SpaceX celebrated a flawless launch of its Falcon 9 spacecraft from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Sta

SpaceX celebrated a flawless launch of its Falcon 9 spacecraft from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on Wednesday. It delivered an SES-8 satellite into orbit without a glitch bringing the Falcon 9 one flight away from being qualified to fly missions for the Air Force. [SpaceX via BoingBoing]

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Today Only, Great Deals On Some Of Your And Our Favorite Logitech Peripherals

Today Only, Great Deals On Some Of Your And Our Favorite Logitech Peripherals

Amazon’s Gold Box is overflowing with Logitech computing accessories today, ranging from keyboards and mice to entire surround sound systems. The entire list is full of great deals, especially for gamers, but we broke out a few highlights below, all of which carry record low prices. A lot of these would make great gifts as well, so you can knock out a nice chunk of your holiday shopping before Black Friday even hits. [Amazon]

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Lack of younger enrollees threatens exchanges

In this photo taken Saturday, Nov. 9, 2013 Cinthia Orozco gets help signing up for health insurance from Griselda Zamora, a health care specialist at a health fair in Sacramento, Calif. The lackluster showing for President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul could foreshadow trouble for the embattled program. The plan relies on younger, healthier Americans, who are in less need of health care, to sign-up to cover the costs of expanding coverage to those with serious problems.(AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

In this photo taken Saturday, Nov. 9, 2013 Cinthia Orozco gets help signing up for health insurance from Griselda Zamora, a health care specialist at a health fair in Sacramento, Calif. The lackluster showing for President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul could foreshadow trouble for the embattled program. The plan relies on younger, healthier Americans, who are in less need of health care, to sign-up to cover the costs of expanding coverage to those with serious problems.(AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

In this photo taken Saturday, Nov. 9, 2013 Carlos Barajas, left, and his wife, Martha, center, look over their health insurance plan options with volunteer Elizabeth Lira, at a health fair in Sacramento, Calif. The lackluster showing for President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul could foreshadow trouble for the embattled program. The plan relies on younger, healthier Americans, who are in less need of health care, to sign-up to cover the costs of expanding coverage to those with serious problems.(AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

FILE — In this Nov. 13, 2013 file photo Peter Lee, executive director of Covered California, the state’s health insurance exchange, right, gestures to Clifford Jaynes, 27, who had recently signed-up for health insurance through the exchange, during a news conference in Sacramento, Calif. The lackluster showing for President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul could foreshadow trouble for the embattled program. The plan relies on younger, healthier Americans who are in less need of health care, to sign-up to cover the costs of expanding coverage to those with serious problems. Lee described October enrollees as “older people or people who have health conditions” and as “people that have been waiting a long time to get covered.”(AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, file)

In this photo taken Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2013, Peter Lee, executive director of Covered California, the state’s health insurance exchange, announced that nearly 35,000 people signed up for health insurance during the first month of open enrollment, from Oct. 1 through Nov. 2, during a news conference in Sacramento, Calif. The lackluster showing for President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul could foreshadow trouble for the embattled program. The plan relies on younger, healthier Americans, who are in less need of health care, to sign-up to cover the costs of expanding coverage to those with serious problems. Lee described October enrollees as “older people or people who have health conditions” and as “people that have been waiting a long time to get covered.”(AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Among the concerns surrounding the rollout of President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul was that too few young, healthy people would sign up — a problem that could undermine the financial viability of the federal law.

The insurance industry has increasing cause for concern as early enrollment reports suggest a trend that could cause insurance premiums and deductibles to rise sharply. Along with the paltry enrollment numbers released this week, officials in a handful of states said those who had managed to sign up were generally older people with medical problems.

Insurers have warned that they need a wide range of people signing up for coverage because premiums paid by adults in the younger and healthier group, between 18 and 35, are needed to offset the cost of carrying older and sicker customers who typically generate far more in medical bills than they contribute in premiums.

The first set of enrollment data revealed that 106,000 people signed up for coverage nationwide, far short of the 500,000 initial sign-ups the Obama administration had expected. In states where officials discussed more detailed information, it also became apparent that the people who flocked to the exchanges after they opened Oct. 1 were those who were desperate for coverage.

