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Friday, August 28, 2009

New KFC Opens In Palms? Sort of...(Instead of Fried Chicken, They Sell Marijuana)

There has been an abandoned Kentucky Fried Chicken in Palms, slumping sadly these past few months on the corner of Exposition Blvd. and Hughes Ave. What, locals wondered, would replace it? A new burger joint? A Peruvian rotisserie chicken stand? It turns out that the KFC has been replaced by... a KFC. In this instance, though, the KFC stands for "Kind For Cures", and while they do sell things that are edible, you can't buy them, or even ask about them, without a prescription.

KFC.jpg
Noah Galuten
Fried chicken spot becomes weed dispensary, probably serves similar clientele.

There have been marijuana dispensaries popping up all over Southern California of late, but this one is slightly different. Rather than tearing the whole thing down and starting from scratch, the proprietors of this alternative KFC decided to incorporate the design of the previous tenants. They have removed the official Kentucky Fried Chicken logo, but the rest of the building remains mostly intact.

So do they plan on selling hot biscuits with THC butter? Can you order your Pineapple Express by the bucket? Do they offer family meals? "No comment." Hm. I suppose we'll have to take that as a no.

Kind For Cures, 3516 Hughes Ave, Palms, (310) 836-5463

Time Warner Cable, Verizon to test TV on the Web


Photo

By Yinka Adegoke

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Two more U.S. pay-TV providers, Time Warner Cable Inc and Verizon Communications Inc, plan to test systems to offer shows on the Web to paying customers in a bid to protect their subscription revenue.

Time Warner Cable and Verizon separately announced their plans on Thursday and will follow Comcast Corp, the largest U.S. cable operator, which said in July it would test a Web TV service with some of its customers.

Pay-TV companies are concerned that the recession-resistant subscription revenue of cable television could be undermined if cable shows became widely available over the Web, effectively cutting out the cable and satellite TV operators.

So the cable network industry, led by Time Warner Inc Chief Executive Jeffrey Bewkes, is testing a concept called TV Everywhere as a way for paying cable subscribers to access cable shows over the Web via an authentication process.

Time Warner Cable said its TV Everywhere trial will include the NBC Universal-owned Syfy channel; Time Warner's TNT, HBO and TBS; Cablevision Systems Corp's AMC, IFC and Sundance Channel; and BBC's BBC America.

CBS Corp and Discovery Communications Inc are also involved in the trial.

Time Warner Cable's test involves making TV shows available on the Web to 5,000 homes of paying subscribers. They will be able to access the shows on the networks' own websites, as well as on Time Warner Cable's Web properties.

Verizon, meanwhile, will launch a TV Everywhere trial of its FiOS TV online with programing from Time Warner's Turner networks, TNT and TBS for no extra cost to FiOS subscribers.

DirecTV Group Inc, the largest U.S. satellite TV provider, is also working on a version of TV Everywhere, according to a person familiar with its plans.

While cable network owners are determined to stop the successful pay-TV television business model from being undermined by programing made available free on the Web, the major broadcast networks have taken a different approach.

Because free-to-air broadcasters are dependent on advertising revenue rather than subscriptions, they have made their shows readily available over the Web. Sites like Hulu, owned by News Corp, NBC Universal and Walt Disney Co, are free to anyone and feature broadcast network programs such as "The Office" or "House."

In a few cases, some episodes of full cable programs are now available free on the Internet.

(Additional reporting by S. John Tilak in Bangalore; editing by Gerald E. McCormick and Andre Grenon)

Auschwitz blueprints given to Israeli PM

Israeli President Benjamin Netanjahu, left, studies original blueprints of the Nazi concentration camp in Auschwitz, Poland, together with historian Ralf-Georg Reuth in Berlin, Germany on Thursday, Aug. 27, 2009. (AP / Rainer Jensen)

Israeli President Benjamin Netanjahu, left, studies original blueprints of the Nazi concentration camp in Auschwitz, Poland, together with historian Ralf-Georg Reuth in Berlin, Germany on Thursday, Aug. 27, 2009. (AP / Rainer Jensen)

The Associated Press

BERLIN -- Architectural plans for the Auschwitz death camp that were discovered in Berlin last year were handed over to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday for display at Israel's Holocaust memorial.

The 29 sketches of the death camp built in Nazi-occupied Poland date as far back as 1941. They include detailed blueprints for living barracks, delousing facilities and crematoria, including gas chambers, and are considered important for understanding the genesis of the Nazi genocide.

The sketches are initialed by the head of the SS, Heinrich Himmler, and Auschwitz commandant Rudolf Hoess.

"There are those who deny that the Holocaust happened," Netanyahu said. "Let them come to Jerusalem and look at these plans, these plans for the factory of death."

