Palin Steps Down as Alaska Governor

Sarah Palin stepped down Sunday as Alaska governor to write a book and build a right-of-center coalition, but she left her long-term political plans unclear and refused to address speculation she would seek a 2012 presidential bid.

Palin Resigning

In a fiery campaign-style speech, Palin said she was stepping down to take her political battles to a larger if unspecified stage and avoid an unproductive, lame duck status.

“With this decision, now, I will be able to fight even harder for you, for what is right, and for truth. And I have never felt that you need a title to do that,” Palin said to raucous applause from about 5,000 people gathered at Pioneer Park in downtown Fairbanks.

Her first order of business as a private citizen is to speak Aug. 8 at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in California. She also wants to campaign for political candidates from coast to coast, and continue to speak her mind on the social networking site Twitter, one of her favorite venues to reach out to supporters.

Free speech was a theme of her farewell speech at a crowded picnic in Fairbanks, as the outgoing governor scolded “some seemingly hell bent on tearing down our nation” and warned Americans to “be wary of accepting government largess. It doesn’t come free.”

She also took aim at the media, saying her replacement, Lt. Gov. Sean Parnell, “has a very nice family too, so leave his kids alone!”

And she told the media: “How about, in honor of the American soldier, you quit makin’ things up?”

She didn’t elaborate, but Palin said when she announced her resignation July 3 that she was tired of the media focus on her family and felt she had been unfairly treated by reporters and bloggers.

Friend and foe alike have speculated that Palin may host a radio or TV show, launch a lucrative speaking career or seek higher office in Washington.

Palin hasn’t ruled out any of those options, and her political action committee, SarahPAC, has raised more than $1 million, said Meghan Stapleton, a spokeswoman for the committee and the Palin family.

Stapleton said Palin is still deciding what her future will be.

“I cannot express enough there is no plan after July 26. There is absolutely no plan,” she told The Associated Press.

Palin’s surprise announcement she was stepping down 17 months before the end of her first term pushed her favorability rating down to 40 percent, according to a Washington Post-ABC poll. Fifty-three percent of those polled gave her an unfavorable rating.

Last summer, almost six in 10 Americans viewed her favorably. The latest poll was taken July 15-18.

Nearly 20 ethics complaints had been filed against Palin, and the outgoing governor cited the resulting investigation’s financial toll – both on her and the state – for stepping down. An independent investigator looking into the complaints found evidence she may have violated ethics laws by trading on her position as she sought money for lawyer fees, according to a report obtained recently by The Associated Press.

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Spaniard Contador wins Tour de France

Tour de France

PARIS: Alberto Contador emerged as the new cycling boss on Sunday when the Spaniard wrapped up his second Tour de France title on the Champs-Elysees on Lance Armstrong’s return to the race. The 26-year-old Contador stayed safe in the main bunch as the last stage, over 164 km from Montereau Fault-Yonne, went to Briton Mark Cavendish.

He out sprinted Columbia team mate Mark Renshaw of Australia and American Tyler Farrar to clinch his sixth stage win in this year’s race.

Contador proved the strongest rider in the mountains and in the time trials, beating Luxemburg’s Andy Schleck by four minutes 11 seconds for the overall victory.

Seven-times champion Armstrong, back from 3-1/2 years in retirement, finished third overall 5:24 off the pace.

Norway’s Thor Hushovd clinched the green jersey for the points classification and Italy’s Franco Pellizotti won the polka dot jersey for the best climber.

Contador’s victory kept the Spanish flag flying high on the Champs-Elysees as it followed triumphs for Oscar Pereiro in 2006, himself in 2007 and Carlos Sastre last year.

Contador, who missed last year’s Tour after Astana were not invited because of their past doping record, took the overall leader’s yellow jersey with a strong attack in the first Alpine stage in Verbier, Switzerland.

It was the ninth Tour title for Astana’s Belgian team manager Johan Bruyneel, who masterminded Armstrong’s seven victories on the three-week race.

Armstrong stayed in contention for almost two weeks but he discovered his limits in the Alps and in the final time trial in Annecy.

