Sunday, April 28, 2013

Algeria president in France for tests after minor stroke

By Lamine Chikhi

ALGIERS (Reuters) - Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika was transferred to France for medical tests on Saturday night after suffering a minor stroke, Algeria's official news agency said.

Bouteflika, who has ruled over the North African oil and gas producer for more than a decade, had an "transient ischemic attack" or mini-stroke on Saturday but his condition was not serious, the APS agency said, quoting the prime minister.

The 76-year-old is part of an older generation of leaders who have dominated politics in a country that supplies a fifth of Europe's gas imports and cooperates with the West in combating Islamist militancy.

He has rarely appeared in public in recent months, prompting speculation about his health.

"The president felt unwell and he has been hospitalised but his condition is not serious at all," Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal was quoted as saying by APS.

The president was then moved to France, on the recommendation of his doctors.

Bouteflika and other members of Algeria's elite have controlled Algeria since it won independence from France in a 1954-62 war.

In the early 1990s, the military-backed politicians overturned an election which Islamists were poised to win and then fought a conflict with them in which about 200,000 people were killed.

They also saw off the challenge of Arab Spring protests two years ago, with Bouteflika's government defusing unrest through pay rises and free loans for young people.

Bouteflika has served three terms as president of the OPEC member and is thought unlikely to seek a fourth at an election due in 2014.

U.S. diplomatic cables leaked in 2011 said Bouteflika had been suffering from cancer but it was in remission.

More than 70 percent of Algerians are under 30. About 21 percent of young people are unemployed, the International Monetary Fund says, and many are impatient with the gerontocracy ruling a country where jobs, wages and housing are urgent concerns.

A transient ischemic attack is a temporary blockage in a blood vessel to the brain. it typically lasts for less than five minutes and "usually causes no permanent injury to the brain", the American Stroke Association said on its website.

The attacks should be seen as a warning as a third of people who experience them go on to have a full stroke within a year, the organisation added. (Reporting by Lamine Chikhi; Editing by Andrew Heavens)


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3 Easy, Small Herb Garden Ideas | Care2 Healthy Living

Building a small herb garden is a great way to get started with gardening. Vertical herb gardens don?t take up much space, and they are fairly low-maintenance. If you start early enough, you can start your herb garden from seeds. Don?t worry if you get a later start on your vertical herb garden. You can still transplant starter plants, which you can buy at a nursery. I recently saw herb starter plants at my local farmer?s market for about $3/plant. That?s more than the cost of seeds, but reasonable for a few plants. Remember that small containers need to be watered often. Since there is so little soil and water inside the containers, the sun can quickly dry out the plants. Be sure to water your small vertical herb garden daily. Ready to get started? Here are three ideas for vertical herb gardens that DIY-ers of any level can make.

Photo and project by Home Repair Tutor via

Mason jar vertical herb garden: Stain and finish a board. Mount mason jars on the board vertically with hose clamps and wood screws. Fill jars with a layer of activated charcoal, then potting soil. Plant small herb plants in the soil. With containers that do not drain, like Mason jars, you need the layer of activated charcoal to prevent the roots from rotting. Be careful not to overwater. If possible, drill holes in the bottoms of the jars. The author of the post that I link to here doesn?t mention the activated charcoal, but my experience with planting terrariums tells me that it is important to water moderately and to put a layer of false drainage, like activated charcoal, underneath the soil. Photo by Home Repair Tutor, a Pittsburgh handyman.

Creative Cain Cabin via

Mini kitchen herb garden with bunting: The lovely Dawn from Creative Cain Cabin posted this project, which is an attractive kitchen herb garden in an enameled metal tub. To make an herb garden like hers, thickly plant herbs in a rectangular trough, place the trough on a small plastic container in a large metal tub. That?s it! Make sure that your garden gets plenty of sun. Rotate to expose all sides of the plants to equal amounts of sun.

Crafts a la Mode via

Shoe bag vertical garden: An over-door shoe rack or magazine holder makes a perfect ?frame? for a vertical garden. Fill the pockets with potting soil, and tuck plants into the soil. This is a very space-efficient way to grow a garden, and the idea for using an over-door magazine holder comes from Two Succulent Sisters via Crafts a la Mode.

Whether you are remodeling your deck and want to create an herb garden on it, or if you are starting a garden on your kitchen windowsill, you can use these three ideas for small herb gardens to maximize your space while growing delicious herbs.

Offbeat Gardening: 10 Creative Container Ideas


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Israel responds to Gaza rocket fire with airstrike

JERUSALEM (AP) ? Israel responded to rockets fired from the Gaza Strip with airstrikes on sites used by Islamic militant group Hamas, which rules the Palestinian territory, the military said on Sunday.

It said its jets struck "a terrorist weapon storage facility and a Hamas training installation" after rockets landed in southern Israel the night before. It also closed a closed a key border crossing with the territory. Gaza health officials said nobody was hurt in the strikes.

On Saturday, thousands of Israelis had been outside in parks and forests celebrating the Jewish holiday of Lag Baomer with traditional bonfires. The rockets exploded in open areas and caused no injuries.

Rocket fire from Gaza has declined since a military campaign in November, before which militants were firing rockets on an almost daily basis and launching other attacks on Israeli towns across the border. Sporadic fire still persists however.

The military said it "will not tolerate any attempt to harm Israeli civilians" and that it will not allow the situation to return to where it stood before the November campaign.

Israel holds Gaza's militant Hamas rulers responsible for all attacks from the territory. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said after the attack that the perpetrators will "pay a heavy price." Speaking at a government meeting Sunday, Netanyahu said he will "not allow a policy of sporadic fire" to continue. He said such fire will be met with a "very strong" response.

No group claimed responsibility for the attacks.

A shadowy extremist Muslim Salafi group has been behind recent attacks in the area, including one last month where rockets were fired from Egypt's Sinai Peninsula.

Hamas sees the Salafis as a threat to its rule and routinely arrest members of the ultraconservative movement in Gaza. Salafis view even Hamas's hardline interpretation of Islamic law as too moderate and the two groups have clashed violently in the past.

Along with the airstrikes, Israel responded to Saturday's rocket fire by closing the Kerem Shalom crossing with Gaza. It said another terminal will be open for humanitarian cases.


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Friday, April 26, 2013

The Real Estalker: Buckle Your Real Estate Safety Belts...

...The Times of London reveals?(via Curbed) an unfathomably rich but unnamed member of an unidentified Arab royal family is fixin' to fling his titanic central London mansion on the market in a blaze of international real estate shock, awe and publicity with a intergalactic ?250,000,000 price tag. That totals, according to Your Mama's trusty currency conversion contraption, a belly ache making $381,493,000 for all us Americanos.

