Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Google puts iTunes in its sights | ZDNet

Google puts iTunes in its sights ZDNet: "Google is in talks with Hollywood executives to bring movie rentals to YouTube, according to the Financial Times (subscription needed). This move puts the search giant on a collision course with Apple.
The idea is simple. People are familiar with YouTube, and are happy to while away the hours watching a cat ride a Roomba or a panda sneezing. YouTube is also everywhere - desktops, notebooks, and critically, on mobile devices such as the iPhone. YouTube has enormous reach. Now Google wants to leverage this reach, hoping that people will pay for the privilege of being entertained."

Monday, August 30, 2010

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Sunday, August 29, 2010

Apple’s Sept. 1 event in San Francisco will most likely involve a music-related

Image representing iTunes as depicted in Crunc...Image via CrunchBaseApple’s Sept. 1 event in San Francisco will most likely involve a music-related announcement of some sort. The proof? The front of Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, where the shindig will be held, now features a giant image of an acoustic guitar with an Apple logo-shaped sound hole.

The blog Apple Insider has posted an image of the building’s new decoration.
The rumor-mill is churning in high gear over Apple’s possible announcements. Analysts and pundits seem to agree that Apple, in keeping with tradition from past years, will use the event to unveil new iPods. However, other scuttlebutt has focused on the prospect of a revamped Apple TV and new media-content deals.
A recent report from Bloomberg suggested that Apple is negotiating with content providers, including CBS and News Corp., to offer television shows for rental via iTunes. Rented episodes would cost 99 cents and last for 48 hours, according to unnamed sources close to those negotiations.


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Saturday, August 28, 2010

More merchant account guidelines from eComTechnology

Image representing Authorize.net as depicted i...Image via CrunchBaseWhen processing through a regular , you'll need a gateway in order to accept payments online. You may have heard of Authorize.Net which is one of the more popular gateways. Getting setup with an internet credit card merchant account isn't too difficult and should be considered vital to any internet or ecommerce project. This can be done usually about 1-2 weeks before going live which will give you plenty of time to get your account approved (usually 2-3 days at most) and another week or so of testing. You should be able to get this setup without many problems at all.
This is not a difficult process and ends up cheaper than using PayPal.


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Friday, August 27, 2010

Apple iTunes fake reviews

iTunes Store logo, which simply consists of th...Image via WikipediaApple iTunes users can rest a little easier, now that the Federal Trade Commission has settled with a public relations firm accused of posting fake customer reviews for mobile gaming apps.
The original FTC complaint accused California-based Reverb Communications of posting iTunes Store reviews that seemed to come from ordinary game players.
"Reverb and [owner Tracie] Snitker did not disclose that they were hired to promote the games and that they often received a percentage of the sales," reads the FTC's Aug. 26 statement paraphrasing its complaint. "These facts would have been relevant to consumers who were evaluating the endorsement and deciding whether to buy the gaming applications."
Under the terms of settlement between the FTC and Reverb, the latter will need to remove any previously posted endorsements of mobile games and refrain from making future endorsement or user claims without disclosing any "relevant connections."
However, the FTC seems to have refrained from fining Reverb, a punishment within its power.


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Shah-e-Roon doesn't have the energy, money or support from Pakistan's government

Shah-e-Roon doesn't have the energy, money or support from Pakistan's government to help Madyan recover from floods that decimated the small town nearly a month ago.

