Thursday, December 10, 2009

Facebook Privacy Changes

Privacy campaigners and civil liberties groups have criticised an update to Facebook users' profile settings, saying that it was pushing members to share personal information.

The changes, which were announced last week and are now rolling out across the site, asks users to review their privacy settings, and adjust them to ensure they are only sharing personal information, videos and photos with the people they want.

But privacy campaigners say this "transition tool" is "nudging" Facebook's 350 million users towards creating more open profiles, with details and information that can be viewed by anyone.

"Facebook is nudging the settings toward the 'disclose everything' position," said Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Centre in the United States. "That's not fair from the privacy perspective."

The changes mean that Facebook users will be able to decide how much their status updates, photos, videos and other personal data are shared with other Facebook users outside their network. It will also dictate whether any of this data is shared beyond Facebook, making it viewable across the broader web. In October, Facebook signed a deal with Microsoft's search engine, Bing, that would see public status updates included in Bing's search results to improve its real-time search capabilities.

Campaigners criticised Facebook for requiring that certain personal information, including a person's gender and the city they live in, is made publicly viewable to all, rather than just to friends. They also said that the layout of the transition tool – which would make all messages viewable to everyone, unless the user specifically chose to retain their current settings – was misleading.

"These new 'privacy' changes are clearly intended to push Facebook users to publicly share even more information than before," said a spokesman for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which campaigns for internet rights. "Even worse, the changes will actually reduce the amount of control that users have over some of their personal data."

But Facebook said that users could make some simple adjustments to their profiles – such as leaving the gender and city fields blank – to ensure that information was not publicly available. A spokesman for the social-networking site also said that with the new privacy settings, users could restrict who has access to a particular message or piece of content every time they post something to Facebook, making the recommended default setting less relevant.

"Any suggestion that we're trying to trick them into something would work against any goal that we have," said a Facebook spokesman. He said that Facebook was recommending that posts were viewable by all other users because such open sharing of information was consistent with "the way the world is moving".

Top Chef Winner: Michael Voltaggio

Michael Voltaggio is the winner of Top Chef, season 6. He beat out his brother, the subtle Bryan Voltaggio, and fan favorite Southern charmer Bearded Kevin.

In the Top Chef Season 6 Finale, judges Padma Lakshmi and Tom Colicchio were accompanied by a number of guest judges. They tasted every dish and reacted accordingly.

The Top Chef competition began in Las Vegas with 17 chefs. Every Wednesday, the cheftestants went different places and cooked delicious dishes to stay back for next one week. It was an emotional moment, when Jennifer was eliminated for her salty goat cheese, last week.

Kevin and Bryan and Michael V were the last Top Chefs standing in season 6.

Michael Voltaggio
, 30, of Angeles, California, is Chef de Cuisine at The Dining Room, at the Langham Huntington Hotel & Spa. He got his education at The Greenbrier Hotel Culinary Apprenticeship Program.

Kevin Gillespie, 26 of Atlanta, Georgia, is Executive Chef at Woodfire Grill in Atlanta. He got his culinary education at the Art Institute of Atlanta, and various restaurants.

Bryan Voltaggio, 33, of Frederick, Maryland, is Chef and Partner at the VOLT Restaurant. He received his education from A.O.S Culinary Arts, C.I.A.

Michael Voltaggio was named Top Chef this evening after serving judges an impressive four-course menu in California wine country that showed his creativity and technical prowess.

After winning the Top chef title, Michael broke into tears, as he wished he and his brother Bryan could win the title together.

Michael Voltaggio wins $225,000 in cash and merchandise, a spread in Food & Wine magazine and a showcase at the annual Food & Wine Classic in Aspen, Colorado.

Kevin Gillespie was fan favorite but had a tough luck in the finale. He had to cook with unfamiliar matsutake mushrooms, which didn’t satisfy the judges.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Obama: 30,000 More Troops To Afghanistan by Summer

President Barack Obama announced Tuesday he was dispatching 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan, accelerating a risky and expensive war buildup, even as he assured the nation that U.S. forces will begin coming home in July 2011. The first new Marines will join the fight by Christmas.

The escalation — to be completed by next summer — is designed to reverse significant Taliban advances since Obama took office 10 months ago and to fast-track the training of Afghan soldiers and police toward the goal of hastening an eventual U.S. pullout. The size and speed of the troop increase will put a heavy strain on the military, which still maintains a force of more than 100,000 in Iraq and already has 68,000 in Afghanistan.

"The 30,000 additional troops that I am announcing tonight will deploy in the first part of 2010 the fastest pace possible so that they can target the insurgency and secure key population centers," Obama was to say in his Tuesday night prime-time speech. The White House released excerpts in advance.

The increased troops, Obama said, "will increase our ability to train competent Afghan security forces, and to partner with them so that more Afghans can get into the fight. And they will help create the conditions for the United States to transfer responsibility to the Afghans."

Looking to America's experience in Iraq, Obama put said a U.S. withdrawal would be executed "responsibly, taking into account conditions on the ground."

"We will continue to advise and assist Afghanistan's security forces to ensure that they can succeed over the long haul. But it will be clear to the Afghan government and, more importantly, to the Afghan people that they will ultimately be responsible for their own country," Obama said.

Obama also leaned heavily on NATO allies and other countries to join in escalating the fight.

"We must come together to end this war successfully," the president said. "For what's at stake is not simply a test of NATO's credibility. What's at stake is the security of our allies, and the common security of the world."

Obama's Tuesday evening speech to cadets at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., to be broadcast nationally, ends three months of exacting deliberations that won praise from supporters and criticism from opponents. Former Vice President Dick Cheney said Obama was "dithering," too inexperienced to make a decision on the troop buildup requested in September by commanding Gen. Stanley McChrystal.

Senior officials said Obama also would underscore his commitment to stabilizing Afghanistan and scouring corruption out of the government of President Hamid Karzai. Obama has vowed to prevent Afghanistan from again becoming a safe haven for al-Qaida boss Osama bin Laden and his terrorist organization.

Most of the new forces will be combat troops. Military officials said the Army brigades most likely to be sent will come from Fort Drum in New York and Fort Campbell in Kentucky. Marines, who will be the vanguard, will most likely come primarily from Camp Lejeune in North Carolina.

There will be about 5,000 dedicated trainers in the 30,000, showing the emphasis on preparing Afghans to take over their own security. And the president is making clear to his generals that all troops, even if designated as combat, must consider themselves trainers.

Announcing a start to a U.S. withdrawal by July 2011 does not tie the United States to an "end date" for the war, officials said. They all spoke on condition of anonymity because the speech had not been delivered.

The address could become a defining moment of the Obama presidency, a political gamble that may weigh heavily on his chances for a second White House term. It represents the beginning of a sales job to restore support for the war effort among an American public grown increasingly pessimistic about success — and among some fellow Democrats in Congress wary of or even opposed to spending billions more dollars and putting tens of thousands more U.S. soldiers and Marines in harm's way.

A new survey by the Gallup organization, released Tuesday, showed only 35 percent of Americans now approve of Obama's handling of the war; 55 percent disapprove.

Even before the president spoke, his plan was met with skepticism in Congress, where Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis., and liberal House Democrats threatened to try to block funding for the troop increase.

Sen. Carl Levin, the Michigan Democrat who chairs a military oversight panel, said he didn't think Democrats would yank funding for the troops or try to force Obama's hand to pull them out faster. But Democrats will be looking for ways to pay for the additional troops, he said, including a tax increase on the wealthy although that hike is already being eyed to pay for health care costs. Another possibility is imposing a small gasoline tax that would be phased out if gas prices go up, he said.

Meanwhile, Republicans said that setting a timetable for withdrawal would demonstrate weakness.

"The way that you win wars is to break the enemy's will, not to announce dates that you are leaving," said Sen. John McCain of Arizona, the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee and Obama's campaign rival in last year's presidential race.

If the timeline for the troop increase holds, it will require a costly logistical scramble to send in so many people and so much equipment almost entirely by air. It will also probably require breaking at least an implicit promise to some soldiers who had thought they would have more than 12 months at home before their next deployment.

At the same time, NATO diplomats said Obama was asking alliance partners in Europe to add 5,000 to 10,000 troops to the separate international force in Afghanistan. Indications were the allies would agree to a number somewhere in that range. The war has even less support in Europe than in the United States, and the NATO allies and other countries currently have about 40,000 troops on the ground.

The main mission of the new troops will be to reverse Taliban gains and secure population centers in the country's volatile south and east. The addition of some Marines before year's end would provide badly needed reinforcements to those fighting against Taliban gains in southern Helmand province.

Obama briefed dozens of key lawmakers Tuesday afternoon, before setting off for West Point.

