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08/09/08 - 21/09/08

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Who is Anonymous?
By Caleb Howe (Political Machine)
Submitted at 9/19/2008 2:30:00 PM

Filed under: Breaking News, Featured Stories, Investigations Over the course of the ongoing Palin Email hack story, a flurry of information has passed from major media, to blogs, back to major media, and on and on. The early reports named the online group "Anonymous" as having claimed credit for the crime. Subsequent reports have now shifted suspicion to what may well be a Democrat operative. It leaves me wondering the answer to a question nearly everyone was asking the day the story broke: Who, or what, is Anonymous? I've been researching this question, and I have come up with some very interesting answers. I even had the opportunity to exclusively interview some of the Anonymous members who will, of course, remain anonymous. For starters, Anonymous doesn't appear to be a "what". Rather, not a single "what". The makeup is more a loose confederation than a group with a defined edge. The outline is fuzzy, as well as the purpose. If you look through media reporting over the last year, you will no doubt come away with one of two definitions of Anonymous. Either you'll think they are a left-wing protest group who engages in online activity, or you'll think they are a fearsome group of hackers and cyber-bullies, who sometimes protest. Neither of these definitions is correct. In fact, in many ways, no definition is correct. Anonymous originally coalesced online. This was not by a grand design, but rather by happenstance. Users of a common group of websites, where most users posted anonymously (literally under the

username "anonymous") began to jokingly refer to anonymous as an entity unto itself. As if it were a real person out there, named anonymous. The meme took on a life of it's own. Anonymous became responsible for bad jokes, for funny pranks, you name it. The joke grew and spread, as internet memes do, at the speed of computing. Soon there became a collective awareness of a self-identity. Anonymous was no longer a mere joke, it was a identifier. Anonymous became a net community. The community had ups and downs, and in some circles developed a reputation for "griefing". Griefing is a term for online mischief, which can consist of anything from email pranks, to harassment in online gaming, to very real and torturous stalking. An intimidating picture developed on the outside, a picture of a band of marauders. It is a picture which in no way could encompass the whole spectrum of Anonymous. In fact, the range continued to grow for Anonymous, spreading across the world. Users spawned popular internet memes, jokes which we are all familiar with now, such as the lolcats ( I can has cheezburger?) They used sites like 4chan to trade inside joke graphics which caught fire across the web. Most of the members of Anonymous were part of this culture alone, neither pranking outsiders nor engaging in internet mischief. It was a strange humor, but it was their humor and it became a defining feature of the group. Still, to outsiders, the more intimidating image of the few grew the fastest. I asked an Anonymous member about this reputation. Has it been blown out of proportion? Does the group cultivate the hardcore image? A brief answer is that a lot of it has indeed been blown out of

proportion, not least by coverage concerning their high profile clashes with Scientology. I won't go into the history of the conflict with the Church of Scientology, but suffice it to say for now that some Anonymous members eventually began protesting the group IRL (in real life). Over time, this division or "wing" of the group became identifiable in their own right. Referred to by insiders as the "Chanology" wing, they are the dedicated protesters against the Church of Scientology. It is this group seen in the press, often wearing Guy Fawkes masks. They are strongly dedicated to activities both legal and non-confontational. They are careful and they are cooperative. They do not run afoul of police at their protests. As I recently found out, they aren't always protesting either. (And yes, you were just rick-rolled.)

This culture within a culture did not separate from the online home, but they do differ in some ways. They are more likely to organize as firm groups, more likely to undertake group efforts. Of course this, too, is not the overview image of the group. Anonymous is, by definition, anonymous. so users largely didn't know one another. Anyone could act however they liked and use the anonymous reputation as cover. If someone decided to take things a step further, to move into hacking for example, there was no culpability for the others. Indeed, most would have no knowledge, and certainly would have no ability to object. They are anonymous, and do not answer to one another. It is a hard concept for outsiders to grasp. It seems to me, every member of the group has a picture in their head, a mental image of what it is to be in Anonymous. They know what an outsider is. They know who Anonymous is. Each one of them may not have the same picture, but each of them has this picture. It's that shared perception which creates the group. Looking in from the outside, the actions and the philosophy appear on the left, as social anarchy must. However, within the group one finds a high degree of sentiment from the right. Indeed, in speaking with members of anonymous I'd be surprised to find out if the demographics weren't almost perfectly split on issues. It is not ideology which brings Anonymous into relief. Indeed, nothing really brings Anonymous into relief. They are the fighters of Scientology, and the lovers of funny cat graphics. They are jokers and chatters, and they are hackers and griefers.

They watch each other's backs, and take no responsibility for one another at all. Anonymous isn't a group, but they are many. I've spent two days looking into Anonymous, and there's only one thing I know for sure. There are a lot of them, and the press has yet to take their measure, either by number or intent. When I started out I wanted to know one thing: Is Anonymous a group of malicious hackers, marauding across the internet like modern day pirates, answering to no one and taking what they please? The answer is, as I said, not simple. There is, to be sure, a degree of that. Yet it simply cannot be the definition of Anonymous. They are too much, too many. They are not this cohesive group people think they are. The persistence of the image can be attributed to two sources. One, obviously, is that people fear that Anonymous is exactly that. The reputation has spread through internet chat rooms, MySpace, and mainstream media coverage because it's scary and sensational. Also, as we saw with Gov. Palin's email, it's easy for small, independent actors to make claims on behalf of the whole. The other source, however, is Anonymous themselves. Because although they do not claim to be such a group, they think you ought to know: they could be. Exclusive! Tonight on Unusable Signal, Tommy Christopher and Caleb Howe will be joined by members of Anonymous, to talk about the group and the events of the last few days. Don't Miss It! Permalink| Email this| Linking Blogs| Comments


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Ex-Fannie CEO Raines NOT Obama Advisor
By Denise Williams (Political Machine)
Submitted at 9/20/2008 9:08:00 AM

Filed under: Economy, 2008 President, Gaffes Despite John McCain's best attempts to tie Barack Obama to discredited ex-Fannie Mae CEO Franklin Raines in his speech yesterday in Green Bay, Wisconsin and a newly released ad ( you can see it here), the Republican candidate instead faces new charges of lying in the face of near-financial disaster for the country to make a false political point. And if that's not bad enough, McCain's advertising staff does its best to inject a racial aspect into the whole shebang. Raines, who left Fannie Mae in 2004 under a cloud of accusations surrounding accounting irregularities, is said by the McCain campaign to have been advising the Obama campaign on housing and other economic issues. The Obama campaign, and Raines himself, have strenuously denied any such connection. The basis for McCain's charge appear to lie in a few off-the-cuff remarks made by Raines during a photo shoot with Washington Post business writer Anita Huslin back in July and repeated elsewhere in WaPo's pages twice in July and August. Says the Washington Post now: So what evidence does the McCain campaign have for the supposed ObamaRaines connection? It is pretty flimsy, but it is not made up completely out of whole cloth. McCain spokesman Brian Rogers points to three items in the Washington Post in July and August. It turns out that the three items (including an editorial) all

rely on the same single conversation, between Raines and a Washington Post business reporter, Anita Huslin, who wrote a profile of the discredited Fannie Mae boss that appeared July 16. The profile reported that Raines, who retired from Fannie Mae four years ago, had "taken calls from Barack Obama's presidential campaign seeking his advice on mortgage and housing policy matters." Since this has now become a campaign issue, I asked Huslin to provide the exact circumstances of that passage. She said that she was chatting with Raines during the photo shoot, and asked "if he was engaged at all with the Democrats' quest for the White House. He said that he had gotten a couple of calls from the Obama campaign. I asked him about what, and he said, 'Oh, general housing, economy issues.' ('Not mortgage/foreclosure meltdown or Fannie-specific?' I asked, and he said 'no.')" The Obama campaign's Bill Burton quickly reacted to the latest attempt to tie Obama to years of neglect and abuse perpetrated by Republican legislators (including top McCain advisor Phil Gramm) and the Bush administration: This is another flat-out lie from a dishonorable campaign that is increasingly incapable of telling the truth. Frank Raines has never advised Senator Obama about anything -- ever. And by the way, someone whose campaign manager and top advisor worked and lobbied for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac shouldn't be throwing stones from his seven glass houses. Raines himself issued a denial in an email to recently disappeared ex-HP CEO Carly Fiorina obtained by the AP:

"Carly: Is this true?" Raines asks above a forwarded note informing him that Fiorina was on television saying he was an Obama housing adviser. "I am not an adviser to the Obama campaign. Frank." Obama's campaign says Fiorina did not respond. If the McCain campaign had wanted to make more of point in the "Advice" ad he would have mentioned former Obama advisor and intially a member of his VicePresidential selection committee Jim Johnson, another ex-CEO of Fannie Mae. Johnson resigned from the VP selection committee after it was discovered he may have gotten a favorable mortgage deal

from CountryWide Mortgage - an early casualty or the mortgage melt-down. By all accounts Johnson, as a major donation bundler for the Obama campaign, has much closer ties to the Democratic nominee than Raines could ever hope to have. So why the emphasis on Raines over Johnson? Karen Tumulty of Time Magazine's Swampland put's it best: This is hardly subtle: Sinister images of two black men, followed by one of a vulnerable-looking elderly white woman. [snip] Why? One reason might be that Johnson is white; Raines is black. And the image of the victim doesn't seem accidental either, given the fact that older white women are a key swing constituency in this election. In the post-Palin popularity phase of McCain's campaign and after a week of abysmal rhetorical failure during one of the worst economic crises in a generation, McCain takes a page out of the Rove playbook that destroyed him in 2000 and panders to scared while folks. Perhaps if he had chosen someone who could have aided his campaign with some economic expertise, i.e. Mitt Romney, as his running mate rather than some half-assed nod to the extreme right of his party with Palin; McCain wouldn't be reduced to running the type of campaign that Mr. Straighttalker used to despair of and be able to get through a week without lying, defending lies, or now playing an obvious race card. Permalink| Email this| Linking Blogs| Comments

Judge Says School Can Suspend Student For Fake MySpace Page Of Principal
By Michael Masnick (Techdirt)
Submitted at 9/19/2008 5:56:01 AM

Just about a month ago we wrote about a principal losing a lawsuit against some students for posting a fake MySpace page pretending to be the principal. However, in a different case, a court has ruled that a school has every right to suspend students for creating a fake MySpace page of a principal. The two cases are different in a few ways, as the first one involved the principal suing the student, rather than just suspending the student. That said, the ruling by the court in this case seems problematic, and I'd be surprised if it was upheld on appeal (assuming the student appeals). The Supreme Court's famous Tinker v. Des Moines case established the precedent that schools can't punish students for protected free speech -especially if that speech takes place off of the school campus. The court said that other Supreme Court rulings applied over Tinker, but both of the cases it cites in support involve disruptive actions at school events. A MySpace page created at home doesn't seem to qualify. Either way, if the principal's intent was to get the pages hidden so people didn't talk about them, this resulting lawsuit seems to have created the opposite situation. Permalink| Comments| Email This Story

Charlie Rangel Says Palin is 'Disabled'
By Dave (Political Machine)
Submitted at 9/19/2008 2:11:00 PM

Filed under: 2008 President, Scandal, Gaffes, Sarah Palin wcbstv.com(video available at this link) "You got to be kind to the disabled," Rangel said. That's right. The chairman of the powerful House Ways & Means Committee called Palin disabled -- even when CBS 2 HD called him on it.

CBS 2 HD: "You got to be kind to the disabled?" Rangel: "Yes." CBS 2 HD: "She's disabled?" Rangel: "There's no question about it politically. It's a nightmare to think that a person's foreign policy is based on their ability to look at Russia from where they live. Just when you thought it couldn't get uglier. Obama's been pushing the "liar" button for the last two weeks, and while I

disagree, I can understand it as part of the game and defensible as its ultimately about issues. This is different, this is ugly, this is pure name-calling for the sake of name calling. Words do cannot encompass what I feel about this corrupt odious politician. I take cold comfort in the fact that the Obama campaign is now dialing Charlie Rangel and anyone they can get ahold of trying to get in front of the impending wave of this horrendous gaffe. I also take cold comfort in the fact that Rangel has

likely sealed his doom as any sort of player in the Democratic party. It's not enough that we have actually had, in the White House, a great president who actually was disabled (FDR), or that Sarah Palin's fifth child is disabled. But also remember Charlie Rangel is in deep trouble for scamming the New York taxpayer for rent controlled offices while scamming the US taxpayer out of income taxes on his properties. And this is a guy who is responsible for writing our tax

code. Of all people he has no platform on which to call anybody any name of any sort, much less this of Sarah Palin. Charlie Rangel should resign and disappear as quickly as possible, and it can't be fast enough. Permalink| Email this| Linking Blogs| Comments

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A Final Word on Sarah Palin ... for now
By Mo Rocca (Political Machine)
Submitted at 9/20/2008 1:00:00 PM

The firestorm over my posting of Sarah Palin adult film titles baffles me on several counts. First there's the assertion that I am some raving liberal out to destroy the name of Sarah Palin. Nonsense! As a registered independent I was unable to even vote in the primaries. More to the point I have always held that politicians are a separate class of citizens who should be judged by a special standard: guilty until proven innocent. Not only should they be asked questions constantly, but they should be mocked, ridiculed, and run through a cross-country spanking machine. Don't worry, these guys (and gal) are tough. I remember during the 1992 election listening to two close friends talk about how they teared up during a Bill Clinton campaign speech. I nearly vomited -- not because I didn't like Bill Clinton (I'd barely formed an opinion at that point), but because the last thing voters need is to surrender to hyper emotionalism when they are casting a vote. It's an election, not an Andrea Bocelli concert or religious revival meeting. We should remain skeptical of all politicians, especially those we vote into office. Guilty until proven innocent. And the best of them should be judged innocent after they cede power. (Note to Rick Davis: "Deference" is for one's mother and pastor, not for a Vice Presidential candidate.) On this score the 20-month-long

presidential campaign -- including 30+ debates and forums -- has been useful for healthily skeptical voters and the mockers who love them. Readers of this blog know that I have mocked Obama as wispy and all too often vague. And I'm even a little embarrassed to remind readers that I objectified him in triple-x fashion during a video last year. (Not for the faint of heart.) And I very early on warned that commentators' and comedians' reluctance to make fun of him would hurt him in the end. But having run the gauntlet that he has again, 20 continuous months of answering questions - I am impressed by his smarts and his steadiness. And yes, his speechmaking. (President Bush did his best to bully our language to a pulp, but the Bully Pulpit is not so easily defeated.) Likewise in these pages I've mocked McCain as dangerously temperamental and idealogically rudderless. But as far back as September '07 -- when the conservatives who suddenly love him were cursing his name -- I refused to count him out. (Hyperlinks don't lie.) And I admired him for his own refusal to demagogue the issue of immigration, when the easiest thing for him to do would have been to throw hardworking Mexicans under the 1950s Bluebird bus. Yes, I've made fun of him for his age. (Is Palin a running mate or home health aide?) But the team here also had fun showing that a man his age could easily tangle with a whippersnapper. Enter Palin. It's not her fault that she only now set foot on the national stage.

But now that's she's here - and awfully close to a lot of power over all of us- she's due for a compressed period of intense hazing. (She might also want to answer some more questions. It's sort of traditional for candidates.) Sarah Palin's a politician -not your sister and not a saint. Oh, and to the guy who challenged me to a duel for offending her honor: she's not a damsel in distress, and you're not her Dudley DoRightwinger. So stop fantasizing. I assure you, she's too busy meeting with lawyers to read any of this. Finally, friends, how puritanical are we? It's not like we put Palin's head on a naked body. We didn't even use all our titles. (I can only imagine some of the reactions to Backdoor to Russia!) *** On another not-quite-unrelated note: A lot of Obama-bashers tend to focus on his, um, skin color. Specifically they like to subtly point out that he is HALF-BLACK (in much the same way that they continue to insist he is MUSLIM). The emphasis on his being HALFBLACK leads me to one conclusion: too many of today's racists are pessimists. And there's nothing worse than a grumpy racist! I ask you, pessimistic racist, why look at the candidate HALF-BLACK when you can look at the same candidate HALFWHITE? Chin up, guys. Things are lighter than you think!! Permalink| Email this| Linking Blogs| Comments

Republicans Back Obama on NY Post Iraq Story
By Tommy Christopher (Political Machine)
Submitted at 9/19/2008 11:42:00 AM

Yahoo schedules board dinner and meeting
By Zac Bissonnette (BloggingStocks)
Submitted at 9/20/2008 7:15:00 AM

Filed under: Management, Yahoo! (YHOO) Coming soon to a Sunnyvale, CA restaurant: the most awkward dinner table conversation since the Last Supper. Yahoo(NASDAQ: YHOO) will be holding its first board of directors dinner and meeting since activist piranha (in a good way) Carl Icahn joined the board of directors. He'll be joined by CEO Jerry Yang, the man Icahn said must go back in June.

According(subscription required) to The Wall Street Journal, one likely topic of conversation will be the potential for regulatory objections to the company's

search-advertising deal with Google(NASDAQ: GOOG). Icahn will probably be more interested in talking about strategic moves that could boost the stock price, including a possible deal with Time Warner(NYSE: TWX) or, perhaps, the possibility of reviving talks with Microsoft(NASDAQ: MSFT), the proposed deal that first attracted Icahn to Yahoo. Read| Permalink| Email this| Linking Blogs| Comments

Filed under: Democrats, Barack Obama, John McCain, Featured Stories, 2008 President Earlier this week, a story appeared on these pages "wondering" whether Barack Obama was a "traitor," guilty of"villainous treason" for trying to "delay an agreement" on a drawdown of US troops. There were two things that gave me pause about the story. First, the lone source cited to support the story was an opinion piece in the New York Post. The second was the opening phrase of the story: If this story is true, Turns out it ain't. From Jake Tapper: Lending significant credence to Obama's response is the fact that -- though it's absent from the Post story and other retellings -- in addition to Obama and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, this July meeting was also attended by Bush administration officials, such as U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker and the Baghdad embassy's legislative affairs advisor Rich Haughton, as well as a Republican senator, Chuck

Hagel of Nebraska. Attendees of the meeting back Obama's account, including not just Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., but Hagel, and Senate Foreign Relations Committee staffers from both parties. Officials of the Bush administration who were briefed on the meeting by the U.S. embassy in Baghdad also support Obama's account and dispute the Post story and McCain attack. I'm sure that everyone involved in amplifying this smear, including John McCain, will hasten to apologize, and proclaim Obama's innocence. I mean, that'd be the "straight talk" thing to do, wouldn't it? And maybe, in the future, we could all be as circumspect about accusations that carry the penalty of death as we were about, say, John Edwards' affair. What do you think? It's a helluva lot cheaper than all of that tar and feather remover. Tommy Christopher co-hosts " Unusable Signal",on BlogTalkRadio, every Tues and Thurs at 9pm, Wed, Fri, and Sat at 11pm. (Eastern) Click here for the Unusable Signal homepage. Permalink| Email this| Linking Blogs| Comments


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Can Obama Win Anti-Black Democrats?
By Tommy Christopher (Political Machine)
Submitted at 9/20/2008 12:05:00 PM

Filed under: Democrats, Barack Obama, Featured Stories, 2008 President, Race, Polls Here we go again. Another poll about race, another round of denouncement and denial. A new AP/Yahoo poll suggests that a surprising number of white Democrats hold negative views of black people. This begs the question of whether those views will enter the voting booth and cost Barack Obama a close election. From AOL News: More than a third of all white Democrats and independents voters Obama can't win the White House without - agreed with at least one negative adjective about blacks, according to the survey, and they are significantly less likely to vote for Obama than those who don't have such views. Such numbers are a harsh dose of reality in a campaign for the history books. Obama, the first black candidate with a serious shot at the presidency, accepted the Democratic nomination on the 45th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech, a seminal moment for a nation that enshrined slavery in its Constitution. The subject of race is a historic flashpoint in America, but predicting its effect on this race is a mercurial endeavor. My colleagues and I discussed this a fair amount in Denver, and there is a growing sense that cultural

attitudes toward racism have already tipped this election, but that we just don't know how yet. In one scenario, the closeness of this election will result in Obama's defeat, as the much-talked-about"Bradley Effect" causes a sufficient number of voters to choose McCain. This is the cliche that has been kicked around since Obama announced his candidacy. When I think of this result, however, I view it as less a lastminute switch than as the inevitable result

of people looking for an excuse not to change, something that no amount of information could overcome. On the other hand, Obama could win in a landslide, as a tsunami of new voters, unaccounted-for in polls that often sample older, sweeps Obama into office, while many fence-sitters reject attitudes that they may hold, yet view as unfounded. We all have some degree of ingrained prejudice, but consciously struggle against it. In terms of race, this seems to set up the

old "unstoppable force/immovable object" conundrum. Is it possible that these will cancel each other out? The poll is, I believe, dispositive of nothing. The questions it raises are almost impossible to ever answer, since race is that peculiar issue that people on every side of the question have a hard time being honest about, even with themselves. Inevitably, when I write one of these stories about race issues, I get a lot of comments from people telling me that they aren't racists, and that they have lots of really good reasons for being Democrats, yet voting for John McCain. If that's the case, then this study obviously doesn't apply to you. However, since the number of white Democrats who hold negative views of black people closely mirrors the number of them who support McCain, an honest person would have to admit some corollary, or that there is at least some overlap. That is the ground on which to have this discussion. The people who took this poll are not figments of my imagination. I would love to hear from some of them this time. Tommy Christopher co-hosts " Unusable Signal",on BlogTalkRadio, every Tues and Thurs at 9pm, Wed, Fri, and Sat at 11pm. (Eastern) Click here for the Unusable Signal homepage. Permalink| Email this| Linking Blogs| Comments

EA Finally Realizes People Are Upset Over Spore DRM
By Michael Masnick (Techdirt)
Submitted at 9/19/2008 8:45:01 AM

It only took two weeks since the massive backlash against EA for the DRM and account limits it included with Spore for EA to recognize that maybe it needed to respond. This morning, EA agreed to up the install limit from 3 times to 5, claiming they may also make exceptions in some cases, and also released a patch allowing for multiple user names. While it's nice that the company finally responded, this is still a pretty weak response and doesn't address the core issues. Also, it's odd that it took the company this long to respond. EA claims that the controversy caught them "off guard." If so, then they clearly haven't paid much attention. We were among many sites that talked about the DRM problem back in May, which got tons of angry comments. Other sites that discussed the DRM got similar angry comments as well, so the only way this should have caught EA off guard was if they weren't paying any attention whatsoever to what various gamers were saying. Permalink| Comments| Email This Story

Sarah Palin 'Energy Expert'
By David Knowles (Political Machine)
Submitted at 9/20/2008 3:58:00 AM

Filed under: John McCain, Featured Stories, Gaffes, Energy, Sarah Palin John McCain likes to lavish Sarah Palin with high praise. OK, it's a running-mate thing. Obama does it with Biden, too. But over the course of the last few weeks, the Arizona Senator, in his bid to introduce the country to Palin, has done his best to portray her as a reformer, a maverick, an enemy of earmarks, a singularly ethical person, and on and on. As each one of McCain's assertions has been shown to be less than credible, Palin's unfavorable

ratings have steadily gone south. Truly, an unkonwn commodity is more valuable than one we have the opportunity to evaluate. But of all the hyperbole McCain has used to describe Palin, to my mind, the single greatest overreach came when he declared that Palin "knows more about energy than probably anyone else in the United States of America." That's quite a claim. Well, here's some video taken earlier in the week of Palin at a campaign rally. She's being asked how we can insure all of the new oil that we'll be drilling for can stay right here in the U.S., and not be sent elsewhere: The the transcribed version of her baffling remarks reads via ABC:

"Oil and coal? Of course, it's a fungible commodity and they don't flag, you know, the molecules, where it's going and where

it's not. But in the sense of the Congress today, they know that there are very, very hungry domestic markets that need that oil first," Palin said. "So I believe that what Congress is going to do, also, is not allow the export bans to such a degree that it's Americans that get stuck to holding the bag without the energy source that is produced here, pumped here. It's got to flow into our domestic markets first." Now, I don't claim to be an energy expert, but this question actually has a straight forward answer. Oil is a global commodity, and any oil our companies find automatically goes into the world market. That's why more drilling isn't really the solution, either in the long term

or the short, to our energy problem. And, for the record, when you supposedly know more about energy than anyone else in the country, you shouldn't resort to repeatedly lying about a basic energy statistic. Palin has often claimed that Alaska "produces 20 percent of U.S. domestic supply of energy." According to Factcheck.org, the governor is just a tad off. It's actually 3.5%. Permalink| Email this| Linking Blogs| Comments

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McCain's State of Panic
By David Knowles (Political Machine)
Submitted at 9/19/2008 12:18:00 PM

Obama's VP and the Catholic Vote
By Justin Paulette (Political Machine)
Submitted at 9/19/2008 1:36:00 PM

Filed under: Barack Obama, John McCain, Featured Stories, Economy The economic turbulence of the past week portends very ominous consequences for average Americans. In the coming weeks and months, obtaining credit will be become even harder for cash strapped businesses as banks will continue to close ranks, and, as a result, hiring and productivity may stall. The addition of nearly a trillion dollars to our national debt is not great news, either, but it sure beat the alternative, a total meltdown that would have swept away 401K savings, endangered the FDIC fund, and eviscerated what heretofore seemed secure mutual funds. The great culprit of this economic disaster is deregulation, and since he's long been a champion of that GOP philosophy, John McCain finds himself, as Barack Obama said today, " in a panic." How else can we explain McCain searching for something to show he, too, was upset about it all, and setting his sights on SEC Chairman Christopher Cox. McCain declared that Cox had "betrayed the public's trust." And boasted, "If I were president today, I'd fire him." This didn't set too well with the Wall Street Journal, who agree with McCain's self-assessment that economics is not his strong suit: Wow. "Betrayed the public's trust." Was Mr. Cox dishonest? No. He merely changed some minor rules and didn't change others, on short-selling. String him up! Mr. McCain clearly wants to distance himself from the Bush Administration. But this assault on Mr. Cox is both false and deeply unfair. It's also un-Presidential. Of course, the call to fire Cox was a hasty move to show voters that McCain gets it. If McCain had even waited another

day, and seen the stock market rebound, how likely is it he'd still have called for Cox's head? Meanwhile, Obama applauded Henry Paulson for his level-headed actions, and has been huddling with what the AP described as an "All Star Economic Team," that includes Robert Rubin, Paul Volcker, Laura Tyson, and Larry Summers. And they aren't making false promises, demanding this or that, to stir up the crowd at rallies: ...the Illinois senator said he would not unveil his own specific proposals until government officials and Congress had concluded their work on a broad rescue plan that could cost hundreds of billions of dollars. "You don't do it in a day. We've got to do

it in an intelligent, systematic, thoughtful fashion," he told reporter after meeting his advisers outside Miami. McCain, meanwhile, continues to get economic advice from Phil Gramm, the guy who said America had become " a nation of whiners," and who never met a regulatory body he didn't want to decapitate. Perhaps this is why fiscal conservatives like Susan Eisenhower(granddaughter of Dwight D.) and former National Review editor-inchief Wick Allison have endorsed Obama. In him they see a smart, thoughtful, and, yes, Presidential temperament. Permalink| Email this| Linking Blogs| Comments

Filed under: Joe Biden, Abortion Sarah Palin, for all the conjecture as to whether she can reel in disaffected Hillary voters, has already achieved her primary mission: She delivered the conservative base to McCain. Hopeful and enthusiastic again, conservatives have been charmed and heartened by the sensational VP pick. Obama's selection has met with far less success. Joe Biden's Catholic faith was certainly anticipated to draw that demographics to the Democrat's camp Obama repeatedly cited Biden's Catholicism while introducing the VP selection. However, Biden suffers from the defect common to all Democrats where Catholic sensibilities are concerned - he supports abortion, and like Obama, he supports it to the point of infanticide. Such views were known and reviled by ardent Catholics prior to Biden's selection to the ticket. However, since that time, Biden has only made things worse. Biden's first clumsy foray into religious terrain was on NBC's Meet the Press, where Biden lied - not about McCain, not about the Republicans - but about the Catholic Church. Revising Christianity to suit his own moral compass, Biden set himself in direct conflict with the Church, prompting dozens of bishops and Christian groups to

disclaim his heresy(that is, his willful misrepresentation of Church doctrine). Biden seems more a renegade enemy of the church than a faithful communicant. Britain's Telegraph today fronted an article entitled, Joe Biden Loses Barack Obama the Catholic Vote. Abortion has become a nation-wide issue, yet again - awakening Catholic moral conscience and further eroding the once-faithfully Democratic voting-block. As noted previously: As goes the Catholic vote, so goes the election. Biden's brand of Catholicism has not benefited Obama's electoral hopes. Permalink| Email this| Linking Blogs| Comments

Is Google Chrome with Extensions Your Tipping Point? [Snap Judgment]
By Adam Pash (Lifehacker)
Submitted at 9/19/2008 9:00:00 AM

Garbage In, Financial Crisis Out
By Michael Masnick (Techdirt)
Submitted at 9/19/2008 12:55:00 AM

With everyone trying to figure out just what went wrong to cause the rather spectacular financial mess Wall Street finds itself in these days, Saul Hansell over

at the NY Times wanted to find out why all the sophisticated risk management quant algorithms that Wall St. has been so big on lately failed to warn of impending doom. His answer, basically, is that people on Wall St. were lying to the algorithms, coming up with ways to purposely enter

data such that the risk seemed much less than it actually was -- in order to let them keep pushing the boundary. Then, it became a situation where people start relying on the computers just because the computer says so-- even though the data is bad. This happens time and time again.

Even when people know that computers make mistakes, it's just so convenient to have a computer "confirm" your thinking that you start ignoring other warning signs. Permalink| Comments| Email This Story

Earlier today we learned that Google Chrome will officially support add-ons and scripts like Firefox. The extensibility of Firefox is far and away one its best feature, so we're wondering: Is Google Chrome with Extensions Enough to Get You to Switch? ( polls) Poll didn't capture your sentiments? Tell us more about it in the comments.


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Palin's Latest Troopergate Explanation
By David Knowles (Political Machine)
Submitted at 9/20/2008 5:50:00 AM

Google Vision
(Portfolio.com: News and Markets)
Submitted at 9/18/2008 5:00:00 AM

Filed under: Republicans, John McCain, Breaking News, Scandal, Sarah Palin We've heard Sarah Palin give varying accounts as to why she fired Walt Monegan, each one meant to assure the public that his refusal to fire Palin's exbrother-in-law was not the real reason. Well, here's her latest explanation, via ABC News: Fighting back against allegations she may have fired her then-Public Safety Commissioner, Walt Monegan because he had a "rogue mentality" and was bucking her administrations directives. "The last straw," her lawyer argued, came when he planned a trip to Washington, D.C., to seek federal funds for an aggressive anti-sexual-violence program. This project, expected to cost from $10 million to $20 million a year for five years, would have been the first of its kind in Alaska, which leads the nation in reported

forcible rape. The McCain-Palin campaign echoed the charge in a press release it distributed Monday, concurrent with Palin's legal filling. "Mr. Monegan persisted in planning to make the unauthorized lobbying trip to D.C.," the release stated.

