Stocks are expected to start the recovery process in 2009, but volatility will remain with a big question mark hanging over corporate health.

By David Goldman, staff writer

December 31, CNN

NEW YORK ( -- As 2008 comes to a close and stocks mark their worst year ever, 2009 will be the start of a very slow and very painful recovery.

Investors should brace for wild market swings as companies and the economy struggle to rebound. This past year was marred by horrid corporate results, record high oil and gas prices, dismal housing news and a full-blown shakeup on Wall Street.

"A fair amount of damage has been done, and earnings needs to stabilize first," said Tobias Levkovich, chief investment strategist for Citigroup. "Before the patient gets better, let's make sure his condition doesn't worsen."

On many days, analysts predict markets could tumble on poor corporate earnings and sour economic news. But optimism about the new administration and apparent success of government interventions will help stocks skyrocket on other days.

That sounds just like 2008, which witnessed four of the five worst market days ever in the Dow Jones industrial average - but also the three largest increases.

2009 may be better, but stocks won't rise in a straight line to recovery. A majority of analysts expect that in the first months of the year, the S&P 500 index will test its 2008 low of 752, set on Nov. 20, even though the market has recovered more than 16% since then.

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December 30,

One of the joys of watching the stock exchange is trying to guess what will happen and then trying to explain why you were wrong. It seems obvious that expensive drugs used for recreational purposes will be one of the first to feel the effects of the economic slowdown. You only have to look at the signs all around you.

The banks are failing, the housing bubble has burst with foreclosures everywhere, and unemployment is rising. These are signs of a recession. So if people are going to struggle to keep a roof over the heads and put food on the table, nonessential drugs will be the first sacrifice. Except that the latest sales numbers out of Eli Lilly show that, in the sale of cialis, gross revenue jumped by 20% in the last quarter as against the same quarter last year.

So, no matter what else may be going on in the world, there is one fundamental truth. Men will keep paying to treat problems of erectile dysfunction. Whatever else may be slowing down, the action is not slowing down in the bedroom. Perhaps the answer lies in male culture. There is still so much shame associated with erectile dysfunction.

Men whose performance is affected feel, somehow, they are no longer "proper" men. If possible, they hide the problem. If hiding is unlikely to be effective, it comes down to two choices. Honestly discussing the problem with their partner helps to keep the relationship going. Sacrificing the relationship allows the man to save face without having to admit the failure. Why should the expensive branded cialis still be so popular?

Well, there are two versions. The original version allows sexual activity for up to thirty-six hours. This gives almost complete flexibility allowing for sex whenever and wherever the urge comes. It's as close to a natural response as you can get with only one pill. The other version is the once-daily tablet.

This is a low dosage treatment that allows normal sexual responsiveness 24/7. The price for both versions is the same. It's left to the man to decide which version is most convenient. When looking around to buy cialis, the standard approach is to go visit with your local healthcare provider, get a prescription and head down to your local drugstore.

Except that traps you into buying this must-have drug at the prevailing retail price. Those of you who follow these things will know that the price for cialis has recently increased. Which is why you have come on to this site, where you can buy cialis at a rather less painful price without having to go get a prescription.

This keeps your performance going without it straining your budget in a recession.

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It is science’s star experiment: an attempt to create an artificial sun on earth — and provide an answer to the world’s impending energy shortage.

By Richard Gray, Science Correspondent

December 29, The Telegraph

While it has seemed an impossible goal for nearly 100 years, scientists now believe that they are on brink of cracking one of the biggest problems in physics by harnessing the power of nuclear fusion, the reaction that burns at the heart of the sun.

In the spring, a team will begin attempts to ignite a tiny man-made star inside a laboratory and trigger a thermonuclear reaction.

Its goal is to generate temperatures of more than 100 million degrees Celsius and pressures billions of times higher than those found anywhere else on earth, from a speck of fuel little bigger than a pinhead. If successful, the experiment will mark the first step towards building a practical nuclear fusion power station and a source of almost limitless energy.

At a time when fossil fuel supplies are dwindling and fears about global warming are forcing governments to seek clean energy sources, fusion could provide the answer. Hydrogen, the fuel needed for fusion reactions, is among the most abundant in the universe. Building work on the £1.2 billion nuclear fusion experiment is due to be completed in spring.

Scientists at the National Ignition Facility (NIF) in Livermore, nestled among the wine-producing vineyards of central California, will use a laser that concentrates 1,000 times the electric generating power of the United States into a billionth of a second.

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photo: Inside the target chamber, where scientists will attempt to create an artificial sun. (By Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory)

December 29, Review

What is an angel's heart made from?
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The dress code is an attempt to cast a projection of their self onto others

By Elena Gorgan, Life & Style Editor

December 27, Softpedia

That women are addicted to shopping and fashion is no longer something many are ignorant of, but the greatest mystery related to this compulsive behavior, as it’s been deemed, meaning, for whom women dress, still remains unsolved. A couple of days ago, the girls from fashion-oriented website TheFashionistaDiaries and WWD tried to come up with an answer to the ever burning question during fashion week.

Despite their efforts, they still came up more or less empty handed. After performing the admirable task of asking front row celebrities and fashion insiders about what they thought about whom women dressed for, the conclusion was still the same: it’s not certain, but it could be that women are most likely not dressing for themselves but for the people around them.

"Most women dress for their most fashionable friend," actress Anne Hathaway said, refraining, however, from saying in what way and to what extend she saw that happen. French Vogue's Carine Roitfeld stated she dressed for herself and herself alone. Designer Isabel Toledo was perhaps the most honest and, according to WWD, the closest to the real answer. "Women dress for men. I do dress for myself because it makes me feel empowered, but I’m definitely looking for [my husband's] expression, not his approval," she said.

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image: The question of whom do women dress for could remain one of the greatest mysteries of life (Image credits: ShinyLittleThings)

December 24, Review

Like or dislike, we are now in a serious economy crisis situation. The global economic situation is continuing to weaken deeply. It looks like there’s not enough ongoing positive news on the economic. Everyone in this world is going to suffer.

But it's still a voice in optimistic tone:
Can we get out of this situation?

Yes, it's the worst global economic crisis ever. But it doesn't mean there is no a way out. Of course, there is available, especially for the smart person who invests or spends money in a smart way. A smart way will lead people to pass from this painful situation.

Turn the crisis into a blessing in disguise. The fact is all price getting downgrade. So you can be a good buyer. You can buy most thing cheaper now. More than that you will become a great investor!

If you are dreaming to investing your money for great return, it's time for window shopping. You can pick up from the market the stock or capital you are looking for with light price but has bright portfolio.

