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Saturday, November 29, 2008

Stevie Hicks dies at 25


OMAHA, Neb. - Former Iowa State University football player Stevie Hicks has died after being found under a bridge in downtown Omaha, Neb.

Police say the 25-year-old Stevie Hicks was found about 8:30 a.m. Friday on Interstate 480.

Police have released no information about Stevie Hicks' death.

Stevie Hicks was the Cyclones' top rusher for three consecutive seasons, rolling up more than 2,100 yards in his sophomore, junior and senior seasons combined, despite injuries that limited his playing time





Stevie Hicks, a Creighton Prep football star and leading running back at Iowa State, died Friday after he was found lying on Interstate 480 near downtown Omaha.

Police were investigating the death. They released no details and gave no explanation of what may have happened. Hicks, 25, was found about 8:30 a.m. on I-480 under the bridges that form the I-480 and North Freeway interchange.

Former ISU head football coach Dan McCarney, Hicks’ coach as a Cyclone, said he is deeply shocked and saddened over the death of Stevie Hicks.






“Our hearts, thoughts and prayers go out to Stevie's family,” McCarney said. “Stevie had the biggest smile. He was a tremendous competitor and he leaves behind a great legacy of memories, achievements and respect from his coaches, teammates and fans.”

Stevie Hicks was Iowa State’s top rusher three years running, despite injuries that limited him as ajunior and senior. Stevie Hicks rolled up 1,062 yards as a sophomore, 545 as a junior and 523 in his senior year, 2006.

Stevie Hicks’ first career touchdown came at Baylor in the final seconds of a 26-25 victory in a 2004 season that saw Iowa State win four of its last five games to earn a share of the Big 12 Conference North Division championship. Stevie Hicks had 10 career 100-yard games, the biggest coming with a career-high 159 yards on 27 carries and a TD in Iowa State’s 17-13 win over Miami of Ohio in the 2004 Independence Bowl.





Former Iowa State quarterback Bret Meyer was stunned by the news of Stevie Hicks’ death.

“I was talking with former teammates tonight, and we all remember Stevie as a guy who was always in a good mood,” Meyer said. “You could count on him as a teammate to keep the mood light. He was a part of our football family. I just can’t believe it.”

Friday, November 28, 2008

CYBER MONDAY - THE NEW TREND

So what is Cyber Monday? It seems like the search term Cyber Monday has been spreading through the internet in a viral manner. Several stores are now offering Cyber Monday deals after the big Black Friday Fiasco. The question is, will Cyber Monday replace Black Friday? Time and numbers will tell, in my opinion, I would rather shop in my underwear than suffer the chaos of in store line up to begin with.

Some of the Cyber Monday flyers can be viewed at www.cyber-mondaydeals.blogspot.com

Walmart Stampede Kills at least 2 black friday shoppers


A 34-year-old man was trampled to death in a rush of Black Friday shoppers at a Long Island mall today, police said.

Long lines of shoppers thronged outside the Wal-Mart at the Green Acres mall in Valley Stream before it opened for post-Thanksgiving business at 5 a.m. This resulted in a Black Friday stampede at Walmart.

"When the doors opened, all hell broke loose," a law enforcement source told The Post.

Where You There? Send Your Photos to webeditor@nypost.com.

An unidentified man, believed to be a store employee who tried to restrain the oncoming juggernaut, was knocked to the ground at 5:03 a.m.

DEATH AT BLACK FRIDAY WALMART STAMPEDE

He was rushed to a local hospital but declared dead at 6:03, police said.

Four other people were hospitalized, including a 28-year-old pregnant woman. She was knocked to the store floor a short distance from where the 34-year-old man was trampled and her fate was unclear. Names of those killed at the Black Friday Walmart stampede have not yet been released.






The other three people taken to hospitals suffered minor injuries.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. in Bentonville, Ark., called the incident a "tragic situation" and said the employee came from a temporary agency and was doing maintenance work at the store.

"The safety and security of our customers and associates is our top priority," said Wal-Mart representative Dan Fogleman. "Our thoughts and prayers are with them and their families at this difficult time. At this point, facts are still being assembled and we are working closely with the Nassau County police as they investigate what occurred."

"We are not aware of any other circumstances where a retail employee has died working on the day after Thanksgiving," said Ellen Davis, a spokeswoman at National Retail Federation.

Shoppers around the country line up early outside stores on the day after Thanksgiving in the annual bargain-hunting ritual known as Black Friday. It got that name because it has historically been the day when stores broke into profitability for the full year.

Many stores open early and stay open late. The Valley Stream Wal-Mart usually opens at 9 a.m.





Items on sale at the Wal-Mart store included a $798 Samsung 50-inch Plasma HDTV, a Bissel Compact Upright Vaccum for $28, a Samsung 10.2 megapixel digital camera for $69 and DVDs such as "The Incredible Hulk" for $9.

Thousands of bargain hunters got a jump on Black Friday sales from Roosevelt Field in East Garden City to the Tanger factory outlet in Riverhead Friday morning, kicking off the holiday season amid bleak sales forecasts.

The shopping was marred by the tragic death of a 34-year-old Wal-Mart worker who was knocked to the ground after "a throng of shoppers physically broke down the doors," pushing their way into the store at the Green Acres Mall in Valley Stream, police said. READ COMPLETE STORY

Lining up outside stores in the wee hours of the morning -- some even excusing themselves early from Thanksgiving dinner tables Thursday afternoon, many shoppers were keen on checking off items on their gift-giving lists.

Retailers are locked in fierce competition because of a consumer spending drop and because Thanksgiving fell so late in November, leaving the holiday season with fewer shopping days than last year.






Predictions of retail experts range from an optimistic 2.2 percent growth -- below the 10-year average of 4.4 percent growth -- to a pessimistic 1 percent drop.

Nationally, up to 128 million people will shop this Friday, Saturday or Sunday, according to a preliminary Black Friday shopping survey conducted by BIGresearch for the National Retail Federation. That's down slightly from the 135 million people who said they would or may shop over Black Friday weekend last year.

Bargain hunters on Long Island rushed to local stores late Thursday night and early Friday morning to get a jump on Black Friday sales.

Tommy DeGennaro and his wife, Rosette, celebrated their 20th Black Friday shopping excursion, matching the number of years they've been married.

"She dragged me out the first time," Tommy DeGennaro said Friday morning in the Smith Haven Mall as groups of fellow bargain hunters scurried around him. "Now, it's kind of a family tradition. We go out, look for sales . . . Hey, somebody's got to help out the economy."

The former Commack residents, now living in Las Vegas, brought Rosette DeGennaro's sister, Dina Mossalam of Northport, to the mall at 4 a.m., when the doors at JC Penney opened.

"I thought they were crazy when we started driving and no one was on the road," Mossalam said. "But once we got here, there were some really good sales."

Tommy DeGennaro said the traffic at Smith Haven seemed to be down from previous years, perhaps as much as 40 percent. But Mossalam was surprised how quickly the shopping crowd multiplied. "We were third in a line at JC Penney," she said, "and just stepped out for a moment. When we went to get back in line, it had grown to about 50 people."

Still, not all of the early-bird shoppers felt the effort and lack of sleep paid off.

Lisa Palmeri of Mount Sinai, making her fourth consecutive Black Friday appearance at Smith Haven Mall, didn't think there were enough bargains.

"The sales are so-so," she said. "I didn't think it was worth it this year."

Black Friday ads drove Sriteja Rao, 23, of Hicksville to shop at the Broadway Mall at dawn. "We've been out since four this morning. We started our morning at Sports Authority in Westbury," Rao said of his shopping trip with his girlfriend, Lauren Loechner, 25 of Merrick. "We thought that in 2006 and 2007 discounts were better."

