Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Murray to be sentenced in Jackson's death

By Alan Duke, CNN
November 29, 2011 -- Updated 0524 GMT (1324 HKT)
  • Katherine Jackson's thoughts on Dr. Conrad Murray are in a report prepared for the judge
  • Murray's "soft heartedness" led to his troubles, the doctor's mother says
  • Murray could get anything from probation to four years in prison Tuesday

Los Angeles (CNN) -- Dr. Conrad Murray, who was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter in the death of pop icon Michael Jackson, will be sentenced Tuesday.

Jackson's mother, Katherine, hopes Murray gets the harshest sentence possible: four years in a state prison.

"I don't believe that he intended for Michael to die," Katherine Jackson said Monday. "He was just taking a chance."

At the sentencing Tuesday, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Michael Pastor has a choice ranging between probation and up to four years in a state prison. But measures to relieve California prison and jail crowding could significantly shorten his time locked up.

Prosecutors successfully argued that Murray's reckless use of the surgical anesthetic propofol to help Jackson sleep, without proper monitoring equipment, led to the singer's death.

Testimony during his trial revealed that Murray gave propofol nearly every night in the two months before the singer's death on June 25, 2009, as Jackson prepared for his comeback concerts set for London the next month.

Murray was found guilty three weeks ago.

Katherine Jackson and several of her children will be in court for the sentencing Tuesday, but her grandchildren Prince, Paris and Blanket will not. They'll be at school, she said.

She was uncertain whether anyone from the family would speak in court, but she was interviewed by a probation officer who will include her thoughts in the report to the judge, Jackson said.

Murray's mother, Milta Rush, wrote a letter to the judge asking for mercy, saying "his compassion and his soft heartedness for others led to this dilemma."

Prosecutors are asking for the maximum four years behind bars, and they want Murray to pay Jackson's children more than $100 million in restitution. Defense lawyers want probation, not prison time.

Each side will have a chance to present oral arguments Tuesday, but their positions were detailed in sentencing memos filed with the judge last week.

Murray has "displayed a complete lack of remorse" about Jackson's death, and is, "even worse, failing to accept even the slightest level of responsibility," deputy district attorneys David Walgren and Deborah Brazil wrote.

The prosecutors cited Murray's decision not to testify in his own defense, even while he was giving interviews for a documentary that aired days after the verdict.

"In each of these interviews, the defendant has very clearly stated that he bears no responsibility for Michael Jackson's death," the prosecutors said. "Moreover, the defendant has continued to express concern only for his individual plight and portrays himself, not the decedent, as the victim."

"I don't feel guilty because I did not do anything wrong," Murray said in the documentary quoted by the prosecution.

"Finally, the defendant consistently blames the victim for his own death, even going so far as to characterize himself as being 'entrapped' by the victim and as someone who suffered a 'betrayal' at the hands of the victim," the prosecutors said.

Jackson's death came as he was preparing for a series of comeback concerts in London, which the defense argued pressured the singer to seek sleep or risk having the concerts canceled.

The prosecutors contend in their sentencing memo that Murray should be ordered to pay Jackson's three children restitution for the subsequent "wage and profits lost," as provided under California's "victim's bill of rights" law.

The singer's "estate estimates Michael Jackson's projected earnings for the 50-show O2 concert series to be $100,000,000," the prosecutors said.

With nearly $2 million in funeral expenses and 10% interest added each year, the prosecution is asking Pastor to order Murray to pay Prince, Paris and Blanket Jackson more than $120 million in restitution.

While it is doubtful that Murray, who is unlikely to ever practice medicine again, could pay much of that sum, it could prevent him from reaping financial benefits from any books, interviews or film projects in the future.

Defense lawyers, in their sentencing memo, said Murray is suffering "manifold collateral consequences" because of the felony conviction.

The memo included a biography of Murray that described him as "a self-made man of humble origins," who paid his own way through medical school without scholarships or family funds.

"He was raised in a home that lacked indoor plumbing or electricity, and he walked to school barefoot for his first couple years of school," the defense said.

He worked as a doctor for 20 years, with "no prior contacts with the law," and many of his patients were elderly in low-income, underserved communities, the defense said.

"It seems reasonable that the transgression for which he is to be judged should be viewed within the context of the larger life of which it is a part," it said.

The defense challenges the prosecution's contention that Murray is not remorseful.

"Dr. Murray wishes to make it unmistakenly clear to everyone that he deeply mourns the loss of Michael Jackson's life, and he profoundly regrets any mistakes or oversights on his part that may have contributed to it," the defense said.

The judge should also consider "the manifold collateral consequences that Dr. Murray has sustained as a result of his mistake," the defense said, including the loss of his medical career, the public disgrace and loss of privacy.

"Dr. Murray has been described as a changed, grief-stricken man, who walks around under a pall of sadness since the loss of his patient, Mr. Jackson," the defense said.

The defense memo included a letter from Murray's elderly mother, Milta Rush. She sat in court for much of her son's trial, just a few feet away from Jackson's mother.

"I sympathize with Mrs. Jackson as a mother," Rush wrote in a letter to the judge. "I sense she was very close to her son. I really wanted to approach her personally and tell her I am sorry for the loss of her son, but I was unsure if she would be receptive, and I did not want to take the chance of violating court rules. I am sorry for all her loss."

While Murray's mother told the judge her son is "saddened and remorseful" about Jackson's death, she said "his compassion and his soft heartedness for others led to this dilemma."

The defense contends that Murray was trying to help Jackson, who was desperate for sleep so he could be ready for rehearsals. "His compassionate intentions should not be overlooked," it said.

"The victim was a willing recipient of the medications administered," the defense said. "In fact, Mr. Jackson had repeatedly begged Dr. Murray for propofol to overcome his insomnia so that he could sleep."

Murray does not pose a safety threat to the public, it said. "The likelihood of recurrence is essentially nonexistent since Conrad Murray's medical license has been suspended."

