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Nov 30, 2011


Creating a trunk

I will make 5 pieces for outbound and inbound trunk on FreePBX. As for the fifth trunk:

- SkypeGate: connecting asterisk with SIP skype
- Voiprakyat: connecting asterisk with voiprakyat
- VoIPToNortel: stand-by LINKSYS SPA3102 trunk in order to be able to login and to facilitate the routing of calls.
- Gizmo5: connecting asterisk with Gizmo5 SIP
- 99051000003780: stand-by user to receive calls from skype
Note: receiving a call from skype trunk, the trunk must be the same names as the SIP username given from skype for sip. Here's a picture trunk position for ease of understanding.


Creating a VoIP extension
The initial step before starting a more complex configuration is to make voip extension. This step is pretty simple, I just click Add Extension and then choose the type of Device = Generic SIP Device, then click SUBMIT. The information should be on content:

- User Extension
- Display Name
- Outbound CID: the format "name callers"
- Secret

Then for extension is made to play a ring back tone (RBT) as you wish not to use the default RBT asterisk, I do two steps: Enabling custom ring back tone (RBT) By leveraging the Follow-me feature, I can turn on options like the RBT operator GSM / CDMA. Activation step is

(a) Go to module Music on Hold (moh), then do Add Music Category. Category name used must match exactly with the extension to be used.

(b) Go to the module Follow Me, and then click on the extension in question. Information regarding the extension options will open, pay attention to Play Music On Hold, select the appropriate extension number in question. Finally, the Destination if not answer, select

 Terminate Call: Hangup; or
Do not forget to save Uploading mp3 to RBT

(c) Once configuration is complete RBT, then upload the mp3 to the server. Because I am using ubuntu 9.10 server location path mp3 for RBT is in / var / lib / asterisk / moh /
For other Linux distributions, please read the file / etc / asterisk / musiconhold_additional.conf that stores path information.
How to upload a file should be over ssh or ftp for upload process can be seen clearly.
The last step to "include" config file to musiconhold.conf :

- Edit the file / etc / asterisk / musiconhold.conf
- Paste the following code to the file musiconhold.conf
# Include musiconhold_custom.conf
# Include musiconhold_ additional.conf
- Save the file / etc / asterisk / musiconhold.conf
- Reload configuration asterisk

Nov 29, 2011


Enables support on FreePBX module

As written previously, there are several modules that need manually activated. I click the menu on the FreePBX Module Admin. Once open FreePBX module page, click Check for updates online to display all the modules that are available on the internet. Living in the select list of modules such as those listed above, then click Process.

Set up NAT, external IP and Local Networks
I want to order from the internet can log-in to FreePBX it is necessary to be set NAT External IP and Local Networks. Setting of this can be seen in Asterisk SIP Settings module, which is on the Tools menu. For it in the set:

- NAT = No.

NO was chosen because the server is running a public IP which is devoted to the FreePBX server itself. For those who have public IP addresses but are used together (sharing) with lots of computer / server, NAT = YES should be selected
I had experienced disruption voip calls from the internet because one can choose this option. Initially I assumed that use the server IP (DMZ) is different with a public IP, this is called NAT = YES and I activate the option. The impact is, the voice will not sound at all.
Once converted to NAT = NO, can return to normal voice clearly audible. So although there are differences in the local IP and the public, during a public IP is not used together then used NAT = NO option.

- IP Configuration: Static IP

- External IP:

- Local Networks: / 255 255 255 192


Explanation of configuration steps

Setting up Gizmo5 and Skype account.

The purpose of using Gizmo5 and Skype is to try international calls through VoIP.

Gizmo5: until now Gizmo5 registration was suspended. I was desperate because there is no URL link for registration. There was only charging the email address text box when you want to be informed about the registration.
Having attempted to give an email address, it turns out Gizmo5 provide feedback to the URL registration information.

Gizmo5 account is already registered can be used by FreePBX to log-in and make calls to the PSTN around the world, calls to the Skype network, or a call to fellow Gizmo5 users. For calls to the PSTN is the worldwide condition, Gizmo5 account used must have a minimum deposit balance of USD-10.

Skype: skype account creation can be done using skype program that can be downloaded from the site
Skype account is created it can not be used by Asterisk-FreePBX to log-in and make an outgoing call. In order for Asterisk-FreePBX can infrastructure utilizing skype, should log-in to the skype site with a valid account. After log-in with a valid account, the next step is to sign up to the Business Control Panel (BCP) at the following URL . When the registration process BCP successfully performed, the next step is to deposit money (Purchase Skype credit) to activate the features of Skype for SIP Beta. Skype set a minimum deposit of USD 10.

Skype for SIP feature requires users to pay subscription charges USD 6.95 per month per channel trunk.


Sequence of configuration steps
To create a FreePBX can interconnect as shown above, the steps taken area. 

a. Setting up a server with Linux operating system to be used. This process is not shown, because according to topic headings around FreePBX.

b. Installing asterisk. Reference URL for the installation of asterisk:

c. Installing FreePBX. Reference URL for the installation of FreePBX:

d. Setting up Gizmo5 and Skype account.

e. Enables support on FreePBX module :
# Blacklist
# Followme
# Ring Groups
# Call Forward
# Call Waiting
# Conference
# Misc Applications
# Misc Destinations
# Asterisk SIP  Settings

f. Set up NAT, external IP and Local Networks

g. Enabling VoIP extension makes custom ring back tone (RBT) Uploading mp3 to RBT

h. Creating a trunk interconnection

i. Creating Outbound dialplan for outbound calls

j. Try to make calls out through the trunk

k. Create IVR for instructions / welcome when there is incoming call from the trunk

l. Creating Inbound dialplan to receive incoming calls

m. Creating a Group Call for team work

Nov 28, 2011



In the picture above, FreePBX server has the IP private LAN with public domain Hardware used in this picture are:

