Google reports that government censorship requests have surged

27 Apr
Google-sign-301

Depressing but true: Google’s decision to publish details on government takedown requests hasn’t slowed governments’ zeal for removing content from the Internet. As a matter of fact, it seems that just the opposite has happened over the past three years. Google this week reported that government content removal requests surged from 1,811 in the first half of 2012 to 2,285 in the second half of 2012. 39% of all takedown requests were related to cases of alleged defamation, Google said, while only 18% of requests were related to privacy and security concerns. Among other things, Google said it received “a request to remove a YouTube video that allegedly defames the President” of Argentina “by depicting her in a compromising position”; a “request from legal representatives of a member of the executive branch” of Israel’s government “to remove two YouTube videos for alleged defamation”; and a “request to remove a YouTube video that allegedly defamed a presidential candidate” in South Korea.

https://www.google.com/transparencyreport/removals/government/

Broadcast TV’s nightmare begins as mobile apps dominate prime time

27 Apr
Ncis

The latest data from analytics firm Flurry research shows that mobile apps are now used by more than 50 million people in America during the most hectic period of the day. And that moment is at 8:00 p.m. — smack in the middle of TV’s prime time. On weekdays, 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. is the stretch when mobile apps reach more than 50 million U.S. consumers. This happens to coincide with the time most big broadcast television shows air. It probably is no coincidence that while mobile app usage exploded between 2011 and 2013, the most important prime time shows started imploding. “American Idol” is now only a shadow of its former self; its audience collapsed to just 12 million people last Wednesday. “Survivor” has plunged below 10 million viewers.

Interestingly, NCIS still holds onto nearly 17 million viewers even as many other blockbusters are caving in. The reason? This show is for really, really old people. The ones who aren’t playing “Infinity Blade II.”

NCIS’s main character had his break-out role in “Laverne and Shirley” and the median age of its viewers tops 60 years. Broadcast TV shows aimed at young consumers — the only ones that Madison Avenue really values — are spiraling down far faster than anyone expected. Fox would never had agreed to massive paydays for the American Idol judges if it had known the show would lose more than 25% of its viewers in 2013 after losing 20% in 2012.

Of course, apps are not the only problem broadcast TV faces: many cable shows from “Bible” to “Game of Thrones” are hitting record audiences even as NBC and CBS fade away. Netflix just had a blockbuster hit with “House of Cards.” More will follow from Amazon, Hulu and others. According to Cameron Yuill, CEO of AdGent, long-form video is now the hottest tablet content growth segment. Video consumption on tablets is growing even faster than time spent on apps — and time spent on apps grew by 50% year-on-year in early 2013.

Here’s the thing: the advertising dollars that are currently flowing to broadcast TV are clearly misdirected. Affluent Americans are increasingly splitting their attention between tablets and TV when they plop down on their sofas at 8:00 p.m. Ad agencies don’t quite know how to deal with that yet, but it’s a problem everyone is trying to solve right now.

And when people figure out truly effective tablet ad strategies, broadcast TV will face the dual disaster of shrinking audiences and splitting prime time ad revenue with app vendors that divide the consumer attention from 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.

Nielsen may still be counting dual-device users simply as prime time television watchers. In reality, a fair chunk of their attention is already on tablet content. Ad dollars will follow. The broadcast TV nightmare is only beginning.

http://blog.flurry.com/bid/96368/There-s-An-App-Audience-for-That-But-It-s-Fragmented

Investors advised to cash in on Apple stock crash, buy shares while they’re cheap

23 Apr
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Shares of Apple have tumbled more than 35% since reaching an all-time high of $705 last September. Earlier this week, the company’s stock fell below $400 for the first time since 2011 on fears that demand for the iPhone and iPad has begun to slip. Some investors have begun to dump Apple’s stock, however not everyone is abandoning ship just yet.

