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Monday, August 30, 2010

Double meteorite strike 'caused dinosaur extinction'

KT impact Double trouble for dinosaurs: Did more than one meteorite strike cause their demise?

The dinosaurs were wiped out 65 million years ago by at least two meteorite impacts, rather than a single strike, a new study suggests.

Previously, scientists had identified a huge impact crater in the Gulf of Mexico as the event that spelled doom for the dinosaurs.

Now evidence for a second impact in Ukraine has been uncovered.

This raises the possibility that the Earth may have been bombarded by a whole shower of meteorites.

The new findings are published in the journal Geology by a team lead by Professor David Jolley of Aberdeen University.

When first proposed in 1980, the idea that a meteorite impact had killed the dinosaurs proved hugely controversial. Later, the discovery of the Chicxulub Crater in the Gulf of Mexico, US, was hailed as "the smoking gun" that confirmed the theory.

Double trouble

The discovery of a second impact crater suggests that the dinosaurs were driven to extinction by a "double whammy" rather than a single strike.

The Boltysh Crater in Ukraine was first reported in 2002. However, until now it was uncertain exactly how the timing of this event related to the Chicxulub impact.

In the current study, scientists examined the "pollen and spores" of fossil plants in the layers of mud that infilled the crater. They found that immediately after the impact, ferns quickly colonised the devastated landscape.

Ferns have an amazing ability to bounce back after catastrophe. Layers full of fern spores - dubbed "fern spikes" - are considered to be a good "markers" of past impact events.

However, there was an unexpected discovery in store for the scientists.

They located a second "fern spike" in a layer one metre above the first, suggesting another later impact event.

Professor Simon Kelley of the Open University, who was co-author on the study, said: "We interpret this second layer as the aftermath of the Chicxulub impact."

This shows that the Boltysh and Chicxulub impacts did not happen at exactly the same time. They struck several thousand years apart, the length of time between the two "fern spikes".

Uncertain cause

Professor Kelley continued: "It is quite possible that in the future we will find evidence for more impact events."

Rather than being wiped out by a single hit, the researchers think that dinosaurs may have fallen victim to a meteorite shower raining down over thousands of years.

What might have caused this bombardment is highly uncertain.

Professor Monica Grady, a meteorite expert at the Open University who was not involved in the current study, said: "One possibility might be the collison of Near Earth Objects."

Recently, Nasa launched a program dubbed "Spaceguard". It aims to monitor such Near Earth Objects as an early warning system of possible future collisons.

MySpace Launches Facebook Status Update Syncing

MySpace, once Facebook’s bitter rival, is embracing the social network in a big way today with the launch of status updating syncing for Facebook.

Sync for Facebook () allows users to broadcast their MySpace () status updates to their Facebook friends. In addition to status updates, users can share their links, photos, videos, music and even application installations from MySpace to Facebook. This is in addition to Sync for Twitter, which the company launched last year.

Facebook-MySpace sync isn’t perfect, though. The big thing that’s missing is the ability to share Facebook status updates on MySpace. Jen Ruffner, director of product management for stream, told me that MySpace simply wanted to get this product out the door as quickly as possible, but is planning on bringing two-way sync between the social networks in the near future.

MySpace says that it doesn’t believe sync will marginalize MySpace in any way. “People use different social networks for different things,” Ruffner responded. The company is focused on giving artists and users the ability to share their MySpace content on as many channels as possible, and that includes Facebook.

MySpace hasn’t been afraid to latch onto Facebook for growth. Earlier this year, MySpace added Facebook Connect for its Fan Video service. Sync for Facebook is a far bigger step towards integrating the two social networks, though.

Will Sync for Facebook make you use MySpace more? Will you broadcast your MySpace updates to Facebook and vice-versa? Let us know in the comments.

Google and Associated Press Make Content Licensing Deal

Google has inked a deal with the Associated Press to keep the news organization’s content on Google News, an issue that was very much in doubt for a time earlier this year when the news aggregator stopped posting AP content as the two sides worked on a new deal.

In a brief statement, the AP says that the companies “have reached a new agreement on the continued licensing of AP content by Google (). Under the agreement, AP and Google will also work together in a number of new areas, such as ways to improve discovery and distribution of news.” The AP signed a similar agreement with Yahoo back in February.

In the past, the AP has taken a strong stand against content aggregators (of the non-paying variety) and at one point somewhat infamously introduced a policy of charging $2.50 per word for using excerpts from AP content (a policy they quickly said was misinterpreted). The AP also toyed with the idea of charging news outlets for priority access to breaking news.

For now, it appears the AP has gone in a more conventional direction, however, taking an undisclosed sum of money from Google for the rights to host its content.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Tubby Toney cashes unearned check

Boxer James Toney (above) lost to Randy Couture in the first round of Saturday's UFC 118 bout in Boston.
(Josh Hedges/Getty Images)

BOSTON – The only proof that boxer James Toney trained with any reasonable effort for his Ultimate Fighting Championship debut is anecdotal – supposedly he dropped 40 pounds just to enter the Octagon at a bloated, bubbly 237.

The deck is stacked against any boxer trying to compete in mixed martial arts – just as it would be for an MMA fighter in a boxing match. It’s why almost no one even tries.

But Toney agreed to match up with UFC legend Randy Couture anyway, then he embarrassed himself and his sport by hardly looking like he prepared for a fight that was billed as boxing vs. MMA, even if it was never going to prove anything.

Instead of some definitive statement we got a ridiculous result – Couture earning an easy victory by arm triangle submission at 3:31 of the first round. Toney is nicknamed “Lights Out.” On this night, he never bothered to turn them on.

“Toney lasted longer than I thought he would,” UFC president Dana White said, which isn’t saying much.

Toney is the current IBA heavyweight boxing champion, one of 11 belts he’s held in five weight classes in his impressive career. He had only one route to victory on Saturday night: Landing a perfectly timed punch. Couture, a former All-American wrestler, shot in for a takedown. Toney, who didn’t show up for the postfight news conference, never really threw – let alone land – a significant punch. He fought in what appeared to be a boxing stance, leaving himself completely prone to a wrestling takedown, suggesting he had no idea how to defend himself.

Less than 30 seconds into the fight, Couture employed a primitive single-leg takedown, shooting in low and grabbing Toney’s ankle. The boxer fell backward in a clumsy pile, too slow and top-heavy to do anything.

“It’s pretty easy to counter,” Couture said of the single leg, noting that’s why you rarely see it in MMA. “A good grappler or a good wrestler is going to step out of that.”

Toney is neither. Once on his back, he was finished. Couture delivered some punches and elbows and eventually squeezed his neck until Toney quit rather than lose consciousness. Toney threw perhaps just one punch, a harmless, from-his-back effort.

“I didn’t feel like he demonstrated any real solid skills once he hit his back and butt,” Couture said. “He had no idea.”

Indeed he didn’t, which is why this boxing vs. MMA exhibition was mostly a farce. A young, athletic boxer who actually showed up in great condition would likely lose. Toney literally had no chance with his strategy and preparation.

Couture deemed the experiment “silly,” although he noted it would be the same if he tried to box. “James would probably knock me out in the first round.”

Probably, but it’s also likely a professional such as Couture would at least show up in shape. Toney’s body lacked definition and his stomach hung over his shorts. In MMA, where speed is a must, low body fat is imperative. Toney claimed he trained for eight months for the fight, but it barely showed.

“I’m sure he was prepared as he could’ve been,” White said. “Anyone who knows James Toney the last few years, James isn’t the most physically fit boxer.

“From the day we signed the fight in my office, he lost a lot of weight.”

That’s nice if you’re filming an episode of “The Biggest Loser.” As fights go, it was a joke. Boxing promoter Gary Shaw, a longtime rival of White’s, said Toney looked “like a very old man, slurred his words, and was non-competitive.”

