Wednesday, December 15, 2010

WASHINGTON — A controversial compromise to extend Bush-era income tax cuts for millions of taxpayers won overwhelming approval in the Senate on Wednesday, deflating chances for a revolt by House Democrats who say it is too generous to the wealthy.

Wavering House Democrats, angry that President Obama agreed to Republican demands on the legislation, said there had been little movement toward making significant changes to the bill. The measure is scheduled for a vote in the House today.

Just over a week after Obama unveiled the tax compromise, the Senate voted 81-19 to approve the measure — handing the president a major victory in the year-end, "lame duck" session of Congress. Forty-four Senate Democrats and 37 Republicans supported the proposal.

"This vote brings us one step closer to ensuring that middle-class families across the country won't have to worry about a massive tax hike," Obama said in a statement.

The vote also put the fate of the measure in the hands of House Democrats, who have been cool to many of its provisions. Democrats voted last week not to bring the bill to the floor without making changes.

Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., who has helped lead opposition to the measure, called it a "raw deal."

The Senate bill, which would cost $858 billion over 10 years, would extend income tax cuts for two years, create a one-year, 2-percentage-point cut in payroll taxes and continue jobless benefits for the long-term unemployed for 13 more months.

"We must compromise in order to extend help to those who are struggling in this economy," said Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, who had criticized the proposal, but who ultimately voted to support it.

Some House Democrats, including DeFazio, have objected to extending the tax cuts for families earning more than $250,000 in taxable income. Others have blasted a provision to allow couples to pass up to $10 million onto their heirs tax free. Estates above that level would be taxed at 35%.

House leaders were set to allow a proposed amendment to trim the threshold on tax-free estates to $7 million for couples and increase the tax rate to 45%. The amendment, which faces a steep climb in the House, would send the bill back to the Senate for another vote if approved.

Senate Republicans, including Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, have warned against making changes to the bill.

A group of Democrats, including Texas Rep. Lloyd Doggett, said they also oppose the provision to reduce Social Security payroll taxes next year. They said they are worried Congress will extend that break indefinitely, undermining the program.

"This was presented to us as a take-it-or-leave-it deal," Doggett said, adding that little progress had been made on changing the bill.

If Congress does not act, the cuts will expire Jan. 1, affecting virtually every taxpayer. A family with an income of $63,366 would see its federal income tax rise $1,540, according to the non-partisan Tax Foundation.

"At the end of the day," said Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., "we're going to pass a bill."

Several conservative Democrats lined up behind the agreement. Thirty-one members of the centrist Blue Dog Democrats signed a letter asking leaders to "send it directly to the president's desk without delay."

A Modern-Day Greek Drama

David Brooks: Gail, do you mind if I talk to you about death? There were two deaths this week that are on my mind in very different ways, but somehow both take me back to classical Greece.

Gail Collins: David, one of the reasons I love conversing with you is that you are a person who can say “… but somehow both take me back to classical Greece” and sound totally normal. So fire away.
David Brooks: The first death is Richard Holbrooke’s. To be honest, I still don’t comprehend that he is gone. Thinking about him being absent is like driving out to Colorado and finding the Rocky Mountains are gone. His zest and energy were so voluminous that it doesn’t seem physically possible that they would just disappear.

Holbrooke was a boy wonder early in his career and he always retained that aura. He was so boundless, he seemed perpetually 27, and I was stunned to learn that he was 69 as his fatal illness struck.

Gail Collins: I’ve heard a lot of people say “… and he was only 69.” As an aside, can I point out how lucky we are to be living in an era when dying at 69 can be regarded as untimely? I’m still under the influence of that William Henry Harrison biography I just finished writing. He was 68 when he became president, and while it was a terrible shock when he died a month later, during the campaign people seemed stunned that he was actually capable of walking and taking nourishment. And most of his 10 children had already predeceased him. But enough about William Henry Harrison. Tell me your thoughts about Richard Holbrooke.

David Brooks: I want to dwell on the nature of his ambition. Holbrooke was completely besotted with public service and with having a prominent role in the great game of policymaking. George Packer captured this beautifully on his New Yorker blog in his tribute to Holbrooke:

He did many things besides work in government, but that work was so core to his being and happiness that, once he started his new (and nearly impossible) job, it was as if a pilot light inside him had suddenly burst into flame: his eyes had a new gleam. He harbored a dose of skepticism about the Afghanistan war, but he worked tirelessly for success, to the obvious detriment of his health. In a sense he gave his life for his country.

Gail Collins: Yes, it’s a shame that so many people these days regard government as an evil. Not that I’m thinking of any particular names.

David Brooks: Holbrooke’s life puts me in mind of the distinction between ambition and glory. These days, glory-seeking has a bad odor, but in classical days, and certainly in the 18th century when this country was founded, people took a different view.

Being ambitions was selfish, but yearning for immortal glory was noble. The person who yearned for glory was willing to sacrifice for his country and for some larger cause. It was unrealistic to expect people to be self-abnegating, but the enlarging for glory could overrule the narrowing interests of ambition.

Gail Collins: I think there’s a nervousness that the quest for personal glory can drive the country into places where it shouldn’t go, particularly on the invading-other-countries front. But the drive to attain a great and lasting peace is of course a different matter altogether.

David Brooks: Holbrooke’s personal aspirations were so tightly interwoven with his aspirations for his country it was impossible to tease them apart. He openly sought high office, and never hid his desires (or anything else), but that was because he wanted to lose himself in the larger cause.

Gail Collins: I’m happy to join you in sending a tribute to Richard Holbrooke. But you said you wanted to talk about two people who’ve just died?

David Brooks: The second death I wanted to mention is Mark Madoff’s. Here, I confess I have mixed feelings. Of course one feels terrible for the suicide victim himself. I find it possible to believe he didn’t know about his father’s schemes. He did turn the old guy in, after all. Moreover, he left a 2-year-old in the next room, which suggests a seriously deranged state of mind.

Gail Collins: The 2-year-old in the next room part was where he lost me. What kind of person leaves a suicide note saying, in effect, “I love you and oh, somebody better check on the kid.”

David Brooks: And yet am a I rotten person for thinking some proper retribution has been inflicted upon the old man?

Gail Collins: Wow, David. Didn’t think you were going there. But continue.

David Brooks: Bernie Madoff endangered his family and his friendships for money. He inflicted untold pain on thousands of people. Somehow there is cruel justice in the fact that the shocks of his crimes should reverberate back on him in this way. He has to live with the knowledge that he caused his son’s death.

