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Monday, October 13, 2008

AP: Airlines could save $10 billion a year with GPS

CHICAGO — A World War II-era air traffic network that often forces planes to take longer, zigzagging routes is costing U.S. airlines billions of dollars in wasted fuel while an upgrade to a satellite-based system has languished in the planning stages for more than a decade.

The $35 billion plan would replace the current radar system with the kind of GPS technology that has become commonplace in cars and cellphones. Supporters say it would triple air traffic capacity, reduce delays by at least half, improve safety and curb greenhouse gas emissions.

An Associated Press analysis of federal and industry data found that if the new system were already in place, airlines could have saved more than $5 billion in fuel this year alone.

But funding delays and the complexities of the switchover have kept the project grounded. The government does not expect to have it up and running until the early 2020s, and without a major commitment, supporters warn that even that goal might be not be attainable.

"The United States has been to the moon and back. I think the public deserves that same level of effort for our national airspace system," Robert Sturgell, the acting administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration, said in a recent interview.

The planned satellite-driven network, dubbed NextGen, would save fuel by ditching radar technology that is more than 50 years old and enabling GPS-equipped planes to fly the shortest route between two points: a straight line.

NextGen could save airlines at least 3.3 billion gallons of fuel a year — or more than $10 billion annually by 2025, based on today's fuel prices, according to FAA projections obtained by The Associated Press.

Currently, jetliners move in single-file lines along narrow highways in the sky marked by radio beacons. Many of the routes gently zigzag from one beacon to the next, sometimes forcing cross-country flights to follow sweeping arcs and waste hundreds of gallons of fuel.

It's "the equivalent of using an electric typewriter when others are using computers," said David Castelveter, a spokesman for the Air Transportation Association. "It's a huge, huge drag on productivity."

Some private and commercial aircraft already are equipped with GPS devices that pilots use to determine their position, but the NextGen system would dramatically expand use of the technology by creating a nationwide GPS network for air traffic.

Building the network involves gradually putting together the new system while still relying on radar for day-to-day operations.

Gerald Dillingham, director of civil aviation issues at the U.S. Government Accountability Office, likened the process "to changing a tire on a car that's going 60 miles an hour."

Hank Krakowski, the FAA's head of the air traffic system, called it "one of the largest project management challenges the federal government has had since we put somebody on the moon."

Airports also have to make improvements to accommodate the expected increase in air traffic.

U.S. airlines have struggled in recent years, in part because of rising fuel prices. Ten airlines have shut down and others are facing bankruptcy. Their financial troubles mean less-frequent flights and fewer amenities for air travelers, who must pay more for tickets, luggage, drinks — even pillows.

A report on NextGen released last month by the Government Accountability Office said major problems remained, including a lack of detail about just how the system would work and a shortage of the kind of highly skilled managers needed to see the project through.

Critics have said the Bush administration, while expressing support for a satellite-based system, never pushed hard enough for it.

"The next president needs to make the NextGen initiative a national priority and ensure that it is given the resources, management attention and sense of urgency that it warrants," said Rep. Bart Gordon, a Democrat from Tennessee and chairman of the House Science and Technology Committee.

Airlines are expected to contribute $15 billion toward the $35 billion project, and they must equip their fleets with GPS at a cost of more than $200,000 per plane.

But most carriers — which are otherwise enthusiastic about NextGen — are reluctant to retrofit planes years, maybe decades, before the satellite network is fully operational.

"It's like you buying a new car and the dealer saying, 'How would you like to buy this nifty GPS technology — but it won't be available in your area for years,'" Castelveter said.

The NextGen system could offer airlines a 10% savings in fuel costs per year. If the network were in place today, it would essentially pay for itself in just seven years.

GPS is already used in many parts of the aviation world. Many European countries, China and even Mongolia have established some GPS networks or plan to do so soon.

