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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Economy, CBA focus of discussions at NFL meetings


DANA POINT, Calif. (AP) — America's Team will open its palatial new home this summer, most likely without a naming rights deal.

The NFL trims its staff by 15 percent, commissioner Roger Goodell takes a pay cut, and three-quarters of the teams don't raise ticket prices for 2009.

A new collective bargaining agreement with the players union must be reached in the next year, or the league faces an uncapped 2010 season and perhaps a labor stoppage.

Troubled times are brewing for the NFL.

``It's a different business atmosphere than 20 to 30 years ago,'' Houston Texans owner Bob McNair said Monday. ``Originally, we worried about selling tickets. Now we've got to worry about selling tickets, about keeping media partners happy, operating stadiums, keeping fans happy in the stadium, servicing debts.''

Economics and the CBA are the main topics of discussion at the owners meetings, but resolutions are not forthcoming anytime soon. While the NFL is the most profitable of leagues, with the average team value estimated at $1 billion, it still is surrounded by question marks.

Most notable, of course, is the CBA, which the owners opted out of last year - effective after the 2010 season - saying it favored the players too heavily.

Roger Goodell's Take on the Economy

``We need a structure that works long-term,'' McNair said. ``We can't expect the fans to pay more and more and more. We have to hold all our expenses down and labor is just one of them.''

The players get about 60 percent of applicable revenues, and with the league considering expanding the regular season to 17 or 18 games - and cutting out some preseason matches - the NFLPA is not about to consider any substantial cuts in that number.

Plus, the NFL must be sensitive to the problems of its media partners, particularly the TV networks, and of its sponsors.

Consider that when the Dallas Cowboys open their $1.1 billion stadium this summer, it might not have a corporate name on it. With the Cowboys' atop the NFL value list and their popularity so high, selling naming rights would seem an easy chore. Not in this economy, though.

``We're not naive to what's going on in the country and the economic crisis,'' Cowboys vice president Stephen Jones said. ``We're very respectful of that now. Obviously, there are some factors when you're opening a new building in this economy.''

The Cowboys reportedly had AT&T lined up for naming rights last year, but that deal has been put on hold.

While Jones didn't want to paint the situation with a broad brush, he noted that many companies are wary of spending millions of dollars for naming rights, especially if they have been trimming staff and seeking government bailouts.

``Obviously there is some sensitivity out there,'' he said. ``I don't know if that holds for every company.''

Goodell acknowledged that a lack of companies able to purchase stadium naming rights ``will have an effect on how our business model is changing.''

The commissioner does not expect an uncapped season to occur next year; the current CBA calls for one.

``I don't believe that will be the case,'' he said, noting the NFL's calendar for a CBA begins in March.

Goodell said he was hopeful a proposal for an expansion of the regular season to either 17 or 18 games could be presented to the owners at the May league meetings in Fort Lauderdale. Implementation almost certainly would not come before 2011.

``I haven't made a decision on whether we'll have a 17-game or 18-game season. We'll have a good feeling on it when we come out of these meetings,'' Goodell said. ``We have to sit down with our partners and go through negotiations. We think our content continues to be more valuable to our partners.''

Goodell also mentioned possibly creating a developmental league: ``I would like to explore that in the next negotiations.''

He noted that nearly three-quarters of the teams did not raise ticket prices this year, and that the NFL has been hit by the economic downturn. The league trimmed its staff by 15 percent and many teams have laid off employees - even as free agents reap millions in guaranteed salary.

``It's definitely hitting us on our revenue side,'' he said of the economy. ``The risk become greater in that kind of a climate and your revenues become challenged. There's a lot of uncertainty out there.''

The hunt for the last Nazis

The US has deported to Austria a former Nazi death camp guard, Josias Kumpf. The move sheds light on the continuing search - in some countries, at least - for World War II war criminals. Mario Cacciottolo examines a hunt now entering its final phase.

Nazis marching
Efforts to bring war criminals to justice faltered as the Cold War set in

"Looking for Nazi war criminals is the ultimate law enforcement race against the clock."

Eli Rosenbaum, director of the Office of Special Investigations (OSI) in the United States, has a list of thousands of suspects.

But working out whether any of them are alive and in the US is a laborious job.

A full check could take 100 years at current rates, he says - but in 10 years "the World War II biological clock will come to an end".

Contrary to popular belief, most former Nazis did not go into hiding after the war. Most did not even change their name.

There were some - such as Adolf Eichmann, who planned the transport of Jews to death camps, and Dr Joseph Mengele, Auschwitz's "Angel of Death" - who slipped away amid the post-war chaos and assumed false identities.

But the majority simply took off their uniforms, went home, and got a job.

And for a crucial period in the 1950s, little was done to track them down, experts say.

Justice 'not done'

"More could have been done, but there was a lack of political will. Not from 1945 to 1948, but after that," says Jean-Marc Dreyfus, lecturer in Holocaust studies at the University of Manchester.

"Around 1953 the Nazi trials stopped, and it's important to note that the Cold War was the reason why.

The Allies even dealt with the same army generals that Hitler did
Jean-Marc Dreyfus, Holocaust Studies lecturer
"The West needed a strong West Germany and did not want to spend time hunting for Nazis, many of which were now part of the society and even the Federal Republic government.

"Removing those individuals would have weakened the nation, and for the West it was more important by then to have a strong West German position against Russia.

"There were doctors, engineers, the army, who were all involved in Nazism and who were left to carry on after the war ended. The Allies even dealt with the same army generals that Hitler did."

In the 1950s and 1960s, the German judge and prosecutor Fritz Bauer estimated there were 100,000 Germans who were responsible in one way or another for mass killings of Jews. Other estimates suggested as many as 300,000.

Bauer also said less than 5,000 people had been prosecuted, which amounts to a "tear drop in the ocean" according to Dr Dreyfus.

"Based on these estimates, justice has not been done."

