Sunday, March 31, 2013

Afghan leader in Qatar to discuss peace talks

DOHA, Qatar (AP) ? Afghan President Hamid Karzai met with the emir of Qatar in Doha Sunday to discuss the possible opening of a Taliban office in the Gulf state.

The move could foster peace negotiations with the Islamic fundamentalist movement in a bid to stem violence as foreign combat forces prepare to withdraw from Afghanistan by the end of 2014.

The Qatar News Agency said Karzai met with the emir, Sheik Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, and other senior government officials on Sunday. He also held talks with Qatar's ambassador to Pakistan during a tour of an Islamic art museum in Doha.

The report didn't give details, but Afghan Foreign Ministry spokesman Janan Mosazai has said the talks would include the peace process and the opening of a Taliban office.

Karzai's office said he also met with Qatari businessmen and Afghan businessmen living in Qatar on Saturday, the start of the two-day trip, to encourage investment in his struggling country.

He said there are many opportunities in the mining industry as well as energy, power, tourism, hotels and banks.

Afghanistan has already agreed the Taliban can open an office in the Gulf state if the group breaks all ties with al-Qaida and renounces terrorism. Talks will be led by the High Peace Council, a group of influential Afghans that also includes former Taliban.

"The position of the Afghan government for the Taliban to open an office in Qatar is very clear. They should stop their relations with al-Qaida and terrorists and show their readiness for direct negotiations with the Afghan government," Mosazai said.

Despite Karzai's desire to hold talks with the Taliban, and Qatar's agreement for them to open an office in Doha, the insurgents have not yet accepted the offer.

The Taliban have long refused to speak directly with Karzai or his government, which they view as a puppet of foreign powers. They have said they will negotiate only with the United States, which has in the past held secret talks with them in Qatar. But at Karzai's insistence, the U.S. has since sought to have the insurgents speak directly with the Afghan government.

Taliban representatives have had back-channel discussions and private meetings with representatives from various countries. A senior U.S. official told the Associated Press recently that the Taliban are talking to representatives of more than 30 countries, and indirectly with the United States.

The U.S. has said Afghan-led reconciliation is important for the stability of Afghanistan and the region.

"We continue to support the opening of an office in Doha, Qatar, to facilitate negotiations between the High Peace Council and the authorized representatives of the Taliban," U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice told the U.N. Security Council earlier this month.


Associated Press writer Rahim Faiez in Kabul contributed to this report.


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Saudi Arabia to allow women's sports clubs - paper

RIYADH, March 30 (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia is to license women's sports clubs for the first time, al-Watan daily reported, in a major step for an ultra-religious country where clerics have warned against female exercise.

Last year the conservative Islamic kingdom, where women must have permission from a male relative to take many big decisions, sent women athletes to the Olympics for the first time after pressure from international rights groups.

Until now, women's exercise facilities, including gyms, have had to be licensed by the Health Ministry and designated as "health centres".

Last April Watan, owned by a Saudi prince, reported the government had set up a ministerial committee to allow women's sports clubs. The General Presidency of Youth Welfare, which functions like a sports ministry, only regulates men's clubs.

In 2009 a member of the country's highest council of clerics said girls should not play sports lest they "lose their virginity" by tearing their hymens. State-run girls' schools do not have exercise classes.

Watan said on Friday the Interior Ministry had decided to allow women's sports clubs after reviewing a study that showed flaws in the existing system.

In August two Saudi women, a judoka and a sprinter, became the first to compete for their country in the Olympics. At least one had trained abroad.

Saudi women are barred from driving and must seek the permission of a male "guardian", usually a father, husband or brother, to marry, travel abroad, open a bank account, work or have some forms of elective surgery.

In January King Abdullah named 30 women to the Shura Council, an appointed body that debates future legislation and then gives non-binding advice to the government.

Abdullah, thought to have been born in 1923, is viewed as having pushed for greater women's education and opportunities to work, sometimes in the face of opposition from powerful conservative clerics. (Reporting by Angus McDowall; editing by Andrew Roche)


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Allergy season off to a bad start - HealthyLife

The sneezing, the itching, the watery eyes?oh my! Experts say the 2013 allergy season could start sooner and last longer in many parts of the country.

Dr. Kris Saririan of Certified Allergy & Asthma Consultants in Albany says a relatively mild winter, combined with a warm, wet spring, could create the perfect storm for those who suffer from seasonal allergies.

?We recommend that people get diagnosed and treated early to prevent the onset of symptoms. It is much more difficult to control the symptoms once the allergic reaction has begun,? said Dr. Saririan.

Symptoms of seasonal allergies include:

  • Runny nose & watery eyes
  • Sneezing & coughing
  • Itchy eyes, nose and throat

Dr. Saririan says it?s important for people to educate themselves about the symptoms associated with seasonal allergies. ?Unlike the common cold, which typically last 7-10 days, seasonal allergies can last several months.?

He also offered the below Healthy Tips for season allergy sufferers:

  • Get diagnosed
  • Begin treatment BEFORE allergy season begins
  • Stay indoors, shut windows, use air conditioning (when possible)
  • Avoid going outside on windy, dry days
  • Bathe at night to prevent bringing pollen into bed

Here are some links natural remedies for seasonal allergies:

6 Natural Allergy Remedies

Dr. Oz?s remedies

WebMd?s Natural Ways to Defeat Allergies

Help Your Kids Fight Allergies Naturally


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Saturday, March 30, 2013

Researchers show stem cell fate depends on 'grip'

Friday, March 29, 2013

The field of regenerative medicine holds great promise, propelled by greater understanding of how stem cells differentiate themselves into many of the body's different cell types. But clinical applications in the field have been slow to materialize, partially owing to difficulties in replicating the conditions these cells naturally experience.

A team of researchers from the University of Pennsylvania has generated new insight on how a stem cell's environment influences what type of cell a stem cell will become. They have shown that whether human mesenchymal stem cells turn into fat or bone cells depends partially on how well they can "grip" the material they are growing in.

The research was conducted by graduate student Sudhir Khetan and associate professor Jason Burdick, along with professor Christopher Chen, all of the School of Engineering and Applied Science's Department of Bioengineering. Others involved in the study include Murat Guvendiren, Wesley Legant and Daniel Cohen.

Their study was published in the journal Nature Materials.

Much research has been done on how stem cells grow on two-dimensional substrates, but comparatively little work has been done in three dimensions. Three-dimensional environments, or matrices, for stems cells have mostly been treated as simple scaffolding, rather than as a signal that influences the cells' development.

Burdick and his colleagues were interested in how these three-dimensional matrices impact mechanotransduction, which is how the cell takes information about its physical environment and translates that to chemical signaling.

"We're trying to understand how material signals can dictate stem cell response," Burdick said. "Rather than considering the material as an inert structure, it's really guiding stem cell fate and differentiation ? what kind of cells they will turn into."

The mesenchymal stem cells the researchers studied are found in bone marrow and can develop into several cell types: osteoblasts, which are found in bone; chondrocytes, which are found in cartilage; and adipocytes, which are found in fat.