Aside from the arguments of what Murray deserves, the defense contends that California's prison and jail crowding mean that "neither the space nor the public funds exist to continue imprisoning nonviolent, nondangerous offenders who do not need to be incapacitated for the sake of public safety."

"Dr. Murray is clearly such a defendant," the defense said. "He is an individual who remained free on bond for more than two years prior to the jury verdict, adhering assiduously to all of the bond conditions that had been imposed."

If Murray takes up a state prison or county jail cell, it "may mean that someone else with higher potential for violence will be released," the defense said.

Instead, the defense proposed that Murray could be sentenced to community service along with probation.

"Though he will perhaps not again be a doctor qualified to make diagnoses, he could educate and counsel patients about heart care and disease prevention," it said. "There are many nonprofit clinics and organizations that would benefit from his participation, if ordered to perform community service as a condition of his sentence and a means of 'putting some water back into the public well.'"

Source: http://edition.cnn.com/2011/11/29/justice/california-conrad-murray-sentencing/index.html?eref=rss_topstories&utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+rss%2Fcnn_topstories+%28RSS%3A+Top+Stories%29

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Monday, November 28, 2011

Steven Levy on Facebook, Spotify and the Future of Music

  • By Steven Levy
Photo: Joe Pugliese

A decade ago, Napster's attempt to set music free was crushed by the music labels. Now, Facebook and Spotify (not to mention Google, Amazon, and Apple) have resurrected the dream. Hallelujah.
Photo: Sculpture: Ebon Heath; Max Merz

Even if Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg hadn?t been introduced to Spotify two years ago, it was probably inevitable that the two companies would hook up. The European music service had already won millions of fans, thanks to a business model that allowed music nuts to stream any song, instantly, for free. More important, it made it easy for people to share music with one another. This vision?of music as a social experience?fit perfectly with Facebook?s view of the world, which values sharing over all else. And that?s why, when former Facebook president and Napster cofounder Sean Parker discovered Spotify in 2009, he made a point of telling Zuckerberg about it.

?I?d never even heard of Spotify, but Sean mentioned it to me one day,? Zuckerberg says. ?I was like, wow, this person has built a really cool music product and also understands how you can integrate social things in it.? Within a day, Zuckerberg had updated his Facebook status: Spotify is so good.

This brief blessing from the Pope of Poke presaged a turning point for the entire music industry. The original Napster?which let users download practically any song for free?may have died a decade ago, but its ghost still haunts the major labels. Unleashed in a dorm room in 1999 and killed in a courtroom in 2001, it taught a generation that music should be obtained with mouseclicks, not money. Music executives interpreted it differently: Allow people to share music online and they will never pay for it again. For much of the past decade, their attitude toward digital music and licensing has been driven by the fear that showing one bit of flexibility will summon Napster back from the grave to destroy what?s left of their business.

But that?s changing now. In September, after two years of speculation following Zuckerberg?s four-word swoon, Facebook announced an ambitious initiative that lets its users quickly and easily share music with one another?in many cases for free. Facebook worked closely with Spotify, as well as with a dozen other services, and is opening itself up to potentially hundreds more. Now Facebook users will see the songs that their friends listen to, the playlists they compile, and the bands they discover. And they can easily hear all that music with a single mouseclick.

An orgy of free song-sharing seems to be exactly the kind of thing that the horrified labels would quickly clamp down on. But they appear to be starting to accept that their fortunes rest with the geeks. Or at least they?re trying to talk a good game. ?I?m not part of the past?I?m part of the future,? says Lucian Grainge, chair and CEO of the world?s biggest label, Universal Music Group. ?There?s a new philosophy, a new way of thinking.?

Facebook?s music initiative is only one example of the neo-Napster transformation in which music is streamed from a collection of servers, rather than stored on local hard drives. Indeed, over the past year, every dominant Internet company?including Apple, Amazon, and Google?has ramped up a streaming music service, each one an attempt to reinvent the way we purchase and listen to music. Smaller companies like Rhapsody and the personalized radio service Pandora have championed the streaming model for years; now they are being joined by second-generation services like Rdio, MOG, and Turntable.

Taken together, all of this activity is shaking up an industry that has stubbornly resisted change. The music world has barely managed to process the revolution wrought when songs became files. But streaming subscription services hasten an even bigger upheaval: songs becoming links, playable with one click, from a newsfeed, email, or Facebook profile. The real fun is about to begin.

Daniel Ek, Spotify?s CEO, was barely in high school when Napster sprang up in 1999, and he speaks wistfully of the defunct service as if it were a first love. ?My whole life changed,? he says. ?Before Napster, I didn?t listen to the Beatles. I didn?t listen to all the guys that are my favorite bands now.?

Ek is a soft-spoken Swede with an egglike dome and a penchant for polo shirts. A product of Scandinavia?s rich hacker tradition, Ek used to head a torrent operation, helping users anonymously swap large media files, before concluding that it would be more efficient to find a legal way of providing that service. He took it for granted that the best way to listen to music was to give listeners unlimited access to an exhaustive catalog of songs, stored on servers and accessible over the Internet. That?s basically what Napster was, except it didn?t stream, it was really slow and often unreliable, and it could get you sued. Ek came up with a different business plan: The bulk of his users would listen for free, but they would have to submit to a few minutes of ads every hour. A percentage would pay for higher levels of service, but even customers who never coughed up a dime would bring in enough ad revenue to be profitable. The labels, in turn, would receive a fraction of a cent every time one of their songs was streamed.

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Source: http://www.wired.com/magazine/2011/10/ff_music/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+wired%2Findex+%28Wired%3A+Index+3+%28Top+Stories+2%29%29

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Sunday, November 27, 2011

RFK assassin seeks prison release

By Michael Martinez, CNN
November 27, 2011 -- Updated 0124 GMT (0924 HKT)
Sirhan Sirhan is taken into custody after the fatal shooting of Sen. Robert F. Kennedy in 1968.

