Brent Musburger says Holly Rowe 'is really smokin'' -- or does he?

GoogleNewsReport - [source]


Brent Musburger really is a dirty old man.
Or maybe he's just a bitter man. Or a man with a good sense of humor. Or a man who garbled his words at the wrong time.
Last week ESPN felt the need to apologize for the 73-year-old announcer's on-air admiration of MissAlabama USA Katherine Webb, who was sitting in the stands at the BCS championship game watching boyfriend A.J. McCarron lead the Crimson Tide to victory over Notre Dame.
Musburger made no mention of the incident during his first broadcast since then, Monday's college basketball game between Kansas and Baylor. But as he was signing off, Musburger seemed to get a bit girl crazy again when he said what sounded like, "For Fran Franschilla and Holly Rowe, who was really smokin' tonight, I want to say so long from Lawrence."
While it's possible that Musburger simply likes to let everyone know how he feels about members of the opposite sex, it's more likely that he was taking a jab at whoever decided to apologize on his behalf last week or just poking fun at the whole situation.
ESPN has another interpretation of what happened. ESPN spokesman Josh Krulewitz said Tuesday that Musburger actually said, "it was really smokin' tonight." That explanation actually makes a little sense since Musburger opened the broadcast by saying, "Lawrence, Kansas, on a cold night, but it will be hot inside ... ."
But then again, the actual game was anything but smokin', as No. 4 Kansas won in a blowout, 61-44.
Check out the clip above and let us know what you think Musburger is saying and how you feel about it.



Review: Motorola Photon Q 4G LTE

GoogleNewsReport - [source]

Motorola’s Photon Q has been out for about a week now on Sprint and we are ready to put up our “official” opinions and thoughts on the device. As someone who never owned another QWERTY phone after the OG DROID, it was interesting to say the least to go back to a phone that doesn’t feel ultra thin such as the One X and Galaxy S3. The Photon Q looks to take the throne above all other full keyboard-toting devices and does so with relative ease. But of course, the phone is not without its faults though, so let’s get right into it. 

The Good:

  • Specs:  On paper, the Q looks to draw you in with its enticing specifications. Oh, a 1.5GHz dual-core Snapdragon S4 and 1GB of RAM? 8MP camera that shoots 1080p video? And what about that fancy 4.3″ display with Motorola’s “ColorBoost” technology? That sounds like something I want to have in my pocket! Alas, this device does sport some high-end device specs. Along with Ice Cream Sandwich, NFC capabilities, and 8GB of on-board storage (expandable to 32GB), the Q can easily handle its own against some of Samsung’s or HTC’s better offerings, but that’s on paper.
  • Battery:  From my time with it, it’s one of the better battery experiences I have had. I easily spent a good hour playing Organ Trail the other day and hardly noticed a toll on the device despite a small warmth coming from its backside. The phone features a non-removable 1785 mAh battery, which actually shocks me every time I am reminded at how bulky the device is. You’re telling me I have to carry around this brick and it doesn’t even come with more juice than a DROID RAZR’s 1780 mAh? Some how, Moto has made it work.
  • Build:  Given Motorola’s exceptional track record at making hardware that everyone loves, this device is no different. It’s a beast. It’s a tank. I am certain that upon dropping this off any reasonable surface, that it has a pretty darn good chance of surviving the fall. The backside’s hard plastic feels great in hand and none of the buttons come off as being “janky” or “loose.” For example, there’s nothing more unsettling than a loose power key. All of these feel very sturdy and will easily last a couple years of abuse. Overall, the phone feels great in hand.
  • Full QWERTY Keyboard:  Well, it’s a full QWERTY. That’s why we’re here, right? The keys feel good and they give an excellent “click” sound when pressed. In additional, they each light up extremely bright, so if you’re trying to text in the movie theater, you’re sure to get a few stares. The keys are spaced perfectly and don’t feel cramped like many of the older DROID keyboards did. Down below in the gallery I have a nice picture of the Q sitting next to famed OG DROID. It’s a good comparison shot.
  • Sprint LTE Connectivity:  If you live in an area supported by Sprint’s 4G LTE network, then that’s a major plus. Unfortunately for myself and millions of other Americans, that is not the case. Maybe one day we’ll see it in these parts. Until then, it’s a 3G-only device.
  • NFC:  The Q does have an NFC chip inside, but weirdly enough, Google Wallet is not supported. When and if it ever will be, I have no idea. I have it added as a plus since I am hoping that since the technology is inside, that down the road the Q will embrace G-Wallet and allow for mobile payments.
  • Slider:  The slider aspect of this device really rocks. You can flick it up and down real fast and rest assured that it isn’t going to snap on you. The top part was definitely screwed on tight and I love that aspect. It’s a fluid slide and it’s nice not to feel any jerks or rubs going on while sliding it.
  • Bootloader:  This bad boy is unlockable! As of just a couple of days ago, Motorola released a web-based tool for you to unlock this device’s bootloader. Once unlocked, rooting and adding a custom ROM will be much easier if that’s something you’re into. For hackers, this is the biggest selling point before all others.

The Not-so-Good:

  • Display:  You won’t be seeing any pixel shots here, folks. But I will say this – “It’s a trap!” The Photon’s 4.3″ qHD “ColorBoost” (960 x 540 pixel) display is rather hard to look at after reviewing phones such as the Galaxy SIII and One X. With the bare eye, at certain angles you can see the pixels glaring at you and it’s no fun to look at. If a super high-tech display is not something you need though, it will most certainly get the job done for your Angry Birds and YouTube video watching.
  • Camera:  I will let this picture speak for itself. This is a full quality shot taken of my non-moving boxer (Usually he’s a spazz). I have left it at full resolution so you can see just how awful my experiences have been. This is the best example I could get of a well-lit shot being practically ruined by the overall “blur” effect that the camera adds.
  • Blur:  Just because it’s better than the old version of Blur, doesn’t make it any more fun to use. There are a few useful additions it brings such as swiping up on icons and contacts to reveal shortcuts, but overall, it has bogged down my experience and if this wasn’t a review unit, a 3rd party launcher would be the first thing I installed from Google Play. For some reason, every time I am dealing with Blur it just seems to be more of a negative than a positive. One thing I will say is that I do enjoy the additional lock screen shortcuts it provides to applications, but there’s applications that can do that as well. I know manufacturers want to differentiate themselves from each other, but I wish it was more on a hardware level than a software level.
  • Performance: On that note, I broke down. I installed Nova Launcher just to see if a different launcher could somehow change this device’s overall feel and speed. To my disbelief, even Nova couldn’t make the homescreen lag go away. When performing simple tasks such as swiping away cached apps and going from games to camera back to games it performs rather well. But if there’s a constant lag just swiping homescreens, that’s a problem for me
  • Gaming: As for gaming, I was hoping to find some titles that took advantage of the QWERTY keyboard. Unfortunately, it seems that most developers are just too used to programming games for on-screen controls. Although, as a bonus, Call of Duty: Blacks Ops Zombies (an Xperia exclusive title) did work on this device. Whether it’s because of the keyboard or there was a glitch in the Matrix, it was nice to be able to finally play it.
  • Sprint’s LTE:  Seeing as how Sprint’s LTE is only available in very few markets, I would say that is not the biggest sell for the device. I wish I could have tested it out.

Unboxing and First Look:

Gallery:

The Verdict:

The phone does have its ups and downs, but overall, it’s a fine device for most. If you’re in need of the full QWERTY experience, I would look no further. The device is priced at a reasonable $199.99 on a new two year agreement. My only real issue is that if you’re the type of person that needs their phone to have a decent camera, you may want to look at other offerings such as the Galaxy S3 on the “Now Network.” Although, it is hard to resist a Motorola device with an unlockable bootloader.

Amazon Holding Press Event on September 6, New Kindles Incoming?

