Whoever said video games are dorky and lacking in heart, shut your Doritos-flaked mouths. Just stow this link somewhere handy, pull out at the first moment your girlfriend rails about your man-child instincts never dying despite your being 35, and play it for her. Let that mustachioed troubadour croon on about Mario Kart in ways that were never so gentle and cozy. Lean in and kiss her, and call her your Princess. See, all of a sudden you’re a hero who doesn’t lie around and play games all day long. At least for this small, magic moment.

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Quake III Arena mods…how we do love thee. This user-made Simpsons map, accurate to every incredible detail, is by far the best Simpsons game ever made. We felt somewhat disturbed by the happy theme music playing while stalking the Simpson’s home at shotgun-point, with no one at home…but then, midway through, various Springfield folks pop in ready for the shooting. The solitary serial-killer feeling vanishes, replaced by the joy only live fire can bring. After watching, click through to the genius creator’s MySpace page to download. Online, for Xbox 360, Christmas ’08? Surprise us, Santa.

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Dog Saves Dog

07Dec08

The Spanish language video “Dog saves road-injured dog,” uploaded to video service LiveLeak, features a dog saving an injured dog from the middle of a busy highway. The injured dog lay limp on the road after it had been struck by passing vehicles. The video shows another dog dragging the injured dog across the highway, resting the injured animal on the side of the road, out of harm’s way. The video concludes with the arrival of a highway service truck, led by the heroic dog to the scene of the injured.

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koobfaceFacebook’s 120 million users are being targeted by a virus dubbed “Koobface” that uses the social network’s messaging system to infect PCs, then tries to gather sensitive information such as credit card numbers.

It is the latest attack by hackers increasingly looking to prey on users of social networking sites.

“A few other viruses have tried to use Facebook in similar ways to propagate themselves,” Facebook spokesman Barry Schnitt said in an e-mail. He said a “very small percentage of users” had been affected by these viruses.

“It is on the rise, relative to other threats like e-mails,” said Craig Schmugar, a researcher with McAfee Inc.

Koobface spreads by sending notes to friends of someone whose PC has been infected. The messages, with subject headers like, “You look just awesome in this new movie,” direct recipients to a website where they are asked to download what it claims is an update of Adobe Systems Inc’s Flash player.

If they download the software, users end up with an infected computer, which then takes users to contaminated sites when they try to use search engines from Google, Yahoo, MSN and Live.com, according McAfee.

McAfee warned in a blog entry on Wednesday that its researchers had discovered that Koobface was making the rounds on Facebook.

Facebook requires senders of messages within the network to be members and hides user data from people who do not have accounts, said Chris Boyd, a researcher with FaceTime Security Labs. Because of that, users tend to be far less suspicious of messages they receive in the network.

“People tend to let their guard down. They think you’ve got to log in with an account, so there is no way that worms and other viruses could infect them,” Boyd said.

Social network MySpace, owned by News Corp, was hit by a version of Koobface in August and used security technology to eradicate it, according to a company spokeswoman. The virus has not cropped up since then, she said.

Privately held Facebook has told members to delete contaminated e-mails and has posted directions at http://www.facebook.com/security on how to clean infected computers.

Richard Larmer, chief executive of RLM Public Relations in New York, said he threw out his PC after it became infected by Koobface, which downloaded malicious software onto his PC. It was really bad. It destroyed my computer,” he said.

McAfee has not yet identified the perpetrators behind Koobface, who are improving the malicious software behind the virus in a bid to outsmart security at Facebook and MySpace.

“The people behind it are updating it, refining it, adding new functionalities,” said McAfee’s Schmugar.

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ceoGulf Oil CEO Joe Petrowski said on Wednesday that the price of oil could sink to $20 per barrel, and there is a chance gasoline prices could drop as low as $1 per gallon by early next year.

Speaking at a South Shore Chamber of Commerce breakfast at Lombardo’s in Randolph, the Brockton native said that after speculators drove oil prices up, there is a chance that the market will overshoot on the way back down, resulting in much lower prices at the pump.

Gas prices have already sunk fairly rapidly this fall, reaching a statewide average of $1.85 for a gallon of regular-grade gasoline this week, following a plunge in crude oil prices.

