Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Sleep study reveals how the adolescent brain makes the transition to mature thinking

Mar. 18, 2013 ? A new study conducted by monitoring the brain waves of sleeping adolescents has found that remarkable changes occur in the brain as it prunes away neuronal connections and makes the major transition from childhood to adulthood.

"We've provided the first long-term, longitudinal description of developmental changes that take place in the brains of youngsters as they sleep," said Irwin Feinberg, professor emeritus of psychiatry and behavioral sciences and director of the UC Davis Sleep Laboratory. "Our outcome confirms that the brain goes through a remarkable amount of reorganization during puberty that is necessary for complex thinking."

The research, published in the February 15 issue of American Journal of Physiology: Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology, also confirms that electroencephalogram, or EEG, is a powerful tool for tracking brain changes during different phases of life, and that it could potentially be used to help diagnose age-related mental illnesses. It is the final component in a three-part series of studies carried out over 10 years and involving more than 3,500 all-night EEG recordings. The data provide an overall picture of the brain's electrical behavior during the first two decades of life.

Feinberg explained that scientists have generally assumed that a vast number of synapses are needed early in life to recover from injury and adapt to changing environments. These multiple connections, however, impair the efficient problem solving and logical thinking required later in life. His study is the first to show how this shift can be detected by measuring the brain's electrical activity in the same children over the course of time.

Two earlier studies by Feinberg and his colleagues showed that EEG fluctuations during the deepest (delta or slow wave) phase of sleep, when the brain is most recuperative, consistently declined for 9- to 18-year-olds. The most rapid decline occurred between the ages of 12 and 16-1/2. This led the team to conclude that the streamlining of brain activity -- or "neuronal pruning" -- required for adult cognition occurs together with the timing of reproductive maturity.

Questions remained, though, about electrical activity patterns in the brains of younger children.

For the current study, Feinberg and his research team monitored 28 healthy, sleeping children between the ages of 6 and 10 for two nights every six months. The new findings show that synaptic density in the cerebral cortex reaches its peak at age 8 and then begins a slow decline. The recent findings also confirm that the period of greatest and most accelerated decline occurs between the ages of 12 and 16-1/2 years, at which point the drop markedly slows.

"Discovering that such extensive neuronal remodeling occurs within this 4-1/2 year timeframe during late adolescence and the early teen years confirms our view that the sleep EEG indexes a crucial aspect of the timing of brain development," said Feinberg.

The latest study also confirms that EEG sleep analysis is a powerful approach for evaluating adolescent brain maturation, according to Feinberg. Besides being a relatively simple, accessible technology for measuring the brain's electrical activity, it is more accurate than more cumbersome and expensive options.

"Structural MRI, for instance, has not been able to identify the adolescent accelerations and decelerations that are easily and reliably captured by sleep EEG," said Feinberg. "We hope our data can aid the search for the unknown genetic and hormonal biomarkers that drive those fluctuations. Our data also provide a baseline for seeking errors in brain development that signify the onset of diseases such as schizophrenia, which typically first become apparent during adolescence. Once these underlying processes have been identified, it may become possible to influence adolescent brain changes in ways that promote normal development and correct emerging abnormalities."

Feinberg's study, which was funded by the U.S. Public Health Service (grant R01MH062521), was co-authored by Ian Campbell, a project scientist with the UC Davis Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences.

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The above story is reprinted from materials provided by University of California - Davis Health System.

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

Journal Reference:

  1. I. Feinberg, I. G. Campbell. Longitudinal sleep EEG trajectories indicate complex patterns of adolescent brain maturation. AJP: Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology, 2012; 304 (4): R296 DOI: 10.1152/ajpregu.00422.2012

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

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


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desire to inspire - - Monday's pets on furniture

If you'd like to send me photos to include in next week's "pets on furniture" post, please ensure your photos follow my basic rules: First, the pet must be on a piece of furniture. And?said piece of furniture must be clearly visible in the photo, so it takes center stage rather than your pet.?Think of it more of a photo of a great piece of furniture that you want to show off...and your pet happens to be sitting on it. And second, the photo must be of?decent quality.?If it's dark or fuzzy then it may not make the cut. Photos, your name, location and a brief description can be sent to and?PLEASE don't send closeups of your pet!?Thanks!

This is Rita from Milan,Italy. She is on her favorite place: the rocking chair.
- Valeria

This is my dog Choco. they say beagles are natures bed warmers - i think its true.
- Leah (Newcastle, Australia)

I obsessed about getting this beautiful (huge) chair in my kitchen?it's become Ginger's favorite spot.
- Meghan (Catskills, NY)

this is Nanook and Blu on my couch.
- Rob

this is Lolav my little dog, she's the princess of the house and she loves the white couch and the owl's cushions are their friends.
- Victoria (Mar del Plata, Argentina)

Quim, when he was 6 month old on the couch. As always?
- Paula

usually my maine coon is not allowed to climb on the table,but i didn't scold her that time,cause it's time to pose for a pic!!!
- Sophie (Paris)

On a partially related note, it seems I've got a new visitor stopping by pretty regularly to check what's on the menu. Yesterday it was a fresh chicken carcass. We figured it was easier to just give up the chicken instead of ending up with the contents of our garbage cans stewn all over the backyard. I think we're going to call him/her Zorro.?


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Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Brian Murphy: Boise State hoping to make NCAA Tournament memories

Air Force Boise St Basketball

Boise State's Ryan Watkins (0) and Thomas Bropleh, right, celebrates a 3-pointer by Anthony Drmic, left, against Air Force during their game Feb. 20 at Taco Bell Arena. Boise State won 77-65.

Joe Jaszewski ?

For Boise State junior Thomas Bropleh, it is Carmelo Anthony's run to the NCAA title as a Syracuse freshman in 2003.

For Bropleh's teammate and classmate Ryan Watkins, it is Kemba Walker carrying Connecticut to the 2011 championship.

Those are their favorite NCAA moments.

For now.

The Broncos - Bropleh and Watkins and all the rest - could very well have their own tournament memories at this time next week.

Boise State will find out its NCAA Tournament fate Sunday evening. Most mock brackets place the Broncos in the 68-team field. The team will be watching nervously together as the brackets are unveiled.

"Praying and going to church on Sunday," junior guard Jeff Elorriaga said. "It's something every college in America wants - to play in the NCAA Tournament. Hopefully we get there."

The Broncos have reached the tournament five times, the last in 2008. All came as an automatic qualifier for winning the conference tournament.

So Boise State has never had to sweat out the bubble. Never had to face Selection Sunday knowing it could bring ultimate elation or real dejection. Never had to wait it out with hearts beating faster and faster as CBS drags out its show, its talking heads gabbing and cutting to commercial.

"It'd be unbelievable. Growing up as a kid and seeing all those moments," said Bropleh, who wasn't even a teenager when Anthony and the Orange had their one shining moment. "It would be unbelievable just to be in the tournament."

No current player has ever laced it up in the tournament. Bropleh, Elorriaga and Watkins were on the 2010-11 squad that reached the WAC Tournament championship game in coach Leon Rice's first year. The Broncos fell to Utah State.

Watkins, then a freshman, didn't realize at the time how hard it would be to get back in that position. Now - after a move to the rough-and-tumble Mountain West and last year's 13-17 struggle - the Broncos' starting center has a much better appreciation.

"I know how hard it is to get there. It's tough to get there," Watkins said. "It would be amazing."

Tough is a good way to describe the past few days for the Broncos, who lost to San Diego State on Wednesday in the quarterfinals of the Mountain West Tournament. They've gone from out to in on many brackets as the rest of the bubble teams (it is a very weak bubble year) lost in their conference tournaments.

Will four wins against top-50 teams be enough? Will an 8-8 record against top-100 teams be enough? Will having a winning record in the No. 1-ranked conference in the country be enough?

"We did all that we could," Rice said. "Did you go out and schedule? Did you go out and play a lot of high-level teams? ... What the committee wants you to do is play a lot of good teams, not dodge teams."

