Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Copyright 101.2 : Columbia Journalism Review

How CopyrightX managed to convince hundreds of online students to stick with a course on copyright law

CopyrightX, an online course run out of Harvard this spring as part of the EdX program, was unusual in a couple of ways. It might not strictly be called a MOOC?a massive open online course?because it wasn?t open. More than four thousand people applied, and enrollment was capped at 500. Half of the selected students were women. There were equal number of students from the United States and from other countries. Students outside the US came from 70 different countries, in total. The youngest student was 13, the oldest 83. Although CopyrightX was a class about copyright law, only thirty of the 500 students were lawyers.

And these students stuck with the course. Most online courses have an appalling rate of attrition. Students start out with the best of intentions. But week after week, lecture after long, academic lecture, commitment flags. Usually around 90 percent of students drop out. For CopyrightX, two-thirds of those students made it through until the end. Fully half of them took the final exam ?a typically grueling and mind-bending, four-hour law school take-home test, not much different from the exam Prof. Fisher gave Harvard Law School students.

?We built this course in part to engage people on a sustained basis, and they stuck with it,? Fisher says. The course?s design helped deliver that outcome: a team at Harvard spent months before the course thinking about how it would work. They focused on creating small groups, led by Harvard Law teaching fellows, that would meet regularly online to discuss course materials. The teaching fellows and the project?s coordinator, Nathaniel Levy, met regularly during the spring term to assess how the tools they were using to engage online students were working. But that deliberate design included the choice of materials, too. Fisher teaches real property law, legal history, and the various subfields of intellectual property law, and among those options he chose copyright as the subject of the course for a reason.

?All of the subfields of intellectual property are very important from an economics standpoint now, but copyright is the most culturally significant,? he says. ?It influences the most diverse array of cultural practices? It permeates our life. It seemed a subject appropriate for an audience that I expected would be predominantly non-lawyers.?

Many of the students worked in fields where copyright law affected their work and livelihood?film, photography, software design, library science, and music. These are people who copyright law is meant to serve and who, proponents of copyright reform often say, are being badly served by a law that?s difficult for non-lawyers to understand. But it does seem that?for anyone willing to devote hours each week to law lectures and discussion sections?it is possible.

The CopyrightX class ran parallel to Fisher?s traditional Harvard Law class on copyright, and the two courses shared materials. The recorded lectures that CopyrightX students watched had to be at the same level as lectures prepared for some of the smartest law students in the country, because those students were watching them, too, in place of some of their more traditional lecture sections. If anything, Fisher says, the lectures were ?more sophisticated than I congenitally produce in class, because I had more time to prepare them.? Some CopyrightX students initially struggled to adapt to the difficulty of reading dry case law, but, like any law student, they got the hang of it quickly enough. By the end of the course, it was clear that ?people without any legal training can embed knowledge of copyright law into their own work and play,? says Fisher.

Although the CopyrightX was successful, limiting enrollment posed a problem. Fisher is committed to openness in education, a principle in tension with the decision to limit the class? size. As a partial solution, Fisher made all the materials for the course available online, under a Creative Commons license, and invited others to lead their own version of the course.

One group that took up this challenge (at the urging of another Harvard Law professor) was based in Jamaica and led by Sarah Hsia Hall, a Harvard Law graduate. This group aimed to explore a simple question: ?How can we shape copyright law in a way that enables us to better mobilize our creative content?? Jamaica has a remarkably high debt-per-capita ratio, but it also has Jimmy Cliff, Toots and the Maytals, and Bob Marley.

?Copyright mobilizes creative content, and creative content is what Jamaica does best,? says Hall.

Like the enrolled CopyrightX students, Hall?s group watched Fisher?s lectures each week and met in a small group. ?I would edit the reading for length because my crew was not a set of hard-core academics,? she said. When she could, she used examples from Jamaica of the issues they were discussing. Her class included law students, one of Jamaica?s biggest music producers, the head of the country?s IP office, a high-ranking judge, an art critics, a visual artist, a prolific reggae writer and singer, and a record distributor and house music producer. Copyright discussions can get rowdy, and with such a diverse group of students with strong opinions, there was always some discord in the discussions, Hall said.

?They were hearing perspectives that they?d never heard before,? she says. ?The judge would say these things and the whole class was like ?What??? But it was great because they got to see what the practical judicial perspective is versus the creative perspective.?

Although, in the lectures, Fisher presents various ways of understanding the law, he, too, has a perspective, on how both copyright and legal online education should work. To get a better sense of his view on copyright, check out Lecture 10 from CopyrightX. To get a better sense of his view on online legal education, consider applying for the class next year, when it will be offered again.

?The goal is to create, in an online setting, the kind of supervised discussions?discussions moderated by people who know the subject?that grip people and direct them along paths that are enlightening. It?s that combination that creates value,? Fisher says. ?My goal is to make that value available widely, without charging.?

Disclosure: CJR has received funding from the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) to cover intellectual-property issues, but the organization has no influence on the content.

Sarah Laskow is a writer and editor in New York City. Her work has appeared in print and online in Grist, Good, The American Prospect, Salon, The New Republic, and other publications.


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The very best way to book a Cruise around the Yangtze River Useful ...

The best method to book a Cruise around the Yangtze River Utilize This Guidance To make sure Your Journey Goes Efficiently

You will find lots of factors why anyone would wish to guide some sort of sail inside the Yangtze River. By subtracting a cruise along the Yangtze, you?ve allow you to notice direct a lot of landscapes of China. You are able to have cruise down the Yangtze to explore a history associated with the far east and go to spots including the Precious Stone Fortress. Within the event historical past isn?t the factor, you?re in a position to book any cruise in which demonstrates you the many natural miracles that are section of the landscape related using the far east, for example the Excellent skiing circumstances Jade Cave. Generally there truly is simply no limit that will help you ability if you publication a sail over the Yangtze River, even though none of their can happen unless you learn how you can begin arranging a holiday cruise to start with.

Selecting the best cruise

Select a new sail about the Yangtze River is usually acquiring a cruise you need to continue. While it may be such as a strange technique to become in a position to book a luxury cruise along this river, this really is really large company in China. Numerous cruise companies provide you cruise trips for the Yangtze and offer their specific people a number of diverse cruise sorts. This step may take a bit of time because of the fact presently there is a great deal you?re able to select. You?re able to haveoption for website experiencing holiday cruises, culinary holiday voyages plus a lot more. Regardless of what your own preference, you are certain to find a cruise to match all of them.

Making your reservation for Verse on your own cruise

As soon as you have observed this cruise you intend to take, the following thing is clearly reserving passageway. On this stage, you may select not merely the specific ship you will be traveling upon but other regions from the itinerary. For example, if you have to comprehend the wholesome points of interest along the Yangtze, you?ll have to have the ability to choose out pieces of your itinerary in which will help you to do that. Some factor to be aware of when you are making your reservation for passing is really which will when you create adventures you will by natural means raise the expense of one?s vacation. While you need not enable that control people a great deal of, it truly is some factor you ought to keep in mind.

