Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Obama hit by Snowden setbacks with China, Russia

WASHINGTON (AP) ? For President Barack Obama, National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden's globe-trotting evasion of U.S. authorities has dealt a startling setback to efforts to strengthen ties with China and raised the prospect of worsening tensions with Russia.

Relations with both China and Russia have been at the forefront of Obama's foreign policy agenda this month, underscoring the intertwined interests among these uneasy partners. Obama met just last week with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the Group of Eight summit in Northern Ireland and held an unusual two-day summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping in California earlier this month.

Obama has made no known phone calls to Xi since Snowden surfaced in Hong Kong earlier this month, nor has he talked to Putin since Snowden arrived in Russia.

Former Rep. Jane Harman, D-Calif., said it wasn't clear that Obama's "charm offensive" with Xi and Putin would matter much on this issue. The U.S. has "very little leverage," she said, given the broad array of issues on which the Obama administration needs Chinese and Russian cooperation.

"This isn't happening in a vacuum, and obviously China and Russia know that," said Harman, who now runs the Woodrow Wilson International Center.

Both the U.S. and China had hailed the Obama-Xi summit as a fresh start to a complex relationship, with the leaders building personal bonds during an hour-long walk through the grounds of the Sunnylands estate. But any easing of tensions appeared to vanish Monday following China's apparent flouting of U.S. demands that Snowden be returned from semi-autonomous Hong Kong to face espionage charges.

White House spokesman Jay Carney, in unusually harsh language, said China had "unquestionably" damaged its relationship with Washington.

"The Chinese have emphasized the importance of building mutual trust," Carney said. "We think that they have dealt that effort a serious setback. If we cannot count on them to honor their legal extradition obligations, then there is a problem."

A similar problem may be looming with Russia, where Snowden arrived Sunday. He had been expected to leave Moscow for a third country, but the White House said Monday it believed the former government contractor was still in Russia.

While the U.S. does not have an extradition treaty with Russia, the White House publicly prodded the Kremlin to send Snowden back to the U.S., while officials privately negotiated with their Russian counterparts.

"We are expecting the Russians to examine the options available to them to expel Mr. Snowden for his return to the United States," Carney said.

The U.S. has deep economic ties with China and needs the Asian power's help in persuading North Korea to end its nuclear provocations. The Obama administration also needs Russia's cooperation in ending the bloodshed in Syria and reducing nuclear stockpiles held by the former Cold War foes.

Members of Congress so far have focused their anger on China and Russia, not on Obama's inability to get either country to abide by U.S. demands. However, Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., said in an interview with CNN on Monday that he was starting to wonder why the president hasn't been "more forceful in dealing with foreign leaders."

Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton echoed the White House's frustration with China. "That kind of action is not only detrimental to the U.S.-China relationship but it sets a bad precedent that could unravel the intricate international agreements about how countries respect the laws ? and particularly the extradition treaties," the possible 2016 presidential contender told an audience in Los Angeles.

Snowden fled to Hong Kong after seizing highly classified documents disclosing U.S. surveillance programs that collect vast amounts of U.S. phone and Internet records. He shared the information with The Guardian and Washington Post newspapers. He also told the South China Morning Post that "the NSA does all kinds of things like hack Chinese cellphone companies to steal all of your SMS data." SMS, or short messaging service, generally means text messaging.

Snowden still has perhaps more than 200 sensitive documents, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said over the weekend.

Hong Kong, a former British colony with a degree of autonomy from mainland China, has an extradition treaty with the U.S. Officials in Hong Kong said a formal U.S. extradition request did not fully comply with its laws, a claim the Justice Department disputes.

The White House made clear it believes the final decision to let Snowden leave for Russia was made by Chinese officials in Beijing.

Russia's ultimate response to U.S. pressure remains unclear. Putin could still agree to return Snowden to the U.S. But he may also let him stay in Russia or head elsewhere, perhaps to Ecuador or Venezuela ? both options certain to earn the ire of the White House.

Fiona Hill, a Russia expert at the Washington-based Brookings Institution, said she expected Putin to take advantage of a "golden opportunity" to publicly defy the White House.

"This is one of those opportunities to score points against the United States that I would be surprised if Russia passed up," Hill said.

___

Follow Julie Pace on Twitter at http://twitter.com/jpaceDC

Source: http://news.yahoo.com/obama-hit-snowden-setbacks-china-russia-070516653.html

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98% Mud

All Critics (149) | Top Critics (33) | Fresh (146) | Rotten (3)

For at least three-quarters of the way, this is a fine film, and one that kids and parents could see together.

There is an enchanted-fairy-tale aspect to Mud, but its bright, calm surface only barely disguises a strong, churning undercurrent.

A modern fairy tale, steeped in the sleepy Mississippi lore of Twain and similar American writers, and with a heart as big as the river is wide.

Nichols has a strong feeling for the tactility of natural elements-water, wood, terrain, weather.

Nichols takes his time with the story, dwelling on how the boy is shaped by the killer's tragic sense of romance, yet the suspense holds.

"Mud" isn't just a movie. It's the firm confirmation of a career.

Just like its lead character, this film is packed to the brim with sadness, swagger and soul.

All the women in this movie are shrews, liars and/or emasculators.

Mud is a moving exploration into the nature of manhood, with superb performances, striking location and engrossing story creating a mesmerising and heartfelt coming of age drama.

A stripped back approach to tracking the process of growing up, but lacks the faith to see the plan executed to the end

Nichols takes his time unravelling Mud and Ellis's entwined fates, but his characters are so rich that it's well worth being in their company.

In its energy and nuance, Mud seems like the kind of film Hollywood would've made in the Seventies, and would've continued to do if not for the advent of market-conscious filmmaking.

More than a mere tribute to Twain and Dickens: this has all the makings of a modern classic.

An extremely sophisticated and progressive examination on how adolescent masculinity is defined by often-contradictory cultural attitudes towards femininity.

Mud is as beautiful to watch as it is to listen to, and feel kinship to, whether you're from the South or just Southern at heart.

In Jeff Nichols, America has a champion of the religious and working class. With the schism between the right and left in the U.S. growing ever larger... his ascent couldn't have come at a better time.

This is a film with a great naturalistic style and captivating performances and which does just about everything right.