GoogleNewsReport - [source]


On Thursday, September 6, Amazon is holding a press event to introduce something. The invite itself doesn’t give off any hints, but with the rumors of new Kindle tablets on the horizon, one would guess that we may get a new slate or two. Could we see a 10″ device or will it be a beefed up 7-incher to battle the Nexus 7? Tough to tell, but we’ll be there to bring it to you.

 

Not a Good Thing, Galaxy Nexus LTE Update IMM76Q Sneaks Into Some Replacement Phones

GoogleNewsReport - [source]

Remember the mysterious IMM76Q update that showed up on a developer Galaxy Nexus LTE a couple of weeks ago? According to a handful of readers, this update has been pre-loaded onto a batch of replacement G-Nex devices, and this isn’t a good thing. 
One of our readers went through 3 replacement devices over the last week, all of which ran this new IMM76Q software. He said that his phone has been unable to hold a 4G connection for more than a few minutes at a time. It could have something to do with new radios in the update, as the baseband has changed to I515.10 V.FC04, from the I515.09 that came with IMM76K. (Edit:  As some have pointed out, the .10 refers to the hardware version, not software. It’s a mystery then as to why IMM76Q is destroying connectivity.)
He is also noticing that the on-device search seems to have been dumbed down and no longer returns results for apps or contacts, something we were afraid would come with the next update thanks to ongoing battles with Apple

.
 


We aren’t sure exactly why only replacement devices are coming pre-loaded with this update. We also do not think that all replacements have IMM76Q, but if you get stuck in a batch of replacements that have been, you may be in for a rough ride. We are hearing that some stores have marked the devices with “Updated” stickers and are sending them back in some cases because of the number of issues that users have experienced. In fact, one of our readers took his device in to be looked at, and once the rep saw the “Updated” sticker, immediately knew the issues at hand.

Update:  As many readers have pointed out, this could have to do with the .10 version of the device, or just replacements in general. I’ll just say this – hopefully none of you have to get a replacement any time soon, as our comments on this thread alone are filled with users who have had nothing but problems with them.
If you have received a replacement Galaxy Nexus from Verizon over the last couple of weeks, how has your device been acting? Is it running IMM76Q?

3 killed in shootings near Texas A&M University

GoogleNewsReport - [source]

A Texas constable and two others were shot dead Monday in about a half an hour of gunfire near Texas A&M University, police said.
Scott McCollum, assistant chief with the College Station police department, told reporters Monday afternoon that the three people killed were a Brazos County constable, the man authorities say exchanged gunfire with law enforcement officers and a male civilian.
The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund noted that the slain constable, Brian Bachmann, is the sixth law enforcement official killed so far this year in Texas.
According to his Facebook campaign page, Bachmann was a 41-year-old from College Station who had been a Brazos County sheriff's deputy since 1993. The county's website indicated that his four-year term as constable -- a position that involves, among other duties, serving court documents such as eviction notices and subpoenas to citizens -- was set to expire on December 31, 2014.
College Station police identified the dead suspect as 35-year-old Thomas Caffall of Bryan, Texas.
College Station police identified the dead suspect as 35-year-old Thomas Caffall of Bryan, Texas.
"He was a pillar in this community, and it's sad and tragic that we've lost him today," McCollum said.
The city of College Station on Monday night identified the suspect at the center of the standoff as 35-year-old Thomas Caffall.
On a Facebook page purported to be by Caffall, he indicates his hometown is nearby Bryan, Texas, but that he was living in College Station -- though he also described himself as "a cross between Forrest Gump and Jack Kerouac ... I'm on the road permanently."
Three of the seven profile pictures on the Facebook page are of rifles, three feature dogs and one shows a man in an image much like one distributed Monday night by the city of College Station. His list of "inspirational people" includes famed snipers Vasily Zaytsev and Carlos Hathcock, as well as noted firearms designers Eugene Stoner, Mikhail Kalashnikov, John Garand, Samuel Colt and John Browning. The writer indicates he is divorced and has a mother, sister and brother.
The page also includes a quote saying, "We are all capable of redemption, if we are willing to change," plus another he attributes to George Orwell stating, "People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf."
As to the third victim, described as a "civilian bystander," he was identified as 43-year-old Chris Northcliff of College Station.
Map: College Station shooting  Map: College Station shooting
Map: College Station shootingMap: College Station shooting
Four others suffered injuries in the roughly 30-minute ordeal after law enforcement officers arrived at a residence a few blocks from the Texas A&M campus.
They included College Station police Officer Justin Oehlke, who was shot in the calf, and two other officers -- one of whom refused transport to an area hospital -- who suffered "non-life-threatening injuries," McCollum said. A 55-year-old female civilian who was shot was undergoing surgery Monday afternoon at a hospital, according to the assistant police chief.
He explained that police got a call shortly after 12:10 p.m. from a citizen indicating shots had been fired in the residential area just south of the university campus. He added that the constable had gone to the residence to deliver an eviction notice.
Texas A&M issued a Code Maroon -- the university's emergency notification system -- at 12:29 p.m., telling people to avoid the area because of a report of an "active shooter."
By then, two law enforcement officers who were nearby had responded and found the constable down in the front yard of a home. They "received fire from the suspect inside, ... took cover and defended themselves," McCollum said, noting other officers were then called to the scene.
"They ended up shooting the gunman," said the assistant police chief.
At 12:44 p.m., Texas A&M posted another Code Maroon update on its website indicating the suspect was by then "in custody."
Caffall's mother Linda Weaver issued a statement through family attorney W. Tyler Moore indicating her son, whom she called Tres, was "ill" and saying the family was "shocked and devastated by the tragedy."
"Our thoughts and prayers go to the families of the deceased and the wounded victims," Weaver said. "We mourn them and the loss of Tres. He had been ill. It breaks our hearts his illness led to this."
College Station Mayor Nancy Berry also put out a statement Monday night in which she lauded Bachmann, her city's police department and others "who stood with us throughout the day."
"What unfolded today in College Station is beyond tragic," Berry said. "There are many victims, including families of Mr. Caffall and Mr. Northcliff, who will continue to suffer physical and emotional pain for a very long time, and we shouldn't forget them."

What to Expect From the Maps App if Apple Ditches Google Maps in iOS 6

GoogleNewsReport - [source]


Apple will reportedly ditch Google’s backend for the built-in Maps app in iOS 6, according to sources with 9to5Mac. The app is said to be faster and more reliable, and will come with a few shiny new features that users should eat right up.

“This move is entirely expected,” Forrester analyst Charles Golvin told Wired via e-mail. “The relationship between Apple and Google has been moving steadily from one of partners to competitors, and Apple has increasingly sought to displace Google technology whenever possible.”

Apple already abandoned Google Maps in one of its latest app releases, iPhoto. The app now uses the OpenStreetMap Foundation’s mapping data instead.

Over the past few years, Apple’s made a few acquisitions to make this transition possible.

In 2009, Apple quietly purchased the mapping firm Placebase, which offered a similar product to Google Maps. After the purchase, Placebase’s CEO became part of Apple’s “Geo” team, which he’s been a member of since. In 2010, Apple snagged Poly9, a Canadian online mapping firm. Poly9 offered high-res images of metropolitan areas, and technology that provides real-time location statistics, including altitude.

So what would the new Maps app be like? Will it mean big changes for iOS users?

“I suspect that the impact on users will be small, provided that the user experience of the new Maps application is on par with — or superior to — that provided currently in iOS,” Golvin said.

The new Maps app will reportedly sport a refreshed icon, says 9to5Mac. The current icon is a Google Maps-looking thumbnail snapshot of One Infinite Loop. The new icon will be essentially the same thing, but with a different color scheme.


Like the current app, it will still simply be called “Maps” — but since it won’t have Google’s backend, we’ll have to refrain from referring to it as “Google Maps” (something I do often) in the future. And because Apple began acquiring some of these mapping startups three years ago, it should be safe to guess that Apple’s self-built backend has not been rushed, and will be at least as robust as what’s currently offered in iOS.

