Articles of Interest, January 28th, 2008

Harvesting energy from falling raindrops

Scientists at the CEA/Leti-Minatec in Grenoble, France are looking at ways to produce electricity from the vibrations caused by falling raindrops.

It’s the latest step toward exploiting piezoelectric principles. In piezoelectrics, bending or otherwise deforming an object can produce power. If you take a tiny wire and bend it, for example, a negative charge gets produced on the stretched side while a positive charge gets created on the compressed side. When the pressure on the wire is relieved, an electrical current can be detected.

Using the CEA’s concept, raindrops hitting a flexible surface set off the vibrations for producing power. The original paper is here. Thomas Jager, one of the authors of the paper, told that the system works with raindrops ranging in diameter from 1 to 5 millimeters. Large drops can generate enough vibrations for 12 milliwatts. Building a big system that could capture energy from a lot of raindrops, however, remains to be seen.

A number of other organizations are working on piezoelectric devices as well. Zhong Lin Wang at the Georgia Institute of Technology has devised a sensor that can harvest mechanical energy by bending zinc oxide nanowires and convert it into electricity. He wants to put it in a boot so you can walk and generate power. Other experiments have involved harvesting energy from a flexible floor.

The CEA is also working on devices that can produce energy via the Seebeck effect, or temperature differentials. Last year, it presented a paper on devices that could derive power by being exposed to ambient temperatures. A group at Princeton is conducting similar experiments.

Senate Democrats Adding to Stimulus 

WASHINGTON (AP) – Senate Democrats will move to add to a $150 billion economic stimulus package rebates for senior citizens living off Social Security and an extension of unemployment benefits, setting up a clash with the White House and House leaders who are pushing a narrower package.

As the House planned a vote Tuesday on a plan that would speed rebates of up to $600 to most income earners – more for couples and families with children – the Senate was planning to draft its own measure with the add-ons, said senior Senate aides in both parties, speaking on condition of anonymity because the package is not yet final.

The move was in defiance of admonitions from the Bush administration not to risk derailing the deal with changes, and it threatened to slow what was shaping up as an extraordinarily rapid trip through Congress for the stimulus measure.

Adding rebates for senior citizens living solely off Social Security checks – who are ineligible under the plan hatched by House leaders and the White House – would likely mean doling out smaller rebates overall, shrinking the size of the payments from $600 to $500, according to a senior Senate aide.

Wireless and fiber add to Verizon growth

Wireless and the Fios fiber-to-the home broadband network continue to fuel growth for Verizon Communications.

On Monday the second largest phone company in the U.S. reported that profits were up 3.9 percent for the fourth quarter of 2007 as it added more wireless subscribers in its joint venture with Vodafone and nearly hit the 1 million subscriber mark for its Fios TV service.

Earnings met analyst expectations with net income coming in at $1.07 billion, or 37 cents a share. This is up from $1.03 billion, or 35 cents, a year ago. Profit excluding items such as severance pay for laid off workers was 62 cents a share.

Verizon added 2 million wireless subscribers during the fourth quarter, likely scooping up subscribers who were leaving Sprint Nextel’s service. Sprint, the third largest cell phone operator in the U.S. lost about 683,000 subscribers during the quarter. In total Verizon Wireless now has 65.7 million cell phone subscribers.

The company also increased wireless revenue about 13.3 percent with a 53 percent increase in revenue generated from wireless data services.

But Verizon still faces stiff competition from AT&T, the largest wireless operator in the U.S. Last week AT&T reported a net addition of 2.7 million new users subscribers widening its lead in the market to 70.1 million wireless subscribers.

Verizon also grew Fios subscribers. Fios is the fiber optic network that the company is spending roughly $23 billion over seven years to build. The network takes fiber directly to people’s homes, providing almost limitless bandwidth Verizon is building the network so that it can offer a triple play of services that includes TV, broadband and phone service in an effort to compete more directly with cable companies like Comcast and Time Warner Cable.

Verizon added 226,000 TV subscribers for a total of 943,000 at the end of 2007. The company said it now has over 1 million Fios TV customers. Verizon hit the 1 million subscriber mark for its Fios broadband service in late June. Back then it reported it 500,000 Fios TV subscribers. The company said it added about 245,000 Fios broadband subscribers in the fourth quarter, bringing its total broadband customer base to 8.2 billion at the end of the year.

