Recently in Notable Category

Electric cars are in the works

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      "It's not 'if' but 'when' we transfer to an electric vehicle solution," the Better Place website boasts.

      The global leader in creating an infrastructure of services and charging stations for electric vehicle (EV) users is combining with a Danish power company to promote electric cars in Denmark and Israel, The New York Times said.

      Shai Agassi, Better Place's founder, pledged that 100,000 charging stations would be set up by 2010, yet only 55 stations are ready for operation to date, The New York Times said.

      The batteries of EVs last 100 miles and take 5 hours to recharge.  The solution for longer car trips would be a robotic machine that could change the battery in just a few minutes.

      This venture in Europe precedes a conference next week in Copenhagen discussing an agreement to fight global warming.

      In the United States, the mayor of Los Angeles recently announced a plan to dramatically increase infrastructure for electric cars and create incentives for EV owners such as access to HOV lanes, the Los Angeles Times said.

 


Postal service says no more North Pole correspondence

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      The U.S. Postal Service will stop sending Santa letters to the volunteers in North Pole, Alaska who have answered them for 55 years.

      Children will still be able to send mail to the Postal Service's own massive Operation Santa, but the 150,000 letters each year addressed to Santa's home in the North Pole will go unanswered, USA Today said.

      The change was sparked by security and privacy concerns after an Operation Santa volunteer in Maryland was recognized by a postal worker as a registered sex offender, the Associated Press reported.

      The 2,200 residents of North Pole, Alaska, where Christmas decorations last year-round, think the new policy is a "real shame," according to the Fairbanks Daily News-miner.

      Republican Sen. Lisa J. Murkowski wrote a letter to the postmaster general pleading that the tradition continue in order "to bring joy to these children and their families," the News-miner said.

To see video of some of the activities that North Pole, Alaska hosts, click here.  




Women approaching majority status in union workforce

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The makeup of the U.S. union workforce has been significantly shifting towards women.

A report issued by the Center for Economic Policy and Research on Tuesday found that 45 percent of unionized workers are now women, up from 35 percent in 1983.

The study described the stereotype of a white male factory worker as being unrepresentative of today's actual labor force, according to Business Week.

The ultimate effect of the demographic shift is that a desire for both work and family life necessitates different benefits and priorities.

"Because of women, we don't just talk about raising wages, but about creating family friendly workplaces with sick leave, child care, and family and medical leave," said Anne Burger, head of the union federation Change to Win, the Associated Press reported.

The report noted that the union labor force has become more diverse, with a jump in Latino workers, as well as shifted away from the manufacturing sector.

Just plain Mickey not epic enough for Disney

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Disney and Nintendo plan to release a new Wii console game next year featuring Epic Mickey, a re-vamped action hero version of the beloved cartoon, The Guardian said.

Disney has decided to re-imagine Mickey for the future in hopes of increasing merchandise sales, even at the risk of alienating more traditional fans, The New York Times said.

The game's designer, Warren Spector, has included retired and perhaps less popular Disney characters such as Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, who become jealous of Mickey's fame in the new storyline.

"We've pulled Mickey out of the world of cartoons which is where he belongs and feels comfortable and safe and we pull him into a world we call the Cartoon Wasteland," said Spector, The Guardian said.

The New York Times calls Epic Mickey a "return to Mickey at his creation," in the sense that his whimsical character would often play pranks and roughhouse with his friends.

Record enrollment highs at 2-year colleges

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Attending community college used to be for middle-aged people and that classmate who didn't get into his or her college of choice.

A record 40 percent of America's 18-24-year-olds was enrolled in college last yar, according to a Pew Research Center report released Thursday, The New York Times said.

"We know that at least among adults, the increase seems to be a two-year college phenomenon," said Richard Fry, the senior research associate who wrote the report, The New York Times said.

In recession times, community colleges have the appeal of costing a fraction of what a four-year college might.

"If you can pay $2,500 instead of $25,000 and get your general education credits out of the way and then transfer, it makes more sense," said Hope Davis, a spokeswoman for the Community College of Baltimore County, The Washington Post said.

The House passed a student aid bill last month that included $10 billion in initiatives directly aimed at community colleges, reflecting President Barack Obama's focus on 2-year schools as a means of making higher education more accessible, The Washington Post said.