At least one major U.S. carrier, Southwest Airlines, says it's investing $175 million to equip 500 planes with GPS within a few years. That will allow pilots to fly more efficiently even before the full NextGen system is in place, including quicker landings that burn less fuel.

Getting each of its planes on the ground just one minute faster, Southwest says, would save $25 million in fuel a year.

The airline could wait until the new system is up and running, "but we're pouring gas down the drain," said Dan Gerrity, CEO of Naverus Inc., which is helping Southwest implement its GPS plans.

Cargo carrier UPS has also installed GPS gear on hundreds of aircraft for use at its Louisville, hub, saying the technology will save nearly a million gallons of fuel a year, as well as reduce noise and emissions by around 30%.

NextGen would also help airliners fly, land and takeoff closer together, minimizing delays. Even though the technology would allow more planes into the sky, the FAA and pilots agree that the technology would actually reduce the risk of accidents such as midair collisions and runway incursions.

NextGen would for the first time let flight crews view precisely where other aircraft are using a cockpit monitor. The current radar system takes more than 10 seconds to scan an area, so controllers keep aircraft separated by several miles as a precaution.

Most pilots see NextGen as the best hope for keeping flights on time. Rory Kay of the Air Line Pilots Association said the improved technology could also help relieve pilot fatigue by cutting the time planes wait on the ground.

Passenger groups generally support the project, even though they expect airlines to pass some costs onto customers.

"But we think it'll all be worth it in the long run," said David Stempler, president of the Air Travelers Association. "The alternatives look pretty bleak to us."

To the FAA's consternation, Congress has failed to pass a bill giving the agency permission to dip into the nation's aviation trust fund to spend nearly $6 billion on NextGen over the next five years.

Robert Poole, an aviation expert with the free market-oriented Reason Foundation, said some legislators are reluctant to vote for a satellite system that would make eliminate hundreds of jobs at radar stations in their districts.

Meanwhile, the air traffic controllers union, which is often at odds with FAA brass over labor issues, accuses the agency of seeing the whiz-bang satellite technology as a cure-all for aviation problems.

It says some of the millions of dollars earmarked for NextGen would be better spent maintaining the current system, citing an FAA computer glitch in August that delayed 650 flights at airports from Orlando to Chicago.

It's become fashionable, he added, to blame the radar system for aviation ills while ignoring other factors — such as overbooked flights and a lack of suitable airports and runways.

"GPS might be great to put in your car, too, but it's not going to get you to work any faster unless they open up another lane on the highway. And it's the same in the air," said Doug Church of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association.

Poole said the FAA has a track record of proposing dazzling-sounding projects, then failing to deliver.

He cites an FAA initiative called STARS, which was launched a decade ago to give controllers advanced, multicolored radar screens. The project missed deadlines, went hundreds of millions of dollars over budget and had to be scaled down.

Poole doesn't doubt NextGen's potential, but he's pessimistic about the prospects for rapid progress.

"I just think it's very unlikely to be done in anything like the time frame and the budget now projected," he said. "And that will be a tragedy for aviation."

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Robot Prototype Finds, Attacks and Kills Breast Cancer Cells

Here's one in the plus column for the looming robot uprising: a prototype developed by University of Maryland professor Jaydev Desai could one day diagnose, hunt, and destroy breast cancer cells all in one sitting, and in a much more efficient manner than we ham-handed human beings.

The beauty of this prototype is that it can work inside an MRI thanks to its titanium and stainless steel construction. Everything from biopsy, to diagnosis to cancer-hunting is all completed within the MRI, making for a convenient one stop trip for patients.

The robot kills cancer cells by way of a probe that is inserted into the breast until it reaches the tumor. The probe then burns the cells until they're all dead. Researchers say the robot, if successfully deployed into the medical field, could consolidate three months of hospital trips into a single visit. Better yet, the robot will also be able to access parts of the human body that human surgeons can't, although researchers didn't elaborate much on that point.