He has been walking for two days with a 20-kg (44 lb) sack of wheat on his back. Food shortages caused by the disaster have sent prices soaring and the only market he can afford is many kilometers away.
"How can I think about rebuilding? I have no way of making money and I am just too tired," said the 50-year-old farmer.
Madyan, in the northwest Swat valley, looks more like an earthquake zone than a flood-stricken area.
Four-storey hotels that fueled the local economy vanished. Buildings have been flattened, with cars sandwiched between slabs of concrete. Roads were dragged down and all that's left behind are 30-meter (100-foot) dirt cliffs crumbling into a river.
Pakistan's government was heavily criticized after its sluggish response to the floods, which hit about one-third of the country, made more than 6 million homeless, and threaten to the bring the economy to its knees without outside intervention.
The government could redeem itself by being more visible in the rebuilding effort. There is no sign of that in Madyan.
Sajad Ibrahim's father worked in oil power Saudi Arabia for 36 years to save enough to build five homes for his family. Flood waters pulverized them along with his business.
"I have nothing. The government has done nothing. How can we go on like this without anyone's help?" he said.
Two soldiers have been bulldozing rocks and cement chunks in Madyan. They only cleared an area about 10 meters (33 ft) wide by 30 meters (100 ft) long in seven days.
"ROBBING"
Another soldier encourages everyone who walks along the muddy area to carry a stone and place it in a pile near workers who are rebuilding the foundations of a collapsed bridge.
Spirits had been rising in Madyan over the last year. Hotels overlooking the Swat river and beautiful lush mountains had started to attract tourists again after the army had pushed out Taliban insurgents.
The government promised to invest heavily in infrastructure, schools and hospitals and build up security and police forces.
Some, like Mohammad Azam, were ecstatic. He fled after the Taliban warned him to close his "immoral" DVD shop or face death and then rushed rushed back when it was safe and restarted his business.
Little did he know that floods would pound his new third-floor shop into the river.
Already overwhelmed by the catastrophe in many other parts of Pakistan, the government may not have the time or resources to help the people of Madyan. But few here are willing to give it any slack.
Murad Badshah, who wonders how he is going to keep his waiters and cooks employed at his Hotel Seven Star, says the only way Madyan can recover is with a massive dose of foreign aid. He doubts it will ever arrive.
"The government is robbing everything from us," he said. "If this continues there will be lots of angry young men here. They could join the Taliban. They have nothing else to do."



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Image representing Dell as depicted in CrunchBaseImage via CrunchBase
Computer maker Dell Inc. (DELL-Q11.75----%) has matched a $1.69-billion (U.S.) offer from Hewlett-Packard Co. (HPQ-N38.22----%) to buy the data-storage company 3Par Inc., raising the stakes in the bidding contest for the little-known company.
The $27-per-share offer is worth three times the price of 3Par before Dell made its first bid last week, for $18 per share, or $1.13-billion. Dell and 3Par said Friday that 3Par's board has accepted the latest bid from Dell, which only has to match the terms of other offers under its initial agreement with 3Par.
In pre-market trading, 3Par shares surged nearly 10 per cent to $28.55 from Thursday's close of $26.03.
HP and Dell, two of the world's largest personal computer makers, are looking at 3Par as a way to build up their “cloud computingbusinesses, which involve delivering software, data storage and other services to customers over the Internet.


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Thursday, August 26, 2010

Beware Friday’s hoax about the moon and Mars. Plus, are you sure you know why Mars is named “Mars?” | The Hot Word

Beware Friday’s hoax about the moon and Mars. Plus, are you sure you know why Mars is named “Mars?” The Hot Word
Image representing RIAA, Recording Industry As...Image via CrunchBaseWill Hollywood ever be satisfied?


It was only a few months ago that a district court judge credited the Digital Millennium Copyright Act for working “efficiently” as part of the ruling in the Viacom vs. YouTube case.

That ruling found that YouTube was complying with takedown notices from copyright holders when informed of copyright violations. That’s a key element of the DMCA because it keeps the burden of proof of copyright violations on the right party: the copyright holder.

After all, it’s a tall order to expect YouTube to determine which copyrighted works on the site are there in violation of copyrights and which ones are not. Many copyright holders put their copyrighted work on YouTube for the exposure.

Now, RIAA President Cary Sherman, while speaking at a conference in Colorado this week, said that the DMCA is no longer working for content creators and later suggested, in response to a question, that the matter be put before Congress, according to a CNET report. Sherman said:

The DMCA isn’t working for content people at all. You cannot monitor all the infringements on the Internet. It’s simply not possible. We don’t have the ability to search all the places infringing content appears, such as cyberlockers like [file-hosting firm]

Sherman maintains that the 1998 Act has loopholes that allow broadband providers and Web companies to skirt past the law and disregard the illegal activities of their customers.

Give me a break.


