Sunday, March 31, 2013

Easter Egg Garland Craft | Rowan Family Tree


Right off the bat, I have to tell you that I saw this idea somewhere last week? But I can?t remember where! I had forgotten it until I was at the paint shop on Friday and saw the paint swatches.

Al we did was cut eggs from the paint swatches, punch some holes in the top and thread some string through. We also secured each egg to the string with a bit of tape on the back. Voila! Easter craft!


It was just at the right level for our girls to do without much supervision. I made my garland alongside them, and we all produced unique and springy results.


Happy Easter to everyone! Merry springtime!

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Keep your passwords handy with the myIDkey

If you are anything like me, (and you should be in this case) you have many different passwords for many different websites. My husband has three pages of passwords in a notebook for all of his accounts. So, when I was browsing Kickstarter, I was pretty stoked about seeing the myIDkey by Arkami, Inc. My [...]


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Sudanese rebel group releases 31 kidnapped Darfuris

CAIRO (Reuters) - Sudanese rebels have released 31 Darfuris who they had kidnapped a week ago on their way to a conference for people displaced by the region's decade-long war, the International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC) said on Saturday.

Conflict has raged in Darfur since 2003 when mainly non-Arab rebels took up arms against the Arab-led government, accusing it of politically and economically marginalizing the region.

Violence has subsided from its peak in 2003 and 2004, but a surge has forced more than 130,000 people to flee their homes since the start of the year, according to the United Nations.

Last week, the international peacekeeping mission UNAMID said an armed group had kidnapped 31 Darfuris who the peacekeepers had been escorting in three buses. The abductors took them to an unknown location.

On Saturday, the ICRC said a faction of the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA), one of the main Darfur rebel groups, had released the men and handed them over to the Red Cross, according to a statement.

The SLA was not available for comment, and no more details were available about the incident that happened in a border area between Central Darfur State and South Darfur State.

Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir is wanted by the International Criminal Court on charges of genocide and war crimes in Darfur.

Sudan refuses to recognize the court, which it says is biased against leaders who refuse to kowtow to Western powers.

In 2008, the United Nations said about 300,000 people may have died in Darfur's war, a figure some activists say is too low. The government has put the death toll at about 10,000.

(Reporting by Ulf Laessing in Cairo and Stephanie Ulmer-Nebehay in Geneva; Editing by Rosalind Russell)


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Apple's 'Maps Ground Truth Specialists' fix Map app flubs

Apple's Maps mess of six months ago is a distant memory for some, but not for the Cupertino company, which has worked quickly to rectify matters and improve its map app, introduced as part of its iOS 6 mobile operating system. That damage control includes hiring employees with the title of "Maps Ground Truth Specialists" around the globe to make sure Apple's maps are up to snuff.

While Apple isn't the first company to have the Orwellian-sounding position of "Maps Ground Truth Specialists" ? Google has them, too ? it's noteworthy because of Apple's map flubs, something that caused CEO Tim Cook to make a public apology.

In the United States, those flubs included initially showing the Brooklyn Bridge as almost plunging into the water and marking a Florida supermarket site as one for a hospital.

Right now, there are seven openings for "Maps Ground Truth Specialists" around the world, including one in the United States. That role, Apple says in the job description, will include:

  • Testing new releases of map code and data around the U.S.
  • Collecting ground truth data to allow for analysis of the impact of potential map code or data changes relative to known truth.
  • Utilizing local expertise to provide feedback about U.S.-specific mapping details.
  • Evaluating competing products in-region relative to our maps.

As you can see, there are jobs all over the globe, including Australia. There last fall, police were warning drivers not to use Apple Maps because it wrongly placed the city of Midura in a national park, leaving some motorists stranded and in a snake-infested area.

? Via The Verge

Check out Technology, GadgetBox, DigitalLife and InGame on Facebook, and on Twitter, follow Suzanne Choney.


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Weekly Ketchup: New Tomb Raider Reboot In the Works

This week's Ketchup includes movies development news stories that include new roles for Anne Hathaway and Matthew McConaughey, and news about the sequels Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.

This Week's Top Story


Based upon the existence of this story, we can now gather that the notion of there ever being another Tomb Raider movie was hinging upon the success of the recently released videogame reboot that took Lara Croft back to her first adventure as a young lady. Something else that this is a sign of is that this was a slow news week. Anyway, the Tomb Raider reboot also has a new studio in the form of MGM, which is not really that surprising inasmuch as MGM is the place where they've never met a reboot or remake they didn't love. The two movies starring Angelina Jolie were produced by Paramount Pictures, and then Warner Bros was trying to get a reboot going for a few years there, too. There isn't much else to know or report about this Tomb Raider reboot, except that one might speculate that the new movie might follow in the steps of the new video game, and de-age Lara Croft to tell a similar "my first adventure" type of story. The success of a movie like The Hunger Games might, therefore, have also been a factor in this project continuing to attract attention from a studio like MGM.

Fresh Developments This Week


With eight films now under director Christopher Nolan's figurative belt, a movie fan might feel like they have a pretty good grasp for the sort of actors that Nolan might be considering for his next project, the sci-fi movie Interstellar. Nolan in the past has been pretty big on Aussies (Guy Pearce, Hugh Jackman) and Brits (Christian Bale, Tom Hardy). Right when such choices appear to be that predictable, that's when the news hits that Christopher Nolan has offered the lead role in Interstellar to Matthew McConaughey. Which was the Internet's cue to start breaking out the "lawbreaker" and "alright alright alright" jokes. Because those are things characters played by Matthew McConaughey have said in movies that people have seen the trailers for. Paramount Pictures has scheduled Interstellar for a release date in November, 2014.