Preparing for the Cruise

As soon as you have one cruise, the following phase is preparing for your own sail. We?ve a plenty of preparation to be nearly any sail nonetheless undertaking the interview process luxury cruise within Tiongkok usually requires much more as compared to you need to consider. Not simply do you need to make sure you employ a current passport even though China demands you to create application for a visa traveling at this time there as well. As China goverment induces travel and leisure together with desires you to spend cash into their nation, these individuals nonetheless possess a sturdy trend toward management along with desire to be certain many individuals understand who?s inside their state. Upon having used submitting for all you proper paperwork, you will have to hold out a little while to acquire all your a variety of visas and tends to make it possible for accepted.

Together with submitting the many right papers carry out and creating certain there?s a existing passport, anyone need to make sure you you?ll need to travel extensively likewise. Even though packing for the getaway may be some thing the majority of us comprehend how you can carry out, you will need to take a number of problems note. Initial, you have to know exactly what this environment will likely be including for the part of the Yangtze you are vacationing on. Your Yangtze River per se exercises pertaining to a sizable quantity of mile after mile and also shield gusts of wind through a number of distinctive climbs. Aspects of the water vacation through mountains although the rest breeze via flatlands land. Numerous places have got their very own distinctive circumstances styles and you?ll want to prepare for no matter what conditions you might cope with.

Together with packaging to your journey, you might want to go to a medical physician before you head. When an individual go to a few location you have got by no means ever been lately prior to, you encounter bacteria along with infections your body?s unaccustomed for you to. Merely by finding a health care provider and also sharing with these of one?s choices to journey to China and taiwan, they will present you with ideas concerning the ultimate method to appear following oneself. In addition to a visit to your physician, be sure you invest some time prior to trip using a variety of nutritional vitamin supplements to become particular your method is generally as balanced as is possible. As long as you?re unlikely to acquire unwell by yourself cruise trip, getting security measures to become certain you never is likely to create the experience additional satisfying. Remember your method will require some time to adjust to a brand new location and this you need a extra rest in comparison with usual.

Other Things to think about

Because the more than data addresses the basics connected with scheduling holiday about the Yangtze, there are a few other activities you maythink about. When you intend to take photos or perhaps video media, you ought to be sure you can find absolutely no local regulations. Understand that while China is being released in to the world, the idea even now has a great deal of isolationist details regarding watch. Also, it may be beneficial to evaluate the numerous ethnicities you can possibly connect to. China may be one land nonetheless it is actually consists of any overwelming variety of persons along with some of them include various ways of life which may be worth understanding.

In the finish, making your reservation for any cruise about the Yangtze is usually a pretty easy method. Although there exists a whole lot you need to do to prepared to your getaway, most likely none concerning it?s truly in which complex. In the event you have any issues regarding what you should or maybe ought not take, the great factor to attempt and do the item talk using the corporation an individual scheduled your luxury cruise by means of. Ought to they?ll not have the info you?d like, the costa rica government of China features some top notch websites which may be targeted at aiding guests much better comprehend the actual laws and regulations and methods for the nation. Do not forget that China does want somebody to arrive nevertheless they in addition want you to admiration their way of life also. Arranging a brand new cruise for the Yangtze is the very best method to view the numerous amazing things from the far east that is not really one thing you need to please take a pass about.

You will find various explanations why you?d like to book a luxury cruise for the Yangtze River. By subtracting a cruise down the Yangtze,e an opportunity to uncover firsthand a great deal from the wonders associated with China. You have to make use of the cruise trip down the Yangtze to check out a history of China and visit places such as Important Gemstone Castle. When background isn?t really your personal issue, you can book a luxury cruise which demonstrates to you the various organic incredible things that are the main panorama concerning China and taiwan, like the Precious Stone Fortress. There is really not any restriction for you personally for your ability when you publication a brand new luxury cruise along the Yangtze Water, but it is unlikely that any from the occasionally happen in the event you learn how you can start scheduling the cruise trip within the initial place.

Selecting the very best Cruise trip

Select within creating your reservation for the sail about the Yangtze River is actually locating a luxury cruise you would like to continue on. While it may be as being a strange thought in order to publication an additional cruise trip with a pond, this is really big enterprise in Cina. A number of cruise lines provide voyages for the Yangtze and offer their people many different different cruise forms. This specific phase generally requires a bit period because at this time there?s really an excellent deal you?ll have the ability to choose kind. You?re in a position to select internet website experiencing cruises, team cooking travel and leisure cruises and more. What ever the taste, you are likely to locate a cruise to match these individuals.

Arranging your personal cruise

Following you?ve observed the actual cruise trip you wish to take, the following thing is to book verse. With this stage, you might choose not just the actual dispatch you might be touring on however the rest of one?s vacation plans. For instance, in the event you would prefer to see the organic sights around the Yangtze, you will have an chance to select pieces of your itinerary which will permit you to do that. You need to bear in mind while you are reserving verse is the fact that because you put things you are able to do you will naturally improve the price on ones excursion. While you shouldn?t let this limit you an excessive amount of, it is something you should keep in mind

Be ready for The Sail

Whenever you have your cruise set up, the following job is successfully navigating your own sail. There?s a lot of prep to go on practically any vacation cruise but a weight holiday cruise inside China and taiwan normally requires much more compared to you?d probably consider. Not merely is it essential to you should definitely use a current passport nonetheless Cina demands that you make application for a visa to search generally there likewise. As you move the China govt encourages tourism together with desires somebody to spend money inside their state, numerous individuals nevertheless employ a sturdy trend in the path of management as well as want to make sure that they recognize who is in their state. Once you have experienced processing for the proper records, you?ll have to wait a couple weeks to obtain your a number of visas and allow accepted.

Along with submitting all of the suitable document function and becoming confident that you have a newest passport, you have to make sure you are prepared to travel substantially also. Even though packing for a excursion is really anything most people discover how to complete, you will want to carry several points into mind. Initial, you must know precisely what the atmosphere is going to be like for the part of the Yangtze you happen to be travelling in. This Yangtze Riv itself workouts for 1000s of mls as well as cope with truly agitates via numerous various distinct climbs. Regions from the river take a trip by way of mountains though other locations wind as a result of flatlands terrain. Each among the places have their very own unique climate patterns as well as you really need to organize what ever circumstances you may have experience.

In addition to taking for the journey, you may wish to go to a well being practitioner before heading. Each time anybody visit a couple of place you have by no means been recently prior to, you?ve confronted germs along with worms that a is unaccustomed to. By means of finding a doctor and revealing to these of the choices to visit Tiongkok, they?re able to supply you with advice on the apparent method to care for oneself. Also as a go to for your healthcare expert, make sure you invest some time ahead of the journey acquiring numerous different nutritional vitamins to make sure the body is generally as balanced as you possibly can. While you aren?t likely to get ill around the cruise, obtaining precautions to ensure that you simply don?t will make the knowledge additional enjoyable. Keep in mind that the physique demands a little whilst to sit in the latest spot and this you might require a little much more rest than common.