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You can get update of CD (Certificate of Deposit) Rates, Best Offers Online Savings Accounts, Online Checking Accounts, Low Credit Cards, Home Loan Quotes Mortgages, Personal Finance News and Tips, and also Mortgage Calculator for owning your dream house.

This monitor bank rate is totally assist you to invest your money in peace of mind.

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Biographer had claimed singer can barely speak, is almost blind in one eye.

By Reuters

December 23, MSNBC

A spokesman for Michael Jackson released a statement on Monday denying as a “total fabrication” a report claiming that the former King of Pop needs a lung transplant due to a rare respiratory disease.

The statement, attributed to Jackson’s “official and sole spokesperson, Dr. Tohme Tohme” and issued by Los Angeles firm Scoop Marketing, cites an interview with writer Ian Halperin in British newspaper the Sunday Express in which Halperin said Jackson was suffering from Alpha 1-antitrypsin deficiency. 

Halperin, who is at work on an unauthorized biography of the singer, also claims Jackson can barely speak, suffers from emphysema and internal bleeding, and has lost 95 percent of the vision in his left eye.  

photo: Dec. 22: Michael Jackson's biographer is reporting that the pop star is in dire need of a lung transplant and is fighting for his life. Msnbc's Courtney Hazlett reports (MSNBC).

December 23,

When it comes to sickness and disease, most of us have grown 

used to accepting what life brings us. We are all equally at risk. Viruses and bacteria don't care. They attack the weak and the vulnerable or the just plain unlucky. But those born with a genetic or hereditary condition deserve our special sympathy. 

This is always particularly unfair. They are born with a limited number of years to live or with a permanent disability. They never have the chance of an "ordinary" life. So it is with muscular dystrophy, an unfortunate condition where muscles waste away, limiting mobility, affecting balance and eventually removing the ability to walk. 

People who have this condition tire rapidly, even when the activity level is actually very low. This rapid loss of energy has always been considered odd. We can all intuitively understand that people whose muscles are wasting away will get tired quickly, but not so tired after so little exercise. At first, scientists believed the cause of this fatigue to be overproduction of an enzyme called creatine kinase. 

However, the most recent research suggests an alternative - that there is a loss of an enzyme called neuronal nitric oxide synthase (nNOS). This prompted the researchers to turn to an unlikely medication for treatment - viagra. As you know, viagra works by allowing the smooth muscles in arteries to dilate. 

The research team has bred lab mice with muscular dystrophy (scientists are really clever in a macabre kind of way). They examined the blood vessels before and, after light exercise, found the vessels had constricted, reducing the flow of oxygenated blood. But when these mice were given viagra, they were able to exercise without tiring. Preliminary testing in human volunteers shows that they too lack nNOS. 

The hope is that treatment with viagra as an already approved drug will allow people with muscular dystrophy to move around with getting so tired. However, the fact that this treatment works in mice is no guarantee that it will work in humans. The further difficulty is that if humans are able to exercise more, this may accelerate the breakdown in the muscle cell structure. There needs to be considerable testing before this treatment can be approved. But it does at least offer the chance that the lives of these people can be improved while we wait for gene splicing therapy to come along in the future. So thats an exciting reason to buy viagra online.

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December 22,

In November, 1988, the electorate in California approved Proposition 103 to prevent the massive increases in premiums that were affecting all consumers looking for insurance.

After major litigation to decide whether the Proposition was constitutional, it was finally implemented in May 1989 and rapidly revolutionized the rates of insurance across the state which fell by an average of 45% between 1989 and 2001.

It is estimated that up to 2006, Californian drivers alone saved $62 billion on their auto insurance rates. Then the Consumer Watchdog combined with other socially active groups to force the insurance companies to abandon the practice of basing rates on the zip code and not your record as a driver.

Now comes Assembly Bill 2800 which emerged from the Senate Appropriations Committee in August 2008. This is being treated as a slightly more controversial measure. The auto insurance industry is campaigning to allow a switch to mileage and use as criteria for fixing the premiums. It estimates that this could produce further average savings in premiums of about $275 per vehicle.

It would work by placing a small monitoring device in every vehicle to assess how far you drive in a year and how well you drive. But this device is viewed as an invasion into the privacy of drivers. As a compromise, the Insurance Commissioner suggests that drivers could allow the insurers to make regular checks on the odometer rather than allowing electronic collection and transmission of data.

If the electronic version of the plan does go ahead, it will allow companies to identify consistently low-risk drivers from the time of day they use the roads, the speed at which they drive and the distance they travel. Such drivers will receive the maximum discounts available. Those deemed more likely to have accidents from the way they drive will potentially pay more.

The current system allows drivers to report their own mileage. The industry standard is to offer discounts to drivers who do less than 10,000 miles per year. Obviously, there's a temptation in difficult economic times for drivers to underestimate their mileage to gain the discounts. This proposed device will reward the genuine drivers and charge a fair premium to the others.

It will also help to save the planet because drivers who maintain a lower average speed use less gas and so produce less emissions. For once, the auto insurance industry would be helping to fight global warming which is very public-spirited it.

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December 22,

A recent medical study held in Bangladesh investigated the effectiveness of traditional cholera treatments and possible alternatives. The problem of cholera is very complicated in third world countries where the water supplies can be the source of numerous bacteriological diseases.

Apart from the aspect of water supplies another problem, which contributes to the development of cholera epidemics in poor countries, is that traditional medication gradually loses its effectiveness with bacteria developing resistance to it.

In such situation finding a new drug for treating cholera is crucial. Having these goals the study compared Cipro (ciprofloxacin), which is commonly used in cases of severe cholera for over a decade, and a macrolide antibiotic. The study involved 195 men suffering from severe cholera, divided into two groups. The first group was given Cipro and the second - macrolides respectively. The results where impressive and gave base to an intense discussion about the effectiveness of medicine used for cholera treatment today as well as the possibility of using macrolide antibiotics in such cases. Cipro, which only a few years back was effective in a single dose against cholera, failed in ¾ of the patients in the study.

This can be explained by the fact that Vibrio cholerae - the bacteria causing cholera - was able to rapidly develop tolerance reaction to Cipro, rendering it ineffective with time. In contrast, macrolide antibiotic treatment has shown significant results with 73% of the patients being cured with a single dose.

Furthermore, the group treated with macrolides has had illness symptoms manifested only for 30 hours after taking the medicine in comparison to more than three days in case of Cipro. Although, the studies were held on men only, there's no reason to believe the results would be different in case of women. The results of this study have displayed the importance of developing new drugs which would be as effective as Cipro was a decade ago.

Macrolide antibiotics used in the study seem like a great alternative to the traditional medication. There are numerous generic variations to this class of drugs, like Zithromax, which are available all over the world. But still, the doctors argue that a single drug will not solve the problem of cholera, because it is primarily caused by poor sanitation and water supplies.