Colin Gillis of BGC Partners, per Benzingaupgraded shares of the company on Tuesday from Hold to Buy, citing the reduced price as an opportunity for potential investors. He believes that the recent wave of negative press will result in any positive news propelling shares to jump to the $500 level.

The analyst warned that Apple still faces obstacles in the smartphone and tablet market, although new product cycles will likely see the stock price increase once again. Apple is set to report its second quarter earnings after the bell on Tuesday. Gillis thinks the company’s earnings will be on the lower end of Wall Street’s expectations and its third quarter guidance will be “tepid,” although such concerns have already been baked into the stock.

http://www.benzinga.com/analyst-ratings/analyst-color/13/04/3516290/a-pre-earnings-apple-upgrade#

Half of New York City is Poor

23 Apr
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In a study that surprises almost no one, the Bloomberg administration has found that half of New York City residents are “poor” or “near-poor” meaning that they were “making less than 150 percent of the poverty threshold.” This is a small rise in the amount of poor from 2009, when the recession officially ended. But as New York City has made abundantly clear, the recovery has not been shared by all (or even many).

The city, in its analysis, recommended against cutbacks to vital public assistance programs, like tax credits and food stamps. These programs are having their budgets cut at the federal and state level, as Washington, and Mayor Bloomberg himself endorses austerity measures in the face of a still-sluggish economy.

“Coinciding with the end of the slump in the job market is the end of the recession-related expansion of the safety net,” the report states.

Manhattan has become richer while boroughs where development money and attention hasn’t been given, like Queens, are now poorer. The Bronx has remained just as poor as it has always been.

While recent measures in New York City like raising the minimum wage and granting workers paid sick days have helped poor New Yorkers (both measures were opposed by Mayor Bloomberg), Nancy Rankin, an advocate on behalf of the poor, reports that “missing rungs in the ladder make it really hard to climb out of poverty,” and cutbacks in aid will make matters even worse.

http://gawker.com/5995175/half-of-new-york-city-is-poor

Lawmakers Cite Boston Bombing, WikiLeaks “Hacking” as Reasons to Pass CISPA

20 Apr
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North Korean hackers and the Boston bombings might not appear to have much in common. But not according to some American lawmakers, who are using both to justify passing a controversial cybersecurity bill that civil liberties advocatesclaim “undermines the privacy of millions of Internet users.”

Yesterday, the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, or CISPA, was approved by the House of Representatives by a vote of 288 to 127. The law was first introduced in 2011 andapproved last year by the House, though it died in the Senate after an outpouring of opposition from privacy and civil liberties groups. But it has been resurrected and is heading to the Senate for the second time. Predictably, the storm of criticism has also reappeared. Rights groups have consistently raised concerns over how CISPA would allow corporations to pass unanonymized user data to federal government agencies for vaguely defined “cybersecurity” purposes—and be covered by full legal indemnity when doing so.

The ACLU has described CISPA as an “extreme proposal” that “forges new ground.” The Electronic Frontier Foundation says it “would provide a gaping exception to bedrock privacy law.” And even the White House has criticized the bill, earlier this weekthreatening to veto it unless it is amended to include better privacy and civil liberties safeguards.

But yesterday, when the House was debating the contentious bill, CISPA advocates didn’t seem to be paying attention to any of those issues. Rep. Mike McCaul, R-Texas, cited the Boston bombings while arguing for CISPA to be adopted. “In the case of Boston, they were real bombs,” McCaul said, adding that we also need to arm ourselves against “digital bombs. These bombs are on their way.” Similarly apocalyptic statements were made by Rep. Candice Miller, R-Mich., who made no mention of Boston, though argued that CISPA was needed to stop hackers in countries like Iran and North Korea from crippling American infrastructure and causing the destruction of American jobs. Rep. Dan Maffei, D-N.Y., even used the debate to take aim at WikiLeaks, bizarrely claiming CISPA was needed to stop the whistleblowing website from pursuing efforts to “hack into our nation’s power grid.”