Various other Factors

While the above facts information the fundamentals connected with booking a trip about the Yangtze, there are a few things you may want to look at as well. If you prefer to take images or perhaps online video, you may want to make certain there are not any neighborhood laws in opposition to doing this. Do not forget that while Tiongkok is actually coming out to the entire world, the idea however provides lots of isolationist things connected with. Moreover, it may be helpful to review different chances you?ll interact with. China might be a single nation it is consists of some sorts of overwelming a number of people and some of them get different practices which might be worth understanding.

In the end, reserving a vacation in the Yangtze is a relatively painless process. While there?s a lot you want to do to for the vacation, it?s unlikely that any of it is of which is dificult. For those who have any queries in relation to exactly what you need or maybe ought not carry, a good thing to complete it consult with the provider you reserved ones cruise trip by means of. Should they lack the information you are searching for, the federal government connected with Cina has a number of great internet websites that are directed at assisting readers better understand your legislation as well as options for his or her nation. Do not forget that Cina will want one to appear nevertheless they additionally wish someone to esteem their particular way of life also. Reserving a cruise trip about the Yangtze can be a powerful way to start to see the a lot of amazing things of China which is not really a thing you ought to have a give.

Newbies and experts equally ought to do some research prior to organizing a trip to make sure they deal with every detail just before they abandon. The following advice may help you make reliable vacation selections at every period of the journey, including the organizing procedure. Thinking of each of the entertaining you have to be experiencing on your journey, discover all you could now and have these details out of the way.

Expand your legs as soon as per hour or maybe more when you?re with a extended air travel. You can do this by walking to the restroom, even when you don?t need to go. Inflexible muscle tissues and thrombus can happen if you are fixed for days on end.

Arranging on the web is a terrific way to begin your vacation preparing. For support planning your vacation, let a journey internet site enable you to. Resorts, air flights, and hire vehicles can all be arranged directly from the computer. Reviews and photographs of hotels can be found on the net. A lot of traveling internet sites even assist you in the direction of finding discounts.

Ask for a space located on a better flooring. Criminals will probably break into a ground floor residence. You should also decide on a room with out sliding entrance doors whenever possible. Glass or sliding doorways are easier to problems.

When you plan what apparel to use on a getaway, take into account what products can be used for more than one day time. For instance, a number of things, like boots, could go with a variety of your clothes. This should help you minimize the level of clothes and footwear you need to load up for your personal vacation.

Create all your facts about a tag on the luggage if you are vacationing. If you drop your items, an individual may well send them back in your street address. Fixing a tag will take just a few moments and might most likely save your valuable vacation.

Continue to keep all of your current luggage discovered with the name, house street address and cellular phone number over a noticeable, resilient tag within every piece of your own travel luggage once you vacation. This is beneficial in case the tag on your luggage will get separate. By doing this, whenever your luggage is located, it could be returned for you. If you let your travel luggage to stray out of your area of eyesight, you might never look at it once again.

With a little luck, you had the ability to locate assistance from the tips on this page in planning for your forthcoming vacation, either to a international nation or a local destination. Irrespective, if you are planning forward, your holiday will certainly be rewarding, interesting and something that you will always remember.


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Kerry to Mideast to advance struggling Syria plan

WASHINGTON (AP) ? Secretary of State John Kerry is heading back to the Middle East this week to press his case for peace talks between Syrian rebels and President Bashar Assad's regime amid increasing signs the new U.S. strategy to halt the war is being undermined by Russia.

Kerry departs Monday for discussions with the sultan of Oman. He then goes to Jordan to gather with 10 of America's closest European and Arab partners to discuss how to advance a political transition and end more than two years of bloodshed in Syria, before traveling on to Israel.

For the Syria negotiations to succeed, the Obama administration is banking on Russia's help.

The U.S. and Russia have wrangled repeatedly while more than 70,000 Syrians have died, but they now say they're working together to start direct talks between Syria's government and the opposition in Geneva next month. Washington demands Assad's ouster, while Russia continues to provide the Syrian leader with military aid and diplomatic cover, but President Barack Obama this week said the meeting "may yield results."

The optimism echoes the message of Kerry, who during his Moscow visit earlier this month declared that the old Cold War foes, by rejuvenating Syrian peace hopes, were demonstrating how they "can accomplish great things together when the world needs it."

For all the heady talk of cooperation, however, Russia has continued to rebuff American demands that it cut off military support for Assad.

Moscow is preparing to give Syria state-of-the-art ground-to-air missile systems, Israeli officials say. It is beefing up its naval presence near its base in northwestern Syria, reports suggest. And, in the latest revelation, U.S. officials say Russia has provided the Assad regime with anti-ship cruise missiles.

Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the transfer of the advanced anti-ship missiles is "an unfortunate decision that will embolden the regime and prolong the suffering."

On the diplomatic front, the situation isn't much better. There, Russia has repeatedly blocked a proposal for an expanded Security Council trip to Turkey and Lebanon to study Syria's refugee crisis, according to U.N. diplomats.

The continued friction between Moscow on the one hand and Washington and its partners on the other comes as the Obama administration is evaluating a range of options, including military ones, to break the stalemate in Syria's civil war and respond to evidence that Assad's forces used small amounts of chemical weapons in two attacks in March. Obama previously declared chemical weapons use his "red line" for a more forceful American intervention, though Kerry and other U.S. officials have since suggested that no such step would be taken while the new peace push still has hope.

Russia's missiles support significantly boosts Syria's capability to target manned planes, drones and incoming missiles after its systems were easily circumvented in 2007 when Israeli jets bombed a suspected nuclear reactor site along the Euphrates River in northeastern Syria. Apparently successful Israeli strikes in recent weeks on weapons convoys to Hezbollah show the Syrian defenses are still far from impregnable, but the new weaponry adds further considerations as the United States tries to change Assad's calculation that he can prevail in Syria's civil war.

While more and better anti-missile systems wouldn't immediately change the fight between Syria's government and armed opposition, they would make it more dangerous for the U.S. and other governments to try to enforce a no-fly zone in the country or otherwise intervening militarily. And with Washington mulling over the options, the war continues. The refugee toll has topped 1.5 million people and much of the country has slipped into lawlessness.

Kerry's weeklong trip will also see him try to advance his two-month effort to restart peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.

The secretary has convinced the Arab world to help by sweetening its deal of universal recognition for the Jewish state if it pulls out of most of the territory in east Jerusalem and the West Bank that it conquered in the 1967 Mideast war. But he has struggled to gain any public concession from Israel, which was accused of taking steps last week to legalize four unauthorized settlement outposts in the West Bank. The Palestinians see that land as part of its future state.

Kerry also will travel to Ethiopia to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Organization of African Unity, the precursor to today's African Union.


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Tuesday, May 21, 2013

LG to demo 5-inch unbreakable and flexible plastic OLED panel at SID

LG to demo 5inch flexible and unbreakable plastic OLED panel at SID 2013

LG's got quite a bit in store for us this week at SID's annual display exhibition in Vancouver. In addition to that 55-inch curved OLED TV we first heard about last month, the company will be demonstrating a very nifty 5-inch OLED panel. Created for mobile devices, the display is constructed of plastic, making it both flexible and unbreakable -- certainly a welcome quality when it comes to smartphone design.

