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The European continent is having its first taste of President and Michelle Obama: The pair arrived in the French city of Strasbourg this morning, which is co-hosting a two-day NATO conference with the neighboring German city of Kehl. Obama is scheduled for one-on-one meetings with French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel before the conference. At the conference, he will push allies to pledge more NATO troops to Afghanistan. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told The Times of London that NATO allies need to “take a hard look at what they believe is their highest and best contribution”. She added, “We’ll begin talking in specifics at the NATO summit in Strasbourg.”

SOURCES: The Daily Beast, The London Times

Even though Nicolas Sarkozy makes me cringe sometimes, his ex-supermodel wife Carla Bruni makes me smile.  But despite her disarmingly beautiful looks, I must admit that the first thing that caught my eye in the picture above was Mrs. Obama. 

Nevertheless, the two ladies in the middle of that photo create a beautifully neutralizing effect to what would’ve could’ve been an awkward photo given Sarkozy and President Obama’s recent disagreements.

More photos below and after the jump.

—Travers

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The most recent Gallup Poll indicates that Americans’ favorability rating of Michelle Obama is even higher than her husband’s.  According to the March 27-29 poll, the First Lady barely edges the President out with her 72% rating to his 69% rating. (Both of which are particularly high).

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Now, it’s not at all uncommon for the First Lady to have a higher favorability rating than the President.  In fact, while they were in the White House, both Laura Bush and Hillary Clinton were more popular than their husbands.  But what makes Mrs. Obama’s rating especially interesting is how far she’s come in the minds of the American people.  At one point during the presidential campaign people thought that she might actually be a hinderance to her husband being elected.  Check out the graph below to see how her favorability has progressed:

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It should also be noted that Presidential Favorability is different than Presidential Job Approval—favorability is likability, job approval is quite literal.  Either way, the Prez is doing well right now as has consistently ranked in the low 60s in the daily Gallup job approval poll since he took office. 

Thoughts?

 More pics of the Obama’s first trip to Europe after the jump.

—Travers

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If you went to www.Google.com today to search for anything, you probably noticed an announcement just below the search bar that read Introducing CADIE: a singular upgrade to your online life.”   If you proceeded to click on the link, you were probably thinking “WTF?!?” But don’t worry, it was just the April Fool’s Day prank that Google pulls every year.  Read this year’s below:

Cognitive Autoheuristic Distributed-Intelligence Entity

Announcement
March 31st, 2009 11:59:59 pm

Introducing CADIE

Research group switches on world’s first “artificial intelligence” tasked-array system.

For several years now a small research group has been working on some challenging problems in the areas of neural networking, natural language and autonomous problem-solving. Last fall this group achieved a significant breakthrough: a powerful new technique for solving reinforcement learning problems, resulting in the first functional global-scale neuro-evolutionary learning cluster.

Since then progress has been rapid, and tonight we’re pleased to announce that just moments ago, the world’s first Cognitive Autoheuristic Distributed-Intelligence Entity (CADIE) was switched on and began performing some initial functions. It’s an exciting moment that we’re determined to build upon by coming to understand more fully what CADIE’s emergence might mean, for Google and for our users. So although CADIE technology will be rolled out with the caution befitting any advance of this magnitude, in the months to come users can expect to notice her influence on various google.com properties. Earlier today, for instance, CADIE deduced from a quick scan of the visual segment of the social web a set of online design principles from which she derived this intriguing homepage.

These are merely the first steps onto what will doubtless prove a long and difficult road. Considerable bugs remain in CADIE’S programming, and considerable development clearly is called for. But we can’t imagine a more important journey for Google to have undertaken.

For more information about CADIE see this monograph, and follow CADIE’s progress via her YouTube channel and blog.

Did you fall for it? 

—-Travers

iSkype

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Skype, the Internet telephone unit of eBay Inc, is planning to launch its service for iPhone users on Tuesday and for BlackBerry in May as part of its effort to expand beyond desktop computers.

Skype has been pushing to make its service work on the most popular advanced phones with an aim to expending its more than 400 million users who were mostly lured by the promise of cheap and sometimes free calls made using its computer application.

Skype Chief Operating Officer Scott Durchslag said he has high hopes for the application’s success on Apple Inc’s popular iPhone as he expects Skype’s most feature-rich mobile offering to appeal to new and existing customers.

“The No. 1 request we get from customers is to make Skype available on iPhone. There’s a pent-up demand,” Durchslag said in an interview before the CTIA annual mobile showcase in Las Vegas, where Skype plans to launch the service on Tuesday.