The Axel Springer Verlag, publisher of the mass circulation Bild newspaper, obtained the plans from a private person who said he found them when cleaning out a flat in what was formerly East Berlin.

The company and Germany's federal archive have confirmed blueprints' authenticity.

But the publisher said the numbering found on the backs of the plans indicate they may have been taken from an archive, possibly the collection of documents on the Third Reich kept by the East German secret service, the Stasi. Axel Springer Verlag said several other documents from the same archive had surfaced after the 1989 fall of the Berlin Wall.

Bild editor Kai Diekmann told Netanyahu and Avner Shalev, the chairman of Israel's Holocaust memorial Yad Vashem, decided to give them the sketches because they wanted to ensure that as many people as possible could see them.

"These plans have an important function -- they remind us of a crime that, with the passing of time, seems ever more incomprehensible," Diekmann said. "It is of the utmost importance to continue to be reminded of it."

While they are not the only original Auschwitz blueprints that still exist -- others were captured by the Soviet Red Army and brought back to Moscow -- they will be the first for Israel's Yad Vashem memorial, its chairman told The Associated Press.

"This set is a very early one, which was found here in Berlin, from the autumn of '41," Shalev said. "It brings a better understanding of the whole process, and the intention of the planners of the complex, and from this perspective it is important."

Shalev said the sketches will be on display at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem beginning Jan. 27, 2010, as part of a special exhibit marking the 65th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.

The blueprints include general plans for the original Auschwitz camp and the expansion of the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp, where most of the killings were carried out.

More than one million people, mostly Jews, died in the gas chambers or through forced labor, disease or starvation at the camp, which the Nazis built after occupying Poland.

Netanyahu is in Berlin for meetings with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and other officials.

Later, the Israeli leader is scheduled to visit a house on Berlin's Wannsee lake that was the site of the Jan. 20, 1942 "Wannsee Conference" -- a watershed in Nazi policy against Europe's Jews.

The building now houses a museum documenting the Holocaust and the notorious meeting, which was once thought to be when the Nazis decided to stop deporting and randomly killing Jews and instead to industrialize their murder.

Though debate continues, most historians now agree the decision was made some months earlier -- by Adolf Hitler himself, even though no written order from him has ever been found.

Hundreds of thousands of Jews had already been murdered by the time 15 civil servants, SS and party officials met at Wannsee. It is now believed by many that Reinhard Heydrich, the Nazi Security Service and Security Police head, called the meeting to make sure everybody knew what Hitler wanted done and to establish SS oversight of the process.

Shalev said the blueprints showing that the construction of Auschwitz was already being planned in 1941 help to reinforce that argument.

"The Wannsee conference ... was a kind of coordination," Shalev said. "The process of the Final Solution started to be implemented a few months before it, so the plans that were found from late '41 are more evidence."

A large yellowed plan, dated April 30, 1942 and titled "general building plan concentration camp Auschwitz" provides a wider view, showing the barracks but also roads, other buildings and the outlying area.

Another drawing dated Oct. 14, 1941, shows the plans for construction of a "Waffen SS prisoner of war camp" with rows of what appear to be barracks. A notation in the bottom right says it was drafted by a prisoner, "Nr. 471."

Mexico shuts Cancun beach, alleges sand was stolen

MARK STEVENSON,Associated Press Writer

July 31, 2009
Email More

MEXICO CITY (AP) — Surprised tourists found their little piece of Cancun beach paradise ringed by crime-scene tape and gun-toting sailors on Thursday.

Environmental enforcement officers backed by Mexican navy personnel closed off hundreds of feet (dozens of meters) of powder-white coastline in front of a hotel accused of illegally accumulating sand on its beach.

Mexico spent $19 million to replace Cancun beaches washed away by Hurricane Wilma in 2005. But much of the sand pumped from the sea floor has since washed away, leading some property owners to build breakwaters in a bid to retain sand. The practice often merely shifts sand loss to beaches below the breakwaters.

"Today we made the decision to close this stretch of ill-gotten, illegally accumulated sand," said Patricio Patron, Mexico's attorney general for environmental protection. "This hotel was telling its tourists: 'Come here, I have sand ... the other hotels don't, because I stole it.'"

Patron said five people were detained in a raid for allegedly using pumps to move sand from the sea floor onto the beach in front of the Gran Caribe Real Hotel. The hotel is also suspected of illegally building a breakwater that impeded the natural flow of sand onto other hotels' beaches, he said.

An employee of the hotel's marketing office said nobody was available to comment on the allegations. Authorities said the hotel owner ignored previous orders to remove the breakwater.