Also on display will be 5- and 7-inch HD Oxide TFT panels. That first size features a bezel that's just 1mm wide, enabling a borderless frame when installed in smartphones. Both displays are lightweight and consume less power than their traditional equivalents. Finally, LG will have a 14-inch 2560x1440-pixel laptop panel on hand, along with LCDs designed for use in refrigerators and automotive dashboards. We'll be live from the SID show floor later this week -- check back for our hands-ons with all of these new LG panels, and quite a bit more.

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XenoPort to drop multiple sclerosis drug, shares fall

By Vrinda Manocha

(Reuters) - XenoPort Inc said it would stop development of an experimental multiple sclerosis treatment it planned to launch in 2015 after a late-stage trial failed to show significant improvement over a placebo.

Shares of the company fell 26 percent to $5.03 in morning trade on the Nasdaq.

"This is disappointing, given (the drug's) promising mid-stage data," Wells Fargo analyst Brian Abrahams wrote in a note to clients. "We had modeled sales of $77 million by 2017 for the product."

The drug, arbaclofen placarbil, was XenoPort's only product in late-stage trial, according to information on the company's website.

A XenoPort executive said on a conference call that the company's operating plan had included costs associated with a potential launch, and that it would take several weeks to determine the savings from the termination.

Xenoport spent about $13.2 million in 2012 on the development of the drug, according to a March regulatory filing.

The executive said more resources could be allocated to the company's experimental drug XP23829 to treat relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis, as well as marketing of its restless legs syndrome drug Horizant, its only drug on the market.

XP23829, currently being tested in an early-stage trial, is a derivative of Biogen Idec's multiple sclerosis drug Tecfidera. Tecfidera was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on March 27.

"(Termination of the study) should enable resources to become more focused on XP23829, which we view as the company's core value driver," Wells Fargo's Abrahams wrote in the note.

XenoPort ended its collaboration on Horizant with marketing partner GlaxoSmithKline PLC in November.

XenoPort said net sales of Horizant in the U.S. as recorded by GSK were $6.5 million in 2012, according to a regulatory filing. The drug is marketed by Astellas Pharma Inc as Regnite in Japan.


The company said on Monday that arbaclofen placarbil did not show statistical significance compared to the placebo on two clinical scales - severity of symptoms and response to treatment, and spasticity.

The drug, which was intended to treat spasticity, stiffness and involuntary multiple spasms, was tested on 228 multiple sclerosis patients in the United States.

Dosages of 30 mg and 45 mg were administered twice a day.

XenoPort said seven patients experienced adverse events, none of which were related to the treatment.

Acorda Therapeutics's Zanaflex, JHP Pharmaceuticals LLC's Dantrium and CNS Therapeutics's Gablofen are some of the approved treatments for spasticity -- an unusual tightness, stiffness, or "pull" of muscles.

XenoPort had stopped the development of arbaclofen placarbil as a heartburn drug in March 2011, after it failed in a mid-stage trial. (

The company's shares were down 11 percent at $6 by midday on the Nasdaq.

(Reporting by Esha Dey and Vrinda Manocha in Bangalore; Editing by Roshni Menon)


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Kanye West Preaches 'Black Skinhead': But What Did We Learn?

We dive deeper into the new track, looking at 'Ye's religious and societal commentary.
By Rob Markman


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Monday, May 20, 2013

Mullets and more: Worst 'DWTS' costumes


2 hours ago

Few ballroom outfits will top the atrocities that were Marie Osmond's doll outfit or Bristol Palin's gorilla suit, but nevertheless, it seems the costume department at "Dancing With the Stars" tries each season.

We get that it's a tough gig -- the designers and seamstresses have to whip out multiple outfits a week, practically at the pace of "Project Runway's" challenges. They can't all look awesome! But can't they look a little bit better?

Here's a look at some of the more questionable costumes from the season. (Note: Kudos to whoever is dressing co-host Brooke Burke this season! She's never looked better!)

Which outfit do you think was the worst?


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Sunday, May 19, 2013

Cast AR hands-on with Jeri Ellsworth at Maker Faire 2013 (update: video interview)

Cast AR handson with Jeri Ellsworth at Maker Faire 2013

When Valve's first hardware hire, Jeri Ellsworth, tweeted back in February that she was fired from the company, we were disappointed but also intrigued by what she meant by "time for new exciting projects." Well we finally saw what she's been up to here at at Maker Faire 2013. It's called Cast AR, and it's a pair of 3D augmented-reality glasses that she and former Valve programmer Rick Johnson were working on at Valve before they left.

The model we saw is still in the early prototype stages, but the concepts are already in place. Perched atop a pair of active shutter glasses are a couple of miniature LCD projectors, which bounce images from a connected computer onto a special reflective surface at a 120Hz refresh rate. A camera module sits on the eyewear's bridge and monitors an array of infrared LEDs embedded in the reflective surface. This allows for quick and accurate head tracking. Join us after the break for our impressions and our video interview with Jeri Ellsworth.

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Why do planets farthest from sun have highest winds? Team closes in on answer

The planets beyond Mars exhibit the highest winds speeds of any other planets in the solar system. It's a puzzle, because less energy from the sun is available there to drive higher winds.?

By Pete Spotts,?Staff writer / May 17, 2013

This image of Neptune was taken during the August 16-17, 1989, period as Voyager 2 photographed the planet almost continuously, but had no way to measure the winds or how deep they reach into the atmosphere. Now, scientists have turned to subtle changes in the planet's gravity for clues.



Astronomers have long marveled that the fastest wind speeds in the solar system have been clocked on the planets farthest from the sun.

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Now, they may be a step closer to figuring out the energy source that drives these mighty winds.

In a new study, a team of scientists from Israel and the US finds that on Uranus and Neptune the winds appear to be confined to the top 680 miles of the atmosphere ? and may actually involve a thinner layer than that.

The results not only reveal new information about Uranus and Neptune, the researchers say. They also provide insights into the mechanisms driving the atmospheres of planets orbiting other stars, says William Hubbard, a researcher at the University of Arizona's Lunar and Planetary Laboratory and a member of the team reporting the results in Thursday's issue of the journal Nature.

Up to now, researchers have posited two possible sources: processes confined to the top layer of the atmosphere or heat welling up from deep in the planets' interiors. Both planets emit more heat than they receive from the sun, with Neptune radiating twice as much. And while 680 miles of atmosphere seems towering by Earthly standards, it's only skin deep for Uranus and Neptune.

The winds in the planets' wide equatorial jet streams rip along at speeds of up to 450 miles an hour on Uranus and as high as 1,300 miles an hour on more-distant Neptune. Still, the flows "seem to be rather shallow, so the amount of energy that has to be supplied to keep them going is much less than might have been thought," Dr. Hubbard says.