9to5Mac reports a new 3-D mapping mode would be exclusively powered by C3 Technologies, and would provide “beautiful, realistic” 3-D graphics. It would replace Google Maps’ Street View or satellite view feature.

One thing that’s not discussed in the 9to5Mac report, Golvin notes, is navigation: Both Android and Windows Phone offer robust turn-by-turn navigation functions in their respective Maps apps. Will Apple fill this void as well in iOS 6? We’ll have to wait and see.

iOS 6 will likely make its debut this June at Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference, WWDC, as that’s when past updates to the mobile OS have been announced.

Most recently, Apple purchased C3 Technologies. This company makes uber-sophisticated 3-D maps using unclassified technology designed for missile guidance systems. To build their 3-D maps, C3 Technologies repeatedly flew planes equipped with DSLR cameras over cities, collecting overlapping images. The company then used automated algorithms to generate stereoscopic depth.

HP TouchPad 32GB available in Best Buy bundle, sold out at HP

GoogleNewsReport - [source]

Best Buy is selling the 32GB HP Touchpad for its fire sale price or $149, but only with the purchase of a Hewlett-Packard or Compaq laptop, desktop or all-in-one computer.

In a Friday news release, the national retailer said that customers can also get the ill-fated tablet without the bundle, but for its original price of $599.99. HP also announced that its own online inventory for the TouchPad has been “depleted.”

Mark Budgell, a social media strategist for the company, wrote that “some retailers will have limited stock available” but the company’s own supplies have run dry. In August, the company said it would be making a limited number of TouchPads in its fourth fiscal quarter, which ends today.

Before HP announced that it was dropping the price of the tablet to as low as $99 — setting off a buying frenzy — Best Buy was reportedly telling HP that the tablet was selling so poorly that it wanted HP to take gadgets back.

After the huge price drop, though, the retailer had trouble keeping the tablets on its shelves.

Tweets from the company indicated that this is consumers’ last chance to snap up the tablet, which can still be found on Amazon and eBay.

Microsoft Killed Courier Tablet Because it Wasn’t Windows

GoogleNewsReport - [source]

Microsoft killed its Courier tablet project mainly because it strayed outside of the company’s two main businesses, Windows and Office, in a way that was perceived as a threat to those businesses. According to an in-depth report from CNet, it was Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates who steered Steve Ballmer towards nuking the project.

For those not familiar, Courier was the code name for a journal-like tablet that was being developed by Microsoft. According to the CNet report, the project was headed by J. Allard, the man who had led the development of Microsoft’s popular Xbox console gaming platform, and the 130-person team was months away from having the device ready for market.

Courier was designed as a two-panel tablet that would open up like a notebook, a Moleskine notebook, to be precise, as the team looked to that iconic product for inspiration on the form factor. Each panel was 7” across, and they would allow the user to work with two sets of information at one time, as you can see in the demo video below.





While the late Steve Jobs would likely have dismissed the product as being $#!^—something he did frequently, according to Walter Isaacson’s biography, Steve Jobs—for the sin of using a stylus, the reality is that Microsoft’s Courier was seen as an product with an approachable interface.

When the story of the project’s existence first broke in 2009, it was competing against a rumored Apple tablet that became known as the iPad, but unlike the host of Android-based tablets that have followed since, Courier had its own paradigms, interface concepts, gestures, and other elements.

In other words, it was a far cry from being an iPad-knockoff, and it would have allowed Microsoft to be competing with Apple’s iPad a few short months after it was released. As it is, while Microsoft still has pen-based “Tablet PCs,” the company has ceded the media tablet market to Apple (and now, possibly, Amazon), for more than a year and a half, and isn’t planning on doing so until sometime in late 2012 with the release of Windows 8.

Why would the company do this? Why would it kill a project it had dedicated millions of dollars and thousands of man hours to months before it was ready to rock and roll exactly when Apple was setting the world on Fire with its iPad?

According to CNet’s report, there were two competing visions of how to do a touch tablet within Microsoft. One was the above-described Courier, while the other was a traditional Windows OS-based approach headed by Steven Sinofsky, the head of Microsoft’s Windows division, that was still at least two years away from being ready (it will be closer to three before it ships).

When faced with these two visions, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer did what Steve Jobs would never have done, he went looking for the opinions of others, specifically the opinion of Microsoft cofounder Bill Gates.

Mr. Gates was treated to a demonstration of Courier by Mr. Allard and his boss, Entertainment and Devices division President Robbie Bach. In that demonstration, he was told Courier didn’t have an email client, a curious decision predicated on the premise that Courier owners would have smartphones where they checked their email. This is similar to the error Research In Motion made with its own PlayBook tablet.

Worse, though Courier used the Windows kernel, the Courier team had ditched the Windows interface in favor of a highly customized interface (see the demo video above) that was designed for touch and stylus input.

The lack of email was perceived by Mr. Gates as a threat to Microsoft’s extremely lucrative Exchange server business, while the custom interface was seen as a threat to Windows itself. Mr. Gates recommended it be canceled.

Further demonstrating that he wasn’t Steve Jobs, Mr. Ballmer went around looking for input from other execs, too, and the consensus was that Courier wasn’t in alignment with the company’s Windows and Office business models.

Accordingly, it was axed shortly after Apple released the iPad.

Nokia Lumia 800 officially announced

GoogleNewsReport - The Nokia Lumia 800 has been officially announced by Stephen Elop at Nokia World 2011.
Featuring a near-identical chassis to the Nokia N9, which sees no UK release, the new phone is packing a large ClearBlack OLED display, 512MB of RAM and weighs 142g.
Running Windows Phone 7.5 Mango, this is going to be the flagship phone for Nokia as it transitions from Symbian to Microsoft's new OS.
We're seeing Carl Zeiss optics on board, with an optimised flash and an f2.2 aperture for better low light photography.

Nokia Drive is also on board, which offers free turn by turn navogation with full voice guidance, which also allows you to download install maps before you even set off, should you be worried about data charges.
Elop cocked a major snook to the likes of Samsung and HTC by dubbing the new Lumia 800 the 'first real Windows Phone, complementing and amplifying the design of Windows Phone."

[source]

Mexican drug cartels recruiting Texas children

Mexican drug cartels recruiting Texas children - source

GoogleNewsReport - Texas law enforcement officials say several Mexican drug cartels are luring youngsters as young as 11 to work in their smuggling operations.

Steven McCraw, director of the Texas Department of Public Safety, told Reuters the drug gangs have a chilling name for the young Texans lured into their operations.

"They call them 'the expendables,'" he said.

McCraw said his investigators have evidence six Mexican drug gangs -- including the violent Zetas -- have "command and control centers" in Texas actively recruiting children for their operations, attracting them with what appears to be "easy money" for doing simple tasks.

"Cartels would pay kids $50 just for them to move a vehicle from one position to another position, which allows the cartel to keep it under surveillance to see if law enforcement has it under surveillance," he said.

"Of course, once you're hooked up with them, there's consequences."

McCraw said 25 minors have been arrested in one Texas border county alone in the past year for running drugs, acting as lookouts, or doing other work for organized Mexican drug gangs. The cartels are now fanning out, he said, and have operations in all major Texas cities.

This month, "we made an arrest of a 12-year-old boy who was in a stolen pickup truck with 800 pounds of marijuana," he said. "So they do recruit our kids."

McCraw says the state of Texas is joining a program initiated by U.S. Customs and Border Protection called "Operation Detour," in which law enforcement officers meet with children and their parents in schools and at community centers to warn them about the dangers of what appears to be the easy money the Mexican drug gangs offer.

Law enforcement officers say children are less likely to be suspects than adults, are easily manipulated by relatively small sums of money, and face less severe penalties than adults if arrested.

Last month, Texas officials released a report indicating Mexico-based drug gangs are intent on creating a "sanitary zone" on the U.S. side of the Rio Grande, and are "intimidating landowners" in south Texas into allowing them to use their property as "permanent bases" for drug smuggling activity.