A knot of angry tourists gathered around the closed beach.

Some were irked by the sight of police tape and "Closed" signs.

Maria Bachino, a travel agent from Rocha, Uruguay, said by telephone that she had booked a beachfront room in Cancun, only to find herself cut off from the clear, bathub-temperature waters that lure millions to Cancun each year.

"They promised us a beach," said Bachino. "This is very unpleasant, we feel bad. This is intimidating," she said of the armed navy personnel who participated in the raid.

Patron said he regretted any inconvenience for tourists, but said the government is planning projects to restore beaches throughout Cancun in an orderly, environmentally responsible way.

"I apologize to the tourists for this problem, but it is a question of enforcing the law," Patron said.

Head to Head Comparison of the 5 Most Popular iPhone Turn by Turn Navigation Apps

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Iphone_gps

If you haven't heard, the iPhone now supports turn by turn navigation apps. These apps essentially turn your iPhone into one of those portable navigational devices which people refer to as "my navi" or "my GPS". Overall, the apps are quite good. They work well, they look great, and having a turn by turn navigational system on your cell phone is highly convenient. The Palm Pre, unlike the iPhone which requires purchasing an app from the App Store, comes equipped with one of these apps, and it's free with the Sprint service plan. The Pre's app, "Telenav By Sprint", is quite frankly the perfect turn by turn navigational app for a cell phone, and we compared the 5 most popular American navigational iPhone apps to the Pre app.

Look below for a detailed table comparing the applications on 20 different parameters.

Note: For these applications you will 100% need a car charger and an in-car iPhone cradle. These apps drain the iPhone's battery like crazy. Without an in-car iPhone cradle the apps will be pretty much useless. TomTom will soon start selling a car kit which may even be sold as a bundle with the application.


5-most-popular-iphone-turn-by-turn-navigation-apps-review_sm

click to enlarge or click here for full size table

Below are brief overviews of each individual application with screenshots and iTunes links. Please let us know in the comments which app you bought and how it has been working for you.

TomTom (B+)


App Store Link


Tomtom1 Tomtom2 Tomtom3

TomTom is the leader of the GPS world, and there's a reason. They make a good product, and that didn't change for their iPhone app. The app works great. Just like their portable devices, the map itself looks ugly...with a thick red line over a beige background, and occasionally some jagged edges. But quite frankly, it's not there to be modeled, it's there to guide you and give you functionality. That it does.


Navigon MobileNavigator (B)


App Store Link


The Navigon Mobile Navigator may be the best option in the App Store right now due to the fact that it has been dropped to $70 until August 31st, when it will go up to $100. The Navigon app will guide you wonderfully, but there are a few things missing. For one, you can't see the route summary. There's also no traffic feature...but that shouldn't stop you from buying the app.

Navigon1 Navigon2 Navigon3

AT&T Navigator (C+)


App Store Link

Navigator1 Navigator2 Navigator3

The AT&T Navigator application is an excellent app except for 3 things. It requires an internet connection, since the maps are always downloaded fresh from AT&T's servers. That means it takes a while to load and reload. Also, there is no landscape mode, which is silly for a navigational app. Lastly, the $10/month pricing will lead to an extremely expensive application if you keep it for a while. But if you're okay with that, the app offers a vivid and attractive map, and a few other great features: traffic and search for lowest-priced gas.


CoPilot Live North America (C)


App Store Link


Copilot1 Copilot2 Copilot3

CoPilot Live North America is the cheapest of the 5 applications, costing only $35. However, you pay for what you get. Many expected features are missing, and some of the present ones don't work. The POI search, for instance, needs a lot of work. Also, users have been complaining about app stability. On the plus side, if you just need an app to guide you from point A to point B, CoPilot will do the job. And the map looks great.


Sygic Mobile Map US (C)


App Store Link


Sygic


For $40, Sygic Mobile Map US seems like a bargain. However, while the design is quite sharp, this app is lacking when it comes to actually guiding you on the road. The app often takes a while to lock a GPS signal, and often runs slow. While it hasn't happened to me, many users have complained that it has taken them the wrong way. There's also no contact integration. The good thing about this app is that it offers 26 different languages to guide users in.

Fast Food Revealed: Real vs. Ads

See what these popular menu items really look like

By Olivia Putnal

from WomansDay.com

You know how fast-food menu items always look amazingly juicy and delicious in advertising and marketing materials? WD was curious to see exactly what these food-styled concoctions actually look like fresh from the fast food, er, kitchen. We hit the city, dealing with long lines and mediocre service to snap some photos of a few franchises’ signature items. All photos were taken while we were still in the store, food fresh out of the bag (and off the assembly line). See what we found below, as we compare actual results with what the company advertises—the good, the bad and the ugly.


