork.

"It frees police up so they're not spending hours processing a low-end, small quantity marijuana case, and that to me is a reasonable incremental step in adjusting how we respond to marijuana use," Sand said.

The decriminalization issue now has its own nonprofit advocacy organization. The Vermont Alliance for Intelligent Drug Laws, a one-woman shop in Montpelier, promises to galvanize grass-roots support around Zuckerman's bill.

"We should not be making criminals out of people who choose to use a substance that remains illegal for reasons that are unreasonable and make no sense," said Nancy Lynch, head of VALID.

Lynch pointed to a Jan. 9 Mason-Dixon poll of 625 Vermont voters. The poll, commissioned by the Marijuana Policy Project in Washington, D.C., (also a key financial backer of VALID) found that 63 percent of residents supported a $100 civil fine, with no possibility of jail time, for people caught with an ounce or less of marijuana for personal use.

Lynch said 12 other states have passed decriminalized small-quantity possession, the most recent being Massachusetts. In New Hampshire, lawmakers recently introduced a bill that would decriminalize marijuana there as well.

The proposal faces stiff opposition from Vermont's law enforcement community, which testified last year against the bill. Gov. James Douglas also has voiced concerns over the measure.

Zuckerman said the budget crisis notwithstanding, legislators ought to be able to balance a range of bills in a single session. Rep. David Deen, a Putney Democrat and co-sponsor of the decriminalization bill, said it's unfair to dismiss the legislation as a "boutique" issue.

"(The Statehouse) is a place to explore ideas and calling something names is thwarting democracy," Deen said. "If you're 18 years old and you get popped for two joints and end up with a criminal record, this bill is not a boutique issue."

From Outcast to Awesome: 17 Famous Nerds Who Paved the Way

hot-nerds-opener-grid.jpgIn a different age, the label Nerd induced visions of tapered, high-water jeans, thick-framed glasses, and preppy, ill-patterned shirts. Oh, the horror! Now, check out the East Village on a typical weekend and what are the most stylish gents donning? Why, tapered jeans, thick-framed glasses, and button-down shirts! My, my, my, how things have changed!

Now, the public perception of boys and girls who spend all their time on the Internet has shifted. Dorks no more, this fleet of dweeb-tastic movers and shakers has evolved into the realm of Neo-Nerd! Translation: A successful young go-getter braving the dangers of the cyber-frontier and looking good to doing it! But tech-heads aren't the only ones leading the geek-chic charge. Nerd style has been sweeping the streets in a major way, and although we hate to say it, we were way ahead of the curve on this one.

We'd much rather be sharing a glass of perfectly aged Pino Noir in our Second Life with one of these tech-savvy boys than spending $12 a drink with some greaseball at Beatrice in the real world. Here is a sample of the newest crop of digital dorks we've been crushing on, and the fashionytes that have so beautifully appropriated their style.

Read on for our list of the hottest nerds of all time...

The Neo-Nerds.


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Tom Anderson, Co-founder MySpace—He was our first internet love (OK, obsession), our first friend on MySpace and the man who acted as guide to the world of Web 2.0. Sigh. His smiling face (and plain white T-shirt) was always there when we signed in. We'll always have a special place in our heart for him. (pictured above, top left)

Jakob Lodwick, Founder Vimeo—He's the bad boy of the neo-nerds. He's like The Cobra Snake of the Silicon Valley crowd, a hipster who makes money off the web and uses it as a forum to spread his oh-so-coolness to the masses. Swoon. (pictured above, top middle)

Nate Silver, Statistician—He's so sexy that we don't even really understand what his job entails. We're just imagining romantic nights with him as we watch The City whilst he calculates the probability that our spawn will have his eyes and our hair. (pictured above, top right, photo via Blog Indecision)

Matt Buchanan, Associate Editor, Gizmodo— Because blogs are cool. And Gizmodo is the Refinery29 of the techie blog world. He could fix our computer and then some other stuff any day! (pictured above, bottom left)

Jack Dorsey, Founder, Twitter—With his steely blue eyes and shaggy hair, he's less of a neo-nerd and more of a model who just happened to start an online business model that is quickly sweeping the nation. Heck, even we got into it. The best part? You can Twitter-stalk his ass if you think he's playing the field behind your back. (pictured above, bottom middle, photo via Business Week)

Sam Stein, Huffington Post Reporter—He is striving to make online political reporting legit, and he's got that shy/quiet guy thing going on. He was the first web-based reporter called on by Obama during his first press conference. Presidential seal of approval? We're already doodling "Mr. and Mrs. Samuel Stein" on our notebook as you read this. (pictured above, bottom right)


The Fashion Nerds.


