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AWOL Newswire Fall 2012


On October 29, the US Department of Energy unveiled Titan, a 20-petaflop supercomputer that it hopes will claim the title of fastest in the world. The Department of Energy sponsored the creation of Titan by Cray Inc. at Oak Ridge Laboratories in Tennessee. The project upgraded Jaguar, the facility’s previous supercomputer, in an attempt to definitively edge out supercomputer competition abroad. Titan takes up 20 large computer cabinets of space, and its internals include 299,008 CPUs and 18,688 graphics processing units powered by seven megawatts of energy—or enough to power a small town. If it operates as expected, Titan will clock in at 10 times faster than Jaguar and edge out the current record-holder, the 16.92 petaflop IBM Sequoia in California.  Twenty petaflops of computing power means Titan can complete 20 quadrillion calculations per second at peak performance levels, or the equivalent of all of Earth’s 7 million people each completing 3 million calculations in one second. No word yet on how many pages of lolcats and animal gifs Titan can load per second. –Taylor Kenkel


This past election season, Maryland ballots featured a referendum on whether to uphold or reject the Civil Marriage Protection Act. The act allows same-sex couples to obtain civil marriage licenses and allows religious groups to opt out of performing ceremonies. The referendum, listed as Question 6, received unlikely support from the pastor of St. Vincent de Paul Roman Catholic Church, Rev. Richard T. Lawrence. In a “thoughtful and nuanced argument,” according to the Baltimore Sun, Lawrence detailed why he supported the initiative. He gave his speech during his regular Sunday homily at the end of October. Lawrence’s argument referenced the fact that the Catholic Church pays spousal benefits to divorced individuals and to individuals with other non-church-sanctioned marriages. Additionally, Lawrence argued that the Church allows couples to marry who will not be able to procreate but are straight, undermining the common claim that the Church only sanctions marriages formed with the intention to have children. The churchgoers responded to his homily with an energetic standing ovation. Even though the homily was removed from the parish website, Lawrence remains “in genuine awe of all those couples—straight, gay and lesbian—whose…faithfulness to each other is…a believable sign of the absolute faithfulness of God to us all.” –Zac Deibel


The abortion debate has flared up again—and this time it wasn’t because a Republican man threw in his two cents on the matter. A woman in Ireland died in November after she was denied an abortion that would have saved her life, the Washington Post reported. Though abortion is banned by the Irish constitution, the procedure is legalized when necessary to protect the life of the mother. An estimated 4,000 Irish women per year seeking abortions travel to England, where the procedure is legal—an option that is difficult, of course, for women in failing health. Since Savita Halappanavar’s death, thousands of Irish have held candlelight vigils for reform. And in the United States, where we've just reelected our pro-choice president, it's a vision of a radical conservative policy that could have been. –Lori McCue


In the new James Bond movie, Skyfall, Bond will be up to his old tricks—using gadgets the likes of which haven’t been seen by average citizens. Instead of using the popular iPhone 5 or the Samsung Galaxy S III, the top two smartphones in the country, he opts to use a Sony Xperia T, with a Google Android operating system. Sony also paired up with 007 to launch phones in Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace. Sony isn’t the only brand represented in Skyfall. The 23rd Bond bombards viewers with a number of brands, including Sony Vaio, Tom Ford, Coke Zero, and more. The most disturbing, to anyone who has heard the phrase “shaken, not stirred,” is that James Bond will be giving up his signature martini order in favor of a new drink, Heineken beer. But which is more unbelievable: Bond drinking from a green bottle, or using a Sony? -Eleanor Greene

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