Gail Collins: O.K., I can see where you’re going now — back to the Greeks, right?

David Brooks: Yes, this too is Greek, because in those old tragedies, pain would course through families; and the sons, as the unavoidable saying goes, would pay for the sins of their fathers. Those old plays presumed that the universe is essentially just, and that there are moral laws and filaments so that evil eventually leads to evil.

Gail Collins: It sounded very profound when Sophocles wrote about it. But I have the terrible feeling that in our era, it’s been boiled down to “Everything happens for a reason.” I would love to see a statistic on how many times people in reality show competitions say that. Is it really possible to believe there’s a cosmic purpose behind getting kicked off the island in “Survivor”?

David Brooks: I’m not so sure we can be so confident of that. But crimes do tend to impose rippling waves of pain.

Sorry to be such a downer. Next week I’ll get back in the holiday cheer. Promise.
Today the federal government indicted former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, father Bernard Kilpatrick, the city contractor Bobby Ferguson, a former aide to Kilpatrick on Derrick Miller and former water department chief Victor Mercado as one part of the largest ever investigation into corruption in the city of Detroit.

U.S. Attorney's Office announced in a news release fee but does not provide an indictment or details. Officials have scheduled a news conference for 04:00

Miller and Ferguson also close friends of former mayor. Miller is a former basketball team Kilpatrick at Cass Technical High School and later worked for his mother, U.S. Rep. Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick (D-Detroit). In 2002, Kwame Kilpatrick Miller was appointed as chief administrative officer.

Ferguson, who has a Detroit demolition and excavation company, became friends with Kilpatrick after Kilpatrick elected state representative in 1996. They socialized, ride motorcycles together and Kilpatrick designated as the tsarist cleaning the city Ferguson. In times of Kilpatrick's, Ferguson's business with the city increased dramatically.

Today's announcement followed the initial belief of some nearby Kilpatrick associates, including two brothers on his staff who is a childhood friend, and charges of fraud and tax evasion against former mayor himself.

Kilpatrick is currently in state prison on a separate platform: violating his probation on charges of perjury related to the text message scandal.

The federal probe of Detroit City Hall, was first reported by Free Press in 2008, has led to criminal charges against 20 people. Of those, 15 have been convicted of charges ranging from bribery to bid rigging, with many defendants cooperate with federal investigators.

Federal agencies also have expressed in previous cases that they wire-tapped phone and install hidden video equipment as part of their investigation.
People in Detroit corruption is so widespread that the agents over the years have been combing through various city departments and transactions. They include mud $ 1.2-billion transportation contract with Synagro Technologies, bribery at the Cobo Center convention facility, related to the Water and Sewerage Department failed Asian Village restaurant business and other public pension fund investments.

Until now, the government has netted 15 guilty pleas from various defendants, including former City Councilwoman Monica Conyers, wife of Congressman John Conyers long. He pleaded guilty last year took bribes to vote on Synagro sludge deal. He is now serving a 37-month prison sentence, as is her former aide, political consultant Sam Riddle, who also pleaded guilty to taking bribes and shaking down local businesses in return for political support.

Other new applications including Marc Andre Cunningham, a former executive assistant, and fraternity brother, Kilpatrick. Cunningham last month pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit bribery, admitting that he paid thousands of dollars relative to a city official for political assistance. Cunningham, 41, of Detroit is not the official name or a relative, but admitted in U.S. District Court in hearing a defense that he pays relatively minimal $ 15,000 as a gift to the officer, who has supported the pension fund deal for $ 30-million.

Public corruption probe has also been snared contractors, including Brian Dodds, co-owner of the company's earthmoving Howell, who admitted that he knew about the bid-rigging scheme involving Ferguson, but failed to notify authorities. On hearing the petition in October, Dodds said he submitted false bids and increase in demand for Ferguson to make it appear that Ferguson was the low bidder on the housing project, and gave misleading testimony to a grand jury. He will be sentenced Jan. 10 and faces up to six months in jail and fined $ 5,000.

A similar request made by Rodney Burrell, president and owner of Northville-based R & R Heavy haulers, who last month admitted knowing Ferguson's bid-rigging scheme, but also failed to report it. In the trial the defense was, Burrell admitted that in 2007, in the direction of Ferguson, he also submitted false bids to benefit Ferguson, who eventually won the contract to $ 11,900,000, according to court records. In exchange for cooperation and silent, Burrell company received approximately $ 188,000 from Ferguson Enterprises, Inc. for the transportation and trucking services in housing projects.

Burrell faces up to three years in prison, and fined $ 250,000. He will face a penalty March 7.

The jury issued an indictment today precisely at a time as the appointment of 36-month limit jury discharged December 31. If the indictment has not been issued, the federal government will need to request an extension or start from scratch with another jury.
There's been an abundance of predictions about when near-field communications (NFC) will make its presence felt in the handset market, but the technology has yet to ramp up in a significant way.

That could be about to change. To judge by announcements from key industry players like Google, AT&T and Verizon Wireless, 2011 is the year when NFC will finally secure a meaningful presence in the marketplace.

The NFC Forum has been absolutely crucial to advancing the technology's presence in the consumer electronics market. The forum has developed a variety of specifications and recently launched a certification program for NFC-capable devices, a critical step in getting device manufacturers to adopt the technology.

Paula BergerPaula Berger has been managing the NFC Forum for almost six years. She spoke with Wireless Week about the forum's new certification program, the recent announcements from Google and top U.S. wireless operators, and discussed what the forum expects from the NFC market over the next year. Below is an edited transcript of the discussion.

Wireless Week: What will the new certification program do for the adoption of NFC?

Paula Berger: The reason that the NFC Forum started was to allow us to develop NFC-interoperable devices that can be used anywhere in the world and would work with each other. The certification program ensures that any device which goes through it complies with our specifications, so you can have different devices that all have the same baseline set of specifications. That will be the basis for allowing them to interoperate. You'll be able to take the phone that you use to get on the train in Paris, use it to pay for your parking in Finland and then bring it to the U.S. and go to McDonald's with the same phone.

WW: Do you feel that there's been fragmentation within the NFC industry, or is it still too early for that to be a problem?

Berger: There would be no NFC industry if it was fragmented. The whole reason that the industry has been sort of waiting is to figure out how to make this work. NFC is a complex ecosystem that has to be able to work together. You can't bring out NFC for New York City and then have it not work anywhere else in the world. The whole point is to develop an interoperable, global network.