KC mom admits she was drunk when her baby vanished

KC mom admits she was drunk when her baby vanished - Source

GoogleNewsReport - The mother of a missing Kansas City baby said Monday that she was drunk when her daughter disappeared, may have blacked out and actually last saw the child hours before the time she originally told police she checked on her.

The revelations came hours before a New York attorney best known for defending Joran Van der Sloot, the Dutch man suspected in the 2005 disappearance of Natalee Holloway in Aruba, said he had been hired to represent parents Deborah Bradley and Jeremy Irwin.

The couple reported their 10-month-old daughter missing Oct. 4 after Irwin returned from working a night shift and found the front door unlocked, the house lights blazing, a window tampered with and the baby gone. Bradley and their two sons were asleep elsewhere in the home.

Bradley told police she last saw her daughter, Lisa Irwin, when she checked on her at 10:30 p.m. But Monday, she told NBC's "Today" show she actually last saw Lisa when she put her to bed at 6:40 p.m. She gave no explanation for the modified times.

Bradley told Fox News that she got drunk after she put her children to bed that night and may have blacked out. Asked how much she drank that night and whether it was more than five glasses of wine, she responded, "probably." She said she didn't have more than 10 glasses. Bradley said she frequently drinks heavily at home but only after her children are safely in bed. She also said she takes anxiety medication and had taken a dose that day.

Bradley told NBC that police accused her of killing Lisa and she believes she will be arrested. But she also insisted again that she had not harmed her daughter.

"No, no ... I don't think alcohol changes a person enough to do something like that," she said.

She became defiant when asked on Fox News how she would respond to people critical of her heavy drinking while caring for her children.

"She was sleeping. You know, I don't see the problem in me having my grown up time," Bradley said. "I take good care of my kids. I keep my house clean, do their laundry. I kiss their boo-boos. I fix them food. I'm involved in their school stuff. I mean, to me, there's nothing wrong doing what I want to do after dark."

FBI agents searched the family's house with dogs Monday and drained a nearby creek in their effort to find the child. Police have said they have no suspects or major leads even after multiple searches of the family's neighborhood, nearby wooded areas, a landfill and abandoned homes.

Bradley and Irwin held hands at a Monday afternoon news conference where defense attorney Joe Tacopina announced he was representing them. Tacopina said it was natural for police to focus on the parents.

"The police have to start with the mother and father, they absolutely have to," he said. "They're the first people they should look at. But don't come to a conclusion because there's no other answers."

Tacopina refused to say who was paying him, only saying he had been hired to counsel their parents through the investigation. He insisted they "have nothing to hide."

"I don't recall in recent history anyone under this umbrella of suspicion be so open and forthright, warts and all, regarding the events," Tacopina said.

Challenges loom as world population hits 7 billion

Challenges loom as world population hits 7 billion - Source

GoogleNewsReport - She's a 40-year-old mother of eight, with a ninth child due soon. The family homestead in a Burundi village is too small to provide enough food, and three of the children have quit school for lack of money to pay required fees.

"I regret to have made all those children," says Godelive Ndageramiwe. "If I were to start over, I would only make two or three."

At Ahmed Kasadha's prosperous farm in eastern Uganda, it's a different story.

"My father had 25 children — I have only 14 so far, and expect to produce more in the future," says Kasadha, who has two wives. He considers a large family a sign of success and a guarantee of support in his old age.

By the time Ndageramiwe's ninth child arrives, and any further members of the Kasadha clan, the world's population will have passed a momentous milestone. As of Oct. 31, according to the U.N. Population Fund, there will be 7 billion people sharing Earth's land and resources.

In Western Europe, Japan and Russia, it will be an ironic milestone amid worries about low birthrates and aging populations. In China and India, the two most populous nations, it's an occasion to reassess policies that have already slowed once-rapid growth.

But in Burundi, Uganda and the rest of sub-Saharan Africa, the demographic news is mostly sobering as the region staggers under the double burden of the world's highest birthrates and deepest poverty. The regional population of nearly 900 million could reach 2 billion in 40 years at current rates, accounting for about half of the projected global population growth over that span.

"Most of that growth will be in Africa's cities, and in those cities it will almost all be in slums where living conditions are horrible," said John Bongaarts of the Population Council, a New York-based research organization.

Is catastrophe inevitable? Not necessarily. But experts say most of Africa — and other high-growth developing nations such as Afghanistan and Pakistan — will be hard-pressed to furnish enough food, water and jobs for their people, especially without major new family-planning initiatives.

"Extreme poverty and large families tend to reinforce each other," says Lester Brown, the environmental analyst who heads the Earth Policy Institute in Washington. "The challenge is to intervene in that cycle and accelerate the shift to smaller families."

Without such intervention, Brown says, food and water shortages could fuel political destabilization in developing regions.

"There's quite a bit of land that could produce food if we had the water to go with it," he said. "It's water that's becoming the real constraint."

The International Water Management Institute shares these concerns, predicting that by 2025 about 1.8 billion people will live in places suffering from severe water scarcity.

According to demographers, the world's population didn't reach 1 billion until 1804, and it took 123 years to hit the 2 billion mark in 1927. Then the pace accelerated — 3 billion in 1959, 4 billion in 1974, 5 billion in 1987, 6 billion in 1998.

Looking ahead, the U.N. projects that the world population will reach 8 billion by 2025, 10 billion by 2083. But the numbers could be much higher or lower, depending on such factors as access to birth control, infant mortality rates and average life expectancy — which has risen from 48 years in 1950 to 69 years today.

"Overall, this is not a cause for alarm — the world has absorbed big gains since 1950," said Bongaarts, a vice president of the Population Council. But he cautioned that strains are intensifying: rising energy and food prices, environmental stresses, more than 900 million people undernourished.

"For the rich, it's totally manageable," Bongaarts said. "It's the poor, everywhere, who will be hurt the most."

The executive director of the U.N. Population Fund, former Nigerian health minister Babatunde Osotimehin, describes the 7 billion milestone as a call to action — especially in the realm of enabling adolescent girls to stay in school and empowering women to control the number of children they have.

"It's an opportunity to bring the issues of population, women's rights and family planning back to center stage," he said in an interview. "There are 215 million women worldwide who need family planning and don't get it. If we can change that, and these women can take charge of their lives, we'll have a better world."

But as Osotimehin noted, population-related challenges vary dramatically around the world. Associated Press reporters on four continents examined some of most distinctive examples:

___

THE ASIAN GIANTS

It's 6 p.m. in Mumbai, India's financial hub, and millions of workers swarm out of their offices, headed to railway stations for a ride home. Every few minutes, as a train enters the station, the crowd surges forward.

For nearly 7 million commuters who ride the overtaxed suburban rail network each work day, every ride is a scramble. Each car is jam-packed; sometimes, riders die when they lose their foothold while clinging to the doors.

Across India, the teeming slums, congested streets, and crowded trains and trams are testimony to the country's burgeoning population. Already the second most populous country, with 1.2 billion people, India is expected to overtake China around 2030 when its population soars to an estimated 1.6 billion.

But even as the numbers increase, the pace of the growth has slowed. Demographers say India's fertility rate — now 2.6 children per woman — should fall to 2.1 by 2025 and to 1.8 by 2035.

More than half of India's population is under 25, and some policy planners say this so-called "youth dividend" could fuel a productive surge over the next few decades. But population experts caution that the dividend could prove to be a liability without vast social investments.

"If the young population remains uneducated, unskilled and unemployable, then that dividend would be wasted," says Shereen Jejeebhoy, a Population Council demographer in New Delhi.

Population experts also worry about a growing gender gap, stemming largely from Indian families' preference for sons. A surge in sex-selection tests, resulting in abortion of female fetuses, has skewed the ratio, with the latest census showing 914 girls under age 6 for every 1,000 boys.