The only opinions that matter now are those of the 10 members on the selection committee. And the only thing Boise State players can do is wait and pray and hope and sweat and dream.

Wait for the brackets.

Pray to see their name.

Hope to make their own memories.

Sweat. Just sweat.

And dream. Dream of playing on the same stage Carmelo and Kemba once did. Dream of actually doing what every college basketball player dreams about. Dream of making their own moments.

Brian Murphy: 377-6444, Twitter: @MurphsTurph


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The Race to Cash in on Earth Orbit

Kourou, French Guiana?On a viewing platform 3 miles away from the launchpad, Clay Mowry can see the flash of fire and plume of smoke under Ariane 5 before he hears the boom of its ignition. But when the sound waves arrive, they more than rumble air around Mowry's ears?they vibrate his internal organs.

The 165-foot-tall rocket parts the air in front of its tip with a violent ripping sound; a setting sun gives its billowing trail of smoke a lustrous orange fringe. Mowry, president of the U.S. subsidiary of the European launch company Arianespace, cranes his head to watch the rocket soar from this equatorial spaceport, located on the northeastern coast of South America. But his attention is divided between the rocket and his customer, communications mogul Charlie Ergen. The co-founder of Dish Network is standing nearby, flanked by his wife and three of their children, all turning their heads in unison to watch the launch vehicle streak over the Atlantic. It's an oddly intimate family moment.

Ergen, No. 106 on Forbes's list of global billionaires, is famous for being a former professional poker player as well as serving as chairman of Dish Network and EchoStar. His face is surprisingly calm considering what's at stake: It's his $250 million satellite that's being violently blasted out of Earth's gravity well, loaded in the tip of a rocket that cost him another $270 million. The only hint of nerves during this July launch is found in his sandals?Ergen repeatedly transfers weight from one foot to the other.

The primary payload for this launch is the 13,500-pound EchoStar 17, one of the biggest communications sats ever built. (A small European weather sat is sharing the ride.) When placed in geosynchronous orbit?where the satellite can remain in position over one spot on Earth?EchoStar 17 will direct 60 beams that deliver download speeds of more than 100 gigabits per second to millions of Ergen's customers across half of the continental United States. The satellite should recoup the cost of manufacture and launch in just a few months.

Mowry's company is playing a longer game, for even higher stakes. A crash, a delay, or incorrect orbital placement would result in cancellations, design reviews, and lost orders. And these days there is plenty of competition. Ergen is known to shop for launch providers: He's hired Russian, Chinese, and Swiss firms to loft his communications birds. For Mowry, a routine launch is engineering nirvana. "We love the word nominal," he says after hearing a positive report from mission control.

The rocket shrinks in the sky from a gleaming white tube to a pinprick of light 40 miles high. Under binoculars, the single bright point divides into three. Twin dying embers fall away from the still-bright central speck?the empty solid-fuel boosters have detached. Moments later the clear weather enables the rarest spectacle of a launch: The light divides again as the fairing at the rocket's tip that houses the payload opens and falls away in a short-lived glimmer. "That's great, it's really rare to see that," Mowry says, grinning.

But Ergen does not smile. The safety of his sat is not ensured until it separates from the rocket's upper-stage payload bay. Viewers turn their attention to TV screens mounted at the viewing platform. Twenty tense minutes pass; Mowry fills the time by explaining to Ergen's daughter's boyfriend how Earth's spin at the equator helps boost hundreds of extra payload pounds into orbit.

At 27 minutes, word comes in: About 600 miles up, a little north of Australia, a clamp band opens, and springs around the upper ring push the satellite away from the adapter. Sat sep is confirmed. "Good job, boys," Ergen says, clapping. Then he reins it in. There is another team nearby waiting to hear if their weather satellite is safely away. Minutes later its release is confirmed, and the celebration begins.

That evening's party at the Ergens' hotel in Kourou includes carved meats, rum, seafood, fine wine, and, after dessert, Cuban cigars on the beach deck. Ergen talks about his family roots in Oak Ridge, Tenn., and receives reports on his satellite's health.

This is Arianespace's 49th consecutive successful Ariane 5 launch, and this reliability has made the company a powerhouse in the increasingly competitive space industry. An all-expenses-paid spaceport, government-supported insurance, and infusions of cash from a score of European nations help too. Arianespace gets $130 million a year from the European Space Agency (ESA) just to balance its books.

Most Americans don't know it, but the majority of the satellite services they enjoy use hardware lofted by European Union rockets. (The big exception is GPS, which is operated by the U.S. Air Force.) Nearly half of American-owned commercial satellites are launched from the EU spaceport in Kourou.

French Guiana's isolated jungle spaceport is not the only place where nations launch private-sector sats. Russia and China offer their services on the open market, and government-backed newcomers in Japan and India promise more competition ahead.

But in the U.S. something different is happening: Private companies, lightly subsidized by the U.S. government but operating on their own, are entering the commercial launch industry. If these U.S. upstarts succeed, they could drive prices down and use Earth's orbit to connect remote areas, empower personal electronics, and create high-tech jobs.

This is the 21st century's space race?one you've probably never heard of.


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Sunday, March 17, 2013

Matthew Keys Has Anonymous-Friendly Lawyers Calling Out 'Crazy Overreach'

Indicted Reuters deputy social media editor Matthew Keys was operating as an "undercover-type" investigative journalist during his dealings with Anonymous, his lawyer Jay Leiderman?told Huffington Post?Friday. Leiderman is known for?representing the Anonymous-associated?hackers. Now he's claiming that his client was only pretending to be one of them to get a good story, and claiming prosecutorial overreach in the indictment brought against Keys on Thursday.

RELATED: The Matthew Keys Case Shows Just How Big a Bully the Feds Can Be

Tor Ekeland, Keys's other attorney, also commented to HuffPo, appearing on HuffPost Live on Friday evening. Ekeland called the DOJ's indictment "threadbare" and penalties Keys could face if convicted "draconian."?

RELATED: Anonymous Takes Out Its Frustration on a Security Firm

"All that happened was just some sort of juvenile defacing of a little more than a paragraph of an LA Times website," Ekeland said. He later added: "which he didn't do."?

RELATED: Reuters Social Media Editor Matthew Keys Indicted for Helping Anonymous Hackers

Reuters suspended Keys with pay, but that hasn't stopped him from tweeting, including comments about his newly formed legal team and its history with the hacking collective: "We're assembling a great team that I have faith in," Keys tweeted at a follower Friday night. "Their prior cases are irrelevant to me." And his lawyers also have a big social media presence.?Ekeland?has tweeted several times about the Keys case, as well as this:

Sabu is quite the snitch, isn't he?

? Tor Ekeland, P.C. (@TorEkelandPC) March 15, 2013

Sabu, whose real name is Hector Xavier Monsegur, has been an FBI informant since his June 2011 arrest. In March 2011, he accused Keys of giving "full control of to hackers." In an interview with The Atlantic last year, Leiderman said Sabu had a "really malignant heart." Strong words from Leiderman, who has also pushed the early narrative about bullying prosecutors and computer crimes, telling a hacker-friendly radio show on Friday that the terms of the Justice Department's indictment, which charges Keys with three conspiracy charges that could total 25 years in jail, amount to "crazy overreach."

RELATED: The Many Conflicting Faces of Sabu

Ekeland also represented "iPad hacker" Andrew "weev" Auernheimer, who was found guilty of conspiracy to access a computer without authorization and fraud in connection with personal information in November 2012. He is scheduled to be sentenced on Monday and faces up to 10 years in jail.

RELATED: The Quest to Unmask the Ringleader of Anonymous

Since the news of Keys' indictment broke, his pre-Reuters life, when he was still a teenager, has come under scrutiny. He was suspended by Reuters on Friday.


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Rome total war 2? Looking good!

I would be if I had a computer that could play it.

My favourite thing from Rome Total War was actually the rpg element of making family members war generals or city rulers. And as they got older, I think they got different character traits that were either good or bad.