Despite that, the couple bought a $365 elliptical machine -- which typically costs $500.

"When you look at the ads Thanksgiving Day, it really enticed," said Rao, who added that he was disappointed that Steve & Barry's, the retailer in bankruptcy court, was closed at the time.

"But the problem is some stores like Best Buy have limited quantities," he said, adding that consumers were pretty calm.

Sister Marilyn Pfriender, 78, also of Hicksville, was up early -- but not as early as Rao. The nun said that the sales prompted her to shop Friday morning, and that the graciousness of the employees was also a plus. At Macy's she shopped for clothing gifts -- spending about $110 and saving about $40.

Karen Grillo, 41, and her son, Steven, 17, of Massapequa, camped outside the Circuit City in Hicksville starting Thursday at 4 p.m. and were first in line for the store's 5 a.m. Friday opening.

Despite the mid-30s chill in the wee hours of the morning, they were in fine spirits, focused on buying a $399.99 laptop as a gift for Steven's brother. "This economy kind of kills you, so you have to make sacrifices," Grillo said.

Their survival methods included taking bathroom breaks in shifts, and, Grillo said, "We scouted out a 24-hour McDonald's."

About 200 people had lined up before 5 a.m., and store employees were handing out vouchers for certain limited sale items.

Lines of shoppers snaked around and beyond the Westbury Toys R Us waiting to grab deals. For many, the hectic pre-dawn shopping was a first.

"I think I saved over $150," said Melenie Serrano, 33, of Freeport.

The deals were amazing, she said as her sister interrupted to report that another family member bought five Champion sweatshirts for $75.

At Best Buy in Westbury, people continued to line up outside the store with flyers in hand. Many said they came to buy a specific item rather than simply to look for bargains in general. Several said they were looking to save $300-$400 on flat-screen TVs.

Manny Akim said he was waiting to buy the $10 DVD "Transformers" movie and nothing more.

Kelly Maher, 19, of Lindenhurst, along with a group of family and relatives, emerged triumphant from Wal-Mart in Massapequa at about 6 a.m.

They had arrived at about 5 a.m., as the store was about to open, and were toward the back of the line. "I saw people pushing and shoving," Maher said.

The shoppers snapped up a dorm room chair, a $120-basketball hoop and a Mario Kart videogame at Wal-Mart, but the morning was young. Their next stops, they said, were Target, Kohl's, Macy's and Burlington Coat Factory.

"We do this every year," said Maher's aunt, Toni Clemens, 45, of Copiague.

Gabrielle Mitchell, 28, from Rockville Centre, was out at the stores in Hicksville at 3:45 a.m. waiting for them to open. Almost four hours later, she said she had spent more than $1,600.

"I start when the first stores open," she said. "If they opened earlier, I'd be here earlier."

Suzanne Walsh, 24, is visiting the Island from Poughkeepsie and started her fourth Black Friday shopping expedition early Friday morning in Hicksville. She said her fellow shoppers were behaving.

"People have been really nice so far," she said. "There hasn't been any vicious action."

Alison Hernandez, 36, of Oyster Bay, was taking part in her first pre-dawn shopping on Black Friday, "because my son is still sleeping, so I can escape," she said. Hernandez, who left her young son with her husband, said she ordinarily spends $500 during the holiday season but this year expects to spend $300.

"Last year the line was too long," said Elizabeth Garcia, 25, in line at the Coach outlet store at the Tanger Outlet mall in Riverhead since 3 p.m. Thursday. "So this year I promised myself to be the first one."

She kept her promise. The Valley Stream resident said her efforts would help her save $500 on the three pocketbooks she planned to buy.

At the Riverhead outlet mall and the sparkling new Tanger Outlet at the Arches in Deer Park, parking lots were filling up quickly by 11:30 Thursday night.

In Deer Park, mall employees shivered in the cold as they directed traffic into the lots and handed out store directories ahead of the mall's midnight opening. Some stores like Calvin Klein were letting customers in by 11:30 p.m.

Mechielle Chapman, 38, of Baldwin, was with her husband Eugene, 39, as she studied the outdoor directory map. She said it was their first time venturing out to shop on Thanksgiving.

"It's an adventure. This is something new," Chapman said. "How many will come out and do this?"

Chapman said in a typical holiday season she would spend about $2,500 in holiday presents for her kids. This year, she will reign in the spending to about $1,500.

Shoppers in Riverhead stood in long lines waiting to get in at several stores including Coach, the Timberland store and Victoria's Secret. All were running "midnight madness sales." Some shoppers were brought by sales, others said it was to establish new traditions.

Others didn't let the old tradition of hanging with their family all day keep them from a sale.

"I left dinner early," Dazi Nunez, 21, of Port Jefferson said as he stood in line at Timberland hoping to snag a pair of sale boots for himself once the store opened. "They were upset but they understand."

Brenda Sickles, 26, drove all the way from Whitestone, Queens to change her fortunes from last year, when she didn't get any bargains at Best Buy in Westbury.

"The line was around the building so we just left," Sickles said. This time she showed up at 9 p.m. for the midnight opening at Coach.

"Hopefully we'll have better luck," Sickeles said.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Lesbian Polar bears... not quite to the dismay of Japanese Zoo Keepers


TOKYO - Handlers of a popular polar bear, brought to mate with a female in a zoo in northern Japan, found their breeding plan was doomed when they noticed that he, in fact, was a she. Tsuyoshi, a four-year-old, 200 kg (441 lb) cream-colored polar bear, had been living in harmony with a female polar bear since June, the two often playing together, Masako Inoue, a zookeeper at the Kushiro Municipal Zoo, said on Wednesday.




"We thought he was a male, so we never had any doubts as we took care of him," she said. But one day we realized that the two bears urinate in the same way, and we thought, is that how males do it? And once we started to look at things that way, we weren't quite so sure." After two DNA examinations of Tsuyoshi's hair and a manual exam, the Kushiro Municipal Zoo found Tsuyoshi to be a female. "We do have mixed feelings," said Inoue. "But because Tsuyoshi was supposed to be a male, she came here, and because she came here, we were able to take care of her since she was very small."





It is not uncommon for the sex of polar bears to be misread, Inoue said, as their long hair makes it difficult to distinguish, especially when the bears are young. Tsuyoshi was pegged as a male three months after birth, Inoue said. The Kushiro Municipal Zoo will talk with other zoos in the area to see what to do about their breeding plan, she added.

Jewish Centre among Targets in Mumbai Terrorist Plot

MUMBAI (Reuters) - Gunfire erupted on Friday when commandos began an operation to free Israelis held by suspected Islamist gunmen in Mumbai, while guests were also being evacuated from a luxury hotel in India's financial heart, witnesses said.






Heavily armed Indian commandos, their faces covered by balaclavas, rappelled from helicopters onto the roof of a Mumbai Jewish center in what television reports said was an assault by the paramilitary National Security Guard to flush out the militants. The Jewish center was one of three pockets in Mumbai where Indian forces were battling die-hard militants more than 24 hours after brazen, coordinated attacks killed at least 121 people.

A witness said troops fired into the Mumbai Jewish center, apparently to provide cover, as commandos made at least three sorties and took up positions on the roof. The building is in a crowded part of the city, making a frontal assault difficult.

Not far away, another witness said hotel guests including foreigners were being evacuated from the besieged Mumbai Trident-Oberoi Hotel, one of two luxury hotels where police said militants were still holed up with an unknown number of hostages. "They are evacuating everyone. Everyone is being taken care of," an Indian woman said as she left the Mumbai hotel with her husband.