In California, the state with the largest uninsured population, most of those who applied were older people with health problems, according to a state health care official. In Kentucky, nearly 3 of 4 enrollees were over 35. In Ohio, groups helping with enrollment described many of those coming to them as older residents who lost their jobs and health coverage during the recession.

“They have been putting off treatment for a long time, just praying they live until they turn 65 and qualify for Medicare,” said Lisa Hamler-Fugitt, executive director of the Ohio Association of Foodbanks, which received federal grant money to help people establish coverage.

That people with serious health conditions would be the first to take advantage of the Affordable Care Act was expected. But that direction must shift.

In general, someone in his 60s uses $6 in health care services for every $1 tallied by someone in his 20s, said Nicole Kasabian Evans of the California Association of Health Plans. That makes younger adults a coveted group on industry balance sheets.

If those signing up trend to the elderly and sickly “your insurance is going to cost more and that will discourage those younger people from coming in,” warned Lisa Folberg, a vice president with the California Medical Association. Faced with steep prices, younger people could opt to pay a government fine rather than purchase coverage.

The potential for rising monthly premiums and higher policy deductibles is just one deterrent to convincing young people to sign up for coverage on the exchanges. The technological problems that have plagued the federal exchange, which is running in 36 states, and many state-run online marketplaces are slowing enrollment. And scattered reports of data breaches have the potential to scare off even more people.

Efforts to attract adults younger than 35, often referred to as “young invincibles,” include multimillion dollar advertising campaigns, which have launched in several states.

In California, Peter Lee, director of the state-run health exchange, said his state’s outreach effort taps social media, radio and TV ads, and events at churches, community centers and other venues. To emphasize the point, Covered California included a 27-year-old man who had signed up for coverage during its news conference earlier this week. Such an approach aims to counter the current trend in the state. Lee described October enrollees in California as “older people or people who have health conditions.”

“These are people that have been waiting a long time to get covered,” he said.

In Colorado, an aggressive campaign from allies of the state-run exchange includes provocative ads. One targeting women combines the promise of free birth control pills with the notion of casual sex. Another ad shows women with a contraption made of alcohol shot glasses glued to an old snow ski. “Saving money on flu shots leaves us more money for fun shots,” the ad reads. The day the health exchange launched, male and female models wearing nothing but underwear and “Get Covered” signs passed out fliers on a downtown Denver street.

It’s not clear whether the campaign is working. Colorado’s exchange has yet to release a demographic breakdown of the 3,700 people who selected an individual policy last month.

“We are making an extra push to reach young adults, and we do expect they’re going to take a lot of encouraging because they tend to wait until the last minute,” said Myung Kim, spokeswoman for Colorado’s exchange.

If such efforts fail and insurance companies end up with too many sick or expensive customers, they might need to increase premiums or eventually leave markets to avoid taking heavy financial losses.

“It’s going to be very messy for the next couple of years, until we figure out who is buying insurance,” said Glenn Melnick, director of the Center for Health Financing, Policy and Management at the University of Southern California. “There are a lot of pieces of this that are just black boxes right now.”

Aetna Chairman and chief executive Mark Bertolini said last month that it was “incredibly important” to get the exchange websites running properly because “the younger, healthier people aren’t going to give them more than one shot.”


Associated Press writers Roger Alford in Frankfort, Ky., Carla K. Johnson in Chicago, Tom Murphy in Indianapolis, Ann Sanner in Columbus, Ohio, Juliet Williams in Sacramento, Calif., and Kristen Wyatt in Denver contributed to this report.

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IBM acquires Fiberlink as mobile-security strategy keystone

IBM announced on Wednesday an agreement to acquire Fiberlink Communications, saying the purchase is a key part of a broader mobile-security strategy to provide assurance in transactions conducted via devices such as iPhones and Android smartphones.

Fiberlink provides MDM (mobile device management) through its MaaS360 cloud-based offering, counting about 3,500 customers in industries that include financial services, healthcare, and manufacturing. IBM’s director of application data and mobile security Caleb Barlow says the acquisition, expected to be concluded shortly, puts IBM on a path to compete with MDM vendors such as Symantec, AirWatch, MobileIron, and Good Technology.

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But Barlow also points out that Fiberlink should be considered part of IBM’s broader strategy for mobile-device security, which includes IBM’s recent acquisition of Trusteer, the security firm specializing in an anti-fraud, anti-malware approach that has been used in the banking industry in particular on the Web.

