Saturday, December 31, 2011

Automotive electronics progress in 2009 was remarkable to ...

In the countrywide ?car sector restructuring and revitalization plan? together with other coverage pushed by regional profits limitations are actually broken, and tiny autos minimized get tax?? auto consumption industry issues go on to boost. From 2009, motor vehicle creation and profits situation, China?s auto consumption, the second peak is pre-start, motor vehicle creation commenced to pick up from February, and June marks the mid-car-over-year progress of consumption of non-public autos in China a whole recovery. 2009 1-9 months, China?s auto output and profits volume attained 9.589 million and 9.606 million, and profits volume position earliest in the world and has currently exceeded previous year?s amount general. The vigorous advancement of downstream markets to advertise the automotive electronics industry to grow specifiques turf speedily.

In 2008, China?s auto electronics industry carries on to maintain a fast progress, but a sharp drop in motor vehicle creation underneath the influence of progress, the market progress amount has dropped somewhat, to be a decreased point considering that 2000. Full-year profits of automotive digital merchandise 140.54 billion yuan, in comparison with progress of 15.6% in excess of the very same period in 2007.

China?s auto electronics industry upon several years of advancement, industry measurement expanded product array continued to boost, product attributes enhanced. Using under consideration the huge advancement space for your motor vehicle sector and customer automotive electronics paying habits slowly formed, CCID Consulting is quite optimistic about China?s automotive electronics industry in the future advancement prospects. Projected 2009 progress amount of China?s auto electronics industry will attain fifty.2% by 2011, China?s automotive electronics industry might be a lot more than 300 billion yuan, an normal yearly compound progress amount of thirty.5%.

Local automotive electronics companies to grow usher within the golden age of

Foreign enterprises and joint ventures are actually the primary force of China?s auto electronics industry, accounting for your greater part of industry share. However, automobile companies, mainly domestic motor vehicle companies with regards to charge and product upgrading underneath the pressure of a lot more and more utilization of neighborhood automotive electronics company?s merchandise, substantially enhanced the neighborhood enterprises available in the market share. In 2008, China?s domestic industry share of automotive electronics companies to reach thirteen.8%.

Recalling the neighborhood advancement system of automotive electronics enterprises, earliest of all within the customer nature of motor vehicle audio and motor vehicle amusement methods to realize a breakthrough, and within the domestic auto companies, led because of the neighborhood automotive electronics enterprises within the motor administration (EMS), the market also achieved a breakthrough.

The influence of this finance crisis overseas has not nonetheless subsided, the worldwide automotive sector will grow within the brief phrase at decreased, charge pressures will grow to be a lot more clear, will lower price tags of Chinese automotive electronics enterprises to offer an effective prospect for advancement. Since the technological know-how carries on to mature, expanding the size and excellent increasing, the future Chinese automotive electronics companies available in the market to obtain improved outcome.

Furthermore, the automotive electronics sector, the advancement of countrywide coverage environment has also been optimized, printed with the commencing of ?electronic info sector restructuring and revitalization of planning? and ?automotive sector restructuring and revitalization of planning? outlined within the automotive electronics, automotive electronics because the automotive sector in addition to the convergence point of this digital info sector, is countrywide interest. Inside the ?auto sector restructuring and revitalization plan? need to be obviously mentioned within the ?key parts of technological know-how to realize independence. Engines, transmissions, steering methods, braking methods, transmission, suspension methods, automobile bus control method, a vital component technologies, to realize self-oriented, new energy, automotive-specific areas technological know-how has attained the global sophisticated amount. ? And within the ?automotive technological know-how developments and technological renovation tasks and product catalog? in respect of a lot more than ten kinds of automotive digital control methods technological know-how plans done comprehensive provisions, automotive electronics technological know-how is becoming China?s motor vehicle sector technological developments and technological transformation of this vital. The steady optimization of this exterior environment for your advancement of China?s automotive electronics sector will provide a rare prospect.

Intelligent, network-based automotive electronics product advancement to be the primary developments in

From your product advancement pattern, the standard product upgrades and new merchandise will grow to be the universal software of automotive electronics product advancement are two very important means, whereas the intelligent, digital and buses have become the product advancement course.

Since the semiconductor technological know-how, info network technological know-how, embedded laptop computer technological know-how and automotive electronics mechanical and parie turf electrical integration, provider info, aspect integration, control, digital, administration, intelligent, communication, networking attributes and developments of ever more evident, automotive electronics The concept of slowly shifting through the motor vehicle framework, functionality, matching is closely associated with the electrical control method and relatively independent automotive digital gadgets, enlargement extends to a network-based concept. The value of software program technological know-how is becoming a lot more evident, the advancement of automotive electronics hardware and software program can be customizable through the past to the modular advancement of automotive electronics companies, semiconductor companies, software program distributors might be a lot more closely link somewhere between the division of labor is much more comprehensive, AutoSAR the establishment of this League of absolutely demonstrated this pattern.

The long run of automotive electronics in functionality is much more intelligent and can immediately adapt to several applications, the functions are a lot more diverse; in articles and other content, and form, will grow to be the advancement pattern of digitalization, numerous conventional analog and mechanical gadgets would be the range replaced; within the info transmission, Flexray, CAN, LIN bus use will grow to be a lot more regular, automotive digital merchandise will also be adopted to the network-oriented course.

Furthermore, the white line detection, good parking into destination, anti-collision warning, and panoramic cameras, new merchandise will also be formally show up within the high-end automobiles, automotive electronics product updates for your automotive electronics industry will go on to inject new impetus for autos e-market progress.


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Science meets spirituality in tribute to Gagarin ? Times of India

by lowes1 on December 30, 2011

Science meets spirituality in tribute to Gagarin
Times of India
Some schoolchildren who attended the event described it as "an excellent mixture of science and spirituality". Kadakin recalled that Indo-Russian space cooperation started before 1975, when India's first satellite, Aryabhatta, was launched by a Soviet ?

and more??

View full post on spirituality ? Google News


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Friday, December 30, 2011

Video: Look back at 2011?s biggest news events

Sorry, Readability was unable to parse this page for content.