In the aftermath of tragic events or amid heightened global tensions, it’s hardly unusual for lawmakers to make emotive appeals in pursuit of new national security powers. Public opinion in the aftermath of a distressing terror attack in particular can sway citizens in favor of handing the authorities more intrusive surveillance powers, as occurred in most Western democracies in the aftermath of 9/11 (the Patriot Act being just one example). In the case of CISPA, however, it is tenuous in the extreme to draw sweeping links between cyberattacks and pressure-cooker bombs tearing through a Boston street, or cyberattacks and WikiLeaks, or cyberattacks and whatever else is agitating U.S. lawmakers on a given day. Exploiting every perceived threat to counter a push for greater CISPA privacy protections is brazenly cynical—and, I’d argue, ultimately doomed to fail.

http://www.slate.com/blogs/future_tense/2013/04/19/mike_mccaul_cites_boston_bombing_as_a_reason_why_cispa_should_be_passed.html

‘CAPTURED!!!’ Boston police announce Marathon bombing suspect in custody

20 Apr
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The second suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings was taken into custody Friday night, bringing to an end a massive manhunt in the tense Massachusetts capital worried by warnings the man was possibly armed with explosives.

After announcing the arrest on Twitter, Boston police tweeted: “CAPTURED!!! The hunt is over. The search is done. The terror is over. And justice has won. Suspect in custody.”

Authorities confirmed the man in custody is 19-year-old Dzhokar Tsarnaev, who escaped an overnight shootout with police that left his older brother Tamerlan Tsarnaev — the other man wanted in the bombings — dead.

The younger Tsarnaev was in serious condition, Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis said at a news conference. He was being treated at Boston’s Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, hospital spokeswoman Kelly Lawman said.

 

Boston bombing suspect in custody

 

Obama: ‘We refuse to be terrorized’

 

See the boat in which Boston suspect hid

 

Hear the shootout with bombing suspect

Tsarnaev was cornered late Friday as he was hiding on a boat in a backyard of Watertown, a suburb of Boston.

Police were alerted to his whereabouts by a man who went outside after authorities lifted an order for residents to stay inside during the manhunt. The resident saw blood on a boat in the backyard, Davis said. He then lifted up the tarp covering the boat and “saw a man covered with blood,” he said.

It was that call that resulted in an arrest less than a week after two bombs exploded near the finish line of the Boston Marathon, shocking the nation and leaving a city on edge.

“There was an exchange of gunfire, and I don’t know if he was struck,” Davis said of the suspect.

Authorities, using a bullhorn, had called on the suspect to surrender: “Come out with your hands up.”

Tsarnaev, according to authorities, refused to surrender.

“We used a robot to pull the tarp off the boat,” David Procopio of the Massachusetts State Police said. “We were also watching him with a thermal imaging camera in our helicopter. He was weakened by blood loss — injured last night most likely,”

Tsarnaev was taken into custody after authorities rushed the boat, Davis said.

Closing a chapter

The standoff and subsequent arrest came just minutes after authorities indicated during a news conference that a manhunt for the suspect appeared to come up empty.

Authorities had cast a wide net for the suspect, virtually shutting down Boston and its surroundings after a violent night in which authorities say the brothers allegedly hurled explosives at pursuers, after killing Massachusetts Institute of Technology police Officer Sean Collier and hijacking a car.

“We’ve closed an important chapter in this tragedy,” President Barack Obama said in a televised address. Even so, he vowed to seek answers to the motive in the attack and find out whether the suspects received any help to carry out their plot.

The government is invoking the public safety exception to question Tsarnaev, meaning in cases of national security a person can be questioned without being read their Miranda rights, a Justice Department official told CNN on condition of anonymity. The official is not authorized to publicly discuss the matter.

U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz told reporters the “government has that opportunity right now” to invoke the public safety exemption but stopped short of declaring it would take that step, saying only the suspect was in the hospital.