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Saturday, March 16, 2013

Kmart Shark Dies After Being Placed Into L.A. Pool For Commercial

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A white tip shark shipped from New York and placed into an outdoor pool for a Kmart commercial in Los Angeles died after showing signs of distress, an official from the animal welfare group that monitored the production said on Thursday.

The American Humane Association (AHA), which certifies film and TV productions with animals, had a representative at the scene of the shoot on March 6 and it says everything possible was done to ensure the 5-foot (1.5 meter) shark's safety.

The shark's death follows longstanding criticism of the use of animals in Hollywood productions. Last year, the horse-racing show "Luck" on HBO was axed after the deaths of three horses used in the drama series.

The animal rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), which said it received details on the shark's death from two on-set whistleblowers, criticized the American Humane Association in a letter to the group over the shark's death.

"Sharks are sensitive animals who, in captivity, require a highly specialized and controlled environment," the PETA letter read. "Given the delicate nature of this species, why would the AHA approve the transport and use of this animal?"

The shark was placed into a 60,000 gallon (227 liter) outdoor tank in the Van Nuys suburb of Los Angeles, said Karen Rosa, senior adviser for the film and television unit of the American Humane Association. She added that was a good amount of water for the fish.

"We honestly don't know why the animal died. It was not being mistreated. It was not being harmed," Rosa said.

Early in the day, the shark seemed to be in good condition, but at one point the association representative noticed it showed signs of distress, Rosa said.

"As far as I know, it was immediately insisted upon that the animal receive specialized aquatic veterinarian care," she said.

Oxygen was pumped into the tank and the shark was given a shot of adrenaline to try to stabilize it before it was transferred to an aquatic compound for care, where it died the same day, Rosa said.

The shoot was for a Kmart commercial, but a representative for the retailer could not disclose the concept behind the television spot.

"We take this matter seriously and safety is always our paramount concern," Howard Riefs, a spokesman for Kmart owner Sears Holdings, said in a statement.

(Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis; Editing by Cynthia Johnston)

Also on HuffPost:

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Ex-tabloid editor quizzed in phone hacking probe

(AP) ? The former editor of Britain's Daily Mirror tabloid was questioned on Friday by police investigating phone hacking, British media reported.

The Press Association, Sky News and others said Richard Wallace, 51, was interviewed under caution. That means he was not arrested but the interview was recorded and could be used in future prosecutions.

London's Metropolitan Police said a 51-year-old man was interviewed at a police station "in connection with the suspected conspiracy to intercept telephone voicemails at Mirror Group Newspapers."

Britain's scandal over illegal eavesdropping by journalists began at Rupert Murdoch's now-defunct News of the World but has spread to other titles.

Murdoch's News Corp. has already paid millions to settle scores of lawsuits from celebrities, politicians and others who say they were victims of illegal intrusion.

The Guardian newspaper reported Friday that detectives were investigating hundreds more potential hacking incidents after obtaining records from a News Corp. insider turned witness. The newspaper did not name the individual.

On Thursday four current and former senior Mirror Group journalists were arrested, including the editor of the Sunday People tabloid and his deputy ? the first time the criminal investigation has spread to Murdoch's rival. All four have been granted bail pending further inquiries.

Police say their investigation centers on allegations of hacking at the Sunday Mirror.

Wallace was deputy editor of that newspaper from 2003 to 2004, and editor of the Daily Mirror between 2004 and 2012.

He replaced Piers Morgan ? now a high-profile CNN interviewer ? who was fired from the Daily Mirror after the newspaper ran pictures of British soldiers abusing Iraqis that were exposed as fakes.

Wallace told Britain's media ethics inquiry last year that hacking "might well" have occurred at the Daily Mirror in the early 2000s. Morgan edited the newspaper between 1995 and 2004.

Morgan has repeatedly denied ever having hacked a phone or having ordered anyone else to hack a phone. But in a newspaper article in 2006, he boasted of eavesdropping on a phone message that Paul McCartney left on ex-wife Heather Mills' answering machine.

Associated Press


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Bites: What's new on the East Bay food scene, XIV | Berkeleyside

Tractor stools at Sweet leaf

Tractor seat stools at Sweet Leaf bakery which will open soon at 2468 Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley. Photo: Ted Friedman

Bites?is?Berkeleyside Nosh?s round-up of restaurant, bar and food-related?news in the East Bay. Bites is produced by Nosh in collaboration with?Christina Mitchell, founder of?East Bay Dish. To stay up-to-speed with all that?s going on locally, read?our daily Nosh Wire, and check out?previous editions of Bites. We always love receiving food-related tips at

Coming soon?

Venezia-Dining-Room-1024x768MONARCH TRADING CO.?Joel DiGiorgio plans to open a ?Californian crafthouse? restaurant serving pizza, salads, and lots of California-centric wines and beers in the Caffe Venezia space at 1799 University Ave.?in Berkeley. DiGiorgio, who was born and raised in Berkeley and comes from a restaurant background, tells Berkeleyside Nosh that his family are close friends of Caffe Venezia?s owners and he?s thrilled to be taking over the place. He says he has lots of exciting plans for Monarch Trading Co. which he hopes will be open by this summer. More details to follow. Meanwhile, Caffe Venezia will hold a ?Farewell Venezia Opera Night??with stars of the West Edge Opera?on Tuesday, April 9, $15 per person cover charge, classic Venezia menu. Call for reservations 510-849-4681.

Sweet Leaf Ted Friedman

Sweet Leaf: getting ready to open at 2468 Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley. Photo: Ted Friedman

SWEET LEAF The Shamtoob family has been feeding Berkeley residents for decades with its trio of restaurants: Pancho?s Mexican Grill, King Pin Donuts (both in the Durant Food Court), and BayKing. The latter sweet shop, at 2468 Telegraph Ave., closed its doors about three months ago. Now Sasha Shamtoob is following in his father Dari?s footsteps. He is getting ready to open Sweet Leaf Caf? in the old BayKing site. The new caf? will offer lots of baked goods, cookies and muffins, and will also serve large, healthy salads. ?There is no great salad store (on Telegraph) since Intermezzo burned down a year ago,? Shamtoob told Berkeleyside. Sweet Leaf Caf? will offer a signature salad with mixed lettuces, sprouts, garbanzo and black beans, shredded carrots, cherry tomatoes, egg and croutons. The ?sweet? in the name refers to the baked goods and the ?leaf? refers to the salads.

joshu-ya brasserie, jason kwon, fb

Jason Kwon, who has taken over Ann?s Kitchen and will rename it Bleecker Street Bistro

BLEECKER STREET BISTRO About a month ago, Jason Kwon, chef-owner of Joshu-ya Brasserie?at 2441?Dwight?Way in Berkeley took over Ann?s Kitchen, the much-loved?casual breakfast and brunch restaurant around the corner at 2498 Telegraph.?The plan is to close Ann?s sometime this summer and reopen as Bleecker Street Bistro, according to the East Bay Express.?Not much has changed yet under the new ownership, but Kwon has started donating 10% of the restaurant?s proceeds to Build Hope International. He has also started writing a cookbook memoir with a working title F?n Animal in the Kitchen.

kain'bigan facebook

Charleen Caabay will open Kain?bigan on Oakland?s 14th Street

KAIN?BIGAN?Chef-owner Charleen Caabay?just signed the lease for her first restaurant on 14th Ave. in Oakland?after cooking at pop-up events locally for several years. Kain?bigan,?which means ?let?s eat, my friends? in Tagalog, will serve Filipino comfort food like chicken adobo, pancit noodles, and of course, lumpia. There?s a fundraising campaign going on if you would like to help open the restaurant.?2101 14th Ave., Oakland.

EASY CREOLE?A new restaurant is to open in the former Ming?s Chinese Kitchen at 1761 Alcatraz Ave. (at Ellis) in Berkeley,?says?Tablehopper. Grant Gooding, Jess McCarter, and Jeron Thomson started?Easy Creole?a pop-up in San Francisco, and the brick-and-mortar location will offer traditional New Orleans dishes (Shrimp Creole, Jambalaya), along with creative interpretations (Spinach-Mushroom ?touff?e, Sweet Vegan Gumbo). The plan is to open for lunch and dinner in about a month.

