Mar 31, 2012

Half Of U.S. Households Own At Least One Apple Product

Apple has taken firm root in America. Just over half of all households in the country own at least one Apple product, a new survey says, showing just how far the reach of the company has come in the last decade.

At the turn of the 21st century, Apple was in rough shape. It had narrowly avoided bankruptcy, and Steve Jobs' return as CEO a few years earlier was turning the company around, but the market share of its products -- then almost exclusively Mac computers -- was dismal, at about 2% worldwide.

Then came the iPod, which begat the iPhone and the iPad. As Apple's gadgets gobbled up market share (and in some cases created new markets), its Macs experienced a rebound, too. Now, according to CNBC's All-American Economic Survey, 51% of U.S. households own at least one Apple product.

Few brands have such a deep reach among American consumers. Certainly, product categories such as refrigerators or even smartphones have achieved even deeper penetration, but looking at single companies, it's a short list with probable names such as GE (light bulbs) or 3M (Scotch tape). Reducing to just technology companies would make it even shorter.

Of the households that own Apple products, they own an average of three, making the overall ownership rate of the American public 1.6 Apple products per household. About 25% plan to buy another Apple product in the next year.

The survey shows Apple buyers tend to skew male, young, with higher education and incomes (77% of households making $75,000 or more have an Apple product). If you have kids, the likelihood of being an Apple household grows -- 61% compared with 48% if you don't.

As far as politics is concerned, both Republicans and Democrats appear to like Apple products equally, with 56% of people counting themselves a member of either party owning Apple, although a greater portion of Democrats plan to buy more products soon.

CNBC's survey polled 836 Americans via both landlines and cellphones over three days in March. The network says it has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.4%.


3 Killed As Human Sacrifices In Mexico

Authorities in the northern Mexican state of Sonora have arrested eight people accused of killing two boys and one woman as human sacrifices for Santa Muerte -- the saint of death -- officials said Friday.

The victims, two of whom were age 10, were killed and their blood was offered at an altar to the saint, according to Jose Larrinaga, spokesman for state prosecutors. The accused were asking the saint, who is generally portrayed as a skeleton dressed in a long robe and carrying a scythe, for protection, he said.

Santa Muerte is a favorite among criminals and the country's drug traffickers. The saint, though not recognized by the Catholic Church, has taken off in popularity in recent years.

Details of the case were laid out in a statement from the Sonora State Investigative Police (PEI), which described the cult as a "Satanic sect."

The first of the three victims was allegedly killed in 2009; the last this month. Their bodies were found in the small mining community of Nacozari de Garcia, some 155 miles (250 kilometers) north of Hermosillo, the state capital.

Many of the accused belong to the same family and one is just 15 years old, the PEI said. Authorities said they began looking into the case when one of the victim's families reported him missing.

"Nothing like this has ever happened before in the state of Sonora. And it's not something we're going to allow," said Guillermo Padres Elias, state governor.

From CNN News

How The 'Crackberry' Makers Lost Their Way

Research in Motion founder Mike Lazaridis two years ago at the launch of the Blackberry Torch, he was convinced the product would revive Blackberry’s fortunes because, “People don’t want to carry around two devices, they just want to carry one.”

He was right about that, but wrong about the device people wanted.

Thursday RIM announced a 23% drop in sales in the fourth quarter.

 A recent Nielsen survey found only 5% of U.S. consumers buying a new smart phone chose a Blackberry.  It is a spectacular fall from grace for a company that pioneered push email and made their devices so indispensible they were nicknamed ‘Crackberrys.’

What happened?

For one thing, competition.  Workers who were issued Blackberry devices back in 2003-2005 didn’t just use them for work, they used them all the time and it didn’t take long for the likes of Apple and Google to catch on.  By 2007 both companies hit the market with phones that could not only deliver email and web access on the go, but had cool designs and access to app stores – something Blackberry did not.

But it wasn’t the competition that ultimately killed RIM’s edge.  The company suffered from “founder syndrome.” Mike Lazaridis and co-CEO Jim Balsillie created a brilliant product, but there were ultimately engineers that were blind to changes that were taking place.

In 2005, I went to Waterloo, Ontario to interview both men.  In lab coats and sanitized shoe booties, we toured the facilities and talked a lot about security and I.T. departments - not very much the user experience. It is something I have thought about often as I watched RIM’s stock and market share plummet.

It is often said that Steve Jobs was one of the few founders who was able to cannibalize his own products over and over.  Maybe it was Apple’s near death experience that enabled him to do that.  Is this finally RIM’s “a-ha” moment?  Maybe.

New CEO Thorsten Heins, who seemed in denial himself two months ago, has now announced a management shake-up, said he is open to selling or licensing part of the business. He vowed the company will turn its main focus back to the corporate market.  As one analyst told me, “it was the first RIM conference call in a long time where I didn’t roll my eyes.”

It may be too little, too late. Many of my friends and colleagues have gotten their I.T. departments to support their iPhones or Android phones. I can’t see them turning back.  And let’s not even mention tablets, which RIM has to practically give away to attract customers.

But RIM still had $4 billion in revenue. Their brand, though hurt, still carries weight – especially in developing countries.  And Matt Thornton, Avian Research in Boston says that if they do decide to license their operating system, and pare back from the hardware business, they have a shot.

“It will be a smaller company, but the gross margins on software companies can be 70-80% versus hardware companies which are closer to 40%,” he said.  Who might partner with Blackberry in a licensing deal?  Thornton thinks Samsung would make an interesting alliance.

From CNN News

Three Deadly Explosions Hit Yala In Southern Thailand

At least eight people have been killed in three explosions in the southern Thai province of Yala, officials say.

Yala Governor Dejrat Simsiri said the blasts occurred over 10 minutes at around midday (06:00 BST) in the commercial district of Yala city.

He said two of the bombs were hidden in motorcycles and the third in a car.

Thailand's three southern-most provinces have been plagued by bomb attacks and shootings since 2004, when a separatist campaign reignited.

We are not sure which group of suspected Muslim insurgents were behind this but we are looking," Mr Dejrat said.