Republican Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham called for Tsarnaev to be held as an enemy combatant.

‘Glad it’s over’

 

Officer: We are so grateful to be here

 

Uncle to ‘loser’: Turn yourself in

 

Witness: We heard explosions, gunshots

 

Deadly shooting at MIT

Word of the arrest spread quickly in suburban Watertown, where residents took to the streets to cheer the news that suspect had been arrested.

“Thank you. Thank you. It was our pleasure,” members of the Boston SWAT team said over a loudspeaker.

Mary Sullivan was walking her black Labrador earlier Friday night when gunshots rang out in her neighborhood.

“I’m glad it’s over,” she said. “The city and the people have gone through so much pain over these irrational decisions of these young men.”

Bombing connection

The manhunt began late Thursday just hours after the FBI released photos of the two suspects in the marathon bombings.

“Investigators are recovering a significant amount of homemade explosives” from the scene of the shootout, Procopio told CNN.

It was not immediately clear what explosives were recovered, but the discovery followed a tense night in which authorities say the brothers allegedly hurled a homemade grenade and five pipe bombs at pursuers after killing an officer and hijacking a car.

Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26was wearing explosives and a triggering device when he died, a source briefed on the investigation told CNN on condition of anonymity.

The manhunt brought Boston to a near standstill. The Boston Red Sox announced they were postponing Friday night’s game against the Kansas City Royals “to support efforts of law enforcement officers.” NHL’s Boston Bruins also postponed its game against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

The city’s subway, bus, Amtrak train and Greyhound and regional Bolt Bus services were shut down. Taxi service across the city also was suspended for a time during the manhunt. Every Boston area school was closed.

Boston’s public transit authority sent city buses to Watertown to evacuate residents while bomb experts combed the surroundings for possible explosives.

Initially, authorities said the brothers started their rampage by robbing a convenience store. By late Friday, the Middlesex District Attorney’s office backtracked on the allegation, saying an investigation determined that the robbery at a 7-Eleven was unrelated.

Officer killed

The violent hours leading up to the capture began in Cambridge, across the Charles River from Boston, MIT officer Collier was shot and killed while he sat in his car on Thursday night, the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office said in a statement.

The two suspects, according to authorities, then hijacked a vehicle at gunpoint in Cambridge, telling the driver that they were the marathon bombers, a law enforcement source told CNN.

At some point, apparently at a gas station, that source said, the driver escaped.

Police, who were tracking the vehicle using its built-in GPS system, picked up the chase in Watertown. The pursuit went into a residential neighborhood, with the suspects throwing explosives at police.

A shootout erupted and ultimately one bomber — later identified as Tamerlan Tsarnaev — got out of the car. Police shot him, and his brother ran over him as he drove away, according to the law enforcement source, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Richard H. Donohue Jr., 33, a three-year veteran of the transit system police force, was shot and wounded in the incident and taken to a hospital, a transit police spokesman said Friday. The officer’s condition was not immediately known.

Another 15 police officers were treated for minor injuries sustained during the explosions and shootout, Jennifer Kovalich, a spokeswoman for St. Elizabeth’s Medical Center, said.

Suspects background

Police believe the brothers are the same men pictured in images released Thursday by the FBI as suspects in the marathon bombing that killed three people and wounded dozens on Monday.

At least 58 people remained hospitalized, including three in critical condition, according to a CNN count.

The men are shown in the images walking together near the marathon finish line.

The first suspect — apparently Tamerlan Tsarnaev, according to authorities — appears in the images wearing a dark hat, sunglasses and a backpack. The second suspect, wearing a white cap, police said, is the one who remained at large throughout Friday until he was taken into custody Friday night.

But the mother of the Tsarnaev brothers refused to believe they were involved in the marathon bombings and subsequent shootout.

“It’s impossible for them to do such things. I am really telling you that this is a setup,” Zubeidat Tsarnaeva told state-run Russia Today from Dagestan.