[SECURITY:ForeScout technology encourages security management info sharing]

Through Fiberlink and Trusteer combined, “which is the key part of this,”  he says, IBM intends to provide a type of trust assurance in transactions done on mobile devices in business-to-business or business-to-consumer communications. With the Fiberlink acquisition, IBM is also solidifying its approach to supporting Bring Your Own Device environments. 

Another recent IBM acquisition in the mobile management area is Worklight, which makes development tools for mobile applications, and it’s also a building block in IBM’s mobile security strategy overall, Barlow adds.

IBM’s intention is to develop a unified mobile-security framework through cloud- and agent-based means that provides not just management of devices but security checks against malware or device hijacking, for example, especially during any sensitive transaction process.

In addition, the goal would be to enable transmission of relevant mobile-device security-event information to IBM’s security information and event management tool, QRadar.

Barlow acknowledges there is “some overlap” in what Fiberlink can provide in application management and IBM’s managed mobile security service started two years ago. “But it’s fairly minimal,” he says. IBM’s main focus going forward is Apple iOS, and Android, “but we’re also looking at Windows Mobile.”

Ellen Messmer is senior editor at Network World, an IDG publication and website, where she covers news and technology trends related to information security. Twitter: MessmerE. E-mail:

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Common Test For Bladder Infections Misses Too Many Cases

Urine tests are the gold standard for diagnosing bladder infections. But one common test, the urine culture, can easily miss infections.

Ian Hooton/

Urine tests are the gold standard for diagnosing bladder infections. But one common test, the urine culture, can easily miss infections.

Ian Hooton/

Most women know all too well the pain and discomfort of a urinary tract infection. They also know they’ll probably have to trek to the doctor for a urine analysis so they can get a prescription for antibiotics.

Surely there’s got to be a better way.

The first step for women with a history of urinary tract infections may be skipping a standard test isn’t that good at spotting bladder infections anyway.

“Fewer tests should be done,” says Dr. Michael Donnenberg, a professor of medicine at The University of Maryland School of Medicine who wasn’t involved in the study. “It’s even a poorer test than we thought.”

Urinary tract infections lead to 8 million doctor visits a year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That adds up to plenty of expense and inconvenience that in many cases may not be worth the trouble.

Doctors have two choices for urine tests: the dipstick test, which gives near-instant results and is useful for ruling out infection, and the urine culture. That is done in a lab and takes one to three days.

The urine culture, formally called a midstream urine culture, accurately identified most women who had bladder infections with E. coli bacteria, which cause at least three-quarters of infections, the study found.

But the test missed women who had infections with other bacteria, or had low levels of E. coli that were still enough to make the women sick.

Many labs ignore those low-level tests, says Dr. Thomas Hooten, a professor at the University of Miami School of Medicine who led the study.

If doctors are going to do urine cultures they should at least insist that labs look for low levels of E. coli, Hooten says. He told Shots that he would say: “Look guys, low colony counts of E. coli are meaningful, don’t discard those results.”

The results were just published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The study involved 226 women, aged 18 to 49, and got samples both from the midstream test and by putting a catheter in the bladder.

When comparing those samples, something strange showed up, surprising the doctors.

About one-quarter of the women had no bacteria at all in the bladder, even though they had classic symptoms of infection. And quite a few of those women did have lots of bacteria in their midstream test.

“We would have assumed that the reason you had high numbers in the midstream culture is because they had high numbers in the bladder,” says Donnenberg, who wrote an editorial accompanying the study.

Maybe those women have an infection of the urethra rather than the bladder, Donnenberg told Shots, or maybe there’s something else going on that the doctors weren’t aware of. The doctors really don’t know.

“I don’t know if they’re benefiting from treatment because they really have bacterial urethritis, or if they’re being exposed unnecessarily to antibiotics,” Donnenberg says.

OK, this is all very interesting, but how is it going to help a woman who thinks she probably has a UTI? Like, uh, right now?

Unfortunately, doctors don’t have a more accurate test to replace the urine culture.

As a result, doctors have become increasingly comfortable with prescribing antibiotics without doing a urine culture, Donnenberg says, and this study supports doing that for healthy female patients. “If their physician doesn’t do cultures, that should not make them uneasy.”