Los Angeles (CNN) -- Sirhan Sirhan, convicted of the 1968 assassination of presidential candidate Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, should be freed from prison or granted a new trial based on "formidable evidence" asserting his innocence and "horrendous violations" of his rights, defense attorneys said in federal court papers filed this week.

In a U.S. District Court brief, Sirhan's lawyers also say that an expert analysis of recently uncovered evidence shows two guns were fired in the assassination and that Sirhan's revolver was not the gun that shot Kennedy.

Attorneys William F. Pepper and Laurie D. Dusek also allege that fraud was committed in Sirhan's 1969 trial when the court allowed a substitute bullet to be admitted as evidence for a real bullet removed from Kennedy's neck.

The attorneys further assert that Sirhan was hypno-programmed to be a diversion for the real assassin and allege that Sirhan would be easily blamed for the assassination because he is an Arab. Sirhan, 67, is a Christian Palestinian born in Jerusalem whose parents brought him and his siblings to America in the 1950s.

Sirhan "was an involuntary participant in the crimes being committed because he was subjected to sophisticated hypno programming and memory implantation techniques which rendered him unable to consciously control his thoughts and actions at the time the crimes were being committed," court papers said.

The California Attorney General's office declined to comment Saturday on Sirhan's court filings, said spokeswoman Lynda Gledhill.

Court papers filed by Sirhan's attorneys say the state "refuses to acknowledge that hypno programming/mind control is not fiction but reality and has been used for years by the U.S. military, Central Intelligence Agency and other covert organizations.

"Though the practices of hypno programming/mind control is hardly new, the public has been shielded from the darker side of the practice. The average person is unaware that hypnosis can and is used to induct antisocial conduct in humans," Sirhan's court filings say.

Pepper and Dusek represented Sirhan earlier this year in his unsuccessful request for parole from Pleasant Valley State Prison in Coalinga, California, 200 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles. He is serving a life sentence.

Sirhan was convicted of killing Kennedy and wounding five other people during the June 5, 1968, shooting inside the kitchen service pantry of the former Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles.

Three bullets struck Kennedy's body while a fourth bullet passed harmlessly through the shoulder of his suit coat. Kennedy, the most seriously wounded of the six victims, died the next day. The other five people survived their wounds.

The substitute bullet presented at trial was portrayed as like one removed from Kennedy's neck and matching Sirhan's gun, his attorney said.

Pepper and Dusek are requesting a hearing to present dramatic new findings that they say show a kitchen crossfire in the hotel.

An analysis of a recently uncovered audiotape of the assassination shows that in addition to the eight gunshots fired by Sirhan's Iver-Johnson handgun, five other shots were fired by a second gun from the opposite direction, Sirhan's attorneys said.

The sound recording "clearly showed that 13 shots were fired in the pantry, and Sirhan's gun had only eight shots, so it definitely means there was a second shooter," Pepper told CNN.

The tape was made 40 feet away from the crime scene by freelance newspaper reporter Stanislaw Pruszynski and is the only known recording of the gunshots fired in Robert Kennedy's assassination. The recording was uncovered in 2004 by CNN's Brad Johnson, who had it independently examined by two experts, Spence Whitehead and Philip Van Praag. They concluded, individually, that more than eight shots were captured in the tape. Johnson reported on their separate findings for CNN's "Backstory" in June 2009.

In their court filings, Pepper and Dusek are focusing on Van Praag's analysis. Van Praag concludes that the Pruszynski recording is authentic and reveals that, over a five-second period in the pantry, two guns fired 13 shots, exceeding the capacity of the eight-shot Iver-Johnson Cadet -- the only gun that Sirhan possessed and had no opportunity to reload.

Van Praag rules out the possibility that any of the 13 shots were echoes, ricochets or non-gunshot sounds. He also finds that some of the shots were fired too rapidly, at intervals too close together for all the shots to have come from Sirhan's inexpensive handgun. Van Praag further concludes that the five shots fired opposite the direction of Sirhan's eight shots displayed a "frequency anomaly" indicating the second gun's make and model were different from Sirhan's weapon.

Pepper said that witnesses reported Sirhan was standing several feet in front of Kennedy and firing nearly horizontally while the medical evidence showed Kennedy's body and clothing were struck by four bullets fired point-blank from behind the Senator at steep upward angles.

Pepper said witnesses reported that bystanders grabbed Sirhan immediately after he fired his first two shots and that they had his firing arm pinned against a steam table, forcing Sirhan to fire his gun's remaining six bullets away from Kennedy, thus striking other people instead.

For decades following the 1968 assassination, Sirhan had claimed he could not remember the Kennedy shooting. Pepper and Dusek argue this is because he was "hypno-programmed" to fire his gun in the pantry and to then forget the shooting, his programming and those who had programmed him.

In 2008, Pepper hired a Harvard University memory expert who says he got the imprisoned Sirhan to recall the Kennedy shooting for the first time.

That expert is Daniel Brown, an associate clinical professor in psychology at Harvard Medical School who submitted a statement to the parole board after interviewing Sirhan for 60 hours over a three-year period. Brown says Sirhan now remembers that when he fired his shots in the pantry he believed he was at a gun range and shooting at circular targets, according to Pepper.

Brown believes Sirhan was programmed to do this so as to cause a distraction in the pantry, allowing a second gunman to secretly shoot Kennedy from behind, according to Sirhan's attorneys. Brown is described in Sirhan's court papers as "one of the world's foremost experts in hypno programming."

Brown says Sirhan now remembers hearing loud sounds he describes as "the thunderclap of other bullets" being fired by another gun in the pantry, the defense attorneys said. Brown says Sirhan also recalls seeing flashes in front of him that he associates with gunfire inside the pantry but not coming from his own weapon, according to Pepper.