The researchers cultured them in water-swollen polymer networks known as hydrogels, which share some similarities with the environments stem cells naturally grow in. These materials are generally soft and flexible ? contact lenses, for example, are a type of hydrogel ? but can vary in density and stiffness depending on the type and quantity of the bonds between the polymers. In this case, the researchers used covalently cross-linked gels, which contain irreversible chemical bonds.

When seeded on top of two-dimensional covalently cross-linked gels, mesenchymal stem cells spread and pulled on the material differently depending on how stiff it was. Critically, the mechanics guide cell fate, or the type of cells they differentiate it into. A softer environment would produce more fat-like cells and a stiffer environment, where the cells can pull on the gel harder, would produce more bone-like cells.

However, when the researchers put mesenchymal stem cells inside three-dimensional hydrogels of varying stiffness, they didn't see these kinds of changes.

"In most covalently cross-linked gels, the cells can't spread into the matrix because they can't degrade the bonds ? they all become fat cells," Burdick said. "That tells us that in 3D covalent gels the cells don't translate the mechanical information the same way they do in a 2D system."

To test this, the researchers changed the chemistry of their hydrogels so that the polymer chains were connected by a peptide that the cells could naturally degrade. They hypothesized that, as the cells spread, they would be able to get a better grip on their surrounding environment and thus be more likely to turn into bone-like cells.

In order to determine how well the cells were pulling on their environment, the researchers used a technique developed by Chen's lab called 3D traction force microscopy. This technique involves seeding the gel with microscopic beads, then tracking their location before and after a cell is removed.

"Because the gel is elastic and will relax back into its original position when you remove the cells," Chen said, "you can quantify how much the cells are pulling on the gel based on how much and which way it springs back after the cell is removed."

The results showed that the stem cells' differentiation into bone-like cells was aided by their ability to better anchor themselves into the growth environment.

"With our original experiment, we observed that the cells essentially didn't pull on the gel. They adhered to it and were viable, but we did not see bead displacement. They couldn't get a grip," Burdick said. "When we put the cells into a gel where they could degrade the bonds, we saw them spread into the matrix and deform it, displacing the beads."

As an additional test, the researchers synthesized another hydrogel. This one had the same covalent bonds that the stem cells could naturally degrade and spread through but also another type of bond that could form when exposed to light. They let the stem cells spread as before, but at the point the cells would begin to differentiate ? about a week after they were first encapsulated ? the researchers further "set" the gel by exposing it to light, forming new bonds the cells couldn't degrade.

"When we introduced these cross-links so they could no longer degrade the matrix, we saw an increase toward fat-like cells, even after letting them spread," Burdick said. "This further supports the idea that continuous degradation is needed for the cells to sense the material properties of their environment and transduce that into differentiation signals."

Burdick and his colleagues see these results as helping develop a better fundamental understanding of how to engineer tissues using stem cells.

"This is a model system for showing how the microenvironment can influence the fate of the cells," Burdick said.


University of Pennsylvania:

Thanks to University of Pennsylvania for this article.

This press release was posted to serve as a topic for discussion. Please comment below. We try our best to only post press releases that are associated with peer reviewed scientific literature. Critical discussions of the research are appreciated. If you need help finding a link to the original article, please contact us on twitter or via e-mail.

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Twitter music app reportedly includes Vevo, may expand to more services

Twitter music app reportedly includes Vevo, may expand to more services

As much as we're intrigued by the prospect of Twitter's music app, the rumored emphasis on SoundCloud would potentially limit the selection given major label resistance to giving away ad-free content: we'd expect a lot of DJ sets and indie demos. A supposed leak from AllThingsD has Twitter catering to the less adventurous among us by adding Vevo support. While the full workings of the rumored app remain a mystery, Twitter would reportedly play Vevo's mostly pop-oriented music videos through a custom player. It might not be the only service involved, too: the same tips suggest that Twitter wants to round up multiple services, and the two that have surfaced so far are just the first to hop aboard. We have a hunch that the expanded app (if real) won't make the originally claimed March launch when we're already at the last weekday of the month, but the latest tidbit suggests Twitter is far from giving up on turning microblogs into mini jukeboxes.

Filed under:


Source: AllThingsD


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Friday, March 29, 2013

Self Improvement Is Journey That Never Ends | Fredrick Hurt's Blog

Change is never easy, and that is especially true when it comes self improvement. There are so many attributes that make up your personality; which one do you decide to improve first? This article provides proven personal development advice that applies to every stage of the process. In the below article, you?ll discover some excellent tips to utilize to help you reach success.

Most employers are more concerned about the degree itself, rather than where it came from. Only the most prestigious of positions look at where you went to school. It is really more important to simply have a quality degree that will open up opportunities for you.

Be the best you can be at what you are doing! That said, you should always possess an intense passion to achieve the greatness that you are capable of. The fact is that we can never be the absolute best at a single thing, but we can aspire to be an inspiration to others in our fields. Work hard to gain a reputation for excellence at work, and enjoy your new found confidence.

Instead of endlessly gloating about your own achievements, why not ask another person to share a story of personal victory? This allows you to discover some of the great things that people around you are capable of accomplishing, which helps you to respect others by giving you insight into their character.

Focus on making your time spent working as productive as possible. Take an ample amount of breaks when you are working hard. Taking constant breaks, while appearing counterproductive, can allow you time to relax so that you can return to work and get more done.

Your self improvement goals should be specific enough to lead the way to success. If you have individually defined goals, you can break down your journey toward each goal into steps that you can take to achieve it. By meeting challenges, experiencing success will shortly follow.

Stress is one of the chief impediments to a happy, satisfying lifestyle. When stress happens in our minds, it also has detrimental affects on our physical health. To start thinking clearly and reaching for calm, purposeful goals, destroy your mind?s stress. Take the time out of your day to sit down and clear your head. A calm, refreshed mind is essential to inner peace and self-assurance.

As hard as it may seem, you must eliminate worry from your life. When you worry, you create a made-up situation inside of your mind that hasn?t yet happened, and in all likelihood, probably never will. Think about the worst possible outcome, and then find a way to deal with that situation. Instead, you might feel prepared and more at ease in your mind and day-to-day life.

There is nothing wrong with taking a little risk every now and then. Many people get stuck in a zone that is comfortable so they do not risk failure or rejection, but the true risk is the loss of opportunities for personal growth. Have the courage to take some risks so that you can find your happiness.

Try to get more organized. Being organized can make you feel accomplished and it can boost your confidence. Your stress level will also diminish as your life becomes more orderly. Organizing your environment can be a calming and centralizing influence.

Keep tabs on your progress by becoming more organized. Determine which steps are necessary in achieving your goals. This will help you keep track of how far you have gone. Keep a daily journal on your goals and their progress, so that you know where you stand at all times.

For many people, faith and love are the core components of personal development. Without love, you can?t have faith. Don?t be idle in your faith, continue to work on it. Try to help and care for others, love yourself and you will make your faith meaningful.

