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Saturday, March 05, 2011

Qaddafi Forces Hit Besieged City but Lose Libyan Oil Port - NYTimes.com

The leader de facto of Libya, Muammar al-Gaddafi.Image via WikipediaQaddafi Forces Hit Besieged City but Lose Libyan Oil Port - NYTimes.com

By DAVID D. KIRKPATRICK and KAREEM FAHIM
TRIPOLI, Libya — Each side of the nascent civil war in Libya pushed forward on Saturday as militia forces loyal to Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi launched a second day of attacks on the rebel-held city of Zawiyah, just 30 miles west of the capital, and a ragtag rebel army moving from the east won its first ground battle to take the oil port of Ras Lanuf about midway down the Mediterranean coast.

Both sides were girding for a confrontation in the coming days at the port of Surt, the town where Colonel Qaddafi was born and which blocks the rebels’ progress toward the capital, Tripoli.

Eighteen days after it began with spirited demonstrations in the eastern city of Benghazi, the Libyan uprising has veered sharply from the pattern of relatively quick and nonviolent upheavals that ousted the leaders of Tunisia and Egypt. Instead, the rebellion here appeared to have become mired in a drawn-out ground campaign between two relatively unprofessional and loosely organized forces — the Libyan Army and the rebels — that is exacting high civilian casualties and appears likely to drag on for some time.

That state of affairs was evident in the northwestern city of Zawiyah on Saturday, where government attacks raised puzzling questions about its strategy. For the second day in a row its forces battered the rebels, then pulled back to maintain a siege on the city from an impenetrable ring around the perimeter. Later it struck again, and withdrew again.

By the end of the day, both sides claimed control of the city.

Foreign journalists, who have been invited into the city of Tripoli, were unable to cross military checkpoints to evaluate reports of what Zawiyah residents called “a massacre.”

Witnesses there began frantic calls to journalists in Tripoli at 6 a.m. Saturday to report that soldiers of the government militia — the Khamis brigade, which is named for the Qaddafi son who commands it and is considered the family’s most formidable force — had broken through the east and west gates of the city. “They are killing us,” one resident said. “They are firing on us.”

The militia attacked with tanks, heavy artillery and machine guns, witnesses said, and the explosions of a variety of munitions were clearly audible in the background. “I am watching neighbors dying unarmed in front of their homes,” one resident said. “I don’t know how many are being killed, but I know my neighborhood is being killed.”

In a telephone interview a little more than three hours after the attack began, another resident said: “Everything is burning. We don’t know from which side they are shooting us — from the buildings or from the streets. People are falling everywhere.”

The rebels, including former members of the Libyan military, returned fire. Although a death toll was impossible to determine, one resident said four of his neighbors were killed, including one who was found stripped of his clothes.

A correspondent for Sky News, a British satellite TV channel and the only foreign news organization in the city, reported seeing the militia fire on ambulances trying to remove the wounded from the streets. The reporter also said she had seen at least eight dead soldiers and five armored vehicles burning in the central square.

At 10 a.m., witnesses said, the Qaddafi forces abruptly withdrew from the city, taking up their positions in a close circle surrounding it.

Some rebels attempted to paint the pullout as a victory, saying that they had recovered Libyan Army cars and other weapons. A rebel spokesman told Reuters that the rebels had captured three armored personnel carriers, two tanks and a pickup truck.

But other rebel supporters acknowledged that there was little evidence that they had inflicted enough damage on the militia to force the retreat. Residents said they were unable to leave and visitors, including journalists, could not enter. “If you come here you will not believe what you see,” one resident implored. “It is like a war zone.”

Then, around 4:00 p.m., the militia attacked again. A witness said as many as six tanks rolled through town, there were more skirmishes with the rebel forces and then the tanks left as quickly as they arrived.

“We don’t know which side they are coming from,” one witness said in a panicked phone call.

At a news conference later in Tripoli, Deputy Foreign Minister Khalid Kaim described Zawiyah as “peaceful for the moment.” Another foreign ministry official, Yousef Shakir, called it “99 percent” under government control.

At the same conference, officials also showed videos that they said proved their opponents were not peaceful demonstrators. Aerial video of Zawiyah showed tanks on the streets and antiaircraft guns on the roofs of mosques.