The first movie of Marvel's Phase 2 (Iron Man 3) is still not yet released, but already, we know about the six movies after it that Marvel has planned, taking us into Phase 3 already. Phase 1 and Phase 2 are both known to end, respectively, with The Avengers and its sequel The Avengers 2, but news came this week that Phase 3 might end quite differently. Let's put the pieces together: Last week, the news broke that Robert Redford has been cast as an unspecified S.H.I.E.L.D. agent in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. There's also been rumors of Gwendoline Christie (Brienne of Tarth from Game of Thrones) being cast in a cameo role in Thor: The Dark World as Brunnhilde the Valkyrie. And finally, we know that the second movie of Phase 3 is expected to be Doctor Strange (after Ant-Man in late 2015). Tying in with all that are the reports this week that the third Phase 3 movie will be Namor the Sub-Mariner, devoted to one of Marvel's oldest characters (dating all the way back to 1939), who also, by the way, predates by two years the more famous DC Comics "Atlantis monarch" character Aquaman. We also know that Marvel plans on using the Hulk in more movies in the future, but not necessarily in another solo Hulk movie. Which brings us, finally, to what exactly ties Doctor Strange, Namor, Valkyrie, Robert Redford's mysterious character (who might be "Kyle Richmond"), and the Incredible Hulk? That answer may come in the year 2017 with the release of the final movie of Marvel Phase 3... The Defenders, based upon Marvel's other major superhero team which isn't The Avengers, the X-Men, the Fantastic Four, the Guardians of the Galaxy, the Inhumans, the Eternals, Alpha Flight, West Coast Avengers, Force Works, Midnight Sons, the Invaders, S.H.I.E.L.D., S.W.O.R.D., the Warriors Three, Heroes for Hire, X-Force, X-Statix, Excalibur, the New Mutants, The Initiative, Power Pack, the Runaways, Young Avengers, Pet Avengers, the Great Lakes Avengers, or the Champions. That's right, The Defenders, that 1970s team of misfit superheroes that started around the trio of Doctor Strange, the Hulk, and Namor the Sub-Mariner, and grew to include... anyone that wasn't already in a super team, because... why not. It sold comics... for a while. And then... APRIL FOOL'S! (admittedly, a few days early, but this column only gets published on Fridays, and April 1st is a Monday this year). We swear The Defenders is the only joke entry in the Weekly Ketchup.


For all these many years since we first heard that Marvel might really someday make a Captain America movie, those who love all things cheesy about superhero comics have wished (perhaps secretly, perhaps in denial) that we could maybe someday have a movie that featured Batroc the Leaper. There are basically two types of comic book fans, and that division can come right down to what they think of Batroc; it's basically a question of whether or not they like "fun" (and those on the anti-Batroc side of course deny that they despise fun). Batroc is French, has a ridiculous accent, speaks in puns, wears purple with a silly mask, kicks people in the head, and calls himself a "lea-PAR." Well, anyway, that day has finally come, it appears, because current UFC Welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre has reportedly been cast in Captain America: The Winter Soldier as Batroc the Leaper. Keep in mind that we don't know how big of a role Batroc actually plays in the film (it might be one scene or even just part of a montage or something), but it appears to be real. Georges St-Pierre isn't technically French, but he does come from the French part of Canada (Quebec), which might make him even more "French" than actually being French would. Walt Disney Pictures has scheduled Captain America: The Winter Soldier for April 4, 2014.


Director Lynn Shelton (Humpday, Your Sister's Sister) is still definitively "indie," but the cast that she's able to recruit for her films continues to work its way up the "A list" ladder. Anne Hathaway, Chloe Moretz, Sam Rockwell, and Mark Webber are now all in "deep" negotiations to star in Lynn Shelton's next indie film, Laggies. If all goes through, Hathaway will play a late-20-something who is freaked out by her boyfriend's (Webber) wedding proposal, and so she spends a week pretending to be a teenager hanging out with an actual 16 year old (Moretz). Laggies sounds like a movie that premieres at Sundance, and so it probably will the next time the festival occurs, which will be in January, 2014.


The continued stumbling blocks for two different musicals may combine to ensure that at least one of them actually gets produced sometime soon. And the winner is... the Jersey Boys movie, based on the hit Broadway musical, itself based upon the true story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. And likewise, the loser may be Warner Bros' long-standing attempts at making another A Star is Born entry. The defining factor here may be whether Clint Eastwood really does sign on to direct Jersey Boys, rather than work on A Star is Born, which he's been developing with Warner Bros for several years now (formerly with Beyonce Knowles, more recently with Esperanza Spalding). As for Jersey Boys, the last we heard, it was a project that Jon Favreau had been considering directing, but then he dropped out, which may be where Eastwood steps in (if he does).


We've been hearing so much about the humans in the sequel Dawn of the Planet of the Apes that it might have been forgivable if someone guessed that Andy Serkis would remain the only "name actor" attached to play any of the apes. But, alas, nope, we finally have news of someone else playing an ape, and she's even a lady type person. Judy Greer (Arrested Development) has been cast as Cornelia, the female chimp love interest for Caesar. This will presumably mean that Greer will soon have lots of little ping pong balls attached to her personage, if this sequel is filmed the same way the first movie was. Filming of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes starts in April, and 20th Century Fox is expecting to release the film on May 23, 2014.


Director Matthew Vaughn's name has come up a few times after X-Men: First Class, most notably with either the sequel X-Men: Days of Future Past, or as one of the contenders to direct Star Wars Episode VII. We finally know now what he will be directing next. The answer keeps Matthew Vaughn at 20th Century Fox, for whom he will direct an adaptation of the Mark Millar comic book The Secret Service. As the title suggests (albeit deceptively), The Secret Service is about the world of spies and other espionage-type craft work. 20th Century Fox has scheduled The Secret Service for a release date of November 14, 2014.

Rotten Ideas of the Week


This was a slow news week. How slow? Even with an April Fool's Day joke, there was still enough space to cover a Hugh Grant comedy that reunites him with the director of Two Weeks Notice, which in most weeks probably would have not made the 10 story cut. Writer/director Marc Lawrence has also worked on movies like Miss Congeniality (and its sequel) (as screenwriter, not director), and Did You Hear About the Morgans? Lawrence's RT Tomatometer has many more green splotches than "Fresh" tomatoes, which is why this untitled comedy is one of the week's Rotten ideas. Marisa Tomei, J.K. Simmons, Alison Janney, and Chris Elliot will also costar in this story of an Academy Award winning English screenwriter who takes a job at a small college where, instead of picking up young students, he instead falls in love with an older single mother (Tomei). And love (and possibly other high jinks) ensues.


There are stories, hopefully every week, that remind this writer what a fun job he has, getting to cover the hottest movie development news. And then there's Michael Bay's reboot (as producer) of (not Teenage, not Mutant) Ninja Turtles, of which, yeah, this is the part where it feels more like a job. So, we now know the names of the four actors who have been cast as the four turtles. And sure, enough, they are indeed names. Alan Ritchson (The Hunger Games: Catching Fire), Pete Ploszek, Jeremy Howard, and Noel Fisher have been cast, respectively, as Raphael, Leonardo, Donatello, and Michaelangelo. Paramount Pictures has scheduled Ninja Turtles, which will also costar Megan Fox, for release on June 6, 2014.


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Saturday, March 30, 2013

Drones over America: How unmanned fliers are already helping cops

It was getting dark, and the sheriff of Nelson County, N.D., was in a standoff with a family of suspected cattle rustlers. They were armed, and the last thing anybody wanted was a shoot out.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection, which monitors police radio chatter, offered to help. Their Predator was flying back to its roost at the Grand Forks Air Force base and could provide aerial support. Did the sheriff want the assist?