Late Monday, the president spent an hour on a video conference call with Karzai. The White House said Obama told the Afghan leader "that U.S. and international efforts in Afghanistan are not open-ended and must be evaluated toward measurable and achievable goals within the next 18 to 24 months."

On Tuesday Obama contacted Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari to tell him the United States wanted to open a long-term commercial and security relationship. Obama also had planned to speak of a need to help Pakistan stabilize itself from the threats it faces not only from al-Qaida but Taliban forces that are increasingly behind terrorist bombings in that country, officials said.

The United States went to war in Afghanistan shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, al-Qaida terrorist attacks on the United States.

Bin Laden and key members of the terrorist organization were headquartered in Afghanistan at the time, taking advantage of sanctuary afforded by the Taliban government that ran the mountainous and isolated country.

Taliban forces were quickly driven from power, while bin Laden and his top deputies were believed to have fled through towering mountains into neighboring Pakistan. While the al-Qaida leadership appears to be bottled up in Pakistan's largely ungoverned tribal regions, the U.S. military strategy of targeted missile attacks from unmanned drone aircraft has yet to flush bin Laden and his cohorts from hiding.

Probiotics for Weight Loss?

Believe it or not, the human body contains more bacteria living inside than individual cells: 100 trillion microorganisms live in our gastrointestinal tract as compared with a "mere" 10 trillion human cells in our body. And one of the best kinds of microorganisms we can have flourishing inside our bodies are the probiotics, the healthy bacteria that live in our intestines or gut. Now, new research from the Stanford University School of Medicine and Stanford Hospital and Clinics suggests probiotics might even enhance weight-loss programs.

The Stanford researchers first noticed the beneficial effects of probiotics on weight when working with extremely obese patients who've had gastric-bypass surgery. But studies are showing that the benefits of probiotics are not limited to those who've had this medical procedure.

So why are probiotics assisting with weight loss? Several studies have suggested that the guts of normal-weight people contain a different mix or balance of the types and amounts of bacteria that are found in the intestines of overweight folks. One study even found these same imbalances among the microorganisms in 7-year-old kids who were overweight.

Could it be that bad bacteria are causing at least some of our weight issues? Is it possible that one day we'll just ingest a dollop of "weight-friendly" bacteria to bring our body size under control?

It's too soon to know exactly where this discovery will lead, so here are my recommendations:

Be sure to include foods in your diet that contain probiotics, such as yogurt.

Avoid brands of yogurt that have the "fruit" at the bottom and instead go with low-fat, low-sugar varieties that contain plenty of protein and calcium. A cup of yogurt is a great snack to hold you over in between meals or after a workout. Greek yogurts are especially high in protein.

Make prebiotics part of your regular diet as well. Prebiotics--tiny fibers found in some fruits and vegetables--just happen to be what probiotics and other good bacteria eat. Good sources of prebiotics include wheat, bananas, onions, garlic, and leeks. (Europeans eat far more prebiotics than do people in the U.S--might this explain part of the weight discrepancy between the U.S. and European populations?)

If you have digestive issues, be sure to talk with your doctor or dietitian about "pharmaceutical-grade" probiotics, which are the equivalent of prescription-strength good bacteria.

Last, a caveat: Don't even think about starting to load up on probiotics so that you can slack off on exercise or ignore your healthy eating plan. There is no miracle probiotic cure in the pipeline!

Fritz Henderson:GM Motor CEO To Resign

General Motors Co. CEO Frederick "Fritz" Henderson stepped down Tuesday after the board determined that the company wasn't changing quickly enough. Chairman Ed Whitacre Jr. said at a hastily called news conference that he will serve as interim CEO, and an international search for a new CEO and president is planned.

Whitacre thanked Henderson for his work during a period of challenge and change, but said it is time to accelerate the pace of rebuilding the largest U.S. automaker.

The resignation comes just eight months after Henderson, 51, replaced former chairman and CEO Rick Wagoner, who was ousted March 29 by the Obama administration's government's auto task force.

Henderson has been with GM his entire career and was the government's choice to run the beleaguered company after Wagoner left. Whitacre, picked by the government in June to be chairman of the new GM, is considered an industry outsider, having run AT&T Inc. for 17 years.

Whitacre and the board have become increasingly active in the company's decisions, at times challenging some of Henderson's decisions. In November, the board voted to abandon plans to sell GM's European Opel unit. That reversed an earlier option favored by Henderson to sell it to a consortium led by Canadian auto parts supplier Magna International Inc.

"Based on the determination of the board and the pace of the change in the company, it was determined that it was best to initiate a change in direction," spokesman Chris Preuss said.

An Obama administration official said in a statement that "this decision was made by the Board of Directors alone. The Administration was not involved in the decision."

Henderson replaced Wagoner a few months before GM entered bankruptcy protection and led the company through a painful government-led and court-supervised reorganization

Dubai Isn't Alone In Debt Overload

Like overstretched American homeowners, governments and companies across the globe are groaning under the weight of debts that, some fear, might never be fully paid back.

As Dubai, that one-time wonderland in the desert, struggles to pay its bills, a troubling question hangs over the financial world: Is this latest financial crisis an isolated event, or a harbinger of still more debt shocks?

For the moment, at least, global investors seem to be taking Dubai's sinking fortunes in their stride. On Monday, the American stock market rose modestly, even as share prices plunged throughout the Persian Gulf.

But the travails of Dubai, a boomtown that, with its palm-shaped islands and indoor ski slope became a potent symbol of hyperwealth, nonetheless have some economists wondering where other debt bombs might be lurking -- and just how dangerous they might turn out to be.

Big banks that have only just begun to recover from the financial shocks of last year are now nervously eyeing their potential exposure to highly indebted corporations and governments.

From the Baltics to the Mediterranean, the bills for an unprecedented borrowing binge are starting to fall due. In Russia and the former Soviet bloc, where high oil prices helped feed blistering growth, a mountain of debt must be refinanced as short-term i.o.u.'s come due.

Even in rich nations like the United States and Japan, which are increasing government spending to shore up slack economies, mounting budget deficits are raising concern about governments' ability to shoulder their debts, especially once interest rates start to rise again.

The numbers are startling. In Germany, long the bastion of fiscal rectitude in Europe, government debt is on the rise. There, the government debt outstanding is expected to increase to the equivalent of 77 percent of the nation's economic output next year, from 60 percent in 2002. In Britain, that figure is expected to more than double over the same period, to more than 80 percent.

The burdens are even greater in Ireland and Latvia, where economic booms driven by easy credit and soaring property values have given way to precipitous busts. Public debt in Ireland is expected to soar to 83 percent of gross domestic product next year, from just 25 percent in 2007. Latvia is sinking into debt even faster. Its borrowings will reach the equivalent of nearly half the economy next year, up from 9 percent a mere two years ago.

Like Latvia, the Baltic states of Lithuania and Estonia remain worryingly exposed, as do Bulgaria and Hungary. All of these nations carry foreign debt that exceeds 100 percent of their G.D.P.'s, said Ivan Tchakarov, chief economist for Russia and the former Soviet states at Nomura bank. External debt is often held in a foreign currency, which means governments cannot use devaluation of their own currencies as a tool to reduce their debt when they run into trouble, according to Maurice Obstfeld, an economics professor at the University of California, Berkeley.

Few analysts predict a major nation will default on it government debts in the immediate future. Indeed, many maintain that rich nations and the International Monetary Fund would intervene if a government needed a bailout.

But there are no assurances that companies in these nations, which, like governments, gorged on debt in good times, will be rescued. Dubai's refusal to guarantee the debts of its investment arm, Dubai World, may set a precedent for other indebted governments to abandon companies that investors had in the past assumed enjoyed full state backing.

"I see very good reasons to be worried that at some point in 2010 we are going to see more cases of ring-fencing because governments realize they can't afford to guarantee the debts of these companies," said Pierre Cailleteau, managing director of the global sovereign risk group and chief economist of Moody's.

Kenneth Rogoff, a Harvard economist whose recent book, "This Time Is Different," chronicles 800 years of financial crises, said: "I think right now every vulnerable country has one or two deep-pocketed backers that pretty much rule out a sudden run." But Mr. Rogoff said he expected a wave of defaults about two years from now, when the countries now serving as implicit guarantors turn their focus to economic problems at home.

One feature of the financial crisis is that some governments have taken on increasingly short-term debt. In the United States, for example, Treasury debt maturing within one year has risen from around 33 percent of total debt two years ago to around 44 percent this summer, while falling slightly since then, according to Wrightson ICAP. The United States will soon have debt problems of its own.

"In another couple years as industrialized countries' own debts -- in places like Germany, Japan and the United States -- get worse, they will become more reluctant to open up their wallets to spendthrift emerging markets, or at least countries they view that way," Mr. Rogoff said.