But the governor's staff authorized the trip, according to an internal travel document from the Department of Public Safety, released Friday in response to an open records request. Even if there wasn't evidence that flatly disproved Palin's assertion that the trip was unauthorized, she would have us believe that final straw that got rogue scoundrel Monegan removed from office was that he was being too aggressive in going after those who commit sexually violent crimes. Meanwhile, Andrew Sullivan cites an article in the Anchorage Daily News that provides another reason Palin fired Monegan, so she could hire a Christian fundamentalist, and a guy with a known history of sexual harassment, in his place. No wonder she and her husband now refuse to testify. Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, this story gets more sordid every single day. Permalink| Email this| Linking Blogs| Comments

The Deal It’s been two years since search -engine powerhouse Google scooped up the biggest inventory of online videos by buying the fast-growing YouTube for $1.65 billion in stock. The deal certainly seemed expensive, given YouTube’s lack of profit, but the site was hosting more than 100 million user-generated video streams a day. Google salivated at the thought of selling ads against them. The Aftermath Five months later, Google was swimming in lawsuits, as aggrieved content owners rushed to sue YouTube’s wealthy new sugar daddy for hosting their copyrighted materials. Viacom is seeking $1 billion, charging that YouTube was home to 160,000 of its clips. (The case is pending.) And a new rival may prove more attractive to advertisers: Hulu, owned by NBC Universal and News Corp., streams network programming and Hollywood movies rather than unpredictable usergenerated clips. Google’s disappointing ad

sales have stunted YouTube’s growth, and Google hasn’t created a profitable model—the “Holy Grail,” as C.E.O. Eric Schmidt calls it. This year, observers have said YouTube is projected to bring in $200 million, below Google’s expectations. The Bottom Line Google’s buy has hardly been a bust. YouTube streams nearly 35 percent of all online videos, compared with the 6.4 percent of its nearest rival, Fox Interactive (which owns MySpace). That’s comparable with Google’s lead in search share over its nearest competitor, Yahoo. Citigroup analyst Mark Mahaney says YouTube’s earnings could reach $500 million in 2009, suggesting that its sticker price wasn’t out of whack. Analysts indicate that YouTube has more potential for growth than rival CNET Networks, which CBS bought in May for $1.8 billion.Related Links YouTube: Now Terror Free! Last Bytes: Dell, YouTube, eBay YouTube: 5 Billion Served

Is it time for 'two-tier' banking?
By Joseph Lazzaro (BloggingStocks)
Submitted at 9/20/2008 10:40:00 AM

Filed under: Other issues, Housing, Federal Reserve, Recession Picture an industry where you raise capital then assertively invest that capital to the tenth degree, highly leveraged. What's more, you take large risks, investing in one speculative project after another, sometimes in regions of the country that are showing signs of a loss of economic momentum. And all the while, you collect a handsome fee for each investment project. Even better, if the investments work out, you're enormously profitable, and a large bonus heads your way by the end of the year. And if the investments turn out to be foolish and don't work out? Noooo problem. Noooo problem at all: the U.S. government will step in and take over your business, make peace with your business's creditors and share holders, while you're

free to take on an executive post in another corporation. Does the above remind you or any business/sector you know. Yes, that's right: it's the U.S. banking sector as currently configured. 'Heads I win, tails you lose' banking Economist Richard Felson told BloggingStocks that the above is the outgrowth of depositors insurance and federal support for banks, among other factors. "I'm not saying that all banks and thrifts operate this way, or all the time, but the sad fact is that, for the better part of a century we've seen this cycle of tooaggressive lending, followed by government bailout, followed by aggressive lending or lending that skirts the rules, followed by bailout," Felson said. "And this latest bailout, for bad bonds, questionable securitization schemes, and mortgage defaults, is going to be massive. The taxpayer has reached his or her limits." What the U.S. cannot do, Felson says, is eliminate depositor insurance as "it's one

of the bedrocks of depositors' faith in the system." Moreover, just the opposite appears to be the trend, at least for one year, with the U.S. Treasury Department's extension of depositor insurance to money market accounts, as part of the U.S. government's plan to bolster the financial

system and prevent an economic cataclysm. But neither can the same system remain in place that, many believe, "has encouraged certain banks to engage in reckless lending," Felson said. The solution, in Felson's interpretation? Two-tier banking. Briefly, Felson argues that there should be two levels of banks. The first: private banks that invest in commercial operations, offer higher interest rates and have other exotic investment products, but offer no government insurance on deposits. The second: community-based banks that invest primarily in conventional mortgages, offer very low interest rates on deposits, have no high-risk/high interest rate investments, but offer government insurance for depositors. The community banks would also feature below-private-market salaries for executives, perhaps supplemented with a portion of benefits paid by the federal government. "But there would be no $500,000 per year executives in these

banks, only modest executive salaries," Felson said. The advantages of the two-tier system? "Fewer, costly federal government bailouts," Felson said. "The private banks could continue to invest in speculative, vacation condo complexes in suburban Las Vegas, it's just that when those projects fail, it will be on the stockholder's dime, not the taxpayer's." Banking Sector Analysis: The FDICbased system has been a hallmark of the American banking system, one that's enabled the typical citizen in the U.S. to sleep well at night, but perhaps it is time to revisit a two-tier banking concept. Here's hoping U.S. Rep. Barney Frank, DMassachusetts, and chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, can enact the aforementioned reforms when the new U.S. Congress convenes in January 2009. Permalink| Email this| Linking Blogs| Comments

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Comfort Zone Investing: Lehman, Merrill, Bear: Greed isn't good
By Ted Allrich (BloggingStocks)
Submitted at 9/20/2008 3:30:00 AM

Filed under: Bad news, Comfort Zone Investing, Headline news Ted Allrich is the founder of The Online Investor and author of the just released book: Comfort Zone Investing: Build Wealth And Sleep Well At Night. In this weekly column, he'll offer advice to investors who are just getting started. What really happened to these venerable names of Wall Street? They were once so powerful, so unbelievably powerful. How could they fail? Simple: everyone got greedy. Gordon Gecko wasn't right. Greed isn't good. It's the one element of investing that will take you down, doesn't matter who or what you are. When greed enters the room, rational decisions go out the window. Greed doesn't color your vision. It blinds. And it blinded the management of these companies. Basically these once pillars of Wall Street took on investments that were bad, very bad. Many of them came from their own investment banking departments where they put together deals that didn't make economic sense but put plenty of fees in the pockets of department heads and bankers. Deals like mortgage-backed securities made up of loans that were made to individuals who couldn't possibly pay them back. But when you pool all of them together, make them into a security, maybe, just maybe, some of them will work out. And besides, there was always some greater fool willing to buy them. Problem was that all the stupid people already had enough stupid loans. There wasn't enough stupid money to buy the last round of worthless paper. So the brokers were stuck with securities nobody wanted. And they were getting worth less every day because the stupid people were trying to sell their stupid securities back to the dealers who sold them originally. That drove the price down further. The dealers made really low bids and

thought they could steal the securities. And they did. They bought lots and lots of them. But they couldn't sell them. All the stupid money was getting smart real fast. Big losses tend to do that. The brokers sat in a sea of paper, with more angry clients calling every day, yelling just one thing: "Get us out." The brokers finally couldn't make any more bids for more securities, not even low ball bids. They had no capital to support what they already owned which was going down in value every day, much less add more securities. There capital was being wiped out by the hour by securities they had originated, pooled and sold. They came home to roost. Call it karmic justice, if you like. The essence of the problem is the greed that drove all these deals. Wall Street people are mostly very intelligent. But they work in an environment that demands more of everything. Your worth is determined by how many fees and commissions you generate. Your swagger comes from the deals you do, the car your drive, the homes you own. That's the culture. And to stay in the game, you have to constantly be coming up with new products and services that can be sold to institutions and the public, even if they aren't the best products and services. After all, since Wall Street types are so smart and make so much money, the buyers must be less smart so it's easy to sell to them if they put enough gibberish around the newest product. Problem was, there were

too many bad securities. No matter how they tried to put lipstick on the pig, it was still a pig. But the buyers already had enough pigs. Their pens were full. So it's not just greed. There's some arrogance in there as well. To top it all off, there's also leverage. Brokerage firms are allowed to borrow heavily against securities, to leverage up their balance sheets. For every one dollar of capital they can have anywhere between $2 to $25 of securities, depending on the category. The firms can hold a security, borrow against it to buy more securities, then take the new securities and borrow more to buy more securities. The leverage goes on and on until it reaches a limit, governed by the SEC and NASD. Maybe those limits were a little too high. Just a guess. Now the bomb has detonated, and everyone is waiting for the dust to settle. The two major independent brokerage houses, Goldman, Sachs and Morgan, Stanley, have always been known as prudent risk takers. They still have as much greed. It's just that they've kept it under control. Now they'll be able to pick and choose from even more deals, demand more fees, and make more money. That's how it works. To the survivors belong the spoils. Wall Street will be back. There's always money to back smart people, ones who can manage capital. If you have a brokerage account at Lehman, it will most likely be sold to another firm or you'll be able to get your securities and money out thanks to SIPC and private insurance. It may take awhile because Lehman management will be busy with other things for some time, but you'll be able to get your investments back. Things will resolve. Mostly because Wall Street serves a function: it moves capital from those who have it to those who need it to build businesses. As long as no one gets too greedy in the process, it works very well. Read| Permalink| Email this| Linking Blogs| Comments

Disney may not need to spread risk on movies, but should it do so anyway?
By Steven Mallas (BloggingStocks)
Submitted at 9/20/2008 6:40:00 AM

Filed under: General Electric (GE), Time Warner (TWX), Walt Disney (DIS), Viacom (VIA), Film Earlier in the month, I caught an interesting article from on Reuters about Disney(NYSE: DIS) and its movie division. The president of Disney Studios, Alan Bergman, speaking at a conference, stated that profit margins have jumped five -fold at the studio. The reasons behind this success include an aggressive attack on costs and a streamlined film slate. Instead of releasing a whole boatload of features, why not focus on Disney-branded flicks? That's what Disney has been doing, making bigger bets on a smaller number of projects. Things have been going so well that Bergman said that it was conceivable that the Mouse might not need to seek partnerships with funding entities to spread a portion of the risk. What this means is that, instead of offering up a percentage of celluloid profits to a funding corporation in exchange for an investment in the budgets, Disney will just pay for its movies itself and not transfer any risk. There's an obvious reason for this: Disney then gets to retain all profits instead of sharing them. Well, it should be stated that Disney has not said that it will definitely do this. According to the article, Bergman just mentioned that it's possible that Disney could do this if it wanted to. My opinion? End outside financing. Hey, if I want to go and make a film, I'm going to have to use other people's money, I have no choice. But Disney? The company is big enough to not need any help in financing. The problem here is that human nature comes into play. When a studio division is doing poorly, then co-financing seems attractive. When a studio division is firing on all cylinders, then becoming risk-averse doesn't appear so fetching. Well, I think any media company producing films these days should really stop and try to understand the movie business for what it is. It's always going to be a risk. Doesn't

matter if you have a huge star in a picture or not. It might fail either way. But when the windfall comes, when that big hit is found, you want to own 100% of the profits. This not only goes for Disney, but it applies to others such as Viacom(NYSE: VIA), General Electric's (NYSE: GE) Universal, and Time Warner(NYSE: TWX). Disney should no longer use outside finding. Bob Iger should borrow a little bravery from those kids in the Narnia movies (they were co-financed by Walden Media) and increase the company's risk posture. Considering that Disney is a strong cinematic brand, and that there's a whole lot of marketing synergy available to the studio in the form of sibling platforms such as ABC and The Disney Channel, and that an entire theme-park wonderland is at each project's disposal in terms of promotional opportunities, I am confident that Disney shareholders would be positively impacted by increased exposure to risk from the movie business. Disclosure: I own Disney and GE; positions can change at any time. Permalink| Email this| Linking Blogs| Comments


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Keep your eye on a field of significance: Earnings highlights: Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Ghawar
By Joseph Lazzaro (BloggingStocks)
Submitted at 9/20/2008 8:40:00 AM

Filed under: Forecasts, Middle East, Commodities, Oil What's one energy word investors -- and oil/gasoline users -- should monitor? Ghawar? That's right Ghawar-- a term you don't hear bantered about in the popular press or by major media outlets, but one that is pivotal to the health of the U.S. and global economies. Located in Saudi Arabia, Ghawar is the world's largest conventional oil field. Oil's price has recently retreated from its latest climb to the stratosphere on slowing economic global growth concerns, but that pull-back, barring a financial calamity, is expected to be temporary -- at best lasting a year or two. Oil closed Friday up $6.67 to $104.55 per barrel. Oil hit a record high of $147.27 per barrel in July. Oil's price is expected to resume its ascent when both developed and developing world growth return to normal GDP growth rates. Ghawar's significance?

There has been chatter that the Ghawar oil field was beyond optimum; i.e., that its production had peaked. Saudi Arabia has categorically and repeatedly rejected any contention that Ghawar's production has peaked. However, Saudi Arabia does not release field-specific production data. Who provides the best analysis of Saudi oil production? Dozens of research firms abound, but the view from here argues that data provided by Cambridge Energy Research Associates and the International Energy Agency get high grades for accuracy. Globalization, basically the spread of capitalism around the world, requires an increase in oil production, i.e. it assumes that Ghawar's oil outpout will increase. Ghawar is a key component of Saudi Arabia's spare production capacity, the nation with the largest, quickly-marketable spare production capacity in the world. Hence, a Ghawar field in decline would create a decidedly different global oil supply, near-term, with (obviously) bullish implications for oil's price.

And a more-bullish oil price is something the world doesn't need at this stage of the 21st century. Oil Analysis: Given Saudi Arabia's reluctance to disclose oil stats on individual field production, about the best investors/readers can do is monitor the Saudi's ability to increase production from spare capacity. (Current Saudi spare capacity is estimated to be 1.5 to 5 million barrels of oil per day, depending on the analysis.) In other words, if there's a point in the decade ahead in which the Saudis cannot increase production despite market conditions requiring it, that should serve as a warning sign -- a red flag regarding the Ghawar oil field. And it goes without saying that the Ghawar issue, among other factors, should motivate the United States to a full-speedahead public policy regarding alternative energy source development. Permalink| Email this| Linking Blogs| Comments

FedEx, Kroger and others
By Trey Thoelcke (BloggingStocks)
Submitted at 9/20/2008 4:40:00 AM

New bailout price tag: $700 billion
By Peter Cohan (BloggingStocks)
Submitted at 9/20/2008 3:33:00 AM

Filed under: Earnings reports, Adobe Systems (ADBE), Carnival Corp (CCL), Kroger Co (KR), FedEx Corp (FDX), Goldman Sachs Group (GS), General Mills (GIS), Morgan Stanley (MS), Oracle Corp (ORCL), Palm Inc (PALM) Here are some highlights from this past week's earnings coverage from BloggingStocks: • Adobe Systems Inc.(NASDAQ: ADBE) beat earnings expectations for Q3, lifting shares. • AeroVironment Inc.(NASDAQ: AVAV) topped Q1 estimates and maintained its full-year guidance. • Carnival Corp.(NYSE: CCL) reported solid Q3 results that topped analysts' expectations. • FedEx Corp.(NYSE: FDX) Q1 profits slumped on fuel costs and the economy, but revenues were higher. • General Mills Inc.(NYSE: GIS) posted solid Q1 results and lifted its full-year guidance. • Goldman Sachs Group Inc.(NYSE: GS)

beat Q3 earnings expectations but revenue fell short of estimates. • K12 Inc.(NYSE: LRN) reported a loss for Q4 but still beat analysts' expectations. • Kroger Co.(NYSE: KR) reported strong Q3 results, including a rise in same-store sales. • Morgan Stanley(NYSE: MS) posted better-than-expected Q3 results amidst chaos on Wall Street. • Oracle Corp.(NASDAQ: ORCL) beat Q1 expectations and annouced record operating margin rise. • Palm Inc.(NASDAQ: PALM) reported better-than-expected results even as its net loss widened. Upcoming quarterly reports include AutoZone(NYSE: AZO), Lennar(NYSE: LEN), Bed Bath & Beyond(NASDAQ: BBBY), Nike Inc.(NYSE: NKE), Research in Motion(NASDAQ: RIMM), and KB Home(NYSE: KBH). Visit AOL Money & Finance for more earnings coverage. Permalink| Email this| Linking Blogs| Comments

Filed under: Rumors, Economic data, Headline news Bloomberg News reports that the price tag for the bailout being discussed this weekend in Washington just went up another $200 billion. That's if you believed the initial $500 billion estimate bandied about yesterday. According to Bloomberg, the plan will be broken into "$50 billion tranches which would last for at least two years" and would "accept mortgage-backed securities [MBS] and collateralized debt obligations [CDOs]." Since there are $13 trillion such securities out there -- I am not sure whether $700 billion will be enough to buy them all up -- unless this agency buys them at a steep discount.

That $700 billion price tag will increase the national debt ceiling to $11.3 trillion, that's more than double where it was in 2000 and it represents 80% of U.S. GDP. Why is that important? Because in international banking circles any country whose debt exceeds 60% of GDP is considered at risk of not being able to pay back its debt. So the U.S. is surely turning itself into one of the riskiest borrowers in the world. Thus it's too bad that the rest of the world seems to be entirely dependent on what happens here for the global economy work. And it wouldn't shock me to wake up Monday morning that that $700 billion having hit $1 trillion or more. As the saying goes, when you owe a bank $100,000 and can't pay it back, that's your problem. But when you owe that bank $5

billion and can't repay, it's the bank's problem. That's the way the rest of the world must feel as the U.S. goes out to the beg the world to buy another trillion dollars worth of our national debt. And here's another little problem: If banks are forced to sell their MBS and CDOs to this new agency at huge discounts, won't they need to write-down their capital to reflect the losses? Will they have enough capital after taking those write-downs? Peter Cohan is President of Peter S. Cohan & Associates. He also teaches management at Babson College and edits The Cohan Letter. Permalink| Email this| Linking Blogs| Comments

Will The DOJ's Interpretation Of Email Privacy Make It Difficult To Prosecute Palin Email Hacker?
By Michael Masnick (Techdirt)
Submitted at 9/19/2008 4:13:00 AM

While plenty of folks are talking about the cracking of Sarah Palin's personal email account, the EFF is noting that the Justice Department's own interpretation of email privacy laws may actually make it difficult to prosecute the hacker under the most obvious statute, the Stored Communications Act. You see, since the DOJ would prefer that your email not be considered private, it has interpreted emails that you've opened, but not deleted, as not being subject to the SCA. That's

thanks to a somewhat contorted reading of the law that suggests that an opened email is no longer considered either in temporary or intermediate storage -- nor is it considered saved for backup purposes. Those happen to be the two requirements under the law. Thus, if the hacker accessed emails that Palin had already read, the DOJ may have trouble using the SCA, since its own statements (though, thankfully, not the courts) seem to believe that hacking in and reading already read emails is not covered by the law. Permalink| Comments| Email This Story

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Mark Cuban on the cause of bank meltdowns -- it's not short-selling!
By Zac Bissonnette (BloggingStocks)
Submitted at 9/20/2008 9:40:00 AM

GM falls deeper into the hole
By Douglas McIntyre (BloggingStocks)
Submitted at 9/20/2008 5:40:00 AM

Are Student Newspapers Doing Better Or Worse These Days?
By Michael Masnick (Techdirt)
Submitted at 9/19/2008 7:24:03 AM

Filed under: Blogs, Scandals With theories flying about the cause of the problems in the financial sector, just about every possibility has been discussed. Unfortunately, the media has given tremendous attention to the "evil shortseller conspiracy" idea but, on his blog, billionaire Mark Cuban offers a more sane alternative: "Risk and reward have been decoupled for CEOs on Wall Street." Cuban writes: "If you are the CEO of a major public company, once you qualify for your golden parachute there is absolutely no reason not to throw the Hail Mary pass, and do high risk deals every chance you get.... Lets just say for example, you run Fannie May or Freddie Mac. You basically f*** up the entire housing economy. Your punishment ? You walk away with 9mm and 14mm dollars as

severance." Instead of cracking down on shortselling, regulators and especially directors should be looking at the corporate governance issues that led executives at companies like Fannie Mae(NYSE: FNM), Lehman Brothers(NYSE: LEH), and American International Group(NYSE: AIG). One possible solution that is already beginning to take hold at many companies is providing executives with restricted stock grants instead of options so that there is an incentive to retain value rather than betting the farm on growth. While Cuban's analysis is probably overly simplistic -- the recent mayhem is not only a result of poorly structured CEO pay -- the huge unchecked risks and excessive leverage at so many companies should lead to a renewed call for changes in corporate America. Read| Permalink| Email this| Linking Blogs| Comments

QuickPwn 2.1 Hits Windows [IPhone]
By Adam Pash (Lifehacker)
Submitted at 9/19/2008 7:30:00 AM

Mac users got their QuickPwn on a week ago for iPhones running the latest 2.1

software update, and now the latest version of the iPhone-jailbreak tool is also available for Windows. Happy jailbreaking! [ via]

Filed under: Bad news, Industry, General Motors (GM) Even though it is good news for General Motors(NYSE: GM) that the economy may not be forced all the way to it knees by the credit crisis, one by-product is that oil did bounce higher. Almost anything that helps GDP and consumer spending could put pressure back on commodities. GM still hopes that the government will give it and the rest of the U.S. car industry $25 billion or more in loan guarantees. The companies say they can't afford to rebuild their plants to manufacture more fuelefficient cars without the cash. GM showed that it is drifting toward greater financial trouble when it drew down on its line of credit yesterday. According to The Wall Street Journal, GM "said it intends to draw down the remaining $3.5 billion of an existing $4.5 billion secured revolving credit facility to boost its liquidity amid uncertainty in the capital markets." No one looking at the action would think that it is a sign that GM is doing better than it was earlier in the year. Due to falling car sales, it is doing worse. By exhausting one of its last life lines, GM is getting very close to a liquidity crisis of its own. The government has, in theory, endless

access to capital. It can print money and drive up inflation. It can increase tax bills and bring in more capital. Yesterday, GM sent out a loud signal that it needs cash. But, Congress may be sick of writing checks. GM is trying to get money at a time when the bank is closing. Douglas A. McIntyre is an editor at 247wallst.com. Permalink| Email this| Linking Blogs| Comments

The financial crisis: What happens Monday?
By Douglas McIntyre (BloggingStocks)
Submitted at 9/20/2008 7:40:00 AM

Filed under: Economic data, Politics The conventional wisdom is that markets around the world should open higher again on Monday. Financial stocks still have to gain back all those loses from their peaks last year. If their balance sheets are going to be made whole, they should rally for days. None of that may happen. Over the

weekend, the Treasury will present the Congress with its "rescue" package. Most Representatives and Senators have said they will support the program "in principle." The devil is in the details, and on Monday it may become clear that extended and heated debate makes it more likely that there will be no "universal solution" at all. There are still a lot of free market supporters in Congress. They believe that financial companies got into deep trouble on their own and that fixing that is a form

kill it in the name of saving tax-payers money. If the Treasury proposal is in trouble Sunday night, the markets could have another massive sell-off early in the week. Douglas A. McIntyre is an editor at 247wallst.com. Permalink| Email this| Linking Blogs| Comments of socialism. There may be enough elected officials in this camp to hold up any deal for a long time. They may even be able to

Romenesko points us to an interesting pair of articles that seem to contradict each other. The first, from the Chronicle of Higher Education notes that college newspapers seem to be doing a good job thriving while big commercial newspapers struggle. There are a few reasons for this. Some might point out that the overhead of student newspapers is a lot lower, as much of the staff is often there on a volunteer, rather than paid, basis. However, student newspapers also represent a highly sought after readership demographic, which makes them more attractive to advertisers. Also, student newspapers are usually one of the only sources providing news concerning important news that impacts the community on campus. That is by focusing on that specific community, they remain important since there's really very little true competition. Yet, the same Romenesko post then points us to an article from Inside Higher Ed, claiming that the print journalism "squeeze" is hitting college campuses, citing stories of a few student newspapers that are scaling back their print operations. In some ways this appears to conflict with the earlier article, though there may be extenuating circumstances. For example, those news organizations don't seem to be scaling back their online operations -- just the physical paper operations, which could just be a sign of how college students prefer to interact with the news these days. There may also be more specific circumstances that have made it more difficult for those particular newspapers to bring in ad revenue, as compared to other college newspapers that seem to have been able to do just fine bringing in ad revenue. Either way, it sounds like most college news organizations are doing okay, and it's just a few that have stumbled. Permalink| Comments| Email This Story


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When Michael Lewis and his family
(Portfolio.com: News and Markets)
Submitted at 9/18/2008 5:00:00 AM

I was looking to return to New Orleans, where I’d grown up, to write a book. The move would uproot my wife and three children from California, and I felt a little bad about that. They needed a place to live, but places to live in New Orleans are hard to find. Ever since Hurricane Katrina, the real estate market there has been in turmoil. -Owners want to sell, buyers want to rent, and the result is a forest of for sale signs and an army of workers commuting from great distances. At the bottom of every real estate ad I saw was the name of the same agent. One woman ruled the market, it seemed, and her name was Eleanor Farnsworth. I called her and threw myself on her mercy. She thought my problem over and then said, “I only know of one place that would work for you.” She’d suggested it to Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, she said, before selling them their more modest place in the French Quarter. That shouldn’t have been a selling point; it should have been a warning. I should have asked the price. Instead, I asked the address. As soon as I saw it, I knew it—the mansion. The most conspicuously grand house in New Orleans. As a child, I’d ridden my bike past it 2,000 times and always felt a tiny bit unnerved. It wasn’t just a mansion; it seemed like the biggest mansion on the street with all the mansions, St. Charles Avenue, an object of fascination for the tourists on the clanging streetcars. But it was hard to imagine a human being standing beside it, much less living inside it, and as far as I could tell, none ever did. There was never any sign of life around it; it was just this awesome, silent pile of pale stone. The Frick Museum, but closed. Inside, it was even more awesome than outside. It was as if the architect had set out to show just how much space he could persuade a rich man to waste. The entryway was a kind of ballroom, which gave way to a curved staircase, a replica of one in the Palace of Versailles. The living room wasn’t a kind of ballroom; it was a ballroom, with $80,000 worth of gold on the ceiling. The bedrooms were the size of giant living rooms. The changing rooms

and closets and bathrooms were the size of bedrooms. There were two of everything that the rest of the world has one of: two dining rooms, two full kitchens, two half kitchens. Ten bathrooms and seven bedrooms. I didn’t ask the price—I was renting—so I didn’t know that the last time it changed hands it had sold for close to $7 million, and was now valued at $10 million. I imagined how it would feel to live in such a place. What it wouldn’t feel like, clearly, was anything close to being in the other houses in which I’d lived. Upper middle class: That’s how I’ve always thought of myself. Upper middle class is the class into which I was born, the class to which I was always told I belonged, and the class with which, until this moment, I’d never had a problem. Upper middle class is a sneaky designation, however. It’s a way of saying “I’m well-off” without having to say “I’m rich,” even if, by most standards, you are. Upper-middle-classness has allowed me to feel like I’m not only competing in the same financial league as most Americans—I’m winning! Playing in the middle class, I have enjoyed huge success. In this house, I now glimpsed the problem with upper-middle-classness: It isn’t really a class. It’s a space between classes. The space may once have been bridgeable, but lately it’s become a chasm. Middle-class people fantasize about travel upgrades; upper-class people can’t imagine life without a jet. Middle-class people help their children with their homework so they’ll have a chance of getting into Princeton; upper-class people buy Princeton a new building. Middle-class people have homes; upper-class people have monuments. A man struggling to hold on to the illusion that he is upper middle class has become like a character in a cartoon earthquake: He looks down and sees his feet being dragged ever farther apart by a quickly widening fissure. His legs stretch, then splay, and finally he plunges into the abyss. This house, and everything it represents, stands on the more appealing side of the chasm. “It’s perfect,” I said. Every few days, I googled the house and stared at it. Then a funny thing happened: It began to shrink. Sure it’s big, I told myself, but houses come bigger. The

White House, for instance. I told my wife and children only that I’d found a house with a swimming pool and enough bathrooms for everyone to have his or her own. Which is to say, they really had no idea what they were getting into. How could they? It didn’t occur to them that not only would they have their own bathrooms, they’d need to decide before dinner which of the two dining rooms to eat in—and afterward, which of the three dishwashers to not put their dishes in. To believe it, and to grasp its full upper-class implications, they’d need to see it. On the day we move in, we’re all stuffed together, Beverly Hillbillies- style, in a rented, dirty, gold Hyundai Sonata. For fun, as I drive up and down St. Charles Avenue, I ask them to guess which of these improbably large houses is ours. “That one?” “No.” “That one!” The exercise turns giddy. Each house is bigger than the last. The girls squeal in the backseat and press their noses against the windows, while their mother, in the front,

does her best to remain calm. We pass in front of the mansion and they look right past it. The thing takes up an entire city block, and somehow they can’t see it. It’s too implausible. It’s not a home. It’s a mint. We circle around the block and approach from the rear, the Sonata rolling up the long driveway and coming to a stop beneath the grand stone porte cochere. “This is our new house?” asks Quinn, age eight. “This is our new house,” I say. She begins to hyperventilate. “Omigodomigodomigod!” My small children plunge from the rental car into the driveway. They leap up and down as if they’ve just won an N.B.A. championship. By the time we get inside, they’re gasping. They sprint off to inspect their new home. “There’s another floor!” “Daddy! There’s an elevator!” My children love me. They have a house with an elevator. I n all the public fingerpointing about the American real estate bust, surprisingly little attention has been

paid to its origin. There’s obviously a long list of people and ideas that can share in the blame: ratings agencies, mortgage brokers, big Wall Street firms, small Wall Street firms, Angelo Mozilo, Alan Greenspan. Every few weeks, the New York Times runs a piece exposing some new way in which a big Wall Street firm has exploited some poor or middle-class family. The rich people on Wall Street blame their bosses. The brokers at Merrill Lynch blame Stan O’Neal; the traders at Bear Stearns blame Jimmy Cayne. Everyone blames Countrywide. But all of this misses the point: However terrible the sins of the financial markets, they’re merely a reflection of a cultural predisposition. To blame the people who lent the money for the real estate boom is like blaming the crack dealers for creating addicts. Americans feel a deep urge to live in houses that are bigger than they can afford. This desire cuts so cleanly through the population that it touches just about everyone. It’s the acceptable lust. Consider, for example, the Garcias. On May 30, the New York Times ran a story about a couple, Lilia and Jesus Garcia, who were behind on their mortgage payments and in danger of losing their homes. The Garcias had a perfectly nice house near Stockton, California, that they bought in 2003 for 160 grand. Given their joint income of $65,000, they could afford to borrow about $160,000 against a home. But then, in 2006, they stumbled upon their dream house. The new property was in Linden, California, and, judging from its picture, had distinctly mansionlike qualities. Its price, $535,000, was a stretch. Then, of course, the market turned. The Garcias failed to make their mortgage payments and couldn’t sell their original house. They owed the bank about $700,000 and were facing eviction. The mistake supposedly illustrated by the Garcias’ predicament was that they held on to their former home in Stockton as an investment. The moral: Americans are in their current bind because too many of them saw houses as moneymaking opportunities. But the real moral is that when a middleclass couple buys a house they can’t WHEN page 11

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WHENpage 10 continued from
afford, defaults on their mortgage, and then sits down to explain it to a reporter from the New York Times, they can be confident that he will overlook the reason for their financial distress: the peculiar willingness of Americans to risk it all for a house above their station. People who buy something they cannot afford usually hear a little voice warning them away or prodding them to feel guilty. But when the item in question is a house, all the signals in American life conspire to drown out the little voice. The tax code tells people like the Garcias that while their interest payments are now gargantuan relative to their income, they’re deductible. Their friends tell them how impressed they are—and they mean it. Their family tells them that while theirs is indeed a big house, they have worked hard, and Americans who work hard deserve to own a dream house. Their kids love them for it. Across America, some version of this drama has become a social norm. As of this spring, one in 11 mortgages was either past due—like Ed McMahon’s $4.8 million jumbo loan on his property—or in foreclosure, like Evander Holyfield’s $10 million Georgia estate. It’s no good pretending that Americans didn’t know they couldn’t afford such properties, or that they were seduced into believing they could afford them by mendacious mortgage brokers or Wall Street traders. If they hadn’t lusted after the bigger house, they never would have met the mortgage brokers in the first place. The moneylending business didn’t create the American desire for unaffordable housing. It simply facilitated it. It’s this desire we must understand. More than any other possession, houses are what people use to say, “Look how well I’m doing!” Given the financial anxieties and indignities suffered by the American middle class, it’s hardly surprising that a lower-middle-class child who grows up in a small house feels a burning need to acquire a bigger one. The wonder is how an upper-middle-class child who grew up in a big and perfectly enviable house is inexorably drawn to a mansion. W hen you move into a house you cannot afford, the first thing you notice is everything that you suddenly need—things that, before you arrived, you didn’t even want. The dressing room was a microcosm of our mansion’s ability to instruct. It wasn’t a closet, but a room as big as the master bedroom we’d left behind in California. Even after my wife had stored her countless pairs of shoes, there was more than enough space for all of my stuff. Three weeks later, I noticed a door near the master-bedroom suite that I hadn’t seen before; it was like a magical door that someone had carved into the wall while I slept. What could it be? I opened it to find…another huge dressing room! Inside, I could have fit every stitch of clothing I owned, three times over. It seemed weird to just leave it empty, but I didn’t have anything left to put in it, so I closed the door and pretended the room wasn’t there. But the thought occurred: Maybe I need more clothes. The pool was another example. Because we moved in during the winter, we didn’t pay that much attention to it at first. Had we bothered to dip our fingers in, we’d have discovered that it was not merely heated but was saltwater. It was a full six weeks before we really even -noticed the pool house. Full bathroom, full kitchen, shiny new Viking range, and a fridge stuffed with 24 bottles of champagne. For a few weeks I felt that all of this was excessive. Then one day I became aware of the inconvenience of having to walk, dripping wet, from the pool back into the main house. This is what you need a pool house for—so you can make the transition from water to dry land without the trouble of walking the whole 15 yards back into the house and climbing a long flight of stairs to the giant dressing room. From that moment on, it seemed to me terribly inconvenient to not have a pool house. How on earth did people with pools, but no special house adjacent to them, cope? The problems posed by the mansion were different from the problems posed by most other houses. How to locate loved ones, for instance. There’s been no room inside any home I’d ever lived in from which, if I yelled at the top of my lungs, I couldn’t be heard in every other room. The mansion required a new approach to human communications. Standing inside the mansion and screaming at the top of your lungs, you knew for certain that your voice wasn’t reaching at least half the house. If you wanted to find someone, you could run around the house, but that took ages and presupposed that the other person was not similarly wandering in the void. A trek up the Himalayan staircases quickly became the subject of an elaborate costbenefit analysis. How badly do I really want to find my six-year-old daughter? How much does my one-year-old son’s diaper really need to be changed? After a while, it seemed only natural to my wife to begin with the assumption that her husband could not be found. Even when she knew for a fact that I was somewhere in the house, she’d begin her search with a phone call. She’d call my cell when I was two flights up and she’d call my cell when I was a room away. One afternoon she called my cell 20 minutes after I had come home with our three children and had gone looking for her to take them off my hands. “Where are you?” she asked. “I’m in the house taking care of the kids,” I said, a little indignantly. “Well, you can’t be watching them very closely,” she said, “because I’m in the house taking care of the kids.” Even though you couldn’t find anybody, all sorts of people could find you. People stumbled into other people’s spaces and terrified them. The house was so vast that the sound waves that normally precede the arrival of a living creature got lost. And so while there was, in theory, a great deal of privacy, there was, in practice, none. The mansion came with a gardener, a pool man, a caretaker, and a housekeeper. Any one of these people might turn up anyplace, anytime. The housekeeper, a sweet woman, came twice a week. She developed a habit of turning up over my right shoulder without warning and, as I stared helplessly at my computer screen, booming, “How’s that book of yours coming along??!!!” “Ah!” I’d yell, and leap out of my chair. “Always writing, writing, writing!” she’d say with a laugh. (Writing in the mansion never ceased to be inherently comical.) Money was another problem. It was suddenly going out faster than it was coming in. When I’d finally gotten around to asking the real estate agent what the mansion cost to rent, she’d said—in the most offhand tone, as if it were the least important thing about the house—“I’ll have to see, but I think it’s around 13.” Thirteen. The extra digits are just assumed. One reason is that no one can bring themselves to actually utter the sentence: “Your rent will be $13,000 a month.” Thirteen thousand dollars a month is not the rent I was raised to pay. When I let it slip to my mother what I’d be paying, she just said, “Oh, Michael,” in exactly the same tone she’d have used if I’d informed her that I’d just run over the neighbor with a truck or been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Thirteen thousand dollars a month might be a record rent in New Orleans, but it was really just the ante. We’d been there only three weeks when the first bills arrived. Utilities were $2,700. That turned out not to include water, which was another $1,000. Think of it: $1,000 a month for water you don’t drink. (The drinking water came in truckloads from a spring-water company.) How did we use so much water? you might reasonably ask. The answer is, we didn’t. The mansion did. The pool, the fountains, the sprinklers that came on in the wee hours to keep the great lawn lush and green—all were suddenly necessary. So, it turned out, was cable, at $800 a month. Who was I to argue? I wasn’t even entirely sure how many televisions we had. Nine, at least. I thought I’d found the last of them when, two months after we’d arrived, I opened a cabinet and found another. Walking into the mansion after school one day, my younger daughter, Dixie, asked, “Daddy, what’s a Daddy Warbucks?” She’d caught a ride with a new friend’s babysitter, who didn’t know where we lived. Instead of giving the babysitter directions, the friend’s mother had just said, “They live in the Daddy Warbucks house.” T he first request for money came exactly 11 days after we arrived. A former schoolmate was calling on behalf of our high school; its fundraising department had somehow learned that I’d not only moved back to town but had moved into the mansion. My old school friend had a number in mind, somewhere between $25,000 and $100,000. Two days later, we had another old friend to dinner and—in hopes that she’d spread the word—I spoke of my amazement that anyone thought we could fork over 100 grand on a whim. “It’s funny you should say that,” she said. She’d just spoken with the director of a New Orleans museum, who had also heard we’d moved into the mansion. “He’s trying to figure out the best way to approach you,” she said. We’d become an engineering problem. Late one night the doorbell rings. There on our great stone porch is a man, obviously down on his luck, doing his best to appear subservient. “I was just wondering if you have anything,” he asks. “Have anything?” I ask back. “Some work that might be done, you know.” It’s a feudal exchange right out of the 11th century. Vassal calling on lord with the mutual understanding that lord owes vassal employment. The only thing missing is the offer of a freshly slaughtered rabbit. A couple of months into our stay, we all sit in the formal dining room, under the gilded ceiling and the crystal chandelier, eating packaged tortellini off paper plates. We are Cuban peasants in late 1959 who have just moved into a Havana mansion on the heels of the rich owner, who has fled in terror from the revolution. Dixie, then five, blurts out, “I hate it when people say, ‘Oh, I love your house,’ because then I have to say, ‘It’s not my house.’” To which Quinn adds, “Yeah, I hate it when people say, ‘You must be rich.’” This was new. My children had taken to their new splendor like ducks to water. They’d see the St. Charles streetcar rolling past, and the tourists gawking and pointing at their new house, and their first reaction was not to cringe but to perform. They’d throw on their most princesslike dresses and run out front and dance around the malfunctioning marble fountain, pissing water in all the wrong directions, and wave to the commoners. One morning, as Quinn descended the staircases, overdressed for school, she announced, “I need to look good. I’m the girl who lives in the mansion.” But after a few months, the charm of pretending to be something they know they are not is wearing off. There’s a moment in the life of every American child when it dawns on him or her that the divvying up of material spoils is neither arbitrary nor a matter of personal choice, that money is a tool used by grownups to order and rank themselves, and that the easiest way to establish those rankings is through their houses. At first, everyone’s house appears more or less the same; at any rate, you don’t spend much time dwelling on the differences. But then, WHEN page 13


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Health-Care Nation
(Portfolio.com: News and Markets)
Submitted at 9/18/2008 5:00:00 AM