Britain had an exciting year on the Tour, with Cavendish snatching six stages and Bradley Wiggins finishing fourth overall.

Novo Minoru – the world’s first 3D webcam

Novo MinoruBig-name film directors Steven Spielberg and James Cameron seem to think that 3D is the future of the film industry. Sky predicts that it’ll be broadcasting programmes in 3D within just a few years. And now you can get in on the act as well, thanks to Minoru – the world’s first 3D webcam.

Yes, you do have to wear silly cardboard glasses while you’re using it.

According to developer PDT, ‘minoru’ is the Japanese word for ‘reality’, and the aim of the Minoru webcam is to capture 3D images that are more realistic than the 2D pictures that we normally see on a computer screen. The Minoru uses the same ‘anaglyph’ technique as 3D classics such as Jaws 3D, in which two separate images – one tinted red, the other blue – are superimposed one on the other and then viewed though coloured glasses that have suitably hued lens. This creates a kind of ‘visual stereo’ effect that has more depth than a conventional 2D image.

In order to create the two separate images, the Minoru webcam is equipped with two separate lenses – in effect, it’s two webcams bolted together. This has the handy side-effect of giving it a big-headed, goggle-eyed look that is more than a little reminiscent of ET, especially with its ‘begging dog’ tripod limbs turned forward.

The overall effect is to make the Minoru look eye-catchingly cute in order to grab your attention, and then clinch the sale with the promise of that 3D imagery. There are also two microphones in the ‘ears’ of the unit, so you can record sound with it as well, or use your PC’s own audio input and a separate microphone if you prefer.

In practice, the Minoru works pretty much like a conventional webcam, and can be plugged straight into a USB 2.0 port – the manual states that it won’t work with USB 1.x. It also states that you need a PC with a 2.4GHz processor, running either Windows XP or Vista – there’s no Mac support – although we managed to run it quite well on an old 1.8GHz Toshiba laptop

Hot eco-Ride – Vectrix Electric Superbike

Hot eco-Ride - Vectrix Electric Superbike

Hot on the heels of its excellent electric maxi-scooter, Vectrix has finally delivered on its promise of an electric superbike, and it’s amazingly close to the concept drawings we saw a couple of years back. Unveiled at the Milan motorcycle show, the Vectrix Electric Superbike has a top speed of around 125mph, a range of around 70 miles and it’ll eat up the quarter mile in around 12 seconds, so it’s clearly got some punch behind the throttle. It’ll go into production if interest is high enough – can this be the first true production electric performance motorcycle? And if so – how long ’til they start racing it?

While we’re waiting for further details on this exciting machine, we’d expect it to carry the same top-quality Italian running gear as its little brother, the maxi-scooter – and that means Marzocchi, Sachs, and Brembo bits in all the right places, as well as the two-way throttle-activated regenerative braking system we were so impressed with on the scooter.

The battery’s a 240v, 7.5KWh unit but we’re currently unsure whether Vectrix has moved past NiMH onto the more effective but less well-known lithium-polymer units that are leading the development charge in terms of power and range.

Thanks to Robrady design, the bike’s appearance is stunning, the subframe and seat suspended in midair over the beefy “tank” area, and the large electric motor sitting in plain view on the rear hub. In total the bike weighs in at 204kg.

Seeing as the latest generation Japanese superbikes are 40kg lighter, 60mph faster and around 2 seconds quicker over the quarter mile, perhaps the Vectrix hasn’t quite lived up to its Superbike name. This doesn’t make the bike any less significant – the petrol engine has only earned its current levels of performance after decades of racing development. Here, at last, is an electric motorcycle that offers genuine racetrack potential, and once some competitors line up next to it, the real performance development can begin.

Vectrix say they’ll run the Electric Superbike into production if they receive 500 deposits – we very much hope the demand exists for this innovative and exciting bike, in large part, because we can’t wait to ride one! The USA debut is scheduled for the CES show in Las Vegas in January 2008.

Oh, and although it went almost unnoticed next to the gleaming superbike, Vectrix also displayed its three-wheel carver at Milan. We can’t wait to see how it compares to Piaggio’s excellent MP3!