The planets beyond Mars exhibit the highest winds speeds of any other planets in the solar system. Yet from Jupiter on out, wind speeds increase with distance, even though less energy is available from the sun to drive atmospheric circulation at each orbit along the way.

The reasons for this trend "are not well understood, actually," says Adam Showman, also with the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory and a member of the study's team. But the prime suspect is atmospheric drag, or rather, the lack of it.

The outer planets' atmospheres behave more like liquids deep in their interiors, so there is virtually no surface roughness to act as a drag on winds, as there is on Earth. And as the distance between a planet and the sun increases, there is less solar energy to impart turbulence to the atmosphere, which also acts as a drag.


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Honey, I shrunk the deficit! (video) (Americablog)

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Iran's Farhadi and China's Jia make Cannes splash

CANNES, France (AP) ? Two directors from countries with tough film censorship brought bold and probing movies to the Cannes Film Festival on Friday ? one exploring China's social problems, the other delving into the mysteries of the human heart.

Jia Zhangke's "A Touch of Sin" depicts facets of fast-changing China the government prefers to avoid: corruption, greed, violent crime and the growing gap between economic winners and losers.

"The Past," by Academy Award-winning Iranian director Asghar Farhadi, is an unsparing tale of domestic upheaval, set in and around Paris and made with a largely French cast.

Both films are competing for Cannes' top prize, the Palme d'Or ? and both have been cleared for release in their homelands, where filmmakers often fall foul of restrictions.

Iran's Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance has approved "The Past" for screening, and "A Touch of Sin" is due to open in China in the fall.

The two directors are pleased their films will be seen at home, but they gave very different descriptions of working in settings where official censorship is an everyday reality.

"I'm someone who is deeply attached to my creative freedom, and I always do my utmost to ensure I don't indulge in any form of self-censorship," said Jia, who has explored China's rapid transformation throughout his career ? from early underground films such as "Unknown Pleasures" to documentaries to the Venice Film Festival prize-winning 2006 feature "Still Life."

Farhadi, though, said the effect of censorship was more insidious.

"One can try to free oneself of the past, but the past doesn't let you do that," he said ? both a theme of "The Past" and an observation of his own situation.

"There are two kinds of censorship," he told reporters. "You have official censorship which works in a certain way. But there is also self-censorship. You impose it on your innermost self."

Iran's authorities have long had an uneasy relationship with the country's filmmakers, and influential clerics have often denounced the domestic cinema as dominated by Western-tainted liberals and political dissenters. Some directors and actors have faced arrest or fled the country.

While Farhadi shot previous films including "A Separation" ? the 2012 foreign-language Oscar winner ? in Iran, "The Past" was made entirely outside the country. It follows an Iranian man (actor-director Ali Mosaffa), who returns to France to finalize a divorce from his ex (Berenice Bejo, from "The Artist"), but soon becomes entangled again with her, her children and her new love ("A Prophet" star Tahar Rahim).

The film premiered at Cannes on Friday and was hailed as the first Palme d'Or contender of the festival. Critics praised its meticulous and non-judgmental look at the messy effects of relationships and their breakdown, on adults and on children.

Farhadi admitted that he felt "more secure" shooting outside Iran, free of external restrictions ? but not of his own inner guidelines. He said he tried to see these "not as an obstacle but as an asset" ? part of his creative makeup as a director.

Like his previous work, "The Past" is emotionally revealing but not overtly political. The director said he was happy to keep working on an intimate canvas, exploring the dynamics of personal relationships.

"There is so much suffering and pain attached to a couple, but the suffering and pain is always unique," he said. "I could spend my whole career exploring this theme without ever exhausting it."

Farhadi said he doesn't know what he will make next ? or whether it will be in Iran.

"I won't decide where it will take place," he said. "It's history that will decide for me."

In contrast, "A Touch of Sin" feels strongly political. Made up of four linked episodes focusing on uprooted citizens of the new China, its story lines have been ripped from the headlines. There's a villager driven to violence by official corruption; an amoral killer roaming the land; a factory worker driven to suicide.

Jia ? whose film "24 City" played at Cannes in 2008 ? said he became preoccupied by the increasingly frequent stories of violence he saw in the media, and wanted to dramatize the stories for Chinese moviegoers.

"In society people often hear about these violent events, but they quickly forget," he said. "It's not by turning your back on violence or hiding violence that you make progress."

Jia said he didn't think the topics he depicted "are particularly touchy or secretive in any way, because they were already covered in the Chinese press and on the Internet."

But the director also was careful to stress ? and the censors no doubt happy to hear ? that the stories were timeless, not the product of modern politics, economics or technology.

"If these people were alive 100, 200, 300 years ago, at the time of the emperors, their motivation for acting like that would be exactly the same," he said. "We live in the era of the Internet and high-speed trains, but have people changed?"


Jill Lawless can be reached at


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Powerball jackpot closing in on another record

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) ? A little more than a year after three tickets split a world-record lottery prize, the jackpot for Saturday's Powerball drawing was nearing historic territory.

Should nobody pick the correct six numbers, the prize money will roll over to next week's drawing and almost certainly eclipse the $656 million doled out to winners in Illinois, Kansas and Maryland in the Mega Millions game in March 2012.

But the record could fall Saturday night too if a flurry of last-minute ticket purchases pushes the jackpot much above its current $600 million level. Since the previous drawing on Wednesday, it had grown by at least $236 million.

"If there was no chance, you wouldn't do it," said New Jersey attorney Rubin Sinins, who represented five construction workers who claimed a colleague cheated them out of a share of a multimillion-dollar lottery jackpot.

It seems simple enough: Just correctly pick five white balls out of a drum of 59 and one red one out of a drum of 35.

However, the odds of a single $2 ticket hitting the correct combination are about 1 in 175.2 million. That's slightly less likely than randomly drawing the name of one specific female in the United States: 1 in 157 million, according to the last census.

With such an astronomic payoff available for the lucky ticket holder, some buyers are content to settle for just a share of the winnings.

In Houston, city firefighter John Paetow and a dozen of his colleagues kicked in $10 each for the drawing, as they do occasionally when a the stakes soar into the lottery stratosphere.

"With firemen it's a camaraderie thing," said Paetow, 59. "It just makes sense to pool our money; it buys more tickets, gives us a better chance of winning."

Even if Saturday's drawing doesn't top last year's Mega Millions jackpot, it's already the highest in Powerball history, surpassing that game's $587.5 million record set in November 2012.

A major reason for the sales surge is that last month, Powerball landed the nation's most populous state as California joined 42 others that offer the game. California lottery director Robert O'Neill said the state had brought "sunshine and good fortune" to Powerball.

The Multi-State Lottery Association conducts the drawing live Saturday night from Tallahassee, Fla. The balls are weighed and X-rayed, and there are practice runs before the official televised version.


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Dominos Makes Awesome DVDs That Smell Like Pizza When They're Played

How's this for a brilliant marketing campaign? To help sell the notion that there's no better way to spend an evening than with a pizza and a movie, Dominos in Brazil created custom DVDs with a heat-reactive flavored varnish that actually smelled like pizza once they were played.