The Associated Press and Reuters news agencies put the death toll from Saturday's bombings at eight, with around 70 wounded. AFP quoted a nurse in the emergency unit of Yala provincial hospital as saying nine people had died.

"There are nine dead now and 112 injured people sent to our hospital," the hospital worker told AFP.

Thai police told AFP a policeman had also been injured in a separate motorcycle attack in Mae Lan in neighbouring Pattani province.

Thai officials said another explosion on Saturday - at a hotel in the city of Hat Yai, Songkhla province - was due to a gas leak and unrelated to the attacks, Associated Press reported.

More than 4,300 people have been killed in the violence in southern Thailand. As of 2011, the Thai army had 60,000 forces stationed in the region to tackle the insurgency.

Thailand annexed the three provinces - Narathiwat, Yala and Pattani - in 1902, but the majority of people there are Muslim and speak a Malay dialect, in contrast with the Buddhists in the rest of the country who speak Thai.

Critics accuse the government of failing to address the grievances of these residents.

Turkish MPs Fight As Controversial Schools Bill Passed

Turkey's parliament has passed a bill that allows parents to move their children into Islamic schools earlier.
The education reform bill extends compulsory education from eight to 12 years and allows children to switch to specialist schools from as young as 10.

The ruling AK Party says the bill will mean pupils stay longer in school but secular Turks see it as part of a wider plan to increase religious influence.

MPs fought during a debate on the bill, which followed days of protests.

On Thursday, police used water cannon and tear gas to disperse protesters in the Turkish capital, Ankara.

Some 295 of 550 MPs voted for the bill on Friday and 91 opposed it.

The bill overturned a 1997 law forced through by the military that stopped children aged under 15 attending religious "imam hatip" schools. The schools were originally set up to train Islamic clerics.

Turkey's main secular opposition People's Republican Party has accused Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan of seeking revenge for the law and attempting to raise a "religious youth".

Mr Erdogan has denied wanting to impose Islamic values on his countrymen. He has said he is committed to secularism but not at the expense of Turks who want to express their religious beliefs more openly.

He said the passing of the law was a victory for democracy.

"It is a law that shows how much democracy in Turkey has advanced," the Turkish prime minister said. "Fascist pressures have been corrected through democracy."

Honduras San Pedro Sula Prison Unrest And Fire Kill 13

At least 13 people have died in unrest at a prison in Honduras, officials say.

They said inmates began fighting among themselves at the San Pedro Sula prison, in the north of the country, and that a fire had then broken out.

Police commissioner Yair Mesa said the riot had been brought under control, the Associated Press news agency says.

Last month, at least 360 inmates died in a fire at Comayagua prison north of the capital. Officials said it may have been caused by a discarded cigarette.

During the latest riot, one prisoner was decapitated and his head thrown in front of the prison entrance, according to local media reports.

"The uprising has been put down without the need to fire shots," Mr Mesa said from inside the prison.
The prisoners themselves appeared to have fought the fire inside the facility, city fire service chief Jose Danilo Flores told AP.

The inmates had prevented firefighters from entering earlier in the day, he added.

Security Minister Pompeyo Bonilla said the fire at the facility had "once again highlighted the critical situation" in the country's prisons, Agence France Presse reports.

Prisons in Honduras hold some 13,000 inmates in a system designed for 8,000.

The government has promised to reform the country's prison system but the task ahead of them is huge, reports the BBC's Central America correspondent Will Grant.

The problems facing the prison system include chronic overcrowding, opposing street gangs being housed side-by-side, rampant corruption and crumbling infrastructure in jail buildings, he says.

Got Visa or Mastercard? Your Data May Have Leaked

The personal data of thousands of customers — from all major credit card brands — has been leaked from a third-party processing company.

The massive leak was first reported by the security news blog Krebs on Security, following reports that MasterCard and Visa were warning banks of a possible breach.

According to a follow-up story from The Wall Street Journal, the breach came from the Atlanta-based payment processing firm Global Payments, not from a credit card company. Global Payments works with debit cards, credit cards and gift cards.

The Wall Street Journal’s report suggests the possible window for the breach was between Jan. 21 and Feb. 25.

So far, there are no indications that any customers have experienced fraudulent transactions on their accounts.

MasterCard said it was investigating the breach, and that its core network was not hacked.

“MasterCard is currently investigating a potential account data compromise event of a U.S.-based entity,”
MasterCard said in a statement. “As a result, we have alerted payment card issuers regarding certain MasterCard accounts that are potentially at risk. It is important to note that MasterCard’s own systems have not been compromised in any manner.”

MasterCard added that it has notified law enforcement of the breach and an “ongoing forensic review” has been launched.

Visa also acknowledged a “data compromise” of an outside company, but said there was no breach of Visa’s own network.

“Visa Inc. is aware of a potential data compromise incident at a third party entity affecting card account information from all major card brands,” Visa said in a statement. “There has been no breach of Visa systems, including its core processing network VisaNet. Visa has provided payment card issuers with the affected account numbers so they can take steps to protect consumers through independent fraud monitoring and, if needed, reissuing cards.”

Neither Visa nor MasterCard issue their own credit cards. Instead, they process transactions made on cards issued by banks and other financial institutions.


Syria Links Troop Pullback From Cities To Security

Syrian troops will stay in residential areas of cities until "peace and security" prevail, the government says.
A foreign ministry spokesman made the announcement after the UN's peace mission to Syria called for troops to be withdrawn as a good faith gesture.

President Bashar al-Assad has nominally accepted a peace plan proposed by UN envoy Kofi Annan.

However fighting has continued between government and opposition forces, with 40 people reportedly killed on Friday.

The UN believes at least 9,000 people have died in the year-long revolt against Mr Assad's rule.

Many victims are said to have been civilians killed by government shelling.

"The presence of the Syrian Arab army in Syrian cities is for defensive purposes [so] as to protect the civilians," Syrian foreign ministry spokesman Jihad Makdisi told state media.

"Once peace and security prevail, the army is to pull out."
On Friday, Mr Annan's spokesman Ahmad Fawzi said the UN envoy expected President Assad to implement the peace plan immediately.

The plan "specifically asks the government to withdraw its troops, to cease using heavy weapons in populated centres", Mr Fawzi said.