“My son would never keep it in secret. …If there is anyone who would know it would be me. He wouldn’t hide it. But there was never a word.”

The brothers came from the Russian Caucasus region and moved to Kazakhstan at a young age before coming to the United States several years ago.

“My youngest was raised from 8 years in America. My oldest was really properly raised in our house. Nobody talked about terrorism,” their mother said.

The suspects’ parents recently returned to Dagestan in the Caucasus region after living in the United States for about 10 years because they were “nostalgic,” the father, Anzor Tsarnaev, told Russian state-run Zvezda TV.

He accused someone of framing his sons. “I don’t know who exactly did it. But someone did.”

A federal official told CNN that Dzhokar Tsarnaev came to the U.S. as a tourist with his family in the early 2000s and later asked for asylum. He became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 2012. Tamerlan Tsarnaev was not a naturalized citizen, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. He came “a few years later” and was lawfully in the United States as a green-card holder.

Tamerlan Tsarnaev had studied at Bunker Hill Community College and wanted to become an engineer, according to those who knew him. He then took a year off to train as a boxer.

‘I don’t understand them’

The official said that a posting on a social media site in the elder brother’s name included the comments: “I don’t have a single American friend. I don’t understand them.”

Dzhokar Tsarnaev attended Cambridge Rindge & Latin, a public high school, said Eric Mercado, who graduated a year behind the suspect. Mercado said Tsarnaev had worked at Harvard University as a lifeguard.

“We hung out; we partied; we were good high school friends,” Mercado told CNN.

“We’re all, like, in shock. We don’t really understand. There were no telltale signs of any kind of malicious behavior from Dzhokar. It’s all coming as a shock, really.”

Mercado said he lived a block away from the suspect and did not know his older brother.

Dzhokar Tsarnaev is currently registered as a student at University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, which ordered its campus evacuated on Friday. The school is located 65 miles south of Cambridge, just west of New Bedford.

Larry Aaronson, Dzhokar Tsarnaev’s neighbor and a former teacher at the high school Tsarnaev attended, called him a “wonderful kid.”

“He was so grateful to be here, he was compassionate, he was caring, he was jovial,” Aaronson told CNN.

CNN’s Carol Cratty, Susan Candiotti, Michael Pearson, John King, Joe Johns, Chris Lawrence, Deborah Feyerick, Ben Brumfield, Jake Tapper and Drew Griffin contributed to this report.

NASA’s Kepler Discovers Its Smallest ‘Habitable Zone’ Planets to Date

19 Apr

[[posterous-content:pid___0]]Relative sizes of all of the habitable-zone planets discovered to date alongside Earth. Left to right: Kepler-22b, Kepler-69c, Kepler-62e, Kepler-62f and Earth (except for Earth, these are artists’ renditions). Image credit: NASA Ames/JPL-Caltech. 

An artist's concept of the planet Kepler-69c.Click for multiple resolutions and caption.
The artist’s concept depicts Kepler-69c, a super-Earth-size planet in the habitable zone of a star like our sun. 
Image credit: NASA Ames/JPL-Caltech

The diagram compares the planets of our inner solar system to Kepler-69, a two-planet system.Click for multiple resolutions and caption.
The diagram compares the planets of the inner solar system to Kepler-69, a two-planet system about 2,700 light-years from Earth. 
Image credit: NASA Ames/JPL-Caltech

An artist's concept of Kepler-62e.Click for multiple resolutions and caption.
This artist’s concept depicts Kepler-62e, a super-Earth-size planet in the habitable zone of a star smaller and cooler than the sun, located about 1,200 light-years from Earth. 
Image credit: NASA Ames/JPL-Caltech

An artist's concept of Kepler-62f against a starry background.Click for multiple resolutions and caption.
This artist’s concept depicts Kepler-62f, a super-Earth-size planet in the habitable zone of its star. 
Image credit: NASA/Ames/JPL-Caltech