Pepper accused both prosecutors and Sirhan's lead attorney, Grant Cooper, who has since died, of misconduct in the 1969 trial. At that time, Cooper was under federal indictment for illegally possessing grand jury minutes in an unrelated case, but the indictment was dropped after Sirhan's sentencing, Pepper said.

"The state suppressed, destroyed and withheld a great deal of evidence," Pepper said in an interview Saturday. Sirhan's "counsel provided totally ineffective assistance and collaborated with the prosecution in violation of his 6th Amendment rights.

"The prosecution told the judge in chambers that we do not have foundation for some of our ballistics evidence, and the defense counsel immediately jumped in and said, don't worry about that, we will stipulate that all of the ballistics evidence is what you say it is," Pepper said.

Los Angeles County prosecutors couldn't immediately comment Saturday, a spokeswoman said.

Said Pepper: "This is one of the most egregious miscarriages of justice imaginable, and because it relates to the assassination of a man who would likely have been president of the United States, the feeling of sadness is irrepressible in these circumstances."

Pepper said he personally knew Kennedy and his family, and ran his campaign in the heavily Republican Westchester County in New York when Kennedy, a Democrat, successfully ran for the U.S. Senate in 1964.

Sirhan has Jordanian citizenship but never became a U.S. citizen, so if he were released from prison, he would be deemed an illegal immigrant and likely be deported to Jordan, where he has extended family, Pepper said.

In 1968, the 42-year-old Kennedy, younger brother of the assassinated President John F. Kennedy, was a leading contender for the Democratic presidential nomination against Vice President Hubert Humphrey and Sen. Eugene McCarthy.

On the night of his assassination, Kennedy had just appeared on live television in an Ambassador Hotel ballroom, where he had claimed victory over McCarthy in the California primary election. Moments later, he was fatally wounded in the hotel service pantry while on his way to a press conference set for a small banquet room just beyond the pantry. The shooting in the pantry was not captured by any cameras.

At Sirhan's 1969 trial, prosecutors argued Sirhan killed Kennedy because of statements the New York senator made about the United States sending fighter jets to aid Israel.

But in the court papers filed this week, Sirhan's attorneys dismissed that allegation as a "most speculative motive," without any sworn statements for substantiation.

Sirhan was the only person arrested in Robert Kennedy's assassination.

CNN's Brad Johnson contributed to this report.

Source: http://edition.cnn.com/2011/11/26/justice/california-sirhan-rfk/index.html?eref=rss_topstories&utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+rss%2Fcnn_topstories+%28RSS%3A+Top+Stories%29

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Saturday, November 26, 2011

?Twine? Foreshadows A Future Where All Objects Talk To The Internet

Screen Shot 2011-11-25 at 4.58.05 PMWant to be notified to turn on the AC when a room reaches a certain temperature? Or when your laundry's done? Well MIT Media Lab alumni Supermechanical have built Twine, a sleek 2.5" rubber square which connects to Wifi and allows objects to "communicate" under certain conditions. The Twine, which reminds me of a Square from a design simplicity perspective, comes with a web app, 'Spool' which allows you to program its sensors with natural language rules like "When: accelerometer is at rest, Then: Tweet" in the case of the laundry done thing, for example.

Source: http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/Techcrunch/~3/davyjFjQQrk/

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Wednesday, November 23, 2011

?1000 Virtual Item For Game Raises ?2 Million In 4 Days For Bigpoint

screenshot_4The free-to-play model, while disparaged by some developers as exploitative of players, has certainly proved itself over and over to be financially sustainable if done right. And although I myself have paid a buck or two for extra in-game content myself, I have always found it hard to believe that there are people out there who will sink scores, hundreds, or thousands of dollars into their online personae. No better proof of this than the news that's propagating today: German gaming company Bigpoint, which operates a few free-to-play games, has sold 2000 (and counting) items just in the last few days - for the whopping price of ?1000 each. Where is your horse armor now?

Source: http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/Techcrunch/~3/zV3ncmb8L3E/

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Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Tick-Tock: When Big Names Leave, Who Wins?

shutterstock_82479796This story dropped a few days ago but it seemed like a good choice to share on a lazy Sunday and the topic is something that's been kicking around in the old sub-conscious for a while. Jim Romenseko has long been the go-to media critic at Poynter.org where he spent twelve years poking at - and changing - the online/print media landscape. On November 10 Poynter essentially forced him out by accusing him of misattribution weeks before retirement and he recently wrote about how the whole thing went down, in typical online style. The He-Said-She-Said, it seems, has been replaced by the He-Emailed-She-Emailed.

Source: http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/Techcrunch/~3/SBvqoBrPc0k/

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Saturday, November 19, 2011

Friday, November 18, 2011

Following 'The Thin Commandments'

By Jacque Wilson, CNN
November 18, 2011 -- Updated 1230 GMT (2030 HKT)
Darryl Roberts examines a piece of broccoli in his documentary,
Darryl Roberts examines a piece of broccoli in his documentary, "America the Beautiful: The Thin Commandments."
  • Darryl Roberts says America has a health problem, not a weight problem
  • Roberts is filming three documentaries on beauty, health and sex
  • "America the Beautiful 2: The Thin Commandments" focuses on the diet industry

(CNN) -- At 6'3" and 277 pounds, Darryl Roberts had a body mass index of 34.6. Anything over 30.0 on the BMI scale is considered obese, and his doctor warned him that his blood pressure was too high.

So the doctor gave Roberts some medication and told him to take the pills daily. Side effects, she cautioned, could include erectile dysfunction. Roberts balked. "Can't I just exercise and eat healthier?" he remembers asking.

"Think about it," Roberts says with a laugh. "A 40-something year-old man on a race not to take pills that cause erectile dysfunction. Every guy I tell that to goes, 'Oh my God, I can relate to that.' "

The documentary filmmaker bought a bike and started adding salads to his diet. Two months later he returned to the doctor and was pronounced perfectly healthy -- despite having lost only 6 pounds.