Mumbai, a city of 18 million, is the nerve-center of India's growing economic might and home to the "Bollywood" film industry. Hindu-dominated India, which has a sizeable Muslim minority, has been hit by militant attacks for decades. But this strike seemed aimed at crippling its ability to draw foreign investment. India's markets closed on Thursday. The main stock exchange reopened on Friday and fell 1.5 percent after see-sawing because of the attacks.


PINNING BLAME


Prime Minister Manmohan Singh pinned blame for the Mumbai attacks on militant groups based in India's neighbors, usually an allusion to Pakistan, raising prospects of renewed tension between the nuclear-armed rivals. He warned of "a cost" if these nations did not take action to stop their territory being used to launch such attacks. An estimated 25 men armed with assault rifles and grenades -- at least some of whom arrived by sea -- had fanned out across Mumbai on Wednesday night to attack sites popular with tourists and businessmen, including Mumbai's top two luxury hotels.





Police said at least seven of the attackers were killed and nine suspects had been taken into custody. They said 12 policemen were killed, including Hemant Karkare, chief of the police anti-terrorist squad in Mumbai. At least six foreigners, including one Australian, a Briton, an Italian and a Japanese national, were killed. Scores of others were trapped in the fighting or were being held hostage. Police said 279 people were wounded.

PAKISTAN GROUP

The Hindu newspaper said at least three of the attackers taken into custody were members of the Lashkar-e-Taiba group, based in Pakistan. The group made its name fighting Indian rule in disputed Kashmir, and has been closely linked in the past to the Pakistani military's Inter Services Intelligence agency, the ISI. Lashkar-e-Taiba has denied any role in the attacks. "It is evident that the group which carried out these attacks, based outside the country, had come with single-minded determination to create havoc in the commercial capital of the country," Prime Minister Singh said on Thursday.

"We will take up strongly with our neighbors that the use of their territory for launching attacks on us will not be tolerated, and that there would be a cost if suitable measures are not taken by them," he said in a televised address. Pakistan, condemning the assault, promised full cooperation. The militants appeared to specifically target Britons, Americans and Israelis, witnesses said. About 10 Israelis were being held in several different sites, authorities said. World leaders including U.S. President-elect Barack Obama, condemned the incident.

The attacks brought the biggest chaos to the city since serial bombings in 1993, blamed on the city's Muslim crime syndicates, killed 260 people and injured hundreds.

Here is a video from the Mubai War zone


Related News

Bloodbath in Mumbai
Australian Actress Escapes Mumbai

Australian Actress escapes Mumbai India Terrorist attack by hiding in bathroom cupboard


Australian actress Brooke Satchwell, who starred in the successful Neighbours television drama, said she narrowly escaped the gunmen behind the Mumbai attacks by hiding in a hotel bathroom cupboard. Satchwell, 28, was staying with friends at the Taj Mahal Hotel, where the attackers are still holding hostages.

She said she was heading back inside the building after smoking a cigarette when she heard gunshots. "There was people getting shot in the corridor. There was someone dead outside the bathroom," the shaken actress told Australian television on Thursday. Satchwell said she, along with other guests, hid in a hotel bathroom. Satchwell locked herself inside a small cupboard, while other guests hid in cubicles until being escorted out by staff.





"Next thing I knew I was running down the stairs and there were a couple of dead bodies across the stairs. It was chaos," she told Australian media. Satchwell is best known for playing Anne Wilkinson in Neighbours, which is screened in many countries around the world. She is currently starring in another Australian drama and had been in Mumbai on holiday and for some filming.







Related News

Bloodbath in Mumbai
Jewish Centre among targets in Mumbai Terrorism Plot

More Reality TV crap as Heidi Montag and Spencer Pratt get married in Mexico

Heidi Montag and Spencer Pratt, the reality-TV couple whose on-again, off-again relationship has been chronicled by MTV's "The Hills" and celebrity magazines, appear on the Wednesday cover of Us Weekly with the headline "Heidi & Spencer Elope!"

But the couple acknowledged Wednesday that their wedding ceremony near Cabo San Lucas, Mexico - featured in a photo spread in the magazine - was symbolic and not legally binding. At least not yet. "We had a beautiful ceremony here . . . officiated by a minister and photographed by the hotel photographer. We've never been happier," said the couple in a statement provided by Us Weekly. "And, like other elopements that happen outside the country, we'll take care of the legal details when we get home."

They did not say specifically when where they would seek to make their marriage official, which would likely require a separate ceremony in the U.S. The public pair provided photos to the magazine for its issue on newsstands Wednesday, showing their ceremony at a chapel near Cabo San Lucas, Mexico on Nov. 20. The accompanying story features an interview with Montag and Pratt, as well as details about the rings, Montag's dress, and the content of their handwritten vows.





The story doesn't note that they had neither obtained a marriage licence nor taken part in a separate civil ceremony, which is required by Mexican law to make the union binding. A couple can register their marriage up to 10 days after a ceremony but California does not recognize marriage ceremonies outside the United States, according to the state's Department of Public Health. A couple can petition a court later to have their marriage legally recognized.


Us Weekly's report, which was picked up by numerous celebrity magazines and blogs, said that none of the couple's friends or relatives was in attendance. Some people close to the couple said they were caught off-guard. "Everybody's pretty upset," Montag's sister, Holly Montag, told MTV on Monday. Montag's father, Bill Montag, told People magazine that he'd be dismayed if his daughter got married and didn't invite him. If the story were true, he added, "Then we just have to have another wedding here!"

Us Weekly, which has featured the couple in numerous cover stories and photo spreads, reported that the two decided to get married while drinking margaritas on the beach. An hour later, they were exchanging vows, the magazine said. Americans who wish to get married in Mexico must go through a process that takes about five days, according to Mexico's foreign relations department website. They must obtain a health certificate, including blood test results from a local doctor; and provide official translations of legal documents, such as birth certificates.






Only civil, nonreligious marriages conducted in Mexico are valid internationally. Peter Grossman of Us Weekly, who conducted the wedding-day interview with Pratt, 25, and Montag, 22, confirmed that the two exchanged rings and handwritten vows in front of a minister. "Heidi and Spencer are two people in love who had a beautiful wedding ceremony to celebrate that," Grossman said. "The pictures and words in our issue this week bear that out." "The Hills" executive producer Liz Gateley said Wednesday that the couple's wedding and honeymoon will appear in future episodes of the MTV reality show. "MTV is currently filming Heidi and Spencer in Mexico, as we were expecting to capture them on vacation," Gateley told MTV News. "Fans will be able to see the exclusive footage from the ceremony in an upcoming episode, and we will continue to follow the newlyweds' relationship as it plays out in real life."





Since Montag and Pratt's pairing came to light on the MTV reality show, the two have been ever camera-ready, willing to pose or invite photographers to capture their "private" moments - including an intimate, champagne-and-roses Valentine's Day celebration aboard a chartered boat earlier this year.

Blood Bath in India as Terrorists take over two luxury hotels


MUMBAI (Reuters) - Elite Indian commandos fought room to room battles with Islamist militants inside two luxury hotels to save scores of people trapped or taken hostage, as the country's prime minister blamed neighboring countries.

Manmohan Singh blamed militant groups based in India's neighbors -- usually meaning Pakistan -- for the attacks that killed 107 people and wounded 315, raising fears of renewed tension between the nuclear-armed rivals.

Helicopters buzzed overhead and crowds cheered as the commandos, their faces blackened, moved into the Trident-Oberoi, where 20 to 30 people are thought to have been taken hostage and more than 100 others were trapped in their rooms.