The diagram compares the planets of our inner solar system to Kepler-62.Click for multiple resolutions and caption.
The diagram compares the planets of the inner solar system to Kepler-62, a five-planet system about 1,200 light-years from Earth. 
Image credit: NASA Ames/JPL-Caltech

An artist's concept of the Kepler-62 system showing rocky Kepler-62f in the foreground, the star, Kepler-62a just rising over the edge of the planet and, seen as a small, bright light in the sky, the planet Kepler-62e.Click for multiple resolutions and caption.
Much like our solar system, Kepler-62 is home to two habitable zone worlds. The small shining object seen to the right of Kepler-62f is Kepler-62e. Orbiting on the inner edge of the habitable zone, Kepler-62e is roughly 60 percent larger than Earth. 
Image credit: NASA Ames/JPL-Caltech

MOFFETT FIELD, Calif. — NASA’s Kepler mission has discovered two new planetary systems that include three super-Earth-size planets in the “habitable zone,” the range of distance from a star where the surface temperature of an orbiting planet might be suitable for liquid water. 

The Kepler-62 system has five planets; 62b, 62c, 62d, 62e and 62f. The Kepler-69 system has two planets; 69b and 69c. Kepler-62e, 62f and 69c are the super-Earth-sized planets.

Two of the newly discovered planets orbit a star smaller and cooler than the sun. Kepler-62f is only 40 percent larger than Earth, making it the exoplanet closest to the size of our planet known in the habitable zone of another star. Kepler-62f is likely to have a rocky composition. Kepler-62e, orbits on the inner edge of the habitable zone and is roughly 60 percent larger than Earth. 

The third planet, Kepler-69c, is 70 percent larger than the size of Earth, and orbits in the habitable zone of a star similar to our sun. Astronomers are uncertain about the composition of Kepler-69c, but its orbit of 242 days around a sun-like star resembles that of our neighboring planet Venus. 

Scientists do not know whether life could exist on the newfound planets, but their discovery signals we are another step closer to finding a world similar to Earth around a star like our sun.

“The Kepler spacecraft has certainly turned out to be a rock star of science,” said John Grunsfeld, associate administrator of the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “The discovery of these rocky planets in the habitable zone brings us a bit closer to finding a place like home. It is only a matter of time before we know if the galaxy is home to a multitude of planets like Earth, or if we are a rarity.”

The Kepler space telescope, which simultaneously and continuously measures the brightness of more than 150,000 stars, is NASA’s first mission capable of detecting Earth-size planets around stars like our sun. Orbiting its star every 122 days, Kepler-62e was the first of these habitable zone planets identified. Kepler-62f, with an orbital period of 267 days, was later found by Eric Agol, associate professor of astronomy at the University of Washington and co-author of a paper on the discoveries published in the journal Science.

The size of Kepler-62f is now measured, but its mass and composition are not. However, based on previous studies of rocky exoplanets similar in size, scientists are able to estimate its mass by association. 

“The detection and confirmation of planets is an enormously collaborative effort of talent and resources, and requires expertise from across the scientific community to produce these tremendous results,” said William Borucki, Kepler science principal investigator at NASA’s Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, Calif., and lead author of the Kepler-62 system paper in Science. “Kepler has brought a resurgence of astronomical discoveries and we are making excellent progress toward determining if planets like ours are the exception or the rule.”

The two habitable zone worlds orbiting Kepler-62 have three companions in orbits closer to their star, two larger than the size of Earth and one about the size of Mars. Kepler-62b, Kepler-62c and Kepler-62d, orbit every five, 12, and 18 days, respectively, making them very hot and inhospitable for life as we know it.

The five planets of the Kepler-62 system orbit a star classified as a K2 dwarf, measuring just two-thirds the size of the sun and only one-fifth as bright. At seven billion years old, the star is somewhat older than the sun. It is about 1,200 light-years from Earth in the constellation Lyra.

