Saudi women face fitness clubs ban

Saudi women could see their private sports clubs and gyms closed down because the government seems likely to agree licensing of the clubs for men only…

The problem that has emerged in recent months is that women’s gyms are unlicensed and so illegal. Female fitness fans complain of a lack of places to exercise outside the home since they cannot use men’s clubs…

This month a group of Saudi women launched a campaign entitled Let Her Get Fat, in opposition to a decision to close down all-female wellness centres that are not under the supervision of a government hospital or clinic.

Leading Saudi clerics have condemned the gyms and clubs as “shamelessness” and warned that women would be tempted to leave their homes and neglect their husbands and children…

Last month Prince Nayef, the powerful interior minister and half-brother of King Abdullah, said the kingdom had no need of either women MPs or elections. Shortly afterward he was named second deputy prime minister, boosting his chances for the succession.

Another wonderful fracking ally. I can’t think of anything “accepting” to say about theocratic royalty this backwards.

Any essential description of liberty has to include choice. So, may a nation have an official religion? Of course. And if there hasn’t been a recent rebellion, there may even be a ruling monarchy in place. But, people should have the right to participate in “official” mores – or not. At least that much.

The royal bureaucrats at the top of the heap in Saudi Arabia are only ensuring that their eventual downfall will not be tidy, shall we say.

Apple hires ATI/Nintendo/AMD graphics chip designer

Apple has scooped up a chip designer who spent years mapping out key graphics chip architectures at ATI and who also played an integral role in the development of the graphics processor found at the heart of Nintendo’s Game Cube console.

The LinkedIn profile of Bob Drebin indicates the former AMD graphics chief recently accepted a Senior Director position at Apple following a one-year void in his professional career. Although his precise role at the electronics maker is unknown, Drebin is likely to deliver knowledge and experience central to the company’s Mac and iPhone strategy.

Prior to joining Apple, Drebin was chief technology officer of the Graphics Products Group within AMD , where he oversaw the technical strategy and direction for the chipmaker’s graphics-related businesses. He assumed the role in 2006, following AMD’s acquisition of ATI, where he was also a director of chip design and strategy.

Earlier in his career, Drebin managed the architecture and design unit of ArtX, which was instrumental in development of the graphics component for the Nintendo Game Cube. He also spent nine years developing high-performance graphics systems for Silicon Graphic.

We’ve already seen how quickly the iPod Touch has moved into a gamer’s choice – especially for a gamer who wants a larger media life to carry around. This is the focus of most commentary an this hire. I think there’s another aspect.

The Nintendo Game Cube like any console was aimed at an audience using a TV set – not a computer monitor. There are tricks and tweaks that better suit that HDTV in your living room that don’t have to be limited to gaming. The myth or rumor of an Apple TV Set comes to mind.

Record-breaking journey under Arctic ice

The University of Washington has surpassed its 2-year-old world record for operating a glider under the ice, this time by successfully operating one of its seagliders for six months as it made round trips hundreds of miles in length under the ice at Davis Strait.

The result contributes to the longest continuous measurement of fresh water exiting the Arctic through the Canadian Arctic Archipelago and Davis Strait and into the Labrador Sea.

Scientists worry that climate change may increase the amount of fresh water so much that it impacts the formation of very dense water in the Labrador Sea. That dense, cold water is a critical component driving the circulation of the world’s oceans, according to Craig Lee, a principal oceanographer with the UW’s Applied Physics Laboratory…

Seagliders developed by the UW School of Oceanography and Applied Physics Laboratory are small, reusable underwater vehicles meant to operate on their own, gliding without propellers from the surface to as deep as 1,000 meters, or 3,300 feet, while collecting such information as temperature, salinity and level of dissolved oxygen. When seagliders are at the ocean surface they can be commanded remotely from nearly anywhere in the world via the Internet and can transmit their data via satellite telephone. Unlike faster-moving propeller-driven autonomous underwater vehicles, which may need to be retrieved by ships only days after being deployed, UW seagliders can operate on their own for months at a time…

In the latest deployment, two Applied Physics Laboratory seagliders went into the water Sept. 5…One operated for 25 weeks, spending 51 days and traveling more than 450 miles under the ice, before being collected Feb. 26 by the Danish Navy. During under-ice operations, the glider periodically sought small openings in the ice cover and succeeded in surfacing 10 times to transmit data. It made two round trips under the ice of about 230 miles each…

RTFA. Lots of interesting news and design discussion. Fascinating stuff.

Clicks for tricks: Is this Twitter’s first brothel?

House of Divine in glamorous Milton Keynes tweeted to say that Lucia and Karol were working on Sunday while another message offered a “Twitter Discount”. The operation has been exposed in The Sun newspaper, which trumpets: “A BROTHEL is touting its services via social networking site TWITTER.”

Since “adult services” have previously managed to use other communications systems — postal services, telephones, shop windows, email, the web, advertisements in tabloid newspapers — this shouldn’t come as a huge surprise, but brothel stories are probably good for raising your circulation (fnar fnar).