Huge flames billowed from an upper floor.

Earlier, explosions rattled the nearby Taj Hotel, a 105-year-old city landmark on the waterfront, as the troops flushed out the last of the militants there. Fire and smoke plumed from an open window.

"The commandos are in control," Dipak Dutta told NDTV news after being rescued. As the troops escorted him through the corridors, they told him not to look down at any of the bodies.




"A lot of chef trainees were massacred in the kitchen."

At least six foreigners, including one Australian, a Briton, an Italian and a Japanese national were killed.

Those who survived told harrowing stories of close encounters. Australian actress Brooke Satchwell, who starred in the Neighbours television soap opera, said she narrowly escaped the gunmen by hiding in a hotel bathroom cupboard.

"There was people getting shot in the corridor. There was someone dead outside the bathroom," the shaken actress told Australian television. "The next thing I knew I was running down the stairs and there were a couple of dead bodies across the stairs. It was chaos."

Commandos had also gathered outside a Jewish center where a rabbi is thought to have been taken hostage, but later apparently decided to hold off from an assault.

A militant holed up at the center phoned an Indian television channel to offer talks with the government for the release of hostages, but also to complain about abuses in Kashmir, over which India and Pakistan have fought two of their three wars.





"Ask the government to talk to us and we will release the hostages," the man, identified by the India TV channel as Imran, said, speaking in Urdu in what sounded like a Kashmiri accent.

"Are you aware how many people have been killed in Kashmir? Are you aware how your army has killed Muslims. Are you aware how many of them have been killed in Kashmir this week?"

WALKING THROUGH BLOOD

Around two dozen militants in their early 20s, armed with automatic rifles and grenades and carrying backpacks full of ammunition, came ashore on Wednesday and fanned out across Mumbai's financial and tourist heart.

They commandeered a vehicle and sprayed passersby with bullets, fired indiscriminately in a train station, hospitals and a popular tourist cafe. They also attacked two of the city's poshest hotels packed with tourists and business executives.

"We threw ourselves down under the reception counter," Esperanza Aguirre, head of Madrid's regional government, said.

"I took off my shoes and we left being pushed along by the hotel staff," she said. "I didn't see any terrorists or injured people. I just saw the blood I had to walk through barefoot."

Singh said New Delhi would "take up strongly" the use of neighbors' territory to launch attacks on India.

"The well-planned and well-orchestrated attacks, probably with external linkages, were intended to create a sense of terror by choosing high-profile targets," Singh said in an address to the nation.

The use of heavily armed "fedayeen" or suicide attackers bears the hallmarks of Pakistan-based militant groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba or Jaish-e-Mohammed, blamed for a 2001 attack on India's parliament.





Both groups made their name fighting Indian rule in disputed Kashmir, and were closely linked in the past to the Pakistani military's Inter Services Intelligence agency, the ISI.

Lashkar-e-Taiba denied any role in the attacks, and said it had no links with any Indian group. Instead, the little-known Deccan Mujahideen claimed responsibility.

"Release all the mujahideens, and Muslims living in India should not be troubled," said a militant inside the Oberoi, speaking to Indian television by telephone.

The attacks were bound to spook investors in one of Asia's largest and fastest-growing economies.

England and India cricket boards canceled their last two games in a seven-match series following the attacks.

Mumbai has seen several major bomb attacks in the past, but never anything so obviously targeted at foreigners.

Authorities closed stock, bond and foreign exchange markets, and the central bank said it would continue auctions to keep cash flowing through interbank lending markets, which seized up after the global financial crisis.

One of the first targets was the Cafe Leopold, a famous hangout popular with foreign tourists.

The attackers then appeared to target British, Americans and Israelis as they sought hostages in the hotels and elsewhere.

The attacks were another blow for the Congress party-led government ahead of a general election due by early 2009, with the party already under fire for failing to prevent a string of bomb attacks on Indian cities.

Strategic expert Uday Bhaskar said the attacks could inflame tensions between Hindus and Muslims. "The fact that they were trying to segregate British and American passport holders definitely suggests Islamist fervor," he said.

Police said they had shot seven gunmen and arrested nine suspects. They said 12 policemen were killed, including Hemant Karkare, the chief of the police anti-terrorist squad in Mumbai.

Schools were closed and a curfew was imposed around the Gateway of India, a colonial-era monument. But train services were running as normal taking people to work in the stunned city.


A top Indian general says about 10 to 12 gunmen remain holed up inside a pair of luxury Mumbai hotels and a Jewish centre.

Maj.Gen. R.K. Huda told New Delhi Television that the rest of the gunmen appeared to have been killed or captured. Authorities say 110 people were killed and more than 300 injured when suspected Islamic militants attacked 10 sites in Mumbai. Indian officials confirmed that Canadians were among the hostages. Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon said a number of Canadians were at the targeted hotels, but could not say what their status might be.

Related News

Australian Actress Escapes Mumbai
Jewish Centre among targets in Mumbai Terrorism Plot

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Kimberly Arigot arrested for sending naked pictures to minors

Kimberly Arigot
Kimberly Arigot, a Utah woman, is facing felony charges after sending nude pictures of herself to several teenage boys. Kimberly Arigot, 40, has been arrested in Syracuse for allegedly having sexual relations with three teenage boys, ages 15 to 17.

Kimberly Arigot reportedly utilized her cell phone to send inappropriate text messages and naked photos to the boys, which led to two of the teens having intercourse with Kimberly Arigot in various places, including her home.
Authorities believe those relationships had been ongoing for the better part of a year.






Kimberly Arigot, a mother herself of a Salt Lake City high school age student, faces felony charges for unlawful sex and unlawful contact with a minor. Kimberly Arigot was also charged with providing alcohol to underage students.

Kimberly Arigot was released from jail after posting bail.

Kristen Johnston poses naked for PETA

Kristen Johnston poses on the back of a horse in a poster campaign for animal rights group Peta. Sitcom star Kristen Johnston has become the latest celebrity to pose nude for animal rights group Peta. The former 3rd Rock from the Sun star - who recently caused concern with her drastic weight loss - poses as Lady Godiva, naked and astride a horse, in the photograph which debuted in New York's Central Park.




The 41-year-old actress has joined forces with the animal rights group to campaign against the horse-drawn carriage rides on offer in New York. She said: "I was blown away by how these horses live, or actually I should say, don't live. I'd say to tourists who are considering coming to New York, there's so much amazing stuff about Manhattan. "Oh my God, just take a walk! And I hope within the next year that there are no more carriage horses."




The stunning shot was taken by renowned photographer Joseph Cultice. Other beauties who have shed their clothes to raise awareness of animal rights issues include Alicia Silverstone, Eva Mendes and Christina Applegate.
video







For more naked pictures of Kristen Johnston

Facebook and MySpace hit back at spammers - Canadian Spammer Fined $ 873 Million

Facebook welcomed on Monday a US court ruling against a Canadian spammer ordered to pay 873 million dollars in damages for sending unwanted messages to users of the popular social network. Max Kelly, Facebook's director of security, called the US District Court ruling in San Jose, California, an "important victory for our users -- and against spam and those who create it."