Jeff Nichols writes characters with depth, nurtures strong performances form his cast and allows the screenplay's backwater setting to effectively create tone and texture.

This is American cinema at its very best as Huckleberry Finn meets Stand By Me.The two boys are terrific and McConaughey is sensational as Mud, dazzlingly frazzled as the hunted and haunted man on the run.

Up till just past the three-quarter mark, Mud is one heck of a nifty psychological fable.

The Southern-fried drama "Mud" is an electrifying example of what happens when you merge a crackerjack yarn with a very specific setting, and then pour on the heat with riveting performances.

McConaughey and Sheridan 's acting skills, as well as those of the entire supporting cast, make this movie better than it ought to be.

It gets under our skin because Nichols gives us time to come to know Mud's island like the places we knew as children.

As Mud might say, it's a hell of a thing.

The boys are so skillfully played that Mud also plays like cinema verite. Nichols' fluid camerawork suggests a documentary-style approach. That helps these young lads transform into flesh-and-blood characters who get our attention and support.

No quotes approved yet for Mud. Logged in users can submit quotes.

Source: http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/mud_2012/

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NSA leaker's global flight appears stalled for now

QUITO, Ecuador (AP) ? Edward Snowden's stop-and-start flight across the globe appeared to stall in Moscow as the United States ratcheted up pressure to hand over the National Security Agency leaker who had seemed on his way to Ecuador to seek asylum.

In Ecuador's most extensive statement about the case, the foreign minister hailed Snowden on Monday as "a man attempting to bring light and transparency to facts that affect everyone's fundamental liberties."

The decision whether to grant Snowden the asylum he has requested is a choice between "betraying the citizens of the world or betraying certain powerful elites in a specific country," Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino told reporters while visiting Vietnam.

But what had been expected to be a straightforward journey to this South America nation dissolved into uncertainty by day's end. Snowden didn't use a reservation for a Havana-bound Russian airline flight that could have served as the first leg of a trip to safety in Ecuador, and his allies would not say where he was or what changed. Patino said Tuesday that he didn't know Snowden's exact whereabouts.

In Washington, the White House demanded that Ecuador and other countries deny Snowden asylum. It also sharply criticized China for letting him leave Hong Kong, and urged Russia to "do the right thing" and send him to the U.S. to face espionage charges.

A high-ranking Ecuadorean official told The Associated Press that Russia and Ecuador were discussing where Snowden could go, and the process could take days. He also said Ecuador's ambassador to Moscow had not seen or spoken to Snowden. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the case publicly.

Ecuadoreans debated whether accepting Snowden would be a step too far for leftist President Rafael Correa, who has won wide popularity with oil-funded social and infrastructure programs while picking public fights with his country's main export market, the U.S. Correa has expelled U.S. diplomats, shuttered an American military base and offered refuge at Ecuador's embassy in London to Julian Assange, praising the founder of Wikileaks for publishing reams of leaked secret U.S. documents. Assange has embraced Snowden and WikiLeaks experts are believed to be assisting him in arranging asylum.

With unprecedented international attention focused on Ecuador, many citizens said they felt giving asylum to Snowden would be courting trouble for no reason, particularly with a key U.S. trade agreement up for renewal in coming weeks.

"I think it's just being provocative," said Blanca Sanchez, 50, who sells cosmetics in the capital, Quito. "He needs to take responsibility for himself. This isn't our problem."

U.S and Ecuadorean officials said they believed Snowden was still in Russia, where he fled Sunday after weeks of hiding out in Hong Kong following his disclosure of the broad scope of two highly classified counterterror surveillance programs to two newspapers. The programs collect vast amounts of Americans' phone records and worldwide online data in the name of national security.

Assange declined to discuss where Snowden was but said he was safe. Assange said Snowden was only passing through Russia and had applied for asylum in Ecuador, Iceland and possibly other countries.

State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell said the U.S. had made demands to "a series of governments," including Ecuador, that Snowden be barred from any international travel other than to be returned to the U.S. The U.S has revoked Snowden's passport.

The White House said Hong Kong's refusal to detain Snowden had "unquestionably" hurt relations between the United States and China. While Hong Kong has a high degree of autonomy from the rest of China, experts said Beijing probably orchestrated Snowden's exit in an effort to remove an irritant in Sino-U.S. relations.

Secretary of State John Kerry urged Moscow to "do the right thing" and turn over Snowden.

"We're following all the appropriate legal channels and working with various other countries to make sure that the rule of law is observed," President Barack Obama told reporters when asked if he was confident that Russia would expel Snowden.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said the U.S. was expecting the Russians "to look at the options available to them to expel Mr. Snowden back to the United States to face justice for the crimes with which he is charged."

Carney was tougher on China.

"The Chinese have emphasized the importance of building mutual trust," he said. "And we think that they have dealt that effort a serious setback. ... This was a deliberate choice by the government to release a fugitive despite a valid arrest warrant, and that decision unquestionably has a negative impact on the U.S.-China relationship."

Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said China had harmed its relationship with the U.S. by allowing Snowden to leave Hong Kong. China's move set a "bad precedent" that could unravel extradition treaties or other legal agreements between countries, she said Monday in Los Angeles.

Assange and attorneys for WikiLeaks assailed the U.S. as "bullying" foreign nations into refusing asylum to Snowden. WikiLeaks counsel Michael Ratner said Snowden is protected as a whistleblower by the same international treaties that the U.S. has in the past used to criticize policies in China and African nations.

Ecuadorean analysts said accepting Snowden could jeopardize tariff-free access to U.S. markets for Ecuador's fruit, seafood and flowers. U.S. trade, which also includes oil, accounts for half of Ecuador's exports and about 400,000 jobs in the nation of 14.6 million people.

The U.S. Andean Trade Preference Act requires congressional renewal soon and hosting Snowden "doesn't help Ecuador's efforts to extend it," said Ramiro Crespo, director of the Quito-based financial analysis firm Analytica Securities. "The United States is an important market for us, and treating a big client this way isn't appropriate from a commercial point of view."

At the same time, high oil prices, a growing mining industry and rising ties with China may give Correa a sense of protection from U.S. repercussions. Many of the Ecuadoreans who re-elected Correa in February with 57 percent of the vote see flouting the U.S. as a welcome expression of independence, particularly when it comes in the form of granting asylum.