The elegant, 1830-ish Georgian semi-detached terrace house?is that a proper description??stands four floors above ground with another two subterranean levels that total a downright civic 50,000 (or so) square feet. It's less than half as big as a basic Wal-Mart and it's positively miniature compared to the gargantuan royal palaces some Arab royal families maintain but it is?almost as large as the White House that weighs in at around 56,000 square feet.

A Greek temple-like porte cochere on the front facade stands out like a sore thumb against the rhythmic but featureless office block that dominates and absolutely oppresses the otherwise usually coveted tail end of the swanky cul-de-sac. Worse, perhaps, is the even more disagreeable office tower that looms forbiddingly directly across the narrow lane. Ugly and menacing office buildings aside,?The Times goes on to reveal that India's multi billionaire Hinduja brothers also maintain one or more lavish residences on the terrace that's just a hop, skip, and a jump down The Mall from Buckingham Palace.

?Who's to say the Arab royal will get anywhere near his sky high asking price that?The Times?notes is "almost double the record for a residential property in the UK."Unidentified sources told the property gossips at?The Times?that the owner recently refurbished the redonkulously baronial residence that will likely appeal to a sovereign wealth fund for use as and embassy or ambassadorial residence.

If Your Mama was the betting type?and we're not?we'd throw down our pennies on someone more ? like an obscure multi-billionaire commodities tycoon nobody who reads Vanity Fair has ever heard of from some place most Americans?including Your Mama?could probably neither pronounce nor pick out on a map will come along and snatch that thing up so his pampered youngest daughter and her retinue of handlers and keepers will have a decent place to live while she "attends" Central St. Martins.

What do the children think? What's the profile for a ?buyer of this house at a quarter billion dollars?

photo: Google


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Thursday, April 25, 2013

Toxicity profile informs decision on preferred conditioning regimen in autologous transplant for neuroblastoma

Apr. 24, 2013 ? The stem cell transplant regimen that was commonly used in the United States to treat advanced neuroblastoma in children appears to be more toxic than the equally effective regimen employed in Europe and Egypt, according to a new study to be presented at the 26th annual meeting of the American Society of Pediatric Hematology Oncology in Miami April 24-27. The U.S. regimen was associated with more acute toxicity to the kidneys and liver.

This and other research informed the recent decision of the Children's Oncology Group (COG) to switch to the busulfan-based regimen used for years in Europe and Egypt, said senior author Leslie E. Lehmann, MD, clinical director of pediatric stem cell transplantation at Dana-Farber/Children's Hospital Cancer Center (DF/CHCC) in Boston.

Both approaches to high-risk neuroblastoma employ high doses of chemotherapy to eradicate cancer cells followed by infusion of the patient's previously collected stem cells to allow the patient to recover more quickly and safely. Since 2007, physicians at DF/CHCC and others in the Children's Oncology Group had been using a combination of high-dose carboplatin, etoposide, and melphalan to prepare patients for transplant, said Lehmann. European centers have preferred busulfan and melphalan over the platinum-based regimen.

"We have had a long-standing collaboration with Children's Cancer Hospital Egypt in Cairo, which is under the leadership of senior author Dr. Alaa Elhaddad," Lehmann said. "We decided to compare the toxicities in patients who received care that was very similar except for the drugs used in the preparative regimen.

"We found there was no difference in survival, but our regimen was associated with more liver and kidney toxicity and more bloodstream infections," she noted. "This was very useful information as COG contemplated switching to the European approach."

In addition to the idea of using toxicity data to choose between approaches of similar efficacy, Lehmann noted, "This study demonstrates you can have true collaboration between transplant centers located in very different parts of the world."

First author of the study is Yasser Elborai, MD, of the Children's Cancer Hospital Egypt.

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The above story is reprinted from materials provided by Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, via Newswise. The original article was written by Richard Saltus.

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

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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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Minaret of famed mosque in Syria destroyed

COMBO - This combination of two citizen journalist images provided by Aleppo Media Center AMC which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, shows at left: the damaged famed 12th century Umayyad mosque without the minaret, background right corner, which was destroyed by the shelling, in the northern city of Aleppo, Syria, Wednesday April 24, 2013; and at right, an undated view of the mosque with is minaret still intact. The minaret of a famed 12th century Sunni mosque in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo was destroyed Wednesday, April; 24, 2013, leaving the once-soaring stone tower a pile of rubble and twisted metal scattered in the tiled courtyard. President Bashar Assad's regime and anti-government activists traded blame for the attack against the Umayyad mosque, which occurred in the heart Aleppo's walled Old City, a UNESCO World Heritage site. It was the second time in just over a week that a historic Sunni mosque in Syria has been seriously damaged. (AP Photo/Aleppo Media Center, AMC)

COMBO - This combination of two citizen journalist images provided by Aleppo Media Center AMC which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, shows at left: the damaged famed 12th century Umayyad mosque without the minaret, background right corner, which was destroyed by the shelling, in the northern city of Aleppo, Syria, Wednesday April 24, 2013; and at right, an undated view of the mosque with is minaret still intact. The minaret of a famed 12th century Sunni mosque in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo was destroyed Wednesday, April; 24, 2013, leaving the once-soaring stone tower a pile of rubble and twisted metal scattered in the tiled courtyard. President Bashar Assad's regime and anti-government activists traded blame for the attack against the Umayyad mosque, which occurred in the heart Aleppo's walled Old City, a UNESCO World Heritage site. It was the second time in just over a week that a historic Sunni mosque in Syria has been seriously damaged. (AP Photo/Aleppo Media Center, AMC)

This journalism image provided by Aleppo Media Center AMC which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, shows the damaged famed 12th century Umayyad mosque without the minaret, background right corner, which was destroyed by the shelling, in the northern city of Aleppo, Syria, Wednesday April 24, 2013. The minaret of a famed 12th century Sunni mosque in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo was destroyed Wednesday, leaving the once-soaring stone tower a pile of rubble and twisted metal scattered in the tiled courtyard. President Bashar Assad's regime and anti-government activists traded blame for the attack against the Umayyad mosque, which occurred in the heart Aleppo's walled Old City, a UNESCO World Heritage site. It was the second time in just over a week that a historic Sunni mosque in Syria has been seriously damaged. (AP Photo/Aleppo Media Center, AMC)

This undated citizen journalism image provided by Aleppo Media Center AMC which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, shows the minaret of a famed 12th century Umayyad mosque before it was destroyed by the shelling, in the northern city of Aleppo, Syria. The minaret of a famed 12th century Sunni mosque in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo was destroyed Wednesday, April; 24, 2013, leaving the once-soaring stone tower a pile of rubble and twisted metal scattered in the tiled courtyard. President Bashar Assad's regime and anti-government activists traded blame for the attack against the Umayyad mosque, which occurred in the heart Aleppo's walled Old City, a UNESCO World Heritage site. It was the second time in just over a week that a historic Sunni mosque in Syria has been seriously damaged. (AP Photo/Aleppo Media Center, AMC)