Judge Jeremy Fogel on Friday ordered Adam Guerbuez and his company Atlantis Blue Capital to pay 436.2 million dollars in statutory damages and another 436.2 million dollars in aggravated statutory damages for violations of the Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act (CAN-SPAM). "Does Facebook expect to quickly collect 873 million dollars and share the proceeds in some way with our users?" asked Kelley in a posting on the Facebook blog. "Alas, no. It's unlikely that Guerbuez and Atlantis Blue Capital could ever honor the judgment rendered against them. But we are confident that this award represents a powerful deterrent to anyone and everyone who would seek to abuse Facebook and its users,"

"Everyone who participates constructively in Facebook should feel confident that we are fighting hard to protect you against spam and other online nuisances," Kelly said. "We will continue to invest in this area by improving our technical safeguards and devoting significant resources to finding, exposing and prosecuting the sources of spam attacks."





Facebook began legal action against Guerbuez in August, claiming that he had managed to obtain the passwords of Facebook users and was bombarding them with millions of messages about sexual products and drugs. Judge Fogel also permanently barred Guerbuez, who lives in Montreal, and Atlantis Blue Capital from any future contact with Facebook.





The judgment was the largest since a pair of accused spammers, Sanford Wallace and Walter Rines, were ordered in May by another California court to pay some 230 million dollars to MySpace, a social networking site.

President George W Bush Last minute Pardons

President George W. Bush has granted pardons to 14 individuals and commuted the prison sentences of two others convicted of misdeeds including drug offenses, tax evasion, wildlife violations and bank embezzlement.

The new round of White House pardons announced Monday are Bush's first since March and come less than two months before he will end his presidency. The crimes committed by those on the list also include offenses involving hazardous waste, food stamps, and the theft of government property.

Bush has been stingy during his time in office about granting clemency, but more grants are expected.




Including these actions, he has granted a total of 171 pardons and eight commutations. That's less than half as many as Presidents Clinton or Reagan issued during their time in office. Both were two-term presidents, like Bush.

On the latest pardon list were:

_Leslie Owen Collier of Charleston, Mo., who pleaded guilty in 1995 to unlawfully killing three bald eagles in southeast Missouri. He improperly used pesticide in hamburger meat to kill coyotes, but ended up killing many other animals, including the bald eagles. Collier, who was convicted for unauthorized use of a pesticide and violating the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, was sentenced Feb. 2, 1996 in the Eastern District of Missouri.

_Milton Kirk Cordes of Rapid City, S.D. Cordes was convicted of conspiracy to violate the Lacey Act, which prohibits importation into the country of wildlife taken in violation of conservation laws.

_Richard Micheal Culpepper of Mahomet, Ill., who was convicted of making false statements to the federal government.

_Brenda Jean Dolenz-Helmer of Fort Worth, Texas, convicted of concealing knowledge of a crimeDolenz-Helmer, the daughter of a Dallas doctor accused of medical insurance fraud, was convicted in connection with the doctor's case. She was sentenced Dec. 31, 1998 in the Northern District of Texas to four year's probation with the special condition of 600 hours of community service and a $10,000 fine.

_Andrew Foster Harley of Falls Church, Va. Harley was convicted of wrongful use and distribution of marijuana and cocaine during a general court martial at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo.





_Obie Gene Helton of Rossville, Ga., whose offense was unauthorized acquisition of food stamps.

_Carey C. Hice Sr. of Travelers Rest, S.C., who was convicted of income tax evasion.

_Geneva Yvonne Hogg of Jacksonville, Fla., convicted of bank embezzlement.

_William Hoyle McCright Jr. of Midland, Texas, who was convicted of bank fraud.

_Paul Julian McCurdy of Sulphur, Okla., who was sentenced for misapplication of bank funds.

_Robert Earl Mohon Jr. of Grant, Ala., who was convicted of conspiracy to distribute marijuana.

_Ronald Alan Mohrhoff of Los Angeles, who was convicted for unlawful use of a telephone in a narcotics felony.

_Daniel Figh Pue III of Conroe, Texas, convicted of illegal treatment, storage and disposal of a hazardous waste without a permit.

_Orion Lynn Vick of White Hall, Ark., who was convicted of aiding and abetting the theft of government property.

Bush also commuted the prison sentences of John Edward Forte of North Brunswick, N.J., and James Russell Harris of Detroit, Mich. Both were convicted of cocaine offenses.

Under the Constitution, the president's power to issue pardons is absolute and cannot be overruled.





Some high-profile individuals, such as Michael Milken, are seeking a pardon on securities fraud charges. Two politicians convicted of public corruption — former Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham, R-Calif., and four-term Democratic Louisiana Gov. Edwin W. Edwards — are asking Bush to shorten their prison terms.

One hot topic of discussion related to pardons is whether Bush might decide to issue pre-emptive pardons before he leaves office to government employees who authorized or engaged in harsh interrogations of suspected terrorists in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Some constitutional scholars and human rights groups want the incoming administration of President-elect Barack Obama to investigate possible war crimes.

If Bush were to pardon anyone involved, it would provide protection against criminal charges, particularly for people who were following orders or trying to protect the nation with their actions. But it would also be highly controversial.

At the same time, Obama advisers say there is little — if any — chance that his administration would bring criminal charges.

-0----------------------

Breaking a logjam of hundreds of pent-up clemency requests, President Bush granted pardons to 14 people on Monday and shortened the prison terms of two others.


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The majority of the felons who won leniency from Bush are far from household names.

Andrew Harley of Falls Church, Va., was pardoned for wrongful use and distribution of marijuana and cocaine after a court-martial by the Air Force Academy in 1985 caused him to forfeit his pay and prompted his dismissal from the service. Leslie Collier of Charleston, Mo., had been convicted of unauthorized use of a registered pesticide. Obie Helton of Rossville, Ga., was pardoned after conviction on charges of acquiring food stamps without proper permission and sentenced to two years' probation in 1983.

Several other offenders who won leniency Monday were convicted of run-of-the-mill white-collar crimes such as bank embezzlement, tax evasion or accounting violations. Pardons give their recipients greater leeway to find jobs, live in public housing and vote, among other privileges.

Over seven years in office, Bush has been reluctant to use his near-absolute authority under the U.S. Constitution, awarding only 157 pardons and six commutations before Monday.

But that pattern could ease during the waning days of his term. People close to the process say lawyers with political connections increasingly have approached the White House directly to seek relief for their high-profile clients, including former junk-bond king Michael Milken, former U.S. Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham, R-Rancho Santa Fe (San Diego County), and John Walker Lindh, an American from Marin County who pleaded guilty to serving with the Taliban.

No one who received clemency Monday approached that level of national renown. But because of Bush's actions, Grammy Award-winning rap artist John Forte of North Brunswick, N.J., will be released after serving about half of a 14-year sentence for aiding and abetting possession with intent to distribute cocaine. Forte, whose clemency bid was supported by Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, has been scheduled for release Dec. 22. He had performed with the Fugees and is a friend of and former backup singer for Carly Simon, who lobbied senior lawmakers including Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., for his early release.

Each of the clemency decisions Monday moved through the normal course of business, which starts with an application to the Justice Department Office of the Pardon Attorney. Applicants undergo an FBI check, prosecutors and judges often are consulted for their recommendations, and the submissions make their way to the deputy attorney general before moving to the White House counsel's office and onto the president himself.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Christina Romer Announced as head of Obama Economic Team

Dow at 311 at the start of President-elect Barack Obama's press conference in Chicago where he is unveiling his economic team. President-Elect Barack Obama and Vice President-Elect Joe Biden Announce Key Members of Economic Team

Geithner to serve as Secretary of the Treasury, Summers to head up National Economic Council

CHICAGO - President-elect Barack Obama and Vice President-elect Joe Biden officially announced key members of their economic team today, naming Timothy Geithner as Secretary of the Treasury and Lawrence Summers as Director of the National Economic Council. Obama and Biden also named Christina Romer Chair of the Council of Economic advisors, and named Melody Barnes and Heather Higginbottom to serve as Director and Deputy Director of the Domestic Policy Council.

