Microsoft to open retail stores next to Apple’s

In a keynote speech at the Worldwide Partner Conference, Microsoft chief operating officer Kevin Turner told partners that the corporation is planning to open the first of its retail stores next to existing Apple stores

“As we progress on our retail strategy there will be scenarios where we have stores in proximity to Apple,” a Microsoft spokeswoman told ZDNet. “We are on track to open stores in the Fall timeframe. Beyond that we have no additional details to share.”

It’s unclear whether the Microsoft stores will be selling strictly Microsoft hardware (e.g., the Zune or Xbox 360) and software, or whether it will also be selling products from third-party companies. In the past, Microsoft has said the purpose of the stores was to build the company’s brand name by connecting with customers.

Har! Now that is fracking funny.

I planned on photoshopping something like a mini-WalMart next to an Apple store; but, Wired already got it right.

A donkey suit provokes laughs and arrests in Baku

Late last month, a group of Azeri bloggers posted their latest tongue-in-cheek opus, a video in which a donkey holds a news conference before a circle of gravely nodding journalists.

Dressed in a voluminous gray costume, Adnan Hajizada rhapsodizes over the lush life awaiting donkeys in Azerbaijan. To his audience — cosmopolitan young Azeris following his commentaries on blogs and Facebook — the video was a sly send-up of the government, which had been accused in the local news media of paying exorbitant prices to import donkeys.

Mr. Hajizada, 26, and his fellow activist Emin Milli, 30, were arrested last week in Baku, the capital, in an event their supporters say could signal the beginning of a crackdown on online media. Azeri authorities said the two physically attacked other men, though witnesses have challenged that account. They are awaiting trial on charges of hooliganism, which carries a sentence of one to five years in prison.

According to a motion filed by Mr. Hajizada’s lawyer, the two men were with friends at a restaurant last Wednesday, engrossed in political debate, when two strangers broke into their conversation and started a fight. Mr. Hajizada and Mr. Milli went to file a complaint about the assault, but instead an investigator opened a criminal case against them, the motion said…

In Azerbaijan, as elsewhere in the region, Internet use has risen as press freedoms have dwindled. With the Azeri government buoyed by sky-high oil prices in recent years, opposition voices have all but disappeared from public life. Television, once financed by competing oligarchs, has come under solid government control, and advertisers have pulled back from newspapers critical of the government. Web sites — especially those registered on foreign servers, which cannot be blocked by the government — became “the last source of information,” said Magerram Zeynalov, 27, a former newspaper reporter.

Anyone out there know of lots of countries basing their economy on oil – that encourage democracy over graft and corruption?

I could think of a couple. What? Maybe 15%?

Israeli soldiers breaking silence on Gaza war crimes

A human rights group founded by Israeli veterans has collected what it says are damning testimonies from soldiers who took part in the offensive in January against Hamas fighters in Gaza. BBC correspondent Paul Wood looks at the anonymous claims presented by Breaking the Silence.

Standing by the ruins of his home in Gaza, Majdi Abed Rabbo explained how Israeli troops had used him as a human shield.

“The Israeli soldiers handcuffed me and pointed the gun at my neck,” he said. “They controlled every step.”

In this manner, Mr Abed Rabbo said, he was forced to go in ahead of Israeli soldiers as they cleared houses containing Palestinian gunmen.

This same incident was described by one of the Israeli soldiers who spoke to Breaking the Silence…

The Israeli Supreme Court outlawed the so-called “neighbour policy”, of using Palestinians to shield advancing troops, in 2005.

Gosh. That was Mighty White of them.

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Texas – and 27 other states – seek permission to jam jail cell phones

After finding 775 prohibited cell phones in Texas prisons so far this year, state officials are petitioning federal regulators and the U.S. Senate for the power to jam cell phone signals in lockups — joining 27 other states who want the same authority.

Texas and other states hope to use jamming technology to keep cell phones out of the hands of inmates, who can use them to order criminal acts outside prison walls. “It’s critical,” said the Texas prison system’s inspector general, John Moriarty. “The cell phones are the most immediate threat to public safety in Texas. … We’ve had a lot of crimes orchestrated over those phones…”

But cell phone jamming by states is apparently prohibited by a 1934 federal law that bans states from interfering with federal airwaves.

U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, has filed a measure to specifically give the Federal Communications Commission authority to allow the jamming. Under Hutchison’s proposal, officials seeking to jam signals would have to get authority to do so separately for each facility.

Let’s make certain there’s enough paperwork and red tape.

“The problem with jamming technology is that’s it’s imprecise,” Walls said. “We’re certainly not at odds on the intent. There’s not one legitimate customer that we have behind bars, and shutting that off is as much of a concern to the industry as anybody else.”

Walls said they want a solution that will “protect legitimate use while still solving the problem.”