Samsung Code (i220): A 2-megapixel camera cell phone

samsung-code-i220-a-2-megapixel-camera-cell-phoneSamsung wants to leave no doubt it is one of the companies that is always looking for the complete satisfaction of every single target group  in the mobile industry. For that reason, it has introduced another mobile alternative that will be available soon. We are talking about Samsung Code (i220): a new mobile phone that, apparently, will be very appropriate for instant messaging fans.

Some of the features of the Samsung Code include:

* A built-in 2-megapixel camera
* QVGA  Screen
* EVDO Rev
* Predictive Text function
* USB Connection
* Bluetooth 2.0 Connectivity
* RAM: 128MB  – ROM: 128MB
* MP3  Player
* QWERTY  Keyboard
* Windows Mobile 6.1 operating system
* Video player and recorder
* microSD card slot  to extend memory
* Internet Explorer Mobile with HTML  support
* GPS/E911

The design of this gadget won’t be its most remarkable feature; however, the company hopes it fits the needs of many people around the world who could be interested in buying this phone.

There is no official announcement (so far) about when this phone will be available for sale. Even, there is no  official words from Samsung about the countries where this gadget will be available initially.

We will be alert to any news surrounding this upcoming smartphone. It is difficult to say more about it because there is little information, at least in an official way. Anyway, we guess it will be made available to the public shortly.

Sri Lanka win Test series

Srilanka won the series

COLOMBO – SRI LANKA clinched their first home series against Pakistan after the temperamental tourists suffered a spectacular collapse in the second Test here on Tuesday.

Pakistan, sitting pretty at 285-1 just before lunch on the third day, crashed to 320 all out after the break to leave Sri Lanka a victory target of 171 for a decisive 2-0 lead in the three-match series.

Sri Lanka cruised home by seven wickets with two days to spare, skipper Kumar Sangakkara leading the way with a fluent 46 after opener Malinda Warnapura made 54.

Of the previous five series between the two nations on Sri Lankan soil, Pakistan had won three and drawn two, but the tourists had only themselves to blame for allowing the hosts to re-write history.

Pakistan’s meek surrender against the second new ball came after debutant opener Fawad Alam hit a superb 168 and shared a record stand of 200 for the second wicket with skipper Younus Khan (82). The partnership was Pakistan’s highest for the second wicket against Sri Lanka, surpassing the 151 by Mohsin Khan and Majid Khan at Lahore in 1982.

The 23-year-old Alam batted for more than six hours to amass the highest score by a Pakistani batsman on Sri Lankan soil, surpassing the 151 by Salim Malik in 1997.

But Pakistan lost their last nine wickets for 35 runs, their third successive collapse in the series that highlighted their reputation as one of the most unpredictable sides in modern cricket.

Pakistan had seen eight wickets fall for 46 runs on the fourth morning of the Galle Test when just 97 more were needed to win the match.

The tourists then crumbled for a paltry 90 in 36 overs on the first day of this Test after electing to bat on a wicket that provided assistance to the seam bowlers.

Sri Lanka did not feel the absence of star spinner Muttiah Muralitharan, out of action with a knee injury, as left-arm slow bowler Rangana Herath claimed 5-99 and seamer Nuwan Kulasekera took 4-37.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince Review

harry-potterIt’s FINALLY here. David Yates, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince starring Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Michael Gambon, Alan Rickman, Jim Broadbent, Bonnie Wright, and many more hit theaters July 15th at 12:01am. It’s already sold out hundreds of theaters across the country, but is it worth it? Absolutely. If you can wait, the experience will be even better in IMAX, but the story and the visuals hold up no matter what theater you’re in.