T rudy Lieberman, who monitors media coverage of the presidential candidates’ health-care proposals, recently gave a gold star to the Associated Press. The A.P. filed an accurate description of Barack Obama’s general approach. The Democratic candidate is not for socialized or nationalized medicine, nor is he for universal coverage. He’s for “universal access to medical coverage” for America’s 47 million uninsured and the 25 million regarded as underinsured. To Lieberman, who runs the graduate journalism program in health and medical reporting at the City University of New York, this coverage is a rare bright spot in a year marked by outdated terminology and simplistic “stenographic” accounts of the nation’s No. 1 domestic problem. “The truth,” she concluded after examining coverage of John McCain’s health-care proposals, is that the media has been “M.I.A. on this one.” She’s not alone in taking this dim view. On his website, Health Business Blog, MedPharma Partners co-founder David Williams summarized Lieberman’s work, noting that the press “stuck to making dry comparisons of the candidates’ wonkish proposals without delving into the implications for everyday people.” For Harvard Business School professor Regina Herzlinger, an unpaid health-care adviser to John McCain, the reporting on McCain’s plan to radically alter the group insurance system that covers 177 million Americans has been “factually presented, but without any amount of analysis.” In sum, overall expert opinion is that media coverage of the $2.7 trillion industry that touches—or neglects—every American life has been sparse, shallow, and timid. It’s worth noting that Lieberman, whose columns appear in the moderately liberal Columbia Journalism Review, assigns her students writings by Herzlinger, a free-market conservative she’s never met. To me, that symbolizes the degree to which the intellectual debate over health-care reform has left both the press and the politicians in the dust. The general public, relying on newspapers and television, is being led to think that two huge unanswered questions loom over this

campaign: (1) Will the government regulate and control health care? and (2) How much tax money will be doled out to low-income families? I n fact, the answers are already in. They are yes and a hell of a lot. Although the public seems largely unaware, policy wonks on both the left and the right have been moving for a long time toward a realists’ consensus on those issues. The candidates know this too—or at least they’re being told by their staffs what it will take to produce anything approaching decent coverage for all Americans, regardless of income. But Obama has been cautious about admitting how strong the government’s role will have to be, and McCain can’t speak plainly about the radical nature of his plan to eliminate employer-funded health insurance as the mainstay of financing health care. Before we pursue those points, let’s take a look at the information gap that afflicts the public and much of the press. In talking to Lieberman and Herzlinger, I found that they had different but complementary explanations. As Lieberman has written, Herzlinger is “no ordinary B-school prof.” In 2007, Modern Healthcare listed her as one of the nation’s 100 “most powerful people” in the health-care debate. Her new take-no-prisoners book Who Killed Health Care? is a scathing denunciation of the big insurers and hospitals. Herzlinger contends that these institutions would oppose the transparency of a nationwide computerized registry of patient medical records. The lack of such a database, Herzlinger notes, leaves consumers and journalists in the dark about which doctors, hospitals, and treatments are the best. No other industry in the country could get away with this lack of accountability, Herzlinger says. Her observation triggered a memory from my days as a mainstream journalist mixing with the elite of Washington and Manhattan. When rich and famous people get diagnosed with cancer, their friends usually start pulling strings at SloanKettering, Massachusetts General, or M.D. Anderson to make sure they see the best doctors. To cite one well-reported instance from the rarefied reaches of the Upper East Side, it’s generally conceded that socialite fundraiser Nancy Kissinger prolonged the life of designer Bill Blass by interceding in the routine treatment he was receiving for

oral cancer. “Even the wealthy don’t have good information,” Herzlinger says. “How do you know your doctors are the best? Do you know how many patients die who see them in your risk category? I know more about the safety and reliability of my car and my automobile dealer.” Most city magazines publish annual lists of the best local doctors and hospitals, but consumers can no longer count on a steady diet of in-depth explanatory journalism in newspapers. Reporters who are given time to dig into complex subjects are indeed missing in action—that is, no longer employed in adequate numbers, except at a few big papers. The New York Times has been good on the costs of medical technology, and the Wall Street Journal on the damage from “risk pooling” by insurance companies. But with cutbacks in the newsrooms of midsize and largecirculation papers, the main engines of explanatory or investigative journalism in this country are being shut down in city after city. You’ve read a lot about financial losses in a declining newspaper industry. In this campaign year, we’re also feeling the loss of reliable information. In years past, consumer reporters at papers in places like Austin and Wichita, Kansas, would have been all over how much McCain’s proposal will hurt people whose employers currently provide their health insurance. “There has been hardly any explanation of these kinds of problems outside the health-wonk community,” Lieberman says. McCain proposes a tax credit of $2,500 for individuals and $5,000 for every family not covered by an employer-based insurance plan. In some markets, this amount would enable a typical family to get decent coverage, but the millions who live in cities where annual costs run much higher would be losing money from day one. But, as Herzlinger points out, companies could reach new levels of global competitiveness once they dump their health plans. General Motors currently pays, by varying estimates, $600 to $1,600 per vehicle in health benefits, while Toyota pays about $110, creating a competitive advantage too large for G.M. to close simply by instituting greater efficiencies. To speed the de-cline of employee programs, McCain also wants to tax company health benefits as income for

every worker receiving them, adding $160 billion to the individual income-tax bill of working Americans. Herzlinger, ever candid, says some on the McCain team would like to eliminate this “healthinsurance tax exclusion” entirely. But, she adds, “I don’t think they see it as politically possible” to go all the way this year. One reason may be McCain’s reluctance to explain why he wants a heavier tax burden on middle-income workers while keeping the Bush tax cuts for oil companies and the wealthy. Lieberman says news stories haven’t made it clear enough that McCain has chosen the eventual elimination of workplace insurance—“the bedrock of American health care’’—as the centerpiece of his health plan. It’s a massive bedrock too. L ike a growing number of congressional Republicans, Herzlinger sees long-term benefits in replacing company health plans with individual policies, but the way she’d get there would give free--market Republicans heartburn. She posits a model for “consumer-driven health care” that would put money and tax credits in the hands of patients and the physicians of their choice, instead of insurance-company gatekeepers and hospital billing departments. It’s an ideologically driven plan with a sensible side. She points to the Swiss system of universal health care as a model: It makes frank use of government power and money to create a health marketplace that favors “health-insurance entrepreneurs” rather than giant insurance companies and hospitals. Health insurance is mandatory and purchased in the private sector, with the rates overseen by the government, and the government pays the premiums of those who can’t afford it. In Switzerland, insurance companies who benefit by signing more healthy patients find their profits reassigned to companies that cover sick people. It’s a self-correcting mechanism that blocks the risk-selection process by which American insurers deny coverage to the truly ill. I suspect that neither the political press nor many G.O.P. voters have realized how completely the party’s leaders have embraced the concept of medical markets being guided by an extremely strong governmental hand. Herzlinger—who stresses that she speaks for herself, not the campaign—and

Republican thinkers like Ross Douthat and Reihan Salam, co-authors of Grand New Party, think they see a politically sellable economic tradeoff: The idea is to use sweeping governmental rules to open health-care markets to more diverse and efficient private companies. A built-in clientele is essential to such plans. Rising party leaders like Mitt Romney and Arnold Schwarzenegger have already decided that health insurance, like Social Security, must be mandatory. That way, the young and rich can’t hobble a state or federal system by opting out. Also widely accepted is the pragmatism of the government’s picking up some or all of the insurance tab for as much as 20 percent of the population. For example, former G.O.P. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist wanted the government to, in effect, reinsure the sickest patients by taking over for private insurers when an individual’s medical bill surpassed a figure in the range of $50,000. Others like progressive cost sharing, in which the poor are fully subsidized and wealthier families’ subsidies kick in on a sliding scale when medical expenses start moving toward 10 percent of total family income. To Douthat and Salam, embracing old bugaboos is the cost of strengthening the G.O.P. in national elections. They note that the traditional conservative answer to health care—less regulation, spending caps, tax-code adjustments—will drive up health-care costs for the poor and the old, just as Republicans are trying to erase the memory of what Bush has done to average wage earners: “No working-class political movement can succeed, though, unless it makes a push for reform in what may be the greatest source of anxiety for working families—the country’s health-care system.” Lieberman’s sharp critique of -McCain’s assault on employer-based insurance does not mean that she’s promoting Obama, who has yet to be put under the microscope on this issue. She faults Obama for being vague about how he plans to reduce average premiums by $2,500 per family, while creating a public option plan similar to Medicare for those not covered by an employer. Many experts doubt that he can, as blogger Williams puts it, “square the HEALTH-CARE page 14

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one day, someone’s house is either so much humbler or so much grander than anything you’ve ever seen that you realize: A house is not just a house. It’s one of the tools people use to rank me. Children are basically communists. Seeing other children’s material prosperity, they follow their first instinct, which isn’t to understand it or stew about it. It’s to ask for some of it—to get invited to the mansion. As far as I knew, my children had never given much thought to what their house said about them and their place in the world. They’d been friends with rich kids and poor kids, without dwelling on the differences. That had just changed. I resist the urge to explain how their misery might be good training for grownup American life; how we are, quite obviously, a nation of financial imposters, poised to seize the first opportunity to live in houses we cannot afford; and how, if they want to fit in, they’ll need to learn to handle the stress. They will have to learn these important lessons for themselves. Instead, I turn my attention to survival. The mansion was not satisfied with making us uneasy. It wanted us out. It preferred us to leave quietly, without a fuss. But if we didn’t, it was prepared to get violent. The first inkling of this came one lazy Sunday afternoon. I was fathering my oneyear-old son by teaching him how best to watch an N.B.A. game—which is to say, in high-def with surround sound. Our bliss was disrupted by the cry of a small child. It was muted, as if someone were calling out from inside the walls. It was from inside the walls. Our girls, with their 10-year-old cousin, were trapped inside the elevator, which had mysteriously jolted to a stop. I tried to yank the metal gate off its hinges to get into the shaft, but failed. It wouldn’t have mattered anyway, as they were between floors. For a good 20 minutes, I grunted and groaned and sweated and pretended that this wasn’t anything I couldn’t handle. Then I called the caretaker, who gave me the number of the man who had made the elevator work in the first place. By some miracle, he was around and willing to drive the 20 miles from his home to ours on a Sunday. Two hours later, the girls, sobbing melodramatically, were sprung. The elevator man turned to me and said, “I’m surprised you let them in there.” “Why?” “She didn’t tell you about the cat?” No one told me about the cat that had been riding up in the elevator with its billionaire owner. As they ascended, the cat had jumped out of the owner’s arms and stuck its head out of the metal gate. Its head had been chopped off. I shut down the elevator. A few days later, the phone rang. “We want to let you know that we received a message from the equipment-supervision device on your control panel,” said the voice on the other end of the line. The what on the what? The mansion, I learned, was equipped with tiny cameras that enabled it, in effect, to watch its inhabitants. One of these, apparently, had malfunctioned. I went into the basement, found the video-control panel, and yanked out as many plugs as I could find. The next afternoon, the house felt chilly. I hunted down the many thermostats and turned them back up, from the 68 degrees to which they’d somehow plummeted, to 72. The house ignored the request; no matter what I did, it remained at exactly 68 degrees. My skin became the world’s most sensitive thermometer, an expert on the state of being 69 degrees, because the moment the house would reach that temperature, all hell would break loose—one, then another, and then a third of the massive air-conditioning units that sat outside would begin to purr. Every now and again, I’d feel a brief tingle of warmth, a premonition of climate change, but that moment was always followed by the roar of engines and a correction. The day after I tried to change the mansion’s temperature, early in the morning, the alarm went off. Then the phone rang: It was the alarm company, wanting to know our password. I gave it to them. “I’m sorry, we don’t have that as a password,” said the lady on the other end of the phone, and then, as I begged and pleaded (“No, please, no! Let me try again!”), she quickly hung up. Moments later, two squad cars with lights flashing sped into our driveway. Four police officers leapt out and banged on the front door. The mansion had phoned the cops at exactly the -moment I appeared most shockingly arrestable: wearing only underpants and a T-shirt, hair sticking up in six different directions, and without a trace of evidence that I belonged there. I grabbed Dixie (“Daddy, I don’t want to go! What if they arrest me too?”) and pulled her close to me, as a kind of human shield. “Sir, we’re responding to an alarm signal.” “It was obviously a mistake. Sorry to trouble you.” Silence. “We’re just renting the place.” The police drove away, more slowly than they’d arrived. But obviously they weren’t the problem. The house had a mind of its own, like one of those old horses you find at dude ranches. You begin with the assumption that you are in control of the beast. Then you try to guide it as much as two feet off the assigned path, and it resists and takes control of the steering. You are left feeling ashamed of whatever cowboy pretense you had to begin with. I investigated the history of our property. It was built in 1912 by an entrepreneur named E.V. Benjamin, whose son, raised in the mansion, became eccentric enough for a small group of interested residents of New Orleans to create a gathering called the Benjamin Club, whose sole purpose was to swap stories about him. The house then moved into the hands of another very rich man, J. Edgar Monroe, who had made the bulk of his fortune from taking over the Canal Bank. When the bank was closed by the federal government during the Great Depression, he had himself appointed the bank’s liquidator, repaid its shareholders, and then bought up a huge chunk of the leftover shares for pennies. Monroe went on to buy not only this house but also Rosecliffe, the Newport mansion used in the filming of The Great Gatsby. He was famous for telling anyone who would listen how much money he had given away to charity. After he donated a music building to Loyola University New Orleans, he insisted that the school mount a plaque on one of its walls with an inscription he wrote: J. Edgar Monroe has donated to -construction of this building $1,000,000.00 (one million) in cash. my secretary has strongly urged me to make a plaque of this donation so that the students of the music school and the public will know of this gift. father carter, president of loyola university, acknowledged receipt of four $250,000.00 checks, or $1,000,000.00. mr. monroe has given over one hundred million dollars ($100,000,000.00) to organized charity of which the largest share was given to loyola university. When Monroe’s wife, Louise, died in 1989, the old man wrote her obituary. It opened with a paragraph or two about the deceased, but then quickly moved on to detail her husband’s incredible generosity. “Mr. Monroe is still living and is 92 years of age,” he wrote. “He has been very generous and has given over one hundred million dollars to organized charity...” and so on. He too died in the house a few years later. Until the mid-1990s, the house had been owned by men who could comfortably afford it. They didn’t need the house to prove how rich they were; everyone knew how rich they were. The moment the house became troubled was the moment someone who couldn’t afford it moved in—a man who was using it to slake his own thirst for status. He was a lawyer. Lawyers are upper middle class. But this lawyer grabbed the saddle horn of magnificence and hung on for dear life—until the day in 2004 when he was bucked off. There in the dust he lay, exposed—in the New Orleans TimesPicayune—for defrauding his law partners. His firm defended big companies from class-action suits. To make the kind of money he needed to live in this house, the poor guy had resorted to allegedly cutting secret deals with plaintiffs’ lawyers. He reportedly gave up his law license to avoid being formally charged. The mansion made him do it: That’s what I thought when I heard the story. As sordid as his behavior was, I’m incapable of feeling toward him anything but sympathy. He wanted this mansion, he bought this mansion, and then he discovered that the mansion owned him. The next owner was a woman. She’d grown up middle class in New Orleans, and in her youth had driven past the mansion and fantasized about owning it. Then she’d married an oil-and-gas billionaire who gave her the house as a surprise for her birthday. The billionaire’s wife proceeded to spare no expense in redoing it exactly as she wanted. She spent $250,000 on gold to touch up the gilt fringe of the moldings and the ceiling medallions. I spoke with the interior decorator she hired. It was this man who grasped the inappropriateness of a mere lawyer owning this house. “They tried to shrink it,” he said to me one day. “They painted the walls taupe; they had canopies over the beds to make a room within the room. They tried to make it homey.” The billionaire’s wife succeeded in undoing that. The taupe returned to white, the canopies fell, and the gilding on the ceiling soon gleamed like new. Several million dollars later, she had the mansion looking as she wanted it to look, which was more or less like Versailles. Luckily for her, birthday presents are not community property, because by the time she was finished touching up the house, her husband was divesting himself of her. No matter what the settlement came to, the property belonged to her outright. But she was not happy. And neither was her mansion. When we moved in, she’d been trying to sell it for the $10 million or so she had put into it. Characteristically, the house was refusing to give her the money back. It resented people trying to sell it, just as it was beginning to resent people who can’t afford it. Now it was expressing that resentment. It committed an act which, for a New Orleans house in summer, is tantamount to eviction. All by itself, with the temperature outside rising into the low 90s, it shut down its air-conditioning. I do not mean that any of its 11 air-conditioning units broke. A broken unit can be repaired. The repairmen came and went, shaking their heads. There was nothing they could see that was wrong with even one of the mansion’s massive air compressors. The problem was deep inside the walls, perhaps in the wiring. The ballroom, interestingly, was still 68 degrees, but the bedrooms were now 83. The house not only had microclimates, but also a unifying theme. The grand public spaces continued to be pleasant and comfortable, as if the mansion, in chasing us out, had no interest in sullying its public reputation. Only its putatively private spaces—bedrooms, bathrooms—were uninhabitable. Amazingly, it could be 83 degrees and humid in one room and 68 and dry in another—on the same floor. For the first time inside a house, it occurred to me that it might rain. And so we fled, back to where we’d WHEN page 16


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The Audacity of Hype
(Portfolio.com: News and Markets)
Submitted at 9/18/2008 5:00:00 AM

HEALTH-CARE continued from page 12
aides asked him to help them raise money in other ways. “They wanted my list,” the lobbyist says, referring to the many donors the lobbyist has solicited for other campaigns. “Since then, they’ve asked if I could organize fundraisers but said that I couldn’t donate.” Lobbyists have found other ways to work for the campaign, despite the official ban. In May, it emerged that Francisco Pavia, a registered Washington lobbyist whose clients include the Puerto Rican government, was helping to run Obama’s efforts in Puerto Rico. The campaign insisted that he was merely a volunteer and not on staff, and thus not in violation of the campaign’s own rules. While he was helping the campaign, Pavia took no leave from the firm of Winston & Strawn. The Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call reported at the end of July that 42 registered lobbyists had donated to Obama’s campaign despite the ban; only two had their checks returned. The campaign says that it’s doing the best it can to vet every contribution it receives against a database of registered lobbyists. For all the hand-wringing over lobbyists, it’s worth noting that since there are few restrictions on donations to political conventions, the nominating conventions for both candidates were paid for by a slew of direct corporate donors, including AT&T, Qwest, and others. Bill Allison, a senior fellow with the Sunlight Foundation, which promotes transparency in government, notes that the campaigns are “all running around lifting their skirts like there’s a mouse, saying ‘Eek, there’s a lobbyist!’ But they’re raising tons of money” from corporate interests. Allison has more meaningful suggestions for curbing the influence of corporate money and lobbyists in both politics and government: Rewrite federal law to require lobbyists to disclose not only whom they lobby for and what issues they lobby on but also whom they’ve met with. Greater restrictions on what government officials can do in terms of lobbying after they leave public service also make more sense than phony gestures. And of course, free airtime from broadcasters who profit from the public airwaves would diminish the need of candidates to raise money and thus make lobbyists—who wield the promise of their clients’ cash—less influential. Meanwhile, it’s worth remembering that lobbying is actually a constitutionally protected right. The Constitution is pretty plain in declaring that “Congress shall make no law…abridging…the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” That’s lobbying. It’s one thing for a campaign to decide that it doesn’t want, say, pharmaceutical lobbyists writing its proposals on Medicare’s funding of prescription drugs, but it’s another to ban lobbyists from participation in a campaign entirely. After all, lobbyists represent not only corporations but also all sorts of other groups, from the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation to the American Legion. Perhaps the weirdest moment in antilobbyist posturing came this year when Max Cleland, a former Democratic senator from Georgia, was disinvited from appearing with Obama at an Atlanta fundraiser. The reason? Cleland, a Vietnam War hero who lost three limbs while fighting in Southeast Asia, is a registered Washington lobbyist on behalf of Tissue Regeneration Technologies, a company that makes medical devices for wounded veterans and others. Cleland charitably says he was not offended by the disinvitation. But the rest of us should be.Related Links The Phony Populist, Part II Barack Obama, Economic Policy Wonk What Business Can Expect From Obama circle of cost, quality, and access” so easily. There are encouraging signs that Obama’s turn to be scrutinized has come. In the kind of dissection that has been all too rare so far, Kevin Sack of the Times cast doubt on Obama’s claim that he can cut the government’s health-care spending by up to $273 billion by 2012. In a short, sharp item for the Wall Street Journal’s website, reporter Amy Chozick wrote that she caught Obama second-guessing his own plan to achieve universal access through private insurance companies. “If I were designing a system from scratch,” he told a town-hall audience in New Mexico, “I would probably go ahead with a singlepayer system.” Despite such bright spots, my guess is that voters who follow the issue via daily newspapers and network-news broadcasts aren’t going to be well-informed by Election Day. The best information is in newly published books, medical blogs, and professional journals, and in specialized outlets like Lieberman’s columns on the C.J.R. website. She’s done the most useful medical reporting I’ve seen this year, but her columns are designed as tip sheets for daily newspaper-assignment editors. Reading them, a layperson can see how a good newspaper editor’s mind worked in the latter half of the 20th century: You’d look around the newsroom and find a reporter you could spare for a couple of weeks, whom you’d instruct to dig into a candidate’s position and ask the most awkward questions possible. This still works, but I agree with Lieberman that too many of the desks where those reporters used to sit are now unoccupied. As with so many benefits of the old newspaper world we once took for granted, it’s time to say R.I.P.Related Links A G.O.P. Drilling Machine Tips for Obama: Ignore Palin, Dis McCain Battle of the Books

B arack Obama was on a roll. Before a cheering crowd in Springfield, Missouri, this summer, the Democratic presidential nominee let loose with a barrage on Washington lobbyists: “So one of the things that we’ve got to do is not just change the health-care system, but we’ve also got to change our political system. And that’s why I don’t take PAC money. I don’t take money from federal registered lobbyists, because I want to answer to you when I’m in the White House. I don’t want to answer to all these fat-cat lobbyists!” Running against the proverbial fat cats and moneyed interests is a strategy as old as politics itself. But Obama has taken the tactic to greater lengths than any presidential candidate in history. John Kerry and others declined to take money from political action committees, but Obama’s ban on contributions from all of Washington’s registered lobbyists—the thousands of people retained by corporations and other entities to push their interests with members of Congress and executive-branch officials—is a step that no party nominee has taken before. So too is his refusal to employ lobbyists on his campaign. The strategy stretches back to the beginning of the primary campaign, when Hillary Clinton’s lead and party connections seemed insurmountable. Early on, the Illinois senator and his top aides decided that a full ban on lobbyists would allow Obama to help paint Clinton as a Washington insider. “It was smart politics,” a senior Obama campaign official told me. It was also a new concept for the candidate. He’d had no problem accepting contributions from registered Washington lobbyists in his previous races for the Illinois statehouse, the U.S. House of Representatives, and the U.S. Senate. So now that he’s scoring political points for

the ban, what impact has it actually had? Virtually none. The campaign has no problem accepting money from the spouses of Washington lobbyists. A database search conducted for this column by the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks campaign-finance issues, found that more than 20 spouses of prominent Washington lobbyists have donated to the Obama campaign, including the wives of Dan Glickman, the head of the Motion Picture Association of America; Norman Brownstein, a prominent Denver-based lawyer who has lobbied for Oracle, Toshiba, and Comcast; and Stuart Pape of Patton Boggs, Washington’s foremost lobbying firm, who has lobbied for BristolMyers Squibb, Pfizer, and the Smokeless Tobacco Council. The campaign accepts money from lobbyists registered in state capitals. It accepts money from partners at law firms that engage in lobbying. It accepts money from the C.E.O.’s, chairs, and officers of corporations, but not their lobbyists. Obama has received more than $627,000 in contributions from employees of Goldman Sachs, including, for example, $2,300 (the maximum contribution allowed) from the likes of managing director George Butcher. But Michael Berman, a registered lobbyist (and a former adviser to Walter Mondale), cannot give money to Obama because his firm, the Duberstein Group, has lobbied on behalf of Goldman Sachs on energy and tax issues. Aren’t such policies a little inconsistent with the ban? “Maybe,” said the senior Obama official. “But it’s important symbolism.” I recently spoke with a very successful registered Washington lobbyist, a Democrat who asked not to be named in this piece for fear of diminishing his influence with a possible Obama administration. Even though the Obama campaign wouldn’t accept a check from the lobbyist personally, he says, Obama

Rumor Breaker: Kathy Griffin's 'D-List' Returns to Bravo
(ETonline - Breaking News)
Submitted at 9/20/2008 5:54:00 AM

Another network hasn't brabbed up the

show. Amidst rumors that Kathy Griffin was shopping her Emmy winning reality series, "My Life on the D-List," to another

network, Bravo has grabbed the show for a fifth season. The rumors were "surprising since we've picked her up for another season of her

series," a Bravo rep confirmed, according to the Hollywood Reporter. On Friday, the New York Post's Page Six said a source told them there was heavy

buzz about Griffin possibly taking her "DList" to Lifetime.

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Microsoft Ads: Bug or Feature?
(Portfolio.com: News and Markets)
Submitted at 9/18/2008 9:00:00 PM

One Desperate Deal
(Portfolio.com: News and Markets)
Submitted at 9/18/2008 8:30:00 AM

M icrosoft pulled Seinfeld? That news made headlines everywhere from the Wall Street Journal to the Manhattan gossip website Gawker. And that could be the point. "We're sort of a student of fame making," Alex Bogusky, co-chairman of Microsoft's ad agency, Crispin Porter & Bogusky, once told me. It's possible the student has officially become the teacher. Microsoft had featured comedian Jerry Seinfeld in its first new ads with Crispin, which were aimed toward making the brand more humorous and human. The effort created quite a buzz—much of it, admittedly, negative, puzzled, or outright hostile. But buzz it was, which was the point, says David Webster, Microsoft's general manager of brand and marketing strategy. Now, Seinfeld is out and a new campaign is in. The tagline? "Life Without Walls." The new 60-second commercial that launched Thursday opens with a John Hodgman look-alike. (Hodgman plays the dorky PC in the Apple ads.) "Hello. I'm a PC, and I've been made into a stereotype," he says. The ad continues with a variety of anything-but-dorky PC users declaring their loyalty. "I'm a PC," each says. Gates also makes an appearance, "I'm a PC, and I wear glasses." Other celebrities like Eva Longoria, Deepak Chopra, and Pharrell Williams also make appearances. So is the Seinfeld exit masterful manipulation of the media or a multimillion-dollar mistake that highlights just how extremely out of touch Microsoft is with consumers? It's all part of Microsoft's master plan, says Webster. Honest. "Right off the bat when we started architecting this thing, we realized you can't keep [the teaser ads] going very

long," Webster said. "It's a teaser; it's an icebreaker. It's really just meant to get things going, and then of course you've got to get around to the point, which is, So what are you going to tell me about Windows? "This transition is certainly something that's been planned for a long time, even so much as buying different kinds of media spots," Webster added. The "Jerry spots" were 60 to 90 seconds long, while the new ones run 15, 30, or 60 seconds. Here's a quick Thursday-by-Thursday crime-scene analysis. On Thursday August 21, the Wall Street Journal reported that Microsoft would pay Jerry Seinfeld $10 million to appear in its advertising. Critics asked: Is Seinfeld really the best way to create a younger, hipper image for the brand? He's pretty old for that. Exactly two weeks later (which Webster says was not planned), the first headscratching commercial featuring Seinfeld and Microsoft chairman Bill Gates hit the airwaves. They were shopping for shoes. Critic wondered: What's the point? No, seriously. What's the point? Then on the Thursday, September 11, it happened again. Microsoft launched more strange, lengthy commercials featuring the two middle-aged rich guys awkwardly interacting with "real people." Critics thought: Okay, we get it. Microsoft is trying to reconnect with consumers. But, geez, is this really the best way to do it? Does Microsoft know what it's doing? And now seven days later, Microsoft is launching a new campaign without Seinfeld. The entertaining story line is out, succeeded by ads that speak directly to Apple's popular and successful campaign that paints PC users as dull and Microsoft products as shoddy. So, is this an embarrassing and humiliating public mistake for the brand and the ad agency? Or has the company

met its goal of getting people talking? The latter, Webster insists. "The Jerry role in this very much was conversation," he says. But really only Crispin and Microsoft know for sure. A few voices from the ad industry weigh in trying to make sense of the situation. Rick Boyko, director of the Virginia Commonwealth University Brandcenter, says it's not inconceivable that the campaign really was planned this way. "There's a good chance that they always intended to evolve this campaign," Boyko says. "It's pretty much a head-scratching that gets people talking, so then you move on and you evolve to a broader sense of Bill Gates getting involved with more people, that demonstrates the bigness of the brand." Others, however, are skeptical, to say the least. "I think no one got the ads, and they're pulling the spots," says Lisa Colantuono, a managing partner with advertising consultancy AAR Partners. "If I know C.P.B., they will turn it into a P.R. guerilla stunt, and it will work out in their favor. "They're known for doing 'creatively different' work, which is also part of the plan, since it gets buzz out," Colantuono adds. "The fact is, even though the spots aren't 'working'…maybe they are in a way. Think about it. There's lots of buzz and chat around the spots. And more important, people remember the name of the company!" That suits Webster just fine. "The greatest fear you have is that people won't notice it, and that it won't break through the clutter," he says of advertising. "I think we can safely check the box on that one."Related Links Microsoft: "We Can Be Wacky, Too!" Bill and Jerry, Meet Paris and Nicole First Microsoft/Seinfeld Ad Bombs

Netflix Origami Finds Fun Use for DVD Wrappers [NetFlix]
By Kevin Purdy (Lifehacker)
Submitted at 9/20/2008 8:00:00 AM

Netflix subscribers often find themselves with a lot of leftover red-and-white tear-off sheets from their DVD envelopes. Netflix

Origami, a how-to site focused on paperfolding projects utilizing the colorful, sturdy sheets, fits the bill perfectly for a fun project, or something to do if the flick you rented turns out not so hot. Among the offerings are a box and snack tray, which

make for creative gift containers, advanced paper airplanes, and all the traditional swans, frogs, and other woodland creatures. Netflix Origami[via Gizmodo]

W hen two lonely single people walk into a bar full of couples, it's pretty obvious what's likely to happen after a few drinks. When Wachovia's chief executive Robert Steel rang Morgan Stanley's John Mack yesterday to discuss a merger, something similar was playing out. But it's still unclear if there's even enough chemistry between the two to lead to a long-term relationship. Indeed, there are so many questions about a Wachovia-Morgan Stanley tie-up, it's hard to know where to begin. Who buys whom in this scenario? They're about the same size in market capitalization, and each bank has capital problems that would likely prevent any kind of cash deal. Accounting issues are also a problem. Merrill Lynch analyst Guy Moszkowski called the deal "unlikely" and said Wachovia would have to be the buyer in order to avoid having to mark some of its assets to market. Ladenburg Thalmann banking analyst Richard Bove also cast doubt on the deal, citing probability that the government would block it in order to keep Morgan Stanley's problems from the F.D.I.C.-backed part of Wachovia. The market isn't exactly offering much insight. Shares of Morgan Stanley, which is arguably the more desperate character in our bar scene, are down significantly today, despite news that the merger talks have reportedly entered the "formal" stage. Shares of Wachovia Bank, potentially the would-be buyer in the scenario, are up 10 percent. If Wachovia were buying Morgan Stanley, the share movements would be in the reverse under normal circumstances. Moreover, how much sense does this really make? In a conference call with investors earlier this week, Goldman Sachs chief financial officer David Viniar made the point that a combination with a commercial bank doesn't make much sense for it because the bank would not be allowed to use the deposits to fund Goldman's capital-markets business. The same would be true in a Wachovia-Morgan Stanley combination. Such a deal would help solve Morgan's perception problems among counterparties,

according to banking expert Bert Ely. "The deposits gives the combined company a bigger capital base, and it conveys a greater sense of stability," he said. Ely believes the deal makes sense conceptually, but he doesn't believe either company has the capital strength to make it happen. Then there are the cultural and social aspects to consider. Wachovia is run by newly minted chief executive Robert Steel, who was a longtime Goldman Sachs executive before joining the Treasury Department in 2006. Steel knows the investment-banking business well—better, one could argue, than he knows the commercial-banking business. It's easy to see how he might be attracted to Morgan's investment bank, since Wachovia's own investment-banking business has failed to make significant inroads on Wall Street. Moreover, Morgan comes with the added benefit of a strong retail brokerage, which would certainly complement Wachovia's business. But Morgan Stanley has a history of internal culture clash. Remember the ugly public battle that led to the ouster of chief executive Philip Purcell after the firm struggled to integrate Dean Witter with Morgan Stanley? Would John Mack run the new entity, or would Robert Steel come out on top? Moreover, would Steel be more likely to seek a partnership with Goldman, or would he be more driven to buy Morgan in order to compete against his former employer? Any deal between these two firms will likely be hammered out within days, and deals driven by desperation can have lasting problems. Sometimes late-night beer goggles lead to marriage. But more often, they just lead to a bad hangover. Also on Portfolio.com: • Wall Fall Down: Who Will Survive the Panic? • Credit Crunched: A Special Report on the Crisis • One Market Is Holding Up...So Far Related Links Wall Street's New Realities Bankers Speed Date Investment Bank, R.I.P.


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United Hurt By Falling Oil Prices
(Portfolio.com: News and Markets)
Submitted at 9/19/2008 1:30:00 PM

WHENpage 13 continued from
come from: the upper middle class. Obviously this presents new problems. Even as my children grew weary of pretending they were richer than they are, they became accustomed to living as the rich do. On the way back to California, my wife drove Quinn, who’d just turned nine, across the Southwest and then up the coast. They came to Hearst Castle and stopped to take the guided tour. A few minutes into it, as they stood in one of William Randolph Hearst’s many bedrooms, the guide asked if anyone had a question. My child raised her hand. The guide smiled indulgently and called on her. “Why,” Quinn asked, “is it so small?” Related Links Contributors Last Bytes: Earnings Edition -- Google, Microsoft, IBM, Plus E3 New, but Improved?

T hese days it seems like airlines get smacked down even when they do something right. Case in point: this week United Airlines announced that it was taking a $225 million charge thanks to the recent drop in oil prices. Say what? United has fallen victim to its own efforts to manage fuel costs. The airline has been buying jet fuel using what is know as hedging, which Ben Brockwell of the Oil Price Information Service describes as "an insurance policy against prices rising." Here's a very simplified explanation of how fuel hedging works, using a hypothetical scenario: On November 1 jet fuel is selling for $130 a barrel and United believes the price will rise sharply as winter progresses. It signs a deal with a supplier to buy a three month supply of fuel for $110 a barrel. That's United's fuel hedge. On December 5th the price of fuel jumps to $140 a barrel. Because United is locked in at $110, it sits

back and laughs while its unhedged competitors pay a much higher price for their fuel. Good move. Now turn this on its head. United hedges at $110 a barrel in November, but the price of oil actually drops to $85 a barrel. United's move doesn't look so bright, as it's paying more for fuel than the asking price on the open market. United is now at a competitive disadvantage, and its balance sheet craters according. It's this second scenario that has become reality at United. The company has 51percent of its 2008 fuel hedged at $111. Per-barrel prices closed at under $98 yesterday. Looking forward to 2009, the airline's fuel hedges are based on per-barrel prices of $118. Hedging is a big roll of the dice, and no one has played it better than Southwest Airlines. It has consistently hedged more fuel than its competitors. As of this summer, Southwest has 70-percent of its 2008 fuel hedged at $51 a barrel. Compare that with American Airlines, which has 34percent hedged hedged at $82 a barrel. Industry analysts estimate that since

1998 Southwest has paid $3.5 billion less for fuel than its competitors. That's equal to 83-percent of its profits over the last nine years. It's a big part of the reason the airline continues reporting profits while the rest of the industry bleeds. So why doesn't every carrier hedge as much as possible? Airlines entering into hedge contracts must pay a deposit or commission, which is set by the seller depending on perceived risk. This can be a significant outlay of cash, money that some execs gamble would be better spent on new airplanes or debt repayment. An airline has to believe that savings from hedging will exceed the costs of the contract. And, as this last month proves, no one can really predict which way the oil market will go. United Airlines is learning that the hard way. Related Links Flying on Empty Why Airline Mergers Don't Fly Will It Fly?

Five Essential Weight Loss Foods [Diet]
By Adam Pash (Lifehacker)
Submitted at 9/19/2008 8:00:00 AM

Turkey Bans Richard Dawkins' Website, Because It Offends A Creationist
By Michael Masnick (Techdirt)
Submitted at 9/19/2008 2:35:01 AM

Yahoo Health rounds up five essential weight loss foods and drinks high on fiber and other nutrients, highlighting millet, asparagus, pomegranates, pine nuts, and green tea as must-haves. Let's hear your favorite weight-loss essentials in the comments. Photo by pizzodisevo.

The Insure Thing
(Portfolio.com: News and Markets)
Submitted at 9/19/2008 5:00:00 AM

B efore it teetered, American International Group used to be routinely called the biggest insurer in the world. That title belongs now to Hank Paulson. In the latest step to shore up a teetering financial system, the Treasury said today that it would use $50 billion to insure money-market mutual funds whose asset values fall below $1. Fears that nearly paralyzed the lending and flow of money this week had been stoked by the announcement by a large money-market fund—considered to be among the safest of investments—that investors might lose money because of a write-down of Lehman Brothers securities held by the fund.