Many years ago, there were several different standards that the international standards organizations passed. The purpose of the NFC Forum was to harmonize those standards so they'd all work together everywhere. The market has been kind of waiting for that. Now, everyone believes that you can come out with an NFC device that will work everywhere. There really hasn't been fragmentation. There has been hesitation waiting for the standards. Now we're ready to go.

WW: Do you feel that you'll see more NFC devices come out because of the certification program? Will this be an impetus for manufacturers to include the chips?

Berger: Absolutely. There are very few NFC devices on the market. They're all waiting. This is the trigger. I heard two different numbers this week: 50 million and 70 million – that's the number of handsets that would be NFC-enabled by the end of 2011. That means that all the major phone manufactures, plus makers of eReaders and cameras and laptops - all of those devices are waiting to be able to work together. This is almost like the starting gun has gone off for devices.

WW: Speaking of that starting gun, we've seen some developments already. In the past few weeks we've seen an NFC-based joint venture, rumors about a NFC iPhone and Google has integrated NFC support into Android 2.3 Gingerbread. What's your take on these developments?

Berger: They've all been percolating for the last year, some longer, waiting for the right time, and it's now. It's not an accident in any way that all of these things are triggering at once.

WW: So is 2011 going to be a breakout year for NFC?

Berger: Well, considering that they're saying 50 million to 70 million handsets on the market by the end of next year, and the number today is measureable in the thousands, all of which are used in very specific implementations and trials, I would have to say certainly in terms of handset availability, yes. Once the handsets are out, it enables the rest of the ecosystem to move forward. 2011 is certainly going to be the year in which we start to see all of the devices. It's going to be a two-year process, 2011 through 2012, during which it grows, and it will be exponential from there.

WW: We'll see the handsets come to market en masse over the next year. What do you think some of the initial uses for NFC will be in those handsets – is this going to be mainly a mobile payment technology?

Berger: Actually, thus far the main use has been transportation. There are many, many cities and even countries have NFC-enabled transport systems. Transport is almost a guinea pig. Payments have been the area that gets all the publicity. It's very important and clearly is going to happen, it just has a much more complex value chain to resolve. What we're seeing now is that those issues are being resolved. The parties are coming to terms and working together well. They're all starting to see their place in it and come forward.

WW: What do you consider your biggest accomplishments over the past year?

Berger: It's been the goal of the NFC Forum to get to the point where we can start certifying devices. We have built up all of the basic specifications we need to be able to do that. Global interoperability is not a simple thing so we came up with specifications that would cover different use cases, and then built a certification program to make sure all those different things will work together. Those bring us to a real turning point. This is sort of the culmination of what we've been doing since we started. There's lots more to do, but it's a real accomplishment for us to do that.

We also have been building up our plugfest schedule, which is the other piece of the certification program. Our certification program tests conformance to our specifications, but plugfests allow devices to test directly against each other. It's a typical industry way to make sure that everything really does work, and allows people to tweak things so they work even better. Even though everyone works toward the specifications, sometimes there are little bits and piece that need to be cleaned up and plugfest allows them to do that.

WW: What are some of the top challenges you face in 2011 and what do you hope to achieve next year?

Berger: Our number one challenge is to make sure that the certification program works as best we can make it work. Like any massive program, there will be bits and pieces to clean up. It was a very large effort with many people from many different member companies and we'll be scrutinized and used by lots of companies. People will tell us where they've found little things that need to be fixed. We're expecting our focus, at least for the next six months, to be improving that program and making it as crisp and clean as it can be so certification runs smoothly when a device comes in.

After that, we'll be starting to look at how we can expand the program. Several of our specifications are not covered by the program yet, so we'll be expanding the program to include those. At the same time, the technical specification guys will be upgrading the original specs.

WW: How does the U.S. market compare to other international markets in terms of adoption and momentum for near-field communications?

Berger: The answer I would have given you a year ago is very different from the answer now. I think the U.S. market is ready. For many reasons, the U.S. was not fast to adopt mobile technology in general. For one thing, the U.S. has an incredibly sophisticated landline structure for phones compared to most of the rest of the world so they didn't jump into the mobile world as quickly as others. Also, a lot of the companies driving NFC were not U.S.-based. But in the past year particularly, we've seen a huge change in where the U.S. market is. We're seeing lots of trials and early implementations, and a lot of the big companies are behind it. The Isis announcement is really big because three of the primary carriers in the U.S. are working together.

We also see major companies like FirstData involved with several of the implementations that are coming. Broadcom is another U.S.-based company that just bought Innovision Research and Technology because it believed that Innovision has some of the critical intellectual property important for the NFC market. MasterCard and Visa, both based in the U.S., have been on our board of directors from the beginning and American Express has suddenly become far more active. We really do see a huge change in the U.S. market. 2011 is absolutely the breakout year in the U.S. market, no doubt.
The Swedish government asked American officials to keep intelligence-gathering “informal” to help avoid Parliamentary scrutiny, American diplomatic cables released by Wikileaks show. 

The secret cables, seen by the Daily Telegraph, reveal how many workers Sweden debates on anti-terrorism operations held from public scrutiny wanted.
They describe how the officials of the Ministry of Justice and the Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs a "high degree of satisfaction with the current informal arrangements for sharing of information" had the U.S. government. Making formal arrangements should be announced to Parliament that they said.
They reveal the fears of workers that the intense scrutiny Swedish Parliament could put "a broad range of law enforcement and counter-terrorism" operations at risk.
Under 'visits to teams to facilitate the exchange of terrorist screening information with Sweden to discuss, "they show Dr. Anna-Karin Svensson, director of the department of police affairs, saying that the Swedish government strike controversy or their methods of intelligence are not published.
The cable stated that "the current political climate in the Swedish formal agreement of terrorist screening information very difficult." Swedish citizens are said to have a high value attached to the neutrality of the country.

