Saturday, December 31, 2011

Football. Frogs in the NFL: Week 16

?? PLAYER WEEK 16 UPDATE Aaron Brown
Detroit Lions | RB
3rd season
TCU Letters: 2005-08
Draft: 2008 3rd Rnd (162)
Bios:? NFL? |? TCU W, 38-10 vs. San Diego Chargers
Did Not Play -- Inactive

No Stats

Detroit Lions, 10-5 (2nd NFC North)

?Marcus Cannon
New England Patriots | OT

? Rookie
TCU Letters: 2007-10
Draft: 2011 5th Rnd (138)
Bios:? NFL? |? TCU? W, 27-24 vs. Miami Dolphins

New England Patriots, 12-3 (1st AFC East)

Drew Coleman
Jacksonville Jaguars | CB

6th season
TCU Letters: 2004-05
Draft: 2006 6th Rnd (189)
Bios:? NFL? |? TCU?

L, 23-17 vs. Tennessee Titans

6 tackles, (4 solo), 1 tackle for loss

Jacksonville Jaguars, 4-11 (3rd AFC South)

Andy Dalton
Cincinnati Bengals | QB

TCU Letters: 2007-10
Draft: 2011 2nd Rnd (35)
Bios:? NFL? |? TCU?

W, 23-16 vs. Arizona Cardinals

18-31, 154 yds, 2 TD; 5 carries, 48 yds

Cincinnati Bengals, 9-6 (3rd AFC North)

? Clint Gresham
Seattle Seahawks | LS

2nd season
TCU Letters: 2007-09
Draft: 2010 F/A
Bios:? NFL? |? TCU? L, 19-17 vs. San Francisco 49ers

SEA was 1/1 FG, 2/2 PAT, 5 punts

Seattle Seahawks, 7-8 (2nd NFC West)

? David Hawthorne
Seattle Seahawks | LB

4th season
TCU Letters: 2004-07
Draft: 2008 F/A
Bios:? NFL? |? TCU? L, 19-17 vs. San Francisco 49ers

7 tackles (3 solo), 1 tackle for loss

Seattle Seahawks, 7-8 (2nd NFC West)

?Jerry Hughes
Indianapolis Colts | DE

? 2nd season
TCU Letters: 2006-09
Draft: 2010 1st Rnd (31)
Bios:? NFL? |? TCU? W, 19-16 vs. Houston Texans

No Stats

Indianapolis Colts, 2-13 (4th AFC South)

? Colin Jones
San Francisco 49ers | S

? Rookie
TCU Letters: 2007-10
Draft: 2011 6th Rnd (190)
Bios:? NFL? |? TCU? W, 19-17 vs. Seattle Seahawks

No Stats

San Francisco 49ers, 12-3 (1st NFC West)

? Jeremy Kerley
New York Jets | WR

? Rookie
TCU Letters: 2007-10
Draft: 2011 5th Rnd (153)
Bios:? NFL? |? TCU? L, 29-14 vs. New York Giants

5 catches, 36 yards; 1 carry, 6 yards; 4 punt returns, 74 yards

New York Jets, 8-7 (2nd AFC East)

? Marshall Newhouse
Green Bay Packers | OT

? 2nd season
TCU Letters: 2006-09
Draft: 2009 5th Rnd (169)
Bios:? NFL? |? TCU? W, 35-21 vs. Chicago Bears

Green Bay Packers, 14-1 (1st NFC North)

Jason Phillips
Carolina Panthers | LB

? 3rd season
TCU Letters: 2005-08
Draft: 2008 5th Rnd (137)
Bios:? NFL? |? TCU? W, 48-16 vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Inactive - Injured Reserve

No Stats

Carolina Panthers, 6-9 (3rd in NFC South)

Herb Taylor
Green Bay Packers | OT

? 5th season
TCU Letters: 2003-06
Draft: 2007 6th Rnd (196)
Bios:? NFL? |? TCU? W, 35-21 vs. Chicago Bears
Did Not Play

Green Bay Packers, 14-1 (1st NFC North)

? LaDainian Tomlinson
New York Jets | RB

? 11th season
TCU Letters: 1997-2000
Draft: 2001 1st Rnd (5)
Bios:? NFL? |? TCU? L, 29-14 vs. New York Giants

5 carries, 29 yards; 6 catches, 36 yards

New York Jets, 8-7 (2nd AFC East)

? Daryl Washington
Arizona Cardinals | LB

? 2nd season
TCU Letters: 2006-09
Draft: 2010 2nd Rnd (58)
Bios:? NFL? |? TCU? L, 23-16 vs. Cincinnati Bengals

11 tackles (nine solo), 1 tackle for loss

Arizona Cardinals, 7-8 (3rd NFC West)

?Malcolm Williams
New England Patriots | DB

? Rookie
TCU Letters: 2009-10
Draft: 2011 7th Rnd (219)
Bios:? NFL? |? TCU? W, 27-24 vs. Miami Dolphins
Did Not Play - Practice Squad

No Stats

New England Patriots, 12-3 (1st AFC East)


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Friday, December 30, 2011

The top gaming technologies of 2011 | VentureBeat

Each year brings a host of new technologies to the table that make the gaming landscape seem significantly different from what came before, and 2011 was no different. Here are some of the most important technological advancements the game industry saw in the past 12 months.

Nintendo 3DS

After Nintendo?s press conference just before E3 2010, it seemed all anybody in the game industry could talk about was the ?wow factor? of Nintendo?s newest portable system and how its stereoscopic 3D effect actually worked as advertised, without 3D glasses. Once the system came out, of course, many encountered frustration with the lowered frame rate and reduced brightness in 3D mode, as well as problems with limited viewing angles and headaches after long-term viewing. A healthy minority of players now use the system with the 3D effects turned off, and the lack of a real third dimension doesn?t hurt the gameplay experience as much as Nintendo said it might.

Still, despite all its problems, the 3DS earns a place on this list for being a proof of concept showing stereoscopic 3D doesn?t need bulky head-mounted hardware to work. If future hardware makers expand on the concept with technologies that provide a more robust 3D from multiple viewing angles, we could see a true revolution in gaming.

Sony PlayStation Vita

Though it hasn?t made it to North America or Europe yet, the Vita snuck into Japanese stores in December sporting a regular everything-and-the-kitchen sink approach to portable gaming systems. The influence of the smartphone gaming revolution is apparent in everything from the optional 3G data connection to the large touch-screen to front and rear facing cameras.

But the Vita?s most interesting bit of technology, from a gaming point of view, might be the rear multi-touch panel designed to allow players to control games without their fingers getting in the way of viewing the action. It?s still up in the air whether this innovative new control scheme will become a crucial addition or a forgotten fad, but it shows Sony?s willingness to try something radically different with its PSP follow up.

Apple?s A5 processor

Making its premiere on the iPad 2 in March, Apple?s newest mobile system-on-a-chip processor managed to provide a 400 to 700 percent increase in graphical performance over the year-old original iPad with no increase in retail price. Game developers were at first slow to take advantage of that extra power, but titles like Infinity Blade 2, Real Racing 2 and Dark Meadow have since shown how the additional power can be used to change the idea of what a mobile game can be.