What else is going on?

berkeley wine festivalBERKELEY WINE FESTIVAL The Berkeley Wine Festival kicks off this weekend at the Claremont Hotel with a grand opening reception. This year, Scott Quinn, the new chef at The Meritage at the Claremont, will be there, along with other Berkeley chefs and more than 45 wines to sample. There?s a free shuttle from the Rockridge BART station for commuters. The festival continues with a brunch the next day and weekly wine dinners through May. Claremont Hotel & Resort,?41 Tunnel Road,?800-551-7266,?Sat, March 16, 4-9 p.m.

BEHIND THE CART?Behind the Cart?is a privately held dinner series, organized by occasional?Berkeleyside Nosh contributor?Michael Davidson (aka the?GrilledCheezGuy) that brings together some of the Bay Area?s best food carts, trucks, and chefs to prepare a meal together for guests in a secret location. Each meal includes a discussion between the chefs and the guests to share stories, talk about food and food issues, and generally share in their passion for food. On March 30 BTC will host its fifth event in the series. East Bay food trucks will serve as the backdrop to the dinner so guests can get a ?behind the scenes? look at ?behind the cart.? (View the menu.)?The dinner will be held on?March 30 at 7 p.m. at a secret location in SOMA.?More details on?Behind the Cart?s Facebook page?and?buy tickets.

Screen shot 2013-03-14 at 12.01.27 PMSOLEIL BANGUID?Sadly, Soleil Banguid, the much-loved chef-owner of?Soleil?s African Cuisine?on Webster Street in Alameda passed away after suffering from a stroke at the age of just 45. Banguid and his wife TJ were preparing to promote his food at Whole Foods Market. A native of the Democratic of the Congo, he was an accountant before he started cooking food from different regions of Africa, first at the Farmers Market and then at The Frog & Fiddle in Alameda.?Read more in The Alamedan.

umami mart lease signing partyUMAMI MART Last summer,?the owners of Japanese kitchenware shop?Umami Mart?were given a daruma to celebrate their?grand opening. Traditionally, one eyeball is drawn in while making a wish, then the other eye is filled in when the wish comes true. The wish was to sign a lease after six months of free rent negotiated through Popuphood?s neighborhood revitalization project. And they did it! Umami Mart will be setting up shop in Old Oakland for at least another two years. To thank the community for all the support, they?re having a Lease-Signing Party with champagne. RSVP to Broadway, Oakland.?510-575-9152.


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Dow gains for 10th day, S&P 500 eyes record

By Angela Moon

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The Dow Jones industrial average extended its recent winning streak to 10 days and the S&P 500 closed in on a record high on Thursday as investors were encouraged by data that showed the labor market's recovery was improving.

By late afternoon trade, the S&P 500 was less than 5 points away from its closing peak of 1,565.15, following in the footsteps of the 30-stock Dow Jones industrial average, which has been setting record highs since last week.

The Dow was on track for its 10th day in a row of gains, which would match a string of advances last seen in late 1996. U.S. equities have accelerated their rise since the start of the year, driven by improvement in the economy and the Federal Reserve's continued easy monetary policy.

"It's simply a natural progression for prices to move to new highs in order for the market to advance. I don't think it's scaring investors," said Tim Ghriskey, chief investment officer of Solaris Group in Bedford Hills, New York.

"Fund flows really have reversed direction, and money started moving out of money markets and some from fixed income to equities. This kind of trend doesn't change easily so we can expect a lot more to come in."

The Dow Jones industrial average <.dji> was up 64.89 points, or 0.45 percent, at 14,520.17. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.spx> was up 6.57 points, or 0.42 percent, at 1,561.09. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.ixic> was up 10.27 points, or 0.32 percent, at 3,255.39.

Earlier in the session, the Dow reached yet another lifetime intraday high - at 14,528.79.

Three months into the year, the Dow has shot up more than 10 percent, while the S&P 500 has gained 9 percent.

Data on Thursday offered fresh signs of strength in the U.S. labor market as the number of filings for new unemployment benefits fell for the third week in a row.

The U.S. Producer Price Index rose in February by the most in five months as gasoline prices spiked, the Labor Department said in a separate report. There was, however, little sign of a broader increase in inflation pressures that could force the Fed to tighten monetary policy.

Ten of the Dow's 30 stocks hit at least 52-week highs on an intraday basis, while International Business Machines climbed to a record intraday high, rising 1.7 percent to $215.59. In late afternoon trading, IBM was at $215.53, up 1.6 percent from Wednesday's close.

Energy shares led the Dow and the S&P 500 higher, with the S&P energy sector index <.spny> gaining 1.2 percent. Chevron was among the Dow's biggest percentage gainers, rising 1.4 percent to $119.99, after earlier hitting a fresh 52-week intraday high of $120.26.

Shares of eBay , operator of one of the largest online marketplaces, climbed 1.6 percent to $51.80 after Evercore Partners raised its rating to "overweight."

But on the downside, shares of Amazon , the world's biggest Internet retailer, fell 3.1 percent to $266.46 after JPMorgan cut its rating on the stock to "neutral" from "overweight" and lowered its price target to $300 from $333.

E*Trade shares lost 8 percent to $10.88 after Citadel LLC, its largest investor, said it is selling its entire stake in the discount brokerage and bank company.

(Editing by Jan Paschal)


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5 ways seniors can lower their car insurance rates -

Car insurance rates are based on a variety of factors such as your driving record, how much you drive and the car you drive, but insurance companies also base their premiums on your age. Rates for new drivers in their teens and early 20s are highest; rates tend to be lower for drivers in their 40s, 50s and early 60s and then begin to climb again starting at age 70.

Compare car insurance quotes now.

A recent survey on showed that the average insurance quote for a 21-year-old was $2,124, while the average for someone age 60 to 64 was $1,159. The average quote for someone 80 to 84 was $1,381.

"The sweet spot for car insurance rates is in your 40s to your 60s," says Penny Gusner, a consumer analyst for "In your 60s you tend to drive less and you're more mature, but by your 70s your vision may be lacking and your ability to react may have slowed."

Why seniors pay more for car insurance

Insurance rates are based on the risk of paying a claim, so young drivers, who tend to have more frequent accidents, pay more. Studies on older drivers show that some physical ailments such as arthritis impair their driving ability and that age-related declines in cognitive functioning can also impact their driving.

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, per mile traveled, crash rates and fatal crash rates begin to increase at about age 70.

Gusner says that older drivers are more likely to be injured in an accident and, if injured, their injuries are likely to be more severe because they may already be physically weaker than a younger driver.

According to TRIP, a national transportation research group, in 2010, there were 5,750 fatalities in crashes involving at least one driver 65 or older. While drivers 65 and older account for just 8 percent of all miles driven, they comprise 17 percent of all traffic fatalities, TRIP says. (See: "Avoid the silver tsunami wipeout: Helping older parents drive safely.")

Gusner also says that many older drivers have smaller cars because they don't have children and often drive only short distances, but a smaller car can sustain more damage in an accident.

"Not all insurance companies start charging higher rates at the same age, so it pays to shop around if you get a rate hike," says Gusner. "It all depends on the internal statistics within the insurance company, so some will raise rates in your 60s while others will wait until your late 70s."

5 tips for senior drivers for affordable car insurance rates

Gusner says that senior drivers can pursue discounts that will offset the age-related increase in their car insurance rates.

1. Update your mileage. "You can get a discount of 5 to 10 percent off your premiums if you let your insurance company know that you no longer commute or drive long distances," says Gusner. "If you switched from driving 12,000 miles per year to 5,000 miles, that should get you a discount."

2. Try a telematics device. Gusner says some seniors can get a discount of 5 to 10 percent , in some cases up to 40 percent, for a usage-based or pay-as-you-go auto insurance program. "This can be good for a mature driver because you'll pay less if you don't brake as hard or if you don't drive during peak hours," says Gusner.She says Progressive allows you to try out its Snapshot program before switching auto insurance companies.