"The very clear implication here is that the government must stop first and then discuss a cessation of hostilities with the other side and with the mediator."

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has said the peace plan, which was drawn up by the UN and the Arab League, was a "last chance" for Syria to stop the bloodshed.

Damascus, he told the Associated Press news agency in Istanbul, must accept the plan without delay.
"The regime must understand that if they miss this last chance, they will be facing strong measures by the international community," he said.

Istanbul is hosting a 60-nation gathering of the "Friends of the Syrian People" this weekend aimed at finding ways to help Syria's opposition.

Six-point peace plan

1. Commitment to an inclusive, Syrian-led political process working with the UN envoy
2. A cease-fire including the withdrawal of troops and heavy weapons from inside and around populated areas
3. Provision of humanitarian aid through a UN mechanism
4. Release of arbitrarily detained persons
5. Freedom of movement across Syria for journalists
6. Respect for freedom of association and the right to demonstrate peacefully

From BBC News

This Camera Lets You Take Photos With Your Hands

Researchers at the Institute of Advanced Media Arts and Sciences have created a prototype for a new type of camera called Ubi-Camera that lets you snap a photograph by creating a rectangle with your hands.

Here’s how it works: Connect the device to your index finger and then form a rectangle with your fingers. Your finger rectangle works as a viewfinder for the camera, and photos are taken by pressing on the device firmly with your thumb.

The Ubi-camera has a built-in range sensor that can tell the amount of space between the camera and the photographer’s face, and uses that information to create a shot. For instance, when you take a photo with your face close to the camera, you get a wide-angle shot. When you move your fingers further away you can snap a close up. Zooming in on photos is done later on a PC.

Researchers did a brief demo of the camera for DigInfoTV, showing off how the device is able to capture pictures:

The range sensor uses infrared technology, which occasionally has difficulty detecting faces and can be affected by light — something the developers hope to update in the future.

In its current prototype form the Ubi-camera also needs to be connected to a PC while you take a photo; however, developers hope to make a stand-alone version of the camera in the future that can be used away from a computer screen.

Rebel Assault On Strategic Mali Garrison Town of Gao

Tuareg rebels in Mali have attacked the strategic northern garrison town of Gao with heavy weapons, hours after another town, Kidal, fell to them.

Two army helicopters were scrambled in response, a local official told AFP news agency by phone.

Gao, with a population of 87,000, more than twice the size of Kidal, hosts one of the biggest garrisons in the north.

Separatist rebels seeking to carve out a desert homeland began a rebellion in the west African state in January.

A regional group, the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas), has placed on alert a peacekeeping force of 2,000 soldiers, Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara was quoted as saying by AFP news agency.

After a coup by disgruntled military officers in Mali a week ago, Ecowas has threatened to close land borders, freeze assets and impose a financial blockade if the army does not stand aside before Monday.
The UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office has now advised against all travel to Mali and urges any British citizens currently there to leave.

"We can hear heavy fire coming in the direction of the main military camp," a Reuters reporter said.
"People here are running all over the place and all the shops are closing."

Mahamane Diakite, an aide to the governor of Gao, told AFP: "We can hear heavy weapons fire. We have also seen two helicopters taking off to shoot. Rebels have entered the town."

Malians with family members in Gao say the city is under attack from multiple rocket launchers, the Associated Press reports.

Correspondents say the rebels can expect to meet tougher resistance in Gao, where the majority of troops are from the Bambara tribe, unlike Kidal, where the majority of troops were Tuareg.

Before the coup, Mali's government forces had struggled to drive back the rebels.

The mid-ranking officers who overthrew the government said the army needed more equipment to fight.

Their leader, Capt Amadou Sanogo, has asked for foreign help to tackle the rebels but has been condemned over the coup.

Three members of the military leadership have gone to neighbouring Burkina Faso for talks with President Blaise Compaore, who is mediating in the crisis.

The Tuareg fought side by side with Islamist fighters to take over Kidal, the BBC's Thomas Fessy reports from Dakar.

However, it is not clear how they will share their success, our correspondent says.

Rebels from the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) want an independent north while a smaller, Islamist group called the Ansar Edine wants to impose Sharia law.

Azawad is the Tuareg name for their home region in the Sahara Desert.

The Tuaregs have launched several rebellions over the years, complaining that the government in Bamako ignores them.

The conflict has been fuelled by the return of Tuareg fighters from Libya last year after fighting for the late Muammar Gaddafi or his opponents.

It appears these fighters are heavily armed with looted weapons.

Analysts say the rebels have taken advantage of the recent military coup to move swiftly from target to target across the north.

If Gao falls, the only major town in government hands in the north will be Timbuktu.

From BBC News

Mar 30, 2012

Hollywood Release: The Deep Blue Sea

Adapting a Terence Rattigan melodrama to the big screen implies, perhaps unfairly, a weighty Englishness; one can almost smell the spilt lager and the picked-over plate of fish and chips that spurred the idea. And though it bears all the trademarks of Rattigan's fiery post-war plays, Terence Davies's superb adaptation of The Deep Blue Sea provides a more rapturous and fluid expression of Rattigan's most smoldering and ruthless themes than the glut of adaptations that precede it.

 Anthony Asquith is the club champ in this arena, having directed six separate cinematic productions of Rattigan's work, but the influence of pre and post-war societal drift on class relations and personal desires also attracted John Boulting, David Lean and, in the case of The Prince and the Showgirl, Laurence Olivier, whose production was the basis of Simon Curtis's dreadful My Week with Marilyn.

In the midst of foggy remembrance, touched lovingly by a perfectly realized mixture of low light and soft focus, Rachel Weisz's lovely hazel opals and ruby smackers beam out through time, showing a classical sense of directing actors that easily upends Michel Hazanavicius's quaint gimmickry. As Hester, the cuckolding spouse of a momma's boy judge (Simon Russell Beale, sad and sensational), Weisz expresses an acute sense of movement, or rather lack thereof, as her character is engulfed and shredded from the inside out by her passions for Freddie, a younger fighter pilot unable to find stability in post-war London, played with uncanny rhythm by a ferocious Tom Hiddleston.