Turning point

But in the 1970s there was a shift in Holocaust consciousness, a demand from the public to know more about it.

As the second generation began to question what their parents did in the war, and historians began to ask questions about governments and their policies toward Jews, so too did interest in war crimes increase.

Adolf Eichmann
The Adolf Eichmann trial may have helped revive interest in Nazi-hunting
"The turning point was around 1976 to 1978, and with this increase in consciousness, it was then considered that the Nazis should be hunted once again.

"Before then, there wasn't the kind of interest that there is today," Dr Dreyfus says.

Professor David Cesarani, author of Justice Delayed, a book that explains how the UK came to grant citizenship to numerous Nazi collaborators from Eastern Europe in the post-war years, says both Britain and the US knowingly recruited war criminals to fight the Cold War.

Recently declassified US documents show US intelligence often hunted Nazi war criminals in order to use them, rather than to bring them to justice, he says.

"It had far more information than it disclosed to investigators or prosecutors. As a result, key Nazi personnel involved in genocide and atrocities went free for decades - if they were ever caught," he told the BBC.

He agrees that enthusiasm for Nazi-hunting picked up in the 1970s, attributing this partly to the trial of Adolf Eichmann in 1960-61 and a renewed interest in the Holocaust among academics and writers that the trial helped to generate.

Simon Wiesenthal

During the years that Western countries did little to identify former Nazi war criminals in their midst, however, private investigators fought a tireless battle.

United States: 37
Italy: 26
Canada: 6
Germany: 3
Lithuania: 2
Poland: 1
France: 1
Source: Simon Wiesenthal Center (figures include denaturalisations, deportations and extraditions)
Simon Wiesenthal, who founded the Jewish Historical Documentation Centre in Austria in 1947, and contributed to the capture of Eichmann, also helped track down Franz Murer "the Butcher of Vilnius"; Erich Rajakowitsch, responsible for transporting Dutch Jews to the death camps; Franz Stangl, the commandant of the Treblinka and Sobibor death camps; Karl Silberbauer, the gestapo officer who arrested Anne Frank, and many others.

A generation younger, Serge and Beate Klarsfeld pursued Nazis and collaborators who had played leading roles in occupied France. They also carried out daring stunts to open West German eyes to the war criminals living in respectable society, and sometimes in positions of power.

A centre named in honour of Simon Wiesenthal continues today to search for surviving Nazis and monitor the performance of national governments.

Its last annual report in April 2008 noted that there were 608 investigations under way across the world, and that 76 convictions had been achieved in the preceding seven years.

It gave the USA an A grade for its efforts to bring Nazis to trial, an accolade that no other country has achieved.

The UK, which received a C as recently as 2001 - for "minimal success that could have been greater" - had dropped to the X category, indicating that it "failed to take any action whatsoever to investigate suspected Nazi war criminals".

'Most wanted'

The work carried out in America by the OSI involves a team of historians examining archives that contain 70,000 names - including 40,000 "senior core SS officers" - and then matching them against lists of US residents.

Once a match is found, an investigation can begin.

The result, if a war criminal is successfully prosecuted, is denaturalisation and deportation or extradition.

Josias Kumpf at his home in Wisconsin, September 2003
At 83, Josias Kumpf is younger than anyone on the SWC's most-wanted list
The first to be extradited from the US, in 1973 - thanks largely to Simon Wiesenthal - was Hermine Brauensteiner-Ryan, who was accused among other things of whipping and stamping women to death at the Majdanek camp.

The most recent to be deported, last Thursday, was 83-year-old Josias Kumpf, alleged to have taken part in the extermination of 8,000 Jews in one day at the Trawniki camp in Nazi-occupied Poland.

"The removal of Josias Kumpf to Austria has achieved a significant measure of justice on behalf of the victims of Nazi inhumanity and it reflects the unswerving commitment of the US government to continuing that quest for justice," Eli Rosenbaum said in a statement.

The 83-year-old was freed by the Austrians because the country's statute of limitations made prosecution impossible.

Even at his advanced age, Josias Kumpf is younger than any of the men the Simon Wiesenthal Center (SWC) has on its "most wanted list".

The oldest, Alois Brunner, is coming up to his 97th birthday, if he is still alive - a possibility the SWC itself admits is "slim".

The SWC is not yet convinced about recent reports that Aribert Heim died in Egypt in 1992. If he is alive, he is 94.

The youngest on the list, Mikhail Gorshkow, is thought to be 85.

Those whose whereabouts are known are mostly involved in lengthy legal battles to avoid prosecution or extradition, with time heavily on their side.

For example, 87-year-old Heinrich Boere, accused of murdering three Dutch resistance fighters, has been ruled too old and too ill to stand trial in Germany.

The prospect of any of these suspects being convicted and sentenced is, while not impossible, growing ever more slim.

Map showing countries where top Nazis lived
Alois Brunner: Commander of Paris internment camp, deported thousands to death camps. Last seen in Syria. Possibly dead. Born 1912.
Aribert Heim: Doctor who experimented on prisoners at Mauthausen camp. Possibly dead. Personal papers recently found in Egypt. Born 1914.
John (Ivan) Demjanjuk: Accused of participating in mass murder at Sobibor death camp. Germany seeking extradition from US. Born 1920.
Sandor Kepiro: Accused of mass murder of civilians at Novi Sad, Serbia. Convicted but never punished in Hungary in 1944. Born 1914.
Milivoj Asner: Former Croatian police chief, accused of role in deporting hundreds to their deaths. Indicted in Croatia. Born 1913.
Soeren Kam: Accused of murdering anti-Nazi newspaper editor. Indicted in Denmark. Born 1921.
Heinrich Boere: Accused of murdering three Dutch civilians. Sentenced to death in absentia in Holland in 1949. Indicted in Germany in 2008 but case dropped on medical grounds. Born 1921.
Karoly (Charles) Zentai: Accused of participating in persecution and murder of Jews. Currently appealing against extradition from Australia to Hungary. Born 1921.
Mikhail Gorshkow: Accused of participating in murder of Jews. Denaturalised in US, under investigation in Estonia. Born 1923.
Algimantas Dailide: Arrested Jews who were later murdered by Nazi collaborators in Lithuania. Deported from US. Convicted by Lithuania and sentenced to jail - but sentence was not carried out. Born 1921.
Harry Mannil: Accused of arresting Jews and Communists who were later murdered by Estonian Nazi collaborators. Cleared by Estonian investigation but barred from entry to US. Born 1921.
Source: Simon Wiesenthal Center

the original article can be found here:

The great Blue Hole in Belize

The "great" Blue Hole on Lighthouse Reef Atoll is a popular diving spot off the coast of Belize. Visible in a flyover, the hole is about 1,000 feet in diameter and 412 feet deep. The late Jacques Cousteau and a filming crew explored the underwater cave whose roof collapsed about 10,000 years ago.

The Blue Hole is part of the Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System, which covers more than 200,000 acres.


Vertical view

From a distance

Photos: A look inside the Blue Hole
Diving in the great Blue Hole requires advanced skills. Divers descend to about 135 feet to explore the exotic wildlife and underwater features. For information on diving inside the Blue Hole, consult the Belize Tourism board.

Belize wiki

Marijuana Legalization Bills Introduced In Massachusetts!

By: Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director

California’s highly publicized effort to legalize the commercial cultivation and sale of cannabis is getting some well-deserved company!

A pair of bills — House Bill 2929 and Senate Bill 1801 — seeking to “tax and regulate the cannabis industry” have just been introduced in the Massachusetts legislature.

These proposals seek to legally regulate the commercial production and distribution of marijuana for adults over 21 years of age. Like California’s proposal, they would impose licensing requirements and excise taxes on the retail sale of cannabis. By some estimates, these taxes could raise nearly $100 million in annual state revenue.

Adults who possess or grow marijuana for personal use, or who engage in the non-profit transfer of cannabis, would not be subject to taxation under the law.

You can read more about these bills at the new website: If you live in Massachusetts, we urge you to write your elected officials in support of H. 2929 and S. 1801 by going here.

“Decades of whispered grumblings about the wisdom and efficacy of prohibition is rapidly giving way to a serious—really serious public discussion about how to replace it,” said former NORML Board Member Richard Evans, who assisted in drafting the landmark legislation. “Those who consider themselves leaders in government and the media have the obligation to either show how prohibition can be made to work, or join in the exploration of alternatives.”

We can’t think of a better place to begin this discussion on the east coast than Massachusetts, where last November 65 percent of voters endorsed a statewide initiative reclassifying marijuana possession as a fine-only offense under state law. Will a majority of Bay State voters also support legalization? We may soon find out!

Could Aliens Be Sending Us Laser Signals?

Laser beam

Over a decade ago SETI pioneer Jill Tarter and I had a dinner discussion about the protocol procedures for announcing to the world the first detection of a signal broadcast from an extraterrestrial civilization.

I expressed relief that I would never have to worry about publicizing such a discovery from Hubble Space Telescope. “Hold on Ray,” Jill said, “you never know, Hubble might conceivably pick up a signal that other telescopes can’t detect.”

Oh, my worst nightmare! Imagine keeping that information under a news release embargo!

Now, some readers will scratch their heads at this because SETI has been popularized in the 1997 movie Contact where actress Jodie Foster “listens” for radio signals from E.T. with the huge radio telescope array near Socorro, New Mexico.

But another communication strategy that aliens might use instead of radio signals is to send brief and intense bursts of laser light across the galaxy – sort of like a signal lamp between two ships. Some space telescopes would be ideally suited to pluck out such a signal from the sky background.

Why laser beams instead of radio transmitters? A directed beam across interstellar space would be unmistakable from the stellar background and could penetrate thousands of light-years. With each pulse of energy a signal from a big enough laser optics system could appear 1 million times brighter that the transmitting planet’s parent star. The thought is that an alien society would use an agile laser-transmitter to “paint” nearby target sunlike stars with a “searchlight beam.”

Texas laser

An advanced alien civilization would not have to bust its annual GNP to construct a super-laser. Ideally, they would build a telescopic mirror the width of 10 football fields. They’d shine a laser into it that is capable of pumping out a blinding 1 quadrillion watts of energy in brief bursts (just such a laser is already in operation at the University of Texas).

Now, a petawatt is 1,200 times the entire electrical generating capacity of the United States -- but the shots last for less than a trillionth of a second each. The laser could pulse at one blast per second or so.

The pulse sequence might have a mathematical pattern embedded in it. This could yield a complex and lengthy message, or simply repeat a shorter transmission for redundancy (so long as it does not decode into those sappy musical tones from the 1977 film Close Encounters of the Third Kind)

There have been numerous optical SETI (OSETI) searches with ground-based telescopes, going all the way back to the early 1970s. Ironically, the newly launched NASA Kepler space observatory might be capable of stumbling across just such a signal too. It has the light sensitivity, photometric precision, time resolution, and sample size (170,000 stars) to do, serendipitously, an unofficial (and unsanctioned) OSETI experiment from a space platform.


In addition to doing a census of stars with Earthlike worlds, it is not entirely impossible – however remote – that the observatory could stumble upon an artificial laser transmission. In fact SETI researcher Steve Kilston has gone so far as to assert that if Kepler doesn’t get laser-zapped, the result would statistically reduce the estimated number of actively laser-transmitting civilizations in the Milky Way Galaxy to less than one million (and of course it could also be "zero").

A variety of other space telescopes could be similarly adept at coming across an OSETI signal. The European Space Agency’s Gaia observatory (2011 launch) will map the position and velocities of one billion stars in our galaxy. Its onboard multi-color photometer is capable of serendipitous OSETI detections.