In this image taken from video obtained from Aleppo Media Center AMC, which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, shows the damaged famed 12th century Umayyad mosque, background, which was destroyed by shelling, in the northern city of Aleppo, Syria, Wednesday, April 24, 2013. The minaret of a famed 12th century Sunni mosque in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo was destroyed Wednesday, leaving the once-soaring stone tower a pile of rubble and twisted metal scattered in the tiled courtyard. President Bashar Assad's regime and anti-government activists traded blame for the attack against the Umayyad mosque, which occurred in the heart Aleppo's walled Old City, a UNESCO World Heritage site. It was the second time in just over a week that a historic Sunni mosque in Syria has been seriously damaged. (AP Photo/Aleppo Media Center, AMC)

This image taken from video obtained from Aleppo Media Center AMC, which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, shows the damaged famed 12th century Umayyad mosque, which was destroyed due to shelling, in the northern city of Aleppo, Syria, Wednesday, April 24, 2013. The minaret of a famed 12th century Sunni mosque in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo was destroyed Wednesday, leaving the once-soaring stone tower a pile of rubble and twisted metal scattered in the tiled courtyard. President Bashar Assad's regime and anti-government activists traded blame for the attack against the Umayyad mosque, which occurred in the heart Aleppo's walled Old City, a UNESCO World Heritage site. It was the second time in just over a week that a historic Sunni mosque in Syria has been seriously damaged. (AP Photo/Aleppo Media Center, AMC)

BEIRUT (AP) ? The 11th-century minaret of a famed mosque that towered over the narrow stone alleyways of Aleppo's old quarter collapsed Wednesday as rebels and government troops fought pitched battles in the streets around it, depriving the ancient Syrian city of one of its most important landmarks.

President Bashar Assad's government and the rebels trying to overthrow him traded blame over the destruction to the Umayyad Mosque, a UNESCO world heritage site and centerpiece of Aleppo's walled Old City.

"This is like blowing up the Taj Mahal or destroying the Acropolis in Athens. This mosque is a living sanctuary," said Helga Seeden, a professor of archaeology at the American University of Beirut. "This is a disaster. In terms of heritage, this is the worst I've seen in Syria. I'm horrified."

Aleppo, Syria's largest city and a commercial hub, emerged as a key battleground in the nation's civil war after rebels launched an offensive there last summer. Since then, the fighting has carved the city into rebel- and regime-held zones, killed thousands of people, forced thousands more to flee their homes and laid waste to entire neighborhoods.

The Umayyad Mosque complex, which dates mostly from the 12th century, suffered extensive damage in October as both sides fought to control the walled compound in the heart of the old city. The fighting left the mosque burned, scarred by bullets and trashed. Two weeks earlier, the nearby medieval covered market, or souk, was gutted by a fire sparked by fighting.

With thousands of years of written history, Syria is home to archaeological treasures that date back to biblical times, including the desert oasis of Palmyra, a cultural center of the ancient world. The nation's capital, Damascus, is one of the oldest continually inhabited cities in the world.

At least five of Syria's six World Heritage sites have been damaged in the fighting, according to UNESCO, the U.N.'s cultural agency. Looters have broken into one of the world's best-preserved Crusader castles, Crac des Chevaliers, and ruins in the ancient city of Palmyra were damaged. Both rebel and regime forces have set up bases in some of Syria's significant historic sites, including citadels and Turkish bath houses, while thieves have stolen artifacts from museums.

The destruction of the minaret ? which dated to 1090 and was the oldest surviving part of the Umayyad Mosque ? brought outrage and grief.

"What is happening is a big shame," said Imad a-Khal, a 59-year-old Christian businessman in Aleppo. "Thousands of tourists used to visit this site. Every day is a black day for Syrians."

The main Western-backed opposition group, the Syrian National Coalition, accused the government of intentionally committing "a crime against civilization and humanity" by destroying the minaret.

"The regime has done all it can to tear apart the Syrian social fabric," the Coalition said in a statement. "By its killings and destruction of heritage, it is planting bitterness in the hearts of the people that will be difficult to erase for a long time to come."

There were conflicting accounts about what leveled the minaret, leaving the once-soaring stone tower a pile of rubble and twisted metal scattered in the mosque's tiled courtyard.

Syria's state news agency said rebels from the al-Qaida-linked Jabhat al-Nusra group blew it up, while Aleppo-based activist Mohammed al-Khatib said a Syrian army tank fired a shell that "totally destroyed" the minaret.

The mosque fell into rebel hands earlier this year after heavy fighting but the area around the compound remains contested, with Syrian troops just some 200 yards (meters) away.

An amateur video posted online by the anti-government Aleppo Media Center showed the mosque's vaulted archways charred from earlier fighting and a pile of rubble where the minaret used to be.

Standing inside the mosque courtyard, a man who appeared to be a rebel fighter, said regime forces recently fired seven shells at the minaret but failed to knock it down. On Wednesday, the tank rounds struck their target, he said.

"We were standing here today and suddenly shells started hitting the minaret," the man said. The army "then tried to storm the mosque but we pushed them back."

The video appeared genuine and corresponded to other Associated Press reporting.

The destruction in Aleppo follows the collapse a week earlier of the minaret of the historic Omari Mosque in the southern city of Daraa. The Daraa mosque was built during the Islamic conquest of Syria in the days of Caliph Omar ibn al-Khattab in the seventh century.

In that instance as well, the opposition and regime blamed each other. The state news agency accused Jabhat al-Nusra of positioning cameras around the area to record the event.

Whether the destruction is targeted or not, the damage highlights the difficulties of protecting a nation's cultural heritage in wartime.

"Culture can only really be protected in peace time. When you have open warfare, it is impossible," said Seeden, the archaeology professor in Beirut. "When buildings are under fire, you cannot protect the buildings. You can't protect what's in it, if they are mosaics, wall paintings, architectural details that are part of the building ? there's no way you can protect them."

After the Umayyad Mosque was first damaged last year, Assad issued a presidential decree to form a committee to repair it by the end of 2013, although it's not clear what such a body could do amid a raging civil war. The mosque's last renovations began about 20 years ago and were completed in 2006.

The damage in Aleppo is just part of the wider devastation caused by the country's conflict, which began more than two years ago with largely peaceful protests but morphed into a civil war as the opposition took up arms in the face of a withering government crackdown. The fighting has exacted a huge toll, killing more than 70,000 people, leaving cities, towns and villages in ruins and forcing more than a million people to flee their homes and seek refuge abroad.

Also Wednesday, Syrian church officials said the whereabouts of two bishops kidnapped in northern Syria remain unknown, a day after telling reporters the priests had been released.

Gunmen pulled Bishop Boulos Yazigi of the Greek Orthodox Church and Bishop John Ibrahim of the Assyrian Orthodox Church from their car and killed their driver on Monday while they were traveling outside Aleppo. It was not clear who abducted the priests.