The bacteria may develop resistance to Zithromax with time too, like in case of Cipro, thus it can't be regarded as a constant solution to the problem. The radical changes concerning sanitation and water supplies, which Europe and America have undergone a century ago, should be taken in developing countries too, but that seems like a much more complex solution compared to medications.

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Dubai's Palazzo Versace hires firm to cool sandy beaches

By Rachel Durfee

December 19, PopSci

Clear skies, crystalline blue waters, and…scalding hot sand? The latter is not part of a beach day in paradise, and paradise is exactly what management at Dubai's Palazzo Versace hotel and condominium are aiming to give each and every one of their guests and residents. In Middle Eastern Dubai, where temperatures can reach a boiling 122 degrees Fahrenheit, those visiting during the summer months may not be able to enjoy sunbathing on the beach. Refusing to allow Mother Nature to interfere, the Palazzo has hired Hyder Consulting to fix the problem.

Hyder, which has a long-term presence in the Middle East and offers engineering services, including environmentally sustainable buildings, infrastructure solutions, mechanical and electrical expertise, will install heat-absorbing pipes beneath the sand that will serve as a cooling system. Above ground, large wind turbines will send refreshing island breezes over bikini and speedo-clad beach goers. Says Soheil Abedian, the president of Palazzo Versace, "We will suck the heat out of the sand to keep it cool enough to lie on." The surrounding pools will actually be cooled, rather than heated, to prevent them from becoming boiling hot tubs. As for the temperature of the ocean, that will be left to the laws of nature.

Hyder Consulting was also the firm behind Dubai's famous indoor alpine ski slope, Ski Dubai., which uses rather the opposite technology to create a winter wonderland in the middle of a dessert.

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image by iStockPhoto

December 19,

Forgive me but I'm something of a plain speaker and I'm writing 

about an issue that can be dangerous to your health. Millions of people around the world are obese. Tens of millions are seriously overweight.

There is absolutely clear evidence that people who are overweight run the risks of Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease. The longer you are overweight, the higher the risk of early death. So why are you overweight?

The answer could not be more simple. You are overweight both because you eat too much sweet or fatty food, and because you refuse to exercise.

The remedy?

You have to eat smaller portions of more healthy food and exercise. This represents a major lifestyle change. It sounds so simple but most overweight people are food junkies. When you start, you find you're hooked on all the wrong kinds of food. Try changing the diet and your body develops withdrawal symptoms. For the first time in years, you feel hunger.

There's a remedy. You can buy phentermine online (where it's cheapest). As the longest running appetite suppressant on the market, it has proved itself as effective to keep the hunger pangs at bay. So, while you go through the withdrawal period and your stomach slowly contracts, growing more used to smaller amounts of food inside, you take phentermine.

This tricks your conscious mind into thinking you are full. All you have to do is to control the reflex action to snack. Like everything important in life, losing weight is all about having the motivation to keep going. Some join clubs or circles to get the emotional support they need. Others buy phentermine and wait out the pain of hunger.

Without the help and support of family, friends and colleagues, you will probably have relapses. There is no need to feel guilt. Just pick yourself up again and get back on the wagon. The weight will slowly come off - it will be faster if you exercise as well. I deliberately started off the article with a frightener. But the medical evidence is clear. An early death is waiting for most people who remain overweight. If this fear is not a good motivator for you, keep on with the phentermine as directed by your physician.

No matter how you do it, you should make actual weight reduction your highest priority in life. You owe it to your family if not to yourself.

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From Jomana Karadsheh

December 16, CNN

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- The brother of the journalist now famous for hurling his shoes at President Bush said his sibling's actions were "spontaneous" and represented millions of Iraqis who want to "humiliate the tyrant."

Dhirgham al-Zaidi, who sometimes worked as his brother's cameraman, described the reporter's hatred for the "material American occupation" and the "moral Iranian occupation."

Muntadhar al-Zaidi's feelings were influenced by watching the agony suffered by everyday Iraqis. Most of the reporter's stories focused on Iraqi widows, orphans, and children, said the brother.

Sometimes the 29-year-old journalist would cry. Moved by the tales he reported of poor families, he sometimes asked his colleagues to give money to them. On most nights, he returned to his home in central Baghdad after reporting from Sadr City, one of the country's most violent slums and the epicenter of several of the war's pitched battles.

Muntadhar al-Zaidi's reporting for Egypt-based independent television Al-Baghdadia was "against the occupation," his brother said. The journalist would occasionally sign off his stories "from occupied Baghdad."

Yet Dhirgham al-Zaidi said he was "shocked" when he saw his brother hurling his shoes at President Bush at a Sunday news conference after a surprise visit by Bush to Baghdad.

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photo: TV reporter Muntadhar al-Zaidi, in a file photo, was jailed after throwing his shoes at President Bush. (Baghdadia TV)

By John Crawley and Richard Cowan

December 12, Reuters

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A proposed bailout of U.S. automakers failed in the Senate on Thursday night, raising the specter of an industry collapse that sent Asian markets reeling and sparked fears it could deepen the recession.

"It's over with," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said of congressional efforts this year just before the Democratic proposal to extend up to $14 billion to the stricken industry fell short of the needed votes on a procedural motion.

Pressure immediately shifted to the White House, with calls for President George W. Bush to consider intervening with emergency financing.

General Motors Corp and Chrysler LLC have warned of near-term collapse if they did not receive a government bailout.

"I dread looking at Wall Street tomorrow. It's not going to be a pleasant sight," Reid said.

Markets across the Asia-Pacific region fell more than 3 percent on the development, with Japan's Nikkei average and Hong Kong's Hang Seng both down more than 5 percent.

U.S. crude prices fell by nearly $2 to $46.11 a barrel.

Because of their shared suppliers and vendors, industry observers fear the failure of one Detroit manufacturer could drag down the other two as well as other businesses.

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photo: Cars made by Chevrolet are seen at a dealership in Dallas December 3, 2008 (REUTERS/Jessica Rinaldi).

December 9,

The U.S. Census Bureau reports that an increasing number of people are now unable to afford medical insurance. Some 47 million people do not have medical insurance. When they begin to fall sick, there is nothing that can be done if money is short.

When it comes to a choice between food on the table and treatment, most people decide to eat. They hope they will get better. When health does not improve, there is no improvement in the choice to be made. If treatment remains unaffordable, they have to wait until their sickness worsens to the point it can be considered an emergency. At this point, people decide to go to the emergency room at their local hospital.

Federal law is very clear. Hospitals are under a positive legal obligation to treat everyone who walks in through the door. It does not matter whether the emergency is real, in the sense of a traffic accident inflicting unexpected injury, or to some extent manufactured, where the condition only becomes an emergency because of a deliberate delay. People must be given treatment.