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Molecular mechanism links temperature with sex determination in some fish species

ScienceDaily (Dec. 29, 2011) ? A study led by the CSIC's Institute of Marine Sciences, in collaboration with researchers from the Centre for Genomic Regulation (CRG), has found the epigenetic mechanism that links temperature and gonadal sex in fish. High temperature increases DNA methylation of the gonadal aromatase promoter in female.

The environmental temperature has effects on sex determination. There are species, such as the Atlantic silverside fish, whose sex determination depends mainly on temperature. And there are other species whose sex determination is written within its DNA but still temperature can override this genetic 'instruction'.

Previous studies with the European sea bass, a fish whose sex determination depends on a combination of genetic and environmental factors, had shown that starting with a normal sex ratio population -equal proportions of male and females, it was possible to obtain an all-male group just through an increase in water temperature during a critical period of early development.

The most intriguing observation was that effects of temperature were maximum at a moment when gonads were not differentiated nor had they even started to form. Why was this happening, what makes temperature override the genetic component and so early was, until now, a long-standing puzzle.

Now, a research lead by the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC) has found out the answer. The team, lead by Francesc Piferrer, a CSIC professor at the Institute of Marine Sciences, in Barcelona, describes the mechanism which is induced by increased temperatures and triggers aromatase gene silencing.

Aromatase is an enzyme that transforms androgens into estrogens, which are essential for the development of ovaries in all non-mammalian vertebrates. If there is no aromatase there are no estrogens, and without estrogens the development of ovaries is not possible. The research, that has been realized with the contribution of the Center for Genomic Regulation, in Barcelona, is being published this week in PLos Genetics.

Early effects

In the experiment, scientists exposed two groups of European seabass larvae at different temperatures, normal and high temperature, during their first weeks of life.

Results show that high temperature increases the DNA methylation of the gonadal aromatase promoter (cyp19a), which, in turn drives its silencing as its transcriptional activation is inhibited. In the group exposed to high temperature there were genetic females that were only partially affected and yet developed as females. However, there were other genetic females with the highest level of DNA methylation that therefore developed as males because aromatase was fully inhibited.

This is the first time that an epigenetic mechanism linking an environmental factor to a cellular mechanism related to the sexual determination has been described in any animal. Previously, only a similar mechanism had been described in some plants.

As researcher Francesc Piferrer points out, 'animals are affected very soon, before differences between females and males become visible in histological samples, which happens on the 150th day of life, and even before the gonads start to form, which happens on the 35th day of life'.

This work explains why a few degrees of temperature rise masculinize these animals, something relevant in a context of global change.

It also explains why many fishes raised on farms are males, since farmers raise larvae in warmer waters in order to accelerate their growth. Piferrer adds that 'sex determination by temperature is very common in reptiles. It will be interesting to see if a similar mechanism to the one described exists in this group of vertebrates'.

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The above story is reprinted from materials provided by Centre for Genomic Regulation.

Note: Materials may be edited for content and length. For further information, please contact the source cited above.

Journal Reference:

  1. Navarro-Mart?n L, Vi?as J, Ribas L, D?az N, Guti?rrez A, Di Croce L. DNA methylation of the gonadal aromatase (cyp19a) promoter is involved in temperature-dependent sex ratio shifts in the European sea bass. PLoS Genetics, Dec 29 2011 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pgen.10021002447

Note: If no author is given, the source is cited instead.

Disclaimer: Views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of ScienceDaily or its staff.


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Thursday, December 29, 2011

Smack All SOPA Supporters With This Automated Robocall Service [Video]

This is going to feel good: now you can call all supporters of SOPA and PIPA, the dreadful US internet censorship laws, using a simple web site. Just record your very own message, pay some dollars and fire away. More »


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M-Edge suit accuses Amazon of corporate bullying, patent infringement over Kindle cases

Case maker M-Edge filed suit with a Maryland court last week accusing Amazon of "unlawful corporate bullying" and patent infringement relating to the company's line of Kindle cases. According to M-Edge, the company signed a three-year agreement with Amazon in November 2009 for a 15-percent sales commission, only to have the retail giant demand a new contract with a 32-percent cut a mere two month later. A lawyer for M-Edge told The Wall Street Journal that Amazon punished the case maker over its refusal to play ball, after threats of burying the company's products on its site. According to the filing, M-Edge finally caved and signed a new contract in July of last year, given the fact that Amazon apparently drives nearly 90-percent of the small company's revenue. The suit also accuses Amazon of "knocking off" its reading light-packing covers with lighted jacket designs for the Kindle 3. Amazon, for its part, has refused to comment on the matter.

M-Edge suit accuses Amazon of corporate bullying, patent infringement over Kindle cases originally appeared on Engadget on Wed, 28 Dec 2011 11:34:00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Consumer confidence hits 8-month high in December (Reuters)

WASHINGTON (Reuters) ? Consumer confidence rose more than expected in December, hitting an eight-month high, as Americans grew more upbeat about the labor market and their financial situation.

The Conference Board, an industry group, said its index of consumer sentiment increased to 64.5 from a downwardly revised 55.2 in November.

Economists had expected a reading of 58.3 from a previously reported 56.0 in November.

The rise in sentiment offered hope for a pick-up in consumer spending after a tepid performance in November.

Labor market conditions have improved in recent months, with the unemployment rate falling to a 2-1/2 year low in November and applications for first time jobless benefits at the lowest since April 2008.

The survey's present situation index rose to 46.7 this month --- the highest since September 2008 -- from 38.3 in November. The expectations index surged to 76.4 from 66.4 in November.

"Consumers are more optimistic that business conditions, employment prospects and their financial situations will get better," the Conference Board said in a statement.

"While consumers are ending the year in a somewhat more upbeat mood, it is too soon to tell if this is a rebound from earlier declines or a sustainable shift in attitudes."