A wildly ambitious, spendthrift super-civilization – a million years more technically evolved that us -- might build a moon-sized laser mirror. They would tap a fraction of their star’s energy just to power a godzillion-watt laser capable of transmitting an intergalactic beacon across millions of light-years.

Perhaps a future space telescope might intercept such a signal. The question is, how long will it take the researchers to shake off their amazement and disbelief, and dare tell their colleagues?

Photo Credit: University of Texas, Adam Contos/Ball Aerospace

Dutch outsmart USA: ING ask managers to return '08 Bonus $

By Catherine Hornby Catherine Hornby

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) – The Dutch Finance Ministry will seek to curtail bonuses among senior management at financial companies receiving government support, while ING (ING.AS) is asking some staff to give back their 2008 bonuses.

In a letter to parliament, Bos outlined stricter measures to regulate bonus policies at firms receiving government support, noting persistent social discontent regarding the bonus culture of the financial sector.

"A cultural change needs to take place with regards to remuneration policy, particularly in financial institutions receiving support from the government or who were taken over by the government," Bos wrote in the letter.

He said measures to regulate the bonuses of executive board members in firms receiving financial support should also apply to senior management, and he would aim to prevent bonuses being paid to managers in 2009.

He said he would keep the option of going to court open, if necessary, and said he would urge the Dutch Central Bank and market regulator AFM to urgently pay attention to payments at financial institutions, in their role as supervisors.

From Europe to the United States, bonus payments at firms that were bailed out by taxpayers have become a focus of anger during the economic slump.

Millions of people took to the streets in France last week to protest excessive rewards in times of financial meltdown, and a scandal also erupted around American International Group (AIG) (AIG.N) over bonuses to executives of a financial products unit.

A spokesman for ING said on Monday it had launched a "moral appeal to management to hand in bonuses for 2008," confirming an earlier report in Dutch daily De Volkskrant that ING was asking 1,200 employees to return their bonus payments.

The company has also deferred bonuses for 2009 until a new remuneration policy is set, which is due in 2010.

"We will then look back to 2009 and if we made a profit the bonuses will be paid in line with the new policy," the ING spokesman said.

ING received a 10 billion euro ($13.69 billion) capital injection from the Dutch state in October last year and executive board bonuses for 2008 were scrapped.

However, it has faced criticism for bonus payments to staff in 2008, which amount to about 300 million euros.

The Dutch government has also provided a capital injection to insurer Aegon (AEGN.AS), and offers a loan guarantee scheme for banks. Fortis' (FOR.BR) Dutch activities, including ABN AMRO, were nationalized in October.

($1=.7302 Euro)

(Additional reporting by Harro Ten Wolde; Editing by Jon Loades-Carter and Simon Jessop)

Rumor Mill: Is IKEA Entering the Eco-Friendly Car Market?

BY Ariel Schwartz


We already know that IKEA is debuting a line of solar-powered lights; could the Swedish giant actually enter the eco-friendly car market?

The Internet is abuzz about a mysterious yet official-looking French website that appeared today. The site touts the LEKO, an environmentally-friendly IKEA-branded concept car. A video on the LEKO site says that the car is a modular design that can act as either a coupe or convertible. The car apparently also has the full backing of the World Wildlife Fund France, though it's not clear if that means the WWF is contributing to the LEKO's development or just endorsing it.

There's a distinct possibility that the LEKO video and site are the viral warning shots for someone's April Fools' Day hoax. The LEKO is absent from the IKEA website, and most importantly, the car will be unveiled on April Fools' Day.

But hey, stranger things, right? April 1-7 is France's Sustainable Development Week, and IKEA already offers "kit homes" shipped in flatpacks to customers in Northern England and Scandinavia. I hope we can get a LEKO in Swedish blue and yellow.

We wonder, though, if a car made by IKEA might ship to customers in pieces to DIY like the images below.


Titans-Steelers will kick off 2009 season as NFL honors AFL

National Football League

DANA POINT, Calif. -- The Steelers get their opening-night showcase as Super Bowl champions. The oldest rivalry in football has a first-week renewal in prime time. An old AFL-style doubleheader closes out the weekend.

That's how the NFL will begin the 2009 season, starting with as juicy a matchup as possible: Pittsburgh hosting the Tennessee Titans, who merely had the league's best record in 2008 and who beat the Steelers 31-14 in Week 16 of the 2008 season.

Kickoff weekend
Time (ET)
Sept. 10 Tennessee at Pittsburgh NBC 8:30 p.m.
Sept. 13 Chicago at Green Bay NBC 8:30 p.m.
Sept. 14 Buffalo at New England ESPN 7 p.m.
Sept. 14 San Diego at Oakland ESPN 10:15 p.m.
Time (ET)
Nov. 26 Green Bay at Detroit FOX 12:30 p.m.
Nov. 26 Oakland at Dallas CBS 4:15 p.m.
Nov. 26 N.Y. Giants at Denver NFL Network 8:20 p.m.

Opening kickoff is Thursday night, Sept. 10 on NBC, which also gets the 178th meeting between the Bears and Packers, in Green Bay on Sunday night, Sept. 13.

For those surprised that the Cowboys, who open their palatial new stadium this season, are not featured in a night game in Week 1, well, baseball got in the way. So Dallas, the NFL's biggest TV draw, which is moving to Arlington, Texas, near the Rangers' ballpark -- the Rangers are home that weekend -- will have to wait until the second week, when the Cowboys are expected to host the Sunday nighter.

"We have the chance to get on the national game the second weekend with not being able to get on the first weekend," Cowboys vice president Stephen Jones said Monday at the owners meetings. "We're having to work with the league on some things."

The Cowboys and Lions get to keep their traditional Thanksgiving hosting slots.

The Lions go back to meeting the Packers that day, a matchup that occurred every year from 1951-63 and will happen for the 19th time. The Raiders will be at the Cowboys following that, and the NFL Network night game will feature the New York Giants at Denver.