Going for a urine culture is often a good idea the first time a woman has UTI symptoms, Donnenberg says, to make sure the symptoms aren’t caused by the sexually transmitted diseases chlamydia or gonorrhea instead.

“But once a woman knows it’s a UTI because she’s had a few, calling up the doctor and saying, ‘I have another one, can I have a prescription?’ is fine.”

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Industry takes aim at AP ethanol investigation

(AP) — A new Associated Press investigation, which found that ethanol hasn’t lived up to some of the government’s clean-energy promises, is drawing a fierce response from the ethanol industry.

In an unusual campaign, ethanol producers, corn growers and its lobbying and public relations firms have criticized and sought to alter the story, which was released to some outlets earlier and is being published online and in newspapers Tuesday.

Their efforts, which began one week before the AP project was being published and broadcast, included distributing fill-in-the-blank letters to newspapers editors that call the AP’s report “rife with errors.” Industry officials emailed newspapers and other media, referring to the AP’s report as a “smear,” ”hatchet job” and “more dumpster fire than journalism.”

“We find it to be just flabbergasting. There is probably more truth in this week’s National Enquirer than AP’s story,” said Geoff Cooper, vice president of research and analysis for the Renewable Fuels Association in a press call with reporters Monday criticizing the investigation.

The economic stakes for the industry are significant. Congress is working on legislation to do away with the corn-based portion of the mandate, which required oil companies to blend billions of gallons of ethanol into their gasoline. Big Oil is pumping big money into the effort. The Obama administration, a strong defender of biofuels, is soon expected to slightly ease the law’s requirements. Overnight, such changes would eliminate a huge source of the demand for ethanol, reduce profits for farmers and ethanol producers and likely lower the price of corn.

The AP’s investigation is based on government data, interviews and observations. It highlights what many researchers have published in peer-reviewed journals and is consistent with reports to Congress by the Environmental Protection Agency about ethanol’s environment toll.

“The AP’s reporting on this important topic is a result of months of work and review of documents, and interviews of experts and people on all sides of the public policy debate about this energy resource,” said Mike Oreskes, AP’s vice president and senior managing editor. “We stand behind our reporting and welcome further insights and discussion.”

Specifically, the ethanol industry disputed AP’s findings that as farmers rushed to find new places to plant corn, they wiped out millions of acres of conservation land and destroyed habitat. The industry said the primary driver for such losses was Congress lowering the number acres allowed in conservation, not ethanol. It also cited a Dutch study, which was not peer-reviewed and found that urban sprawl internationally was responsible for greater loss of grassland than biofuels.

In addition to citing the Agriculture Department’s figures of more than 5 million acres of conservation land transformed under the Obama administration from grass field back into farmland, the AP analyzed U.S. government crop data collected by satellite. The AP identified tracts of land that were cornfields in 2012 and had been grassland in 2006. The AP then excluded land lost from the Conservation Reserve Program to prevent double counting. The AP vetted this methodology with an independent scientist at South Dakota State University, who has published peer-reviewed research on land conversion using the same satellite data.

The Dutch study that the industry cited, which AP did not mention, noted that in the United States “biofuel expansion is the dominant cause of agricultural land use loss.”

The ethanol industry said farmers were not converting native grasslands into cropland. The AP cited USDA’s own data for 2012, the first year it collected data on so-called new breakings, showing that 38,000 acres of never-before-planted grassland was farmed.

The ethanol industry also complained that AP was misleading when it said since 2010 more corn went to fuel than livestock feed. It noted that the distillation process leaves behind a residual byproduct that can be used for feed. The AP used the government’s official, long-established benchmark for domestic corn use: data from USDA’s Economic Research Service, which do not factor distiller’s grain into its official data. The figures show that, in 2010 for the first time on record, fuel was the top use of domestic corn — a trend that continued in 2011 and 2012.

Monday’s press call criticizing the AP also included Leroy Perkins, an Iowa farmer interviewed for the AP project. Perkins said he was surprised by the article’s focus. He said he thought the AP was writing about the increase in farm ownership from people outside the area and about water quality impacts.