(Reporting By Lucia Mutikani; Editing by Kenneth Barry)


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Dropbox 'experimenting' with photo and video import, enables instant transfer to the cloud

Dropbox is handing out yet another early peek at a fresh new tool for the early-adopting enthusiast crowd. The cloud-based storage service is introducing a feature that'll allow all your photo / video captured memories to be instantly transferred as soon as you plug in a device that houses your media, and you can have a raw look at the "experimental build" now. Before you do, though, Dropbox is warning you to take the dive at your own risk. There's no word on when the tool will hit the masses, but if you're willing to get past the notice, the source link will fill you in on all the necessary deets.

Dropbox 'experimenting' with photo and video import, enables instant transfer to the cloud originally appeared on Engadget on Tue, 27 Dec 2011 17:19:00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Celebrity of the Year Finalist #3: Charlie Sheen

We're down to the top three.

With the remaining days in 2011 ticking down to zero, THG has been ranking the most newsworthy celebrities of the year, starting at #10 with Lindsay Lohan and moving on, in order, to...

Jennifer Lopez; Selena Gomez; a host of viral video stars; Katy Perry; Justin Bieber; and pretty much everyone in the Royal Family. Now, at #3, we present... Charlie Sheen!

Charlie Sheen Motivational Poster

Due to a relatively quiet second half of the year, it might be easy to forget the unparalleled, unstable tear Sheen was on to kick off 2011. So here is a two-word reminder: Sheen's Korner.

The shenanigans got underway almost as soon as the calendar turned, as Charlie spent into the six figures on a Las Vegas-based sex and drug romp in January that included strippers, cocaine and plenty of headlines. He was then hospitalized a few days later after a similar party in his home.

From there... wow. Sheen was at the center of a storm truly never seen before in the annals of celebrity gossip. He was in rehab, he was out of rehab. He was fighting publicly with Two and a Half Men creator Chuck Lorre, who eventually shut down production on that sitcom. He was collecting live-in girlfriends he referred to as "goddesses" and giving interviews in which he bragged about his capacity for cocaine and explained why Thomas Jefferson was a pussy.

The dude totally lost it. Remember all these quotes?

Incredibly, this all happened over the course of just a few weeks. Sheen was fired from the highest-rated sitcom on TV; became the fastest Twitter user to ever amass one million followers; and created the year's most overused, obnoxious, single-word catchphrase.

But the insane times could not last forever. Or even for six months.

Sheen bombed in a series of live, ridiculous performances, lost his goddesses and went about trying to revive his career. He settled a lawsuit with Warner Bros., appeared contrite in a lame, contrived Emmy speech and somehow convinced FX to give him another shot. The actor will anchor a program based on the film Anger Management in the summer of 2012.

Personally, the star is also back on track. He's supporting ex-wife Brooke Mueller's rehab efforts with his own money and spent the holidays on vacation with another ex-wife, Denise Richards. Heck, to anyone born in the last six months, Sheen would come across as a caring, responsible, drama-free father.

But to all of us who lived through his escapades in the winter/spring of 2011, Sheen put on a show unlike any we've ever seen before or will see again. It's simply shocking that the actor himself actually lived through it.


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Boris Johnson looks to hold off Ken Livingstone in London mayor election

A clock on Ken Livingstone's campaign website counts down remorsely the days, hours, minutes and seconds to polling day in London, when about 5.8 million voters decide which candidate will be mayor and run the capital for the next four years.

But Livingstone, engaged in a longstanding campaign to use the rematch with London's Tory mayor, Boris Johnson, to wrest back the mayoralty, is struggling to make his strategy count as the latter outperforms his own party and his Labour rival.

Separate elections are being held on 3 May next year for London mayor and the 25-strong assembly. The next mayor to run a capital with a population of 7.8 million faces a number of challenges thrown up by economic and transport problems, as well as the summer riots and the dire shortage of affordable housing in a city where benefit changes will hit the poor particularly hard. The mayor will also get the prestige role of presiding over the 2012 Olympics.

Voting tendencies for the assembly polls tend to align more closely with national party share, but all eyes are on the razzmatazz of the mayoral contest. It is widely seen as a two-horse race involving a pair of larger than life characters with mayoral records to defend, known on first-name terms by the entire country, each willing to speak against the party line when needs must, with a mutual tendency to outpoll their parties.

A YouGov survey in June revealed that one in five people who would vote Labour in a general election said they planned to vote for Johnson next May. Those factors make Livingstone's line particularly difficult and there have been signs over the last year that his team is vacillating on the line of attack.

In September 2010 Livingstone used his victory speech on being selected Labour candidate over his rival, Oona King, to make clear he would fight on an anti-government ticket. Selected the day before Ed Miliband was declared party leader, Livingstone cast the mayoral race as a referendum on the coalition, by urging Londoners in a Labour-leaning city to "send a message" to David Cameron and George Osborne over spending cuts by "getting out Boris".

But this year Livingstone has concentrated on Johnson's record in office, casting the race as a "direct choice" between a candidate whose mission as mayor would be to protect Londoners from rising living costs, and an "out of touch" Conservative.

Tapping into the anger of those who think the banks and the City got off lightly following the 2008 crash, Livingstone has seized on Johnson's defence of the financial sector and his call for the 50p top rate of tax to be abolished, and set himself up as the man for the "99%" against "privileged" Johnson batting for the 1%.

But polling by ComRes in November indicated that attempts to portray the popular Tory as a privileged, out-of-touch toff were not working. Johnson had an eight-point lead over Livingstone (54% to 46%), when other candidates were stripped out, gaining a bigger winning margin than in the 2008 election, when he finished six percentage points ahead of Livingstone in the first-preference vote under the supplementary vote system.

The survey also showed the incumbent mayor to be the candidate most trusted on crime, the economy and policing, indicating he had earned credibility in running the city. His weakness was transport; on this Livingstone led as the most trusted, suggesting early gains following the promise to cut fares by 7% compared with Johnson's 5.6% fare rise.

Peter Kellner, president of YouGov, said these most recent findings underlined the need for Livingstone to "depersonalise" his campaign against Johnson and focus exclusively on policy.