"MJ team expressed their appreciation for the flexibility of the U.S. on a deal points out," said the corporal.
"They showed great satisfaction with the current system of informal information exchange with the U.S. and wondered whether the benefits of an alleged HSPD-6 according to the Swedes would be offset by the risk that these informal channels exist, covering a wide range of law enforcement and counterterrorism cooperation, would be better and perhaps undermined by the Parliament to consider.
Dr. Svensson MFA reiterated concerns about the current political climate in Sweden. "
He continued: "They believed that in view of Swedish constitutional requirements on matters of national importance to Parliament and in the light of the ongoing controversy over the legislation in Sweden, recently deceased surveillance, it would be politically impossible for the Minister of Justice to avoid that submission of a formal exchange of information agreement with the United States to Parliament for review.
"In his view, the effect of the spotlight of public opinion also made other informal mechanisms for sharing information at risk."
The publication of new cables, sent from Washington to the American embassy in Stockholm in 2008, came after Julian Assange, founder of Wikileaks, was released on bail on Tuesday on the allegations of sexual abuse in Sweden.
Although a judge ordered him released with strict conditions and £ 200,000 for the reliable high-profile supporters, the Swedish authorities profession, ie, the 39-year-old remains behind bars.
Wikileaks claimed that the new cables that terrorism screening programs to discuss, give added weight to suggestions that Sweden and America were engaged in "backroom agreements."
Mark Stephens, a lawyer for Mr. Assange's, argued that his client was a "trial window dressing 'face and his case was politically motivated. The Swedish government denies the accusations.
Kristinn Hrafnsson, a spokesman for Wikileaks, said the site was "concerned about the political influence on the charge of Julian Assange.
"The new revelations in the Swedish cable ... some light on the fierceness of the Swedish criminal prosecution in this case throwing," he said.
"The prosecutor said there was" no condition "of a deposit that meets them."
Virgin Atlantic said the process was at a very early stage
Virgin Atlantic has said it has received "a number of lines of enquiries" about potential tie-ups.

The airline added that negotiations were at "early stages", and that it was "far too early" to comment further.

Virgin said the approaches came after it hired Deutsche Bank last month to assess growth opportunities in the aviation industry.

It did not comment on reports that Delta Air Lines is interested in a merger.

Delta has also declined to comment.

"We expect Deutsche Bank's work to run on for a number of months but have nothing further to add at this stage," said Virgin Atlantic.

Sir Richard Branson, who owns 51% of Virgin Atlantic, had criticised the recently-completed merger of British Airways and Iberia on the grounds that it would increase fares and reduce competition.

But that deal, and others in the industry, prompted analysts to suggest Virgin Atlantic needed a tie-up to enable it to compete with much bigger airline groups in the industry.

The New York Jets have suspended Sal Alosi indefinitely after the team got “new information” that the strength and conditioning coach “instructed” five players to stand in a wall before he tripped a Dolphins player on Sunday.

Jets general manager Mike Tannenbaum announced the punishment after Alosi was suspended for the rest of the season and fined $25,000 on Monday.

“Over the last day as we continued our investigation we discovered some new information,” Tannenbaum said. “The players at the Miami game were instructed by Sal to stand where they were forcing the gunner in the game to run around them. Based on that new information we’ve suspended Sal indefinitely, pending further review. Once we got this new information we met with commissioner Ray Anderson this morning. They support this initial decision that we presented to them. The league is going to look into this as well, as well they should. Once we get all the information we’ll make a final determination.”

Tannenbaum was clear in what happened.

“Specifically when Miami was punting they were asked to stand there by him,” he said.

Tannenbaum said Alosi acted alone, that he wasn’t told by anyone in the organization to instruct players to stand in a line. Addressing the media Monday, Alosi claimed he wasn’t instructed by anyone to create a human wall.

Tannenbaum and coach Rex Ryan both insisted Monday that the players aren’t coached to do that.

Could Alosi be fired for the move?

“All options are certainly on the table we’re going to complete the review and get all the information,” Tannenbaum said. “[Special teams coach] Mike Westhoff was not involved, Rex Ryan was not involved, but we just want to be thorough and get all the information.”

Former Miami Dolphins linebacker Zach Thomas had accused the Jets Tuesday of deliberately forming a wall on their sideline to influence the Dolphins’ gunner, Nolan Carroll.

Thomas was part of a growing faction that believes Alosi wasn’t acting alone.

“They had to be ordered to stand there because they’re foot to foot,” Thomas said Tuesday on Miami radio station WQAM. “There’s four of them, side to side — five of them, I mean — on the edge of the coaches’ zone. They’re only out there to restrict the space of the gunner.

“But there’s more to it because I’m telling you, the only thing [Alosi] did wrong was intentionally put that knee out there. If he just stood there, there would never have been a problem, even if the guy got tripped. But there’s more to this. He was ordered to stand there. No one is foot to foot on the sideline in the coaches’ box.”

There was a six-man line, starting with Alosi and defensive lineman Marcus Dixon (inactive). It’s believed the other four also were inactive players. They were in a tight formation, almost like soccer players preparing to defend a direct kick. Their toes were right up against the boundary, with Alosi positioned in the corner of the coaches’ box.
SAN FRANCISCO, Calif.--Microsoft is making Bing easier on the eyes, and hopefully easier to use.
At Microsoft's Bing Search Summit here at its downtown San Francisco offices, the company unveiled a more visual way to search for things like music, events, movies and images from its search results, as well as improvements to the things people are able to do from the results page itself.
Satya Nadella, Microsoft's Senior Vice President of Research and Development went into detail on how much effort the Bing team puts into making the search engine more aesthetically pleasing. That includes 400 "unique visual experiences" built into Bing, each one of which gets served up based on the action.
Those actions are broken down into the things people want to do when they search for things. In order of importance that's music, clothing and shoes, consumer electronics, recipes, home furnishings and movies that are no longer in theaters. Nadella said the Bing team then delves into what people do once they start searching for each of these items to figure out how it can serve up results in a more efficient manner. For something like movies that means you get showtimes, as well as rankings from places like IMDB and Rottentomatoes.
Microsoft has also cleaned up its image search, adding things like infinite scrolling, and something called smart tabs, which is a set of related image searches that sit on the top of the page. Clicking these begins another image search without taking you off the page:
Bing's enhanced image search
Another improvement to the result pages involves a partnership with Fansnap to help people get things like concert of game tickets. So say you're searching for an upcoming basketball game at a local stadium. Bing will now serve up a stadium map, and a listing of the tickets you can buy, straight from the results:
Ticket sales inside of Bing search results.
Microsoft also detailed advances in its integration of Facebook as part of Bing search results. In the next month or so, Bing will feature Facebook likes right underneath results, so that you can see which of your friends liked a result. Unlike previous efforts, which would just highlight items friends had liked, Paul Yiu--Bing's Group Program Manager said that Bing is now changing the rankings based on these annotations.
That change in ranking has also been utilized to highlight people search results, so that if you're searching for someone, Bing can filter those results based on the network of people it knows you know. Yiu said this should go a long way towards helping users find the right person if they have a common name.
Beside's Bing's search page, Microsoft demoed the new version of its Bing Maps product which uses ajax instead of Silverlight, which is going out to users beginning today. Bing Maps' architect Blaise Aguera y Arcas explained that while the vast majority of the features have been able to be ported over to the new system, Silverlight will still be needed to use Bing's map applications tools for its computational tools.

