TPM News

Computer game skills could help save lives, and not just virtual ones.

As fanciful as it may sound at first, gamers on Foldit, a crowdsourced, online protein folding simulator from the University of Washington, actually managed to solve a longstanding problem in AIDS research that has vexed scientists for more than a decade. And they did so in about 10 days.

Three players in particular were able to build upon each other to establish the most accurate model to date of an elusive protease enzyme in the AIDS-like Mason-Pfizer monkey virus.

"People have spatial reasoning skills, something computers are not yet good at," said Seth Cooper, co-creator of Foldit and a researcher at UW Department of Computing Science and Engineering, in a statement. "Games provide a framework for bringing together the strengths of computers and humans."

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Updated 5:25 pm ET, Tuesday, September 20 Yahoo email users hoping to spread the word of the Occupy Wall Street protests ran into an unforseen obstacle on Tuesday when their messages containing links to the website occupywallst.org were blocked from being sent because an online filter deemed them "suspicious activity."

Although several Yahoo users and media outlets jumped to the conclusion that Yahoo was deliberately censoring the emails due on the basis of the anti-establishment content, the company quickly responded via Twitter, saying that "It was not intentional & caught by our spam filters. It is resolved, but may be a residual delay."

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Updated: Sept. 20, 2011, 5:33 p.m.

Get ready for another podium at this Thursday's Republican presidential debate on Fox News, with Gary Johnson reportedly set to be admitted onto the stage after many months of being left out.

Howard Kurtz at the Daily Beast reports: "The former New Mexico governor won the right to participate, according to Fox sources, by cracking 1 percent in the latest five national polls in which he was included--Fox News, CNN, McClatchy-Marist, ABC, and Quinnipiac--which was the criterion the network had set for inclusion."

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Update 7:13 pm ET, Tuesday, September 20 Solyndra CEO Brian Harrison and CFO W.G. Stover will plead the Fifth Amendment and refuse to answer any and all questions put to them at a congressional hearing into the solar panel company's collapse on Friday, Reuters reports, citing letters obtained from Solyndra attorneys.

The two executives are still expected to appear before the House Energy and Commerce's Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, which has since February been investigating the Department of Energy's decision to grant Solyndra a $535 million loan guarantee back in 2009.

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Updated: Sept. 20, 2011, 5:01PM

About 175 mostly wheelchair-bound protesters took to Capitol Hill on Tuesday to protest cuts to Medicaid in deficit reduction proposals.

The protest, organized by the disability group ADAPT, started in the Hart Senate Office Building and proceeded down Constitution Ave. to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

The GOP proposal would reduce federal spending on Medicaid by $1.4 trillion from 2012 to 2021. Obama's plan would reduce federal Medicaid spending $66 billion.

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Rick Santorum took his well-known Google problem to the next level Tuesday, telling Politico that he's reached out to the search giant to have his results cleared up and accusing the company of ignoring him for political reasons.

"I suspect if something was up there like that about Joe Biden, they'd get rid of it," Santorum told Politico. "If you're a responsible business, you don't let things like that happen in your business that have an impact on the country."

There's just one problem with Santorum's new line on Google, one search engine expert tells TPM -- it's utter garbage.

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Corrected: September 20, 2011 4:45PM

A new survey of Texas from Public Policy Polling (D) finds that the state's voters do not actually like Gov. Rick Perry, who is now a leading candidate for the Republican nomination for president -- but they like President Obama even less, and as a result Perry would be favored to carry the state in the general election.

The numbers: Perry 51%, Obama 44%. In the previous PPP survey from late June, before Perry was an actual candidate, Obama edged him by 47%-45% -- and what's more, a 59%-33% majority did not want Perry to even run for president. But now that he's actually in the race, things appear to have changed.

Perry's approval rating as governor in the new poll is only 45%, to 48% disapproval. However, Obama's approval rating as president is even lower, at 40%-55%.

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A federal judge rebuffed the Justice Department's attempt to send Kevin Ring, the lobbyist affiliated with Jack Abramoff convicted of bribing public officials, to jail for 17 years, ruling federal prosecutors can't punish him for fighting the charges against him at trial.

Instead of the 17-22 year sentence the government wanted to impose, Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle ruled that Ring will face 46 to 57 months in jail when he's sentenced on Oct. 26.

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