"We were able to detect that one of the sons was sitting at the end of the driveway with a gun. We also knew that there were small children involved," Sheriff Kelly Janke told NBC News, remembering that tricky encounter in the early summer of 2011. "Someone would have gotten seriously injured if we had gone in on the farm that night." He decided to wait.

The next day, the drone gave them an edge again by helping them choose the safest moment to make a move. "We were able to surprise them ? took them into custody," Janke said. They also collected six stolen cows.

Rodney Brossart, the arrested farmer, sued the state, in part because of the cop's use of a drone. But a district judge ruled that the Predator's service was not untoward.

When advocates express concern about government drones threatening people's privacy, the Brossart case is one they bring up. It's one of the first instances of a flying robot doing a cop's dirty work, and this kind of intervention is likely to be more and more commonplace, as the FAA fulfills a congressional mandate to increase its granting of drone permits ? certificates of authorization, or COAs.

Cops and flying robots
At the moment, there are only 327 active COAs, all held by these organizations, and all for unarmed crafts, of course. A tiny sliver of these permits are in the hands of law enforcement agencies, and from them, we're seeing the first glimpses of drone use in policing and emergency response.

"The FAA has approved us to cover a 16-county area," Sheriff Bob Rost of Grand Forks County, N.D., said of their COA. "To look for missing children, to look for escaped criminals and in the case of emergencies." In the spring, they will use two mini-copter drones ? a trusty DraganFlyer X6 and an AeroVironment Qube ? to check on flooded farms.

The police department in Arlington, Texas, also recently got FAA clearance to fly their drones after two years of testing. The two battery-powered Leptron Avenger helicopter drones won't be used for high-speed chases or routine patrol, the department explains. In fact, the crafts will be driven in a truck to where they're needed, and when they're launched to scope out incidents, local air traffic control will be informed.

In Mesa County, Colo., the police department has used drones to find missing people, do an aerial landfill survey and help out firefighters at a burning church. For them, it's seen as a cost-cutting technology.

"It's the Wal-Mart version of what we'd normally get at Saks Fifth Avenue," said Benjamin Miller, who leads the drones program in Mesa County, comparing drones to manned helicopters that would otherwise give police officers help from the sky.

In Seattle, the police department received an FAA permit ? but had to give back its drones when the mayor banned their use, following protests in October 2012.

Protests and red tape
"Hasn't anyone heard of George Orwell's '1984'?" the Seattle Times quoted a protester as saying. "This is the militarization of our streets and now the air above us."

Protesters, not just in Seattle, seek more legal definition of what a drone can or can't do, and debate whether or not current laws sufficiently protect citizens from unauthorized surveillance and other abuses.

New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg thinks of police drones as an inevitability ? "We're going to have them," he recently said in a radio interview ? while those on the police (and drone) side say the fears are unfounded.

"This hysteria of [a drone] hovering outside your backyard taking a video of you smoking a joint, it's just that ? hysteria," said Al Frazier, an ex-cop from Los Angeles who is now an assistant professor of aeronautics at the University of North Dakota, and a deputy at the Grand Forks sheriff's office.

The reason the sky isn't lousy with drones already mostly has to do with red tape. The FAA's highly restricted drone application for government agencies is supposed to take about 60 days, though unofficially, we're told it's much longer. COAs are also very strict about where, when and by whom a drone is flown.

"I think there are many agencies who would like to use [drones] for public good, but they're stymied by the process," Frazier said.

That's likely to change ? and soon. Last February, Obama signed a mandate that encourages the FAA to let civil and commercial drones join the airspace by 2015. This will take new regulations from the FAA for safe commercial drone flight, and it may take some convincing of local anti-drone activists (who sometimes don't differentiate between drones great and small). It may even require the passing of a few new privacy laws.

Folks like Frazier and Miller don't see the permit process getting easier any time soon but eventually ? inevitably ? and for better or worse, your local police department will get its drone.

Nidhi Subbaraman writes about technology and science. Follow her on Twitter and Google+.


The drones are coming ... but our laws aren't ready

Anticipating domestic boom, colleges rev up drone piloting programs


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Friday, March 29, 2013

Verizon FiOS Is The Best Cable Bundle, Says Consumer Reports

Cable companies routinely score lower in customer satisfaction than almost any other consumer service, and a large part of that is the fact that most Americans can't choose their cable provider. But if you do have options, you should choose Verizon FiOS, according to a new report from Consumer Reports. More »


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RIM sells 1M BlackBerry 10s, surprise 4Q profit

TORONTO (AP) ? Research In Motion Ltd. said Thursday that it sold about 1 million phones running its new BlackBerry 10 system. It also surprised Wall Street by returning to profitability in the most recent quarter.

The earnings provide a first glimpse of how the BlackBerry 10 system, widely seen as crucial to the company's future, is selling internationally and in Canada since its debut Jan. 31. The 1 million new touch-screen BlackBerry Z10 phones were above the 915,000 that analysts had been expecting. Details on U.S. sales are not part of the fiscal fourth quarter's financial results because the Z10 just became available there last week, after the quarter ended.

In another sign of uncertainty, RIM lost about 3 million subscribers to end the quarter with 76 million. It's the second consecutive quarterly decline for RIM, whose subscriber based peaked at 80 million last summer.

Bill Kreyer, a tech analyst for Edward Jones, called the decline "pretty alarming."

"This is going to take a couple of quarters to really see how they are doing," Kreyer said.

The BlackBerry, pioneered in 1999, had been the dominant smartphone for on-the-go business people and other consumers before the iPhone debuted in 2007 and showed that phones can handle much more than email and phone calls. RIM faced numerous delays modernizing its operating system with the BlackBerry 10. During that time, it had to cut more than 5,000 jobs and saw shareholder wealth decline by more than $70 billion.

In the quarter that ended March 2, RIM earned $98 million, or 19 cents a share, compared with a loss of $125 million, or 24 cents a share, a year earlier. After adjusting for restructuring and other one-time items, RIM earned 22 cents a share. Analysts surveyed by FactSet had been expecting a loss of 31 cents.

Revenue fell 36 percent to $2.7 billion, from $4.2 billion. Analysts had expected $2.82 billion.

The company also announced that co-founder Mike Lazaridis will retire as vice chairman and director. He and Jim Balsillie had stepped down as co-CEOs in January 2012 after several quarters of disappointing results. Thorsten Heins, the chief operating officer, took over and spent the past year cutting costs and steering the company toward the launch of new BlackBerry 10 phones.

Investors appeared happy with the financial results. RIM's stock rose 27 cents, or 1.8 percent, to $14.84 in morning trading Thursday after the release of results.

"I thought they were dead. This is a huge turnaround," Jefferies analyst Peter Misek said from New York.

Misek said the Canadian company "demolished" the numbers, especially its gross margins. RIM reported gross margins of 40 percent, up from 34 percent a year earlier. The company credited higher average selling prices and higher margins for devices.