Burger King Whopper

This burger is described on BK.com as containing “1/4 pound of flame-broiled beef, ripe tomatoes, crisp lettuce, creamy mayo, ketchup, crunchy pickles and onions on a toasted sesame seed bun.” After sitting down with 50 other Burger King customers, we found it was more like a cold sesame bun filled with a thin layer of beef, three tablespoons of mayonnaise and warm lettuce with an over-ripe tomato. Although the advertisement shows layers of onions and pickles, our version contained one small pickle and two skinny slices of onion.


McDonald’s Small French Fries

We can’t muster up much negativity about these favored all-American fries. McDonald’s fried potato strips have always been at the top of the fast-food chain for their perfect flavor and texture. Hot and fresh right out of the fryer, our order was shoved into what we wish was a little bit bigger package, but, just as we suspected, when we opened the bag we uncovered exactly what is described on McDonalds.com—“golden, long, thin and perfectly salted fries that are crisp on the outside, tender inside with a great potato taste.”


Taco Bell Crunchwrap Supreme

The outside of the ever-so-popular Crunchwrap Supreme is pretty comparable to the ad; however, the inside is an entirely different story. Though it’s described on TacoBell.com as including “seasoned beef, warm nacho cheese sauce, a crunchy tostada shell, reduced fat sour cream, lettuce and tomatoes,” we hardly found any lettuce and tomato on the Crunchwrap we ordered, and when it was cut open, the contents oozed out—nothing like the perfectly layered neatness in the image.


Pizza Hut Tuscani Lasagna

As one of Pizza Hut’s new Tuscani Pastas, the lasagna is something they are really trying to beef up. Pitched on PizzaHut.com as “layers of lasagna noodles and real ricotta, Parmesan and Romano cheeses smothered in Italian-seasoned meat sauce and freshly oven-baked with a layer of melted cheese,” the new menu choice looked more like a lasagna pizza. We finally located the noodles, the minimal sauce and ricotta in the center below the thick layer of cheese, but the fresh basil garnish in the ad picture was nowhere to be found.


Wendy’s Crispy Chicken Sandwich

If we used the advertisement image as guidance, the Crispy Chicken sandwich from Wendy’s would have a piece of chicken breast large enough to hang over the “premium bun” and crisp green lettuce. What we got on our tray was a cold white-bread bun filled with a piece of chicken that fits nicely inside (because it is much smaller), one piece of lettuce and lots of mayonnaise (of course).


KFC Potato Wedges

Another selection pretty true to its advertisement is KFC’s Potato Wedges, which, according to KFC.com, has no trans fat and is flavored with “savory herbs and spices.” Even though we can’t tell that from the outside, we must say the picture is a nice representation of what these wedges really do look like. Made with real potatoes and special seasonings, this side dish needs no extra salt and pepper. However, it does weigh in at a whopping 260 calories per small order and contains 740 milligrams of sodium.


Quiznos Primo Meatball

After lifting up the top half of the somewhat “golden brown” sesame bread and digging under the layers of mozzarella cheese, we found three small meatballs nestled in the “zesty marinara sauce.” In reality, what appears in the picture to be a gigantic meatball creation is just a regular meatball sub that doesn’t have enough sauce on it and is overpriced—the smallest sandwich will cost you $7 a pop.


Dunkin’ Donuts Egg White Veggie Flatbread Sandwich

This DDSmart menu item looks quite slim and trim, neatly sliced and stuffed with veggies—Dunkin’ Donuts seems to have the perfect tactic for promoting it. Described on DunkinDonuts.com as having “fluffy egg whites, peppers, onions and mushrooms,” in actuality, the sandwich has a premade egg white patty with a few veggies tucked in it. Pitched as “easy to hold and eat with minimal mess,” when we attempted to pick up the fast food breakfast sandwich, the cheese spilled out the side. Although the presentation is far from what they led us to believe, the taste is pretty flavorful.


KFC Kentucky Grilled Chicken Box

Even Oprah supported this more wholesome option from the otherwise extremely unhealthy Kentucky Fried Chicken chain. Because of all the hype, the KFC Kentucky Grilled Chicken Box just had to make our list, but we were disappointed at what we found after seeing the tempting advertising image. We braved the hoards of people in line at the 3-in-1 chain restaurant, and found the chicken was shriveled and small, the potatoes seemed to be more like gravy with a drop of potatoes, and the biscuit was—well, a biscuit. Most disappointing was the chicken; unlike in the photo, both pieces were extremely dry.