"The Thanksgiving game is a tradition and we're proud to have it and to continue it in the new stadium," Jones said. "It's very important to us."

Commissioner Roger Goodell acknowledged there continues to be discussions about rotating the Thanksgiving afternoon contests.

"We did not feel it was appropriate at this time," he said, adding the league's competition and broadcast committees were looking into the matter.

The Monday night doubleheader on ESPN on Sept. 14 will feature Buffalo, with Terrell Owens, at New England, with, the Patriots hope, a returning Tom Brady. That game will be followed by San Diego at Oakland -- all original AFL franchises.

While the AFL began play in 1960 and is not 50 years old until 2010, the NFL has chosen to observe the 50th season of play by those franchises. The celebration of that league, which merged with the NFL in 1966 and began play as one entity in 1970, begins with the Sept. 14 doubleheader.

Goodell said he was hopeful a proposal for an expansion of the regular season to either 17 or 18 games could be presented to the owners at the May league meetings in Fort Lauderdale. The league is considering dropping one or two preseason games and extending the regular schedule, but remaining within the current 20-game format, although not likely before 2011.

To do so will involve discussions with the players union and the league's media partners. Of course, the collective bargaining agreement with the players expires after the 2010 season, so a longer schedule is just one of many issues in getting a deal done with the NFLPA.

"I haven't made a decision on whether we'll have a 17-game or 18-game season. We'll have a good feeling on it when we come out of these meetings," Goodell said. "We have to sit down with our partners and go through negotiations. We think our content continues to be more valuable to our partners."

Goodell also mentioned possibly creating a developmental league: "I would like to explore that in the next negotiations."

He noted that nearly three-quarters of the teams did not raise ticket prices this year, and that the NFL has been hit by the economic downturn. The league trimmed its staff by 15 percent and many teams have laid off employees -- even as free agents reap millions in guaranteed salary.

"It's definitely hitting us on our revenue side," he said of the economy. "The risk becomes greater in that kind of a climate and your revenues become challenged. There's a lot of uncertainty out there."

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

Punch-Out!! Wii: New Trailer

Posted by: elgefe02

Nintendo released a new Punch Out!! Trailer Today, you can see Little Mac training and some familiar faces (and scenarios).

One of 2009's most-anticipated titles for the Nintendo Wii gets a new trailer, showcasing some of title character Little Mac's training methods (even Rocky had a montage!), as well as some familiar faces and classic scenes. Will the game live up to the prestigious lineage of past titles, or go down in the first?

Check out the latest trailer to see how the upcoming game looks so far!

Meet Nurse iPhone

Tim Bajarin

The iPhone and iPhone OS 3.0 will make a surprisingly competent medical assistant, blazing a healthy trail that all smartphones will surely follow soon. Tim Bajarin

Apple iPhoneLast week Apple announced a new version of the iPhone OS, adding features to the best-selling platform. Cut and paste, global search, voice navigation, peer-to-peer connectivity for multiplayer games, enhanced Bluetooth, and multimedia messaging will be just a few of the capabilities in iPhone OS 3.0 when it comes to market this summer.

Two apps from the demo last week at One Infinite Loop take advantage of this new OS in a very important way: These apps underline the emerging role of the iPhone as a medical assistant. I'm sensitive to the medical side of things, since I've dealt with hypertension and diabetes for over 18 years. And I'm interested in the role technology plays in helping me and millions of others deal with various health issues. The PC and the Internet itself have been phenomenal tools for anyone with health questions; since sites like WebMD,, and others inform us and help people ask their doctors more intelligent questions. At the event in Cupertino, we learned that the smartphone is becoming an important tool in our medicine cabinets, too, letting people research and locate medical information anytime and anywhere. These new apps from Apple add the dimension of real-time monitoring to the iPhone and can play a part in our quest for healthier lives.

The first demo involved a blood-pressure cuff that plugged into the connector on the bottom of the iPhone. An application on the iPhone delivered all the controls needed to inflate the cuff for measuring a person's blood pressure. Since an iPhone is always connected via the integrated 3G modem, it could potentially send that data to your doctor for real-time monitoring of your condition. This will become possible with OS 3.0, which will finally enable the iPhone to talk to third-party peripherals.

This isn't just a cool app—it has real implications for the doctor/patient relationship. Other digital monitoring systems download data to a PC before sending it to the doctor for review. This app breaks new ground, allowing testing in real time and letting doctors adjust medication needs far more proactively.

Although I am a type 2 diabetic and control my diabetes mostly through food, exercise, and oral medications, the second demo was just as interesting to me, since I take blood glucose tests two to three times a day to monitor my blood sugar level. A representative from Johnson & Johnson's LifeScan division showed an app that could tie a blood glucose testing device, such as the company's OneTouch system, to an iPhone. With such a connection, one could download test results to an app on the iPhone to chart various readings graphically. Since it's connected, the device could give real-time information that a person might need to adjust his medicine or insulin. This particular app will also be tied to a community of folks with the same condition, so people can compare treatments, get feedback, and share their own ways of dealing with this disease.

These two applications are good examples of what can happen if you add connectivity and new levels of intelligence to something like the iPhone, turning it into an indispensible medical assistant. It will be interesting to see what the broader medical community will do with this new SDK. Will health-care manufacturers apply their knowledge and expertise to a lot of other medical problems and monitoring devices in the future?

But smartphones aren't assistants only to those with hypertension or diabetes. These devices are indispensible for the hearing-impaired, too. According to Julie Tsoukalas, a friend whose husband is deaf, text messaging has revolutionized communication in the non-hearing world. Those with total hearing loss use sign language to communicate when they are together, but until they had text messaging and e-mail, they couldn't communicate when apart. Now, my friend can "call" her husband anytime and keep in touch night or day when apart.