A companion to Kepler-69c, known as Kepler-69b, is more than twice the size of Earth and whizzes around its star every 13 days. The Kepler-69 planets’ host star belongs to the same class as our sun, called G-type. It is 93 percent the size of the sun and 80 percent as luminous and is located approximately 2,700 light-years from Earth in the constellation Cygnus.

“We only know of one star that hosts a planet with life, the sun. Finding a planet in the habitable zone around a star like our sun is a significant milestone toward finding truly Earth-like planets,” said Thomas Barclay, Kepler scientist at the Bay Area Environmental Research Institute in Sonoma, Calif., and lead author of the Kepler-69 system discovery published in the Astrophysical Journal.

When a planet candidate transits, or passes in front of the star from the spacecraft’s vantage point, a percentage of light from the star is blocked. The resulting dip in the brightness of the starlight reveals the transiting planet’s size relative to its star. Using the transit method, Kepler has detected 2,740 candidates. Using various analysis techniques, ground telescopes and other space assets, 122 planets have been confirmed.

Early in the mission, the Kepler telescope primarily found large, gaseous giants in very close orbits of their stars. Known as “hot Jupiters,” these are easier to detect due to their size and very short orbital periods. Earth would take three years to accomplish the three transits required to be accepted as a planet candidate. As Kepler continues to observe, transit signals of habitable zone planets the size of Earth orbiting stars like the sun will begin to emerge. 

Ames is responsible for Kepler’s ground system development, mission operations, and science data analysis. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., managed Kepler mission development.

Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. in Boulder, Colo., developed the Kepler flight system and supports mission operations with the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics at the University of Colorado in Boulder.

The Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore archives, hosts and distributes Kepler science data. Kepler is NASA’s 10th Discovery Mission and was funded by the agency’s Science Mission Directorate.

For more information about the Kepler mission and to view the digital press kit, visit: 

http://www.nasa.gov/kepler


 

Sinkhole Opens Up On Chicago Street, Swallows Cars

19 Apr

Texas Plant Explosion Injures 200, Levels Homes, Businesses

18 Apr
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A massive explosion at a fertilizer plant near Waco on Wednesday night injured dozens of people and sent flames shooting into the night sky, leaving the factory a smoldering ruin following a blast that damaged buildings for blocks in every direction.

The explosion at West Fertilizer in West, a community about 20 miles north of Waco, happened shortly before 8 p.m. and could be heard as far away as Waxahachie, 45 miles to the north.

Tommy Muska, West’s mayor, said at a news conference three hours after the explosion that he didn’t yet know how many people had been injured or killed. He said buildings in a five-block radius from the plant were severely damaged by the explosion.

Among the damaged buildings was the West Rest Haven Nursing Home, from which first-responders evacuated 133 patients, some in wheelchairs. “We did get there and got that taken care of,” Muska said.

Information was hard to come by in the hours after the blast, with even Texas Gov. Rick Perry saying state officials were waiting for details about the extent of the damage.

“We are monitoring developments and gathering information as details continue to emerge about this incident,” Perry said in a statement. “We have also mobilized state resources to help local authorities. Our thoughts and prayers are with the people of West, and the first responders on the scene.”

Plant Explosion Texas.JPEG

Aerial footage showed fires still smoldering in the ruins of the plant and in several surrounding buildings, and people being treated for injuries on a flood-lit local football field, which had been turned into a staging area for emergency responders.

Debby Marak told The Associated Press that when she finished teaching her religion class Wednesday night, she noticed a lot of smoke in the area across town near the plant, which is near a nursing home. She said she drove over to see what was happening, and that when she got there, two boys came running toward her screaming that the authorities ordered everyone out because the plant was going to explode.

She said she drove about a block when the blast happened.

“It was like being in a tornado,” Marak, 58, said by phone. “Stuff was flying everywhere. It blew out my windshield.”

“It was like the whole earth shook.”

