Monday, October 31, 2011

Vick, McCoy lead Eagles to 34-7 win over Cowboys

Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick (7) throws a pass in the second half of an NFL football game with the Dallas Cowboys Sunday, Oct. 30, 2011 in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick (7) throws a pass in the second half of an NFL football game with the Dallas Cowboys Sunday, Oct. 30, 2011 in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Philadelphia Eagles running back LeSean McCoy (25) gets away from Dallas Cowboys outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware (94) in the second half of an NFL football game Sunday, Oct. 30, 2011 in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Michael Perez)

Philadelphia Eagles running back LeSean McCoy holds the ball up as he scores a touchdown in front of Dallas Cowboys cornerback Terence Newman (41), cornerback Orlando Scandrick (32), and defensive end Kenyon Coleman (99) in the second half of an NFL football game Sunday, Oct. 30, 2011 in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo is sacked as Philadelphia Eagles defensive tackle Mike Patterson stands over him in the first half of an NFL football game Sunday, Oct. 30, 2011 in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Jeremy Maclin scores a touchdown in front of Dallas Cowboys outside linebacker Anthony Spencer (93) in the first half of an NFL football game Sunday, Oct. 30, 2011 in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Michael Perez)

(AP) ? LeSean McCoy spotted Howard Mudd standing on crutches on the sideline and slowed up to give the 69-year-old assistant coach a pregame chest bump.

No one else could stop McCoy.

Michael Vick threw two touchdown passes, McCoy had a career-best 185 yards rushing and two scores and the Philadelphia Eagles routed the Dallas Cowboys 34-7 Sunday night.

"I feel like every game is a chance for me to prove myself," McCoy said. "At any given time, any one of our guys could go off."

Mudd, the team's offensive-line coach, was on crutches because he had hip surgery during the bye week.

The time off helped him and the Eagles (3-4).

They dominated right from the start, improved to 13-0 after a bye under coach Andy Reid and snapped a five-game losing streak at Lincoln Financial Field that dated to last season.

"We started fast," Vick said. "That was our mindset. We wanted to set the tempo. We didn't want to let up."

Dallas defensive coordinator Rob Ryan fired up the Eagles with some trash-talking during the summer after they added several big-name players.

Ryan, the son of beloved former Philadelphia coach Buddy Ryan, called the Eagles the "all-hype" team and predicted the Cowboys would "beat their (butt)."

He was way off.

The Eagles racked up 495 total yards and held the ball for 42:09. They thoroughly outplayed a defense that came in ranked seventh in the NFL.

The long-haired Ryan paced the sideline and desperately tried to figure out how to stop Vick and Co. It didn't happen until the fourth quarter when the game was out of reach.

"I got outcoached by Reid and their staff," Ryan said. "It's ridiculous. I never gave our guys a chance. The whole thing was on me."

DeMarcus Ware was one of the few players who played well for Dallas (3-4). He had four sacks, and has 12 this season.

Coming off a 253-yard rushing performance in a win over St. Louis, Cowboys rookie DeMarco Murray was held to 74 yards on only eight carries.

"We weren't up to the task tonight," Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. "This game is not coming back. We can learn from it and move on to the next challenge. We didn't execute in any phase of the football game."

The defending NFC East champion Eagles entered the season with a Super Bowl-or-bust mentality after adding six former Pro Bowl players in free agency and trades.

But a 1-4 start had people wondering if the self-proclaimed "Dream Team" ? backup quarterback Vince Young gave the Eagles that label after signing a one-year deal ? was overhyped as Ryan boldly declared in August.

After two straight wins, the Eagles are in a three-way tie with Dallas and Washington for second place behind the New York Giants (5-2).

"They've been very willing to work," Reid said. "It's important you have the right attitude to correct mistakes. We'll continue to do that. We've got plenty of room to improve."

Vick completed 21 of 28 passes for 279 yards and led the Eagles to points on their first six possessions. He also ran for 50 yards.

A swarming defense harassed Tony Romo throughout the game. Romo got sacked four times and threw an interception to Nnamdi Asomugha.

McCoy had 80 of Philadelphia's 115 yards rushing in the first quarter. That was more than Dallas allowed in any game this season. The Eagles entered with the No. 1-ranked rushing offense and the Cowboys had the top-ranked run defense.

The Eagles took the kickoff and drove 79 yards for their first opening-drive TD this season. Vick was sacked by Ware on the first play, but he connected with Jeremy Maclin for 24 yards on the next one. McCoy had a 21-yard run and Vick scrambled 15 yards to the Cowboys 13.

On third-and-9 from the 12, Vick tossed a screen pass to Maclin, who followed a lead block by Jason Peters into the end zone.

Vick led the Eagles 90 yards with McCoy running in from the 2 for a 14-0 lead. McCoy had runs of 11 and 34 yards before scoring for the seventh straight game. He's one short of Steve Van Buren's team record set in 1947.

Asomugha set up Philadelphia's third scoring drive by picking off Romo's pass at the Eagles 33 after the ball bounced off Martellus Bennett's hands.

Vick kept the drive going with a 9-yard run on third-and-8, and made a perfect pass to Jason Avant for a 20-yard gain on another third-and-8. He threw a strike to Brent Celek in the back of the end zone on the next play for a 9-yard TD and a 21-0 lead.

The Eagles had a first down at the Cowboys 6 on their fourth possession, but settled for a 23-yard field goal by Alex Henery that made it 24-0.

Henery kicked a 26-yarder to make it 27-0 in the third quarter. McCoy's 13-yard run put Philadelphia up 34-0 in the fourth.

But the Cowboys spoiled the shutout bid on the ensuing possession when Romo threw a 70-yard TD pass to Laurent Robinson.

NOTES: Eagles rookie RB Dion Lewis was inactive after he was involved in a minor car accident earlier in the day. ... Cowboys LB Sean Lee (wrist) and P Mat McBriar (foot) left in the second half. Kicker Dan Bailey replaced McBriar and averaged 39.5 yards on two punts. ... The Eagles inducted late defensive coordinator Jim Johnson and former Pro Bowl cornerback Eric Allen into the team's Honor Roll. ... Eagles LB Akeem Jordan sustained a concussion. ... Teams were 3-9 after their byes coming into the weekend, but were 5-1 Sunday. ... The Cowboys had won four of the past five meetings, including a playoff victory in January 2010.

Associated Press


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Aussie court hears Qantas case as fliers scramble (AP)

CANBERRA, Australia ? Tens of thousands of stranded Qantas Airways passengers scrambled to reach their destinations Sunday as the airline, its unions and the Australian government argued in a lengthy arbitration hearing over the abrupt grounding of its entire fleet.

The airline demanded a permanent ruling against more union strikes, with CEO Alan Joyce saying a temporary order would not ensure Qantas would get its planes back into the air.

The government wants the panel to order Qantas to fly in Australia's economic interests, and both it and the unions are arguing for temporary suspensions.