3. Take a class. "Most states require car insurance companies to offer a mature driver discount if ?????????????you take an accident-prevention course," says Gusner.

The discount varies from 5 to 15 percent and the definition of "mature driver" varies, sometimes starting as young as 55. You'll have to provide proof that you completed the course. (See: "How I aced my online driving course for a discount.")

4. Exclude a driver. Gusner says some states mandate that all licensed drivers in a household must have car insurance, but in others you can exclude a driver who no longer drives to reduce your rates.

5. Drive a safer car. "Ask your insurance company if anti-theft devices, airbags and anti-lock brakes earn you a discount," says Gusner.

No matter what your age, you can raise your deductible or possibly reduce your level of car insurance coverage in order to save on your premiums. Just make sure you have the coverage you need and that you have enough cash in the bank to cover your deductible in case of a claim.

Also worth noting: In some cases, seniors can get a home insurance discount. (See: "5 homeowner discounts beyond smoke alarms.")



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'Beat Making Lab' brings music tech, know-how to aspiring talent in developing communities

PBS  'Beat Making Lab' brings music tech, training to mu

Is the next Mos Def or Azalea Banks languishing in a region where there's no way to get his or her talent across? The producer who's laid down beats for those stars, 'Apple Juice Kid' (aka Steven Levitin) along with fellow UNC prof Pierce Frelon aim to find out with a new PBS series called Beat Making Lab. In it, the pair take their talent, teaching skills and crates of audio gear to underserved communities in nations like Panama, Senegal and Fiji. The first episode (below the break) takes place in the Congo, where they're shown setting up a permanent recording studio at the Yole!Africa non-profit community center, then giving a crash course in beat-making tech to six highly motivated students. The Congalese artists use that know-how to lay down tracks that reflect their unique personalities and culture, which are showcased at the culmination of the episode. The series covets more than just a nice performance, though, as one student put it: "When the instructors return to the US, it won't be the end, but a beginning for us -- because we'll be able to teach others how to create their own beats."

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Thursday, March 14, 2013

Cherry Blossom Menus: Where To Eat And Drink During The National Cherry Blossom Festival

Cherries aren't just for pies and Shirley Temple garnishes anymore.

As Washington waits for its most beautiful time of the year -- cherry blossom season -- nearly 100 area restaurants are getting into the spirit with Cherry Picks, a city-wide collaboration bringing cherry blossom-inspired food and drinks to tourists and locals alike. The promotion runs concurrently with the National Cherry Blossom Festival festival, March 20 to April 14.

You'll find cherries in every food and drink combination you can imagine, from a Cherry Blossom Bento Box at KAZ Sushi Bistro to foie gras with preserved cherries, cocoa brioche and whipped Moscato at Charlie Palmer Steak. There's also an extensive selection of creative cocktail combinations like Jaleo's Sakura DC (gin, cherry blossom syrup and triple sec), Washington's Cherry Temple Cocktail (vodka, tart cherry juice, maraschino liqueur and vanilla simple syrup) at The Hamilton and the Sparkling Geisha (sake, St. Germain Elderflower liqueur and sparkling wine) at Tonic Foggy Bottom.

Here are 10 places to try cherry blossom-inspired menus during the National Cherry Blossom Festival.

  • Sea Catch Restaurant

    Cherry blossom-inspired oyster shooters and Kumamoto oysters with crushed cherry ponzu

  • Ted's Bulletin

    Cherry-lemonade Pop-Tarts

  • Del Frisco's Grille

    Cherry mojito with muddled cherries and fresh mint

  • The Hamilton

    Sour Cherry Pavlova (pistachio meringue topped with amaretto sour cherries and almond cream)

  • Georgia Brown's

    Extensive cherry menu including cherry empanadas, lamb chops with cherry wheat beer brine, cherry chocolate pecan pie and red snapper with cherry grits.

  • Ben's Next Door

    Chicken and waffles with cherry compote

  • M Street Bar and Grill

    14 cherry-themed cocktails like Chocolate Covered Cherries (Godiva and black cherry vodka), M Street Cherry (sparkling with w/ a shot of cranberry juice and grenadine) and Life Is Like A Bowl Of Cherries (black cherry vodka, amaretto, sweet vermouth, grenadine and soda).

  • Policy Restaurant and Lounge

    Roasted Duck Bao Buns (candied jalapenos, steamed bao buns, pickled onions w/ cherry hoisin sauce)

  • YO! Sushi

    Sea Bass Crudo, Spicy Tuna Roll, Cherry Cr?me Br?l?e

  • Cafe Deluxe

    Sherry cherry crispy goat cheese salad (sherry-soaked cherries, corn nuts and greens topped with sherry vinaigrette and crispy goat cheese)

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Sunday, March 10, 2013

Report details flaws in Army's handling of PTSD

(AP) ? An Army report released Friday finds the service still has trouble diagnosing and treating soldiers for post-traumatic stress disorder, despite more than doubling its number of military and civilian behavioral health workers over the past five years.

Confusing paperwork, inconsistent training and guidelines, and incompatible data systems have hindered the service as it tries to deal with behavioral health issues, the report said. It's a crucial issue: After a decade of war, soldier suicides outpace combat deaths.

Last May, the Army commissioned a task force to conduct a sweeping review of how it evaluates soldiers for mental health problems at all its facilities. The review came under pressure from Democratic Sen. Patty Murray, of Washington, who was upset to learn that hundreds of soldiers at Madigan Army Medical Center south of Seattle had had their PTSD diagnoses reversed by a forensic psychiatry team, resulting in a potential cut to their benefits and questions about whether the changes were made to save money.

About 150 of those soldiers eventually had their diagnoses restored.

"I am pleased that the Army completed this review and has vowed to make fixes over the next year, though I am disappointed it has taken more than a decade of war to get to this point," Murray said in a statement. "Many of the 24 findings and 47 recommendations in this report are not new. Creating a universal electronic health record, providing better rural health access, and standardizing the way diagnoses are made, for instance, have been lingering problems for far too long. Our service members and their families deserve better."

The report noted that the Army had made strides in some areas, including cutting how long it takes soldiers to obtain a disability evaluation and publishing a guide to the process.

The task force interviewed 750 people stationed around the globe, conducted listening sessions with 6,400 others and reviewed more than 140,000 records. The Army's Medical Command reviewed diagnoses for all soldiers evaluated for behavioral health problems from October 2001 until last April.

Since September 2001, the report found, 4.1 percent of all soldiers deployed wound up with a behavioral health diagnosis such as PTSD or traumatic brain injury. Many can remain on active duty.

Nationwide, the report said, 6,400 soldiers had behavioral health diagnoses "adjusted" by medical evaluation boards, with approximately equal numbers having PTSD added as a diagnosis and removed as a diagnosis. Two locations where medical evaluation boards are held had slightly higher diagnosis changes than the Army-wide average, but the report did not identify them. Cases from those locations are being reviewed to ensure no soldiers were improperly affected, the report said.

Last year the Army ? and the military as a whole ? suffered the highest number of suicides ever recorded, prompting then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta to declare it an epidemic. The Army had 183 suicides among active-duty soldiers, up from 167 in 2011, and the military as a whole had 350 suicides, up from 301 the year before.

Among the problems the report documented was that Army bases don't have a person on site dedicated to overseeing behavioral health issues, despite the many problems they can cause: suicide, alcohol abuse, drug abuse, and child and spouse abuse. Each installation needs someone with a view of all those programs to make recommendations to the commander, the report said.

Army Secretary John M. McHugh said in a statement that the Army will work to place behavioral health experts "at the command and installation levels to provide better consultation, guidance, coordination and recommendations to improve behavioral health care for our soldiers."

The task force found that of the soldiers surveyed, 37 percent had never received any information about the Army's disability evaluation system or had to seek the information out on their own. It also said it was confusing and inefficient for troops to navigate the vastly different disability systems maintained by the Army and the Veterans Administration.