Another video, said to have been made by the rebels in the city of Misurata and obtained by the government, showed rebels firing weapons, with one struggling to fire a rocket-propelled grenade. A third video was said to show rebel interrogations and executions, which the officials likened to the tactics of Al Qaeda.

Despite all the footage of rebel weapons, however, the officials denied that the violence constituted a civil war. “There are some people who are acting in contravention of the law, which can happen anywhere,” a spokesman said. Mr. Shakir said: “It is a conspiracy, a very highly organized conspiracy. We will show the foreign hands in the near future."

In Benghazi, the opposition’s de facto capital, the rebels took another step toward organizing a shadow government, appointing an executive committee led by Libya’s former justice minister, Mahmoud Jebril. Ali Essawi, a former ambassador to India, was appointed foreign policy chief, and Omar Hariri, a former Qaddafi lieutenant, was appointed as the military leader.

A spokesman for the committee, Abdel-Hafidh Ghoga, rejected previous calls by some rebel supporters for international airstrikes, saying emphatically, “No troops on Libyan soil.”

“The revolutionaries have decided they have no need for action for the time being,” he said.

On the eastern front, where rebel volunteers pushed past Ras Lanuf, an oil refinery town that they retook from Colonel Qaddafi’s loyalists on Friday night, it was not clear that they were taking orders from anyone — in Benghazi or elsewhere.

Witnesses reported that a government helicopter fired on a rebel convoy, producing no casualties, and rebels drove up and down the main road toward Surt, turning around and speeding away when they met an army checkpoint.

A Libyan fighter jet crashed near Ras Lanuf. A rebel claim that it had been shot down could not be confirmed.

There were conflicting reports on the casualties in Ras Lanuf. A rebel said that 12 rebels were killed, while hospital officials in the nearby city of Ajdabiya said five rebels were killed and 31 were wounded, The Associated Press reported. Reuters cited doctors saying 26 had died.

Near Benghazi, the ruins of an ammunition dump still smoldered Saturday, after large explosions on Friday evening leveled at least three buildings and toppled trees more than 300 yards away. At least 16 people died in the blasts, which some witnesses said were caused by airstrikes and others said may have been accidents.

David D. Kirkpatrick reported from Tripoli, and Kareem Fahim from Benghazi, Libya. Ed Ou contributed reporting from Benghazi, and Tyler Hicks from Bin Jawwad, Libya.

Friday, March 04, 2011

Economy Adds 192,00o Jobs as Rate Falls to 8.9% - NYTimes.com

Economy Adds 192,00o Jobs as Rate Falls to 8.9% - NYTimes.com

America’s job engine picked up some steam last month.

The nation’s employers added 192,000 jobs on net in February, after having added just 63,000 jobs the previous month, the Labor Department reported on Friday.

The February number was about what economists had been forecasting.

“Economic recoveries can be like a snowball rolling down a hill, in that it takes time to get some momentum,” said John Ryding, chief economist at RDQ Economics. “People hesitate until they feel that the recovery’s durable enough, and then they have a tendency to jump in. Maybe we’re finally getting to that jumping-in moment.”

The unemployment rate ticked down to 8.9 percent, falling below 9 percent for the first time in nearly two years. This rate, which comes from a separate survey and is based on the total number of Americans who want to work, has remained stubbornly high over the last year despite payroll growth. That is partly because the size of the working-age population has grown, and because the promise of more job opportunities has lured some discouraged workers back into the labor force.

Both the January and December numbers were revised higher — to 63,000 from 36,000 in January, and to 152,000 from 121,000 in December.

The higher growth in payroll employment was partly the result of a bounce back from unusually depressed hiring in January, when snowstorms shuttered offices and factories around the country. Even so, other recent economic reports — like those on unemployment insurance claims and manufacturing employment — also pointed to stronger demand for workers in recent months. The Federal Reserve, in a survey of its 12 districts, noted on Wednesday that the labor market had improved modestly, but the Fed chief, Ben S. Bernanke, told lawmakers that “until we see a sustained period of stronger job creation, we cannot consider the recovery to be truly established.”