Two days later, Putnam Investments said it was closing a $12.3 billion fund. In the last week, investors have pulled record amounts of cash out of money-market funds, a sign that the financial panic was spreading. "Concerns about the net asset value of money-market funds falling below $1 have exacerbated global financial-market turmoil and caused severe liquidity strains in world markets," the Treasury said in a statement. "In turn, these pressures have caused a spike in some short-term interest and funding rates and significantly heightened volatility in exchange markets. Absent the provision of such financing, there is a substantial risk of further heightened global instability." The insurance will be for a year, and the Treasury is using a fund established in

1934 to manage the price of gold when it still backed the value of the dollar. Money-market funds make up a $3.4 trillion industry whose attraction is that investors are assured of at least getting their principal back. This week, that faith was shaken by the fund that started the industry, the Reserve Primary Fund, when its net asset value fell below $1 a share. (The money-market fund was co-invented by the late Henry B.R. Brown, whose hobby, as Franz Lidz described on Portfolio.com, was catapulting pumpkins. Strange, yes, but not as strange as the events of this week.) The money-market insurance comes as Paulson and Congressional leaders move toward creating a federal agency to bail out troubled financial institutions. The agency would likely be something

akin to the Resolution Trust Corporation that liquidated hundreds of savings and loans after that banking fallout. In this case, such an agency would take the bad debt off the balance sheets of troubled financial institutions so that they can return to a more normal course of business. Think of it as a government-sponsored structureinvestment vehicle. Stock markets around the world have surged on word of a possible toxic-debt Superfund and the money-market insurance plan should provide additional confidence to investors. Related Links Money-Market Datapoint of the Day No Security in Securities Hit the Panic Button

We already know that Turkish officials have a pretty quick trigger finger when it comes to banning certain websites. They've banned YouTube multiple times due to videos they found offensive, and then banned Slide, a multimedia hosting company as well. Still, it's a bit surprising to discover that now they've banned the website of Richard Dawkins after a Turkish creationist complained that the site had insulted him. Apparently, this guy, Adnan Oktar, has become quite successful at getting sites blocked in Turkey. In the past, he also got Wordpress.com and Google Groups blocked after he became upset at content found on both of those sites. And, even better, he claims he's not against free speech, he's just against insults. And, apparently, anyone who disagrees with him is insulting. Permalink| Comments| Email This Story

The Treadputer Improves Your Focus [Exercise]
By Adam Pash (Lifehacker)
Submitted at 9/20/2008 4:00:00 AM

We've highlighted the treadmill-plus-

computer concept before, including how you can use it to burn 600 calories a day while typing. Now the New York Times highlights how the treadputer is helping

out in the office: "It is tempting to become distracted during conference calls, but when [you are] exercising, [you listen] more intently."

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Biz Buzz Tech*


Shorts on Fire
(Portfolio.com: News and Markets)
Submitted at 9/18/2008 2:30:00 PM

The finger-pointing has begun, and guess who is wearing the target? Short-sellers, of course. If your response is, "Haven't we been down this road already?" the answer is yes. But it's a road regulators never seem to tire of traveling. On Thursday, New York attorney general Andrew Cuomo launched an investigation into whether or not some short-sellers of financial stocks have been illegally spreading false rumors about the companies to precipitate their stock declines. The two biggest California pension funds also announced today they would stop lending out their shares in certain financial stocks to institutions for shorting. This news comes just a day after Morgan Stanley chief executive John Mack phoned regulators to complain that short-sellers were destroying Morgan's shares.

In the U.K., regulators took a more drastic step. The Financial Services Authority banned short-selling of financial stocks for the rest of the year. Here in the U.S., the Securities and Exchange Commission is also investigating rumors and contemplating whether or not to require hedge funds to disclose their short positions. ( Update: Late Thursday, the S.E.C. joined the F.S.A. in instituting a ban on shorting financial shares.) All this is a lot of piling on to a group that likely lost a bundle in the markets today. The Dow surged late in the trading session to close with a 410-point gain. So far, there hasn't been any solid evidence that short-sellers are even to blame for this massive unwinding of these over-leveraged institutions. As Jesse Eisinger points out, short-sellers were not involved in the series of disastrous steps that A.I.G. took that ultimately led to its demise. The shorts may have benefited from those steps, sure, but they didn't have

any part in encouraging A.I.G. to hop aboard the high-flying credit-default swaps ride. Eisinger offers a potential solution for much of the problems in volatile markets like today's. In his column in the October issue of Condé Nast Portfolio, Eisinger proposes a transaction tax on all trades. Such a burden would discourage "shorttermism"—traders that go in and out of positions in rapid fire to turn a quick profit who have a disproportionate and often irrational control over stocks and commodities. Of course, a transaction tax is probably the last thing on any regulator's mind at this point. Today, they're squarely focused on the wild goose chase instead. Related Links The Long Crisis Illiquidity and Insolvency in the Commercial Real Estate Market Bringing Back Regulation's Good Name

Is MySpace Music An Antitrust Lawsuit Waiting To Happen?
By Erick Schonfeld (TechCrunch)
Submitted at 9/20/2008 4:43:34 PM

Hip, Hip, Hooray!
(Portfolio.com: News and Markets)
Submitted at 9/18/2008 1:00:00 PM

Wall Street is hoping that Washington will come to its rescue. Stocks surged late in the trading day on Thursday after CNBC reported that Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson is planning to create a federal agency to bail out troubled financial institutions. The agency would likely be something akin to the Resolution Trust Corporation that liquidated hundreds of savings and loans after that banking fallout. In this case, such an agency would take the bad debt off of the balance sheets of troubled financial institutions so that they can return to a more normal course of business. Details of the plan, including the cost to taxpayers, were not known. The news is certainly great for the markets, but does New York know that Washington is about to close down?

Congress is hoping to adjourn this session next Friday to campaign on their home turf until election day. The lawmakers may not come back for votes until after the end of the year, when a new Congress and administration will be in place. Of course, extenuating circumstances such as this major financial crisis could keep legislators at work in D.C. until early November if need be. Paulson is said to be shopping the plan to lawmakers on the Hill currently, and in recent days the idea of it seems to have attracted bipartisan approval. President Bush, who will be in office until January, could try to go out on a positive note by putting this plan into action swiftly. Today's market was wildly volatile and despite the last minute surge, it's still too early to call a bottom. Indeed, the fallout from Lehman Brothers and A.I.G. is only starting to be felt among already struggling financial institutions around the globe. And

the problems facing Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley will likely continue for the coming days and weeks. Shares of Morgan rebounded to close up slightly today, while Goldman ended the session down nearly 4 percent. The broader financial sector soared. The Dow swung from a 148-point loss to a gain of as much as 465 points before settling down to close the session up 410 points, or 3.9 percent. Also on Portfolio.com: • Wall Fall Down: Who Will Survive the Panic? • Credit Crunched: A Special Report on the Crisis • One Market Is Holding Up ... So Far Related Links The Bumpy Ride Ahead Hank Paulson, Buy-Sider A Supercop for Finance

The billboards are up, the CEO search continues, and MySpace Music is set to launch sometime next week. It would have launched last week, but protracted negotiations with EMI to bring it aboard along with the other three music labels is believed to be the cause of the delay. If MySpace Music can launch with EMI it will overnight become a major new force for music distribution on the Web. That is because it will offer free streams of fulllength tracks from all the major labels, legitimizing the advertising-supported model that is beginning to challenge iTunes’ pay-per-download approach. It will be more akin to a subscription model like Rhapsody’s, but without the subscription. MySpace won’t be the first service to offer free ad-supported streams from all the major labels ( imeem already does so, and even Rhapsody itself is moving towards a hybrid model that combines free -streaming, an MP3 store, and subscriptions). But it could be the first to run into serious antitrust issues. Independent labels are already crying foul for being “blocked” from the service. The indies will likely be added over time. The bigger antitrust issue comes down to the pricing relationship between MySpace and the music labels. MySpace will have to be extra careful about how it structures its relationship with the music labels. MySpace Music is a joint venture between three of the four major music labels and is currently raising more capital at a$2 billion valuation. If EMI joins, it will probably want an equity stake as well. It is not clear how MySpace Music will be paying the labels. But by giving them a financial stake in the business, MySpace Music has a chance of throwing out the current, problematic digital music business model. The problem with advertising-

supported streams is that every music service on the Internet has to pay the labels about a penny per streamed song, which is the equivalent of a $10 CPM and is uneconomical. The big unanswered question is whether MySpace Music will play by these same broken rules or whether it has convinced the labels to lower their prices (or simply accept a share of MySpace Music’s revenues). The music industry desperately needs a new digital business model. There is no question about that. But if the labels are going to allow MySpace Music to pay less per stream or not at all, and they themselves are joint venture partners in MySpace Music, that will open them up to charges of preferential pricing, collusion, and price discrimination. (The music industry’s own hush-hush TotalMusic project could run into the same issues). So MySpace Music and the music labels might find themselves in a pickle. However, there is a solution that will help not only MySpace Music sidestep the antitrust pitfalls, but could also spark a whole new wave of growth in the entire digital music industry. It’s simple really. The music labels should reset the rules by repricing the cost per song they charge to every music site on the Web. Whatever price MySpace Music is paying should be the price for all players. (A $1 effective CPM would make more sense). That might weaken MySpace Music’s competitive advantage, but getting clobbered by an antitrust lawsuit would be worse. And you know what they say about bigger pies. Crunch Network: CrunchGear drool over the sexiest new gadgets and hardware.



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Japanese Girl Sensation: Virtual Boyfriends (Webkare)
By Serkan Toto (TechCrunch)
Submitted at 9/20/2008 6:43:41 AM

In Japan, girls are crazy over virtual boyfriends. Webkare(Web Boyfriend in Japanese), a mix between a social network and dating simulation site, is Nippon’s newest web sensation. Geared exclusively towards girls, the site attracted over 10,000 members just 5 days after its release on September 10, racking up 3.5 million page views in the same time frame. The site is a huge hit over here. Girls sign up and become members of a social network but also users of a dating simulation in cartoon style. They have to try to hook up with one of four male Anime characters (who are the “stars” of the site) through “conversations” and must collaborate with other Webkare members in order to move on in the game. Eventually they conquer the heart of the chosen cartoon boy. It’s pretty weird but clever. Dating simulations have been popular in Japan for

quite a while now, but Webkare marks the first time the concept has been brought online and combined with social networking functionality. Girls choose between one of four different male cartoon characters they want to hook up with upon registration. They can then “communicate” with their digital crush in cartoon-like sequences to try to win over his heart over the course of the game. It’s also possible to meet other boys later in the story, which uses a virtual high school as the main setting. Interaction is quite limited, as users themselves can neither type text nor “speak” to the characters. Instead, Webkare will display a short cartoon clip if you click on the boy you like (some of the clips include voice samples such as “What’s up?”, “Do you always stay in the class room until dark?” “Leave me alone!” etc.), driving the love story forward step by step. Important conversations or events can be stored in the album section of the site as

“memories”. On the surface, Webkare’s social network functions are kept to a minimum. There are profiles (including the “Propeta” feature that lets you decorate your profile with small branded icons, similar to the HotLists used in HotOrNot profiles), a

direct messaging system, a discussion board and a Twitter-like microblogging function. But the social aspect is actually quite distinctive, as members need to befriend each other and collaborate. LinkThink, the company behind Webkare, is strangely secretive about the game

mechanics, however, making it hard to figure out how to advance in the game. For example, it seems to be essential to “talk” to the boyfriends of other users and view their profiles and albums. Currently usage is free, with display ads and affiliate links as main sources of revenue. Webkare’s future monetizing strategy could include turning the concept into a video game or novel, merchandising, product placement, selling virtual items, expanding the concept to cell phones, developing a version for male users or offering premium memberships. Another obvious option is internationalization, but here the question is if such an idiosyncratic way of curing loneliness 2.0 could succeed in the US or Europe as well. Reportedly, 52% of members are Japanese females in their twenties, with thirty-somethings accounting for 18% of the user base. Crunch Network: CrunchGear drool over the sexiest new gadgets and hardware.

Band Actually Promotes The Fact That Its Album Was Leaked (Against Its Wishes)
By Michael Masnick (Techdirt)
Submitted at 9/19/2008 12:11:00 PM

Online Gamers More Physically Fit Than Average?
By Michael Masnick (Techdirt)
Submitted at 9/18/2008 11:11:00 PM

Earlier this month, we wrote about how the author Stephenie Meyer reacted when a manuscript of her latest novel was leaked online. She punished the fans, by saying that she would stop working on the book. This seemed like an odd move to us, and we said so. Some in the comments accused us of being unfair in suggesting that anyone ought to figure out ways to use such a leak to their advantage, but it does appear that some are doing exactly that. Eric Samson writes in to let us know that he just received an email from the Canadian band The Dears, talking about how their album was leaked -- against the band's wishes -- but, since it was out there, the band wanted fans to know it was there.

Seems like the right response: email between a friend of ours and us: On 15-Sep-08, at 8:17 AM, ******* **** wrote: It's out there. On 15-Sep-08, at 8:15 AM, Murray Lightburn wrote: i heard. On 15-Sep-08, at 8:15 AM, ******* **** wrote: Your album leaked this morning. ----------------------------------------------So there you have it, friends: our new album and finest work to date, still not due for several weeks, is out there. While we are 100% appreciative that people care enough, The Dears are still pretty oldschool. This was not exactly our intention and to be honest, even though it's kind of cool, we can't help feeling a little bit

devastated. We were always aware of the inevitability, as we are living in the modern age. In fact, we don't expect anyone to empathize at all. Nevertheless, you now have these options: a.) download it now. b.) wait and buy it later. c.) both. If we may have any say in the matter, whatever option you choose, we truly hope you enjoy it. We are excited and terrified all at once. Please give it a proper listen, maybe at least four times to start because it is pretty massive, intricate, layered. Much love, much care, and about 16 hours a day for so many, many weeks (months?) went into the making and delivery of it. We work hard for our patrons. In addition, we are not even certain of the quality of the files out there are like but we do know that

the official version (out on OCT 20/21 worldwide) is of the utmost quality, mastered by the great Bob Ludwig. The sleeve and lyric book in the packaged version are also very cool so we really do trust that you'll pick it up when it is released formally. Eternally Grateful, THE DEARS PS... Hope to see you... Sep 30 Canada Waterloo, ON The Starlight w/ Gentleman Reg Oct 1 Canada Hamilton, ON Casbah w/ Gentleman Reg (and a long series of tour dates) If it's going to happen and there's no way to stop it, might as well learn to take advantage of it. Permalink| Comments| Email This Story

It's been a good week for video gamers and a bad week for stereotypes of video gamers, apparently. Earlier we wrote about a study talking about how video gamers were actually quite social, and now a new study suggests that online gamers are more physically fit than your average American(perhaps not saying much). No one seems to think that there's a causal relationship here, as it may just be that video gamers tend to be wealthier and more educated -- who also tend to be in better shape. There's also the issue that this appears to be based on self-reported stats, which may not be that accurate. Still, it appears that studies are starting to chip away at the stereotype of the overweight, social loner video gamer. Permalink| Comments| Email This Story

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The First Rule Of Product Placement In Songs: You Don't Talk About Product Placement In Songs
By Michael Masnick (Techdirt)
Submitted at 9/19/2008 10:24:00 AM


Facebook Connect Spotted Digg Cleans House, Bans In The Wild. Will Beacon 80+ Script Users Finally Die?
By Mark Hendrickson (TechCrunch)
Submitted at 9/19/2008 12:41:43 PM

By Erick Schonfeld (TechCrunch)
Submitted at 9/19/2008 1:55:33 PM

Your Facebook ID is about to be accepted at a whole lot more sites than just Facebook. Developers have been hacking away with Facebook Connect since last May, and now partner sites are getting ready to launch. CBS’s celebrity gossip site TheInsider is the first to do so. Anyone can log in using their Facebook ID, and then can choose to have any comments, article votes, or poll responses show up in their Facebook feed. CBS is testing Facebook Connect on TheInsider, and if the response is favorable plans on rolling it out across other CBS.com and Cnet properties. Expect more sites not owned by CBS to launch next week. More importantly, Facebook Connect could end up replacing Facebook’s Beacon service on CBS and elsewhere. Beacon, to remind everyone, is the advertising-driven platform that was riddled with privacy problems and caused some partners to wish they had never signed up(but never really went away). Beacon identifies whenever a Facebook member visits a partner site and allow certain actions such as adding a rating or review, or saving a recipe, to appear in that member’s feed on Facebook. Despite patching up some Beacon’s privacy holes, it never really took off. Facebook Connect offers a much better privacy model. It is very clear that you are signing up for it, and there is the convenience factor of being able to use

your existing Facebook username and password. And whatever your privacy settings are on Facebook get automatically transferred to every Facebook Connect site where you are also logged in. And for developers, there are just a lot more things they can do with Facebook Connect than make actions appear in members’ feeds. Groups, events, photos, and user status messages can all be grabbed from Facebook and used as features on other sites. As Facebook users make changes on Facebook (or on the partner sites), the changes are updated everywhere. And Beacon? According to a Facebook spokesperson: We are not accepting any new developers into the Facebook Beacon program, though the approximately 30 existing sites may continue to use the feature as it suits them best. Beacon may not be dead quite yet. But it will be soon. Crunch Network: CrunchBoard because it’s time for you to find a new Job2.0

Reports are bubbling up that Digg has permanently banned over 80 users for running scripts that help them automatically perform certain tasks on the site. The mostly lengthy account has been published on the Get Smart Blog under the title The Grim Reaper has visited Digg. The post lists 86 usernames that were unceremoniously dropped from the site without forewarning. The tone of the author and his commenters, all apparently Digg users (or ex-Digg users) themselves, is dramatic: “So many brave and valiant Diggers…it is a tragedy of unspeakable proportions to see such wasted talent.” Among those banned was a user named Diggboss who had developed a GreaseMonkey script for checking up on friends to see whether they’ve dugg the items that you’ve submitted or shouted. The script used Digg’s own APIs and didn’t automatically Digg any stories, yet Digg’s Terms of Use vaguely prohibits “automated means to access the Site” and any “organized effort that in any way artificially alters the results of Digg’s services.” In an official blog post from last week, Jen Burton from Digg suggested that scripts were primarily forbidden because they “place additional load on Digg servers (slowing things down for everyone)”. It’s quite clear, however, that Digg is also concerned with preventing users from gaming the system by recruiting their friends. The Duggboss script may not have automatically submitted stories, but it did help users pursue a strategy of scratching backs for homepage hits (a strategy that

ensnared Mark Cuban’s own brother). Many users are defiant that Digg should dismiss long-time contributors on the grounds that they had run scripts. And some think Digg is shooting itself in the foot by giving users reason to jump ship: Script? All I have to say about that is WHO CARES! Is Digg doing great in traffic and usage? YES! The site could be a little easier to use if you ask me and if script enables people to use it faster….. so be it! It only works in Digg’s favor and you would think they would understand that. It will be very interesting to see what happens in the next few months. Digg might just become a ghost town and Yahoo Buzz could be the next guru. But that’s nothing new. Crunch Network: CrunchGear drool over the sexiest new gadgets and hardware.

We've pointed out recently that as brand advertisers recognize increasingly that content is advertising, they're looking to all sorts of new ways to do "product placement" in places you might not expect. For example, we've talked about product placement in novels. But, what better place for product placement than in a song? Lots of famous songs mention brand names, and it seems some creative advertisers are now going out and trying to sell such placement. At least that's what's being suggested after some guys who received an unsolicited offer to have their brand in a song went and published the email they received. The email notes:"I'm writing because we feel you may be a good company to participate in a brand integration campaign within the actual lyrics of one of the worlds most famous recording artists upcoming song/album." Of course, now there's also something of a dispute concerning the publicizing of the email. The guy who apparently sent the email is threatening to sue the recipients who posted it to their blog-- though it's entirely unclear what they'd be suing over, other than that someone called them out for their marketing practices. In the meantime, I don't see any problem with bands mentioning brands in their songs, but it seems like there are much better ways of doing that, which don't seem quite so tacky as unsolicited emails asking people to pay up to get included in a song. Permalink| Comments| Email This Story

UK Says Phorm Clickstream Tracking Is Okay... If Clearly Explained To Customers
By Michael Masnick (Techdirt)
Submitted at 9/18/2008 8:01:05 PM

With US-based clickstream tracking company NebuAd on the rocks, similar UK competitor Phorm has actually

received approval from the UK government, despite concerns over legality. Apparently, the UK has decided that as long as Phorm clearly states what's happening, allows easy opt-outs (even if users change their minds later), then it's

fine. What's not clear, though, is how the government will treat Phorm's early tests, which did not include clear notification or easy opt-outs. In the meantime, if such programs really are clearly communicated to users, do you think enough people

would opt-in to make it worthwhile? Permalink| Comments| Email This Story


Tech* Gadgets*

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Favtape Relaunches As Muxtape On Steroids
By Jason Kincaid (TechCrunch)
Submitted at 9/19/2008 1:46:13 PM

Mass Instant Message That Link With The Tell-AFriend Widget
By Mark Hendrickson (TechCrunch)
Submitted at 9/19/2008 5:36:44 PM

It has been just over a month since Muxtape, a popular music site that let users share the online equivalent of cassette mixtapes, was shut down by the RIAA for copyright infringement issues. Since then we’ve seen the site reborn in a few incarnations, including an Open Sourced version called OpenTape. Now Favtape, a basic music site that launched last July, is releasing an overhauled new version that has led developer Ryan Sit to appropriately call it “Muxtape on steroids”. Favtape originally launched as an enhanced frontend to Seeqpod that let users import and listen to full versions of songs from their Last.FM and Pandora playlists. The site’s interface is similar to Muxtape, sporting a very basic layout and a sparse feature set. At the time I commented that the site was too simple there was no easy way to rearrange a playlist, and there were few features other than audio playback. The new version of the site addresses these issues, and introduces a host of new features that make the site a worthwhile replacement to Muxtape. Users are now free to rearrange songs on their playlists, and can easily share their Favtapes using a static URL (You can see the one I made

here). Other new features include links to music videos for each song, album art, an embeddable player, and playlists of top songs from Billboard charts and iTunes. The new site also supports a mobile interface for the iPhone, so you can listen to your playlists on the go. One of Favtape’s biggest advantages over Muxtape (but also its main weakness) is its heavy reliance on Seeqpod, a music site that indexes music files across the web but never hosts them. Unlike Muxtape, which asked users to upload their favorite music files to generate a playlist, Favtape is only including links to these files, so it should theoretically be harder to target with lawsuits. That said, if a lawsuit ever brings Seeqpod down (and they have already tried), Favtape will be left an empty shell. Other sites in this space include Songza, Snuzu, and Streamzy. CrunchBase Information Favtape.com Information provided by CrunchBase Crunch Network: MobileCrunch Mobile Gadgets and Applications, Delivered Daily.

There’s a new content sharing widget in town and it’s called Tell-A-Friend. Like ShareThis and AddThis, Tell-AFriend is placed on webpages by publishers so their visitors can easily share content with friends (we’ve placed the AddThis button at the bottom of every TechCrunch post). But unlike these existing solutions, Tell-A-Friend users can share content with their instant messaging contacts in addition to their email and social networking ones. Tell-A-Friend supports four IM services: Yahoo, Google, AIM and MSN. When you send something via IM, the service essentially signs into your account in the background (I know this because AIM warned me that I was now signed in from two locations). It then sends an IM with the link and message you’ve provided to all the selected recipients. One big problem, though: if your recipients aren’t online, they won’t get the message, and there’s no way to check their status from the widget. (Update: This appears to be a problem on a per-service basis. For example, Gtalk supports offline messaging but AIM does not). If you’d like to simply email a link to your friends, you can also pick recipients from your Yahoo Mail, Windows Live, or Gmail address books. Links can be sent to Wordpress, Blogger, Facebook, and

Minox nurtures the spy in all of us, dry martini not included
By Stephanie Patterson (Engadget)
Submitted at 9/20/2008 5:03:00 AM

Twitter contacts as well. Overall, that’s 11 services - a number that pales in comparison to AddThis’s 34 and ShareThis’s 36. Another nice characteristic of Tell-AFriend is that it doesn’t pop up any new windows, even when sharing on social networks. But since publishers are reluctant to clutter their pages with too many widgets, Tell-A-Friend will have to add more supported services if it’s to catch on. Pramati, the maker of Tell-A-Friend, plans to monetize the widget with a premium version that allows for branding and contests. CrunchBase Information Socialtwist Tell -a-Friend ShareThis Add This Information provided by CrunchBase Crunch Network: MobileCrunch Mobile Gadgets and Applications, Delivered Daily.

Filed under: Digital Cameras Minox, we knew you wouldn't let us down. We've seen a few bland cameras released by you over the years, but it warms our hearts to see you haven't forgotten why we love you. This latest line of miniature cameras comes in three flavors: yuck, meh, and totally badass. The DC 1033 looks like every other camera known to man, with the slight improvement of being a mere 94 x 55 x 24mm with 10-megapixels of firepower. The DCC Leica M3 Gold Edition is nothing more than a rerelease of the silvery edition - tiny, cute, but no match for the classic 30s style DSC (Digital Spy Camera) -- 86 x 29 x 20mm, 5-megapixels -- to be showcased next week at Photokina in Germany. [Via Studio Lighting] Read- Minox DCC Leica M3 Gold Edition Read- Minox License to shoot Permalink| Email this| Comments

Envato Launches Theme Marketplace For Your Blog
By Don Reisinger (TechCrunch)
Submitted at 9/20/2008 4:59:01 AM

Envato, a company that operates a set of marketplaces for digital goods, tutorial sites, and a handful of other “projects,” announced that it has launched a new service that will let you buy and sell Web templates for your Wordpress blog and just about any other CMS in existence. Dubbed ThemeForest, the service runs

off the engine that powers the company’s Flash and royalty-free music loops marketplaces. Items on ThemeForest sell for $10 to $50, depending on the quality of the theme and the developer’s greediness and the library currently has 150 themes in place. The site said that its membership tally is already 75,000, but that’s because the same username is used across all of the company’s marketplaces. In an attempt to make it easier to buy the

templates, users can deposit cash on any of Envato’s three sites and that money can be used on any of the others. So far, ThemeForest offers a healthy amount of nice themes, but can it really compete with Wordpress itself? There are

a slew of themes already in the wild and it’s debatable whether people want another marketplace to buy anymore. CrunchBase Information Envato Information provided by CrunchBase Crunch Network: MobileCrunch Mobile Gadgets and Applications, Delivered Daily.

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Tech* Gadgets*


PlanetEye Applies Pack Rat Mentality to Travel Planning
By Mark Hendrickson (TechCrunch)
Submitted at 9/20/2008 1:13:21 PM

Sugar Inc Skips Ad Network, Launches Blog Platform Instead
By Jason Kincaid (TechCrunch)
Submitted at 9/19/2008 5:02:21 PM

PlanetEye is a Microsoft-backed travel planning site that launched earlier this year and received its first major upgrade a couple days ago. Like other travel sites, Planeteye helps you discover activities, restaurants, and accommodations in unfamiliar destinations. And it helps to organize your favorite places and activities so you’ll know where to go and what to do on your trip. PlanetEye’s central concept is the “Travel Pack”. Each pack corresponds to a trip, and as you browse the site you can click on the numerous “Add to Travel Pack” buttons to add cities, photos, hotels, bars, attractions, and more to your packs. It’s kind of like putting all the goods that look interesting to you in a shopping cart, except that you can go back and easily put them back on the shelf with one click of the “remove” link. Travel packs can be kept private or shared with other PlanetEye members. The site will also recommend packs to you as you view certain cities, such as the Esquire Magazine’s Best New Restaurants, 2007 travel pack when looking at San Francisco. You can choose to take individual items from these packs and add them to your

own, or claim the entire pack. As a result of this week’s site upgrade, PlanetEye will now recommend travel items to you based on those you’ve already put in your packs. The integrated maps functionality has been improved for viewing photos, lodging, dining, activities, and attractions from a particular region all at once. And an improved search box provides suggestions in a dropdown menu for more effective results. PlanetEye has also picked up Venere.com as a hotel booking partner. Through its various means of aggregation, the site now provides information about 111,000+ hotels, 242,000+ restaurants, and 36,000+ attractions. Also see GoPlanit, which launched recently at TechCrunch50. Crunch Network: CrunchGear drool over the sexiest new gadgets and hardware.

Sugar Inc, owner of the popular Sugar blog network that includes PopSugar, is launching a free blogging platform called OnSugar. The Drupal-powered OnSugar platform is designed to be as simple as possible while still remaining versatile, and already has a proven track record - the Sugar blog network is written using the same technology. Users will be given tools to create special features that have become mainstays on the blogs, including photo galleries and polls, and will also have access to a large repository of free images from Getty. Bloggers will be able to monetize their sites through standard ad networks like AdSense or Glam, and will also be able to include ShopStyle widgets (though they won’t be available until the final launch in 90 days). ShopStyle, which was acquired by Sugar last fall, allows bloggers to create visual spreads of real-world products. Bloggers will get a cut of any sales that result from the widgets. The platform is a smart move for Sugar on two fronts: For one, it gives existing Sugar readers a chance to express their opinions to the public without having to

Cambridge Audio reveals iPod-lovin' Sonata / Fusion audio systems
By Darren Murph (Engadget)
Submitted at 9/20/2008 1:02:00 AM

leave the network, allowing Sugar to increase its retention rates for current users. Its streamlined interface will also appeal to prospective bloggers who may not care for Sugar’s blogs in the first place, allowing Sugar to reach an entirely new audience. We had previously speculated that Sugar was gearing up to take on rival Glam Media with its own ad network, but CEO Brian Sugar says that while Sugar had considered building one, it decided to shelve the idea for the time being. However, he acknowledged that an ad network could easily be layered into the new blogs should Sugar ever change its mind. You can check out a sample blog at TechCrunch.OnSugar.com. CrunchBase Information Sugar Inc Information provided by CrunchBase Crunch Network: CrunchGear drool over the sexiest new gadgets and hardware.

Filed under: Home Entertainment Not content with sneaking a dedicated Blu-ray player into CEDIA, Cambridge Audio has just taken the plastic off of two new HiFi systems in Milan. The Sonata, aimed squarely at audio junkies, consists of a 2.1-channel DAB receiver (£299; $547), which offers 40-watts of amplification per channel and your choice of an upscaling 1080p DVD player or a Wolfson-DAC-loaded CD unit for another £179 ($327). The all-in-one Fusion (£300; $549) includes 30-watts per channel, an integrated CD player, DAB / FM tuner, USB port, an SD slot and a customized iPod dock (which is also bundled with the aforementioned Sonata). Both units are slated to hit the UK in silver and black, though the November-bound Fusion will get a jump on the Sonata, which hits in February 2009. Read| Permalink| Email this| Comments

Fonolo Joins The Growing Arsenal Against Phone Tree Hell
By Jason Kincaid (TechCrunch)
Submitted at 9/19/2008 7:58:43 PM

We’re one step closer to taking down Automated Phone Trees once and for all. Fonolo, a startup that won the top prize at today’s GigaOM Mobilize Conference, provides users not only with a way to bypass the irritating and inefficient trees, but also a central hub to help monitor previous conversations for future reference. Fonolo is currently in private

beta so you’ll have to hold out a while longer, but we’ll be keeping close watch for its public launch. The site’s primary function is to let you skip phone trees entirely. Fonolo presents a nested path menu for each supported company, which you can browse through until you find the person you’d like to call. The service then dials the number for you, using audio detection in real time to ensure the menu hasn’t changed. Once it arrives at its destination, it calls your phone and

immediately connects you. In August, we wrote about Direct Line, an iPhone application that does nearly the same thing (though it doesn’t let you identify exactly

which department you’d like to speak to). What differentiates Fonolo is its online hub, which allows users to view their call history and add notes. Perhaps most useful is the service’s recording function - Fonolo will automatically record all of your calls for future reference, so you won’t have to worry about jotting down a Customer Service Representative’s name or a confirmation number. Other sites that offer some relief from automated systems include Bringo, which

we wrote about last summer, and GetHuman. Here’s a video of the company’s presentation from iPhoneBuzz: CrunchBase Information Fonolo Information provided by CrunchBase Crunch Network: CrunchBoard because it’s time for you to find a new Job2.0


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Apple prepping a 32GB iPhone update; bringing back at-home activation?
By Nilay Patel (Engadget)
Submitted at 9/20/2008 11:10:00 AM

ET Talks Emmys with Neil Patrick Harris!
(ETonline - Breaking News)
Submitted at 9/20/2008 11:21:00 AM

E-cigarettes banned in WHO-ville
By Stephanie Patterson (Engadget)
Submitted at 9/20/2008 9:04:00 AM

Filed under: Cellphones We're not particularly inclined to believe them, but the whispers that Apple is about to bump the top-end iPhone capacity to 32GB are getting harder to ignore -- especially since 8GB inventory is drying up, leading to speculation that's it's going to be dropped as soon as next week. We think the timing's a little odd on the heels of the Let's Rock iPod refresh, but considering the rampant speculation that Apple was forced to bump the nano to 16GB and drop the"limited edition" 4GB model entirely at the last minute in response to the new Zune lineup we suppose it makes competitive sense. AppleInsider also says customers will once again get the option to activate in

-home, but we haven't heard anything about that -- we'll see what happens in the next few days. [Thanks, Harry] Read| Permalink| Email this| Comments

Party on! ET's on the red carpet at the CBS comedies' season premiere party, where Neil Patrick Harris gives us the dish on his Emmy nomination for "How I Met Your Mother" and reveals his Emmys stage fright! Plus, we chat up 'HIMYM''s Alyson Hannigan and "Big Bang Theory"'s Kaley Cuoco! "If I win I worry that I'll forget someone's name," Neil jokes of his Emmy nom for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series. "I think I have been most nervous to be looking out this big auditorium filled with people and panicking deer-in-headlights style." CBS' new TV season kicks off Monday, September 22.

Filed under: Misc. Gadgets As it turns out, the World Health Organization (WHO) isn't condoning ecigarette products -- shockingly -- as some manufacturers might like you to believe. In fact, the lawsuit flag is being waved at a few companies who brazenly plastered the organization's name and logo across promotional material, suggesting an endorsement of the product. The WHO's Douglas Bettcher asserts that the product is

untested as a nicotine replacement therapy, stating, "If the marketers of the electronic cigarette want to help smokers quit, then they need to conduct clinical studies and toxicity analyses." So while e-cigs might not carry the same carcinogenic risks as traditional smoking, there are still plenty of health issues surrounding liquid nicotine and all the nasty additives it's served in... and the WHO isn't about to let you forget it. [Via PhysOrg] Read| Permalink| Email this| Comments

Pentax K-m DSLR leaks out a little early
By Joseph L. Flatley (Engadget)
Submitted at 9/19/2008 10:04:00 PM

Filed under: Digital Cameras Just in time for the big Photokina show in Koln, Germany, rumours are buzzing about a new Pentax DSLR that briefly appeared on the Pentax Germany site. Though details are sketchy, the K-m looks to be a lower-cost take on the K10D, with

the same 10.2 megapixel Sony sensor and in-body stabilization but a lighter and smaller plastic case and slightly larger 2.7-

inch LCD display. Sadly, there's no live view, but if the rumored pricing -- €500 ($725) for the single (18-55m) lens and €600 ($875) for the 2-lens kit (18-55mm and 50-200mm) -- is accurate that might not be a dealbreaker. We'll find out soon. [Via 1001 Noisy Cameras] Read| Permalink| Email this| Comments

Cognition Technologies' Semantic Map paves the way for the robot uprising
By Joseph L. Flatley (Engadget)
Submitted at 9/19/2008 5:25:00 PM

Filed under: Misc. Gadgets Cognition Technologies' new Semantic Map lets computers -- and, conceivably, evil robots-- "understand" the English language in much the same way humans

do, based on word tenses and context in a sentence. With this technology, a computer or search engine can understand virtually every word in the English language -- for a vocabulary about ten times that of a typical American college graduate. The system is already being employed in search engines, allowing people to ask questions in human-

the ability to understand language is an important building block of the nascent Semantic Web, and will make the Replicants of the future extremely difficult to detect. Read| Permalink| Email this| Comments phrasing instead of unnatural, machine formatted word strings. Researchers say

Google Maps for mobile now with Street View and walking directions
By A Googler
Submitted at 9/17/2008 4:28:00 PM

Screen Grabs: Mike Traceur needs to speak to his girlfriend... on her X1
By Joshua Topolsky (Engadget)
Submitted at 9/19/2008 7:33:00 PM

Today we added new features to Google

Maps for Mobile that will help you see a location, find out what people are saying about it, and learn how to get there on foot -- all from the convenience of your phone.