"Vice President-elect Biden and I have assembled an economic team with the vision and expertise to stabilize our economy, create jobs, and get America back on track. Even as we face great economic challenges, we know that great opportunity is at hand - if we act swiftly and boldly. That's the mission our economic team will take on," said President-elect Obama.

The economic team members announced today are listed below:




Timothy F. Geithner, Secretary of the Treasury
Timothy Geithner currently serves as president and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, where he has played a key role in formulating the nation's monetary policy. He joined the Department of the Treasury in 1988 and has served three presidents. From 1999 to 2001, he served as Under Secretary of the Treasury for International Affairs. Following that post he served as director of the Policy Development and Review Department at the International Monetary Fund until 2003. Geithner is a graduate of Dartmouth College and the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.

Lawrence H. Summers, Director of the National Economic Council
Lawrence Summers is currently the Charles W. Eliot University Professor at Harvard University. Summers served as 71st Secretary of the Treasury from 1999 to 2001 and as president of Harvard from 2001 to 2006. Before being appointed Secretary, Summers served as Deputy and Under Secretary of the Treasury and as the World Bank's top economist. Summers has taught economics at Harvard and MIT, and is a recipient of the John Bates Clark Medal, awarded to the American economist under 40 judged to have made the most significant contribution to economics. Summers played a key advisory role during the 2008 presidential campaign.

Christina D. Romer, Director of the Council of Economic Advisors
Christina Romer is the Class of 1957 Professor of Economics at the University of California, Berkeley, where she has taught and researched since 1988. Prior to joining the faculty at Berkeley, Romer was an assistant professor of economics and public affairs at Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. Romer is co-director of the Program in Monetary Economics at the National Bureau of Economic Research and has been a visiting scholar at the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System.






Melody C. Barnes, Director of the Domestic Policy Council
Melody Barnes is co-director of the Agency Review Working Group for the Obama-Biden Transition Team, and served as the Senior Domestic Policy Advisor to Obama for America. Barnes previously served as Executive Vice President for Policy at the Center for American Progress and as chief counsel to Senator Edward M. Kennedy on the Senate Judiciary Committee from December 1995 until March 2003.

Heather A. Higginbottom, Deputy Director of the Domestic Policy Council
Heather Higginbottom served as Policy Director for Obama for America, overseeing all aspects of policy development. From 1999 to 2007, Higginbottom served as Senator John Kerry's Legislative Director. She also served as the Deputy National Policy Director for the Kerry-Edwards Presidential Campaign for the primary and general elections. After the 2004 election, Higginbottom founded and served as Executive Director of the American Security Project, a national security think tank. She started her career as an advocate at the national non-profit organization Communities in Schools.

Christina Romer The top of Google Search Trends

Christina Romer, a Professor of Economics at the University of California at Berkley, has been chosen by President Elect Barack Obama to chair his Council of Economic Advisors. An early Obama supporter, Professor Romer has written extensively on tax policy.

Professor Romer has researched the history of tax policy along with her husband David Romer, also a Berkley professor. Her conclusions would seem to indicate what kind of advice will be given Barack Obama when he becomes President.





In a recent paper entitled, The Macroeconomic Effects of Tax Change, both Professor Romers arrived at some interesting conclusions that should prove relevant to future Obama tax policy. They concluded that tax increases have a large and detrimental effect on economic growth. However, if the tax increase is imposed to reduce a budget deficit, the detrimental effect is much less. The reasons given are that a decrease in the budget deficit would tend to have expansionary effects " through expectations and long-term interest rates, or through confidence."

Of course the trick, it could be argued, is that spending has to be restrained at the same time taxes are increased. Increasing taxes does little good if Congress just spends the tax increase. Indeed, a supply sider would tend to argue with the conclusions of the Professors Romer that motives for a tax increase matter.

The paper does suggest, though, against a tax increase occurring in an Obama administration so long as the economy is weak. But look for a tax increase later in order to close the deficit. This will especially be likely if, as expected, Obama runs up the deficit to new heights due to his planned stimulus package.

What about tax cuts in order to stimulate the economy? Christina Romer appears to be a skeptic, if a recent Berkley interview is any indication:

"What they found about both issues surprised them. Tax cuts provide powerful short-run stimulus to the economy, but there is little evidence that tax cuts restrain government spending.

Christina Romer To Head Obama's Economic Advisers
Christina Romer, a Cal-Berkeley economist and half of a husband-wife team of economists, will be appointed chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers by President-elect Barack Obama, members of his team tell The Post.

Romer would join Tim Geithner, Larry Summers and Peter Orszag as the fourth member of Obama's Economics Brain.

Romer, an Obama supporter, was set to move to Harvard earlier this year, but the offer was rescinded.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Details on the Guys Ritchie Madonna Divorce

U.S. pop star Madonna and Guy Ritchie ended eight years of marriage in a few minutes Friday when a British court granted them a "quickie" divorce.

Neither Madonna, 50, nor British film director Ritchie, 40, were in court for the hearing, according to the Press Association. It was listed Thursday under the names Ciccone M L v Ritchie G S.

A sworn statement released by the court showed Madonna petitioned for divorce on the grounds of Ritchie's unreasonable behavior and she said the behavior was continuing.




In another court document, district judge Philip Waller said he was happy the court did not need to exercise its powers under the Children Act nor give directions under the Matrimonial Causes Act.

Family lawyers said the document did not necessarily mean the terms of the divorce had been finalized, just that the court was happy with arrangements as they stood now.

The couple announced the split last month, nearly eight years after their fairytale wedding at Skibo Castle in Scotland.

Details of the terms of the divorce have not been made public, although several newspapers said Ritchie would not be seeking a share of Madonna's money. A source close to the singer said the deal was not as straightforward as reports suggest.

Their combined wealth has been estimated at around $525 million, but Madonna accounts for the bulk of it.

CUSTODY CONCERNS






Potentially more difficult is how Madonna and Ritchie share custody of their children. Reports say Madonna wants to live in the United States while Ritchie plans to remain in Britain.

The couple have a son, Rocco, who was several months old on their wedding day in December 2000.

In 2006 Madonna applied to adopt David Banda, a boy from Malawi whose mother died shortly after his birth and whose biological father has supported the adoption.

A Malawian court approved the adoption in May.

The singer also has a daughter Lourdes, born in 1996, from her relationship with fitness trainer Carlos Leon. She was married once before, to actor Sean Penn, in the 1980s.

Lawyers said the couple had largely succeeded in keeping details of the divorce private, unlike singer Paul McCartney's acrimonious split from Heather Mills earlier in the year.





"If it has been settled it is fantastic for them and the family that it has been kept out of the limelight," said Anna Wagstaff, a partner in the family department at London law firm Gordon Dadds.

Madonna Louise Veronica Ciccone was born in Bay City, Michigan on August 16, 1958, into a large Italian-Catholic family.

She went on to become one of the most successful singers of all time with estimated album sales of more than 200 million and is in the middle of her "Sticky & Sweet" world tour. Ritchie is a British film director who is making Hollywood blockbuster "Sherlock Holmes" starring Robert Downey Jr. as the Victorian-era super sleuth.

Banks and Credit Card companies may put a damper on Christmas Shopping

The need by U.S. retailers' to sell in hard times has put them at odds with the lenders backing their credit cards. While stores aggressively promote use of their cards, lenders are increasingly wary of consumer defaults.

That conflict of interest, a direct result of the global credit crunch, could fuel escalated risk in 2009 following a holiday season in which more consumers are offered store credit cards that they may be less likely to repay.