As you can see, personal development is simpler than it looks. By breaking your personal development process into small, manageable goals, you?ll find yourself closer to your goals by the end of every day. You?ll be able to practice what you?re seeking to adopt as habit, and you?ll increase your own morale to continue. These tips are only a springboard, it?s up to you to build a better life.

To Your Prosperity,

Fredrick Hurt

P.S. Your personal development is one of if not the most important step towards your success. If you are focused on achieving a better quality of life for your family like I am, learn personal development tips that will allow you to set personal development goals! The training in this business does just that! It has changed thousands of lives including mine and has the ability to do the same for you. If you decide to take action!


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Thursday, March 28, 2013

Pentagon revises unpaid leave plan for civilian workers

By David Alexander

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said on Thursday that most of the Pentagon's 800,000 civilian employees would be placed on unpaid leave for only 14 days this year instead of 22 after Congress approved a measure easing pressure on the department's budget.

"We are going to be able to reduce and delay ... but not eliminate furloughs," Hagel told a Pentagon news conference. "Right now it looks as though we'll be able to go from an original estimate of 22 days to 14."

Under the current plan, workers would be notified of their unpaid leave in early May. Following an appeals and notice period, workers would be put on unpaid leave in mid- to late-June for one day per week until the end of September, defense officials said.

The notice period initially was scheduled to start last week but was delayed to give the Pentagon time to analyze the spending measure passed by Congress, which funded the government through the end of the fiscal year.

Hagel said the measure gave the Pentagon some relief by allocating the department's funding to accounts where it was most needed. But the measure left in place more than $40 billion in budget cuts that the Pentagon must implement by September 30.

The cuts, included in a 2011 law aimed at reducing the government's trillion dollar deficits and controlling a growing national debt, went into effect earlier this month after Congress and the White House failed to reach a compromise on alternative spending reductions.

Hagel said even with the new allocations, the department would face a $22 billion shortfall in its operations and maintenance account, which is used to pay most civilian workers, train troopers and fund base maintenance as well as cover the cost of the war in Afghanistan.

"We're going to have to deal with that reality, and that means we're going to have to prioritize and make some cuts and do what we've got to do," Hagel said, adding that base maintenance and training for troops not deploying to Afghanistan would be cut sharply.

General Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, noted that the Pentagon would be halfway through its fiscal year on Monday but would have spent 80 percent of its operating funds by then. He said spending less on training would inevitably have an impact on the readiness of troops to fight.

"We don't yet have a satisfactory solution to that shortfall, and we're doing everything we can to stretch our readiness," Dempsey said. "We'll have to trade at some level and to some degree our future readiness for current operations."

He urged Congress to give the Pentagon greater flexibility to undertake "unpopular but unavoidable institutional reforms" that will be needed if the budget cuts continue, as currently scheduled, at pace of $50 billion per year for nine more years.

Lawmakers have been resistant to closing bases in their home districts, cutting programs that may result in job losses, increasing fees on military healthcare and holding the line on wage increases.

Defense analysts have identified many of those factors as reasons the Pentagon's internal costs have been rising at an unsustainable pace over the past decade. They say the Pentagon's current budget crisis makes it imperative to address those costs, a point Dempsey underscored.

"We can't afford excess equipment. We can't afford excess facilities. We have to reform how we buy weapons and services. We have to reduce redundancy. And we've got to change at some level our compensation structure," he said.

Under the 2011 Budget Control Act, the Pentagon faces another $50 billion a year in cuts annually for the next nine years. Those cuts are in addition to $487 billion in reductions the department began implementing last year as part of the law.

(Additional reporting by Phil Stewart; Editing by Vicki Allen and Paul Simao)


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Samsung Galaxy S 4 hits the FCC in MetroPCS and Sprint forms

Samsung Galaxy S 4 hits the FCC in MetroPCS and Sprint forms

Get ready for a small deluge of Galaxy S 4 filings at the FCC in the near future. Just a couple of weeks after Samsung's flagship hit the US agency in its international guise, we're now seeing the first US editions of the smartphone receive approval, starting with both MetroPCS (SCH-R970) and Sprint (SPH-L720) examples. Either has CDMA, EV-DO and LTE, although there's variances you'll want to watch for if you're free to choose between carriers: the Sprint version has HSPA 3G for world roaming, while the MetroPCS model drops HSPA but has a broad four bands of LTE meant mostly to support other mid-size American networks, like US Cellular. We still have AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon to go among the bigger US providers supporting the GS4, although it's just a matter of time before their models make FCC appearances.

Filed under: , , ,


Source: FCC (1), (2)


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Nearly 50 inmates escape Libyan prison, 1 killed

Mar 26 (Reuters) - Leading money winners on the 2013 PGATour on Monday (U.S. unless stated): 1. Tiger Woods $3,787,600 2. Brandt Snedeker $2,859,920 3. Matt Kuchar $2,154,500 4. Steve Stricker $1,820,000 5. Phil Mickelson $1,650,260 6. Hunter Mahan $1,553,965 7. John Merrick $1,343,514 8. Dustin Johnson $1,330,507 9. Russell Henley $1,313,280 10. Kevin Streelman $1,310,343 11. Keegan Bradley $1,274,593 12. Charles Howell III $1,256,373 13. Michael Thompson $1,254,669 14. Brian Gay $1,171,721 15. Justin Rose $1,155,550 16. Jason Day $1,115,565 17. Chris Kirk $1,097,053 18. ...


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Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Is that a wig, or a bug? Five strange sightings in the Peruvian Amazon

Phil Torres /

A spider created a "decoy" that looks like a much larger spider.

By Douglas Main

Deep in the Peruvian Amazon lurk strange creatures and unique animals and sights, including spiders that make large spider-shaped decoys in their webs, unusually hairy caterpillars and atmospheric specters called solar halos.

These amazing finds were spotted by Jeff Cremer, marketing director for Rainforest Expeditions, an eco-tourism company that hosts guests in the?Peruvian Amazon?and organizes trips to the jungle, as well as?Phil Torres, a collaborating biologist.?

Here are five of the stunning sights Cremer and Torres have spotted:

1. Spider-shaped decoys

As if spiders weren't frightening enough (to many, anyway), here's a spider that makes designs in its webs that look like spiders, but are much larger than the web-builders themselves. The animal is almost certainly a new species, Torres said in a release from Rainforest Expeditions. It's thought that the spider-shaped design is a defense mechanism that is meant to distract or confuse predators, wrote Torres, who originally spotted the spiders.?

"Because of the spider's behavior and appearance, I thought that it might be a new species," Torres said in the statement. "After contacting spider experts, we think it is likely in the genus?Cyclosa, which is known for piling debris in its web for defense against predators but has never been recorded to do it in such a defined pattern as this particular discovery."

Jeff Cremer / Rainforest Expeditions

Macaws and other birds gather at a "clay lick," which contains minerals not found elsewhere in the area.