Kellner said: "At the moment the Conservatives are doing a good job nationally for passing the blame for the economic failure on Labour, and Boris is doing a good job to distance himself from the more difficult things [in] the government.

"If the campaign is perceived to be personal between Ken and Boris then Boris will win. Ken had the personality votes in 2000 and 2004, but Boris has them now.

"If the campaign is to be about the future of London, transport, housing and the state of the economy, then I think Ken can win. But that depends on how the candidates behave, how the media behave and how voters perceive it. If Livingstone can get half that vote back he could win because London is, relative to the rest of the country, a Labour city."

But documents seen by the London Evening Standard last week suggest a return to the earlier line of attack. This follows media reports that Cameron told a private meeting of Tory MPs that winning a second-term Conservative mayoralty was his "number one priority" for 2012, aware his policies and the economic slowdown would be blamed if Johnson lost. The Livingstone idea is to "Tory-ise" the Boris brand, and cast him as a "true blue" Conservative whose re-election would be a boon to Cameron.

A document written by Simon Fletcher, Livingstone's former chief of staff and campaign manager, states: "Our campaign team need to use every opportunity to point out how being tied to the Tories is highly toxic for Boris Johnson with many voters ? and it is Cameron himself who is binding Johnson to his mast."

Tony Travers, director of the Greater London group at the London School of Economics, says a contest driven by popularity would make the result a close-run thing. But he says the notion of the mayoral race as a political test of the parties nationally, in the midterm of the Westminster parliament, risks causing more pain to Ed Miliband than Cameron.

Lord Mandelson recently became the most senior Labour figure to express concerns at Miliband's leadership performance and indicated that the Labour leader needed to show progress in 2012.

"There is more pressure for Miliband than David Cameron, in the sense that if Boris loses it will be seen as the midterm blues," says Travers. "If Ken doesn't win midterm in a coalition government, it will be worse for Miliband. The only real problem for Cameron would be that if Boris loses, he will try and get back into Westminster."

Other candidates also limbering up include Jenny Jones, the Green party candidate, and for the Liberal Democrats Brian Paddick, the former Met deputy assistant commissioner, who came third in the 2008 race. They are widely expected to use the race to raise their respective parties' profile for the more anonymous assembly elections.

Both leading candidates have their core teams firmly in place, with Lynton Crosby, the Australian political strategist who led Johnson's successful campaign in 2008, back in harness.

Crosby brought out the Conservative vote in the outer suburbs last time ? the so-called "doughnut strategy" reflecting the outer ring of the capital. He says Johnson has disproved those who said he was not up to the job or would prove to be a "hard-right Tory Thatcherite" in power. "People in London want a champion and I think Boris has shown himself to be a champion."

Crosby says Johnson has been in every borough across inner and outer London more often in four years than Ken had done in eight, a fact that had helped him connect to people whose votes weighed equally at the election.

Livingstone, however, is "quite confident" he can turn things around. His team have circled 3 January ? the date Johnson's fare rises kick in ? for a mass leafleting exercise contrasting the mayor's fare rises with Livingstone's Fare Deal pledge, which, he claims, will save Londoners ?1,000 on average over four years.

He insists this cut can be funded using the "operating surplus" budget sitting in TfL's coffers ? a claim flatly rejected by the body chaired by Johnson, which says every penny is accounted for with regard to improving London's transport system.

Livingstone believes the polls will change once people have to pay the new fares. "If you actually look at the polling and you plough through the poll, Boris is the only Tory in Britain who still has a positive popularity rating, but that's based on the fact that it's on the soft issues."

He adds: "Boris has refused to debate with me for three and a half years ? Once you hit the elections, where there's a detailed focus and people start to think 'what does this mean for me?', he can't get away with that."

On fares, Johnson retorts: "I think Londoners have heard twice before from that particular candidate promises to hold fares down, which were then flagrantly broken. So I take those promises with a pinch of salt, and if they were to be fulfilled, taking ?1bn off TfL's investment programme I think would be wrong for the city."

Asked whether he feels cheered by how the polls are heading before his own campaign has even started, Johnson wards off complacency by muttering that "polls come and polls go".

He lists commitments he has delivered for the capital as he sits on a new Routemaster bus ? a cleaner, greener, 21st-century version of the hop-on hop-off vehicle. Eight such buses will be on London's roads by late February.

"I'm going to fight very hard," says Johnson. "I think we've got a great record and I think if you look back at the things I said I would do and the things we've done, I think it's very considerable."


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Monday, December 26, 2011

Energy Storms Back from 21-Point Deficit

December 23, 2011 - NBA Development League (D-League) Maine Red Claws
PORTLAND, ME - Maine (3-6) scored a season-high 42 points in the first quarter and 63 in the first half, seemingly destined for an upset win over the league powerhouse Iowa Energy (8-3), only to see the Energy's bench lead the charge to overcome a 21-point deficit. Iowa took home the win over the host Red Claws, 111-102.

The Red Claws opened the game with a quick jumper from Tyc Snow that sparked the Red Claws to a 42-27 first quarter. Maine continued to hold the lead over the Energy until late in the game when the Energy's bench took over the game. When all was said and done, Maine's 21-point lead evaporated, and Iowa picked up their 8th win of the season.

Iowa finished with six players in double figures, including three coming off the bench to lead the late charge. Ben Strong led the way with a team-high 21 while Nick Covington and Darion Anderson added 17 apiece. Nick Murphy had a quiet double-double with 13 points and 11 rebounds while Moses Ehambe and Andrew Drevo rounded out the Energy players in double digits with 14 and 11 points, respectively.

For Maine, Paul Harris narrowly missed a triple-double for the second consecutive game, finishing the night with 21 points, 11 assists and 8 rebounds. Justin Brownlee put together his best performance to date with 23 points and 8 rebounds to take home the Adidas Player of the Game honors. Courtney Pigram continued to add to his point tally, leading all scorers with 27 points. Dominic Calegari pitched in with 12 points and seven rebounds in the losing cause.

Maine will look to regroup as the two teams will meet again tomorrow with an early Christmas Eve game at 1 PM.