The difficulty is that most of the uninsured cannot afford to pay their bills. The hospitals can and do issue invoices for the treatment given and drugs supplied. This is also a part of the law. People have a responsibility to pay for their treatment. But hospitals are realistic about their chances of collecting. Continued pursuit for payment usually results in bankruptcy and the creditors only get a few cents in the dollar. So, hospitals make a rational decision. They spread all the unpaid bills among all those who can pay.

In other words, whether you are paying out of your own pocket or you are relying on your own health insurance to pay for your treatment, a percentage of every hospital's bill is a provision against bad debts from the uninsured. The irony is that everyone who is insured is also insuring all the uninsured for their emergency room visits.

If you have been wondering why your own health insurance premiums have been going up so sharply of late, it's because there is a wave of uninsured people going to the emergency rooms around the country. The health insurers are having to pay more and this additional cost gets passed on in the premiums.

Is it going to get any better? No.

It's actually going to get worse. Ever more people are finding health insurance unaffordable. Even with sites like this which allow people to find the cheapest insurance around, many still find the premiums too much. That does not mean you should give up.

Using this site will get you offers. Then it's up to you to negotiate directly with the insurer or its agents to get the best actual premium for the cover. It's not worth the risk of being uninsured. If at all possible, get some cover.

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December 9,

Have you noticed that most of the spam that fills up your inboxes seems to be related to sexual performance?

It starts with the simple and traditional, "Buy cheap viagra online." and then slowly grows into the more extraordinary ways in which men may apparently impress a woman.

Let's not deny that size is an important factor, but even if it was possible to realize some of these promises on the part of the man, you really do have to question whether the women would swoon in anticipation or run screaming from the room.

Anyway, no matter whether men ever do need something more than simple viagra (which is often available cheaply through sites like this), there's no denying that spam is an annoying problem. It seems you can tweak the filter as often as you like, these clever marketers tweak right back with new ways to get the mail through.

Worse, there's so much of it flowing through the internet at any one time that it seriously slows the operation of the whole system. So governments have been passing laws to outlaw spam. Like that's ever going to deter people. When almost all the major spam operations cross national boundaries, the laws of any one state are of little interest to the big businesses behind the use of email to sell product.

But October 14 goes down as a brave gesture by the US authorities to do something about the problem. Armed with warrants and restraining orders, the Federal Trade Commission closed down a number of sites thought to be critical to the spam network. Unfortunately, it turned out that the spammers had a back-up plan and their operations were almost completely unaffected. It's such a shame that the Commission decided to hold press conferences to sell the story of their success.

In fact, all it did was to demonstrate the difficulty that every government has when trying to act against an international group with multiple servers in different countries. So the spam for cheap viagra continues to drop into inboxes around the world. Perhaps the governments should promote legitimate websites like this as a reliable source of viagra.

That way, they will drive the spammers out of business.

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Beneath Saudi Arabia’s blazing sun, the largest greenhouse ever planned is taking shape. It will take visitors on a walk through Earth’s history—and into its future

By SciIll Staff

December 5, PopSci

It’s hard to imagine it raining in Riyadh. Less than five inches of water fall from the clouds above Saudi Arabia’s capital city each year. When the thermostat rises above 110°F, it’s not a heat wave—it’s midday. But it wasn’t always like this. A little over three million years ago, before climate-change cycles turned the area into a desert, the Arabian Peninsula’s empty riverbeds were overflowing valleys, and its dry expanses of shrubland were lush grasslands.

Until now, Riyadh’s verdant past was confined to the pages of textbooks. Today, that history is coming alive. In 2006, the city sponsored an international competition to design a botanical garden as a gift to Saudi Arabia’s recently-anointed leader, King Abdullah. The winning design, a joint venture from British architecture and engineering firms Barton Willmore and Buro Happold, will explore the region’s plant life through the ages, taking visitors on a walk millions of years back in time.

Set to open in 2011, the ambitious King Abdullah International Botanical Gardens will attempt to display the diverse array of the region’s plant species throughout the past 400 million years in its “paleobotanic” greenhouse. And, as if helping visitors peer into the past isn’t enough of a challenge, the garden will also explore the land’s potential future. The designers hope to educate visitors about the process and consequences of natural-resource depletion and human-wrought climate change as well as the benefits of
preserving Earth’s bounty.

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image: A Stroll through Botanic History: The crescent-shaped greenhouse at King Abdullah International Botanical Gardens, rendered here, will be the size of 15 football fields, making it four times as big as the world’s current largest greenhouse (by PopSci).


December 4, NY Times

LAHORE, Pakistan — Mounting evidence of links between the Mumbai terrorist attacks and a Pakistani militant group is posing the stiffest test so far of Pakistan’s new government, raising questions whether it can — or wants to — rein in militancy here.

President Asif Ali Zardari says his government has no concrete evidence of Pakistani involvement in the attacks, and American officials have not established a direct link to the government. But as Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice landed in the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, on Thursday morning, pressure was building on the government to confront the militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba, which Indian and American officials say carried out the Mumbai attacks.

Though officially banned, the group has hidden in plain sight for years. It has had a long history of ties to Pakistan’s intelligence agencies. The evidence of its hand in the Mumbai attacks is accumulating from around the globe:

¶A former Defense Department official in Washington, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that American intelligence analysts suspect that former officers of Pakistan’s powerful spy agency and its army helped train the Mumbai attackers.

¶According to the Indian police, the one gunman who survived the terrorist attacks, Muhammad Ajmal Kasab, 21, told his interrogators that he trained during a year and half in at least four camps in Pakistan and at one met with Mohammad Hafeez Saeed, the Lashkar-e-Taiba leader.

¶And according to a Western official familiar with the investigation in Mumbai, another Lashkar leader, Yusuf Muzammil, whom the surviving gunman named as the plot’s organizer, fielded phone calls in Lahore from the attackers.

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photo: A Pakistani in Islamabad on Wednesday shouted slogans against the United States and India (Anjum Naveed/Associated Press).

By Chris Kohler

December 3, Wired

Consider the scene above. Below our hero the Prince is a 100-foot drop onto some jagged rocks. If his bit of wall-running doesn't work out just right, he'll plummet straight down to his ... immediate salvation. Because his constant companion, gal pal Elika (in the background), will automatically save his ass and return him back to solid ground. You could not fail at Prince of Persia even if you tried.

Yes, there's something to be said for attempting to eliminate a player's frustration. And Prince of Persia, released Tuesday for PlayStation 3 (reviewed) and Xbox 360, is a largely pleasant and inoffensive experience. But its designers might have just thrown the baby out with the bathwater: They have eliminated the lows, but also the highs. It is free of frustration, but it is also free of joy.

