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Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Survey: People can't live without high-speed Internet

High-speed Internet is the technology that's had the greatest impact on society and the one that people say they can't live without, according to survey results from Zogby Interactive.

Released this week, Zogby's study found that 28 percent of those polled tagged broadband Internet as the one technology they can't live without; e-mail came in second at 18 percent. Facebook was lower on the overall list at only 3 percent, but among the younger crowd (18-24), 15 percent said they can't live without Facebook.

Looking at technologies that have had the greatest impact on society over the past 10 years, 24 percent named high-speed Internet, followed closely by Facebook at 22 percent. Google came in third at 10 percent.

The results also varied based on gender and age.

Women and adults under 55 tagged Facebook as having the most impact, while men and those over 55 pointed to high-speed Internet. Adults between 35 and 54 were split pretty evenly between the two. People from 18-24 found Facebook the most impactful technology of the past decade, with Google in second place.

Zogby also asked people to gaze into the future to offer predictions for the next year and the next decade.

Many (24 percent of those polled) believe the greatest technological advancements for 2011 will be in home entertainment, with general computing in second place.

Looking further down the road, 43 percent of those surveyed believe science will make regular use of stem cells and cloning to create human organs for transplant by the year 2020. Forty percent think that computer chips will be implanted in people to monitor their health. The same percentage expect robots to be able to perform manual labor jobs. And 36 percent see virtual reality making its way into home entertainment by the end of the decade.

To compile the study, Zogby polled 1,950 adults from December 8 through December 10.

- Lance Whitney

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CIA launches WikiLeaks task force, a.k.a. WTF


The CIA has launched a WikiLeaks Task Force, better known by the agency as the acronym: WTF.

According to a report by the Washington Post, the agency has launched the task force to appraise the impact of thousands of sensitive diplomatic documents and military files hitting the web thanks to WikiLeaks.
Among the task force’s responsibilities is “whether the agency's ability to recruit informants could be damaged by declining confidence in the U.S. government's ability to keep secrets,” the report said.

CIA spokesman George Little told the paper that the panel is being led by the CIA's Counterintelligence Center. It is made up of more than two dozen members from departments across the agency.

"It's just a huge vulnerability," an unnamed former high-ranking CIA officer told the Post. "Nobody could carry out enough paper to do what WikiLeaks has done."

-- W.J. Hennigan

Darrelle Revis: Rex Ryan told Jets he was 'embarrassed'

New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan told players he was "embarrassed" by a controversy surrounding his wife on Wednesday, CB Darrelle Revis said.

Foot fetish videos emerged on the Internet with a woman who bears resemblance to Ryan's wife, Michelle. Asked several times about the videos during his news conference on Wednesday, Ryan declined to address it and said it was "a personal matter."

Revis told the Newark Star-Ledger that Ryan spoke to the team in the morning.Rex Ryan
CAPTIONBy Alan Maglaque, US Presswire
"He basically came in there and said, 'You guys might know about the situation; some of you guys might not know,' " Revis told the paper. "'You'll find out later on today. Right now, I feel embarrassed, but it's something personal with me. But right now we need to focus on Chicago,' and he'll take care of it from there."

The Jets travel to play the Bears on Sunday. A win would clinch a playoff spot.

Jets GM Mike Tannanbaum pledged the "full support" of the franchise to Ryan. NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said the league considered it a "personal matter."

-- Sean Leahy

Obama to sign 'don't ask' repeal

Obama signs tax cut bill in Washington
WASHINGTON, Dec. 22 (UPI) -- U.S. President Obama signs the Don't Ask, Don't Tell Repeal Act of 2010 Wednesday, ending the military ban on gays and lesbians openly serving in the military.

The Senate voted 65-31 Saturday to end the policy, which bars gays and lesbians serving in the U.S. military from being open about their sexual orientation. The House had approved repeal 250-175 last week. Putting the new policy into effect will take at least 60 days.

The daily schedule indicates Obama will meet with Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner in the Oval Office.