"This person who's being pursued by the CIA, our policy is loving people like that, protecting them, perhaps giving them the rights that their own countries don't give them. I think this is a worthy effort by us," said office worker Juan Francisco Sambrano.

In April 2011, the Obama administration expelled the Ecuadorean ambassador to Washington after the U.S. envoy to Ecuador, Heather Hodges, was expelled for making corruption allegations about senior Ecuadorean police authorities in confidential documents disclosed by WikiLeaks.

American experts said the U.S. will have limited, if any, influence to persuade governments to turn over Snowden if he heads to Cuba or nations in South America that are seen as hostile to Washington.

"There's little chance Ecuador would give him back" if that country agreed to take him, said James F. Jeffrey, a former ambassador and career diplomat.

Snowden is a former CIA employee who later was hired as a contractor for the NSA. In that job, he gained access to documents that he gave to The Guardian and The Washington Post to expose what he contends are privacy violations by an authoritarian government.

Snowden also told the South China Morning Post that "the NSA does all kinds of things like hack Chinese cellphone companies to steal all of your SMS data." He is believed to have more than 200 additional sensitive documents in laptops he is carrying.

Source: http://news.yahoo.com/nsa-leakers-global-flight-appears-stalled-now-051718996.html

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The Restaurant of the Future Was Going to Revolve You

The Restaurant of the Future Was Going to Revolve You

Today's restaurants love automation. Whether it's conveyor belt sushi, iPad ordering or drones that bring your food right to the table, restaurant owners are always looking for a gimmick that attracts customers and might just save them some money. But back in the 1920s, an inventor in Michigan had his own idea for automating the restaurant of the future ? instead of bringing the food to the customers, how about bringing the customers to the food?

Read more...

    


Source: http://feeds.gawker.com/~r/gizmodo/full/~3/oxu7HMsPPG4/the-restaurant-of-the-future-was-going-to-revolve-you-552797287

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Monday, June 24, 2013

AP Source: Clippers land new coach in Doc Rivers

(AP) ? A Boston Celtics official tells The Associated Press that a deal to allow Doc Rivers to coach the Los Angeles Clippers has been agreed to.

The official spoke on the condition of anonymity because the deal was contingent on NBA approval and negotiations between Rivers and the Clippers over a new contract.

Rivers had three years and $21 million remaining on his deal with the Celtics, but he has expressed reluctance to coach through a rebuilding process. The 2008 NBA champions appear to be headed for one after losing in the first round of the playoffs this season.

The teams were also discussing a deal that would send Kevin Garnett to the Clippers, but NBA commissioner David Stern said he wouldn't approve a deal in which coaches were traded for active players.

Associated Press

Source: http://hosted2.ap.org/APDEFAULT/347875155d53465d95cec892aeb06419/Article_2013-06-23-BKN-Clippers-Rivers-/id-9c90dd2fe1484456b302030a45d8dd16

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Sunday, June 23, 2013

Edward Snowden heads for asylum: Does the US have any options?

Faced with espionage charges, NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden left Hong Kong Sunday for asylum, reportedly in South America. This could leave the US with few options as it tries to prosecute the man who leaked details about top secret surveillance programs.

By Brad Knickerbocker,?Staff writer / June 23, 2013

A banner supporting Edward Snowden, a former NSA contractor who leaked top-secret documents about sweeping U.S. surveillance programs, is displayed in Hong Kong's business district. Snowden has left Hong Kong seeking asylum in another country.

Kin Cheung/AP

Enlarge

National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden, aided by the WikiLeaks whistleblower organization, has left his hideout in Hong Kong and is hop-scotching his way to South America ? all of which has left US officials scrambling for recourse following their failure so far to bring Mr. Snowden back to the US for prosecution on charges of espionage.

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"We will continue to discuss this matter with Hong Kong and pursue relevant law enforcement cooperation with other countries where Mr. Snowden may be attempting to travel," Justice Department spokeswoman Nanda Chitre said in a statement Sunday. Neither the White House nor Secretary of State John Kerry had any more to say on the subject by midday.

According to reports by Chinese and Russian news agencies, Mr. Snowden is traveling by commercial air ? first to Moscow, then to Havana, and finally to Caracas, Venezuela, where he is expected to be granted asylum.

?Mr. Edward Snowden, the American whistleblower who exposed evidence of a global surveillance regime conducted by US and UK intelligence agencies, has left Hong Kong legally,? WikiLeaks said in a statement Sunday. ?He is bound for a democratic nation via a safe route for the purposes of asylum, and is being escorted by diplomats and legal advisors from WikiLeaks.?

Meanwhile, as he was beginning the latest leg on his journey from relative obscurity to worldwide notoriety, the former NSA contractor was revealing more of what he says is a vast network of US surveillance of telephone and Internet information around the world.

In an interview piece published Sunday, the South China Morning Post quoted Snowden as saying the US government is hacking Chinese mobile phone companies to steal millions of text messages.

?There?s far more than this,? Snowden said, referring to his earlier claims that the US had targeted Hong Kong and mainland China. ?The NSA does all kinds of things like hack Chinese cell phone companies to steal all of your SMS data.?

It?s just the latest twist in a saga that began earlier this month when Snowden revealed himself as the former NSA analyst who?d exposed top secret US surveillance programs ? first to the Washington Post and the British newspaper the Guardian, then via a 12-minute video in which he declared, ?I don't want to live in a society that does these sort of things.?

Since then, he?s been praised as a heroic whistleblower by supporters and reviled as a traitor by critics and many US lawmakers eager to see him returned to this country for prosecution.

The situation had left President Obama in the tricky position of balancing national security in a post-9/11 world with the rights of privacy cherished by most Americans as well as Obama?s own calls for openness in government.

Source: http://rss.csmonitor.com/~r/feeds/csm/~3/-rg0AV5wBUA/Edward-Snowden-heads-for-asylum-Does-the-US-have-any-options

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Officials: Suicide attack kills 4 northern Iraq

BAGHDAD (AP) ? Officials say a suicide car bomb in northern Iraq has killed at least four people.

