Tuesday, September 27, 2011
In agreeing to an emergency spending bill to avoid a government shutdown, Congress achieved the bare minimum while finessing a fight over whether emergency disaster aid ought to be paid for with cuts elsewhere in the budget.
Democrats who spent weeks demanding additional disaster aid claimed victory even though the final deal — $2.7 billion in disaster relief assistance in a one-week bill — provided $1 billion less than approved by tea party Republicans. The cost of that additional $1 billion in disaster assistance was too high for Democrats because it would have been offset by cuts in an energy-related program they also favor.
"We rejected the idea that we should be forced to choose between American jobs and disaster relief," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said late Monday after the Senate voted 79-12 to keep the government running until mid-November.
The brinkmanship had pushed a bitterly divided and poll-battered Congress into another fight that threatened to shut down the government, a step certain to draw the wrath of a frustrated public. At issue was how to replenish Federal Emergency Management Agency coffers and assist Americans battered by Hurricane Irene, tornadoes and other natural disasters.
Republicans wanted to offset the most urgently needed money — for the last few days of the 2011 budget year ending on Friday — with $1 billion cuts in Energy Department loan programs for automobile manufacturers credited with creating jobs. Democrats opposed the idea. Searching for a way out of the impasse, Senate Democratic leaders sought assurances from the administration that the disaster aid program wouldn't run out of money this week; once obtained, Senate leaders jettisoned the disputed money and passed two bare-bones bills to avert a shutdown.
The House, on recess this week, appears likely to endorse that plan in two steps: with a voice vote Thursday on a one-week stopgap measure and a recorded vote next week to keep the government running through Nov. 18. The recorded vote would allow conservatives to register their opposition to the spending rates in the stopgap measure.
The White House, in a letter sent to congressional offices Tuesday, said the $2.7 billion for FEMA would be sufficient to last until at least mid-November. More than $400 million worth of longer-term rebuilding projects that had been put on hold last month can be funded, clearing the way to ease a backlog of needed repairs to roads, parks and public buildings dating to Hurricane Katrina.
The lowest-common-denominator solution came after Republicans stymied efforts by Senate Democrats for a $6.9 billion disaster aid package. House Republicans instead insisted on a $3.7 billion measure — including the $1 billion in most urgently needed money "paid for" with cuts to clean energy programs important to Democrats.
After pushing for weeks for a higher disaster aid figure, Senate Democrats instead fought their last battle to make sure the energy programs emerged uncut. But the casualty was $1 billion in disaster relief supported by Republicans and Democrats alike.
The breakthrough of sorts came after the Federal Emergency Management Agency indicated Monday it had enough money for disaster relief efforts through Friday. That disclosure allowed both sides to save face.
There was no immediate comment from House GOP leaders, although their approval for the measure seemed a mere formality after the party's Senate leader agreed to it.
The disaster aid debate will be revisited when Congress passes a massive spending bill later this year. Under the terms of last month's budget pact, up to $11.3 billion in disaster aid could be added to the budget without having to be offset with spending cuts.
Top Republicans on the House and Senate Appropriations committees have endorsed funding disaster aid as an add-on that comes on top of the annual budget "cap" for day-to-day operations of federal agencies. But top House leaders like Speaker John Boehner of Ohio have yet to explicitly endorse the idea, which seems likely to run into opposition from tea party conservatives.
Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said Republicans had stood against Democratic efforts to use deficit spending to pay for the disaster aid.
While it was unclear precisely how long FEMA's remaining funds would last, one official said the agency began conserving funds last month as Hurricane Irene approached the U.S. mainland, prioritizing its aid to help individual disaster victims and pay states and local governments for immediate needs, such as removing debris and building sandbag barricades.
Funding of $450 million has been put on hold for longer-term needs such as reconstruction of damaged roads, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity, citing lack of authority to discuss the matter publicly. In addition, the agency has been able to reclaim unused money from past disasters, the official said.
Wednesday, September 7, 2011
How the Breathalyzer Is Poised to Revolutionize Medical Diagnostics:
Implications for the Future
Hulu’s corporate owners are currently mulling bids from three would-be buyers: Amazon, Yahoo, and the Dish Network. And then there’s Google.
The search giant has also made an offer for the video site, but it seems to be playing a different sport than the rest of its peers: Rather than bid on what Hulu’s owners have offered for sale, Google has proposed a different acquisition, on a larger scale, say people familiar with the sales process. I don’t have details on the Google offer. And there’s some debate about whether Google has actually made a formal bid yet, or has simply indicated that it’s still willing to spend a lot of money. But by looking at what Google’s competitors are offering, you can get a sense of what’s in play.