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Favorable forecasts are gift for most holiday travelers (Reuters)

CHICAGO (Reuters) ? Holiday travelers throughout most of the United States are getting the gift of good weather to help their travel plans this Christmas Eve.

On Sunday, Christmas Day, at least 99-percent of the country will not have any snowflakes in the air, AccuWeather reported.

"It doesn't get much quieter than this, this time of year," said Tom Kines, a meteorologist with AccuWeather.

But winter storm warnings in the southern Plains, rain and snow in Texas, and rain in the Pacific Northwest could snarl some travel plans in those areas.

Moderate to occasionally heavy snow will continue on Saturday to blanket parts of the southern Plains where winter storm warnings remain in effect, according to the National Weather Service.

The greatest accumulation is expected in far southeast New Mexico and areas west of Midland, Texas.

Along with the southern Plains, parts of Colorado, areas of the Northeast and the Great Lakes region will see a white Christmas with the snow that's already on the ground.

But most of the country will have no new snow on Sunday, with the exception of parts of the Northeast and Great Lakes region, which may see some snow showers. Rain is also expected in parts of the Southeast, reported AccuWeather.

"A large part of the country is going to be green or brown on Christmas Day," said Kines. "It stinks for Santa because he doesn't have the snow for his sleigh."

Kansas City, like most cities in the Midwest, is no exception. Temperatures there were forecast for 47 on Saturday and 48 on Sunday, under sunny skies.


While snowless Christmases are not that unusual in Kansas City, they are more so for Minneapolis. Last year a winter storm 12 days before Christmas dumped 17 inches of snow on the city and caused the roof of the Metrodome, the Minnesota Viking's football stadium, to collapse.

This year, Minneapolis has no snow and will have temperatures in the high 30s over the weekend, according to the National Weather Service.

According to AccuWeather, El Paso, Texas, and Chicago are tied for seasonal snowfall so far with a total of 1.7 inches.

In a typical December, Chicago sees 8.5 inches of snow. To date this December, Chicago has seen the lowest amount of snow since 2003, according to Victor Murphy with the National Weather Service.

Drought-weary Texans are welcoming the snow and rain there. The worst one-year drought in the state's history sparked devastating wildfires, killed as many as half a billion trees, and prompted the most serious urban water use restrictions ever.

Some of the most extreme water rationing will be lifted this weekend because of the rain. But Roland Ruiz, Vice President of the Edwards Aquifer Authority, which manages the underground reservoir, a main source of drinking water for millions of Texans, said the severe drought is still very much alive.

"Aquifer levels remain well below historic averages, and a return to severe restrictions is possible early in 2012," he said.

Texas needs 10 to 20 inches of rain in some areas just to return to normal levels for the year, and forecasters are not expecting anything close to that.

The National Weather Service's latest Seasonal Drought Outlook forecasts the drought to 'persist or intensify' across all but northeast Texas through March.

(Additional reporting by Jim Forsyth in Austin and Kevin Murphy in Kansas City; Editing by Jerry Norton)


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Sunday, December 25, 2011

Cruise takes quiet Christmas with $26.5M 'Mission'

Actor Tom Cruise attends the U.S. premiere of "Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol" at the Ziegfeld Theatre on Monday, Dec. 19, 2011 in New York. (AP Photo/Evan Agostini)

Actor Tom Cruise attends the U.S. premiere of "Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol" at the Ziegfeld Theatre on Monday, Dec. 19, 2011 in New York. (AP Photo/Evan Agostini)

(AP) ? Tom Cruise's latest mission has won a holiday weekend that's shaping up with some silent nights at movie theaters as business continues to lag.

Studio estimates Sunday placed Cruise's "Mission: Impossible ? Ghost Protocol" a solid No. 1 with $26.5 million domestically over its first weekend in full release. The movie raised its total to $59 million since it started a week earlier in huge-screen cinemas and expanded nationwide last Wednesday, and distributor Paramount estimated that revenues will reach $72.7 million by Monday.

Cruise's fourth "Mission" flick was a bright spot over a Christmas weekend filled with so-so tidings for Hollywood, whose usually busy holiday stretch since Thanksgiving has been a bust.

Generally well-reviewed movies from Steven Spielberg ("The Adventures of Tintin"), David Fincher ("The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo") and Cameron Crowe ("We Bought a Zoo") ? with casts that include Matt Damon, Scarlett Johansson and Daniel Craig ? opened with modest to weak results.

Despite predictions from studio executives that 2011 could be a record-setter that would finish with a bang, domestic revenues remained stuck at a sluggish pace that has lingered all year.

Hollywood should finish the year with $10.1 billion domestically, down 4.5 percent from 2010, according to box-office tracker

The picture gets worse taking into account higher ticket prices, which mean Hollywood brings in fewer fans for each dollar spent. Actual domestic attendance for 2011 will close out at about 1.27 billion, down 5.3 percent from the previous year's and the lowest head count since 1995, when admissions totaled 1.26 billion.

"Thank God 2011 is almost over, because we've had a real rough run here at the end of the year," said analyst Paul Dergarabedian. "We always count on the holiday season to give us a big boost at the end of the year, and it just didn't happen.

"These admission numbers this year just tell me that we maybe have to set our sights a little lower in terms of attendance every year."

Since peaking at a modern high of 1.6 billion in 2002, domestic movie admissions have been on a general decline since.

Studio executives always insist that slow times result from weak films, but on paper, the strong lineup Hollywood presented this year should have had fans lining up in huge numbers. Pretty good films are out there this holiday season, yet blockbuster expectations fizzled, a sign that people might be skipping a trip to the theater in favor of home-viewing, video games or the countless other entertainment options their gadgets now offer.

Rising ticket prices, particularly the extra few dollars it costs to see 3-D films, also could be causing a backlash among fans.

With "Ghost Protocol" climbing toward the $100 million mark, it's a return to box-office form for Cruise, who had been Hollywood's most-dependable earner for two decades until he turned off fans with odd antics in his personal life six years ago.