Cab rider pulled knife, left a tip

SACRAMENTO, Dec. 22 (UPI) -- A California cab rider who pulled a knife during an argument with the driver left a payment with a tip in the vehicle, police said.

A Sacramento police report said the cab driver told officers he had an argument with the rider about the destination at 20th and Q streets and he fled the vehicle on foot when the rider pulled out a folding-blade knife, The Sacramento Bee reported Wednesday.

Police said the rider, who did not make any verbal threats, also left the cab on foot, but left behind a payment with a tip.

Investigators said they have not identified the rider.

Gabor's husband glues eye shut

Comedian George Burns celebrates 80 years in show business
LOS ANGELES, Dec. 22 (UPI) -- Prince Frederic von Anhalt, the husband of Hungarian-born actress Zsa Zsa Gabor, was hospitalized in California after accidentally gluing his eye shut.

TMZ reported von Anhalt, 66, underwent a surgical procedure to reopen his eye after he mistakenly squeezed glue in it Tuesday. He is expected to be released from a Los Angeles hospital soon, the entertainment industry Web site said.

Gabor, 93, has been battling multiple health issues in recent years and was recently hospitalized for hip-replacement surgery after suffering a fall.

Brown quits as Bobcats' coach

Charlotte Bobcats vs New York Knicks in New York

CHARLOTTE, N.C., Dec. 22 (UPI) -- Charlotte Bobcats Coach Larry Brown, his team off to a bad start, resigned Wednesday, team Chairman Michael Jordan announced.

"I met with Coach Brown two weeks ago about the team's performance and what we could do to improve it," Jordan said. "We met again this morning after practice. The team has clearly not lived up to either of our expectations, and we both agreed that a change was necessary."

The 70-year-old Hall of Fame coach has led the Bobcats since April 29, 2008, compiling a record of 88-104. Charlotte made it into the playoffs for the first time in the 2009-10 season, but got off to a 9-19 start this season.

Jordan said in a letter to the team's fans that he is bent on building a winner.

"I am sure you know that this was a difficult decision," Jordan said. "As I told you back in March, owning this team is my No. 1 priority. I am focused on building a winning team that you can be proud of and I will continue to do whatever is necessary to make that happen."

Brown has a career record of 1,098-904, making him No. 6 among NBA coaches all-time. He won an NBA title with Detroit in 2004 and also took Philadelphia to the NBA Finals in 2001.

He also coached at Denver, New Jersey, San Antonio, the Los Angeles Clippers, Indiana and New York.

He won a 1988 college national championship at Kansas and reached the finals with UCLA.

He is the only head coach in basketball history to win both an NCAA championship and NBA title

Senate, House OK 9/11 responders bill

WASHINGTON, Dec. 22 (UPI) -- The U.S. House approved a bill that would provide $4.2 billion to first responders with health problems after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks in New York.

The House approved the measure on a 206-60 vote Wednesday, clearing it for consideration by President Obama, CNN reported.

Earlier Wednesday, the Senate approved a compromise measure on a voice vote. The deal was worked out by Sens. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., and Tom Coburn, R-Okla., The Hill reported.

The measure would establish a health benefits program for firefighters, police officers and construction workers who worked in the smoking remains of the World Trade Center for months following the collapse of the Twin Towers.

Many of the first-responders and cleanup crews were exposed to toxic substances that spewed into the atmosphere when the towers collapsed. The health benefits program also would help residents in the immediate area surrounding the towers who became ill after the attack.

The agreement would authorize a new health benefits program and extends the victims compensation fund for five years, and would reduce the cost of the bill from $6.2 billion to $4.2 billion, the publication said.

The legislation is largely paid for by a 2 percent fee imposed on companies based in countries that have not signed a government procurement agreement with the United States

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Despite New Funding Offsets, US Chamber Of Commerce Still Opposing 9/11 First Responders Bill

Last week, ThinkProgress reported that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce had quietly lobbied to help Republicans kill the “James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act of 2010,” a bill to compensate the first responders and emergency workers who suffered illnesses from working at Ground Zero.