Burger King Crown-Shaped Chicken Tenders

Much to our surprise, as you can see, these small chicken masterpieces actually do look almost identical to what Burger King shows in the advertisement (and are surely fit for a king). “Have it your way” by choosing four, five or eight tenders and dressing them with BBQ, honey mustard or sweet-and-sour sauce. We opted for four tenders with no sauce, since the fried, 180-calorie menu item is already quite high in fat for something that hardly fills you up. Overall, in an attempt to stand out among fast food chicken nuggets, Burger King has made fun-shaped little rascals that kids will love.


McDonald’s Big Mac

After setting this sucker down on the tray and examining its contents, we must say it’s nothing that’s going to cure your “Big Mac attack.” It appears in marketing campaigns and advertisements that the Big Mac is a double-decker sandwich packed with two layers of veggies, special sauce and beef patties. The sandwich we got came with one piece of American cheese and one layer of veggies along with the two beef patties, three parts of a sesame bun and two coatings of “special sauce” that looked more like plain old mayonnaise.


Subway The Feast

The Feast is the ultimate menu item for this sandwich chain—containing five types of meat and your choice of cheese and bread. According to Subway.com, “It’s the kind of concrete slippers that hunger fears the most”—whatever that means. We aren’t entirely sure that what looks like a fresh and healthy option in ads and billboards fully meets those expectations. After requesting “the works” as our condiments, we unwrapped it to discover, instead of the neatly stacked meats and fresh veggies, a sandwich soaked in mayonnaise and mustard, containing almost no lettuce—and when picked up, all of the contents slipped right through the bread and onto the paper.


Taco Bell Nachos

This 99¢ menu option is an easy and quick on-the-go option—that is, if you don’t have to wait for 15 minutes until your order number is called, like we did. The small side of nachos comes complete with about 20 chips and a side of nacho cheese. We have to say, the snack looks pretty similar to the original image, with hot and crispy tortilla chips and creamy nacho cheese, but perhaps the order is a bit smaller than the overflowing image shows.


Wendy’s Broccoli and Cheese Potato

To avoid all of the fried meals and other greasy temptations, many consumers opt for Wendy’s Broccoli and Cheese Potato, which contains only 2.5 grams of fat and 340 calories. What seems to be a plump baked potato with fresh broccoli florets and cheese in the marketing materials actually looks more like frozen broccoli bits atop a microwaved potato with melted cheese. While it is definitely healthier than most menu options, don’t be alarmed by what it looks like when you open the container.

'Moon Rock' in Dutch Museum Is Just Petrified Wood

Conspiracy theorists rejoice: Prized 'moon rock' in Dutch national museum is a fake

By TOBY STERLING

The Associated Press

AMSTERDAM

It's not green cheese, but it might as well be.

The Dutch national museum said Thursday that one of its prized possessions, a rock supposedly brought back from the moon by U.S. astronauts, is just a piece of petrified wood.

Rijksmuseum spokeswoman Xandra van Gelder, who oversaw the investigation that proved the piece was a fake, said the museum will keep it anyway as a curiosity.

"It's a good story, with some questions that are still unanswered," she said. "We can laugh about it."

The museum acquired the rock after the death of former Prime Minister Willem Drees in 1988. Drees received it as a private gift on Oct. 9, 1969 from then-U.S. ambassador J. William Middendorf during a visit by the three Apollo 11 astronauts, part of their "Giant Leap" goodwill tour after the first moon landing.

Middendorf, who lives in Rhode Island, told Dutch broadcaster NOS news that he had gotten it from the U.S. State Department, but couldn't recall the exact details.

In this photo released by the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam on Thursday, Aug. 27, 2009, a rock supposedly brought back from the moon, and a note from the then-U.S. ambassador is seen. The Dutch national museum says one of its prized possessions, a rock supposedly brought back from the moon by U.S. astronauts, is just a piece of petrified wood. The museum acquired the rock after the death of a former prime minister, who received it in 1969 from the then-U.S. ambassador during a visit by the Apollo 11 astronauts. (AP Photo/Rijksmuseum)

"I do remember that (Drees) was very interested in the little piece of stone," the NOS quoted Middendorf as saying. "But that it's not real, I don't know anything about that."

He could not immediately be reached for comment Thursday.

The U.S. Embassy in the Hague said it was investigating the matter.

The museum had vetted the moon rock with a phone call to NASA, Van Gelder said.

She said the space agency told the museum then that it was possible the Netherlands had received a rock: NASA gave moon rocks to more than 100 countries in the early 1970s, but those were from later missions.

"Apparently no one thought to doubt it, since it came from the prime minister's collection," Van Gelder said.

The rock is not usually on display; the museum is primarily known for its paintings and other works of fine art by masters such as Rembrandt.