"Ghost Protocol" will be Cruise's first top-billed $100 million hit since 2006's "Mission: Impossible III." He had a supporting role in 2008's $100 million comedy hit "Tropic Thunder," which was headlined by Ben Stiller, Robert Downey Jr. and Jack Black.

Even with a No. 1 debut, "Ghost Protocol" still was a shadow of its predecessors. The first three "Mission: Impossible" movies ranged from $45 million to $58 million over opening weekend, but those installments opened at the start of the busy summer season.

As of Friday, "Ghost Protocol" also had brought in a healthy $118 million overseas.

Downey's "Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows" fell from No., 1 to No. 2 in its second weekend with $17.8 million. The family sequel "Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked" dropped from second to third with $13.3 million.

Both sequels trail well behind the business their predecessors did. "A Game of Shadows," from Warner Bros., lifted its domestic haul to $76.6 million, while 20th Century Fox's "Chipwrecked" pushed its receipts to $50.3 million.

The weekend's newcomers failed to light up the box office, too. Fincher and Craig's "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" from Sony was No. 4 with $13 million, Spielberg's "The Adventures of Tintin" from Paramount was No. 5 with $9.1 million and Crowe, Damon and Johansson's "We Bought a Zoo" from 20th Century Fox was No. 6 with $7.8 million.

"Dragon Tattoo" raised its total to $21.4 million since opening Tuesday night, while "Tintin" lifted its take to $17.1 million since debuting Wednesday.

European literary exports "Dragon Tattoo," adapted from Stieg Larsson's Swedish best-seller, and "Tintin," based on Belgian artist Herge's storybook classics, are finding a lukewarm reception among U.S. crowds.

"Dragon Tattoo" has been a sensation among U.S. readers yet failed to challenge "Mission: Impossible" and the other established franchises at the top of the box office.

Beloved by generations of readers overseas, "Tintin" launched internationally two months ahead of its U.S. release. But the blockbuster global attention, with nearly $250 million already in the bank from foreign markets, did not translate to crowds in the United States.

The calendar made it a tough weekend for Hollywood, with Christmas Eve ? always a slow night for movie-going ? falling on Saturday, usually the best day of the week at theaters.

Christmas Day typically is a strong one for movies, as fans squeeze in a film between unwrapping presents and sitting down to family dinners.

Two big holiday releases ? Spielberg's World War I epic "War Horse" and Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock's Sept. 11 drama "Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close" ? opened Christmas Day, but estimates on their revenues will not be available until Monday.

Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to Where available, latest international numbers are also included. Final domestic figures will be released Monday.

1. "Mission: Impossible ? Ghost Protocol," $26.5 million.

2. "Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows," $17.8 million.

3. "Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked," $13.3 million ($20.1 million international).

4. "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo," $13 million.

5. "The Adventures of Tintin," $9.1 million.

6. "We Bought a Zoo," $7.8 million ($1.1 million international).

7. "New Year's Eve," $3 million.

8. "Arthur Christmas," $2.7 million ($9.7 million international).

9. "Hugo," $2.03 million.

10. "The Muppets," $2 million ($500,000 international).




Universal and Focus are owned by NBC Universal, a unit of Comcast Corp.; Sony, Columbia, Sony Screen Gems and Sony Pictures Classics are units of Sony Corp.; Paramount is owned by Viacom Inc.; Disney, Pixar and Marvel are owned by The Walt Disney Co.; Miramax is owned by Filmyard Holdings LLC; 20th Century Fox and Fox Searchlight are owned by News Corp.; Warner Bros. and New Line are units of Time Warner Inc.; MGM is owned by a group of former creditors including Highland Capital, Anchorage Advisors and Carl Icahn; Lionsgate is owned by Lions Gate Entertainment Corp.; IFC is owned by AMC Networks Inc.; Rogue is owned by Relativity Media LLC.

Associated Press


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PHOTOS: Dogs Up For Adoption At The Washington Humane Society


Take a look at these photos, courtesy of the?Washington Humane Society, of dogs currently available for adoption at the WHS Georgia Avenue location.

To find out more information about the Georgia Avenue shelter or more information about any of the dogs you see above, visit the?Washington Humane Society's website.


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Saturday, December 24, 2011

[OOC] Confessions of a Beautiful Freak

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This topic is an Out Of Character part of the roleplay, ?Dream Scar?. Anything posted here will also show up there.

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Forum for completely Out of Character (OOC) discussion, based around whatever is happening In Character (IC). Discuss plans, storylines, and events; Recruit for your roleplaying game, or find a GM for your playergroup.

In this world of eternal darkness, where black sands replace vast oceans and desert wastelands cover the earth instead of grass and trees; people cling to myth and religion, wishing and praying for a miracle. Now, their one and only hope for change, lies in the hand of a crew of sky pirates: will they defy the odds and overcome their obstacles or die trying?

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Journal Logs

The fallowing Journal logs are from a one Astrid Kur, the Ship's Chronicler. And while formal logs are busy being written, it is really the Journal logs that a Chronicler's spirit can be seen. Through reading these, you can see through the eyes of a lone person and how they perceive the crew and ship. Often times the Journal entries end up being the most important and most imformative when looking back on history, and Astrid Kur was and is in for one hell of a ride aboard the Decadence. And so without further delay I give you, Confessions of a Beautiful Freak...

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PFT: If Giants beat Jets, Eagles-'Boys means nothing

Dallas Cowboys v Philadelpia EaglesGetty Images

Still nine games back with 43 to go, I need a minor miracle to catch Rosenthal.? But I?m not going to start pulling out Hail Mary-type maneuvers by doing something like Picking the Chiefs to beat the Packers.

I mean, that would be kooky.

Rosenthal and I emerged from that crazy, upside-down Week 15 at 9-7 each.? For the year, he?s 151-73.? I?m 142-82.

Texans at Colts

Florio?s take:? Not long ago, it was presumed that the Colts would beat the Texans.? That was before the Colts lost Peyton Manning ? and before the Texans found their defense.? The ongoing absence of defensive coordinator Wade Phillips makes this one less of a sure thing for Houston, but the Colts surely won?t be looking to risk losing the Andrew Luck pick.