As the Financial Times reported this weekend, Yahoo, Amazon and Dish are all expected to offer between $1.5 billion and $2 billion for Hulu, in exchange for the free video site, its subscription service and the rights to exclusive content for at least two years. Google seems to want something much more than that, and is willing to pay much more to get it. If you want to speculate, you could imagine Google asking for access to more content, for a longer period of time, and perhaps offering up a couple billion dollars more. Since that’s not what Hulu’s owners have put on the table, “normally we would have thrown people out if they’d said that,” says an executive familiar with the sales process. But Google “indicated that there’s enough money” involved so that Hulu’s owners are at least thinking about continuing the discussion.
One big problem with the Google proposal: Hulu was created in large part as the TV networks’ response to YouTube, and their fear that Google would swallow up the Web video ecosystem. And in large part, Google has. YouTube is by far the biggest video site in the world, and the one part where it’s struggled is in landing long-form premium content that Hulu owns. So are the networks any more willing to hand over their most valuable programming today? On the other hand, you can see how an over-the-top bid would appeal to Google CEO Larry Page, who has been making some sweeping moves since he stepped into office in April.
Google executives made a point of saying that their $12.5 billion deal for Motorola wouldn’t stop them from making other big acquisitions. And since any big-ticket buy Google proposes is going to get heavy government scrutiny anyway, why not make it worth Google’s while? Still, Hulu’s owners don’t seem entirely convinced that they want to sell the site at all. Disney CEO Bob Iger told reporters earlier this summer that he intended to sell the site, but News Corp. chief operating officer Chase Carey has floated the notion Hulu’s owners will hang on to it. (News Corp. also owns this Web site). We may hear more soon: Hulu’s owners are scheduled to discuss the array of bids later this week.
Peter Kafka - All Things D
Did Beyonce fake her baby bump? According to a report byMediaTakeOut.com, the answer is yes!
According to an industry insider, the buzz behind the scenes at the 2011 MTV VMAs, where Beyonce revealed a growing baby bump and announced her pregnancy, was that Beyonce was wearing a prosthetic pregnant belly!
MediaTakeOut's source claims that while Beyonce is, in fact, pregnant, she is not in her second trimester as previous reports stated, and as the size of her stomach may have suggested. Allegedly Beyonce is only a little more than eight-weeks pregnant.
The website provides before-and-after photos of Beyonce at the VMAs, and images snapped by the paparazzi just a week before, featuring B barely showing any signs of a protruding pregnant belly.
The insider claimed, "She wanted the announcement to be dramatic, so she made sure she had a baby bump."
by Contessa Gayles- AOL Music
Friday, September 2, 2011
Chairman Eric Schmidt said his company’s planned $12.5 billion purchase of smartphone maker Motorola Mobility Holdings Inc. was aimed at acquiring products, and not merely patents.
“We did it for more than just patents,” Schmidt said in a conversation with Salesforce.com Inc. Chief Executive Officer Marc Benioff. “The Motorola team has some amazing products.”
The deal was aimed at helping Mountain View, California- based Google expand in smartphones in a rivalry with Apple Inc. (AAPL), maker of the iPhone. The deal brings more than 17,000 patents Google can use to protect its Android operating system.
Schmidt also praised former Apple CEO Steve Jobs, who stepped down last week, and said that he’s “proud” of his stint as an Apple director.
“It’s certainly the best performance of a CEO in 50 years,” Schmidt said of Jobs. “We’ve all benefited from the tremendous innovation at Apple. And I say this as a very proud former board member at Apple.”
Schmidt was on Apple’s board while he was CEO of Google. He exited in August 2009 as rivalry between the two companies accelerated. Google’s expansion into computer and mobile-phone software yielded direct competitors to Apple’s products, including the iPhone, which was introduced in 2007.
By Aaron Ricadela firstname.lastname@example.org
Thursday, September 1, 2011
Yesterday the U.S. Department of Justice filed an antitrust lawsuit to block the $39 billion merger between AT&T and T-Mobile. This is great news for communities of color, who disproportionately rely on wireless service to make phone calls and access the Internet.
The DoJ concluded the merger would lead to "higher prices, fewer choices and lower quality products" for millions of wireless users.
Even though AT&T has vowed to fight today's decision in court, the announcement is welcome news for our community, which has been devastated by the nation's economic crisis.
"Blocking this merger is a major victory for communities of color, rural communities and America's poor," said amalia deloney, grassroots policy director for the Center for Media Justice. "The Justice Department has taken seriously our real concerns about higher prices, fewer choices and massive job loss."