An AP spokesman, Paul Colford, said Perkins was clearly aware of the questions that AP had about the expansion of cornfields into conservation land and went out of his way to be helpful, even helping AP arrange a flight over Iowa farmland. Colford said that, like many other farmers contacted by AP, Perkins said he would prefer to keep land in the conservation program but was reconsidering, given the favorable price being offered for corn.

Associated PressSource:’s%20Environmental%20Damage-Pushback/id-e82ede89590040a8aa31246706bc5f1d
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Search and Destroy

This file photo taken on September 11, 2012 shows an armed man waving his rifle as buildings and cars are engulfed in flames after being set on fire inside the US consulate compound in Benghazi.
An armed man waves his rifle at the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, on Sept. 11, 2012. What exactly happened that night remains unclear, but Media Matters has torn apart 60 Minutes’ account of it.

Photo by STR/AFP/Getty Images

You can no longer legally watch the Oct. 27 edition of 60 Minutes. It’s been pulled, the original page deader than a login. But if you caught it that night, or watched it online the next day, you were told to brace for an exclusive about the Sept. 11, 2012, attack on a U.S. consulate in Benghazi. “You’ll hear for the first time from a security officer who witnessed the attack,” correspondent Lara Logan said in her introduction. “He calls himself Morgan Jones—a pseudonym he’s using for his own safety.”

The segment laced previously revealed Benghazi facts into a narrative of what “Jones” had seen and done, derring-do like “[scaling] the 12-foot-high wall of the compound that was still overrun with al-Qaida fighters” and smashing a terrorist’s face with his rifle. After it aired, some of the Republicans who’d been trying and trying to unearth more facts about the deadly night told their Twitter followers to check with CBS.

“Every American should watch @60Minutes piece on #Benghazi last night,” wrote Arizona Sen. John McCain. “We must know all the facts about what happened.” South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham announced that he’d discuss the story on Fox & Friends. Later, he pledged to block presidential nominees in the Senate until he got more access to witnesses. 

At that moment, the team at Media Matters was strategizing about how to fight back. David Brock’s watchdog group had been founded nine years ago largely as an antidote to Fox News stories about the presidential race. Today, with new president Bradley Beychok, Media Matters has grown to 75 staffers. Debunking the 60 Minutes piece, he says, was “priority one, priority two, and priority three.” And as of Nov. 8, the story has been retracted, 60 Minutes has apologized, and “Jones” (real name Dylan Davies) is doing no interviews as his publisher recalls the hardback from booksellers. (Slate had also run an excerpt from the book’s prologue.)

“This is a good example of when we’re able to deploy any and all resources needed on a subject of importance,” says Beychok. “This is a topic we saw coming—as it’s been in the conservative media for months and months. So we were ready for this.”

That’s what worries conservatives. Davies hung himself on the story, writing an incident report that claimed he was still in his villa when the attack happened, and then telling the FBI something similar. (CBS News didn’t know the first fact, and Davies later told reporter Eli Lake he didn’t write the report.) That threw the entire saga into doubt, even though it wasn’t pivotal to the demand for a select committee to investigate Benghazi—what Republicans have asked for all year.

“I think he may be falsely accused,” said McCain. “It appears to me as if they are trying to shoot the messenger here, rather than try to explain the total mishandling of this whole situation. You discredit the Britisher because you can’t discredit his message.” The role of Media Matters, he said, was “not surprising.” (Graham has remained quiet, but is making a Sunday TV appearance.)

“Media Matters has scored a win with its attack on CBS News—and rightly so,” wrote the regretful Joel Pollak, editor of, in an editorial. (He had originally characterized the story as CBS “try[ing] to atone for [the] Benghazi cover-up,” for not releasing a dissembling quote on the attack from President Obama during the election.) “That has not changed the basic facts of the Benghazi story: Obama and Clinton failed to protect U.S. diplomats, then lied to the public about a YouTube video. But it will make journalists more wary of covering the story, and especially of covering Clinton. They will realize now there is no room for error.”

If that wasn’t exactly the goal, progressives are comfortable with the spoils. One administration source compared this fallout to the implosion, back in May, of an ABC News story that overstated what memos revealed about the White House’s involvement in Sunday show talking points about Benghazi. Maybe the Benghazi scandal has faded because gnarlier scandals popped up afterward, but stumbling media and congressional Pinkertons definitely helped.