This might spell trouble for struggling nations. Facing a need to roll over their maturing debts, emerging markets may have to borrow around $65 billion in 2010 alone, according to Gary N. Kleiman of Kleiman International.

But while government debt may be a problem, corporate debt may set off a crisis that, in some ways, is already unfolding.

Corporate borrowing surged over the last five years. According to Mr. Kleiman, $200 billion of corporate debt is coming due this year or next year. He estimates that companies in Russia and the United Arab Emirates account for about half of that borrowing.

"This is where the Achilles heel is," he said.

Companies in several countries face immediate tests. Companies in China will have to borrow $8.8 billion in 2010; companies in Mexico $11 billion.

According to an analysis by JPMorgan Chase, Russian companies borrowed $220 billion from banks or by selling bonds from 2006 to 2008. That is the equivalent of 13 percent of Russia's gross domestic product. In the Emirates, that figure was $135.6 billion, or 53 percent of G.D.P.; in Turkey, it was $72 billion, or 10 percent of G.D.P.; and in Kazakhstan, it was $44 billion, or 44 percent of G.D.P.

In the past, if companies could not meet those obligations, governments might have stepped in. But already some companies have defaulted on payments after assumed government guarantees failed to materialize.

In Russia, for instance, the foreign debt totals more than $470 billion. But only a tiny fraction of that -- about $29 billion -- is sovereign debt. The rest is owed by Russian companies, including state giants like Gazprom.

The most troubling case in Russia is Rusal, the world's largest aluminum company, which owes $16 billion and has been in a standstill on repayment this year while dealing with creditors.

A subsidiary of a Russian state aircraft manufacturer defaulted on bonds last autumn despite a presumed sovereign guarantee. In Ukraine, the state energy company, Naftogaz, and a state railroad, have restructured or asked to restructure their debt.

"This was a trail that was blazed in this part of the world," said Rory MacFarquhar, an economist at Goldman Sachs in Moscow, referring to governments retreating from implied guarantees of state company debt, as in the case of Dubai World.

The Dubai World debt restructuring is already lifting borrowing costs for Russian companies that must repay a total of $20 billion in December, according to Vladimir Tikhomirov, chief economist of UralSib bank in Moscow.

Jaimee Grubbs PHOTOS: Pictures Of Tiger Woods' New Alleged Mistress

TMZ is reporting that cocktail waitress Jaimee Grubbs has told Us Weekly that she had a 31-month affair with Tiger Woods. According to TMZ, Grubbs, 24 and best known for her stint on VH1's "Tool Academy," claims to have voicemails and text messages to corroborate her story. TMZ adds:

"According to Us Weekly, Grubbs has more than 300 text messages from Tiger -- who married Elin Nordegren in 2004.
The magazine, which comes out tomorrow, claims Grubbs had 20 sexual encounters with Tiger.

Police:Tiger Woods at Fault in Crash, Will Get Citation

Tiger Woods will be cited for careless driving in a car crash outside his Orlando-area mansion, but will not face criminal charges, the Florida Highway Patrol said Tuesday.

Woods faces a $164 fine and four points against his driver’s license, not close to enough to have it suspended. The citation closes the investigation of last week’s crash.

The patrol “is not pursuing criminal charges in this matter nor is there any testimony or other evidence to support any additional charges of any kind other than the charge of careless driving,” Sgt. Kim Montes said.

According to an accident report, Woods crashed his SUV into a fire hydrant and a tree at 2:25 a.m. Friday. The airbags did not deploy and Woods’ wife told Windermere police she used a golf club to smash the back windows to help him out.

Woods withdrew Monday from his own golf tournament, citing injuries from the crash.

Since the accident, tabloids and gossip Web sites have fueled speculation about the events leading up to it, including that there may have been a domestic dispute between Woods and his wife.

The crash came two days after The National Enquirer published a story alleging that Woods had been seeing a New York nightclub hostess, and that they recently were together in Melbourne, where Woods competed in the Australian Masters. The woman, Rachel Uchitel, denies the affair.

An attorney for the neighbors who dialed 911 after the crash said Woods did not appear to be driving under the influence and showed no signs of having been in a fight. Montes said there were no claims of domestic violence and insufficient evidence to subpoena any medical information.

“Despite the celebrity status of Mr. Woods, the Florida Highway Patrol has completed its investigation in the same professional manner it strives to complete each traffic investigation,” Montes said.

Bill Sharpe, an attorney for the neighbors, said Woods’ injuries were “consistent with a car wreck and inconsistent with him being beat up. The scratches on his face were consistent with someone who maybe was in a minor car accident and hit his head on the windshield. … None of his injuries looked like he was beat up by his wife.”

Sharpe said neighbor Linda Adams and her two adult sons went outside their home in the exclusive gated community of Isleworth after hearing the crash and Woods’ wife, Elin Nordegren, asked them to call the 911 emergency number.

He said the neighbors found Nordegren kneeling beside her husband, upset about his injuries. Sharpe said Woods appeared woozy and had scratches on his face and that his wife was trying to console him. The Adamses wrapped Woods in a blanket and made sure he didn’t move.

Tabloid speculation has focused on whether Woods and his wife were fighting before the accident.

“One thing we want to make clear is that Mrs. Woods’ attitude was consistent with her being concerned about her injured husband,” Sharpe said. “Mrs. Woods was trying to help him. Mrs. Woods was worried about her husband. She was concerned.”

Sharpe said the Adams family did not see the crash and did not see Woods’ wife with a golf club. He said he was hired to get the message out that the Adams family members have told investigators everything they know about the crash and aren’t hiding anything.

By skipping his tournament, Woods will escape the TV cameras and a horde of media seeking more details. The tournament was to be the last of the year for Woods anyway, and he did not say when or where he would make his return next year.

When healthy, he has made his season debut at Torrey Pines every year since 2006. The San Diego Invitational this year is scheduled the week of Jan. 25. That could mean Woods avoids the media for 10 weeks.

Neighbors in the exclusive Isleworth community said Tuesday they did not know if Woods was home. There were no cars in his driveway as the highway patrol held its news conference, and there was little sign that any accident had taken place - the fire hydrant Woods struck had either been repaired or replaced. The grass was perfectly trimmed.

The complex’s private security force patrolled the plush community in marked cars and golf carts, the primary source of transportation around Isleworth.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Best Buy Black Friday 2009 Sales !

With Best Buy’s Pre Sales already going on at the moment, we have some details on how you can save a lot of money on some specific Home Theater equipment this Black Friday.
Firstly, the important thing you should know is that Best Buy will be opening their stores at 5am on Black Friday - following the trend of the other retailers eager to beat the crowds. Best Buy will also be kicking off their ‘online sale’ at 2am EST on Thanksgiving Day, so those of you who prefer to stay in over Black Friday better be prepared to stay up late.

As for the deals, you’ll be able to pick up a Sony Bravia DAV-HDX589W 5.1 Channel 1000W Home Theater System for only $279.99 - a huge $150 saving from the original price ($429.99). Features of this product include 1000W of Power, 5.1 channel surround sound, 1080p upconvert DVD player, Apple iPod Dock, 5-disc DVD/CD/MP3 player and much more.

Other deals include a Samsung 5.1 Channel 1000W Home Theater System With Blu-ray Disc Player for just $399.99 ($150 saving) and a Sony STR-DH800 7.1 Channel 770-Watt A/V Receiver for only $279.99 - a saving of $120.

If you are looking for some Home Theater accessories, you’ll be able to buy a 4′ Monster Cable 700 Series HDMI Cable ($49.99), Klipsch Icon 2-Way Triple 5.25″ Floorstanding Speaker ($186.99) and a Tilting Wall Mount For 30″-56″ Flat-Panel TVs - only $99.99.

Adam Lambert On AMAs Censored Performance: 'That's Discrimination'

Even before Adam Lambert's show-stopping performance at the 2009 American Music Awards was edited for the west coast feed of the awards show, the singer told Access Hollywood's Shaun Robinson that he felt censoring his performance would be wrong.

"You know honestly, if I offended some people... it's apples and oranges. I'm not an artist that does things for every single person," Adam told Access' Shaun backstage following his racy performance of "For Your Entertainment," where he kissed male keyboardist Tommy Ratliff, who is straight.

"I believe in artistic freedom and expression, I believe in honoring the lyrics of a song, and those lyrics aren't really for everybody either," he continued.

And before his performance was edited, he told Access the thought of changing what happened on stage for the other half of the country would be a double standard.

"If it's edited, that's discrimination," Adam said. "I will be a little disappointed because there is a little bit of discrimination going in this country. There's a big double standard, female pop artists have been doing things provocative like that for years, and the fact that I'm a male, and I'll be edited and discriminated against could be a problem."