"This is a really, really good result," Misek said. "It's off to a good start."

The new BlackBerry 10 phones are redesigned for the new multimedia, Internet browsing and apps experience that customers are now demanding.

The Z10 has received favorable reviews since its release, but the launch in the critical U.S. market was delayed until late this month as wireless carriers completed their testing.

A version with a physical keyboard, called the Q10, won't be released in the U.S. for two or three more months. The delay in selling the Q10 complicates RIM's efforts to hang on to customers tempted by the iPhone and a range of devices running Google Inc.'s Android operating system. Even as the BlackBerry has fallen behind rivals in recent years, many users have stayed loyal because they prefer a physical keyboard over the touch screen on the iPhone and most Android devices.

RIM, which is changing is formal name to BlackBerry, said it expects to break even in the current quarter despite increasing spending on marketing by 50 percent compared with the previous quarter.

"To say it was a very challenging environment to deliver improved financial results could well be the understatement of the year," Heins said during a conference call with analysts.

Heins said more than half of the people buying the touch-screen Z10 were switching from rival systems. The company didn't provide details or specify whether those other systems were all smartphones. He said the Q10 will sell well among the existing BlackBerry user base. It's expected in some markets in April, but not in the U.S. until May or June.


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Learning to Let Go (for the Health of Your Company) | MSPmentor

I?m a control freak. But I?m trying to break the habit. The latest example: I?m no longer running the underlying IT platforms that drive MSPmentor?s two sister sites: The VAR Guy and Talkin? Cloud. Soon, I will let go of MSPmentor?s underlying technology as well. What does this journey mean? Before you jump to conclusions, here are some important lessons for MSP entrepreneurs who are growing their businesses, considering potential M&A strategies, and struggling to delegate daily tasks.

First, some background: I?ve been an accidental CIO for about five years now. When we launched Nine Lives Media (MSPmentor?s parent) in January 2008, I had some basic IT skills and some hunches about how online media would evolve. Similarly, co-founder Amy Katz had some great business development and sales experience to help her build financial models for our business. Amy quickly took on the CEO role and I took on the editorial director role ? but there was that sort-of CIO responsibility that came along with it.

Fortunately, we had a great web design and architecture partner. And we found the right platforms (WordPress, MySQL, Rackspace, etc.) for the start of our IT journey. But somewhere around year three of our our business (2010-2011), I knew I would eventually need to hand off my technical responsibilities. As the old saying goes: Hire the best person for the job. And when it comes to CIO-type functions, I was good for a Stage 1 company. That?s it.

Stage 2 and Beyond

Enter Penton Media. I think Amy and the Penton management team started talking M&A around Q2 of 2011. Amy always kept me looped in on the discussions. But ultimately she negotiated the deal. Among the big potential perks I hoped to achieve: Instead of trying to build a robust, scalable content management platform of our own, I hoped Penton would acquire us so that Nine Lives could ultimately run our web sites and media operations atop Penton?s web platform.

In other words: If you want to transform your house into a mansion it?s smart to plug into the existing city infrastructure rather than building your own power plant. That became a central part of the plan when Penton acquired Nine Lives Media in August 2011. But the complete IT transition wouldn?t happen overnight.

Our first step was migrating all the basic business operations ? email, finance, accounting, payroll, etc. ? to Penton?s systems. That occurred rapidly, and Amy made it all happen.

At the same time we watched how Penton began to standardize its own content management system on a single platform code-named PISCES. Look under the hood, and you?ll find that PISCES is built on Drupal, an open source CMS. One by one, Penton was moving its various media brands onto Drupal. We knew Nine Lives Media had to chart a similar course.

But there were plenty of inflection points. We had to get our editorial team trained on Drupal (special thanks to Charlene O?Hanlon for taking the lead on learning Drupal.) I think some peers at Penton wondered if I was ready to truly ?let go? of Nine Lives? content management system. We also had to sort out how our ad serving system would work on Penton?s IT infrastructure. Most of all: I wanted to see our sites running? ? even in a controlled environment ? on Penton?s PISCES platform before we pulled back the curtain on a very public migration.

Experts In the House

That?s where folks like Penton VP of Internet Technology Nino Tasca and Senior Project Manager Matt Tulloch enter the picture. Basically, PISCES is Tasca?s baby. And Tulloch is the migration expert who made sure The VAR Guy and Talkin? Cloud had safe passage to PISCES. Tulloch will repeat that feat sometime soon for MSPmentor (stay tuned).

Like any IT project, we encountered plenty of challenges amid our migration. But the bottom line is our sites and business continues to grow; I?m still blogging away; and Penton is now running two-thirds of our media platforms. The final one-third of the migration is within sight?

The Lesson for MSPs and Entrepreneurs

When you started your business, you likely did a little bit of everything because you had to. But as you consider potential business growth ? or maybe even an M&A deal ? down the road here?s what I?d do:

  • First, make a list of the key tasks you want/need to delegate over time.
  • Second, make a list of the skills that organic hiring or an M&A deal will bring to the table.

As an entrepreneur or business owner you need to do less ? not more. In some ways it?s fine to be a control freak. But when you?re no longer the smartest guy or gal in the room on a specific t0pic then its time to eat some humble pie, delegate fast and get back to what you love: The creative process of building a business, rather than the nuts and bolts of running a business.

As for me, I?m still doing what I love. But my job description no longer includes after-hours website support for The VAR Guy and Talkin? Cloud. That?s my opportunity to say goodnight.


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Thursday, March 28, 2013

TV drama reopens debate over Germans' war guilt

BERLIN (AP) ? With the wartime generation rapidly disappearing, a television drama about five young Germans in World War II has revived debate in Germany about the role ordinary men and women played in the Nazis' murderous campaign to conquer Europe.

Millions tuned in last week to watch the three-part series "Our Mothers, Our Fathers," which follows five young Germans ? two brothers, a nurse, an aspiring female singer and a Jewish tailor ? as they struggle through one of the bloodiest conflicts in history.

Three of the characters, including the Jew, survive ? disillusioned and physically broken ? to confront each other and their own demons in the final episode in the ruins of Berlin.

The series begins in 1941, as the Nazis launch their doomed assault on the Soviet Union, with each character slowly realizing that the world they believed in is falling apart. The brothers realize the German army isn't as noble as they thought; the nurse regrets betraying a Jewish colleague; the singer's liaison with an SS member turns sour; and the Jew has to fight his fellow Germans to survive.

The mixed reactions to the series underscore how, nearly 70 years after World War II, the conflict remains a source of bitterness in Europe, even for people born after the fighting ended.

Many critics have praised the series as a milestone in Germany's troubled reckoning with its past and an overdue examination of individual guilt in the war. But the drama's depiction of Polish resistance fighters as anti-Semites and Russian soldiers raping the German nurse have drawn particularly angry reactions in Eastern Europe, which suffered the most from the slaughter.