A jagged fist-size stone with reddish tints, it was mounted and placed above a plaque that said, "With the compliments of the Ambassador of the United States of America ... to commemorate the visit to The Netherlands of the Apollo-11 astronauts." The plaque does not specify that the rock came from the moon's surface

It was given at the opening of an exhibition on space exploration.

It was on show in 2006 and a space expert informed the museum it was unlikely NASA would have given away any moon rocks three months after Apollo returned to Earth.

Researchers from Amsterdam's Free University said they could see at a glance the rock was probably not from the moon. They followed the initial appraisal up with extensive testing.

"It's a nondescript, pretty-much-worthless stone," Geologist Frank Beunk concluded in an article published by the museum.

He said the rock, which the museum at one point insured for more than half a million dollars, was worth no more than euro50 ($70).

Van Gelder said one important unanswered question is why Drees was given the stone. He was 83 years old in 1969 and had been out of office for 11 years. On the other hand, he was the country's elder statesman, the prime minister who helped the Netherlands rebuild after World War II.

Middendorf was treasurer of the Republic National Committee from 1965 until 1969, when President Richard Nixon dispatched him to the Netherlands.

Japan robotics experts unveil sci-fi wheelchair

Japan robotics experts unveil sci-fi wheelchair

Enlarge

The design allows users to slide more easily on and off the vehicle, lessening reliance on care-givers to lift them. Photo: AFP

Robotics and medical experts in Japan on Wednesday unveiled the prototype of a new hi-tech electric wheelchair that resembles a scooter and promises greater mobility.


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Users ride astride the four-wheeled Rodem -- rather than sitting in it, as in a conventional wheelchair -- steer it with a joystick and hold onto motorbike-style handles while the knees and chest rest on cushions.

The design allows users to slide more easily on and off the vehicle, lessening reliance on care-givers to lift them, the inventors said.

"I believe this is a whole new idea for a ," said Makoto Hashizume, head of the Veda International Research and Development Centre and a medical professor of Kyushu University.

An "injured" model demonstrates the medical universal vehicle, "Rodem" during its press preview in Tokyo
Enlarge

An "injured" model demonstrates the medical universal vehicle, "Rodem" during its press preview in Tokyo. Robotics and medical experts in Japan on Wednesday unveiled the prototype of a new hi-tech electric wheelchair that resembles a scooter and promises greater mobility.

"With this vehicle, users can move around more freely and more actively without much help from other people."

It is the first invention unveiled by the Veda centre, which opened in May in southwestern Munakata city and is a joint project of Japanese robot maker Tmsuk Co. and researchers from 10 universities and institutes.

The robotics and medical specialists, including from Germany and Italy, aim to invent robots for use in health and nursing, an area where high-tech , with its fast-greying population, is seen as a world leader.

The inventors said they had no immediate plans to commercialise the new vehicle, which would first have to meet government safety standards, but said they were open to offers from private companies in Japan and overseas.

Tmsuk president Yoichi Takamoto said the Rodem may also be used by people who are not disabled to simply ride and enjoy.

Takamoto said the Rodem was too simple to be called a robot, but added that it may evolve into one.

"We can add more robot-like functions in future," he said. "For example, we could add a new function so it comes to your bedside when you call."

(c) 2009 AFP

Pot Brownies are Having a Cinematic Moment


Is “old people eating pot brownies” the new “old people saying swear words”? It is, if this summer’s movies have anything to say about it! Whether it’s the biggest action blockbuster or the smallest video-on-demand indie, there’s nothing more “now” than menopausal movie moms getting baked off of baked goods. Grab a bowl of Doritos and consider the evidence!

The trend was kicked off in high style by Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, which was so subplot-stuffed, it might as well have bore the pledge “Deleted scenes already included.” Among those diversions was a fairly pointless sequence that focused not on robots or Megan Fox’s ass but instead on the mother of our hero, Judy Witwicky (played by Julie White), as she proceeded to lose her shit after accidentally eating some pot brownies. This was scripted and went on for several minutes!

Before Transformers, if you’d been lucky enough to snag a particularly perverse projectionist, you might have sat through the trailer for this week’s Taking Woodstock and had yourself a veritable mom-and-pot-brownies double feature. In that teaser’s climactic moment, the previously uptight mother of our hero (this one, played by Imelda Staunton) accidentally dug into the marijuana-laced brownies and got so high that wild, rain-soaked dancing with her family (pictured above) was an inevitability. In fact, if she’d just tugged her blouse down to expose her matronly breasts, I think we would have had a sequence from every True Blood episode this season.