But Bishop Tony Yazigi of the Damascus-based Greek Orthodox Church said the gunmen are believed to be Chechen fighters from Jabhat al-Nusra. Yazigi declined to say what made it appear that the Nusra Front was involved.

That account corresponded with one provided by the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which said foreign fighters had abducted the bishops near a checkpoint outside Aleppo. Director Rami Abdul-Rahman said activists in the area said the gunmen were foreign fighters from the Caucuses.

However, the main opposition group, the Syrian National Coalition, condemned the kidnapping and blamed Assad's regime.

In Rome, Pope Francis called for the rapid release of the two bishops. In his appeal Tuesday, the pontiff called the abduction "a dramatic confirmation of the tragic situation in which the Syrian population and its Christian community are living."

There has been a spike in kidnappings in northern Syria, much of which is controlled by the rebels, and around Damascus in recent months. Residents blame criminal groups that have ties to both the regime and the rebels for the abductions of wealthy residents traveling to Syria from neighboring Turkey and Lebanon.


Associated Press writers Barbara Surk and Bassem Mroue in Beirut, and Albert Aji in Damascus, Syria, contributed to this report.


Follow Ryan Lucas on Twitter at

Associated Press


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Dewey ex-chairman agrees to proposed settlement to resolve claims

By Casey Sullivan

(Reuters) - The former chairman of Dewey & LeBoeuf has agreed to pay more than half a million dollars in a proposed settlement with Dewey's trustee and insurer to resolve claims that bad management led to the law firm's demise, according to papers filed in federal bankruptcy court.

Former Dewey chairman Steve Davis has agreed to pay $511,145 to settle claims that he mismanaged Dewey & LeBoeuf, which became the largest law firm in U.S. history to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy last May. XL Specialty Insurance Company, Dewey's management liability insurance policy holder, has agreed to pay $19 million in the proposed settlement, according to court documents.

"The Settlement Agreement is a substantially more favorable result than litigation," said Edward Weisfelner, speaking on behalf of the liquidation trustee Alan Jacobs, in court papers.

Without a settlement, Weisfelner said, Dewey's estate would face large litigation expenses to go after Davis and the insurance company in court, as well as the risk of not collecting a full recovery from the parties.

"Litigation of the Management Claims would require extensive discovery, including millions of pages of documents to review and over 100 depositions," he said.

The settlement agreement still needs a judge's approval. A hearing on the proposed deal is scheduled for May 13.

Reached Tuesday, Kevin Van Wart, a lawyer for Davis, said: "Mr. Davis is pleased with the settlement, which is a practical resolution for all concerned."

A spokeswoman for XL Specialty Insurance Company did not immediately return a request for comment.

The case is: In re: Dewey & LeBoeuf LLP, Debtor, United States Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York, Case No. 12-12321 (MG)

(Reporting By Casey Sullivan; Editing by Alden Bentley)


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A name change to 456 as easy as 123? Not quite - Automotive News


April 23, 2013 - 12:01 pm ET

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On March 22, A123 Systems Inc. became B456 Systems Inc.

Confusion followed the announcement and continues to follow the battery maker in the wake of its bankruptcy, said Jason Forcier, vice president of its automotive business.

Wanxiang America Corp., the U.S. arm of Chinese supplier titan Wanxiang Group, acquired the automotive, commercial and government assets of A123 Systems Inc., with plants in Livonia and Romulus, for $260 million in a bankruptcy auction in December.

Here's where the distinctions come into play: Wanxiang renamed its newly acquired assets A123 Systems LLC, attempting to benefit from the highly publicized name. (Note the LLC.)

But meanwhile in U.S. Bankruptcy Court, some of the unsold assets and debt remained under scrutiny, most notably with its claim against embattled carmaker Fisker Automotive. The bankrupt estate, under the guidance of a trustee, had 60 days to operate as A123 but then was forced to change its name under bankruptcy code.

Result? B456 Systems Inc.

Media jumped on a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filing that A123 Systems had changed its name to B456, many assuming that Wanxiang made the change.

Not the case.

I've explained the issue to my editors like this: Think of B456 like Old Carco LLC, the bankrupt estate of Chrysler after the automaker emerged in 2009.

But some media outlets and customers remain perplexed, Forcier said Friday after returning from customer and potential customer visits in Europe.

"It's created a lot of confusion, especially in non-U.S. countries where they don't have the same bankruptcy process," he said. "That was evident in my recent trip, but I hope it's starting to get cleared up. As the estate continues to wind down, it will take care of itself."

Meanwhile, in Michigan, the manufacturing plants of A123 -- not B456 -- are operational but not at full capacity, Forcier said. A123's local employment around Detroit is more than 500, he said, but well below its peak of around 1,000 a year ago.

The battery maker is making headway with automaker interest in the microhybrid space. A microhybrid uses a small ancillary battery -- lead acid like Johnson Controls Inc. or lithium-ion like A123 -- to power electric fuel-saving systems such as start-stop, etc.

"If you look at the next five years, that's where you'll see the majority of the business," Forcier said. "Where electric vehicle demand is driven by the consumer, microhybrid is a technology, like a turbocharger, where the OEMs are looking to improve fuel economy to meet the standards."

A123 is currently supplying 12-volt microhybrid lithium-ion batteries to McLaren Automotive and will begin shipping in larger quantities to Daimler AG, Forcier said.

But electric vehicle demand, or the lack thereof, continues to drag at the bottom line. Despite originally predicting breaking even in 2012, A123 now predicts the end of the cash burn in 2016.

"Capacity is underutilized here and elsewhere in the industry," Forcier said. "But we haven't cut our r&d efforts, and we're not willing to cut other areas any further, which may push out the break-even."

If the battery maker breaks even, that means microhybrid technology has gone mainstream or electric vehicles gained significant traction.

And until then, almost nobody cares whether it's A123 or B456.


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Be awed by Skyrim on the Oculus Rift, then let down by its limitations

Be awed by Skyrim on the Oculus Rift, then let down by its limitations

Here's some exciting news: Skyrim, the game where you hunt and murder dragons, is relatively playable on the Oculus Rift VR headset. Rather, it's workable, and should you have an Oculus dev kit (they're shipping out right now), it's not terribly hard to make the game play nice with the headset. Now here's the sad news: navigating menus is nigh impossible, according to the Penny Arcade Report. Here's PAR's Ben Kuchera on the issue, which he says goes deeper than Skryim:

"The Rift does not do well with menus, in-game text, or any user interfaces that aren't purely graphical. It's a major shortcoming of the hardware, and it makes games like Skyrim that throw many menus of that kind at you intolerable to play in a serious way. You'd have to remove the headset every time you need to read anything, much less compare weapons or assign skills."