In Germany, meanwhile, some accuse the film of sidelining the Holocaust and depicting Germans as victims rather than a nation responsible for starting a war and committing genocide.

"A film about World War II that omits the bothersome question of six million dead Jews," remarked columnist Jennifer Nathalie Pyka in Juedische Allgemeine, Germany's leading Jewish weekly.

Jan Sueselbeck, a researcher at the University of Marburg, said the series reflects wishful thinking rather than historical facts. The drama glosses over Adolf Hitler's rise to power and the outbreak of war by beginning the story in 1941, two years into the European conflict.

"This film depicts Germans once more the way they would like to have been, but in fact the broad masses were never like that," Sueselbeck said.

On Wednesday, Poland's ambassador to Berlin, Jerzy Marganski, slammed the series in a letter sent to Germany public television ZDF, which broadcast the 14 million-euro production.

"The image of Poland and the Polish resistance against the German occupiers as conveyed by this series is perceived by most Poles as extremely unjust and offensive," Marganski wrote. "I, too, am shocked."

Among other criticisms, Marganski said viewers learn nothing of the Warsaw uprising, in which up to 200,000 Polish civilians died, nor of the many Poles who helped Jews. Producer Nico Hofmann said the depictions of "the Polish situation .... are based on historically vetted material" and there was no intention to defame the Poles.

The series also includes an improbable ending in which the Jewish character, Viktor, survives the war but his German lover Greta is executed for trying to save him.

The only American shown is a cigar-chomping officer who ignores Viktor's anguished protest against forgiving a former SS member in the post-war West German administration.

Many Germans born after the war remain largely ignorant of what their parents did because, like many combat veterans or survivors, the elders don't want to talk about it.

Hofmann said one of his goals was to encourage a national debate among the generations "to speak for the first time about the experience" of the war. He said the third and final episode drew a 20.5 percent market share among viewers aged 14-59 years, which he described as "extremely high" for ZDF.

A full, dispassionate accounting of German actions during the war never occurred because the Cold War division of Europe forced former enemies on both sides of the Iron Curtain to set aside their differences to confront a new set of rivals.

Until German reunification in October 1990, communist East Germany promoted the notion that Hitler and his fellow Nazis alone were responsible for the war and that Germans who were not Nazi party members were victims, too. Despite mountains of evidence to the contrary, many Germans still believe that ordinary soldiers didn't participate in and were ignorant of the atrocities committed by Hitler's feared SS and SA units.

"Were German soldiers really so brutal?" mass-circulation daily Bild newspaper asked after one episode showed German soldiers killing civilians in revenge for a partisan attack.

In fact, soldiers killed thousands of civilians throughout the war and assisted death squads in the large-scale extermination of Eastern Europe's Jews. Some 3 million Russian soldiers died in German captivity, while the final stages of the war saw fanatical Hitler loyalists hand out thousands of death sentences to deserting German soldiers and so-called defeatists.

Since the series aired, newspapers and online forums have been filled with comments by descendants of the war generation, with many saying their parents rarely, if ever, spoke of their experiences.

The debate comes at a sensitive time for Germany's army, which broke with the post-war taboo of sending soldiers abroad only around 20 years ago. Today, almost 5,000 German soldiers are serving alongside Americans and British troops in Afghanistan. Others are involved in international missions in Kosovo, Lebanon and Mali.

"I can imagine that in many families where there are survivors there will be conversations," said Jens Wehner, a historian at the German Military Museum in Dresden.

Many families will have already missed the opportunity to do so, because the number of Germans old enough to have participated in the war and still alive today is dwindling fast.

Census records obtained by The Associated Press put the figure at about 1.85 million, of which fewer than 600,000 are men.

About 5.3 million German soldiers were killed in the war. Another 2.5 million German civilians died in the conflict, excluding almost 150,000 Germans Jews murdered in the Holocaust.

"Soon nobody will be left who experienced (the war)," warned Frank Schirrmacher, publisher of the conservative daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. He praised the series "for the earnestness, the love of detail and the unwillingness to compromise," which allowed it to have "what it takes to touch the soul of the country."?

Hofmann said he produced the series partly for his own father, who volunteered to join Hitler's army at 18, nearly died from wounds and to this day won't say if he took part in atrocities.

Tomasz Szarota, a historian and expert on Poland's wartime underground movement, said the film appeared to contain numerous factual inaccuracies. But a bigger problem was that the series reinforces a current German interpretation that compares Germany's suffering to that of its victims, he said.

"There is this wave in Germany now of being able to talk about German suffering," Szarota said. "The Germans were the last victim of the war that they themselves started."


Frank Jordans can be reached at


Monika Scislowska in Warsaw, Poland, contributed to this report.


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Historical contingency and the futility of reductionism: Why chemistry (and biology) is not physics

Even an omniscient being like Dr. Manhattan from Watchmen could not have predicted the result of life's accidents (Image: Christian Fearing Godman)

The reductionist zeitgeist of physics cannot ?explain? chemistry any more than ?entropy? explains the inexorable march of life from birth to death. It?s important to understand what we mean when we say that physics cannot explain chemistry. Physics of course accounts for chemistry in the trite sense that molecules are composed of atoms. But then physics also ?accounts for? human behavior since the brain is ultimately composed of atoms too. Yet we have no clue how to get from atoms to things like jealousy and musical creativity. When we say that A explains B, it usually means there is an unbroken and logical thread of continuity connecting A to B by way of which the properties of A are manifestly demonstrated in B. This physics cannot do even in the highly reductionist realm of chemistry, let alone in ?higher? realms like neuroscience and sociology. These days emergence has become a fashionable word that?s often thrown around to describe any kind of complexity, but the emergence of chemical and biological properties that cannot be deduced from their underlying physics is in fact quite real.

There are several reasons why the reductionist approach in science doesn?t always work, but one of the most important ones was alluded to by the physicist and writer Jeremy Bernstein in a Wall Street Journal review of a biography of George Gamow and Max Delbruck:

Some sciences are more unruly than others. Here?s a parable to illustrate what I mean. Imagine that when the first life form appeared there was a super intelligent freak. If this freak had had a complete knowledge of the laws of physics, what could it have predicted? Quite a lot. All atomic nuclei consist of neutrons and protons, and the number of protons determines each element?s chemical nature. Knowing this, the freak could have predicted all the elements that could possibly exist, along with their respective characteristics. Suppose that it also knew all the laws of biology, including the ?central dogma,? which explains how genes are expressed as proteins. Even so, it could not have predicted the existence of giraffes, nor even the fact that my brother and I share only half our genes. Both of these are evolutionary accidents. If it had not been for random mutation there would be no giraffes, and my brother and I might have shared all our genes, as male bumblebees do. Biology is not like physics.