"From the retailers' point of view, the more people who open up cards, the better it is for sales," said Laura Nishikawa, an analyst with Innovest Strategic Value Advisors.

But in the midst of the economic downturn, banks are working hard to protect themselves against defaults from existing cardholders, not to mention weeding out consumers with bad credit and maxed out accounts who seek new cards.

"As a bank right now, you're afraid you're picking up the bad apples," Nishikawa added. "That's one of the reasons a lot of the banks are tightening their standards."






The tug-of-war between retailers and lenders is accelerating, particularly as store chains pull out all the stops to ring up holiday sales in what is expected to be the worst shopping season in nearly two decades.

Walmart Pre-views some Black Friday Sales early

Wal-Mart Stores Inc previewed some of the deep discounts it plans to offer right after Thanksgiving next week, part of a promotional strategy that has kept cash-strapped customers scouring its stores for bargains.




Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving that traditionally marks the start of the holiday shopping season, is a time for retailers to tout their deals and try to capture shoppers' attention. The three-day holiday weekend can account for roughly 10 percent of total holiday sales. Wal-Mart plans to advertise its Black Friday promotions on its website on Monday.

They include a limited number of Nintendo's popular Wii video console for $249.24 on Friday and Saturday. The gaming system currently sells for $289.99 at rival Target Corp. A KitchenAid 4.5 quarter mixer sells for $130, $100 less than advertised at Macy's.





U.S. Sales this holiday season are expected to be the worst in years, as the worsening economic climate forces many shoppers to cut out all but the most necessary of purchases. Retailers have been cutting prices to entice people to spend and to move inventory, but promotions have cut into profit margins at many chains. Wal-Mart's focus on low prices has been a winning strategy in recent months, helping it to increase sales and win market share. Earlier this month, Wal-Mart posted a 10 percent rise in quarterly profit, in stark contrast to competitors.

Also on Friday, the company announced that its chief executive, Lee Scott, would retire in February. In a memo to employees, Chairman Rob Walton wrote "our customers are relying on us more than ever in the current economic environment and we are well-positioned to serve them now and in the future."





Wal-Mart had a jump-start on the holiday season this year, advertising that it would begin promoting deep discounts on items like toys in October. The retailer also plans to have special sales on its website on Thanksgiving Day.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Michael Jackson takes a weak grab for another 15 minutes as he converts to Islam

Jacko the Wacko is at it again. The King of pop manages to make waves in the media for his bizarre lifestyle. This time Michael Jackson has reportedly converted to Islam.

Michael Jackson is now 'Mikaeel', name of one of the angels of Allah. The 50-year old legend wore the traditional Islamic attire as he pledged his allegiance to the Koran at a friend's home in Los Angeles. He rejected the name 'Mustafa', which means "the chosen one," the source added.

The Pop star, who was raised a Jehovah's Witness, showed interest in Islam after discussing the religion with a music producer and songwriter on his new album - both of whom were converts to Islam, says reports. "They began talking to him about their beliefs, and how they thought they had become better people after they converted. Michael soon began warming to the idea," a source said. "An Imam was summoned from the mosque and Michael went through the shahada, which is the Muslim declaration of belief. Jacko rejected an alternative name, Mustafa meaning "the chosen one," the source added.

Michael Jackson is now 'Mikaeel', name of one of the angels of Allah. He was joined for celebration by British singer Yousef Islam, 60, who was called Cat Stevens until he famously converted. However, Jacko is currently faced with charges against him by Sheikh Abdulla bin Hamad Al Khalifa, second son of the King of Bahrain. Reportedly Sheikh Abdulla had lend 7 million dollars to the singer after he faced the child molestation trial.

Wacko Jacko believed it was a 'gift' to him, while Abdullah claims Jackson had promised to return the money back.

Mel Gibson Divorce, fact or revenge fiction?

So the news today seems to be a rumour brought on by the National enquirer. Apparently, this bastion of knowledge and truth has decided to go after Mel Gibson and his wife spreading rumours about them getting a divorce. Good Trends shows Mel Gibson Divorce as one of the top search terms.

The thing one needs to keep in mind is, The National Enquirer is now owned by the investment group, Evercore Capital Partners L.L.C., headed by former Deputy Treasury Secretary Roger C. Altman. Mel Gibson recently went on the attack with regard to the Jews. Is this simply a method of revenge, will the national Enquirer now be a tool to smite those who do not agree with the beliefs of the owner.

Not that I am expecting anything remotely sincere from a rag such as the Enquirer, but slamming someone because of their religious beliefs???

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The AUTO BAILOUT - Automakers begging for Tax Dollars

The question really shouldn’t be “Do you support the government bailout?” Instead, the public should be asked “Do you think Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, Barney Frank and the rest of our gang on Capitol Hill are qualified to run the U.S. auto industry, banking industry, insurance industry and other sectors of the American economy?”

If you think big business is best managed and overseen by politicians with no business experience, then the bailout, particularly the bailout of the auto industry, must seem like a pretty good idea. If however you haven’t lost your mind, then throwing $25 billion (on top of the already approved $25 billion for plant retooling) at a business model that is broken might seem, lemme’ see, insane.




Before we go further, I should point out that I have nothing against Detroit, am saddened at the thought of the potential job losses and disheartened at the demise of the once iconic U.S. auto industry. But none of that changes the overriding concern that the only thing $25 billion would do is postpone by a factor of months the inevitable Chapter 11 of one, two or all three of the big three auto companies.

Lest you think that I’m singling out the auto industry while tacitly approving the $700 billion approved for God knows what and the $100 billion plus handed over to AIG, I’m not. Having lived and worked overseas for years and having been exposed to systems ranging from communist to socialist to dictatorial, I feel pretty comfortable saying that massive government involvement in private business eventually results in a big steaming pile of crap. Now that might not be as eloquent as some of the business theories you’ve read, but hopefully the meaning is clear.

While the PWB staff is light on sophisticated economists, it does seem that using a band-aid, even one that costs $25 billion clams, on a sucking chest wound isn’t going to save the patient. Perhaps the leaders of the big three, along with their newest best friend forever Ron Gettelfinger (head of the United Auto Workers union) think they can convince the Congress that if they just had $25 billion they could save the day by restructuring their costs, business model and product line. As opposed to watching the $25 billion go down the drain over the next few months as they continue to pay enormous legacy costs, suffer declining sales and deal with the continued credit crunch. Apparently Nancy Pelosi, using her extensive business management experience, thinks that sounds about right.

In normal political times we might get a good old fashioned difference of opinion on the Hill over an issue as important as the proposed auto industry bailout. But these aren’t normal times. During this blessed honeymoon period as we await the change in administrations, anyone voicing concern over the bailout is viewed as an obstructionist … someone who doesn’t have the best interests of the nation at heart. What a load of crap.

A few Republicans have stood up and suggested that throwing good money (should I point out, our money) at the wheezing GM and inevitably Ford and Chrysler amounts to buying a few more months on life support. The auto chieftains and BFF Gettelfinger (not related to Goldfinger) have marched on Washington to explain that failing to prop them up will result in millions of job losses, the collapse of the free world and the end of the industry that makes those pine tree shaped air fresheners that hang from our rear view mirrors.

This is the same tactic used by AIG and the financial industry. I know we have collective attention deficit disorder as a nation, but does anyone remember Hank Paulson running around the Hill with his hair on fire claiming a huge comet will hit the earth if he didn’t get $700 billion? That was a trick question. Hank is bald; a hair fire is out of the question.