With the chip?s inclusion on Apple?s new iPhone 4S, we can expect more game developers to start upping the graphical ante in their mobile titles. But the real revolution will come when Apple finally adds the A5 chip to its iPod Touch line, which Apple is actively selling for its gaming capabilities.


While HTML5 wasn?t introduced in 2011, this was the year the open standard for building interactive web games and apps really came into its own. Look no further than Adobe, which announced in November it would stop supporting the mobile version of competing interactive standard Flash (which Apple steadfastly refused to support on its devices) in favor of HTML5.

It?s not just Adobe. Zynga released HTML5 versions of three of its biggest games this year in a bid for mobile web browsers, and Disney followed up its major acquisition of Playdom with the purchase of HTML5 game specialists Rocket Pack. Startups from Los Angeles? Gamzee to Korea?s Pangalore managed to attract startup funds for their HTML5 gaming efforts this year as well. While we have yet to see the first major gaming hit to premiere on HTML3, and there are some concerns about the standard?s value as a game development platform, the trend towards the open standard seems like it will only continue into 2012.

OnLive for Tablets

Since its launch last year, OnLive?s streaming game service ? which lets play games that are running on and transmitted from remote servers ? has struggled to find a significant market of users. But the recently launched tablet version of the service may just be the killer app it needs, allowing millions of tablet owners to get truly console-quality games on their relatively underpowered devices.

More than the previous?OnLive services, which relied on a PC, Mac or a proprietary streaming micro-console, the tablet version offers an easy portability that turns the devices into a sort of magic screen that can access a wide library of PC and console games easily wherever there?s a reliable internet connection. Support for external Bluetooth controllers means tablet owners no longer have to suffer through the tactile smoothness of a touchscreen, either: OnLive for tablets open the devices up to the traditional button-based games most players are used to.

Razer Blade Laptop

Razer?s first entry into the dedicated gaming computer market doesn?t include much that?s decidedly new (aside from its built-in LCD panel touchscreen next to the keyboard, perhaps). Still, the combination of internal hardware aimed at high-end gamers and a sleek form factor stakes out an important place in the gaming hardware market. The $2,800 price might limit the laptop?s appeal outside an incredibly hardcore niche, but the Blade stands out for imagining a PC gaming future that isn?t just dominated by free-to-play casual social games.

PlayStation 3D Display

It may look like just another 3D TV, but when combined with the PS3, Sony?s gaming-focused display gains one special feature to set it apart ? a multiplayer mode where each participant gets their own distinct, full screen view. The days of squinting at a stretched-out split-screen view for couch competitions is effectively over with this TV, though the 24? size may cause some squinting of its own for players used to a larger, widescreen living room setup.

The 3D display has already seen heavily reduced prices at some retailers, perhaps showing a lack of market interest in yet another 3D capable monitor. Still, the fact that Sony released a gaming-focused 3D TV in the first place shows the company?s continuing commitment to stereoscopic gaming as a way to set its console apart from those offered by Microsoft and Nintendo.

Nyko Kinect Zoom

One of the coolest bits of video game technology to come to gaming in 2011 doesn?t even require electricity to operate. The Nyko Zoom is nothing more than a set of small lenses that snaps on top of Microsoft?s Kinect depth-sensing camera, effectively shortening and widening the useful range for the device, removing one of the key barriers to using it in a cramped space. Suddenly, even the smallest of studio apartments can serve as a controller-free environment.

How important is this reduced range to the usefulness of the Kinect? Well, when Microsoft announced it would be releasing a new Kinect aimed specifically at PC users, it made sure to include technology that would let the unit work from as close as 40 centimeters away. In other words, Nyko was able to see the market for a closer range Kinect before Microsoft did.

Next Story: Watch out Qualcomm, DoCoMo taps Samsung, Fujitsu, others for LTE chip?venture
Previous Story: Orbitz, Kayak think Google is abusing its power with travel?search

Tags: 3DS, A5, A5 processor, HTML5, Nyko Kinect Zoom, PlayStation 3D Display

Companies: Adobe, Apple, Microsoft, Nintendo, Nyko, Sony


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Thursday, December 29, 2011

LETTER TO THE EDITOR: What if only Tahoe residents could decide golf issue?

The issue of moving nine holes of the Lake Tahoe Golf course into Washoe Meadows State Park has been debated for years. It has gotten to the point where a lawsuit has been filed and it has become an unhappy situation. I've been thinking a lot about how things have gotten to this point.

The players in this unfortunate situation are California State Parks, citizens represented largely by the Washoe Meadows Community and American Golf which is said to be owned by Goldman Sachs. Between the scientists on staff at California State Parks and the scientists from the Washoe Meadows Community, we have an impressive group of professionals, all of whom care a great deal about Tahoe.

I wonder if we had a local concessionaire at the golf course and took Wall Street out of the equation if we would have found a solution to the dilemma years ago. Of all the money taken in each year at the golf course, how much of it goes to corporate headquarters and how much of it stays in the basin? Is this an example of corporate money wanting to degrade a state park for profit?

Carla Ennis



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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

India review block sparks early Aussie controversy

Added At: ?2011-12-26 5:53 PM??

Last Updated At: 2011-12-26 5:53 PM


MELBOURNE: India's rejection of the decision review system in their Australian series provoked its first controversy Monday as the home side lost late wickets on the opening day of the first Test.

The Australians stumbled from 205 for three with three wickets tumbling in 18 balls to finish the day at 277 for six with Brad Haddin on 21 and Peter Siddle not out 34.

But the first day of the four-Test series before a 70,068 Boxing Day crowd at the Melbourne Cricket Ground was marred by the contentious dismissal of senior batsman Michael Hussey.

Hussey fell for his third Test golden duck in eight innings and was disgusted to be given out after replays appeared to show the delivery from Zaheer Khan had brushed his sleeve and not his bat.

Hussey was prevented from referring the umpire's verdict to the video umpire as the Indian cricket board has refused to use the Decision Review System (DRS) in the series over concerns about the accuracy of electronic aids.

It could prove a career-ending dismissal for Hussey, whose future in the Australian team is increasingly under threat amid a run of low scores.

"I feel for any batsman who gets out, it's a bit of a gut-wrenching experience, whether it's your first ball or you're 150,' said Ed Cowan, who anchored the Australian innings with a stoic 68 on his debut.

"Of course, I was disappointed for him (Hussey). It was a massive moment in the game, it was a huge momentum (switch).

"We just had a 100-run partnership, wrestled back momentum and then almost a 50-run partnership and we felt we were half an hour away from nailing them, really grinding them into the dust."

Cowan said it was not an issue of the DRS but the vagaries of umpiring decisions.

"Today momentum went against us because of it. Two of your top six (batsmen), but that's the game and we'll take the good with the bad," he said.

Indian paceman Umesh Yadav, who took three wickets, refused to be drawn into the controversy. "It's part of the game and I'd rather not comment on it," Yadav said. "Whether it's bad or good decisions, it's part of the game."

Australia were in a strong position before paceman Zaheer Khan, playing in his first Test match since July, removed Clarke and Hussey with consecutive deliveries.

Cowan went three overs later ending a 294-minute vigil when he feathered a catch behind off spinner Ravichandran Ashwin.