“James Toney had less than a zero percent chance unless Randy had a heart attack from hearing the bell ring,” Shaw said Saturday night.

Shaw went on to call the pay-per-view a “sham,” which isn’t really true. This fight may have been, but White went to great lengths to build a fairly stacked card around it (not all the fights delivered, but on paper they looked good). Toney-Couture wasn’t the main event of the five-fight pay-per-view; Frankie Edgar defended his lightweight title against B.J. Penn in the headliner.

“I didn’t try to sell this as, ‘Tune in, you’ll see the most spectacular war,’ ” White said. “Anything can happen in a fight. … We’re not after boxing.”

And while such a sideshow didn’t speak well for MMA, what does it say for the state of boxing, that a 42-year-old James Toney is someone’s heavyweight champion?

Arguing boxing vs. mixed martial arts is a waste of time anyway. The UFC was founded, in part, to solve the age-old debate of which fighting discipline was best. UFC 1 featured a tournament won by Royce Gracie, a master of Brazilian jiu-jitsu. That was 1993. By 2010, a fighter with a command of just one discipline – no matter what it is – rarely lasts. It’s about being well-rounded and dangerous against a number of styles.

“Ninety-nine times out of 100 or 100 out of a 100, the MMA guy is going to win,” White said.

It’s why fights like these never need to be made, a problem compounded when the boxer shows up out of shape, unprepared and with no discernable strategy to do anything other than pray for a miracle punch to land.

James Toney collected a check Saturday night. Would’ve been nice if he’d made an attempt to earn it

Friday, August 27, 2010

Microsoft Co-founder Sues Apple, Google and Facebook

Microsoft Co-founder Paul Allen is suing Apple, Google, Facebook and eight other companies through his current firm, Interval Licensing LLC.

The lawsuit alleges that 11 different companies, including YouTubeYouTubeYouTube, Netflix and AOL, have violated four different patents associated with web search and e-commerce.

As the Wall Street Journal notes, Interval Licensing LLC is a firm that holds IP developed at the now-defunct Interval Research. Interval Research was an incubator that Allen financed during the InternetInternetInternet bubble of the late 1990s.

In a statement, Interval describes the patents at the center of the alleged infringements:

  • United States Patent No. 6,263,507 issued for an invention entitled “Browser for Use in Navigating a Body of Information, With Particular Application to Browsing Information Represented By Audiovisual Data.”
  • United States Patent No. 6,034,652 issued for an invention entitled “Attention Manager for Occupying the Peripheral Attention of a Person in the Vicinity of a Display Device.”
  • United States Patent No. 6,788,314 issued for an invention entitled “Attention Manager for Occupying the Peripheral Attention of a Person in the Vicinity of a Display Device.”
  • United States Patent No. 6,757,682 issued for an invention entitled “Alerting Users to Items of Current Interest.”

What is frustrating about this lawsuit, from an outsider’s perspective, is that the nature of these patents — while based in software and technology — also have clear ties to business methods. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court’s recent ruling in the Bilski case didn’t make the blurry lines between these two areas any more clear.

We’ll update this post with more information after we obtain the actual court filing from PACER.

[img credit: WikipediaWikipediaWikipedia]

The legal action against Apple, Yahoo, Facebook, Google and eBay, as well as six other firms, asserts that web technologies first developed by Interval Licensing have been infringed.

The patents are key to how e-commerce and search websites worked, it says.

Google, Facebook and eBay immediately said they would fight the accusations.

"This lawsuit against some of America's most innovative companies reflects an unfortunate trend of people trying to compete in the courtroom instead of the marketplace," a Google spokesman said in a statement.

"Innovation - not litigation - is the way to bring to market the kinds of products and services that benefit millions of people around the world."

A Facebook spokesman called the action "completely without merit".

'Key technology'

In the suit filed in the US District Court in Washington on Friday, Interval said it was seeking damages and a halt to the alleged violations of its patents.

Start Quote

We will do whatever is necessary. This is an important step”

End Quote David Postman Interval Licensing

The four patents concerned essentially involve using web browsers to find information; letting users know when items of interest appear; and enabling adverts, stock quotes, news update or video images to pop up on a computer screen while the user is engaged in another activity.

The company also alleges that it helped fund outside projects including research by Larry Page and Sergey Brin that resulted in Google.

The other companies named in the lawsuit are AOL, YouTube, Netflix, Office Depot, OfficeMax and Staples.

Interval does not name a precise figure for damages, but a spokesman told the BBC that it would be "determined as this progresses".

"We will do whatever is necessary. This is an important step. It is the first time that Paul Allen has filed a suit like this," David Postman said.

"Some of the technology developed by people working for Paul Allen a decade ago is now key to this search and e-commerce space. It is part of our daily life on the web and has shown itself to be of value to the industry today."

Patent activity

There has been a recent flurry of patent lawsuits involving Silicon Valley companies.

Apple, Nokia and HTC are involved in a long-running dispute over patent infringements involving smartphones.

Oracle has fired off its own legal action against Google, alleging that the search giant's Android mobile phone operating system infringed patents Oracle now holds for the open-source Java programming language, acquired through its purchase of Sun Microsystems.

There has also been an increase in people buying up companies to leverage the patent portfolio. But Mr Postman said that is not the case with Mr Allen's action.

"We are not asserting patents that other companies have filed, nor are we buying patent originally assigned to someone else. These are patents developed by and for Interval," he explained.

Mr Allen co-founded Microsoft with Bill Gates in 1975, and later started Interval in 1992. At its height, the company employed over 110 scientists, physicists and engineers.

The Wall Street Journal said among those who worked there were Robert Shaw, a co-creator of chaos theory; Max Mathews, who wrote the first widely used computer programme for music; and David Reed, one of the founders of the TCP/IP internet protocol.

Mr Allen, who made billions of dollars from his Microsoft shares, recently pledged most of his $31.5bn fortune to charity.

Last year, he revealed he had been diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

Migrants turn to the sea to enter US illegally

U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents patrol from a speedboat near the California-Mexico border of the coast of San Diego, Friday, July 30, 2010. AP – U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents patrol from a speedboat near the California-Mexico border of …

SAN DIEGO – The speedboat is about three miles offshore when a U.S. Customs and Border Protection agent cuts the engine to drift on the current in quiet darkness, hoping for the telltale signs of immigrant smuggling — a motor's whirr or sulfur exhaust fumes.

"It's like trying to find a needle in a haystack, and the haystack is the Pacific Ocean," agent Tim Feige says, minutes before sunrise.

This is a new frontier for illegal immigrants entering the United States — a roughly 400-square-mile ocean expanse that stretches from a bullring on the shores of Tijuana, Mexico, to suburban Los Angeles.

In growing numbers, migrants are gambling their lives at sea as land crossings become even more arduous and likely to end in arrest. Sea interdictions and arrests have spiked year-over-year for three years, as enforcement efforts ramp up to meet the challenge.

While only a small fraction of border arrests are at sea, authorities say, heightened enforcement on land, and a bigger fence, is making the offshore route more attractive.

The number of Border Patrol agents doubled to more than 20,000 since 2003, and President Barack Obama is dispatching the National Guard after clamor for a crackdown in the desert led to Arizona's tough new immigration law.

"I think they found that going west through the ocean is probably their best bet," said Michael Carney, deputy special agent in charge of investigations for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in San Diego.

U.S. agents arrested 753 suspected illegal immigrants on Southern California shores and seas between October and Aug. 24, up from 400 the previous 12 months and 230 the year before. They spotted 85 watercraft since October, up from 49 during the previous 12 months and 33 the year before.

The smugglers use old, single-engine wooden vessels known in Mexico as "pangas." They're several feet wide and about 25 feet long. If they are found on U.S. waters, they're almost invariably smuggling people or drugs.