"It's not our place to start allocating responsibility, but what I also know is there is a better way to resolve these matters ... than locking your customers out," Australian Assistant Treasurer Bill Shorten told reporters ahead of the arbitration hearing in the southern city of Melbourne. "We want more common sense than that."

About 70,000 passengers fly Qantas daily, and would-be fliers this weekend were stuck at home, hotels, airports or even had to suddenly deplane when Qantas suspended operations Saturday. More than 60 flights were in the air at the time but flew to their destinations, and Qantas was paying for passengers to book other flights.

Qantas had reduced and rescheduled flights for weeks as union workers struck and refused to work overtime out of worries that a restructuring plan would move some of Qantas' 35,000 jobs overseas.

German tourist Michael Messmann was trying to find a way home from Singapore on Sunday. He and his wife spent five weeks traveling around Australia but found their connecting flight home to Frankfurt suddenly canceled.

"I don't know the details of the dispute, but it seems like a severe reaction by the airline to shut down all their flights. That seems a bit extreme," said Messmann, 68. "After five weeks of traveling, we just want to go home."

Australian business traveler Graeme Yeatman sided with the airline, even though he was also trying to find a new flight home to Sydney on Sunday after his flight was canceled.

"I think the unions have too much power over Qantas. Even though this is an inconvenience for me, I'm glad the airline is drawing a line in the sand," said Yeatman, 41.

The court listened to arguments for four hours Saturday and another nine Sunday after the government called the emergency hearing.

Qantas CEO Alan Joyce said the airline could be flying again within hours if the three arbitration judges rule to permanently terminate the grounding and the unions' strike action.

The unions want the judges to rule for a suspension so that the strikes can be resumed if their negotiations with the airline fail.

The government's lawyer Tom Howe submitted to the court that the lockout and strikes should be terminated or at least suspended for four months.

He said a suspension was only a temporary solution to a dispute that threatened significant economic damage to Australia's tourism and aviation industries.

"That temporariness necessarily allows the real possibility, indeed, the likelihood that at the end of the suspension period, there may be a reinstatement of the lock out which, on the evidence before the tribunal, would inevitably lead to the risk, if not likelihood, of significant damage to an important sector of the Australian economy," Howe told the judges.

Qantas' lawyer Frank Parry told the court the airline "may conclude that it cannot return to the air" if the court opts for a suspension rather than a termination.

But the pilots' union lawyer Arthur Moses accused Qantas of making an "implied threat" to the judges that only a termination would ensure that the fleet would not remain grounded. Moses said no Qantas witness had given evidence to back that submission.

But Joyce said outside court Sunday that a suspension order might not lead to the the airline flying again.

"A termination stops the lock out, but we have to make a decision about putting the airline back in the air," Joyce told Sky News television.

"A suspension may not necessarily mean the airline gets back in the air," he added.

"If it's a suspension, we cannot put the planes back in the air without having certainty," he said, without elaborating.

Moses said Qantas had made no submissions in court on "what a suspension could look like that would give Qantas certainty" and noted that Joyce had not given evidence.

Qantas executive Lyell Strambi testified that suspending the staff lockout for three months could endanger aircraft safety because the crews might be distracted, tired or angry.

"That could lead to conflicts in the cockpit ? an array of things," Strambi told the tribunal.

Another Qantas executive Vanessa Hudson testified that the airline's forward bookings had collapsed after 70,000 passengers had had their flights disrupted by unions' rolling four-hour strikes in recent weeks.

She said a permanent order would give customers enough certainty to book Qantas flights.

"As long as there's the continued threat that industrial activity could return, I think that it will be impacting consumers' decisions about which airline they choose to fly," she said.

The unions' lawyers asked for suspensions, which would leave the option open of future strikes.

Qantas said 108 airplanes were grounded but did not say how many flights were involved. Among the stranded passengers are 17 world leaders attending a Commonwealth summit in Perth, and the Australian government was helping to get them home.

Joyce said the unions' actions had created a crisis for Qantas, trashing the brand and could shut it down piece by piece.

Qantas is among the most profitable airlines in the world, but he estimated the grounding would cost the carrier $20 million a day.

The grounding of the largest of Australia's four national domestic airlines will take a major economic toll and could disrupt the national Parliament, due to resume in Canberra on Tuesday after a two-week recess. Qantas' budget subsidiary Jetstar continues to fly.

The aircraft will be grounded until unions representing pilots, mechanics, baggage handlers and caterers reach agreements with Qantas over pay and conditions, Joyce said. Staff will not be paid starting Monday.

Qantas infuriated unions in August when it said it would improve its loss-making overseas business by creating an Asia-based airline with its own name and brand. The five-year restructure plan will cost 1,000 jobs.

Qantas said in August it had more than doubled annual profit to AU$250 million but warned that the business environment was too challenging to forecast earnings for the current fiscal year.


Associated Press writers Christopher Weber in Los Angeles, Katie Oyan in Phoenix and Alex Kennedy in Singapore and AP Economics Writer Paul Wiseman in Washington contributed to this report.


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Monday Morning Open Thread (Balloon Juice)

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White House adviser: Can Romney make tough calls? (AP)

WASHINGTON ? A White House adviser say Mitt Romney has "moved all over the place" on issues from abortion to gay marriage over his career and might not have firm enough convictions to make the tough decisions as president.

David Plouffe (pluhf) jokes that if Romney thought "it was good to say the sky was green and the grass was blue to win an election, he'd say it."

Plouffe, who was Barack Obama's 2008 campaign manager, notes a new Iowa poll showing Herman Cain leading with 23 percent support, and Romney next at 22 percent.

Plouffe tells NBC's "Meet the Press" that Cain "seems to have tapped into something." Plouffe says lots of voters still are "looking somewhere else" beyond Romney and he wonders whether the early front-runner can turn that around.


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Sunday, October 30, 2011

Israel and Gaza militants exchange fire, 10 killed (AP)

JERUSALEM ? Israeli aircraft struck at Palestinian militants in Gaza on Saturday who responded with a volley of rockets which rained on southern Israeli towns, Israeli and Palestinian officials said. Palestinian officials said nine militants were killed, while on the Israeli side one civilian was killed and four others were wounded.

Exchanges of fire are common between southern Israel and the Gaza strip controlled by the militant Hamas group, but this is the worst in months.

Gaza Health Ministry spokesman Adham Abu Salmia said nine people were killed and 15 wounded in separate attacks on militant targets.

Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said one Israeli civilian was killed and four others wounded when Palestinian rockets exploded in residential areas in southern Israel.

An Israeli military spokesman confirmed a total of four strikes in Gaza, saying the military hit Palestinian militants from the Islamic Jihad, one of several groups in Gaza which fires rockets into southern Israel. The spokesman said that the first attack specifically targeted a cell responsible for a Wednesday rocket attack that exploded deep inside Israel. That attack had caused no casualties.

The military "will not tolerate any attempt to harm Israeli civilians," the spokesman said. He spoke on condition of anonymity in accordance with military protocols.