No; Hardware; function
1. Nortel PBX; Analog Extension Manager and Gateway to PSTN Telkom
2. Linksys SPA3102; VoIP gateway as a bridge between the Nortel PBX and VoIP networks.
3. Linksys PAP2T; VoIP terminal for analog phones
4. Assembled CPU FreePBX; Extension Manager VoIP

Nov 27, 2011

Panorama! As Samosir Island Ter Beautiful Island in the World

The beauty of Lake Toba will never run out of people discussed. Seen from any angle - both of Parapat, Tongging, and from the island of Samosir - the lake is as beautiful. This time I'll take you along Lake Toba from within, ie from the island.
From Medan to Lake Toba
The most common route taken by the tourist is through Parapat city, located on the edge of Lake Toba. From Medan, this city can be reached within a five-hour journey overland, through the city Siantar.
If you want to use public transportation, you can ride the bus or the L-300 at Terminal Sandpaper Medan. My advice, choose a great bus trip for a long and quite complicated.
Along the way, especially when it is near Parapat, beautiful views of Lake Toba you can begin to enjoy on the right side of the road. Welcome to Parapat, gateway to the beauty of the island of Samosir!Samosir Island
Island covering approximately 630 square miles located in the middle of Lake Toba is achieved via two ports: Ajibata and Balige. As the larger ports, Ajibata provide transportation in the form of ferry can transport cars, trucks and other motor vehicles.

Only by spend around USD 3 thousand, you can cross into Tomok in Samosir in about 40 minutes. If you want to enjoy the scenery, take place in the upper deck of the ferry. When seen the kids swim around the ship, throw coins, then they will swim scrambling to take it.
When not driving, you can directly across from Parapat to the inn that has been booked. Travel by boat is faster than the ferries, and directly take you to your destination. It costs Rp 5 thousand per person, but maybe more if it turns out not many passengers on the boat.

Tomok and Tuktuk
Tomok a harbor village that became a place of transit vehicles from the island of Sumatra. This place is crowded with traditional markets and food stalls. In Tomok attraction there is the Tomb of King Sidabutar. When you walk about 45 minutes from Tomok, you will arrive at Tuktuk, tourist center on the island. There is public transportation if you do not want to walk in the sun.
As a center of tourism in Samosir, Tuktuk provides various facilities, including accommodation, restaurants, shops, bicycle and motorcycle rental, souvenir shops, travel agencies, as well as several bars.
Some lodgings to choose from, among others, Hotel Carolina, one of the largest and most famous in Samosir. The other is the Tabo Cottages, famous for its vegetarian dishes and homemade breads and cakes.
If you want the convenience and atmosphere of calm, perhaps Horas Family House is the right choice. In addition, there are also hotels Silintong, Thyesza, Toledo and Samosir Inn and Cottages. For one night, you spend the funds will not be much. You will only spend as much as USD 100-250 thousand, depending on the selected accommodation facilities.
If you decide to stay in Tuktuk, certainly you will not spend time in that place alone. Rent bicycles and motorcycles is a popular choice for down the beauty of Lake Toba and Samosir Island, and do not miss Toba Batak culture. Rental costs typically range between $ 70-80 thousand.Ambarita, Simanindo, and Pangururan
In a trip around the island of Samosir, you can enjoy panoramic views of green hills, fields stretching, as well as views of the lake. All this may be rare you get in a big city where you live.
In addition, the activity of the villagers of grain drying and transporting their produce would be a very interesting sight.

Ambarita village can be reached with a one hour walk from Tuktuk, or about 20 minutes by boat. The village is interesting because the Toba Batak people of the past still adhered to cannibalism. Now all that remains is lined stone chairs where the elders held a meeting to decide the fate of captured enemy.
In Simanindo, you have the opportunity to see the relics of the king's house that has been converted into a museum with a replica of the surrounding villages. In one corner there is also the tomb of Batak Toba kings maintained considerable. From the shores of Lake Toba in Simanindo, you can also see a small island called Tao. When you ride a motorcycle, you can enjoy the beauty of Tao and Lake Toba from the edge of the pier.

Meanwhile, Pangururan can be taken for about 90 minutes by motorbike from Tuktuk or Tomok. Famous attractions in Pangururan is Aek Rangat or hot water baths originating from Mount Pusuk Buhit. This place is perfect to unwind after a day around the island of Samosir and enjoy the beauty of Lake Toba.

Nov 26, 2011

Biology! Pet Hippo Kills Its Owner

A 40-year-old farmer in South Africa was killed by his beloved pet hippo, Humphrey, when the animal dragged the farmer into a river and mauled him to death.

Marius Els, an Army major, had raised the 2,600 pound animal and considered Humphrey a part of his family, according to the U.K. Guardian.

Others had warned Els that hippos were dangerous and warned him against keeping Humphrey, but he ignored their warnings and was known ride around on the 5-year-old hippopotamus’s back, according to the Guardian.

“Humphrey’s like a son to me, he’s just like a human,” The Guardian reported Els saying earlier this year. “There’s a relationship between me and Humphrey, and that’s what some people don’t understand.”
Els had tried to domesticate the hippo he bought when it was 5 months old from people who had rescued it from the very river where Els ultimately met his end.

“They think you can only have a relationship with dogs, cats and domestic animals,” Els said at the time. “But I have a relationship with the most dangerous animal in Africa.”
Hippos are one of the most dangerous and aggressive mammals, according to the San Diego Zoo.