U.S. authorities have stepped up sea patrols near the border, forcing pangas loaded with illegal immigrants and sometimes with marijuana farther offshore with landings farther north.

An abandoned vessel was found in November in Laguna Beach, 85 miles north of Mexico. A boat with 24 people was found 43 miles off the San Diego coast in May.

Six boats have landed at Camp Pendleton Marine Corps base, more than 50 miles north of the border, since November, including two that were abandoned. The base, only a short hike to Interstate 5, has stepped up security.

Authorities believe smugglers put their passengers ashore and return to Mexico, when possible, to avoid losing their boats and leaving evidence behind. But they also quickly abandon the boats and run for it if they sense they're about to be caught.

Smuggling on California waters dates back to the alcohol trade during Prohibition, but authorities noticed a change in late 2007 when pangas began traveling without lights at night with up to 25 people packed on open decks.

At up to $5,000 a person — roughly twice the fee to cross illegally over land — one overnight trip can generate $100,000.

Some arrests at sea may be a result of heightened enforcement. This year, the Orange County Sheriff's Department joined in boat patrols on a 32-mile coastal stretch south of Los Angeles.

Only two immigrants are known to have been killed crossing in U.S. waters, their boat overturning in the San Diego surf in January. Two months earlier, eight were rescued atop an overturned boat that was adrift for a day.

Smugglers have been arrested on both sides of the border, with those in the U.S. being sentenced to a year or two in prison.

In Mexico, the boats launch from a poor fishing village named Popotla, about 15 miles south of the border. It sits between Playa de Rosarito's high-rise hotels and condos that cater to American tourists and expatriates and next to the studio where the 1997 blockbuster "Titanic" was filmed.

Squatters live in about two dozen shanties crammed on a hillside. There is no electricity, paved road, sewage or garbage collection.

But it is easy to understand why smugglers are drawn to the village. It's out of view from the highway only 200 yards away. Its crescent-shaped beach invites gentle waves and it is the only public boat launching spot on a 50-mile stretch south of the border.

A restaurant worker, Victor Estrada, said he saw about eight migrants being led to a boat on the beach one recent night after they waited several hours inside a sports utility vehicle, but about a dozen other workers and residents insisted they knew nothing about smugglers.

Jose Eduardo Montero, public safety chief of Playas de Rosarito, offers a different view: "The place is invaded by criminals, drug traffickers, undocumented immigrants, drug dealers. It's all mixed in with the fishing business."

One January night, Montero said, his officers detained 23 people as they were preparing for a crossing, including two alleged guides who were arrested on smuggling charges.

Authorities have failed to pierce the top ranks of smuggling organizations. Boat drivers offer little information when captured and toss their GPS devices and radios into the water before agents reach them.

The low-slung boats, when weighed down with people, can float only about one foot above water, making them difficult to see on radar. Night-vision binoculars have limited reach.

"They're beating us with low-tech," said ICE's Carney. "I'm not saying they can't be detected, but I'm saying they're very hard to detect."

On a recent night off San Diego shores, two CBP speedboats prowled the coast. A CBP helicopter with infrared surveillance equipment was down for repairs, which happens pretty often, said CBP supervisory agent Mark White, his boat idled with Tijuana's lights behind him.

"We're one step behind," he says.

White spent much of the night near two unlit beaches that are popular with smugglers. He described the positioning as educated guesswork. Just because boats have been landing north, he can't afford to neglect beaches close to the border. Some migrants dash one mile from Tijuana on Jet Skis, hugging the shore.

"We're trying to smell, we're trying to see, and we're waiting," White said.

Agents got lucky the following night, arresting 23 suspected illegal immigrants from Mexico on a boat about five miles offshore from San Diego's tony La Jolla area around 3 a.m.

Are E-Books Worth the Money?

(Getty Images)

If you walk out of the cinema this week with a burning desire to read Elizabeth Gilbert's "Eat, Pray, Love," you can download it onto your Amazon Kindle electronic book reader — if you have one—for $12.99.

Then again you could just walk into your local Borders bookstore with a coupon and get the paperback for $10.

Barnes & Noble will charge you $12.99 to read the book on its e-book reader, the Nook. But it's only $9.36 (shipping may cost you extra) if you order the paperback at

As a society, we have gadget-itis. No new machine that goes ping goes unsung. People stand in line for hours to purchase an iPhone barely distinguishable from the one already in their pockets. Amazon's newest Kindles sold out within days of going on sale. (Those who bought quickly will receive theirs this week.)

E-book readers are booming. Amazon (AMZN - News) says in the past few months sales of e-books have zoomed past sales of the paper ones. While e-books are still in an early stage—the Association of American Publishers says that so far this year they account for 8% of consumer books, compared to just 3% in 2009—the growth rate is dramatic. (This is one of the problems besetting Barnes & Noble, which has just announced a quarterly loss following a decline in sales of traditional books.)

[See The Best Android Phones on the Market]

Beyond all the hype, are e-book readers a good deal? Are they worth the money? If so, how can you get the maximum return on your investment?

Here are six money tips for pennywise book lovers.

1. Casual readers probably shouldn't bother.

The median American book-buyer purchases just seven books a year, according to an AP-Ipsos poll in 2007.

An e-book reader right now typically costs about $150 (more on this below). Even if you save a couple of bucks per book by downloading them onto your e-book reader, the payback isn't going to be much for the casual reader. If you saved $5 a book, you'd have to buy 30 just to earn back your initial investment. If you only saved $2 a book, you'd have to buy 75.

I don't want to sound negative. I happen to think e-book readers are great. But that's because I read books avidly. (I've been known to take 10 books on a beach holiday.) If you are in my camp, e-book readers let you carry a library in your pocket or bag. But if you're a casual reader, they probably don't make much economic sense yet. (On the other hand, once you buy an e-book reader you will probably buy and read more books.)

2. The books aren't as cheap as they should be.

E-books are far, far cheaper to produce, distribute and sell than paper ones. There is no paper, no printing, no trucking and no retail space.

So they should cost a lot less to buy, but the deal often isn't anywhere near as good as it should be. Amazon has tried to drive prices for best sellers down to $9.99, but the publishing industry has fought back. A lot of best sellers go for $12.99 instead. That may be cheaper than the hardbacks, but the gap should be wider.

As in the case of Elizabeth Gilbert's runaway success, you may sometimes find the traditional version cheaper. Looking for Stieg Larsson's "The Girl Who Played With Fire"? It's $7.99 on the Kindle. I bought it in Borders, with a coupon, for $5.68.

Books are cheaper in electronic format, but not all.

3. Savvy readers read the classics anyway.

Why? Because they're free. From Aesop to "Zarathustra." From "Hamlet" to "Huckleberry Finn." They won't cost you a penny. These books are outside of copyright. Just go to and download them. Thousands of them. And they're better than most of the stuff published more recently anyway.

4. Be aware of the potential costs of buying a Kindle.

Amazon sells the best-selling e-book reader. It's a great product, very easy to use—much easier, I've found, than the competition. But Amazon has given the device a cellular connection and a keyboard so you can access its online bookstore any time, any place, to buy a book. Good for them. Not so good for you. The results are predictable: You may end up making lots of impulse purchases. Don't be surprised if you spend hundreds of dollars on books in your first year. (Amazon now sells a Kindle that only has a Wi-Fi connection instead of cellular. This may save you money, as the connection will only work in a Wi-Fi hot spot. By the time you've found one, you may have decided you don't want the book.)

5. Be aware of the costs of the rivals.

The main ones are time and hassle. The many rivals to the Kindle generally use a software platform from Adobe, and it can be a pain. Even worse: Adobe provides only very basic help if things go wrong. In extremis, you may find yourself emailing India. I asked Adobe why this was. A spokesman explained that because Adobe Digital Editions was given away for free, the company only provides "a baseline level of support, which is web-based," he says. This includes "an active user forum"—in other words asking other customers how to solve your problems. Good luck with that.