Even as Verizon grows the company is still seeing a slowdown in its traditional long distance business, and the company plans to tighten its belt as it continues to focus on its wireless and Fios broadband businesses.

Software Tool Strips Windows Vista To Bare Bones 

“A free download that can cut Windows Vista’s gargantuan footprint by half or more is developing a big following on the Internet. vLite is a configuration tool that lets users automatically delete a lot of unnecessary Vista components — such as Windows Media Player and MSN installer — to pare the OS down to a reasonable size. The software is catching on. An InformationWeek story notes that a forum that asks users to suggest new features has drawn nearly 50,000 page views. Meanwhile, Microsoft officials have themselves conceded that Vista is “bloated” and are developing the next version of Windows on a core called MinWin, which is smaller than Vista by an order of magnitude.”

Michelle Obama speaks at Rancho High School in Las Vegas, Nevada, January 17, 2008.

Michelle Obama Finds Her Voice Too

On the stage the night he conceded the New Hampshire primary, Barack Obama looked exhausted. Closing his eyes for a moment, he leaned back on his wife, Michelle, who encircled his waist with one arm, giving him a squeeze, while pumping her other fist in the air, as if in victory. If anything, Michelle looked, in the words of her husband’s campaign slogan, “fired up” and “ready to go”.

Obama leans on his wife in many ways — for support, for advice, for grounding and increasingly for her fighting words. In an increasingly nasty race that seems to pit the Illinois Senator against not just a former First Lady but her ex-President husband as well, Obama needs Michelle more than ever. This week, for the first time since Barack Obama launched his campaign 11 months ago, Michelle Obama has left the couple’s two young girls at home with her mother and hit the campaign trail full-time. While she’s no Bill Clinton, Obama does have sharp elbows. One of her more pointed remarks is about how “things have gotten continually worse over my lifetime,” implying the Clinton era did little to help “regular folks” like her and her family. And in a forcefully worded fund-raising letter sent out Thursday, she says, “What we didn’t expect, at least not from our fellow Democrats, are the win-at-all-costs tactics we’ve seen recently. We didn’t expect misleading accusations that willfully distort Barack’s record… We’ve seen disingenuous attacks and smear tactics turn people off from the political process for too long, and enough is enough.”

But more importantly, as she tours South Carolina, speaking on behalf of her husband, she has become the real-life example of Obama’s soaring rhetoric. “I was raised in a working class family on the South Side of Chicago, that’s how I identify myself, a working class girl,” Michelle told a group of students at the University of South Carolina Wednesday. “My mother came home and took care of us through high school, my father was a city shift worker who took care of us all his life. The only amazing thing about my life is that a man like my father could raise a family of four on a single city worker’s salary.”

Obama’s conventional background contrasts with her husband’s childhood, growing up between Hawaii and Indonesia, to which few of his supporters can relate. Where Barack Obama’s speeches are all about soaring rhetoric, with very few mentions of his personal upbringing, his wife focuses on her childhood, telling her story from the ground up. “You think of my parents who didn’t go to college, who sent not one but two of us to Princeton, my brother and I,” she told the 200 or so students that came to hear her speak. “And the one thing that is clear to me as I’ve traveled the country is the story of my father is the story of America, I don’t care what color what folks are, I don’t care if they grew up on a farm or in the inner city.”

Not surprisingly, Michelle Obama resonates especially with black women, many of whom are torn between voting for the first woman President or the first black President. While Obama tries not to focus on race or the historic nature of his candidacy, his wife has no such qualms. In front of black audiences, like one at Benedict College in Columbia, she takes on a much more strident tone. There on Sunday she marveled at how a “little black girl from the south side of Chicago” could be “the next First Lady,” she told the audience to a standing ovation — one of four she received during her that speech.

“We are confronted with the doubters. People who tells us what we can’t do. You’re not ready. You’re not good enough. You’re not smart enough. You’re too tall,” she said as the audience chuckled (Michelle is 5’11”), mindful of the increasingly heated rhetoric flying between the Clinton and Obama campaigns. Growing serious, she continued: “Each and every one of you here has heard and felt those ceilings, somebody pushing you down, defining your limitations, who are you? You know damn well what you are capable of doing… This election is just as much about that as it is about change because the truth is there are millions of shining little lights just like me all over this country. Kids living in the shadows, being told by their own communities what they can and cannot do. This is an opportunity for all of us to send a different message to all those shining lights.”