Set in 1950 yet constantly swayed into memories of romance and war, the film opens with Hester's attempted suicide, an act that haunts the film even more than the rushes against the Nazis; the war, scarcely spoken about, is breathlessly invoked in a tracking shot of the Tube during a raid and the final shot of a bombed-neighborhood. The play itself melds the pains of history with personal betrayal, loss and depression, but Davies's adapted screenplay adds a third dimension to the narrative, that of his own memory, which, of course, is the main subject of nearly all of his work, especially his previous film, the diatribe-cum-doc Of Time and the City.

In a recent interview, Davies pointed out the use of a crane shot in the film's bookending scenes, which he lifted from an American musical from his childhood. It's not plainly evident and I don't imagine I'd recognize it without the director's comments to the fact, but it certainly gives an idea of the density of influence Davies is handling here, as well as the sense of his own artistic persona with which he imbues the material. And coming after his masterful adaptation of The House of Mirth, it shows a canny progression in his style from his early masterworks, The Long Day Closes and Distant Voices, Still Lives, able to embrace the work of a British master whilst being both faithful to the text and singular in his vision. Stripped of the bark of Davies' unique and ravishing artistic sensibility, his sense of English history and culture, and an unmistakable yet ostensibly unknowable passion that mirrors those of Rattigan's characters, The Deep Blue Sea might have simply been an adaptation of a Terence Rattigan play. Instead, graciously, it is a Terence Davies film, based on a play by Terence Rattigan.         

Hollywood Release: Goon

Doug Glatt (Seann William Scott) from Massachusetts, feels ostracized from his family, his father (Eugene Levy) and brother both being doctors. One day he attends a minor league hockey game with his friend Pat (Jay Baruchel).

Pat taunts the visiting team during a fight and one of their players climbs into the stands.

Doug, in defense of his friend, quickly knocks him out, which prompts the rest of the crowd to cheer him on.

Soon after, Doug gets a phone call from the coach of his hometown team who offers him a job as an enforcer, a player whose role is to protect his teammates and act as a deterrent by hitting or fighting opposing players who take liberties with his teammates.

In the meantime, veteran enforcer and Doug's idol Ross "The Boss" Rhea (Liev Schreiber) is demoted to the minors after serving a 20 game suspension for slashing an opponent in the head from behind.

Three years prior, Rhea hit and concussed the highly skilled prospect Xavier Laflamme (Marc-Andre Grondin) who has had trouble recovering from that incident due to the fear of being hit, being stuck in the minors and falling in with the wrong crowd. After earning himself the nickname "The Thug", Doug is called up to Canada and hired by Laflamme's team, the Halifax Highlanders, to protect Laflamme and be his roommate.

The Highlanders experience success with Doug as their primary enforcer, and he quickly gains popularity among fans and teammates much to the chagrin of his parents and Laflamme, particularly after losing ice time and the alternate-captaincy to Doug. Doug becomes romantically involved with Eva (Alison Pill), a hockey fan with a penchant for players.

With 4 games left on their schedule, the Highlanders need two wins to secure a playoff spot. On a road game in Quebec, after an opposing player concusses Laflamme with a heavy hit, Doug savagely beats the player unconscious and is suspended for the next game against Rhea and the St. John's Shamrocks. Doug encounters Rhea at a diner, where Rhea dismisses Doug's claim that he is a hockey player, calling him a goon. Rhea warns him that if they ever meet on the ice, he will "lay him the fuck out." The Highlanders, with Doug suspended and Laflamme hospitalized, lose to the Shamrocks.

Doug reaches out to Laflamme, and promises him he will always have his back on the ice. In their next game, the Highlanders lead 1-0 thanks to renewed teamwork between Doug and Laflamme. In the dying seconds, Doug blocks a slapshot with his face and his ankle is broken in the ensuing scramble. The Highlanders win, but need a win against Rhea and the Shamrocks in their last game for a playoff spot.

After two periods, the Shamrocks are beating the Highlanders 2-0. Rhea and Doug drop the gloves in the third period, and dole out and receive physical punishment during the fight. Doug is knocked down first, but Rhea calls off the referees and allows him to get back up. Doug manages to break Rhea's nose, but breaks his previously injured ankle in the process. Doug manages to stand back up and knocks out Rhea with a vicious cross. Eva and his teammates help a seriously injured Doug off the ice and Laflamme, inspired by Doug's efforts and Rhea's demise, scores a natural hat-trick to lead the Highlanders to a 3-2 victory and a play-off berth. While being comforted by Eva in the locker room, Doug victoriously comments, "I think I nailed him."

Hollywood Release: Mirror Mirror

One of the most beloved stories of all time is coming to life in the motion picture Snow White legend, Mirror Mirror.

A fresh and funny retelling of the Snow White legend, Mirror Mirror features breakout star Lily Collins (The Blind Side) as Snow White, a princess in exile, and Oscar®-winner Julia Roberts as the evil Queen who ruthlessly rules her captured kingdom.

Seven courageous rebel dwarfs join forces with Snow White as she fights to reclaim her birthright and win her Prince in this magical adventure comedy filled with jealousy, romance, and betrayal that will capture the hearts and imaginations of audiences the world over.

The film also stars Armie Hammer (The Social Network) as the Prince, and Nathan Lane (The Birdcage) as the hapless and bungling servant to the Queen.

Mar 29, 2012

Hollywood Release: The Wrath Of The Titans

Sam Worthington, Ralph Fiennes and Liam Neeson star once again as gods at war in "Wrath of the Titans," under the direction of Jonathan Liebesman.

A decade after his heroic defeat of the monstrous Kraken, Perseus (Worthington)—the demigod son of Zeus (Neeson)—is attempting to live quietly as a village fisherman and the sole parent to his 10-year-old son, Helius.

But unbeknownst to Perseus, a struggle for supremacy has been raging between the gods that will come to threaten his idyllic life.

Dangerously weakened by humanity's lack of devotion, the gods are losing hold of their immortality, as well as control over the imprisoned Titans and their ferocious leader, Kronos, father of the long-ruling brothers Zeus, Hades (Fiennes) and Poseidon (Danny Huston).

The triumvirate had overthrown their powerful father long ago, leaving him to rot in the gloomy abyss of Tartarus, a dungeon that lies deep within the cavernous Underworld.