The proposed merger would result in AT&T and Verizon controlling nearly 80 percent of the wireless market. It would also likely lead to higher wireless prices, making it that much more difficult to close the digital divide. The high cost of Internet access is a primary reason why so many people of color remain disconnected.
Of the four national carriers, AT&T offers the most expensive plans while T-Mobile's plans are the most affordable. So it is no surprise that nearly half of T-Mobile's customers are people of color.
And the merger would result in major job losses for communities of color. AT&T is expected to cut up to 20,000 T-Mobile workers, and people of color make up 48 percent of T-Mobile's workforce.
The Justice Department's decision comes as a relief for many who believed it would rubberstamp the merger -- bowing to one of the most powerful corporations in the country and its army of high-priced lobbyists -- rather than protect consumers by enforcing antitrust laws.
"As Americans struggle in today's economy, the Department took an important step to ensure that consumers have continued access to affordable mobile services and new technologies," said Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), ranking member on the House Judiciary Committee. "The action will protect American consumers and American jobs, the very purpose of our antitrust laws."
We recently learned that AT&T's main argument for seeking approval of the merger -- that it could not build out its 4G network to 97 percent of the population without acquiring T-Mobile -- was a lie.
AT&T's true motives for pursuing the merger were disclosed earlier this month when the company mistakenly released unredacted confidential documents it filed with the FCC. The information revealed the company rejected a plan to build out its 4G network to 97 percent of the population at a cost of $3.8 billion. The company decided it wouldn't be profitable to do so. Instead, AT&T decided it was better business to spend $39 billion -- 10 times as much -- to take out a competitor.
In lobbying for support of the merger, AT&T misled dozens of lawmakers and civil rights groups, including the NAACP, the League of United Latin American Citizens and the National Urban League, all of whom called on the DoJ and the FCC to approve this deal on the basis of the carrier's (false) claims.
Hopefully, lawmakers and civil rights groups will reexamine their positions and rescind their support of a merger that is clearly not only bad for our communities but bad for our country.
By Joe Torres
Tom Bergeron and Brooke Burke were on hand Monday night to announce which celebs have signed up to samba on Season 13 of the ABC reality show. The live announcement, which took place during ABC's summer hit 'Bachelor Pad,' brought us several surprises.
Aside from the usual sports stars, soap stars and reality stars, 'DWTS' strayed from the formula a bit. For one, there's nary a Disney starlet in sight. Who's this season's Chelsea Kane? Could former 'Hills' troublemaker Kristin Cavallari have hidden dance talent we never saw? And in a move that could be controversial to some, Cher's son Chaz Bono, who was born a woman, will paso doble with a female 'DWTS' pro during Season 13.
At the IFA technology extravaganza in Berlin, Samsung unveiled its Galaxy Note, a phone with a whopping 5.3'' HD Super AMOLED display that Samsung says is "the largest screen size with smartphone portability." The iPhone 4's display screen is also smaller than the Note's at 3.5 inches, but then, if Samsung is correct, all smartphones' display screens are smaller than the Note's.
The Note will also come with a stylus (remember those?) called the "S Pen." Samsung boasts it will "introduce a new type of user experience" and allow Note owners to "freely capture and create ideas on the go." Though a stylus may not necessarily be a "new type of user experience," the fact that Samsung has included apps specially designed with the pen in mind is nice: The S Pen "has been deeply integrated into the GALAXY Note’s native applications," including the ability to send doodles and hand-drawn notes via text and email. (Samsung has made a neat infographic highlighting the utility of the S Pen which you can view here.)
Besides the old-school built-in stylus, the Note has a 1.4 gHz dual-core processor, the toned-down Android Gingerbread 2.3 operating system and both a rear camera (8 megapixels) and front-facing camera (2 megapixels). Compare all of this with the iPhone 4's specs: A 1.0 gHz single coreprocessor, iOS 4 (for now) and a rear and front facing camera boasting 5 megapixel and less-than-a-megapixel VGA hardware, respectively.
Samsung has also announced a new, small tablet called the Galaxy Tab 7.7. Samsung is billing it as the world's first tablet to feature the Super AMOLED Plus display, but the real difference-maker here is the size: A bit bigger than the hold-with-one-hand Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.0, the Tab 7.7 weighs 12 ounces and is 7.7 inches by 5.2 inches by 7.9 mm. It will apparently fill that void for tablet shoppers who found the screen size of the Tab 7.0 too tiny and the Tab 10.1 too large. There's no comparison with the iPad here: The Galaxy Tab 7.7 is a different, smaller class of tablet, one intended to fit in (your perhaps very large) pocket.