Street View imagery, walking directions and business reviews are now available for BlackBerry and many Java-enabled phones. Read more on the Google Mobile

Blog, and check out this video. Posted by Michael Siliski, Product Manager

Filed under: Cellphones, Transportation SCREEN page 23

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SCREEN22 continued from page
Screen grabs chronicles the uses (and misuses) of real-world gadgets in today's movies and TV. Send in your sightings (with screen grab!) to screengrabs at engadget dt com. Sure, Knight Rider is probably the worst show ever in the history of the moving picture, but that doesn't stop Sony Ericsson from wanting to throw some money in its direction (or not, seeing as the company's logo has apparently been scrubbed). Between the nearly intolerable dialogue and absurdly fake green-screen car chases, check out a glimpse of the forthcoming Xperia X1... if you can tolerate even a moment of this abomination. [Thanks, Marco] Read| Permalink| Email this| Comments

Kevin Frazier Talks RFK's Legacy and Barack with the Kennedy Grandsons
(ETonline - Breaking News)
Submitted at 9/20/2008 11:15:00 AM

Advent Eco PC dials down your power meter
By Stephanie Patterson (Engadget)
Submitted at 9/20/2008 3:07:00 AM

Sony VAIO TT to be announced Monday?
By Nilay Patel (Engadget)
Submitted at 9/20/2008 9:23:00 AM

Filed under: Desktops PC World has branched out its Advent brand, offering the Eco PC through its UK online store, aiming to best the average desktop power consumption by 78 percent. The system is priced at just under what you might expect to pay for a slightly dusty super computer -- £599.99 (or about $1100) -- but the specs don't quite match up: 1.5GHz Core 2 Duo T5250 CPU, 2GB RAM, 160GB hard drive, 802.11b/g, and Vista Home Premium onboard. The environmentally-friendly PC is made from

recycled materials, so don't be surprised if it starts to reek of old banana peels after a while. Read| Permalink| Email this| Comments

Filed under: Laptops Sony's recent netbook angst doesn't seem to be slowing the spate of VAIO updates we've been seeing lately -- word on the street is that a new VAIO TT will replace the super-hot VAIO TZ on Monday. There's not much to go on other than some

FCC docs which confirm WiFi, Bluetooth and an EV-DO option, but expect the same 11.1-inch screen as the TZ. Now the real question -- does anyone want Monday to actually get here? Read- Sony Insider post Read- FCC docs [PDF] Permalink| Email this| Comments

On the week of the Democratic National Convention in Denver, ET's Kevin Frazier talked with Robert F. Kennedy's grandsons, Matt and Joe Kennedy, about their famous grandfather's powerful legacy, and about comparisons between RFK and presidential hopeful Barack Obama. Kevin caught up with Matt and Joe as they helped fund-raise for the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial at an event attended by many of their distinguished relatives, like aunt Kerry and uncles Bobby Jr. and Max. The Robert F. Kennedy Memorial is dedicated to advancing the human rights movement by supporting courageous human rights defenders around the world. It mirrors RFK's own legacy of being a strong civil rights supporter, not to mention a charismatic speaker, among other virtues.

Intel officially ships 1.6GHz dual-core Atom 330 processor
By Darren Murph (Engadget)
Submitted at 9/20/2008 7:05:00 AM

Facebooks Old and New Talk Tough on the Campaign Trail
By Paul Glazowski (Mashable!)
Submitted at 9/20/2008 11:46:29 AM

Filed under: Desktops, Laptops Wait, what's this? Intel's shipping the dual-core Atom 330? Despite reports that the 1.6GHz chip wouldn't actually leave the dock until Q4, Intel itself has stepped up to ensure everyone that it's getting 'em out in Q3. The brief points out the obvious -- you know, that the 330 was designed with nettops in mind -- while also confirming that it boasts 1MB of L2 cache, an 8-watt

TDP and support for DDR2 667. So yeah, let's get these in some systems, shall we? Read| Permalink| Email this| Comments

The world won’t end for at least two months, so here are some questions to consider. Does the tenor of today’s political advertisements appeal to you - at least in a comical sense? And does your frustration over New Facebook continue to linger as the network’s creators complete the shift? Old Facebook and the Facebook First complex know how you feel. And they’re talking the issue up, partisan style. They’ve gone to YouTube with their 27second position, and like many of the presidential campaign ads of today, Old Facebook is high on hubris in its video clip. But the humor effect is there all the same. Anything longer wouldn’t quite do,

anyhow. For what it’s worth, a Mashable gets citation shown midway through. But wait! Just three days after the Facebook First attack, New Facebook and the Change for Facebook movement presented their rebuttal. Shorter by a hair, New Facebook rehashes the madness that came before, with topics like Beacon, inbox application notices gone awry, and the termination of Scrabulous getting some screen time. (That last one isn’t quite Facebook’s doing, but what’s a little deceptive marketing now and again?) There’s no telling whether New Facebook and its compatriots in the Change for Facebook campaign will have the last word on the matter, but entertaining this two-part minute-long episode certainly is. For whom do you

raise your posterboard-on-a-stick? Props to Brian Retchless and Wooden Nickel Shorts for making these spots happen. --Related Articles at Mashable | All That's New on the Web: Facebook Brings on New CFO: YouTube’s Gideon Yu Facebook JavaScript Now Live Facebook Exporter for iPhoto Launches Stupid Rumor: Microsoft Buying Facebook for $6 Billion Facebook’s Advertising Rate Cards Unveiled! Facebook Planning More New Features (Not Microsoft Related!) Zuckerberg Refutes Facebook IPO Rumors


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Comcast to FCC: With Your Blessing, We Throttle our Network
By Paul Glazowski (Mashable!)
Submitted at 9/20/2008 7:53:54 AM

Remember when Comcast got tricky with its network meters and squeezed some slow-flowing kinks into broadband users’ connections and got caught for doing it and grabbed the stern attention of the FCC and was told to, in some manner of speaking, to quit the shenanigans? Well, Comcast is opting to forgo such secretive business from here on. Instead, it has, in the words of Vishesh Kumar of The Wall Street Journal, “formally submitted plans to the Federal Communications Commission…detailing how the company plans to manage its broadband network. …. Rather than than target specific types of bandwidth-intensive applications like peer-to-peer file sharing, the company will instead slow Internet speeds for its heaviest users at peak times when its network is congested.” Just to lather some background on to this revelation, Comcast was pinned earlier this year for purposely slowing BitTorrent traffic, which opponents of the silent measure said tossed legitimate and legal transfers in with illicit, copyright-breaking behavior. ( Ars Technica has an exceptional summary of the history of the company’s practices.) And this issue is only compounded by the ISP’s wellpublicized plan to implement a bandwidth cap of 250GB for residential subscribers. Technically speaking, the enactment of the two will essentially mean for Comcast customers not only that their standard monthly fee will offer only so much data

access, but that the way in which they access the data - insofar as large and sustained transfers are concerned - is also observed and manipulated if deemed necessary. All in all, a consciously stifling combination, no doubt. Some observers of the company’s actions say, on the one hand, that the data cap is quite high. They feel that the average user will not reach 250 GB in a given month, even with regular consumption of media like music and high-quality video. That may be true. Yet, how interesting it is that, on subject of networking throttling, Comcast claims to have received “no customer complaints…about the new method in its trial markets and less than 1% of customers were affected on a typical day.” Perhaps the percentage is true, given the volume of users Comcast presumably serves. But the stated absence of any customer complaints seems absurd on its face, and raises several questions: Were customers aware? Did they notice? If so, did they fail to register calls to Comcast customer service for the fact that they were using peer-to-peer software and feared repercussions (for any number of reasons)? Were throttling measures so sporadic and fleeting that all was well minutes or hours after subscribers had noticed a drop in network performance? Of course, many, if not all of these

questions will remain in the air indefinitely, as proof is hard to amass among the consumer class. And Comcast cannot be expected to have to address psychological issues among its users. Thus, if the FCC finds Comcast’s plans to manage users’ activity more strictly not an unfair practice, which it may well do, Comcast users will, very simply, have to deal with it. If this is so, the only sensible thing for discontented Comcast subscribers to do is move on to another service provider. Will they, though? Comcast is evidently hedging its bet on customers’ feeling that a departure from the company’s billing charts will be less appealing than the moment at which they had originally signed on. This is thoroughly old style to business conduct, for sure, but it has unfortunately been proven quite effective at times. (Image credit: Webwombat) --Related Articles at Mashable | All That's New on the Web: Comcast Asks the FCC: How Stupid Do We Look? Comcast Hops on the YouTube Killer Comcast Chooses Yahoo…Google Kicked in the Nuts? Comcast Not Net Neutral Rumor: Plaxo Sells to Comcast for $175M in Cash FCC May Fine Comcast Up To $1.77 Trillion Comcast Practically Admits to Controlling Your Bandwidth Usage. So Not Net Netural.

AllofMe Makes Timelines Look Good. Real good. (INVITES)
By Paul Glazowski (Mashable!)
Submitted at 9/20/2008 3:54:36 PM

Burn Notice: Good Soldier (summer finale)
By Paul Goebel (TV Squad)
Submitted at 9/19/2008 1:01:00 AM

Filed under: Episode Reviews, RealityFree, Burn Notice ( S02E09) "What do you see up there? A mastermind petting a Persian cat?" - Sam Axe So , as you might expect from the finale, Michael is very close to solving one of this season's mysteries. It seems the only missing pieces of the puzzle are who is the

sniper's target and does Michael want to save them? I can only imagine that the target would

have to be a really bad person in order for Michael to overcome his inflated savior complex. If Osama Bin Laden ends up as a passenger on the ferry, he'll probably let the hit go down. Anyone else, however, is going to have to be a game day call. Continue reading Burn Notice: Good Soldier (summer finale) Permalink| Email this| | Comments

There are only so many ways to draw a timeline, as you might suspect. Left to right is generally the way to do it. So one would have to forgive AllofMe for have a very similar likeness to Dipity, a service we reviewed earlier this month, and any others of the same basic design. No matter, though. AllofMe is a name that has been floating around the Web for a good number of months now, and since we’ve been given 100 invites to the private beta to share with readers (link after the jump), we thought it’d be as good a time as any to let you in on just why this one is worth its salt. To begin with, users are given the option to access data from their PCs, mobile devices, as well as sites such as YouTube, Picasa, Flickr, and Twitter. The AllofMe demo clip will show a few more, including RSS, MySpace, and Facebook, though those options are not available upon signup. It may be the case that, when AllofMe departs from its current private beta mode, this list will grow, but the options available today are decent enough for most people to start filling their timeline with information they wish to spread across a graph weeks, months, years, or decades in span. Why decades? For its own longevity, of course. The interactive, billboard-like timeline is intriguing and interactive enough to give users ample playtime - at least for those registrants with a good amount of content hosted by various third-party services. (See this Time magazine cover page to see how things might look for you.) Also, the ability to juxtapose your own digital archives with others on AllofMe is somewhat entertaining. History buffs might enjoy this. Or those who simply

wish to see how their lives appear laid among moments that matter to others - or even miscellany like the IMDB 500, just to name one example. (The list of featured timelines is extensive.) Users can tag faces within photos for easy timeline generation whenever the time comes that such a collection is wanted or needed. You can also quickly generate a timeline unique to any specific stream of information, and cycle through manually or in an automated slideshow. Just keep in mind, when first connecting to one service or another, expect to wait about an hour’s time to see any information come through. This is terribly disruptive to the process, as I’m sure you’ll agree, but so it goes. Want to take a timeline and place it elsewhere on the Web? Export a widget. There are options listed for default view, a old-style television setting, a “time tunnel,” a cork board, and two options to superimpose images either alongside or directly upon a roadway. The last four are inaccessible, unfortunately, with only a “coming soon” label to appease eager eyes. For all intents and purposes, however, the standard presentation is most like the standard timeline, and if you’re one to favor some degree of uniformity, this is presumably what you will use when you do opt to create a widget. Lastly, the full screen view is there for the purpose of, say, showing off a timeline to visitors in your home or to a group of co-workers. Think you’d like to give AllofMe a spin? The first 100 people to click here can get their media chronologized. --Related Articles at Mashable | All That's New on the Web: Discount Code for IsraelWebTour, Hosted by Microsoft

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Microsoft Should Never Have Listened To Tech Bloggers
By Steven Hodson (Mashable!)
Submitted at 9/19/2008 8:38:38 PM

The tech blogosphere is all a buzz today with the assumed demise of the travelling Bill and Jerry show that was a $300 million dollar attempt to make to obscenely wealthy people look like the male version of Thelma and Louis but without the fancy car. Of course the tech blogosphere is claiming credit for their removal from the air waves like a bunch of masked Ninja tech warriors on a holy battle to make people believe that only they know what is funny when it comes to technology. Sure there were a few tech bloggers like Mathew Ingram, Mike Masnick, myself and Mark ‘Rizzn’ Hopkins(but then he has a really warped sense of humor so I don’t know if that would count) who actually found the Bill and Jerry ads humourous. The only one’s who seem to have lost their funny bones on the way to the latest Web 2.0 conferences have been the Mac fanbois. I have seen all three of the new I’m A PC ads and I’m sorry but I’m not seeing any humour here - just a bunch of people saying that they use a PC computer. And the point is? Oh ya these are the ads that has Microsoft taking Apple on by trying to co-opt one of the sad sack characters in the famous Apples ads. The fact is that as obnoxious as the Apple ads may have been they did identify quite nicely with the general attitude of Mac users being better than PC users. So what does Microsoft do now? Well they regurgitate the old Coca-Cola We Are

The World type of ad to give us the impression that while stuck up elitist computer users fondle their Macs the real people of the world use PCs. Real people .. ya .. sure .. if those really people are doctors, new age therapists, rappers, a wrestler with attitude, a lawyer and oh ya BillG. Granted there’s a sprinkling of grannies and foreign aid workers but the fact is that

just having a few hundred people standing in front of a camera saying “I’m a PC” isn’t not going to make for memorable ads. It will though give the Apple PR machine something to fight back against and you can be sure that the late night oil is burning in Cupertino and the whip is cracking to come up with the classic Apple style ads to counter this massive *Yawn* fest that is the new Microsoft ad campaign. As it is I have already forgotten all those new ads with the exception of that phrase “I’m a PC” which I wish I could take a drill to my head to get rid of. What I haven’t forgotten though is BillG doing the underwear wiggle or the robot in the two ads that tech bloggers; most of whom use Macs, didn’t find funny. Now if you were running an ad which would you prefer one that is remembered even weeks later or one that is forgotten almost the same day. Give me the robot anytime. --Related Articles at Mashable | All That's New on the Web: Bloggers! Here Comes Navel Gaze Sunday Microsoft & Yahoo Sign Pact Pushing Blog Censorship in China Microsoft Set to Launch Social Bookmarking Service Next Month Microsoft and Digg Sign Ad Deal, Acquisition Mentioned Announcing TECH Cocktail Event Series New Kid on the Blog(osphere): Grand Effect Yahoo Launches Tech Ticker to Provide Video Coverage of … Yahoo?

Contrust Pledges to Closely Monitor Your Content and Community
By Paul Glazowski (Mashable!)
Submitted at 9/20/2008 9:16:37 AM

The industry that is New Media is very much about two-way communication. We all recognize this. Rather than content simply being doled out to the masses, data on the Web travel in all directions. And while this arrangement hugely effective for a myriad of parties, there are the odd apples which, with barriers lowered, can damage a process. Blogging for one, is filled with interesting discussion, much of it very open and wonderfully so. But it is also wrought with annoyances, some worse than others, and those troublemakers can become a management nightmare if not dealt with. And if you’re keeping tabs on an outlet or forum that requires especial jurisprudence, you’re bound to devote much of your time to being a watchful eye on matters. This is where a middleman by the name of Contrust comes into play. Now, Contrust is not only aiming at independent Internet publishers and New Media upstarts to give its SaaS (softwareas-a-service) monitoring system, presently a semi-exclusive beta, a solid spin. The company is hoping to climb into a chair where it can provide as much for social media actors as old media stalwarts and corporations and so forth. Regardless of this aim, the product it delivers is one that certainly goes above and beyond what common filters of Akismet’s making offer. Backed by Xenia Venture Capital and headed by co-founders Shai Wolkomir (CEO) and Nir Abraham (CTO), each ranking as software and security

specialists, Contrust presents itself as an automatic moderator of sorts. This doesn’t entail the user to simply flip the switch and step aside to allow a magical cleaner to sweep rubbish from view. It’s more about offering the user a good set of parameters, almost entirely customizable, that enable one to specific what may fly and what may not fly in a particular venue. This goes for things text-, video-, and still image-based. (The latter two options are enhanced by UK-based Image Analyzer.) Flexibility is how they phrase it. Which is naturally necessary if the company is to adapt itself to the full variety of clients it seeks to deliver for. It might seem a bit heavy-handed for some in the media industry compelled to monitor themselves without being quite so strict. The specifications are indeed quite detailed, but if the inflow of undesirables is too much to bear, as annual reports of spam proliferation make all too clear, there’s reason to seek more control. Contrust may not be the appropriate engine for everyone. But for some, it may well be. To reiterate, Contrust at present is in closed beta. If interested, you can submit your contact information via a simple application form, which the team pledge to review.

What's On Tonight: Cops, Primeval, Mad TV
By Bob Sassone (TV Squad)
Submitted at 9/20/2008 9:05:00 AM

Filed under: Programming, What To Watch Tonight, Reality-Free • At 8, FOX has a new Cops. • ABC has College Football at 8, Georgia

vs. Arizona State. • TLC has a new Flip That House at 8, followed by a new Over Designed. • E! has The Creative Emmy Awards at 8. • At 8:30, HGTV has a new Deserving Design. • At 9, FOX has a new America's Most


• Cartoon Network has two new episodes of Naruto at 9. • BBC America has the season premiere of Primeval at 9. • Also at 9: CNBC has a new Suze Orman Show. • At 10, TLC has a new Trading Spaces.

• At 11, FOX has a new Mad TV. • At 11:30, NBC has a new Saturday Night Live, with guests James Franco and Kings of Leon. Check your local TV listings for more. Permalink| Email this| | Comments


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Third Annual One Web Day Starts Monday
By Paul Glazowski (Mashable!)
Submitted at 9/20/2008 5:07:12 PM

Social Network Platform Pringo Evolves to Version 3.0
By Paul Glazowski (Mashable!)
Submitted at 9/20/2008 10:48:20 AM

Where will you be during the third annual celebration of One Web Day, set for this Monday September 22, 2008? Devouring all things Internetastic, we presume. Of course, if we do our job right, every day feels like One Web Day. But if you tend to get extra comfortable with the applications and entertainment you encounter on a routine basis, next week comes your chance to toast the tubes and the dump trucks of data they send your way. One Web Day, the creation of University of Michigan law professor Susan Crawford, is indeed the official tip-yourhat-to-networking day, a moment first coined in 2006 to recognize our greaterthan-ever need for ethernet, Wi-Fi, and the cloudware we all know and love. As Crawford states, “Peoples’ lives now are as dependent on the Internet as they are on the basics like roads, energy supplies and running water. We can no longer take that for granted and we must advocate for the Internet politically, and support its vitality personally.” So, how to ring in OWD number three? Well, you can do it right there, from your laptop, PC, mobile phone, or other Webenabled device. You can also take a trip through Silicon Valley. Or Silicon Alley. Or several other hotbeds for digital imagineering and inventioneering. Or, more specifically, you can stop by: Washington Square Park in New York City at noon on Monday to see faces like WNBC notable and Columbia University’s Journalism School professor Sree

Sreenivasan, Pandora founder Tim Westergren, Creative Commons founder Lawrence Lessig, Craig Newmark of Craiglist, as well as folks from EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation), OLPC (One Laptop Per Child), and Susan Crawford herself. The nation’s capital, Washington D.C., where Net notables will gather with members of Congress to bury a time capsule and talk about our tubes. San Francisco’s Department of Technology will orchestrate SF Connect, a volunteer project“to bring residents in public housing online with wireless Internet and donated computer equipment with the help of Free the Net and Meraki wireless.” Chicagoans get treated to a music seminar at the Old Town School of Folk Music. People in Cincinnati will be able to attend a town meeting of sorts called “The Next President, the Internet and the Disconnected City.” Representatives of the

Obama and McCain campaigns will be in attendance, with Public Knowledge cofounder Gigi Sohn speaking for Barack Obama and former FCC Chairman Michael Powell acting as messenger for John McCain. Jumping eastward across the Atlantic, residents of Oxford, England can get schooled on starting blogs and view a photo exhibit featuring Iranian bloggers. Londoners get two hints at where to get their OWD fix: Inn 1888 and The Royal Exchange. In Israel, the Israel Internet Association (ISOC-IL) will be conducting three days of open workshops. The ISOC website has the details. Curious to know if events are being held anyplace else? Just visit the One Web Day Wiki.

Just a few days ago, Pringo, the creator of so-called “non-hosted online community platforms,” spent time at the Web 2.0 Expo in New York City unveiling a new version, dubbed v3.0 Beta. Suffice it to say that this one is ever more about extensions. We’ve given the occasional nod to Pringo in months past, such as when it spoke of a partnership with Fix8 and its subsequent association with the Social Networking Conference held in late January. With the arrival of v3.0, however, the company is touting a architecture that allows for insertion of things like blog software, bulletin boards and shopping solutions as well as increasingly noteworthy provisions born from places such as Google Apps, DocStoc, and QuoteMedia. Google Apps extensibility in particular is something that might pique interest in Pringo, which touts itself as eminently customizable. So much so that the company does nothing less than offer a front-page claim stating its developers “were able to create an exact replica of Facebook - on our own platform - in less than 24 hours.” (What’s the saying? Video or it didn’t happen?) Regardless of the bombast, Pringo does list quite a number of customers and partners that many of you will recognize and which perhaps add a good bit of weight to the platform’s name. Userplane, Pixsy, Limelight Networks, RockYou, Clearspring, and Mochila are counted as partners, while the likes of eHarmony

Advice, StreetCred(a hip-hop network with T.I., Common, and Snoop Dogg as supporting artists), My Country Space, and Hot Moms Club ranking among customers. Some of the examples here are quite featureful and engaging, and look quite decent, to boot. For those who prefer to have their projects custom tailored from a package of options, Pringo is definitely something to consider. We spoken recently about an effort by another business-level community building enterprise, called Webjam Branded Services. And just as that invention intrigued us for the add-on quality it exhibits for organizations in search of closer social engagement among customers and users, Pringo’s refresh serves as further indication that a streamlined, all-in-one product can deliver as much form as function. --Related Articles at Mashable | All That's New on the Web: Fix8 Partners with Pringo for Wider Distribution Pringo Powering Virtual Social Networking Conference fix8 Signs Deal with Stickam fix8 Lands $3M for Webcam Avatars

Spoilers Anonymous
By Isabelle Carreau (TV Squad)
Submitted at 9/18/2008 11:07:00 AM

Filed under: Spoilers Anonymous, Reality-Free This is Spoilers Anonymous, a weekly column here at TV Squad where we'll

supply you with the dirt on some of the more popular shows on the air. We'll never put spoilers up here on the main page in order to help the reformed stay unspoiled. If you have anything to add to the group, feel free to step up and let yourself be heard, either with our tips form or by

emailing us at tvsquad at gmail dot com or

call and leave a message at(775) 640-8479your anonymity is guaranteed, if you wish to remain as such. This week we have: Big Love, Bones, Desperate Housewives, Eli Stone, Fringe, Ghost Whisperer, Gossip Girl, Grey's Anatomy, Heroes, House, Prison Break,

Supernatural, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, The Office. (SPOILERS FOLLOW!) Continue reading Spoilers Anonymous Permalink| Email this| | Comments

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How to Say Marry Me for All the Web to See
By Paul Glazowski (Mashable!)
Submitted at 9/20/2008 12:58:56 PM

There have surely been more convoluted and lengthy marriage proposal efforts conducted by the human species than this. But rarely, if ever, have they occurred in (pseudo) real-time. More specifically, occurred for all the world to watch and to contemplate the chance at success when the proverbial knee drops to the ground. To tell it short, a journey, conducted by a Mr Chris Wible, began a couple of days ago, September 18, to be precise, and he’s taking along a girl named “Jeanne” to be engaged - preferably to him. And their travels, supposedly ending in early October, are all being documented at Jeannesays.com. And she’s said to be the only one not in on the secret. Gripped, are you? As are we. The itinerary is fairly well detailed. So much so that readers might well stumble while the play is in progress? Who knows. Probably not. The route, in several words or more, goes from Nashua, New Hampshire up to Maine’s famous Portland

Head Light, and meets a castle, a garden, a cove, and a lighthouse along the way. If you’re curious to know whether this is a serious undertaking, or some sly promotion of one kind or another, it seems safe to call it authentic. There’s a flower fund to which followers can contribute, open until October 2nd, which happens to sit at an idle $50. And I for one cannot

decipher any secret mysteries in the progress the two adventurers have made that would spoil the promise made. The website itself is just the right amount of simple, too. All said, Chris is looking to make Jeanne as Internet famous as possible before ring meets finger. There’s an RSS button to press, a Digg icon to click and room for

comments aplenty. How’s that for a social media/networking experiment? Mashable leader Pete Cashmore spent part of the week celebrating his birthday pushing a charity effort that proved immensely successful as a result of some little thing called Twitter. Now here we are, with Chris and Jeanne. The second half of September is looking rather swell, don’t you think? (Besides the financial havoc, that is.) --Related Articles at Mashable | All That's New on the Web: SheKnows Continues to Grow Women’s Network: Acquires LovingYou eBay Exec Warns Against Internet Taxes MySpace Launches MyDebates to Add Interactivity to the Presidential Debates Internet Brands Looking for $45M with IPO Internet Tax Ban Almost Permanent? Will an Internet Tax Ban Ever Be Permanent? Did We Just Witness a Twitter Marriage Proposal?

Bebo IM Was Removed Days Ago and Nobody Seems to Care
By Paul Glazowski (Mashable!)
Submitted at 9/20/2008 1:50:08 PM

Glubble: Safe Social Network for the Family
By Doriano "Paisano" Carta (Mashable!)
Submitted at 9/20/2008 11:43:50 AM

There’s a social network for just about everything these days, so it’s no surprise that there are some for families now. Glubble is a family social network that focuses on the safety of your children. When you sign up with Glubble you create a separate social network from all the other members who have family networks there. Only your family members will have access to it and that access must be granted by the main parent who created the family site on Glubble. For the adults using the family Glubble page it will be displayed like any other web page in the browser but once you switch it into kids mode by clicking on the

Glubble Lock icon in the browser toolbar, the browser will automatically switch to full screen kiosk mode. In this mode the children will not be able to access any other part of the computer. Additionally the Glubble team have set it up so that even things like Google search results are intercepted and filtered based on parent created lists of what is allowed and what isn’t. To change back to the adult display it is a simple matter of clicking once again on the lock icon and supplying your password. They have also done well to make it a fun place to hang out for parents and children alike. Children can easily keep their parents up to date with the events in their lives that the parents need to know about. Because of the flexibility, parents can feel included without appearing to be

over controlling everything their children are doing while on the Internet. Besides the message wall which is like your family’s own private Twitter, there’s also the Family Album for sharing pictures and the Glubble Liibrary which has plenty

of games and activities. The search engine is totally kid-friendly and the bookmarking feature is easy to use and gives parents control over which sites their kids can not only visit but save as well. All in all I think Glubble has done a good job and as a parent of three I’m interested to see how it will work out for us. It seems to be a nice way to keep an eye on what your children are doing on the web without ruining their fun. Note: Thanks to Steven Hodson who contributed to this piece. --Related Articles at Mashable | All That's New on the Web: Glubble Filters a $3 Million Series A

If the feelings of the most outspoken Bebo users are any indication, Bebo IM, the relative equivalent to Facebook Chat, has few fans. Very few. What was introduced nearly one month prior to today to a notably negative reception by network members, Bebo IM was, according to employee Mike Watts, temporarily removed for maintenance 9 days ago. The same message was delivered 5 days ago. And hardly a peep has been made about the disruption. A look at recent talk on the Bebo Backstage shows why. The consensus might best be summed up in words of commenter Ross: “don’t bring it back, it sucks.” Though the reasoning for the verbal opposition to Bebo IM may not encompass all users, it seems to be the case that users would tolerate the option of an instant messaging system, if it could be put in place or removed as the individual user sees fit. But of course if respondents were to keep the service off, Bebo, owned by AOL, would see quite a number of members disregard the development. Bebo then gains little love for IM no matter the direction it takes with the component. (A Bebo App by the name of Live Chat, alternatively, lists 24,770 users.) With that in mind, is an IM service on board a social network purposeful on the whole? Or is it a needless distraction? Is it all about implementation? How does Facebook Chat stack up? Is the way MySpace IM functions more appealing? How much do you miss Bebo IM? ( surveys) --Related Articles at Mashable | All That's New on the Web: Bebo Logo Evolution New Look For Bebo Bebo Platform Opens To The Public Bebo Partners with Yahoo Search: Acquisition Imminent? Bebo, Orange to Launch Bebo Mobile Bebo Wants You To Be Well Bebo - MySpace Alternative


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10 hot Web redesigns of 2008
By Josh Lowensohn (Webware.com)
Submitted at 9/19/2008 2:48:00 PM

It may be a little too early to do a roundup of the best redesigns of 2008 like we did last year, but with Thursday's one-two punch of new looks for social sites Twitter and FriendFeed, it's a good chance to take a look back at some of this year's redesigns and talk about what was changed or fixed. I've picked 10 of my favorites below, listed in no particular order. See also the honorable mentions section at the bottom of the post, which includes content sites or other places that didn't quite make the cut. 1. Twitter Twitter's new look isn't all that different from its old look, except for a slightly more rounded feel and the inclusion of tabs on the right side. Twitter's redesign was a twofold change: one part to simplify the interface, and another to reduce the resources needed to host the site. Now when users hop between various functions it doesn't reload the entire page, meaning a faster experience and less data to serve. The most interesting part of the redesign is actually something we don't know about. The tabbed interface on the right was apparently set in place to make room for additional features as they become available. It could be the new things from Twitter itself, or the foundation for special developer-created applications users will be able to use without leaving the service. 2. Facebook Facebook's new look blends in user chat with an applications start bar. More importantly it's made it easier to sort through and add content. The "new" Facebook was one of the most drastic changes of any site this year. Like Twitter, tabs took center stage, as did the chat which shares screen real estate with what's essentially the "start" button on Windows. This new menu let users launch networked applications from any page they're on. The change also embraced widescreen displays, making use of the extra room to let users build out the experience horizontally instead of having to scroll up and down. You can read more about it, and the user backlash, here. Continue reading the rest of this article

after the jump. 3. FriendFeed FriendFeed's new look puts the navigation almost entirely on the left-hand side of the screen, and uhh, it doesn't normally have a pirate theme. FriendFeed's big change moved the navigation from the very top of the screen to the side, and allowed the posted content to make full use of widescreen displays. More importantly, it made room for additional features without squeezing things together, much like Twitter's. One of the most interesting aspects of the new look was that the company let any user who wanted to test it with the use of a special URL, then pushed out the look to

everyone in less than a month. 4. Yahoo.com The new Yahoo will cut down on some of the clutter and include widgetized content akin to the company's My Yahoo service. Yahoo's big, bold new look is the only one on this list that's not actually out yet. The Web giant will be letting users add customized bits and pieces of content, much like users are currently allowed to do on the company's My Yahoo service ( whose look was also tweaked this year). The big difference is that this custom content will sit alongside Yahoo's constantly updating stream of news, photos, and links from around the Web.

Screenshots of the new look were posted by Yahoo on Wednesday and the company has already begun testing it on a select percentage of users to work out some of the kinks. Look for it in the coming months. 5. MySpace MySpace's updated look is a lot cleaner than its old one, and puts the focus on usergenerated content from its members.(Credit: MySpace) MySpace's redesign took place in midJune. It was a play to get some of the service's features and user-generated content into the limelight, and away from the sea of links that existed before. More importantly, it added things like better

search, a profile editor that removed the need for hard coding, as well as a highresolution media player for its video service. 6. Digg/ Digg mobile The updated Digg.com and mobile version of Digg improved upon existing designs while keeping the core of the service generally the same. Digg's big change this year was the inclusion of a recommendation engine which completely re-tooled the way users parsed through newly submitted stories. On one hand, it improved your chances of finding content you'd be interested in based on past digging, however, it came at the expense of the cloud view, which simply grouped together all the story headlines in one mass. The same release brought with it a re-do of Digg mobile. Previously the site was only optimized for iPhones, but the new version let users on any handset view and vote on the site's top stories. 7. MobileMe(formerly .Mac) MobileMe's Web mail looks downright modern. The aging .Mac platform was replaced with a slew of cloud-powered Web apps that sync up with your various devices--at least when the system is working. With the announcement of MobileMe at WWDC '08 in early June, and subsequent release in mid-July, Apple effectively killed off .Mac in place of a handful of updated Web apps. One of the biggest changes was in its Web mail service which joins an online calendar, file and contact manager which are all accessed within a single interface. Despite its slicker look, the core functionality of the service suffered substantial problems in the first month or two, including the Web mail which was unavailable for some users. 8. LinkedIn LinkedIn's redesign was not a drastic one, but complimented some of the utilitarian aspects of the service. LinkedIn's February redesign came hot on the heels of a two-month long beta test for registered users of the site. Aimed mostly at integrating applications designed by developers, the site made room for growth with a left-hand side toolbar and HOT page 33

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A software conference breaks out at Web Two new semantic 2.0 Expo engines: Cognition and Eeggi
By Jim Kerstetter (Webware.com)
Submitted at 9/18/2008 2:43:34 PM

NEW YORK--When News Corp. mogul Rupert Murdoch plunked down $580 million to buy the social networking site MySpace in 2005, C.H. Low had a reaction not that uncommon among tech industry veterans. "I said, ' This is ridiculous! Are we in another bubble?' " said Low. "But I thought, 'Murdoch is a smart man. Something else must be going on here.' " Three years later, Low is the CEO of the software startup Orbius, one of an estimated 50 to 100 companies selling software and on-demand tools to help everyone from automakers to traditional publishing companies add social networking and improved community functions on their Web sites. For many of the companies here at O'Reilly's Web 2.0 Expo, the approach to selling these community-building tools is downright old-fashioned: Site licenses, maintenance fees, and all sorts of enterprise software business models (of course, many with a software-as-a-services spin) that sound more like something out of the 1990s than the business plans of start-ups trying to get traction at the end of the Bush era. But the conference taking on a decidedly business-focused tone shouldn't be all that surprising. In fact, it's a change remarkably similar (but on a smaller scale) to what happened in Web 1.0. In the early days of the dot-com boom, many skeptics wondered loudly if the Web could offer any real business value. Sure, it was fun; the cool kids were able to brag about their cyber credentials, and it was a good way to sell things like books and CDs. But a place to do serious, global corporation kind of business? Unlikely. And all those advertising-based business models? Craziness.