Family planning is a sensitive issue. In the 35 years since one government was toppled for pursuing an aggressive population control program, subsequent leaders have been reluctant to follow suit.

For now, China remains the most populous nation, with 1.34 billion people. In the past decade it added 73.9 million, more than the population of France or Thailand.

Nonetheless, its growth has slowed dramatically and the population is projected to start shrinking in 2027. By 2050, according to some demographers, it will be smaller than it is today.

"It's like a train on the track that's still moving but the engine is already off," says Gu Baochang, a professor of demography at Beijing's Renmin University.

In the 1970s, Chinese women had five to six children each on average. Today China has a fertility rate — the number of children the average woman is expected to have in her lifetime — of around 1.5, well below the 2.1 replacement rate that demographers say is needed to keep populations stable in developed countries.

Three decades of strict family planning rules that limit urban families to one child and rural families to two helped China achieve a rapid decline in fertility but the policy has brought problems as well.

Before long, there will be too few young Chinese people to easily support a massive elderly population.

Also, as with India, there's a gender gap. The United Nations says there are 43 million "missing girls" in China because parents restricted to small families often favored sons and aborted girls after learning their unborn babies' gender through sonograms.

"China is always so proud of how quickly we brought down fertility from high to low, and how many births were avoided but I think we did it too quickly and reduced it to too low a level," says Gu. "I wish that India can learn this: 'Don't make it too quick.'"

___

WESTERN EUROPE AND THE U.S.

Spain used to give parents 2,500 euros (more than $3,000) for every newborn child to encourage families to reverse the country's low birth rate. But the checks stopped coming with Spain's austerity measures, raising the question of who will pay the bills to support the elderly in the years ahead.

It's a question bedeviling many European countries which have grappled for years over how to cope with shrinking birth rates and aging populations — and are now faced with a financial crisis that has forced some to cut back on family-friendly government incentives.

Spain and Italy, both forced to enact painful austerity measures in a bid to narrow budget deficits, are battling common problems: Women have chosen to have their first child at a later age, and the difficulties of finding jobs and affordable housing are discouraging some couples from having any children at all.

In 2010, for the fourth consecutive year, more Italians died than were born, according to the national statistics agency. Italy's population nonetheless grew slightly to 60.6 million due to immigration, which is a highly charged issue across Europe.

Italy's youth minister Giorgia Meloni said earlier this year that measures to reverse the birth rate require "millions in investment" but that the resources aren't available.

Unlike many countries in Europe, France's population is growing slightly but steadily every year. It has one of the highest birth rates in the European Union with around 2 children per woman.

One reason is immigration to France by Africans with large-family traditions, but it's also due to family-friendly legislation. The government offers public preschools, subsidies to all families that have more than one child, generous maternity leave, and tax exemptions for employers of nannies.

Like France, the United States has one of the highest population growth rates among industrialized nations. Its fertility rate is just below the replacement rate of 2.1 children per woman, but its population has been increasing by almost 1 percent annually due to immigration. With 312 million people, the U.S. is the third most populous country after China and India.

___

AFRICA

Lagos, Nigeria, is expected to overtake Cairo soon as Africa's largest city. Private water vendors there do a brisk business in the many neighborhoods that otherwise lack access to potable water.

The drone of generators is omnipresent, at offices and markets, in neighborhoods rich and poor, because the power grid doesn't produce enough power. Periodic blackouts extend for hours, days, sometimes weeks.

Such is daily life in Nigeria's commercial capital, where the population is estimated at 15 million and growing at 6 percent or more each year. Problems with traffic congestion, sanitation and water supplies are staggering; a recent article in UN-Habitat said two-thirds of the residents live in poverty.

The rest of Nigeria isn't growing as fast — estimates of its growth rate range from 2 percent to 3.2 percent. But it's already Africa's most populous country with more than 160 million people.

Ndyanabangi Bannet, the U.N. Population Fund's deputy representative in Nigeria, notes that 60 percent of the population is under 30 and needs to be accommodated with education, training and health care.

"It is a plus if it is taken advantage of," he said of Nigeria's youth. "But if it is not harnessed, it can be a challenge, because imagine what hordes of unemployed young people can do."

In Uganda, another fast-growing country, President Yoweri Museveni used to be disdainful of population control and urged Ugandans, especially in rural areas, to continue having large families.

Recently, the government has conceded that its 3.2 population growth rate must be curbed because the economy can't keep pace. Earlier this year, anti-government protests by unemployed youths and other aggrieved Ugandans flared in several communities, and nine marchers were killed in confrontations with police.

"The government has been convinced that unless it invests in reproductive health, Uganda is destined to a crisis," says Hannington Burunde of the Uganda Population Secretariat.

Among those who are struggling is John Baliruno, 45, of Mpigi in central Uganda, a father of nine.

"I never intended to have such a big number," he said. "I with my wife had no knowledge of family planning and ended up producing one child after another. Now I cannot properly feed them."

Looking ahead, he's pessimistic.

"The environment is being destroyed by the growing population. Trees are being cut down in big numbers and even now we can't get enough firewood to cook food," he said. "In the near future, we will starve."

Another of the fastest-growing countries is Burundi. With roughly 8.6 million people, it's the second most densely populated African country after neighboring Rwanda.

Omer Ndayishimiye, head of Burundi's Population Department, said continued high growth coincides with dwindling natural resources. Land suitable for farming will decline, and poverty will be rampant, he said, noting that 90 percent of the population live in rural areas and rely on farming to survive.

The government has been trying to raise awareness about the demographic challenges among the clergy, civic leaders and the general public.

"We are suggesting couples to go to health clinics to get taught different birth control methods," Ndayishimiye said. "But we are facing some barriers ... Many Burundians still see children as source of wealth."

At her modest house in Gishubi, Godelive Ndageramiwe ponders the changes that have made her regret her large family.

"Children were a good labor force in the past when there was enough space to cultivate," she said. "Today I can't even feed my family properly. My kids just spend days doing nothing."

After her fourth child, she began to worry how her family could be cared for.

"But my husband was against birth control and wanted as many children as possible," she said. "It was delicate because he could marry another wife.

"My friends advised me to go to a nearby clinic, but I was told I must come with my husband. Now I have laid the issue in the hands of God."

Apple says four million iPhone 4S sold in first weekend

Apple says four million iPhone 4S sold in first weekend - Source

GoogleNewsReport - Microsoft has its work cut out for it when its manufacturing partners launch the first Windows Phone 7.5 Mango handsets in the U.S. this holiday season.

Apple announced today that it's sold over four million iPhone 4S handsets since its launch on Oct. 14.

That's more than double the iPhone 4 launch during its first three days, according to the news release.

That's partly because more carriers are offering the phone now. Unlike the iPhone 4 launch some 16 months ago when AT&T was its only U.S. carrier, the iPhone 4S is now also on Verizon and Sprint.

Apple also said in its release that more than 25 million customers are already using iOS 5, the newest version of its mobile operating system that also became available last week.

Though Microsoft currently holds only a small fraction of the smartphone platform market -- research firm comScore shows it at about 5.7 percent of the U.S. market -- Microsoft is hoping its latest version of Windows Phone will help turn that around.

It's banking on its partnership with Nokia -- in which the Finnish phonemaker will use Windows Phone exclusively as its smartphone platform from here on out -- to boost sales. Microsoft also recently reached an agreement with Samsung in which the phone manufacturer agreed to cooperate in the development and marketing of Windows Phone.

Microsoft also is launching a series of ads this holiday season tying together its "family" of consumer products, including Windows Phone.

How an email hacker ruined my life and then tried to sell it back to me

How an email hacker ruined my life and then tried to sell it back to me - Original post
 
Rowenna Davis tells how her identity was held hostage by an email hacker who wanted £500 to let her back into her account – and explains how it felt worse than daylight robbery.