Now, Perseus cannot ignore his true calling as Hades, along with Zeus' godly son, Ares (Edgar Ramirez), switches loyalties and makes a deal with Kronos to capture Zeus. The Titan's strength grows as Zeus' remaining godly powers are siphoned... and hell is unleashed on earth.

Enlisting the help of the warrior Queen Andromeda (Rosamund Pike), Poseidon's demigod son Agenor (Toby Kebbell), and fallen god Hephaestus (Bill Nighy), Perseus bravely embarks on a treacherous quest into the Underworld to rescue Zeus, overthrow the Titans and save mankind.

Jonathan Liebesman directed the film from a screenplay by Dan Mazeau & David Leslie Johnson, story by Greg Berlanti & David Leslie Johnson & Dan Mazeau, based on characters created by Beverley Cross.
The film was produced by Basil Iwanyk, who also produced the previous hit "Clash of the Titans," and Polly Johnsen. The executive producers are Thomas Tull, Jon Jashni, Callum McDougall, Kevin De La Noy and Louis Leterrier.


Mar 28, 2012

Online Therapy Program to Help Fight Autism

Research shows that nearly half of kids with autism can make big improvements toward recovery by undergoing therapy in the early stages of their development.

But one-on-one therapy can be extremely costly and go on for years, and access to good treatment can sometimes to be limited to certain cities and regions.

To help kids fight autism, the Tarzana, Calif.-based Center for Autism and Related Disorders (CARD) has put its intensive therapy program online to train parents and educators worldwide on how to best teach kids autistic children the skills they need.

Called Skills, the platform gives users access to the tools and curriculums needed to work with kids with autism. The service determines the areas a child needs to work on the most and walks parents and teachers through how to instill those skills.

It also provides visual examples and videos of the center’s therapists working with autistic children so they can emulate the same tactics.

“We have been doing one-on-one intervention for years, but we wanted to make our resources available to everyone on a global scale,” Dr. Adel Najdowski, director of Skills at CARD, said. “It would be like finding a cure for cancer and not spreading the news. We want everyone to have access to the treatment.”

Autism is the fastest rising major childhood disorder, according to CARD. In fact, one in every 110 children in the U.S. has autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and more children will be diagnosed with autism this year than with AIDS, diabetes and cancer combined, Najdowski added.

But studies show that 50% of children with autism that receive Applied Behavior Analysis intervention for 30 or more hours per week for two or more years beginning before the age of 5 can recover, Najdowski said.
“Recovering” refers to performing at a normal level on standardized tests — measuring IQ, language, socialization and daily living skills — as well as being integrated into a regular education classroom without specialized supports.

Although one hour of private therapy can cost between $45 and $75, the Skills platform is priced at $75 for each month — bringing down the therapy rate from $27,000 each year (for treatment 30 hours a week) to $900.

The program — which features 4,000 lesson activities and curriculums across every skill level — was designed to help train those with limited or no experience teaching autistic children. Parents, teachers and the center’s supervisors can access the Skills service at any time from any location to track the child’s progress.
“We can log on at the center and interact with a family using the service in India and make individualized recommendations,” Najdowski said. “We are also available through webchat, over the phone and in person.”

Since its launch last year, Skills is currently in 105 school districts across 7 countries and it aims to reach more parents in the future. It’s currently available for a 14-day free trial for parents and a 30-day free trial for professionals.

“We hope to use the platform more in the future to ask research questions,” Najdowski said. “Since we have a targeted pool of people, we might be able to learn more about possible causes of autism in the future.”


Amazing NASA Video Shows Star Trails From Space

Have you ever imagined what it would be like to sit in a space station orbiting Earth, just chilling and looking at the stars?

Thanks to NASA astronaut Don Pettit who took some beautiful photos from the International Space Station, and photographer Alex Rivest, who assembled the photos into a time-lapse video, now you can come quite close to finding out how it would look like.

Don Pettit is currently aboard the ISS on a 30-day long mission, and his idea was to take some long-exposure photos to capture star trails from space.

“Space Station makes one revolution every 90 minutes (the Moon takes 28 days). As a result, long-exposure pictures taken from the Station show star trails as circular arcs, with the center of rotation being the poles of Space Station,” Pettit wrote in a blog post.

Pettit’s photos also capture some other beautiful natural phenomena, such as auroras above the Earth.
As beautiful as Pettit’s photos are, Rivest’s time-lapse video (coupled with some chill-out music) makes the entire sight truly amazing.

“On a lucky night living in the city, you can maybe see 5 stars if you are lucky, so to be able to get away from light pollution and be reminded of how many stars there are is always a humbling experience,” Rivest told


Mar 27, 2012

iPhone 4S Users Can’t Get Enough of Siri or Can They?

A Parks Associates survey set out to find out just how well-liked Siri is. The verdict — more than 70% of iPhone 4S users said they are very satisfied or satisfied with the intelligent assistant.

For the most part, iPhone 4S users love Siri. She’s usually helpful, witty and funny even with her quirks and kinks.

With this kind of consumer support, it seems iPhone users would be excited to use Siri voice command with other electronics — but the numbers say otherwise. According to the survey, consumers are unsure about Siri’s ability to function properly. 37% of iPhone 4S users surveyed said they would like a Siri interface on their TV, while about 20% would not.

“People are expressing some reservations about Siri that could impact its popularity on other platforms,” said John Barrett, Director of Consumer Analytics for Parks Associates. “Some said Siri didn’t work well against background noise. Others said it had trouble understanding commands. These problems could be amplified in a noisy living room, where the main TV would be located.”

This could be bad news for Apple. Rumor has it the company may soon bring Siri to TV sets, making the remote obsolete. Voice-activated TVs would dramatically change the TV watching experience. However, this report shows Apple will have to do some convincing to get people to let go of the remote control.

“I would have expected more owners to want Siri for their TV set,” Barrett said. “These are the folks that rushed out to get the new iPhone 4S.”

TV watching actually could be a good fit for Siri. The speech recognition feature usually messes up on obscure questions and answers promptly to commands. It would be hard for her to misunderstand, “I want to watch Mad Men on Netflix” or “go to channel 41.”