Panorama. Sipiso-piso Waterfall is the World's Highest Waterfall

When someone visiting North Sumatra, they must have been major tourist destination of Lake Toba. Sipiso-piso waterfall was located on the shores of Lake Toba, unfortunately, a very interesting tourist attraction is less visited by tourists because of its location on the edge of which is different from Parapat city, where tourists usually visit.

Sipiso-piso is located in the north of Lake Toba, about 24 kilometers from Kabanjahe. This waterfall is the highest in Indonesia with a height of 120 meters. Sipiso-piso waterfall made from an underground river in the Karo plateau that runs through a cave on the side of the crater of Lake Toba.
When I had occasion to visit this place, the scenery was incredible waterfalls. A small waterfall, but a high fall in between the cliffs greenish. From the viewing post built by the government in this Brand visitors not only enjoy the scenic waterfall, but also of Lake Toba.
Sipiso-piso waterfall is about 800 meters above sea level. Waterfall flowing down the cutting of green hills covered with pine trees. Sipiso-piso itself literally means "blade".
Not only can you see the waterfall from a distance, but fell for him. The stairs are steep and far enough away so make sure you have strong stamina and bring drinking water supplies. The drop may not be a problem, but hundreds of stairs to climb back after playing under the water of course is quite tiring.
Viewing post itself is quite broad, and when it is much visited by local tourists. Unfortunately substation infrastructure in this view is inadequate. There are only basic facilities such as toilets and food stalls, which I think the number and inadequate hygiene. Visitors who want to explore this area further should stay in a nearby village, which is Tongging.


TonggingTongging located on the shores of Lake Toba, in the north. In Tongging you can perform various activities, such as swimming in the lake, do trekking in the jungle, or visit a small waterfall called Sidompak. You can go up to Mount Sipiso-piso, and did paragliding from the top.

Besides swimming, you can also ride a boat hired from local fishermen to get around the lake. Cycling from one village to another is also a fun activity to look at everyday life Karo residents. For you fans of ethnic fabrics, you can go to the Village Silalahi in cockfighting, Dairi. The village is located about 11 km from Tongging.
Tongging Villagers are mostly fishermen and farmers. They farmed rice and onions as well as fishing in the lake Toba. Arsik carp and the red fish is a common species of fish reared in Lake Toba. You should try the traditional dish of fish with seasoning
Some options include accommodation in Tongging Sibayak Pensions, Pensions parultop, and Roman Sinasi Bungalows, all of which exist in the Road Silalahi, Tongging. Travelling here is perfect for the backpacker on a budget because it was cheap accommodation.Go to Sipiso-piso
When I visited Sipiso-piso, I was traveling around North Sumatra early in Medan, through Kabanjahe, to Sipiso-piso, Siantar, Parapat, Tuk-Tuk, and ended up in Bukit Lawang.
Due to the limited budget, I chose to use public transport through the causeway Siantar. From Berastagi I use public buses that go to Kabanjahe-Tanah Karo district capital, at a rate of less than five thousand dollars.
In Kabanjahe, I climbed the rural transportation across Brand. From the main road junction, I chose the motor rickshaw to reach the substation of view. From the substations of view you still have to travel by public transport or rickshaw to Tongging, with declining street.
For those of you who use a personal vehicle, a trip to Sipiso-piso easier. From Berastagi, you will only take about 2 hours. Landscapes and countryside in Tanah Karo is very interesting, unfortunately the road is not good. So, be careful.

Science ! Will ‘Gay’ Penguins Reject Reunion?

The “gay” penguin cause celebre of 2011 isn’t over just yet. Buddy and Pedro, the two inseparable male birds at the Toronto Zoo whose impending break-up sparked public outcry, will be reunited in the spring. But that doesn’t mean they’ll want to pair up again.

As reported last week, the two will be split up approximately one week from now for breeding season. Zookeepers want them to breed with females to help populate the species, which is endangered. But when the breeding season is over, all the African penguins will eventually return to the same enclosure, and “if Buddy and Pedro want to be together … they will be back together,” said Tom Mason, Toronto Zoo curator of birds.

But will they want to stay together after copulating and bonding with a female?

Before Buddy arrived at the Toronto Zoo, he paired with a female for “quite a few years,” and they had eggs together, Mason told

Buddy, 21, and Pedro, 10, lived in a zoo in Toledo, Ohio, before traveling to Canada to become part of the Toronto Zoo’s first African penguin exhibit in 18 years. Zookeepers quickly observed courtship and mating behaviors that are typically exhibited only between males and females, such as braying at one another, grooming each other, and standing side-by-side.

But if they each pair with a female who produces an egg, that’s a big incentive to stay with their new mates. According to P. Dee Boersma, a biology professor at the University of Washington, penguins usually get “divorced” because they fail to raise young.

“They are much more likely to divorce after a nest failure than if they are successful with their mate,” she says in a video on her website. “Those birds will tend to be faithful.”

The Toronto Zoo’s species survival plan aims to help the endangered penguins populate, but the process can’t be forced. It all depends on how well they “get along” with the female penguins.

Kevin McGowan of the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology in Ithaca, N.Y., told “The way penguins work is they do get paired for a long time. Basically, the only other penguin they care about is their mate, so it’s important for them to find somebody who’s compatible.”

Nov 25, 2011

Celebrity. Robex Julia: I'm Not Queen Transvestite or Transgender

The name Julia Robex, suddenly sticking when first film release in the arms of DEAD YOUNG WIDOW. Public attention because of its appearance known as the Queen of Transvestites. As a newcomer, the owner of Baby's real name Nasroen Wijaya is not aware of the effect. Not just family protested, too many people are wondering.