The Chamber — a powerful trade association representing the health insurance industry, ExxonMobil, as well as dozens of foreign corporations — opposed the bill because it paid for health care benefits by ending a special tax loophole exploited by foreign corporations with business interests in the United States. The Chamber also demanded that Congress should stop deliberating over benefits for 9/11 heroes, and instead focus on extending “all of the expiring 2001 and 2003″ tax cuts.

Disclosures reveal that the Chamber used part of its multi-million lobbying budget on defeating the bill because of its funding provision. The Republican caucus, which was unified in opposition to the legislation, cited both the priority of the Bush tax cuts for the richest 2 percent and the Chamber’s concerns about closing the tax loophole.

Over the weekend, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) tried to revive the bill by changing the way the compensation fund would be paid for. Instead of ending the foreign corporate tax loophole, Gillibrand proposed a new funding mechanism, including a 2 percent excise fee on certain foreign companies that receive U.S. government contracts. However, the Chamber still believes the bill’s offsets are unacceptable.

Asked for comment by ThinkProgress, Chamber spokesperson Tita Freeman told us that the Chamber takes no position on compensating 9/11 first responders, but absolutely opposes Gillibrand’s new funding mechanism because the Chamber believes it to be “harmful to the business community and the economy.”

- Lee Fang

A Look at the History of the Newest Laker Joe Smith

With the completion of the three team trade on Wednesday, the Lakers acquired power forward Joe Smith from New Jersey and parted ways with 7 year Laker Sasha Vujacic who went the other way to the Nets.

Joe Smith, for the most part, has had a non-descript and uneventful career. He was a skinny 19 year old project out of Maryland when the Golden State Warriors made him the #1 overall pick in the 1995 draft. Unfortunately for the Warriors, he never quite lived up to the expectations that come with being picked #1 overall and was traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves two years later.

After his short stint with Golden State Joe went on to play for 11 other teams, never having a tenure of more than 3 years with any one them. Joe never put together a season of note after leaving Golden State as he never averaged more than 13.7 points per game or 8.2 rebounds per game or 1.5 blocks per game.

As his numbers show, he understandably never made an NBA All Star team, nor was he ever a part of a championship team.

He has been good enough to hang around 15 years in the NBA, but not valuable enough to make him indispensable to any one team.

I remember Joe Smith most for a game back in 1996 when he played for the Warriors and almost got juked out of his shoes by one of Magic Johnson’s ball fakes in what was Magic’s first game back since retiring in 1991. That particular play was the Laker fans’ first sight at one of Magic’s signature moves and completely electrified the Forum crowd which had been on edge in anticipation up to that point.

- Fernando Rea

Allow Us To Explain: Hugo Strange

If you have been following gaming or movie news in the past month, you may have come across a man called Hugo Strange. Not only has the psychologist been revealed as a major character in Batman: Arkham City, he keeps being mentioned in the swirling gyre of rumors surrounding Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises. (Probably because Tom Hardy has been confirmed to play a role in the movie, but nobody knows who he will be, and so the gears of fan speculation are grinding. Our hopes are pinned sky-high on Tommy Elliot).

We know first hand that there are all kinds of geeks in the world, and not all of their interests overlap, and so fans of The Dark Knight and Batman: Arkham Asylum might be wondering who the heck this obscure Batman villain is, what gives him any appeal, and what his role as antagonist may mean for a plot.

Allow us to explain.

Professor Hugo Strange and the Monsters

Hugo Strange is one of the oldest Batman villains, predating both the Joker and Catwoman. He’s actually older than the Batman series itself, getting his first appearance in Detective Comics a few months before Batman #1 came out. In his second appearance, the brilliant psychologist and scientist creates a small army of monstrous men under his command by mutating the inmates of an insane asylum. When Strange first appeared in comics, Arkham Asylum had not been conceived yet, nor had Gotham City; Batman was the protector of Manhattan.