Florio?s pick:? Texans 28, Colts 13.

Rosenthal?s take: The Texans were reminded last week that their margin for error isn?t huge with T.J. Yates at quarterback. But that won?t be a problem this week. Houston?s defense will want to make amends after getting manhandled against Carolina. Expect 35 rushing attempts by the Texans.

Rosenthal?s pick: Texans 26, Colts 10.

Browns at Ravens

Florio?s take:? The Browns are one of the few inferior teams the Ravens managed to beat on the road.? This time, the Browns come to Baltimore, where the team that used to play in Cleveland has lost once in the last two seasons.? With the division title only two wins away, the Ravens won?t be blowing their chance to play a postseason game at home for the first time in the John Harbaugh/Joe Flacco tenure.

Florio?s pick:? Ravens 31, Browns 17.

Rosenthal?s take: Seneca Wallace looked like a slight upgrade from Colt McCoy.? Peyton Hillis is slightly healthier and more effective than he was earlier in the season.? So I?ll predict the Browns will make this slightly more interesting than the last time these two teams played.

Rosenthal?s pick: Ravens 27, Browns 17.

Broncos at Bills

Florio?s take:? Tebowmania takes Buffalo, where the Bills have seen a 4-1 start disintegrate, via seven straight losses.? With a trip to New England looming, this one gives the Bills their last, best shot at winning another game.? Though a playoff berth seems inevitable for the Broncos, it?ll have to wait until Week 17.

Florio?s pick:? Bills 24, Broncos 20.

Rosenthal?s take: Timing is everything. If the Bills started the season at 0-7, losing by an average of 18 points per week, Chan Gailey would be on the hot seat. But the Bills started fast before the bottom fell out, so no one has noticed that Buffalo is arguably the worst team in football at the moment.

Rosenthal?s pick: Broncos 23, Bills 16.

Buccaneers at Panthers

Florio?s take:? The Panthers have gotten better on the fly.? The Bucs have fallen apart, with eight straight losses.? Though anything can happen when teams from the same division square off, the Bucs haven?t made much of anything happen this year.? The Panthers won?t need to annex Puerto Rico or any other U.S. territories to win this one on Saturday.

Florio?s pick:? Panthers 34, Buccaneers 23.

Rosenthal?s take: The Bucs also have an argument for the worst team of the second half.? They?ve lost eight straight, with the last three by 21 points per game. Tampa is no longer even the up-and-coming ?Youngry? team in the division with the cool franchise quarterback; that?s now Carolina.

Rosenthal?s pick: Panthers 36, Buccaneers 23.

Cardinals at Bengals

Florio?s take:? One of the best games of the weekend will unfold before another way-less-than-capacity crowd in Cincinnati.? The Cardinals have won six of seven, and the Bengals still find themselves in the thick of things in the AFC wild-card chase.? But the Bengals have lost some of their punch in recent weeks, barely beating a pair of bad teams and losing four games to playoff contenders.? The Cardinals may not make it to the postseason, but it won?t be because they failed to handle their business.

Florio?s pick:? Cardinals 20, Bengals 17.

Rosenthal?s take: A legitimate quarterback controversy between Kevin Kolb and John Skelton is a surprising development. Arizona winning six of seven games in insane final possession fashion is even more surprising. The streak of luck ends against a Bengals team that was the surprise of the early season.

Rosenthal?s pick: Bengals 28, Cardinals 24.

Raiders at Chiefs

Florio?s take:? Chiefs players want to win for interim coach Romeo Crennel.? If they?d wanted to win as badly for former head coach Todd Haley, Crennel wouldn?t have the job he currently holds.? Kyle Orton and company keep making an unlikely push to the playoffs, as the Raiders continue to wonder how good they could have been if Darren McFadden hadn?t injured his foot the last time they played the team from Kansas City.

Florio?s pick:? Chiefs 24, Raiders 17.

Rosenthal?s take: Suddenly this game means a great deal. Both teams are trying to stay alive in the AFC West race. Romeo Crennel is trying to win a job. Hue Jackson is trying to justify his trade for Carson Palmer. Unfortunately, I fear that all the drama in the AFC West race will be over after this week.

Rosenthal?s pick: Chiefs 30, Raiders 20.

Dolphins at Patriots

Florio?s take:? Yes, the Dolphins aren?t as bad as they were when they lost seven straight games.? Yes, the Dolphins played the Patriots tough in Week One.? But the Patriots are two home wins away from the No. 1 seed for the second straight year.? Defensive warts and all, the Pats won?t be choking ? at least until they host the Jets or the Ravens in January.

Florio?s pick:? Patriots 35, Dolphins 23.

Rosenthal?s take: The Dolphins are 5-2 in their last seven games. The defense that got strafed in Week One by Tom Brady has improved greatly. Karlos Dansby, Kevin Burnett, and Vontae Davis are all playing much better for Miami. This is a dangerous game for the Patriots as they try to lock up the No. 1 seed.

Rosenthal?s pick: Patriots 26, Dolphins 24.

Giants at Jets

Florio?s take:? I?ve said for days that, if there were a way for both teams to lose this one, that?s what would happen.? (Maybe that means a tie is coming.)? The Giants have the better team on paper, but on paper the Giants shouldn?t have lost five of six games.? Recent trends have the Jets pulling things together and getting to the playoffs and the Giants completing a slide out of postseason contention.? Though all reason and common sense points to a Giants win, neither team?s performance this year has meshed with reason and common sense.

Florio?s pick:? Jets 17, Giants 14.

Rosenthal?s take: The Giants don?t have much if they don?t have a pass rush. And they don?t have much of a pass rush right now. At least the Jets have one reliable strength: Their pass defense. That should be enough to stop a Giants team that relies too much on Eli Manning.

Rosenthal?s pick: Jets 22, Giants 17.

Rams at Steelers

Florio?s take:? Against any other team, the question of whether the Steelers would use Ben Roethlisberger or Charlie Batch at quarterback would matter.? But these are the Rams.? The 2-12 Rams.? The hopelessly hapless Rams.? The Steelers would be likely to win this one even with one of the St. Louis backup quarterbacks taking the snaps for the home team.