New Iron Man Photo Released

Marvel Studios has released this new photo from the Jon Favreau-directed Iron Man, coming to theaters on May 2. The comic book adaptation stars Robert Downey Jr., Terrence Howard, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jeff Bridges.

The movie tells the story of Tony Stark (Downey Jr.), a billionaire industrialist and genius inventor who is kidnapped and forced to build a devastating weapon. Instead, using his intelligence and ingenuity, Tony builds a high-tech suit of armor and escapes captivity. Upon his return to America, Tony must come to terms with his past. When he uncovers a nefarious plot with global implications, he dons his powerful armor and vows to protect the world as Iron Man.


Kennedy: ‘It’s time now for Barack Obama’

WASHINGTON (CNN) — Sen. Edward Kennedy backed Sen. Barack Obama for president Monday, saying, “It is time again for a new generation of leadership.”

“It is time now for Barack Obama,” the Massachusetts senator and brother of the late President Kennedy added.

He stood with Obama, his son, Rep. Patrick Kennedy, and his niece, Caroline Kennedy, before a screaming capacity crowd of students at American University in Washington.

“Like you, we want a president who appeals to the hopes of those who still believe in the American dream,” he said.

“I’ve found that candidate. And it looks to me like you have too,” he said.

After Kennedy spoke, Obama told the boisterous crowed: “I know what your support means. I know the cherished place the Kennedy family holds in the hearts of the American people.”

And the Illinois Democrats said he would work to carry on the vision the senator’s brother laid out when he was president nearly five decades ago.

“The dream has never died … it lives on in those Americans, young and old, rich and poor, black and white, Latino and Asian and Native American, gay and straight, who are tired of a politics that divides us and want to recapture the sense of common purpose that we had when John Kennedy was president of the United States of America,” Obama said.

HALPERIN’S TAKE: Six Reasons Why the Kennedy Endorsement is a Big Deal

While endorsements don’t usually matter much, Edward Kennedy’s does because:

1. He has a huge following with Hispanics, a big deal in California and other Super Tuesday states, and one of Obama’s weaknesses.

2. The symbolic Kennedy family thing — the ultimate message of change, viability, Democratic legitimacy, and youthful excitement.

3. The national press will be obsessed with the story for days and days to come, with no downside for Obama; the local press coverage when Kennedy travels for Obama will be ginormous.

4. It sends a message to other senators and superdelegates that it is OK to be for Obama — they don’t have to be afraid of the Clintons.

5. He has a huge following among working-class, traditional Democrats, one of Obama’s weaknesses.

6. He has a huge following among union households, another of Obama’s weaknesses.

Sharpton to Bill Clinton: ‘Shut Up’

ABC News’ Rick Klein Reports: Rev. Al Sharpton on Monday weighed in on the raging debate inside the Democratic Party over former President Bill Clinton’s advocacy on behalf of his wife’s campaign, with two choice words for the former president: “Shut up.”

On ABC’s “The View,” Sharpton said voters are hearing “race charges, race-tinged rhetoric” in the Democratic primary campaign, and called on the former president to cease.

“I think it’s time for him to just be quiet,” said Sharpton, who was a Democratic presidential candidate in 2004. “I think it’s time for him to stop. As one of the most outspoken people in America, there’s a time to shut up, and I think that time has come.”

Sharpton didn’t say which comments in particular bothered him. But many Democrats were particularly upset that the former president made an explicit comparison of Obama’s campaign to Jesse Jackson’s victories in South Carolina in 1984 and 1988, in an apparent attempt to explain why his wife didn’t win the South Carolina primary on Saturday.

For his part, Jackson told The New York Times that he wasn’t bothered by the comparison. Still, he told the newspaper that he had spoken to both Obama and President Clinton over the weekend, and told both to “take it to a higher ground.”

Will Wilder’s Film really weaken Islam?

Geert Wilders’ ten-minute film attacking Prophet Muhammad, and the Quran has become the talk of Muslim circles. Some are suggesting an intellectual response and others are saying that a entire Friday Khutbah be dedicated to the subject to scientifically refute the allegations.