The Israeli military released video footage taken from a military drone Saturday afternoon that shows Palestinians unloading rockets from a truck and preparing them for firing at Israel. The strike took place shortly afterward.

Abu Salmia, the Gaza health official, said five people had been killed and 11 wounded in the first attack. Islamic Jihad spokesman Abu Ahmed confirmed that one of its local field commanders, Ahmed Sheikh Khalil, was among the dead. He said Khalil was one of the group's chief bomb makers. "Today it was a great loss for us in the Islamic Jihad," he said. "The size of our retaliation will equal our loss," it said in a text message sent to reporters.

"Our response shall be in the depths of the Zionist entity," it said in reference to the Israeli heartland.

After the first airstrike, militants in Gaza fired over 20 rockets at southern Israel, Rosenfeld said.

Islamic Jihad took responsibility for firing the rockets in a text message to reporters, and released photos of the rockets being launched from the backs of pickup trucks. The group said this is the first time they are using this system as opposed to firing them from launchers on the ground.

One rocket hit an apartment building in the southern city of Ashkelon and injured a 50 year-old Israeli who later died of his wounds, Rosenfeld said. Another exploded outside an apartment building in nearby Ashdod, injuring one person. Israeli television showed about a dozen cars in flames outside the building.

Another Israeli sustained shrapnel wounds in the nearby town of Gan Yavneh and others in the Ashdod region were treated for shock, the Israeli military spokesman said.

Israel's Channel 2 television reported that one rocket hid a school, causing massive damage. No one was hurt because the school was closed for the Jewish Sabbath, Ashdod Mayor Yehiel Lasri said.

Late Saturday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu phoned the mayors of cities hit by Palestinian rockets. Netanyahu said the military had hit rocket launcher squads responsible for the attacks and said "the military's response will be tougher if needed."

After the rocket barrage, Abu Salmia said that a second Israeli attack killed two people. Islamic Jihad confirmed that they were militants. Israel's military spokesman said that the second air strike had hit "terrorists that fired rockets on Israel in the evening,"

Abu Salmia said another Israeli strike late Saturday killed two more militants bringing the total to nine.

The Iranian-backed Islamic Jihad took responsibility for multiple suicide bombings and shooting attacks against civilians in Israel during the second Palestinian intifadah, or uprising, in the first half of the last decade.

Israel and Hamas, the militant group that rules Gaza, blamed each other for the flare up in violence Saturday.

"The Hamas terror organization is solely responsible for any terrorist activity emanating from the Gaza Strip," the Israeli military said.

Israel as a matter of policy holds Hamas liable for violence perpetrated by any of the different armed groups in the coastal territory.

Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum meanwhile said Israel is "fully responsible for all the results of this dangerous escalation."

In the winter of 2008, Israel launched a broad military offensive inside Gaza aimed at stopping almost daily Palestinian rocket fire at Israeli communities.

Since then, violence has continued sporadically along the border and Palestinians continue to launch mortars and rockets at Israel, but to a much lesser degree.

On Wednesday, militants fired a long-range Katyusha rocket that exploded near Ashdod in the south of Israel. Sirens also went off in the central Israeli city of Rehovot, which unlike many southern Israeli cities is not accustomed to rocket fire, causing panic. The Israeli military said the alarm went off because the rocket exploded in an area between the two cities.

Israeli foreign ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said that Israeli diplomats "will protest against the indiscriminate rocket attacks on Israeli civilians to the U.N. Secretary General." He said a similar letter sent after Wednesday's attack has yet to be answered.


Ibrahim Barzak in Gaza contributed to this report.


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Whirlpool to cut 5,000 jobs to reduce costs (AP)

NEW YORK ? Appliance maker Whirlpool Corp. plans to cut 5,000 jobs, about 10 percent of its workforce in North America and Europe, as it faces soft demand and higher costs for materials.

The world's biggest appliance maker also on Friday cut its 2011 earnings outlook drastically and reported third-quarter results that missed expectations, hurt by higher costs and a slowdown in emerging markets. Shares fell 12 percent in premarket trading.

The company, whose brands include Maytag and KitchenAid, has been squeezed by soft demand since the recession and rising costs for materials such as steel and copper. Due to its size, Whirlpool's performance provides a window on the economy because it indicates whether consumers are comfortable spending on big-ticket items.

Whirlpool has raised prices to combat higher costs, but demand for items like refrigerators and washing machines remains tight. Whirlpool is also facing discount pressure from competitors.

To offset slowing North American sales, Whirlpool has turned to emerging markets. But the company said Friday that sales have slowed there, too.

Steep costs and the dour global economy are affecting the entire appliance industry. Swedish appliance maker Electrolux said Wednesday that its third-quarter net income fell 39 percent and cut its forecast for demand in North American and Europe for the year

Whirlpool jobs to be cut are mostly in North America and Europe. They include 1,200 salaried positions and the closing of the company's Fort Smith, Ark., plant.

The Fort Smith plant shutdown will affect 884 hourly workers and 90 salaried employees. An additional 800 workers were on layoff from the factory and on a recall list.

Whirlpool will also relocate dishwasher production from Neunkirchen, Germany, to Poland in January 2012.

The company expects the moves will save $400 million by the end of 2013.

Benton Harbor, Mich.-based Whirlpool's third-quarter net income more than doubled to $177 million, or $2.27 per share, from $79 million, or $1.02 per share. Adjusted earnings of $2.35 per share fell short of analyst expectations for $2.73 per share.

Revenue rose 2 percent to $4.63 billion, short of expectations for $4.74 billion.

"Our results were negatively impacted by recessionary demand levels in developed countries, a slowdown in emerging markets and high levels of inflation in material costs," CEO Jeff Fettig said.

Unit shipments fell in all regions except Asia, where they rose 4 percent.

In North America, revenue fell 2 percent to $2.4 billion, and in Latin America, revenue rose 8 percent to $1.2 billion.

The company now expects 2011 net income will be $4.75 to $5.25 per share. Its prior guidance was net income would be at the low end of a range between $7.25 and $8.25 per share.

Whirlpool's stock fell $7.10, or 11.7 percent, to $53.37 in premarket trading. The stock has already sunk 32 percent this year.


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Saturday, October 29, 2011

Astronomers pin down galaxy collision rate with Hubble data

ScienceDaily (Oct. 27, 2011) ? A new analysis of Hubble surveys, combined with simulations of galaxy interactions, reveals that the merger rate of galaxies over the last 8 billion to 9 billion years falls between the previous estimates.

The galaxy merger rate is one of the fundamental measures of galaxy evolution, yielding clues to how galaxies bulked up over time through encounters with other galaxies. And yet, a huge discrepancy exists over how often galaxies coalesced in the past. Measurements of galaxies in deep-field surveys made by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope generated a broad range of results: anywhere from 5 percent to 25 percent of the galaxies were merging.