Whether Twitter is good for business is another matter; the @DivineMK account only has 72 followers at the time of writing, and some of them don’t look like potential customers. Since any Twitter user can see who is following an account, this is hardly private. An email circular would provide a more useful and more confidential information network…

The Sun briefly conveyed its outrage with a quote: “Lib-Dem MP Julia Goldsworthy labelled the brothel’s use of Twitter ‘cynical and inappropriate’.” However, @jgoldsworthy — MP for Falmouth and Camborne, which is some way from Milton Keynes — wasn’t outraged enough to comment on her own Twitter account or, so far, her own web site. Nor has she taken up my invitation to DM me.

Har!

Arlen Specter says Republicans too Right-Wing. Switches to Democrats


Daylife/Getty Images used by permission

Senator Arlen Specter’s abrupt move to switch allegiance to President Barack Obama’s Democratic Party was a sharp blow to Republicans and will likely generate more soul-searching for the minority party…

* If he had remained a Republican, he faced a tough challenge for the party’s nomination in Pennsylvania’s 2010 Senate race from conservative Pat Toomey. The moderate Specter beat Toomey in a tight primary in 2004 but faced an even tougher battle this time.

* As far as the Republican base was concerned, his biggest Achilles’ heel was his support for Obama’s $787 billion economic stimulus bill. That bill passed the U.S. Congress in February with support from only three Republicans — Specter and Maine senators Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe.

* Specter’s announcement sharply criticized Republicans, who lost control of the U.S. Congress in 2006, and lost the White House and more seats in Congress in 2008. “I now find my political philosophy more in line with Democrats than Republicans,” his statement said…

* Republican strategist John Feehery said Republican leaders in the Senate did all they could to hang on to Specter. More broadly, however, he said: “What it says about the party is they have to make a determination on whether they want to be in the majority or whether they want to be intellectually pure…”

* Republican strategist Scott Reed said: “I always thought Specter would consider switching to become an independent to get re-elected, and it’s too bad that Michael Steele pushed him into the Democrat Party.”

Overdue. And crafty. And bright.

100 Mbps broadband arrives in Long Island


As long as your curbside hookup doesn’t look like this. Har!

Cablevision, the Bethpage, N.Y.-based cable and Internet service provider, has continued its tradition of being a cable industry innovator by introducing 100-megabits-per-second service in Long Island. The service, dubbed Optimum Online Ultra, utilizes DOCSIS 3.0 technology to deliver the ultra-broadband experience over cable’s wires and comes with ability to send data upstream at 15 Mbps. It starts at $99 a month, will be available starting May 11 and will be the fastest service from a cable provider anywhere in the U.S.

Cablevision is facing intense competition right in its own backyard from Verizon, which has ramped up the availability of its FiOS fiber broadband in the areas where it’s allowed to sell broadband. The cable company has responded by constantly upgrading its network and offering higher speeds and recently started offering free Wi-Fi to its customers. Cablevision also announced that it was doubling the downstream speed of its Optimum Wi-Fi wireless Internet service, to up to 3.0 Mbps…

Cablevision’s attitude to broadband is in sharp contrast to those of its peers in the cable business. The company has not announced any plans for metered broadband and has been consistently offering more speeds for lower prices. Time Warner Cable continues to come up with excuses while Comcast has implemented a 250 GB bandwidth cap. Comcast recently launched a 50 Mbps broadband offering in parts of the San Francisco Bay Area and other cities around the country. Many carriers are looking at boosting speeds as a way to overcome the broadband slowdown that has come with a moribund economy.

That’s right. It reads like there is no cap on this new Cablevision package.

Meanwhile, their competitors continue to whine about technical crappola keeping them from permitting full access to speeds considered essential – in other countries.

One of the commenters at Om’s post – from Sweden – has had 100Mbps up and down for 5 years. He pays $29 per month.

5 members of Congress are arrested in Darfur protest


Daylife/Getty Images used by permission

Five House Democrats, including civil rights pioneer John Lewis of Georgia, were among the eight people arrested during a demonstration outside the Sudanese Embassy Monday morning. The representatives were protesting Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir’s expulsion last month of 16 aid groups from war-ravaged Darfur.

The other four lawmakers arrested were Donna Edwards of Maryland, James McGovern of Massachusetts, Lynn Woolsey of California and the first Muslim elected to Congress, Keith Ellison of Minnesota.

The Secret Service arrested the lawmakers and charged with them crossing a police line, which is a misdemeanor.

The three other activists arrested during the protest were Jerry Fowler, president of Save Darfur Now; John Prendergast, a co-founder of the Enough Project who worked in the State Department during the Clinton Administration; and Rabbi David Saperstein, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism.

You didn’t expect any “pro-life” Republicans, did you?

Your dietary supplement contains how much caffeine?

An estimated 50 percent of adults in the United States report that they consume dietary supplements on a regular basis. Some of these supplements contain caffeine—even if it is not listed on the label as an ingredient…In the United States, there is no requirement to state the amount of caffeine present in a food, beverage, or supplement on the product’s label. If caffeine in its pure form is added to a product, however, there is a requirement to add the word “caffeine” to the label’s ingredient listing.