A broader measure of unemployment, which includes people working part-time because they could not find full-time jobs and those so discouraged that they have given up searching, was 15.9 percent in February, down from 16.1 percent in January. That left 13.7 million people still out of work.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Julian Assange lodges extradition appeal | Media | guardian.co.uk

Julian Assange lodges extradition appeal | Media | guardian.co.uk

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange

WikiLeaks founder's lawyers file appeal against his extradition to Sweden to face charges of rape and sexual assault
James Meikle

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has dismissed the decision to extradite him as a 'rubber-stamping process'. Photograph: Yui Mok/PA
Lawyers representing the WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, have lodged papers to appeal against his extradition from Britain to Sweden to face allegations of rape and sexual assault.

The high court in London confirmed it had received documents to challenge the ruling made at Belmarsh magistrates court, south London, last week. No date has been set for a hearing.

The 39-year-old Australian had always planned to appeal if he failed to escape the European arrest warrant (EAW) at the first attempt. He faces being sent to Sweden within 10 days if his appeal is unsuccessful.

Last week Assange dismissed the decision to extradite him as a "rubber-stamping process". It came as no surprise, he said, but was wrong. "There was no consideration during this entire process as to the merit of the allegations made against me, no consideration or examination of even the complaints made in Sweden and, of course, we have always known we would appeal."

He has been fighting extradition since he was arrested and bailed in December, and has consistently denied the allegations, made by two women in August last year.

Assange's lawyers argued he would not receive a fair trial in Sweden. They said the warrant was invalid because he had not been charged with any offence and the alleged assaults were not grounds for extradition. Assange fears removal to Sweden will make it easier for Washington to extradite him to the US on possible charges relating to WikiLeaks's release of the US embassy cables. The US has been investigating the WikLeaks website, although no charges have been laid. Sweden would have to ask the UK for any onward extradition.

Assange faces four allegations, the most serious that, during a visit to Stockholm, he had sex with a woman, Miss B, while she was sleeping, without a condom and without her consent. Three counts of sexual assault are alleged by another woman, Miss A. If found guilty of the rape charge he could face up to four years in prison.

Howard Riddle, the chief magistrate at the extradition hearing, acknowledged "considerable adverse publicity" against Assange in Sweden but said if there had been any irregularities in the Swedish system the best place to examine them was in a Swedish trial.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Justices Rule for Protesters at Military Funerals - NYTimes.com

Westboro Baptist Church at the United Nations ...Image via WikipediaJustices Rule for Protesters at Military Funerals - NYTimes.com

By ADAM LIPTAK
WASHINGTON — The First Amendment protects hateful protests at military funerals, the Supreme Court ruled on Wednesday in an 8-1 decision.

“Speech is powerful,” Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. wrote for the majority. “It can stir people to action, move them to tears of both joy and sorrow, and — as it did here — inflict great pain.”

But under the First Amendment, he went on, “we cannot react to that pain by punishing the speaker.” Instead, the national commitment to free speech, he said, requires protection of “even hurtful speech on public issues to ensure that we do not stifle public debate.”

The case arose from a protest at the funeral of a Marine who had died in Iraq, Lance Cpl. Matthew A. Snyder. As they had at hundreds of other funerals, members of the Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kan., appeared with signs bearing messages like “America is Doomed” and “God Hates Fags.”

The church contends that God is punishing the United States for its tolerance of homosexuality.

The father of the fallen Marine, Albert Snyder, sued the protesters for, among other things, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and won a substantial jury award that was later overturned by an appeals court.

Chief Justice Roberts wrote in the ruling that three factors required a ruling in favor of the church group. First, he said, its speech was on matters of public concern. While the messages on the signs carried by its members “may fall short of refined commentary,” the chief justice wrote, “the issues they highlight — the political and moral conduct of the United States and its citizens, the fate of our nation, homosexuality in the military and scandals involving the Catholic clergy — are matters of public import.”

Second, he wrote, the relationship between the church and the Snyders was not a private grudge.

Third, the members of the church “had the right to be where they were.” They were picketing on a public street 1,000 feet from the site of the funeral, they complied with the law and with instructions from the police, and they protested quietly and without violence.