The left-hander had batted for almost five hours and the best part of 68 overs after skipper Michael Clarke had won the toss.

Replacing chancy opener Phillip Hughes for his first Test match, he protected his wicket with steely patience and a willingness to leave the ball in his 177-ball knock.

Clarke looked in good touch before he attempted to cut Zaheer only to play on to his stumps for 31, while Hussey went next ball, adjudged to have got an edge to wicketkeeper M.S. Dhoni.

Ricky Ponting scored his 59th Test half-century and 10th against India before he fell to Yadav, finding V.V.S. Laxman at second slip for 62 in the only wicket to fall in the middle session.

Yet again the former Australian captain failed to go on to claim his century and it is now 33 innings and almost two years since his last Test hundred.

Ponting put on 113 runs with Cowan for the third wicket to steady the Australian innings after the first two wickets fell on 46.

Yadav finished with three for 96 off 20 overs.

Opener David Warner, who scored an unbeaten 123 in this month's Test against New Zealand, clouted a six in his typically breezy 37 off 49 balls.

He was out when he attempted to hook Yadav only to dolly a catch to Dhoni in the 14th over.

Shaun Marsh's Test return only lasted six balls before he edged Yadav to Virat Kohli in the gully for a duck.

India are bidding to win their first series in Australia in 64 years and hold the Border-Gavaskar Trophy after winning the last two series at home.


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Tuesday, December 27, 2011

For four teams, it's win and get in

San Diego Chargers v Detroit LionsGetty Images

Well, that was some Christmas Eve of football.

The Lions are headed to the playoffs. Tebowmania imploded. The Giants beat the Jets, which made Rex Ryan very unhappy and set up a Giants-Cowboys rematch?next Sunday night for the NFC East title.

So after all the fun, where do the playoff races stand? Let?s take a look.

Four spots remain.

The last wild card spot in both conferences remain up for grabs. So do the NFC East and AFC West division titles. One more spot could be decided Sunday night.

This Sunday night still matters.

With a late field goal, the 49ers narrowly?won in Seattle 19-17?to keep their hopes alive for the No. 1 seed in the NFC. That means Green Bay still has to go all out to beat Chicago on Christmas in order to clinch the top spot in the NFC.

San Francisco can clinch a playoff bye if they beat the Rams next week. (They can also get the bye if New Orleans loses one of their remaining two games. The Saints host the Falcons Monday night.)

A Packers win Sunday night would also clinch the final NFC wild card spot for the Falcons.

Only one NFC East team will make it in.

The Eagles are out. The winner of Cowboys-Giants gets a division title and a home playoff game. The loser is out of the playoffs. Simple.

Patriots clinch bye, have inside track for No. 1 seed.

New England?s 17-point comeback win over Miami puts them in good shape to have homefield advantage. The Patriots clinched a bye on Saturday, and they will get the No. 1 seed in the AFC with a home win over Buffalo next week.

The Ravens and Steelers still have a shot at the No. 1 seed. The winner of the AFC North will earn a bye. Speaking of which . . .

Ravens and the Bengals play the biggest AFC game next week.

If Baltimore wins in Cincinnati, the Ravens get a bye. If the Bengals win, they clinch the No. 6 seed in the AFC playoffs.

The Steelers will be rooting for Cincinnati to sneak in. Pittsburgh can still win the division and get a bye if they beat the Browns and the Ravens lose. The Steelers still have an outside shot for the No. 1 seed if they won and both the Ravens and Patriots lose.

All the AFC North games will be at 4:15 p.m. ET. If the Bengals lose, things get complicated. The Titans, Jets, and Raiders are also alive for the last wild card spot if Cincinnati falls. Oakland could also win the AFC West.

The Bengals could even lose and make the playoffs if they end up in a two-way tie with the Titans at 9-7.

The Jets need a miracle.

Rex Ryan?s crew doesn?t look like a team good enough to win in Miami next week. Even if the Jets win, they need a ton of help to get into the playoffs.

Here?s what needs to happen for the Jets to make it: They need to win and they need a Bengals loss, a Titans loss, and a Raiders or Broncos loss.

The Titans also need a complicated combination of events to make it. Their scenarios are listed right here.

Texans are the No. 3 seed in the AFC.

This much we know for sure. They will avoid the Ravens or Steelers in the first round.

It?s down to the Raiders and Broncos in the AFC West.

The Chiefs and Chargers are out after Saturday?s results. The Raiders and Broncos are both 8-7. The Broncos still hold the tiebreaker advantage over Oakland, so the Broncos still control their fate. They are in with a win next week against Kyle Orton and the Chiefs. How great a matchup is that?

The Raiders can win the division if they beat San Diego in Oakland and Denver loses to the Chiefs. ?Oakland also has a shot for the final wild card spot. It?s possible Oakland could win and still miss the playoffs.

To get the wild card, the Raiders would need a win, a Bengals loss, and a Titans loss. Or a win, a Bengals loss, and a Jets win.

Got all that?

Merry Christmas anyway.


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Steelers stuff Rams 27-0

John Clay


updated 5:59 p.m. ET Dec. 24, 2011

PITTSBURGH - Charlie Batch doesn't know how many more games are left in his 37-year-old legs. Given the way the veteran quarterback played in the Steelers' ridiculously easy 27-0 victory over lifeless St. Louis on Saturday, it may be more than he thinks.

The crowd chanting the name of Pittsburgh's native son throughout, Batch played efficiently if not spectacularly while subbing for an injured Ben Roethlisberger, passing for 208 yards to help the Steelers keep their hopes for an AFC North title very much alive.

"Nobody wants to let this team down," Batch said. "One thing about it is we just try to keep the ball rolling, whoever is in there."

Batch is now 5-2 as a spot starter with the Steelers and could get another shot next week against Cleveland when the Steelers go for their second straight division title.

"We've won games with (Batch) in the past; if need be, we will games with him in the future," coach Mike Tomlin said. "We are very comfortable with our depth at the quarterback position."

The Steelers sure played like it.

Rashard Mendenhall ran for 116 yards and a touchdown against the NFL's worst rush defense, and John Clay and Ike Redman also scored as the Steelers cruised on a day Roethlisberger rested his badly sprained left ankle.

The two-time Super Bowl winner was active and available in case of emergency. The defense made sure there wasn't one, dominating the NFL's lowest-scoring offense to pitch its second shutout of the season.

"It's about playing good ball at the right time," defensive end Brett Keisel said. "We need to build off this win and hopefully get one next week and carry that into the dance."

St. Louis' Steven Jackson rushed for 103 yards to top 1,000 for the seventh straight season, but backup quarterback Kellen Clemens sputtered in place of the injured Sam Bradford. St. Louis (2-13) managed just 232 yards while getting blanked for the second time in 20 days.

A season after going 7-9 and appearing to be a team on the rise, the Rams head into their finale next week against San Francisco tied with Indianapolis for the worst record in the league.

Clemens, signed less than three weeks ago, completed 9 of 24 passes for 91 yards. He didn't turn it over, but he couldn't make anything happen against the league's top-ranked defense.

"There's a few throws that I just should have hit," Clemens said. "You can't leave opportunities on the field against a defense like that, and we did today."