The study, led by Jennifer Lotz of the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Md., analyzed galaxy interactions at different distances, allowing the astronomers to compare mergers over time. Lotz's team found that galaxies gained quite a bit of mass through collisions with other galaxies. Large galaxies merged with each other on average once over the past 9 billion years. Small galaxies were coalescing with large galaxies more frequently. In one of the first measurements of smashups between dwarf and massive galaxies in the distant universe, Lotz's team found these mergers happened three times more often than encounters between two hefty galaxies.

"Having an accurate value for the merger rate is critical because galactic collisions may be a key process that drives galaxy assembly, rapid star formation at early times, and the accretion of gas onto central supermassive black holes at the centers of galaxies," Lotz explains.

The team's results are accepted for publication appeared in The Astrophysical Journal.

The problem with previous Hubble estimates is that astronomers used different methods to count the mergers.

"These different techniques probe mergers at different 'snapshots' in time along the merger process," Lotz says. "It is a little bit like trying to count car crashes by taking snapshots. If you look for cars on a collision course, you will only see a few of them. If you count up the number of wrecked cars you see afterwards, you will see many more. Studies that looked for close pairs of galaxies that appeared ready to collide gave much lower numbers of mergers than those that searched for galaxies with disturbed shapes, evidence that they're in smashups."

To figure out how many encounters happen over time, Lotz needed to understand how long merging galaxies would look like "wrecks" before they settle down and begin to look like normal galaxies again.

That's why Lotz and her team turned to highly detailed computer simulations to help make sense of the Hubble photographs. The team made simulations of the many possible galaxy collision scenarios and then mapped them to Hubble images of galaxy interactions.

Creating the computer models was a time-consuming process. Lotz's team tried to account for a broad range of merger possibilities, from a pair of galaxies with equal masses joining together to an interaction between a giant galaxy and a puny one. The team also analyzed different orbits for the galaxies, possible collision impacts, and how galaxies were oriented to each other. In all, the group came up with 57 different merger scenarios and studied the mergers from 10 different viewing angles. "Viewing the simulations was akin to watching a slow-motion car crash," Lotz says.

The simulations followed the galaxies for 2 billion to 3 billion years, beginning at the first encounter and continuing until the union was completed, about a billion years later.

"Our simulations offer a realistic picture of mergers between galaxies," Lotz says.

In addition to studying the smashups between giant galaxies, the team also analyzed encounters among puny galaxies. Spotting collisions with small galaxies are difficult because the objects are so dim relative to their larger companions.

"Dwarf galaxies are the most common galaxy in the universe," Lotz says. "They may have contributed to the buildup of large galaxies. In fact, our own Milky Way galaxy had several such mergers with small galaxies in its recent past, which helped to build up the outer regions of its halo. This study provides the first quantitative understanding of how the number of galaxies disturbed by these minor mergers changed with time."

Lotz compared her simulation images with pictures of thousands of galaxies taken from some of Hubble's largest surveys, including the All-Wavelength Extended Groth Strip International Survey (AEGIS), the Cosmological Evolution Survey (COSMOS), and the Great Observatories Origins Deep Survey (GOODS), as well as mergers identified by the DEEP2 survey with the W.M. Keck Observatory in Hawaii. She and other groups had identified about a thousand merger candidates from these surveys but initially found very different merger rates.

"When we applied what we learned from the simulations to the Hubble surveys in our study, we derived much more consistent results," Lotz says.

Her next goal is to analyze galaxies that were interacting around 11 billion years ago, when star formation across the universe peaked, to see if the merger rate rises along with the star formation rate. A link between the two would mean galaxy encounters incite rapid star birth.

In addition to Lotz, the coauthors of the paper include Patrik Jonsson of Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Mass; T. J. Cox of Carnegie Observatories in Pasadena, Calif.; Darren Croton of the Centre for Astrophysics and Supercomputing at Swinburne University of Technology in Hawthorn, Australia; Joel R. Primack of the University of California, Santa Cruz; Rachel S. Somerville of the Space Telescope Science Institute and The Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Md.; and Kyle Stewart of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.

The Hubble Space Telescope is a project of international cooperation between NASA and the European Space Agency. NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center manages the telescope. The Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) conducts Hubble science operations. STScI is operated for NASA by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, Inc., in Washington, D.C.

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The above story is reprinted from materials provided by NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center.

Note: Materials may be edited for content and length. For further information, please contact the source cited above.

Journal Reference:

  1. Lotz, Jennifer M.; Jonsson, Patrik; Cox, T. J.; Croton, Darren; Primack, Joel R.; Somerville, Rachel S.; Stewart, Kyle. The Major and Minor Galaxy Merger Rates at z . The Astrophysical Journal, 2011 [link]

Note: If no author is given, the source is cited instead.

Disclaimer: Views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of ScienceDaily or its staff.


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Want $50,000? Read these shredded messages


The $50,000 DARPA Shredder Challenge calls on participants to reconstruct handwritten messages that have been shredded beyond recognition, including this one.

By Alan Boyle

DARPA's latest tech challenge is offering $50,000 for a task?worthy of secret agents: piecing together messages that have been shredded into?thousands of bits.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the Pentagon think tank that previously brought you?multimillion-dollar robo-car races and a nationwide hunt for red balloons, put five ripped-up puzzles online today to kick off its Shredder Challenge. If someone wins, and I'm betting that someone will, that would be good news and bad news for the Defense Department ? and for folks like you and me.

"The goal is to identify and assess potential capabilities that could be used by our warfighters operating in war zones, but might also create vulnerabilities to sensitive information that is protected through our own shredding practices throughout the U.S. national security community," DARPA said in its contest announcement.

Here's how the contest works: Participants register via?the Shredder Challenge?website, and then download five bunches of files that are essentially screenshots of shredded-up documents, plus instructions. They'll have to figure out how to put the documents back together, either by using computer analysis or by?matching up itty-bitty pieces of printouts. Then they'll have to?send DARPA an email with scans of the completed puzzles, the answers to questions about each puzzle ... and an explanation of the reasoning process that led to the solution.

Each of the puzzles carries a point value, and an online leader board will track the scores of the?top contestants. DARPA will announce the winner and the amount of the prize awarded on Dec. 5, based on the points earned as well as the time stamps for submissions.

Hundreds sign up
"We are all pretty excited about this one," Dan Kaufman, director of the Information Innovation Office, told me in an email. So are puzzle fans:?Soon after?the competition opened, DARPA warned in a Twitter update that, "due to interest in the Shredder Challenge, there may be a delay accessing" the puzzle website. The Web traffic jam eased?once DARPA beefed up its bandwidth.

Kaufman said this afternoon that "registrations were at 240 when I last checked, and not slowing down."

When I spoke with Kaufman, he said no one had yet submitted an entry. He couldn't predict whether it would take hours or days for puzzle sleuths to submit solutions. That's what makes the exercise interesting.

Kaufman's a?veteran of 2009's Red Balloon Challenge, which asked participants to figure out the locations of 10 red balloons scattered around the country. He recalled that there was similar uncertainty about the outcome back then: "We were torn between 'It will never be solved' and 'Somebody's gotta solve this.'"