The Army and VA plan to have a joint disability system, by which health care providers in either organization will have access to records, by 2017.

"Some changes can be made immediately," McHugh said. "Others will require more time and coordination. Importantly, this report reviewed our systems holistically ? recommending not only short-term solutions, but longer term, systemic changes that will make care and treatment of our soldiers and family members more effective."


Associated Press writer Pauline Jelinek in Washington contributed to this report


Johnson can be reached at

Associated Press


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Friday, March 8, 2013

York College baseball team rides big sixth inning vs. Mt. Aloysius

The Spartan baseball team scored seven runs that inning to beat Mt. Aloysius, 10-2.

The Spartans batted around during a seven-run sixth inning to that gave York College a 10-2 baseball victory against Mt. Aloysius on Wednesday in Myrtle Beach, S.C.

Justin Cohen doubled in a run to start the scoring, and he also drove in the inning's final run with a single. Drew Frankenfield added a two-run single, Russ Patti hit an RBI double, and Jimmy King and Colin Porter each hit an RBI single in the Spartans' outburst.

Porter and Frankenfield both finished 3-for-4 at the plate, and Frankenfield totaled three RBIs.

Brad Wenzel dominated on the mound for York, pitching eight strong innings and striking out two. Reliever Chris Wolf retired the side in order to close out the ninth inning.

York College plays again today against Eastern in their final game in Myrtle Beach.
at Myrtle Beach, S.C.
Mt. Aloysius? ?000??000??020 -- ??2????6??0
York? ?100??027??00x -- 10??14??0
???Mt, Cameron Kyle, Brady Ring (5), Brady Wright (5), Brad Ewing (6), and Patrick Gulley; YC, Brad Wenzel, Chris Wolf (9), and Russ Patti, SO-BB -- Mt, Kyle 1-1, Ring 1-1, Wright 1-1, Ewing 2-0; YC Wenzel 2-2, Wolf 0-0,W -- Wenzel. L -- Kyle. 2B -- Mt, Ian Helsel (2); YC Drew Frankenfield, Justin Cohen, Russ Patti.

York College 12, North Carolina Wesleyan 3: Justin Cohen drove in four runs as the Spartans offense erupted in a victory in Myrtle Beach, S.C.

Cohen walked with the bases loaded to plate a run in the first inning. He hit a two-run home run in the fourth inning and added an RBI double in the seventh. Colbe Herr went 4-for-6 at the plate with two doubles and a triple for York, which outhit the Battling Bishops, 15-4.

Spartans pitcher Josh Miller struck out six in six innings. Miller was relieved by Zach Phillipi, who struck out five in his three innings.
at Myrtle Beach, S.C.
York? ?301?220?121 -- 12?15?3
N.C. Wes? ?200?000?100 -- ??3???4?3
???YC, Josh Miller , Zach Phillippi (7) and Colbe Herr; NC, Zach Collins, George Moore (1), James Lovett (4), Andrew Franklin (5), and Lee Dunn SO-BB -- YC, Miller 6-3, Phillippi 5-2; NC, Collins 2-5, Moore 1-3, Lovett 0-1, Franklin 4-4 W -- MIller. L -- Collins 2B -- YC Justin Cohen (2), Herr (2).3B -- YC, Herr; NC, Jason Riley. HR -- YC, Cohen.


York College 6, Penn State Hazleton 2: The Spartans battled to a victory in Myrtle Beach, S.C., thanks to a three-run inning late in the sixth. York scattered 10 hits throughout the game while committing no errors.

York's Aryn Johnston went 3-for-4 at the plate with four RBIs, including a double and a home run in the bottom of the fifth.

Morgan Levine relieved starter Cory Urkuski in the third inning and claimed the victory. Levine struck out five and walked two in five innings of work.
at Myrtle Beach, S.C.
P.S. Hazelton? ?001??000??1 -- 2????7??1
York? ?020??013??x -- 6??10??0
???PSH, Martina Herring and Jaqueline Furch; YC Cory Urkuski, Morgan Levine (3) and Sarah Harris. SO-BB -- U Herring 1-1; YC Urkuski 1-0, Levine 5-2. W -- Levine. L -- Herring. 2B -- U, Sabrina Bubula; YC, Aryn Johnston, Jena Ruby, Urkuski. HR -- Johnston.

Ursinus 15, York College 6 (5):The Spartans couldn't rebound from an eight-run third inning from Ursinus in a loss in Myrtle Beach, S.C. Ursinus scored 15 runs on 16 hits in just five innings of play.

Sara Thacker doubled for York, driving in a run. Kayleen Bell also drove in two runs for the Spartans.
at Myrtle Beach, S.C.
Ursinus? ?108?60 -- 15?16?2
York? ?030?21 -- ??6???5?4
???U, Zoe Heinke and Emelie McFarland; YC Morgan Levine and Sarah Harris. SO-BB -- U, Heinke 1-7; YC, Levine 6-1. W -- Heinke. L -- Levine. 2B -- U, Monica Bonitatis, Allison Pfrommer (2); YC Sara Thacker. 3B --U, Bontatis.

Men's tennis

???York College 5, Malone 4: The Spartans won four of the six singles matches and picked up their final point when Matt Rosenkrantz and Jake Greenstein won their No. 2 doubles match against Brett Krejci and Andrew Hill in Hilton Head Island, S.C.

Rosenkrantz and Greenstein edged the Malone team by a 9-7 score. Rosenkrantz won his No. 4 singles match in straight sets, as did Nathaniel Hoskins and Mario Herrera. Daniel Erk also won in singles for the Spartans.

at Hilton Head, S.C.
???Youseff Sonbaty, Mal def Tyler Cheatman, 6-2, 6-0; Nate Davis, Mal, def Eric Cooperman, 6-4, 6-1; Nathaniel Hoskins, YC def Vladslav Dyenyezhka, 6-4, 6-0; Matt Rosenkrantz, YC def Alex Steinmetz, 6-1, 6-2; Daniel Erk, YC def Steffan Dwarkasingh, 2-6, 7-6, 1-0; Mario Herrera, YC, def Andrew Hill, 7-6, 6-4
???Sonbaty-Davis, Mal def Cheatham-Hoskins, 8-4; Rosenkrantz- Greenstein, YC def Krecji-Hill, 9-7; Steinmetz-Dwarkasingh, Mal def Herrara-Sosa, 8-6


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UNICEF urges Israel to reform detention of minors

JERUSALEM (AP) ? Israel must reform its system of military detention for Palestinian minors, a U.N. report said Wednesday, saying an in-depth study showed it systematically and gravely violated their rights.

The United Nations Children's Fund report was based on interviews with 400 children and minors arrested, detained and jailed in Israel's military court system as well as meetings with lawyers and Israeli officials.

"Ill-treatment of Palestinian children in the Israeli military detention system appears to be widespread, systematic and institutionalized," said the report, issued by U.N. officials in Jerusalem. They urged Israel not to blindfold minors or hold them in solitary confinement, and to allow a lawyer or family member to be present during interrogations.

The Foreign Ministry said Israel would cooperate with the U.N. body, and the military was already making changes.

"Israel will study the conclusions and will work to implement them through ongoing cooperation with UNICEF, whose work we value and respect," spokesman Yigal Palmor said in a statement.

An official from Israel's military prosecutor's office said most of the minors detained were above 16 years old. He said some were manipulated by militant groups into carrying out attacks. Most notably, a 17-year-old was one of the perpetrators of a stabbing attack in March 2011 that killed an entire family in a West Bank settlement. He spoke on condition of anonymity in line with military protocol.

Most children and minors ? some 60 percent of those UNICEF interviewed ? are ultimately charged with throwing rocks at soldiers or passing cars.

Rights activists have said Israel's military and police appear to use harsh tactics to deter the youths from throwing rocks again and to extract information about adult activists.