Bing Maps has also partnered with Everyscape to add in-line panoramas for business listings. In the same vein, the Bing mobile application can now let users make their own panoramas in a similar style to Occipital's 360 Panoramic app. These can then be uploaded to
Making a panorama in Bing's iPhone app.
 The Streetside view gets a special trick within the mobile app so that you can zoom out even further than you're able to on the desktop iteration. This, Aguera y Arcas explained, was to make it easier to get a broader look of a neighborhood you might be unfamiliar with and see its landmarks.
Microsoft's Streetside is coming to its Bing mobile app
 Other additions to the mobile app include geo-fencing, real-time public transit schedules that will let users do a search for the next bus or train nearby to their location, or as part of a directions query, and a new visual search tool that makes use of your phone's camera. This identifies words and lets you tap them to begin a query:
Bing's mobile application is getting a new search tool that lets you pick out specific words from a photo.
These features, as well as the ones being made to Bing's browser search are being rolled out over the new few weeks.
KARACHI: A group of students from Karachi Grammar School and other schools made history when they set a new Guinness World of Records by accommodating 19 persons in a Smart Car.

This historic event took place at DHA Creek Club, Karachi in front of a Jury and reported worldwide Wednesday in the presence of Speaker Sindh Assembly Nisar Ahmed Khoro who was chief guest on the occasion.

The group led by Aymen Saleem Yousuf squeezed into a standard Smart Car to smash the record ealier set by the Climb Fit Team of Australia when 18 students compressed into a standard Smart Car at the Warringah Mall, Sydney Australia on January 25, 2010.

The jury comprised of Nisar Khoro, Dr. Mirza Ikhtiar Baig Advisor to Prime Minister, Sharmila Farooqui Advisor to CM Sindh on Information, former cricket captain Waseem Akram, former hockey captain and olympian Islahuddin and Ishtiaq Baig Hon. Consul General of Morocco.
Inter needed just three minutes to take the lead against the South Koreans, the Italians worked the ball down the left before the ball arrived through Dejan Stankovic who drilled home a low left footed shot. Just after the half hour Inter scored a terrific second as Javier Zanetti got on the end of Diego Milito’s wonderful backheel and the Argentine made no mistake in front of goal.
Posted: December 15th, 2010 - 12:28pm by Ben Chapman

(note - original title was incorrect -- should read 48 million not 42 -bc)

The much anticipated new estimates of the burden of foodborne illness in the US are now available from CDC. For the past 10+ years the common calculation estimate was 76 million illnesses/year (about 1-in-4 individuals annually). The new report, released today, points to an estimate of 1-in-6 (or 48 million) illnesses annually.

You can read all about it here, (it's a really nice site, with open, transparent calculations).

I'm sure that there will be lots of folks trying to make comparsions between the two estimates (arguing that there has been major progress) or complaining about how poor the 1999 estimates were, but CDC is clear in providing how they made the estimations and says:

The 2011 estimates reflect innovations in data and methodology that have occurred in the past decade. As with the current study, the 1999 study used the best data and methods available at the time.

Better comparisons for progress can be made with the foodnet data (where increases and decreases, depending on pathogen and year, have been seen). The new estimates provide a more precise look at how many sick folks there are every year. 48 million is still a lot.
The Phillies will re-introduce Cliff Lee as a member of their starting pitching rotation at a 3 p.m. press conference.

While everyone knew that Lee has been a Phillie for about 36 hours now, the only people who hadn't commented officially were the Phillies. Not anymore

 The team just sent out a press release officially announcing they had signed Lee to a five-year deal (with a vesting option for a sixth year) for $120 million. So you can hop right to that Christmas shopping if you were waiting on one of those red-pinstriped No.33s. That will be Lee's new numbers with the Phils. Roy Halladay wears No. 34, the number Lee wore two years ago for the Phils.

Lee's official (re)introduction as a Phillie will take place during a press conference at 3 p.m. today at Citizens Bank Park. Lee, Ruben Amaro Jr. and Charlie Manuel are scheduled to be there.
A Border Patrol agent was shot and killed late Tuesday night in an area near Rio Rico, Ariz.

Agent Brian Terry, 40, encountered a group of suspects when he was shot at, according to a release from the Border Patrol.

Terry was waiting with a team of other agents in a remote desert area when a gunfight brokeout with the suspects, a union leader representing the Border Patrol said.

National Border Patrol Council President T.J. Bonner says the agents were trying to catch suspected bandits, who target illegal immigrants for robbery.

Four of those suspects were arrested. One is still at large, authorities said.

Border Patrol officials and officers with the Department of Public Safety are scouring the area with K9 units in an effort to find that suspect.

The incident happened just after 11 p.m. in the Peck Canyon area just north of Nogales.

The Federal Bureau of Investigations is now involved in the case and is looking into the agent's death, Border Patrol spokesman Eric Cantu said.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with the Terry family for their tragic loss," said CBP Commissioner Alan Bersin. "Our commitment to Agent Terry and his family is that we will do everything possible to bring to justice those responsible for this despicable act."

Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who requested 1,200 National Guard troops for the border in May, said more must be done to ensure the safety of those who work and live near the border.

"What additional tragedies must Southern Arizonans endure before my colleagues in Congress and the Obama administration address this crisis with the full weight of our resources? We must act and we must act now."

Sen. John McCain, whose request for 6,000 troops was rebuffed, also called for more resources along the border.

"The increased violence . . . demands that Congress provide the necessary resources and personnel to ensure the safety of all Americans, especially border patrol agents stationed on the border, and fulfill the Federal government's responsibility to secure our border."

Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva called for stronger efforts to quell border violence.

"Neither we nor our neighbors want to see the border region become more dangerous, either for civilians or the brave men and women who protect them," Grijalva said. "This crime should not deter the many peaceful efforts underway to improve the quality of life for people on both sides of the border."

Terry is the third agent killed on duty this year. Mark Van Doren was killed in an auto accident in May, and Michael V. Gallagher was killed by a drunk driver in September.

Since 1919, 111 Border Patrol agents have died in the line of duty, most in vehicle accidents.
(Reuters) - President Barack Obama's sweeping plan to extend expiring tax cuts for millions of Americans headed for overwhelming passage in the Senate on Wednesday as it moved through Congress.