It turned out that researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Media Lab figured out the locations in just under nine hours, winning $40,000 in the process. A research paper published this week in the journal Science laid out the MIT team's winning strategy: a system of "recursive incentives" that promised payoffs for those who?discovered the balloons, as well as those who recruited the discoverers.

MIT's Alexander Pentland?and his colleagues said the recursive-reward arrangement could be used for life-and-death searches ? for example, to look for a missing child, a criminal at large or the survivors of a natural?disaster.

Good news, bad news
Kaufman told me that the winner of the Shredder Challenge may well use a method that DARPA's own researchers haven't thought of. Such?methods could be used to read documents that have been shredded by the bad guys, such as al-Qaida operatives in Afghanistan. "Currently, this process is much too slow and too labor-intensive, particularly if the documents are hand-written," Kaufman said in a news release. "We are looking to the Shredder Challenge to generate some leap-ahead thinking in this area."

Better message-demangling?methods?also could be used by?bad guys to reconstruct financial statements, credit card reports and other sensitive documents that consumers thought had been safely disposed of.

"I'm concerned about the privacy implications," my colleague at's Red Tape Chronicles, Bob Sullivan, told me today.

Kaufman acknowledged that the contest's outcome might make?you feel less secure about what happens to their shredded documents. But if that's the case, it's better to know that up front instead of burying your head in the sand. "I would say the 'ostrich defense' is not a good one," he told me.

Who knows? Maybe the first?thing to come out of DARPA's latest challenge will be a rush to buy shredders that grind paper into powder. What do you think? Weigh in with your comments below.

Other challenges from DARPA:

Connect with the Cosmic Log community by "liking" the log's Facebook page, following @b0yle on Twitter or adding me to your Google+ circle. You can also check out "The Case for Pluto," my book about the controversial dwarf planet and the search for other worlds.


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Chinese Search Engine Baidu?s Q3 Revenue Up 85 Percent To $655M; Profit Up 80 Percent To $295M

baiduChinese search engine Baidu posted strong earnings today, with total revenue in the third quarter of 2011 coming in at $654.7 million, an 85.1% increase from the same period in 2010. Baidu's net income was up 80% to $295 million. Diluted earnings for the third quarter of 2011 were $0.84; non-GAAP earnings were for the $0.86. Baidu beat Wall Street expectations; analysts expected a profit of $0.83. Robin Li, chairman and chief executive officer of Baidu said in a release, "Baidu recorded stellar results in the third quarter driven by rapid growth in customer spending and user traffic. In particular, spending by large customers significantly outperformed our expectations as we continued to build strong relationships with high quality companies. China's search industry is still in its early stages, and as the clear industry leader we see enormous room for continuing growth as users and online marketing customers become increasingly sophisticated."


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Lawyers give differing views of Mass. terror case (AP)

BOSTON ? A Massachusetts man charged with conspiring to help al-Qaida was an aspiring terrorist who hoped to answer Osama bin Laden's call to fight Americans, mostly from the comfort of his "cushy" home in a Boston suburb, a federal prosecutor told a jury Thursday.

Tarek Mehanna went to Yemen looking for terrorist training, but when that failed he returned to his home in Sudbury and began translating and posting on the Internet videos and texts promoting violent jihad, Assistant U.S. Attorney Aloke Chakravarty said.

"He viewed himself as part of the media department of al-Qaida," Chakravarty said.

But Mehanna's lawyer described Mehanna as a young man from a good family "with a normal American upbringing" who was simply venting his anger over the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Mehanna's online activities amount to free speech protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, attorney J.W. Carney Jr. told the jury.

"As Americans, we have that freedom. We can hold onto these beliefs and we can speak them, even if it upsets the federal government," Carney said.

Mehanna, 29, faces seven charges, including conspiring to provide material support to a designated terrorist organization, conspiracy to kill in a foreign country and lying to federal authorities.

Prosecutors are expected to call their first witnesses Friday. The trial is expected to last six to eight weeks. If convicted, Mehanna faces a possible sentence of lilfe in prison.

In opening statements, Chakravarty told the jury that Mehanna was among a group of young men, most of whom grew up in the suburbs of Boston, who for a period of about 10 years "were secretly plotting to attack American interests."

He said Mehanna and two other men decided they wanted to do something to participate in jihad.

"There were Muslims dying around the world and they felt it was their job to exact revenge," he said.

Chakravarty said the men considered domestic terrorism, including attacks on U.S. shopping malls and Hanscom Air Force Base in Bedford.

After the U.S. invaded Iraq in 2003, the men decided "we need to go over there, we need to fight, we need to get the training," Chakravarty said.

Mehanna and two other men, Ahmad Abousamra and Kareem Abuzahra, agreed to go to Yemen in 2004 to get terrorism training, the prosecutor said.

Abousamra fled to Syria shortly after he was questioned by the FBI, while Abuzahra is expected to be a star witness against Mehanna.

Chakravarty said that after the men failed to get into a training camp in Yemen, Mehanna returned to the United States and began translating Arabic videos and texts promoting violent jihad, including a publication entitled "39 Ways to Serve and Participate in Jihad," which the prosecutor described as a "training manual."

"You'll find that this case is not about the defendant being un-American, having unpopular thoughts, but it's about what he tried to do to support the people who were actually killing Americans," Chakravarty said.

Mehanna's lawyer told the jury that his client never acted on behalf of al-Qaida.

Carney said Mehanna was a scholar of Arabic and Islamic law, and told people he wanted to go to Yemen, a country known for having pure Arabic unpolluted by outside influences as well as religious schools.

He said Mehanna did not go to Yemen to seek terrorist training.

"Tarek wanted to visit the schools he hoped to attend sometime in the future," Carney said. He told jurors they will hear testimony that while Mehanna was in Yemen, he toured three different schools, sat in on classes and talked to students.

Carney said Mehanna felt free to express his anger over the U.S. involvement in Iraq over the Internet and in instant messages to his friends because "he felt he was doing so under the freedom granted him by the First Amendment."

Carney also said Mehanna rejected the idea of shooting up a U.S. shopping mall. He said when someone else brought up the idea, Mehanna's response was, "Oh, come on, that's ridiculous."

"What you will see in this case is that Tarek Mehanna didn't do anything," he said.

About 100 of Mehanna's supporters, including his parents and brother, packed the courthouse for the start of his trial. Two overflow courtrooms were provided to accommodate the crowd. The group chanted "Free Free Tarek" and "Justice for Tarek" outside the courthouse.

About a dozen members of Occupy Boston, a local offshoot of the Occupy Wall Street movement, also attended the trial to show support for Mehanna.


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Friday, October 28, 2011

'Sister Wives' welcome baby No. 17

Joe Pugliese / TLC

The Brown family on TLC's "Sister Wives."

By Anna Chan

And baby makes 22!

According to a People exclusive, "Sister Wives" hubby Kody Brown and wife No. 4, Robyn, welcomed a baby boy on Wednesday morning. The child is the first for the couple, but is the 17th in the plural family.