It's a journey that he chronicles in "America the Beautiful 2: The Thin Commandments," a follow-up to his first award-winning film. The documentary focuses on the United States' unhealthy obsession with dieting and losing weight.

"We have a health problem, not a weight problem," Roberts says matter-of-factly.

CNN spoke with Roberts about his film, why he believes the BMI system should be outlawed and the award he's most proud of. The following is an edited version of that interview:

CNN: Why did you start filming the "America the Beautiful" documentary series? What sparked your passion for the topic?

I always had this knack for attracting really awesome, quality women in my life. Like I had a five-year [relationship], a five-year and an eight-year relationship. [But] I used to travel around the country with these athletes and entertainers, running into these women that would hang out at the gate.

After doing that for a while, I went, "Wow, you know what? I want a girlfriend that's awesome like the one I have, but that looks like these [groupies]." After being exposed to them for so long I could no longer appreciate the awesomeness of the woman that I was with. So that's when I started thinking, "Why did I do that?" Like when you have so much, why was beauty so important? That gave me the idea to do a documentary.

CNN: What did you learn from your first documentary?

I was sitting around watching my film one day and it occurred to me -- it just hit me -- all these three things: plastic surgery, cosmetics and eating disorders, are things that primarily affect women. And we still have an archaic appreciation for women in our country because if things primarily affect women, nobody does anything about it. But when it affects men, they do something about it right away. ... It's like we're in 1910. Everything looks really sophisticated because you have computers, you have iPads, you have smartphones and tablets, and everything you see looks so developed, but underneath it, I don't believe we value women the way that we should in this country.

CNN: Why did you decide to focus on dieting in your second documentary, "The Thin Commandments?"

When I was traveling with the first film, I went to 287 universities. At each one ... somebody would stand up and say, "Wow, we really like your film, but you didn't deal with the dieting industry. Why not?" So I go on the computer one night just researching dieting, and I come across this website that has the BMI, body mass index, of celebrities. So according to this website, the BMI of Tom Cruise, Will Smith, Mel Gibson, The Rock, Christian Bale, LeBron James -- all these celebrities -- make them either overweight or obese. And I'm like, "This is the most ridiculous thing I ever heard."

So then I did some more research on BMI. The government uses it, doctors use BMI, schools use BMI, and I'm like, "This is how they get you." In the first film, I show how we use beauty as a weapon against the American public -- now we're using weight as a weapon against the American public.

CNN: What is wrong exactly with the BMI system?

It was invented in like 1830 ... and it was invented to show sizes of populations. Like, for instance, the entire population of the United States. It was never intended to be used for an individual diagnosis of someone's health and how much they should weigh. That came in the 1970s with this guy Ancel Keys when he reformulated it to the current BMI thing.

Then in 1998, some of the scientific advisers of Weight Watchers went to the government and said, "Hey, you know what? The number that's used for the overweight category for BMI should be lowered." And the government did it. They lowered it. And when they lowered it, literally 25 million people became overweight, overnight. But guess what: Those are new customers now for the dieting industry.

CNN: Can you really say obesity isn't a big problem in this country? Why are you, in a way, fighting against that sentiment?

First off, because [if] you are defining [obesity] by BMI, then it's erroneous. So what we may have as a problem in this country is a health problem. That I agree with. We show it in the film. We have a health problem. And what we also show in the film is that health problems come to people with or without weight. So the film is making the point that we should be focusing on the health of people and not their weight.

Where we have problems is lifestyle choices. We have too many people eating fast food. We have too many people not exercising. We have too many people not engaging in healthy lifestyle behaviors. My point is if we have more people engaging in healthy lifestyle behaviors, we will become a healthier nation, whether we lose weight or not. If you think about it -- it makes sense, right?

CNN: Tell me about the third documentary in the "America the Beautiful" series. What will it be about?

So far I've done the health and beauty series, so the next one will complete it and make it the health, beauty and sex series, which are the three biggest things affecting our youth. It will be about the sexualization of our youth. Everyone says that's going to be the whopper there. I'm going to start it in January. I have no idea what I'm going to find. I always start my documentaries with no preconceived notions, and I jump in interviewing people to see what I can find.

CNN: What award for your documentaries have you won that you're most proud of?

There's a film festival that Will Smith and Meryl Streep are affiliated with -- the Giffoni Film Festival. It's a film festival for kids. They never show documentaries, only feature films that appeal to kids, right? But with ["America the Beautiful"], the Giffoni Film Festival made an exception to let a documentary in there. I went to the screening, and I was terrified that my film was going to put all these kids in a comatose state. We went to the awards presentation, and they announced the audience award and called our name. I went into shock. Here are kids voting a documentary as their favorite film in this big film festival. That was literally my proudest moment.

CNN: Where can people see "America the Beautiful: The Thin Commandments"?

[It's] actually touring around the country in theaters. We've been to six cities so far; we'll go to 30 more. They can go to our website at AmericatheBeautifuldoc.com and go to the screening schedule and see when we'll be coming to a city near them. It [also] comes out on DVD in March.

Source: http://edition.cnn.com/2011/11/18/health/thin-commandments-documentary/index.html?eref=rss_health&utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+rss%2Fcnn_health+%28RSS%3A+Health%29

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Thursday, November 17, 2011

Review: The Nook Tablet Is A Real Android Slate In Ereader?s Clothing

scaledwm.IMG_4019In the mad rush to push out more and more Android slate products, Amazon and Barnes & Noble are like a calm port in the storm. Their devices are touted as ereaders but, after a bit of digging, you find that they are now considerably more interesting - and compelling - as tablet products for an entry level market. They are not threatening nor are they particularly difficult to grasp. In short, they are the perfect neophyte's tablet, a cross between the simplicity of an e-ink ereader and a fully-featured mobile device. It's good enough at both that people buying it for one purpose will be pleased with the device's other strengths; depending on what you want, it's either an Android slate in ereader's clothing or vice versa. As it stands, the Nook Tablet is an impressive bit of machinery. It is a solid slab of electronics designed to do a few things exceedingly well and - sadly - a few things quite poorly. As a color, touchscreen ereader it is one of the best and, for those with an adventurous bent, I can imagine this becoming a useful media and app device.