In our experience with the Rift headset, menus weren't an issue -- but that's because it's something we never encountered. Given the development nature of the device, demos were always very guided experiences, with games being loaded independently on a separate PC and not something press had to deal with while trying to use the headset. It's possible that games like Skyrim will receive mods that make the (many, many) in-game menus usable, but it's certain that support won't come from the game's publisher, Bethesda Softworks, as it recently finalized production on the game. For a taste of Skyrim running with the Oculus Rift, head past the break.

Filed under: ,


Source: Penny Arcade Report, YouTube


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Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Windows RT and Server 2012 updates mentioned in recent 8.1 leak

Windows RT and Server 2012 updates

Windows Blue, Windows 8.1, Windows 8 SP1... whatever Microsoft wants to call it, it's coming soon. And along with it there will be updates to its RT and Server products too. References to Windows RT 8.1 Preview and Windows Server 2012 R2 were found buried in a DLL of a leaked build of Blue. (Build number 9374, to be specific.) The mentions turned up in basebrd.dll.mui, if you're wondering what file to start rifling through. Don't get too excited, though: there's basically no info to glean other than their existence -- which is no surprise at all. Hopefully all of the much whispered about updates will arrive sooner, rather than later, and pack a few tweaks that will make the Microsoft faithful feel a little bit more at home.

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Via: WinBeta

Source: @Windows4Live (Twitter)


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Akamai: Average U.S. Internet Speed Up 28% YoY, Now At 7.4 Mbps, But South Korea, Japan And Hong Kong Still Far Ahead

akamai_blue_logoAkamai published its quarterly “State of the Internet” report for the last quarter of 2012 today. The report, as usual, looks at global Internet speeds, as well as the state of Internet security, the number if IPv4 numbers in use and other similar metrics. Internet speeds, of course, are the most interesting numbers for users in this report. South Korea has long been in the lead in this category, and that’s not likely to change anytime soon. Interestingly, though, the average Internet speed in South Korea has slowed down a bit lately. At an average speed of 14 Mbps, South Korean Internet users now surf 4.8 percent slower than last quarter and 13 percent slower than a year ago. In the U.S., Akamai found, the average connection now clocks in at 7.4 Mbps. That’s up a respectable 28 percent year-over-year and 2.3?percent since last quarter and enough to rank the U.S. No. 8 on Akamai’s list. Currently, about 19?percent of U.S. Internet connections deliver speeds over 10 Mbps+ connections. It’s encouraging to see that this number increased 90?percent since last year, though growth in this metric seems to have stalled a bit, as the U.S. only registered a low 5.5?percent increase since last quarter. Overall, the 10 countries with the fastest connections saw relatively minor speed increases over the last quarter, ranging from just 0.1?percent in the Netherlands to 7.4?percent in Sweden. Globally, though, the average connection speed grew by 25?percent year-over-year. The only country to see a major dip in speeds since the last quarter was Guatemala (39?percent). As for mobile connectivity, Akamai reports that its partner Ericsson found that mobile data traffic around the world grew 28?percent in the last quarter alone and doubled year-over-year. Android and Apple’s Mobile Safari are almost even here when it comes to connections over cellular networks (35.3?percent vs. 32.6?percent), but taking all connections into account (that is, including Wi-Fi), Apple accounts for 58.7?percent of requests compared to 21.7?percent for Android Webkit. In this quarter’s report, Akamai is also taking a closer look at DDoS attacks. The company says its own customers reported 768 attacks in 2012, a 200?percent year-over-year increase. While this is not necessarily representative of the Internet as a whole, it’s yet another indication that the number of these attacks across the Interent continues to increase.


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Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Samsung Galaxy S4 Scratch Test - Business Insider

Samsung's Galaxy S 4 is set to launch at the end of this month.

Before you consider picking up the latest Galaxy smartphone, check out this scratch test performed by YouTube user?Szabolcs Ignacz.?Ignacz tried to scratch the Galaxy with a pen, several knives, and keys.

Amazingly the phone stands up pretty well to the punishment.


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Juan Manuel Fangio-driven Mercedes-Benz W196 heads to auction ...

The 1954 Mercedes-Benz W196, as driven by Juan Manuel Fangio. Images courtesy Bonhams.

Fans of vintage racing will soon have a rare opportunity to bid on a Formula One Grand Prix-winning Mercedes-Benz W196 campaigned by Juan Manuel Fangio during the 1954 season. Though Fangio only joined the reformed Mercedes team following Belgian Grand Prix (the third race of the season), the W196 proved to be a formidable weapon in Fangio?s capable hands. The Argentinean driver won four of six remaining races in the 1954 season behind the wheel of the innovative Mercedes racer, earning his second driver?s world championship in the process.

The W196 represented the return of the Mercedes-Benz factory team to Formula One racing for the first time since 1939. Designed specifically to meet new 2.5-liter, normally aspirated engine regulations set by the FIA, the W196 used a fuel-injected inline eight-cylinder engine, laid on its side to lower the car?s height and center of gravity. The engine also incorporated desmodromic valves to permit running at higher engine speeds than a conventional sprung-valve design.


Chassis number 00006/54 was campaigned throughout 1954 and into 1955, first by Fangio and later by Hans Hermann and Karl Kling. Following its retirement from racing, the car was restored to as-new condition and exhibited in the Daimler-Benz Museum from 1955 to 1965. Subsequent years saw chassis 00006/54 displayed throughout Europe, and the car was used as late as 1967 for tire testing at Mercedes-Benz?s test track in Unterturkheim, Germany. In late 1969, an internal Mercedes-Benz memo dictated that the W196 should be available to chief engineer Rudulf Uhlenhaut (the car?s designer) at all times, ?for testing purposes.?

In 1973, Mercedes-Benz gifted the car to the National Motor Museum in Beaulieu, Hampshire, England, where it remained until sold to a private collector in the 1980s. Since then, it?s traded hands at least twice, and has been largely out of the public view for the last dozen years. As the only Mercedes-Benz W196 in private hands, with the distinction of winning two Grand Prix races at the hands of Juan Manuel Fangio, Chassis 00006/54 will likely be the crown jewel of anyone?s collection.

The 1954 Mercedes-Benz W196 will cross the block at Bonhams? Goodwood Festival of Speed auction, scheduled for July 12, 2013. For more information, visit


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Monday, April 22, 2013

The Daily Roundup for 04.22.2013

DNP The Daily RoundUp

You might say the day is never really done in consumer technology news. Your workday, however, hopefully draws to a close at some point. This is the Daily Roundup on Engadget, a quick peek back at the top headlines for the past 24 hours -- all handpicked by the editors here at the site. Click on through the break, and enjoy.



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Inside German Politics - Mike Shedlock - Townhall Finance ...

Inquiring minds in the US note the upcoming German election and may be wondering about the platforms of the major political parties. Reader Bernd from Germany explains.