Apparently, for the promotion of film girl born in Malang, August 21, 1985 This must be willing referred to as the Queen of Transvestites. And Julia, was not the Queen of Transvestites. With her talent, she wanted to keep moving forward. Following admission to ® honestly when appointments in the region Epicentrum.

QUEEN NOT TRANSVESTITEActually you're the Queen Transvestite or not? Not. I am not a transvestite or transgender Queen.So what's the story so-called Queen of Transvestites? Not from me yes, that would use the name as a transvestite image to remove the film. But they (producers) who will. Because in the movie that was indeed his role I was transsexual mothers who are raising a child. They say that in blow-up can be booming. So like how gossip is so contrived.

They said it was not to you when it will be referred to as the Queen of Transvestites? Not ask for approval at all. Said baseball altogether. That in the event the press junket, so suddenly called aja.Shocked? Shocked lah. The problem I'm not the Queen of Transvestites so. Because there are fears that the community did not accept. So I wrote pingin ngelurusin. Yes definitely fitting shock suddenly say that.

Family's reaction? Family got surprised and asked, but I love the sense for the promo film wrote. I would not want to have adherents. But surely most people closest to me know how I like. Aja tetep shock.You yourselves do not try to justify it? I still wrote. No comment. Let the people speak anything. Because every single word that I would keluarin so many words. Let me prove it to work. I do not like personally, I like how nunjukin. We all do the same, do not need to think about is dizziness.

I pingin yesterday to remove the image that circulated in print and online. I do not want stag here. Pingin can move forward again. Pingin prove it if I just wrote. Women who pingin so as Christine Hakim. Originally given a chance, I'm sure I could.
CONTINUES TO ADVANCE FILMHow the story come to play movies in DEATH IN YOUNG WIDOW hug? In fact, the opportunity was not unexpected, yes, because I really wanted to jump in entertainment. IN the previous modeling, Wish to be a singer. But fitting a model I have a friend who ngenalin same producer and director, trus me casting is received. To play the movie I learned first 2 weeks for a character in the movie.Had used for promotion? Never mind, already happened. Because I myself do not actually too I think. Just learning it wrote. It turned out to have a career that must be sacrificed.

Hope? The point that everyone must have had a chance to advance in areas of interest. I want to go international. People abroad see the movie not because of who's playing. But does not fit his character. Which blow up in his performance. Not a personal thing exaggerated. Had time to feel I do not belong here, because people do not give space.

Role model? Angelina Jolie, cool. Because I think he wrote that can play different characters especially girls action. He meranin used to be a guy, but he could ngelakuin.Christine Hakim, yes he never dies. Good acting and performance, balanced hold. I never go up or down. He was really instrumental in the movies. Moreover, he's fit to play in the EAT, PRAY, LOVE, only he's the only actress who could play with Julia Roberts.

PERSONALHobby? I like singing in fact, wrote his own singing. Like to draw due to take graphic design basics.The saddest experience? It never had a sad experience, except for a breakup. Yes there are some usual stuff going out, drop out and try to relate to other men. Only the latter is feeling very lucky. Due to the couple who accept me as I am. Splashy promo film Pas yesterday, he received a very.The happiest? Can nyenengin parents.

Favorite holiday? To the beach, last yesterday I went to Pacific Islands. I think there are people who would not recognize me, but it turns out there wrote. Originally wanted to retreat after yesterday's problems. But to think of it already, so it kept going.Favorite food? Not hard to yes if you eat, most like to eat seafood.

Celebrity. Renaldy, The Little Artists Choosing Transgender So!

Search on behalf of young artists today Renaldy increased. Once traced, it turns out Renaldy is a former street artist chose a woman to choose the path alias as transgender! Even he admitted during this time he has been trapped in the body of a man who was not himself!

Investigate a calibaration, this is the host Reynaldi CILIK CREW (Mod) SCTV is popular in the mid 1990s. Surely at that time no one thought that Reynaldi will experience physical and psychological development as it is now. it was recognized artist who now bears the name Dena Rachman as things that can not easily expressed.

"It's a gradual phase. I always felt something different as a child. Let's say five years. I know it sounds so typical, but that's what I feel. No one can really feel what I feel. Let Them talk! "Dena said.

Artists who had also briefly appeared in the film MYSTERY MOUNTAIN MERAPI also confirms that all this was not its intent. Initially, he was hated by his own. But slowly, she began to accept her like this.

"It's hard to describe. Initially felt a strange, awkward, guilty, confused, angry and then come to a phase where I hated myself. I hate my self so much and feel rejected. I tried to act normal, but I do not feel comfortable, my body rejects. And at that time, my friends were the resource persons feeling

  uncomfortable with me when I pretend to be normal. it's just ridiculous, "said the artist was born August 30, 1987.

Nov 24, 2011

Technology! Hacker Changes University Students’ Grades

ABC News’ Jenna Harrison reports:

Students at a private northern California university got a surprise after a hacker entered the university’s computer records database and changed their grades for the better.

More than 60 current and former undergraduate students at Santa Clara University had their grades altered after someone hacked into school records, according to Santa Clara University Provost Dennis Jacobs.

In August 2011, a former undergraduate student notified school officials after noticing the grades on her transcript were different than she remembered.

Santa Clara officials began investigating current and former undergraduate students’ records.

“We internally examined over 50,000 records in the system dating back to 2000,” Jacobs said.

After a few days of their own investigation, officials contacted local authorities, who turned the investigation over to the FBI.