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Friday, May 17, 2013

A late fade on Wall Street; Wal-Mart, Disney slump

NEW YORK (AP) ? Signs of a slowing economy combined with comments from a Federal Reserve official helped pull the stock market down Thursday.

There was plenty of discouraging news. Applications for unemployment benefits rose last week and manufacturing slowed in the mid-Atlantic region. Wal-Mart sank after warning that its customers were spending less at its stores.

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 42.47 points to 15,233.22, a loss of 0.3 percent. The Standard & Poor's 500 index dropped 8.31 points to 1,650.47, down 0.5 percent. It was only the third drop for the S&P 500 this month. Both indexes closed at record highs the day before.

"We've had such a tremendous run," said J. J. Kinahan, chief strategist at TD Ameritrade. "On a day with a bunch of disappointing data, you're looking for some good news to hold on to."

The manufacturing report from the Philadelphia branch of the Federal Reserve sent bond prices up and turned stocks lower in morning trading. The stock market recovered before noon, then spent most of the day with slight gains until shortly after 3 p.m.

That's when news crossed that John Williams, head of the Federal Reserve's San Francisco branch, told an audience that the Fed could end its bond-buying program this year. But Williams' comments made clear that the Fed would only curtail its stimulus effort when the economy looked strong enough. Within the last hour of trading, the S&P 500 dropped 5 points.

Cisco jumped 13 percent, or $2.68, to $23.89. The network-equipment maker turned in quarterly results late Wednesday that beat analysts' expectations, with the help of better revenue from the U.S. and emerging markets. Cisco's performance is often considered a gauge of the technology industry's strength, and tech stocks fared better than the rest of the market Thursday. Technology was the only one of the 10 industry groups in the S&P 500 index to close higher.

The Nasdaq composite index lost 6.37 points to 3,465.24, a drop of 0.2 percent.

Wal-Mart fell 2 percent. The world's largest retailer turned in weaker sales and a dim forecast for profits. The company blamed bad weather and delayed tax refunds for earnings and sales that fell short of what analysts had expected. Wal-Mart's stock lost $1.36 to $78.50.

Companies have reported record quarterly profits this earnings season. Seven of every 10 in the S&P 500 have trumped analysts' earnings estimates, according to S&P Capital IQ. Earnings have climbed 5 percent over the year before.

But revenue has looked weak: six out of every 10 companies in the S&P 500 have missed forecasts, and revenue has edged up just 1 percent. Without higher sales, companies are getting more of their profits from laying off staff and other cost-cutting moves.

Scott King, an investment adviser at Unified Trust Co. in Lexington, Ky., said that if the market is going to keep climbing this year, sales will have to start rising. Analysts are looking for that to happen as economic growth gains strength later this year.

"It's hard to see how companies can squeeze more earnings growth out of cost savings," King said. "At some point, the economic numbers and revenue have to pick up."

The Philadelphia branch of the Federal Reserve reported that manufacturers in the region said business conditions slumped this month. Orders for manufactured goods and shipments have been weak.

In Washington, the Labor Department reported that the number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits rose last week to 360,000. That suggests companies are laying more people off, just one week after applications for benefits hit a five-year low.

The yield on the 10-year Treasury note dropped to 1.88 percent from 1.94 percent late Wednesday. It's a sign that traders are shifting money into lower-risk investments like U.S. government debt.

Gold prices fell slightly and the price of crude oil edged higher. Gold fell $9.30 to $1,386.90 an ounce. Crude oil rose 86 cents to $95.16 a barrel in New York.

Among other companies making moves:

? Tesla Motors jumped 9 percent, or $7.41, to $92.25. The electric-car maker it said it aims to raise $830 million from the sale of stocks and convertible bonds to pay off a loan from the federal government. Tesla has surged 65 percent since May 8, when it announced its first profitable quarter.

? Semiconductor maker Advanced Micro Devices plunged 13 percent, the biggest drop in the S&P 500 index. A Goldman Sachs analyst advised investors to sell AMD, arguing that its shares had become too expensive. AMD had shot up 83 percent this year before Thursday's plunge on hopes that the company can cash in on making chips for video game consoles. AMD lost 55 cents to $3.83.

? Amyris fell 3 percent after a law firm filed a class action suit against the specialty-chemicals company, saying it misled investors about its production capabilities. Amyris lost 11 cents to $3.09.


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Iraqis mourn 2 Shiite fighters killed in Syria

Family members of Mohammed Aboud, chant slogans against the Sunni-dominated Free Syrian Army rebel group and the al-Qaida-affiliated Jabhat al-Nusra during his funeral in Basra, Iraq's second-largest city, 340 miles (550 kilometers) southeast of Baghdad, Iraq, Friday, May 17, 2013. Hundreds of Iraqis in Basra, have attended the funeral of two Shiite fighters killed in Syria. Relatives of Aboud say he was killed by a sniper fire near the shrine of Sayida Zeinab outside the capital of Damascus five days ago. Arabic writing on coffin reads, ?Sigh in grief, Zeinab.? (AP Photo/ Nabil Al-Jurani)

Family members of Mohammed Aboud, chant slogans against the Sunni-dominated Free Syrian Army rebel group and the al-Qaida-affiliated Jabhat al-Nusra during his funeral in Basra, Iraq's second-largest city, 340 miles (550 kilometers) southeast of Baghdad, Iraq, Friday, May 17, 2013. Hundreds of Iraqis in Basra, have attended the funeral of two Shiite fighters killed in Syria. Relatives of Aboud say he was killed by a sniper fire near the shrine of Sayida Zeinab outside the capital of Damascus five days ago. Arabic writing on coffin reads, ?Sigh in grief, Zeinab.? (AP Photo/ Nabil Al-Jurani)

Family members of Mohammed Aboud chant slogans against the Sunni-dominated Free Syrian Army rebel group and the al-Qaida-affiliated Jabhat al-Nusra during his funeral in Basra, Iraq's second-largest city, 340 miles (550 kilometers) southeast of Baghdad, Iraq, Friday, May 17, 2013. Hundreds of Iraqis in Basra, Iraq have attended the funeral of two Shiite fighters killed in Syria. Relatives of Aboud say he was killed by a sniper fire near the shrine of Sayida Zeinab outside the capital of Damascus five days ago. Arabic writing on coffin reads, "God is great." (AP Photo/ Nabil Al-Jurani)

Family members of Mohammed Aboud, chant slogans against the Sunni-dominated Free Syrian Army rebel group and the al-Qaida-affiliated Jabhat al-Nusra during his funeral in Basra, Iraq's second-largest city, 340 miles (550 kilometers) southeast of Baghdad, Iraq, Friday, May 17, 2013. Hundreds of Iraqis in Basra, Iraq have attended the funeral of two Shiite fighters killed in Syria. Relatives of Aboud say he was killed by a sniper fire near the shrine of Sayida Zeinab outside the capital of Damascus five days ago. Arabic writing on coffin reads, ?Sigh in grief, Zeinab.? (AP Photo/ Nabil Al-Jurani)

(AP) ? Hundreds of Iraqis attended the Friday funeral in a southern city of two Shiite fighters killed in Syria. Several such funerals have been held in recent months, the latest sign that the conflict has taken on a sectarian regional dimension.