If you can overcome that problem, rivals do offer benefits that may save you money. First, they let you shop around for e-books at different online bookstores, and many run promotions. Second, they will let you borrow some e-books online from your local library. Third, many of them come without any wireless connection whatsoever. That means fewer impulse purchases.

6. And if you're thinking of buying a book reader—wait!

At least, hold off for a month or two or maybe even a few weeks. Prices simply have to come down. They may do so fast.

Amazon's first Kindles went on sale three years ago for $399. Its latest versions, out this week, start at just $139. That's cheaper than rivals. They're going to have to respond.

There's an upgrade cycle going on as well. E Ink Corp., the company that makes most of the screens, has developed a newer version with somewhat sharper contrast. (Handy if you're reading fine print, but not so important for most books).

In a rational market, we should see big price cuts this fall, especially as the last of the old models go on sale. Of course, that's in a rational market. Let me know if you ever find one.

Write to Brett Arends at

James Cameron Presents New Footage and Creatures in 'Avatar: Special Edition'

Can James Cameron singlehandedly save the summer box office with the re-release of "Avatar" this weekend? Probably not, as there aren't enough weekends left this blockbuster season, but this does give movie fans an opportunity to see the "Special Edition" -- with an additional nine minutes of new footage -- of the all-time highest grossing film. Of course you'll be able to see it in IMAX and in 3D, but the best reason of all to see it again just might be for the creatures that didn't appear in the '09 theatrical release.

Fortunately, we did get the director to share an exclusive photo of the Sturmbeest, or as the Na'vi call them, "Talioang," whom you'll be able to catch a glimpse of in the re-released version. You'll note these impressive specimens stampeding below the Na'vi in the photo. And like every living thing on Pandora -- and anything from the mind of Cameron -- they are large in scale. Like massive, single-horned, blue cows, the Sturbeests are harmless unless startled by a predator.

Exclusive photo from 'Avatar: Special Edition,' Photo: 20th Century Fox

Furthermore, in honor of the late summer re-release of "Avatar," Yahoo! Movies got to sit down with James Cameron to discuss his real experiences with native tribes, the highly anticipated sequel and if he'll direct a third film, his thoughts on the next cinematic trend beyond 3D, and the prospects of his own signature line of 3D glasses.

Yahoo! Movies: So, a lot of people have seen Avatar.

James Cameron: I think there are some mud men in New Guinea that haven't seen it.

YM: Ah, so that must be why it's coming out in theaters again.

JC: Actually, when I was down in Brazil I was meeting these guys, these indigenous people that live way out in the rain forest and we had to take a boat, like for a couple days to go meet with them. And they hadn't heard of Avatar, they hadn't heard of me. It was really refreshing. It was nice, you know. They couldn't care less about movies. What they cared about was that they were actually, their ancestral homelands were being destroyed by a hydroelectric dam, and they got their bows and arrows together and they were going to go to war to stop it.

YM: It's like real life. "Avatar" for real.

JC: Like really for real. Not those guys, but some other ones even farther south in the upper Shingu [River] actually took a hundred construction workers on another dam project hostage -- with bows and arrows. And it's not that they are using bows and arrows to make some kind of point in the media. That's what they hunt with.

YM: Right, again, this is authentic. I think the film struck a chord with a lot of people. Those of us that are, say, exploring a new shopping mall. Things like that.

JC: Exactly. We all have that wild, feral version of ourselves inside ourselves. I don't know if you have kids, but my three year old, my six year old, and my nine year old all turn into wild animals. Literally. We all have that. And we feel that sense of a disconnect in our lives from nature more and more as life goes on and as time goes on. I mean, when I was a kid, I lived in a little suburban house, but I spent all my time out in the woods nearby, you know. And kids don't do that anymore. At least, not around here they don't. And they're more focused on games and the internet. It really is a disconnect. We're missing something. And we all feel it.

So when we see "Avatar," and it's about that at a thematic level and it's really what the stakes of the whole story are about, it's what their fighting for, then it actually does resonate. I'm just worried that thirty years from now it wouldn't even resonate with people. That we will have become so disconnected from nature that there is no resonance anymore. And maybe nature is so distressed at that point with so many animals extinct, maybe its not 30 years, maybe it's fifty years -- but the coral reefs are destroyed and so many of the animals are threatened. They're either extinct or so threatened that they have to be separated from the human experience. Then we'll have lost that connection forever. And that's the future of "Avatar." That's what the people coming from earth, that's what they're living. They're out a future if we don't do something about it.

YM: So are you working on any other projects right now? Or maybe these are just some of the expanded themes for the sequel?

See what Cameron says about sequels in part 2 of our interview >>

Chart Watch Extra: Was It John Or Paul?

Who was the foremost member of the foremost group of all time? Was Paul McCartney or John Lennon the real driving force behind the Beatles? That question has ignited debates for decades. Rolling Stone's new special issue, The Beatles' 100 Greatest Songs, doesn't answer the question (nothing ever will), but it sheds some light on it.

Of the 100 songs, which were ranked by the editors of Rolling Stone, 40 were written by Lennon, 35 by McCartney, 17 by the two men working together and eight by George Harrison, who came into his own as a songwriter on the Beatles' final albums.

So it's fairly close, but Lennon was the key Beatle? Not so fast. In the high-rent district, McCartney leads. McCartney has three songs in the top 10 ("Yesterday" at #4, "Hey Jude" at #7 and "Let It Be" at #8), to just two for Lennon ("Strawberry Fields Forever" at #3 and "Come Together" at #9). Three songs in the top 10 are Lennon/McCartney collaborations: "A Day In The Life" at #1, "I Want To Hold Your Hand" at #2 and "In My Life" at #5. Harrison wrote the two remaining songs in the top 10 ("Something" at #6 and "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" at #10).

And Lennon's five-song lead over McCartney would have evaporated if the voters had found room on the list for these famous McCartney songs: "The Fool On The Hill," "Magical Mystery Tour," "Michelle," "When I'm Sixty-Four" and "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da." Here are a few more notable McCartney songs they left off: "Birthday," "Fixing A Hole," and "I'm Looking Through You."

By contrast, the only Lennon songs that really surprised me by their omission were "This Boy" and "Good Night." Other Lennon songs that they left off include "I Should Have Known Better," "Being For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite!" and "I'll Cry Instead."

Here's another indication that the voters favored Lennon. In three cases, they flipped a Beatles single over and ranked a B side written by Lennon over an A side written by McCartney. The voters ranked "Strawberry Fields Forever" (#3) over "Penny Lane" (#32); "If I Fell" (#26) over "And I Love Her" (#65); and "I Am The Walrus" (#33) over "Hello Goodbye" (#100). The voters also placed Lennon's "Please Please Me" (#20) ahead of its A side, the Lennon/McCartney collabo "From Me To You" (#72).

Why do critics tend to favor Lennon? There are two main reasons. Lennon was edgier and more envelope-pushing, and rock critics tend to favor those qualities over McCartney's more tradition-bound, pop-minded virtues. Also, Lennon died at 40, shot to death outside of his apartment. McCartney is 68. He has lived to receive all awards and honors a man could ever want. To cite just one example, both Lennon and McCartney were voted Lifetime Achievement Awards from the Recording Academy, but only McCartney lived to receive it.

It's just human nature that critics will tend to favor the one whose life was cut short so senselessly.

I imagine that McCartney occasionally chafes when critics habitually favor Lennon, but I assume he understands the reasons for it.