The iPhone is important to the sightless as well. A phone is already an important communication gateway for the visually impaired; such people can also use audiobooks to deliver information and entertainment. In addition, Apple's new voice-based turn-by-turn navigation could be helpful to pedestrians going from point A to point B in new surroundings. Also, voice communication and the potential of text-to-speech could play an important role in making these devices even more useful someday.

To date, the iTunes App Store has the best repertoire of medical applications for smartphones. In fact, there's an entire section that offers over 230 applications—heart-rate monitoring tools, drug information apps, and even training programs for medical students. But I fully expect to see similar apps popping up on the BlackBerry, Windows Mobile, Palm Pre, and Symbian platforms in the near future.

I'm sure the folks who invented the cell phone never envisioned the device as a medical assistant. But that is exactly what is happening. And I bet they'd be proud of the new capabilities.

Tim Bajarin is one of the leading analysts working in the technology industry today. He is president of Creative Strategies (, a research company that produces strategy research reports for 50 to 60 companies annually—a roster that includes semiconductor and PC companies, as well as those in telecommunications, consumer electronics, and media. Customers have included AMD, Apple, Dell, HP, Intel, and Microsoft, among many others. You can e-mail him directly at

Thousands of 'cold cases' could be reopened thanks to new DNA technique

by Kate Devlin, Medical Correspondent

Scientists will now be able to use the technique in all serious crimes, after it proved successful in a series of pilots.

Police forces and forensic scientists are also combing the archives of thousands of so-called "cold cases", in which no-one has been convicted of the crime, for DNA samples which could be reassessed.

Called "DNA Boost", the new technique, developed by the FSS, allows scientists to create profiles from "mixed" samples, which contain genetic information from two or more people found on the same surface.

Previously scientists found it impossible to analyse many of these samples, which make up around 10 per cent of all those collected from scenes of crime.

"In the past it has been very difficult to unscramble these samples," said Mark Pearse, from the FSS, "which means they cannot then be searched for in the DNA database."

Now, however, the FSS has developed computer software capable of matching "pairs" of this scrambled data together, creating possible DNA matches.

These can then be fed into the database, which currently contains the details of about four million people, identifying potential suspects.

These can then be suggested to the police as possible leads for their investigations.

Martin Bill, from the FSS, said that DNA Boost was the greatest breakthrough in forensic science since the introduction of low copy number testing, which allowed profiles to be built from tiny samples of DNA, in the late 1990s.

"There will be thousands of cases in our archives that could benefit from this technique," he added.

The technique was "scientifically robust" he insisted.

He added: "We feel that this approach is scientifically very sound and that there is little potential for both false inclusion and false exclusion."

However, he added that DNA Boost would not replace the judgement and interpretation of scientists and police on how genetic information came to be fopund at a crime scene.

Although it is rare that blood or semen samples to become mixed, officers often find that samples of cells taken from surfaces such as tabletops or cigarettes can contain the DNA of more than on person.

A DNA profile is a "genetic fingerprint", unique to each person.

They can be identified from analysis of cells, including from tiny samples of blood, semen, saliva, skin or even sweat.

Professor John Brookfield, an expert in forensic science from Nottingham University, said that researchers had struggled for years to deal with the problem of mixed samples.

"Often the problem is that you do not get an even proportion of the two components, making them a real challenge to analyse for a profile," he said.

The software is available for use in all cases referred to the FSS, after trials carried out in four police forces, West Yorkshire, South Yorkshire, Humberside and Northumbria, proved successful.

Screw South by Southwest. Bacon Camp Was the Best.

Bacon Eggs!

Private office location in SOMA
March 21, 2009

Click here for a full BaconCamp slideshow!

Inspired by last year's creative cooking competition and exhibition called CupcakeCamp and in solidarity with the growing popularity of events (see the recent Grilled Cheese Invitational), the first BaconCamp took place over the weekend. It was a well-organized and smoothly run event that simultaneously demonstrated just how much of a high bacon is currently on in terms of notoriety and how far people are able to stretch one culinary theme.

People were greeted at the door by free stickers and buttons with great slogans like "I'd kill a petite beagle for a bacon sandwich" and "If God didn't want us to eat bacon, why did he make it out of bacon?" People were also offered BLTs by Dr. Bacon, who wasn't an official contestant but just felt the swine spirit of the day.


The expert panel of judges ranged from the founder of CupcakeCamp to several online bacon luminaries to the founder of BaconFest to "just some dude that really loves bacon." Contestants explained their entries and wheeled them around on little tables for the judges to sample and rate before shuttling them through the crowd to be devoured there and on the "extras table."

During brief breaks in the competition, there were bacon-related lectures. A talk on bacon as art was especially fun, as the artists presented two giant eggs sculpted out of strips and showed a Power Point presentation of their Obacon project, a recreation of the famous Obama Hope poster. It was great to see the pork as a muse for something other than eating, although molding all of that stuff certainly must require a strong stomach.

In addition to the first and second prizes, there were several sub-categories that were given awards by the judges, and these winners were awarded some pretty cool bacon booty.




Those categories included Best Presentation, given to the Amen-inducing reverend who presented maple-bacon lollipops; Most Likely to Tempt a Veggie, for bacon hummus served on sourdough rounds and raw vegetables (which I was seemingly alone in hating); and Best Effort, Worst Food, to a fellow who explained that his own poop was the inspiration for making his bacon brownies. His presentation was early on in the competition, and didn't set the most appetizing tone. I declined to try one, as did many others.

Appetites were quickly regained to try the chicken fried bacon with sausage gravy, which was so wrong and yet so amazing: Two bites was more than enough to feel like the arteries had been sent directly to hell, but it was definitely worth it. Fortunately, they were nugget-sized, which was actually quite thoughtful. This dish ended up snagging the runner-up honors, as decided by the audience, who placed stickers by their favorite items listed on the day's menu boards.