Apple has made no announcements about a Siri TV. For now, Siri is only baked into iPhone 4S.


World Leaders: Nuclear Terrorism a 'Grave Threat'

World leaders have called for closer co-operation to tackle the threat of nuclear terrorism at a summit on nuclear security in Seoul.

 A communique at the end of the summit reiterated a joint call to secure "vulnerable nuclear material".

South Korean President Lee Myung-bak said nuclear terrorism remained a "grave threat", while US President Barack Obama said action was key.

The meeting was dominated by North Korea's plan to launch a rocket.

North Korea says the long-range rocket will carry a satellite when it goes up in April. The US says any launch would violate UN resolutions and constitute a missile test.

Iran's nuclear program was also on the minds of the summit participants, with Mr Obama pledging to meet the leaders of Russia and China on the sidelines to work towards a resolution.

At the meeting, world leaders discussed measures to fight the threat of nuclear terrorism, including the protection of nuclear materials and facilities, as well as the prevention of trafficking of nuclear materials.

A joint communique reaffirmed their commitment to nuclear disarmament, non-proliferation and peaceful uses of nuclear energy.

"Nuclear terrorism continues to be one of the most challenging threats to international security," it said.
"Defeating this threat requires strong national measures and international co-operation given its potential global, political, economic, social and psychological consequences."

But it omitted a reference made in a draft communique last Thursday on the need for "concrete steps" towards a world without nuclear weapons, AFP news agency reports.

There are currently no binding international agreements on how to protect nuclear material stored peacefully inside its home country.  An amendment seeking to do that is still unratified after seven years.

Addressing the summit, Mr Obama warned there were still "too many bad actors'' who were threatening to stockpile and use ''dangerous'' nuclear material.

"It would not take much, just a handful or so of these materials, to kill hundreds of thousands of innocent people and that's not an exaggeration, that's the reality that we face," he said.

"The security of the world depends on the actions that we take."

Mr Hu called for "an international environment conducive to boosting nuclear security" to be created and Mr Lee called for concrete action to tackle a threat that posed "a grave challenge" to peace.

The summit was attended by almost 60 leaders from around the world.

Meetings on Monday were overshadowed by North Korea's planned launch, scheduled to take place between 12 and 16 April.

Pyongyang says it is intended to mark the 100th anniversary of the birth of North Korea's founding leader Kim Il-sung.
On Tuesday, a North Korean foreign ministry spokesman said that the launch would go ahead as planned and criticised Mr Obama's stance as ''confrontational''.

North Korea "will never give up the launch of a satellite for peaceful purposes", the spokesman said in a statement in the official KCNA news agency.

A KCNA report also described the ''weather satellite'' Pyongyang planned to launch as useful for ''the study of weather forecast needed for agriculture and other economic fields''.

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, speaking at the summit, called on Pyongyang to cancel the rocket launch, saying that it would violate UN Security Council resolutions.

 "As such, the international community strongly urges North Korea to exercise restraint and cancel the launch," he said.

The resolutions were passed after a similar launch in April 2009. Japan is particularly concerned as that rocket was launched over the country three years ago.

The US and Chinese presidents met on Monday on the sidelines of the summit and agreed to co-ordinate their response to any "potential provocation" if Pyongyang went ahead with the launch.

South Korea and the US say North Korea risks further sanctions and isolation if it does not cancel its plans. Seoul has also warned it will shoot down the rocket if it strays over South Korean territory.

From BBC News

Super Telescope Will Search For secrets Of The Universe

It's been billed as an astronomical equivalent of the Large Hadron Collider, offering new insights into the formation of the universe and so powerful that it might even detect alien life.

The Square Kilometer Array (SKA) is an international effort to build the world's largest radio telescope, one which will probe the dark heart of space shedding new light on dark matter, black holes, stars and galaxies.

"It will have a deep impact on the way we perceive our place in the universe and how we understand its history and its future," says Michiel van Haarlem, interim director general of the SKA project.
"We know we are going to discover things that we haven't already. It's going to be very exciting," van Haarlem said.

Taking its name from the total size of its collecting area, the SKA telescope will consist of 3,000 dish antennas, each one around 15 meters wide. Construction is slated to begin in 2016.

Collectively the surface area of all the dishes will amount to one square kilometer -- hence the name -- all combining to detect radio waves that penetrate the Earth's atmosphere, emitted by stars, galaxies and quasars.
Two other types of radio receptors -- aperture antennas and array antennas -- will combine with the dishes to provide continuous frequency coverage from 70 MHz to 10 GHz.

"It's not like an optical telescope where you see an image of the sky directly. What you do is measure signals from the antennas and process them," van Haarlem says.

Around half the antennas will sit in a "central core region" made up of three separate five-kilometer clusters.

The remainder will extend out in five carefully aligned "spiral arms" stretching out ever more sparsely over an area in excess of 3,000 kilometers (1,864 miles) or more.

The configuration, say scientists, will create the most sensitive radio telescope ever built.

Currently, that honor is held by the Very Large Array (VLA) in New Mexico, says Alastair Edge, from Durham University -- a leading UK center for astronomical research.

"(VLA has) just undergone a very large refit. Telescopes themselves haven't changed but the computing at the back end has changed dramatically," Edge said.

At the moment, we simply don't have the computing power for the SKA telescope to perform at full tilt, Edge says.

Van Haarlem concurs.

"We're talking about huge computing hardware that still needs to be developed. There's a big challenge there," he said.

Supercomputers capable of performing billions and billions of operations per second will be required, but the results will be spectacular, van Haarlem says.

"We will have high-resolution images where we will actually peer into the center of what is going on in galaxies," van Haarlem said.

"We will also have the big picture where we can make surveys of vast areas of the sky to map out the large-scale structure of the universe."

The project is entering a crucial stage with an announcement on where the array will be based expected imminently.

Two locations, one in South Africa's Northern Cape, the other in western Australia, are in the running.
Brian Boyle, project director of the Australia/New Zealand bid, extols the virtues of Western Australia's "intrinsic radio quietness" and the "excellent geophysics" of the proposed Australian site.