The singer did admit that an edited down performance would not shock him.

"I'm not going to be surprised that they edit it," he continued. "People are scared and it's really sad, I just wish people could open their minds up and enjoy things, it's all for a laugh, it's really not that big of a deal."

Adam said he's only trying to add a little shock to his show - something many before him have done.

"Shock is fun, shock rock is like something that existed, for example, like in the 70's, Alice Cooper...David Bowie, you had artists that liked to push the envelope and that's what made them so fresh," he explained. "I think that surprise is part of entertainment. I think that it keeps people watching its fun, it makes you laugh and it should be that way. And if it made you uncomfortable, maybe I'm not for you."

Early Monday morning the singer thanked his fans on Twitter for their support, writing, "All hail freedom of expression and artistic I adore u."

Over 100 Icebergs Drifting To New Zealand

More than 100, and possibly hundreds, of Antarctic icebergs are floating towards New Zealand in a rare event which has prompted a shipping warning, officials said on Monday.

An Australian Antarctic Division glaciologist said the ice chunks, spotted by satellite photography, had passed the Auckland Islands and were heading towards the main South Island, about 450 kilometres (280 miles) northeast.

Scientist Neal Young said more than 100 icebergs -- some measuring more than 200 metres (650 feet) across -- were seen in just one cluster, indicating there could be hundreds more.

He said they were the remains of a massive ice floe which split from the Antarctic as sea and air temperatures rise due to global warming.

"All of these have come from a larger one that was probably 30 square kilometres (11.6 square miles) in size when it left Antarctica," Young told AFP.

"It's done a long circuit around Antarctica and now the bigger parts of it are breaking up and producing smaller ones."

He said large numbers of icebergs had not floated this close to New Zealand since 2006, when a number came within 25 kilometres of the coastline -- the first such sighting since 1931.

"They're following the same tracks now up towards New Zealand. Whether they make it up to the South Island or not is difficult to tell," Young said.

New Zealand has already issued coastal navigation warnings for the area in the Southern Ocean where the icebergs have been seen.

"It's really just a general warning for shipping in that area to be on the alert for icebergs," said Maritime New Zealand spokesman Ross Henderson.

The icebergs are smaller remnants of the giant chunks seen off Australia's Macquarie Island this month, including one estimated at two kilometres (1.2 miles) and another twice the size of Beijing's "Bird's Nest" Olympic Stadium.

Young earlier told AFP he expected to see more icebergs in the area if the Earth's temperature continues to increase.

"If the current trends in global warming were to continue I would anticipate seeing more icebergs and the large ice shelves breaking up," he said.

When icebergs last neared New Zealand in 2006, a sheep was helicoptered out to be shorn on one of the floes in a publicity stunt by the country's wool industry.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Target Black Friday Ads

Attention, class. Here's a logic question for you: If it's true that everyone loves a deal, and Black Friday offers the best deals of the year, then is it safe to assume that folks will go into a state of high-grade hysteria the day after Thanksgiving? The answer is: duh, of course.

Though over a week away, Black Friday is already igniting the Search box. Shoppers have pushed up searches on "black friday 2009" and "black friday ads" to dizzying heights. One might think that retailers would keep the deals a secret until the big day, but nothing could be further from the truth.

In an effort to get spend-happy shoppers to their stores, retailers have "leaked" many of their most drool-worthy deals. Offers from Walmart, Best Buy, and Target are all garnering a ton of lookups. And, interestingly, many of the deals are quite similar.

CNN Money explains what shoppers can expect find at Walmart on November 27. According to sources, there will be HDTVs, laptops, toys, and Blu-ray players for the grabbing. Confirmed products include a 50-inch Sanyo 720p plasma TV for $598, a Magnavox Blu-ray player for $78, and a GPS from TomTom for $59.

And across the urban sprawl at Target? A lot of the same, actually. There, you can get a 32-inch LCD HDTV from Westinghouse for $246, some toys for 50 percent off, and toasters and coffeemakers for just $3. Best Buy will reportedly offer shoppers a 50-inch Samsung plasma TV for $898, "huge discounts" on GPS units, and a PlayStation 3 Slim with two games for $300.

It's worth noting that none of these deals are "official," as the stores have yet to confirm them. But odds are, they're the real deal. Set your alarms and sharpen your claws — it's gonna be a long day.

What Is a Nephelococcygia?

Nephelococcygia is a super fun way to kill time. We have often lied on the grass or on the terrace and gazed at the skies and sometimes we imagine shapes when we see clouds. This is exactly what they call Nephelococcygia.

The term Nephelococcygia was derived from Aristophanes’ play “The Birds,” the Greek for “Cloud Cuckoo Land,” the utopian city in the clouds that the main character persuades all the birds in the world to build.

Now no human being can say that they have never gazed at the clouds and imagined shapes. Most do it when they are kids and some big kids even do it now. It works wonder during the spring summer as the sky gets filled with lots of cloud that time.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

The World's Ugliest Buildings

Different people have different criteria for what makes a structure unappealing. “The ugliest buildings are the anonymous ones,” says Christopher Bonanos, who edits architecture criticism at New York magazine. “Even if an experimental, high-profile building doesn’t quite deliver, at least the architect is trying something. A boring building is a warehouse in the middle of New Jersey.”

For Jason Fifield, an associate at Ankrom Moisan Architects in Portland, what makes a building ugly “is when the design isn’t generated by real reasons but rather by arbitrariness, just for the sake of creating an image.”

To compile our list of the world’s ugliest structures, we consulted with architects and design experts as well as the general public. Pretty much everybody had something to say. For instance, there aren’t many admirers of the spherical houses on long pole “stems” planted, like so many mushrooms, in the Netherlands. (The architect was given free rein courtesy of a Dutch subsidy for experimental housing.) Then there’s the midwestern corporate headquarters that takes the form of a huge picnic basket. Sure, it’s funny from the outside, but probably not for the employees of Longaberger, in Newark, OH, who have to go work in a hamper every day.

1. Harold Washington Library,Chicago

If buildings came with footnotes, this one, named for a beloved former mayor who deserved better, would have pages worth of citations. Neoclassical references collide with a glass-and-steel Mannerist roof; throw in some red brick, granite, and aluminum—and a bad sense of scale—and you’ve got way too much architecture class for one day.

The Ugly Truth: Opened in 1991 and designed by the firm Hammond, Beeby, and Babka, the Chicago public library has a helter-skelter application of motifs and styles that’s “locked in the postmodern era,” says Peter Koliopoulos of Circle West Architects in Scottsdale, Ariz.

2.Longaberger Home Office,Newark, Ohio

If you worked here, you’d be conducting business in a 9,000-ton copy of a woven-wood basket. Its stucco-over-steel construction was an award-winning feat, apparently; the synthetic plaster received a prize. But it’s as if, in 1997, a giant-size Little Red Riding Hood set down her seven-story hamper on a flat section of Ohio.

The Ugly Truth: True, the company purveys handcrafted baskets. And founder Dave Longaberger’s dream headquarters was a replica of his favorite basket. But hey, Crate & Barrel employees don’t schedule meetings in a 10-story sofa.

3. The Ideal Palace,Hauterives, France

Cinderella’s dream digs it’s not, but Le Palais Idéal does bring to mind a fairy tale — the kind one might have visions of after dropping acid. Gargoyles peer out at grottoes with Hindu temples, and tiny mosque-motifs adorn squiggly stone pillars.

The Ugly Truth: In the mid-1800s, Ferdinand Cheval tripped over a stone while delivering mail and was seized with inspiration—his life’s work would be to build a stone château. Over the next three decades, he marked stones while covering his route, returning in the evening with a wheelbarrow to collect them.

4. The Portland Building,Portland, Ore.

Let’s break out the government-building checklist. Small, boring windows? Check. Humdrum off-white masonry? Yes. Terracotta pilasters and shiny blue glass? That, too. The first three levels of the squat, 15-story municipal-services structure are covered in dark green tiles, adding to the bewildering gaudy-meets-tedious tone.

The Ugly Truth: Michael Graves won a competition to design the building in 1982. Postmodernism was all the rage in the ’80s, which explains the randomly-stuck-on historical motifs. “Many buildings from that decade look fake,” says architect Stephen R. Connors, who has his own firm in Warwick, NY.

5. Bolwoningen Houses,Hertogenbosch, Netherlands

If Lewis Carroll’s Alice wandered into a 1960s sci-fi flick, she might have come across something like these bulbous houses. The residents live inside bizarre-looking bubbles (small ones, at 18 feet across) with UFO-like windows.

The Ugly Truth: In the late 1970s, the Dutch government offered subsidies for experimental housing, and the architect—one Dries Kreijkamp—certainly complied with the directive. The 50 bolwoningen (bol = sphere, woningen = houses) sprouted up in a city that seems to infect artists with a fantastical streak; it’s the hometown of Hieronymus Bosch, the 15th-century painter known for his half-dream, half-nightmare-like renderings.