But Hank did get his $700 billion, which as far as I can tell is being dispensed with all the transparency of a Russian off shore company. Some of that $700 billion was mine… some of it was yours … don’t you want to know where the hell it’s going? It’s like handing money over to my teenage daughter … not only do I not know where it’s going, but the next day she’s standing in front of me asking for more.

And AIG? Remember them? Apparently, much like people are saying about the auto companies, AIG was just too big to fail. At last count they’ve received two massive infusions of cash. We’ve all heard about their crazy getaway trips to resorts for spa treatments and super boozeups. But does anybody think they could’ve possibly spent the entire $150 billion (give or take a few billion, who can freakin’ keep track) on facials and Cold Duck, or whatever insurance folks throw back on vacation? Even if they spent 10 percent of the bailout money on special executive massages (15 percent with happy ending), that still leaves $135 billion to account for.

And there in lies the rub. Or in AIG’s case, the rubdown. With Hank handing out briefcases full of dosh like Howie Mandel (minus the attractive briefcase ladies), AIG already $150 billion into the trough and the auto companies snuffling around looking for their feedbag, you and me have next to no idea what the hell is happening to our money, our children’s money and, frankly, our grandkid’s money. Once again, if you owned a pitchfork and/or one of those old fashioned torches, now would be a good time to pull them out of the shed and go demand that the monster be killed.

What’s that you say? If we don’t bailout the auto companies millions will lose their jobs and the economy will be wrecked? That’s one scenario and I agree, along with everyone that it’s a frightening scenario. And it’s that fear that the auto industry and Mr. “Read my lips, no concessions” Gettelfinger are preying on in the hope that Congress and the White House will pull out the billfold.

What we do know is that, without a bailout, GM will in all likelihood head in to Chapter 11. As with many other large companies before them, that entails restructuring and an actual hardnosed effort to return the company to profitability by making hard choices and changes. Easy? Painless? Absolutely not and no one should underestimate that.

But I’ll bet Bobo the talking intern’s pay for the next six months that a government bailout of $25 billion or more will in all likelihood result in GM eventually heading in to Chapter 11. Which would you rather do? Deal with the problem now, or throw $25 billion on the fire and deal with the problem later?

If the Republicans hold the line I’ll be amazed. The Obamatrons have marched on Capitol Hill and the pressure to display your commitment to blind bipartisanship is building.

Politicians, I hear, aren’t necessarily known for hanging their butts out in the wind and taking a stand. While they may believe it’s the right thing to do, the pressure to go along and, more germane, to not be viewed as responsible for job losses and the pain that will follow a move into bankruptcy, will likely prove too great.

Agreeing to an unsound (political speak for stupid) idea in the name of bipartisanship makes you not only weak but unprincipled as well. I think it’s time we show some fiscal responsibility and save the $25 billion. Frankly, we’ve got to think to the future. We’re going to need the extra cash when AIG heads off for their next out of town conference.

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A $25-billion lifeline to American automakers appeared hopelessly tangled by partisan fighting Tuesday, making it unlikely Congress could move to help the cash-starved industry by the end of the week.

Some leaders in both parties and the White House signaled an impasse that could be tough to break during a week set aside for the special congressional session to address the industry's woes.

One House leader said lawmakers may have to try again next month, while Michigan's two Democratic senators said the seriousness of the situation demanded a compromise, if necessary, to get the money to the automakersimmediately.

The sticking point is this: The White House and some congressional Republicans want to rewrite rules on $25 billion in already authorized loans —intended to retool auto plants to make more fuel-efficient cars —to make the money available to the automakers to pay operational costs. Democrats, especially in the House, say the industry needs operational funds now, from the $700-billion bailout of the financial industry, on top of the $25 billion to make more fuel-efficient vehicles, which has yet to be disbursed.

Looked at another way, opponents want to keep the auto bailout to $25 billion, and they say the Wall Street rescue bill is no place to look for help for the carmakers.

Supporters, on the other hand, want to make a total of $50 billion available to the auto industry and see no reason why a sliver —4% of the total —from the financial bailout shouldn't go to help a sector as vital to national security and employment as auto manufacturing.






“We're just going to draw the line at the $25 billion that's been authorized,” rebutted White House spokeswoman Dana Perino.

The commitment to that $25 billion for retooling plants remains deep in the House. Democratic Majority Leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland said Tuesday in a speech at the National Press Club that he couldn't see the House reversing itself — even thoughDemocratic President-elect Barack Obama likely wouldhave an easy time getting a new Congressto fund bothwith more Democrats in both chambers.

Hoyer mentioned the idea of a December session, saying he wasn't even sure the House would come in this week. It would depend, he said, on whether it could result in “anything productive.”

The automakers say they can't wait until Obama's inauguration.

By then, one or more of them could have collapsed under the weight of poor sales, frozen credit, dwindling cash reserves and high costs.

Should that happen, it could send a huge shock through the national economy.

On Tuesday, a group of mayors from Michigan, Ohio and elsewhere pleaded for immediate help for the industry, which is said to directly or indirectly support 3 million jobs andaffects thousands of retirees across the nation.

Even before the current crisis, the automakers were struggling with deep retrenching through plant closures and job cuts that have plagued Michigan's economy for years.

At a news conference in Washington, the mayors said they prefer both retaining the $25 billion in loans to retool plants — money authorized as part of Congress' decision last year to increase thefuel efficiency standard to 35 miles per gallon by 2020 —and an additional $25 billion to help the industry immediately.

But if it had to be one or the other, they said, they'd like a compromise.

“Right now,” said Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero, one of those meeting with senators Tuesday, “it's a matter of survival.”

Today, Detroit Mayor Ken Cockrel Jr. visits Washington to lobby for the bailout as well, as a House committee takes up its version of the auto bailout, which would take a $25-billion slice of the $700-billion bailout of Wall Street.

There may not be enough time to reach a compromise this week, anyway. The White House, Senate Republicans and some Democrats have plainly predicted that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada and Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan don't have the votes to pass the bill, which authorizes 10-year loans, with restrictions on executive compensation and dividends to shareholders for the life of the loans.

Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., said “there's too much opposition from the” Bush administration to get the bill through.

Perino reaffirmed the Bush White House's commitment to automakers but said flatly that $25 billion in authorized funds is enough.

Today, the Senate is expected to take up the bailout bill —along with an unemployment benefits extension —on the floor, though Republicans likely will signal their desire to subject the legislation to extended debate. That would probably result in a test voteFriday to determine whether the Democrats have the 60 votes necessary to break a filibuster.

Meanwhile, the House Financial Services Committee chaired by Rep.Barney Frank, D-Mass., was expected to take up the House version of the bill today with auto executives talking to that panel.

The House legislation is different, with 7-year loans, stricter oversight regulations and stock warrants worth at least 20%ofthe cost of the loans. That could mean the government could end up controlling a big portion of the automakers.

House members are in the nation's capital for organizational meetings this week, so it would be easy for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to call them into session.

On Tuesday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican who has auto plants in his state, said he had heard there was some Democratic support for using the retooling loans and that “hopefully Sen. Reid and I can discover a way forward.”

Michigan's Democratic senators, too, said they were less concerned about where the money came from and more focused on getting aid before the end of the year. General Motors Corp. has said it needs immediate aid, and analysts estimate the company could run short of cash to pay its bills by January.

“If, in the short run, the only way we have is to take a portion of that” retooling loan, I would “very reluctantly do that,” said Sen. Debbie Stabenowof Michigan,“but only because President-elect Obama will be focused on retooling and a manufacturing strategy next year.”

Said Levin: “If we can't get it done next week, we'll get it done the week after. … How we get there is not as important as getting there.”