Prince is the latest reboot of the decades-old franchise that follows the adventures of an acrobatically gifted Persian hero who saves a princess by jumping over dangerous things. In what should now be considered irony, the original 1989 game was one of the most difficult action games of the era.

2003's The Sands of Time was a critically acclaimed rebirth that shifted the gameplay into 3-D, and this new version largely borrows from that game's features: Climbing and jumping on columns, running on walls, and avoiding the moving obstacles that often get in the way of your daring circus act. In updating the game for the next generation of consoles, Ubisoft added some impressive new features, but lost others.

The singular visual style is beyond reproach. The use of cel-shading with realistic features has created something between cartoon and reality, with characters that deftly skirt the boundaries of the uncanny valley without simply becoming caricatures. There is very little plot, but hours of well-performed conversations between the Prince and Elika flesh out their own back stories and those of the evil characters. The environments are occasionally breathtaking.

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image: Prince of Persia is one of the least frustrating games ever, because you can't die (by Wired).

By Rhys Blakely in Mumbai

December 1, The Times

The sole Mumbai gunman captured alive has told police he was trained in Pakistan and ordered to “kill until the last breath”, according to a leaked account of his interrogation.

Azam Amir Kasab, 21, a Pakistani national, claimed the terror strikes, which left nearly 200 dead, were intended to kill as many as 5,000 people and that he and his fellow militants were ordered to target whites – especially Britons and Americans. The claims were made in what a police source said was a transcript of his questioning.

Kasab was captured after being shot in the hand by police in a standoff near Chowpatty beach, a popular evening destination for local families, in south Mumbai (formerly known as Bombay) on Wednesday night. A policeman and one other terrorist were killed in the same encounter.

Earlier, Kasab and his accomplice had sprayed the concourse of Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, Mumbai’s main train station, with gunfire, killing indiscriminately. While there, he was caught on camera wielding an automatic rifle.

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photo: Azam Amir Kasab at Mumbai train station - he was the only terrorist captured alive (Getty Images/AFP)

NASA weighs its options for lighting up moon bases

By Dawn Stover

November 25, PopSci

When lunar astronauts flick on their televisions after a long day of prospecting, they’ll have a trashcan-size nuclear reactor to thank for their nightly dose of prime time. NASA, looking past the already daunting task of simply getting humans to the moon by 2020, recently started considering proposals for ways to power lunar habitats. Batteries and fuel cells provide only short-term solutions. Solar power would be limited where a single night lasts as long as 354 hours. So space-agency officials have started making plans to go nuclear.

The outline for the Fission Surface Power (FSP) plan is fairly straightforward: An underground, uranium-powered nuclear reactor produces heat and drives a power converter to generate electricity. The nuke plant would churn out 40 kilowatts of electricity, enough power to provide life support to four astronauts with plenty left over to mine oxygen from lunar soil and run moon buggies.

NASA is mulling two power-converter designs. Ohio-based SunPower has offered up a pressurized-gas-and-piston Stirling engine, which is going head-to-head with a Brayton-cycle engine that heats compressed gas to spin a turbine by the Colorado company Barber-Nichols [see illustrations below]. The Stirling engine is slightly more efficient at generating electricity, but the Brayton’s proven design stands less risk of breaking down. Within the next year, the space agency will select a power converter and, for the next five years, test the unit using an electrical-resistance heater in place of the nuclear reactor.

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image: Gone Fission (by John MacNeil)

By Brian X. Chen

November 18,

Don't hold your breath waiting for the iPhone to support Adobe's Flash software: Apple's terms-of-service agreement prohibits it.

Although Adobe says it is working on a version of its popular Flash player for the iPhone, Apple is unlikely ever to permit it to appear in the handset's App Store, no matter how much customers want it.

"I'm pretty skeptical that Flash could be implemented in a way that doesn't violate the Terms of Service of the developer's agreement," said Bart Decrem, CEO of Tapulous, developer of the popular Tap Tap Revenge iPhone game.

Flash is Adobe's highly popular platform for displaying interactive graphics, animations and multimedia within a browser. According to Adobe, 98 percent of desktop computers currently support Flash, which has led to its widespread use by web developers. Adobe's recent announcement that it is working on a version of Flash for Windows Mobile has prompted speculation that an iPhone version might be coming soon. But the speculators may be waiting in vain, based on Apple's TOS and the company's history of tightly controlling applications for its smartphone platform.

Allowing Flash — which is a development platform of its own — would just be too dangerous for Apple, a company that enjoys exerting total dominance over its hardware and the software that runs on it.

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image by wired

Maggie Shiels
Technology reporter, BBC News, Silicon Valley

November 18, BBC News

Jerry Yang, the co-founder of Yahoo, is to stand down as the internet portal's chief executive officer.

His departure follows lengthy criticism of his stewardship of the company, which has seen its share price collapse to about $10.

Earlier in the year he fought off a hostile takeover bid from Microsoft which offered $33 a share.

Mr Yang also told the workforce that he would be participating in the search for his successor.

"I will always do what is right for this great company," Mr Yang wrote in an e-mail to employees.

The BBC was told that Mr Yang made the decision to leave as chief executive officer last month. No names were given as to who will succeed him.

The company, based in Sunnyvale, California, said it is interviewing candidates inside and outside Yahoo in a search led by chairman Roy Bostock.

"Jerry and the board have had an ongoing dialogue about succession timing, and we all agree that now is the right time to make the transition to a new CEO who can take the company to the next level," said Mr Bostock.

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photo: Mr Yang made the decision to quit as CEO last month, the BBC was told. (BBC News)

Analysts have lowered their estimations for the two chip makers

By Ionut Arghire, Windows Editor

November 12, Softpedia

The previous financial estimations for Advanced Micro Devices and Intel Corp. have been reduced by many industry analysts. According to them, the demand of personal computers is expected to lower during the fourth quarter of the year, while also continuing on a down road during 2009, which means that the financial performance of the two central processing unit makers will be affected.

During the next year, the total available microprocessor market will see only a 2 percent growth, says analyst Tim Luke from Barclays Capital. The analyst has made a previous estimation of 5 percent growth for the market, also adding that the Atom processor designed for the ultra low-cost personal computers would raise the estimation to a 6 percent growth. According to Tim Luke, the industry revenue is expected to drop 2 percent next year amid unit sales growth.

"The supply chain is telling us that there is strong concern for demand decline, probably into the low- to mid-single digits on a unit basis for total PC processor growth in the year 2009," Shane Rau, an analyst at IDC, is reported to have said in an interview.

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image by softpedia

By Ryan Singel

November 10, Wired

Katrina Spears, a self-described internet medium, was running errands Sept. 30, the day the Dow plummeted 770 points.

"When I got home that day, I had messages from 30 clients," Spears says.