Unfortunately, the robot is a prototype, and trials are estimated at four years out, if they happen at all. "We're not just governed by technology," said said Rao Gullapalli, a collaborator on the robot from the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore. "We're governed by bureaucracy as well." [Diamondback Online via Slashdot]

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DIY, 100 MPG Car is Back on the Road After 20 Year Hiatus


Through the forums I learned about the interesting story of a two men who built a super-efficient car back in 1984 to combat high gas prices, only to pull it off the road again when prices became more manageable. The two, Craig Henderson and Bill Green, founded Avion in 1984 and then spent two years building a 100 MPG sports car, which they managed to eke 104 MPG out of in a South-North trip across the US in 1986.

After making the trip for less than $15 of diesel fuel, the two hoped to find a company interested in the design, but as the Bellingham Herald notes, that wasn’t the case:

Not only was the Avion painted in “arrest me for speeding red,” as Henderson likes to describe the color, but the lightweight car’s fuel efficiency couldn’t be beat.

He was wrong about the interest.

“Nobody really cared. Big deal. Fuel was cheap. There was a glut of fuel,” Henderson, 51, recalled earlier this week. “Fast forward to today. Things change, don’t they?”

This time around, the fuel crisis doesn’t look like it will have the same kind of wait-and-see solution it did in the past. No one thinks prices are going to drop again, and even bigger fears like global warming and dwindling petroleum supplies make the need for a long-lasting change even more salient.

That’s why Avion has jumped back into the game to compete for the Automotive X Prize and $10 million. Given that the goal of the competition is to break 100 MPG in a production-ready vehicle, I would say Avion is well on its way to taking top honors, though the competition is sure to be fierce.

As for the car itself, it’s designed as a sports car, combining sleek, fast looks with aerodynamics to turn heads both on the highway and at the pumps. It’s built around a Mercedes diesel engine, but a lot has changed in engines, especially diesels, since 1984, so I’m sure there are some changes to be made there. Best of all, it could be mass-produced for about $20,000.

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Berlin Announces Plans for World's Largest Community Electric Car Infrastructure

by Christine Lepisto, Berlin

Smart Car electric car being charged at Brandenburg Gate photo

On Friday, Chancellor Angela Merkel gave the green light to an ambitious infrastructure project, launching the world's largest community effort for climate-friendly electric cars. Electricity provider RWE will install 500 power-points, where electric cars can charge up. Daimler AGScryve Corporate Social Responsibility Rating and Smart are partnering in the project, which aims to have100 electric Smart Cars on the streets of Berlin by the end of 2009.

But the announcement has started a battle of images. Click over the fold to see what the project looks like from two perspectives.

Daimler image shows an electric Smart car under a wind mill photo

Image source: Daimler from Autokiste

Vision of a Green Transport Future
Of course, Daimler images show an electric Smart car under a tall windmill, emphasizing the potential for electric autos to run on eco-friendly power. The project is being supported by federal funds due to its value as a model for future eco-friendly infrastructure. Working together, the power company and the auto manufacturer have developed a unique built-in communications system that allows the electric car to automatically activate the billing at the intelligent charging point.

Greenpeace demonstrators shovel coal in front of a Smart car dressed to look like a pig photo

Image source: Greenpeace from Autokiste

Nightmare of Coal-powered Cars
In what may seem an ironic protest by a green organization against an apparently green initiative, Greenpeace's provocative counter-image emphasizes the point that the partnership for electric car infrastructure has not made any promise to deliver electricity only from renewable resources. In fact, Greenpeace argues, running a car on diesel is cleaner than an electric car powered by coal-burning power plants, which do dominate Germany's generation capacities.

But, every new path has to start somewhere. What do you think, dear readers? Should the green community welcome attempts to visualize and test new infrastructures for the paradigm change that must come, even if it means relying on the ultimately less ecological technology which is currently at hand? Or must each step along the path forward be optimized to ensure that no extra kilogram of carbon tips the climate's delicate balance? Will Berlin be the city of eco-Smart cars or simply energy pigs?