Three is a trend, however, and so we would be nowhere if Bobcat Goldthwait’s World’s Greatest Dad hadn’t come along. In the dark comedy, Robin Williams bonds with his elderly neighbor (Mitzi McCall) over zombie movies, yet only gains entry into her apartment if he promises to bring over pot brownies. For some reason, though, these tainted goodies do not turn the neighbor into a lusty cougar, nor provoke her to practice her booty pop as loud rap music blasts from a nearby car. What gives, Bobcat? You’ve harshed my buzz.

Tagged: taking woodstock, transformers: revenge of the fallen, worlds greatest dad

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Breaking The Industry Rules. Radiohead, NIN, …Korn?

Post Pic
In Industry News, by DeadCanDance

Everyone is trying to find the best way to release music and with digital distribution leveling the playing field, has Korn figured it out?


We all know the industry is in disarray and a lot of musicians are forging their own paths leaving old standards in the dust. Radiohead offered a “pay what you like” model. Nine Inch Nails gave away their material through bit torrent, while offering various specialized versions at a cost. Eventually there will be a foundation or some sort of base for how to release music in this digital age, but until then it’s like the wild west days. The new frontier and everyone has a shot at putting together the right combination of what will ultimately be the best way to deliver and produce music (hopefully it’s not the record labels that figure it out).

Earlier today I read that Korn would be releasing 4 digital EP’s throughout the year and would be available to users who pay a monthly subscription on their site. My first reaction is amazement. I really didn’t expect to see a band like Korn try and come up with it’s own model. I start doing some research and find out that the material on these EP’s are unreleased tracks and a demo version of a new song which appear on their “real” release.

That’s all I needed to see to know that this is more of a fan club then anything else. Yes they are giving away 4 digital EP’s but it’s not your main release. You still have a major label to push your main album. I can’t say that I’ve ever thought about it before, but unless you are willing to put your best stuff on the line with none of the traditional hand rails to guide you through the process, then it’s not breaking any new ground. I will say in Korn’s defense that they aren’t pushing it like they are the next NIN’s or anything like that but when you read the headline it certainly looks like they are trying something different.

So what if this was their main release? What if they really did separate the main record into 4 EP’s spread out a 12 month span. Well at $6.95 a month, the fans would be paying a much higher price if they stayed in the entire year but if the band could offer more value then it does become a bit more interesting. I love the idea of continuity but I really think you would have to offer a version that could be purchased or given away in combination. However if you did that then it becomes a fan club again. Would users be willing to pay more (like a subscription) but also receive more stuff like tickets, merchandise, etc but without any other alternative to get the album? Legal alternative that is! Yeah that could be a problem.

Obviously the plan needs work but someone will eventually figure it out. Until then, I consider myself very lucky to be living in a time of such uncharted territory and with the opportunity to see it unfold and even contribute myself as a musician.

The World's 5 Fastest Trains You Can Ride RIght Now

On Aug. 24, the applications for rail stimulus were due—and now the states that applied are waiting on the Federal Railroad Administration's picks for approved projects. While the $13 billion in stimulus will not make the U.S. a train-commuting country overnight, and may, in fact, make some states unhappy (in July, 40 states preapplied, seeking $102 billion in aid for high-speed rail projects, nearly 10 times what is actually being doled out by the federal government), it is a start for high-speed rail. Here, we take a look at the five fastest trains in the world—inspirations in design and technology for the future of high speed in the U.S.


Trains are en vogue again in the United States. State governments are lining up for federal stimulus money to fix existing routes and develop high-speed passenger rail lines; by Aug. 24, the last day to submit most applications, 40 states had requested a piece of the $13 billion for new rail projects. The Federal Railroad Administration will award grants to the approved applications beginning in late September or early October. California wants to be the American trailblazer for renewed rail travel, and, last week, submitted 42 applications, worth $1.1 billion. And the state wants more than just additional trains—it wants them to go faster. "We're the only major industrial nation on earth that doesn't have [a high-speed rail network]," Tony Daniels, the California High-Speed Rail Authority's program director, tells PM. "Now is the time for us to step up to the plate, to belong to the world that has high-speed trains." Until this country transitions to more Acela-style trains (maxing out at 150 mph), the next step—to truly high-speed rail travel—can only be found elsewhere in the world. Here, we outline the five fastest trains—inspiring design and technology for rail's future in the U.S.

Shanghai Maglev

Shanghai Maglev

The Specs

Location /// China; shuttles between the Longyang Road Station in the Pudong district of Shanghai to the Shanghai Pudong International Airport
Longest Run /// 19 miles
Top Speed During Commercial Transit /// 268 mph
Top Speed Recorded /// 311 mph

The Tech

The Shanghai airport-to-suburb maglev is the first and fastest commercial high-speed maglev in the world. Unlike standard wheel-to-rail trains, maglev trains are repelled 1 mm to 10 mm away from the track by a magnetized coil within the track, called a guideway. Maglev trains gain high speeds quickly and lack troublesome moving parts, such as wheels, transmissions, brakes and axles. Skeptics of the system argue that the magnetically charged train is costly to build and has no guarantee to work well over long distances.