Google and social networking sites to offer music

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Internet giants Google, Facebook and MySpace separately made plans to release music services in order to compete with the industry's migration toward online song and album sales, The Washington Post said.

Google's official announcement of this initiative is scheduled for next Wednesday at an event in Hollywood. Three people briefed on the details spoke on condition of anonymity because they were unauthorized to reveal information before this event, The New York Times said.

The new music services will not come from contracts with major music labels but rather from streaming sites such as Lala, Imeem and iLike, a recently acquired MySpace application, The Times said.

Facebook will make songs part of their gift store, enabling users to send song streams for 10 cents to view online or $1 to download, the Washington Post said.  Google will offer music search pages with links to lyrics, videos and song previews in addition to a song purchasing service, The Post said.

The people familiar with the plans said that Google will collect revenue from advertisements but will not receive any of the profits from music sales, The Post said.

Obama's cautious judicial nominations frustrate liberals

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      President Obama has sent the names of 23 judicial nominees to the Senate in the period of time that former President George W. Bush sent 95, The Washington Post said. Only three of those 23 names have been approved. 

      Currently, 75 district judgeships lie vacant with only 10 nominees under consideration to fill them, the Associated Press said.
 
      Liberals are casting blame on Republican filibusters and other stalling measures, but also on Obama's eager-to-please, indecisive attitude, The Washington Post said.

      Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee expressed reservations about a candidate for the California district court, Edward Milton Chen, saying his personal views might unduly influence his rulings, CQ Politics said. This did not prevent the committee from confirming his appointment on Thursday in a 12-7 vote.

    "The White House clearly got energy diverted to the Sonia Sotomayor nomination," said Margery Baker, executive vice president at People For the American Way, the Associated Press reported. "Now that it's over I would like to see them pick up the pace."

    
 
Amidst U.S. concern over nuclear weapons, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao met with North Korean leader Kim Jong-il last week.

The New York Times  said that Mr. Wen called for open, multi-lateral discussion between the United States, China, Russia, Japan and the two Koreas.

Kim Jong-il has asked, however, that discussion between North Korea and the United States takes place first, a request that Washington has yet to confirm, the BBC News reported.  Since the goal of the U.S. is the total denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula, it has said that bi-lateral discussion should only be a precursor to the six-party talks.

The leaders of Japan and South Korea met last week and vowed to call upon and enforce United Nations sanctions against North Korea unless they see real evidence of nuclear disarmament, the Times said.

Four teens charged with murder of Chicago boy

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     A 16-year-old boy, Albert Derrion, was walking Thursday afternoon near his school in Chicago's South Side neighborhood when he accidentally got in the way of two rival groups.

     Four members of the angry, volatile mob targeted Derrion and brutally beat him, causing severe injuries that led to his death hours later, CBS 2 said.

     Other students at Christian Fenger Academy High School are getting frustrated and scared at the violence that has left three dead since the school year began, The New York Times said. 

    The above articles in the Times and CBS websites drew my attention by their use of multimedia.  CBS featured a slide show of the teens charged with murder as well as the victim.  It also cited YouTube as having posted a video of the murder. 

     The Times highlights an NBC report that includes clips from the amateur video captured on a cell phone.  Police were able to use the video to identify the suspects in the killing.

     The NBC report said that such a video of Chicago's darker side is the kind of publicity that the city wants to avoid, especially as it lobbies to host the Olympics.

G-20 world leaders gather to revamp economy

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     Twenty of the world's richest, most influential countries sent leaders to Pittsburgh on Friday to collaborate on an effort to return stability to the global economy.
    
     Nations agreed to present their financial systems for review by other governments and the International Monetary Fund, The New York Times said. The president hopes these accountability measures among peer nations will prevent another financial crisis.
    
     "Because our global economy is now fundamentally interconnected, we need to act together to make sure the recovery creates new jobs and industries while preventing the kind of imbalances and abuses that led us into this crisis," Obama said.
    
     An article in The Washington Post follows a global financial timeline, sorting out for the reader what happened with the crisis, where we are now economically, and how world leaders are preparing nations to cooperate in the near future.

     One of the more controversial aspects of the G-20 agreement that the Times discusses is the call for banks to keep higher reserves of capital as a margin against sudden, unplanned market disruptions. Such a practice would affect nations differently and leaders in Europe disagreed about the specifics, the Times said.

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