First and foremost, there will be no spoilers in this review, so you can all just calm down. It’s time for the good, the bad, and the plot…

The Plot:

A now, much more mature Harry Potter starts his 6th year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. It’s never an easy task for him to make it to school and this film is no exception. With the help of a good friend he makes it back and once there discovers an old book mysteriously marked “This book is the property of the Half-Blood Prince” in the new teacher, Horace Slughorn’s class. With the help of Dumbledore, Harry begins to learn more about Lord Voldemort’s dark past. Meanwhile, everyone in the school appears to be hormone crazy and Harry, Hermoine, and Ron all deal with their own versions of love.

harry-potter-2009The Good:

  • Special Effects: Eat your heart out Michael Bay. I didn’t even see the film in IMAX and the special effects were still some of the best I’ve seen. Some of the outside shots of the castle are absolutely brilliant. Spectacular no matter what screen you see it on.
  • The Acting: Phenomenal. I could (and might) write an entire piece just on their acting. It’s amazing to see the main trio all grow up and be able to perform so well. Although there were a few stand-out performances….
  • Alan Rickman: every line he says is spot on. You never know if you can trust him and his voice sends shivers down your spine.
  • Rupert Grint: His character had the best and most relatable story line. He’s not super smart, he’s not gifted, and he’s not the best looking guy around, BUT he’s always there when you need him and he always gives his best even when others around him are doing better. He doesn’t give up, he keeps trying.
  • All Grown Up: The characters, the story, the issues, everything has matured. Part of me enjoys seeing them as young adults, but part of me wishes they were still little kids running around with wands.
  • Honest to the Book: Even when I was hoping it wouldn’t be. Although, as always, the book has more than the movie, but that has come to be expected.

The Bad:

  • Over/Under Explaining: There are a few scenes that are repetitive and other scenes which feel completely under explained. I didn’t need the plot points explained to me over and over again, we all know Tom Riddle is evil, I needed to know why certain things were happening for no apparent reason.
  • Half-Blood: I get what it means, but can someone explain why the hell that matters so much?
  • Ginny: Bonnie Wright may be a great actress but I have yet to see them give her a chance to prove it. She plays a pivotal role in this film and yet has no arch. She had very few lines and I never truly saw what was so desirable about her.
  • Stand Alone: This film doesn’t stand alone as much as some of the other ones. One film always leads to another, but this film left me a touch unfulfilled.

Overall:

The reason I enjoyed this film is that I love the characters, but it did feel a touch lack-luster. Although we have seen tragedy in the Potter films before, this film has a much more serious tone, which was balanced out with some cheesy and not always perfect moments. That being said, for all it’s fault, it’s still one of the best films to see this summer and I enjoyed every minute of it!

2009 Night of Champions WWE Matches

Following this week’s edition of WWE Superstars, here is the official updated card for this month’s WWE  Night Of  Champions pay-per-view:.

Night of champions

WWE Championship Match

Randy Orton (c) vs. John Cena vs. Triple H

World Heavyweight Championship Match

CM Punk (c) vs. Jeff Hardy

ECW Championship Match

Tommy Dreamer (c) vs. Christian

WWE Intercontinental Championship Match

Rey Mysterio (c) vs. Dolph Ziggler

Unified Tag Team Championship Match

Chris Jericho (c) A Mystery Partner & vs. Ted DiBiase & Cody Rhodes

Divas Championship Match

Maryse (c) vs. Mickie James

Wimbledon Winners

It was a busy weekend in Wimbledon as the champions of men’s and women’s tennis were declared.  It was a hard fought battle, but Serena Williams and Roger Federer have come out on top.

roger-federer

The women were up first and it was an all American showdown on the 4th of July (how appropriate).  It wasn’t quite an epic battle as Serena beat her older sister 7-6 (7-3), 6-2.  In typical Serena fashion, she upped her game at all the key moments to secure her victory.  She managed to pull away in the tiebreak and broke midway through the second set which sealed the deal.  She had defeated her sister thus preventing Venus from grabbing a historic third consecutive Wimbledon title.

serena williams

Serena now holds 11 titles and remains the no. 2 ranked player in the world.  When asked about her ranking, she had a few laughs while poking fun at the current ranking system.  She ultimately summed it up by saying, “I’d rather definitely be No.2 and hold three Grand Slams in the past year than be No. 1 and not have any.”

In keeping with the style of the past couple of years, the men’s Finals turned out to be a bit more dramatic.  In fact, based on the number of games, it was the longest Wimbledon Final of all time.  Federer and Roddick played five sets of marathon tennis until Federer managed to pull out the 5-7, 7-6 (8-6), 7-6 (7-5), 3-6, 16-14 win.  It was a hard fought battle for Federer, who didn’t manage to break Roddick until the very end.