Chief Justice Roberts suggested that the proper response to hurtful protests are general laws creating buffer zones around funerals and the like, rather than empowering of juries to punish unpopular speech.

The opinion acknowledged that “Westboro’s choice added to Mr. Snyder’s already incalculable grief” and emphasized that the ruling was narrow and limited to the kinds of protests staged by the church.

Justice Stephen G. Breyer joined the majority opinion but wrote separately to say that other sorts of speech, including television broadcasts and Internet postings, might warrant different treatment.

The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and 21 news organizations, including The New York Times Company, filed a brief supporting the church.

Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. dissented in the case, Snyder v. Phelps, No. 09-751. He likened the protest to fighting words, which are not protected by the First Amendment.

“In order to have a society in which public issues can be openly and vigorously debated,” he wrote, “it is not necessary to allow the brutalization of innocent victims.”
____________________________________

I could not see how the Supreme Court could have ruled otherwise.

John H. Armwood

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

To Report On Libya, Media Use An Informal Pipeline Set Up By Expats : The Two-Way : NPR

Flag of Libya between 1951-69Image via WikipediaTo Report On Libya, Media Use An Informal Pipeline Set Up By Expats : The Two-Way : NPR

With very few foreign reporters in Tripoli, NPR turned to eyewitness accounts to tell the story of violent unrest in the Libyan capital. And as NPR production assistant Asma Khalid writes, Libyan-Americans set up a Facebook group to help get information out of the capital.

As revolts shake up the Mideast, Arab-Americans are rallying support here at home.

First, Egyptian-Americans protested outside the White House; then, when the Mubarak regime crumbled, they celebrated outside the Egyptian Embassy, throwing parties at local mosques, treating friends to sweets after Friday prayers.

In many ways, the narrative of Egyptian-Americans is your typical expat story — the protests, the rallies, the celebrations.

But the story of Libyan-Americans is different. It's unlike anything I've witnessed before.

When protests broke out in Libya's eastern city of Benghazi, Libyan-Americans realized their homeland was going to be on information lockdown, and they were the only people who might be able to help reporters sift the facts from the fiction in this media vacuum.

So within days of the initial Feb. 17 uprising, a couple of housewives in the United States (who have never met each other face to face) created the Facebook group "Libya Outreach." It soon grew into a much larger enterprise that included Libyan activists with political contacts.

It has now become a sort of ad hoc online news bureau, where Libyan-Americans and expats are working around the clock to be those eyes and ears on the ground in lieu of reporters.

The group is gathering video footage, fact-checking initial reports and brokering interviews for American media. It's fielding requests from all kinds of media outlets — The Wall Street Journal, CBS, the Associated Press, and NPR.

For days, we've been hearing that Moammar Gadhafi's ironclad grip is slipping as a violent crackdown in Libya mounts. But unlike Tunisia or Egypt, there is no easy access for foreign reporters. And even though our reporters are now in the country, the trip to Tripoli is still too dangerous.

To make matters more complicated, many journalists don't have contacts on the ground in Tripoli because the city is like a media black hole, with hardly any news emerging from it.

But Libyan activist Hafed Al-Ghwell, who lives in Virginia, has 76 first cousins in that one city alone. He, like others with Libya Outreach, is loosely organizing and making phone trees back home to confirm facts.

For example, if Twitter reports indicate that Gadhafi's supporters are shooting people in Tripoli out of ambulances, the folks with Libya Outreach start calling back home to confirm where and if that's happening. They then provide those [phone?] numbers to those of us in the media who are interested in independently confirming the facts. Often Libyan cell phones are down, so we try Skype; other times, we hit redial a dozen times hoping one number will go through.

And that is, in fact, how we brought you our initial reports from Tripoli (here and here). The voices on our air came through contacts with Libya Outreach.

Another group called Feb17voices — named for the day the uprisings in Libya began — is doing similar work. Its members are calling contacts in Libya and tweeting the information at media outlets in real time.

Libyan-Americans realized they could provide sources that no one else could in this climate. Many of them are also dissidents who have despised the Gadhafi regime for decades, so they're happy to spread the word about the revolution.