Source: http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/Techcrunch/~3/_bkaeR8cfKo/

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Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Android Crushed the Smartphone Competition Last Quarter

The Motorola Droid Bionic launched in early September. Photo: Jim Merithew/Wired

The smartphone OS space looks a whole lot different than it did a year ago. Android has seriously stepped up to become the top dog, Symbian is a force no more, and iOS ? well, not everything changes.

Gartner?s November mobile device report gives us the numbers. Android OS leads the pack with a 52.5 percent global market share, just about double the 25 percent it had last summer.

The iOS market share dropped slightly, from 16.6 to 15 percent. And Symbian continued its slow march to obsolescence, dropping from a market-leading 36.3 percent in 2010 to merely 17 percent this last quarter.

In Gartner?s report, analyst Roberta Cozz says two key factors led to Apple?s drop in market share: consumers waiting for a rumored new iPhone, and consumers waiting for associated price cuts for older iPhones. Indeed, that was something Apple identified in its fourth-quarter earnings report, which slightly missed analyst expectations. Now pair that with a slew of strong Android offerings, from the Droid Bionic (pictured above) and Droid 3 to the HTC EVO 3D and Photon 4G. Consumers had a generous variety of large, dual-core Android stunners to choose from while waiting for Apple to deliver a new handset.

?Android has a diverse spectrum of devices, ranging from being inexpensive, well under $100, to high-end LTE devices. There?s a device at every price point and feature set,? Gartner analyst Hugues de la Vergne says.

Nonetheless, de la Vergne believes iOS will sweep away market dominance from Android next quarter (in the US at least), now that Apple has a wide gamut of iPhones available at a number of price points.

The Gartner report also notes that Windows Phone?s market share dropped, from 2.7 percent in the third quarter of 2010 to only 1.5 percent this year. Windows didn?t have much going on in the summer, with the spoils of its partnership with Nokia, namely the Nokia Lumia 800, only beginning to gain some prominence this quarter (unfortunately, the phone won?t even be available in the US until 2012). Nokia only has single-digit market share in the US, anyway.

Still, with some operators losing faith in RIM, de la Vergne says, especially as we wait for devices running BlackBerry?s new OS, Windows Phone has a nice window of opportunity in which it could pick up some market share.

Source: http://www.wired.com/gadgetlab/2011/11/android-dominates-q3-2011/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+wired%2Findex+%28Wired%3A+Index+3+%28Top+Stories+2%29%29

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Monday, November 14, 2011

France Keeps a Watchful Eye on Italy?s Troubled Finances

Published: November 13, 2011

First it was Athens. Then Rome. Could Paris be next?

Readers? Comments

While Italy has replaced Greece as the focus of anxiety amid Europe?s worsening debt crisis, investors are increasingly concerned about the outlook for France, whose banks are among the world?s biggest and are closely linked with their counterparts in the United States.

One crucial gauge of investor sentiment, the difference between what France pays to borrow versus what Germany pays, has doubled since the beginning of October, and last week reached its widest point since the formation of the euro currency zone in 1999. Meanwhile, speculation that France could soon lose the sterling triple-A rating on its sovereign debt intensified after Standard & Poor?s mistakenly told clients on Thursday that it was downgrading France?s debt.

The jump in Italian bond yields to more than 7 percent last week, on concern about Rome?s ability to borrow, reminded investors just how much Italian debt French banks hold.

But French banks also hold a lot of French government bonds, whose yields have risen in tandem with concerns that Paris?s finances may be strained as it foots a larger bill to help prevent the crisis from engulfing Italy.

?Once you are dealing with Italy, you are dealing with France as well,? said Hans Mikkelsen, senior credit strategist at Bank of America Merrill Lynch. ?This is cutting into the core.?

French banks are also more dependent on short-term financing than their rivals elsewhere, leaving them vulnerable if Italy?s problems create a Lehman-like freeze in credit markets.

For the moment, the ascent of a new interim government in Rome and the appointment of Mario Monti, a former European commissioner, as prime minister, have calmed those fears. French politicians, regulators and bankers insist that Italy?s problems are contained, and will not affect French banks, which have slashed their holdings of Italian sovereign debt in the last few months.

But French banks, and others on the Continent, have traditionally turned to American money-market funds to finance the gap between what they possess in deposits and what they owe, and though French banks have cut this borrowing substantially in recent months, it is still huge. At the end of October, money-market funds in the United States owned $84 billion worth of French debt.

Estimates for total American bank exposure to France vary widely. Direct holdings of French sovereign debt are small but total exposure runs into the hundreds of billions, according to the Bank for International Settlements. A recent Congressional Research Service report estimated that American bank exposure to German and French banks totaled more than $1.2 trillion

The roots of France?s exposure to Italy lie in the decision by French banks to expand aggressively over the last decade by acquiring banks there and operating big branch networks. BNP Paribas, which bought Banca Nazionale del Lavoro of Italy five years ago, holds 12.2 billion euros in Italian sovereign debt, despite reducing its Italian bond holdings by 40 percent since the summer and whittling its exposure to Italy to 1 percent of its total commitments.

?We are in a much better position to face any problems than we were three to four months ago,? said Antoine Sire, the head of communications at BNP Paribas in Paris. A recent stress test by the European Banking Authority showed that BNP did not need to raise more to guard against a worsening of the crisis.

Cr�dit Agricole, another French financial giant, holds 8.7 billion euros worth of Italian bonds. Soci�t� G�n�rale, whose shares have been pounded in recent months on fears of a Greek default, holds 1.5 billion euros in Italian bonds after it also slashed its holdings.