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Wednesday, August 25, 2010

In a technology industry addicted to perpetual upgrade cycles

HD TVImage via WikipediaIn a technology industry addicted to perpetual upgrade cycles, as the PC market has been for two decades, infrastructure and equipment companies are looking to video as the next big killer app to drive demand for faster networks and services.
It's easy to see why. Regular standard definition television broadcasts consume more bandwidth capacity than other types of traffic, like audio or text. High-definition video eats up even more. And it would likely take at least two full high-definition channels to broadcast live just one sports game in 3D.
As a result, Internet traffic is expected to grow more than fourfold by 2014, and video will account for much of that growth, according to Cisco's annual Visual Networking Index Forecast. Cisco predicts that in the next four years, more than 90 percent of all content traversing the Net will be some form of video, whether it's peer-to-peer or streamed from servers.
But this enormous growth is not just coming from people watching more YouTube or Hulu on their laptops; companies like Cisco and Verizon see bandwidth intensive 3D TV as the next wave of video that will drive further traffic growth and ultimately require more equipment from Cisco and faster speed services from Verizon to keep up with demand.
Cisco predicts that high-definition TV and 3D TV content will increase 13 times between 2009 and 2014. In total, HDTV and 3D video will account for 42 percent of the video on the Internet by 2014.


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Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Chevron fights potentially historic damages case $27B

A Chevron Station with a White Spot inside of ...Image via WikipediaChevron fights potentially historic damages case


Ecuadorean oil workers clean up a contaminated fuel pool in this file photo taken December 10, 2007. In Sucumbios provincial court, the stakes are $27 billion. That's what local farmers and indigenous tribes want from U.S. oil giant Chevron Corp to fund cleanup of areas they say were polluted with faulty drilling practices in the 1970s and '80s. Plaintiffs say Texaco wrecked wide areas of Ecuador's jungle by dumping drilling waste into unlined pits and leaving them to fester, an accusation that the company denies. Chevron inherited the case when it bought Texaco in 2001. Picture taken December 10, 2007.

LAGO AGRIO Ecuador - A run-down court building that also houses the local casino in this Amazon jungle town is the unlikely venue for the largest environmental damages lawsuit ever tried.

On the first floor, people play for pennies in The Mirage bingo and slot machine parlor. Three stories up, in Sucumbios provincial court, the stakes are $27 billion.

That's what local farmers and indigenous tribes want from U.S. oil giant Chevron Corp to fund cleanup of areas they say were polluted with faulty drilling practices in the 1970s and '80s.

The paint is cracked and peeling in the judge's fourth-storey offices overlooking Lago Agrio, a poor and violent northern Ecuador town near the Colombian border.

Power failures often stop the building's air conditioners, leaving gamblers and court officials to swelter as judge Leonardo Ordonez pours through thousands of pages of evidence. He says a verdict could be reached in 2011 after 18 years of litigation in U.S. and Ecuadorean courts.

As the ruling looms, each side accuses the other of presenting fraudulent evidence while a slew of related legal actions are played out in the United States and Europe.

Investors and the petroleum industry are watching to see if Chevron will have to pay massive damages, setting a precedent that could fuel other big lawsuits against oil companies accused of polluting countries around the world.

Ecuador's President Rafael Correa has sided publicly with the plaintiffs. Both sides expect Ordonez to rule against Chevron. The company -- charging government interference in the case -- vows to appeal any adverse decision.

Plaintiffs say Texaco wrecked wide areas of Ecuador's jungle by dumping drilling waste into unlined pits and leaving them to fester, an accusation that the company denies.

Chevron inherited the case when it bought Texaco in 2001. It says the company cleaned up all pits it was responsible for before turning them over to Ecuador's state-owned oil firm, Petroecuador, which still operates around Lago Agrio.

"If there is pollution in this area, it is the sole responsibility of the state, which in 1998 released Texaco of further liability," said Chevron spokesman James Craig, pointing toward one of the waste pools cleaned up by Texaco.

Texaco built and operated more than 330 wells in Ecuador, all of which had at least one reserve pool nearby. The dirt just under the surface of some former waste pits still has a black sheen and carries the eye-watering stench of oil.

The suit names 46 people who claim to represent all area residents who may have suffered from contamination. They are not seeking individual awards but money to fund environment cleanup, as well as health and clean water projects.