 From CNN Tech News

Chocolate 'May Help Keep People Slim'

People who eat chocolate regularly tend to be thinner, new research suggests.
The findings come from a study of nearly 1,000 US people that looked at diet, calorie intake and body mass index (BMI) - a measure of obesity.

It found those who ate chocolate a few times a week were, on average, slimmer than those who ate it occasionally.

Even though chocolate is loaded with calories, it contains ingredients that may favour weight loss rather than fat synthesis, scientists believe. 

Despite boosting calorie intake, regular chocolate consumption was related to lower BMI in the study, which is published in Archives of Internal Medicine.
The link remained even when other factors, like how much exercise individuals did, were taken into account.

And it appears it is how often you eat chocolate that is important, rather than how much of it you eat. The study found no link with quantity consumed.

According to the researchers, there is only one chance in a hundred that their findings could be explained by chance alone.

Lead author Dr Beatrice Golomb, from the University of California at San Diego, said: "Our findings appear to add to a body of information suggesting that the composition of calories, not just the number of them, matters for determining their ultimate impact on weight."

This is not the first time scientists have suggested that chocolate may be healthy for us. 

Other studies have claimed chocolate may be good for the heart.

Consumption of certain types of chocolate has been linked to some favorable changes in blood pressure, insulin sensitivity and cholesterol level. 

And chocolate, particularly dark chocolate, does contain antioxidants which can help to mop up harmful free radicals - unstable chemicals that can damage our cells.

Dr Golomb and her team believe that antioxidant compounds, called catechins, can improve lean muscle mass and reduce weight - at least studies in rodents would suggest this might be so. 

Mice fed for 15 days with epicatechin (present in dark chocolate) had improved exercise performance and observable changes to their muscle composition. 

They say clinical trials are now needed in humans to see if this is the case. 

But before you reach for a chocolate bar, there are still lots of unanswered questions. And in the absence of conclusive evidence, experts advise caution. 

While there's no harm in allowing yourself a treat like chocolate now and again, eating too much might be harmful because it often contains a lot of sugar and fat too.

And if you are looking to change your diet, you are likely to benefit most from eating more fresh fruits and vegetables. 

From BBC Health News

Mar 25, 2012

Microsoft Demonstrates Mind-Blowing 3D Desktop

Take on look at the world of mobile devices — from multitouch smartphones and tablets to virtual assistants ready listen to your questions and give you answers — and you get the idea that the world of interfaces is changing fast. Desktop interfaces, however, are a different story. “Despite advances in 3D sensing and display technologies, our desktop interfaces have not changed much from 2D interactions,” MIT PhD candidate Jinha Lee says.

Lee, along with a Microsoft research lab, has created a transparent 3D desktop display that puts your hands behind the screen and your desktop’s files literally at your fingertips. Users can search and rearrange the files simply by moving their hands. 

If this futuristic interface sounds like something out of the Minority Report, that’s because it is. Unlike much of the technology in tablets and iPhones, this new 3D desktop display is not so much touch-based as it is interaction based. It’s one part Samsung OLED technology and one part Microsoft Kinect. To keep the 3D system illusion intact, the desktop display uses cameras to keep track of where your head is. 

The system is still a work in progress. As Lee explains on his website, it actually began as a research project while he was interning for the Applied Sciences Group at Microsoft.

What Does the Future Hold for Tablet Devices?

MASHABLE - Technology geeks across the world are happily devouring the new iPad. Even though the newest iteration has some nice features, such as a better camera and a retina display, it isn’t revolutionary.

Mashable decided to figure out just what, exactly, will be the next earthshaking development in the tablet sphere. We spoke with Ari Zoldan, CEO of Quantum Networks, to find out what he thinks the future of tablet design and development holds. Quantum Networks specializes in 3G and 4G technologies, such as WiMax and Long Term Evolution, or LTE.

Zoldan chose to first highlight the challenges in the way of tablet progress — namely, batteries. Zoldan doesn’t think they’re about to get any smaller any time soon.

“In terms of the actual weight and thinness (of tablets), the largest roadblock right now is the battery size,” says Zoldan. “We’re probably not looking at any device in the next couple years as getting any thinner.”

So if paper-thin tablets are out, what improvements can we expect? Toughness and water-resistance, perhaps?

“I think the next focus will be an ergonomic design focused on ruggedness,” says Zoldan. “I think some people are paying a premium for tablets, only to be worried about tablets breaking and cracking. I just got back from Mobile World Congress, and the big focus there was water-resistance. Everybody had big tanks of water with their tablets submerged.”

So the hardware will get better, but Zoldan doesn’t think we’ll see any up-and coming-companies enter the hardware market in a major way. Instead, all the innovation will happen in the app development field.

“I think the big players already dominate the hardware side. But the [tablet] software industry is still at its genesis,” says Zoldan. “The (tablet software) industry is wide open, and there’s going to be no stopping it. There will be opportunities for entrepreneurs to play in the software space.”

Zoldan says that software explosion will be boosted by the expansion of 4G networks and Near Field Communications (NFC) technology. In fact, Zoldan believes that NFC will allow tablets to “100% replace the wallet that you carry in your back pocket.”

“You’ll be able to go to grocery stores and be able to pay with your tablet in totality,” Zoldan explains. “Really, the concept of currency is going to change dramatically in the next 10 to 15 years, and it’s all because of the tablet.” 

Finally, Zoldan says that some tablet innovation has to come from wireless companies and the federal government. He says they need to address the spectrum crunch by finding ways to open the spectrum, building more mobile infrastructure and expanding access for rural customers. He also believes that wireless companies will adopt a tablet business model similar to the one used for cellphones today, in which users are allowed a device upgrade every few years.

“I think they’ll give tablets away for free or subsidize them, similar to what happened in the cellphone industry. It may be based on a subscription-based model.”

Mar 24, 2012

New Ipad Cover Problem

Magnets: How do they work? Differently on the new iPad than on the iPad 2, it has emerged -- and that's bad news for anyone with an old or third-party smart cover.

A number of users who bought new iPads over the weekend (this reporter included) were dismayed to discover that the smart covers they'd bought for the iPad 2 didn't work on the new model.