2. Macaw clay lick

In the middle of the jungle is an exposed hillside with a special type of sodium-rich clay, upon which nine species of parakeets, parrots and macaws feed, according to Cremer. The trace minerals in the clay cannot be obtained anywhere else in the area or from their usual food sources, so the birds flock there in large numbers to ingest small amounts of clay, he said.

Jeff Cremer / Rainforest Expeditions

The cocoon of a urodid moth hangs like a basket.

3. Basket cocoon

Inside the delicate mesh of a basketlike web, a young urodid moth larva waits to grow to maturity.

"This cocoon is unlike any other I've come across,"?Torres writes on the blog TheRevScience. "I couldn't find a lot of literature on these guys, but my best guess is the almost 1-foot-long (30-centimeter) silk string it hangs from and the detailed lattice structure would do well to protect against ants while minimizing investment in an all-encompassing cocoon as many moths have."

Phil Torres /

The larval form of a flannel moth, also known as a puss caterpillar, looks like a yellow toupee.

4. Bizarre puss caterpillar

This strange-looking chap is a larval form of a flannel moth, also known as a puss caterpillar. But don't be fooled by their soft-looking hair: Many flannel moth species' spiny hairs are poisonous. The insect also resembles the toupee of a rather famous financier. "We found Donald Trump's wig in the Peruvian Amazon," Cremer joked.

Phil Torres /

These amazing solar halos were spotted above the Tambopata River in Peru.

5. Solar Halos

These amazing?solar halos?were spotted above the Tambopata River, and this may be the most spectacular photo of the phenomenon ever photographed, Cremer said. These halos are caused by refraction and reflection of the sun's rays by ice crystals high in the atmosphere, in cirrus clouds.

Email?Douglas Main?or follow him?@Douglas_Main. Follow us?@OAPlanet,?Facebook?or?Google+.?Original article on LiveScience's OurAmazingPlanet.

Copyright 2013?LiveScience, a TechMediaNetwork company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Justices hear arguments on Calif. Gay marriage ban

AAA??Mar. 26, 2013?11:42 AM ET
Justices hear arguments on Calif. Gay marriage ban

Marcus, left, and Daniel German-Dominguez stand outside the Supreme Court in Washington, Tuesday, March 26, 2013, before the court's hearing on California?s voter approved ban on same-sex marriage. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Marcus, left, and Daniel German-Dominguez stand outside the Supreme Court in Washington, Tuesday, March 26, 2013, before the court's hearing on California?s voter approved ban on same-sex marriage. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Actor, director and producer Robert Reiner is interviewed outside the Supreme Court in Washington, Tuesday, March 26, 2013, before the court will hear arguments on California?s voter approved ban on same-sex marriage. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Sandy Stier, left, and Kris Perry of Berkeley, Calif., arrive at the National Archives in Washington, Monday, March 25, 2013, to view the U.S. Constitution, a day before their same-sex marriage case is argued before the Supreme Court. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

Demonstrators stand outside the Supreme Court in Washington, Tuesday, March 26, 2013, where the court will hear arguments on California?s voter approved ban on same-sex marriage, Proposition 8. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

(AP) ? The Supreme Court is raising the prospect that it will find a way out of the case over California's ban on same-sex marriage without issuing a substantial ruling on whether gays have a right to marry.

Several justices, including some liberals who seem open to gay marriage, raised doubts Tuesday that the case is properly before them. Justice Anthony Kennedy, the potentially decisive vote on a closely divided court, suggested that the court could dismiss the case with no ruling at all.

Associated PressNews Topics: Lifestyle, Government and politics, Same sex marriage, Marriage, Supreme courts, Family issues, Social affairs, Gay rights, Human rights and civil liberties, Social issues, National courts, National governments, Courts, Judiciary


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Florida Gulf Coast stars in Week 1 of NCAA tourney

Florida Gulf Coast players celebrate with their coach Andy Enfield in the team's locker room after winning a third-round game against San Diego State in the NCAA college basketball tournament, Sunday, March 24, 2013, in Philadelphia. Florida Gulf Coast won 81-71. (AP Photo/Naples Daily News, Scott McIntyre)

Florida Gulf Coast players celebrate with their coach Andy Enfield in the team's locker room after winning a third-round game against San Diego State in the NCAA college basketball tournament, Sunday, March 24, 2013, in Philadelphia. Florida Gulf Coast won 81-71. (AP Photo/Naples Daily News, Scott McIntyre)

Florida Gulf Coast's Sherwood Brown, center, celebrates with teammates after their 81-71 win over San Diego State in a third-round game in the NCAA college basketball tournament, Sunday, March 24, 2013, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Michael Perez)

Florida Gulf Coast's Sherwood Brown, left, and Chase Fieler celebrate after winning a third-round game against San Diego State in the NCAA college basketball tournament, Sunday, March 24, 2013, in Philadelphia. Florida Gulf Coast became the first No. 15 seed in NCAA history to reach the regional semifinals with their 81-71 victory over San Diego State. (AP Photo/Michael Perez)

Florida Gulf Coast's Eric McKnight, from left, Chase Fieler, Brett Comer and Bernard Thompson celebrate after a dunk by McKnight late the second half of a third-round game against San Diego State in the NCAA college basketball tournament, Sunday, March 24, 2013, in Philadelphia. Florida Gulf Coast won 81-71. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Indiana guard Victor Oladipo dunks against Temple in the second half of a third-round game of the NCAA college basketball tournament, Sunday, March 24, 2013, in Dayton, Ohio. Oladipo led Indiana to a 58-52 win with 16 points. (AP Photo/Skip Peterson)

The basketball blue bloods from Louisville, Kansas and Indiana made it through.

So did the iron men from La Salle.

Then there's Florida Gulf Coast, a school hardly anyone had heard of just a few days ago.

Improbably, they're still playing, too ? a tongue-wagging, heel-clicking, arm-flapping collection of no-names who turned the opening week of the NCAA tournament into their coming-out party.

It was impressive enough being the first No. 15 seed to advance to the round of 16. But the Eagles really grabbed everyone's attention with their running, dunking style and the unbridled joy they showed on the court. In a way, they were like the Harlem Globetrotters, charming the crowds while a pair of supposedly superior teams took on the role of the Washington Generals.

First, second-seeded Georgetown went down by 10 points. Then, seventh-seeded San Diego State fell by the same convincing margin.

"We're doing something special out here," said Sherwood Brown, who likes to stick out his tongue after every big shot. "We've been told that this is what college basketball is all about."

Now, Florida Gulf Coast (26-10) is off to Cowboys Stadium in suburban Dallas for the South Regional semifinals. And, in a most interesting twist, they'll face the flagship team from the Sunshine State, the No. 3-seeded Florida Gators (28-7).

"We're really blessed and we're really happy to be here right now," Brown said. "But we've still got a lot more games to play, hopefully, so we're going to go back home and get our heads back straight and get ready to play against the University of Florida."

The Eagles weren't the only surprise from the first week of the tournament. No. 13 seed La Salle made its first NCAA tournament appearance in 21 years one to remember, winning three times in five days to advance to a West Regional semifinal Thursday in Los Angeles against another upstart, ninth-seeded Wichita State (28-8).

