Monday, November 3, 2008

Miley ditching her TV Show?

A chic Miley Cyrus was spotted in Paris with her mom on Thursday. The 15-year-old dispelled rumors that she's leaving "Hannah Montana," telling "Extra" that "as much as it's really hard work, [the TV show's] really great."

'Tis the season for tricking voters

In the hours before Election Day, as inevitable as winter, comes an onslaught of dirty tricks — confusing e-mails, disturbing phone calls and insinuating fliers left on doorsteps during the night.

The intent, almost always, is to keep folks from voting or to confuse them, usually through intimidation or misinformation. But in this presidential race, in which a black man leads most polls, some of the deceit has a decidedly racist bent.

Complaints have surfaced in predominantly African-American neighborhoods of Philadelphia where fliers have circulated, warning voters they could be arrested at the polls if they had unpaid parking tickets or if they had criminal convictions.

Over the weekend in Virginia, bogus fliers with an authentic-looking commonwealth seal said fears of high voter turnout had prompted election officials to hold two elections — one on Tuesday for Republicans and another on Wednesday for Democrats.

In New Mexico, two Hispanic women filed a lawsuit last week claiming they were harassed by a private investigator working for a Republican lawyer who came to their homes and threatened to call immigration authorities, even though they are U.S. citizens.

Big sitcom milestone

The Simpsons

The Simpsons Poised To Make TV History

The Simpsons, TV's longest-running American sitcom, is on tap for at least three more seasons, The New York Post reports.

"The cast is signed for three more years, so I would now say it's about a 90 percent chance we'll come back for at least one of those three," Al Jean, the show's executive producer, said. "I actually think it's better than a 50 percent chance we'll do three more years of this at least."

Should the triple renewal follow through, that would put the animated series at 23 years old - raise your hand if you're younger than it! - which would give it sole bragging rights as the longest-running scripted series, of any genre, ever.

American Idol

Idol Reject Josiah Leming Faces Legal Action From Show

Josiah Leming, the teary homeless singer who was the last to be axed before the top 24 round on American Idol Season 7, is facing an Idol threat in regards to his upcoming album.

According to The New York Post, Simon Fuller's 19 Entertainment, the force behind Idol, is threatening to block the release of Leming's debut disc, due in January, citing violation of terms of agreement. Leming, like all contestants, signed a strict contract with 19E that stipulates he must record with the Idol-handpicked label, Sony/BMG, and gives the company exclusive right of refusal for management and merchandising.

Leming signed with Warner Bros. earlier this year.

Melrose Place

Jennie Garth Says No To CW's Melrose Place

Not gonna happen.

That's what Jennie Garth says of the possibility that she may take part in the just-announced Melrose Place remake that the CW network is planning.

Refresher course: Garth, who's now starring in the See-Dub's 90210 redo, was the "L.C." of Melrose Place back in the day—the leading lady who moved viewers from the original show (Beverly Hills, 90210) to the spinoff (Melrose).

Dancing With the Stars

Dancing's Lacey: I Also Have Endometriosis

One Dancing queen has helped another. Lacey Schwimmer, who announced Wednesday that she has endometriosis, said she only saw a doctor after noticing her symptoms were similar to those of fellow Dancing with the Stars pro Julianne Hough, according to a report from E! News.

Hough had an appendectomy on Tuesday to treat her endometriosis, and, according to her website, is at home resting. Because Schwimmer, 20, caught the disease early, she won't need surgery. But she will be required to take medication to manage the condition. Endometriosis is a condition in which uterine-lining tissue grows outside the uterus, usually on the exterior of other organs.

Schwimmer, who previously competed on Fox's So You Think You Can Dance, is partnered with 'N Sync's Lance Bass on Dancing with the Stars. On Monday's show, they became the first couple to score higher than Brooke Burke and Derek Hough this season.


Courteney Cox Bringing Sexy Back To Cougar Town

Get ready to see an old friend in Cougar Town next year.

Courteney Cox, the erstwhile Monica Geller, is partnering with Scrubs creator Bill Lawrence for the single-camera comedy series for ABC, The Hollywood Reporter reports.

The Alphabet has already given a pilot commitment for the project, which will center around Cox as a comely and newly single 40-year-old mother with a 17-year-old son.

Mexico City's 'water monster' nears extinction

MEXICO CITY - Beneath the tourist gondolas in the remains of a great Aztec lake lives a creature that resembles a monster — and a Muppet — with its slimy tail, plumage-like gills and mouth that curls into an odd smile.