And while part of me would have liked to see a tie between Lennon and McCartney for most songs on the list (reflecting their equal contributions to the Beatles legacy), it would have looked a little suspect; as if the panelists had contrived to get that result.

The special issue strives for parity between the two songwriters. It features a list of five of Lennon's favorite Beatles songs, including two that were written by McCartney, "Hey Jude" and "Why Don't We Do It In The Road."

It also features a list of six of McCartney's favorite Beatles songs, including two that were written by Lennon, "Nowhere Man" and "I Am The Walrus."

An editor's note in the issue explains, "Lennon and McCartney, by mutual agreement, let all of their songs be co-credited ‘Lennon/McCartney' on their records. We have named the ‘main writer' wherever possible."

There is some subjectivity in assigning credit for songs. There were songs, especially early on, that were true collaborations. And there were songs that one man or the other wrote entirely alone. But there were a lot of songs where one man took the lead in writing the song, but the other added a little something that made all the difference. That, of course, was the magic of the Beatles.

As you read the essays about each song, the main thing you come away with is the sense that it was the combination of the two men-each with his own distinctive strengths, perfectly complementing the other-that made the Beatles the greatest group of all time.

The Beatles had 20 #1 hits on Billboard magazine's Hot 100, which is, to this day, the record for any artist in the rock era. All 20 of these songs made the list. The three that rank the highest are "I Want To Hold Your Hand" (#2), "Yesterday" (#4) and "Hey Jude" (#7). The three that rank the lowest are "Love Me Do" (#87), "The Long And Winding Road" (#90) and "Hello Goodbye" (#100).

Of the Beatles' 34 hits that made the top 10 on the Hot 100, all but five made the list. The group's cover version of the Isley Brothers' hit "Twist And Shout" wasn't eligible because the Beatles didn't write it. The group's four top 10 hits that were eligible but didn't make the list are "Do You Want To Know A Secret," "P.S. I Love You," "She's A Woman" and "Free As A Bird," the group's 1996 "reunion" hit.

The voters also found room for 58 album tracks that were never released as singles. Several factors explain this: the richness of the Beatles catalog; the fact that in the Beatles' heyday, often only one or two (or even no!) songs were released as singles from each album; and the tendency of critics to like to show off a little by putting more obscure songs ahead of the expected, obvious choices.

Here are the five non-singles that ranked the highest on the list: "A Day In The Life" (#1), "In My Life" (#5), "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" (#10), "Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)" (#12) and "Tomorrow Never Knows" (#18).

The Beatles' strongest double-sided hit, in the estimation of these voters, was "Come Together"/"Something." Both sides of the 1969 smash made the top 10 on the Rolling Stone list.

The list includes four of the five Beatles songs that received Grammy nominations for Song of the Year, but it omits the only Beatles song ever to win that award: "Michelle," which was voted Song of the Year for 1966. (The ballad won because it had strong adult contemporary appeal. The Grammys were still coming to terms with rock at the time.)

The issue documents Harrison's emergence as a songwriter. After being overshadowed by Lennon/McCartney through most of the Beatles' run, Harrison came into his own as a writer with "While My Guitar Gently Weeps," from 1968's The Beatles (which is better known as The White Album). His 1969 ballad "Something" became one of the Beatles' most covered songs ever, topped only by McCartney's "Yesterday."

Frank Sinatra recorded "Something" in 1972. As the issue points out, Sinatra often sang the song in concert, introducing it as one of the best love songs ever written. Yet, in doing so, Sinatra often mistakenly credited it to Lennon/McCartney. That's an indication of how strong the Lennon/McCartney "brand" was. (I hope Harrison had a sense of humor about that.)

Two musicians contributed pieces to the issue. Elvis Costello, who collaborated with McCartney on a dozen songs in the late ‘80s, wrote the introduction. Max Weinberg, the drummer for Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band, wrote a piece about Ringo Starr's greatest drumming performances.

The back page is devoted to statistics. The album with the most songs on the list is The Beatles, with 13. (Of course, as a double album, it had an advantage.) Runners-up are Revolver, with 11 songs on the list; and A Hard Day's Night and Rubber Soul, with eight each.

The issue demonstrates that the Beatles sustained their creativity throughout their short career. The list includes at least a dozen songs from each of their six prime years, 1964 through 1969. The years with the greatest representation are 1965 and 1966, with 17 songs from each year.

The John vs. Paul debate will, no doubt, continue. The debate over which was the greatest group of all time is just about closed.

Mozilla unveils alpha browser for Android

Fennec 2.0 ready for testing, says Firefox maker

Mozilla today released an alpha version of its mobile browser for smartphones running Google's Android operating system.

Fennec 2.0, which is built on the same Gecko engine that powers the better-known Firefox 4, adds integrated synchronization and boosts performance by separating user interface and rendering processes, said Stuart Parmenter, Mozilla's mobile team technical lead.

"This release includes Electrolysis, which allows the browser interface to run in a separate process from the one rendering Web content," said Parmenter in a post to the Mozilla blog today. "By doing this, Fennec is able to react much faster to user input while pages are loading or CPU intensive JavaScript is running."

The Electrolysis technology will eventually also run add-ons -- another feature Fennec borrowed from Firefox -- in a separate process.

Mozilla's baked its Firefox Sync service into Fennec 2.0, matching the move earlier this week when it released Firefox 4 Beta 4 . The service keeps bookmarks, passwords, browser history, open tabs and other data consistent across multiple computers and smartphones.

Sync is available to users of earlier Firefox editions through an add-on , and to iPhone owners via the free Firefox Home app, but this is the first time that the functionality has been included with Fennec.

Fennec 2.0 can be installed on many -- but not all -- smartphones running Google's Android operating system, said Mozilla, which posted a list that included the now-discontinued Nexus One; HTC's Desire, Droid Incredible, EVO 4G and Legend; and Motorola's Droid 2 and Droid X .

Mozilla has not officially committed to a beta or final release date for Fennec 2.0 for Android, but notes from a Wednesday meeting pegged Sept. 7 as a code freeze deadline for Beta 1. If Mozilla's developers meet that date, the first beta would ship later in the month.

Android smartphone owners can try out Fennec 2.0 by downloading it from Mozilla's mobile site.

Read more about browsers in Computerworld's Browsers Topic Center.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Facebook Doesn't "Like" 'The Social Network' Movie

Don't expect Sony, the studio behind

Don't expect Sony, the studio behind "The Social Network," to receive a friend request from Facebook anytime soon.

The new David Fincher-directed quasi-fictional movie about the famed social networking site isn't exactly being met with open arms (or even a poke) by the company's top brass. Facebook's take on the matter could be summed up by paraphrasing a quote from one Fincher's best-known films: You don't talk about "The Social Network."

Or, to elaborate on the

Don't expect Sony, the studio behind "The Social Network," to receive a friend request from Facebook anytime soon.

The new David Fincher-directed quasi-fictional movie about the famed social networking site isn't exactly being met with open arms (or even a poke) by the company's top brass. Facebook's take on the matter could be summed up by paraphrasing a quote from one Fincher's best-known films: You don't talk about "The Social Network."

Or, to elaborate on the "Fight Club" phrase: don't talk about "The Social Network" publicly. Behind the scenes, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg -- portrayed by Jessie Eisenberg in the film-- claims many of the scenes in the movie are pure fiction.

In July, Zuckerberg participated in an interview in front of an audience at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, CA. Zuckerberg made it clear that he doesn't want the film to be seen as a true biopic.

"Honestly," Zuckerberg told the Silicon Valley crowd, "I wish that when people try to do journalism or write stuff about Facebook, that they at least try to get it right."