Die Linke (The Left): Die Linke is made up of the former SED/PDS (The East German Communist Ruling Party), some former West German Communist and Socialist Parties and a ?rebel group? of the SPD. They all have merged and are now called "Die Linke". By and large they have a communist/socialist platform, albeit not Stalinist. Their main requests are: dissolve NATO and replace it with a new organization to include Russia in it, end all wars, control or nationalize all relevant banks and some crucial industries, increase support for the poor, raise taxes for the rich (above income of 60k Euros gradually go to 75%), introduce a stiff wealth and inheritance? tax. They are pro Euro and want the introduction of Eurobonds immediately. To alleviate the economic crisis in Europe they advocate some serious deficit spending for social and work programs. They have voted against ESM; EFSF and Cyprus deal in Parliament.

SPD (Social Democrats): SPD is the grand old Social Democratic Party, with a wonderful and long tradition. SPD originated from the worker's movement. Its first party program is from 1869. It the only party that tried to stop Hitler's power grab by opposing the emergency laws in 1933. Many went to concentration camps for opposing Hitler. In post-World War II Germany SPD provided three Chancellors, Willy Brandt, Helmut Schmidt and Gerhard Schr?der. All three Chancellors were major reformers in Germany for one or the other topic.? SPD lost its original power base in the wake of Schr?der's reforms in the early 2000s. SPD is a staunch pro Euro party. They also want Eurobonds immediately, as well as a common fiscal policy, a bank union and a quick unification of Europe.

Die Gr?nen (The Green Party): Die Gr?nen started as a mix of 1968 communists/socialists and anti-nuclear energy activists in West Germany. The second part is made up of some left over former East German anti SED ?rebels? who helped to bring down East Germany.? Today this is the party for so the so-called "politically correct". In Germany we call them the Latte Macchiato Moms/Dads. The typical party member is a well-paid Government official or teacher with a work week of 36 hours. They believe firmly in manmade climate change and want to tax and spend their way to eliminate the CO-2 footprint. No amount of money is too much for preventing climate change. They are staunch pro Euro advocates similar to the SPD.

Freie Demokratische Partei FDP (


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Soviets Used These 1950s Anti-Spying Posters - Business Insider

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Sunday, April 21, 2013

Guns, Immigration, Airport Lines: 5 Things You'll Care About in Politics (ABC News)

Share With Friends: Share on FacebookTweet ThisPost to Google-BuzzSend on GmailPost to Linked-InSubscribe to This Feed | Rss To Twitter | Politics - Top Stories Stories, News Feeds and News via Feedzilla.


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China's Sichuan hit by earthquake

BEIJING (AP) ? A powerful earthquake jolted China's Sichuan province on Saturday, in the same area where a devastating quake struck five years ago.

The Chinese government's seismological bureau and state-run television said there were no initial reports of casualties in the quake, which hit shortly after 8 a.m. near the town of Linqiong.

The bureau initially measured the quake at magnitude-7, while the U.S. Geological Survey recorded it at 6.6-magnitude, powerful enough to cause severe damage. Its depth was shallow, less than 13 kilometers or 8 miles, which could magnify the impact.

The Xinhua News Agency said that the quake rattled buildings in the provincial capital of Chengdu 115 kilometers, or 70 miles, to the east.

The epicenter lies along the same Longmenshan fault where the devastating 7.9-magnitude quake struck in May 2008, leaving more than 90,000 people dead or missing and presumed dead.


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Doctor: Dead bomb suspect had wounds 'head to toe'

In this Feb. 17, 2010, photo, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, left, accepts the trophy for winning the 2010 New England Golden Gloves Championship from Dr. Joseph Downes, right, in Lowell, Mass. Tsarnaev, 26, who had been known to the FBI as Suspect No. 1 in the Boston Marathon Explosions and was seen in surveillance footage in a black baseball cap, was killed overnight on Friday, April 19, 2013, officials said. (AP Photo/The Lowell Sun, Julia Malakie)

In this Feb. 17, 2010, photo, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, left, accepts the trophy for winning the 2010 New England Golden Gloves Championship from Dr. Joseph Downes, right, in Lowell, Mass. Tsarnaev, 26, who had been known to the FBI as Suspect No. 1 in the Boston Marathon Explosions and was seen in surveillance footage in a black baseball cap, was killed overnight on Friday, April 19, 2013, officials said. (AP Photo/The Lowell Sun, Julia Malakie)

Una foto divulgada por el FBI en la madrugada del viernes el 19 de abril del 2013, muestra a los hermanos Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, de 19 a?os (izquierda) y Tamerlan Tsarnaev, de 26, (derecha) durante la marat?n de Boston antes de las explosiones que dejaron tres muertos y m?s de 180 heridos el lunes 15 de abril del 2013. (Fotos AP/FBI)

(AP) ? A doctor involved in treating the Boston Marathon bombing suspect who died in a gunbattle with police says he had injuries head to toe and all limbs intact when he arrived at the hospital.

Dr. David Schoenfeld said 26-year-old Tamerlan Tsarnaev was unconscious and had so many penetrating wounds when he arrived at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center early Friday that it isn't clear which ones killed him, and a medical examiner will have to determine the cause of death.

The second bombing suspect, 19-year-old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, was in serious condition at the same hospital after his capture Friday night. The FBI has not allowed hospital officials to say any more about his wounds or condition.

Schoenfeld lives in the Boston suburb of Watertown and heard explosions from the shootout between the two brothers and police early Friday. He called the hospital to alert staff they likely would be getting injured people, then rushed in to coordinate preparations.

"We had three or four trauma teams in different rooms set up and ready," unsure of whether they would be treating a bombing suspect, injured police or bystanders, Schoenfeld said.

The older Tsarnaev's clothes had been cut off by emergency responders at the scene, so if he had been wearing a vest with explosives, he wasn't by the time he arrived at the hospital, the doctor said.

"From head to toe, every region of his body had injuries," he said. "His legs and arms were intact ? he wasn't blown into a million pieces" ? but he lost a pulse and was in cardiac arrest, meaning his heart and circulation had stopped, so CPR, or cardio-pulmonary resuscitation, was started.

Schoenfeld did not address police's assertion that Tsarnaev was run over by a car driven by his brother as he fled the gunfire.

The doctor said he couldn't discuss specific treatments in the case except to say what is usually done in such circumstances, including putting a needle in the chest to relieve pressure that can damage blood vessels, and cutting open the chest and using rib-spreaders to let doctors drain blood in the sac around the heart that can put pressure on the heart and keep it from beating.

"Once you've done all of those things ... if they don't respond there's really nothing you can do. You've exhausted the playbook," he said.

After 15 minutes of unsuccessful treatment, doctors pronounced him dead.

"We did everything we could" to try to save his life, Schoenfeld said.

How did the medical team react to treating the bombing suspect?

"There was some discussion in the emergency room about who it was. That discussion ended pretty quickly," Schoenfeld said. "It really doesn't matter who the person is. We're going to treat them as best we can."