The axolotl, also known as the "water monster" and the "Mexican walking fish," was a key part of Aztec legend and diet. Against all odds, it survived until now amid Mexico City's urban sprawl in the polluted canals of Lake Xochimilco, now a Venice-style destination for revelers poled along by Mexican gondoliers, or trajineros, in brightly painted party boats.

But scientists are racing to save the foot-long salamander from extinction, a victim of the draining of its lake habitat and deteriorating water quality. In what may be the final blow, nonnative fish introduced into the canals are eating its lunch — and its babies.

The long-standing International Union for Conservation of Nature includes the axolotl on its annual Red List of threatened species, while researchers say it could disappear in just five years. Some are pushing for a series of axolotl sanctuaries in canals cleared of invasive species, while others are considering repopulating Xochimilco with axolotls bred in captivity.

"If the axolotl disappears, it would not only be a great loss to biodiversity but to Mexican culture, and would reflect the degeneration of a once-great lake system," says Luis Zambrano, a biologist at the Autonomous University of Mexico, or UNAM.

The number of axolotls (pronounced ACK-suh-LAH-tuhl) in the wild is not known. But the population has dropped from roughly 1,500 per square mile in 1998 to a mere 25 per square mile this year, according to a survey by Zambrano's scientists using casting nets.

It has been a steep fall from grace for the salamander with a feathery mane of gills and a visage reminiscent of a 1970s Smiley Face that inspired American poet Ogden Nash to pen the witticism: "I've never met an axolotl, But Harvard has one in a bottle."

Millions once lived in the giant lakes of Xochimilco and Chalco on which Mexico City was built. Using four stubby legs to drag themselves along lake bottoms or their thick tails to swim like mini-alligators, they hunted plentiful aquatic insects, small fish and crustaceans.

Legend has it that Xolotl — the dog-headed Aztec god of death, lightning and monstrosities — feared he was about to be banished or killed by other gods and changed into an axolotl to flee into Lake Xochimilco.

The axolotl's decline began when Spanish conquerors started draining the lakes, which were further emptied over time to slake the thirst of one of the world's largest and fastest-growing cities. In the 1970s, Lake Chalco was completely drained to prevent flooding. In the 1980s, Mexico City began pumping its wastewater into the few canals and lagoons that remained of Xochimilco.

About 20 years ago, African tilapia were introduced into Xochimilco in a misguided effort to create fisheries. They joined with Asian carp to dominate the ecosystem and eat the axolotl's eggs and compete with it for food. The axolotl is also threatened by agrochemical runoff from nearby farms and treated wastewater from a Mexico City sewage plant, researchers say.

Local fisherman Roberto Altamira, 32, recalls when he was a boy, and the axolotl was still part of the local diet.

"I used to love axolotl tamales," he says, rubbing his stomach and laughing.

But he says people no longer eat axolotls, mainly because fishermen almost never find them.

"The last one I caught was about six months ago," says Altamira, a wiry gondolier with rope-like muscles from years of poling through Xochimilco's narrow waterways.

Meanwhile, the axolotl population is burgeoning in laboratories, where scientists study its amazing traits, including the ability to completely re-grow lost limbs. Axolotls have played key roles in research on regeneration, embryology, fertilization and evolution.

The salamander has the rare trait of retaining its larval features throughout its adult life, a phenomenon called neoteny. It lives all its life in the water but can breathe both under water with gills or by taking gulps of air from the surface.

On a 9-foot-wide canal covered by a green carpet of "lentejilla" — an aquatic plant that resembles green lentils — Zambrano's researchers test water quality and search for axolotls. The air smells of sulfur and sewage.

A team member suddenly points to the trademark water ripple of an axolotl, and the crew hurls its net. But they only come up with two tilapia in a sopping-wet mass of lentejilla.

So far, scientists disagree on how to save the creature. But a pilot sanctuary is expected to open in the next three to six months in the waters around Island of the Dolls, so-called because the owner hangs dolls he finds in the canals to ward off evil spirits.

Zambrano proposes up to 15 axolotl sanctuaries in Xochimilco's canals, where scientists would insert some kind of barrier and clear the area of nonnative species.

Without carp, the water would clear, and plants the axolotl needs to breed could flourish again, said Bob Johnson, the curator of amphibians and reptiles at the Toronto Zoo.

"If you take the insults away, the lake has an amazing latent potential to heal itself," he said.

Veterinarian Erika Servin, who runs the Mexico City government's axolotl program at Chapultepec Zoo, is studying the possibility of introducing axolotls from the lab into the canals. But more study is needed to make sure the process doesn't lead to diseases and genetic problems from inbreeding.

Xochimilco residents could be another source of resistance.