The UNICEF report said over two-thirds of all children interviewed were arrested in nighttime military operations. It said shouting soldiers often burst into homes, taking children and minors at gunpoint. Parents were not allowed to accompany them.

The alleged abuses also included interrogations without lawyers while minors were shackled, and threats of harm to the youths and their relatives. They said minors were often handcuffed and blindfolded while being transported from place to place.

Most minors were typically charged with crimes gleaned from confessions obtained during those interrogations, the report said. Children and minors were also made to sign confessions typed in Hebrew, a language most Palestinian minors don't read.

The report noted that recording interrogations would help ascertain if minors were exaggerating the trauma they claim to have suffered.

The U.N. organization reported that the Israeli military said it had reduced the maximum amount of time that a minor could be held before seeing a judge. By April, military authorities will set it to within 48 hours, the report said.

Israeli police now must also tell parents if their children have been arrested, and to inform children they have the right to consult a lawyer. UNICEF said the changes were not specific enough.

The report's authors said statistics at the end of January showed 233 males under 18 were being held in military prisons, 31 of them under 16. They estimated 700 boys and youths are detained each year.


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Thursday, March 7, 2013

Microsoft hit with $730 million fine in Europe over browser choice 'non-compliance' (update: won't appeal)

Microsoft hit with $730 million fine in Europe over browser choice 'noncompliance'

There's so much deja vu here it's almost bewildering, but Microsoft has managed to get itself fined by the European Commission once again for failing to comply with its 2009 commitment to make it easy for customers to choose default browsers other than Internet Explorer. The penalty of 561 million euros ($730 million) isn't the biggest Redmond has faced in its turbulent history with European regulators, but it's still gotta hurt -- especially considering that Microsoft said its latest anti-trust blunder, in which the browser choice screen disappeared for some Windows 7 users, was merely a "technical error".

Update: Microsoft has said it won't appeal the fine and issued the following statement:

We take full responsibility for the technical error that caused this problem and have apologized for it. We provided the Commission with a complete and candid assessment of the situation, and we have taken steps to strengthen our software development and other processes to help avoid this mistake - or anything similar - in the future.

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Via: Reuters



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A look at Syrian refugees in neighboring countries

BEIRUT (AP) ? The massive, chaotic influx of Syrians fleeing their country's civil war has stretched the resources of the neighboring countries taking them in and raised fears of sectarian fighting spreading across the region. As the U.N. refugee agency announces that the number of Syrians who have fled their country and are now seeking assistance has passed the one million mark, here's a look at the problems facing Syria's neighbors who are hosting them:

LEBANON ? Lebanon is home to more than 300,000 registered refugees, with many more not on the books scattered around the country. U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres says the influx has caused Lebanon's population to swell by as much as 10 percent. Despite grave risk to its own stability, Lebanon has kept its border open to the refugees, but the sheer numbers are straining health, education and housing services to the brink of collapse. Many Lebanese fear the Syrians are becoming a burden on an already fragile nation still recovering from its own civil war. The refugee issue in Lebanon is also complicated by the country's own sectarian rifts and divisions between supporters and opponents of Syrian President Bashar Assad, exacerbating tensions between Shiites and Sunnis. Lebanon's Christian factions, meanwhile, are calling on the government to close the borders entirely, saying the influx of Muslims from Syria will endanger the delicate demographic balance. For political reasons, Lebanon has not established camps for the refugees. Lebanon's Interior Minister Marwan Charbel said recently the refugees are becoming a national security threat.

JORDAN ? Jordan is home to than 425,000 registered refugees, and the numbers are growing daily by 2,000 to 3,000. Most of the Syrians are staying in the Zaatari refugee camp, and authorities are building another camp to manage the massive surge. Jordan also provides refuge to more than 3,000 senior police and army officers who defected from the Assad regime, and also hosts the most prominent politician to defect to date, former Prime Minister Riyad Hijab. The defectors are kept in seclusion for their own security. Jordan is still reeling from an influx of Iraqis who fled sectarian fighting in their homeland unleashed by the U.S.-led invasion 10 years ago. Amman is concerned about rising sectarian tensions in Syria and the growing influence of Islamic radicals among the rebel fighters in Syria, believing that these elements ? if left unchecked ? could spread the instability around the region.

TURKEY ? Turkey is home to nearly 200,000 Syrian refugees in camps, with another 100,000 living on their own. The Turkish government has been funding and managing the refugees, whom they have sheltered in 17 camps that have schools, medical centers and other social facilities. Ankara has spent some $700 million on those facilities since the Syrian conflict began two years ago, and government officials say they've received about $90 million from foreign donors. While Turkey's borders with Syria remain open, the country is carefully managing the flow of refugees, processing the new arrivals as more accommodation facilities become available to house them. But Ankara, too, is reaching its limit of how much it alone can do to help Syrians fleeing conflict.

IRAQ ? Iraq is home to more than 100,000 refugees. The majority of the Syrians in the country are ethnic Kurds who have found shelter in the autonomous Kurdish region in northern Iraq. As many as 40,000 of them live in a camp of tents and cinderblock shacks near the Syrian border, while the rest have found jobs and homes in towns across the region, where the Iraqi Kurdish government allows them to move around freely. Some Syrians have sought refuge in Iraq's restive Western province of Anbar. The exact number is not known, but they are believed to be mostly Sunnis who dominate the revolt against the Assad regime, which is largely composed of members of the leader's Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shiite Islam. Officials from the Shiite-led government in Baghdad, which has been accused of siding with Assad in the conflict, have raised concerns that violence from Syria's civil war could spill over into their own country. Iraq is still reeling from a bloody sectarian conflict that killed tens of thousands of civilians as Shiite and Sunni militias fought for dominance after Saddam Hussein was toppled in the U.S.-led invasion 10 years ago.


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Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Kuantan Hotels In Pahang Tourist Love To Stay Here!

Kuantan is one of the most popular city in Malaysia as well as it is also popular across the globe. It is the state capital of Pahang, which is considered as the third largest state in Malaysia. Kuantan city is situated near the mouth of Kuantan River and face the South China Sea. This city is the ninth largest city in Malaysia. It is located between Kota Bharu and Singapore. It is also considered as the commercial, economic and social hub for the East Coast of Peninsular Malaysia due to its strategic location. The city has become ultra-modern due to rapid development. You can imagine importance of the city that the countrys first SEZ (Special Economic Zone) is located here to boost the regional economy, tourism as well as growth.

As far as tourism is concerned, Kuantan is one of the most popular tourism destinations in Malaysia along with the rest of the world. There are various attractions which are loved by visitors that come here from all over the world. Kuantan hotels are also renowned for their luxurious sayings as per tourists specific needs and requirements. There are large numbers of hotel available here and visitors can choose the best one according to their custom needs and requirements; that too within their financial budget. Kuantan tour may be memorable for you whether you are going to visit there with your friends, family members or colleagues. Thus, this tour may be ideal for your personal trip as well as official tour.

In this Internet Era, most of hotels have their official websites and they allow online booking facilities for the customers. This will help people to do book hotels in advance prior to the commencement of their official as well as persona tour. Before booking a room or a suite in hotel, you must enquire about their services thoroughly in terms of qualities as well as rates. After getting completely satisfaction, you should choose one of the best hotels as per your requirements.

If you are making a plan for Kuantan trip in Pahang, Malaysia for the first time without having any idea about hotels there for staying, you need not to be worried. Once again, online resources would be helpful for you in this regard. There are numerous websites especially directories websites which provide detailed information about hotels. These details include their contact numbers, emails, addresses as well as official sites (if they have). This will help you in choosing one of the best hotels in Kuantan as per your requirements.

About the Author:
If you're looking for variety or perhaps privacy, our kuantan hotelsat Sanctuary Resort Malaysia, situated at cherating resort, Malaysia, beckons you.


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Hugo Chavez, fiery Venezuelan leader, dies at 58

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) ? President Hugo Chavez, the fiery populist who declared a socialist revolution in Venezuela, crusaded against U.S. influence and championed a leftist revival across Latin America, died Tuesday at age 58 after a nearly two-year bout with cancer.