Mourners in the oil-rich city of Basra carried the coffin of Mohammed Aboud, whom they say was killed by sniper fire near the shrine of Sayida Zeinab outside the Syrian capital Damascus five days before.

They said Aboud went to Iran two months ago before flying to Syria in order to join a group of fighters protecting that country's Shiite shrines against attacks launched by the rebel Free Syrian Army.

For months Iraqi Shiite fighters have trickled into Syria, where mostly Sunni rebels are fighting a regime dominated by a Shiite offshoot sect. Their relatives say the fighters are drawn by a sense of religious duty to protect the Sayida Zeinab shrine, which marks what is believed to be the grave of the granddaughter of the Prophet Muhammad. Iraq remains officially neutral in the Syrian conflict.

There have been regular clashes in the area of the shrine, but it is impossible to verify what the Shiite fighters are actually doing. The leader of Lebanon's Hezbollah has also recently said that supporters of the Shiite militant group are fighting in Syria and said Shiites have "a duty to protect the Sayida Zeinab shrine."

Six men wearing military camouflage carried Aboud's coffin, painted in the colors of the Iraqi flag. "Sigh in grief, Zeinab," was written on its front.

The coffin of the other slain fighter, Hassan Ali, was rushed to Baghdad at the start of the funeral. Relatives said both bodies were transported from Syria via Iran before being returned to Iraq.

Aboud's uncle Ali Abbas said that the family received a phone call from a Shiite fighter in Syria informing that his nephew was killed during clashes near the shrine.

"We are proud of our martyr who was sacrificed his life while defending the religion, holy shrines and righteousness," Abbas said.

Some of the mourners chanted slogans against the Sunni-dominated Free Syrian Army rebel group and the al-Qaida-affiliated Jabhat al-Nusra, which in the past year has become the most effective fighting force within the opposition trying to topple Assad.

Relatives said that the two bodies were received at the Shalamja border crossing with Iran. Earlier this month, another body for killed Iraq Shiite fighter was also brought through Iran.

Tehran's alleged role in repatriating bodies strengthens suggestions that it is coordinating the movement of foreign fighters to aid its embattled ally, Syria.


Associated Press Writer Sameer N. Yacoub in Baghdad contributed reporting.

Associated Press


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Chat now: How common is mental illness among Americans?

By Alasdair Fotheringham VAJONT, Italy, May 15 (Reuters) - A chest infection was the latest setback to hit Britain's pre-race favourite Bradley Wiggins on the Giro d'Italia on Wednesday. Tour de France champion Wiggins, finished the 11th stage in the main pack behind winner Ramunas Navardauskas to stay fourth overall, two minutes five seconds behind leader Vincenzo Nibali. "I'm not feeling very good at the moment, I've had a pretty rough 24 hours," Wiggins told reporters. "I've got a chest infection and a bog-standard head cold. ...


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Thursday, May 16, 2013

NASA completes first part of Webb Telescope's 'eye surgery' operation

May 15, 2013 ? Much like the inside of an operating room, in the clean room at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., engineers worked meticulously to implant part of the eyes of the James Webb Space Telescope. They scrubbed up and suited up to perform one of the most delicate performances of their lives. That part of the eyes, the MIRI, or Mid-Infrared Instrument, will glimpse the formation of galaxies and see deeper into the universe than ever before.

It's high-stakes surgery that has taken years of preparation. This science instrument must fit precisely into the ISIM, or Integrated Science Instrument Module (the black frame on the right to which they install the MIRI), so that it is installed exactly where it needs to be within the width of a thin human hair.

This intricate process involves a tremendous amount of work from the engineering team to make sure the instrument is settled and installed just right. The MIRI itself weighs 181 pounds (82 kg) and is being held by a crane (on the left of the photo), which is being maneuvered by the engineer at the base of the ladder. Each engineer has a role in the process that must be done as delicately as possible so as not to disturb anything, said Jason Hylan, the engineer responsible for the operation from start to finish.

Disturbing MIRI would cost the mission the critical science that will help shape our knowledge of the universe, and push the boundaries of scientific discoveries. For that reason, precise engineering is key and that can put some of the engineers in awkward positions, literally.

"Because we are trying to put so much stuff into such a small space, we always run into problems related to access," Hylan said. "This is somewhat akin to working on a car under the hood -- some things are easy to get to because they are on the outside of where you are working. Other parts are buried and are very difficult to get to. Much of what we have to integrate is on the 'inside' and so access is very difficult. During the operation, we need to access multiple things at the same time and one person may only be able to access one area, so we need multiple people all around doing the same thing at the same time. It is a very coordinated operation."

Hylan said that, like watching the new World Trade Center being built in New York right now, the process is tedious, but the end result is something significant that will leave its mark on a generation.

The James Webb Space Telescope is the successor to NASA's Hubble Space Telescope. It will be the most powerful space telescope ever built and observe the most distant objects in the universe, provide images of the first galaxies formed and see unexplored planets around distant stars. The Webb telescope is a joint project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Canadian Space Agency.


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Ted Vick 'Had A Rock In His Shoe,' Wasn't Drunk, Lawyer Says After Lawmaker's DUI Arrest

South Carolina state Rep. Ted Vick (D) was arrested for suspected drunk driving early Wednesday morning, after a Bureau of Protective Services officer at the state House saw him stumbling in the facility's parking lot, before entering his vehicle and attempting to drive away.

Vick's lawyer, fellow state Rep. Todd Rutherford (D), says that his client wasn't intoxicated, however. Instead, Rutherford claims that the officer's observation that Vick was "staggering side to side" and "struggling to maintain his balance" before getting behind the wheel was due to the fact that "he had a rock in his shoe."

"The way he walks does not dictate the way you drive. And he only saw him driving 20 feet," Rutherford said, according to the Associated Press. "Ted was not intoxicated. He was not drunk. He was not impaired. I have never in all my years seen anybody stopped by an officer on foot in a parking garage."

Vick's DUI arrest was his second in a year, though his first charge was eventually dropped. The officer reported watching Vick "having trouble driving in a straight line" and running over a flex cone with his vehicle before stopping him. Rutherford said this was due to the large size of his pickup truck.

The officer also "noticed a strong odor of an alcoholic beverage emitting from" Vick's breath. Vick refused to take a breath or field sobriety test on site and was taken to jail, where he admitted that he had consumed two glasses of wine at a restaurant before returning to his car. He ultimately refused a breath test at the jail as well, and was held there for hours before being released on bond on Wednesday afternoon.

In the video below, via WLTX, Rutherford describes the incident and criticizes the arresting officer's report:

Read the entire incident report below:

Ted Vick Incident Report

Also on HuffPost:

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Gov't probe obtains wide swath of AP phone records

WASHINGTON (AP) ? The Justice Department secretly obtained two months of telephone records of reporters and editors for The Associated Press in what the news cooperative's top executive called a "massive and unprecedented intrusion" into how news organizations gather the news.