While it doesn't take a psychic to see that tough times lay ahead for the economy, online practitioners of the divination arts say they're seeing a marked sift in the questions posed by their clientele, with anxious consumers increasingly asking what's in store for them financially in the months ahead. Believers who normally seek psychics for advice on a cheating spouse are now asking whether a pink slip is in their future, and internet psychics across the board saw a spike in traffic in the days following the initial market crash.

The boom in superstition is a predicable response to troubling times, says Columbia Business School professor Gita Johar, who's studied the phenomenon. "If the future is uncertain, people turn to psychics," Johar says. Consumers tend to embrace the supernatural when confronted by stress, combined with uncertainty. "You have an illusion then that you can then control the outcome. People want the illusion of control."

Spears is one of many self-described psychics, empaths and mediums who make a living giving online readings by instant message or phone on sites such as and AT&T's Spears performs readings by online chat for $2 to $3 a minute, and says that since September she's been talking almost exclusively with Americans who are concerned about their economic futures.

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November 5, CNN

Barack Obama told supporters that "change has come to America" as he claimed victory in a historic presidential election.

"The road ahead will be long. Our climb will be steep. We may not get there in one year or even one term, but America -- I have never been more hopeful than I am tonight that we will get there. I promise you -- we as a people will get there," Obama said in Chicago, Illinois, before an estimated crowd of up to 240,000 people.

With Obama's projected win, he will become the first African-American to win the White House.

Obama had an overwhelming victory over Sen. John McCain, who pledged Tuesday night to help Obama lead.

"Today, I was a candidate for the highest office in the country I love so much, and tonight, I remain her servant," McCain said.

McCain called Obama to congratulate him, and Obama told the Arizona senator he was eager to sit down and talk about how the two of them can work together.

President Bush also called Obama to offer his congratulations.

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photo: Sen. Barack Obama addresses a crowd of 125,000 people in Chicago, Illinois. (CNN)

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The Turkish Gobekli Tepe is six millennia older than Stonehenge

By Dan Talpalariu, Science Editor

October 29, Softpedia

During the 1960s, a team of archaeologists from the University of Chicago and from the Istanbul University has come upon what they believed was a regular medieval burial place. Quickly dismissed as such, the place has caught the eye of a German archaeologist, Klaus Schmidt, who knew on first sight that there was more to it. Placed on a human-built hill called Gobekli Tepe (Turkish for “Belly Hill”), only 6 miles (10 km) from the city of Urfa, the location displays the remains of what is perhaps the first temple ever built by any civilization.

Since the late 1990s, Schmidt has gathered a large team working on the project. New carbon dating of the items found at the site placed it in time 11,000 years ago, 6,000 years sooner than Stonehenge, in a time when metal or pottery, not to mention writing, were not even a concept. The monument is made up, somewhat similarly to Stonehenge, of several different circular rows of inward-facing stones, each of these circles surrounding a pair of large T-shaped pillars. The carvings on some of the pillars represent animal life – foxes, carrion birds, lions or snakes, and may yet provide clues on the purpose of the site.

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photo: Gobekli Tepe, probably the most ancient temple in the world
Image credits: Berthold Steinhilber / Smithsonian

October 22, CNN

SAN FRANCISCO, California (AP) -- In this live-and-let-live town, where medical marijuana clubs do business next to grocery stores and an annual fair celebrates sadomasochism, prostitutes could soon walk the streets without fear of arrest.

San Francisco would become the first major U.S. city to decriminalize prostitution if voters next month approve Proposition K, a measure that forbids local authorities from investigating, arresting or prosecuting anyone for selling sex.

The ballot question technically would not legalize prostitution, since state law still prohibits it, but the measure would eliminate the power of local law enforcement officials to go after prostitutes.

Proponents say the measure will free up $11 million the police spend each year arresting prostitutes and allow them to form collectives.

"It will allow workers to organize for our rights and for our safety," said Patricia West, 22, who said she has been selling sex for about a year by placing ads on the Internet. She moved to San Francisco in May from Texas to work on Proposition K.

Even in tolerant San Francisco, where the sadomasochism fair draws thousands of tourists and a pornographic video company is housed in a former armory, the measure faces an uphill battle, with much of the political establishment opposing it.

Some form of prostitution is legal in two states. Brothels are allowed in rural counties in Nevada. And Rhode Island permits the sale of sex behind closed doors between consulting adults, but it prohibits street prostitution and brothels.

In 2004, almost two-thirds of voters in nearby Berkeley rejected decriminalization. But proponents of Proposition K say their proposal has a better shot in San Francisco, which they believe is more sexually liberal than the city across the bay.

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photo: A sex worker who goes by the name of Violet stands at a San Francisco, California, bus stop. (AP)

By Keith Barry

October 22, Wired

Never ones to turn down a chance to sing about vehicles, we can't help but take a little inspiration from Zager and Evans: "In the year 2025, if man is still alive, if race cars can survive, what will we find?" The Los Angeles Auto Show Design Challenge provides a glimpse, and it's freaking rad.

The annual contest allows the auto industry's most creative minds to exercise their genius without concern for bean counters or engineers. This year saw them designing alternative-fuel race cars of the distant future, which in this case refers to that far off time 17 years from now when the world's oil reserves are depleted, electric cars glide on the crumbled remains of our roads and all of Angelina Jolie's children are old enough to drive.

As is so often the case when designers let their imaginations run wild, the cars they've come up with are as unlikley as they are futuristic. But that doesn't make them any less impressive.

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image by wired

October 20, BBC News

A passenger jet bound for Heathrow Airport had a near miss with a UFO, Ministry of Defence files reveal.

The captain of the Alitalia airliner shouted "Look out" to his co-pilot at the sight of a brown missile-shaped object shooting past them overhead.

Civil Aviation Authority and military investigations could not explain the 1991 incident near Lydd in Kent.

The unsolved close encounter features in UFO-related military documents made available by the National Archives.

After ruling out the object flying past the Alitalia jet being a missile, weather balloon or space rocket, the MoD closed the inquiry.

Nineteen files covering sightings between 1986 and 1992 are being made available online.

Almost 200 such files will be made available by the MoD over the next four years.

The current batch also include a US Air Force pilot's account of being ordered to shoot down a UFO that appeared on his radar while he flew over East Anglia.

There is also an MoD request that army and navy helicopters not take photographs of crop circles, because of concerns about undermining the official line that the military did not investigate unexplained phenomena.

And the files also contain a letter from a woman claiming to be from the Sirius system who said her spacecraft - also containing two "Spectrans" with "Mr Spock ears" - crashed in Britain during World War II.