Does this sound at all familiar to you, players of Batman: Arkham Asylum? What if I told you that Strange captures Batman and attempts to mutate him, leading to a scene where the Dark Knight must manufacture an antidote for himself before he succumbs to the effects? While the Titan formula has an accepted origin in the game that has little to do with Strange, it would not surprise me in the least if this was revealed to be an incomplete truth in the sequel. It seems like an easy way for the writers to tie the second game to the first.

Professor Hugo Strange and … Being Obsessed with Batman

There is another version of Hugo Strange, one with less … pulpy activities, and lately there has been a widely circulated yet unconfirmed rumor that The Dark Knight Rises will be based on a Hugo Strange story arc from the early 90’s titled Prey that embodies this version of the character. We’re not here to comment on whether or not that’s true, but rather simply explain what this other Hugo Strange is like, particularly because the makers of Batman: Arkham City are definitely pulling details from it.

The 90’s Hugo Strange is a man obsessed with Batman, a consultant in a hostile police force’s attempt to hunt down the vigilante, and there is nothing he’d like better than to discover the true identity of that masked man. If a comic book character could be considered a buffalo for the writers of The Dark Knight Rises to use every part of, this aspect of Hugo Strange might be considered a choice cut of meat. The Dark Knight, of course, ended with Batman taking the blame for several murders, running from the cops, and owning his role as a good man with a very evil public record. It would be impossible for the next movie not to address the fact that the police are hunting him.

Rumors of Hugo Strange’s villainy in The Dark Knight Rises are pervasive because they actually make a lot of sense. Nolan is running out of Batman villains who can hobnob with mob dons and don’t have a significant supernatural or super-scientific powers, so fans are more confident with their guesses.

The recent first trailer for Arkham City prominently featured a psychiatrist-obsessed-with-Batman Hugo Strange ordering a SWAT team to attack Batman, which would indicate that the game will have Batman’s battle against the police as a plot point, possibly with at “Oh no a villain knows Batman’s secret identity now!” plot line thrown in for good measure.

Hugo Strange: Bad for Batman. Bad for Gotham City.

- Susana Polo

'Spider-Man' musical claims another victim


What was once a troublesome trend is now a mini-epidemic: performers being injured in the new musical “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark.”

In a preview of the long-delayed production Monday night, Christopher Tierney, who performs many of Spider-Man’s most complicated flying stunts, fell an unspecified distance to the stage and had to be taken to a hospital when a harness or wire apparently failed.

A video taken by an audience member posted by the New York Times showed Tierney plunging off an elevated piece of scenery in a scene near the show’s conclusion.

“He fell several feet from a platform approximately seven minutes before the end of the performance, and the show was stopped,” a spokesman for the show said. “All signs were good as he was taken to the hospital for observation. We will have more news shortly.”

Natalie Mendoza, who plays the musical’s villainess Arachne and suffered a concussion in an earlier production accident, sent a Twitter message which read, "Please pray with me for my friend Chris, my superhero who quietly inspires me everyday with his spirit. A light in my heart went dim tonight.”

The show, at $65 million the most expensive in Broadway history, has been beset by a range of financial, creative and safety problems. In addition to Mendoza’s injury, another actor broke his wrists and yet another actor hurt his ankle.

Last week, its lead producer, Michael Kohl, announced that the show’s opening date was being delayed by four weeks until Feb. 7. The show, directed by “The Lion King’s” Julie Taymor, was at one point to have opened by now.

Actors’ Equity, which represents theater actors and stage managers, said in a statement: “We were informed shortly after the accident during the performance of Spiderman. We are working in cooperation with the state and city Department of Labor on this situation. We don’t have a further statement at this time.”

-- John Horn

Photo: One of the stunts the character Spider-Man performs in the Broadway musical, now in previews. Credit: Jacob Cohl / AP Photo /The O and M Co.



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