Baby Solomon weighs in at 9 lbs, 10.5 ounces and was born in the pair's Las Vegas home, according to People.

"He?s perfect and we couldn?t be happier," Kody told People about the latest addition. "We are so thrilled."

The TLC show?last season featured the marriage of Brown and Robyn. This season, it has highlighted unhappiness felt by wife No. 3, Christine, in her plural marriage. The family is currently challenging Utah's polygamy law, arguing that its unconstitutional and unfairly applied to polygamists. The state, where the Browns?used to live,?was investigating Kody for felony bigamy before the family moved to Nevada.

The show airs on Sundays at 9 on TLC.

Do you think baby Solomon will throw another wrench into the family's happiness, or will he bring them closer together? Share your thoughts on our Facebook page!


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Olympus chairman quits as Japan watchdog probes firm (Reuters)

TOKYO (Reuters) ? Olympus Corp head Tsuyoshi Kikukawa resigned on Wednesday after a scandal over hefty advisory fees wiped out half of the 92-year-old firm's market value while his successor stuck with the company's line that it had done nothing wrong.

Sources told Reuters that Japan's securities watchdog was looking into past Olympus takeover deals, focusing on whether it has properly disclosed relevant information.

Olympus fired its British chief executive, Michael Woodford, on October 14, just two weeks after his appointment as CEO, saying he failed to understand the company's management style and Japanese culture. Kikukawa then took over Woodford's role.

Woodford, who cut his teeth at the camera and endoscope maker as a British salesman when he joined in 1980, said he was sacked for questioning a $687 million advisory fee linked to a $2.2 billion takeover in 2008 as well as other deals he says have destroyed about $1.3 billion of shareholder value.

He has called for the resignation of Olympus' entire board while sending dossiers on odd-looking deals to Britain's Serious Fraud Office (SFO) and Japan's Securities and Exchange Surveillance Commission (SESC).

Olympus deals queried by Woodford also include a $60 million purchase that closed earlier this year of rights to a biotech remedy intended to help regenerate human bone from medical device maker Stryker Corp.

Olympus made a $25 million loan to Viscogliosi Brothers, the firm that advised it on the transaction, and expects it will need to write off most of that amount, according to company documents reviewed by Reuters. That loan and other payments may end up costing the Japanese firm around 50 percent more, the documents show.

Woodford is also in touch with the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, and was in New York on Wednesday to meet with the agency.

Josh Shores, a principal at Olympus' largest non-Japanese investor Southeastern Asset Management, told Reuters the boardroom reshuffle was "a step in the right direction."

But he demanded the swift appointment of a "fully independent, objective third party committee" to oversee a broad corporate governance and accounting investigation by an external auditor.

"That is the next critical step. It will not be credible if the committee is appointed by the company without any input from other stakeholders -- stakeholders and the media will not trust it," he said.

Koichi Ogawa, chief portfolio manager at Daiwa SB Investments, said the company's battered share price should rebound on the resignation.

But he added, "in reality nothing has been cleared up. There are still many investigations left to come."

Woodford told Reuters that Kikukawa's resignation was "a start" but added that his replacement -- Shuichi Takayama, a 41-year company veteran -- had also failed to demand explanations about hefty fees linked to acquisitions.

"The only way you can stop the company heading for the rocks is by answering the questions," he told Reuters in London by telephone.

Takayama sniped back, telling a news conference there was no problem with fees paid by Olympus and that the company was extremely angry that Woodford revealed internal information while he was still a director.

"I was one of those who agreed to Mr. Woodford's dismissal. The reason was his autocratic actions, and these included intimidation of my own staff."

Kikukawa said in a separate statement he had stepped down to restore confidence in the company under the new management and that he would continue to work as a director.


The Olympus scandal has reignited debate over what critics say is a deep-seated weakness of Japanese management -- a lack of strong independent oversight of boards, which gives shareholders' rights short shrift.

A small Japanese monthly business magazine called Facta first raised red flags about Olympus M&A deals in August and the SESC started paying particular attention to the company around that time, said two sources, who were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly.

SESC officials declined to comment on the probe, as did an Olympus spokeswoman.

Olympus shares fell 7.6 percent on Wednesday and have lost more than half their value since Woodford was fired.

Unanswered questions about the Gyrus deal and other Olympus acquisitions have spurred various theories, including speculation Japan's yakuza crime syndicates, euphemistically referred to as "anti-social forces," could be involved.

Asked whether the company's financial advisers had any connection with organized crime, Takayama said: "You are asking me about anti-social forces, but I am absolutely not aware of any such thing."

Takayama, 61, joined Olympus straight from an engineering high school in 1970 and has served on the company's board since 2006 after holding several senior managerial positions.

Japan Securities Finance, a stock lending brokerage, on Tuesday put Olympus on a list of shares for which caution is advised on margin trading due to a surge in such trading.

And in a heads-up to investors, the Tokyo Stock Exchange also started announcing margin trading positions on a daily basis. The exchange also said on Wednesday it would cooperate with regulators to enforce corporate governance of listed companies.

(Additional reporting by Isabel Reynolds, Hideyuki Sano and Nathan Layne in Tokyo, Kirstin Ridley and Sinead Cruise in London, Paritosh Bansal in New York; Editing by Edmund Klamann, David Cowell, Matthew Lewis and Bernard Orr)


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Thursday, October 27, 2011

Rangers' Washington determined to limit Pujols damage (Reuters)

ST. LOUIS (Reuters) ? After being burned by Albert Pujols in record-setting fashion, Texas Rangers manager Ron Washington is making no excuses for being cautious.

The Rangers hold a 3-2 edge in the best-of-seven World Series and can seal their first championship when they play the Cardinals in St. Louis on Wednesday.

Pujols, a three-time National League Most Valuable Player, belted three homers and had six runs batted in during a 16-7 Cardinals win on Saturday and Washington learned his lesson.

On Monday, Texas took no chances and intentionally walked Pujols three times.

"It's obvious why," Washington told reporters Tuesday. "He's one of the best players, hitters in the game. His importance in that lineup is to drive in their runs.

"I just don't think any manager, when the games are dwindling down, will allow Albert to swing the bat to beat you. That's not taking anything away from (Matt) Holliday or (Lance) Berkman, because we know what they're capable of doing.

"But we're just not going to let Albert do it."

Pujols is hitting a modest .278 during the Fall Classic, but after setting or tying a slew of records during his Game Three outburst, Washington had seen enough.

The manager, as a rule, does not like to issue intentional passes but he does make exceptions.

"It's because one guy is Albert Pujols and one guy is (Detroit Tigers slugger) Miguel Cabrera," said Washington.

"I've never seen Albert Pujols before, other than on TV. It's my first time seeing him. And what he did the other night, no, I wouldn't mess with that."

Washington said he manages with instinct.

"I do a lot by my gut," he said. "There may be a point where someone says, 'You should have done this.' Well, you don't know my players. That's you saying that.