A police officer says the bomber rammed his explosive-laden vehicle into a police patrol in a village outside the city of Mosul on Saturday morning. He says that three civilian bystanders and one policeman were killed, and six people were wounded. Mosul is 360 kilometers (220 miles) northwest of Baghdad.

A medical official confirmed the casualty figures. Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to release information.

With violence spiking sharply in recent months to levels not seen since 2008, al-Qaida in Iraq and other militant groups have been gathering strength in Mosul and surrounding cities.

Source: http://news.yahoo.com/officials-suicide-attack-kills-4-northern-iraq-085528210.html

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NY congressman says Bravo show promotes bigotry

NEW YORK (AP) ? A suburban New York congressman who represents the area where Bravo films its series "Princesses: Long Island" says the show is "the most objectionable thing I've ever seen on television" and promotes stereotyping of Jews.

The network should show a disclaimer before every episode to say there's nothing real about the nonfiction show, said Rep. Steve Israel, a New York Democrat.

Bravo said Friday the new series has averaged just over 1 million viewers over three airings on Sunday nights, which is considered a very successful start. "Princesses: Long Island" is reminiscent of MTV's "Jersey Shore" in focusing on a small subculture, in this case six young, unmarried women who are generally of comfortable means with plenty of idle time.

One of the women, Ashlee White, is nearly 30 and lives at home where her parents cook her food and do her laundry. She's looking for Mr. Right, but has high standards. "I'm Jewish, I'm American and I'm a princess," White said.

"I initially thought it was all in good fun," Israel said. "But 20 minutes into the show, I realized that promoting anti-Semitic stereotypes isn't that fun. It's one of the most objectionable things I've ever seen on television, and there are a lot of objectionable things on television."

Jodi Davis, a Bravo spokeswoman, said the show is "about six women who are young, educated, single and Jewish living in Long Island, and is not meant to represent all Jewish women or other residents of Long Island."

Israel said he's not encouraging Bravo to take the show off the air, but would like a statement like Davis' shown on the air. She had no immediate comment on whether Bravo would be able to or want to do that.

"Princesses: Long Island" has already had one incident that compelled an apology. White was quoted in one episode as calling the Long Island community of Freeport a "ghetto" in a cellphone conversation with her father, who advised her to roll up her car windows.

White, in a Bravo blog post, later apologized, saying she had been "stressed, overwhelmed and not thinking" when she said that.

Israel, a former president of the Institute on the Holocaust and the Law who once worked for the American Jewish Congress, said the show "leads viewers to believe that this is what being Jewish is all about, that if you're Jewish and live on Long Island, you're narcissistic, you are all about money and that a Shabbat dinner is all about drinking and fighting," he said.

The congressman, who also wrote about the show on The Huffington Post, said he wasn't concerned that speaking out publicly would encourage more people to watch it.

"Silence never works," he said.

____

EDITOR'S NOTE ? David Bauder can be reached at dbauder@ap.org or on Twitter @dbauder. His work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/david-bauder.

Source: http://news.yahoo.com/ny-congressman-says-bravo-show-promotes-bigotry-191856429.html

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How to write effective blog posts | ffeathers

Our technical writing team at Atlassian has just started presenting a series of workshops for other Atlassians, on how to write effectively. This post contains the material for a workshop that focuses on writing blog posts. I?d love any feedback you may have.

In an earlier post about the workshops, I wrote how enjoyable and rewarding it is for us, as technical writers, to present these workshops. That post also contains the material for the first workshop, which focuses on writing effective ?how to? guides, and describes the format of the workshops.

Now let?s take a look at the workshop material on effective blogging.

Getting started on your blog post

How do you write a blog post?
One word at a time? not!

The big picture is the important thing.

  • Sit back, think, and plan the post before you start.
  • While writing, if the words don?t come, make a note and continue writing. Preserve the big picture. Come back later to fill in the gaps.

A philosophy of blogging

Choose your style, then grab your reader:

  • Maintain a character in your blog, so that people can start seeing you as a friend. Be yourself. (More about the social side later on.)
  • Consider your tone. If you?re writing on a corporate blog, read the guidelines on corporate voice, tone and style.
  • Write each post around a story or a ?hook?. This will give the post a theme, making it easier for you to write and easier for people to read. (More about telling a story later on.)
  • Add structure to the content. Add headings. Split the information into easily-readable chunks. People want to skim and dip in. (More about structure later on.)
  • Tap into the power of social media. Link to other blogs and respond to comments. (More about the social side later on.)
  • Take advantage of your creative subconscious. Make notes, wherever you are. Writing is a creative process, and it keeps happening even when you think you?ve stopped! You?ll find yourself thinking of stuff to add to your document at odd times. While walking in the bush. Or in the middle of the night. Make a note. Email yourself. Put it?on Remember The Milk. Whatever works. Such ideas are gems, and they?re at their freshest when you first think of them. Grab that freshness.

View every experience as fodder for your blog

Whenever something happens, think to yourself: ?How does this fit into my blog??

You can even write multiple blog posts as a result of a single experience or event. A while ago I wrote 4 posts resulting from one Atlassian ShipIt day (then called ?FedEx days?), each post with a different theme:

  • A blog post on ffeathers, for people who are not Atlassians. This post introduces the concept of ShipIt (then called FedEx Day), tells the story of technical writers taking part in what is essentially a developer-focused activity, and shows lots of pictures.
  • An Atlassian ShipIt delivery note, describing the purpose and results of my ShipIt project. This is a more formal post. Everyone who takes part in ShipItis supposed to write one of these.
  • Another post on ffeathers, describing the software that I evaluated as part of the ShipIt project. This software, the SHO tool for guided help, is of interest to technical writers so it was useful to write it up separately.
  • A post on the Atlassian company blog, describing the new SDK (software development kit) that I used. This post is aimed at developers, showing them that the SDK makes it easy for even a technical writer to develop an add-on. There?s a fair bit of technical detail in the article. It?s also promotional, as suited to a company blog.

I could write another post about how to write 5 blog posts from one experience. (wink)

How to go about writing a blog post

[A useful practical guide.]