Alta Velocidad Espanola (AVE)

Alta Velocidad Espanola (AVE)

The Specs

Location /// Spain; connects four major cities: Madrid, Seville, Malaga and Barcelona
Longest Run /// 410 miles
Top Speed During Commercial Transit /// 210 mph
Top Speed Recorded /// 227 mph

The Tech

Now spreading across much of the country, the AVE links several major cities in Spain with high-speed rail. The first commercial line of the AVE system started service in 1992, built to accommodate travel during that year's Expo World Fair. Now, the same line traverses the 293 miles between Madrid and Seville at speeds up to 186 mph, cutting almost one hour off the previous commute time. Branching out north and south from Madrid, the AVE uses standard 1435-mm-gauge tracks instead of the 1668-mm rail gauge that Spain used almost exclusively prior to the AVE. The system also runs on the more mainstream 25-kilovolt AC, as opposed to the domestic 3-kilovolt DC. By designing the railway to run on the same gauge lines and voltage as most of Europe and the United States, among other countries, Spain has indicated its intent to connect with railways from other countries. One of several projects in the works to expand the AVE to other countries is construction on a 28-mile line under the Pyrenees mountain range connecting Figueras, Spain, to Perpignan, France, standing as the second privately financed international rail link in the world (after the Channel Tunnel).


Beijing-Tianjin Intercity Railway

Beijing-Tianjin Intercity Railway

The Specs

Location /// China; Beijing to Tianjin
Longest Run /// 71 miles
Top Speed During Commercial Transit /// 217 mph
Top Speed Recorded /// 245 mph

The Tech

Beginning service in 2008, the line connecting Beijing and Tianjin is one of the world's fastest conventional trains. The intercity line, topping out at 217 mph, runs elevated on viaduct for 62 miles and makes stops at Beijing, Yizhuang, Wuqing and Tianjin. The train features a ballastless track system, with its rails supported on a continuous slab of concrete, making the base for the track stronger and requiring less maintenance than traditional track. The high-speed rail has changed the Beijing-to-Tianjin commute from 70 minutes to 30 minutes and, in its first year, the line has transported 18.7 million passengers.


Train a Grande Vitesse (TGV)

Train a Grande Vitesse (TGV)

The Specs

Location /// France; train branches out from the main hub of Paris to more than 200 cities in France, including Avignon, Dijon, Lyon and Nice.
Longest Run /// 538 miles
Top Speed During Commercial Transit /// 217 mph
Top Speed Recorded /// 356 mph

The Tech

This line first connected Paris to Lyon in 1981, and since then, the TGV system has expanded rapidly, connecting the capital city to many cities across France and in adjacent countries. Holding the record as the fastest scheduled rail journey at an average speed of 174 mph, the TGV Paris-to-Marseille run is completed in 3 hours. Each train, running on a dual-voltage system, allows for the use of the mainstream 25-kilovolt AC and also the domestic 1.5-kilovolt DC system. The high-power capabilities have prepared the system to act as a primary force in connecting countries within Europe. And, to alert operators to the possibility of any unsafe levels of electrical interference during the operation of the high-speed trains, France has outfitted the TGV with interference-current-monitoring units.


Nozomi Shinkansen

Nozomi Shinkansen

The Specs

Location /// Japan; the Tokaido-Sanyo Shankansen line from Tokyo to Hakata
Longest Run /// 664 miles
Top Speed During Commercial Transit /// 186 mph
Top Speed Recorded /// NA*

The Tech

The fastest line of the Shinkansen system, the Nozomi train travels the 320-mile distance from Tokyo to Osaka in less than 2.5 hours. This speed has increased significantly since the bullet train was first inaugurated in Japan in 1964, when this distance took a little over3 hours. The Nozomi cars are equipped with lightweight technology: a tilting system that uses lightweight air springs to lift one side of the car during a curve in the track. Advanced construction and materials—strong and unbreakable polycarbonate windows with reduced window-to-body edge and a scratch-resistant coating—add significant speed and durability to the cars.

*Both the German InterCityExpress (ICE) and the Nozomi Shinkansen, reach normal running speeds of 186 mph, but, in trial runs, the Nozomi's network wins. The ICE has reached speeds of 229 mph. While the top speed recorded for the Nozomi Shankansen, the fastest line on the network, was not available, trains on the same network have topped speeds of 275 mph.

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