This paragraph succinctly drills down to one of the fundamental limitations of physics-based reductionism and it?s a point that applies to chemistry as well. It?s a very important one. The problem is that reductionism cannot account for the role of historical contingency and accident. Even if an all-powerful being could account for all biological scenarios emerging from an initial state of the universe, it could never tell us why one particular scenario is preferred over others. As Bernstein says, evolutionary accidents by definition cannot be predicted from starting conditions because they depend on chance and opportunity.

In addition function can never be uniquely derived from reductionism even if structure is. For instance in his book ?Reinventing the Sacred?, the complexity theorist Stuart Kauffman makes a powerful argument that even if one could derive the structure of the human heart from string theory in principle, string theory would never tell us that its most important function is to pump blood. The function of biological organs arose as an adaptive consequence of the countless unpredictable constraints that molded them during evolution. In addition the evolution of both structure and function was a mix-and-match process that depended as much on chance encounters as on strict adaptation. All this can never be captured in a reductionist worldview.

The same principle applies to chemistry. Evolution has fashioned many unique molecules that underpin life?s machinery. The question facing many chemists and especially chemists working on the origins of life is, why this particular molecule and not that one? Here are some more specific conundrums: Why are there only twenty amino acids, why are there alpha amino acids instead of beta or gamma amino acids (which have extra carbon atoms), why is amino acid stereochemistry (molecular ?handedness?) L while sugar stereochemistry is D, why does DNA consist of a very specific set of four nucleotides and no other, why did nature choose phosphates in the construction of so many important biomolecules (the chemist Frank Westheimer comes close to answering this question), why does a given protein fold into only one unique functional structure, why is water is the only solvent known to sustain life, and in general why are the myriad small and large molecules of life what they are. In retrospect of course one could provide several arguments for the existence of these molecules based on stability, function and structure but there is no way to predict these parameters prospectively.

The fact is that an all-powerful, super-reductionist freak would have been useless in accounting for the unique existence of life?s chemical precursors. This is because there is nothing in the nature of these molecules which dictates that their presence should have been uniquely determined. For instance we now know from chemical studies that beta and gamma amino acids can also fold into the kind of helix and sheets motifs that are ubiquitous for alpha amino acids. They also have other favorable properties like chemical diversity which might have made them better building blocks compared to alpha amino acids. Yet for some reason they were discarded during evolution. Why? We could come up with several arguments. For instance because of their floppiness, maybe the higher order versions had to pay an unacceptable entropic penalty that could not compensate for their folding propensity. Or maybe a reaction called the Strecker reaction that is thought to produce alpha amino acids could never be superseded by beta amino acid-forming chemical reactions. Or perhaps alpha amino acids shield hydrophobic or water-hating side chains much better than their longer chain counterparts. These are all cogent reasons, and yet I am sure we could find an equal number of arguments against alpha amino acids if we searched hard enough. The truth is that the ultimate failure to find an explanation for the existence of alpha amino acids is a powerful reminder of the importance that chance and circumstance played in the evolution of both biomolecules as well as living organisms. Reductionism does not help us in tracing a path through this random, probabilistic landscape of evolution. The identities of life?s fundamental building blocks were shaped by chance followed by Darwinian natural selection.

This role of contingency and accident is one of the most important reasons why the reduction of chemistry and biology to physics will not work. Even if reductionism could provide us a list of all possible scenarios in chemical and biological evolution, it could never tell us which one would be preferred and for what reason. This is yet another reason why chemistry and biology are not physics.

This is a revised and updated version of a post on The Curious Wavefunction blog.


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Brain scans might predict future criminal behavior

Mar. 28, 2013 ? A new study conducted by The Mind Research Network in Albuquerque, N.M., shows that neuroimaging data can predict the likelihood of whether a criminal will reoffend following release from prison.

The paper, which is to be published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, studied impulsive and antisocial behavior and centered on the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), a portion of the brain that deals with regulating behavior and impulsivity.

The study demonstrated that inmates with relatively low anterior cingulate activity were twice as likely to reoffend than inmates with high-brain activity in this region.

"These findings have incredibly significant ramifications for the future of how our society deals with criminal justice and offenders," said Dr. Kent A. Kiehl, who was senior author on the study and is director of mobile imaging at MRN and an associate professor of psychology at the University of New Mexico. "Not only does this study give us a tool to predict which criminals may reoffend and which ones will not reoffend, it also provides a path forward for steering offenders into more effective targeted therapies to reduce the risk of future criminal activity."

The study looked at 96 adult male criminal offenders aged 20-52 who volunteered to participate in research studies. This study population was followed over a period of up to four years after inmates were released from prison.

"These results point the way toward a promising method of neuroprediction with great practical potential in the legal system," said Dr. Walter Sinnott-Armstrong, Stillman Professor of Practical Ethics in the Philosophy Department and the Kenan Institute for Ethics at Duke University, who collaborated on the study. "Much more work needs to be done, but this line of research could help to make our criminal justice system more effective."

The study used the Mind Research Network's Mobile Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) System to collect neuroimaging data as the inmate volunteers completed a series of mental tests.

"People who reoffended were much more likely to have lower activity in the anterior cingulate cortices than those who had higher functioning ACCs," Kiehl said. "This means we can see on an MRI a part of the brain that might not be working correctly -- giving us a look into who is more likely to demonstrate impulsive and anti-social behavior that leads to re-arrest."

The anterior cingulate cortex of the brain is "associated with error processing, conflict monitoring, response selection, and avoidance learning," according to the paper. People who have this area of the brain damaged have been "shown to produce changes in disinhibition, apathy, and aggressiveness. Indeed, ACC-damaged patients have been classed in the 'acquired psychopathic personality' genre."

Kiehl says he is working on developing treatments that increase activity within the ACC to attempt to treat the high-risk offenders.

The four-year study was supported by grants from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), and pilot funds by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Law and Neuroscience Project. The study was conducted in collaboration with the New Mexico Corrections Department.

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The above story is reprinted from materials provided by Duke University, via EurekAlert!, a service of AAAS.

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

Journal Reference:

  1. E. Aharoni, G. M. Vincent, C. L. Harenski, V. D. Calhoun, W. Sinnott-Armstrong, M. S. Gazzaniga, K. A. Kiehl. Neuroprediction of future rearrest. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2013; DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1219302110

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

Disclaimer: This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of ScienceDaily or its staff.


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Cyprus banks to re-open; limits on transactions

NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) ? Cypriots get their first chance to access their savings in almost two weeks when the country's banks reopen Thursday ? albeit with strict restrictions on transactions ? after being closed due to the country's acute financial crisis.