Step by step:

  1. Decide on your audience.
  2. Write the introduction.
  3. Write the title.
  4. Outline the post by creating the headings.
  5. Fill in the details. Keep each section short.
  6. If unsure, or struggling to find the right words, make a ?TO DO? note and continue. Come back later.
    Hint: I use ?xxxxxxxxxxxxxx? instead of ?TO DO?. It?s quick to type, strangely satisfying, easy to search for, and stands out when I?m reviewing the page.
    [This bit often leads to some animated discussion amongst workshop participants. Some of them already do something similar. Others love the idea, and smile with delight.]
  7. Review the content yourself:
    • Have you included everything you intended to include?
    • Can you cut anything out?
    • Should you split the post into two?
    • Is your language and tone right for the audience?
  8. Ask someone else to review the page.
    As any writer will tell you, it?s impossible to review your own work. Your brain knows what you wanted to say, and that?s what your brain will see even if that?s not what?s written.

Talking to your audience

User icon: rrobinsUser icon: keganUser icon: jmlemieuxUser icon: brollins

Who do you want to read the post? Who are the people you?re writing for, and what do they already know?

  • Think about those people carefully. Make a mental picture of a person who has the characteristics of your target audience.
  • Use that imagined person to make all decisions about your post.
  • When in doubt about wording, speak to the imagined person out loud. Then write down what you said. Immediately.
  • If there?s more than one audience, consider writing a separate post for each audience. You could consider publishing the posts on different blogs.

Writing the introduction

Start the story right at the top. Tell people what the post is about and why you?re writing it. Hook the readers by letting them know you?re going to tell them a story.

Examples of a good introduction:

[At this point, the presenter opens each of the examples and talks the attendees through the salient points. We use the same articles to illustrate other points in the workshop later on.]

  • 5 Things I Learned When I Moved My Business to an Island
    ?There are small towns. There are rural areas. And then there are islands. Islands that have no bridges, only ferries.
    Ferries that blow their horns on foggy days. That break down at the worst possible moment, usually when you have an important meeting with a new client. Ferries that will take you back home if you show up in line before the last one leaves the dock, at 7:30pm sharp?.?
  • Social Media Fail: 5 Reasons I Will Unfollow You
    ?The other day, I unfollowed someone on Twitter. At first glance, we appeared to have lots in common??

Concocting a title

Make sure the title reflects the main story. This will attract readers and give you a good position in search results such as Google or Bing.

The title is your most important tool for helping people find your document. This is especially true on EAC, where people use the quick search a lot.

  • Put the key information at the beginning of the title.
  • Make the title describe the purpose of the document.
  • Be clever if you can

Example of a great title: Stash 2.4: Forking in the Enterprise

Telling a story

Write each post around a story or a ?hook?. This will give the post a theme, making it easier for you to write and easier for people to read.

What is a story?

  • The simplest type of story is a use case.
  • Another good story is something that went wrong, and how you fixed it.
  • Or you could tell a funny story, provided it relates to the main content of the post.

Moving on to the main part of the post:

  • Describe your part in the story. Make it about you, or your team.
  • Then move quickly to the main topic.
  • Give plenty of factual information, preferably hard-won. That?s what people value. Code samples and screenshots are great.
  • Tell how the events changed you, changed the way you work, changed your product. That?s what a story is all about.

Examples of good story-telling:

Structuring a post

Add structure to the content. Yes, even in a blog post. People will skim and dip in. If they can?t do that, they?ll leave.

  • Split the content into easily-digestible chunks. Keep them short.
  • Use plenty of headings, so people can find the chunk they need. Research shows people?s eyes jump from heading to heading as they skim a page.

Example of good structure: 5 Things I Learned When I Moved My Business to an Island ? notice the highlighted bullet points and easily-digestible sections.

Language and style

Keep it short and simple

Use simple words and short sentences.

Use active voice rather than passive

[Explain the difference between active and passive. Hold a bit of a discussion here. This is a difficult concept for many people.]

Examples:

  • Passive: The chocolate was eaten by the technical writer.
  • Active: The technical writer ate the chocolate.

Why use active voice? It?s shorter. And passive voice can be confusing, because sometimes it doesn?t say who must do what. Imperative (command) is even better, when appropriate.

Bad:

Your browser must be configured to xxx.
Reader thinks: OK, so I?ll assume someone has already done that for me when setting up my machine.

Good:

Configure your browser to xxx.
Reader thinks: OK, I?ll do that now.

Clarify technical terms and abbreviations

Explain important concepts at the top of the page.

Spell out each abbreviation the first time you use it on a page. For example:

If you?re using IE (Internet Explorer), ?.

How to make sure people find your post

Let?s look at SEO (search engine optimisation). These are the key points for making sure people find your post:

  • Make the title meaningful, with important words near the beginning.
  • Make sure the URL contains real words.
    If you are blogging on Confluence, don?t use special characters like ??? in a page title, because the resulting URL will not contain words.
  • Decide the key words for your post. These are the key concepts, and the ones the people are likely to look for when searching.
  • Put your key words at the top of the post, in the introductory paragraph.
    This ties in well with our structure, where the first section contains a introduction and a summary of the story.
  • Put your key words in the headings in your post.

Making use of ?social?

Blogging is a social activity. Tap into the power of social media:

  • Maintain a character in your blog, so that people can start seeing you as a friend.
  • Be yourself. Otherwise it?s difficult to maintain a consistent persona and people will soon pick it up if you don?t sound real.
  • Link to other people?s blogs. If your idea is an expansion of something someone else has written, include a mention of where you got the idea. If you?ve seen someone?s post about a related topic, link to it. The other bloggers appreciate this and will start linking back to you in return.
  • Be nice, positive and sincere. If you disagree with something, say so but be constructive. Some bloggers are successful by being horrid, but to make that work you have to be really good and have a curl on your forehead. I don?t like nastiness, manipulation or one-upmanship, so I wouldn?t recommend it.
  • Watch the post, and respond to comments. Build your audience, by showing them you care.
  • Find other blogs on a related topic, add comments there, and where relevant link back to your own post.

Resources

  • Kurt Vonnegut?s How to Write With Style.

    A great thing about Kurt?s guide is that it illustrates his principles so perfectly. This excerpt is from the section called ?Sound like yourself?:

    ?lucky indeed is the writer who has grown up in Ireland, for the English spoken there is so amusing and musical. I myself grew up in Indianapolis, where common speech sounds like a band saw cutting galvanized tin, and employs a vocabulary as unornamental as a monkey wrench.