As Kariman Elmuradi, one of the founders of Libya Outreach, told me, the hope at the end of the day is that by shining a media spotlight on the atrocities in Libya, the group will help limit the slaughter of Libyans back home — because, she says, Gadhafi is less likely to butcher people if he knows the world is watching.

Qaddafi’s Forces Hit Back at Rebels - NYTimes.com

Qaddafi’s Forces Hit Back at Rebels - NYTimes.com

By KAREEM FAHIM and DAVID D. KIRKPATRICK
BENGHAZI, Libya — Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi’s forces struck back at his opponents on three fronts on Monday, with special forces, regular army troops and, rebels said, fighter jets, in an escalation of hostilities that brought Libya a step closer to civil war.

But the rebels dismissed the attacks as ineffectual, and Colonel Qaddafi faced a growing international campaign to force him from power, as the Obama administration announced it had seized $30 billion in Libyan assets and the European Union adopted an arms embargo and other sanctions.

As the Pentagon began repositioning Navy warships to support a possible humanitarian or military intervention, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton bluntly told the Libyan leader to surrender power “now, without further violence or delay.”

The attacks by the colonel’s troops on an oil refinery in central Libya and on cities on either side of the country unsettled rebel leaders — who have maintained that they are close to liberating the country — and showed that despite defections by the military, the government may still possess powerful assets, including fighter pilots willing to bomb Libyan cities.

Rebel leaders said the attacks smacked of desperation, and the ease with which at least one assault, on the western city of Zawiyah, was repelled raised questions about the ability of the government to muster a serious challenge to the rebels’ growing power.

In an interview with ABC News, Colonel Qaddafi said he was fighting against “terrorists,” and he accused the West of seeking to “occupy Libya.” He gave no hint of surrender. “My people love me,” he said. “They would die for me.”

Those unyielding words, and the colonel’s attacks on Monday were met with both nerves and defiance by rebel military leaders as the two sides seemed to steel themselves for a long battle along shifting and ever more violent front lines.

The antigovernment protesters, who started their uprising with peaceful sit-ins but have increasingly turned to arms to counter Colonel Qaddafi’s brutal paramilitary forces, have promised a large military response that has yet to come. At the same time, government forces have been unable to reverse the costly loss of territory to a popular revolt that has brought together lawyers, young people and tribal leaders.

Across the region, the tumult that has already toppled two leaders and threatened one autocrat after another continued unabated on Monday. In Yemen, protests drove President Ali Abdullah Saleh to make a bid for a unity government, but the political opposition quickly refused. An opposition leader, Mohamed al-Sabry, said in a statement that the president’s proposal was a “desperate attempt” to counter major protests planned for Tuesday.

In Bahrain, protesters blocked access to Parliament, according to news agencies. In Oman, whose first major protests were reported over the weekend, demonstrations turned into violent clashes with the security forces in the port city of Sohar, and the unrest spread for the first time to the capital, Muscat.

Libya itself seemed to be brewing a major humanitarian crisis as tens of thousands of mostly impoverished contract workers tried desperately to flee to its neighbors, Tunisia to the west and Egypt to the east. The United Nations refugee agency called the situation a humanitarian emergency as workers hauling suitcases stood in long lines to leave Libya, many of them uncertain how they would finally get home.

The country they left behind faced similar uncertainty, as warplanes took to the sky for the first time in 10 days, according to military officials allied with the rebels. In a direct challenge to claims by those officials, who have asserted that Libyan Air Force pilots were no longer taking orders from Colonel Qaddafi, two Libyan Air Force jets conducted bombing raids on Monday, according to witnesses and two military officers in Benghazi allied with the antigovernment protesters.

Col. Hamed Bilkhair said that the jets, two MIG-23s that took off from an air base near Colonel Qaddafi’s hometown in the city of Surt, struck three targets, but were deterred by rebel antiaircraft fire from striking a fourth at an air base in Benghazi. The jets — a bomber and an escort plane — attacked three other locations, south of Benghazi, and on the outskirts of the eastern city of Ajdabiya.

Colonel Bilkhair said that a weapons depot was struck, but that the other strikes — including one on a water pipeline — were “ineffective.” It was not immediately clear whether there were any casualties, and the airstrikes could not be independently verified.