While the Senate neared a rare bipartisan vote on the bill to renew all Bush-era income tax breaks and add provisions to stimulate the economy, House Democrats mulled ways to pull back on some of the measure's tax breaks for the wealthy.

But even liberal House Democrats acknowledged there might not be enough support to significantly alter the legislation brokered by Obama and congressional Republicans that includes expanding inheritance tax breaks for the wealthy.

"My guess is that the whole package passes," liberal Democratic Representative James Moran said. "The Democratic caucus might not support it," he said, but added, "I don't know how much leverage there is" to significantly alter the bill.

Economists have boosted growth forecasts by up to 1 percentage point in 2011 based on the tax measures being passed, citing in particular a one-year cut in the payroll tax and removal of uncertainty about taxes in general.

But deficit watchers fear the tax bill deepens the nearly $14 trillion federal debt.

The tax plan extends for two years all Bush-era individual tax rates, prevents a spike in taxes on capital gains and dividends and renews long-term insurance for the jobless, while providing new tax relief for students, working families and businesses.

The package also got a boost in the House, where it faces its stiffest resistance, when a top Democrat said there are "compelling reasons" to pass it.

The bullish comments by House Democratic Majority Leader Steny Hoyer signaled opposition was dissipating among Democrats who believe Obama's $858 billion tax deal, brokered with the Republicans, is too generous to the wealthy. A House vote is expected within days of Senate passage of the bill.

Income taxes will rise by an average of $3,000 per household if Congress doesn't act by January 1.

Obama and most of his fellow Democrats pushed for extension of the tax cuts enacted by former President George W. Bush only on household income of up to $250,000.


Democrats lost control of the House and saw their margins shrink in the Senate in the November 2 elections, pushing Obama to agree to Republican demands to extend tax cuts for all.

The measure cleared a key Senate procedural hurdle on Monday, with 83 of the chamber's 100 members voting in favor, a rare level of consensus since Obama took office in January 2009.

"The vote in the Senate indicates an urgency that is felt by a broad spectrum that the middle-income taxes not be increased come January 1," Hoyer told reporters.
"Rarely do you see that big a number" in support of a bill, Hoyer said, also noting a swath from the very liberal to the very conservative backed it.

On Monday, Moody's Investors Service warned it was considering cutting the United States' top-notch triple-A bond rating in the next two years if the package becomes law because it would push up debt levels.

Worries about the bill's potential affect on the federal deficit prompted a two-day sell-off of U.S. Treasury bonds last week.

Before the Senate votes, it will debate three initiatives that likely will fail: a Republican plan making all of the Bush-era tax cuts permanent, another Republican plan requiring that extended jobless benefits be paid for through spending cuts, and a Democratic proposal excluding the wealthiest 2 percent from tax cuts.

While there had been talk of trying to curtail tax breaks for ethanol blenders, no such amendment will be allowed in the Senate.

A bid by some House Democrats to tighten an estate tax provision to make it less generous for the wealthy is expected to fail, but could slow down eventual passage.

Lawmakers have said they want to recess for the year by the end of the week, though that timeline is tentative.

Many House Democrats believe Obama struck an especially bad deal on the estate tax, conceding to Republican demands it exempt the first $5 million of inherited assets from taxes, with estates above that taxed at 35 percent.

Democrats favor a $3.5 million exemption and a 45 percent tax rate.

Hoyer said many Democrats want a separate amendment on the estate tax, but also said there is concern that debate over estate taxes could derail the whole deal and that no decision had been made.

"Given all of the problems facing this country, lowering taxes for people who are extraordinarily wealthy, whose incomes are soaring, whose tax rates are going down, should not be a major priority of the U.S. Senate," said Senator Bernie Sanders, an independent.

Still, a senior House Democratic aide said he doubts there are enough members to back a weakened estate tax.

"It would give members a chance to vent to vote against it," the aide said. "But I doubt" there are enough votes to change it.

Richard Holbrooke kept returning where he was needed most. Ron Moreau, Sami Yousafzai and Christopher Dickey report the Taliban sees his death as an omen and talk to those he negotiated with.

The Taliban are playing Richard Holbrooke’s death as an omen. After his “life of toil and fatigue,” said a communiqué from the guerrillas, the American president’s special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan succumbed to heart problems “when his previous fame and credibility came under question after the unremitting failures of the mission.”

Waxing mystical, Taliban spokesman Qari Yousuf Ahmadi went on to list the Russian presidents who had dropped dead one after another when the Soviets occupied Afghanistan. Looking back over the last year he recalled Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s logorrheic flameout and Gen. David Petraeus’s fainting spell before a Senate committee. Faced with a losing war and no fresh ideas, despite the current “policy review,” some American officials “lighten their burden by simply going to the other world,” said Ahmadi, while others, still in the land of the living, “choose to avoid shouldering the mission.”

But for all the smugness, even the Taliban know that Richard Holbrooke was not one to avoid a mission. Holbrooke believed that one man or woman—one diplomat—could still make a real difference in the game of nations, and in his case he was right. He never won the Nobel Prize, although he certainly should have gotten it after the Dayton Accords that ended the Bosnian genocide in 1995, and he never became the U.S. secretary of state, although he was a runner-up at least twice.

But what the lack of the highest accolades and most exalted positions meant, in practical terms, is that Holbrooke kept returning to the trenches, which is where he was needed most. Washington can make policy for war-torn corners of the world, after all, but it takes brilliant minds and strong personalities on the ground to make anything happen. And now that Holbrooke’s gone, it’s in those trenches that he’ll be missed the most.

When Holbrooke took up his assignment as special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan early last year, trying to lay the foundations for long-term stability at the epicenter of the Obama administration’s tremulous policy, he knew as well as anyone that his mission was close to impossible.

There would be no repetition of his breakthrough in the Balkans. This was a different battlefield; these were different cultures. The United States and NATO were implicated more deeply, directly and intractably in Afghanistan than they had ever been in Bosnia. In the 1990s, Washington still had the extraordinary power and prestige that came with victory in the Cold War, and Holbrooke knew he was speaking for a powerhouse. Fifteen years later, with America enfeebled by the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, the country’s economy anemic, and its people deeply divided, Holbrooke didn’t have Uncle Sam watching his back any more. But Holbrooke still took the job.