Batch, making just his seventh start since 2001, had no such issues. He completed 15 of 22 passes, his only hiccup coming on a second-quarter interception on which intended receiver Antonio Brown slipped.

While Batch lacks Roethlisberger's big-time arm, he did get the ball downfield on a couple of occasions, including a 46-yard pass to Mike Wallace in the fourth quarter that set up Mendenhall's 1-yard plunge that put Pittsburgh ahead 20-0.

It was more than enough cushion for a defense that looked just fine even without injured outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley, who continues to nurse a strained right hamstring. James Harrison collected his ninth sack of the season in his return from a one-game suspension for a series of illegal hits, and Pittsburgh never let St. Louis get within 10 yards of the end zone.

"The goose egg is nice," Keisel said. "Anytime you can hold an NFL team to nothing is nice."

The Rams were able to move the ball at times, mainly on the legs of Jackson, one of the few bright spots in a miserable season that has left coach Steve Spagnuolo's future very much in doubt.

"Let's face it, the man is a warrior," Spagnuolo said of Jackson. "That's one of the weapons we have and we're going to use it as much as we can, knowing we can't run every down."

It might not have been a bad idea.

Each time the Rams appeared ready to make things interesting, they would find a way to let the Steelers off the hook. Spagnuolo opened up the playbook in the second quarter, with punter Donnie Jones pulling the ball down and looking to pass on a fake punt. Pittsburgh covered it well and Jones took off, only to be tackled a yard short of the first down, a frustrating season summed up in one play.

"It was an aggressive call ? we got the right look and thought we could get it," Spagnuolo said. "They did a nice job taking it away."

St. Louis put together a steady drive late in the first half but got conservative after moving into Pittsburgh territory, milking the clock so Josh Brown could attempt a 52-yard field goal at a stadium where 22-yarders aren't a given. The ball sailed wide left, and Brown later missed wide right in the fourth quarter with the game still somewhat competitive.

Emphasis on the somewhat.

The Steelers were never in any real danger as Mendenhall found plenty of room to maneuver, while Batch extended a couple of plays with his feet to keep drives alive.

Mendenhall's 52-yard run in the second quarter set up Clay's first NFL carry, a 10-yard burst over right tackle that gave Pittsburgh a 10-0 lead.

Shaun Suisham drilled a field goal in the third quarter to put the Steelers up 13-0. After Brown missed his second kick of the day early in the fourth, Pittsburgh put it away with a pair of cruelly efficient touchdown drives.

"Yes, we scored 27 points, but we had opportunities to put 35 points on the board and we weren't able to get it in the end zone during that time," Batch said. "There's always room for improvement."

NOTES: Pittsburgh WR Hines Ward caught four passes and now has 995 for his career. ... Pittsburgh WR Antonio Brown broke former running back Barry Foster's club record for all-purpose yards in a season. Brown has 2,048, ahead of Foster's mark of 2,034 set in 1992. ... St. Louis DE Chris Long failed to register a sack for just the second time in the last nine games. ... Josh Brown has made 73 percent (19 of 26) of his field goal attempts this season, the second-worst mark of his nine-year career.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


More newsGetty Images
'It's time to shut up, fat boy'

PFT: The Jets-Giants trash talk didn?t end after the Giants win on Saturday. According to multiple reports, Brandon Jacobs and Rex Ryan got into a yelling match after the game.

Giants stay alive, put Jets on ropes ?|? Kings of NY

Victor Cruz set two franchise receiving records, and Ahmad Bradshaw ran for two touchdowns as the Giants kept their playoff hopes alive by winning the New York-area bragging rights with a 29-14 victory over the Jets on Saturday.


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Monday, December 26, 2011

Unborn son's struggle inspires Christian singer (AP)

PERRYSBURG, Ohio ? Told that his unborn son had only half a heart and little chance to survive, the lead singer of the Christian rock band Sanctus Real began pouring his fears and doubts into music.

The songs were meant to comfort his family while they searched for answers and sought to understand God's role during the months before and after the baby's birth that were filled with surgeries and life-threatening complications.

It didn't take long for him to realize that his words needed to be shared so that others struggling with life would know they're not alone.

What came out of the heartache was "Every Falling Tear," a solo album that's meant to touch and console during the hardest of times.

"People want to know that their pain has a purpose," said Matt Hammitt, one of the founding members of Sanctus Real, a band with two Grammy-nominated albums since 2008.

"That's the biggest part of sharing our story," he said. "That there is a purpose."

Hammitt and his wife, Sarah, knew something was wrong minutes after finding out during an ultrasound in April 2010 that their third child would be a boy, following two girls. They saw the sorrow on their doctor's face even before she spoke.

Doctors later confirmed the baby had a rare congenital heart defect called hypoplastic left heart syndrome, which causes the left side of the heart to be severely underdeveloped. For five months, the couple contemplated all of the possible procedures and treatments while weighing the odds of what could go wrong.

Their baby would face multiple surgeries and an uncertain future at best.

They also didn't know how to deal with a flood of emotions ? the anger, the doubt, the feeling of being alone. Hammitt, 32, decided he needed to tell God how he was feeling, so he started writing songs about their journey.

"I began writing about all that I was learning about struggle and faith," he said.

Each song tells of a moment or a series of events leading to the baby's birth ? there's a father's fear of holding back his love for a son he may never know and a mother's hope of finding peace in the midst of despair.

"I wanted to write songs that would speak him someday about how much his father loved him no matter how long or short his life would be," Hammitt said, his voice trailing off.

The album released in September was his first solo work. On tour during the fall with the band, he included the song "All of Me" in their sets. It starts: "Afraid to love, something that could break. Could I move on if you were torn away?"

Hammitt was a high school sophomore when he and guitarist Chris Rohman and drummer Mark Graalman started the band 15 years ago. They've stayed together, playing in coffee shops, churches and now arenas.

Sanctus Real will be one of nearly a dozen Christian artists taking part in the Winter Jam tour that starts in January, with stops in 47 cities.

The song from "Every Falling Tear" that means the most to Hammitt is "Trust," a worship song that reminds people not to lose faith "even in the darkness, even in the questions, even when the hardest times of life are at hand."

The lyrics were born out of a time when Hammitt was feeling isolated and alone.

"Sometimes we need to be reminded of the truth," he said. "And for me, the truth is that I trust God."

Bowen Matthew Hammitt was born on Sept. 9, 2010. His first open heart surgery came four days later and the next night he went into cardiac arrest. A team of doctors and nurses spent an hour performing CPR until they were able to revive him and get him on life support.

Complications and a stroke kept him in the hospital in Ann Arbor, Mich., for just over two months.

While there, the couple played demos of the songs Hammitt had written "so Bowen could hear his dad's voice," his wife said. Night-shift nurses often turned up the music when most families would leave for the evening.

"They felt it was good for all the babies to be soothed," Sarah said. "We'd come back in the morning and it'd be really loud."

Hammitt recorded the songs for the album soon after the family brought Bowen home to suburban Toledo. His only unease was that they might be critiqued like any other work.

"Originally I just wanted them recorded for us at the hospital," he said. "I realized they're meant to comfort other people too."