Roddick played the match of his life, going up two sets to start things off. But he just couldn’t hold on to it.  In the fifth set, Roddick lost his serve for the first and ony time during the match.  Unfortunately, it handed Federer the chance at match point.  Roddick had another forehand mistake and it was over.  It was a devastating loss for the American, who sat on his changeover chair with his head in his hands, waiting for the award ceremony to begin.  Federer pulled on a tracksuit with a gold 15 inscribed on the back.  With former record holder Pete Sampras looking on, Federer hoisted his 15th Grand Slam title.

And so another Wimbledon chapter comes to an end.  Next up, the US Open set to start on August 31.

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (2009)

To expect Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen to be anything more than a mindless summer film with tons of explosions, CGI and slow-motion shots dedicated to Megan Fox is to go into this film set up for disappointment. In 2007 Michael Bay showed us what he was capable of with this franchise and as a result I left the theater that year extremely disappointed. I wanted more and I expected more and I got less. This time around I expected less and Bay didn’t fail me as I appropriately prepared myself for what was to come. This doesn’t mean that as a result Revenge of the Fallen was actually good, but it was tolerable and there were moments I actually enjoyed myself.

Transformers_Revenge_of_the_Fallen

Most of what was on screen washed over me without any lasting effect. I sat back and watched as Bay once again featured robots taking racial stereotypes to the nth degree and even took a moment to feature two massive wrecking balls as visual representations for exactly what you would think they would be on a 70-foot tall CGI robot. The problem is that this is what I come out of a film like this talking about as opposed to the story being told. As a filmmaker, Bay has proven he can stage action sequences with the best of them, but when it comes to filling in the blanks he is clueless.

In the years following the goings on in the first film, Revenge of the Fallen‘s story dates back to 10,000 B.C. setting up a plot where the Decepticons (the bad guy robots) aim to resurrect an ancient ally known as The Fallen in an attempt to destroy the sun, steal its energy and move on to the next planet. Of course, this just won’t do, but the story gets so convoluted and misshapen from there, to actually describe it would take more paragraphs than its worth. Just suffice to say Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf) gets infected with Transformers Symbology Disease and becomes hunted for his thoughts this time as opposed to his eBay trinkets. While this is going on the American military is doubting their alliance with the Autobots (the good guy robots), Megan Fox is trying to find the most supportive (yet revealing) tank top to wear and John Turturro is back as the madcap crazy man with a plan as we move to the desert for a massive battle sequence, only this time there are pyramids! In short, not a whole lot has changed since 2007.

However, inside these similarities with the first film there are some interesting changes. One criticism of the first film was that you couldn’t see the robot-on-robot action, as battles were filmed too close and didn’t reveal enough to make it easy to follow. This time around Bay pulls the camera back and the action is actually quite impressive and is certainly the best part of the whole feature. You will have a hard time discerning which robot is which, but hey look… an explosion! Yeah, that’s how it works here.

Next comes the treatment of the female characters, which begins with an introduction of Megan Fox as Mikaela bent over on a motorcycle with just enough clothes on to keep things covered. Newcomer to the franchise, Isabel Lucas, gets a similar treatment following her introduction as Bay damn near shoves the camera up her skirt. I’m not complaining, the ladies are lovely and God bless them if they can look at this as a way of using their looks to earn a paycheck, but sometimes it astonishes me what women will do and I can’t help but wonder how the scene is first described to them as Bay is setting up the shot.

The one element of the film that is sure to draw critical fire is two robots referred to as The Twins. Both speak in what I can only assume is a perceived impression of modern day street talk while they stumble around as if they are both stoned. On top of this one boldly features a gold tooth while the two appear to be stepping in as the African American representatives in this robot army, replacing the deceased Jazz robot from the first feature. The two argue and fight, calling one another “bitch-ass” and at one point referring to one of the humans as a “pussy.” At times they can be funny, but to say they aren’t a racial caricature that could potentially stir up a load of problems would be an understatement.

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