"We want the money to go toward a permanent solution," said Carmen Perez, whose small corn farm is near a series of drilling waste pits that still smell of petroleum and, she says, cause her to have chronic headaches.


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Monday, August 23, 2010

A $20 billion compensation fund for economic victims of the BP Gulf oil spill opens for business on Monday

A $20 billion compensation fund for economic victims of the BP Gulf oil spill opens for business on Monday amid accusations that the rules established by its administrator are unfair.

Kenneth Feinberg who will run the fund said those who sustained financial loss because of the spill could claim for damages and he promised claimants more generous treatment than they would get if they sued the energy giant for damages.
"The goal here is to try and explain to eligible claimants: 'It is not in your interest to tie up yourself and the courts in years of uncertain protracted litigation when ... there is a more efficient quick alternative'" Feinberg told a news conference on Sunday.
"The goal will be to pay any individual claim within 48 hours of the claim being finalized and seven days for any business claim," he said.
BP set up the fund in June under pressure from the White House to come up with a remedy for the losses sustained in the fishing, tourism and other industries on the Gulf of Mexico coast because of the leak that began in April and was capped in July.
Feinberg was named its administrator because of the reputation for fairness he acquired administering the 9/11 fund and determining executive pay for companies bailed out by the government during the recession.
But the spill fund may provide an even tougher challenge, according to insurance experts who said calculating claims for businesses would be particularly difficult.
For the next six months, anyone claiming an emergency payment can also sue BP at a future date but beyond that period claimants would forfeit the right file against the company, Feinberg said.
The position is controversial. Florida's Attorney General Bill McCollum issued a statement last week saying the ruling favors BP and weakens provisions advocated by state attorney generals along the coast.


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Sunday, August 22, 2010

Royal Dutch Shell and German chemicals maker BASF plan to appeal a first instance Brazilian court ruling

Shell Oil CompanyImage via WikipediaRoyal Dutch Shell and German chemicals maker BASF plan to appeal a first instance Brazilian court ruling on health injuries related to pollution at a former pesticide plant.


German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) reported on Saturday that a court in Paulinia, 120 kilometers north of Sao Paolo, sentenced BASF and Shell to pay 1.1 billion Brazilian real ($626 million) for soil and ground water pollution.

"We expect that the Brazilian courts at a higher level will eventually establish that we were not responsible for alleged health impacts and other claims," a Shell spokesman said on Sunday. BASF also plans to appeal, arguing former owner Shell was to blame, a BASF spokeswoman said.

Shell built the factory in the 1970s and sold it to chemicals manufacturer Cyanamid in 1995.

BASF bought the site in 2000 and produced pesticides there for only two years before shutting it down, the spokeswoman said.

Since 2008, the plant owner of the plant is Shell again, she added.

The newspaper reported that former employees of the factory had contracted cancer, cardiovascular diseases and other health problems.

"Shell Brasil regrets that there was environmental contamination at the Paulinia site which was owned at different times by Shell and BASF," the Shell spokesman said.

"We are convinced that there is no link between our operations and injury to peoples' health," he added.


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The Most Dangerous Threat to U.S. National Parks: Idiots Armed with the Latest Gadgets

Grand Tetons Barns The John Moulton Barn on Mo...Image via WikipediaThe Most Dangerous Threat to U.S. National Parks: Idiots Armed with the Latest Gadgets