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Step-on scanner lets air passengers keep shoes on

LOD, Israel (Reuters) - Israel has introduced a step-on scanner that spares airline travelers the nuisance of having to remove their shoes so they can be X-rayed for hidden weapons, though the new device cannot yet sniff out explosives.

Only the shoes of passengers deemed suspicious by Ben-Gurion Airport staff are removed, X-rayed and swabbed for bomb residues. Most people can now keep their shoes on.

Installed next to the walk-through scanners at Ben-Gurion, "MagShoe" announces within two seconds whether the footwear of the passenger standing on it contains unusual metal that might be a knife for a hijacking or a bomb detonator part.

"This innovation brings enormous logistical value as it significantly cuts down the discomfort and delays associated with standard shoe searches," said Nissim Ben-Ezra, security technologies manager for Israel's Airports Authority.

But he said MagShoe must be used in conjunction with other precautions, especially as it would not spot hidden explosives -- a major concern after the botched 2001 "shoe bombing" by al Qaeda sympathizer Richard Reid aboard a Paris-Miami flight.

A bomb-sniffing version of the suitcase-sized MagShoe is in the works, an Israeli security source said. The current version, produced by Israeli firm Ido Security Ltd., costs about $5,000.

The U.S. Transportation Security Administration is assessing MagShoe's feasibility for American airports and several other countries have expressed an interest, the Israeli source said.

(Writing by Dan Williams; Editing by Louise Ireland)

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10 Reasons You’re Not Having Sex


Not getting any? You’re not alone: Women today have less time for sex than their 1950s counterparts. And it’s estimated that 40 million Americans have what experts call a sexless marriage (having sex less than 10 times a year).

A regular sex life is good for your health. It can satisfy all sorts of emotional- and physical-intimacy needs and help partners stay close, says Anita H. Clayton, MD, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Virginia and author of Satisfaction: Women, Sex, and the Quest for Intimacy. So why the dry spell? You can chalk it up to a sheer lack of time, but there are a slew of other reasons, too—from weight gain and perimenopause to technology overload (stop texting now) in the bedroom. Here’s how to beat the top 10 sex busters.

Reason 1: Your bed isn’t sexy anymore.
We hear it over and over again: The bed should be used for sex and sleep only. So why do so many of us insist on bringing third parties—laptops, PDAs, Law & Order—into the boudoir? All that technology and distraction can cause insomnia and put a damper on your sex life. After all, it’s harder to initiate sex if your spouse is hiding behind a newspaper or glued to the TV or if your hands are busy exploring the Web rather than his body.

Sex Rx: At a minimum, make the bedroom a no-technology zone, Clayton suggests. Then take a hard look at your life (from romance and work to entertainment and family), and give sex the priority it deserves. If you have to schedule sex like you do a meeting, do it!

Reason 2: Your meds are stealing your sex drive.
Oh, the irony. You start taking oral contraceptives (OCs) so you can have worry-free sex. Then the magic little pills start sapping your sex drive. Why? OCs contain estrogen, which increases the production of a protein called sex-hormone binding globulin (SHBG), says Michael Krychman, MD, medical director of sexual medicine at Hoag Hospital in Newport Beach, California, and executive director of the Southern California Center for Sexual Health and Survivorship Medicine. SHBG can trap testosterone, affecting your sex drive. There’s even new data suggesting that this negative impact might be long-term. Other potential sex-drive-stalling meds to be on the lookout for: those that reduce blood pressure, anxiety, and acid reflux, and antidepressants, too.

Sex Rx: Ask your doc about the sexual side effects of all of your drugs. You may also want to try a contraceptive method that doesn’t use hormones, such as condoms, a diaphragm, or an IUD.