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photo: An Alitalia passenger jet had a close encounter with a UFO in 1991 (AFP)

Despite CEO Ballmer's Continued Public Flirting

By Abbey Klaassen

October 17, AdAge

NEW YORK ( -- "Our position hasn't changed. Microsoft has no interest in acquiring Yahoo; there are no discussions between the companies," a Microsoft spokesman said in an e-mail.

f that all sounds familiar, it's because Microsoft has made such declarations several times in recent months as it disputed rumors about making another bid for Yahoo. But this latest statement, sent to Ad Age today, came just hours after Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer told the audience at a Gartner conference in Orlando, Fla., that the deal still makes "economic sense."

Investors encouraged

Yahoo's stock soared 20% on Mr. Ballmer's remarks, indicating just how dearly its investors are hoping for a revived Microsoft bid. It's now up about 10% to $13.

Of course, it makes more economic sense now, given Yahoo's stock price has slumped in recent weeks, dropping into the $12 range. At the time of Microsoft's initial $31-a-share bid (which was upped to $33 a share before negotiations finally ended), Yahoo's stock had been languishing in the $18-$19 range.

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photo: Steve Ballmer (Credit: Nancy Kaszerman)

The schedule is too demanding

By Andrei Dobra, Games Editor

October 14, Softpedia

Microsoft has definitely had a busy Tokyo Game Show. With announcements left and right about Tekken 6 or about the New Xbox Experience, the company is getting the hype going around about their updates and products. During this convention, John Schappert, corporate vice president of Microsoft, spoke about the Xbox 360 update development cycle for Spring/Fall. He said that this schedule might not apply after the launch of the NXE, the biggest and most elaborate update to have ever worked on.

“I don't know if we are going to tie ourselves to a spring/fall release schedule as much,” said Schappert at the TGS. “I think one of the things that I worked with the team with when I joined -- let's do a big release. Spring and fall sounds like there is a lot of distance between the two but there is an awful lot of... it's pretty hard to make a new dashboard because you have to certify it against every revision of the hardware, and there's a bunch of different specs. It's a pretty time-consuming and challenging thing to do. Which is why we only did it twice a year.”

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image by Gamepro

Dow jumps 936 points — biggest one-day gain — on news of bank help


October 14, MSNBC

NEW YORK - Wall Street stormed back from last week's devastating losses Monday, sending the Dow Jones industrials soaring a nearly inconceivable 936 points after major governments' plans to support the global banking system reassured distraught investors. All the major indexes rose more than 11 percent.

The market was expected to rebound after eight days of precipitous losses that took the Dow down nearly 2,400 points, but few expected this kind of advance, which saw the Dow by far outstrip its previous record one-day point gain, 499.19, set during the waning days of the dot-com boom. The Standard & Poor's 500 index also set a record for a one-day point gains.

There were cheers and applause on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange at the closing bell, and trading was so active that prices were still being computed several minutes after the closing bell, longer than it would take on a quieter day.

Still, while the magnitude of Monday's gains stunned investors and analysts, few were ready to say Wall Street had reached a bottom. The market is likely to have back-and-forth trading in the coming days and weeks — and may well see a pullback when trading resumes Tuesday — as investors work through their concerns about the banking sector, the stagnant credit markets and the overall economy.

John Lynch, chief market analyst for Evergreen Investments in Charlotte, N.C., said Monday's rally was encouraging but he doubted it signaled the worst has passed.

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photo: Trader Thomas Riley, right, smiles as he works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange on Monday. (Richard Drew / AP)

Scientists uncover ancient gas samples and gain understanding of future climate change

By Rachel Durfee

October 8, PopSci

We all know the climate is changing. But just how complicated is that process and how many factors are involved in creating this planate-wide problem? To partly answer that question, scientists have gone back nearly 90,000 years to examine Antarctic ice core samples, or, more specifically, the gas they contain. Their findings demonstrate the complex interplay between different geological players that contribute to climate changes and trends. The report implies that global warming, carbon dioxide levels, and ocean currents are not individual influencers on climate change but rather intertwined with each other. Knowing how these factors interacted many millennia ago will hopefully help scientists better understand climate change today and possibly predict future trends.

Jinho Ahn and Edward Brook of Oregon State University executed the study with support form the National Science Foundation and their report was published in the journal Science. The team essentially crushed the frozen bubbles encased in their 390 ice core samples—carefully, of course, some were almost 90,000 years old—to release some truly old gas. Researchers then measured the carbon dioxide levels in each sample and compared the numbers with climate data from the icy north (Antarctica and Greenland), and with ocean sediments from the south (Chile and the Iberian Peninsula). With all of these pieces of data at hand, they knew the CO2 levels, the temperature, and how fast or slow the ocean currents were moving in both the North Atlantic and the Southern Ocean. What they found can be boiled down to this: Increased CO2 levels equaled a hotter Earth and reduced circulation of ocean currents in the North Atlantic. In the Southern Ocean as well, it appeared that CO2 levels increased while ocean currents weakened.

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photo: Trapped Gas Bubbles: Ice sample with ancient gas bubbles. (NSF)

By Rachelle Younglai and Kim Dixon

October 7, Reuters

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Richard Fuld, the disgraced head of Lehman Brothers, said he would wonder "until they put me in the ground" why the U.S. government did not rescue the 158-year-old Wall Street firm and claimed regulators knew the full scale of its condition far before its collapse.

Fuld said he took full responsibility for his actions ahead of the downfall of Lehman, but said U.S. regulators were aware of everything at the firm and knew how it was pricing its distressed assets in the months prior to its bankruptcy.

Despite his acceptance of his role before the collapse, U.S. lawmakers expressed outrage to Fuld about Lehman on Monday, saying that Fuld, board members, regulators and Congress all shared blame for its downfall.

"I want to be very clear. I take full responsibility for the decisions that I made and for the actions that I took based on the information that we had at the time," Fuld told a congressional panel. "I feel horrible about what has happened to the company and its effects on so many."

Fuld said he did not know why the U.S. government chose to help other financial companies, but not Lehman as it hurtled toward disaster.

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photo: Protestors hold signs behind Richard Fuld, Chairman and Chief Executive of Lehman Brothers Holdings, as he takes his seat to testify at a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing on the causes and effects of the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy, on Capitol Hill in Washington, October 6, 2008. (REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst)

October 6, The Sydney Morning Herald

US presidential hopeful John McCain was prone to mistakes during his time as a Navy pilot, and if today's standards were applied, his career may have ended in a hard landing, according to a report today by The Los Angeles Times.

The newspaper said that when McCain was training in his AD-6 Skyraider in Texas in 1960, he slammed into Corpus Christi Bay and sheared the skin off his plane's wings.

In his autobiography, McCain said the crash had occurred because "the engine quit", but an investigation board at the Naval Aviation Safety Centre found no evidence of engine failure, the report said.