Then a new generation of companies working on software to allow businesses to conduct transactions online and move their pricey corporate software to a more affordable Internet-based model. Only a few of them are still around, but they forced big corporate software names like IBM, Oracle and SAP to come up with viable Internet software that eventually helped drive the little guys out of business or into acquisitions (and a few of those companies running on ads managed to survive). Today, Web 2.0 technology just may be passing from the "cool kid' phase to the business-to-business phase. (A little ominously for the little software companies here, IBM announced Wednesday that it's opening a center in Cambridge, Mass. to study social networking and create a set of social networking software tools it can sell to customers.) Strolling away from the "Long Tail Pavilion" (named after Wired editor Chris Anderson's oft-cited and occasionally ridiculed book), Low recalled his career as a serial entrepreneur. He was chief technology officer at VerticalNet, one of the biggest (and ultimately disappointing) names in the first dot-com boom. After that, he founded several small companies, and was taking time of when the MySpace acquisition gave him the bug to get back in

the game. "Web 2.0 needs to be a utility" Low said. "It can't be just for fun." An enterprise software guy" fits right in That's exactly what Majid Abai, chief executive of Los Angeles startup Pringo, is counting on. Pringo sells communitybuilding and management software that typically costs in the range of $20,000 to $50,000. He wasn't all that surprised so many companies at the Web 2.0 Expo were focused on selling tools for community building rather because there's a good sales pitch for it: It allows companies to improve communications with customers, distributors and employees. And the best way to do it, he believes, it to build those communities on top of packaged software. "I'm an enterprise software guy," Abai said. "If this conference had been here last year, it would have been a completely different game" focused more on flashy companies targeting consumers. In a conference room overlooking the show floor, LiveWorld CEO Peter Friedman was demonstrating new software that allows the managers of a Web site to quickly create a discussion group around a particularly topic, whether it's a story on a news site or a car. His company, which was founded in the 1990s and was nearly gutted in the dot-com bust, sells community-building software and management services that isn't all that different than the discussion forums Friedman helped run at Apple in the 1980s. Don't tell the guys out there," he said, motioning to the show floor below him, "but what we're doing is basically enterprise software." He added that technology and needs have changed, 'but what we're doing isn't all that different from what we were doing years ago." Click here for full coverage of Web 2.0 Expo

By Rafe Needleman (Webware.com)
Submitted at 9/18/2008 5:29:00 PM

Two companies recently pitched me on their semantic engines. These are not search engines, which is what most people think. Rather, they are databases and algorithms that hold the structure of language (in both cases, the English language). At the most basic level semantic engines tell you what's synonymous with what. At the advanced end of the spectrum they know how grammatically similar phrases like "take a seat," "take a stand," and "take a lollipop," mean completely different things. These engines can be used by search products to greatly improve results. Powerset, now a part of Microsoft, made a big deal of its semantic chops by showing how vaguely worded search queries would return just the results you wanted. Now, it seems, that raw semantic technology is about to become mainstream. Cognition recently announced its "world's largest semantic map of the English language," sporting more than "10 million semantic connections." The company is rolling the technology into products like CognitionSearch for the Enterprise, which is a knowledge mining tool, as well as an "eDiscovery" product for the legal industry that enables lawyers to "quickly and efficiently find incriminating, smoking gun documents." The company is also applying its technology to a new advertising engine. The much smaller and newer company, Eeggi, which I was introduced to at Web 2.0 Expo in New York, is also building an engine for discerning meaning. Founder and chief scientist Frank Bandach told me

his model was mathematical (his training is as a prime number theorist) and that his engine goes well beyond understanding synonyms. In his demo, he entered the query "Mary kissed John," and showed how traditional word-matching engines picked up pages there were also about John kissing Mary. His system understands English well enough to filter those out as misses. Bandach says that he's got most of the English language in his system, and that he did English first, "because it's hard. Only Finnish is harder." He's going to work on German next, by feeding it some German dictionaries, which sounds like a sciencefiction way to seed a semantic engine, but he said it's enough to get the system going. Bandach says his algorithms are efficient and not, like Powerset's, CPU hogs. Unlike Cognition, Eeggi is an early-stage project with only four people working on it. It's far too early to tell if the technology is robust and scalable enough to compete with Cognition or Powerset. But I am encouraged to see small companies working on this problem and claiming intellectual breakthroughs. I really would not be surprised to see "meaning engines" become available to Web developers in the same way spelling checkers and grammar engines are now. I have no idea what developers will build with this technology, but I can't wait to see it. See also: Cycorp. Click here for full coverage of Web 2.0 Expo

Chicken Breasts with Mushroom Sage Sauce
By Elise
Submitted at 9/9/2008 2:54:01 AM

You know what the best thing is about

boneless, skinless chicken breasts? They cook up in about nothing flat. Great for midweek meals when you are just rushing to get something on the table. Chicken

breasts also take to sauces well, including this cream-based sauce loaded with mushrooms. What are your favorite sauces for chicken breasts? Let us know in the

comments. Continue reading "Chicken Breasts with Mushroom Sage Sauce" »


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The looming crisis: Personal syndication overload
By Rafe Needleman (Webware.com)
Submitted at 9/19/2008 3:08:00 PM

Today, for kicks, I tried to draw a map of all the places I write content, all the places it is displayed, and all the intermediate services that re-post my content in places other than where I originally write it. It's a spaghetti of interlinked services, and it's becoming unmanageable. I think it's just dumb luck that I haven't created an infinite loop of republishing so far. Adding one more service could push things over the edge. Although my profession is creating content and publishing it, my problem is hardly unique. I post a few times a day on Webware and Twitter, and I contribute to some other blogs and podcasts, and once in awhile I update Delicious and Flickr. But compared with some people in nonpublishing jobs my output is modest. There are people active on multiple personal content services like Facebook, Digg, Vox, Blogger, and Youtube that produce more content than I do, and they're also using republishing services to make sure that all their friends, on all their networks, see all their content. It shouldn't be this complicated (click for full-size).(Credit: Rafe Needleman / CNET) The challenge is keeping track of all the connections between services. It's a tangle, as I said: I have Friendfeed republishing my Twitter posts. Ping.fm, which I often use to post to Twitter (and thus, to Friendfeed), could just as easily publish to Friendfeed directly. I just happened to set up the Friendfeed-Twitter link before I started using Ping.fm. I have Ping.fm updating several other nanoblog feeds, like Jaiku, Pownce, and Plurk. Meanwhile, my Webware article feed (just my stories) is read into Friendfeed and directly by Jaiku. I do not feed Webware into Twitter directly; I use a republisher called Twitterfeed. I am also using Twitterfeed to

FriendFeed solves noise problem with redesign, duplicate roll-up
By Josh Lowensohn (Webware.com)
Submitted at 9/18/2008 4:43:00 PM

republish my ProPRTips blog into Twitter, which is strategic, since I get more readers for that blog's content on Twitter than the blog gets itself. Twhirl, a desktop client for Twitter and Friendfeed that I dearly love, updates only one site at a time, so I can use it to send Twitter posts to either my main Twitter account or other specialized accounts I occasionally write to. Friendfeed reads in only what I write in my main Twitter account, though. And since Twhirl does not update other services I use, like Jaiku and Plurk, when I use Twhirl I need to be mindful that some of my followers on these other networks aren't going to see the posts. It gets worse. Each of the sites my content ends up on (partial list: Webware, News.com, ProPRTips, Swagalicio.us, Twitter, Friendfeed, Jaiku, Identi.ca,

Pownce, Kwippy, Flickr, Delicious, Digg) has its own communities. And I never know where a conversation will take hold. Since I'm most active on Webware, Twitter, and Friendfeed, I check those services more frequently. Sometimes something I write will spark a conversation on one, sometimes another. There's no telling. (By the way, Plurk gets a decent share of community action; every time I go there I think I should check in more frequently.) Disqus can do a lot of discussion bridging between blogs, but one thing it doesn't do is bridge communities between the microblog sites. I am, so far, managing to keep most of these connections in my head, but I fear that if I sleep for more than nine hours I could forget how my network is put together. I could look at my sketch. But we really shouldn't need network maps to keep

track of what we're doing where, should we? So this is my challenge to the Web 2.0 community: Solve the personal content and community problem. Take the multipublishing chops of Ping.fm, the aggregation features of Friendfeed, the republishing capability of Twitterfeed (with more functions, please), and the discussion aggregation of Disqus, and put it all together into one simple, easy-tomaintain product that acts as a hub for publishing, reading, and community in all these services. And while you're at it, make sure you don't steal traffic or community from the services you're front-ending; they all have personalities we want to keep alive. Or should I drop it all and just write email newsletters instead?

Apple and Sausage Pie
By Elise
Submitted at 9/13/2008 4:09:30 PM

From the recipe archive With apple season in full swing, and

cooler weather on the way, here's a casserole pie that combines sweet Italian sausage with Granny Smith apples, and a mix of cheeses. Our neighbor Pat (the wonderful neighbor who has been teaching

me all about organic gardening) brought

over this delicious casserole for a block party recently. What a hit! Continue reading "Apple and Sausage Pie" »

On Thursday afternoon social aggregator FriendFeed pushed out its new look to all its users. Several things have changed since the company launched its beta program late last month, with the biggest being the look and feel of the site, including a change in navigation from the top of the page to the left side. The heart of the service still lies in linking up various sites you use, but as part of the re-design the FriendFeed post box was also given an overhaul with the inclusion of photo hosting. The biggest change besides the look is one of the most subtle, and smartest. It now figures out when your friends have posted the same item and will link them together. This serves two purposes: one to keep you from seeing the same thing multiple times, and another to condense conversation into one feed item that you don't have to hunt down. A big problem before this was completely missing related items your friends might have liked or discussed. The new system simply brings all of that together in one place and puts the latest items on the very top. If there's another item that's somehow related to something that's shared FriendFeed will do its best to let you know. Multiple related entries are sorted by the time they were posted, letting you read through them like a stream of news.(Credit: CNET Networks) One thing to note is that Beta.FriendFeed.com, which served as the test bed for the new design will no longer be any different from the regular FriendFeed. Site founder Paul Bucheit tells me they may use it once again to test new features, but for the time being it will simply re-direct.

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Widgetbox turns on 'Blog Network'
By Dan Farber (Webware.com)
Submitted at 9/19/2008 10:27:00 AM

Widgetbox is one of many companies that jumped on the widget bandwagon, and now it's jumping on the ad network bandwagon. So far, the company has 135,000 embeddable objects and 64 million monthly consumers of its widgets, which live on blogs, social-networking sites, and other Web destinations. The most popular widgets are "The Fun Classic Super Mario Game In Flash," BabyTicker: The Baby Countdown Pregnancy Ticker," "Cyberpet," "Bubbles," and "Idiot Test." While Widgetbox claims 462 million widget views in a month across 500,000 discrete domains, the big numbers don't add up to a big business. The majority of Widgetbox views are happening on blogs, which led Widgetbox CEO Will Price to become more than a widget supplier. This week, the company launched the Widgetbox Blog Network, which catalogs widgets in 29 verticals, such as Autos, Music, Sports and Politics. "It's a natural step in the process for us to move away from a pure technology story about widgets," Price said. The Widgetbox network, which is starting with close to zero unique users per

month, will primarily appeal to the long tail of bloggers who lack distribution. Participants include the network channel widget on their blog pages, and Widgetbox applies algorithms to determine which content gets pushed up to the top of the network categories. It publishes leaderboards listing the top contributors. Widgetbox is launching an ad network, categorizing widgets into 29 content verticals.

"To date, widgets don't have the concept of a network effect. The more people who use them, the more utility is created for individual users. Given bloggers are one of our largest user sources, taking a blidget (RSS feeds turned into a widget) from a single source, and sharing it with the community, and showcasing it in the channel, and having leaderboard benefits bloggers, online content publishers, and advertisers," he added. "The new channels

extend reach, drive traffic, improve brand awareness for bloggers." The Widgetbox network also gives the company an improved business model. Currently, the majority of revenue comes from custom advertising campaigns for companies such as Intel, Wal-Mart Stores, and Apple. But the vast majority of Widgetbox inventory cannot be monetized, Price said. The company is developing an ad network to take advantage of the categorization into verticals. "We have 462 million widget views a month, but advertisers are not getting it. We want to target demographics and have a user story--64 million unique users broken into 29 vertical channels, each with 15 to 300 authors," Price explained. "We have to (determine a) domain, categorize them into channels, and understand ad treatments such as drop downs, pop-overs, peel-backs, and rotations, in a way that satisfies users, publishers, and advertisers. It's still early. There are no standard ad units or blueprints to follow, but we are trying to figure it out. The goal for the rest of the year is to answer questions and go into next year with some case studies."

New Details: Travis Barker and DJ AM's Learjet Crash
(ETonline - Breaking News)
Submitted at 9/20/2008 10:10:00 AM

A tragic sight: The wreckage of the downed jet. Just in: ET has new details about the Learjet crash that critically injured Travis Barker and DJ AM, as well as killed four others aboard. A spokesperson for the National Transportation Safety Board tells ET: "At 11:53 p.m. [Friday] night, a Learjet 60 departed Runway 11 at Columbia Metropolitan Airport. It overran the runway, went through a grassy area, hit runway lights, an antenna array, went through a perimeter fence, crossed a road and impacted a [shoulder of the road]. "There was a significant post-crash fire. The flight recorders will be extracted and are getting back to Washington, D.C., today where they will start to read and work on them. They do not know when the findings will be released. The NTSB does not give probably cause on the scene, they only gather the facts."

Three Firefox extensions engage Google, Opera, and Microsoft
By Jessica Dolcourt (Webware.com)
Submitted at 9/19/2008 1:24:00 PM

Open In Google Chrome is for curious, but wary fence-sitters who may consider making the switch.(Credit: CNET Networks) There's a bit of chatter about Google Chrome overtaking Firefox in coming months, after it fulfills more than a few wish lists ( like this one). Yet, independent Firefox developers have a record for quickly countering features that crop up in rival browsers with a well-placed extension. Take Fast Dial, for instance, one answer of many to Opera browser's speed dial

feature, and another potential challenge to Chrome. Like Opera browser, Fast Dial displays thumbnail clips of your nine favorite Web sites. It runs in any blank window or in the current window if you click the toolbar shortcut, and can be configured to reign as your home page if you change your Firefox default to about:blank. Fast Dial counters thumbnail functionality found in Opera browser and Google Chrome.(Credit: CNET Networks) While Chrome may not presently be developed enough to earn its Firefox challengers or converts, that's not stopping people like Digital Inspiration's Amit Agarwal from paving a pathway between

the two. Open In Google Chrome is a new extension that plunks down an option in the Firefox context menu to see how the

Web page looks in Chrome. In the options menu, you can also earmark certain sites you want to open exclusively in Chrome. Setup requires you to browse for Google Chrome's executable; a quick enough, but somewhat clunky step. (After opening the download file with Firefox, open the AddOns window from Firefox's Tools menu and click the Options button for Agarwal's extension. Then browse through your program folders and double-click the file ending in 'chrome.exe.') Agarwal hints that he wrote the add-on, tweaked from code for an Internet Explorer extension, for serious browsers who are weighing Chrome alongside Firefox. A killer Zune theme

As long as Microsoft is working hard to clean up its image ( new ad campaign| Windows Live betas), maybe it will do something about Internet Explorer. Like make it faster, more extensible, and generally cooler. For a lesson in the latter, see the Abstract Zune theme, an old favorite that's been recently upgraded for Firefox 3. This nod to Microsoft's Zune makes Firefox look good.(Credit: CNET Networks)


Web Apps* TV*

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Step aside, Chrome, for Squirrelfish Extreme
By Stephen Shankland (Webware.com)
Submitted at 9/19/2008 12:53:00 PM

Twitter unveils interface redesign
By Harrison Hoffman (Webware.com)
Submitted at 9/18/2008 7:06:00 PM

The popular microblogging site Twitter announced and launched a refresh of its interface on its company blog Thursday. Updated tabs, a new design customizer, and Ajax work on the back end are the major features of this release. Twitter's redesign sports a more attractive following/followers display and better tab placement. The most noticeable UI change is the move of the smaller tabs that were on top of the timeline to the right sidebar, where they can occupy more space, making them larger clicking targets. They also moved the following/followers/updates stats to the top of the page and made them larger, so now I can really see how deflated my follower numbers are. The Twitter Blog also notes that moving the tabs to the side was necessary to make room for future tabs since space was limited in their previous location. While Twitter doesn't clue us in to what features might be housed in these new tabs, Summize (now Twitter Search) is a likely

candidate for some sort of inclusion since Twitter's old search box disappeared in this update. The most important change, in terms of functionality is the addition of AJAX to the "Home" and "@Replies" pages. Their new implementation allows you to refresh the items in your timeline without having to reload the whole page. This makes for faster load times and less bandwidth intensive reloading of pages. Twitter's new design customizer. Twitter also introduced a new design customizer with this release, which allows you to change the colors on your Twitter profile with the help of a color wheel. Instead of typing in color codes and hoping that you got all of the colors right, they are now reflected in real time as you change them on the page. This is an awesome implementation of this feature and makes it far easier to create a good looking profile. Other than the new Ajax functionality, this update is purely aesthetic. Even though we have not seen any major features added Thursday, this redesign has paved the way for a larger future update, which Twitter promises is coming soon.

Just about every browser out there now is trying to grab the crown for fastest performance for running JavaScript, the programming language that powers many increasingly sophisticated Web-based applications. The latest development is from the programmers behind Apple's Safari. Mozilla bragged earlier this month about TraceMonkey, a new JavaScript engine due to ship in Firefox 3.1 near the end of 2008. Next came Google's Chrome, a leading feature of which is the performance of its V8 JavaScript engine. Now the WebKit programmers, whose open-source code is used in Apple's Safari browser and the Konqueror browser of the KDE interface software sometimes used on Linux systems, have a new version of their JavaScript technology. It's called Squirrelfish Extreme, and the WebKit programmers said Thursday in a blog posting that it's more than twice as fast as the first-generation Squirrelfish announced in June and more than three times faster than the current WebKit 3.1 version. They based their conclusions on

America's Got Talent: Episode 315B
one benchmark, SunSpider. "SquirrelFish Extreme uses more advanced techniques, including fast native code generation, to deliver even more JavaScript performance," the programmers said. For details of Squirrelfish's techniques-bytecode optimization, a polymorphic inline cache, a context-threaded just-intime compiler, and a regular expression just-in-time compiler--check the WebKit blog. Charles Ying also performed SunSpider tests that showed Squirrelfish beating Google's V8 and Mozilla's Tracemonkey on a 2.4GHz iMac. WebKit's SquirrelFish Extreme is faster than its three-month-old predecessor on the SunSpider JavaScript benchmark.(Credit: WebKit)

By Isabelle Carreau (TV Squad)
Submitted at 9/19/2008 12:00:00 AM

Filed under: OpEd, Episode Reviews, America's Got Talent (S03E15B) "I can promise you some major shocks." - Jerry Shocks? What shocks? America's Got Talent's Top 5 is actually what the TV Squad readers and myself predicted after watching the Top 10 performances. Who made the cut and what I thought of Natasha Bedingfield's performance coming up! Continue reading America's Got Talent: Episode 315B Permalink| Email this| | Comments

A vignette about Vignette's reinvention
By Jim Kerstetter (Webware.com)
Submitted at 9/19/2008 3:00:00 PM

NEW YORK--There was a time when many thought Vignette, a maker of expensive content management software, could have been one of the next great software companies. In June 2000, the Austin, Texas company had a stock market capitalization topping $9 billion (and this was a few months after the market peaked), was the subject of a lengthy BusinessWeek feature, and had more than 1,300 employees. Then, of course, the bottom came out of the dotcom business, and Vignette all but disappeared from the spotlight. Turns out Vignette is still very much in business, and was one of many software

companies pitching their products this week here at the Web 2.0 Expo in the Jacob Javits Center. It's certainly a smaller, more humble company. With a market cap a nip over $300 million and about 680 employees, it's still in the content software business, focusing on video and new media technologies. Is this reinvention? "I think you could put it in those terms," said Lee Shepstone, chief technology officer for media at the company. Does that mean Vignette, a decidedly Web 1.0 company (Vignette was an early

publishing tool spun out of CNET Networks as an independent company) is now calling itself a Web 2.0 company? "Yes and no, depending on the audience," Shepstone added wryly. At the conference, Vignette unveiled Vignette Media, a new software package tailored for media and publishing companies (sort of a back to the future for the company). It's likely to be the first of many industry-specific or vertical products from the company. But with Wall Street reeling, don't expect a return to the $11 billion market cap glory days anytime soon. Click here for full coverage of Web 2.0 Expo

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HOTfrom page 28 continued
tabs--much like Facebook's design before its facelift. 9. Delicious The new Delicious is dramatically different from its former self. Everything is far more angular, and tag management has been drastically improved. Yahoo's Delicious unveiled its new look to all users in late July. Users had been testing it in private beta since late 2007 ( our look here). The big change was not only in the name, which ditched the hard to remember de.licio.us, but also what was going on behind the scenes to make it more responsive and scalable. The site also got a complete overhaul of its search engine, making it easier to dig through old stories, tags, and users. 10. Last.fm Last.fm's new look lets you start getting artist recommendations without having to sync up and share your current music library. Music social network Last.fm underwent a complete redesign in mid-July. With the new look came the capability to get recommendations simply based on dropping in a few band names instead of having the site analyze the user's music library and ratings. Like MobileMe, the service also suffered some stumbles with unreliability. Honorable mentions for other sites: CNET, Engadget, Wall Street Journal online, TechCrunch, CenterNetworks, Mashable, Bebo, Revision3, and coComment. If you think we left one off drop us a line. ( Disclosure: Last.fm is owned by CNET News parent company CBS Interactive.)

What's On Tonight: Smackdown, Most Haunted, Bill Maher, Rose
By Bob Sassone (TV Squad)
Submitted at 9/19/2008 9:01:00 AM

Filed under: Late Night, Programming, Celebrities, Talk Show, What To Watch Tonight, Reality-Free • At 8, FOX has a new Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader?, followed by a new Don't Forget The Lyrics. • NBC has a new America's Toughest Jobs at 8. • The CW has a new Smackdown! at 8. • There's a new Washington Week on PBS at 8, then new episodes of NOW and Bill Moyers Journal. • History Channel has a new episode of The Works at 8, followed by new episodes of Gangland and Shockwave. • Nickelodeon has a new My Family's Got GUTS at 8. • At 9, Sci-Fi has a new Stargate Atlantis. • Discovery has a new Discovery Project Earth at 9, followed by a new NextWorld. • National Geographic Channel has a new Dog Whisperer at 9. • At 10, ABC has a new 20/20. • Travel Channel has a new Most Haunted at 10.

Cable detectives, lawyers and vampires quickly renewed
By Jason Hughes (TV Squad)
Submitted at 9/19/2008 2:02:00 AM

• At 11, HBO has a new Real Time with Bill Maher. Check your local TV listings for more. After the jump, the late night listings. Continue reading What's On Tonight: Smackdown, Most Haunted, Bill Maher, Rose Permalink| Email this| | Comments

Forget the rest! Keep Michael Badalucco on Bones
By Richard Keller (TV Squad)
Submitted at 9/20/2008 2:01:00 AM

Filed under: OpEd, Bones, Casting Attention to Hart Hanson and Barry Josephson, the creators of Bones: your search for a new intern for Temperance is over. I know I know, you wanted Dr. Brennan to have a number of interns over this season so she could find a suitable replacement for Zack Addy, who went a bit batty in the season finale. But, why waste any more of the show's budget when you exampled the perfect replacement in this past week's episode. Michael Badalucco, who portrayed Scott Starret -- Bones' oldest intern, is the man

for the job. For one thing, he is the total opposite of Zack...friendly, outgoing, worldly. He is also a near perfect fit for the Squints who are missing something now that Bones spends most of her time in the

field with Booth. Think about it: Cam is the organizer and the bureaucrat; Hodgins is now the "geek" of the group since Zack left; Angela is the free spirit. Having Starret added to the team would give the Squints a calming, fatherly and wellrounded figure who could be their stabilizing source. Plus, let's face it, Michael Badalucco is just so cuddly. Just like he was in The Practice. So, what do you think? Am I way off here or would he be your choice for Zack's replacement? Permalink| Email this| | Comments

Greg Garcia and Jason Lee talk about what's coming up on Earl
By Kona Gallagher (TV Squad)
Submitted at 9/19/2008 8:04:00 AM

Filed under: Other Drama Shows, Pickups and Renewals, Ratings, RealityFree In a time when networks are so quick to pull the plug on new series, it is absolutely stunning that two of this season's newest cable series have already been picked up for a second season. What's even more surprising is that one renewed show is Stephen Bochco's terrible Raising the Bar. After setting a record for a series debut on basic cable with 7.7 million viewers, 2.2 million people asked themselves what the hell they were watching, and the series settled into an average of 5.5 mil. But it's only been three weeks? Surely, more of its viewers will realize that the show is absolutely terrible? From Gosselaar's bleeding heart crying to the bitching between his friends and Jane Kaczmarek's crazy judge, there's more leaps in logic and good sense than in Prison Break. The show makes Boston Legal look like a courtroom documentary. TNT also picked up Holly Hunter's Saving Grace after a respectable summer run. Continue reading Cable detectives, lawyers and vampires quickly renewed Permalink| Email this| | Comments

Filed under: My Name Is Earl, Interviews, Reality-Free The CW may have kicked off its fall GREG page 34


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GREG page 33 continued from
season on Labor Day, but for most of the other networks, things are just getting started. So what does that mean for you? Heavy promotion for not only the new shows premiering this fall, but for returning favorites as well. To that end, My Name Is Earl creator Greg Garcia and star Jason Lee spoke with reporters recently about Earl's upcoming 4th season. My Name Is Earl returns for its 4th season on NBC with two back-to-back episodes, September 25 at 8pm. Not only did Garcia and Lee give us a taste of what to expect when we catch up with our favorite Camdenites, but they also dished the dirt on dream guest stars, what previous guest star peed over by craft services, if an Earl movie is in the works, and perhaps a word or two about a famously abrasive 30 Rock star. All of the details are after the jump. Continue reading Greg Garcia and Jason Lee talk about what's coming up on Earl Permalink| Email this| | Comments

Jon Cryer, Chandra Wilson Dish on Emmy Plans
(ETonline - Breaking News)
Submitted at 9/20/2008 4:48:00 PM

Are 90210 starlets too skinny?
By Kelly Woo (TV Squad)
Submitted at 9/20/2008 4:06:00 AM

Worst Week -- An early look
By Allison Waldman (TV Squad)
Submitted at 9/19/2008 4:04:00 AM

Filed under: Other Comedy Shows, Early Looks, Reality-Free Sam Briggs is a schlemiel. Everything that can go wrong in his life, every dumb thing a guy can do while trying to do the right thing, happens to Sam. The preview of Worst Week(premiering Monday at 9:30 PM ET on CBS) has not changed dramatically from this ready-to-go pilot. The premise is simply this: can a good guy like Sam overcome all the stupid things he does and find happiness with the

girl he loves and her family that loathes him? For the pilot, Worst Week works really well as broad farce. The situation of this situation comedy goes from bad to worse to worse still. It's funny. It's over the top. It's very, very outrageous. Whether or not they can sustain this level of silliness and maintain some semblance of believability week in and week out is the big question for Worst Week. Continue reading Worst Week -- An early look Permalink| Email this| | Comments

Filed under: Celebrities, Reality-Free, Gossip Girl, 90210 It seems like if you're an actress in Hollywood, you're either too fat or too skinny. A couple days ago, EW's PopWatch reported that The CW asked the younger female stars of 90210(Shenae Grimes, Jessica Stroup and AnnaLynne McCord) to address their "weight issues." Sure, skeletal celebrities are nothing new (and almost seems like a requirement of fame), but even one of the stars of another CW teen drama, Gossip Girl, thinks a line has been crossed. Penn Badgley (Dan) told Popeater.com that he doesn't like "thin

L.A. girls" and hopes "they eat a double cheeseburger or something." Continue reading Are 90210 starlets too skinny? Permalink| Email this| | Comments

ET's got the hook up! We are taking you to the premiere event leading up to the 60th Primetime Emmy Awards. We're with two of the nominees, Jon Cryer("Two and a Half Men") and Chandra Wilson("Grey's Anatomy"), as the countdown continues to Sunday's big show! To honor this year's nominees for Outstanding Performing Talent, the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences wined and dined the talented bunch with a lavish party catered by Wolfgang Puck at the Pacific Design Center. Archtectural Digest and Hearts on Fire teamed up to make this event an international affair as well. Guests tried on diamond jewlery from Hearts on Fire's newest collection and posed for pictures in front of famous international buildings served as the inspiration to the new collection. Talk about a diamond studded event!

DJ AM and Travis Barker Profiled
(ETonline - Breaking News)
Submitted at 9/20/2008 6:47:00 AM

DJ AM (left) and Barker (right) at the 2008 MTV VMAs. ET gives you the backstory of the two celebrities critically injured in Friday evening's plane crash: Travis Barker and Adam Goldstein( DJ AM), the duo who just served as the house band for the 2008 VMAs. DJ AM, 35, got engaged to Nicole Richie in 2005. They broke up later that year, around the time that DJ AM talked to ET about his dramatic weight loss after

undergoing gastric bypass surgery. "I was terrified [of the procedure]," he recalled. "It's a very serious thing, and is by no means the easy way out. It was mainly a health factor." DJ AM also reportedly dated actress Mandy Moore last year. Barker, 33, is the former drummer of Blink 182, and he starred on his own MTV reality show, "Meet the Barkers," with his ex-wife and former Miss USA Shanna Moakler. After two years of marriage the couple divorced in 2006. They have two children together.

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Movies* Tech Tips*


Jon Cryer, Chandra Wilson Dish on Emmy Plans
(ETonline - Breaking News)
Submitted at 9/20/2008 4:48:00 PM

Josh Groban to Sing Classic TV Tunes at Emmys
(ETonline - Breaking News)
Submitted at 9/20/2008 6:04:00 AM

ET's got the hook up! We are taking you to the premiere event leading up to the 60th Primetime Emmy Awards. We're with two of the nominees, Jon Cryer("Two and a Half Men") and Chandra Wilson("Grey's Anatomy"), as the countdown to Sunday's big show continues! To honor this year's nominees for Outstanding Performing Talent, the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences

ET Talks Emmys with Neil Patrick Travis Barker, DJ AM Critically Injured Harris! "If I win I worry that I'll forget someone's (ETonline - Breaking News) in Plane Crash name," Neil jokes of his Emmy nom for
Submitted at 9/20/2008 11:21:00 AM

wined and dined the talented bunch with a lavish party catered by Wolfgang Puck at the Pacific Design Center. Archtectural Digest and Hearts on Fire teamed up to make this event an international affair as well. Guests tried on diamond jewlery from Hearts on Fire's newest collection and posed for pictures in front of famous international buildings served as the inspiration to the new collection. Talk about a diamond studded event!

You might not believe one of his choices! Josh Groban is getting ready to belt out a medley of 25 classic TV show theme songs at the Emmys. Is one of your favorite tunes in the mix? Some of the themes Groban practiced during a Friday rehearsal were "The Golden Girls," "Cops," "The Jeffersons"

and even "South Park," with Groban mimicking the cartoon characters' voices, says the Associated Press. "Nothing I'm singing I've ever sung before, except for 'South Park' with friends," the 27-year-old crooner said. "There's a lot of stuff that allows me to just be me, then there's a lot of stuff that allows me to let my multiple personalities to go play for a bit."

Shutdown Screensaver Turns Off Your PC When You're Not Using It [Featured Windows Download]
By Adam Pash (Lifehacker)
Submitted at 9/20/2008 2:00:00 AM

(ETonline - Breaking News)
Submitted at 9/20/2008 7:00:00 AM

Four other people died in the crash. Just in: Former Blink 182 drummer Travis Barker and Adam Goldstein(DJ AM) have been critically injured injured in a Learjet crash that killed four others aboard in South Carolina. Barker and Goldstein are being treated at Joseph M. Still Burn Center in Augusta, Georgia, where a hospital spokesperson

tells ET: "There has been no change since this morning. Both are in critical condition, both are in stable condition." The hospital says a press conference will be held Sunday morning. An FAA spokeswoman tells ET that the Learjet was departing South Carolina's Columbia Metropolitan Airport for Van Nuys, Calif., minutes before midnight on Friday.

Party on! ET's on the red carpet at the CBS comedies' season premiere party, where Neil Patrick Harris gives us the dish on his Emmy nomination for "How I Met Your Mother" and reveals his Emmys stage fright! Plus, we chat up 'HIMYM''s Alyson Hannigan and "Big Bang Theory"'s Kaley Cuoco!

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series. "I think I have been most nervous to be looking out this big auditorium filled with people and panicking deer-in-headlights style." CBS' new TV season kicks off Monday, September 22.

Windows only: Free application Shutdown Screensaver counts the seconds until it automatically shuts down your computer. When you run the screensaver, it immediately starts counting down from two minutes. When it hits zero, your computer shuts down. If you stop the screensaver before it hits zero, your computer doesn't shutdown. This isn't a screensaver you'd want to install on most computers, since it (unfortunately) doesn't have any options other than brute-force shutdown, but if you're responsible for a computer that you always forget to shut off, this one could come in handy. If it's too heavy handed for you, you may be better off getting more in tune with your PC's power options. As is this is a simple app that does what it says, but if you're aware of a similar alternative with more features, we're all ears in the comments. Shutdown Screensaver[4 Neurons via Shell Extension City]

This Week's Best Posts [Highlights]
Submitted at 9/19/2008 10:00:00 AM

If Lifehacker's snowing you under with unread posts, switch to our trimmed-down, no-nonsense top stories feed. Sick of hearing about Google Chrome or the iPhone? Customize our URLs to get only the topics you care about, and nothing more. This week's most popular posts include: • Anti-Theft Lunch Bag Deters Sandwich Thieves"If office gremlins are making off with your daily meal, innovative designer Sherwood Forlee has a clever solution: the Anti-Theft Lunch Bag. Simply put, AntiTheft Lunch Bags 'are regular sandwich bags that have green splotches printed on both sides.'" • Carry Your PC on Your iPhone or iPod Touch"It'd be wonderfully convenient if you could take your important documents

and applications with you wherever you go, but lugging a laptop with you every time you step out the door is far from convenient." • The Icon Tray Wallpaper"Windows user Love Underlined has an old laptop running Vista and can't afford to sacrifice system memory to desktop customizing programs with a lot of bells and whistles." • How to Kickstart a Low-Productivity Day"You just don’t want to do it anymore. No more task folders, no more email labeling, no more index cards in your back pocket." • Top 10 Right-Click Tools"Rightclicking can be a powerful tool for automating file actions and saving yourself time and arm effort." • Give Your Photos a Vintage Appearance"The millions of plastic bodied cheap lens bearing cameras that flooded the consumer photography market starting

around the mid-20th century had flaws that have come to be a hallmark of their time." • Know How and When You Should Cancel a Credit Card"Canceling a credit card at the wrong time can really ding your credit score. On the other hand keeping it around can equal more debt, more hassle, and a less secure identity." • Battle of the Beta Browser Built-In Features"With betas and alphas of every flavor of web browser dropping like snowflakes during a cold winter these days, a whole host of advanced features are showing up built into the default browser of the future." • VLC Updates to 0.9.2 with New Interface and Features"The popular opensource VLC media player has released a significant update with an interface refresh for Windows, Linux, and Unix, improved playlist and media library tools, and a whole lot more."

• Make Your Linux Desktop More Productive"Apple has convinced millions that they can make the switch from Windows to OS X, but those curious about Linux have to see for themselves if they can work or play on a free desktop." • "Flickr Bikes" Photo-Map Locales Across the Globe"For their new 'Purple Pedals' campaign, Yahoo has dispatched a handful of GPS-enabled bicycles equipped with cameraphones that automatically shoot and upload photos to Flickr to riders in cities all over the world, from San Francisco to New York and soon, to Singapore, Denmark and the U.K.." • Five Best BitTorrent Applications"The days of peer-to-peer file sharing tools ushered into popularity by the original Napster are over and done, and today, BitTorrent reigns supreme."