Investigators were been able to determine that the hacking occurred between June 2010 and July 2011, but no arrests have been made.

The hacker made grade improvements that ranged from changes from  F to A, while others  students’ had slight changes, such as from B to B+.  The first incident of grade modification occurred in 2004 and continued through spring of 2011.

According to Jacobs, professors with legitimate reasons may submit change of grade forms with the registrar’s office. Authorities were able to trace the grades hacked due to the lack of proper documentation.

“(The university) has tightened all security protocol including enhancing grade security and working with a third party consulate to improve security measures,” Jacobs says.

The university has since implemented a system to check the grades of the more 5,000 undergraduate students each night.

“We use manual verification to make sure all the changes are legitimate,” Jacobs said.

School officials say there is no evidence that student, faculty or staff personal information was involved in the hacking.

“The target of intrusion appears to be only related to grade changes,” Jacobs said.

Investigators said there is no specific connection between the students affected.  Students from all majors were targeted, including those in the College of Arts and Sciences, the School of Engineering, and the Leavey School of Business.

The university is looking at all the facts and circumstances around the hacking, and Jacobs said the university will take action if any current or former students are found to be involved.

“The university takes this intrusion very seriously,” Jacobs said. “Our students and their grades are very important to this institution and we are working to restore the integrity of our grade records.”

Technology! What Advertisers and Consumers Want in Online Video

Daisy Whitney’s New Media Minute:

NBC-owned iVillage has steadily grown the frequency and amount of video across its site and is now generating more than 4 million video views each month, with plans to expand the video on its site in 2012.

Kelly Wallace, the site’s head of video and chief correspondent, said advertisers are keen on integrations into the content, and that viewers like daily franchises. Look for more of that in the year ahead, with more details in this week’s New Media Minute.

Nov 23, 2011

Technology! SOPA: Internet Piracy Bill Criticized as Internet Censorship

SOPA — the Stop Online Piracy Act — has been presented in the House of Representatives as a way to protect movie studios, record labels and others whose music and films are taken and copied online. There was a hearing on it today. Its Senate counterpart is called the Protect IP Act.

But others are calling them flawed bills that would lead to Internet censorship.

Eric Schmidt, executive chairman of Google, said the bills would overdo it — giving copyright holders and government the power to cut off websites unreasonably. They could be shut down, and search engines such as Google, Bing and Yahoo could be stopped from linking to them.

“The solutions are draconian,” Schmidt said Tuesday at the MIT Sloan School of Management. “There’s a bill that would require ISPs [Internet service providers] to remove URLs from the Web, which is also known as censorship last time I checked.”

That said, Schmidt granted that Hollywood studios have a real problem — people are pirating their movies and threatening their business. The Motion Picture Association of America has posted promos on YouTube to plead its case.

Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), who chairs the House Judiciary Committee and sponsored SOPA, has said his bill will help “stop the flow of revenue to rogue websites and ensures that the profits from American innovations go to American innovators.”

Now Tumblr, the microblogging website, has joined the opposition to the bills with a page called “Protect the Net.”

“As written, they would betray more than a decade of US policy and advocacy of Internet freedom,” said a statement on Tumblr, “by establishing a censorship system using the same domain blacklisting technologies pioneered by China and Iran.”

Technology! ‘Jeopardy!’ Champ Wins Jackpot With Web App

Player: “Alex, I’ll take ‘Jeopardy Champs’ for $1,000.”

Alex Trebek: “All right, here is the clue for you. ‘With one-day winnings of $77,000, he is one of the most successful players in the history of “Jeopardy!”

Player: “Uh, who is Roger Craig?”

Alex Trebek: “That’s right! And he was back this week to win our ‘Tournament of Champions.’”

Roger Craig is one of the biggest winners ever on TV’s “Jeopardy!” He won $77,000 in a single day — more than the record-setting Ken Jennings, more than IBM’s Watson computer. In seven days, he racked up $231,200 in winnings. (His streak was ended by a Final Jeopardy question on sports.)

He’s smart, obviously, but he didn’t just use his smarts to memorize a lot of trivia. He’s a computer scientist who was finishing his Ph.D. at the University of Delaware when he first went on the game in 2010 — and before playing he developed a computer app to help figure out the patterns of questions (er, answers for which you have to come up with questions) on the show.

In a talk at New York University, he said he went to a website called J! Archive, where fans have diligently recorded the clues on the show, game after game. He said the questions really aren’t random when you put them through a computer.

“A lot of people will say, ‘Oh, “Jeopardy” asks about anything,’ but it really doesn’t,” he said in the NYU talk, posted on Vimeo. “It comes back to capitals, presidents, Shakespeare, and there are hundreds of other categories, but it will never ask really obscure things in an obscure field.”

Watch him in action. It’s no accident that he boned up on English literature or the languages of small countries before playing.

Craig has publicly said he’d like to reconfigure his app as an educational tool, though not with questions from “Jeopardy!” He said he plans to give some of his winnings to Virginia Tech and the University of Delaware, where he studied.

He appears on the game show’s website, smiling with Alex Trebek and admitting that while he wasn’t surprised he won, he is a bit surprised at his new fame: “I was a little na├»ve about the power of television when I first was on.”

Nov 22, 2011

Policy! ‘How Do You Say Delicious In Cuban?’ Cain Train Hits Foreign Policy Roadblocks In South Florida

“We need a leader, not a reader!” Herman Cain exclaimed today at a campaign stop in New Hampshire, stating that there are plenty of foreign policy experts out there – in other words, he doesn’t need to be one himself.