Associated Press


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Saturday, April 20, 2013

Is Sinai Israel?s Achilles? heel?

The al-Qaida-affiliated terrorists who targeted Eilat with rockets on Wednesday morning believe they have found Israel?s strategic Achilles? heel.

Striking from Egypt?s Sinai Peninsula, they hope, rules out Israeli retaliation. Jerusalem is highly reluctant to embark on any kind of counterterrorism operation on Egyptian territory, a fact readily exploited by Wednesday?s attackers. (Jerusalem Post, Posted 19 Apr 13)


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Scots vote, replacement debate challenge British nuclear deterrent

By Peter Apps, Political Risk correspondent

FASLANE (Reuters) - Outside Her Majesty's Naval Base Clyde, campaigners who have fought for decades for Britain to abandon nuclear weapons believe that they are closer than ever to victory.

In the 1980s, then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher brushed aside the protesters, saying that in the Cold War, atomic arms made the world a safer place.

Now, groups such as the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament believe their time has come. The referendum on Scottish independence and the looming retirement of the current Trident system herald change, they say.

The handful of activists who stay overnight in a camp of brightly-painted caravans and peace signs believe that Faslane's ballistic missile submarines will be the last of their kind.

"I think we do have a chance now," said activist Angus Chalmers. "Everything is coming together. It's possible to make the case we don't need these weapons in a way that just wasn't possible during the Cold War."

The Scottish Nationalist Party government that runs Scotland's devolved government say the nuclear weapons must go if they win the September 2014 referendum on independence.

Prime Minister David Cameron visited Faslane this month to argue a vote for independence could jeopardise British and Scottish security. The confrontation with North Korea showed that deterrent was as vital as ever, he said.

But that will not be the end of the battle. The British government has already extended the life of the current four Trident submarines towards 2030 and is spending 1.5 billion pounds already on preliminary design work for their successors.

A final decision will be made after the 2015 election, with the Defence Ministry estimating the cost of replacement at around 20 billion-25 billion pounds.

Opponents say money could be better spent elsewhere - it is enough to hire 120,000 new nurses a year for a decade.

Public opinion may be shifting. A 2009 Guardian/ICM poll showed for the first time most of those surveyed favouring outright nuclear disarmament over replacement.

"If the next British government decides that Britain is to remain a nuclear weapons state, it must be prepared to face - and defeat - the most articulate and agile single issue opposition it has ever faced," ballistic missile submarine captain Cmdr Andy Corbett told a panel at London's Royal United Services Institute last year. "It needs to be preparing now."

The United States, current and former officials said, is extremely keen Britain remains a nuclear power.

They have the closest co-operation of any two nuclear-armed states, with considerable shared planning and research and with London effectively leasing the U.S.-built Trident missiles.


Those in the immediate area are worried. Thousands were thrown out of work when the U.S. Navy abandoned its Scottish ballistic missile submarine base at nearby Holy Loch.

The Defence Ministry says it is not carrying out any contingency planning for Scottish independence as ministers believe the union will continue.

Ironically, it was the unpopularity of Thatcher's government in Scotland - as well as Tony Blair's Labour administration - that opened the door to the SNP and next year's referendum.

For now, opinion polls suggest the pro-independence camp will lose - although with up to a fifth of the electorate undecided, those on both sides say things could change.

What is clear is that in its current form - four submarines, one always at sea carrying eight missiles and 40 warheads - the British deterrent relies almost completely on its Scottish base.

While the warheads themselves are assembled in England at the Atomic Weapons Establishment in Aldermasten, Faslane is the only facility capable of handling the nuclear-armed submarines.

The two most promising alternate locations, experts say, would be Milford Haven in Wales or the existing naval dockyard at Devonport, Plymouth. But both come with problems.

If Scotland were to vote to leave the United Kingdom, moving the deterrent to Wales, which also has a vocal nationalist movement, might seem risky.

Devonport, meanwhile, stands at the centre of a densely populated area that would make any nuclear accident potentially harmful to many more people.

"Everyone in London is just hoping the referendum doesn't see a victory for the "yes" vote," says Mark Fitzpatrick, a former senior U.S. official specialising in nuclear issues and now a senior analyst at London's International Institute for Strategic Studies.

"It would be hugely difficult for what was left of the rump United Kingdom if Scotland left."

Anxious to rebuff talk of many job losses, the SNP says Faslane would remain a military centre of an independent Scotland, home to a navy of patrol boats and a handful of larger craft.

Cutting a deal on the nuclear deterrent would almost certainly be a part of negotiations between London and Edinburgh on dividing military resources. Some suggest Faslane could remain a "sovereign base" still under London's control.

"The issue of Trident is a totemic one in Scottish politics," said Angus Robertson, SNP leader in the Westminster parliament and its spokesman on defence issues. "We would want it gone."

The Defence Ministry says that if Britain is to retain a permanent nuclear deterrent, Trident replacement offers by far the best value for money.

Other potential solutions - fewer submarines, using low flying cruise instead of ballistic missiles - would be much less resilient and could be destroyed much more easily.

The ruling Conservative party says it is committed to replacing Trident with a similar submarine-based ballistic missile system. Junior coalition partners the Lib Dems, however, have long been opposed and are conducting their own study into potential alternatives.

The opposition Labour Party, which most opinion polls suggest will win or at least emerge as the largest single party after the next election, remains divided. The party's support for unilateral disarmament at the height of the Cold War is seen contributing hugely to its electoral defeats and it is seen likely to back a submarine missile system.

"Prime ministers do not want to take the decision to be the person to give up our deterrent," said Sir Richard Mottram, former permanent secretary in the British civil service.

"They worry that in 2050, something horrible will have happened and they will be the person who goes down in history as responsible."

(Reporting By Peter Apps; Editing by Angus MacSwan)


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Wallabies on the loose in Austria _ yes, Austria

(AP) ? Volunteers are searching for a pair of wallabies hopping through Austria ? yes, Austria.

The kangaroo-like marsupials, which are smaller than "roos" and primarily found in Australia, escaped from a farm in the Upper Austrian countryside, about 180 kilometers (about 110 miles) northwest of Vienna. Thursday was the third day of the quest to find them.

There are actually three wallabies on the loose ? owner Gabrielle Schrammel says the female has a joey in her pouch.

Austrians often express irritation at being confused for Australians while abroad, and mail meant for Australia occasionally surfaces in this central European Alpine country.

Those Vienna souvenir shops selling T-shirts with the slogan "No kangaroos in Austria" might have to start a recall campaign.

Associated Press


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Thursday, April 18, 2013

Court blocks Penney from selling Martha Stewart goods

By Karen Freifeld

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A New York appeals judge on Tuesday stopped J.C. Penney from selling certain Martha Stewart goods in its stores until Thursday, when he is expected to decide whether to extend the block while an appeal from Macy's Inc is pending.