GoogleNewsReport - A hacker has been occupying my email account for the past week. And he or she may still be there. A disembodied intruder, this person has been stalking my inbox, replying to messages, signing off with my nickname and refusing to let me in. They have been going through my personal history and making judgments about my character. In the weirdest twist, the hacker even started writing to me. If it wasn't so unsettling, it could be the plot of a black postmodern comedy.

It started when my phone went crazy in the middle of a crucial meeting. Some 5,000 contacts received an email from my account saying that I'd been held up at gunpoint in Madrid. My internet-savvy friends sent texts to say I'd been hacked, while my elderly, migrant and more vulnerable friends wanted to know where to send the cash. According to the story, my mobile phone and credit cards had been taken and I was badly in need of money. There was a number to call to reach me at my hotel – presumably chargeable – and a Western Union account had been set up in my name to wire a transfer.

Suddenly you're hit with an organisational bombshell – drop what you're doing; freeze your bank account; answer anxious calls; lose crucial, last-minute messages; miss work deadlines; irritate bosses; reset all email-based passwords; forget to pay e-bills; irritate friends who think you're ignoring them. The realisation dawns that the email account is the nexus of the modern world. It's connected to just about every part of our daily life, and if something goes wrong, it spreads. But the biggest effect is psychological. On some level, your identity is being held hostage.

Out of sheer frustration, I fired off an email to my occupied address labelled "to those who hacked my account", laying out how I felt and asking for my contacts. Shockingly, I got an almost instantaneous reply. The hacker said they would return my address book for £500. It was unreal. There I was, sitting at my laptop, alone in my flat, receiving emails from someone claiming to be me. Whoever it was must have been sitting watching my account and responding in real time. Who else was this person replying to in the same way?

I wrote back straight away, saying that I didn't have those kind of finances and pointing out that I had no reason to believe the deal would be kept even if I did send the money. I couldn't help but end with a rhetorical: "Do you ever feel even slightly bad about what you are doing?"

Just for a minute, the hacker seemed anxious to prove that he or she had some sense of morality. According to this individual, it "didn't feel great" to be a hacker. They said they didn't have a choice. I immediately asked why. They said their life "wasn't as nice and sweet" as mine. In what I guess was supposed to be a gesture of magnanimity, this individual said that they would release my contacts for just £300, and even offered to send me 20 contacts upfront as a sign of "goodwill". You could tell this person thought they were being reasonable – they insisted that their actions weren't as bad as robbing people on the streets.

What I wanted to reply, but found difficult to articulate at the time, was that hacking can be worse than that. When someone holds you up in the street, you lose a set of isolated possessions and then get to walk away. But if someone colonises one of your chief platforms of interaction with the world, there's always a feeling of "what next?" They can read your most intimate emails and potentially pass them on. A simple search would allow them to find out not just my address, but also those of my friends and family – something that crossed my mind when I registered my case with the police.

Apparently some 3,000 people reported such scams last year, but too few of these are brought to justice. The police haven't even returned my call for a full report. When I did eventually get access to my account back through Gmail a week later, I found that the hacker had personally written to more than 30 people who had asked about my problems in Madrid. The intruder said I'd had a "terrible experience" and signed off with my nickname, "Row". The fact that someone could be so callous to people who cared about me – all in my name – left me furious.

I was lucky. The only reason I was able to regain access to my account was through chance – a friend of a friend works at Google. Until then, my hacker had given me better feedback than Gmail and Google, following my attempts to get in touch with them. The company that presents itself as the friendly face of the web doesn't have a single human being to talk to in these circumstances. The UK office just cut me off and, after a friend waited 20 minutes to ask the head US team if there was anything that could be done to help, they received a simple "nope".

When someone did bother to look into my problem, it only took five minutes to fix. The hacker had doubled the verification process on my password so I couldn't get in. Once Google disabled it from the inside, I was able to reset all my security checks without a problem.

Even now, I'm not sure it's over. In one last message, addressed from myself just two days ago, the hacker wrote: "I see you got the account back. Sorry for the trouble." I never replied, so I guess I'll never know what this individual's circumstances were. But I feel the need to understand them. Perhaps we believe that if we find reasons for things, we'll feel safer. Perhaps it's about restoring a bit more faith in human nature. Either way, my hacker seems to have disappeared back into the 21st-century ether. Although, of course, they could be reading this now.

Rowenna Davis is a freelance journalist

MY CONVERSATION WITH THE HACKER

Last Tuesday Rowenna Davis sent an email to her own email account to try to contact the hacker. Nine minutes later, he or she responded – with a demand for money…

From: Rowenna Davis
To: the hacker
Tuesday 11 October
8.33am
Subject: to those who hacked my account

Hi, I can't believe you would do this. The poorest, most vulnerable of my contacts are the most worried about me and most likely to send you money. The most educated people with resources know it's a scam. I also find it difficult to make ends meet, but without access to this account I can't work because all my contacts are stored in the account you have taken over. I am totally paralysed. If there is any way you can send me my address book, I would be willing to pay for it. It's horrible to be forwarded messages that have been sent in your own name. I honestly don't know how you justify this to yourself.
Rowenna

From: the hacker
To: Rowenna
8.42am

Can you send me 500 quid?

From: Rowenna Davis
To: the hacker
10.33am
Subject: Re: to those who hacked my account

1) I literally don't have 500 quid to give you. I can't make any more money until I have access to my account back — I work freelance and all my work contacts are being held by you.
2) How would I know if I gave you any money that you'd actually send me my contacts anyway?
3) Do you ever feel even slightly bad about what you're doing?

From: the hacker
To: Rowenna Davis
10.38am

Sure I don't feel great, but I don't seem to have a choice, its way better than robbing you on the streets, I give you my word, if you send me money, I will give you back access to you account with all your emails and contacts intact. If you can't send 500 quid at least 300 quid will do. Send money by western union to Rowenna Davis Madrid Spain Waiting

From: Rowenna Davis
To: the hacker
10.40am
Subject: Re: to those who hacked my account

Why don't you have a choice?

From: the hacker
To: Rowenna Davis
10.44am

You don't wanna the kinda life am living, you think its as nice and sweet as your life? But at least I don't have to rob on the streets

From: Rowenna Davis
To: the hacker
10.56am
Subject: Re: to those who hacked my account

I'm not making judgments about your life – you are making judgments about mine. If you read some of those emails you'll know it gets pretty shit at this end too. And even if my life was really happy, I don't see why that justifies you taking over my emails. But I wonder why you feel that you have no choice.

From: the hacker
To: Rowenna Davis
10.58am

Are you sending money?

From: Rowenna Davis
To: the hacker
11.17am
Subject: Re: to those who hacked my account

It's my turn not to have any choice. I don't have £300. I have asked some of my friends if they can help, but they think it's a stupid idea because you can't be trusted to return the details.

From: the hacker
To: Rowenna Davis
11.23am

I don't need your details for anything, to show some good will I could give you about 20 contacts, then when you send money, I give you the rest of it

From: the hacker
To: Rowenna Davis
Thursday 13 October 2011
11.04pm
Subject: I see you got back your account

Sorry for the trouble

Obama’s forgotten triumphs

Obama’s forgotten triumphs - Source

His presidency actually attacked deeply unfair policies. Too bad few Americans even know they exist

GoogleNewsReport - The teeming crowds of supporters who had cheered candidate Barack Obama’s agenda for “change you can believe in” receded quickly. The 2008 presidential election energized Americans who had never participated in politics before, particularly the young and minorities, and it attracted the interest and hopes of many independents, people who are usually less engaged in the political process. Once elected, the young president held to his word and pursued transformations in American social policy — healthcare reform, new tax breaks, and enhanced aid to college students — that vast majorities of Americans had long told pollsters they favored.

Despite the usual travails of the legislative process, exacerbated in 2009 and 2010 by greater political polarization in Congress than at any other point in the post–World War II period, within 15 months Obama had already achieved much of what he set out to do on these issues. Yet Americans generally seemed unimpressed and increasingly disillusioned. The problem was that most of what was accomplished could not be seen: It remained invisible to average citizens.