And while that zinger directed at president Obama bore an amusing resemblance to the fictional President Schwarzenegger’s declaration that “I was elected to lead not to read” in the 2007 Simpsons Movie, the past month has seen Cain hurt cause with a series of meatier foreign policy blunders.

It was a weak spot that was on full display Wednesday during a swing through South Florida.

Cain has built his campaign around his plans for the economy and his past as a businessman. But his lack of foreign policy experience has been on display in recent weeks. Exhibits one was a stumbling reply last week to a straightforward question about the Obama administration’s response to the Libyan uprising. Earlier, Cain made light of his lack of foreign policy knowledge when he pointed out that he didn’t know the name of the president of “Uzbeki-beki-beki-beki-stan-stan,”

But his visit to the Cuban hotbed of Miami could pose real problems in the important conservative Latino community in Florida. On Wednesday morning at the Claude & Mildred Pepper Center in Sweetwater, the crowd implored him to talk about Cuba.

“What about Cuba?” Cain replied. “One of my principles is go to the source closest to the problem, you will find the solution… I want to get from Cuban leaders a solution of what we should do.”

“I don’t want to take the pressure off. I want to put more pressure on,” he said. “Viva Cuba libre!”

According to Miami Herald reporter Marc Caputo, Cain “seemed to know little about Cuba” and “seemed stumped” about a US policy that allows Cuban immigrants to remain in this country once they set foot on land here.

During a stop at the famous Versailles restaurant in Little Havana, Cain drank a coffee and ate some croquetas.

“How do you say ‘delicious’ in Cuban?” he asked. In Cuba the language is Spanish.

The Cuban vote could prove crucial in Florida, a key state both in the GOP primary and the general election. Around 540,000 of Florida’s 1.5 million Latino voters are of Cuban origin, a group mostly based near Miami. Florida is set to vote fourth in the primary, starting in late January after Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina have all had their turn. The Sunshine State has already hosted two GOP debates this fall and it will be the site of the party’s 2012 convention in Tampa and the final presidential debate next year, set for Oct. 22 at Lynn University in Boca Raton.

Read about Florida’s role in the GOP primary process.

According to a Nov. 7 Quinnipiac poll from Florida, Cain held 27 percent support there, ahead of Mitt Romney at 21 percent and Newt Gingrich at 17 percent, but Cain’s support has declined after sexual harassment allegations were leveled at him in late October. In the wake of some of his recent foreign policy gaffes, it’s safe to say those comments aren’t helping him any, either.

Nov 21, 2011

Organization! Supercommittee State of Play: Six Days Left

Both Democratic and Republican members of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction huddled privately today, but the whole 12-member supercommittee has not sat down together in weeks and the group, with each passing moment, appears to be hurtling toward a potential super failure.

Both sides claim they have gone as far as possible and called on each other to make further concessions.

Democratic co-chair Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., insisted today that all Democratic members on the committee are in line with each other and that they would accept the Republicans’ offer, as authored by Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., with a few tweaks.

“We have met their offer on revenue,” Murray said after leaving a meeting with her Democratic committee colleagues. “But we have said it has to be fair to the American people and done in a way that doesn’t put the burden on working families and addresses the issues of getting people back to work. We are waiting for them to accept that.”

The Toomey plan would raise federal tax revenue by about $250 billion over the next decade by limiting tax breaks like mortgage interest deductions for Americans in return for lower income tax rates. The plan extends the Bush-era tax rates, which were extended by President Obama last year but are once again set to expire at the end of next year. The plan proposes $876 billion in total spending reductions, including $275 billion in health entitlement savings.

Democrats say they are willing to accept those revenue numbers but they insist on a few changes, namely that the plan must allow the Bush tax cuts to expire at the end of 2012. The Democrats also say there can be no increase in the Medicare retirement age and that the agreement could not include a chained Consumer Price Index — which could cut hundreds of thousands from Social Security benefits. Finally, Democrats say the deal must make a “real investment” into job creation.

Republicans on the committee have resisted the purportedly tweaked Democratic counter proposal, denying a new Democratic offer even exists at all. Instead, the GOP members say they are waiting on the Democrats to come up with a genuine counter-offer.

“There was a piece of paper exchanged between a couple of the people, but it is not a new offer in the sense of meeting our ‘tax number,’” said Sen. Jon Kyl, the No. 2 Republican in the Senate. “The piece of paper you’re talking about presumed that the current policy, which is that the ’01/’03 tax rates that have been in existence for a decade will continue to be in existence. [Democrats] assume that not to be the case. So it is not $400 trillion, but rather $400 [trillion-plus] whatever will happen in January of 2013.”

Murray said that Democrats believe they have “opened a door to negotiations in these last final hours,” by agreeing to the Toomey plan. She said it is up to Republicans to “come to an agreement on their side on revenue” to be able to move forward.

“The productive conversation has to be on their side now to resolve the difference on where they are, whether or not to put real revenue on the table. And once they resolve that and are willing to compromise as we have, then we can reach a deal,” Murray said this afternoon.  “My hope is that will happen today.”

Rep. Dave Camp, R-Mich., the chairman of the House Ways and Means committee, said he has not seen or reviewed the Murray’s suggestion, but he’s “looking forward to doing that.”

 ”She said that she met some of our principles, and if that’s the case it’s worth taking a strong look at,” said Camp.

Rep. Fred Upton, the Republican chairman of the House Energy and Commerce committee, said he too has not heard what Murray said, but he said that members of the committee “are still talking and listening.”

With six days left until the committee’s Nov. 23 deadline and no deal in sight, about the only thing members of the supercommittee seem to agree on around the Capitol is that time is running short.