"Maybe the strategists say that's what you do, but the flow of the game says something different. I'm in the flow."

Colby Lewis will start Wednesday for Texas, facing St. Louis left-hander Jaime Garcia. If the Rangers lose, they get one more chance to wrap it up Thursday in the series finale.

"It's exciting, that's for sure," said Lewis. "We have two games to do it. We've got to play .500 ball. But we definitely want to get it done as soon as possible.

"We've got to just hold those emotions back, those feelings back...just go out there and compete and get outs."

(Editing by Larry Fine)


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St. Paul's Cathedral to reopen Friday (AP)

LONDON ? St. Paul's Cathedral says it will reopen Friday, a week after is shut its doors because of an anti-capitalist protest camp outside.

Spokeswoman Hannah Talbot says the church will open for prayer and worship with the Eucharist service at 1230 p.m. (1130GMT, 7:30 a.m. EDT). It will reopen to tourists on Saturday.

Protesters have been camped outside the building since Oct. 15. Days later, cathedral officials shut the building to the public, saying the campsite was a health and safety hazard.

On Wednesday Dean Graeme Knowles said the cathedral hoped to reopen following changes to the layout of tents.

Church officials still want the protesters to leave, but they are refusing to go.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

LONDON (AP) ? The senior St. Paul's Cathedral priest who welcomed anti-capitalist demonstrators to camp outside the London landmark resigned Thursday, saying he feared moves to evict the protesters could end in violence.

Canon Chancellor Giles Fraser said on Twitter that "it is with great regret and sadness that I have handed in my notice at St. Paul's Cathedral."

He told The Guardian newspaper that he had resigned because he believed cathedral officials had "set on a course of action that could mean there will be violence in the name of the church."

Fraser's departure reveals divisions among cathedral clergy over how to handle the protest on their doorstep. Dean of St. Paul's Graeme Knowles confirmed Fraser had stepped down, saying officials were disappointed that he "is not able to continue to his work ... during these challenging days."

Protesters have been camped outside the building since Oct. 15. When police tried to move them the next day, Fraser said the demonstrators were welcome to stay and asked police officers to move instead.

He later issued a statement stressing that "the Christian gospel is profoundly committed to the needs of the poor and the dispossessed. Financial justice is a gospel imperative."

Days later, cathedral officials shut the building to the public, saying the campsite was a health and safety hazard. It was the first time the 300-year-old church, one of London's best-known buildings, had closed since World War II.

Cathedral officials, and the bishop of London, have since asked the demonstrators to leave, but they are refusing to go.

Knowles said Wednesday the cathedral was considering all its options in response to the protest ? including legal action.

But in a victory for the protesters, he said the cathedral hoped to reopen Friday following changes to the layout of tents.

In a statement, the Occupy London protesters called Fraser a "man of great personal integrity."

The protesters said Fraser had "ensured that St. Paul's could be a sanctuary for us and that no violence could take place against peaceful protesters with a legitimate cause challenging and tackling social and economic injustice in London, the U.K. and beyond."

Similar camps have sprung up across the United States and around the world since activists took over a plaza near New York's Wall Street last month to protest corporate greed and social inequality. Many have withered or been dismantled, sometimes by force.

The local governing authority for St. Paul's, the City of London Corporation, says it is taking legal advice on the best way to evict the protesters ? but that could be a long process, complicated by the tangled ownership of the medieval patch of London on which the cathedral stands.

The protesters say they will fight eviction and have hired high-profile lawyer John Cooper, who has said he will defend the group for free.

Fraser, 46, a high-profile and liberal Anglican clergyman, was appointed chancellor of the cathedral in 2009.

The role involves overseeing the work of the St. Paul's Institute, which "seeks to bring Christian ethics to bear on our understanding of finance and economics."

The cathedral and the protest tent city lie within London's traditional financial center, which is called the City.

Fraser, a former Vicar of Putney in south London whose father came from a prominent London Jewish family, is well known through his newspaper and magazine columns and frequent appearances on BBC radio.

He has criticized the effects of the government's austerity measures.

"Should the church get stuck into the mucky world of politics? How ridiculous, of course it should," he wrote in the Guardian in June, going on to quote the late Brazilian bishop Helder Camara: "When I give to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why they are poor, they call me a communist."


Associated Press writer Robert Barr contributed to this report.


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RIM delays release of upgraded tablet software

TORONTO (AP) ? Research In Motion said it is delaying the launch of an upgraded operating system for its struggling PlayBook computer tablet until February 2012, yet another setback for a tarnished company struggling to compete with Apple.

David Smith, RIM's senior vice president, said in a post on the company's blog late Tuesday that the new version of the operating system isn't up to its standards at this point.

Smith also said the new version also won't have the popular messenging service BlackBerry Messenger when it's introduced in February.

The BlackBerry-maker had announced earlier this fall the updated operating system would be available in October with features that include the ability for BlackBerry users to automatically access their email, contacts and calendar on the PlayBook, a function it doesn't currently have. When RIM launched the PlayBook in April it said would add the features within 60 days, but later pushed that back to the summer and then to October.

The PlayBook received negative reviews because it didn't have those features.

"As much as we'd love to have it in your hands today, we've made the difficult decision to wait to launch BlackBerry PlayBook OS 2.0 until we are confident we have fully met the expectations of our developers, enterprise customers and end-users," Smith wrote on the Inside BlackBerry Blog.

Shares of RIM fell nearly 7 percent on Wednesday to $20.72 on the Nasdaq.

The PlayBook is RIM's first effort to branch out from its smartphone base and capture a portion of the tablet computer market, but it has been a major disappointment. RIM said about 200,000 of them sold last quarter ? far short of what analysts had expected. And that number paled in comparison to the top-selling iPad, of which Apple shipped 11.1 million units during its most recent quarter.

"They should stop pushing things out before they are ready. They don't have that many swings at the plate left," said BGC Financial analyst Colin Gillis.

Gillis said RIM has consistently over-promised and under- delivered. He said they have management problems.

"You don't get right up to the final hour, and say, 'You know what it's going to be a few more months,'" he said.

The Canadian company has had series of recent setbacks. A massive outage frustrated tens of millions of BlackBerry users earlier this month. Montreal-based Consumer Law Group Inc. said Wednesday it has filed a nationwide class-action suit seeking returns for the downtime.

RIM has also delayed the launch of new phones with the company's new QNX operating system for several months. RIM disappointed many in October when they didn't announce a clear timeline for when they would release phones with the new software which is now called BBX.

RIM continues to have success overseas but has increasingly lost market share in North America. Many U.S. users have moved on to phones with big touchscreens like the iPhone and various competing models that run Google's Android software.