Minimalist Workouts Get You In Shape Without the Gym Membership [Exercise]
By Adam Pash (Lifehacker)
Submitted at 9/20/2008 12:00:00 AM

Blogger Leo Babauta suggests a handful of "minimalist" workouts for getting in shape, covering everything from yardwork to prisoner workouts. Babauta calls the workouts non-traditional, and they are in the sense that a gym membership and workout videos have become more of the norm than manual labor for a lot of us. What caught my eye was his suggestion to use an ax or sledgehammer, since that's the idea behind my favorite non-traditional workouts: the previously mentioned shovelglove. If you've got a non-traditional workout routine you'd like to share, let's MINIMALIST page 36


Tech Tips* Google*

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FunctionFlip Customizes Function Keys One By One [Featured Mac Download]
By Adam Pash (Lifehacker)
Submitted at 9/19/2008 7:00:00 AM

MINIMALIST continued from page 35
hear about it in the comments. While you're in workout mode, check out a few more of the best tech tools and fitness plans to get in shape. Minimalist Fitness II: Yardwork Workouts, Prisoner Workout and Other Non-traditional Exercises[Zen Habits]

Mac OS X only: Free application FunctionFlip adds a new preference pane to your Mac's System Preferences that lets you choose which function keys you want to operate purely as standard function keys versus special keys on a per-case basis. Say for example that you like the volume keys instead of the corresponding function keys, but you don't want to dedicate

function keys to your controlling iTunes (or some version of this scenario). Normally you can only choose all function keys or all special keys by default. With FunctionFlip, you say which keys operate as special keys and which operate as the default function key (e.g., F1, F2, etc.). FunctionFlip is a simple but smart piece of freeware, Mac OS X only. FunctionFlip[via Download Squad]

The intelligent cloud
By Karen
Submitted at 9/18/2008 7:06:05 AM

DeletionPedia Compiles Deleted Articles from Wikipedia [Wikipedia]
By Kevin Purdy (Lifehacker)
Submitted at 9/20/2008 6:00:00 AM

If you've tried to find a Wikipedia article that you swear was once there, or can't believe a page doesn't exist, there's a good chance it's over at DeletionPedia, a nonwiki database that automatically picks up the stuff that gets dropped off its more regal counterpart. As you might imagine, some of the stuff at DeletionPedia was

taken down because it either became irrelevant or wasn't all that relevant to begin with. But there's also the occasional obscure-but-useful factoid, music/filmgeek nugget, and biographical entries voted off for the subject not being wellknown enough. Keep it as a backup destination if the big W doesn't quite agree with your breadth of knowledge. DeletionPedia[via MakeUseOf.com]

Changes in Phoenix
By A Googler
Submitted at 9/19/2008 3:19:30 PM

At Google, engineering is everything - no great engineers, no life enhancing products, no happy users. So we've spent a lot of time structuring our engineering operations to make the most of the exceptional talent that's available across America - developing local centers that give engineers the autonomy and opportunity to be truly innovative. These principles have served us well as we've grown, so when the model fails, it's doubly disappointing. We opened our Phoenix office in 2006 and hoped that it would develop to support many of our internal engineering projects, the systems that make Google, well, Google. But we've found that despite

everyone's best efforts, the projects our engineers have been working on in Arizona have been, and remain, highly fragmented. So after a lot of soul searching we have decided to incorporate work on these projects into teams elsewhere at Google. We will therefore be closing our Arizona office on November 21, 2008. We'd like to thank everyone involved in this project for their energy and enthusiasm: our engineers; the engineering community in Arizona; Arizona State University; the city of Tempe; and the greater Phoenix area. We are now working with the Phoenix Googlers to transition them to other locations, or to identify other opportunities for them at Google. Posted by Alan Eustace, Senior Vice President, Engineering & Research

The Internet has had an enormous impact on people's lives around the world in the ten years since Google's founding. It has changed politics, entertainment, culture, business, health care, the environment and just about every other topic you can think of. Which got us to thinking, what's going to happen in the next ten years? How will this phenomenal technology evolve, how will we adapt, and (more importantly) how will it adapt to us? We asked ten of our top experts this very question, and during September (our 10th anniversary month) we are presenting their responses. As computer scientist Alan Kay has famously observed, the best way to predict the future is to invent it, so we will be doing our best to make good on our experts' words every day. - Karen Wickre and Alan Eagle, series editors In coming years, computer processing, storage, and networking capabilities will continue up the steeply exponential curve they have followed for the past few decades. By 2019, parallel-processing computer clusters will be 50 to 100 times more powerful in most respects. Computer programs, more of them web-based, will evolve to take advantage of this newfound power, and Internet usage will also grow: more people online, doing more things, using more advanced and responsive applications. By any metric, the "cloud" of computational resources and online data and content will grow very rapidly for a long time. As we're already seeing, people will interact with the cloud using a plethora of

devices: PCs, mobile phones and PDAs, and games. But we'll also see a rush of new devices customized to particular applications, and more environmental sensors and actuators, all sending and receiving data via the cloud. The increasing number and diversity of interactions will not only direct more information to the cloud, they will also provide valuable information on how people and systems think and react. Thus, computer systems will have greater opportunity to learn from the collective behavior of billions of humans. They will get smarter, gleaning relationships between objects, nuances, intentions, meanings, and other deep conceptual information. Today's Google search uses an early form of this approach, but in the future many more systems will be able to benefit from it. What does this mean to Google? For starters, even better search. We could train our systems to discern not only the characters or place names in a YouTube video or a book, for example, but also to recognize the plot or the symbolism. The potential result would be a kind of conceptual search: "Find me a story with an exciting chase scene and a happy ending." As systems are allowed to learn from interactions at an individual level, they can provide results customized to an individual's situational needs: where they are located, what time of day it is, what they are doing. And translation and multimodal systems will also be feasible, so people speaking one language can seamlessly interact with people and information in other languages. The impact of such systems will go well

beyond Google. Researchers across medical and scientific fields can access massive data sets and run analysis and pattern detection algorithms that aren't possible today. The proposed Large Synoptic Survey Telescope(LSST), for example, may generate over 15 terabytes of new data per day! Virtually any research field will benefit from systems with the ability to gather, manipulate, and learn from datasets at that scale. Traditionally, systems that solve complicated problems and queries have been called "intelligent", but compared to earlier approaches in the field of 'artificial intelligence', the path that we foresee has important new elements. First of all, this system will operate on an enormous scale with an unprecedented computational power of millions of computers. It will be used by billions of people and learn from an aggregate of potentially trillions of meaningful interactions per day. It will be engineered iteratively, based on a feedback loop of quick changes, evaluation, and adjustments. And it will be built based on the needs of solving and improving concrete and useful tasks such as finding information, answering questions, performing spoken dialogue, translating text and speech, understanding images and videos, and other tasks as yet undefined. When combined with the creativity, knowledge, and drive inherent in people, this "intelligent cloud" will generate many surprising and significant benefits to mankind. Posted by Alfred Spector, VP Engineering, and Franz Och, Research Scientist

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The future of mobile
By Karen
Submitted at 9/19/2008 3:18:41 PM

The Internet has had an enormous impact on people's lives around the world in the ten years since Google's founding. It has changed politics, entertainment, culture, business, health care, the environment and just about every other topic you can think of. Which got us to thinking, what's going to happen in the next ten years? How will this phenomenal technology evolve, how will we adapt, and (more importantly) how will it adapt to us? We asked ten of our top experts this very question, and during September (our 10th anniversary month) we are presenting their responses. As computer scientist Alan Kay has famously observed, the best way to predict the future is to invent it, so we will be doing our best to make good on our experts' words every day. - Karen Wickre and Alan Eagle, series editors There are currently about 3.2 billion mobile subscribers in the world, and that number is expected to grow by at least a billion in the next few years. Today, mobile phones are more prevalent than cars (about 800 million registered vehicles in the world) and credit cards (only 1.4 billion of those). While it took 100 years for landline phones to spread to more than 80% of the countries in the world, their wireless descendants did it in 16. And fewer teens are wearing watches now because they use their phones to tell time instead (somewhere Chester Gould is wondering how he got it backwards). So it's safe to say that the mobile phone may be the most prolific consumer product ever invented. However, have you ever considered just exactly how powerful these ubiquitous devices are? The phone that you have in

your pocket, pack, or handbag is probably ten times more powerful than the PC you had on your desk only 8 or 9 years ago (assuming you even had a PC; most mobile users never have). It has a range of sensors that would do a martian lander proud: a clock, power sensor (how low is that battery?), thermometer (because batteries charge poorly at low temperatures), and light meter (to determine screen backlighting) on the more basic phones; a location sensor, accelerometer (detects vector and velocity of motion), and maybe even a compass on more advanced ones. And most importantly, it is by its very nature always connected. Project out these trends another ten years. You will be carrying with you, 24x7 (a recent study of Chinese mobile customers showed that the majority of them sleep within a meter of their phones), a very powerful, always connected, sensorrich device. And the cool thing is, so will everyone else. So what are you going to do with it that you aren't doing now? Here are some possibilities: Smart alerts: Your phone will be smart about your situation and alert you when something needs your attention. This is already happening today -- eBay can text you when you've been outbid, and alert services (such as Google News) can deliver news, sports, or stock updates to you. In the future these applications will get smarter, patiently monitoring your personalized preferences (which will be stored in the network cloud) and delivering only the information you desire. One very useful scenario: your phone knows that you are heading downtown for dinner, and alerts you of transit conditions or the best places to park. Augmented reality: Your phone uses its arsenal of sensors to understand your

situation and provide you information that might be useful. For example, do you really want to know how much is that doggy in the window? Your phone, with its GPS and compass, knows what you are looking at, so it can tell you before you even ask. Plus, what breed it is and the best way to train him. Crowd sourcing goes mainstream: Your phone is your omnipresent microphone to the world, a way to publish pictures, emails, texts, Twitters, and blog entries. When everyone else is doing the same, you have a world where people from every corner of the planet are covering their experiences in real-time. That massive amount of content gets archived, sorted, and re-deployed to other people in new and interesting ways. Ask the web for the most interesting sites in your vicinity, and your phone shows you reviews and pictures that people have uploaded of nearby attractions. Like what you see? It will send you directions on how to get there. Sensors everywhere: Your phone knows a lot about the world around you. If you take that intelligence and combine it in the cloud with that of every other phone, we have an incredible snapshot of what is going on in the world right now. Weather updates can be based on not hundreds of sensors, but hundreds of millions. Traffic reports can be based not on helicopters and road sensors, but on the density, speed, and direction of the phones (and people) stuck in the traffic jams. Tool for development: Your phone may be more than just a convenience, it may be your livelihood. Already, this is true for people in many parts of the world: in southern India, fishermen use text messaging to find the best markets for their daily catch, in South Africa, sugar farmers can receive text messages advising them

on how much to irrigate their crops, and throughout sub-Saharan Africa entrepreneurs with mobile phones become phone operators, bringing communications to their villages. These innovations will only increase in the future, as mobile phones become the linchpin for greater economic development. The future-proof device: Your phone will open up, as the Internet already has, so it will be easy for developers to create or improve applications and content. The ones that you care about get automatically installed on your phone. Let's say you have a piece of software on your phone to improve power management (and therefore battery life). Let's say a developer makes an improvement to the software. The update gets automatically installed on your phone, without you lifting a finger. Your phone actually gets better over time. Safer software through trust and verification: Your phone will provide tools and information to empower you to decide what to download, what to see, and what to share. Trust is the most important currency in the always connected world, and your phone will help you stay in control of your information. You may choose to share nothing at all (the default mode), or just share certain things with certain people -your circle of trusted friends and family. You'll make these decisions based on information you get from the service and software providers, and the collective ratings of the community as well. Your phone is like your trusted valet: it knows a lot about you, and won't disclose an iota of it without your OK. Now, if we can just train it to do your laundry ... Posted by Andy Rubin, Engineering Director

Google in one more language
By Karen
Submitted at 9/19/2008 9:39:40 AM

As we've written before, one of our goals is to enable everyone using Google to find the information they want easily, no matter what language they speak. It recently came to our attention that Google was not accessible to a large, influential, and notoriously quick-tempered community: Pirates. As of today we are proud and rather relieved to announce that Google Search is available in Pirate. As you can see from this graph of the popularity of related searches from past years, we have reason to believe that this might be a timely addition: If ye're a gentleman or lady o' fortune yerself — or just want t' talk like one— ye c'n set Pirate as yer preferred lingo usin' th' Likes an' Dislikes page, or cast yer deadlights on an example. Posted by Cap'n Pam Greenebearde

Shelter from the storm
By Karen
Submitted at 9/17/2008 10:34:18 PM

Following last week's landfall of Hurricane Ike, thousands of Gulf Coast residents remain without shelter, and millions more are without electricity. As the Gulf slowly recovers from the powerful Category 2 storm, organizations such as the American Red Cross have stepped up

efforts to provide relief for those most affected by the storm. For these individuals, the Red Cross has set up a number of shelters, providing food, safety, shelter, and above all, hope. Working with the Red Cross, we've mapped the open American Red Cross Shelters in the states of Texas and Louisiana. These locations, updated every ten minutes, are available to view in Google Earth, or via Google Maps:

View Larger Map Previous Google Lat Long Blog posts: • KML of Updated Imagery • Track the Hurricanes in Google Earth's Weather Layer Posted by Jessica Pfund and Pete Giencke, Google Earth Team


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Let's hear it for Google scholarship winners
By A Googler
Submitted at 9/16/2008 2:04:47 PM

What to do if you can't access your webmail
By Karen
Submitted at 9/17/2008 10:43:33 AM

Across the world, the participation of women and minorities in computer science is at an all-time low. According to studies conducted by the National Science Foundation, the annual graduation rate for women in computer science is just 22%, just 6.5% for Hispanic students, 4.8% for African American students, and under 1% for American Indian students. As part of our global effort to increase diversity in our industry, we have created scholarship programs with the United Negro College Fund, the Hispanic College Fund and the American Indian Science & Engineering Society. Each of these programs is meant to encourage students to excel in their studies and become active role models and leaders. It's our hope that these programs also help dismantle barriers that keep women and minorities from entering computing and technology fields. ( Read more about Google's scholarship programs.) Now comes the really fun part: announcing the 2008 winners. Please join us in congratulating the 42 students who have been recognized for their outstanding academic and leadership accomplishments in the computer science field. Each of these students will receive a $10,000 academic scholarship from Google, as well as an invitation to attend the all-expensespaid Annual Google Scholars' Retreat held each Spring at the Googleplex in Mountain View. Earlier this year, we also had the great pleasure of announcing the winners of the 2008 Google Anita Borg Scholarship in the U.S. and Canada as well as in Europe.

(This scholarship is also offered to women in Australia, New Zealand and the Middle East.) Congrats to all! 2008 Google United Negro College Fund Scholars • Brian Beecham - Alabama A&M University • Clinton Buie - Stanford University • Dorian Perkins - University of California, Riverside • John Mosby - Clark Atlanta University • Katherine Trushkowsky - University of California, Berkeley • Lateef Yusuf - Georgia Institute of Technology • Mamadou Diallo - University of California, Irvine • Mcdavis Fasugba - University of Miami • Pascal Carole - University of MichiganAnn Arbor • Rashida Davis - University of Delaware • Remy Carole - University of MichiganAnn Arbor • Sheronda Nash - Georgia Institute of Technology • Souma Badombena-Wanta - George Mason University • Yolanda McMillian - Auburn University 2008 Google Hispanic College Fund Scholars • Miguel Rios - University of Puerto Rico -Mayaguez • Milton Villeda - University of Texas, Austin • Ricardo Rodríguez - University of Puerto Rico-Mayaguez • Marco Medina - Eastern Washington University • Abel Licon - University of Deleware • Maximiliano Ramirez Luna - University of California, Berkeley

• Juan Herrera - University of Oklahoma • Kenneth Faller Ii - Florida International University • Heriberto Reynoso - University of Texas, Brownsville • Jose Martinez - California State Polytechnic University • Otoniel Ortega - University of Illinois, Chicago • Antonio Rodríguez-soto - Universidad Del Turabo • Tina Ziemek - University of Utah • Diana Flores - University of Florida • Matthew Martinez - University of New Mexico • Frank Blandon - University of Florida • Felipe Carmona - Roosevelt University • Pamela Gutierrez - Oklahoma Panhandle State University • Daniel Hernandez - Tennessee Technological University 2008 Google American Indian Science & Engineering Society Scholars • Erik Bennett - New Mexico Tech • Kaylei Burke - University of Nebraska, Lincoln • Cory Cornelius - Dartmouth College • Daniel Jachowski - Stanford University • Denise Martin - Capella University • Mitchell Martin - University of Texas, San Antonio • Melanie Prevett - Oklahoma State University • Thomas Reed - University of California, Santa Barbara • Delbert Willie - Colorado State University Posted by Meredith Carroll, Global Diversity and Talent Inclusion Team

Shopping Alert - Staub Dutch Oven
By Elise
Submitted at 9/20/2008 4:01:56 PM

Updated Saturday, September 20, 2008, 9:00 am PST On sale at Amazon.com is a Staub 5-QT Round Cocotte, also called a "Dutch Oven", in enameled cast iron. The sale price for the YELLOW Staub is$85.83

down from $250. Sale price on yellow Staub no longer available.

The BLUE Staub is available for$105 from $200. Free shipping is available. Just scroll over the colors to see the different prices. Prices and availability are subject to change without notice. Continue reading "Shopping Alert Staub Dutch Oven" »

This post is the latest in an ongoing series on how to stay safe online. - Ed. We know how important webmail is to the people who use it regularly, since (of course) we use it ourselves at Google. So we know that not being able to access a webmail account -- no matter what the reason, or how long it lasts -- can be frustrating at the very least. Sometimes interruptions are caused by technical issues with your mail program or your Internet connection. More often, they're accountrelated. When it comes to Gmail specifically, there are a couple of things that might cause account-related interruptions in access: a lost or forgotten password, unusual activity that triggers the safety measures designed to keep accounts from being compromised, or, in the worst case, someone has stolen your login info and changed it. Most of the questions we get about account interruptions are the result of lost or forgotten passwords and as such are relatively easy to fix (more below). But no matter what their origin, we take these issues very seriously. Of course, there are certain cases where our options are limited -- we don't ask for much personal information when you sign up for Gmail, which can sometimes make it difficult to prove ownership of an account and trigger the recovery process. Still, there are some simple steps you can take to ensure that your account stays in your hands, and to greatly improve the chances of regaining access if you have any problems: • Don't share your Gmail password with anyone. Not friends, not family, not anyone. And if you need to write down your password, be sure to keep it in a safe place, away from your computer. (For info on how to choose a good password and

keep it safe, check out this post.) • Don't respond to messages asking for your login info. As you may already know, there are people out there who will try to steal your login info. Google will never send you an email, IM, or any other communication asking for your Gmail login info, so don't respond to any messages asking for it. • Always keep the verification number you get when you sign up for Gmail. When you sign up for Gmail, we'll ask you for a secondary email address and then email a verification number to that account. This number is the best way to prove ownership of your account, so be sure to hang on to it. • If you aren't able to access your account, try resetting your password. As mentioned above, most of the support requests we get turn out to be lost or forgotten passwords, rather than something more serious. Resetting your password usually gets the job done. • If resetting your password doesn't work, try our account-recovery process. We recently launched an account-recovery form in our help center that can drastically reduce the amount of time it takes to verify ownership of an account and restore access. If you have the information necessary to prove ownership -- such as the verification code for the account -- this new process can help our support team restore access within a matter of hours. Again, we're always working on ways to help you keep your account secure and to stay safe online. Some of that work is educational, and some of it is technical, like the feature we recently launched for Gmail that lets you see when your account was last logged into and whether your account is currently open on another computer. Head over to our Gmail blog for more info. Posted by Colin Bogart, Gmail user support team

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The future of online video
By Karen
Submitted at 9/18/2008 9:29:27 AM

The Internet has had an enormous impact on people's lives around the world in the ten years since Google's founding. It has changed politics, entertainment, culture, business, health care, the environment and just about every other topic you can think of. Which got us to thinking, what's going to happen in the next ten years? How will this phenomenal technology evolve, how will we adapt, and (more importantly) how will it adapt to us? We asked ten of our top experts this very question, and during September (our 10th anniversary month) we are presenting their responses. As computer scientist Alan Kay has famously observed, the best way to predict the future is to invent it, so we will be doing our best to make good on our experts' words every day. - Karen Wickre and Alan Eagle, series editors Ten years ago the world of online video was little more than an idea. It was used mostly by professionals like doctors or lawyers in limited and closed settings. Connections were slow, bandwidth was limited, and video gear was expensive and

bulky. There were many false starts and outlandish promises over the years about the emergence of online video. It was really the dynamic growth of the Internet (in terms of adoption, speed and ubiquity) that helped to spur the idea that online video - millions of people around the world shooting it, uploading it, viewing it via broadband - was even possible. Today, there are thousands of different video sites and services. In fact it's getting to be unusual not to find a video component on a news, entertainment or information website. And in less than three years, YouTube has united hundreds of millions of people who create, share, and watch video online. What used to be a gap between "professional" entertainment companies and home movie buffs has disappeared. Everyone from major broadcasters and networks to vloggers and grandmas are taking to video to capture events, memories, stories, and much more in real time. Today, 13 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute, and we believe the volume will continue to grow exponentially. Our goal is to allow every person on the planet to participate by

making the upload process as simple as placing a phone call. This new video content will be available on any screen - in your living room, or on your device in your pocket. YouTube and other sites will bring together all the diverse media which matters to you, from videos of family and friends to news, music, sports, cooking and much, much more. In ten years, we believe that online video broadcasting will be the most ubiquitous and accessible form of communication. The tools for video recording will continue to become smaller and more affordable. Personal media devices will be universal and interconnected. Even more people will have the opportunity to record and share even more video with a small group of friends or everyone around the world. Over the next decade, people will be at the center of their video and media experience. More and more consumers will become creators. We will continue to help give people unlimited options and access to information, and the world will be a smaller place. Posted by Chad Hurley, CEO and CoFounder, YouTube

Twitter: Where the Party Is
By Elise
Submitted at 9/16/2008 7:39:07 PM

Pssst... hey, did you hear about the party going on over at Twitter? It's huge. Hundreds of the most fun, interesting, informative, and playful food bloggers are hanging out on this social networking website, yakking away about almost everything, food and non-food related. Ever want a peek into the lives behind the pretty pictures and recipes of your favorite food bloggers? This is the place to be. ( Simply Recipes is there too.) So what's Twitter? It's a little hard to

describe without just diving in and signing up (which is free by the way.) It's a service that lets you post 140 character updates about yourself and broadcast them to anyone who might be following you on the service. It also lets you follow the public updates of anyone you want. The end result is that, if you follow enough people, stepping into Twitter is like stepping into a party, with just the people you want to be there. (See this New York Times article; Twitter coverage starts page 2.) Continue reading "Twitter: Where the Party Is" »

Partnering with GE on clean energy
By A Googler
Submitted at 9/19/2008 4:31:26 PM

Today we announced that we're joining forces(PDF file) with GE to use technology, information and corporate resources to drive the changes necessary to empower consumers with better energy choices. We will focus on improving power generation, transmission and distribution – a combination of technologies that could be known as the " smart grid." (It would be fair to refer to electricity technologies in common use today as a "grid of only average intelligence.") The existing U.S. infrastructure has not kept pace with the digital economy and the hundreds of technology opportunities that are ready for market. In fact, the way we

generate and distribute electricity today is essentially the same as when Thomas Edison built the first power plant well over one hundred years ago. Americans should have the choice to drive more fuel efficient cars – or even electric cars - and manage their home energy use to reduce costs, and buy power from cleaner sources, or even generate their own power for sale to the grid. We all receive an electricity bill once a month that encourages little except prompt payment. What if, instead, we had access to real-time information about home energy use? What if our flat screen TVs, electronic equipment, lights and appliances were programmed to automatically adjust to save money and cut energy use? What if we could push a button and switch the source of our homes' electricity from fossil

fuels to renewable energy? What if the car sitting in our garage ran on electricity – the equivalent of $1 per gallon gasoline – and was programmed to charge at night when electricity is cheapest? This vision is what unites Google and

GE. We’ll start by working together in Washington, D.C. to mount a major policy effort to enable large-scale deployment of renewable energy generation in the United States. We’ll also work on development and deployment of the “smart” electricity

grid that will empower consumers, utilities, and technology innovators to manage electricity more efficiently and lower their carbon footprint. Finally, we'll collaborate on advanced energy technologies, including technologies to enable the large-scale integration of plugin vehicles into the grid and new geothermal energy technologies known as enhanced geothermal systems(EGS). Eric Schmidt with GE's CEO Jeff Immelt at Google's Zeitgeist conference Update: Here's the video of Eric Schmidt and Jeff Immelt's talk at Zeitgeist '08. Also, clarified the last sentence in the second paragraph. Posted by Michael Terrell, Google.org



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First Drive: 2009 Lamborghini Gallardo LP560-4
By Drew Phillips (Autoblog)
Submitted at 9/19/2008 12:58:00 PM

Acura 2+1 design study takes superman shield to next level
By Jonathon Ramsey (Autoblog)
Submitted at 9/20/2008 3:56:00 AM

SEMA Preview: Performance West Group Ford F-350 Striker
By Jonathon Ramsey (Autoblog)
Submitted at 9/20/2008 2:02:00 AM

Filed under: Concept Cars, Sports/GTs, Supercars, Acura Click above for high-res gallery of the Acura 2+1 Concept Acura's new design language, as seen on the 2009 TL, is fronted by a shield-like appendage that has received mixed reviews. The Acura 2+1 -- the numbers describe the seating arrangement -- by design student Leon Paz is what would happen if you took the shield theme to one natural conclusion. By maintaining the edge throughout the concept's "modern baroque styling," Paz has come up we something we kinda dig. The body is fashioned from a plastic that is harder than fiberglass, and Paz has done a great job in creating lines that evoke skin stretched over a frame. The upper surface

is one continuous window that shows off the twin-turbo V6 and the Acura logo for the cylinder covers. There is no hood -- at your yearly service, the dealer would lift the glass and perform any engine maintenance. The 2+1 would be an aspirational step for those who want an NSX but can't afford one yet. Based on what we've seen of the NSX so far, we'd probably rather have the 2+1. However, our most pressing question about the car isn't about the design -- we really want to know what is the meaning of "OW AHH" scrolled in LED's across the rear? Check out the gallery of high-res images below, and maybe you can tell us... Gallery: Acura 2+1 Concept [Source: Diseno Art] Read| Permalink| Email this| Comments

Filed under: Aftermarket, SEMA, Tuners, Trucks/Pickups, Ford, Special/Limited Editions Athletic governing bodies are coming down hard on steroids and HGH, which has probably led to a glut on the market. Performance West Group appears to have bought up the entire surplus and injected it into a Ford F-350 dually in order to create the Striker. Part pickup and part Ford Mustang GT500KR, the Striker will be intimidating other vehicles at this year's SEMA show in Las Vegas. The greatest tuning minds of our generation are assisting PWG with the project. Gale Banks is tuning the

PowerStroke V8 engine above its 350 hp and 650 lb-ft. Hulst Customs is fabricating the bodywork. American Lightweight will be providing the aluminum 24" wheels. Katzkin Leather and Sony are doing duty inside to make sure you enjoy what will surely be a monster system in beauteous comfort. PWG will then drape the entire thing in Striker Silver and Badass Blue and then probably let it loose to kill things. The rationalist in us wants to ask "What the...?" The auto junkie in us wants to stick it in the driveway and let it reek of testosterone. And then transform into a Decepticon. Which means we can't wait for SEMA. [Source: PickupTrucks.com] Read| Permalink| Email this| Comments

Filed under: In the Autoblog Garage, Supercars, Lamborghini Click above for high-res gallery of the Lamborghini Gallardo LP560-4 A 5.2-liter V10 with 560 horsepower, 060 mph in 3.7 seconds, a top speed of over 200 mph and one of the most beautiful modern designs to ever come out of Italy. It's the new Gallardo LP560-4, and Lamborghini wants us to drive it. There are certainly more lucrative ways to make a living than being an automotive journalist, but it's moments like this that we know we made the right career choice. The best news is that we got to drive the new LP560 -4 with about two dozen Lamborghini owners. Lamborghini of Orange County recently opened up a new dealership in Newport Beach, and they invited all of their customers down to see the new showroom and go for a Sunday drive. We tackled some of California's best back roads in the LP560-4 with other Gallardos, Murcielagos, and even a few Diablos. Follow the jump to read on. Gallery: First Drive: 2009 Lamborghini Gallardo LP560-4 All photos Copyright (C)2008 Drew Phillips/ Weblogs, Inc. Continue reading First Drive: 2009 Lamborghini Gallardo LP560-4 Permalink| Email this| Comments

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Autoline on Autoblog with John McElroy
By John Neff (Autoblog)
Submitted at 9/20/2008 11:29:00 AM

Filed under: Ford, Mercury, Autoline on Autoblog HOW FORD WILL SAVE MERCURY When Alan Mulally came to the Ford Motor Company two years ago he finally forced the company to face reality. It wasn't going to go anywhere, he told his executive team, unless it put all its resources into resuscitating the Ford brand on a global basis. So Jaguar and Land Rover were given the heave-ho, and Volvo was put "under review." The decision was made to let Mercury slowly die, and Lincoln's turnaround was put on the back burner until the Ford brand revived. But as the company formulated its turnaround plan, it slowly dawned on everyone involved that there was a real opportunity to save Mercury. They figured out a way to give the brand a unique line-up of vehicles without breaking the bank. So in April of this year they took their ideas to Mulally, and after extensive studies they got the goahead in June to save it.

MTM supercharges the Audi R8
By Drew Phillips (Autoblog)
John McElroy is host of the TV program"Autoline Detroit". Every week he brings his unique insights as an auto industry insider to Autoblog readers. Follow the jump to continue reading this week's editorial. Continue reading Autoline on Autoblog with John McElroy Permalink| Email this| Comments

JDM Honda Odyssey teased ahead of debut
By Alex Nunez (Autoblog)
Submitted at 9/20/2008 7:57:00 AM

Submitted at 9/19/2008 11:29:00 AM

Filed under: Minivans/MPVs, Japan, Honda Click above to enlarge the new JDM Honda Odyssey As many of you doubtless know, the Japanese Honda Odyssey isn't the same thing we get here in the States. While we get the more jumbo-rific family escape pod with sliders and the whole shebang, the JDM Odyssey is a sleeker-looking MPV with four traditionally-hinged doors anf four-cylinder power. And now it's time for a new one. Honda's just put up a special site to welcome the upcoming 4th-gen

JDM Odyssey, whose styling further evolves the shape that's by now a common site in Japan, while the front end is likely to showcase Honda's current family design theme (think Clarity, Insight, etc.). You can check out the teaser site by clicking here, and keep in mind that Honda's reportedly thinking about sending over some of its JDM machinery. In lieu of, say, an Accord wagon, this (or the more compact Stream) might work for a lot of people -- especially those of us who view the typical U.S.-style minivan as Superman does kryptonite. [Source: Honda via NihonCar] Permalink| Email this| Comments

First automated motorcycle wash opens in U.S.
By Jeremy Korzeniewski (Autoblog)
Submitted at 9/20/2008 6:02:00 AM

Filed under: Aftermarket, Tuners, Supercars, Audi Click above for a gallery of high-res images MTM has been adding horsepower to Audis for more than 20 years, and they have put that experience into developing a new twin-screw supercharger system that pairs up to the 4.2-liter V8 in the Audi R8. The addition of forced induction brings total output to 552 hp, coincidentally matching the output of the R8's cousin, the Lamborghini Gallardo LP560-4. In addition to the supercharger kit, MTM also offers a complete line of products for the R8 including brake upgrades, 20" forged wheels, high-flow exhaust system, and a variety of exterior style upgrades. A gallery of high resolution images can be found below and hit the jump for the complete spec sheet. Gallery: MTM Audi R8R Continue reading MTM supercharges the Audi R8 Permalink| Email this| Comments

Filed under: Lifestyle, Motorcycles Regular watchers of American Chopper on TLC have seen this one before, but it's probably a new concept for the rest of the class. A new automated motorcycle wash has recently opened in the United States -the first of its kind. Simply ride up, lock

your front tire into the custom mount and walk away. A few minutes later, after a barrage of high-pressure water, soap and a massive blow dryer have done their things, your bike is now clean and ready to ride off into the sunset. For owners of relatively new bikes, this process will probably work out just fine. If we were riding an older bike with suspect electrics (Triumph owners, we're looking at you... jealously),

perhaps the good ole' fashioned rag and bucket would be a better option. The

system debuted in Indianapolis just in time for the recent MotoGP race held in the city. We've pasted the press release after the break. [Source: Moto Express Wash via Next Autos] Continue reading First automated motorcycle wash opens in U.S. Read| Permalink| Email this| Comments


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Simple Cooked Tomato Salsa
By Elise
Submitted at 9/20/2008 10:05:28 PM

Citroen releases another image of the GT
By Jonathon Ramsey (Autoblog)
Submitted at 9/20/2008 9:49:00 AM

Filed under: Concept Cars, Sports/GTs, Paris Motor Show, Supercars, Citroen, Toys Click above for high-res images of the Citroen GT concept The Citroen GT striptease continues with a more revealing image of what looks like a rip-snorting concept car. Huge tires, a ginormous front splitter meant to keep something seriously fast bolted to the ground at speed, enough front air intakes to

break records, and that thing out back, which we thought were mirrors yesterday, must be a terrific wing. As they say in French, oh la la, c'est cool. Meant to appear in Gran Turismo Prologue, it will also be at next month's Paris Motor Show, and so will we, so stay tuned. In the mean time, you can check out both high-res images in the gallery below. Gallery: Sony/Citroen GT Teaser [Source: ZerCustoms] Read| Permalink| Email this| Comments

The cars of Ystafell: vintage Icelandic metal
By Jonathon Ramsey (Autoblog)
Submitted at 9/19/2008 12:28:00 PM

Filed under: Etc., Euro Click above for a hi-res gallery of cars at the Transport Museum at Ystafell Tucked away in a green, waterfall-riven valley between Akureyri and Husavik, Iceland is the hamlet of Ystafell ( who-stuh -fel is the closest we can get to proper pronunciation). Akureyri has some of the best nightlife in Iceland, while Husavik has whales and a museum dedicated to things

unmentionable on a family site. That leaves the Transport Museum at Ystafell practically unnoticed, which is a shame, because features two barns full of unlikely vehicles, each with an authentic Icelandic story. Follow the jump for the tale of our recent visit, and check out the gallery of hi -res photos below. Gallery: Transport Museum Ystafell Continue reading The cars of Ystafell: vintage Icelandic metal Permalink| Email this| Comments

My friend Arturo taught me how to make this simple salsa the other day. He calls it "Salsa Fresca", which he says is what this salsa is called where he's from in Mexico. What we in the states usually call salsa fresca, in Mexico is called "pico de gallo". Looking for similar recipes in some of Diana Kennedy's books I find several references to "salsa de jitomate" or simply, "tomato salsa", and none for salsa fresca. But that's not surprising. The names for dishes, and even ingredients, can vary widely, depending on where you are in the country. Fortunately, the salsa is more simple than its name's etymology. And likely you've had it before, if you've ever stepped inside a taqueria. There you usually have a choice of salsas, one smooth, red, and hot, the other made with chopped fresh tomatoes, onions, and chiles. This would be the first, the smooth, red and hot one. It's great for dipping tortilla chips, or over quesadillas. Continue reading "Simple Cooked Tomato Salsa" »

VIDEO: Singapore GP Preview
By Jonathon Ramsey (Autoblog)
Submitted at 9/19/2008 11:58:00 AM

Filed under: Motorsports, Videos Click above image to watch the video This weekend Singapore will host Formula 1's first night race, and SPEED TV has created a computerized lap of the

course narrated by Mark Webber taking you through the 24 corners. Perhaps the best part of this brand new track in a brand new host country at a brand new time of day night is the knowledge that there are three spots for overtaking, which hopefully means this will be more than just a twohour parade lap. If nothing else, McLaren

the tip, Andy! [Source: Speed TV via MotorWorldHype] Continue reading VIDEO: Singapore GP Preview Read| Permalink| Email this| Comments might be packing a surprise. Follow the jump to check out the video. Thanks for

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Thumbs up, thumbs down? (updated)
By tmatt
Submitted at 9/17/2008 7:10:22 PM

I am genuinely fascinated with the degree to which the choice of Gov. Sarah Palin as the GOP’s vice presidential nominee has created a firestorm on the religion left and, to some degree, in secular corners of the Democratic Party. For months now, I have been saying that the trailblazing efforts by Sen. Barack Obama — an outspoken voice for liberal Christianity — to invade traditional religious sanctuaries is one of the most interesting religion-beat stories that I have seen in a long, long time. That’s why I wrote about him so early in the campaign, in a column (“ Obama’s awesome testimony”) for the Scripps Howard News Service. That earlier effort included this passage about Obama’s fervent speech to a national meeting of the United Church of Christ, focusing on his decision to become a Christian: “It was because of these newfound understandings that I was finally able to walk down the aisle. . . and affirm my Christian faith. It came about as a choice, and not an epiphany. I didn’t fall out in church, like folks sometimes do. The questions I had didn’t magically disappear.. . . But kneeling beneath that cross on the South Side, I felt I heard God’s spirit beckoning me. I submitted myself to His will, and dedicated myself to discovering His truths and carrying out His works.” Over at the Christian Broadcasting Network, commentator David Brody offered a candid evaluation of the speech: “That, ladies and gentlemen, is called a conversion experience.” Most of all, I was fascinated that Obama was urging his fellow believers on the religious left to strike a new tone, to take a more positive stance in their dialogues with traditional believers. He was trying to heal some wounds. Now, in the wake of the Palin nomination, it’s like all of that has been washed away. We’re back at — well — the U.S. Senate hearings for Justice Clarence Thomas, or something like that. So this week I stuck an editorial toe into the Palin tsunami. Lord, have mercy.