After beating Boise State in a First Four game at Dayton, the Explorers (24-9) upset Kansas State and knocked off Mississippi, both of them two-point squeakers. Tyrone Garland banked home a scooping layup with 2 seconds left Sunday for a 76-74 victory over the Rebels, making this La Salle's deepest run in the tournament since they advanced to the championship game of a 24-team field in 1955.

"It just feels like AAU all over again," said Ramon Galloway, who led the Explorers with 24 points. "We play a game, go to sleep, wake up, play another game. We're pretty excited for the whole trip."

Garland dubbed his winning shot the "Southwest Philly Floater." For the small, private school, this is a chance to rekindle memories of its former glory, highlighted by a national title in 1954.

"We talked all week about the great La Salle tradition," coach John Giannini said. "When you come in, you want to bring that back. These guys are doing it right before our eyes."

Still, for all the excitement generated by a pair of major underdogs, the tournament is largely going according to form. Gonzaga is the only top seed to go down, knocked out by Wichita State. The other three No. 1s are still alive, as well as three No. 2s and three more from the third spot in the brackets.

Louisville has certainly lived up to being the top overall seed, winning its first two NCAA games by an average of 28.5 points. The Cardinals (31-5) will face 12th-seeded Oregon State (28-8) in the first semifinal of the Midwest Regional at Indianapolis. The other pits second-seeded Duke (29-5) against No. 3 Michigan State (27-8).

"We probably can't play any better," Louisville coach Rick Pitino said after an 82-56 dismantling of Colorado State. "Our guys were magnificent."

At the moment, the Cardinals are clearly the most impressive team in the tournament.

In the East Regional, for instance, the seedings held up completely but all four of the remaining teams struggled to get through the third round. No. 1 Indiana and No. 4 Syracuse pulled out six-point wins. No. 2 Miami knocked off Illinois by four. No. 3 Marquette edged Butler by two.

The Hoosiers finished their game on a 10-0 run, holding Temple scoreless over the last 3 minutes to survive 58-52.

"That's what we've been doing all year," sophomore center Cody Zeller said. "We've been in a lot of close games throughout the Big Ten especially. We've got a mature group that, even though it wasn't going as well and we wouldn't get things going for a while, that's what winners do. You've got to survive and advance this time of year. We got some big plays down the stretch and we're lucky we're moving on."

In the semifinals Thursday at Washington, it's Indiana (29-6) vs. Syracuse (28-9) and Miami (29-6) vs. Marquette (25-8). For Hoosiers star Victor Oladipo, it's a chance to return home.

"I'm just glad that we're going. We want to be successful there," said Oladipo, who was born and raised in the suburbs of the nation's capital. "It's going to be fun playing in front of family and friends and all that, but it's a business trip. We're on a mission."

The remaining semis are top-seeded Kansas (31-5) taking on No. 4 Michigan (28-7) in the South, while second-seeded Ohio State (28-7) plays No. 6 Arizona (27-7) in the West.

No one is having more fun than Florida Gulf Coast, which isn't surprising when you consider the beach-side school in Fort Myers has been around less than two decades and only became eligible for the tournament last year after the transition from a lower division.

In the Eagles' first trip to the NCAAs, hardly anyone expected them to win one game, much less two. But they've been playing like they have nothing to lose, winning over the notoriously tough fans in Philadelphia with soaring dunks, wide smiles and silly antics.

Christophe Varidel, a native of Switzerland, clicked his heels on the way down the court after a big basket against San Diego State. As FGCU pulled away from the Aztecs, some of the bench players waddled around with their arms flapping, apparently trying to imitate the team mascot but looking more like chickens.

Not that anyone cared.

These guys are having a blast.

"They play with a swagger, and they have a right to do that," said San Diego State's Steve Fisher, who knows about players with attitude, having coached the Fab Five at Michigan. "You can have that look and feel, but you have to compete and play to earn your spurs, and they've done that."

Indeed they have ? a 15th seed that is one of just 16 teams still in the game.


Follow Paul Newberry on Twitter at

Associated Press


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Sunday, March 24, 2013

If Star Wars Was Set in Jurassic Park

Mashing up two wonderful things into one ridiculously wonderful thing should be the constant goal of mankind. That's how we got smartphones. And gummy bears infused with alcohols. And designer drugs. One Minute Galactica imagined what would happen if we mashed up Star Wars and Jurassic Park and they came up with Jurat-at Park. I've watched both movies so many times that it's a no brainer that I would totally watch this movie. [Slacktory] More »


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American Idol Power Poll: The Elite 8


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Saturday, March 23, 2013

George Lowe, legendary Everest mountaineer, dies

George Lowe dies: George Lowe and? Edmund Hillary were the only New Zealanders on the famous 1953 British-led ascent of Everest. George Lowe was a lead climber in the expedition. His book, "Letters From Everest," is due out later this year.

By Jill Lawless,?Associated Press / March 23, 2013

In this Aug. 8, 1953 file photo, Sir Edmund Hillary, left, and his fellow New Zealander George Lowe, are welcomed home to New Zealand following their arrival by air at Auckland. George Lowe, the last surviving climber from the team that made the first successful ascent of Mount Everest, died Wednesday, March 20, 2013.



George Lowe, the last surviving climber from the team that made the first successful ascent of Mount Everest, has died at age 89.

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Mary Lowe said Thursday her husband died a day earlier at a nursing home in Ripley, central England, after an illness.

Lowe and his friend Edmund Hillary were the only New Zealanders on the 1953 British-led attempt to climb the world's highest peak.

Lowe was part of a small group that established the final camp 1,000 feet (300 meters) below the mountain's summit on May 28, 1953. The next day, Hillary and Tenzing Norgay of Nepal reached the 29,035 foot (8,850 meter) peak.

As Hillary descended the next day, he met Lowe, walking toward him with soup and emergency oxygen. "Well, George," Hillary recalled saying, "we knocked the bastard off."

"He and Hillary climbed together through life, really," said travel writer Jan Morris, who was part of the Everest expedition as a journalist for The Times newspaper.

"And when it came to the point near the summit, George had to play a subsidiary role. He climbed very high, he climbed to top camp and said goodbye to Hillary then helped him come down. He played a very important role."

New Zealand Prime Minister John Key said Lowe and Hillary made New Zealand a household name when they conquered Everest 60 years ago.

"I was sad to hear of his death but remain very proud of these men's achievements," Key said in a statement.

Almost 4,000 people have now successfully climbed Everest, according to the Nepal Mountaineering Association, but that 1953 expedition remains one of the iconic moments of 20th-century adventure.

Morris said she was now the only survivor of the 1953 group.

She said Lowe was "a gentleman in the old sense ? very kind, very forceful, thoughtful and also a true adventurer, an unusual combination."

Hillary, who died in 2008, inevitably got much of the media attention ? and a knighthood from Queen Elizabeth II. Mary Lowe said her husband "didn't mind a bit."