July was an alarming, record-setting month for injuries at the Yellowstone National Park. It's not the park that's getting more dangerous, however—it's the technology that ignorant, inexperienced visitors are bringing in with them that's to blame:
But today, as an ever more wired and interconnected public visits the parks in rising numbers - July was a record month for visitors at Yellowstone - rangers say that technology often figures into such mishaps.People with cellphones call rangers from mountaintops to request refreshments or a guide; in Jackson Hole, Wyo., one lost hiker even asked for hot chocolate. - New York Times
Actually, let me back for a moment. It's new technology in the hands of stupid, selfish people that's to blame, and it's to blame in National Parks beyond just Yellowstone.
Beyond calls for cocoa, there are more serious cases, like the French teen who fell 75 feet in the South Rim of the Grand Canyon after he "backed up while taking pictures."
It gets worse. Thanks in part to better-connected GPS units, a group of Canyon hikers managed to call a rescue helicopter three times with their satellite beacon. The reason? Water supply "tasted salty." They refused the helicopter rides home, all three of them, because they had only wanted better water.
Experts told the New York Times that hyperconnectivity has given people the impression that simple 911 button presses allow them to do more dangerous things. I mean, why bother to bring potable water on a multi-day hiking trip when the National Park Service is a mere button press away, right?
Thankfully, when stupid people do stupid things and get caught on the summit of a cliff for the night, sometimes it all works out in the end:
"Every once in a while we get a call from someone who has gone to the top of a peak, the weather has turned and they are confused about how to get down and they want someone to personally escort them," said Jackie Skaggs, spokeswoman for Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. "The answer is that you are up there for the night."
Even good new tech, like SPOT or GPS, is getting a bad rap because suburbanites think they can traipse of into the wild with it without thinking. SPOT, for instance, currently does not offer two-way communication, meaning rescuers cannot be entirely sure if the button press was for hot chocolate or severed limb. They must respond in either case, with the helicopter rides costing as much as $3,400/hour.
We constantly worry about pollution and global climate change negatively affecting our natural parks and resources. Those are all obviously still a threat, of course, but this article on human idiocy, selfishness and arrogance adds a bit more fuel to the fire.
Seriously, read the article and tell me if the last six or seven paragraphs don't get your blood boiling. [New York Times]
Send an email to Jack Loftus, the author of this post, at jloftus@gizmodo.com.


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Microsoft Bing is providing the mapping technology for the social network giant's location service on Facebook.com

Image representing Bing as depicted in CrunchBaseImage via CrunchBaseLost in the gloss of Facebook's Places announcement and its impact on Foursquare and Gowalla is that Microsoft Bing is providing the mapping technology for the social network giant's location service on Facebook.com.
Yet Bing still stands to lose valuable traffic from Facebook Places to search king Google because Google Maps provides the mapping technology for Places on the popular Facebook for iPhone application.
Launched Aug. 18 in the United States, Facebook Places lets users "check in" to a location via a smartphone to share their locations with Facebook friends.


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Saturday, August 21, 2010

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In the past, you’ve had to download a huge PDF reader from another software company, go through a lengthy installation process and wait for an annoying splash window to disappear just to open a PDF document. Moreover, if you want to annotate a PDF document, you have to pay US$299 to buy certain software.
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Thursday, August 19, 2010

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AVG's LogoImage via WikipediaPurchase AVG products at eComTechnology your certified reseller

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Hovering 3,600 feet deep in the Gulf of Mexico, the plume is more than a mile wide, 650 feet thick and at least 35 kilometers (22 miles) long

An unprecedented survey of the waters around the site of the Deepwater Horizon disaster has found and mapped a massive, submerged plume of hydrocarbons. And it may not be the only one.


Hovering 3,600 feet deep in the Gulf of Mexico, the plume is more than a mile wide, 650 feet thick and at least 35 kilometers (22 miles) long, but probably longer, as the researchers had to break off because of Hurricane Alex. The plume is moving southwest with the water currents, down the continental slope.

Earlier this month, government officials claimed that just a quarter of the oil from the blown out Macondo well remained as "residual" in the gulf. But the new report on the plume, published today in Science Express, is the third finding issued this week that suggests government estimates were wildly off target.

Using both an autonomous robot to dive and zigzag through the plume and old-fashioned ship-based sampling of the waters, scientists mapped the plume to first see if such a plume existed and then to try and explain why it did not come to the surface like the rest of the oil.

"Why did this oil decide to take a hard right turn?," Christopher Reddy, a marine geochemist and oil spill expert at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, said. "That's my question."

But even before the question could be asked, there was the controversial matter of whether oil from such a deep leak could get mixed with water and move sideways in the frigid, high pressure depths.
"Many people discounted that such a (plume) could exist," Richard Camilli, the chief scientist of the Woods Hole expedition that identified the plume in late June, said.
Among the things that might have helped create the deep sea plume, Camilli told Discovery News, are the high pressure and low temperatures of the water. Under those conditions some of the lighter, most volatile compounds in the oil – the smelly stuff like benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylenes -- that would seem most likely to buoy to the surface can instead stay liquid and blend into the sea water.