Tell you what. Let the fracking cell phone companies come up with a technology that does what they want. Meanwhile, jam the signals in the prisons. Save the “what-ifs” for your favorite soap opera.

There are systems already available that allow jamming in general while allowing communications for guards and other prison personnel. Wasting government time over interpretation of a law from 1934 is bloody absurd. More profit-driven nanny-state neocon politics.

Past as prologue: Could global warming double estimates?

No one knows exactly how much Earth’s climate will warm due to carbon emissions, but a new study suggests scientists’ best predictions about global warming might be incorrect.

The study, which appears in Nature Geoscience, found that climate models explain only about half of the heating that occurred during a well-documented period of rapid global warming in Earth’s ancient past. The study…contains an analysis of published records from a period of rapid climatic warming about 55 million years ago known as the Palaeocene-Eocene thermal maximum, or PETM.

“In a nutshell, theoretical models cannot explain what we observe in the geological record,” said oceanographer Gerald Dickens, a co-author of the study and professor of Earth science at Rice University. “There appears to be something fundamentally wrong with the way temperature and carbon are linked in climate models.”

During the PETM, for reasons that are still unknown, the amount of carbon in Earth’s atmosphere rose rapidly. For this reason, the PETM, which has been identified in hundreds of sediment core samples worldwide, is probably the best ancient climate analogue for present-day Earth.

In addition to rapidly rising levels of atmospheric carbon, global surface temperatures rose dramatically during the PETM. Average temperatures worldwide rose by about 7 degrees Celsius — about 13 degrees Fahrenheit — in the relatively short geological span of about 10,000 years…

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Canadian boy floats unharmed down river on toy truck

A Canadian boy celebrating his third birthday was unhurt and apparently unfazed after he floated 12 km down a river riding atop his toy truck, said police.

The boy’s family was camping at a popular park near Fort St. John, in northeastern British Columbia, on Sunday when the boy wandered off unnoticed and somehow entered the nearby Peace River, Royal Canadian Mounted Police said.

The boy’s parents at first thought he was playing with other relatives at the campsite. But police were later alerted and had begun a search when a boater found the boy, and the toy, about 12 km away.

After a nearly two-hour journey down the swift-moving river the boy had no injuries, and was apparently unaware of the danger he had been in.

He was very excited to see the police,” said RCMP Constable Jackelynn Passarell.

A local news report said the boy also made sure the boater who found him also retrieved the toy truck.

This kid will be telling this story when he’s 69.

Yes, his parents surely got their money’s worth from that toy truck.

German brothel gives Green discount to cycle commuters

The Germans have always been one step ahead of the rest of us when it comes to the environment. They are European champions when it comes to wind power, recycling rates and installing combined heat and power boilers. The German chancellor, Angela Merkel, is a former environment minister.

So it should come as no surprise to learn that a German businessman has pushed the concept of green rebates to the next logical level: Thomas Goetz, owner of a Berlin brothel called Maison d’Envie, is currently offering a discount to any customer who arrives by bicycle or public transport.

“The recession has hit our industry hard,” Goetz told Reuters. “Obviously we hope that the discount will attract more people. It’s good for business, it’s good for the environment – and it’s good for the girls…”

In the name of research, I had a quick look around the brothel’s website to verify that the offer really does exist, and, yes, there it is in black and white. “The Maison d’Envie offers one major advantage over other establishments: it is perfectly accessible by public transport. Both S-and U-Bahn stations are within walking distance and well-maintained bicycle paths also allow for a more environmentally friendly journey. And because we want to reward your green commitment, we have – and it’s unique in Berlin – an environmental discount.” It’s the sort of statement you might expect to hear from your local council, not an establishment – very much legal in Germany – that offers the services of “nice, motivated models” in a “very pleasant, almost family atmosphere”.

It seems to be working, though, as Goetz says the offer is attracting three to five new customers every day, adding that the incentive has helped to reduce traffic and parking congestion in the local area.

Is this the kind of economic incentive required to get you to act, uh, Greener?

Egyptian poet jailed for insulting the head of state. Whatsis name?

Whatsisname alongside another useless politician
Daylife/Reuters Pictures used by permission

A civil servant in Egypt has been jailed for three years for insulting President Hosni Mubarak in a poem…

The case was largely unknown until the family asked a newspaper to publish an appeal for clemency.

The Arab Network for Human Rights says it will appeal against the sentence. It says Mr Hanna, who worked as a civil servant in a small town in upper Egypt, was tried without being given access to a lawyer.

His younger brother, Hanna Said, said that Moneer Said Hanna began writing poetry only recently and was encouraged when his colleagues at the office enjoyed reading it.

But things took a turn for the worse when he began to write about problems at work and everyday life. He was summoned for interrogation and put on trial for insulting the head of state.

Under Egyptian law, insulting the president can land the offender in jail for up to three years.

Sheesh. No sense of humor in Hosni’s house.