Zuckerberg was also asked why he didn't allow himself to be interviewed for the book that the film was based on ("The Accidental Billionaires," which, incidentally, is filed in the business and biographies sections at

"The reason why we didn't participate is because it was very clear that it was fiction from the beginning," the 26-year-old social networking wunderkind said. "I mean, he [author Ben Mezrich] basically told us, 'you know, what I'm most interested is in telling the most interesting story, right? 'And we want to make sure that we're never -- that we never participate in something like that so then someone can take something that's really fictional and say, and 'we talked to Mark Zuckerberg for this.'"

Chris Hughes, a Facebook co-founder, agrees with Zuckerberg's assessment, telling the New York Times, "It's crazy because all of a sudden Mark becomes this person who created Facebook to get girls or to gain power." Adding: "That's not what was going on. It was a little more boring and quotidian than that."

In response to various Facebook executives' complaints about the film, "The Social Network" producer Scott Rudin told The Times the movie is about the differing stories told in two court cases, saying, "There is no such thing as the truth." He also admitted that the filmmakers had made small changes based on Facebook feedback, but refused to make bigger ones the company asked for.

Regardless of what Facebook thinks of "The Social Network" (at least two Facebook executives who saw the film claim not to like it), an early review is quite glowing.

"This is very material for a movie on such timeless subjects as power and privilege," writes the New York Film Festival's Scott Foundas. "And such intrinsically 21st-century ones as the migration of society itself from the real to the virtual sphere-and David Fincher's 'The Social Network' is big and brash and brilliant enough to encompass them all."

"The Social Network," directed by David Fincher and written by Aaron Sorkin, premieres first at the New York Film Festival on September 24. It opens nationwide on October 1.

'The Social Network' Trailer (WARNING: Viewer Discretion Advised)

Nigeria: Feared gang leader believed dead, again

Associated Press Writer

LAGOS, Nigeria (AP) - Police believe unknown gunmen killed a Nigerian gang leader accused of helping rig the 2007 election in the nation's oil-rich and violence-wracked southern delta, authorities said Wednesday, though officers have yet to find his body.

Gunmen ambushed Soboma George, leader of the feared Outlaws Gang, on a busy street Tuesday night in the oil town of Port Harcourt, Rivers state police spokeswoman Rita Inoma-Abbey said. Inoma-Abbey said the gunmen fired at George, and killed one woman and wounded another during a running shootout.

However, George himself could not be found after the shooting. Inoma-Abbey said investigators believe either the gunmen or George's own gang members spirited him away after the shooting. Eyewitnesses "are all pointing to him being killed," Inoma-Abbey said.

Armed paramilitary police officers in armored carriers now sit at busy intersections in an attempt to stop the violence from spreading, she said.

But this isn't the first time the oil-rich region plagued by gangs and militant attacks thought Soboma died.

In 2007, investigators believed George died during a gangland war, burned to death inside a building. However, he later emerged alive. Locals say he routinely moves through the city in extravagant armored cars without being stopped by police, even though he escaped prison in 2005 while awaiting trial on a murder charge.

Tuesday's shooting comes as Nigeria, Africa's most populous nation, girds itself for a presidential election that could take place as early as January. In Rivers state, gang leaders serve as muscle for politicians in the ruling People's Democratic Party, terrorizing potential voters, stuffing ballot boxes and interfering with vote counting.

Analysts and human rights groups say the gangsters remain on the dole of the state government, reaping millions of dollars of oil money while the majority of Nigerians earn less than $1 a day. George apparently received the largess of 2007 election money, sparking a gang war between him and militant Ateke Tom.

There also are murky ties between criminal gangs, political profiteers, oil thieves and the militant groups fighting foreign oil companies in the delta since 2006. The region's main militant group, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, once issued a statement about George's welfare during the 2007 fighting.

While a motive for the shooting remains unclear, the attack could spark further violence in a city where Royal Dutch Shell PLC and other foreign oil firms have expatriate workers.

In a February 2007 interview with The Associated Press, George himself warned politicians against ignoring gangland fighters.

"If you don't feed a lion, he will be angry," he said.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed

Nigeria: State power company workers go on strike

ABUJA, Nigeria – Nigeria's worker union for the state-run power company has called a general strike, a day before the nation's president is to announce his plans to privatize the industry.

The National Union of Electricity Employees called the indefinite strike Wednesday over unpaid allowances promised by the federal government. The strike will cripple the ability of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria to provide electricity to Africa's most populous nation.

Even when workers are present, Nigeria remains beset by blackouts and problems with its aging federal power grid, forcing the population to rely on private generators to provide electricity.

President Goodluck Jonathan is to outline a proposed $3.5 billion overhaul and privatization of the industry Thursday during a speech in Lagos.

Nigeria Gets Air Safety OK; Airlines Can Apply To Fly To US-Report

IBADAN, Nigeria -(Dow Jones)- Nigeria has qualified for category 1 air safety rating from the U.S. government that allows Nigerian carriers to apply to operate in the U.S. with their own aircraft, the News Agency of Nigeria reported Tuesday.

The U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria, Robin Sanders, Monday handed over the certification letter to Nigeria's aviation minister Fidelia Njeze at a media briefing in Abuja, the Nigerian capital, according to the report.

Sanders said Nigeria has complied with International Air Safety Standards set by the International Civil Aviation Organization and the United Nations Technical Agency for Aviation.

"With the IASA Category 1 rating, Nigerian air carriers may now apply to operate to the U.S. with their own aircraft," the agency quoted Sanders as saying.

Copyright © 2010 Dow Jones Newswires

Elin: I Have Been Through Hell Ever Since The Crash Issue

WINDERMERE, Florida (AP)—Tiger Woods’ ex-wife Elin Nordegren said she has “been through hell” since her husband’s infidelity surfaced but she never hit him, according to an interview released Wednesday.

Nordegren told People magazine she and Woods tried for months to reconcile the relationship. In the end, a marriage “without trust and love” wasn’t good for anyone, she said.

In November outside their Florida home, Woods drove his SUV over a fire hydrant and into a tree, setting off shocking revelations that sports’ biggest star had been cheating on his wife through multiple affairs. The couple officially divorced Monday.

“There was never any violence inside or outside our home,” she said. “The speculation that I would have used a golf club to hit him is just truly ridiculous.”

Nordegren said Woods left the house that night and when he didn’t return after a while, she got worried and went to look for him. She said that’s when she found him in the car.

“I did everything I could to get him out of the locked car,” she said. “To think anything else is absolutely wrong.”

The magazine said the interview was conducted over four visits lasting a total of 19 hours at the rented Windermere, Florida, home where she now lives with their two children.

“I’ve been through hell,” the Swedish-born Nordegren said. “It’s hard to think you have this life, and then all of a sudden—was it a lie? You’re struggling because it wasn’t real. But I survived. It was hard, but it didn’t kill me.”

In an interview on NBC’s “Today” show on Wednesday morning, People magazine reporter Sandra Sobieraj Westfall said Nordegren and her team approached the publication.

Westfall said Nordegren wanted people to know three things: she’s not violent and never hit Woods; she had no idea this was going on; and it was a real marriage for her.

Nordegren and Woods were married Oct. 5, 2004, in Barbados and have a 3-year-old daughter, Sam, and an 18-month-old son, Charlie.

In the interview, Nordegren would not disclose the amount of the divorce settlement but did say “money can’t buy happiness or put my family back together.”

“I’m so embarrassed that I never suspected—not a one. For the past 3 1/2 years, when all this was going on, I was home a lot more with pregnancies, then the children and my school.”

Woods, who was playing a pro-am round at The Barclays in Paramus, New Jersey, early Wednesday, hasn’t commented on the couple’s divorce.

Shortly before 8 a.m., when the People magazine story broke, his agent, Mark Steinberg, stepped outside the ropes of the first fairway and was on the phone for the next 10 minutes, as was Woods’ spokesman, Glenn Greenspan.

Nordegren said she would eventually forgive Woods, but that she is still working on it.