The public had no trouble noticing the jockeying of special interests that sought favored treatment in legislation — that was plain to see — but the majority of Americans remained unaware of the contents of the president’s signature achievements, and they lacked a basic understanding of how they and their families might be affected by them. The first major piece of legislation that Obama had signed into law, the stimulus bill of February 2009, included a vast array of tax cuts: They totaled $288 billion, 37 percent of the cost of the entire bill. Among them, the Making Work Pay Tax Credit, one of his campaign promises, reduced income taxes for 95 percent of all working Americans. Yet one year after the law went into effect, when pollsters queried the public about whether the Obama administration had raised or lowered taxes for most Americans, only 12 percent answered correctly that taxes had decreased; 53 percent mistakenly thought taxes had stayed the same; and 24 percent even believed they had increased!

Healthcare reform represented Obama’s chief policy goal, and he expended a vast amount of political capital in pursuing it over his first 15 months in office. But in April 2010, just weeks after he signed the healthcare bill that extended coverage to the vast majority of working-age Americans and prohibited insurance companies from denying coverage to people who are ill, 55 percent of the public reported that they would describe their feelings about it as “confused.”

That same legislative package also contained sweeping changes in student aid policy that aimed to help more people attend college and complete degrees. Yet when Americans were asked how much they had heard about these changes, only 26 percent reported “a lot,” while 40 percent said “a little,” and fully 34 percent said “nothing at all.”

All told, the public seemed largely oblivious to the president’s major policy accomplishments.

While many who had voted for Obama grew complacent, grassroots mobilization emerged from another quarter, the insurgent Tea Party movement. Wielding placards at protests on tax day, town hall meetings and other public events, its supporters decried what they termed “government takeovers” of healthcare and student loans. At a gathering in Simpsonville, S.C., in August 2009, one man told Republican Rep. Robert Inglis, “Keep your government hands off my Medicare.” Inglis said later, “I had to politely explain that ‘Actually, sir, your healthcare is being provided by the government,’ but he wasn’t having any of it.”

While as of March 2010 only 13 percent of Americans reported that they considered themselves “part of the Tea Party movement,” nonetheless the frustration that it embodied resonated with growing numbers of Americans: 28 percent considered themselves supporters.

With the content of Obama’s legislative accomplishments appearing so opaque and incomprehensible even as the calls of opponents resonated loud and clear, most Americans registered reactions that were tepid at best, and many grew increasingly hostile. By the fall of 2010, 61 percent of likely voters told pollsters they favored a repeal of healthcare reform.

It was a sharp contrast to the warm reception given to sweeping social welfare laws achieved by earlier presidents. After Franklin D. Roosevelt signed into law the Social Security Act of 1935, 68 percent of the public voiced support for its “contributory old age insurance plan … which requires employers and workers to make equal contributions to workers’ pensions” — even though its benefits were not scheduled to begin for six years.

When Congress passed Lyndon Baines Johnson’s plan for Medicare in 1965, strong majorities repeatedly said they approved of it, as high as 82 percent in a December survey that year.

Until Obama’s presidency, perhaps never before had major laws that aimed to improve the lives of vast numbers of ordinary Americans gone so unrecognized and unappreciated by so many.

What explains the public’s reticence, frustration and confusion? Certainly its reactions owe partly to the worst economic conditions since the Great Depression, with more than two years of near 10 percent unemployment. Some of the lackluster response was inevitable, furthermore, given the sheer scope and complexity of the policy tasks Obama took on. And a share of the blame belongs to his administration’s own public relations efforts, which many observers considered underwhelming. Yet while each of these commonly cited factors undeniably played a role, they do not, by themselves, explain Americans’ blasé response to major social policy accomplishments that reflected broadly shared values. Historical comparisons make this evident. The public voiced its high approval for the Social Security Act of 1935, for example, when the nation was still mired in the Great Depression and when twice the proportion of Americans, 20 percent, remained jobless. That legislation was also multifaceted and complex, and it was even more novel for the United States than the 2010 healthcare package, marking the first major involvement of the U.S. federal government in social provision for people besides veterans and their relatives.

The main difference confronted by Obama emanated from the types of policies that he sought to reform, ones that generate particularly formidable obstacles. Any leader who seeks to transform “politics as usual” is bound to confront resistance — challenges emanating from the policies, practices and institutions already in place.

But the nature and difficulty of the task vary depending on the particular goals that reformers select and the historical context in which they pursue them. Roosevelt confronted a political landscape that presented its own challenges — not least, a Supreme Court that served as a major roadblock to his policy ambitions. His administration had to attempt to fashion policies that would circumvent the court’s reach and to build as much as possible on what already existed, such as social policies adopted by some states. But Obama’s policy agenda, in the current political context, requires him to engage in a struggle more akin to that undertaken by Progressive Era reformers, who had to destroy or reconstitute deeply entrenched relationships if they were to achieve change.

He could not follow the path of Roosevelt, finding a way around political obstacles or merely building on top of what existed; rather, he had to find ways to work through them, by either obliterating them or restructuring them.

This is because Obama, given his policy agenda, had steered directly into the looming precipice of the submerged state: existing policies that lay beneath the surface of U.S. market institutions and within the federal tax system. Contrary to opponents’ charges that his agenda involved the encroachment of the federal government into private matters, Obama was actually attempting to restructure a dense thicket of long-established public policies, but ones that are largely invisible to most Americans — and that are extremely resistant to change. Efforts to transform these policies, which have become entrenched fixtures of modern governance, generate a deeply conflictual politics that routinely alienates the public, hindering the chances of success or the sustainability of the reforms.

The “submerged state” includes a conglomeration of federal policies that function by providing incentives, subsidies or payments to private organizations or households to encourage or reimburse them for conducting activities deemed to serve a public purpose. Over the past 30 years, American political discourse has been dominated by a conservative public philosophy, one that espouses the virtues of small government. Its values have been pursued in part through efforts to scale back traditional forms of social provision, meaning visible benefits administered fairly directly by government. In the case of some programs geared to the young or to working-age people, the value of average benefits has withered and coverage has grown more restrictive.

Ironically, however, the more dramatic change over this period has been the flourishing of the policies of the submerged state, which operate through indirect means such as tax breaks to households or payments to private actors who provide services. Since 1980 these policies have proliferated in number, and the average size of their benefits has expanded dramatically.

Most of these ascendant policies function in a way that directly contradicts Americans’ expectations of social welfare policies: They shower their largest benefits on the most affluent Americans. Take the Home Mortgage Interest Deduction (HMID), for example, which is currently the nation’s most expensive social tax break aside from the tax-free status of employer-provided health coverage. Let us assume that a family buys a median-value home and to finance it borrows $230,000 at an interest rate of 6.25 percent for 30 years. The richer the household, the larger the benefit: In the first year, the average family, with an income between $16,751 and $68,000, would owe around $3,619 less in taxes; those in the next income group, with earnings up to $137,300, would reap an extra $5,146; and so forth, on up to the wealthiest 2 percent of families, with incomes over $373,650, who would enjoy a savings of $6,673. Of course, in reality, these differences are likely to be much greater. Low- to moderate-income Americans usually do not have enough deductions to itemize, so they would forgo this benefit and receive instead only the standard deduction. Meanwhile, the most affluent are likely to purchase far more expensive homes; if a family in the top income category opts for a more upscale home and borrows $500,000 for a mortgage, it will reap a benefit of $14,506 from the HMID; if this family purchases a truly exclusive property and borrows $1 million for a mortgage, it will qualify to keep a whopping $29,012!

This pattern of upward redistribution is repeated in numerous other policies of the submerged state: Federal largesse is allocated disproportionately to the nation’s most well-off households. Such policies consume a sizable portion of revenues and leave scarce resources available for programs that genuinely aid low- and middle-income Americans.