So Media Matters’ win has to be seen as an early sign of Democratic plotting for 2016. Just weeks before the CBS story, Brock and Media Matters’ Ari Rabin-Havt published The Benghazi Hoax, an e-book attempt to lock the scandal in a coffin and hammer in silver nails. In more than 90 pages and 198 footnotes, the authors aimed to prove that “more than a dozen half-baked or completely bogus allegations about the attack in Libya have been raised … and each one has been debunked by credible sources.”

The organization was well-prepped for 60 Minutes. The body blow to the story was really dealt by Karen DeYoung, the Washington Post reporter who pulled the incident report.

Media Matters largely amplified that scoop, but did it ever—the press shop released a letter from Brock demanding answers from the episode’s producers, turning the story into a back-and-forth media war. As of Friday afternoon, since the CBS episode aired Media Matters had run 36 pieces about it.

That’s what Media Matters was built for. “We are certainly better-prepared and more focused on taking our arguments, and making them effective, and disseminating them widely,” said then-Sen. Hillary Clinton at a progressive conference in Chicago in 2007. “We’re really putting together a network in the blogosphere, in a lot of the new progressive infrastructure, institutions that I helped to start and support like Media Matters and Center for American Progress.”

Since then, in the Obama years, Media Matters has occasionally deployed its researchers to mount full-spectrum defenses that the administration couldn’t do by itself. It was Brock’s group, for example, that dug up evidence to defend “safe schools” czar Kevin Jennings from allegations that he was a statutory rapist. That happened right after the firing of Van Jones, the “green jobs” czar, who could not explain away why he’d insulted conservatives and called himself a communist. Media Matters went on war footing, where it’s remained.

Just don’t point out that Hillary Clinton’s taken some credit for building the organization, or that Brock’s move to the left started with an apology to the Clintons, or that the former secretary of state, whom conservatives hope to bring down over Benghazi, may run for president soon. That’s not what this was about, they say.

“My hope is it causes people investigating the story to ask: Is what I’m hearing too good to be true?” said Rabin-Havt. “On both sides, there’s a tendency, when you hear something that lines up with your point of view, to believe it. Conservatives, when they hear something like this, always jump on it. Sometimes you see major media figures led astray. You want to prevent that.”

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Deezer unveils personalized music discovery features and native Mac app

It’s hard to talk of music streaming service Deezer and not mention the behemoth in the room: Spotify. A launch in the US is certainly needed for Deezer to become a true rival, but in the meantime, it’s adding new features for current users, which hail from basically everywhere else. Today sees the …

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Kristin Chenoweth Says Her New Pixie Cut Was Inspired By Charlize Theron, Jenna Elfman

And the trend continues! Kristin Chenoweth has jumped on the pixie cut bandwagon this week, and is now revealing what famous faces were truly behind the inspiration for the drastic cut. Though the Broadway vet admits she did it for a new role, she’s always wanted to try the new look anyway.

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“I did it for a film, for a part, and also I thought for my life it would be a good change,” she told Us Weekly at the 30th Breeders’ Cup World Championships music fest in Arcadia, Calif., on Saturday, Nov. 2. “We’re always trying to make our look different for different parts we play and I’ve been having that long hair for awhile and I gradually went shorter.”

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She added: “About a month ago I had a bob. Jonathan [Hanousek] and I, my hairstylist, I just said, ‘cut it!’”

Chenoweth, 45, revealed the new ‘do via Instagram Friday, the same week both Pam Anderson and Jennifer Hudson showed off their new chic pixies.

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“I looked at Jenna Elfman’s hair a lot and Charlize Theron’s hair a lot,” the actress told Us of her inspiration for the dramatic change from her usual long locks. “I kind of went in that direction.”

And she’s clearly happy with the result! At the event, the Glee guest star didn’t shy away from talking about the new look with friends. “Kristen smiled proudly as she showed off her new pixie cut,” an eyewitness revealed to Us. Chenoweth was also overheard saying she “loves it” and she’s “still getting used to it.”

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What’s up with the Haswell Mac mini?

What's up with the Haswell Mac mini?

Apple’s June refresh of the MacBook Air saw the introduction of Intel’s fourth-generation Core processors, internally called “Haswell.” Apple’s spent this autumn introducing new iMac and MacBook Pro systems that also use the Haswell architecture (except for the venerable “standard” 13-inch MacBook Pro, which still uses last year’s chip). The all-new Mac Pro that’s due out in December uses a different processor, so that leaves one lone holdout: the Mac mini. So where’s the Haswell Mac mini?