    This bit is pretty cool too:

    Pity the readers

  • [Link to your corporate stylesheets and guidelines here too.]
  • Bloggers? tips on blogging:
    • Seth?s post way back in 2006, a bit sparse on the ?how to? but eminently elegant as always: How to write a blog post.
    • Seth?s post with more down-to-earth tips: Write like a blogger.
    • Neil Patel?s tips on engaging your readers in your blog: How to Write a Blog Post. Start reading from the top, then see what he has to say in the section titled ?Hook your Readers?. It?s awesome.
    • My own, more personal account of blogging, from which some of the above material is drawn: How to write a blog post.

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Source: http://ffeathers.wordpress.com/2013/06/23/how-to-write-effective-blog-posts/

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10 Amazon Packaging Disasters That Defy Explanation

10 Amazon Packaging Disasters That Defy Explanation

Shopping on Amazon is so convenient, it's gotten to the point that I use it to buy obscenely mundane things just to avoid crossing the street. "Ugh, I need a roll of electrical tape." Click. Done. The dark side of this super-efficient e-commerce empire? Sometimes, the gear is shipped in boxes that don't exactly make sense for the merchandise inside of them.

Depending on who you ask, these mishaps occur for a number of reasons?either because of computer errors, because the packaging center ran out of a smaller boxes, or because bigger boxes are less likely to get lost. Either way, the ensuing packaging hijinks are hilarious?check out ten of the best below.

Wusthof makes lovely knife products. But this knife steel isn't even sharp?so was it really necessary to send it in this box?

10 Amazon Packaging Disasters That Defy Explanation


Here's another knife-related snafu.

10 Amazon Packaging Disasters That Defy Explanation

Image via Reddit user Slippy13.


This box, containing shaving tools, could use a shave itself.

10 Amazon Packaging Disasters That Defy Explanation


This person made the discerning decision to purchase the Beatles box set mixed in mono instead of stereo. Someone (or something) made the wrong decision about what box to ship it in.

10 Amazon Packaging Disasters That Defy Explanation


I'm not even sure what this is. But really?

10 Amazon Packaging Disasters That Defy Explanation


This could've easily fit into an envelope.

10 Amazon Packaging Disasters That Defy Explanation


The packaging probably weighed more than the product, in this case.

10 Amazon Packaging Disasters That Defy Explanation


But, you know, the more I look at these boxes containing incredibly easily-procured items that I want to order overnight...

10 Amazon Packaging Disasters That Defy Explanation


...the more I wonder if it's me that's being lazy.

10 Amazon Packaging Disasters That Defy Explanation


Though, really, does a battery this small need all of this?

10 Amazon Packaging Disasters That Defy Explanation

Image via Reddit.

Source: http://gizmodo.com/10-amazon-packaging-disasters-that-defy-explanation-5994685

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Saturday, June 22, 2013

Windows 8 Music update brings in-app searching, login-free trial streaming

Music on Windows 8 update brings in-app searching, login-free trial listening

Believe it or not, the Music app in Windows 8 hasn't let users easily search for music from within the app itself -- they've had to search using OS-level tools. Microsoft is mending that gap in logic with the June update to its built-in jukebox software. The media play now lets you search for songs on both your PC and Xbox Music through an in-app button. And if you don't have any local tunes, you won't have to sign in to start listening -- Music now lets you stream 15 tracks through Xbox Music's ad-supported free tier without using an account. While there aren't other big upgrades to the app, what's here is enough to justify a trip to the Windows Store for the new version.

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Source: Windows Experience Blog

Source: http://feeds.engadget.com/~r/weblogsinc/engadget/~3/WDtYv0qHso8/

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Friday, June 21, 2013

Dumb and Dumber Sequel: Happening!

Source: http://www.thehollywoodgossip.com/2013/06/dumb-and-dumber-sequel-happening/

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Google ordered by French regulators to revamp privacy policy or face fines

Google ordered by French regulators to revamp privacy policies or face fines

Google has been under the gun has been under the gun in the EU for a while now about its privacy policies, particularly in France, which is fairly hardcore about such matters. In fact, the nation's CNIL computer watchdog has just ordered Mountain View to change its practices or face an initial maximum fine of €150,000 (around $200,000), followed by a penalty of up to €300,000 for further non-compliance. Google has just three months to fall in line, and the French regulator's ruling could just be the beginning: it investigated the search giant at the EU parliament's behest, meaning nations like Italy, Spain and the UK could follow suit. For its part, Google -- which is no doubt very sensitive to such matters at the moment thanks to the NSA saga -- said it "respects European law" and will continue to work with French and EU authorities on the matter.

Filed under: ,

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Source: Reuters

Source: http://www.engadget.com/2013/06/20/google-ordered-by-french-regulators-to-revamp-privacy-policy/?utm_medium=feed&utm_source=Feed_Classic&utm_campaign=Engadget

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Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Obama: Spying Programs 'Transparent' (ABC News)

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Source: http://news.feedzilla.com/en_us/stories/politics/top-stories/313404989?client_source=feed&format=rss

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Hoffa mystery still fascinates after 4 decades

Law enforcement officials from the Michigan State Police help search the area in Oakland Township, Mich., Tuesday, June 18, 2013 where officials continue the search for the remains of Teamsters union president Jimmy Hoffa who disappeared from a Detroit-area restaurant in 1975. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

Law enforcement officials from the Michigan State Police help search the area in Oakland Township, Mich., Tuesday, June 18, 2013 where officials continue the search for the remains of Teamsters union president Jimmy Hoffa who disappeared from a Detroit-area restaurant in 1975. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

Members of an FBI evidence response team look over an area being cleared in Oakland Township, Mich., Tuesday, June 18, 2013 where officials continue the search for the remains of Teamsters union president Jimmy Hoffa, who disappeared from a Detroit-area restaurant in 1975. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

Law enforcement officials from the Michigan State Police help search the area in Oakland Township, Mich., Tuesday, June 18, 2013 where officials continue the search for the remains of Teamsters union president Jimmy Hoffa who disappeared from a Detroit-area restaurant in 1975. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