Then there's the sheer depth of water that the oil had to climb through to reach the surface. That gave the hydrocarbons plenty of opportunity to mix with sea water, Camilli said.

The oil spill compounds were mapped out in the plume using a shoe-box sized mass spectrometer at the nose of the Sentry autonomous vehicle. Oxygen levels inside the plume were also mapped; scientists expected them to be low due to microbes busily gobbling up oxygen as they wolfed down the hydrocarbons.

But that's not what they found. Oxygen levels in the plume were normal, meaning that the microbes weren't all that busy and the hydrocarbons may stick around for some time.

"There is not very much known about microbes degrading oil in the deep ocean," Benjamin Van Mooy, another marine geochemist from Woods Hole and a coauthor of the report, said. Based on laboratory experiments, scientists expect the cold water to slow microbes down five to ten times compared to what they do on the surface, he said. But that's about all they can say.

The problem, Camilli said, is that no one has ever studied such a deep spill before, or found such a plume.


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Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Indonesian agri-business conglomerate Sinar Mas, which has been besieged by accusations of deforestation, is rapidly expanding in Canada, reopening a pulp mill in northern British Columbia and recently purchasing another near Vancouver.

The company’s strategy is to add to its supply of pulp to produce paper and other products for customers in Asia, as well as to use a separate corporate arm to try to distance itself from controversy.
Through a Netherlands-based company called Paper Excellence, Sinar Mas on Tuesday officially opened its pulp mill in Mackenzie, B.C., an industry town that at one point saw every mill shuttered during the severe forestry recession.
It bought the mill for $20-million in the spring and is spending as much as $40-million more to fully restart it, bringing 220 direct jobs back to Mackenzie.
Paper Excellence was created in 2007 as a separate entity from Sinar Mas, though the two are both owned by the family of Sinar Mas founder Eka Tjipta Widjaja, one of Indonesia’s richest men. Paper Excellence’s first Canadian purchase, in 2007, was a pulp mill in Meadow Lake, Sask.
Sinar Mas landed the Mackenzie mill in the spring, as well as two pulp mills in France from Tembec Inc. in April for roughly $130-million of equity and debt.
Last month, it bought the struggling Howe Sound pulp and newsprint mill from Canfor Corp. and Oji Paper, a Japanese partner. The price was not disclosed.






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Yahoo released a version of Yahoo Mail for Apple's popular iPad tablet computer

Yahoo August 17 released a version of Yahoo Mail for Apple's popular iPad tablet computer, which sold more than 4 million units in its first few months.

The release comes several months after Google fashioned a version of Gmail for the iPad's large touchscreen, and six weeks after Yahoo launched an HTML5 mobile Webmail app for Apple's iPhone.
Yahoo Mail Product Manager Lee Parry said in a blog post Yahoo Mail for the iPad will make it easy for users to find and organize messages using full search, personal folders and smart folders with messages from important contacts.


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Tuesday, August 17, 2010

RIM faces an Aug. 31 deadline to give Indian authorities the means to read e-mail and instant messages

Research In Motion (RIM-T51.46-1.56-2.94%) has assured Indian authorities of limited access to its Messenger services by Sept. 1 and will hold talks this week on giving access to enterprise mail, a government source said on Monday.

RIM faces an Aug. 31 deadline to give Indian authorities the means to read e-mail and instant messages sent over the BlackBerry.
“They have assured partial access to its messenger services by September 1 and agreed to provide full access by the end of the year,” a senior government source, who asked not to be named, told Reuters.
New Delhi says it will pull the plug if RIM does not comply, threatening its future in the world’s fastest-growing telecoms market.
“We hope they will address our security concerns,” an interior ministry official said.
India is the latest country to step up pressure on RIM, which has built the BlackBerry’s reputation around confidentiality.
Many business professionals and politicians prefer the device, but some governments, including Saudi Arabia, fear it could become a tool for terrorists or those breaking Islamic laws.
RIM has said BlackBerry’s security is based on a system where customers create their own key, and the company has neither a master key or any “back door” to allow RIM or any third party to gain access to crucial corporate data.
RIM officials are expected to hold talks with the Indian government to explain the complexities of the enterprise mail system and try to find a solution, the government source said.