Gulf Oil, which is based in Newton, is not an oil producer. Gulf stopped producing oil in 1986 and stopped refining oil in 1992, according to Petrowski. He said the company is a “fuel agnostic” wholesaler, and will sell whichever fuels customers and distributors demand.

Though he said the company benefits from lower energy prices, he said he believes the price of oil should range from $40 to $60 per barrel, depending on economic activity, in order to keep pace with inflation.

Petrowski said that policymakers should make low-cost energy a goal by investing in alternative energy sources, increasing domestic oil reserves, and diversifying the foreign origins of oil so as to be less dependent on unfriendly countries.

While he said he believes global warming is a danger, Petrowski is not sure there is as much of a correlation between carbon and global warming as some environmentalists claim.

“Carbon is our greatest threat – there’s another myth,” he said. “I do think economic devastation and reliance on foreign supplies of oil (are).”

Since gas prices peaked in July, Petrowski said some people have resumed driving habits that they avoided when gasoline was $4 a gallon in the summer. But he said he hopes that the motivation to create alternative energy sources will not be lost.

Gulf opened its first E85 ethanol fueling station at Logan Airport in October – just as gasoline prices sank and the demand for ethanol decreased. “Ethanol’s not a great business right now, but it will be,” Petrowski said.

He said that cellulosic ethanol will eventually replace corn-based ethanol, and that he thinks the U.S. should eventually get rid of the import tax on ethanol from places like Brazil.

Petrowski said that New England’s energy future is bright, with research and development going on at local universities as well as access to gasoline from refineries in Canada, the mid-Atlantic region, the Caribbean and Europe. “We’re no longer at the end of the pipe,” he said.

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The first pictures of burned-out rooms at a luxury Mumbai hotel where terrorists were holed up for three days were released today after the siege ended.

The shocking images emerged after crack troops killed the remaining three insurgents at the five-star Taj Mahal after a fierce one-hour gun battle.

At least 195 people were killed in a series of ten coordinated attacks which began on Wednesday – but the death toll is likely to rise much further.

Mumbai
Burned out: Wreckage inside the Taj Mahal hotel after the Mumbai siege ended

Elite National Security Guard commandos said they discovered 30 bodies in a single room after storming the Taj Mahal hotel at 7.30am.

Authorities said that nine of the ten terrorists who arrived in India’s financial capital by boat . One was captured during the intense standoff.

The revelation comes after claims that up to seven of the 10 Islamic militants could have been British.

Explosions continued rock the 565-room hotel hours after it was relieved as troops detonated bombs left by the terrorists.

Taj Mahal hotel

Search: The grim task of looking for bodies in the 565 rooms began today

Firefighters were also sent in to put out raging flames on the outside of the 105-year-old building.

Announcing the siege was over, J.K. Dutt, director general of National Security Guard said: ‘There were three terrorists, we have killed them.’

Soldiers have also begun the grim task up searching for bodies in the Taj Mahal.

No Britons are thought to be among the 100 guests in the hotel when the siege began, but the Foreign Office today said they couldn’t rule it out.

But one Briton and 14 other foreigners were among those killed elsewhere in the city.

Taj Mahal hotel

Destruction: The Taj Mahal’s lobby has debris strewn across its marble floor

Last night some reports claimed that as many as seven of the group of terrorists had British connections, with several supposedly having links to Bradford, West Yorkshire.

German MEP Erika Mann, who was part of a delegation from Brussels caught up in the attacks, said she had been told there was a ‘European dimension’ and that ‘English citizens’ were among the insurgents.

There were also reports that the terrorists checked British news websites on their mobile phones during the attacks.

Gordon Brown urged caution, saying Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had made no mention of any British link when they spoke yesterday.

Taj Mahal hotel

Cover: Soldiers in sniper positions as a gun battle rages inside the Taj Mahal Hotel

But he added: ‘There is so much information still to be discovered. Obviously, where you have terrorists operating in one country they may be getting support from another country or coming from another country.’

The meticulous planning of the Mumbai attacks has been compared with the 2005 London bombings which left 52 people dead.

These were carried out by Britons of Pakistani origin, two of whom had trained in camps in Pakistan’s lawless tribal area.

Investigators are also looking into possible links between the Mumbai terrorists and Rashid Rauf, from Birmingham.