Caffeine is a natural alkaloid that occurs not only in tea and coffee, but also in more than 60 other plants and in plant derivatives, known as “botanicals.” These botanicals, such as guarana, yerba mate, kola nut, and green tea extract, are common dietary-supplement ingredients and their names would be printed on the label’s ingredient listing.

The products analyzed in this study were mostly sports-nutrition and weight-loss products and some vitamin and mineral products, many of which contained complex mixtures of botanicals…The study provides a snapshot of caffeine levels (.pdf) in a sampling of products, each of which listed at least one caffeine-containing ingredient on the label. Top-selling and randomly selected products were chosen from four categories: health/natural food outlets; supermarkets, drugstores, and mass merchandisers; direct marketers, including catalog and Internet vendors; and practitioners, including fitness clubs…

According to NDL’s National Nutrient Database, one 8-ounce cup of coffee (240 milliliters) contains about 95 milligrams of caffeine. Of the 53 products analyzed, 27 products provided—by way of a daily serving defined on the label—the caffeine equivalent of about 1 to 2 cups of coffee, 11 products had caffeine equivalents ranging from 2 to 4 cups of coffee, another 11 had equivalents ranging from 4 to 6 cups of coffee, and 4 products provided an amount of caffeine ranging from 7 to 8 cups of coffee.

If you’re trying to maintain an informed balance in your diet, the report is worth reading.

The bright, energetic feeling may just mean your brain is dazzled.

Garry Kasparov scores one on Russian mayor


“And then you s-q-u-e-e-z-e like THIS.”

For all the intrigue that had surrounded the mayoral elections in Sochi, Acting Mayor Anatoly N. Pakhomov managed to avoid confronting his critics — or even acknowledging their existence — until Friday, when he was outfoxed by a grandmaster.

The acting mayor of Sochi, Anatoly N. Pakhomov, listened as Mr. Kasparov spoke.

Mr. Pakhomov, who has the support of the Kremlin, appeared to sail to victory in Sunday’s election…. With little time left in the campaign, he attended a ceremony on Friday in a village near Sochi commemorating the Armenian genocide during World War I, a crucial gesture to the city’s large Armenian population….

But an animated gray-haired man had edged his way alongside the podium, and then he stepped onto it, sending whispers through the crowd. It was Garry Kasparov, the former world chess champion, who was in Sochi promoting the campaign of Mr. Pakhomov’s archrival, Boris Y. Nemtsov.

Mr. Kasparov, born to an Armenian mother, had been sitting quietly, signing autographs, for nearly two hours….

Mr. Kasparov’s remarks began innocently enough. He made an offhand mention of Mr. Nemtsov, so subtle that it was easy to miss. Then he began to sling arrows at Moscow, saying Soviet Russia had supported Turkey at the time of the massacres.

Mr. Pakhomov, standing behind him on the podium, looked as if he had eaten a lemon.

Two minutes and 33 seconds into Mr. Kasparov’s speech, a local official stepped forward and said his time was up. Mr. Kasparov turned to the crowd with an incredulous look.

“What’s happening?” he said loudly. “I cannot speak? Maybe it’s better to be silent?”

They shouted “No!” and erupted into applause. He went on, at leisure, to criticize the rise of racist violence in Russia, saying that “genocide doesn’t just appear out of nowhere, and to put it mildly the government is doing very little to stop this debauch of nationalism.”

I’ve grown to respect Kasparov a great deal.

Europe’s biggest onshore wind farm to be online early

Construction at Europe’s largest onshore wind farm is on course to be completed ahead of schedule, with the capacity to generate power for every home in Glasgow.

ScottishPower Renewables has confirmed that 126 turbines have been built at Whitelee, near Glasgow, and work on the final 14 has begun. All 140 turbines, producing up to 322 MW of electricity, are scheduled to be in place within the next few weeks…

Keith Anderson, director of ScottishPower Renewables, said that work on the wind farm was on a scale never attempted before and had required working in partnership with habitat management groups and the forestry commission, to overcome “difficult terrain” and “testing conditions”…

But Mr Anderson said he was delighted with the progress that had been made so far. “First electricity generation from the site was achieved in January 2008 and since then we have been feeding a steadily increasing amount of green energy into the electricity grid,” he said…

A further planning application to extend the wind farm by a further 36 turbines, which would take the overall capacity to 452MW, is currently being considered by the Scottish Government, which has set ambitious national targets to generate 50% of electricity from renewables by 2020, with an interim target of 35% by 2011.

Congratulations are due for coming in early – especially after the NIMBY opposition. Politics is politics and I realize that all the current office-holders and high mucky-mucks are going to take as much credit as possible for all of this. Has it ever been different?

Will there be anything in the news noticing that it was a radical journalist-editor-publisher from the West Highland Free Press named Brian Wilson who capped off a couple decades in the British Parliament by leading the political fight to commit to these alternative energy projects? I hope there might be.