The colonel said that government special forces took control of the oil refinery at Ras Lanuf on Monday, though he and other rebel leaders played down the significance of the assault, saying the refinery was only lightly guarded. “It was only briefly occupied,” by the rebels, Colonel Bilkhair said. “They occupied it for four days, and they had no weapons.”

The colonel, speaking in an interview on Monday evening, said government troops were in the midst of shelling Misurata, a breakaway city 130 miles east of the capital.

In Zawiyah, a city with important oil resources just 30 miles from the capital, residents said they rebuffed a series of attacks on Monday, suffering no casualties but killing about 10 soldiers and capturing about a dozen others. A government spokesman confirmed the death toll.

“It is perfect news,” said A. K. Nasrat, 51, an engineer who is among the rebels, before adding, “There is no way they are going to take this city out of our hands unless we all die first.”

The first attack took place shortly after midnight, when some pro-Qaddafi soldiers in pickup trucks tried to pass through the city’s eastern gate, Mr. Nasrat said. But they were spotted by rebel sentries who defeated them with help from army and police defectors defending the town. Four soldiers were killed and several captured, with some of the captives readily surrendering their arms and switching sides, he said

Then, in the early evening, several witnesses said, the Qaddafi forces — believed to be led by his son Khamis’s private militia — attacked from both the east and the west. Three pickup trucks tried to enter the narrow city gates from the west, but a rebel-held artillery unit struck one, blowing it up and overturning a second truck, Mr. Nasrat said. Six more pickup trucks tried to breach the eastern gate, he said, but after an exchange of fire the rebels captured two of the trucks and several of the soldiers.

“So about 12 or 14 soldiers were hostages,” he said, “and 8 of them turned over their arms and joined the people. They are on our side now.”

At about 11 p.m. residents of Zawiyah reported in telephone interviews that they heard a renewed outbreak of gunfire from the west lasting 5 to 15 minutes, suggesting that sporadic attacks might continue through the night.

For days, military leaders in Benghazi have said they are preparing to assemble a force of thousands to conduct a final assault on Tripoli; some of the officials have even promised to send planes to bomb Colonel Qaddafi’s fortified compound, Bab al-Aziziya.

But there are few signs that a plan has materialized, though military leaders maintain they are simply waiting for the right time. A fighter pilot sympathetic to the antigovernment protesters, Mohammed Miftah Dinali, expressed some frustration that he had not yet been called on to aid the rebel effort.

“My friends and I are willing to go and do an airstrike on Qaddafi’s compound,” he said. “I cannot just sit and watch this happen.”

In Tripoli, Musa Ibrahim, a spokesman for the Qaddafi government, conducted a bizarre news conference in which he attributed the unrest in Libya to what he described as an alliance between radical Islamists and the Western powers. The Islamists want a Somalia-style base on the Mediterranean, and the West wants oil, Mr. Ibrahim said. And to achieve their ends both want chaos in Libya, he argued, asserting that such outside forces had turned a small and peaceful protest movement into a dangerous armed force.

Addressing an incredulous audience of foreign journalists whom the Qaddafi government had invited to Tripoli, Mr. Ibrahim repeatedly denied that any massacres had taken place, contradicting the testimony of scores of Libyans in Tripoli and Benghazi.

Reporters told him that, on Sunday, when they visited Zawiyah, they saw no evidence of Islamist forces. “They knew you were coming,” the spokesman said. “They were hiding those with an obvious Al Qaeda look.”

Kareem Fahim reported from Benghazi, and David D. Kirkpatrick from Tripoli, Libya. Robert F. Worth contributed reporting from Benghazi, Alan Cowell from Paris, Steven Lee Myers from Geneva, and Sebnem Arsu from Istanbul.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Apple gets back to basics in Mac OS X Lion | Operating Systems | MacUser | Macworld

Apple gets back to basics in Mac OS X Lion | Operating Systems | MacUser | Macworld

Mac OS X Lion gets back to basics

Apple on Thursday gave us another sneak peek at whatʼs in store for the next major release of Mac OS X, dubbed Lion, due out this summer. Between the iOS-inspired features we saw in the first Lion preview in October and the new features the company revealed today, itʼs clearer than ever that Apple isnʼt merely getting Back to the Mac. With Lion, Apple is getting back to basics, making significant changes and adding new features that are all focused on making the Mac easier to use and more accessible to both new and longtime users.