FILE - In this Sept. 30, 1957 file photo, Jimmy Hoffa, Teamsters vice president and leading candidate to succeed Dave Beck as the IBT's new president, waves to delegates at the opening of the Teamsters Union convention at Miami Beach, Fla. Hoffa?s mysterious disappearance, assumed death and myriad searches for his body have been the stuff of urban legends for more than three decades and continue with the most recent report that the former Teamsters chief?s remains are buried beneath a concrete slab in a barn in a field in suburban Detroit. (AP Photo/File)

FILE - In this June 3, 1974 file photograph, teamsters president Jimmy Hoffa is shown in Washington. The Teamsters leader was last seen in July 1975 at a restaurant in Oakland County's Bloomfield Township in Michigan. Federal agents revived the hunt for the remains of Jimmy Hoffa on Monday June 17, 2013, digging around in a suburban Detroit field where a reputed Mafia captain says the Teamsters boss' body was buried. (AP Photo, File)

(AP) ? The latest possible resting place of Teamsters boss Jimmy Hoffa is an overgrown farm field where the normal calm of chirping crickets is being drowned out by a beeping backhoe, the chop of an overhead news helicopter and the bustle of reporters and onlookers.

Over nearly four decades, authorities have pursued multiple leads into Hoffa's death that yielded nothing. Yet the mystery endures, fueled by a public fascination with mobsters and murder.

"It's one of those things you've always heard about," said Niki Grifka, who, at 37, was just an infant when Hoffa vanished.

Over the past day and a half, Grifka and a few dozen other Oakland Township residents gathered a couple of hundred yards from where FBI agents wearing hard hats and carrying shovels sifted through about a half-acre of red dirt for the remains of a man who became as large in death as he was leading one of America's most powerful labor unions.

Hoffa's rise in the Teamsters, his 1964 conviction for jury tampering and his presumed murder are Detroit's link to a time when organized crime, public corruption and mob hits held the nation's attention.

Hoffa was last seen July 30, 1975, outside an Oakland County restaurant where he was supposed to meet with a New Jersey Teamsters boss and a Detroit Mafia captain. His body has never been found.

But over the years, authorities have received various tips, leading the FBI to possible burial sites near and far.

In 2003, a backyard swimming pool was dug up 90 miles northwest of Detroit. Seven years ago, a tip from an ailing federal inmate led to a two-week search and excavation at a horse farm in the same region. Last year, soil samples were taken from under a concrete slab garage floor north of the city. And detectives even pulled up floorboards from a Detroit house.

No evidence of Hoffa was found.

Other theories have suggested he was entombed in concrete at Giants Stadium in New Jersey, ground up and thrown in a Florida swamp or obliterated in a mob-owned fat-rendering plant.

Detroit's long tradition of organized labor and auto manufacturing means the Hoffa saga still resonates with countless Michigan families.

"Everyone has a connection with Hoffa and the unions," said 47-year-old George Newton, of Oakland County's Rochester. "I was in high school when he got abducted, and my grandfather was in the union."

To Newton, it would be exciting if Hoffa's remains are finally found, but he doubts that ever will happen.

"I just think it's a tightly held secret," Newton said. "I do want closure, first for Hoffa's family and, I think, in a way for Michigan."

The latest tip about Hoffa's remains came from a reputed Mafia captain Tony Zerilli, who, through his lawyer, said Hoffa was buried beneath a concrete slab in a barn in the Oakland Township field.

The barn is gone, but FBI agents pored over the field Tuesday for a second day. Forensic anthropologists from Michigan State University were bought in to help, along with state police dogs, which were led through the high grass in hopes that their sensitive noses might sniff out a clue.

Authorities suspended the search late Tuesday afternoon, but expected to resume their efforts Wednesday.

Zerilli, now 85, was in prison for organized crime when Hoffa disappeared. But he told New York TV station WNBC in January that he was informed about Hoffa's whereabouts after his release. His attorney, David Chasnick, said Zerilli is "intimately involved" with people who know where the body is buried.

Details are in a manuscript Zerilli is selling online, $7.99 for a mailed copy and $4.99 for an electronic version.

Zerilli's mob connections give his story more credibility than tips that spawned past searches, according to Keith Corbett, a former federal prosecutor.

"You have a witness who is in a position to know, who says he has specific information," Corbett said Monday.

"Anytime you look for somebody and don't find the body, it is embarrassing. The thing the public isn't aware of but police know is there are a lot of dead ends in an investigation."

Associated Press

Source: http://hosted2.ap.org/APDEFAULT/386c25518f464186bf7a2ac026580ce7/Article_2013-06-18-Hoffa%20Search/id-ee7509a397c249cbb9f2323bbfb2904d

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Sen. Cornyn Reveals Not One, Not Two, but Three Public Pensions Atop His Salary

Texas Republican John Cornyn supplemented his Senate salary with a trio of public pensions last year from his days as a Texas judge and elected official?a practice some fiscal watchdog groups have attacked as ?double dipping.?

Cornyn, who is the minority whip and the No. 2 ranking Republican in the Senate, reported collecting $65,383 in public retirement benefits in 2012 in addition to his $174,000 salary as a U.S. senator. ?

Cornyn?s office did not respond to requests for comment.

Elected to the Senate in 2002, Cornyn is a former district judge, Texas Supreme Court justice, and state attorney general. In 2012, he collected pensions from three separate state retirement programs.

The biggest of Cornyn?s pensions?$48,807? is from the Judicial Retirement System of Texas. He served on the state Supreme Court from 1991 to 1997.

He reported another $10,132 in retirement benefits last year from the Employees Retirement System of Texas?the pension fund for state elected officials and workers. Cornyn served as Texas attorney general from 1999 to 2002.

In a series of financial-disclosure amendments that he began filing last July, Cornyn disclosed that he had actually been collecting that $10,132 annual pension as far back as 2006. He had not listed it on his original disclosure reports from 2006 to 2010.

Cornyn also reported a $6,444 retirement distribution from the Texas County and District Retirement System. He was a state district judge from 1985 to 1989, according to his official bio, when the governor appointed him presiding judge for the Fourth Administrative Judicial Region of Texas, where he oversaw judicial administration for a 22-county region.