The grand prize of the day (again, as decided by the people) went to Heather Lynch for her Maker's Mark ice cream with a maple caramel swirl and bits of candied bacon, the recipe for which she generously shares on her delicious food blog Mooflyfood. The ice cream was long gone before I could get a crack at it, but I did get to taste her pecan bacon lace cookies, which were the best bites I had the whole time. Here, pecan did most of the work, with the bacon providing a pleasingly faint background note. Her delicate restraint in balancing these flavors was refreshing compared to some of the heavier handed efforts. Luckily, she posted the recipe for that one too, so we're all winners here.


Critic's Notebook

Personal bias: Pro-bacon.

Random detail: Organizers made a cute video to explain bacon's undying buzz on the Internet.

By the way: All donations from the event will be given to the American Heart Association.

Scientists drill deep into Greenland ice for global warming clues from Eemian Period

Greenland, area of Jakobshaven city, Inuits in Disko Bay

Carbon dioxide, methane and other chemicals trapped in the ice can provide a detailed picture of the atmosphere and the climate thousands of years ago

Scientists are to dig up ice dating back more than 100,000 years in an attempt to shed light on how global warming will change the world over the next century.

The ice, at the bottom of the Greenland ice sheet, was laid down at a time when temperatures were 3C (5.4F) to 5C warmer than they are today.

With temperatures forecast to rise by up to 7C in the next 100 years, the ice more than 8,000ft (2,400m) below the surface is thought by researchers to hold valuable clues to how much of the ice sheet will melt.

Drilling will start in northern Greenland during the summer in an international project involving researchers from 18 countries to extract ice cores covering the Eemian Period.

Carbon dioxide, methane and other chemicals trapped in the ice can provide a detailed picture of the atmosphere and the climate thousands of years ago.

Fragments of organic matter can offer details about animals and plants alive when the ice formed, while particles of dirt can indicate forest fires, tundra fires and volcanic activity.

Analysis of the ice should provide the first measurement of CO2 levels over Greenland during the Eemian and the most detailed analysis yet achieved of climate indicators from the period.

Lars Berg Larsen, of the University of Copenhagen, which is leading the project, said: “We are looking into this period to find out what happens to the climate if you get 3 to 5 degrees warmer.

“The Eemian is the nearest time we know that matches temperatures we can expect in the next 100 or 200 years. It will tell us much about what might happen.”

Four researchers from the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) will be taking part in the operation. They are hopeful of seeing ice not only from the whole Eemian but the years preceding it as well, which could hold clues to what prompted the temperature to start rising, or at least could chart the atmospheric changes that accompanied the rise.

Researchers also hope that the chemical traces hidden in the ice up to 8,340ft below the surface will reveal how the Greenland ice sheet responded to the higher temperatures. This will have implications for sea level rises in the coming century. If the ice sheet melts entirely, seas would be expected to rise by 21ft.

Researchers expect to find that much of the ice persisted even when temperatures were 5C higher than today, offering hope that much of it will remain in a world of manmade climate change.

Robert Mulvaney, of BAS, who has spent 24 years drilling for ice in both the Arctic and Antarctic, said: “Our ideal would be to get not only the whole of the Eemian but the last time that we had a collapse in the Greenland ice sheet.”

Stimulus? U.S. to buy Chinese condoms, ending Alabama jobs

By Mike McGraw | Kansas City Star

Call it a condom conundrum.

At a time when the federal government is spending billions of stimulus dollars to stem the tide of U.S. layoffs, should that same government put even more Americans out of work by buying cheaper foreign products?

In this case, Chinese condoms.

That's the dilemma for the folks at the U.S. Agency for International Development, which has distributed an estimated 10 billion U.S.-made AIDS-preventing condoms in poor countries around the world.

But not anymore.

In a move expected to cost 300 American jobs, the government is switching to cheaper off-shore condoms, including some made in China.

The switch comes despite implied assurances over the years that the agency would continue to buy American whenever possible.

"Of course, we considered how many U.S. jobs would be affected by this move,” said a USAID official who spoke on the condition that he would not be named. But he said the reasons for the change included lower prices (2 cents versus more than 5 cents for U.S.-made condoms) and the fact that Congress dropped “buy American language” in a recent appropriations bill.

Besides, he said, the sole U.S. supplier — an Alabama company called Alatech — had previous delivery problems under the program.

It's clear that Alatech's problems over the years, which apparently have been resolved, may have driven U.S. officials to seek much less expensive foreign-made condoms in the first place.

But that's cold comfort to Fannie Thomas, who has been making AIDS-preventing condoms in southeastern Alabama for nearly 40 years in the small town of Eufaula.

“We pay taxes down here, too, and with all this stimulus money going to save jobs, it seems to me like they (the U.S. government) should share this contract so they can save jobs here in America,” Thomas said.

Thomas and others at the Alatech plant said there aren’t many alternatives for them if it closes down, which is a likely result of the contracting switch.

In fact, the government is close to accepting condoms from two offshore companies: Unidus Corp., which makes condoms in South Korea, and Qingdao Double Butterfly Group, which makes them in China.

<Read the full story at

Name a Newly Discovered Species of Deepwater Shrimp

Written by Jake Richardson

shrimp name

The Australian Marine Conservation Society is holding an Ebay auction to name a newly discovered species of deepwater shrimp.

Proceeds from the auction will go towards their marine conservation efforts. The auction will be open until March 31st.

Anna McCallum who is a graduate student at the University of Melbourne discovered the shrimp in the southwestern waters off Australia at a depth of about 400 meters. She decided to put the naming of the shrimp up for auction to raise money for conservation. The spotted shrimp has an unusual crest like a mohawk, and is about 5 cm. long.

The first part of the name has already been determined to be Lebbeus, because that is the family of shrimp the new one fits into taxonomically. The second part of the name will be determined by the winner of the auction. The convention is the second word in the name ends in the letter “i” for a male name and “ae” for a female name.

