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Futurist Ray Kurzweil isn’t worried about climate change

Ray Kurzweil at JavaOne+Develop 2010 in San Francisco. Photo: Flickr/Yuichi Sakuraba

Author, inventor and futurist Ray Kurzweil famously and accurately predicted that a computer would beat a man at chess by 1998, that technologies that help spread information would accelerate the collapse of the Soviet Union, and that a worldwide communications network would emerge in the mid 1990s (i.e. the Internet).

Most of Kurzweil’s prognostications are derived from his law of accelerating returns — the idea that information technologies progress exponentially, in part because each iteration is used to help build the next, better, faster, cheaper one. In the case of computers, this is not just a theory but an observable trend — computer processing power has doubled every two years for nearly half a century.

Kurzweil also believes this theory can be applied to solar energy. As part of a panel convened by the National Association of Engineers, Kurzweil, together with Google co-founder Larry Page, concluded that solar energy technology is improving at such a rate that it will soon be able to compete with fossil fuels.

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Photo: Can’t bear to be apart

U.S. Army Sgt. Jon Fleenor from Sacramento, Calif., holds a scorched teddy bear, given to him by his wife, which he carries as a good-luck charm in Mosul, northwest of Baghdad, Iraq, on Thursday, March 27, 2008. After surviving a roadside bomb attack with the stuffed animal beside him, Fleenor doesn't like to part from it. Photo: AP/Maya Alleruzzo

On this day in 1903, the teddy bear was born when Morris Michtom and his wife Rose placed two stuffed bears in the window of their Brooklyn shop window. Michtom sent a stuffed bear to President Theodore Roosevelt and asked for his permission to use his nickname, Teddy, for the dolls after a 1902 political cartoon depicted Roosevelt refusing to shoot a bear while on a hunting trip in Mississippi. The sign along side the dolls in the window read “Teddy’s bear.” The toys were an instant sensation and Michtom started the Ideal Novelty and Toy Co.

Clifford Berryman's political cartoon of President Theodore Roosevelt's bear hunting trip to Mississippi that gave the teddy bear its name. This is one of several cartoons he drew of the same event.

Furor erupts over S.D. bill that would make killing to defend fetus a ‘justifiable homicide’

Protesters demonstrate in downtown Sioux Falls, S.D. in 2006 over a bill that would have restricted access to abortion. Photo: AP/Nati Harnik

Update | Feb. 22 South Dakota State Rep. Marc Feinstein, a Democrat, said the measure had been tabled and “effectively killed” over the weekend, “much to the chagrin of opponents,” who had been hoping for a floor debate and a chance to defeat the bill in a vote.

Updated | Feb. 15 | 4:55 p.m. A bill in South Dakota that would make killing in defense of a fetus a “justifiable homicide” is set to face a vote on the floor of the state House of Representatives Wednesday, and lawmakers who oppose the measure say it is likely to pass.

The vote was originally scheduled for Tuesday but was postponed because of “an anticipated lengthy debate,” according to State Rep. Marc Feinstein.

The bill would expand the definition of the state’s “justifiable homicide” law to include acts intended to prevent harm to a fetus, which has prompted fears among pro-choice advocates that the measure could incite and perhaps even legalize violence against abortion providers.

The bill was passed out of a House committee last week by a vote of 9 to 3. In an interview with Need to Know, State Rep. Kevin Killer, a Democrat and one of the three members of the committee to vote against the measure, said the bill was scheduled for a vote by the entire House and that he expected it to pass, “much to my dismay.”

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A question asked and answered:

It was about 11 a.m. eastern time on Friday morning when cable news channels broadcast the historic announcement: Hosni Mubarak would bow to protesters’ demands and resign.

If you weren’t watching CNN or refreshing the home page of The New York Times every 30 seconds, you might not have heard the news right away. So Ian Mansfield, a London-based blogger and photographer, decided to answer the question everybody was asking — Is Mubarak still president? — as succinctly as possible.