“Forgiveness takes time,” she said. “It is the last step of the grieving process.”

Meantime, Nordegren said she is excited to start the next chapter of her life and intends to stay in the United States with her children.

She also said she has “not watched one minute of golf.”



Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Seven Flaws in China's Growth Model

Short term, China will keep growing rapidly, adding to demand and boosting the global economy. Long term, the picture's not so pretty.

China's economy is slowing, but only a little. The July industrial production numbers announced by the country's National Bureau of Statistics on Aug. 11 were weaker than expected. That raised fears that one of the engines of global growth was about to seize up. In fact, the slight slowdown is intentional, the result of moves by Beijing to prevent overheating. China can and will change course if the need arises. We still expect it to grow about 10% this year, a figure that will make most of the world envious.

Still, over the next few years, Chinese growth has to moderate somewhat. Double-digit annual GDP gains in the past were relatively easy because the economy was growing from a small base. Those kinds of gains will be harder to achieve now that China is the world's second largest economy, about one-third the size of the U.S. But China's lightning expansion also masks a host of serious structural flaws. Fixing them will take major reforms that, so far, Beijing has proved unwilling to make -- in no small part because they would undermine the authority of the ruling Communist Party.

[See the Top States for Business, 2010 Edition]

Excessive Capital Investment

Beijing rewards provincial and local government officials with promotions if they manage their regions well. For decades, the chief measure of progress was success in providing jobs for a rapidly growing urban workforce. That usually meant building factories or adding infrastructure, whether needed or not. Such overcapacity leads to waste of scarce resources, deflation and dumping of excess production abroad.

Financial Mismanagement

Local officials force state-owned banks to finance that construction at next-to-nothing rates, with no regard for borrowers' suitability. Inevitably, nonperforming loans pile up on the banks' balance sheets. Beijing already recapitalized the four largest state banks once, forcing ordinary depositors to foot the bill, which hurt consumption. Now bad loans are once again on the rise, a result of the $586-billion stimulus China poured through banks last year. Though Beijing could manage another bailout, it certainly can't go through this cycle endlessly.

Flawed Education

Chinese colleges graduate many times the number of engineers and scientists that American universities produce, but such statistics are misleading. To meet the quotas for graduates set by Beijing, academic programs dilute their standards. They further inflate their count by counting as engineering students those studying to become mechanics or industrial technicians. The result, according to a pioneering study led by Duke University professors Gary Gereffi and Vivek Wadhwa, is that many of these graduates fall far short of the standards imposed by U.S. colleges and universities. When they graduate, many are unable to find work in their professions.

[See the 20 Worst-Paying College Degrees]

Stifled Innovation

Those engineers and scientists who do measure up -- the cream of Chinese universities or those who study overseas and return home -- often have little freedom to explore. If they work for state-owned firms or universities, Beijing dictates the direction of research and development. Many gravitate to the more open atmosphere at private firms, but these companies can't get loans to grow because state enterprises gobble up the capital. Beijing aims to compensate by forcing multinationals to transfer advanced technology as the cost of doing business in China, but foreign firms are fighting back hard.

Environmental Degradation

Water pollution and water shortages pose the most serious problems. They cause health ailments, damage agriculture, jam up hydroelectric dams, interfere with manufacturing and limit urbanization. As aquifers dry up, soil erodes, turning an area the size of Connecticut to desert every year. The resulting dust storms add to the country's already horrendous air pollution. Beijing's preferred solution to the problem is a massive south-to-north river diversion project. Odds are, that will make matters worse, draining water from already overtaxed southern supplies.


One of the major reasons Beijing has such a hard time dealing with all the problems mentioned above is that so many individuals have a vested interest in keeping things exactly as they are. Communist Party officials pay for their advancement, then aim to earn back their investment. Local governments seize houses and land, sell it to developers with little compensation for those displaced, then take kickbacks from the construction companies. Academics provide kickbacks to the party in exchange for research funding. U.S. companies operating in China suffer as well. "When U.S companies hire for research and development there, there's a lot of pressure to put Communist Party members in key positions," says Wadhwa.

Beijing does make examples of particularly corrupt officials and business leaders, sometimes even executing the offenders. But the problem of corruption is endemic, says Liao Ran, a China specialist with Transparency International. "Generally speaking, the cost of corruption amounts to about 10% to 13% of annual GDP," he says. In absolute terms, that's a loss of $500 billion to $700 billion per year.

And Demographics

As the generation of the Cultural Revolution retires, the burden of their care falls heavily on the smaller generation of the one-child policy. "The Chinese population is simply growing older faster than it's getting richer," says Peter Navarro, a professor of economics and public policy at the University of California at Irvine. As fewer workers support more retirees, competitiveness will suffer. For an illustration of what this could mean, China need look no farther than Japan.

Click here to see the Slide Show: 7 Reasons Not to Fear China

8 Things You Didn't Know About Toothpaste

Faced with dozens of different products promising to make your teeth fresher, whiter and cavity-free, it’s no wonder you wander aimlessly down the toothpaste aisle. To help you pick wisely, we turned to the pros for the scoop on what ingredients to look for, whether gel or paste formulas are right for you and just how much you need to squeeze onto your brush. It’s never too late to get your pearly whites in tip-top shape, so read on to find out how!

1. It’s all about the fluoride.
With a host of ingredients in toothpaste, it’s easy to lose sight of what’s essential. But no matter what your individual needs are (i.e., tartar control, whitening, breath-freshening and so on), dental hygienists agree that fluoride is a must. According to the Academy of General Dentistry, brushing with fluoride toothpaste twice daily can reduce tooth decay by as much as 40 percent. “Even in areas where there is water fluoridation, the added fluoride in toothpaste has been shown to be very beneficial,” says Caryn Loftis-Solie, RDH, president of the American Dental Hygiene Association (ADHA).

2. Look for the seal of approval.
While it’s tempting to save some cash with a generic brand of toothpaste, you may actually be getting an ineffective—and potentially harmful—product. “You should always look for the ADA Seal when choosing a toothpaste,” says Clifford Whall, PhD, director of the American Dental Association (ADA) Seal of Acceptance Program. “Only those products have the scientific data to back up their claims and have been proven to meet our criteria for safety and effectiveness.” With 50-plus approved toothpastes on shelves, it’s easy to find a tube that’s right for you and your budget.

3. Whitening toothpastes work—at least to a certain degree.
Countless products promise a whiter smile, but do they really deliver? “Whitening toothpastes—like all toothpastes—contain mild abrasives to help remove surface stains on your teeth,” says Dr. Whall. “The shape of the particles used in whitening products, though, is modified to clean those stains away better, so you’ll see a noticeable difference in how your teeth look.” However, according to Dr. Whall, these products don’t contain bleach, making it impossible for them to brighten your smile as dramatically as professional whitening treatments.

4. Less is more.
Despite what you see on commercials, a brush full of toothpaste won’t clean your pearly whites any better than half that amount, according to E. Jane Crocker, RHD, president of the Massachusetts Dental Hygienists’ Association. “All you need is a pea-size amount of toothpaste—yes, I mean the little green vegetable!” Not only will that get the job done effectively (by cleaning and removing plaque, stains and food debris), you’ll also extend the life of your tube.

5. How you brush is more important than what you brush with.
You can buy the best toothpaste and toothbrush on the market, but if you aren’t brushing correctly you won’t see results. “To do it properly, you need to position the brush at a 45 degree angle so that you get some of the bristles in between the tooth and the gums,” says Dr. Whall. “Move the brush in small circles in those areas, and then continue on to the rest of the teeth. This process should take about one to two minutes to complete.” View the ADA’s step-by-step guide to brushing and flossing here.