So far, the response has been what he hoped for. They've even received notes from parents who've played the songs at their children's funerals.

Now, the Hammitts want to take their work a step further by starting the Whole Hearts Foundation, a source of financial, emotional and spiritual help for families with children suffering from congenital heart defects. They see the foundation becoming their life's work.

"It's amazing to see even beyond the album what's come out of this," Hammitt said. "We had a vision in the hospital, how can we help other families, let them know they're not alone."

Bowen, who turned 1 in September, faces one more surgery now slated for 2013 to repair his heart. Eventually, he'll likely need a new heart before he reaches middle age.

He's growing, but not as fast as doctors would like. Sarah watches him closely for any signs of heart failure. He only has a single ventricle pumping oxygen to his body and lungs so she looks to see if he sweats when he eats or if his skin turns blue or red.

When Matt brought him downstairs after a nap, a look of worry crossed her face when she saw that his hair was matted with sweat. But it turned out there was no cause for concern.

"We know at any moment things could change even though he's stable now," Sarah said. "It's ultimately God's will."




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devicemag: Google Nexus Slate Running Android 4.1 Ice Cream Sandwich Could Worry Other Tablet Vendors

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Sunday, December 25, 2011

[OOC] Bridge in the Shards

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TheAtlantic: RT @TheAtlanticTECH Steve Jobs awarded a posthumous Grammy

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Saturday, December 24, 2011

Shootings in Mexico's Veracruz kill 16 (Reuters)

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) ? At least 11 people were killed by an armed gang on Thursday in the Mexican Gulf coast state of Veracruz, where drug-related violence flared this autumn, before five of the gunmen were shot dead by security forces.

A spokeswoman for the state government told local television the gunmen killed four people in the small town of El Higo then attacked three buses on a highway about 60 miles southwest of the port of Tampico, killing seven others.

Five armed men were killed in a shootout with security forces, she said.

The death toll from the bus shootings could be as high as 20, a local mayor told Milenio television.

The motive was unclear. The attacks came the day after the state government said it disbanded the municipal police force in the city of Veracruz, some 300 miles south of Tampico.

As part of efforts in Mexico to root out corruption in local law enforcement, roughly 1,000 police officials are temporarily being replaced by the navy in Veracruz and the neighboring municipality of Boca del Rio, local media said.

The state is home to several of Mexico's major oil installations and the important oil-exporting port Coatzacoalcos, just south of the city of Veracruz.

Between late September and early October, close to 100 bodies were found dumped in Veracruz city during an outbreak of drug violence, prompting the federal government to send in reinforcements.

Officials blamed the bloodletting on a group linked to the country's most powerful drug lord, Joaquin "Shorty" Guzman. He has been fighting a turf war with the violent Zetas cartel, which authorities say controls Veracruz.

More than 45,000 people have been killed since President Felipe Calderon launched a war on drug cartels in late 2006.

In August, Calderon said drug gangs, which can offer police officers much higher pay than the state, had corrupted all levels of government in Mexico.

(Reporting by Miguel Angel Gutierrez; Writing by Elinor Comlay; Editing by John O'Callaghan)


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Boxer Mayweather gets 90 jail days in Vegas case (AP)

LAS VEGAS ? Boxing champion Floyd Mayweather Jr. is a perfect 42-0 in the ring and has dodged significant jail time several times in domestic violence cases in Las Vegas and Michigan.

But his courtroom streak came to an end Wednesday when a Las Vegas judge sentenced him to 90 days in jail after he pleaded guilty to a reduced battery domestic violence charge and no contest to two harassment charges.

The case stemmed from a hair-pulling, punching and arm-twisting argument with his ex-girlfriend Josie Harris while two of their children watched in September 2010.

"Punishment is appropriate," Justice of the Peace Melissa Saragosa said after a prosecutor complained that Mayweather has been in trouble before and hasn't faced serious consequences.

"No matter who you are, you have consequences to your actions when they escalate to this level of violence," she said.

Good behavior could knock several weeks off Mayweather's sentence. but he will likely serve most of the sentence set to begin Jan. 6, said Officer Bill Cassell, a Las Vegas police spokesman.

Mayweather and his manager, Leonard Ellerbe, declined comment outside the courtroom.

The jail time raises doubts about a possible showdown between Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao, a champion fighter from the Philippines against whom Mayweather's welterweight success is usually measured.

A long-awaited fight between the two men regarded as among the best of their generation has been delayed by stalling techniques and verbal sparring.

The two men have a defamation lawsuit pending in Las Vegas federal court stemming from statements by Mayweather that he suspects Pacquiao was taking performance-enhancing drugs.

Mayweather returned in September from a 16-month layoff to continue his undefeated record with a controversial knockout of Victor Ortiz in Las Vegas.

Mayweather's promoters have a May 5 date reserved against an as-yet unnamed opponent at the MGM Grand Garden Arena. But if Mayweather is jailed until the end of March, it could cut into the usual eight-plus weeks he takes to train.

Keith Kizer, executive director of the Nevada Athletic Commission, said licenses for all fighters expire on Saturday, and most, including Mayweather, have yet to reapply for next year.

He said Mayweather would be asked on his license application if he was convicted of any misdemeanors or felonies.

Kizer said commissioners would then decide whether to approve or deny his license or hold a hearing to talk about it. The commission has been in contact with prosecutors and Mayweather's lawyers as cases against him have progressed, he said.

"The commissioners are definitely up to speed on it and will be when it comes time to consider any kind of application," he said.

Lee Samuels, a spokesman for Pacquiao's promoter Top Rank and Bob Arum, declined comment on Mayweather's sentencing and its possible effect on a match.

Mayweather, 34, stood still in a striped olive vest and showed no reaction as the judge sentenced him to six months in the Clark County jail then suspended half the term.

She gave him credit for three days previously served in jail and ordered him to complete 100 hours of community service, pay a $2,500 fine and complete a yearlong domestic violence counseling program.

The plea deal avoided trial on felony and misdemeanor that could have gotten Mayweather 34 years in state prison if he was convicted on all counts.

Mayweather also is expected to plead no contest next week to a separate misdemeanor harassment charge involving a 21-year-old homeowner association security guard who was poked in the face during an argument about parking tickets placed on cars outside Mayweather's house.

Mayweather's lawyer, Karen Winckler, said she may appeal what she called the unusual sentence handed down Wednesday.

In court, she called Mayweather "a champion in many areas" and aired a list of his good deeds, including buying toys for children for Christmas and promising to donate $100,000 to breast cancer research by the end of December.

Winckler argued that the public would benefit more if Mayweather performed 100 hours of community service with children.

Mayweather is also on the hook for 40 hours of community service with the Las Vegas Habitat for Humanity Project under a South Carolina federal judge's order for dodging a deposition in a music rights lawsuit.

Mayweather has a Jan. 31 deadline on that court order. Habitat for Humanity official Catherine Barnes said Wednesday that Mayweather had not started to log the hours.

Saragosa said Wednesday she was persuaded to jail Mayweather following his admission that he hit Harris and twisted her arm, and that two of their children, ages 9 and 10, witnessed the attack.