"He had a wonderful life," she said. "He did a lot of things, but he was a very modest man and he kept quiet about it.

"He never sought the limelight. Ed Hillary didn't seek the limelight either ? but he had it thrust upon him."

Born in Hastings, New Zealand, in 1924 and a teacher by training, Lowe began climbing in the country's Southern Alps and met Hillary, another ambitious young climber with whom he forged a lifelong bond.

In 1951, he was part of a New Zealand expedition to the Himalayas, and in 1953 he and Hillary joined the British Everest expedition led by John Hunt.

Kari Herbert of Polarworld, which is due to publish Lowe's book "Letters From Everest" later this year, said Lowe's efforts had been crucial to the expedition's success.

"He was one of the lead climbers, forging the route up Everest's Lhotse Face without oxygen and later cutting steps for his partners up the summit ridge," she said.

Lowe directed a film of the expedition, "The Conquest of Everest," which received an Academy Award nomination in 1954 for best documentary feature.

He also made "Antarctic Crossing" after participating in the 1955-58 Commonwealth Trans-Antarctic Expedition, the first successful overland crossing of the continent. It, too, was Oscar-nominated.

Lowe later made expeditions to Greenland, Greece and Ethiopia, taught school in Britain and Chile, lectured on his expeditions and became Her Majesty's Inspector of Schools for England.

He was a founder of the Sir Edmund Hillary Himalayan Trust U.K., a charity set up to support the mountain residents of Nepal.

Lowe is survived by Mary and by three sons from his first marriage to John Hunt's daughter Susan: Gavin, Bruce and Matthew.

Mary Lowe said a memorial service would be held next month.


Associated Press writers Gregory Katz in London and Nick Perry in Wellington, New Zealand, contributed to this report.

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.


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Tiffany 4Q net income rises less than 1 pct

FILE - In this Nov. 7, 2008 file photo, shoppers look in through a window at Tiffany & Co.'s new store at Easton Town Center in Columbus, Ohio. Jewelry retailer Tiffany & Co. said Friday, March 22, 2013, its fourth-quarter net income edged up less than 1 percent, but managed to beat Wall Street predictions. (AP Photo/Kiichiro Sato, File)

FILE - In this Nov. 7, 2008 file photo, shoppers look in through a window at Tiffany & Co.'s new store at Easton Town Center in Columbus, Ohio. Jewelry retailer Tiffany & Co. said Friday, March 22, 2013, its fourth-quarter net income edged up less than 1 percent, but managed to beat Wall Street predictions. (AP Photo/Kiichiro Sato, File)

(AP) ? Tiffany says its fourth-quarter net income edged up less than 1 percent, but still beat Wall Street predictions as strong customer demand in Asia for its pricey baubles offset weakness in the U.S.

The upscale jewelry company also offered an annual sales outlook that topped analysts' estimates, and its shares rose more than 4 percent in premarket trading Friday.

The results, which include the critical holiday season, show Tiffany's resilience even as it faces challenges in the U.S. and a fiscal crisis in Europe.

For the quarter ended Jan. 31, Tiffany earned $179.6 million, or $1.40 per share. Revenue rose 4 percent to $1.24 billion.

Analysts polled by FactSet expected earnings of $1.36 per share on $1.25 billion in revenue.

"While financial results in fiscal 2012 were disappointing due to lower-than expected sales growth and pressures on gross margin, we continued to maintain a longer term focus on strengthening global awareness of the Tiffany & Co. brand," Michael J. Kowalski, Tiffany's chairman and chief executive officer, said in a statement.

Total sales in the Americas region increased 2 percent to $620 million in the fourth quarter and 2 percent to $1.8 billion in the full year. The area represents 48 percent of last year's global revenue. Revenue at stores open at least a year declined 2 percent in both the quarter and full year on a constant exchange rate basis. Sales in the New York flagship store dropped 3 percent in both the quarter and full year, while that figure dropped 2 percent for its branch locations for both periods.

In the Asia-Pacific region, total sales rose 13 percent to $254 million in the fourth quarter and 8 percent to $810 million in the full year. The region represents 21 percent of worldwide sales. On a constant exchange rate basis, total sales rose 10 percent in the fourth quarter due to sales growth in Greater China and in other markets and rose 8 percent in the full year. On that basis, revenue at stores opened at least a year rose 6 percent in the quarter and 2 percent for the full year.

Total sales in Japan declined 6 percent to $192 million in the fourth-quarter, reflecting a weaker Japanese yen versus the U.S. dollar and increased 4 percent to $639 million or 17 percent of worldwide sales in the full year. However, on a constant exchange rate basis, total sales rose 2 percent in the quarter and 6 percent in the full year. On that basis, revenue at stores opened at least a year rose 2 percent and 7 percent in the quarter and full year respectively.

In Europe, total sales rose 3 percent to $146 million in the fourth quarter due to mixed performance by country and also rose 3 percent to $432 million or 11 percent of worldwide sales in the full year. On a constant exchange rate basis, total sales rose 3 percent and 7 percent in the quarter and full year respectively. Revenue at stores opened at least year were unchanged in the quarter and rose 2 percent in the full year.

The New York-based jewelry company also says it expects its first-quarter earnings from operations will fall about 15 percent to 20 percent as a result of profitability pressures and higher marketing costs, but pick up later in the year.

For the current year, Tiffany expects sales growth of 6 percent to 8 percent, which means that sales are expected to be anywhere from $4.02 billion to $4.09 billion. Analysts project $4.02 billion

It expects full-year earnings of $3.43 per share to $3.53 per share. Analysts expect $3.46 per share.

Tiffany shares rose $2.79, or 4.1 percent, to $70.70 in premarket trading.

Associated Press


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Jefferson County legal costs top $2 million in month; internal memo ...

"We're telling our employees we don't have enough money to pay for their salaries . . . we're cutting our staff," Commissioner George Bowman.

BIRMINGHAM, Alabama -- Jefferson County's outside legal costs topped $2 million in January - driven largely by its record setting bankruptcy filing - and show no signs of decreasing, an internal memo warns county officials.

The county paid $2,005,147 for outside legal work in January and "the cost of the work is rapidly increasing," says the memo written by County Attorney Jeff Sewell.

The memo went out to all five county commissioners and other county officials leading some to call for a closer review of the billings and other changes.

The legal costs include an annual pay increase that some outside lawyers charge the county every January. Those raises can be up to an additional $70 per hour.

No money for employees

"It is imperative that we get a handle on these legal fees," Commissioner Sandra Little Brown said.

"We're telling our employees we don't have enough money to pay for their salaries; we've put people on leave for financial reasons and we're cutting our staff," Commissioner George Bowman said. "And at the same time we're paying $2 million a month to our lawyers . . . that doesn't hold water."

The cost is an aberration, say some commissioners, and the county is paying for the best representation in a landmark bankruptcy case.

"Most months are not that," said Commissioner Jimmie Stephens, referring to the January legal expenses. "You have a level of expertise that's needed and necessary for the largest municipal bankruptcy in history. There's an old saying, 'You get what you pay for.' I think we're getting our money's worth."