Indeed, among banks on the Continent, French institutions have been the most exposed to Italy, according to a recent report by Keefe, Bruyette & Woods, holding more than $100 billion worth of sovereign Italian bonds and on the line for an additional $300 billion in loans to private borrowers like Italian companies and consumers, though these figures have been dropping in recent weeks.

As a result, imposing a write-down in the value of Italy?s debt, a so-called haircut, would have a much more devastating effect on bank capital levels than the 50 percent reduction in the face value of Greek debt agreed to by European leaders last month.

What is more, the amount of money owed by Italy ? just under 2 trillion euros ? dwarfs the 350 billion euro debt load of Greece.

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Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/14/business/global/france-keeps-a-watchful-eye-on-italys-financial-turmoil.html?_r=1&partner=rss&emc=rss

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Sunday, November 13, 2011

What If This Is No Accident? What If This Is The Future?

unemploymentThe New Luddites are back, and they're packing heat. The mighty Economist writes of "the disturbing thought" that "America's current employment woes stem from a precipitous and permanent change caused by not too little technological progress, but too much ... A tipping point seems to have been reached, at which AI-based automation threatens to supplant the brain-power of large swathes of middle-income employees." The New York Times chimes in: "technology is quickly taking over service jobs, following the waves of automation of farm and factory work." At which those of us lucky enough to be software engineers burst into derisive laughter, of course. We've heard all this before, more than a decade ago, when 'outsourcing to India' rather than 'automation' was the threat that would destroy our jobs. Obviously this is more of the same kind of nonsense. Right? ...Although, now that you mention it, there is something odd going on. America, Europe, and Japan all seem to be lurching from crisis to crisis without respite; most of the developed world is struggling with debilitating levels of unemployment; but at the same time, the tech world is booming like it's 1999. Doesn't that seem kind of weird?

Source: http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/Techcrunch/~3/sZqqyYck5wU/

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Friday, November 11, 2011

Your Money: Airbnb Gets Five-Night Test in Manhattan

Your Money

Airbnb?s Lodging Gets Tested, Yielding a Mixed Bag

A bed near a window can cause a guest to have a noisy, restless night.
Published: November 11, 2011

For any fan of disruptive consumer technologies, watching Airbnb?s rise has been all sorts of fun.


you have your own criteria and experiences to report on using Airbnb or similar sites?

Your Money

Ron Lieber writes the Your Money column, which appears in The Times on Saturdays.

Follow Ron Lieber on Twitter: twitter.com/ronlieber

Ron Lieber?s Columns �

Since its debut in 2008, the company, based in San Francisco, has booked more than two million nights of lodging all over the world. But it?s not a hotel. Instead, it allows people to rent out their entire home or apartment ? or just a room or a bed ? to others who find Marriott boring or want to see life in a new area as a local would.

Today, Airbnb has about 100,000 listings in 19,000 cities and towns in 192 countries. The company takes a small cut from both host and guest and has a friendly-looking Web site connecting both parties.

For hosts, Airbnb can be a great way to make extra money. Guests can rent family-size lodgings that hotels can?t offer, or they can sleep on a couch and use the savings to eat and drink more richly.

But my hypothesis since the beginning has been that the best use for Airbnb is as a hotel replacement in cities like New York, where rates are generally absurd.

So this week, I took an Airbnb lap of New York City, staying in five places in different neighborhoods to see how much I could save and what I?d have to put up with to achieve those savings.

Along the way, I rented from three hosts who were probably breaking the law, encountered one who was tipsy, another in revealing pajamas and saw two bugs, only one of which was alive.

I stayed in two one-room studios, one one-bedroom apartment, the second bedroom of a two-bedroom unit and behind a screen in a living room next to a window with an unobstructed view of Lower Manhattan.

Here?s what I learned:

FLAKINESS Airbnb?s nice-looking booking engine is only as good as the hosts standing behind it. And many don?t bother to keep the calendars on their listing pages up to date. That makes the site?s search-by-date function maddeningly misleading.

For every reservation request for which I got a reply (hosts must decide whether or not to accept your booking; more on that later) for an open date, there was at least one other that yielded a reply telling me that the place was actually unavailable.

Some people didn?t reply at all, and others did days later, which is a problem for anyone traveling soon.

An Airbnb spokesman, Christopher Lukezic, said the company had a sort of flakiness algorithm that recognized and eventually punished such behavior, taking steps up to and including removal of listings.

It took me a fair bit of work over many days to set up five nights of stays. What I didn?t realize is that many Airbnb users will send out several reservation requests at once; this is fine with the company, and it says its systems will not allow guests (or hosts) to double-book accidentally.

When it comes to the financial transaction, the casualness ends. Airbnb charges you before you check in to deter no-shows. But the hosts don?t get the money until a day or so after your arrival, just in case the lodging is not as advertised.

DISCRIMINATION Because hosts can reject guest bookings for any reason, you have no way of knowing whether there is truly no room at the inn or whether they find you untrustworthy.

I was turned away by, among others, a teenager renting out his brother?s old room and a family with four children. Did they not like my picture? Or the fact that I was a man traveling alone?

I did start the week with one positive review on my profile from a previous host, which should have helped some. Guests can review hosts, too. (I did not, by the way, mention my affiliation with The New York Times in my Airbnb user profile, and it didn?t come up in conversation during my stays. I did let my hosts all know about my plan to write this column after I checked out.)

CANCELLATIONS Even after all that work, hosts can (and do) cancel confirmed reservations at the last minute. So can hotels if they are overbooked, but my hunch, given the number of reviews mentioning this, is that it happens at Airbnb more than it does at hotels.

When it does, as it did to me in California several months ago, Airbnb tries to find you another place to stay and may compensate you with a voucher, too.