Mumbai
Relief: An army officer, left, congratulates an elite National Security Guard commando after they killed the remaining three terrorists in Mumbai

Rauf is said to have been a key figure in a plot to blow up planes leaving Heathrow.

He is reported to have died last week in an American missile strike.

The other major development of the day was that masked commandos ended the siege at the luxury Oberoi Hotel, freeing dozens of hostages.

One soldier described stepping over dozens of bodies in darkened corridors slick with blood.

He said: ‘The gunmen showed no remorse to anybody – whoever came in front of them they fired at.’

He added that the Oberoi was filled with terrified guests, making the task even harder.

A baby is carried to safety

Freed: A baby is carried to safety

He said the troops played a game of cat and mouse through the hotel’s rooms, with the terrorists moving skilfully from place to place, often switching off lights and plunging rooms into darkness.

British hostage Mark Abell, 51, a lawyer, described the scene of carnage when he was led through the Oberoi’s lobby to safety.

‘There was blood and guts everywhere,’ he said. ‘It was very upsetting.’

Fellow hostage Peter Worth told how some of the gunmen had smiled at one another while they sprayed hotel guests with bullets.

‘It was as if they were laughing and enjoying the fear as they tried to kill us,’ said the 32-year-old engineer, from Bristol.

Taj Mahal

Burning: Flames pour from the Taj Mahal hotel as troops move to rout the gunmen

Nearby, as darkness fell, shooting continued at the five-star Taj Hotel where up to six gunmen were said to be holed up.

Throughout the day, commandos had fought a running battle with the besieged gunmen. They had abseiled from helicopters on to the roof the hotel at daybreak.

A series of explosions rocked the building and Indian commandos blew giant holes in the walls of the landmark building using grenades.

CNN reported the government had cut off their live transmissions from the scene in Mumbai.

Authorities have asked not to show live broadcasts of the battle because they believe the gunmen were monitoring the news. Most channels largely obliged.

At Nariman House, which houses a Jewish centre, a rabbi and his wife were among six civilians killed. Some of the victims had been bound.

Their deaths left their two-year-old son – who was smuggled out on Thursday – orphaned.

A little-known group called the Deccan Mujahideen has claimed responsibility for the well-planned operation.

A National Security Guards commando ropes down from a helicopter onto the roof of Nariman House
A National Security Guards commando ropes down from a helicopter onto the roof of Nariman House

The terrorists carried floor plans of the hotels as well as machine guns, grenades, AK-47s and plastic explosives.

They each had supplies of dried fruit and water and some carried satellite telephones and mobiles.

The militants were split into two groups – one responsible for the attacks in north Mumbai; the other for those in the south at the Jewish centre and the hotels.

Many senior Indian officials including the foreign minister Pranab Mukherjee have blamed ‘Pakistani elements’ for the attacks, and one captured gunman had already been identified as Pakistani.

The gunmen came to Mumbai in a hijacked boat.

Authorities stopped a cargo ship off the west coast of Gujarat that had sailed from Saudi Arabia and handed it over to police for investigation.

British actor Joey Jeetun survived an attack on the Leopold Cafe by playing dead
Joey Jeetun speaks to journalists at Heathrow Airport after returning from Mumbai

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About three weeks ago, Facebook and Twitter ended several weeks of serious talks, in which Facebook was offering to acquire Twitter for $500 million of its stock, which also included a cash component.

While rumors of Facebook’s interest were brought up in an interview with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg at the Web 2.0 Summit a few weeks ago, some shot down the idea as silly.

Quite incorrectly, as it turns out, since top execs at both Facebook and Twitter were right then at the tail end of discussions, which were initiated by the privately held Facebook in mid-October, about bringing the two together.

Those talks, sources on both sides said, are now over.

So why did the deal break down?

Well, as is usually the case, over price–was $500 million worth of Facebook stock actually worth $500 million?–and the typical concerns about integration and costs.

But, more important, it seems, was a feeling among Twitter investors and execs that the start-up should still take a shot at building its revenues–there are none right now–as well as it had done at building its growth.

“It’s more about timing,” said one person familiar with Twitter’s motivations. “There is a strong feeling that there is still an opportunity–even with the economic downturn–to blow this thing out.”

Still, combining the world’s fastest-growing social-networking site with what is quickly becoming the best-known microblogging service is actually a natural fit.