The records obtained by the Justice Department listed outgoing calls for the work and personal phone numbers of individual reporters, for general AP office numbers in New York, Washington and Hartford, Conn., and for the main number for the AP in the House of Representatives press gallery, according to attorneys for the AP. It was not clear if the records also included incoming calls or the duration of the calls.

In all, the government seized the records for more than 20 separate telephone lines assigned to AP and its journalists in April and May of 2012. The exact number of journalists who used the phone lines during that period is unknown, but more than a hundred journalists work in the offices where phone records were targeted, on a wide array of stories about government and other matters.

In a letter of protest sent to Attorney General Eric Holder on Monday, AP President and Chief Executive Officer Gary Pruitt said the government sought and obtained information far beyond anything that could be justified by any specific investigation. He demanded the return of the phone records and destruction of all copies.

"There can be no possible justification for such an overbroad collection of the telephone communications of The Associated Press and its reporters. These records potentially reveal communications with confidential sources across all of the newsgathering activities undertaken by the AP during a two-month period, provide a road map to AP's newsgathering operations and disclose information about AP's activities and operations that the government has no conceivable right to know," Pruitt said.

The government would not say why it sought the records. Officials have previously said in public testimony that the U.S. attorney in Washington is conducting a criminal investigation into who may have provided information contained in a May 7, 2012, AP story about a foiled terror plot. The story disclosed details of a CIA operation in Yemen that stopped an al-Qaida plot in the spring of 2012 to detonate a bomb on an airplane bound for the United States.

In testimony in February, CIA Director John Brennan noted that the FBI had questioned him about whether he was AP's source, which he denied. He called the release of the information to the media about the terror plot an "unauthorized and dangerous disclosure of classified information."

Prosecutors have sought phone records from reporters before, but the seizure of records from such a wide array of AP offices, including general AP switchboards numbers and an office-wide shared fax line, is unusual.

In the letter notifying the AP, which was received Friday, the Justice Department offered no explanation for the seizure, according to Pruitt's letter and attorneys for the AP. The records were presumably obtained from phone companies earlier this year although the government letter did not explain that. None of the information provided by the government to the AP suggested the actual phone conversations were monitored.

Among those whose phone numbers were obtained were five reporters and an editor who were involved in the May 7, 2012, story.

The Obama administration has aggressively investigated disclosures of classified information to the media and has brought six cases against people suspected of providing classified information, more than under all previous presidents combined.

The White House on Monday said that other than press reports it had no knowledge of Justice Department attempts to seek AP phone records.

"We are not involved in decisions made in connection with criminal investigations, as those matters are handled independently by the Justice Department," spokesman Jay Carney said.

Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., chairman of the investigative House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said on CNN, "They had an obligation to look for every other way to get it before they intruded on the freedom of the press."

Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said in an emailed statement: "The burden is always on the government when they go after private information, especially information regarding the press or its confidential sources. ... On the face of it, I am concerned that the government may not have met that burden. I am very troubled by these allegations and want to hear the government's explanation."

The American Civil Liberties Union said the use of subpoenas for a broad swath of records has a chilling effect both on journalists and whistleblowers who want to reveal government wrongdoing. "The attorney general must explain the Justice Department's actions to the public so that we can make sure this kind of press intimidation does not happen again," said Laura Murphy, the director of ACLU's Washington legislative office.

Rules published by the Justice Department require that subpoenas of records of news organizations must be personally approved by the attorney general, but it was not known if that happened in this case. The letter notifying AP that its phone records had been obtained through subpoenas was sent Friday by Ronald Machen, the U.S. attorney in Washington.

William Miller, a spokesman for Machen, said Monday that in general the U.S. attorney follows "all applicable laws, federal regulations and Department of Justice policies when issuing subpoenas for phone records of media organizations." But he would not address questions about the specifics of the AP records. "We do not comment on ongoing criminal investigations," Miller said in an email.

The Justice Department lays out strict rules for efforts to get phone records from news organizations. A subpoena can be considered only after "all reasonable attempts" have been made to get the same information from other sources, the rules say. It was unclear what other steps, in total, the Justice Department might have taken to get information in the case.

A subpoena to the media must be "as narrowly drawn as possible" and "should be directed at relevant information regarding a limited subject matter and should cover a reasonably limited time period," according to the rules.

The reason for these constraints, the department says, is to avoid actions that "might impair the news gathering function" because the government recognizes that "freedom of the press can be no broader than the freedom of reporters to investigate and report the news."

News organizations normally are notified in advance that the government wants phone records and then they enter into negotiations over the desired information. In this case, however, the government, in its letter to the AP, cited an exemption to those rules that holds that prior notification can be waived if such notice, in the exemption's wording, might "pose a substantial threat to the integrity of the investigation."

It is unknown whether a judge or a grand jury signed off on the subpoenas.

Arnie Robbins, executive director of the American Society of News Editors, said, "On the face of it, this is really a disturbing affront to a free press. It's also troubling because it is consistent with perhaps the most aggressive administration ever against reporters doing their jobs ? providing information that citizens need to know about our government."

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., a potential 2016 presidential candidate, said: "The Fourth Amendment is not just a protection against unreasonable searches and seizures, it is a fundamental protection for the First Amendment and all other Constitutional rights. It sets a high bar ? a warrant ? for the government to take actions that could chill exercise of any of those rights. We must guard it with all the vigor that we guard other constitutional protections."

The May 7, 2012, AP story that disclosed details of the CIA operation in Yemen to stop an airliner bomb plot occurred around the one-year anniversary of the May 2, 2011, killing of Osama bin Laden.

The plot was significant both because of its seriousness and also because the White House previously had told the public it had "no credible information that terrorist organizations, including al-Qaida, are plotting attacks in the U.S. to coincide with the (May 2) anniversary of bin Laden's death."

The AP delayed reporting the story at the request of government officials who said it would jeopardize national security. Once officials said those concerns were allayed, the AP disclosed the plot, though the Obama administration continued to request that the story be held until the administration could make an official announcement.

The May 7 story was written by reporters Matt Apuzzo and Adam Goldman with contributions from reporters Kimberly Dozier, Eileen Sullivan and Alan Fram. They and their editor, Ted Bridis, were among the journalists whose April-May 2012 phone records were seized by the government.

Brennan talked about the AP story and investigation in written testimony to the Senate. "The irresponsible and damaging leak of classified information was made ... when someone informed The Associated Press that the U.S. government had intercepted an IED (improvised explosive device) that was supposed to be used in an attack and that the U.S. government currently had that IED in its possession and was analyzing it," he wrote.

He also defended the White House decision to discuss the plot afterward. "Once someone leaked information about interdiction of the IED and that the IED was actually in our possession, it was imperative to inform the American people consistent with government policy that there was never any danger to the American people associated with this al-Qaida plot," Brennan told senators.


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