Reason 3: Your crazy-busy life.
You spend your days working, cooking, working out, taking care of the family. And, still, at 11:30 p.m., “you’re expected to wave this magic goddess wand,” Krychman says. It’s enough to make even Pamela Anderson curl up in bed and cry, “headache.” Besides totally tuckering you out, the chronic stresses of modern life can also trigger a cascade of hormonal changes that mess with your body’s sexual-response cycle. And here’s another modern sex buster that adds to all the craziness: today’s always-connected technology.

Sex Rx: With spontaneous sex almost out of the question, you need some serious “life management” to work it in, experts say. Put a lock on the master bedroom door and set a technology time limit. Shift gears from the harried pace of everyday life with a soothing bath, suggests Health contributor and Los Angeles–based sex therapist Linda De Villers, PhD. Plunging into warm water takes you away from the laptops and cell phones that clog up your day. Add a few drops of ylang-ylang essential oil; the aroma is thought to heighten sexual feelings.

Reason 4: You don’t like your body.
Many women find themselves withdrawing or not willing to experiment sexually if they’re overweight or have a change in shape due to pregnancy, Clayton says. “Emotionally, we’ve bought into the media’s idealization of what is really sexy. The message is, you have to look a certain way in order to have really good sex.”

Sex Rx: “Women have a talent for disliking the very things about themselves that other people find very attractive,” De Villers says. Feel free to ask him what he likes about your body; his compliments can help you feel more positive. But don’t underestimate the mental boost of shedding some pounds. In a recent Health.com survey, 37 percent of respondents said losing weight makes them feel sexy. In fact, even a five-pound weight loss has been shown to jump-start sex drive.

Reason 5: You’ve hit perimenopause.
Prior to menopause, hormonal shifts—specifically decreasing estrogen—lead to physiological changes that can make sex seem about as appealing as running a marathon with a pebble in your sock. Sensitive vaginal tissues become less lubricated, the ensuing dryness leads to pain, and painful sex quickly turns into no sex, Krychman says. Hot flashes don’t help matters, either. A landmark study published last year in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology shows women whose sexual desire drops during menopause are more apt to report night sweats, disturbed sleep, and depression.

Sex Rx: Talk to your physician about the pros and cons of hormone replacement therapy (HRT), which may lessen menopausal symptoms. New research shows an estrogen cream or suppository may ease dryness without the risks of HRT. Lubricants like Replens or his-and-hers lubes from K-Y can also help, especially if pain during intercourse is a problem. Pine bark extract is also getting a lot of buzz: A study in the Scandinavian Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology found that it may alleviate hot flashes, depression, panic attacks, elevated cholesterol, and other symptoms linked with perimenopause. Talk to your doctor before trying anything new.

Reason 6: Your man’s just not that into it.
You may actually be raring to go, but your partner’s engine seems stalled. Perhaps he’s emotionally withdrawing, says Bob Berkowitz, PhD, co-author of He’s Just Not Up for It Anymore: Why Men Stop Having Sex, and What You Can Do About It. “The usual problems between husbands and wives can play out in the bedroom,” he says, especially if your partner has a hard time expressing his feelings properly. Or, he may want you to be more sexually adventurous. You needn’t hang from chandeliers; it could be as simple as being a more enthusiastic lover.

Sex Rx: Talk it out in a blame-free way. “It’s understandable that a woman would feel rejected,” Berkowitz says. But don’t confront him with ‘What the hell is going on? Are you cheating on me?’ or he’ll shut down. If a man’s sex life is not working out, he may feel he’s failed as a man, because men invest so much of themselves in their sexuality,” Berkowitz adds. So try to broach the subject in a loving way.

Reason 7: You’re depressed.
When you’re feeling down in the dumps, desire can take a big hit, particularly if you’re female. Women tend to isolate themselves, Clayton says, and that can strain even the strongest of romantic relationships. Antidepressants may lift the dark cloud, but some affect your ability to have an orgasm.