The decision, in effect a short-term reprieve for Macy's, was delivered in a closed hearing but lawyers for both sides confirmed it to Reuters as they left the courtroom. A trial judge had ruled on Friday that J.C. Penney could sell the items for now, as long as they did not bear Stewart's name.

The products were manufactured under the "JCP Everyday" label after J.C. Penney was barred from selling them under a Martha Stewart brand last summer.

Justice Richard Andrias in Manhattan put the goods on hold on Tuesday pending his ruling on a temporary restraining order.

Before the hearing, Theodore Grossman, a lawyer for Macy's, said he had sought an immediate order after learning the goods would go on sale in April - not May as J.C. Penney had said earlier, he said.

Mark Epstein, a lawyer for Penney, disputed that, saying a witness testified last month that the goods would be available in April.

Macy's claims it has the exclusive right to sell Martha Stewart goods in certain categories such as bedding, bath and tableware under a 2006 agreement that lasts through 2018.

The retailer sued both rival Penney and Stewart's company, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, after they announced a deal to launch Martha Stewart stores within Penney stores. The trial resumes Wednesday.

A Macy's spokesman and a J.C. Penney spokeswoman declined comment on Tuesday.

(Reporting by Karen Freifeld; Writing by Karen Freifeld and Joseph Ax; Editing by Gary Hill)


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Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Injustice: Gods Among Us (Xbox 360)

Marvel Comics' lucrative partnership with Capcom produced several of the most beloved fighting games in the genre, starting with X-Men: Children of the Atom and concluding with Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3: The Fate of Two Worlds.?The comic book giant's main rival, DC Comics, hasn't fared nearly as well in the video game space during that same time period, but NetherRealm Studios?the hitmaker behind the 2011 Mortal Kombat reboot?aims to change that with Injustice: Gods Among Us.

Injustice: Gods Among Us is a polygonal 2D fighter set in the DC Comics universe that leverages the comic company's rich history to spin an action-packed tale of Superman establishing a fascist regime after the Joker nukes Metropolis and dupes Clark into killing a pregnant Lois Lane. Batman, naturally, leads a resistance force against the Man of Steel?a resistance that sees the formation of odd alliances and the destruction of longtime friendships.

The result is a fast-paced, cinematic fighter with enough meat to appease the casual fighting game fan. Core players who live on deep control schemes, evasions, sidesteps, and other more advanced techniques may find Injustice: Gods Among Us a bit thinner than your average Capcom, SNK, or Arc System Works fighter. Still, it's quite the fun ride if you dive into the combat system. Note: We'll update this review to reflect the multiplayer component when there are more than press people playing on the servers.

Capes and Cowls
Injustice: Gods Among Us' roster features several DC Comics gadgeteers, enhanced humans, and god-level characters including Aquaman, Bane, Batman, Catwoman, Cyborg, Deathstroke, Doomsday, The Flash, Green Arrow, Green Lantern, Harley Quinn, Hawkgirl, The Joker, Lex Luthor, Nightwing, Raven, Shazam, Sinestro, Solomon Grundy, Superman, and Wonder Woman.

The line-up is nicely varied, but an inevitable question arises: how does a regular human like The Joker manage to physically harm a meta-human like Superman? NetherRealm Studios provides an in-game solution that appears fairly early on in the story that answers the question (and possibly sets the stage for future DC fighting games).

Challenge of the Super-Friends
With NetherRealm Studios at the helm, one would naturally assume that Injustice: Gods Among Us is nothing more than a capes-and-tights version of its critically-acclaimed Mortal Kombat reboot. After significant time with the game, I can say that's not too far from the truth. Fights have a similar fast-paced, bounce- and juggle-centric flow that will be easier for Mortal Kombat aficionados to pick up than players coming over from a Street Fighter title. The combos, for the most part, don't flow as smoothly as other fighting games. Thankfully, there are two practice modes available to help you master pacing. The truly hardcore will appreciate the in-depth move lists that show how to execute moves, how much damage they deal, and their frame counts.

That said, Injustice: Gods Among Us has several stand out features that separate it from NetherRealm Studios' previous offering. The developer has given Injustice: Gods Among Us its own unique combat system?one that ditches Mortal Kombat's dedicated block button?that plays to the strength of the over-the-top license with incredible super attacks and multi-tier stages that see opponents getting knocked through buildings and into orbit.

The fighting mechanics revolve around a tight three-button control scheme: light attack, medium attack, and hard attack, much like Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3. A fourth face button is a dedicated "Trait" button that executes a character-specific feature. Superman's Trait, for example, gives the Man of Steel stat buffs. A few characters (including Batman and Green Arrow) have multiple versions of their Traits. The Trait meter refills over time and doesn't depend on you giving or receiving damage.

Matches are near-continuous battles which play out more like a single fight with tiny breaks than traditional 2-out-of-3-falls affairs. Each fighter has two health bars, and the first one to lose both loses the match. This makes contests feel less tournament-like and more brawl-like?it fits the license well and keeps the action flowing nicely.

The combatants have four-tier super meters that are used to enhance moves or unleash devastating super moves a la Mortal Kombat. Ares' projectile attacks, for example, doles out more damage when you enhance it with meter by tapping your controller's right trigger. As a result, deft meter management is vital, especially in truly competitive play.

It doesn't end there. Clash?a combo-breaker?lets you wager super meter in order to escape punishment. However, it's far more in-depth than Mortal Kombat's breaker. The player willing to sacrifice the most available meter wins the Clash. The Clash initiator does a huge amount of damage to the defender should s/he win; should the defender wins, s/he gets a health bonus. Clash becomes a meta-game in itself as you must determine if winning the Clash, if you're a defender, is worth the super meter sacrifice.

Heroes and villains each have their own fighting styles. Superman is a brawler who pounds away using his fists and select superpowers (like heat vision and ice breath). Batman?who is destined to become a fan favorite?has martial arts moves, batarangs, and a sizeable parry window. Taking a cue from Mortal Kombat, Injustice: Gods Among Us' character models display damage over the course of the battle. Despite the game's devastating attacks?The Joker beats opponents with a crowbar similar to what he did to Robin in A Death in the Family?there's no true gore.? Still, it isn't exactly family-friendly; the image of a smiling, psychotic clown dosing a foe with gasoline and then tossing a match may prove disturbing to some players.

Injustice: Gods Among Us takes another page from Mortal Kombat with its S.T.A.R. Labs Missions, which is a spin on the Challenge Tower. These are a series of single-player missions (240 in total!) which challenge you to complete a variety of tasks. These include both traditional fights (one on one vs. a foe) to being the first to land a certain number of hits on an opponent. The game also includes Battle Missions, which is a gauntlet endurance test. Fights in both the single-player and multiplayer modes earn XP that's used to unlock alternate costumes and other goodies.


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