Hosts can suffer if enough reviewers mention this problem. Airbnb can also penalize them by lowering where they show up in the site?s search results.

SECURITY Over the summer, Airbnb badly bungled a situation where one of its hosts returned from a trip to find that her home had been ransacked. But potential guests may not feel 100 percent comfortable either.

Find your hotel on a city map,
Book now, pay at check-out.

Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/12/your-money/airbnb-gets-five-night-test-in-new-york-city.html?_r=1&partner=rss&emc=rss

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Wednesday, November 9, 2011

A Look At The New Nook Software

According to Barnes & Noble, the Nook Touch 1.1 update should improve your reading life by allowing for nearly a month of battery life and faster page turns. Although we haven't tested the battery claims, I did get the chance to put them side by side to see what these time savings really looked like.

Source: http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/Techcrunch/~3/zkBnyLwtiQ4/

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Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Firefox 8 Now Officially Available, Includes Built-In Twitter Search

firefox-200The new version of the Firefox Web browser, Firefox 8�for Windows, Mac and Linux, has officially gone live. The update, which actually became available a couple of days ago via Mozilla's FTP servers, introduces several new features, including a built-in Twitter search option, better management of add-ons and tabs, plus the usual performance and stability fixes. Mozilla has also updated Firefox for Android, which offers password management and support for saving bookmarks to the device's homescreen.

Source: http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/Techcrunch/~3/HilTIdU1obc/

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Sunday, November 6, 2011

With 4S Now Tops Among Big 3, Apple Grabs 52% Of Industry Profits; Doles Out Huge Bonuses

2056761663_d72dc7399dAs you've likely heard, there's been a lot of upside that's been reported of late when it comes to Android's mobile OS. Thanks to Nielsen, we know that, yet again, Android is leader among mobile OSes, now accounting for 43 percent of U.S. smartphone marketshare, up from 39 percent in July; while Apple's iOS remained at 28 percent over the same period, placing it in distant second. Of course, Apple has a little bit of vertical integration going on, and in spite of their lagging well behind Google in mobile software market share, iPhones are used by a full 28 percent of smartphone customers, making them top manufacturer for yet another quarter. Hardware leans significantly in Apple's favor.

Source: http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/Techcrunch/~3/1VA7PpcurXw/

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Saturday, November 5, 2011

Google Services Don't Guarantee Privacy

Google Services Don't Guarantee Privacy

Journalists aren't the only ones who should take stronger security measures with online services, security researcher warns--and Google counsel agrees.
10 Companies Driving Mobile Security
10 Companies Driving Mobile Security
Anyone with information they want to keep private, especially from the government: Don't use Google products or services.

"Google's products do not meet the privacy needs of journalists, bloggers, small businesses (or anyone else concerned about government surveillance)," said Christopher Soghoian, a fellow at the Open Society Foundations, and a doctoral candidate in security informatics at Indiana University in a blog posted Wednesday.

Here's Soghoian's reasoning: Google's business model is predicated on tracking what users do, to serve them advertising, which pays Google's bills.

"Google's services are not secure by default, and, because the company's business model depends upon the monetization of user data, the company keeps as much data as possible about the activities of its users," he said. "These detailed records are not just useful to Google's engineers and advertising teams, but are also a juicy target for law enforcement agencies."

[The report that Google Says Government Requests For Data Rising--and it complies with 93% of the requests--seems to prove Soghoian's point.]

Google could encrypt the data that it stores in the cloud so that it couldn't be retrieved, even with a court order. But it doesn't. After Soghoian made this point while on a recent Internet Governance Forum workshop panel, Google chief Internet evangelist Vint Cerf--another panelist--concurred. "We couldn't run our system if everything in it were encrypted because then we wouldn't know which ads to show you. So this is a system that was designed around a particular business model," he said.

This isn't the first time that Soghoian has warned about the data security or privacy practices of Internet businesses. Earlier this year, notably, he filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission, accusing filesharing service Dropbox of misleading customers about the security and privacy of their files.

As that highlights, when it comes to keeping sensitive information private, it's not just Google's services that people should beware, but virtually any online service provider. As one accused member of LulzSec recently learned the hard way, even a service named HideMyAss.com specifies its own terms of service and must comply with court orders or itself face legal penalties. Skype, Google Chat, or any other VoIP-based communications provider is arguably no different.

Of course when it comes to maintaining privacy, life is more difficult for some people than others. People in countries with oppressive regimes are often forced to use state-controlled telecommunications services, for example, which may censor or restrict the sites people can use. People's communications in Iran were exposed to interception this year after an attacker managed to generate a fake digital certificate for such services as Gmail and Tor. Furthermore, while the anonymized service Tor will help disguise who's communicating with whom, even it occasionally sees flaws discovered which can make it susceptible to deanonymization attacks, at least until a patch gets issued.

T-Shirt Giveaway: Each week we're selecting one great comment from our readers. The author of the comment will receive an InformationWeek Community t-shirt. So get posting! Did you know you can style comments using tags and upload your avatar photo? To upload your avatar photo, first . Once your profile is complete, you may .
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Source: http://www.informationweek.com/news/security/privacy/231902256?cid=RSSfeed_IWK_Internet

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Friday, November 4, 2011

Groupon IPO Shares Pop 40% On First Trade, Debuts At $28 With A $17.8B Market Cap

Screen Shot 2011-11-04 at 6.34.46 AMAfter some timing drama, daily deal site Groupon finally has begun trading on the NASDAQ this morning, in the most hotly anticipated and largest Internet company IPO since Google. The company -- which trades under the ticker $GRPN -- priced its shares at $20 last night, but began trading at $28, an increase of 40%. Like LinkedIn, Groupon is only floating a small amount of shares,  35 million -- about 5.5% of its 637.3 million shares outstanding. The first trade would pin its market cap at 17.8 billion, with a 980 million raise.

Source: http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/Techcrunch/~3/4VUzxLatOI0/

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