Sex Rx: If you notice your sex drive takes a nosedive after you start a new medication, tell your doctor; she may be able to prescribe an alternative, like Wellbutrin (bupropion), which doesn’t affect orgasm. Consider different avenues of treatment, too. “Psychotherapy doesn’t cause sexual dysfunction and is effective, especially in mild-to-moderate depression,” Clayton says. Exercise also helps; it enhances mood and energy, and it boosts blood flow to the genitals.

Reason 8: Your man is Viagra-ized.
The “Viagra-ization” of men, as Krychman calls it, isn’t just happening to seniors. Younger men are taking the erectile-dysfunction drug, too, sometimes just to enhance sexual performance. The result can be a physical and emotional disconnect in bed. “The man takes the medication and is ready to go, but the woman needs more time to get aroused, to get connected.” The sexes tend to deal with anxiety in opposite ways, too, Clayton says. Men head to the bedroom to relieve stress, while women often need to be relaxed to even have sex.

Sex Rx: Clayton suggests finding time for some nonthreatening and nonjudgmental sex talk (not in bed), during which a woman can discuss what she needs in bed to even the playing field.

Reason 9: You like your vibrator better.
Reaching for your Rabbit more often than your honey bunny? This is more common than some might think, De Villers says. A vibrator is simpler and more accessible than a cooperating penis. While there’s nothing wrong with incorporating sex toys into your love life, becoming reliant on a vibrator—or even preferring it over your partner—can be a serious problem. Sometimes it’s a way of dealing with anger or frustration in your relationship, De Villers explains.

Sex Rx: If you really are addicted to your vibrator at the expense of your relationship with your partner, talk to a therapist to gain some insight about your relationship, De Villers recommends. Perhaps learning how to communicate your needs to your partner will help. If the vibrator gives you more satisfaction than sex with your partner, talk about trying some new moves or even using the vibrator together.

Reason 10: You’re sick and tired.
About 10 to 15 percent of the women Krychman treats for low libido end up having an endocrine problem, such as undiagnosed thyroid disease, which can affect menstrual functioning and lead to exhaustion, depression, low sexual desire, and fertility problems. Women who have chronic illnesses—such as fibromyalgia, anemia, diabetes, or rheumatoid arthritis—may not be in the mood, either, thanks to fatigue or body pain. And women who have diabetes may also experience poor lubrication, low arousal, and a propensity for yeast infections.

Sex Rx: Once a thyroid condition or anemia is detected and corrected, any associated symptoms should dissipate. If you’re battling a chronic disease, you should take the focus off of the intercourse and explore other ways to achieve sexual and sensual pleasure, Clayton says.

By Leslie Goldman

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Introducing the World’s Largest Solar Powered Winery

by Brian Merchant, Brooklyn, New York

Image courtesy of Take Away Festival

The largest solar installation of any winery in the world is set to be built for Constellation Wines’ Gonzalez winery in Monterrey County, CA by Pacific Power Management. Mitsubishi solar panels will cover 170,000 square feet on the winery warehouse roof, and will generate 1,700,000 kilowatt hours a year—enough to power over 50 percent of the winery’s energy needs.

Solar Powered Wine-Making, Solar Powered Living
What’s more, during the summer months when the winery isn’t operating at full capacity (it doesn’t process grapes in summer months), the electricity will be exported in order to power 25 percent of the energy needs of surrounding residential areas—1,695 homes in the city of Gonzalez.

This may very well be the most expansive effort to power a winery with alternative energy (though there are more than a few very green wineries already in operation, and it won't lay claim to the first carbon neutral winery).

Some Solar Powered Winery Stats from Pacific:
The project will purportedly have roughly the same effect on lowering greenhouse gas emissions and reducing the carbon footprint as:

- Planting 2,500 acres of trees
- Preventing an average exhaust producing automobile from driving 25 million miles
- Taking 2083 cars off the road

The installation will offset around 1.6 million pounds of Carbon Dioxide, 1,600 pounds of Sulfur Dioxide, and 2,900 pounds or Nitrogen Oxides annually.