Lines were starting to form outside banks Thursday morning ahead of the official opening for six hours at noon (1000 GMT). Systems have been frozen pending the official opening, and guards from a private security firm were reinforcing police outside some ATMs and banks in the capital, Nicosia.

Controls on financial transactions, imposed to prevent worried savers and businesses rushing to withdraw all their money, include limiting cash withdrawals to 300 euros ($383) per day per person and limiting payments abroad to 5,000 euros. No checks can be cashed, although they can be deposited in bank accounts, and travelers leaving the country can only take up to 1,000 euros, or the equivalent in foreign currency, with them in cash.

The restrictions will be reviewed daily and are initially in place for seven calendar days, until next Wednesday, the decision published by the Finance Ministry states.

Banks in Cyprus have been shut since March 16 to prevent people draining their accounts as politicians scrambled to come up with a plan to raise enough funds for Cyprus to qualify for 10 billion euros ($12.9 billion) in bailout loans for its stricken banking sector. An initial plan that would have seized up to 10 percent of people's bank deposits was soundly rejected in Parliament, leaving politicians struggling to come up with an alternative.

The deal was finally reached in Brussels early Monday, and imposes severe losses on deposits of over 100,000 euros in the country's two largest banks, Laiki and Bank of Cyprus. Laiki will be broken up, with its good assets being absorbed by Bank of Cyprus. The exact amounts of the losses have not yet been officially announced. Nonetheless, customers of those banks will still be able to access some of their funds when they open on Thursday.

Many Cypriots are struggling to work out exactly what they could and couldn't do with the restrictions in place. Morning television talk shows hosted dial-ins with experts, with viewers' queries ranging from where they would repay loans if they were taken out from Laiki, which is being restructured, to how they could pay tuition fees for children studying abroad and handle check payments. Across the country, people wondered whether they would be able to access their salaries, many of which were due this week.

"I believe this will be a very difficult day for both people and bank employees because no matter how much information there was, things were changing all the time," said Costas Kyprianides, a grocery supplier in Nicosia. "Even us traders, like myself, have so many checks which I need to deposit so I can make ends meet."

During the bank closure, ATMs were working but quickly ran out of money. Those of the two troubled banks, Laiki and Bank of Cyprus, had imposed withdrawal limits of 100 euros a day.

"Up until last night things kept on changing," said store owner Antonis Arotokritou, wondering about how to go about dealing with checks. "There's an overall panic and uncertainty from both the bankers and the rest of the people."

The stock market announced it would remain closed on Thursday "in order to ensure the smooth functioning of the stock market and protect investors." It too has been closed since March 16.

"The Central Bank decided on some limitations, so we are sure that slowly, slowly we are going back to functioning of the banks without serious problems," the head of the parliament, Yiannakis Omirou, told AP. "Some problems I'm sure will be created but our people are ready to overcome the difficult moments we are passing."


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ND gears up for legal dispute on new abortion laws

FILE - In this April 16, 2012 file photo North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple speaks in Bismarck, N.D. Dalrymple signed legislation Tuesday, March 26, 2013 that that would make North Dakota the nation's most restrictive state on abortion rights, banning the procedure if a fetal heartbeat can be detected ? something that can happen as early as six weeks into a pregnancy. (AP Photo/Dale Wetzel, File)

FILE - In this April 16, 2012 file photo North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple speaks in Bismarck, N.D. Dalrymple signed legislation Tuesday, March 26, 2013 that that would make North Dakota the nation's most restrictive state on abortion rights, banning the procedure if a fetal heartbeat can be detected ? something that can happen as early as six weeks into a pregnancy. (AP Photo/Dale Wetzel, File)

Map identifies states with time-based restrictions on abortions.

(AP) ? North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple said his decision to sign strict new abortion laws, including the nation's toughest restriction on the procedure, was not based on "any religious belief or personal experience" and that he believes legislators have a right to ask such questions about abortion restrictions.

The Republican governor signed three anti-abortion measures on Tuesday ? including one banning abortions as early as six weeks into a pregnancy, or when a heartbeat can be detected. By doing so, Dalrymple positioned his oil-rich state as a primary battleground in the decades-old fight over abortion rights.

Within minutes of signing the laws, unsolicited donations began pouring into the state's lone abortion clinic to help opponents prove the new laws are unconstitutional. The governor urged lawmakers to set aside cash for an inevitable legal challenge.

"Although the likelihood of this measure surviving a court challenge remains in question, this bill is nevertheless a legitimate attempt by a state legislature to discover the boundaries of Roe v. Wade," Dalrymple said in a statement, referring to the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that legalized abortion up to until a fetus is considered viable ? usually at 22 to 24 weeks.

In an interview later Tuesday, Dalrymple told The Associated Press that the courts opened the door for a challenge by picking a specific moment in the timeline of gestation. He also said he studied the fetal heartbeat bill and "educated myself on the history and legal aspects as best I could. My conclusion is not coming from any religious belief or personal experience."

Dalrymple seemed determined to open a legal debate on the legislation, acknowledging the constitutionality of the measure was an open question. He asked the Legislature to set aside money for a "litigation fund" that would allow the state's attorney general to defend the measure against lawsuits.

He said he didn't know how much the likely court fight would cost. But, he said money wasn't the issue.

"The Legislature has decided to ask these questions on additional restrictions on abortions, and I think they have the legitimate right to ask those questions," he said.

He also signed into law measures that would makes North Dakota the first state to ban abortions based on genetic defects such as Down syndrome and require a doctor who performs abortions to be a physician with hospital-admitting privileges.

Lawmakers endorsed a fourth anti-abortion bill last week that would ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy based on the disputed premise that fetuses feel pain at that point. The governor stopped short of saying he would sign it, but said: "I've already signed three bills. Draw your own conclusion."

The signed measures, which take effect Aug. 1, are fueled in part by an attempt to close the Red River Women's Clinic in Fargo ? the state's only abortion clinic.

Tammi Kromenaker, the clinic's director, called the legislation "extreme and unconstitutional" and said Dalrymple "awoke a sleeping giant" by approving it. The clinic, which performs about 3,000 abortions annually, was accepting cash donations and continued to take appointments Tuesday, she said.

"First and foremost, abortion is both legal and available in North Dakota," she said. "But anytime abortion laws are in the news, women are worried about access."

The Center for Reproductive Rights announced Tuesday that it has committed to challenging the fetal heartbeat bill on behalf of the clinic. The New York-based group already represented the clinic for free in a lawsuit over a 2011 law banning the widely accepted use of a medication that induces abortion. A judge has temporarily blocked enforcement of the law, and a trial is slated for April in Fargo.

Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem told the AP that lawyers from his office would defend any lawsuits that arise but an increase to the agency's budget would likely be necessary. He did not have a dollar amount.

The state has spent about $23,000 in legal costs to date defending the 2011 legislation, according to agency records obtained by the AP.