Mayweather threatened to kill or make Harris "disappear," Saragosa said, and their 10-year-old son ran from the house and jumped a back gate to fetch security. Mayweather had taken cellphones belonging to Harris and the two boys.

"Things could have gotten more out of hand than they did," the judge said.

Prosecutor Lisa Luzaich cited three previous domestic violence arrests for scuffles involving Harris, with whom Mayweather has three children, and three cases involving another woman with whom Mayweather has one child.

Fines were of no consequence to Mayweather, Luzaich said.

Mayweather goes by the nickname "Money," and was guaranteed $25 million for the Ortiz fight that won him the WBC's welterweight belt. Mayweather earned more than $20 million in a previous fight against "Sugar" Shane Mosley.

Mayweather has been arrested several times since 2002 in battery and violence cases in Las Vegas and in his hometown of Grand Rapids, Mich.

He was convicted in 2002 of misdemeanor battery stemming from a fight with two women at a Las Vegas nightclub. He received a suspended one-year jail sentence and was ordered to undergo impulse-control counseling.

He was fined in Grand Rapids in February 2005 and ordered to perform community service after pleading no contest to misdemeanor assault and battery for a bar fight.

He was acquitted by a Nevada jury in July 2005 after being accused of hitting and kicking Harris during an argument outside a Las Vegas nightclub.

He was acquitted again in October of misdemeanor allegations that he threatened two homeowner association security guards during a parking ticket argument.

Mayweather also faces a civil lawsuit in Las Vegas from two men who allege he orchestrated a shooting attack on them outside a skating rink in 2009. Police have never accused Mayweather of firing shots and he has never been criminally charged in the case.


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Friday, December 23, 2011

Smashburger named most?promising of '11

What if someone told you the most promising company in America aimed to compete with multiple multibillion-dollar giants in a traditional industry with un-software-like profit margins? Then what if they told you that the same company had clocked explosive growth through the deepest recession in recent memory ? and it was just getting started?

Meet Smashburger, tops on our new list of America?s 100 Most Promising Companies ? privately held up-and-comers with compelling business models, strong management teams, notable customers, strategic partners and precious investment capital. Since 2007, the Denver-headquartered patty chain will have grown to 143 locations (half company-owned, half franchised) and $54 million in annual revenue by the end of 2011. Another 450 franchise agreements are already on the books. slideshow: See which companies made the ranking

The companies on our AMPC list hail from 22 industries, with software-and-services taking the biggest slice (35 percent). Some fast facts: 90 have raised outside capital; 70 have a CEO who is also one of the founders; 12 have one younger than 35 years old; 7 have yet to generate revenue; and one sells a burger topped with pastrami. None of these outfits may blossom into the next Google or Apple, but all, it appears, have bright futures.

Take BOKU, at No. 2. Founded in 2008, the company (fiscal 2010 sales: $55 million) creates software that helps online merchants process payments using a customer?s cell phone number in place of a credit card; it then takes a small cut of each transaction. Big customers include Facebook and Electronic Arts. BOKU has raised $42 million in venture capital from stalwarts Andreesen Horowitz, Khosla Ventures and others. Founders Mark Britto, Ron Hirson and Erich Ringewald have each sold companies they founded or lead.

Digital Broadcasting Group, at No. 3, launched in 2006. It produces online videos ? marketing disguised as entertainment ? for corporations and places them (as well as traditional video ads) among a network of 2,600 websites. Customers include Wal-Mart Stores, American Express, Coca-Cola and Ford. CEO Chris Young sold KlipMart, an online video ad company, to Doubleclick in 2006.

Those are the kind of ingredients promising companies are made of ? which leads us to the point of this whole exercise.

You?d have to be living under the dirt that?s under the rock not to have noticed that the business press loves rankings. Readers devour, dissect and debate them. More to the point, rankings sell advertising ? and that leads to more rankings.

Company rankings are a popular confection, if often an ultimately unsatisfying one. That?s because most are based on a single metric (such as revenue, assets or market capitalization) and don?t take a comprehensive approach to evaluating a business? health ? or more importantly, its potential.

Sizing up younger, privately held firms is even harder. Their fortunes can change very quickly, and they aren?t obliged to share their plans and finances with the public. The default: Cajole as many companies as possible into revealing their annual sales figures and stack them accordingly.

These short cuts are understandable given the effort, resources and skill deeper due diligence requires ? not to mention the abiding fascination with rankings, however unenlightening they might be.

How, then, to find hidden gems with scintillating prospects?

To sharpen our search, FORBES teamed up with CB Insights, a New York City-based data firm that tracks investment in high-growth private companies. With $650,000 in grants from the National Science Foundation, CB Insights has developed complex software called Mosaic to help lenders and investors dole out capital more efficiently. We married Mosaic?s data-crunching with old-fashioned reporting to assemble a list of up-and-comers with big growth potential.

Mosaic mines data from 30,000 sources (from press releases and social networks to job boards and court filings) to come up with one score that measures a company?s potential. Think of it as the SAT score for private companies ? something that lenders, investors and vendors can use to quickly gauge whom they want to do business with. ?Five years from now we expect Mosaic will help the best private companies access capital at more favorable terms and win more customers,? says CB Insights cofounder Anand Sanwal, 38.

Mosaic?s algorithms look at a host of signals that collectively paint a picture of a company?s health. Example: If turnover in the management ranks is ticking up, that?s a negative signal. A new distribution deal with a large strategic partner is a favorable signal. The hard part: extracting all those ?digital footprints? (job postings, product reviews, press reports, debt filings ? all in different digital formats) and assembling them in a meaningful way.

There are two powerful advantages to this approach. First, aggregating data from thousands of sources would take far too long to do by hand. Second: ?Mosaic assesses these dimensions not just on an absolute basis but relative to competitors,? adds Sanwal. ?It implicitly considers relative performance.?

Our hunt began with a free online survey. Entrepreneurs could nominate their own companies or be nominated by those familiar with their businesses (lawyers, accountants, p.r. types). Contenders had to be privately held, for-profit, stand-alone businesses (as opposed to divisions of bigger firms). Companies that hadn?t yet generated revenue but had compelling business models were given a look, too.

(To encourage participation, we offered contenders the chance to be selected to attend a two-and-a-half day small business boot camp at Aileron, in Dayton, Ohio, established by billionaire pet food titan Clay Mathile. Scroll down to the Video section of the America?s Most Promising Companies lander page to see Mathile conduct one-on-one mentoring sessions with four AMPC list members. Click here for highlights from our own 90-minute chat with Mathile.)

Using the Mosaic score as a preliminary ranking, we honed the list by gathering additional data via a second, more detailed survey (also free) to get a better sense of each company?s growth potential. We asked for annual revenue and the number of employees for 2008 and 2010, and estimates for 2011. (Companies had to verify existing revenue via a corporate tax return or an accounting opinion letter from an independent accounting firm.) We also took into account the size of the addressable market, the strength of major competitors, the experience of the management team, any significant customers and strategic partnerships, the amount of outside capital raised and how much of the founders? own stash was on the line (the more the better). Then we spoke with representatives of each company to confirm the information and get additional color on their operations.