Why Haswell?

Haswell doesn’t really speed up core processing in the Mac as much as it improves efficiency. The biggest benefit is improved power management for laptops, which really doesn’t translate into a significant improvement for desktop systems like the Mac mini.

But there are some tangible benefits to graphics performance with Haswell processors – the Intel HD 5000 integrated graphics run way faster than last year’s model did. OS X heavily leverages OpenGL in its Core Image technology, so that means faster performance across the board, not just for games or video rendering, but most processes that touch graphics in some way.

There are other improvements to Haswell that provide better temperature regulation and other benefits, but they’re not “customer facing” in the same way that improved battery life and better graphics performance are likely to be. It’s because Intel employs a “tick tock” manufacturing model, where it introduces new chip architectures and then makes efficiency improvements (smaller die sizes, lower power consumption) on alternating years. The Haswell chip is a result of that “tock” – it builds on the truly significant Ivy Bridge CPUs we saw released last year, but doesn’t make any revolutionary changes.

Having said that, Apple has used the refresh to improve other aspects of the Mac’s design as well. Haswell Macs come with 802.11ac Wi-Fi, or Gigabit Wi-Fi – wireless networking that’s up to three times faster than before. On some models that use Solid State Drive (SSD) technology, they’ve switched from SATA to PCIe interfaces, which translates into dramatically improved storage performance. On some models, like the new MacBook Pros with Retina Displays, Apple’s incorporated Thunderbolt 2, which provides twice the bandwidth as the original Thunderbolt – capable of driving a massive 4K display, or transferring data much faster from a Thunderbolt hard drive or RAID array. For what it’s worth, I don’t think the Mac mini will get Thunderbolt 2 – the iMac didn’t get it when Apple refreshed it but I wouldn’t be surprised to see some other changes to make it worth your while to buy a new Mac mini.

So there are some really good reasons for wanting a Haswell equipped Mac mini, even if better battery life isn’t applicable.

Apple’s uneven Mac mini refresh cycle

The Mac mini has been a mainstay of Apple’s product line since its introduction in 2005. It’s Apple’s entry-level Mac model, designed especially to give Windows switchers an inexpensive entry into the Mac realm – something they can just plug their existing screen, keyboard and mouse into and pick up where they left off from their desktop PC.

But Apple’s been wildly inconsistent about refreshing the Mac mini over the years. They’ve refreshed the Mac mini in as little as five months, but one time they went more than a year and a half. That’s led some pundits to write the Mac mini off over the years – certain that Apple’s going to discontinue the little Mac at any moment because of Apple’s apparent negligence.

It’s not a case of negligence. Apple simply doesn’t feel the same pressure to update the Mac mini with the same frequency or make it as much of a show as other Mac models because, well, the sex appeal simply isn’t there. The Mac mini is a reliable seller season to season. And people do buy them. They’re popular workgroup servers in corporate IT environments. Small and medium-sized businesses use them as all-purpose servers, especially now that OS X Server costs a scant $19. Home theater installers often use them as media servers – Apple’s even built recent models with HDMI connectors to make it easier to connect to flat screen televisions.

In 2010, Apple unveiled a redesigned Mac mini that eschewed an internal SuperDrive, added HDMI and an SD card slot and made other changes. Since then, they’ve been on a more-or-less an annual upgrade cycle.

So where’s the new Mac mini already?

So if past is prologue, the Mac mini is due for a refresh Real Soon Now™.

To be frank, I expected to see it updated when the new iMac and the new MacBook Pro with Retina Display made their debut last month. Because the Mac mini is often updated at the same time as other consumer-focused Mac models. And Apple usually makes it pretty low-key. Last year, for example, the Mac mini’s refresh didn’t even elicit its own press release – its update was mentioned in the same press release as Apple’s all-new iMac.

As it is, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a new model hit by the end of the year.

I don’t expect that there will be a lot of major changes in clock speed to the new Mac mini, when it finally gets here. But integrated graphics improvements in Haswell, combined with some of the other changes Apple has made like faster Wi-Fi, will make the new Mac mini worth the wait once it gets here.


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