During more than 14 years in office, Chavez routinely challenged the status quo at home and internationally. He polarized Venezuelans with his confrontational and domineering style, yet was also a masterful communicator and strategist who tapped into Venezuelan nationalism to win broad support, particularly among the poor.

Vice President Nicolas Maduro, surrounded by other government officials, announced the death in a national television broadcast. He said Chavez died at 4:25 p.m. local time.

Chavez repeatedly proved himself a political survivor. As an army paratroop commander, he led a failed coup in 1992, then was pardoned and elected president in 1998. He survived a coup against his own presidency in 2002 and won re-election two more times.

The burly president electrified crowds with his booming voice, often wearing the bright red of his United Socialist Party of Venezuela or the fatigues and red beret of his army days. Before his struggle with cancer, he appeared on television almost daily, talking for hours at a time and often breaking into song of philosophical discourse.

Chavez used his country's vast oil wealth to launch social programs that include state-run food markets, new public housing, free health clinics and education programs. Poverty declined during Chavez's presidency amid a historic boom in oil earnings, but critics said he failed to use the windfall of hundreds of billions of dollars to develop the country's economy.

Inflation soared and the homicide rate rose to among the highest in the world.

Chavez underwent surgery in Cuba in June 2011 to remove what he said was a baseball-size tumor from his pelvic region, and the cancer returned repeatedly over the next 18 months despite more surgery, chemotherapy and radiation treatments. He kept secret key details of his illness, including the type of cancer and the precise location of the tumors.

"El Comandante," as he was known, stayed in touch with the Venezuelan people during his treatment via Twitter and phone calls broadcast on television, but even those messages dropped off as his health deteriorated.

Two months after his last re-election in October, Chavez returned to Cuba again for cancer surgery, blowing a kiss to his country as he boarded the plane. He was never seen again in public.

After a 10-week absence marked by opposition protests over the lack of information about the president's health and growing unease among the president's "Chavista" supporters, the government released photographs of Chavez on Feb. 15 and three days later announced that the president had returned to Venezuela to be treated at a military hospital in Caracas.

Throughout his presidency, Chavez said he hoped to fulfill Bolivar's unrealized dream of uniting South America.

He was also inspired by Cuban leader Fidel Castro and took on the aging revolutionary's role as Washington's chief antagonist in the Western Hemisphere after Castro relinquished the presidency to his brother Raul in 2006.

Supporters saw Chavez as the latest in a colorful line of revolutionary legends, from Castro to Argentine-born Ernesto "Che" Guevara. Chavez nurtured that cult of personality, and even as he stayed out of sight for long stretches fighting cancer, his out-sized image appeared on buildings and billboard throughout Venezuela. The airwaves boomed with his baritone mantra: "I am a nation." Supporters carried posters and wore masks of his eyes, chanting, "I am Chavez."

Chavez saw himself as a revolutionary and savior of the poor.

"A revolution has arrived here," he declared in a 2009 speech. "No one can stop this revolution."

Chavez's social programs won him enduring support: Poverty rates declined from 50 percent at the beginning of his term in 1999 to 32 percent in the second half of 2011. But he also charmed his audience with sheer charisma and a flair for drama that played well for the cameras.

He ordered the sword of South American independence leader Simon Bolivar removed from Argentina's Central Bank to unsheathe at key moments. On television, he would lambast his opponents as "oligarchs," announce expropriations of companies and lecture Venezuelans about the glories of socialism. His performances included renditions of folk songs and impromptu odes to Chinese revolutionary Mao Zedong and 19th century philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche.

Chavez carried his in-your-face style to the world stage as well. In a 2006 speech to the U.N. General Assembly, he called President George W. Bush the devil, saying the podium reeked of sulfur after Bush's address.

Critics saw Chavez as a typical Latin American caudillo, a strongman who ruled through force of personality and showed disdain for democratic rules. Chavez concentrated power in his hands with allies who dominated the congress and justices who controlled the Supreme Court.

He insisted all the while that Venezuela remained a vibrant democracy and denied trying to restrict free speech. But some opponents faced criminal charges and were driven into exile.

While Chavez trumpeted plans for communes and an egalitarian society, his soaring rhetoric regularly conflicted with reality. Despite government seizures of companies and farmland, the balance between Venezuela's public and private sectors changed little during his presidency.

And even as the poor saw their incomes rise, those gains were blunted while the country's currency weakened amid economic controls.

Nonetheless, Chavez maintained a core of supporters who stayed loyal to their "comandante" until the end.

"Chavez masterfully exploits the disenchantment of people who feel excluded ... and he feeds on controversy whenever he can," Cristina Marcano and Alberto Barrera Tyszka wrote in their book "Hugo Chavez: The Definitive Biography of Venezuela's Controversial President."

Hugo Rafael Chavez Frias was born on July 28, 1954, in the rural town of Sabaneta in Venezuela's western plains. He was the son of schoolteacher parents and the second of six brothers.

Chavez was a fine baseball player and hoped he might one day pitch in the U.S. major leagues. When he joined the military at age 17, he aimed to keep honing his baseball skills in the capital.

But the young soldier immersed himself in the history of Bolivar and other Venezuelan heroes who had overthrown Spanish rule, and his political ideas began to take shape.

Chavez burst into public view in 1992 as a paratroop commander leading a military rebellion that brought tanks to the presidential palace. When the coup collapsed, Chavez was allowed to make a televised statement in which he declared that his movement had failed "for now." The speech, and those two defiant words, launched his career, searing his image into the memory of Venezuelans.

He and other coup prisoners were released in 1994, and President Rafael Caldera dropped the charges against them.

Chavez then organized a new political party and ran for president four years later, vowing to shatter Venezuela's traditional two-party system. At age 44, he became the country's youngest president in four decades of democracy with 56 percent of the vote.

Chavez was re-elected in 2000 in an election called under a new constitution drafted by his allies. His increasingly confrontational style and close ties to Cuba, however, disenchanted many of the middle-class supporters who had voted for him. The next several years saw bold but failed attempts by opponents to dislodge him from power.

In 2002, he survived a short-lived coup, which began after a large anti-Chavez street protest ended in deadly shootings. Dissident military officers detained the president and announced he had resigned. But within two days, he returned to power with the help of military loyalists while his supporters rallied in the streets.

Chavez emerged a stronger president. He defeated a subsequent opposition-led strike that paralyzed the country's oil industry, and he fired thousands of state oil company employees.

The coup also turned Chavez more decidedly against the U.S. government, which had swiftly recognized the provisional leader who had briefly replaced him. He created political and trade alliances that excluded the U.S., and he cozied up to Iran and Syria in large part, it seemed, due to their shared antagonism toward the U.S. government.

Despite the souring relationship, Chavez sold the bulk of Venezuela's oil to the United States.

He easily won re-election in 2006, and then said it was his destiny to lead Venezuela until 2021 or even 2031.

"I'm still a subversive," Chavez said in a 2007 interview with The Associated Press. "I think the entire world has to be subverted."

Playing such a larger-than-life public figure ultimately left little time for a personal life.

His second marriage, to journalist Marisabel Rodriguez, deteriorated in the early years of his presidency, and they divorced in 2004. In addition to their one daughter, Rosines, Chavez had three children from his first marriage, which ended before Chavez ran for office.

Chavez acknowledged after he was diagnosed with cancer that he had been recklessly neglecting his health. He had taken to staying up late and drinking as many as 40 cups of coffee a day. He regularly summoned his Cabinet ministers to the presidential palace late at night.

He often said he believed Venezuela was on its way down a long road toward socialism, and that there was no turning back. After winning re-election in 2012, he vowed to deepen his push to transform Venezuela.

His political movement, however, was mostly a one-man show. Only three days before his final surgery, Chavez named Maduro as his chosen successor.

Now, it will be up to Venezuelans to determine whether the Chavismo movement can survive, and how it will evolve, without the leader who inspired it.


Biographical information for this report was contributed by former Caracas bureau chief Ian James.


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