Here’s the new column (Scripps Howard link is here), with a few hyperlinks thrown in. However, note that I have also included the final kicker line that I almost used. I have been second-guessing myself ever since I clicked “send” early this morning. So I want readers to give me a thumbs up or thumbs down. Should I have used this final, snarky, benediction? Would it have been appropriate? Fair? A straw-man exercise? Let me know what you think in the comments pages. The punch line rocketed around the World Wide Web, inspiring smiles in pews friendly to Sen. Barack Obama. The Rev. Jim Wallis of Sojourners saw a campaign button based on this one liner and, on the“Interfaith Voices” public radio show, said it was a fine response to Gov. Sarah Palin’s jab at the work of “community organizers.” Donna Brazile — who ran Al Gore’s 2000 White House campaign — saw the same gag and, on CNN, quickly linked it to the Bible’s message that “to whom much is given, much is required.” But this cyberspace quip finally made the crucial jump to YouTube when U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen took to the House floor to remind conservatives “Barack Obama was a community organizer like Jesus.. . . Pontius Pilate was a governor.” Cohen later emphasized that, “I didn’t and I wouldn’t compare anyone to Jesus.. . . What I pointed out was that Jesus was a force of change.” But the apology came too late to douse the fiery rhetoric raging on talk radio and weblogs. In particular, the soundbite used by Cohen and others captured the rising tide of religious tensions in this White House race. This conflict has been heightened by the powerful role played by religious liberals in Obama’s groundbreaking outreach efforts in a wide variety of sanctuaries. Obama is, after all, an articulate, proud member of the denomination — the United Church of Christ — that has in recent decades boldly pushed mainline Protestant to the doctrinal left on issues such as gay rights, abortion and the tolerance of other world religions. His running mate, Sen. Joe Biden, is an outspoken American Catholic whose progressive views have often placed him in dangerous territory between his

political party and the Vatican. Sen. John McCain, meanwhile, used to be an Episcopalian married to a beerempire heiress, the very model of a mainline Protestant gentleman from the 1950s. Then he started visiting Southern Baptist pews while mending fences on the religious right. Finally, McCain shuffled the 2008 deck by naming Palin — an enthusiastic evangelical mother of five children — as his running mate. This move rocked the pews on both sides of the sanctuary aisle, but Palin’s ascension has caused an unusual degree of shock, anger, dismay and disdain on the secular and religious left. The political weblog Instapundit

summed up the mood on the cultural left with this headline: “She’s the freakin’ Antichrist, I tell you!” For author Deepak Chopra, a superstar in the spirituality marketplace, Palin is, quite literally, the anti-Obama. She is a living symbol of all that is wrong with smalltown, parochial, ignorant, reactionary Middle America, especially with her “family values” code language that opposes expanding doctrines of civil rights. “She is the reverse of Barack Obama, in essence his shadow, deriding his idealism and exhorting people to obey their worst impulses,” he argued, at The Huffington Post. “In psychological terms the shadow

is that part of the psyche that hides out of sight, countering our aspirations, virtue and vision with qualities we are ashamed to face: anger, fear, revenge, violence, selfishness, and suspicion of ‘the other.’ ” Obama, however, is “calling for us to reach for our higher selves,” said Chopra. The ultimate irony is the GOP’s assumption that Palin will appeal to women just because “she has a womb and makes lots and lots of babies,” argued religious historian Wendy Doniger of the University of Chicago’s Divinity School “Her greatest hypocrisy is in her pretense that she is a woman,” she wrote, in an“On Faith” essay for the Washington Post. “She does not speak for women; she has no sympathy for the problems of other women, particularly working class women.” But can anyone, in the current political atmosphere, top the Palin as Pontius Pilate smack down? University of Michigan historian Juan Cole, a specialist in Middle Eastern and South Asian affairs, offered Salon.com his best shot. When it comes to faith and politics, the values of McCain’s “handpicked running mate, Sarah Palin, more resemble those of Muslim fundamentalists than they do those of the Founding Fathers. On censorship, the teaching of creationism in schools, reproductive rights, attributing government policy to God’s will and climate change, Palin agrees with Hamas and Saudi Arabia rather than supporting tolerance and democratic precepts. “What is the difference between Palin and a Muslim fundamentalist? Lipstick.” And then, the ending that I considered: Stay tuned. The Rev. Pat Robertson has not raised his voice in a long, long time. Thumbs up? Thumbs down? I was simply trying to remind readers that this kind of language on the left would almost certainly lead to a backlash on the right. ART: OK, OK, I changed the art. Have it your way. Bookmark to:



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Obama courts the faithful
By Mollie
Submitted at 9/18/2008 3:14:07 PM

With the mainstream media’s obsession with Gov. Sarah Palin, they haven’t really had as much time to look at the other candidates in the race. But I wanted to look at a few stories coming out of the campaign of Sen. Barack Obama. The first is a report from the Roanoke Times. The report describes a series of small Democratic rallies with religious themes: In Pulaski, the “Faith, Family & Values” tour drew two dozen Democratic supporters to the Masonic Lodge, where Shaun Casey, a professor of Christian ethics at Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, D.C., said Obama continues to face the challenge of overcoming false rumors he’s a Muslim. Casey said his mother, who lives in Kentucky, still gets e-mails that allege Obama is a Muslim who will reveal his true religion only when he wins the White House. “That is still an active story line” in Southwest Virginia, Casey said. How come nobody ever sends me these emails? I would feel left out if I didn’t feel so lucky. Also, how come I get dozens of e -mails with Palin rumors every day? And how can I make them stop? Anyway, the article mentions that Obama supporters reaching out to Christians in rural Virginia meet resistance over the campaign’s support for abortion rights. Casey said that the Democratic platform — essentially the party’s mission statement drafted at the August convention in Denver — contains a “commitment to reducing abortions” by bettering the nation’s economy so that expectant mothers of modest means will feel more confident about the financial challenges of delivering their babies. That solution doesn’t satisfy the likes of Matt Staver, dean of Liberty University School of Law in Lynchburg and founder of Liberty Counsel, a law firm specializing in church-state issues: “I think what’s of concern to evangelical voters are Obama’s incontrovertible views on life and values that just don’t connect with them.”

Staver cited Obama’s response to a question from the Rev. Rick Warren in a nationally televised interview in August about when life begins — that it’s “above my pay grade.” Staver said, “For the president to say that when life begins for a baby is above his pay grade is incomprehensible.” Unless it’s in a section I haven’t read, “commitment” to reducing abortions might be a bit of an overstatement. The Democratic Party platform supports “access” to family planning services and comprehensive sex ed and says that such programs “help reduce the number of unintended pregnancies and thereby also reduce the need for abortions.” To be sure, from the perspective of pro-life Democrats, this marked a significant improvement. Of course, pro-choice Democrats also thought

the platform was changed in their favor to make the moral case for abortion. The other point is that Obama was never asked by Warren when life begins. He was asked when human rights begin. Why is this so difficult for people to get right? Still, it’s nice to see a story that looks at actual religious outreach efforts and how they are playing with various voters. Michelle Obama herself did some faith and values outreach at the National Baptist Convention in Dayton. The Dayton Daily News was there: Michelle Obama, wife of Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama, urged nearly 4,000 Baptists today, Sept. 10 at the Duke Energy Center that the 2008 General Election “is going to change the world.” But in order for that to happen, people must get out and vote. Time is running out,

she said. “Barack can’t win without you, and he can’t lead without you,” Michelle Obama said. “We have less than two months between now and election day. So every day every hour counts.” The report, which describes an electric atmosphere, also includes this intriguing quote: “We are in these days witnessing the making of history,” said William J. Shaw, president of the National Baptist Convention, USA. “We do not call the senator and his wife Jesus, but in his candidacy, the hopes of generations are finding expression. And in that same candidacy, the fears of many are finding fresh life. But it is our prayer always, that hope overrides fear. Mrs. Obama spoke in very personal

religious terms about how she and her husband have felt Obama supporters’ prayers. It’s an interesting piece and I was frankly surprised the appearance, which occurred last week, didn’t receive more coverage. Campaigning to religious groups seems like a big deal, no matter who is doing it. I can’t quite figure out why there was so little interest in the event. There was another interesting and barely covered story about religious outreach from the Obama campaign, this from CNN: The Obama campaign is preparing rolling out a new line of “faith merchandise” — the latest move in an ambitious effort to win over religious voters. . . . Both campaigns have been making a major push for the Catholic vote, which has gone to the winning presidential campaign in every race since 1976, except Al Gore’s 2000 White House bid. There are Believers for Barack and Catholics for Obama buttons and bumper stickers on the site. They’re planning to offer “Clergy for Change” and “Pro-Israel, Pro-Obama” merchandise as well. Christianity Today noticed that a button with an icthys was offered and then removed. All of these stories are helpful in the larger discussion of Obama’s religious outreach. As we prepare for the next Pew poll release that will compare religious support this year with religious support from four years ago, hopefully we can get a bit more substance in the stories. How is Catholic outreach going? What is affecting Catholic voting decisions? How are evangelicals responding to the two campaigns? Is there any movement toward Obama among white evangelicals? Is this group more enthusiastic toward McCain now that he’s picked his VP? And if we see any movement, could we learn more about why? Bookmark to:

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Religion* Food*


Getting Catholic voters, mostly
By Mark Stricherz
Submitted at 9/18/2008 6:40:19 PM

For months, I criticized the print press for not covering the Democratic presidential candidates’ outreach to religious Democrats in general and Catholic Democrats specifically. I didn’t get it. Both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama had religious outreach directors. Yet until the Pennsylvania primary in April, reporters avoided writing about their efforts. Now things have changed, as Mollie’s post shows. Reporters are doing more than writing about the campaigns’ outreach to Catholics. They are also writing balanced, informed stories about them. While the stories are less than perfect, they are superior to their predecessors. Exhibit A is this story by David Kirkpatrick of The New York Times. Kirkpatrick wrote about how Catholic voters in key swing states are divided about the issue of abortion, not so much about whether the nation’s abortions laws are desirable but rather the extent to which the issue should influence Catholics’ votes this fall. As I show in Why the Democrats are Blue, this storyline is an old one, stretching back to the 1976 presidential election, but Kirkpatrick’s was better than previous stories in one respect. Kirkpatrick showed that Catholic bishops’ public criticism of pro-choice Catholic Democrats was persuading Catholic Democratic voters to cast their ballots for a Republican presidential candidate. In fact, Kirkpatrick made this his lede: Until recently, Matthew Figured, a Sunday school teacher at the Holy Rosary Roman Catholic Church here, could not decide which candidate to vote for in the presidential election.

He had watched progressive Catholics work with the Democratic Party over the last four years to remind the faithful of the party’s support for Catholic teaching on the Iraq war, immigration, health care and even reducing abortion rates. But then his local bishop plunged into the fray, barring Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware, the Democratic vicepresidential nominee, from receiving communion in the area because of his support for abortion rights. Finally, bishops around the country scolded another prominent Catholic Democrat, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California, for publicly contradicting the church’s teachings on abortion, some discouraging parishioners from voting for politicians who hold such views. Now Mr. Figured thinks he will vote for the Republican candidate, Senator John McCain of Arizona. “People should straighten out their religious beliefs before they start making political decisions,” Mr. Figured, 22, said on his way into Sunday Mass. I liked this lede. I think its point is true: the Bishops’ public comments about issues influence many Catholic voters, though how many it does is impossible to say. And I think the lede got religion: rather than dismissing the remarks of bishops, which has been a key media narrative about Catholics since the advent of the birth-control controversy, Catholic voters take them into account. Later, Kirkpatrick showed that some Catholic voters are influence not only by the bishops but also church teaching, or at least their interpretation of it: Dozens of interviews with Catholics in Scranton underscored the political tumult in the parish pews. At Holy Rosary’s packed morning Masses on Sunday in

working-class North Scranton and the Pennsylvania Polka Festival downtown that afternoon, many Clinton supporters said they were planning to vote for Mr. Obama, some saying they sided with their labor unions instead of the church and others repeating liberal arguments about church doctrine broader than abortion. “I think that one of the teachings of God is to take care of the less fortunate,” said Susan Tighe, an insurance lawyer who identified herself as “a folk Catholic, from the guitar-strumming social-justice side” of the church. But more said they now leaned toward Mr. McCain, citing both his experience and his opposition to abortion. Paul MacDonald, a retired social worker mingling over coffee after Mass at Holy Rosary, said he had voted for Mr. Kerry four years ago and Mrs. Clinton in the primary but now planned to vote for Mr. McCain because of “the life issue.” I liked this section, too. Kirkpatrick was not using scare quotes about abortion; the life issue is a euphemism. And he talked to

ordinary voters in addition to experts; many reporters rely on the latter at the expense of the former. That said, the story had a flaw characteristic of the media’s coverage of religious voters. It got politics as much as it did religion — Catholic voters are split between the two parties and the two major presidential campaigns are courting Catholics. For example, I think Kirkpatrick should have quoted from the bishops about the following statement: After the 2004 election, progressive Catholics started to organize and appeared to win some victories. In 2006, the bishops’ conference all but banned outside voter guides from parishes. And last fall, the bishops revised their official statement on voting priorities to explicitly allow Catholics to vote for a candidate who supports abortion rights if they do so for other reasons. And it also allowed for differences of opinion about how to apply church principles. The statement appeared to leave room for Democrats to argue that social programs were an effective way to reduce abortion rates, an idea the party recently incorporated into its platform. This passage left me with questions. Is there a source for the assertion that the bishops’ conference virtually banned outside voter guides? Also, the bishops’ statement left room for difference of opinion about applying church principles? Hmm. In any event, those are only a couple of complaints. I think on the whole the story got religion, certainly far more than previous stories have. Bookmark to:

Grilled Wild Salmon with Preserved Lemon Relish
By Elise
Submitted at 9/13/2008 5:16:42 PM

My father walked through the door the other day with half of a fresh whole wild salmon, announcing to me that he would like me to grill it. Sure dad! When someone presents truly fresh fish to you, there really isn't a "save it for another day" option. The thing to do is to keep it chilled and cook it as soon as you can. Save for tomorrow? Fuggetaboutit. Fresh fish should be cooked the day you get it. Now, according to my favorite grilling experts, Andrew Scholss and David Joachim ( Mastering the Grill, excellent book, must have if you are into grilling), wild salmon is great to grill whole, and easier to do so than farmed salmon, because it tends to be thinner, easier to cook through without getting dried out on the edges. Continue reading "Grilled Wild Salmon with Preserved Lemon Relish" »

Sweet and Sour Chicken
By Jaden Hair
Submitted at 9/18/2008 6:08:05 AM

Please welcome guest author Jaden Hair of Steamy Kitchen who brings us another great Chinese-American classic, Sweet and Sour Chicken. ~Elise When Elise asked me to be a guest writer for Simply Recipes, we decided to take

Chinese favorites and make them better, lighter and easier to cook at home. So, I grabbed a take-out menu from the local Chinese restaurant and I will be working my way around those recipes for you. If there's one thing that I detest, it's greasy fried food covered in goopy Chinese take-out sauce. Okay, so sometimes I like that stuff, but it usually

those cravings come at 3 o'clock a.m. during a certain time of the month.

But, I digress. This recipe for Sweet and Sour Chicken doesn't deep fry, but instead uses a method for creating a delicate, smooth and succulent chicken that goes perfectly with a lighter sweet and sour sauce. The secret is in the chicken marinade, specifically using egg white and cornstarch, which creates a super-light coating all around the

chicken. It won't be a crunchy, deep fried coating, but I think it's a nice alternative, both texture-wise and weight-wise! Continue reading "Sweet and Sour Chicken" »


Religion* Food*

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Paranormal side of the tolerance coin?
By tmatt
Submitted at 9/19/2008 1:51:03 PM

The Religion Newswriters Association is currently meeting here inside the Beltway, which guarantees that somebody, from somewhere is going to release a boatload of new information about some trends in American religion. This time around, it’s a team of scholars from Baylor University, my alma mater. Sic ‘em Bears, and all that. Due to a GetReligion-related business meeting (no breaking news, at this time), I was not able to get down to the press conference rolling out the latest numbers from the Gallup and the Baylor Institute for Studies of Religion. I also need to admit that I did not spend last night munching my way through the data. I’ll be down at the RNA meetings tomorrow for a panel on religion blogs and I hope to pick up the study and some recordings of the presentations about it. But there’s some interesting mainstream coverage out there today. Check it out. So far, what I am seeing is dividing into two camps — the two sides of what may be the same coin. On one side, you have the news (I am shocked, shocked!) that very few Americans are very Orthodox when it comes to matters of heaven, hell and eternity. Americans tend to think that good people go to heaven (people we like) and bad people do not. It’s a majority-rule kind of thing. That’s the angle that you find in crisp Religion News Service report from Adelle Banks (a friend, I must confess) and also over at the next-door-to-Baylor Waco Tribune-Herald. The basic idea is that there are few narrow, intolerant people still out there. The RNS lede: Heaven is no longer viewed as an exclusive place by many Americans, according to a new survey from Baylor University. When researchers polled U.S. adults about who (and how many) will get into heaven, 54% of respondents said at least half of average Americans will make it through the Pearly Gates. More than a quarter of those surveyed — 29% — said they had no opinion about the fate of the average American, a figure that mirrored

those who thought “half or more” of nonreligious people would make it into heaven. Rodney Stark, co-director of Baylor’s Institute for Studies of Religion in Waco, Texas, said the findings represent a marked difference from earlier studies. “I think that it’s really just a. . . broadening because of the cultural experiences of diversity,” said Stark, author of the new book What Americans Really Believe, which details the study’s findings on topics ranging from belief in guardian angels to the practices of “irreligious” people. “I know that when we did studies like this back in the ’60s, the notion that only Christians could go to heaven, for example, was much more extensive than it is now.”

It will be interesting to see the numbers. The basic idea seems to be that people want to be more tolerant, but they still are looking at the world through a lens that is basically semi-Christian or, dare I say, liberal Christian. Remember that Pew Forum study from last summer on this same theme? But note that it is possible to turn this coin over and see this same trend another way: Very few Americans have a consistent, coherent approach to religious faith and doctrine. Is this good or bad? To see the Baylor report from that angle, click here to head over to Julia Duin’s A1 story in the Washington Times. The lede: Half of all Americans believe they are protected by guardian angels, one-fifth say they’ve heard God speak to them, one-

quarter say they have witnessed miraculous healings, 16 percent say they’ve received one and 8 percent say they pray in tongues, according to a survey released Thursday by Baylor University. Now, get ready for the twist: The survey, which has a margin of error of four percentage points, also revealed that theological liberals are more apt to believe in the paranormal and the occult — haunted houses, UFOs, communicating with the dead and astrology — than do conservatives. Women (35 percent), blacks (41 percent), those younger than 30 (40 percent), Democrats (40 percent) and singles who are cohabitating (49 percent) were more likely to believe, the survey said. Now, that’s interesting. I’m reminded of a comment by a Czech journalist this past summer, who told me that the Czech Republic is one of the most secular nations in Europe (and, thus, the world), yet it is also the most superstitious. Religious faith fled the pages of scripture and moved into the tabloids. The same angle shows up in the Wall Street Journal coverage, where we read this spicy detail. It seems that the survey answers were: . . .(Added) up to create an index of belief in occult and the paranormal. While 31% of people who never worship expressed strong belief in these things, only 8% of people who attend a house of worship more than once a week did. Even among Christians, there were disparities. While 36% of those belonging to the United Church of Christ, Sen. Barack Obama’s former denomination, expressed strong beliefs in the paranormal, only 14% of those belonging to the Assemblies of God, Sarah Palin’s former denomination, did. In fact, the more traditional and evangelical the respondent, the less likely he was to believe in, for instance, the possibility of communicating with people who are dead. I would share more about this provocative story, but I really shouldn’t do so. You see, it’s written by someone named (wait for it) M.Z. Hemingway. Bookmark to:

Chicken Enchiladas Verdes
By Elise
Submitted at 9/8/2008 6:01:19 PM

The tomatillos in my garden are all ripening at once. Have you ever cooked with tomatillos? They look like little lanterns, with their green papery husks. Sometimes people mistake them for green tomatoes (doesn't help that their Spanish name is "tomate verde"); they are related to tomatoes (same family, different genus), but the taste is quite different. They are used to make the distinctive Mexican salsa verde or green salsa. In this chicken enchiladas recipe, the sauce is made with boiled tomatillos (you could also roast them), serrano chile peppers, and sour cream. The filling is made with shredded meat from chicken thighs; the deeper flavor of the dark meat holds up much better to the chile and tomatillo sauce than chicken breasts. I made these for dinner tonight and even the kid, my young nephew, went for seconds. Not a smidgen of sauce was left on any of our plates. Continue reading "Chicken Enchiladas Verdes" »

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Newsweek ignores women’s faith
By Mark Stricherz
Submitted at 9/19/2008 4:28:39 AM

Life after the Press Club
By dpulliam
Submitted at 9/19/2008 8:34:46 PM

Newsweek’s cover story this week focuses on the historical and social roots of female voters’ embrace, so far at least, of Gov. Sarah Palin. Its lede hints at the story’s theme: for all of the celebration in 1984 of Geraldine Ferraro as the first female on the ticket of a major presidential party, she was opposed by traditional female voters: [W]hat Ferraro was most surprised by, in focus groups convened after the election, was that stay-at-home mothers had been horrified by her candidacy, despite the fact that her three children were teenagers. “What we found was that some women felt intimidated,” she says now. How would their husbands view them if they were just staying at home rather than shattering glass ceilings and conquering the world? “I thought, ‘God almighty, how did that happen?’. . . They thought it would somehow hurt them. That if I could do all these things — be a supermom or whatever — how would it look for them, if ‘all’ they were doing was taking care of their children at home?” They wondered, she says, if it would jeopardize their marriages. Nearly a quarter of a century later, Sarah Palin is also being grilled about her capacity to negotiate with the Soviets (well, the Russians, but they are acting like Soviets at the moment), asked if she will still cook for her family if elected vice president and praised for her chic glasses and copper highlights. But this time, women are flocking to her, cheering her can-do attitude and her unabashed embrace of the hockey-mom label. After her nomination as the Republicans’ vice presidential candidate, the Washington Post/ABC poll reported a remarkable 20-

point shift toward McCain. The new NEWSWEEK Poll also finds that some movement occurred: in July, John McCain led Barack Obama among white women by 44 to 39 percent; now his lead is 53 to 37 percent. The story continues on in this vein. The authors allow that gender is important to female voters, but stress that it is hardly all -important: All things being equal between candidates, however, there is evidence to suggest that women are increasingly likely to support female candidates because they are women — if they believe there are too few women in positions of power. But gender remains only one consideration of many. What, you might ask, are those considerations? The story mentions the conventional sociological categories — race, family status, and class. But it fails to explore — indeed, it barely touches on —

two crucial considerations: marital status and religious affiliation. In the 2004 election, pollster Anna Greenberg found that marital status was a big fault line among voters: The marriage gap is a defining dynamic in today’s politics, eclipsing the gender gap, with marital status a significant predictor of the vote, independent of the effects of age, race, income, education or gender. Marital status had a significant effect on the way in these voters performed, whereas a voter’s gender did not. Younger unmarried women supported Kerry while younger married women supported Bush. Marital status is related to religiosity. As scholar Brad Wilcox has shown, the more religious you are, the more likely you are to be married. Also, the political scientists Earl and Merle Black have shown that religious affiliation shapes female voters’ attitudes. Mainline Protestant women have moved away from the GOP; Catholic women away from the Democratic Party; and evangelical women sticking with the GOP. Newsweek’s story misses these two important elements. It mentions marital status only a few times; and does not mention religious affiliation at all. Come on, Newsweek. Are we to believe that faith and religious affiliation have played no role in female politics? Haven’t you read your Tocqueville, especially his line about women safeguarding American religion? Sure, gender, class, and race shape female behavior. But doesn’t religion, too? Apparently not. Which is why Newsweek’s story did not get religion at all. Bookmark to:

The former pastor of Democratic Presidential Candidate Barack Obama has slipped back into the news over the last couple of weeks for vastly divergent reasons. Last week the New York Post broke the story that the preacher had a sexual affair with an executive assistant at a Dallas church lead by one of Wright’s disciples. On the other hand, the Religion News Service is reporting that Wright is saying nice things about Obama in his sermons. Here’s the RNS article by Jeff Diamant of The Star-Ledger(Newark, N.J.): “Let me tell you how I know what I’m talking about,” Wright said at Elmwood Presbyterian Church, where he leads a weeklong revival each September. “Twenty years ago, a scrawny little kid — pointed nose, big ears, momma from Kansas, daddy from Kenya — the Lord told him, an ordinary black boy, he told him, `You could be a state senator. . .‘ “Not only did he become a state senator,” Wright continued, as cheers rang up in the sanctuary, “this black boy with an African daddy from Kenya and a white American momma from Kansas, he had the audacity to hope, so he ran for the United States Senate, and the Lord turned the ordinary into the (extraordinary). And now! And now! Oh my God, and now! Whooo!” Is there the possibility of a connection between these two stories? In addition, why hasn’t there been more news coverage of either of them? There are two possible reasons: the federal government’s plans to spend something like a trillion dollars staving off a second Great Depression and a Alaskan politician named Sarah Palin. The coverage on the affair is rather weak outside the Post’s article. One can also ask whether it is deserving of more coverage.

When it comes to people in power having affairs with people who could be seen as subordinate, I do not see how it is not a story: When word of the unholy alliance got out, Payne’s husband dumped her, and she was canned from the plum job at Friendship-West Baptist Church, she told The Post. “I was involved with Rev. Wright, and that’s why I lost my job and why my husband divorced me,” Payne said. She refused to reveal when the adulterous affair started or how she met Wright.. . . In April, Payne organized a series of Texas public appearances by Wright, 67. Weeks before, Obama had disavowed his preacher of 20 years after Wright’s antigovernment rants came to light. “Liz was by Rev. Wright’s side day and night during those days,” a church source said. “It’s all true,” said Payne, adding that she has filed a wrongful-dismissal claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to get her job back. In an ironic twist, Wright last night spoke at an East Orange, NJ, church revival on the subject of “unexpected problems.” I would be curious to know for sure whether The Dallas Morning News has covered this story in its own back yard. My attempts to find a story have come up with nothing, but I do not want to draw conclusions. In conclusion, is the Wright drama still relevant in terms of religion and the 2008 political race? Part of me is inclined to believe that the story burned out a long time ago, but somehow I suspect this story did not end in April at the National Press Club. Bookmark to:



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Tongues, cartoons, news — oh my (updated)
By dpulliam
Submitted at 9/18/2008 5:47:59 PM

From our ‘no comment’ department
By tmatt
Submitted at 9/19/2008 6:02:38 PM

Cartoons are certainly not news items in the traditional sense of a news article or broadcast, but as we all know, cartoons can certainly make news. See to the right (or click on this link) to get an idea of what I am talking about. I hardly watch cable news these days (except for The Daily Show), so I can’t say what type of broadcast news coverage this attempt at humor is getting. Give me some feedback on whether this has received any significant coverage beyond various blogs. Maybe it’s time to start ignoring these types of incidents as some of you have suggested. Or maybe it does matter since Pat Oliphant is one of the most widely distributed political cartoonists in the world. I love political cartoons and newspaper cartoonists in general. The first person outside family members I became friends with at my local newspaper was the evening newspaper’s cartoonist. Cartoonists can make points in ways writers like myself can only dream of. I am sad to see the slow decline over the years. The big question that some are asking: is this cartoon appropriate? Watch to see if The Washington Post’s ombudsman Deborah Howell covers the issue this weekend in her column. Now that the cartoon issue is out of the way, take a look at this news story from Dan Harris of ABC News on what Palin’s faith might mean to the country. The article starts out by saying the following: It’s happened to John McCain and Barack Obama. Now it’s Sarah Palin’s turn to go through what one observer has called a “spiritual vetting.” Isn’t it great when news stories start out by talking about the very thing that same news story is doing? As for the vetting, Harris didn’t do all that good of a job. Check out this paragraph: Pentecostalism has been described as evangelical experience on steroids. Like

evangelicals, Pentecostals believe that the Bible is the literal word of God and that the end of time is near. However, Pentecostals also believe that the Holy Spirit can give you gifts such as speaking in tongues, prophesy, and divine healing. “It’s very common in Pentecostal churches to be emotionally involved, physically involved in our worship service,” Palin’s former pastor Tim McGraw said. “And the reason for that is that if you go to a football game and your team wins or kicks a field goal to win it’s entirely consistent to be happy.” Why does Harris have to use a negative analogy like steroids? Couldn’t he have found the time to find a more neutral comparison? The article mentions early and often the speaking in tongues issue despite the fact that it never suggests Palin has spoken in tongues. Getting that fact nailed down would seem to be to be essential to this story. The article states that the practice is often

the least understood. By definition, I think that is true. How should news reporters cover something as tricky and theologically controversial? I wouldn’t know where to start but maybe some of you readers could provide some suggestions. UPDATE: Steve Waldman over at Beliefnet believes that Oliphant should apologize for the cartoon: Where to begin? Palin doesn’t belong to a Pentecostal church now. When she did, we don’t know if she spoke in tongues. And most important, Speaking in Tongues is a religious practice in which Christians feel the direct presence of the Holy Spirit. Is that really something to mock? ... Here’s a general rule of thumb: if you look closely, every religion’s practices and beliefs seem idiotic to those who aren’t part of that faith. Yet they’re profoundly meaningful to those who believe. Bookmark to:

But you know what my comment would be, anyway. Here’s the double-stack headline on a new Stuart Taylor “Open Argument” commentary at National Journal. Campaign Lies, Media Double Standards I no longer trust the major newspapers or television networks to provide consistently accurate and fair reporting and analysis of all the charges and countercharges. Let me stress that this is, at times, a “plague on both their houses” essay. This is not a matter of bashing Sen. Barack Obama or Sen. John McCain and their operations. Taylor does, however, come down on the side who think that many, or even most, mainstream reporters are leaning left. Thus, he concludes: We still have many great journalists, but I no longer trust the major newspapers or television networks to provide consistently accurate and fair reporting and analysis of all the charges and countercharges. This in an era when the noise produced by highly partisan TV hosts and blogs creates a crying need for at least one newspaper that we can count on to play it straight. Indeed, one reason that candidates get away with dishonest campaign ads and speeches may be that it is so hard for undecided voters like me to discern which

charges are true, which are exaggerated, and which are false. And what, pray tell, is his first example of this nasty situation? You know this was coming, didn’t you? * In Sarah Palin’s first big media interview, on September 11, Charlie Gibson of ABC News asked: “You said recently, in your old church, ‘Our national leaders are sending U.S. soldiers on a task that is from God.’ Are we fighting a holy war?” Palin responded: “You know, I don’t know if that was my exact quote.” Gibson pressed: “Exact words.” Viewers had no way of knowing that, in fact, Gibson was distorting Palin’s meaning by leaving out critical context and thus making an unremarkable exhortation to prayer sound like a declaration of holy war. Palin had not said that the war was a task from God. She had urged her listeners to “pray” that it was a task from God. A September 3 Associated Press report by Gene Johnson distorted Palin’s meaning in exactly the same way. And all the people said: “Amen.” We still need corrections at AP, ABC News and, also, the Washington Post(for starters). Please read all of Taylor’s essay. He’s a pro, at this. Bookmark to:

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Religion* Food*


Wearing your Sunday best
By Mollie
Submitted at 9/20/2008 3:32:34 PM

When my husband and I were going through premarital counseling, our pastor shared guidelines on appropriate wedding day attire. It was easy enough for us to comply with. Since then, I’ve noticed that skin seems to be the #1 accessory for brides on their wedding day. Everyone always looks smashing, of course, but I’m longing for the day when we can move on from the standard bridal uniform of a strapless white gown. All this to say that I loved the way this Chicago Tribune report on church attire began: Rev. David Moyer still remembers the gasp as the beautiful young bride came up the aisle. “What was that about?” he wondered. So Moyer, the conservative rector of Good Shepherd Episcopal Church in Rosemont, went ahead with the nuptials—quite unaware of how backless the bride’s dress really was. “It wasn’t until I blessed them and they turned around that I looked down” and saw more of her backside than one usually sees, he recalled with a laugh. Moyer said nothing at the time. But after years of watching wedding gowns grow skimpier and more revealing, he had had enough. “I never thought I’d see the day,” he said recently. “But I now tell couples in premarital counseling that their wedding clothes must be dignified and lovely.” The piece reminisces about what proper dress used to mean — men in jackets, ties and shiny shoes and women in heels, dresses and hats. The reporter speaks with clergy who lament the change and those who think it’s not a problem. The article has some great quotes and shows a nice breadth of reporting. It shows both cultural mores and theological implications of the way we dress. My dad is a pastor who vicared in Imperial Beach, California, in the early 1970s. Apparently it was not unheard of for people to approach the communion rail in their beach gear. Sometimes this included some barely-there beachwear. It

Pistachio White Chocolate Chip Cookies
By Garrett McCord
Submitted at 9/16/2008 6:32:40 AM

presented a bit of a pastoral challenge. Tony Campolo discussed a similar issue and how it was handled at his Baptist church: Sitting on a couch in the tabernacle’s modern vestibule, Campolo recalled the time a group of visiting teenagers from Canada showed up in T-shirts and jeans at the predominantly African-American Mount Carmel Baptist Church in West Philadelphia, where he worships. “Well, the ushers turned them away,” Campolo continued, “and the kids got all mad. They said, ‘What, you don’t let poor people in your church?’ Dress with respect “And the ushers said, ‘Oh, we let poor people in. But you’re not poor. We’ll let you in when you come dressed with respect.’ “ Rev. Joseph Ganiel, pastor of St. James parish in Ventnor, N.J., doesn’t turn the

underdressed away. But he has had it, he said, with tank tops and flip-flops and short shorts and naked navels. The latter pastor actually posts a dress code in the parish bulletin. The story ends with the anecdote of a woman and her two teenage sons casually dressed at church, scoffing at the notion that God cares what they wear more than what’s in their hearts. The various stories help show the difficult balancing act congregations have in promoting proper respect through attire while being welcoming of everyone. Understanding the limited space the reporter had to work with, it might have been interesting to look a bit more at official or semi-official dress codes for certain religious groups. But it’s just a really interesting topic with many perspectives. Bookmark to:

Guest author Garrett McCord of Vanilla Garlic brought 2 dozen of these cookies over today. We inhaled them. ~Elise Almost all of the pistachios grown in America are produced right here in California (were a lucky state, we are). Its a surprisingly labor intensive crop that requires a lot of attention for yields that can greatly differ from year to year. Still, the crop is relatively new to the U.S.; up until 1976, almost all of the pistachios were imported from Iran until President Carter placed an embargo on the country. It was then California farmers started to plant the first pistachio trees here in America. Nowadays we can get pistachios from any local market and use their rich,

mellow flavors as we please. This cookie makes delicious use of pistachios, pairing them with white chocolate (or dark, should you so prefer). The original recipe came from an article in the Sacramento Bee by way of Jane Dewey, a wife of a local pistachio farmer. After a bit of tweaking I finally got them to come out the way I prefer them. I prefer using a brick of white chocolate and chopping it into chunks for a more rustic look, but white chocolate chips will do just fine. I also reduced the butter a bit and used kosher salt which gives a nice spark of contrast to the sweetness. Very chewy and amazingly good, I promise these cookies are keepers. Continue reading "Pistachio White Chocolate Chip Cookies" »



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Cheers for (candid) talk on religious left
By tmatt
Submitted at 9/18/2008 11:13:50 PM

There are times when it seems as if the World Wide Web has always been around, like a public utility. But if you look at cyberspace in terms of journalism history, we are still very early in the transition to whatever the heckfire is going to happen next. One of the encouraging trends that I am seeing more often is the use of verbatim Q&A interviews. This format rarely made sense in dead-tree-pulp media, especially as newspapers struggled with smaller and smaller news holes. But on the Web? Why not? Printing full questions and full answers is especially appropriate when dealing with subjects as complicated and personal as religion. As this weblog constantly demonstrates, there are times when many of the readers probably know more about the topic being discussed than anyone on the copy desk editing the news stories. In a WWW world, why not print the story and then back it up — online, at least — with the full texts of the crucial interviews? Let people read the interviews for themselves, if they choose to do so. The other day, I pointed readers toward an interesting interview with the Rev. Franklin Graham, which had moments of nuance — imagine that — as well as the blunt talk that is so common with Graham the younger. This time around, take a look at this Newsweek interview ( online only) with Stephen Mansfield, author of the new book “ The Faith of Barack Obama.” Reporter Jessica Ramirez did the interview, which covers lots of familiar territory about Obama’s family history. Then, near the end, we see The Question. This is not quite “ tmatt trio” territory, but it’s close: So, where do you think Obama fits in the spectrum of Christianity? I think Barack Obama believes about Jesus and about conversion what your average evangelical does. He believes that

Jesus is the son of God and that he died for the sins of the world and God raised him from the dead again. Where he begins to depart from orthodox evangelical Christianity probably begins with his view of scripture. He believes some of it might be of human origin, and some scriptures may be of more weight than others. So in a sense, [his is a] traditional theological liberalism that tends to treat scripture as being at least partially of human origin. But then you add that sort of young postmodern twist. Postmodernists don’t really reconcile systems of thought. In fact, they’re not sure systems of thought are possible. Theologically speaking, they might pick one from column A and two from column B, whether it all fits together or not. So he’s a theological liberal with a postmodern emphasis. Read on. He pretty much buys the media

template that a new evangelical left is rising up to broaden the social agenda beyond the old one or two issues, etc. etc. As the Divine Ms. MZ has noted, there seems to be a MSM echo chamber on that point, while the polls appear to be just as close as ever and the familiar social issues are very much alive and kicking, if you are following the headlines. The question again: Can Obama propose actual change on the social issues, which would mean compromises between his own party’s hard lifestyle left and the religious right? That would have been a good question to include in this interview. Still, lots to read and mull. More please! There’s plenty of room online. Bookmark to:

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