“We don’t have much time,” Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., said as he breezed past reporters to enter a private meeting with his colleagues.

 ”Time is running out,” Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., echoed.

Nov 20, 2011

Business! Airline Makes Stranded Passengers Pay for Fuel

The Austrian airline that passengers say grounded their flight and forced them to pay for fuel in order to continue their trip from India to England says it will investigate the claims and repay the money.
“I have heard what happened. It shouldn’t have happened, and I will investigate why it happened,” Bhunpinder Kandra, director of passenger services for Comtel Air, told the Press Association. “The people who had to pay the money will receive a refund.”

The 16-year-old airline has also cancelled all of this weekend’s flights in and out of Britain.
The airline is in damage control mode following an incident last weekend in which 180 passengers aboard a Comtel flight from Amritsar, India to Birmingham, England were “held to ransom” for six hours on the tarmac in Vienna, Austria, after the chartered flight stopped there to refuel.
Passengers told the Birmingham Mail they were told to disembark in Austria because the airline ”ran out of cash to fund the last leg of the trip.”

When the passengers, each of whom had paid on average $800 for their ticket, refused to either leave the plane or pay the $31,500 for fuel demanded by the crew, a six-hour standoff ensued.
The passengers grew so angry with Comtel during the standoff that Austrian police had to be called.  They were eventually led under security escort to cash machines where they pooled together enough money to get the flight back in the air.
The flight, which should have landed in Birmingham last Saturday, arrived, instead, on Tuesday morning.

The flight was delayed from the start, moved from a Saturday departure to Tuesday, because of a conflict between tour operator Skyjet and Comtel, which had hired the plane and the crew from a Spanish company, Mint Airways.
Konrad Bhupinder, managing director of Comtel Air, earlier told the Press Association that Skyjet, which reserved the flight tickets, is responsible for the problem because the company had not paid Comtel for the flights.

“We only organize flights if the tickets have been paid for,” Bhupinder said.
The confusion and sudden flight cancellations have left as many as 600 people stranded in both India and England.  The passengers aboard the “ransom” flight are said, however, to be the only ones left stranded mid-flight.

Comtel Air introduced its lower-cost flights between Birmingham and Amritsar last month.  The Birmingham Airport is said to have also started an investigation into Comtel.
Despite the mid-flight turbulence experienced by its customers, Comtel’s spokesman says the airline will continue to operate.

“There is no chance of that,” Kandra said when asked if the company was going bust.  “Comtel is a very strong company.”

International ! House approves bill averting government shutdown


A weekend government shutdown that neither party wants would be averted under a compromise spending bill the House approved Thursday despite complaints from lawmakers left and right about provisions ranging from school lunch standards to the size of federally backed loans.

The House approved the measure 298-121. The Senate debated the measure and seemed ready to pass it and send the measure to President Barack Obama later in the evening.

The House vote highlighted fissures in the chamber's GOP majority as 133 Republicans voted for the legislation and 101 voted against. Conservatives in both chambers were unhappy that the bipartisan legislation would spend too much and potentially leave taxpayers on the hook for even more by expanding the size of mortgages that could be insured by the Federal Housing Administration in wealthy areas from $625,500 to $729,750.

"We know what's coming," Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., said during Senate debate on the bill, describing the fiscal calamities rocking indebted European countries. "How bad does it have to get, how close does it have to get to us before we will act in the best interests of the country instead of the best interests of partisanship or the best interests of our careers?"

Democrats supported the measure overwhelmingly, with only 20 of them voting "no." Liberals mocked a provision blocking Obama administration efforts to prod schools to put healthier foods on their lunch menus, including a proposal to no longer consider the tomato paste on pizza to be a vegetable.

"What's next? Are Twinkies going to be considered a vegetable?" said Rep. Jared Polis, D-Colo., who voted against passage.

Despite the objections, passage was never in real doubt. Both parties were eager to avoid further tarnishing Congress' ghastly public image, which took a beating after partisan standoffs nearly caused a government shutdown this past spring and a federal default in the summer.

"It's a good bill. It's not perfect but it's a lot better than the alternative," said Rep. Norm Dicks of Washington, top Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee.

The government's new fiscal year started Oct. 1 without enactment of any yearlong spending bills. A temporary measure that has been financing federal agencies expires after midnight Friday.

The legislation would keep the government's doors open through Dec. 16, giving lawmakers more time to catch up on their tardy budget work. It would also provide $182 billion to finance the departments of Housing and Urban Development, Transportation, Agriculture, Commerce and Justice, and many smaller agencies through the rest of the government's budget year.

Supporters said the bill honors a summer compromise between Obama and Republicans to limit overall spending on federal agencies to just over $1 trillion, which is $7 billion less than last year.

"This bill is the next step in breaking the status quo of excessive federal spending that is throwing our budgets out of whack," said Rep. Harold Rogers, R-Ky., chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.

To try winning over skeptics, GOP leaders told their rank-and-file that the bill would eliminate 20 federal programs. All were relatively small, including a $35 million Agriculture Department healthy food initiative and a $12 million National Science Foundation underground science lab.

They also noted that the bill provided none of the $8 billion Obama requested for building high-speed rail lines and none of the $322 million the president sought to establish a climate change office in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Obama's request for an additional $308 million for the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, which is responsible for implementing much of last year's financial law, was cut to $205 million. Reductions were also included for NASA.

Democrats boasted that unlike an earlier House-passed version, the compromise bill lacked GOP language blocking enforcement of parts of last year's law overhauling the regulation of financial markets and preventing the government from regulating the RU-486 birth control pill.