She drove 10 blocks and called her husband and asked him to come get her. When they got to their home about 2 miles south of town, her husband told her what he’d seen: a huge fireball that rose like “a mushroom cloud.”

The explosion caused the roof of what appeared to be a housing complex of some kind to collapse. In aerial footage from NBC’s Dallas-Fort Worth affiliate, KXAS, dozens of emergency vehicles could be seen amassed at the scene. Entry into West was slow-going, as the roads were jammed with emergency vehicles rushing in to help out.

Authorities set up a staging area on a flood-lit high school football field, where the injured were being treated or taken to area hospitals via road or helicopter.

Glenn A. Robinson, the chief executive of Hillcrest Baptist Medical Center in Waco, told CNN that his hospital had received 66 injured people for treatment, including 38 who were seriously hurt. He said the injuries included blast injuries, orthopedic injuries, large wounds and a lot of lacerations and cuts. The hospital has set up a hotline for families of the victims to get information, he said.

American Red Cross crews from across Texas were being sent to the site, the organization said. Red Cross spokeswoman Anita Foster said the group was working with emergency management officials in West to find a safe shelter for residents displaced from their homes. She said teams from Austin to Dallas and elsewhere are being sent to the community north of Waco.

A West Fire Department dispatcher said any casualties would be transported to hospitals in Waco, which is about 90 miles north of Austin.

The explosion knocked out power to many area customers and could be heard and felt for miles around.

Plant Explosion Texas.JPEG

Brad Smith, who lives 45 miles north of West in Waxahachie, told the station that he and his wife heard what sounded like a thunderclap.

Lydia Zimmerman, told KWTX that she, her husband and daughter were in their garden in Bynum, 13 miles from West, when they heard multiple blasts.

“It sounded like three bombs going off very close to us,” she said.

Rafael Abreu, a geophysicist with National Earthquake Information Center of the U.S. Geological Survey, said the explosion did not register on a seismograph because most of the blast’s energy dissipated in the atmosphere.

In 2001, an explosion at a chemical plant killed 31 people and injured more than 2,000 in Toulouse, France. The blast occurred in a hangar containing 300 tons of ammonium nitrate, which can be used for both fertilizer and explosives. The explosion came 10 days after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the U.S., and raised fears at the time it was linked. A 2006 report blamed the blast on negligence.

 

http://abcnews.go.com/US/wireStory/official-injured-texas-plant-explosion-18983353#.UW96HrWzeTl

Microsoft told to bring back Start button as ‘a sign that it listens to its customers’

18 Apr
Windows-8-pcs

While Windows 8 has a lot going for it, it’s also proven to be a very polarizing operating system that many users have criticized for departing too much from earlier versions. The most common complaint lobbed at Windows 8 is that it lacks the classic Start button thatMicrosoft users have long relied on as a central navigation tool. But with rumors percolating that Microsoft is considering dialing back some of the changes it made to Windows with the next major update to the operating system, Forrester analyst J.P. Gownder is encouraging the company to go all-out and bring back the Start button as a nod to users’ constructive criticisms.

“Numerous Start Button emulators with names like StartIsBack, Pokki, and StartMenu are proliferating — and many of them are free,” Gownder writes. “Yet I&O departments can’t support users easily with these emulators and would prefer a Start Button that’s simply part of the OS.”

Gownder also addresses potential concerns that Microsoft may have about selling its vision of touch-enabled PCs short by bringing back the Start button. In essence, Gownder thinks users will happily accept the return of the Start button and will be thankful to the company for taking their concerns into account.

“During the period when the Windows Store’s modern UI apps continue to grow in number and sophistication, Windows 8 users need to have the strongest possible Desktop Mode experience,” he writes. “Empowering users with familiar tools wouldn’t be a sign of surrender, but rather a sign that Microsoft listens to its customers.”

http://blogs.forrester.com/jp_gownder/13-04-16-bring_back_the_start_button_microsoft