6. Organic toothpastes can be just as effective as regular.
If you’re willing to spend a little more to go green, natural and organic toothpastes can be a good eco-friendly alternative to commercial brands—provided they contain fluoride. “Natural and organic toothpastes that include fluoride in their ingredients are as effective as regular toothpastes with fluoride,” says Crocker. You’ll also be avoiding artificial preservatives, sweeteners and dyes.

7. What’s inside your toothpaste might surprise you.
You may not recognize the names listed on the side of the tube, but ingredients like seaweed and detergent can be found in many fluoride toothpastes. According to the ADA, common thickening agents include seaweed colloids, mineral colloids and natural gums. And for that quintessential foaming action, most products rely on detergents such as sodium lauryl sulfate—also found in many shampoos and body washes—that are deemed 100 percent safe and effective by the ADA.

8. Pastes or gels—they all do the trick.
You may have heard that one works better than the other but, according to the experts, they all clean teeth equally well. “Other than flavor, texture and how it makes a person feel, there aren’t any major differences among the various forms,” says Crocker. “I think it comes down to personal preference, which might come through trial and error. I encourage my patients to use whichever product encourages them to brush.”

How to Be Frugal and Still Be Asked on Dates

Saving may be making a comeback, but it still hasn’t gotten its sexy back, particularly if you’re a man.

Earlier this month, the Commerce Department reported that the personal savings rate in June was a much-improved 6.4 percent and that the number had risen as high as 8.2 percent in the depths of the stock market doldrums in the spring of 2009.

Those who are single may not have been rewarded for their parsimony, though. Now comes some survey data from ING Direct, the people who would like you to save more money in their online savings accounts. In June, the company asked 1,000 people which words would come to mind if someone was fixing them up on a blind date with someone described as frugal.

Just 3.7 percent answered “sexy,” while 15 percent picked “boring” and 27 percent chose “stingy.”

Anyone who urges better money habits on the masses for a living ought to be gravely offended by this, though Ramit Sethi, author of “I Will Teach You to Be Rich,” tried to take it in stride. “The term frugality has been so perverted that it now means ‘No, no, no’ to everyone, whether it’s shoes or lattes or travel,” he said. “I don’t think it’s the right word.”

Yet it is a term that the online dating company eHarmony screens for in its patented compatibility test, asking people to rank themselves on a seven-point scale for frugality (along with things you would expect, like compassion and generosity).

“It makes sense, right?” asks Gian Gonzaga, 40, who has a doctorate in psychology and is eHarmony’s senior research director. “You look at the attractiveness angle, but farther down the road, money and finances are one of the biggest conflict areas couples traditionally face. And a lot of that comes down to having enough or not having enough.”

Well, maybe it makes sense and maybe it doesn’t. If your frugality has the potential to turn off nearly half of the mating pool, it raises a question: How best to broadcast your financial values and seek significant others who share your approach without coming off as a tightwad or a gold digger?

This challenge is a fairly recent one. Several generations back, personal ads could not have been more explicit about finances, since everyone knew that women generally had no income and a marriage involving a man of means was the only way to live comfortably.

This posting, from The New York Herald in 1860, was about par for the course, according to Pam Epstein, an adjunct professor at the Newark campus of Rutgers University, who wrote her history Ph.D. thesis on older ads. “A young lady, rather good looking, and of good address, desires the acquaintance of a gentleman of wealth (none other need apply), with a view to matrimony,” the ad read.

Ads from men from that period seemed custom-built to fit that bill. “The advertiser, a successful young business man of good education, polite manners and agreeable address, having recently amassed a fortune and safely invested the same, wishes to meet with a young lady or widow,” one said.

“There was this idea that men were very frugal,” said Ms. Epstein, 33, who posts copies of some of the ads she’s dug up at “You were going to work hard and save your money, and then by doing so, you would be able to support a wife in comfort. I do see a lot of ads saying ‘I’ve been wrapped up in business all this time and now I can support a wife comfortably.’ ”

Flash forward to today, however, and things get more complicated. Some people do put down an income range in their online dating profiles, though it’s not as if anyone is auditing the figures for honesty. Many men, meanwhile, pose peacocklike in front of their cars or boats or homes. The message here is less clear, though. Are these meant to be trophies, a sign of a fortune already amassed? Or is it the mark of a spendthrift? Or an indication that he’ll spend all of his time on the water, and you’d better be ready with the Dramamine if the relationship is going to work?

“There’s nothing admirable in frugality, because it’s invisible,” Ms. Epstein notes.

But even if you could transmit that value through an online dating profile, would you want to? It turns out that the answer to that may depend on whether you’re a man or a woman.

The ING Direct survey, which was conducted by phone and has a sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points, presented one more potential label for that frugal blind date: smart. And in a promising sign for the nation’s solvency, that was the term chosen most often, picked by 49 percent of respondents. EHarmony also crunched the numbers for me on 30 million matches it made in July and found that both men and women were 25 percent more likely to have a potential mate reach out to them if they identified themselves as a saver rather than a spender.

Curiously, however, 56 percent of men in the ING Direct survey gave “smart” as their favorite answer while just 42 percent of women did. (The numbers were similarly flipped on stingy: 33 percent of women labeled the potential mate that way, while just 20 percent of men did.)

What’s going on here? “My suspicion is that the value of frugality depends on whose money will presumably be spent,” said Reuben Strayer, 34, a physician in Manhattan who does not broadcast his profession or true income in online personals. He always pays for the first date and does not object to providing for a wife one day, he adds; he just doesn’t want to attract the kind of woman who is specifically looking for someone who will do so.

But even if many men still make more money than women and are wary of mates who would want them to spend it, they may not want to advertise it. “Frugality may or may not have anything to do with how much he loves you,” said BJ Gallagher, 61, an experienced online dater and author of several self-help books for women. “But for a lot of women, love looks like ‘Take care of me and give me things.’ ”

My jaw dropped listening to some of the dated stereotypes coming out of Ms. Gallagher’s mouth and I told her so. “I try not to get into right and wrong,” she replied. “I’m not a professional finger-wagger. I just hold a mirror to things. I’m descriptive, not prescriptive.” She said she’d been in relationships where she provided most of the income and had seen plenty of gay and lesbian couples where one mate provided the “masculine” energy that kept things in balance.

Fair enough, but what should you do if you want to communicate prudent financial values to a potential mate without dropping the unsexy F word?

Robert Epstein, a psychologist who has studied online dating, said he struggled with this during the seven years it took to produce a beta version of the relationship compatibility test now online at He suggests that people who feel strongly about good money habits talk about how they love a great bargain.

Topher Burns, 27, a Manhattan resident who is about to move in with a man he met online, said he realized that he had it a bit easier than heterosexual men who might feel compelled to pay for dates all of the time. But he still took a subtle approach in his online profile by talking about how he loved discovering the newest cheap eats. It shows, he explained, both a love of quality and a respect for value, which seems like a fine message to send no matter who is picking up the check.

The trick, it seems, is to use such subtle codes, the same way people slip in mentions of their jogging habit rather than coming right out and saying that they’re not overweight. So rather than projecting frugality outright, try dropping a classic investing book like “A Random Walk Down Wall Street” by Burton G. Malkiel, into the list of things you’ve read recently, suggested Deborah H. Levenson, a financial planner with Braver Wealth Management in Newton, Mass. ,who recently became engaged to a man she met online.

“That might give someone a sense that you were a Vanguard investor,” she said. “I think Vanguard is sexy.”

All of that said, when reading these profiles, keep in mind that these are advertisements. They will stretch the truth or lie outright and may contain not just delusions of grandeur or wealth but ones of financial prudence, too.

You may be able to tease out any inconsistencies once you get to know a potential mate. But don’t ask about them directly. One thing that everyone I talked to this week agreed on was this: Frugality may or may not be sexy, but few people want to hear about your asset allocation on the first date.