Wilder is a member of the Dutch parliament and a leader of a far right party that views in the growing hostility between Muslims and Christians in Europe an excellent opportunity for its success in the coming elections.

Wilder’s accusations against the Quran and Prophet Muhammad are not different than those raised by many Europeans backed by religious and political groups in the last five hundred years. What is new is the way Muslims have chosen to respond to the issue.

Europe has produced more than 10,000 anti-Islamic and anti-Quran books in its long relations with Muslims. One can at least count more than 131 movies produced by various European filmmakers ridiculing Islam and the Quran. The passion play in Spain mocking Muslims and celebrating the victory of Christians over Moors is an annual reality. Yet, Islam has survived all the negatives spreading over a few centuries. Islam, can certainly survive the 10 minute movie degrading the Quran. Muslims must never consider that their religion is so weak that its foundations can be demolished by a hate monger’s 10 minute film.

How should Muslims respond to such provocations. The best response is silence. Ignore the movie and it would die on its own. The second best response is to produce films that would highlight the true normative ethical framework of the Quranic teachings. The third best response is to live the Quranic message of love and compassion. It is this response that can counter all the negatives reproduced by anti-Islamic forces. We must realize that we have many people in the world who hate others for no reason. Don’t some Muslims in different parts of the world hate Americans because they are Americans? Don’t some Muslims hate the Jews simply because they are Jews. Similarly, among Christians, Jews, Hindus, and secularists there are many who hate Muslims simply because they are Muslim. This does not mean that a majority of people belonging to different faiths have an inherent inclination to hate others. What is important is to realize that despite the hate mongers, people of different ethnic and religious and political groups have learned to live in peace and harmony with each other. The web of complex relations that exist among nations of the world in all aspects of life clearly demonstrate that.

Muslims should also realize that they do not enjoy a favorable reputation in most parts of the world. Because of the actions of a few of them, they are subject to all sorts of ridicule, biases and wrongs. Some among Muslims feel that by condemning anti-Muslim propaganda, they would win over the masses to their side. However, mere condemnation does not resolve any issue. What helps overcome the negatives is a consistent effort to change the perception by changing the reality.

If Muslims are seen by people around them as compassionate, kind and caring people, no matter how many films are released against the Quran, people would have a hard time to believe them. If Muslims are seen as part of campaigns to eliminate environmental hazards, nuclear arsenals, homelessness, poverty and other social ills of the society at all levels, there would not be many who would buy the anti-Quran propaganda.

Blowing up fellow Muslims inside mosques belonging to opposite sects is also not unusual in countries like Pakistan and Iraq. These and similar incidents like these may reconfirm some of the stereotypical images that anti-Quran movies often tend to project.

The responsibility of improving their image lies upon Muslims and not others. By convincing themselves that they are a compassionate people, they would not be able to change the perceptions of others. They have to carry out a discourse with others and through action prove that their love and compassion are not confined to their religious texts but are reflective in their actions too. That is the only way films such as Wilder’s will become meaningless.



  1. Article about Geert and Dutch ovens and Muslims…in english and dutch

    An interview with a Dutch citizen about Geert Wilders…..
    Herr Rerhuf Reltih Dutch gives us insight into the Dutch mentlaity and the code words….Dutch technology developing new industrial instruments for Muslims…Geert WIlders will show new instruments in March…stay tuned!

    Geert Wilders Nv. Inaugerating energie efficiënte ovens voor moslims. De oudere nazi modelleert niet milieu vriendelijk! Nieuwe modellen hebben een afzonderlijk compartiment voor het verbranden van boeken. Interview met Herr Reltih Nederlands

    De Nationale Assiociation van Ze-Oven Internationational- (de Nederland Divisie) is gegaan door een slechte periode van economische depressie sinds 1945, maar de nieuwe Rerhuf van de organisatie Herr Reltih wordt heel door de nieuwe gelegenheden opgewekt dat Dhr. Wilders onderneming de organisatie aanbiedt. Herr Nederlandse Reltih ontkende dat hij Oostenrijks of Duits was. Hij toonde aan de reporters ….

    In Dutch and English

    Read all about it in Dutch and English on

    In English only


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