Apple has always touted the Mac as the “computer for the rest of us,” wearing its reputation on its shoulder for designing intuitive interfaces and great experiences. But there have always been parts of Mac OS X where those claims just donʼt hold up. Remember the last time you tried to explain to your parents or non-technical friends how to download and install Firefox from a Disk Image—or for that matter, what a Disk Image even is? With the meteoric rise of iOS and the iPad changing our perception of the personal computer, Mac OS X can sometimes look downright Windows-y by comparison.

Lion is designed to fix that.

You got your iOS in my Mac OS

Apple isnʼt kidding around when it says the iPad was the inspiration for many of the big additions and changes in Mac OS X Lion. In the October preview, we saw some of the blossoming fruits of iOSʼs muse: full-screen apps, even deeper multitouch support with new gestures, and a new Launchpad view of all your apps that was stolen straight off the iPadʼs homescreen—all are focused on making parts of Mac OS X and our apps more accessible.
There is a general theme in Lion of simplifying Mac OS X, either by streamlining existing features or by bringing iOS workflow perks to the Mac. For example, Apple unveiled a new Lion feature on Thursday, called AirDrop, which is “a remarkably simple way to copy files wirelessly from one Mac to another with no setup.” But this just sounds like an update and rebranding of the Bonjour file sharing and public folder features that Mac OS X has had all along, except the goal of AirDrop is to make file sharing between family and coworkers much, much easier to grasp and use. Like it did for some parts of iOS, Apple simplified existing Mac OS X features and polished them up with a better interface.

There are plenty of other more subtle tweaks that are making the pilgrimage from iOS to Mac OS, all in the name of streamlining the interface and the many ways we interact with apps. From more legible and universal icons (see Mail 5 on Appleʼs Lion page), to popovers (see iLife ʼ11), to scrollbars that can hide when you donʼt need them, Mac OS X Lion will simply look cleaner and more intuitive than any of its predecessors, and it has iOS to thank.

Viva la Mac

But if the iPad was “just a giant iPod touch,” is the Mac becoming “just a giant iPad?” Not in the least. The file system hasnʼt gone anywhere, the Finder looks to have received some much- needed attention, and despite concerns of Apple embracing digital totalitarianism after announcing the Mac App Store, you will not be forced to give up the ability to install software from anywhere on the Web.

Another new Lion feature Apple announced, “Resume,” is also an ode to iOS, but it will likely have an even larger impact on the Mac. Just like switching between apps on an iPad or iPhone, or even restarting the device, Resume is Lionʼs official support for third-party Mac apps to pick up right where they left off, even after a restart. Thatʼs not merely a good idea in iOS, itʼs just a good idea for any reasonably complex computing device—especially one that is designed to multitask and juggle many apps and open windows with ease.

Speaking of recovering your data, a pair of new features will make it easier to continue working with individual documents and recuperating lost data—key requirements of any worker bee who needs more power and flexibility than iOS typically offers. Auto Save will allow apps to automatically save your work as you create it, while Versions brings the continuous backup concepts and interface behind Time Machine down to a per-document basis. You will be able to step back through the history of the current file on-the-fly and easily revert to a previous iteration.

Great artists reciprocate

iOS and Mac OS X are symbiotic entities. When designing iOS, Apple distilled the Mac down to something pocketable, but the core concepts are there, such as an app-centric workflow, an always-accessible “home base” Dock, and a fierce pursuit of intuitive interfaces. After gaining knowledge and experience from nearly five years and four versions of iOS, Apple clearly felt that it's time to return the favor in Lion. Apple is incorporating some of the fresh simplicity of iOS back into its point-and-click desktop computing platform that, at its conceptual core, is almost three decades old.
When Lion arrives, the Mac might begin to resemble some aspects of Appleʼs simpler, more streamlined OS thatʼs designed for mobile devices. But thatʼs only because they are fundamentally good ideas that can polish a full-featured desktop platform and make it even easier to use, without sacrificing any of the power and flexibility that brought users to the platform to begin with.

[David Chartier is a Macworld associate editor.]