Associated Press


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AT&T Nearly Tripled Wi-Fi Connections In Q3; Data Carried On Network Doubled

AT&TAfter reporting earnings last week, AT&T is announcing an impressive number of Wi-Fi connections made over the third quarter. Via AT&T devices, users made 301.9 million Wi-Fi connections, which is more than 37 connections every second. Connections nearly tripled (up more than 282 percent) versus connections made in the third-quarter 2010. AT&T saus that its users now make 100 million Wi-Fi connections per month with connections made in a single month now exceeding the total connections made in all of 2009 (and account for five times the total connections made in 2008). Data carried on the AT&T Wi-Fi network more than doubled versus the third-quarter 2010.


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Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Around the Web?

Happy Monday! Check out today’s afternoon reads: Jessica Simpson: Is she or isn’t she pregnant? ? AAP recommends keeping kids under age 2 screen-free ? The 20 best cities to trick-or-treat in ? How far would you go to feed your baby? ? PHOTOS: The biggest corn mazes in the U.S. [...]


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Amy Winehouse?s Death Caused By Alcohol Poisoning

Amy Winehouse’s Death Caused By Alcohol Poisoning

Amy Winehouse died as an “unintended consequence” of drinking too much alcohol, the coroner ruled on Wednesday. The singer downed so much liquor in the [...]

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Add a Pair of Toolbox Saddlebags to Your Bike or Motorcycle on the Cheap [DIY]

Add a Pair of Toolbox Saddlebags to Your Bike or Motorcycle on the Cheap If the kitty litter bucket set didn't tickle your fancy, perhaps this pair of more normal-looking toolbox saddlebags will inspire you to add some storage to the sides of your bike or motorcycle. They're cheap, easy to attach, offer a lot of storage, and look good at the same time.

Instructables user Kamiana8 wanted a cheap way to add some saddlebags to his motorcycle without spending a lot of money for a custom mount and set of expensive bags. He managed to scrape together the components for this setup for about $20, but he admittedly had some of it in his garage beforehand. He used a pair of standard toolboxes, some hose clamps to attach it to the motorcycle, and modded an old refrigerator rack to make the baskets that the toolboxes would rest in (he notes other similar racks and baskets would work here as well.)

Afterward, he bolted the toolboxes to the racks and attached the racks to the bike with metal hose clips. When finished, the end result is functional, adds a lot of storage, and surprisingly doesn't look out of place at all. We imagine this would be a bit easier with a bicycle, since there are more places to bolt or mount the toolboxes. What do you think, too much effort or a decent DIY project? Share your tips in the comments.

Toolbox Saddlebags for Under $20 | Instructables

You can reach Alan Henry, the author of this post, at, or better yet, follow him on Twitter or Google+.


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Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Official: Accord at Wednesday EU summit in doubt

(AP) ? A European official says there is now serious doubt that EU heads of government will agree on a broad package of financial measures at a summit meeting in Brussels on Wednesday.

The official says the 10 EU members who don't use the euro do not want to agree to a bank recapitalization plan unless there's also agreement on increasing the firepower of the EFSF, the EU's bailout fund.

The person, speaking on condition of anonymity because the negotiations were confidential, says there are doubts that the EFSF changes can be agreed.

"It's a real mess once again," the official said.

There will be no finance ministers' meeting before the leaders' summit Wednesday evening, the official said, a sign that there are doubts that an agreement can be reached.

Associated Press


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US senator talks about military options in Syria (AP)

SOUTHERN SHUNEH, Jordan ? U.S. Senator John McCain said Sunday that military action to protect civilians in Syria might be considered now that NATO's air campaign in Libya is ending.

However, President Barack Obama's administration has made clear it has no appetite for military intervention in Syria ? a close ally of Iran that sits on Israel's border ? and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton noted Sunday that the Syrian opposition has not called for such action as President Bashar Assad's regime.

"Now that military operations in Libya are ending, there will be renewed focus on what practical military operations might be considered to protect civilian lives in Syria," McCain said at the World Economic Forum in Jordan. "The Assad regime should not consider that it can get away with mass murder. Gadhafi made that mistake and it cost him everything," he added, referring to ousted Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi who was captured and killed last week by fighters loyal to the new government.

"Iran's rulers would be wise to heed similar counsel," McCain said.

It was not clear whether the Republican senator from Arizona was referring to American or NATO military action against the Syrian regime, which has waged a 7-month crackdown on opposition protesters and killed about 3,000 people, according to the U.N.

However, international intervention, such as the NATO action in Libya that helped topple Gadhafi, is all but out of the question in Syria. Washington and its allies have shown little inclination for getting involved militarily in another Arab nation in turmoil. There also is real concern that Assad's ouster would spread chaos around the region.

Syria is a geographical and political keystone in the heart of the Middle East, bordering five countries with which it shares religious and ethnic minorities and, in Israel's case, a fragile truce. Its web of alliances extends to Lebanon's powerful Hezbollah movement and Iran's Shiite theocracy. There are worries that a destabilized Syria could send unsettling ripples through the region.

Most Syrian opposition groups, inside and outside Syria, also have said they oppose military intervention.

Mohammad Habash, a member of Syria's outgoing parliament, said such military action "will only bring catastrophes, wars and blood and this is what we don't wish at all."

"We believe that the best way to protect civilians is diplomatic pressure and pushing the regime to sit and talk with the opposition and pushing the opposition to sit with the regime," said Habash, who has been linked to the regime but has recently tried to position himself between the government and the opposition.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said on "Fox News Sunday" that Washington is "strongly supporting a change from Assad and also an opposition that only engages in peaceful demonstration." But she stressed that Syria's opposition has not called for the kind of outside intervention that Libya's opposition did.

McCain also warned Iran after it was accused in the United States of backing a plot never carried out to assassinate the Saudi Arabian ambassador to the U.S.

"Their plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador in Washington has only reminded Americans of the threat posed by this regime, how it is killing Americans in Iraq and Afghanistan, supporting violent groups across the region, destabilizing Arab countries, propping up the Assad regime, seeking nuclear weapons, trampling on the dignity of Iran's people."

Iran has maintained its backing for Assad's regime, but has increasingly urged him to halt attacks on protesters and open dialogue seeking to end the unrest. Tehran has dismissed the U.S. allegations of the plot as "baseless" and has said it was willing to examine hard evidence that the U.S. claims links Tehran and the foiled assassination conspiracy.

Iranian officials have rejected tough talk from Washington as "rhetoric," saying the U.S. is not in a position to attack the Islamic Republic. The country regularly holds war games to showcase its capabilities in defending its nuclear facilities from possible attack.

The elite Revolutionary Guard, Iran's most powerful military force, has warned that there would be a strong Iranian response should the U.S. take military action against the country. Iran repeatedly has threatened to target Israel should the U.S. or Israel take military action against it.

McCain also accused Iran of trying to "hijack" the Arab Spring.

"No issue unifies the American people more than the need to protect our friends, our allies, our interests from the comprehensive threat posed by the Iranian regime. No one should test our resolve in this matter," McCain said.

"Not to say that American leadership is neither welcomed nor wanted in the Middle East today. To the contrary, as I travel across this region, I have met with heads of state, young democratic activists business leaders and nearly every single one wants more American leadership and not less."


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