In May it will launch Skype for Research In Motion’s BlackBerry devices, which popularized mobile email. It has already announced Skype for Nokia phones and for phones based on Android, Google Inc’s mobile system, and Windows Mobile, from Microsoft Corp.

CCS Insight analyst Ben Wood said the new applications give Skype a chance to boost its mobile phone position, which has been weaker than that of social sites such as Facebook, Twitter or News Corp’s MySpace.

One of Skype’s unusual iPhone features is the fact that it allows subscribers use to the phone numbers in their existing iPhone address book so they do not need duplicate lists.

“Whether you’re Twitter, MySpace or Facebook you want to be embedded in the address book,” said Wood. “This puts Skype firmly into the game.”

Skype’s iPhone application will be free to download and will allow free calls between Skype users. As with Skype on the desktop, fees will be charged for calls to traditional phones.

The service will also work on later versions of Apple’s latest iPod Touch device, which has Wi-Fi links but no cellular connection. The iPod Touch launched September 2008 has a microphone, unlike the first iPod Touch launched in 2007.

SOURCE: Reuters

This. Is. Brilliant!!!! 

—-Travers

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CAMPUS PROGRESS WRITING FELLOWSHIP

Campus Progress is currently looking for its first-ever writing fellow. The fellow will be responsible for writing/creating at least one piece a week, attending our weekly editorial meetings (in person or over the phone), and executing other various editorial and organizational tasks. The writing fellow will be asked to create written and multimedia pieces for our website. He or she will be required to work on at least two in-depth reported features during his/her time at Campus Progress.
After completing the program, fellows should have developed the clips, experience, and relationships to launch a career in journalism. The ideal candidate will be able to spend at least one day a week in our Washington, D.C. office (but this is not mandatory) and will have some experience working and/or interning at a college or professional publication. He or she should be self motivated, eager to report stories, and comfortable working at a rapidly changing new-media outlet. Because this position is new, the candidate should be flexible and open to direction and change.

The fellow will be asked to make a one-year commitment. He or she will receive a $6,000 stipend over the course of the year for his/her work. Because this is a part-time, contract position, hours will be very flexible.

To apply, please send resume and clips to Rob Anderson atranderson@americanprogress.org. Please also answer the following questions:

-What interests you about this opportunity? (500 words max)

-Why are you uniquely qualified for this position? (500 words max)

-Please provide three ideas for long-form reported pieces for our website. For each, please explain how your idea is new/important, who you would interview, and why you believe this would interest Campus Progress’ audience.

-Please provide two ideas for a non-traditional feature (i.e., not an article, but a slideshow, interactive graph/timeline, video, etc.) that you could create with the help of our multimedia team. You can find some examples here.

SOURCE: Campus Progress

This is a wonderful opportunity for any young person who is serious about journalism and/or progressive policy.  The only information that I have about this fellowship is what I posted above, so if you want any additional details (i.e. eligibility, deadlines, etc.) you should contact Rob Anderson at the email address listed above.

And as always, if you’re not interested, pass this info on to someone who might be.

Good luck!

—-Travers

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ESSENCE MAGAZINE OPEN CASTING CALL

We are looking for women to appear in ESSENCE magazine’s annual denim makeover fashion feature.

If you have a problem finding the perfect pair of jeans to fit your body we want to see you.

WHEN: Tuesday, March 31, 2009

TIME: 6 PM to 9 PM

WHERE: ESSENCE MAGAZINE
135 West 50th Street
(between 6th and 7th Avenue)
4th Floor
New York, City

AGES: 18 to 35

SIZES: 0 to 18

HEIGHT: 4″11 TO 6′

If this sounds like you, and you live in NYC (or can get here by tomorrow evening)—-RUN, DON’T WALK!

If not, as always, pass the link on to someone else who does want to get their Top Model on.

Good luck!

—-Travers

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I was saddened yesterday to hear of the death of Dr. John Hope Franklin, a great American historian.  The following is a brief, but fitting obituary via Gawker:

John Hope Franklin, the author of From Slavery to Freedom and possibly the greatest historian of the black American experience, died Wednesday at the age of 94. He lived well.

Franklin grew up in Oklahoma, and eventually made his way to Harvard and around the world as one of the leading scholars of America’s racial history. He wrote nearly 20 books, the most famous being the epic black history chronicle From Slavery to Freedom, called by one scholar “a landmark in the interpretation of American civilization.” If you go to college and take an African-American history class, you will read it.

He helped win the Brown v. Board of Education case. He went on to win the Medal of Freedom from Bill Clinton, and taught at Duke up to the end. RIP, John Hope.

Rest in peace, indeed.

For a more thorough obituary, CLICK HERE to read the one from The New York Times.

—-Travers