Hourly rates

A total of 24 outside lawyers work on the bankruptcy case and other litigation for the county including Chapter 9-expert Kenneth Klee, of Los Angeles-based Klee Tuchin Bogdanoff & Stern, whose hourly rate is $1,050.

"The lawyers for Jefferson County have to fight a war on three fronts," Klee said. "They're negotiating a plan (of reorganization); they're litigating in the bankruptcy court and they're litigating in the 11th Circuit (Court of Appeals)."

Bradley, Arant, Boult Cummings has 14 lawyers who represent the county in bankruptcy and other legal matters including Patrick Darby whose hourly rate is $576, which includes a $45 per hour increase he received in January, according to records.

Efforts to reach Darby for comment were unsuccessful.

Balch & Bingham has a total of six lawyers who mostly specialize in public finance for the county including Foster Clark and Hobson Presley, who earn $504 hourly, including a $69 per hour increase they received in January, according to documents.

"The outcome of this case is critical for the future of the county," Clark said in an emailed statement. "We and the county's other lawyers are doing everything we can to achieve the best result possible."

Costs could reach $25 million annually

County leaders predicted the county would spend $1 million a month in legal fees on bankruptcy. If the current trend continues the outside legal fees could reach $25 million per year if reductions are not made, according to the memo.

In January, the county's legal costs included $924,102 to the Klee firm; $840,222 to Bradley Arant and $155,467 to Balch & Bingham, according to records.

The money is being well spent, Commission President David Carrington said.

"I believe we're spending millions to save hundreds of millions," Carrington said. "We're in a war with the creditors. We are getting attacked from all sides. It's a tough situation. I understand it. But we have to get this behind us and we have one shot to do it right."

Over the past 12 months, the county has also paid $697,791 to Maynard Cooper and Gale on a federal consent decree case pending before U.S. District Judge Lynwood Smith.

County lawyers have said they tried to avoid that hearing by acknowledging areas of wrongdoing but the case went forward anyway and resulted in additional legal costs.

Bring legal work in-house

Some wonder if bringing portions of the legal work in house can reduce expenses.

"We need to equip our law department so that they will be able to handle more cases; we need to get them the tools they need so they can handle our cases," Brown said.

Sewell, who earns about $189 an hour when his annual salary of $393,750 is divided into the amount of hours he works, told commissioners during a committee meeting this month that his department was inadequately staffed. That results in "the county paying more than is necessary for legal services," he said.

"A significant portion of the legal work in the bankruptcy case is being performed by litigators, not bankruptcy lawyers . . . if adequate support staff existed in the county attorney's office, substantial portions of that work could have been performed by the county's in-house litigators and substantial expense could have been avoided," Sewell writes in the memo.

There are four lawyers in the county attorney's office and one administrative assistant. The budget for the department has decreased to $1.3 million for the fiscal year that began Oct. 1 from $3.1 million in 2009.

One experienced senior assistant county attorney retired three years ago and has not been replaced. The office does not have a legal secretary; paralegal or law clerk. The decrease in office staff has led to "substantial increases in the expense for outside legal counsel," according to the memo.

Commissioner Joe Knight, a lawyer, said, "I think we are deficient in the number of paralegals and secretaries we have" in the county attorney's office. "You can't run a law practice like that," he said.

Larger problems loom

Carrington said he agrees the office needs more personnel but said a larger problem looms.

"Do I think we need more attorneys internally? Absolutely. More than attorneys . . . we need support staff," he said. "I'm just as concerned about what happens when the flood gates open once we get out of Chapter 9."

Carrington said the county has to "muscle up" once the bankruptcy case concludes and the automatic stay is lifted that prevents legal action against the county while in Chapter 9.

"We surely don't want to have outside attorneys to handle that," Carrington said.

He believes the county could be out of bankruptcy by the end of year. Others aren't so sure.

On Thursday, county lawyers and creditors spent all day in front of Chief Bankruptcy Judge Thomas Bennett in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of Alabama.

Next month, the adversaries will sit down with a federal appeals court mediator in Atlanta. In July, they are to appear before the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals.

"There is no doubt, with the size of this bankruptcy, with the historical significance of this bankruptcy, this will end up at the U.S. Supreme Court," Knight said.

These tables reflect hourly rates for county attorneys and payments to outside firms since October 2012.?

2013 Bradley Arant Boult Cummings - Hourly Rates?
NameHourly Rate
Joseph B. Mays Jr.$495
Michael R. Pennington$563
J. Patrick Darby$576
Matthew H. Lembke$491
Jay R. Bender$495
Dylan C. Black$450
Joel Kuehnert$401
Christopher L. Hawkins$455
Jenny H. Henderson$369
J. Thomas Richie$315
James Bailey$284
Aaron Chastain$284
Sean Solomon$257
Jay Watkins$257
2013 Balch & Bingham - Hourly Rates?
NameHourly Rate
J. Hobson Presley$504
J. Foster Clark$504
Kathryn Ottensmeyer$405
J. Thomas Longino$315
Curt Gwathney$315
Frank Long$275
2013 Klee, Tuchin, Bogdanoff & Stern - Hourly Rates?
NameHourly Rate
Kenneth N. Klee$1,050
Lee R. Bogdanoff$950
David M. Stern$950
Robert Pfister$650
Whitman L. Holt$530
2013 County Attorneys - Hourly Rates?
NameHourly Rate
Jeffrey M. Sewell$189
Theodore A. Lawson, ll$82
French A. McMillan$61
Shawnna H. Smith$48
Source: Jefferson County
OctoberNovemberDecemberJanuaryTotal by Firm
Klee, Tuchin, Bogdanoff & Stern$439,598.63 $456,530.34 $369,723.86 $924,102.33 $2,189,955.16
Bradley Arant Boult Cummings$684,663.45 $471,521.77 $509,819.65 $840,222.75 $2,506,227.62
Balch & Bingham$118,215.11 $189,852.41 $107,099.56 $155,467.73 $570,634.81
Maynard, Cooper & Gale$30,742.17 $75,296.69 $165,967.45 $85,354.32 $357,360.63
Total by Month$1,273,219.36 $1,193,201.21 $1,152,610.52 $2,005,147.13 $5,624,178.22
Source: Jefferson County????


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Google Keep: Worth Trying, with Caution

As expected, Google has flipped the switch on Google Keep, a?dead-simple website and Android app for recording notes, checklists, images and audio.

Also as expected, there?s no shortage of tech pundits ? still sore from Google?s decision to shut down Google Reader ? telling you to stay far, far away. As we witnessed with Reader, you can?t trust Google to keep products around anymore, even popular ones, if they don?t fit the company?s long-term strategies.

So maybe Google Keep won?t exist in five years ? it?s still worth trying.

The service seems designed for impermanence, with hardly any structure compared to rivals like Evernote and Catch. Everything shows up in reverse chronological order, and the best you can do to manage old notes is archive them so they don?t show up on the main page. You can search for words or phrases, but you can?t create directories. You can color-code individual notes, but you can?t group those notes together or sort them in any other way.