Smart covers, which attach to the iPad's built-in magnets, are supposed to turn the tablet on automatically when you flip them open. But as dozens of iPad users in this Apple forum concurred, that was no longer the case with many smart covers on the new iPad.

That seemed odd, as the new iPad is physically no different from the iPad 2 -- on the surface, at least. But it turns out Apple has been messing with the polarity of its magnets under the hood.

The iPad 2′s sleep/wake sensor wasn't polarity specific. And that apparently led to an issue for iPad 2 users who flipped their smart covers around so that they sat flush with the back of the tablet -- an everyday act that could cause the iPad 2 to switch off unintentionally.

So it seems the new iPad's sleep/wake sensor does require a specific polarity. But in fixing one issue, Apple appears to have caused another for users who want to use their old smart covers with their new tablets. (We've asked Apple to comment, and will update you if we hear back.)

Booth theorizes that Apple quietly made the polarity change in their smart covers at some point in 2011, since newer Apple-made smart covers do seem to work with the new iPad. If you got yours for the holidays, there's a good chance you won't see a problem.

If your smart cover hails from early 2011, try taking it back to the Apple store; Booth says he's hearing from users that the store will exchange old smart covers for new ones. Owners of third-party smart covers, however -- such as the beautiful wood covers from Miniot -- appear to be out of luck.

And it may not simply be a case of having to turn the new tablet on manually. In tests using my Miniot as a stand -- the other purpose of the smart cover -- the new iPad's screen was plagued by fuzzy electronic lines and flashing artifacts.

African Force Sets Up To Hunt Kony

The African Union plans to deploy 5,000 troops to hunt down Joseph Kony, the notorious leader of the Lord's Resistance Army who is wanted for war crimes by the International Criminal Court.

Uganda, the Central African Republic, South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo will supply soldiers for the mission, said Francisco Madeira, the African Union's special envoy on the LRA.

He said the mission has support from the United States and 100 combat-ready troops the Pentagon sent to the region in October will assist.

Kony and the LRA have been terrorizing Uganda and now, neighboring nations, for more than two decades. He is accused of using vicious tactics to recruit children to use them as soldiers and sex slaves and of slicing off ears, noses and limbs of his victims.

There are reports of child soldiers brainwashed into killing their own parents.

A celebrity-backed video that went viral helped make Kony's alleged crimes more widely known. Invisible Children produced the "KONY 2012" half-hour documentary, viewed more than 84 million times on YouTube.

But in introducing Kony to many for the first time, the video also spurred a flurry of questions about Invisible Children's intentions, its transparency and whether the social-media frenzy was too little, too late.

Kony formed the LRA in an attempt to overthrow the government of Uganda. When that failed and the LRA was pushed out of Uganda in 2006, Kony began moving around in neighboring countries.

Abou Moussa, a special U.N. envoy for central Africa, said there is enough information to believe Kony may be in Central African Republic. It's also believed the LRA soldiers range between 200 and 700 in number.

"I don't think that's the most important thing," Moussa said. "The most important thing is how little they may be, they still constitute a danger to the environment. So they continue to attack, they continue to create havoc."

Mar 23, 2012

Hollywood Release: The Trouble With Bliss

A comedic coming of age story about a guy who should have come of age a long time ago.
Michael C. Hall (Dexter, Six Feet Under) stars as the likable yet frustrating Morris Bliss, who's faced with the prospect of growing up in the indie dramatic comedy East Fifth Bliss.

The Trouble With is a comedy/drama about 35 year-old Morris Bliss who is clamped in the jaws of New York City inertia: he wants to travel but has no money; he needs a job but has no prospects; he still shares an apartment with his widowed father; and perhaps worst of all the premature death of his mother still lingers and has left him emotionally walled up.

When he finds himself wrapped up in an awkward relationship with the sexually precocious, 18 year-old daughter of a former high school classmate, Morris quickly discovers his static life comically unraveling and opening up in ways that are long overdue.

Hollywood Release: Brake

Genre: Crime | Thriller
Directed by: Gabe Torres

P2P group NFT released the Dvdrip for Brake, a Crime / Thriller movie starting with Stephen Dorff, Chyler Leigh and JR Bourne, directed by Gabe Torres.

A Secret Service Agent is held captive in the trunk of a car and endures high-speed mental and physical torture as terrorists attempt to extract needed information for their sinister plot.

What appears to be a random kidnapping becomes something more sinister when Secret Service Agent Jeremy Reins discovers he’s being used as a pawn in a terrorist plot. 

Watching the clock tick down to an unknown catastrophe, Jeremy is forced by his captors to listen to the outside world on the brink of collapse, knowing that the only way to save the people he loves is to divulge a secret that he has sworn to protect.

Hollywood Release: Musical Chairs

Musical Chairs is a romantic tale of two New Yorkers, Armando Ortiz from the Bronx and Mia Franklin from the Upper East Side, who come together through their love of ballroom dancing.

Mia and Armando meet at a midtown Manhattan dance studio where Mia is an instructor and Armando is a part-time handyman who exchanges his janitorial duties for dance lessons.
Despite their differences, there is clearly a spark between them that is ignited one night when they find themselves alone practicing in the studio. But before their relationship has a chance to grow, a tragic accident changes Mia’s life forever. True to his nature, Armando dedicates himself to helping Mia overcome the everyday challenges that follow.

At the rehab center where Mia is undergoing therapy, she is joined by a group of colorful misfits who are also trying to deal with life in a wheelchair – an angry Iraq war veteran, a pre-op transsexual, an antisocial punk with a chip on her shoulder.

Despite Mia’s many rebuffs, Armando refuses to give up, struggling to find a way to win Mia over and get her to dance again. Then one day, Armando hears about a “Wheelchair Ballroom Dance Competition” -- a dance phenomenon big in Europe and Asia, but relatively
unknown in the USA -- soon to be held for the first time in New York City.

Armando convinces Mia and the off-beat gang of rehab residents to give it a shot, and after initial skepticism and some hilarious attempts, they begin to seriously rehearse for the upcoming event.

Featuring able-bodied and disabled actors and dancers and directed by award-winning filmmaker Susan Seidelman, Musical Chairs is about the strength of the human spirit, love and compassion in the face of life’s adversities.


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