The AfPak challenge was to bring about cooperation and close coordination between two governments that plainly detested each other. The regime in Kabul sees Pakistan as an ally of the Taliban, who enjoy safe havens and logistical and training bases in Pakistani territory. To the Pakistanis, Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s feckless, corrupt administration increasingly looks like a satellite of India, the arch-enemy of Islamabad.

“Holbrooke was listening carefully and had enthusiasm, and we always found him very keen on talking with everyone in Pakistan,” says Ashraf Ali, director of the FATE Research Center in Islamabad. A former member of the Afghan cabinet, who didn’t want to be named, said he always found Holbrooke “very polite and experienced, but he had such soft spots for Pakistan that some time we thought he was the envoy of Pakistan.”

“Holbrooke was listening carefully and had enthusiasm, and we always found him very keen on talking with everyone in Pakistan.”

In fact, Holbrooke never gave up trying to convince Islamabad’s powerful Chief of Army Staff, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, that aiding and abetting Taliban factions like the lethal Haqqani network and Mullah Omar’s ruling Quetta shura was an existential threat to Pakistan itself, and not in the country’s long-term interest.
ArchDaily would like to wish a Happy 103rd Birthday today.  In 1988, at age 81, Niemeyer was awarded the Pritzker Architecture Prize, together with American architect Gordon Bunshaft. Setting the pace for us all, Niemeyer continues to practice architect from his office in , with ongoing projects in and .  He even recently composed the song Tranquilo com a Vida, download and listen here.
Moore, whose anti-establishment documentaries have embarrased the American government and major US companies, confirmed he had offered US$20,000 (£12,675) towards Mr Assange's bail application.
He also disclosed that he offered use of his own website and servers to help WikiLeaks maintain their flow of disclosing government secrets.
Accused of sex crimes in Sweden, the 39-year-old Australian on Tuesday won bail in a London court but must remain in jail after Swedish prosecutors appealed the decision.
Moore, 56, the maker of Bowling for Columbine, Fahrenheit 9/11 and The Big One, questioned the charges brought against Mr Assange, adding that guilty or innocent, the Wikileaks founder had the right to defend himself.
"All I ask is that you not be naive about how the government works when it decides to go after its prey," he said.
"Please - never, ever believe the 'official story.
Moore also offered "the assistance of my website, my servers, my domain names and anything else I can do to keep WikiLeaks alive and thriving as it continues its work to expose the crimes that were concocted in secret and carried out in our name and with our tax dollars."
"Openness, transparency - these are among the few weapons the citizenry has to protect itself from the powerful and the corrupt... and that is the best thing that WikiLeaks has done," Moore said.
Supporting WikiLeaks, he concluded, is "a true act of patriotism. Period."
Mr Assange, is currently fighting efforts to extradite him over claims he sexually assaulted two women and raped one of them.
Despite authorities claiming he had never been interviewed by police, the court was told that Mr Assange had given a lengthy statement “denying any question of rape or molestation”.
After the hearing on Tuesday, Mr Assange was freed after a judge granted him conditional bail.
The Chief Magistrate, Howard Riddle, overturned an earlier decision to deny bail to Mr Assange, instead imposing strict conditions and ordering his supporters lodge £200,000 with the court.
But within hours Swedish prosecutors announced an appeal, which must be heard by Thursday at the latest.
In a statement posted on, Mr Moore said a British court had been presented with "a document from me stating that I have put up 20,000 dollars of my own money to help bail Mr Assange out of jail".
UPDATE 8:27 a.m.: Metro says the package was found inside the station, but didnt give anymore details.

Defense Department spokesman Capt. Darryn James says passengers on the Washington area's Metro trains are being forced to bypass the Pentagon stop and to walk or take a bus to the building, AP reports. James says train officials began making announcements at other train stations at around 7:30 a.m. Wednesday to notify passengers of the detour.

UPDATE 8:11 a.m.: The suspicious package was found in a trash can, NBC4 reports via Twitter. Police are inspecting the package, which reportedly has blinking lights on it.

UPDATE 7:47 a.m.: Metro says trains are turning around on the Yellow Line at the Waterfront and Pentagon City stations.


Metro says the Pentagon Metro Station has been shut down after a suspicious package was reported in the area.

The station is located at 2 South Rotary Road in Arlington.

Trains are only passing through the station. Delays are expected in both directions.

Shuttle bus service has been requested between the Pentagon City, Arlington Cemetary, L'Enfant Plaza and Pentagon stations.
India find themselves in their usual predicament of having to start a series without one of their big players. This time, on a tour of reckoning of sorts, it's their best bowler over the last three years, Zaheer Khan, who is struggling with a hamstring injury and is doubtful for the Centurion Test starting Thursday, MS Dhoni has said.

"Zak has been our best bowler who has always led the bowling attack, whatever the conditions may be, whether it is a flat track or a seaming track," Dhoni said on the eve of the first Test. "He is always one bowler who has done really well. It is a blow, but at the same time we have to see the longer picture. We have to think about the World Cup also. We are so close to the World Cup, and any injury to any of your best 11 players may have a bigger impact, so that's also a bit of a concern. Till we are 100% sure about his fitness and injury, we won't risk playing him."

Over the two full training days in Centurion leading up to the Test, Zaheer bowled only a few overs in the nets. On the first day, he only did fitness drills with Paul Close, the team physio. On the second, Zaheer manned the goal in a warm-up football game before working out with Close and bowling a few overs in the nets. India didn't train on the eve of the match because it was raining in Johannesburg; at any rate they only do light training on the day before the match.

While Dhoni might not have sounded very hopeful, team sources didn't quite rule out Zaheer making the first Test. It is the nature of the injury - hamstring, and not picked by scans until two days ago - that makes the Indian team wary. If he risks playing, and aggravates the injury early on in the game, not only will he be gone for the whole Test, but for much longer, for these injuries take some time healing.
Internacional midfielder Giuliano was very disappointed with his side's Club World Cup loss against TP Mazembe.

Giuliano - Internacional
(Lucas Uebel/VIPCOMM)
Brazilian side Internacional dominated play for the majority of their Club World Cup semi-final against TP Mazembe, but they failed to convert one of the chances they got and were eventually beaten 2-0, much to the disappointment of young midfielder Giuliano.

"When you think about all the preparation we’ve put in then today’s defeat hurts even more. We prepared in the best possible way, and we couldn’t have been more focused or motivated," said Giuliano to

"We did everything as well as we possibly could. It’s awful to lose when you know that you could have gone much further. It’s hard to explain why we missed so many chances. It was just one of those days when we had shot after shot and the ball wouldn’t go in.