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2010 Toyota Prius Adds Muscle at Expense of Fuel Efficiency

SAG could strike in November

By DAVE MCNARY

The Screen Actors Guild could go on strike before the end of November.

In a message sent to members late Thursday, SAG president Alan Rosenberg and national exec director Doug Allen told members that the national board will meet next weekend on the question of whether to conduct a strike authorization over SAG's master contract on features and primetime. If the national board approves, the leaders said than SAG will then need 30 to 45 days to hold such a vote among members.

"If 75% of the qualified SAG members who vote in the referendum support the strike authorization, only then can the national board of directors call an actual work stoppage, should the board decide that it has become necessary to do so," Rosenberg and Allen said in the missive.

The duo noted that it was "important" to note that if passed by a majority of the national board, the resolution does not call a strike. "It only provides for a membership referendum to be conducted, which will take approximately 30 to 45 days," they said.

In a response issued Friday, the congloms took issue with the assertion by Rosenberg and Allen that the authorization wouldn't lead to a strike.

"SAG negotiators seem determined to force another unnecessary, harmful strike," the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers said. "Why else would SAG negotiators be unreasonably insisting, at a time of national economic collapse, on a better deal that the one achieved by the other

Hollywood Guilds much earlier this year, during much better economic times?"

The notice is the guild's first official notification of members of a possible timeline for a strike. However, it's uncertain whether SAG's national board will support sending out the strike authorization when it meets on Oct. 18.

Rosenberg and Allen noted that SAG’s negotiating committee passed a resolution on Oct. 1 urging the national board to take a strike authorization vote -- even though the negotiating committee had the power to initiate the vote on its own.

Instead, the committee deferred the matter to the national board, where control shifted last month away from the Hollywood-based Membership First faction, led by Rosenberg, to a less assertive coalition composed of reps from the New York and regional branches and the upstart Unite for Strength faction.

Unite for Strength, which gained enough Hollywood seats to give the moderates a one-vote edge, hasn't yet revealed whether it will support the call for a strike authorization vote. During its campaign, Unite for Strength asserted that Membership First had bungled the negotiations by alienating the American Federation of Television & Radio Artists, which saw its members ratify AFTRA's primetime deal in July over SAG's objections.

Rosenberg and Allen also noted that a strike would not impact work on the more than 750 indie features that have been given waivers -- or guaranteed completion contracts -- under which producers who aren't repped by the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers agree to adhere to whatever deal SAG signs with the AMPTP. SAG began giving waivers months before the June 30 expiration of the contract so significant numbers of those projects have already been shot.

The AMPTP has blasted SAG’s efforts to move toward a strike authorization on two fronts. They've pointed out that SAG continues to seek sweeter terms than the WGA, DGA and AFTRA and that it's doing so with the world in a financial crisis.

SAG and the AMPTP have not met since July 16. Allen insists that informal negotiations have been taking place since then -- an assertion that's been explicitly and repeatedly denied by the majors.

For its part, SAG announced Sept. 29 that it wanted to resume talks after highlighting three issues as keys to reaching a deal -- payment for repeats via Web streaming of made-for-Internet productions; SAG jurisdiction for all made-for-Internet productions; and maintaining the force majeure provision in the expired master contract.

But AMTP president Nick Counter said the same day that further talks would be not be productive as long as SAG’s positions remained unchanged from their last face-to-face meeting in July.

"The DGA, WGA and AFTRA reached agreement on comparable terms months ago, during far better economic times, and it is unrealistic for SAG negotiators now to expect even better terms during this grim financial climate," the AMPTP warned on Oct. 1. " This is the harsh economic reality, and no strike will change that reality."

The AMPTP's calculator on its Web site estimated as of Friday that SAG members have lost over $23.3 million in gains they would have achieved over the past three and a half months had the majors' final offer been ratified.

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