For example, if Keith Urban won the auction and wanted to honor his wife, Nicole Kidman, the shrimp’s name would be Lebbeus Nicolae. If Kevin Rose wins the auction he could choose Lebbeus Kevini. The name of the shrimp can not be that of a business entity, such as Lebbeus Diggi. Businesses, however, can participate in the auction.

The auction’s winner will also receive a painting by the artist Mali Moir. Also living in the same area of the unnamed shrimp are blue whales, bluefin tuna, and Australian fur seals. Less than one percent of the area currently has legal protection. Eighty percent of the species there are endemic, meaning they live only there.

Image Credit: Mali Moir

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The moment record-breaking kayaker plunged 127 FEET off waterfall... and survived

By Mail Foreign Service

Faced with this awesome waterfall, most of us would be happy to stand at the side and enjoy the view.

For one man, however, that wasn't enough. Pedro Olivia risked his life by jumping into his kayak, paddling straight over the edge - and dropping an astonishing 127 feet off the Salto Belo falls in central Brazil.

He fell head first for 2.95 seconds before hitting the churning waters below at 70mph.

And after vanishing at the base of the falls for a few heart-stopping minutes, he reappeared to claim a new world record in waterfall descents.

The 26-year-old, who has spent the last four years searching his country for the perfect location, shattered the previous 108ft record.

Perdro Olivia kayaking at Salto Belo falls

Daredevil: Pedro Olivia freefalls down the Salto Belo waterfalls in central Brazi

‘It’s a story that I will be telling for the rest of my life,’ he said.

‘In all I have spent the better part of13 years developing my kayaking skills, searching the Brazilian rivers for the most spectacular rapids and falls.’

Joined by some of the world’s most able class V (extreme kayakers) on the Brazil World Record Attempt Expedition, Pedro achieved his amazing feat on March 4.

Team leader Ben Stookesberry helped to plan and record the extraordinary event.

‘As with the majority of our descents in Brazil, we were led to this falls by extremely friendly and helpful locals,’ he explained.

Pedro Olivia

Made it: Pedro after successfully breaking the previous waterfall record, which stood at 108ft

The Salto Belo on the Rio Sacre in Campos Novos, Mato Grosso, is a massive river running with 5,000 cubic feet per second of tepid, crystal clear rainwater.

Using a static line loaded with a dry bag, Ben and his team set out to get an accurate measurement of the drop.

‘At 38.7m it was just shy of our guides' claim of a 40-metre drop, and five and a half metres over the current world record height of 33.1m, or 108.3ft,’ the 30-year-old said.

‘Pedro was intrigued from the start and quickly gave up his role as lead cinematographer to seriously consider the drop.

‘From the beginning Pedro had his eyes on a big converging tongue of water on the left side of the river, but he wanted to see it from all possible angles.

‘This had him inching his way through waist-deep water at the brink of the falls to get the view he would have from his kayak.’

Spending three hours scouting the Salto Belo falls, which span nearly a quarter of a mile in width, Pedo considered every scenario before attempting the daring descent.

‘I did have a serious moment while scouting the falls where I had to line everything up in my head,’ he says.

Enlarge Pedro Olivia kayaks over Salto Belo waterfalls

On the edge: Pedro, 26, just after beginning his 70mph descent

‘I had to know exactly where to go over the lip of the falls that was over 100 metres wide.

‘I had to pick out every little wave, hole, or rock that would lead me to the exact perfect position on the lip.

‘Every detail had to be memorised and then executed perfectly from the seat of the kayak.

‘Once you are in the kayak at river level the slope of the falls hides all but those seemingly inconspicuous markers that you have chosen.

‘The actual free fall felt like an eternity of acceleration and waiting for a huge impact in the pool below.

‘As I drifted over vertical into a head down position I braced for the worst in a protective tuck position.

‘But the massive impact never came.’ With safety teams waiting in nervous anticipation at the top and the foot of the falls, Ben hit the record button as Pedro climbed into his kayak and charged at the sloping lip of the falls.

‘After the first 13 metres, or 43 feet of free fall, Pedro began to over rotate into a head down position,’ explains Ben.

‘From high on river left, we lost sight of Pedro after approximately 2.8 seconds of visible free-fall.

‘Without a sound, Pedro disappeared into the 10 to 15 feet of spray that emanated from the base of the falls.’

Enlarge Pedro Olivia kayaks over Salto Belo waterfalls

Into the depths: Clouds of foam and spray cover the pool Pedro plunged into after falling for 2.95 seconds

Not emerging from the falls for several minutes, Ben and his safety team were set to spring into action when a scream of excitement emerged from the base of the falls.

‘Pedro’s experience on the other side of the camera was quite different,’ said Ben.

‘With the massive amount of water mixing with 127 feet of air, the landing was much more like 15 feet of churning dry powder snow than the hard surface of a lake.

‘This took Pedro and his boat deep into soft but violent water.

‘His paddle snapped and flushed away as he was churned in the base of the falls.

‘As he felt the violent churn of the falls ebb, he brushed against some rocks that he grabbed to right his kayak.

‘Pedro caught his bearings and realised he had entered a scenario that could have been a kayaker’s nightmare: resurfacing behind the falls.

‘Rolling up in these extremely inhospitable surroundings behind the falls, Pedro emerged from the cavern behind the falls like a man returning from another world, and without a single scratch to show for his record breaking descent.’ For Pedro however, this great risk was worth the reward.

‘The sensation of running the world record falls was like no other experience that I have had,’ he says.

‘I was literally putting my life on a thin ribbon of water that would deliver me safely into the pool below.

‘A couple of feet one way or another was all it would take to turn the world’s most exhilarating experience, into the ultimate consequence: serious injury, broken back, or death.

‘But this is what we have been doing on this expedition is going to the most beautiful places which are in turn also some of the most dangerous places.

‘For me breaking the record was not a victory over nature but a harmony between myself, my team, and the river.’