Our ranking of 100 promising companies is chocked with interesting outfits poised to take off. Here are a few more names and nuggets from the Top 20:

No. 7 ? Allonhill
Annual revenue (latest fiscal year): $19.3 million

Founded in 2008, the company audits individual residential mortgage loan files for institutions that buy or sell mortgage-backed securities. Everything from the borrower?s income and property value to the authenticity of signatures gets a look from one of Allonhill?s 530 employees. Founder and CEO Sue Allon funded the company with proceeds from the sale of her last company, Murrayhill, which also managed risk for mortgage securities, in 2004.

No. 11 ? uSamp
Annual revenue (latest fiscal year): $22.7 million

Founded in 2008, the company makes online-survey software and has a network of 6.5 million respondents globally in its stable. The company charges according to the number and demographics of the respondents. J.D. Power & Associates is a marquee customer. Co-founders Gregg Lavin and Matt Dusig are childhood friends who together launched and sold two previous companies. They raised $10 million in venture capital from Openview Partners in 2010.

No. 14 ? Contour
Annual revenue (latest fiscal year): $15.1 million

Makes small, rugged cameras that athletes attach to their helmets or bodies for hands-free recording. Each camera comes with free video editing software; other features include a Bluetooth connection that turns a user?s mobile phone into a viewfinder. Sells through Best Buy and Dick?s Sporting Goods. Marc Barros and Jason Green started the company in 2003 after winning $20,000 at an undergraduate business plan competition. They raised $5 million from Montlake Capital and Black Oak Capital in November 2010.

No. 19 ? IntegriChain
Annual revenue (latest fiscal year): $5.7 million

Founded in 2007, the company makes software for pharmaceutical companies looking for a better window into their ?forward supply chains? ? that is, sales and inventory data from distributors and local pharmacies. (Say you wanted to tally the inventory at a single pharmacy, or even see the number of units that pharmacy sold on any given day.) Clients ? including Novartis, Johnson & Johnson, and GlaxoSmithKline ? sign three- to five-year contracts for access to IntegriChain?s dashboard which can display data myriad ways to make sales teams more efficient. The company raised $3.25 million in venture capital in early 2011.

More from

? 2011


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Samsung Illusion (Verizon Wireless)

Samsung makes some top-quality smartphones, but doesn't bestow them upon Verizon Wireless often. Sure, there's the new Galaxy Nexus?($299.99, 4 stars), but Android 4.0 aside, it lags behind Motorola's latest offering, the Droid RAZR ($299.99, 4.5 stars). The Samsung Illusion ($79.99 with a two-year contract) doesn't stand a chance against either of those two devices, but then again, it isn't trying to. Like many other Samsung phones for Verizon, the Illusion is a decent, midrange option, although it feels like it should be free with contract. It lacks 4G, and you don't have to look hard or spend more than $100 with contract to find something better.

Design and Call Quality
The Samsung Illusion measures 4.5 by 2.4 by 0.5 inches (HWD) and weighs 4.2 ounces. It's made entirely of plastic, with a textured back panel. Unlike the gigantic Galaxy Nexus, the Illusion is a comfortable size to hold for any hand. The 3.5-inch, 320-by-480-pixel capacitive touch screen is bright and vibrant, though that resolution is disappointingly low. I would have much preferred to see the 800-by-480 screens that are now becoming standard. I had no problem typing on the onscreen QWERTY keyboard with accuracy. Four touch functions keys sit beneath the display, which are suitably responsive.

The Illusion is a dual-band EV-DO Rev A (800/1900MHz) with 802.11a/b/g/n Wi-Fi. You can also use the phone as a mobile hotspot with the appropriate plan to provide a Wi-Fi connection for up to five devices. But while there are still plenty of 3G phones coming out for Verizon, the carrier's 4G network now covers 200 million Americans; a lack of 4G is a definite minus in my book.

Voice quality is excellent. Reception is average, and incoming calls sound rich and clear, with volume that can go extremely loud. On the other end, calls made with the phone are equally clear and feature good background noise cancellation. The speakerphone sounds fine, though it's a little low for outdoor use. Calls sounded clear and natural through a?Jawbone Era?Bluetooth headset ($129, 4.5 stars) and voice dialing worked accurately. Battery life was excellent at 8 hours, 10 minutes of talk time.

Hardware, Android, and Apps
Inside, the Illusion is powered by the same 1GHz Cortex A8-based Hummingbird CPU found in the?4G Samsung Droid Charge?($199.99, 4 stars) as well as last year's Samsung Galaxy S line. It's decently fast, though it lags far behind dual-core devices like the Motorola Droid Bionic?($199.99, 4.5 stars).

The Illusion runs Android 2.3.5 (Gingerbread) with Samsung's TouchWiz UI layer. It isn't as all-encompassing as HTC's Sense UI, but it adds some nice color and graphic enhancements. There are five customizable home screens that come preloaded with some useful apps and widgets. Verizon has added some undeletable bloatware to the Illusion, but no more than you find in most Android phones nowadays. There are no plans so far for an upgrade to Android 4.0 "Ice Cream Sandwich."

You get Google Maps Navigation for voice-enabled, turn-by-turn GPS directions, along with some other useful, preinstalled apps. Of course, you also have your pick of more than 250,000+ apps from the Android Market, most of which should work well on the Illusion.

Multimedia and Conclusions
There's a side-mounted microSD card slot on the left side of the Illusion, which is a big plus. Samsung includes a 2GB card, but our 32GB and 64GB SanDisk cards worked fine. You also get 990MB of free internal storage.

Music sounded good over both wired 3.5mm headphones as well as?Altec Lansing BackBeat?Bluetooth headphones ($99.99, 3.5 stars). The Illusion was able to play AAC, MP3, OGG, WAV, and WMA test files, but not FLAC. All of our video test files played back without a hitch, at resolutions up to 720p.

The 3.2-megapixel camera is disappointing. Though it snaps photos in a quick .3 second, it lacks auto-focus or an LED flash. Test photos look decent, with average color and detail, but they're no replacement for an average digital camera. The camera also captures 720-by-480 (DVD quality, not HD) video at a smooth 30 frames per second both indoors and out.

Throughout the course of my testing, I kept finding myself thinking, why isn't this phone free? The Illusion has the makings of an excellent entry-level smartphone, the kind you get for free with a two-year contract. While it's a solid starter device, there are too many other good options on Verizon in the same price range to recommend it highly.

The Samsung Stratosphere?($99.99, 3.5 stars) gets you access to Verizon's 4G LTE network along with a much nicer display and a physical QWERTY keyboard for just $20 more than the Illusion. The Pantech Breakout?($99.99, 3.5 stars) drops the keyboard, but also has 4G LTE and a better display. Then there's the iPhone 4?($99, 4 stars), which isn't 4G, but has a gorgeous display and the best app selection out there. All three beat the Illusion handily, showing that this might be the right budget Android phone, but it's being sold for the wrong price.

Continuous talk time: 8 hours 10 minutes

More Cell Phone Reviews:
??? Samsung Illusion (Verizon Wireless)
??? Samsung Galaxy Nexus (Verizon Wireless)
??? LG Optimus Slider (Virgin Mobile)
??? Samsung Focus S (AT&T)
??? Apple iPhone 4S (AT&T)
?? more


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Monday, December 19, 2011

Kim Jong Il, a Cold War-era leader in modern times (AP)

PYONGYANG, North Korea ? Even as the world changed around him, North Korean leader Kim Jong Il remained firmly in control, ruling absolutely at home and keeping the rest of the world on edge through a nuclear weapons program.