TCU Stuck In BCS Standings After Big Win

TCU’s big victory wasn’t enough for the Horned Frogs to make a move up the BCS standings.

TCU (10-0) on Sunday remained behind Florida, Alabama and Texas in the race to the national title game.

The Horned Frogs defeated Utah 55-28 on Saturday night in what figured to be the most difficult game left on their schedule. But they remained stuck in fourth place in Bowl Championship Series standings.

TCU, from the Mountain West Conference, last week became the first team from a league without an automatic BCS bid to break into the top five of the standings this late in a season.

If the Horned Frogs can beat Wyoming and New Mexico to finish a perfect regular season, they will earn their first BCS bid and cross off another achievement on the pyramid of goals coach Gary Patterson has on display for his team.

“If we win two games, we have an opportunity to color in a box higher than we’ve ever colored in in this program, to go to a BCS,” he said Sunday. “That’s about as far as I take it.”

Unless Alabama, Florida or Texas slip up, that’s about as far as TCU will be able to take it.

Florida has been in first since the standings were initially released last month. Alabama is second and Texas is third.

The Gators and Crimson Tide meet in the SEC championship on Dec. 5. If they can both reach that game undefeated, a spot in the BCS title game on Jan. 7 would be guaranteed to the winner.

If Texas can win its remaining two regular-season games and the Big 12 championship game, it’s a virtual lock to play for the national championship at the Rose Bowl.

Undefeated Cincinnati is in fifth place and unbeaten Boise State is sixth in the latest BCS standings.

Like the Horned Frogs, the Bearcats and Broncos need help from the teams in front of them in order to make a national title game appearance.

At least the Bearcats control their fate when it comes to getting into one of the other four big-money bowl games. If Cincinnati can beat Pittsburgh in the regular-season finale, it will earn the Big East’s automatic BCS berth for the second straight year.

Boise State from the Western Athletic Conference is in danger of being left out of the BCS after a perfect regular season for the second consecutive year.

Only one team from the conferences without automatic bids can earn an automatic bid by finishing in the top 12 of the final standings, and TCU is in line to earn that invite.

The Broncos are in position to be eligible for an at-large bid but no team from outside the six automatic-qualifying leagues has ever been an at-large selection.

New Miley Cyrus Dead Rumors Surface!!

It wouldn’t be a quality weekend without one fake celebrity death, and one of the golden oldies claiming Miley Cyrus is dead has resurfaced.

The latest Miley Cyrus dead rumor comes complete (like most of them do) with a car crash story. The claim is that Miley Cyrus was on her way to film the Hannah Montana show and “was in a terrible car accident and died.”

Miley is said to have been struck by a large truck that ran a red light traveling at a speed of about 55 mph.

Like every similar incarnation of the rumor previously, it simply isn’t true. Miley Cyrus is not dead, Miley Cyrus has not died, end of story.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Eight Foods That Fight Fat!

Almonds- Almond joy! Dieters who ate 3 ounces of these nuts every day reduced their weight and body-mass index by a solid 18 percent compared with an 11 percent drop in the no-nut group, a study in the International Journal of Obesity found. Almonds are high in alpha-linolenic acid, which can speed the metabolism of fats. Stick to 12 per serving.

Berries- Vitamin C–loaded fruit such as strawberries and raspberries can help you sizzle up to 30 percent more fat during exercise, suggests research from Arizona State University at Mesa. Blend a vinaigrette of 1 cup berries and ¼ cup balsamic vinegar.

Cinnamon -This spice could make your waistline nice. Sprinkling ¼ teaspoon on your food may prevent a postmeal insulin spike—this increase normally occurs after you eat and “signals the body that it should store fat rather than burn it,” explains Lauren Slayton, R.D., of New York City. Add a dash to your oatmeal, yogurt or coffee.

Mustard -Hello, yellow. The spice that gives mustard its color, turmeric, may slow the growth of fat tissues, a study in the journal Endocrinology notes. Eighty-six mayo in favor of any mustard; sprinkle turmeric on cauliflower and roast for a tangy side.

Oranges- Prevent pound creep with this citrus star: It contains fat-torching compounds called flavones. Women who ate the most flavones had a significantly lower increase in body fat over a 14-year period, a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition finds. Snack on slices or drink freshly squeezed OJ (with pulp!) for the biggest payback.

Soybeans- These green gems are rich in choline, a compound that blocks fat absorption and breaks down fatty deposits. Add ½ cup edamame to a salad.

Sweet potatoes- Trade up to sweet taters. They’re high in fiber, which means no drastic insulin jumps and thus less fat packed onto your hips. Bake a small sweet potato—think of two bars of soap as a portion size—and top with a dollop of lowfat or nonfat cottage cheese.

Swiss cheese
- Holy cow: “Calcium-rich foods reduce fat-producing enzymes and increase fat breakdown,” says Michael B. Zemel, Ph.D., director of the Nutrition Institute at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. Put toe to toe with some of its cheesy counterparts, Swiss is a heavy hitter in the calcium department; layer a slice on a lunchtime sandwich, or stack some on high-fiber crackers.

Justin Bieber,Care Bears On Fire in True Jackson VP!

A new season of Nickelodeon’s hit show “True Jackson VP” will be premiering on November 14th at 8:30 PM.

“True Jackson VP” stars Keke Palmer.

The premiere episode features special guest Justin Bieber along with the band Care Bears on Fire.

There will also be a one hour special feature movie of “True Jackson VP” which will guest star Tyler James Williams and Natasha Bedingfield on November 21st at 8:30 PM.

Will you be tuning in for Justin’s episode of “True Jackson VP” on the Nickelodeon television channel?

Rare Atari Game Sells For Over $5,000

When it was released in the 1980s, the Atari 2600 game "The Music Machine" didn’t exactly tear up the charts. That's because it was only sold in religious bookstores, making it one of the rarest games to ever be released for the legendary console.

And for a mere $5,250, it could be yours -- or could have been, had you beaten out the winner of this eBay listing.

Sweetening the deal is the fact that this particular copy of the game is still sealed, meaning the original cartridge and manual are in mint condition. Copies of the nearly-impossible-to-find game don’t often come up for sale, and when they do, they're typically in much worse shape.

So what do you do in the game, exactly? We're not really sure -- few have ever even held a copy, much less played it -- but according to the game box, it sounds like a religious take on the Atari classic, Kaboom!:

"Symbols representing character-building qualities (the Fruit of the Spirit) are raining down from above. Stevie and Nancy need your help to collect the symbols and to avoid the mischievous pudgeons...and with each gift of Love you collect, the symbols rain heavier and faster."

Pacquiao VS Cotto

LAS VEGAS — Manny Pacquiao weighed in at 144 pounds, his heaviest ever, while Miguel Cotto came in at the contract limit of 145 pounds for their scheduled 12-round fight.

A raucous crowd of about 7,000, some of whom had been waiting for hours, was on hand Friday at the MGM Grand to see both fighters make weight for the bout.

Pacquiao, who began boxing at 105 pounds, weighed 2 pounds more than the 142 he weighed last year when he stopped Oscar De La Hoya. He was 138 pounds for his last fight, a second-round knockout of Ricky Hatton.

Cotto was the lightest he has been since weighing 145 pounds when he defeated Zab Judah two years ago.

TONY ALAMO:Evangelist Gets 175 Years For Sex Crimes

Evangelist Tony Alamo used his stature as a self-proclaimed prophet to force underage girls into sham marriages with him, controlling his followers with their fears of eternal suffering.

But the judge who sentenced Alamo on Friday to 175 years in prison for child sexual abuse warned of another kind of justice awaiting the aging evangelist.

"Mr. Alamo, one day you will face a higher and a greater judge than me," U.S. District Judge Harry F. Barnes told the preacher. "May he have mercy on your soul."

Barnes leveled the maximum sentence against the 75-year-old, who preyed on followers' young daughters and took child "brides" as young as age 8. A jury convicted Alamo in July on a 10-count indictment accusing him of taking the girls across state lines for sex.

Alamo, who has made millions through his ministry, also must pay $250,000 in fines. He will return to court for a Jan. 13 hearing at which Barnes will determine if the five women who testified about their sexual abuse will be paid restitution. Federal prosecutors say an expert believes each one should get $2.7 million for the physical and mental abuse they endured.

Barnes said Alamo used his influence as both a father figure and a pastor to force himself upon impressionable girls who feared "the loss of their salvation."

"You are described by others who testified as a prophet of God, a person of trust, a person of supreme authority in the church," Barnes said, staring the pale preacher. "It's hard to imagine the scenario and the damage that occurred to these five young girls."