Florio?s pick:? Steelers 20, Rams 3.

Rosenthal?s take: Charlie Batch is 37 years old. He was once teammates with Barry Sanders. At some point, the Steelers are going to roll him out there, and he just won?t be able to play the position anymore. Batch looked rough in his brief appearance two weeks ago. On the plus side: The Rams look rough every week.

Rosenthal?s pick: Steelers 16, Rams 6.

Jaguars at Titans

Florio?s take:? Though the Titans lost to the winless Colts last week, the Jaguars have been looking even worse in recent weeks, notwithstanding the contributions of Maurice Jones-Drew.? So with Matt Hasselbeck, Jake Locker, or even Vince Young at quarterback, the Titans should be able to take care of business ? despite the fact that the Jaguars pulled off the win the last time around.

Florio?s pick:? Titans 27, Jaguars 14.

Rosenthal?s take: Analysts have crushed Blaine Gabbert for his weak pocket presence all year. So interim coach Mel Tucker overcompensated by calling Gabbert ?courageous? and ?super-tough? this week. The Jaguars might be better off with a coach that recognizes Gabbert?s faults and tries to improve upon them.

Rosenthal?s pick: Titans 27, Jaguars 17.

Vikings at Redskins

Florio?s take:? Last year, the Vikings played their butts off against the Redskins in D.C., hopeful of helping Leslie Frazier lose the ?interim? tag.? This year, most Vikings don?t seem to care about Frazier or anyone else.? On a weekly basis, it shows.? It?s likely to show again on Saturday.

Florio?s pick:? Redskins 23, Vikings 10.

Rosenthal?s take: The Vikings feel like a 3-13 team, but their last win is more likely to come next week against the Bears. The Redskins feel exactly like a 6-10 type of team. They will hit their magic number on Sunday. This ?analysis? made more sense in my head.

Rosenthal?s pick: Redskins 26, Vikings 17.

Chargers at Lions

Florio?s take:? Norv Turner?s team has launched another impressive late-season run.? But the Lions have rediscovered their explosiveness on offense.? It?s time for Detroit to nail down its first playoff berth in more than a decade ? and to do so not by the skin of their teeth but by flexing some Motown muscle.

Florio?s pick:? Lions 35, Chargers 17.

Rosenthal?s take: Both quarterbacks in this game are playing very well.? Matthew Stafford saves his best stuff for the fourth quarter, while Philip Rivers has simply been on fire for three weeks. The Lions are 4-5 since beating the Bears on Monday Night Football. I?m not convinced they can beat good teams. The Chargers finally are a good team.

Rosenthal?s pick: Chargers 33, Lions 30.

Eagles at Cowboys

Florio?s take:? Jerry Jones fears the Eagles.? And for good reason.? Philly has found its groove, perhaps too late.? But not late enough for the Dream Team to complete a sweep of America?s Team.

Florio?s pick:? Eagles 33, Cowboys 27.

Rosenthal?s take: I predicted the Eagles would miss the playoffs at the beginning of the year. Despite a 6-8 record, they are somehow still alive and look like the best team in the division. I?m trying not to fall for it. It?s all part of an elaborate plan for Andy Reid to torture Eagles fans in the most painful way possible.

Rosenthal?s pick: Cowboys 30, Eagles 27.

49ers at Seahawks

Florio?s take:? The Jim Harbaugh-Pete Carroll rivalry is renewed, weeks after we?d all forgotten about it.? But even if the Seahawks can?t get the help they need to make it to the playoffs, they can throw a wrench into the Niners? plans for an easier path to Indy by killing Harbaugh?s shot at a bye.

Florio?s pick:? Seahawks 23, 49ers 17.

Rosenthal?s take: This is a dangerous game for the 49ers on a short week. Seattle?s defense continues to improve, while Tarvaris Jackson is playing his football of the season. (Without both his starting wideouts.) Both teams play a style designed to keep the game close. That favors the home team.

Rosenthal?s pick: Seahawks 17, 49ers 13.

Bears at Packers

Florio?s take:? Not long ago, this looked like it could be one of the best games of the year.? Now, it?ll mainly be an opportunity for the Packers to get the bad taste out of their mouths that came from losing to the Chiefs.

Florio?s pick:? Packers 35, Bears 13.

Rosenthal?s take: Josh McCown was coaching high school football four weeks ago. On Christmas night, he?ll show that he?s better than Caleb Hanie, and that it doesn?t really make a difference. The Packers have solved bigger injury problems than a few missing tackles.

Rosenthal?s pick: Packers 31, Bears 14.

Falcons at Saints

Florio?s take:? The Falcons beat the Saints in New Orleans last year.? Somehow.? This year, the Saints are unstoppable in the Superdome, thanks to a record-smashing season from Drew Brees.? But the Falcons have the firepower to keep it interesting.? Get your popcorn ready.? And your abacus.

Florio?s pick:? Saints 45, Falcons 38.

Rosenthal?s take: Exactly three points decided the last four games in this series. Atlanta will do enough to remind everyone the Saints? defense really hasn?t improved much. But the Falcons won?t do enough to hand New Orleans their first home loss of the year.

Rosenthal?s pick: Saints 34, Falcons 31.


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Friday, December 23, 2011

Colorado college sues over birth control provision

DENVER (AP) -- Colorado Christian University has a filed a lawsuit challenging the Barack Obama administration's health care legislation requirement that the morning-after pill be provided by health insurance plans.

The emergency contraception pill that can prevent pregnancy and can be taken the day after having unprotected sex is considered tantamount to abortion by the suburban Denver, multidenominational school, which has 3,900 students.

The Washington, D.C.-based Becket Fund for Religious Liberty says it filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court Thursday on the Lakewood school's behalf. The suit challenges the requirement that all federal-government-approved contraception be provided under the Affordable Care Act, including the morning-after pill.

The group also is representing North Carolina's Belmont Abbey College, a Catholic college, which says the law's exemption for religious employers doesn't cover the school.


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