"Hats off to their keeper, though, who had a tremendous night. We did everything we possibly could; we were on top from the start and we played a great first half.

"We dominated possession and created the best chances but we just couldn’t score. That’s football, though, and the best team doesn’t always win."
For as long as Zac Efron and Vanessa Hudgens had dated, one would think the celeb tabloids would have had a field day with the two superstars.

But no—the romance was far from drama-filled.

Or was it? Find out in our latest installment of "Anatomy of a Breakup"...

2005: Efron and Hudgens meet for the first time when they are paired up for their High School Musical audition. They reportedly begin dating about a year later.

2006: The couple takes home a surfboard from the Teen Choice Awards when they win Choice TV Chemistry.

Sept. 6, 2007: Naked pics of Hudgens hit the internet. No matter, Efron sticks by her even as false reports swirl that Disney will drop her from High School Musical 3: Senior Year because of the NSFW scandal.

October 2008: HSM 3 is released. Speculation grows that the romance will now start to fizzle. However, when the two hit Miami at the end of the month, reports claim they're in the Aloha State to get married. Turns out, they were attending the wedding of Efron's manager.

February 2009: Not only do the lovebirds hit the red carpet at the Oscars, they perform during the big show alongside Hugh Jackman and Beyoncé, among others.

August 2009: Again, Hudgens is left red-faced when more topless pics are leaked on the web. Again, Efron sticks by her.

August 2010: The two vacation in Hawaii.

November 2010: Efron visits Hudgens in Hawaii, where she's filming Journey 2: The Mysterious Island. Despite reports they broke up during the trip, they're spotted engaging in some major PDA, including hugs and plenty of smooching.

Dec. 11, 2010: JustJared posts pic of Efron hanging with fellow hunkster, Twilight star Kellan Lutz, at the Saints game in New Orleans, where Efron is shooting The Lucky One.

Dec. 13, 2010: Sources exclusively confirm that the two have split. No third party cheating is involved. Sources say they remain friends.

Dec. 14, 2010: Hudgens turns 22 today. She's set to celebrate her birthday this coming Saturday at Pure nightclub in Las Vegas. A pal says, despite the split, she still plans to attend her Sin City festivities.

—Additional reporting by Ken Baker

Person of the Year 2010

REF# times.come

For connecting more than half a billion people and mapping the social relations among them; for creating a new system of exchanging information; and for changing how we all live our lives, Mark Elliot Zuckerberg is TIME's 2010 Person of the Year.

On the afternoon of Nov. 16, 2010, Mark Zuckerberg was leading a meeting in the Aquarium, one of Facebook's conference rooms, so named because it's in the middle of a huge work space and has glass walls on three sides so everybody can see in. Conference rooms are a big deal at Facebook because they're the only places anybody has any privacy at all, even the bare minimum of privacy the Aquarium gets you. Otherwise the space is open plan: no cubicles, no offices, no walls, just a rolling tundra of office furniture. Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook's COO, who used to be Lawrence Summers' chief of staff at the Treasury Department, doesn't have an office. Zuckerberg, Facebook's CEO and co-founder and presiding visionary, doesn't have an office.

The team was going over the launch of Facebook's revamped Messages service, which had happened the day before and gone off without a hitch or rather without more than the usual number of hitches. Zuckerberg kept the meeting on track, pushing briskly through his points — no notes or whiteboard, just talking with his hands — but the tone was relaxed. Much has been made of Zuckerberg's legendarily awkward social manner, but in a room like this, he's the Silicon Valley equivalent of George Plimpton. He bantered with Andrew "Boz" Bosworth, a director of engineering who ran the project. (Boz was Zuckerberg's instructor in a course on artificial intelligence when they were at Harvard. He says his future boss didn't do very well. Though, in fairness, Zuckerberg did invent Facebook that semester.) Apart from a journalist sitting in the corner, no one in the room looked over 30, and apart from the journalist's public relations escort, it was boys only.

The door opened, and a distinguished-looking gray-haired man burst in — it's the only way to describe his entrance — trailed by a couple of deputies. He was both the oldest person in the room by 20 years and the only one wearing a suit. He was in the building, he explained with the delighted air of a man about to secure ironclad bragging rights forever, and he just had to stop in and introduce himself to Zuckerberg: Robert Mueller, director of the FBI, pleased to meet you.

They shook hands and chatted about nothing for a couple of minutes, and then Mueller left. There was a giddy silence while everybody just looked at one another as if to say, What the hell just happened?

It's a fair question. Almost seven years ago, in February 2004, when Zuckerberg was a 19-year-old sophomore at Harvard, he started a Web service from his dorm. It was called, and it was billed as "an online directory that connects people through social networks at colleges." This year, Facebook — now minus the the — added its 550 millionth member. One out of every dozen people on the planet has a Facebook account. They speak 75 languages and collectively lavish more than 700 billion minutes on Facebook every month. Last month the site accounted for 1 out of 4 American page views. Its membership is currently growing at a rate of about 700,000 people a day.

What just happened? In less than seven years, Zuckerberg wired together a twelfth of humanity into a single network, thereby creating a social entity almost twice as large as the U.S. If Facebook were a country it would be the third largest, behind only China and India. It started out as a lark, a diversion, but it has turned into something real, something that has changed the way human beings relate to one another on a species-wide scale. We are now running our social lives through a for-profit network that, on paper at least, has made Zuckerberg a billionaire six times over.

Facebook has merged with the social fabric of American life, and not just American but human life: nearly half of all Americans have a Facebook account, but 70% of Facebook users live outside the U.S. It's a permanent fact of our global social reality. We have entered the Facebook age, and Mark Zuckerberg is the man who brought us here.

Zuckerberg is part of the last generation of human beings who will remember life before the Internet, though only just. He was born in 1984 and grew up in Dobbs Ferry, N.Y., the son of a dentist — Painless Dr. Z's slogan was, and is, "We cater to cowards." Mark has three sisters, the eldest of whom, Randi, is now Facebook's head of consumer marketing and social-good initiatives. It was a supportive household that produced confident children. The young Mark was "strong-willed and relentless," according to his father Ed. "For some kids, their questions could be answered with a simple yes or no," he says. "For Mark, if he asked for something, yes by itself would work, but no required much more. If you were going to say no to him, you had better be prepared with a strong argument backed by facts, experiences, logic, reasons. We envisioned him becoming a lawyer one day, with a near 100% success rate of convincing juries."