Inheriting power from his father, he led his nation through a devastating famine while frustrating the U.S. and other global powers with an on-again, off-again approach to talks on giving up nuclear arms in return for food and other assistance. Kim was one of the last remnants of a Cold War-era that ended years earlier in most other countries.

His death after 17 years as leader was announced Monday by state television two days after he died. North Korea's news agency reported that he had died at 8:30 a.m. Saturday after having a heart attack on a train, adding that he had been treated for cardiac and cerebrovascular diseases for a long time. He was 69.

Kim, who reputedly had a taste for cigars, cognac and gourmet cuisine, is believed to have suffered a stroke in 2008 but he had appeared relatively vigorous in photos and video from recent trips to China and Russia and in numerous trips around the country documented by state media.

His longtime pursuit of nuclear weapons and his military's repeated threats to South Korea and the U.S. stoked worries that fighting might break out again on the Korean peninsula or that North Korea might provide weapons of mass destruction to terrorist movements. The Korean War ended more than 50 years ago in a cease-fire, and the two sides remain technically in a state of war.

Kim Jong Il took power after his father, revered North Korean founder Kim Il Sung, died in 1994. He unveiled his third son, the twenty-something Kim Jong Un, as his successor in September 2010, putting him in high-ranking posts. On Monday, the North Korean news agency dubbed the son a "great successor" as the country rallied around him.

Few firm facts are available when it comes to North Korea, and not much is clear about Kim Jong Il, the man known as the "Dear Leader."

North Korean legend has it that Kim was born on Mount Paektu, one of Korea's most cherished sites, in 1942, a birth heralded in the heavens by a pair of rainbows and a brilliant new star. Soviet records, however, indicate he was born in Siberia, in 1941.

His father, who for years fought for independence from Korea's colonial ruler, Japan, from a base in Russia, emerged as a communist leader after returning to Korea in 1945.

With the peninsula divided between the Soviet-administered north and the U.S.-administered south, Kim Il Sung rose to power as North Korea's first leader in 1948. He meshed Stalinist ideology with a cult of personality that encompassed him and his son. Their portraits hang in every building in North Korea, and every dutiful North Korean wears a Kim Il Sung lapel pin.

Kim Jong Il, a graduate of Pyongyang's Kim Il Sung University, was 33 when his father anointed him his eventual successor.

Even before he took over as leader, there were signs the younger Kim would maintain ? and perhaps exceed ? his father's hard-line stance.

South Korea has accused Kim of masterminding a 1983 bombing that killed 17 South Korean officials visiting Burma, now known as Myanmar. In 1987, the bombing of a Korean Air flight killed all 115 people on board; a North Korean agent who confessed to planting the device said Kim had ordered the downing of the plane.

When Kim came to power in 1994, he had been groomed for 20 years to become leader. He eventually took the posts of chairman of the National Defense Commission, commander of the Korean People's Army and head of the ruling Worker's Party. His father remained as North Korea's "eternal president."

He continued his father's policy of "military first," devoting much of the country's scarce resources to its troops ? even as his people suffered from a prolonged famine ? and built the world's fifth-largest military.

Kim also sought to build up the country's nuclear arms arsenal, leading to North Korea's first nuclear test, an underground blast conducted in October 2006. Another test came in 2009, prompting U.N. sanctions.

Alarmed, regional leaders negotiated a disarmament-for-aid pact that the North signed in 2007 and began implementing later that year. The process has since stalled, though diplomats are working to restart negotiations.

North Korea, long hampered by sanctions and unable to feed its own people, is desperate for aid. Flooding in the 1990s that destroyed the largely mountainous country's arable land left millions hungry.

Following the famine, the number of North Koreans fleeing the country rose dramatically, with many telling tales of hunger, political persecution and rights abuses that officials in Pyongyang emphatically denied.

Kim often blamed the U.S. for his country's troubles and his regime routinely derides Washington-allied South Korea as a "puppet" of the Western superpower.

Former U.S. President George W. Bush described Kim as a tyrant. "Look, Kim Jong Il is a dangerous person. He's a man who starves his people. He's got huge concentration camps. And ... there is concern about his capacity to deliver a nuclear weapon," Bush said in 2005.

Defectors from North Korea describe Kim as an eloquent and tireless orator, primarily to the military units that form the base of his support.

He also made numerous trips to factories and other sites to offer what North Korea calls "field guidance." As recently as last week, the North's news agency reported on trips to a supermarket and a music and dance center.

"In order to run the center in an effective way, he said, it is important above all to collect a lot of art pieces including Korean music and world famous music," the Korean Central News Agency story read in part.

The world's best glimpse of the man was in 2000, when a liberal South Korean government's conciliatory "sunshine" policy toward the North culminated in the first-ever summit between the two Koreas. A second summit was held in 2007 with South Korea's Roh Moo-hyun.

Kim was said to have cultivated wide interests, including professional basketball, cars and foreign films. He reportedly produced several North Korean films as well, mostly historical epics with an ideological tinge.

A South Korean film director claimed Kim even kidnapped him and his movie star wife in the late 1970s, spiriting them back to North Korea to make movies for him for a decade before they managed to escape from their North Korean agents during a trip to Austria.

Kim rarely traveled abroad and then only by train because of an alleged fear of flying, once heading all the way by luxury rail car to Moscow, indulging in his taste for fine food along the way.

One account of Kim's lavish lifestyle came from Konstantin Pulikovsky, a former Russian presidential envoy who wrote the book "The Orient Express" about Kim's train trip through Russia in July and August 2001.

Pulikovsky, who accompanied the North Korean leader, said Kim's 16-car private train was stocked with crates of French wine. Live lobsters were delivered in advance to stations.

A Japanese cook later claimed he was Kim's personal sushi chef for a decade, writing that Kim had a wine cellar stocked with 10,000 bottles, and that, besides sushi, Kim ate shark's fin soup ? a rare delicacy ? weekly.

"His banquets often started at midnight and lasted until morning. The longest lasted for four days," the chef, who goes by the pseudonym Kenji Fujimoto, was quoted as saying.

Kim is believed to have curbed his indulgent ways in recent years and looked slimmer in more recent video footage aired by North Korea's state-run broadcaster.

Disputing accounts that Kim was "peculiar," former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright characterized Kim as intelligent and well-informed, saying the two had wide-ranging discussions during her visits to Pyongyang when Bill Clinton was U.S. president. "I found him very much on top of his brief," she said.

Kim's marital status wasn't clear but he is believed to have married once and had at least three other companions. He had at least three sons with two women, as well as a daughter by a third.

His eldest son, Kim Jong Nam, 38, is believed to have fallen out of favor with his father after he was caught trying to enter Japan on a fake passport in 2001 saying he wanted to visit Disney's Tokyo resort.

His two other sons by another woman, Kim Jong Chol and Kim Jong Un, are in their 20s. Their mother reportedly died several years ago.


Lee reported from Seoul, South Korea.


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