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Yucca MountainImage via WikipediaNuclear energy offers several advantages: It's clean, powerful and relatively cheap. But it also yields hazardous waste, a fact that terrifies a public haunted by memories of accidents at Three Mile Island and Chernobyl nuclear reactors.
In America, about 60,000 tonnes of heavy nuclear energy byproducts sit in radioactive dumps, with no potential use and no expiration date in sight, while federal experts rack their brains for a better way to manage nuclear waste.
Several energy companies say they have a solution to the waste issue: Recycling, basically squeezing more energy from already-used nuclear fuel while leaving less waste behind.
But their efforts face a decades-old policy hurdle that offers them little incentive to pursue the process.
"When it comes to energy, America is strong on technology but weak on policy," said GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy Chairman John Fuller. "And it's a critical handicap."
A Carter-era law keeps all used fuel from American commercial reactors in federal hands, and the government has determined it must be stored.
Ironically, the U.S. Department of Energy, or DOE, developed spent fuel reprocessing technology in the late 1980s to mid-1990s, in collaboration with energy companies. But the program closed when the National Academy of Sciences proclaimed it economically unsustainable.
U.S. Congress has approved the Yucca Mountain repository in Nevada as the official storage dump for U.S. nuclear waste. But President Barack Obama, fulfilling a campaign pledge, has cut off funding for the facility and wants to find alternatives.
Despite billions of dollars spent on the repository and a long court wrangle over its closing, the DOE has appointed a special commission to determine the best way of handling nuclear waste. And the panel does plan to consider recycling or reprocessing nuclear fuel, said spokesman John Kotek.
Yucca's potential closing has reinvigorated hopes that the United States will jump on the French, British and Japanese bandwagon of reprocessing nuclear fuel as a national policy.
"It's a perfect time to reconsider recycling for the U.S.," said Jarret Adams, spokesman for the French firm Areva SA, which has reprocessed its spent fuel for decades.
Spent fuel comes as discarded reactor fuel assemblies, 14-foot tubes comprised of thousands of solid enriched-uranium pellets. Every 18 to 24 months, a third of those assemblies is replaced by new ones and stored as waste.
Nuclear energy produces 20 percent of U.S. power, and the conundrum of what to do with that radioactive waste is one impediment to expanding its role.


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Monday, August 16, 2010

Bisphenol A, a widely used chemical that Canada is banning from baby bottles

3D chemical structure of bisphenol AImage via WikipediaBisphenol A, a widely used chemical that Canada is banning from baby bottles, is present in the bodies of 91 percent of Canadians, according to a report that shows just how prevalent the controversial chemical is in daily life.

Statistics Canada said Monday's report was the first time it has measured the extent that the industrial chemical, known as BPA, has been absorbed by people exposed to it.
"The real value in this is...for the very first time (we) have baseline information against which we can study trends and track what is happening with respect to bisphenol A exposure," said Tracey Bushnik, of Statscan's Health Analysis Division.
BPA is used in plastic bottles and as a coating for everything from shopping receipts to a lining for cans of foods, but it also has many other uses. [nN08153820].
Studies suggesting that low exposure levels early in life can affect neural development and behavior prompted Canada to announce plans to ban its use in baby bottles. Some consumer groups, citing research linking it to cancer, obesity, diabetes and heart disease, want restrictions to be wider than that.
The Statscan report is based on a two-year survey that measures levels of exposure among Canadians to more than 80 chemicals and environmental contaminants.
It found a mean concentration of 1.16 micrograms per liter in the urine of Canadians tested. Teenagers had the highest concentrations of BPA, while children between 6 and 11 had higher concentrations then adults over 40.
That pointed to "continual widespread exposure" to the chemical among Canadians, the report said.
"Cash register receipts are slathered in this stuff...and you absorb it through your skin," said Dr. Rick Smith, executive director of advocacy group Environmental Defense and author of a book called "Slow death by rubber duck".
"The average BPA molecule is flushed from the human body in less than six hours," said Smith. "If we can just get BPA out of a few key areas in our lives, levels in our bodies will come down very, very quickly."


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