They also said it included more money than Republicans wanted for providing food to poor women, children and older people; helping communities hire police officers; operating federal prisons; financing the National Science Foundation; and highway and transit programs.

The bill also would extend to Dec. 16 the deadline by which the ailing U.S. Postal Service must pay $5.5 billion to the Treasury for future retiree health benefits. Postal officials have warned they have no cash and would default on the annual payment, which was originally due Sept. 30.

The Agriculture Department had proposed improving school lunches by steps like limiting potatoes and salt and promoting whole grains.

The legislation blocked those rules. As a result, the bill would allow the tomato paste typically topping pizzas to be considered a vegetable, a practice the Agriculture Department wanted to curb.

Federally subsidized school meals must contain certain amounts of vegetables, and the proposed rules could have forced schools to remove foods like pizza and french fries from their cafeterias.

International! A GOP debt plan would hit some popular tax breaks


Millions of taxpayers who take advantage of deductions for mortgage interest, charitable donations and state and local taxes would be targeted for potential tax hikes under a GOP plan to raise taxes by $290 billion over the next decade to help reduce the nation's deficit.
Some workers could also see their employer-provided health benefits taxed for the first time, though aides cautioned that the proposal is still fluid.

The plan by Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., who serves on the 12-member debt supercommittee, would raise revenue by limiting the tax breaks enjoyed by people who itemize their deductions, in exchange for lower overall tax rates for families at every income level. Taxpayers who already take the standard deduction instead of itemizing — about two-thirds of filers — could see tax cuts. The one-third of taxpayers who itemize their deductions might find themselves paying more.
The top income tax rate would fall from 35 percent to 28 percent, and the bottom rate would drop from 10 percent to 8 percent. The rates between would be reduced as well.

About 50 million households itemized their deductions in 2009, according to the nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation. About 35 million households claimed the mortgage interest deduction, and 36 million deducted charitable donations. Nearly 41 million claimed deductions for paying state and local taxes.

A GOP congressional aide said the plan is designed to raise taxes on households in the top two tax brackets. That would affect individuals making more than $174,400 and married couples making more than $212,300.
Some Republicans say the plan offers a potential breakthrough in deficit-reduction talks that have stalled over GOP opposition to tax hikes and Democrats' objection to cuts in benefit programs without significant revenue increases.

Democratic and Republican members of the supercommittee met separately Thursday, with no sign of progress on a deal.

Republicans are becoming increasingly divided over the issue of raising taxes. A growing number of Republicans in Congress say they would support a tax reform package that increases revenues, if it is coupled with significant spending cuts, enough to reduce the deficit by about $4 trillion over the next decade.

The so-called "go big" strategy has been endorsed by a bipartisan group of about 150 lawmakers from the House and Senate. A rival group of 72 House Republicans sent a letter to the supercommittee Thursday, urging members to oppose any tax increases.
"We must recognize that increasing the tax burden on American businesses and citizens, especially during a fragile recovery, is irresponsible and dangerous to the health of the United States," said the letter, circulated by Rep. Patrick McHenry, R-N.C.

Democrats, meanwhile, have panned Toomey's plan, saying the rate reductions would cut taxes for the wealthy so much that taxes on the middle class would have to be raised. They also argue that Toomey's plan would generate less revenue than advertised.

They note that Toomey's plan assumes that tax cuts enacted under former President George W. Bush, and extended through 2012 under President Barack Obama, would continue. Toomey's plan would then cut the tax rates even more.

Republicans say Toomey's tax overhaul plan would increase tax revenue by $250 billion over the next decade. An additional $40 billion would be raised by using a new measure of inflation to adjust the tax brackets each year. Annual adjustments to the tax brackets would be smaller, resulting in more people jumping into higher tax brackets as their incomes rise.

The supercommittee has a Wednesday deadline to come up with a plan to reduce government borrowing by at least $1.2 trillion over the next decade. If the panel fails, $1.2 trillion in automatic spending cuts to domestic and military programs would take effect in 2013.
Some details of Toomey's plan remain in flux, in part because he is open to changes to help forge an agreement, said the GOP aide, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss private negotiations. The aide confirmed that Toomey's plan is closely modeled after a proposal by three experts at the National Bureau of Economic Research, a private research organization perhaps best known for deciding when recessions begin and end.
The three experts are Martin Feldstein, a Harvard University professor who was President Ronald Regan's chief economic adviser; Maya MacGuineas, president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget; and Daniel Feenberg, a research associate at the bureau.

Under their plan, the tax benefits from itemizing deductions and excluding employer-provided health insurance from taxable income would be limited to 2 percent of taxpayer's adjusted gross income.
That means if a taxpayer has an adjusted gross income of $50,000, deductions and exemptions could reduce his or her tax bill by a maximum of $1,000.

Taxpayers who face limits on their tax breaks could opt to take the standard deduction instead. Currently, about one-third of tax filers itemize their deductions. The rest claim the standard deduction, which in 2011 is $5,800 for individuals and $11,600 for married couples filing jointly.
The plan envisions millions of additional taxpayers switching to the standard deduction, which would simplify their returns, MacGuineas said.

Policymakers across the political spectrum agree the federal tax code is too complicated, and most agree on a basic formula for simplifying it: Reduce tax breaks and use the additional revenue to lower the overall tax rates for everyone.

There is little agreement, however, on which tax breaks to target.
Toomey's plan attempts to sidestep debates over which tax breaks to target and instead proposes to limit taxpayers' overall ability to reduce their tax bills.

"This is a far more practical way to start to scale back the influence and costs of tax expenditures in the code by kind of glopping them together and capping them," MacGuineas said. "You're not picking the winners and losers."

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