Alamo, who had muttered and cursed through his two-week trial, stood silently during the sentencing, dressed in a yellow prison uniform and a blue windbreaker. Before Barnes' ruling, Alamo told the judge: "I lean on the lord Jesus Christ."

Nicolas Cage loses 2 homes in foreclosure auction

Even Academy Award winners are suffering from financial woes this recession. Actor Nicolas Cage lost two homes in New Orleans worth a total of $6.8 million in a foreclosure auction Thursday.

Birmingham, Ala.-based Regions Bank purchased Cage's 1140 Royal Street property in the French Quarter appraised at $3.5 million for $2.3 million. The bank, which has about 1,900 branches throughout the South, Midwest and Texas, paid $2.2 million for Cage's 2523 Pataniya Street property appraised at $3.3 million in the Garden District.

New Orleans's civil Sheriff Paul Valteau said no other bids were made on the houses.

Cage owed $5.5 million in mortgage payments and $151,730 to the City of New Orleans in real estate taxes, according to Valteau.

Hancock Park Real Estate Co., a corporation through which Cage purchased both homes, is listed as the official property owner. Valteau said attorneys representing Samuel Levin, Cage's former business manager, set up the corporation so that Cage's name would not appear on the mortgage documents -- a common strategy among celebrities.

Levin also was listed on the mortgage document as the agent for service of process, Valteau added. That agent is the officer appointed by a corporation to receive legal notices.

Last month, Cage filed a lawsuit against Levin in California claiming that Levin duped the Hollywood actor out of more than $20 million since 2001 when he was hired.

The suit said Levin "lined his pockets with several million dollars in business management fees while sending Cage down a path toward financial ruin."

The suit went on to say Cage has "discovered that he is now forced to sell major assets and investments at a significant loss and is faced with huge tax liabilities because of Levin's incompetence, misrepresentations and recklessness. Rather than attaining financial security, Cage has been forced to dispose of significant assets in order to pay for Levin's gross misconduct."

A reporter's calls to Levin's office for comment were not immediately returned.

CNN reported that Cage owes more than $6 million in back taxes and his properties in California and Las Vegas have also been foreclosed on and are designated for auction later this month.

The actor, who's known for his roles in Leaving Las Vegas and National Treasure, has 5 projects slated for 2010, according to the Internet Movie Database.

Water On The Moon

A "significant amount" of frozen water has been found on the moon, the US space agency said Friday heralding a giant leap forward in space exploration and boosting hopes of a permanent lunar base.

Preliminary data from a dramatic experiment on the moon "indicates the mission successfully uncovered water in a permanently shadowed lunar crater," NASA said in a statement.

"The discovery opens a new chapter in our understanding of the moon," it added, as ecstatic scientists celebrated the landmark discovery.

"Yes indeed we found water and we did not find only a little bit but a significant amount," said Anthony Colaprete, project scientist and principal investigator for the 79-million-dollar LCROSS mission.

The data was found after NASA sent two spacecraft crashing into the lunar surface last month in a dramatic experiment to probe Earth's nearest neighbor for water.

One rocket slammed into the Cabeus crater, near the lunar southern pole, at around 5,600 miles (9,000 kilometers) per hour.

Moon holds key to solar system's secrets

The rocket was followed four minutes later by a spacecraft equipped with cameras to record the impact which sent a huge plume of material billowing up from the bottom of the crater, untouched by sunlight for billions of years.

"In the 20 to 30 meter crater we found maybe about a dozen, at least, two-gallon buckets of water. This is an initial result," Colaprete told reporters.

"We are ecstatic," he added in a statement.

"Multiple lines of evidence show water was present in both the high angle vapor plume and the ejecta curtain created by the LCROSS Centaur impact.

"The concentration and distribution of water and other substances requires further analysis, but it is safe to say Cabeus holds water," Colaprete said.

Scientists had previously theorized that, except for the possibility of ice at the bottom of craters, the moon was totally dry.

Finding water on Earth's natural satellite is a major breakthrough in space exploration.

"It's very exciting, it is painting a new image of the moon," said Gregory Deloy, from the University of California hailing it as "an extraordinary discovery."

He theorized that "one of the possible source of water is a comet."

"We're unlocking the mysteries of our nearest neighbor and, by extension, the solar system," said Michael Wargo, chief lunar scientist at NASA headquarters in Washington.

"The full understanding of the LCROSS data may take some time. The data is that rich," Colaprete cautioned.

"Along with the water in Cabeus, there are hints of other intriguing substances. The permanently shadowed regions of the moon are truly cold traps, collecting and preserving material over billions of years."

Only 12 men, all Americans, have ever walked on the moon, and the last to set foot there were in 1972, at the end of the Apollo missions.

But NASA's ambitious plans to put US astronauts back on the moon by 2020 to establish manned lunar bases for further exploration to Mars under the Constellation project are increasingly in doubt.

NASA's budget is currently too small to pay for Constellation's Orion capsule, a more advanced and spacious version of the Apollo lunar module, as well as the Ares I and Ares V launchers needed to put the craft in orbit.

A key review panel appointed by President Barack Obama said existing budgets are not large enough to fund a return mission before 2020.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Alavi Foundation:Feds Move To Seize 4 U.S. Mosques

"The Razi school is seen here Thursday in the Queens borough of New York. Federal prosecutors took steps Thursday to seize four US mosques and a Fifth Avenue skyscraper owned by a nonprofit Muslim organization long suspected of being secretly controlled by the Iranian government. "

The US government moved Thursday to seize four mosques and a skyscraper owned by the Alavi Foundation, an Islamic nonprofit organization in New York that federal prosecutors say is a front for the Iranian government.

The move comes at a delicate moment for US-Iranian relations. There have been signs of some diplomatic thawing between the two nations. Recent negotiations about Iran's nuclear program – which the US fears could be used to produce nuclear weapons – resulted in a compromise deal that would allow Iran's nuclear fuel to be enriched outside the country.

Iran, however, has so far not endorsed the deal, leading to renewed calls for tougher sanctions against the Islamic Republic. Moreover, Iran has charged three American hikers arrested over the summer in Iran with espionage.

The new effort by federal prosecutors to cast an Iranian nonprofit as an arm of the Iranian government could fray relations further.

The forfeiture action is part of an investigation into the Alavi Foundation, which the government says has sent millions of dollars to Iran's Bank Melli. In March, the US Treasury Department called the bank a key fundraising arm for Iran's nuclear program.

The timing of the development probably had nothing to do with the current dynamic in US-Iranian relations, Michael Rubin, an Iranian expert at the American Enterprise Institute, told the Associated Press. "It's taken ages dealing with the nuts and bolts of the investigation. It's not the type of investigation which is part of any larger strategy."

The original lawsuit filed in 2008 sought to seize Assa Co.'s 40 percent interest in the 36-story New York skyscraper. The Justice Department alleges that Assa, which is headquartered in Britain's Jersey Islands, is also a front for Bank Melli.

Thursday's filing is an amendment to that original lawsuit. It seeks to seize the remaining 60 percent of the skyscraper, which is controlled by Alavi, as well as properties in New York, Maryland, Virginia, Texas, and California controlled by Alavi – including four mosques.

Alavi President Farhsid Jahedi was also arrested last year and accused by Justice Department prosecutors of illegally destroying documents. The case is pending.

A lawyer for the group said it will fight the move in court and that Alavi Foundation is not linked to the Iranian government.

Burger King Sued Over $1 Burgers

Burger King
franchisees sued the hamburger company this week over its $1 double cheeseburger promotion, saying they're losing money on the deal and the company can't set maximum menu prices.

The National Franchise Association, a group that represents more than 80 percent of Burger King's U.S. franchise owners, said the $1 promotion forces restaurant owners to sell the quarter-pound burger with at least a 10-cent loss.

While costs vary by location, the $1 double cheeseburger typically costs franchisees at least $1.10, said Dan Fitzpatrick, a Burger King franchisee from South Bend, Ind. who is a spokesman for the association. That includes about 55 cents for the cost of the meat, bun, cheese and toppings. The remainder typically covers expenses such as rent, royalties and worker wages.

"New math, or old math, the math just doesn't work," Fitzpatrick said.

After testing the $1 deal in markets across the country, the discounted burger went on sale nationwide last month even though franchise owners, who operate 90 percent of the company's 12,000 locations, twice rejected the product because of its expense.

"The current management team has disregarded rights that Burger King franchisees have always had," Pennsylvania franchise owner Steve Lewis said in a statement.

Denise Wilson, a spokeswoman for the nation's No. 2 hamburger chain, said the Miami restaurant company believes the litigation is "without merit," particularly after an earlier appeals court ruling this year showing the company had a right to require franchise owners to participate in its value menu promotions.