He registered a domain name,, and wrote on the home page just one word: “No.”

Then, things got crazy.

The site was featured on the websites of The Atlantic, London’s The Telegraph and The Huffington Post. Al Jazeera “loved” the site and showcased it on its broadcast. The traffic nearly crashed Mansfield’s server.

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Photo: Love is in the air

A Pakistani boy selling balloons on Valentine's day in Islamabad, Pakistan on Feb. 14, 2011. Photo: AP/Muhammed Muheisen

Photo: The love boat, for giraffes

Endangered Rothschild giraffes are relocated to Kenya's Ruko Game Conservancy by barge, making this the first attempt in Kenya to carry giraffes across water, on February 9, 2011. Photo: AP/Samatian Island Lodge

Four female and four male Rothschild giraffes were ferried by barge to an island reserve in Kenya’s Lake Baringo earlier this week. Conservation leaders at the Northern Rangelands Trust hope they will reproduce in their new home at the Ruko Game Conservancy, as Rothschild giraffes (also known as Baringo giraffes) are endangered, with only a few hundred remaining in the wild.

A unique and interesting characteristic of the Rothschild giraffe is that it has five horns on it’s head — two on top, one in the center of the forehead and two more behind the ears. If the animals do indeed thrive on the island, more may be taken there, creating a kind of singles resort for giraffes!

The view from Saudi Arabia

A Saudi man rides his bike by the Masmak Fortress (Qasre al-Masmak) in the old part of Riyadh in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Photo: AP/Hasan Sarbakhshian

NPR’s Deborah Amos is currently reporting from Saudi Arabia. I reached her via phone to find out how Saudis — both royal and regular — are reacting to the events unfolding in Egypt.

LAUREN FEENEY: King Abdullah has been on Mubarak’s side since protesters began calling for his ouster 17 days ago. Why is that?

DEBORAH AMOS: First of all, they are close personal friends, and that counts for a lot amongst leaders.

The second thing is that Saudi and Egyptian intelligence is closely linked. They are each others’ closest allies on issues like Hezbollah in Lebanon, Iran….

I heard from diplomats here that there were younger princes who thought it was time for Mubarak to go. They will be comfortable with the rule of the Supreme Council of the Armed forces. The UAE has made an official statement supporting Council rule and in the next couple of days we’ll hear other countries in the region do the same.

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‘Our Sputnik moment’: Then and now

The March 24, 1958 cover of Life magazine. Photo: Getty

In the introduction to tonight’s special hour on education, a show we’re calling “Ahead of the Class,” Jon Meacham briefly quotes from a Life magazine photo essay from 1958 on the state of American education.

The schools are in terrible shape, what has long been an ignored national problem, Sputnik has made a recognized crisis.

The essay was in the first part of a five-part “urgent” series called “The Crisis in U.S. Education” and thanks to the magic (or nightmare, if you’re a publisher) of Google Books, all of the photo essays, not to mention the magazines in their entirety, are available online.

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What Mubarak’s ouster means for the Arab world and the Middle East peace process

A screen capture of television coverage from Egypt on Al Jazeera today. Photo: Prachatai/Flickr

As Egyptian expats and their supporters across the Arab world celebrated the news of Hosni Mubarak’s ouster Friday, rumors began to spread about how the regime change might affect Middle East politics,  including the fragile Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

Palestinian journalist Daoud Kuttab, the director of the Institute of Modern Media at Al-Quds University in Jerusalem, said in a telephone interview that Palestinian activists and Islamists in neighboring countries had already begun to speculate that a new Egyptian government might permanently open the Rafah crossing at the border between Gaza and Egypt.

The border crossing has been closed since Hamas won elections in Gaza in 2007. It was opened briefly after the war in Gaza in 2008 and the deadly flotilla raid last year but closed again two weeks ago after turmoil broke out in Egypt. The crossing is a sensitive issue for Israel, which has accused Hamas of smuggling weapons into Gaza to mount attacks on Israelis.

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