Yet despite their growing size, scope and tendency to channel government benefits toward the wealthy, the policies of the submerged state remain largely invisible to ordinary Americans: Indeed, their hallmark is the way they obscure government’s role from the view of the general public, including those who number among their beneficiaries. Even when people stare directly at these policies, many perceive only a freely functioning market system at work. They understand neither what is at stake in reform efforts nor the significance of their success. As a result, the charge leveled by opponents of reforms — that they amount to “government takeovers” — though blatantly inaccurate, makes many Americans at least uncomfortable with policy changes, if not openly hostile toward them.

Exacerbating these challenges, at the same time as the submerged state renders the electorate oblivious and passive, it actually promotes vested interests, and it has done so especially over the past two decades. The finance, real estate and insurance industries all thrived until the recent recession, and in turn they invested heavily in strengthening their political capacity, making them better poised to protect the policies that have favored them. As a result, reform has required public officials to engage in outright combat or deal making with powerful organizations. Such politics disgust most Americans and hardly epitomize the kind of change Obama’s supporters expected when he won office.

Other presidents over the past century focused their energies on legislative battles that were far more visible and thus more comprehensible to the public. Towering figures such as Roosevelt and Johnson seized the power of the “bully pulpit” to create the major direct social programs of the New Deal and the Great Society. More recently, presidents have sought to engage in retrenchment, efforts to terminate or to reduce dramatically the size of programs, but here again they concentrated on visible forms of governance. Ronald Reagan took the lead on this approach, telling the nation, “Government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.”

While he failed to abolish full programs, some were curtailed in scope, and benefits stagnated in several that were not protected by mandatory automatic increases. Early in his presidency, Bill Clinton did set out to restructure some components of the submerged state but met with little success, failing at healthcare reform and achieving only a modest beginning on student loan reform. Thereafter, he turned instead to the highly visible task of attempting to “end welfare as we know it,” while simultaneously enlarging the submerged state through new and expanded tax breaks. By contrast to all of these, Obama took on an especially daunting agenda: He prioritized an entire set of social policy issues that each required transformation of the submerged state in order to be accomplished.

Against great odds, Obama has largely succeeded in these pursuits, achieving both healthcare reform and major student aid legislation. Yet even these and other new policies he has signed into law still cloak government activity in ways that may make it largely imperceptible to most citizens. Their designs hinder Obama’s ability to accomplish the broader goals he articulated during his campaign, namely, “reclaiming the meaning of citizenship, restoring our common sense of purpose,” and to “restore the vital trust between people and their government.”

The problem is not simply the typical policy complexity that alienates the public; rather, policies of the submerged state obscure the role of the government and exaggerate that of the market, leaving citizens unaware of how power operates, unable to form meaningful opinions, and incapable, therefore, of voicing their views accordingly.

American politics today is ensnared in the paradox of the submerged state. Our government is integrally intertwined with everyday life from healthcare to housing, but in forms that often elude our vision: Governance appears “stateless” because it operates indirectly, through subsidizing private actors. Thus, many Americans express disdain for government social spending, incognizant that they themselves benefit from it. Even if they do realize that the benefits they utilize emanate from government, often they fail to recognize them as “social programs.” People are therefore easily seduced by calls for smaller government — while taking for granted public programs on which they themselves rely.

Meanwhile, economic inequality has soared in the United States over the past 40 years, reaching levels not seen since 1929. Yet over this same period, policymakers have adamantly protected submerged-state policies that bestow their greatest rewards on the affluent.

Ordinary citizens fail to realize the upward bias of such policies. Political leaders who do seek to reform them, to make their benefits more accessible to Americans of low and moderate incomes, face charges of mounting a “government takeover.” If against the odds they manage to succeed, the policies achieved, especially if they still cloak government’s role, prove difficult to sustain.

Change is possible, however. We can expose the submerged state, reveal governance, and consequently enable citizens to become more engaged and active, reclaiming their voice in the political process. In order to make it possible to carry out reform, first policymakers must reconfigure the role of vested interests. To make reform meaningful, they must alter policies in order to ameliorate their bias toward the affluent. These changes alone, however, will be hard to achieve and even more difficult to sustain, and they will thwart the renewal of citizenship, unless leaders can transform policies to reveal to ordinary Americans their existence and basic effects. To facilitate this, specific strategies must be adopted at the stages of both policy enactment and subsequent implementation. Through policy design and delivery, as well as political communication, policymakers can shift the balance between visible and hidden policies, foster a basic awareness of government, and broaden participation in politics.

As long as the submerged state persists in its shrouded form, American democracy is imperiled. Contrary to popular claims, the threat to self-governance is not the size of government, but rather the hidden form so much of its growth has assumed, and the ways in which it channels public resources predominantly to wealthy Americans and privileged industries. We can reclaim governance, however, making it more visible and comprehensible to ordinary Americans, and using policies to ameliorate rather than to exacerbate inequality. With political will and purposeful action, public policy can be refashioned to revitalize democracy.

Siri: The Things You Should Know About It

Siri: The Things You Should Know About It - Original Post


GoogleNewsReport - iPhone 4S is obviously better than iPhone 4 on the whole as it boasts faster hardware, ameliorated battery life and a better camera, but all these things were no surprize as everyone had already expected these changes. The real surprise for everyone was the voice-activated technology called Siri. If Siri sounds familiar, then you might have used the free Siri Assistant app that let you find restaurants, movies and taxis but this app is no more in the App Store.

Siri is basically from the CALO (Cognitive Assistant that Learns and Organizes) project started in 2003 by SRI International and other researchers. The basic aim was to allow intelligent, context-aware, question-and-answer interaction with humans using advanced technology. Then SRI mainstreamed this technology.



If Siri is as good as it seems, then this will be a big game changer for Apple.
According to Norman Winarsky, Ph.D., a vice president at SRI International: “What Siri brings to the table is the ability to accomplish tasks using a variety of different services simultaneously, with an intimate understanding of context and intent,”. “It’s a groundbreaking effort.”
Siri was created in late 2007 and its app was released for the iPhone 3GS in February 2010. And then within 3 months, Apple bought Siri for a rumored $200 million!
We saw Apple’s Siri demo video, which obviously is quite impressive. This technology, seems very advanced and magical, but basically it uses some web services and APIs to do most of the work. The Siri Assistant app partnered with OpenTable and Nuance Communications, the speech-recognition experts who did Dragon Dictation. And the Siri technology in iPhone 4S partnered with Yelp, Wikipedia, and Wolfram Alpha.

One thing that must be mentioned here is that Siri is not like Voice Control, which was released for iPhone 3GS in 2009. Voice Control could be used for playing music, reading the time, and calling a contact — it could act on a limited number ofcommands. While Siri can do a lot of things. All you have to do is to hold down the Home button for just for two seconds and then your iPhone 4S will be ready to listen to your voice commands.

This was demonstrated when Apple Senior VP of iOS Software Scott Forstall asked Siri to, “Find me a great Greek restaurant in Palo Alto,” and then Siri provided Yelp results of 14 Greek restaurants, five in Palo Alto. This list of restaurants was even sorted by user ratings. It also displayed the NASDAQ stock quotes, and current time in Paris, and even answered differently worded questions about the weather.



Another amazing thing about Siri is that it is even capable of learning over time, it can remember people, places, and things in your life in order to ameliorate future interactions. For instance, when Forstall asked for a reminder for calling his wife, Siri did not need him to say her name. This the type of artificial intelligence that makes Siri stand out from the rest!



Because of the fact that Siri needs a great deal of computing power, including a great bandwidth for its data cache, for teh time being it is only available on iPhone 4S.

Siri has just been launched so it is still in its beta version. It has the ability to understand English (U.S., U.K., and Australian variants), French, and German. You can also give it dictation, using a small microphone icon showing up wherever the iOS keyboard shows up. Simply speak the text you wish to enter, tap Done, and then Siri will convert your speech to text, putting it at the cursor. Another awesome feature of Siri is that it can also work with hands-free devices such as Bluetooth headsets!
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