As someone who?s shied away from Evernote, I find this simplicity appealing. My notes tend to be transient anyway ? things to do, a few sentences to remember, where I parked my car and so on. The fact that Keep brings all that information to the surface, rather than burying it in a file structure, makes it a useful alternative to meatier note-taking services.

Keep?s Android app also has a killer feature: It automatically transcribes audio, so you get text and sound in a single note.

Still, there?s room for more features. You can?t create audio notes on the desktop, nor can you move an older note to the top of the pile. Google+ integration seems like a shoe-in, but it?s not available yet, nor is the rumored ability to save Web pages. It?d also be nice to see native apps for iOS and Windows Phone, though the latter seems unlikely. (Both platforms can access Keep through the web, at least.)

As for trusting Google Keep for the long-haul, that depends on what?s in store. Brad McCarty argues that the service could eventually tie into Google Now, helping the virtual assistant learn more about you so it can serve better information (a prime example of creepy-yet-useful). One could imagine Keep turning into a full-blown reminder service, not just a place to jot down random notes. The Verge?s David Pierce sees the potential to hook into other Google services, like Gmail and Drive. The less of an island Google Keep becomes, the less dispensable it will be.

The biggest concern right now is that your data is somewhat trapped within Keep. You can?t e-mail or download your notes, nor can you create a downloadable archive of them in Google Takeout. If you want to take your notes elsewhere, the only way is to select, copy and paste, and to save photos or audio files individually.

As a quick way to record disposable notes, Google Keep has its advantages. But until there are better ways to export your data, and until Google shows that Keep is more than just an experiment, it?s not worth using for important, long-term note-taking.


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Friday, March 22, 2013

LIVE BLOG: Senate Vote-A-Rama Begins

7:29 p.m.

All the vote-a-rama roll call votes have had 99 senators voting. That's because 89-year old Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-New Jersey, is absent.

7:25 p.m.

Alaska?s bipartisan pair of senators, Mark Begich, the Democrat, and Lisa Murkowski, the Republican, both back an amendment requiring labeling of a genetically modified ?fake fish,? as Begich calls it. It passes with a voice vote.

7:08 p.m.

The amendment on taxing internet sales passed 75 to 24. Non-binding, of course, but interesting marker for future fights over overhauling the tax code.

7:01 p.m.

Lots of the amendments in this vote-a-rama include the phrase "deficit-neutral funds." What the heck does that mean? As Dylan Matthews of the Washington Post's Wonkblog explains: The words "deficit-neutral funds" offers "a way to discuss budget-irrelevant topics without violating budget reconciliation rules." In other words, they're a technical workaround that allows lawmakers to score? political points on a wider range of topics.

6:49 p.m.

How do Republicans sustain themselves ahead of a long evening of votes? BBQ. That?s what?s getting dished out in Sen. Mitch McConnell office during the sales tax debate: meat, baked beans, corn bread and salad.

6:30 p.m.

If you want a better sense of why overhauling the tax code may be difficult politically, just tune into the debate unfolding now on the Senate floor over a possible sales tax on internet purchases. The Senate has been fiercely debating this amendment for the past 30 minutes or so.

This amendment, put forth by Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin and Republican Sen. Mike Enzi, would express support for letting states collect sales taxes on internet purchases--even if those companies were headquartered out-of-state. And, the amendment pits the business interests of typical retail stores against internet competitors. Among others, the amendment is backed by big lobbying money including the country's largest retail trade association that says it is "strongly supporting this legislative effort aimed at leveling the sales tax playing field for all retailers."

Like many fights over taxes, the split between those in favor of the amendment and those against it does not fall along typical party lines. Among the biggest critics of the bill: Democratic Sens. Max Baucus and Ron Wyden and Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte

6:18 p.m.

The Senate is now in the midst of debating an amendment from Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, about states' ability to apply the sales tax to Internet purchases.?

6:03 p.m.

The Hoeven amendment supporting the Keystone XL pipeline passes 62-37, with the backing of 17, yes 17, Senate Democrats.

5:46 p.m.

?The hand-writing is on the wall. I see it,? Boxer says ahead of the next Keystone pipeline amendment vote, this one pushed by Hoeven, after she lost the first tally.

5:45 p.m.

Just how many amendments have been filed? As of 5:30, Senate Republicans have offered 371 budget amendments and Democrats have put together 154.

5:43 p.m.

Boxer?s Keystone amendment fails 33-66.

5:40 p.m.

Settling in for a long night here on the Senate side. For those just tuning into vote-a-rama, a reminder: This is Sen. Patty Murray's first time shepherding a Democratic budget to the floor. She's taken on other thankless tasks, like leading the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (when few thought the party would retain the Senate in 2012) and co-leading the super committee that failed to come up with a grand deficit deal. For background reading on Murray's political ascendance, I'd recommend two deep dives: an August 2011 look at her role leading the DSCC and a March 20 profile of her leadership on the Senate Budget Committee and as a foil to Rep. Paul Ryan, Chairman of the House Budget Committee and former Republican vice presidential candidate. Also, of note: Majority Leader Harry Reid really trusts her.

5:29 p.m.

Sen. John Hoeven, R-North Dakota, speaks against an amendment from Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., related to the Keystone XL pipeline. Boxer stands, arms crossed, steadily shaking her head in disagreement across the floor as Hoeven speaks.

5:20 p.m.

You know who seems to love vote-a-rama? Sen. Tom Coburn. The Oklahoma representative, who disdains wasteful government spending, has put forth over 50 amendments for this budget voting fest. If every senators did that, leadership would have to contend with 5,000 amendments. This doesn't mean that all of Coburn's amendments will make it to the floor, but it does show that Coburn is sticking with his usual playbook of digging into the budget and pointing out its myriad of flaws.

5:11 p.m.

The Whitehouse amendment falls short 41-58.?

5:04 p.m.

The vote on the Whitehouse amendment (#652) is the first of four in a row on energy and environment issues, including two related to the Keystone XL pipeline.

4:55 p.m.

Our first papal reference. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-Rhode Island, cites Pope Francis in pushing his amendment related to a carbon tax. Whitehouse says that, ?We ignore carbon pollution at our peril? and cites God when suggesting that not taking care of the environment ?is an offense to His creation.?

Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Missouri, rises in opposition and declares, ?To have to oppose the pope is really ominous.?

4:18 p.m.?

Senate Budget Committee Chair Patty Murray, D-Wash., issues a warning to her colleagues who choose to wander off the floor amid the coming flurry of votes. "You leave at your own peril," she says.

4:00 p.m.

More than 400 amendments to the Senate budget have been filed for Friday's marathon session on the floor. More amendments can be offered through the night, although senators won't necessarily demand votes on every measure.

Under the rules, it all comes to end only when there is no senator on the floor seeking a vote on an amendment. Senator Reid has said he hopes senators will only ask for votes on 25 to 30 of the amendments put forth.

Even so, the chamber likely will not end this "vote-a-rama" until after midnight.




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