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Scott Sternberg, Designer, Band of Outsiders—Bow tie? Check. Sweater vest? Check. Glasses? Check. Sternberg's a member, if not one of the leaders, of the preppy faction of nerds, and his simple-chic take on college campus classics actually get us thinking that the library might just be the sexiest boite in town. (pictured above, top left)

Tina Fey, Multi-hyphenate—Tina Fey has never been part of the hip crowd, and for that we're lucky. Whether she's mocking politics or the TV industry, she's always classy and with a hint of stern schoolmistress, Fey makes geeky seem cheeky, all while balancing her seemingly never-ending duties as writer/producer/actress/mom/nerd goddess. And, we especially love that she brought on the sexy in Vanity Fair earlier this year. (pictured above, top middle, photo via Vanity Fair)

Wes Anderson, Director—Anderson's quirky films have stolen our hearts time and time again. A master of clever minutiae, his films are somehow both aloof and warm. They're what we wish life was like. His schoolboy style, signature look and circle of taste-maker friends is what really seals the deal, though. (pictured above, top right)

Iekeliene Stange, Model/Artsy Person—Stange may be a pretty face, but this Dutch beauty now dabbles in geeky pastimes like photography and painting. And as for this girl's quirky hodge-podge style? It's pretty undeniable that she is a stunningly gorgeous dork at heart. (pictured above, bottom left)

Thom Browne, Menswear Designer—If there has been a second-coming of the nerd, then Mr. Browne was definitely at the forefront of that movement. His drastic take on menswear tailoring, and now notoriously out-there showings have made him the fashion crowd's American messiah. When he first introduced the nerd staple of floodwater pants, no one could have guessed the geek-chic revolution that it started. (pictured above, bottom middle, his designs, bottom right)


The Geeks Who Paved the Way.


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To be fair, we feel that we must tip our hats to all the nerds of yesteryear who paved the way to today's nerd insurgency:

Michaelangelo—This dude was the ultimate know-it-all nerd, and we guess it paid off, since we still know who he is. He pretty much single-handedly created the template for shut-in bookworms for centuries to come. (pictured above, top left, image via The National Gallery)

Cameron Frye, Ferris Bueller's Day Off—This is one of our first memories of having a soft spot for the dorky dude. We know that compared to Ferris, he was supposed to be the forgettable techie BFF, but we couldn't help fall a little bit in love with him anyway. (pictured above, top middle )

Albert Einstein—We've been seeing too many wild mustaches around town to think that Einstein doesn't have anything to do with it. And those wacky hipster locks? Bedford Ave has nothing on this infinitely brilliant trailblazer. (pictured above, top right)

Ben Stein—Stein has made a name for himself in the American canon of dweebs. Few others can claim to having made a name in Hollywood solely on looking like someone you wouldn't want to hang out with. (pictured above, bottom left)

Richie Cunningham, Happy Days—Richie conjures up images of the typical '50s squeaky clean geek, and set forth a handbook for preppy-wear that's influence is felt even today. And talk about the nerd made good? Amid all that film biz slickness, Ron Howard still wears his geek-chic like a Hollywood pro. (pictured above, bottom middle)

Tina Brown, Editrix—Brown's insane resume, which boasts tenures at Vanity Fair and The New Yorker as well as her own mega-blog The Daily Beast, make most competitors' CVs look like classifieds ads. This English publishing nerd has a magical knack for whipping entire magazines—and now websites—into shape, and she has the numbers to prove it. We, though, just admire her subtle take on buttoned-up, UES chic. There's something to be said about a gal who loves a pencil skirt and classic white oxford, but always keeps her blonde locks just a little bit messy. (pictured above, bottom right)

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