Hundreds of people make a living pulling tilapia from canals or growing flowers, lettuce and vegetables on nearby land. Efforts to remove the fish or shut down polluting farms could face stiff opposition.

But while the debate goes on, time is running out.

Given its role in research alone, Johnson says, "We owe it to the axolotl to help it survive."

Air Cars: A New Wind for America's Roads?

A new carmaker has a plan for cheap, environmentally friendly cars to be built all over the country

An air-powered car? It may be available sooner than you think at a price tag that will hardly be a budget buster. The vehicle may not run like a speed racer on back road highways, but developer Zero Pollution Motors is betting consumers will be willing to fork over $20,000 for a vehicle that can motor around all day on nothing but air and a splash of salad oil, alcohol or possibly a pint of gasoline.

The expertise needed to build a compressed air car, or CAV, is not rocket science, either. Years-old, off-the-shelf technology uses compressed air to drive old-fashioned car engine pistons instead of combusting gas or diesel fuel to create a burst of air to do the same thing. Indian carmaker Tata has no qualms about the technology. It has already bought the rights to make the car for the huge Indian market.

The air car can tool along at a top speed of 35 mph for some 60 miles or so on a tank of compressed air, a sufficient distance for 80% of consumers to commute to work and back and complete daily chores.

On highways, the CAV can cruise at interstate speeds for nearly 800 miles with a small motor that compresses outside air to keep the tank filled. The motor isn't finicky about fuel. It will burn gasoline or diesel as well as biodiesel, ethanol or vegetable oil.

This car leaves the highest-mpg vehicles you can buy right now in the dust. Even if it used only regular gasoline, the air car would average 106 mpg, more than double today's fuel sipping champ, the Toyota Prius. The air tank also can be refilled when it's not in use by being plugged into a wall socket and recharged with electricity as the motor compresses air.

Automakers aren't quite ready yet to gear up huge assembly line operations churning out air cars or set up glitzy dealer showrooms where you can ooh and aah over the color or style. But the vehicles will be built in factories that will make up to 8,000 vehicles a year, likely starting in 2011, and be sold directly to consumers.

There will be plants in nearly every state, based on the number of drivers in the state. California will have as many as 17 air car manufacturing plants, and there'll be around 12 in Florida, eight in New York, four in Georgia, while two in Connecticut will serve that state and Rhode Island.

The technology goes back decades, but is coming together courtesy of two converging forces. First, new laws are likely to be enacted in a few years that will limit carbon dioxide emissions and force automakers to develop ultra-high mileage cars and those that emit minuscule amounts of or no gases linked with global warming. Plug-in electric hybrids will slash these emissions, but they'll be pricey at around $40,000 each and require some changes in infrastructure -- such as widespread recharge stations -- to be practical. Fuel cells that burn hydrogen to produce only water vapor still face daunting technical challenges.

Second, the relatively high cost of gas has expedited the air car's development. Yes, pump prices have plunged since July from record levels, but remain way higher than just a few years ago and continue to take a bite out of disposable income. Refiners will face carbon emission restraints, too, and steeply higher costs will be passed along at the pump.

Tata doesn't plan to produce the cars in the U.S. Instead, it plans to charge $15 million for the rights to the technology, a fully built turnkey auto assembly plant, tools, machinery, training and rights to use trademarks.

The CAV has a big hurdle: proving it can pass federal crash tests. Shiva Vencat, president and CEO of Zero Pollution Motors, says he's not worried. "The requirements can be modeled [on a computer] before anything is built and adjusted to ensure that the cars will pass" the crash tests. Vencat also is a vice president of MDI Inc., a French company that developed the air car.

Sunday, August 24, 2008


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Saturday, August 23, 2008

Car insurance rate

Your auto insurance is there to protect you against monetary loss if you are in an accident. Your auto insurance is, essentially, a contract between you and your insurance company. You pay a premium, and in return, the insurer agrees to pay for any losses as they are defined in your car insurance policy. In Canada, it is the law to have auto insurance. Your car insurance is valid anywhere in Canada and the United States. It’s a good idea to carry your proof of car insurance with you whenever you drive because you must produce it if a police officer requests. If you are found driving without valid auto insurance, you can have your driver’s licence suspended and your vehicle impounded.

In Canada, each province and territory establishes their own required minimum insurance coverage. However, you often can get options that go beyond the basics. One of the nice things about insurance is that you can modify your policy to ensure that you’ve got the exact protection you require, without paying for extra insurance you may not need.

The law does not require that you purchase car insurance to cover damages to your automobile. If you have a newer automobile, however, you’ll want to protect your investment and consider purchasing Collision and Comprehensive coverage.


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