Julie Rikelman, litigation director for the Center for Reproductive Rights, said the group has provided three attorneys to argue that case. But in the recent round of legislation, the fetal heartbeat measure is the priority because it would effectively ban abortion in the state, she said.

"The impact is very, very clear," she said. "It would have an immediate and very large impact on the women in North Dakota."

Rikelman said the center also would support the clinic in other litigation, if need be and at no cost.

Kromenaker said other states have spent millions of dollars defending legislation, if the case reaches the nation's highest court. Rikelman said it's impossible to put a dollar amount on the impending legal fight in North Dakota.

"Litigation is so unpredictable," she said. "It could be very quick with a ruling in our favor."

North Dakota's law, since it would ban most abortions as early as six weeks into a pregnancy, goes further than a bill approved earlier this month in Arkansas that establishes a 12-week ban ? prohibiting them when a fetal heartbeat can be detected using an abdominal ultrasound. That ban is scheduled to take effect 90 days after the Arkansas Legislature adjourns.

A fetal heartbeat can generally be detected earlier in a pregnancy using a vaginal ultrasound, but Arkansas lawmakers balked at requiring women seeking abortions to have the more invasive imaging technique.

North Dakota's legislation doesn't specify how a fetal heartbeat would be detected.

Doctors performing an abortion after a heartbeat is detected could face a felony charge punishable by up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine. Women having an abortion would not face charges.

The legislation to ban abortions based on genetic defects also would ban abortion based on gender selection. The Guttmacher Institute, which tracks abortion laws throughout the country, says Pennsylvania, Arizona and Oklahoma also have laws outlawing abortion based on gender selection.

The Republican-led North Dakota Legislature has endorsed a spate of anti-abortion Legislation this year. North Dakota lawmakers moved last week to outlaw abortion in the state by passing a resolution defining life as starting at conception, essentially banning abortion in the state. The measure is likely to come before voters in November 2014.

Dalrymple attended a groundbreaking ceremony Tuesday for a new diesel refinery in western North Dakota and made no public appearance to explain his signing of the abortion legislation.

Associated Press


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New type of solar structure cools buildings in full sunlight

Mar. 27, 2013 ? A Stanford team has designed an entirely new form of cooling panel that works even when the sun is shining. Such a panel could vastly improve the daylight cooling of buildings, cars and other structures by radiating sunlight back into the chilly vacuum of space.

Homes and buildings chilled without air conditioners. Car interiors that don't heat up in the summer sun. Tapping the frigid expanses of outer space to cool the planet. Science fiction, you say? Well, maybe not any more.

A team of researchers at Stanford has designed an entirely new form of cooling structure that cools even when the sun is shining. Such a structure could vastly improve the daylight cooling of buildings, cars and other structures by reflecting sunlight back into the chilly vacuum of space. Their paper describing the device was published March 5 in Nano Letters.

"People usually see space as a source of heat from the sun, but away from the sun outer space is really a cold, cold place," explained Shanhui Fan, professor of electrical engineering and the paper's senior author. "We've developed a new type of structure that reflects the vast majority of sunlight, while at the same time it sends heat into that coldness, which cools humanmade structures even in the day time."

The trick, from an engineering standpoint, is two-fold. First, the reflector has to reflect as much of the sunlight as possible. Poor reflectors absorb too much sunlight, heating up in the process and defeating the purpose of cooling.

The second challenge is that the structure must efficiently radiate heat back into space. Thus, the structure must emit thermal radiation very efficiently within a specific wavelength range in which the atmosphere is nearly transparent. Outside this range, Earth's atmosphere simply reflects the light back down. Most people are familiar with this phenomenon. It's better known as the greenhouse effect -- the cause of global climate change.

Two goals in one

The new structure accomplishes both goals. It is an effective a broadband mirror for solar light -- it reflects most of the sunlight. It also emits thermal radiation very efficiently within the crucial wavelength range needed to escape Earth's atmosphere.

Radiative cooling at nighttime has been studied extensively as a mitigation strategy for climate change, yet peak demand for cooling occurs in the daytime.

"No one had yet been able to surmount the challenges of daytime radiative cooling -- of cooling when the sun is shining," said Eden Rephaeli, a doctoral candidate in Fan's lab and a co-first-author of the paper. "It's a big hurdle."

The Stanford team has succeeded where others have come up short by turning to nanostructured photonic materials. These materials can be engineered to enhance or suppress light reflection in certain wavelengths.

"We've taken a very different approach compared to previous efforts in this field," said Aaswath Raman, a doctoral candidate in Fan's lab and a co-first-author of the paper. "We combine the thermal emitter and solar reflector into one device, making it both higher performance and much more robust and practically relevant. In particular, we're very excited because this design makes viable both industrial-scale and off-grid applications."

Using engineered nanophotonic materials the team was able to strongly suppress how much heat-inducing sunlight the panel absorbs, while it radiates heat very efficiently in the key frequency range necessary to escape Earth's atmosphere. The material is made of quartz and silicon carbide, both very weak absorbers of sunlight.

Net cooling power

The new device is capable of achieving a net cooling power in excess of 100 watts per square meter. By comparison, today's standard 10-percent-efficient solar panels generate the about the same amount of power. That means Fan's radiative cooling panels could theoretically be substituted on rooftops where existing solar panels feed electricity to air conditioning systems needed to cool the building.

To put it a different way, a typical one-story, single-family house with just 10 percent of its roof covered by radiative cooling panels could offset 35 percent its entire air conditioning needs during the hottest hours of the summer.

Radiative cooling has another profound advantage over all other cooling strategy such as air-conditioner. It is a passive technology. It requires no energy. It has no moving parts. It is easy to maintain. You put it on the roof or the sides of buildings and it starts working immediately.

A changing vision of cooling

Beyond the commercial implications, Fan and his collaborators foresee a broad potential social impact. Much of the human population on Earth lives in sun-drenched regions huddled around the equator. Electrical demand to drive air conditioners is skyrocketing in these places, presenting an economic and an environmental challenge. These areas tend to be poor and the power necessary to drive cooling usually means fossil-fuel power plants that compound the greenhouse gas problem.

"In addition to these regions, we can foresee applications for radiative cooling in off-the-grid areas of the developing world where air conditioning is not even possible at this time. There are large numbers of people who could benefit from such systems," Fan said.

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Story Source:

The above story is reprinted from materials provided by Stanford School of Engineering. The original article was written by Andrew Myers.

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

Journal Reference:

  1. Eden Rephaeli, Aaswath Raman, Shanhui Fan. Ultrabroadband Photonic Structures To Achieve High-Performance Daytime Radiative Cooling. Nano Letters, 2013; : 130311121615001 DOI: 10.1021/nl4004283

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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