Cornyn, 61, is not the first or only prominent Texas Republican to draw both a public pension and a public salary. In December 2011, it was revealed that Texas Gov. Rick Perry was supplementing his $150,000 governor?s salary with a state pension of more than $92,000.

?I think it would be rather foolish to not access what you?ve earned,? Perry said in the midst of the 2012 presidential primary.

Cornyn, unlike Perry, is drawing his pensions and salary from different levels of government. His salary is supported by the federal government, while his pensions come from state and local government.

Cornyn is up for reelection in 2014.

Source: http://news.yahoo.com/sen-cornyn-reveals-not-one-not-two-three-151115404.html

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World looks to Bernanke to clarify stimulus plans

(AP) ? Is the era of ultra-low interest rates nearing an end?

That's the question ? and the fear ? Chairman Ben Bernanke will face this week when he takes questions after a Federal Reserve policy meeting.

Financial markets have been gyrating in the 3? weeks since Bernanke told Congress the Fed might scale back its effort to keep long-term rates at record lows within "the next few meetings"? earlier than many had assumed.

Bernanke cautioned that the Fed would slow its support only if it felt confident the job market would show sustained improvement. And earlier in the day, he said the Fed must take care not to prematurely reduce its stimulus for the still-subpar economy.

Yet investors were left puzzled and spooked by a mixed message. Fear spread that the Fed would soon slow its $85 billion-a-month in bond purchases. Those purchases have been intended to hold down long-term borrowing rates to spur spending. Many worried that a pullback in the bond purchases could boost long-term rates, trigger a stock selloff and perhaps weaken the economy.

On Wednesday, when the Fed ends a two-day policy meeting with a Bernanke news conference, the financial world will be looking to the chairman to settle the confusion. What, Bernanke will likely be asked, would show sustained improvement in the job market? And when will the Fed most likely slow the pace of its bond purchases?

Last month, the U.S. economy added a solid 175,000 jobs. But the unemployment rate was 7.6 percent. Economists tend to regard the job market as healthy when unemployment is between 5 percent and 6 percent.

Since Bernanke's vague public comments May 22, the Dow Jones industrial average has fluctuated sharply and shed about 3 percent of its value. But the bigger shock has been in the bond market. The rate on the benchmark 10-year Treasury has jumped from a low of 1.63 percent in early May to 2.13 percent.

Higher rates ripple through the economy by making mortgages and other loans costlier. The average rate on the 30-year fixed mortgage, which tends to track the 10-year Treasury yield, reached 3.98 percent last week, according to Freddie Mac. That's its highest level since April 2012.

Just as cheap mortgages have helped feed a housing recovery, higher rates might slow it. Refinancings have declined since Bernanke's comments led to higher mortgage rates: Refinancings are 36 percent below their recent peak at the start of May, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association.

Compounding the confusion stirred by Bernanke's remarks have been comments from other members of the Fed's policy committee. Minutes of the previous meeting suggest a sharp division: Some, like Bernanke, still stress the need to fight high unemployment with low rates. Others warn that rates kept too low for too long raise the risk of high inflation and financial instability later.

The Fed's investment purchases have swollen its portfolio to $3.4 trillion ? a four-fold increase since before the 2008 financial crisis. Eventually, the Fed will need to gradually sell its portfolio. Doing so would likely lead to higher rates. Yet some think it would also defuse some risks to the financial system.

Alan Greenspan, who preceded Bernanke as Fed chairman for nearly two decades, said in a recent interview on CNBC, "The sooner we come to grips with this excessive level of assets on the balance sheet of the Federal Reserve ? that everybody agrees is excessive ? the better."

Economists say Bernanke will seek to clarify the Fed's message Wednesday. Yet they're unsure what he'll say.

Some think he could spell out the Fed's likely timetable for curtailing its bond purchases. The earliest the Fed is expected to announce a pullback is at its September meeting ? and only then if unemployment has declined and the economy is growing faster than its current sluggish annual pace of around 2 percent.

Other analysts think the economy will not have recovered enough by September. They believe the earliest the Fed will reduce its stimulus is at its final meeting of the year in December. Until then, they think Bernanke will seek to reassure investors that the Fed will make sure the economy has strengthened before it acts.

"The Fed has worked very hard to get stock prices and home prices rising to help the economy, and I don't think they want to back away from that in any way," said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's Analytics. "I think Bernanke will deliver a strong message that the Fed is not going to taper until the job market is improving in a consistent way."

Some in this camp say the economy will continue to be held back by a Social Security tax increase that kicked in in January and by federal spending cuts that began taking effect March 1.

"There is nothing in the underlying economy that would suggest the Fed needs to change policy any time soon," said Brian Bethune, an economics professor at Gordon College in Massachusetts. "There is considerably slower growth on the radar screen and absolutely no inflation to worry about."

Indeed, the Fed's preferred gauge of inflation tied to consumer spending rose just 0.7 percent in the 12 months that ended in April? far below the Fed's 2 percent target.

Some think Bernanke will want to signal to investors on Wednesday that the Fed is moving toward at least the start of a reduced pace of bond purchases in the second half of the year. Sung Won Sohn, an economics professor at the Martin Smith School of Business at California State University, suggested one possible approach: The Fed could reduce its $85 billion a month in purchases to about $60 billion in September, then to about $35 billion early next year, then stop the purchases altogether by spring.

Even when the Fed stops buying bonds, it's expected to maintain its current holdings, which would continue to exert downward pressure on long-term rates.

Whatever guidance Bernanke offers Wednesday could help steady markets for a key reason: It will reduce uncertainty.

Margie Patel, a portfolio manager at Wells Fargo Capital Management, thinks investors will remain calm even after the Fed slows its stimulus. She noted that the economy has been improving, however gradually.

"There's no sector you can look at that's extremely dependent on the low rates for growth, even housing," she said. "If rates went up modestly, housing is still more affordable than it has been in years."

___

AP Business Writers Christina Rexrode and Matthew Craft in New York contributed to this report.

Associated Press

Source: http://hosted2.ap.org/APDEFAULT/f70471f764144b2fab526d39972d37b3/Article_2013-06-17-Federal%20Reserve%201st%20Ld-Writethru/id-3df1165f2f4441529fa90adab86996be

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