Instead investigators concluded that the 23-year-old junior lieutenant was not paying attention and erred in using "a power setting too low to maintain level flight in a turn".

The crash was one of three early in McCain's aviation career in which his flying skills and judgment were faulted or questioned by Navy officials, The Times said.

In another incident, McCain was "clowning" around in a Skyraider over southern Spain about December 1961 and flew into electrical wires, causing a blackout in the area, the paper noted.

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photo: John McCain steps out of a hotel in Arizona. (AFP)

By Sinead Carew and Yinka Adegoke

September 24, Reuters

NEW YORK (Reuters) - T-Mobile has rolled out Google's answer to the iPhone as the Web search giant makes its biggest stab yet at leaping from consumers' computers into their pockets with a device cheaper than rival Apple offers.

The widely-anticipated G1 phone, introduced on Tuesday made by HTC Corp, has a touch-sensitive screen, a computer-like keyboard, Wi-Fi connections and uses Google's new Android operating system.

Available in three colors -- black, white and brown -- it includes familiar Google services, such as Google Maps, Gmail and YouTube. Like the iPhone and other "smartphones" the device is meant to broaden the appeal of Web surfing on the go.

"If we see more mobile Web usage we'll be happy," Google co-founder Sergey Brin told Reuters after arriving at the launch on roller-blades.

His company, a powerhouse in Web advertising, would benefit if Android led more cell users to spend time on the Web, no matter which phone they are using.

Google is well ahead of rivals Yahoo Inc and Microsoft Corp in Web search on computers, but it wants to use Android to ensure this dominance carries over to the phone when mobile Web surfing becomes more popular.

But while no clear mobile Web winner has emerged so far, Google faces stiff competition from longer established phone players such as Nokia, Research In Motion Ltd's BlackBerry and Microsoft, as well as Apple.

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photo: The new G1 phone running Google's Android software is displayed in New York September 23, 2008. T-Mobile USA, a Deutsche Telekom AG unit, will sell the first phone powered by Google Inc's Android operating system under the brand name T-Mobile G1, said its partner Inc on Tuesday. (REUTERS/Jacob Silberberg)

At PDC2008

By Marius Oiaga, Technology News Editor

September 24, Softpedia

Microsoft is gearing up to showcase Windows 7 for the first time in 2008, and the company is planning to do so to a global audience. According to Tim Sneath, Microsoft Client Platform Technical Evangelist, the Redmond giant is planning to introduce the next iteration of the Windows client at the Professional Developers Conference. Scheduled to take place October 27-30, 2008, in Las Vegas, PDC2008 will be an event largely focused on Windows, and the conference where Microsoft plans to give the world its first taste of Windows 7.

“The soul of PDC is still Windows, and this year more than most, Windows is a dominant theme. We’ll unveil Windows 7 to the world for the first time this year, and there are some exclusive surprises for conference attendees that mean you’ll be frustrated to miss out on being at the PDC in person. Although we’ve not yet unleashed the full set of tens of Windows 7 breakouts on the session planning tool, you can be sure that this will be a very significant part of the overall event,” Sneath revealed.

Speculations indicate that the Redmond company is planning to deliver at least a preview build of Windows 7, a release following Milestone 3, with the first Beta reportedly planned for December 2008.

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image of Windows 7 by Microsoft

September 23, CNN

LONDON, England (AP) -- Two British archeologists declared Monday that they have uncovered the core reason behind the construction of one of the world's best known and least understood landmarks.

The stone circle at Stonehenge has stood for thousands of years -- and bred endless debate over whether it was a temple for ancient sun-worshippers, a sacred burial site, or even a kind of massive prehistoric astronomical calculator.

Professors Geoffrey Wainwright and Timothy Darvill argued their own explanation for the mysterious monument: Stonehenge, they said, was a kind of primeval Lourdes, drawing prehistoric pilgrims from around Europe.

"We found several reasons to believe that the stones were built as part of a belief in a healing process," Wainwright told journalists assembled at London's Society of Antiquaries.

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photo: Druids perform a pagan Samhain blessing ceremony at Stonehenge, in Wiltshire. (AFP/Getty Images)

By Tamsin Osbourne

September 22, BBC News

Children suffering abuse will soon be able to contact the NSPCC's ChildLine via text messages and the internet.

The NSPCC hopes to reach more at-risk children by making use of the technology that youngsters are comfortable and familiar with.

Early trials by the NSPCC show that boys and girls seek help with family problems in very different ways.

The improved access to ChildLine - 0800 1111 - comes as the NSPCC bids to recruit more people to answer calls.

Helping hand

Although thousands of people contact the NSPCC via ChildLine every day the organisation still struggles to answer every call. Currently about 67% of calls get answered and just 40% of children who need counselling receive it.

"At the moment, we've got a real problem about not being able to reach every child who wants help," said Dame Mary Marsh, director and chief executive of the NSPCC which took over ChildLine in 2006.

"The rate that children can get through is just not good enough, so part of the process is to give different channels of access so there is going to be some way they can get some help," she said.

Help to expand the NSPCC services is coming from Microsoft in the shape of a £1.3m donation of software and services from Microsoft. Also included in the donation is space on the MSN homepage through which children will be able to contact ChildLine.

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image: Some children must be careful when seeking aid (by BBC News)

By Maggie Fox, Health and Science Editor

September 22, Reuters

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Satellite images taken at night show heavily Sunni Arab neighborhoods of Baghdad began emptying before a U.S. troop surge in 2007, graphic evidence of ethnic cleansing that preceded a drop in violence, according to a report published on Friday.

The images support the view of international refugee organizations and Iraq experts that a major population shift was a key factor in the decline in sectarian violence, particularly in the Iraqi capital, the epicenter of the bloodletting in which hundreds of thousands were killed.

Minority Sunni Arabs were driven out of many neighborhoods by Shi'ite militants enraged by the bombing of the Samarra mosque in February 2006. The bombing, blamed on the Sunni militant group al Qaeda, sparked a wave of sectarian violence.

"By the launch of the surge, many of the targets of conflict had either been killed or fled the country, and they turned off the lights when they left," geography professor John Agnew of the University of California Los Angeles, who led the study, said in a statement.

"Essentially, our interpretation is that violence has declined in Baghdad because of intercommunal violence that reached a climax as the surge was beginning," said Agnew, who studies ethnic conflict.

Some 2 million Iraqis are displaced within Iraq, while 2 million more have sought refuge in neighboring Syria and Jordan. Previously religiously mixed neighborhoods of Baghdad became homogenized Sunni or Shi'ite Muslim enclaves.

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photo: An image showing the proportion of change in night-lights in Baghdad between March 2006 and December 2007, released to Reuters on September 19, 2008. (REUTERS/UCLA/Handout)