Restaurants, especially fast-food chains, have been slashing menu prices because of the poor economy. Executives hope the deeply discounted deals will bring in diners who are spending less when they eat out, or opting to stay home altogether.

When the $1 double cheeseburger was announced this fall, analyst said it could increase restaurant visits by as much as 20 percent. But despite that boost, a Deutsche Bank analyst said as much as half of the gain recorded from increased traffic could be lost because customers were spending less when they ordered food.

The lawsuit was filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Southern Florida.

Burger King shares fell 18 cents, or 1 percent, to close at $17.12 Thursday.

Elite School Sees Dark Side of Limelight

"Demonstrators from Westboro Baptist Church in Kansas protest across the street from Sidwell Friends; students hold a counter-protest.(Carol Guzy/the Washington Post)"

Its parent-teacher conferences made the evening news. So did cases of swine flu. And Sidwell Friends School has recently been the target of a few small protests that seem aimed at prominent parents, not students.

The school, long a favorite of Washington's leading families, is no stranger to presidential children. But in the months since Barack and Michelle Obama decided to send their daughters there, Sidwell has been pulled into the spotlight of a distinctly 21st-century culture -- one that is increasingly celebrity-obsessed and often shockingly unmannered.

Educators and others at Sidwell have portrayed this as what their most famous parent might call a "teachable moment."

When five anti-Obama, anti-gay protesters appeared in front of the school's Wisconsin Avenue NW entrance Monday morning, they were met by 150 Sidwell students waving signs ranging from "There is that of God in Everyone" to "I Kissed a Girl and I Liked It."

"I guess they think they can influence what we think because we're young and vulnerable," said Daniel Edminster, a Sidwell junior. "They can't."

The school, founded in 1883, taught children of three White House occupants before the Obamas: Theodore Roosevelt, Richard M. Nixon and Bill Clinton. Vice President Biden's grandchildren go there, as did Al Gore's son while Gore was vice president.

But in the 1990s, when Chelsea Clinton attended, Twitter and Facebook didn't exist to amplify and extend conversations. (There have been more than 175 tweets about the protests in front of Sidwell since Monday.) Nor did the Internet function as a gathering place for the political fringe to the extent that it does today.

Administrators at Sidwell said they remembered two protests in the 4 1/2 years that Chelsea Clinton attended the school. This year, there have been two protests since mid-September.

The news media and the blogosphere have put the school under a microscope, too. GQ recently named the school's admissions director the 50th most powerful person in Washington. The Obama girls' first day of school merited a two-page spread in People. Its racial dynamics were analyzed on NPR. Its lunch menu is scrutinized by sustainable food advocates and doctors groups.

On the political front, pro-school-voucher activists invoke Sidwell again and again in their arguments for letting families use public money to send their kids to private schools.

Parents, students and educators say that the Quaker school's values of egalitarianism and thoughtfulness haven't changed under the spotlight but that expressions of students' views have become more visible to the public.

"I don't think anything in the culture has really changed," said Chris Dorval, whose daughter attends Sidwell's high school. But, he said, the attention has "kind of crystallized their culture in a way."

The school's former head said that even negative attention could, in the end, be valuable for the students. "In some ways, these kinds of experiences deeply enrich the education students get," said Bruce Stewart, who spent 11 years as head of Sidwell before he retired at the end of June. "You want to hear those voices, listen to them and make a judgment about it. That's an important thing for kids to learn . . . not acquiescing to it, not being duped by it, but hearing it."

Even at the lower school, where the five protesters chanted slogans that were not lower-school or family-newspaper appropriate at dismissal time Tuesday, parents said that they would try to use the demonstration as a teachable moment.

"My son is in kindergarten, and he won't really understand the content," said Amy Henderson, who was waiting with her preschool-age daughter in the car line. She could have stayed at home with her daughter and had someone else pick up her son, she said. But she said that she wanted to see the protest and talk about it with him. "We have too many same-sex couples as friends for it to be an issue," she said.

Not everyone at the school sees a big difference in public interest in the school between the Clinton and Obama eras.

"It's not really different between the mid-'90s and now," said Ellis Turner, associate head of the school. "This has happened now within a condensed period of time," he said of the protests, which he called "a low blow."

Turner said he didn't know whether protests would become a regular feature of school life. "We'll have to see," he said.

On Monday morning, an orderly counter-protest didn't prevent orderly learning.

"Guys, first-period class is getting ready to start," Turner told the massed students shortly before 8.

All but a few packed away their signs and headed into the school, leaving behind the five protesters on the other side of the street.

CMA Awards 2009 Winners

Swift Taylor

All the winners of the Country Music Association Awards have been unveiled with their winning trophies. The awards giving ceremony was held live from Sommet Center in Nashville on November 11, 2009.

Martina McBride and George performed on “I Was Country When Country Wasn’t Cool” as a tribute to Barbara Mandrell who is announced as a Hall of Famer this year.
But amongst all the winners, Swift Taylor was the most happiest and luckiest one got four awards for her self in four different categories. She said that she will never forget this moment.

“I’ll never forget this moment because in this moment, everything I ever wanted has just happened to me,”


Entertainer of the Year: Taylor Swift
Male Vocalist of the Year: Brad Paisley
Single of the Year: ”I Run to You,” Lady Antebellum
Album of the Year: Fearless, Taylor Swift
Female Vocalist of the Year: Taylor Swift
Song of the Year: ”In Color,” Jamey Johnson (w/ cowriters Lee Thomas Miller and James Otto)
Music Video of the Year: ”Love Story,” Taylor Swift
Best New Artist of the Year: Darius Rucker
Musician of the Year: Mac McAnally
Event of the Year: ”Start a Band,” Brad Paisley and Keith Urban
Vocal Group of the Year: Lady Antebellum
Vocal Duo of the Year: Sugarland

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

AEROSMITH:Joe Perry, Steven Tyler Reunite Onstage

Aerosmith frontman Steven Tyler joined estranged bandmate Joe Perry on stage in New York in hopes of setting the record straight about the future of the feuding rock group."New York, I want you to know I'm not leaving Aerosmith," Tyler told fans in a surprise appearance on Tuesday night at a concert by Perry's solo side project, music web site reported.

Tyler, 61 and Perry, his songwriting partner of 40 years, then launched into a version of "Walk This Way", one of Aerosmith's biggest hits, said.
The future of the band has been in doubt since a North American tour was cut short in August when Tyler fell off stage, and relations between Perry and Tyler deteriorated to a low this week with bitter Twitter messages and cryptic asides about whether Tyler is still with the band.

Perry, who said earlier this week that the band was "positively" seeking a new singer, indicated on Wednesday that all was still not well in the band. In an interview with Rolling Stone, he referred to Tyler as an "acquaintance."
"He wants to take two years off from the band," Perry told the magazine. "The rest of the band wants to keep on working. We have so many different options to fill up that time. Anything is possible at this point. Basically, any communication that we've had over the last couple of months has been through managers, so that's been pretty strange."

Tyler, on the other hand, told celebrity web site after Tuesday's appearance that "There is absolutely no validity to the rumor that Aerosmith is breaking up."
Perry told Rolling Stone that he was just as surprised as the fans when Tyler showed up at the venue, and asked to sing the encore tune.

"Being an acquaintance of 40 years, I said, 'Why not?'" Perry said. " So he came up and sang and that was the last I saw of him."

Walmart Black Friday !

A year after an unruly crowd trampled a worker to death at a Wal-Mart store, the nation’s retailers are preparing for another Black Friday, the blockbuster shopping day after Thanksgiving. Along with offering $300 laptops and $99 navigation devices, stores are planning new safety measures to make sure the festive day does not take another deadly turn.

Last year, frenzied shoppers at a Wal-Mart in Valley Stream, N.Y., trampled Jdimytai Damour, a temporary store worker who died soon afterward. To prevent any repeat, Wal-Mart has sharply changed how it intends to manage the crowds.

That new plan, developed by experts who have wrangled throngs at events like the Super Bowl and the Olympics, will affect how customers approach and enter the stores, shop, check out and exit. Each store will have its own customized plan. The hope is for an orderly Black Friday, a seemingly incongruous notion.

The most significant change at Wal-Mart is that the majority of its discount stores (as opposed to its Supercenters) will open Thanksgiving morning at 6 a.m. and stay open through Friday evening. Last year, those stores closed Thanksgiving evening and reopened early Friday morning. By keeping the stores open for 24 hours, Wal-Mart is hoping for a steady flow of shoppers instead of mammoth crowds swelling outside its stores in the wee hours of Friday.