That’s especially true given that Facebook–for all its powerful online social connections–has seen Twitter race past it in innovating in the “status update” arena.

While some sources at Facebook said Zuckerberg was becoming frustrated by the buzz Twitter was getting–a market that should have been dominated by Facebook–others at the company said he was interested in buying Twitter because of his respect for its progress.

Indeed, at the Web 2.0 interview, Zuckerberg called Twitter an “elegant model” and said that he was “really impressed by what they’ve done.”

Indeed, with about six million registrations, as reported in October, up 600 percent over the last year, the San Francisco-based Twitter–launched in 2006–has had impressive growth.

(It has also been plagued by technical issues, which are–to be fair–decreasing.)

In any case, for those not familiar with it, the premise of Twitter is dead simple: A registered user logs in via the Internet or a mobile phone and answers the “What are you doing?” question the service asks in only 140 characters or fewer.

It’s quite a clever idea, although–so far–not a money-making one.

To try to goose that, Twitter’s board replaced the engineer who created Twitter, Jack Dorsey, with another founder, Evan Williams, who had served as its chairman and chief product officer.

The more experienced Williams (pictured here) had already built one company–Pyra Labs, which created the Blogger blogging service–that he sold to Google in 2003. He also started the audio and video search site Odeo, where Twitter was actually born.

Still, its investors have not come down on Twitter to hold back its growth efforts, and have handed over $20 million to the start-up so far. In its last round, Twitter was valued at $98 million.

Its funders include: Union Square Ventures, Charles River Ventures, Digital Garage, Spark Capital and Bezos Expeditions, backed by Amazon Founder and CEO Jeff Bezos.

In addition, well-known Silicon Valley figures, such as Marc Andreessen and Ron Conway, have also invested. Interestingly,Andreessen is also on Facebook’s board.

Other private investors include FeedBurner Co-Founder (and now Googler) Dick Costolo, former Epinions Co-Founder Naval Ravikant and former Googler Chris Sacca.

Twitter needs all the investors it can get, since it has no revenue, although it has been exploring things like charging business customers and adding advertising into the consumer service.

Lack of revenues was an issue for Facebook, said sources, especially related to fees Twitter pays for delivery of its messages to cellphones.

While the issue has been manageable in the U.S., Twitter cut off its SMS support in some international markets this summer because of too-high costs.

But, if Twitter was offered to Facebook’s 120 million users, Facebook execs estimated that it might have to deal with huge SMS fees–up to $75 million annually.

“Facebook has its own revenue-generating challenges,” said one person close to the company. “As much as Twitter would give them a lift in the status area, it was still a worry.”

Not enough, said several sources, to stop Facebook from making another approach at some point in the future. “We’d hate to see Twitter go to another company,” said one source.

Indeed, while all are even more price-conscious than Facebook, large companies that could also be interested include: Google (GOOG), Yahoo (YHOO), Microsoft (MSFT) or a large telecom company, such as Verizon (VZ).

If it had completed the deal to buy Twitter, it would have been Facebook’s most significant acquisition by far.

Zuckerberg and Williams did meet and get along well, but the deal was primarily negotiated by Spark Capital partner Bijan Sabet (Spark is a Twitter investor) and Facebook deal guy Dan Rose.

But in this time, at least, the Twitter side was still not interested in selling at the price Facebook had offered.

The $500 million offered was in an all-stock form, said sources on both sides, at the $15 billion valuation that came from the Microsoft’s investment in the company last October.

The Twitter side felt that figure was inflated and the shares should be valued at the lower figures that have also been reported for Facebook’s true valuation, more in the $5 billion range.

That would have given the deal a $150 million price tag, which was seen as too low, especially since it was in Facebook stock and not cash initially.

In fact, Twitter wanted cash, which some sources say was offered by Facebook in the $50 to $100 million range, in addition to stock, but taking too much stock was still a major issue.

There are other ways the pair could have approximated a safer choice for Twitter, via warrants, of course, or other methods.

But, said several sources close to Twitter, the primary reason for not selling was because its board simply did not want to yet or perhaps ever.

Said one source: “The question is, is it really a good idea to sell on the first chance you get?”

Well, for Twitter, we’ll just have to wait and see about that, of course.

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