In another new twist this year, shoppers at Wal-Mart will not have to sprint toward a pile of flat-screen televisions and scuffle with one another to get one. Rather, customers will be able to enter the store at any time and line up at merchandise displays for the must-have items on their lists. When the products go on sale Friday at 5 a.m., workers will supervise the lines, giving shoppers the merchandise in the order in which they joined the line — until the goods are out of stock.

(Only a small percentage of stores will not be open 24 hours; most Wal-Mart Supercenters are already open 24 hours.)

Another problem in the past was the bottleneck at store entrances. Like many big-box retailers, Wal-Mart does not have multiple entrances and exits to spread around customer traffic. So this year the chain will put workers in front of its stores to direct customers and keep them moving.

"We are committed to looking for ways to make our stores even safer for our customers and associates this holiday season,” said David Tovar, a spokesman for Wal-Mart, adding that the retailer was “confident our customers can look forward to a safe and enjoyable shopping experience at Wal-Mart.”

Aggressive shoppers are common the day after Thanksgiving. So crowd control plans, which vary by retailer, are critical. And they are especially important now, given the economy. Newly frugal consumers want more for less, and stores plan to drum up sales with stunning deals.

This year, for the first time, the National Retail Federation created a comprehensive set of guidelines for crowd control at stores. The guidelines note that special markdowns and historically low discounts have led to larger crowds.

“Retailers are very much trying to make themselves stand out in an environment like this,” Ellen Davis, a spokeswoman for the industry group, said in a conference call this week. But she added that “retailers need to understand that many of these sales and promotional periods might draw customers who are more insistent about getting a good deal.”

The federation said retailers were performing dress rehearsals with their employees. Some stores plan to serve drinks to shoppers, or offer entertainment while they are in line, to maintain calm. Also, the stores say that creating a rapport with customers makes news of sellouts and long lines more palatable.

Indeed, Peter Conway, general manager of a Best Buy in Westbury, N.Y., has made a habit of arriving at his store at 7 p.m. Thanksgiving night to chat with shoppers lined up outside.

“I’m outside talking with my customers, just getting to know them, seeing what they’re there for,” he said. “I’m very clear with them: ‘There’s not going to be any running.’ ”

For years, Best Buy has controlled crowds by sending teams of workers into the parking lots to dole out tickets for its so-called door-busters — hot items like digital cameras and laptops at exceedingly low prices. Tickets are given out about 3 a.m. and each customer is allowed one ticket for each door-buster item they intend to buy.

“They know if they have a ticket, they’re guaranteed they have that product,” Mr. Conway said. “It creates ease of mind.”

To keep shoppers from running aimlessly around its stores, Best Buy employees hand out maps, and they mark popular items with colored balloons that can be seen from anywhere in the store.

Many retailers, including Kohl’s and Toys “R” Us, said they were not changing their crowd management plans because they had not had problems.

After the death of Mr. Damour, Wal-Mart settled a case with the district attorney of Nassau County in New York. Wal-Mart agreed to create a $400,000 compensation fund, give $1.5 million to social service programs, and offer 50 jobs to area high school students each year for three years.

Rhett Asher, the National Retail Federation’s senior asset protection adviser, said during a conference call that big box stores and mall stores had different security issues. Malls are more bustling, public places with multiple entrances — so there tend to be fewer problems. Indeed, crowd control is not as much of an issue for Macy’s as it is for big-box stores, a spokesman said, because multiple entrances serve to disperse crowds.

Still, retailers of all sorts are making preparations. In just the last month, crowds of deal-hungry shoppers have created problems. In one instance, Dwight Howard of the Orlando Magic said on Twitter that he would give away copies of his NBA Live 2010 basketball video game to the first five people who showed up at a particular GameStop store. Chaos ensued. Also last month, a woman at a Burlington Coat Factory store in Ohio said she had won the lottery and would treat her fellow shoppers to new clothes. When it turned out she was lying, a riot broke out.

“No matter how seamless and airtight you think this is,” Ms. Davis said of retailers’ plans, “the unexpected can happen.”

Volkswagen Steals Toyota's Crown as World's Largest Automaker

"2009 Volkswagen New Beetle"

The people want an empire, apparently, with that unassuming little black VW bug at the head of it.

The U.K.’s Guardian explains, "Volkswagen-Porsche has overtaken Toyota to become the world's largest car manufacturer as the German group benefits from state-backed stimulus packages around the globe." VW has "produced 4.4 million vehicles so far this year, outstripping its Japanese rival which has seen four million cars roll off production lines since January."

Ironically, VW reached the milestone in part by taking over Porsche – which it was forced to do after Porsche failed in an attempt to take over VW earlier this year.

"Of course," Autoblog notes, there is "some number play involved" in the Guardian’s numbers. "We're talking about the combined entity VW-Porsche, which has built 4.4 million cars to date, which is roughly 400,000 beyond Toyota's mark. However, Toyota halved its production earlier this year and shut down all its plants in February." VW also "benefited much more than Toyota from the European cash-for-clunkers programs," though Toyota saw more sales than VW spurred by the U.S. version of the car-swap program.

The news doesn’t just push Toyota down a notch. Jalopnik notes that VW has "passed Toyota and GM at the top of the heap." America’s largest automaker – the world’s largest just three years ago – now sits in third globally.

The change may not be permanent. The Guardian notes that Toyota "has the capacity to make 10 million vehicles a year but it expects to make seven million vehicles in 2009" as production picks back up. VW, however, may see its production increase long-term enough to stay ahead, or at least to take the title again even if it loses it later this year.

Veterans Day Quotes Honor Veterans Worldwide

Veterans Day, Remembrance Day and Armistice Day are all celebrated on November 11. Many use Veterans Day quotes to send words of appreciation to Veterans who are here to celebrate this annual American holiday honoring military veterans. Use Veterans Day quotes in cards, letters, emails, school lesson plans, and on Twitter to spread appreciation on Veterans Day 2009 for those who served our country.

There are many appropriate Veterans Day quotes that can be used to share sentiments about Veterans who have served in the United States Military. Share them with others and use one or two today, Veterans Day 2009, to celebrate and honor our Veterans.

Some quotes that are perfect for Veterans Day are written by famous people, past and present. Other quotes are recorded yet the writer is unknown.

Peace is not only better than war, but infinitely more arduous. -George Bernard Shaw

It is easy to take liberty for granted, when you have never had it taken from you. -Author unknown, sometimes attributed to M. Grundler

I think there is one higher office than president and I would call that patriot. -Gary Hart

Moral courage is the most valuable and usually the most absent characteristic in men. -George Patton

Freedom is never free. ~Author Unknown

It is fatal to enter any war without the will to win it.- General Douglas MacArthur

As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them. ~John Fitzgerald Kennedy

Valor is stability, not of legs and arms, but of courage and the soul. ~Michel de Montaigne

I dream of giving birth to a child who will ask, "Mother, what was war?" ~Eve Merriam

We often take for granted the very things that most deserve our gratitude. ~Cynthia Ozick

How important it is for us to recognize and celebrate our heroes and she-roes! ~Maya Angelou

The most persistent sound which reverberates through men's history is the beating of war drums. ~Arthur Koestler, Janus: A Summing Up

Courage is almost a contradiction in terms. It means a strong desire to live taking the form of readiness to die. ~G.K. Chesterton

In the beginning of a change, the patriot is a scarce man, and brave, and hated and scorned. When his cause succeeds, the timid join him, for then it costs nothing to be a patriot. ~Mark Twain, Notebook, 1935

It is easy to take liberty for granted, when you have never had it taken from you. -Unknown

Either war is obsolete or men are. -Buckminster Fuller

There never was a good war or a bad peace. -Benjamin Franklin

Have the courage to act instead of react -Earlene Larson Jenks

Biggest Loser Shay Sorrells

Shay Sorrells, a 30-year-old social worker from Newport Beach, made it through to week 9 of “The Biggest Loser,” shedding more than 100 pounds in the process.

But did she make it through another week?

Tonight’s outcome was a bitter one for the Orange Team. In a double elimination, both Shay and teammate Daniel left the show.

If you want to see how she is doing now, weeks after taping ended, check out tonight’s episode of “The Jay Leno Show” at 10 p.m., where Shay is scheduled to be featured.

About Shay Sorrells:

Biggest Loser Shay Sorrells grew up the youngest of three girls. She was in the foster care system from age five to 18. As far as Shay can remember, she has been overweight. In the last 10 years Shay has found that stress, emotions and learned eating habits have continued to increase her weight. Both of Shay’s older sisters are overweight, and nearly all of her extended family. Family celebrations were always centered around food. Meals at home included fried chicken, biscuits, jambalaya, gumbo, fried fish, macaroni and cheese, cakes, pies, cobblers and anything else filled with starch! At a young age, Shay was expected to learn to cook and help make these meals for the family. In the family it was considered an honor to cook well.