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 veryhotthread  Author  Topic: Stuff & Nonsense  (Read 47336 times)
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« Reply #5085 on: Sep 21st, 2011, 08:34am »

New York Times

September 20, 2011
A Banker’s Secret Wealth
By LANDON THOMAS Jr. and RAPHAEL MINDER

Emilio Botín is a billionaire Spanish banker renowned for running a tight ship. He asks that his top credit officers at Santander — one of Europe’s largest banks — make a trek to his vacation home each summer to report on loan exposures. And he queries the head of his charitable foundation, euro for euro, on its smallest donations.

Yet, there is one not-so-small matter that Mr. Botín (pronounced bo-TEEN) has failed to keep tabs on: a Swiss bank account secretly opened long ago by his father that grew to such a size that when Spanish authorities discovered its existence last year, Mr. Botín and other family members paid 200 million euros (about $273 million currently) in taxes to avoid tax evasion charges.

At the request of tax fraud inspectors, a Spanish national court is investigating whether the payment is enough, given the amount that was stashed abroad; tax experts in Spain say that the account could reach two billion euros. The court has also said that officials need more time to sift through the blizzard of documents that the family submitted and will consider whether a criminal charge of document fraud should be brought.

A lawyer for the Botíns, Jesús Remón, said the family was cooperating with the investigation and was “fully in compliance with its tax obligations following their voluntary filing” last year. He added that no family member had been charged with wrongdoing.

Mr. Botín’s tax problems come as debate intensifies over whether struggling governments should demand more tax revenue from the rich. On Monday, President Obama called to end some tax breaks for the wealthiest taxpayers in the United States.

Last Friday, the Spanish government reintroduced a wealth tax that it had abolished three years earlier, hoping to collect an estimated 1.08 billion euros from taxpayers with more than 700,000 euros in declared assets. Spain’s wealthiest have so far not publicly endorsed calls for higher taxes, and Mr. Botín on Friday told reporters that “it seems to me very bad to reintroduce” the wealth tax.

More so than in other European countries, where bankers are largely anonymous figures, Mr. Botín holds sway in Spain. Although he avoids social events and his public utterances are few, his influence is seen as wide-ranging. And he has been able to retain control of Santander despite his family’s controlling just 2 percent of its shares.

Neither the judiciary nor the family has provided details about how much money the Swiss bank account contained or how the amount grew over time. Nor would Mr. Remón, the lawyer, comment on whether Mr. Botín had been aware of the account.

What is known is that Mr. Botín’s father, also called Emilio, left Spain with part of his wealth in late 1936, after the start of the Spanish Civil War, fearing, like many other Spaniards, what might come.

The elder Mr. Botín spent a few months in London before moving to Basel, Switzerland, and eventually returning to Spain to resume leadership of the bank that he had run since 1933. But while he returned to Spain, the money he salted away in Switzerland did not. The senior Botín died in 1993. Last year, the French government passed on to Spain data that it had obtained from Hervé Falciani, a former employee in HSBC’s Swiss subsidiary, naming almost 600 Spanish holders of secret bank accounts. Among those was one belonging to the estate of Mr. Botín’s father.

In his opening summary, the judge in charge of the case, Fernando Andreu, highlighted “the complexity of the hereditary structures” of trusts, foundations and other companies set up to oversee the account. The closest he came to explaining what was in the account was to say that it also included a 12 percent stake in Bankinter, a midsize bank in which Jaime Botín, Emilio’s brother, is a leading shareholder. That holding, at current stock market value, would be worth about $310 million.

Representatives for Mr. Botín have said that the family has voluntarily paid what it owes and that Mr. Botín expects that the government will agree and close the case. It seems altogether likely that Mr. Botín and his family will be cleared of any wrongdoing, which would come as no surprise to the banking patriarch’s fiercest critics.

“Santander is not only too big to fail but it is also the best corporate brand image that Spain has — so nobody in the government, judiciary or elsewhere is ever going to question seriously what they do,” said Antonio Panea, a lawyer and shareholder gadfly who has fruitlessly sued the institution on a dozen claims.

All of which misses the point, Mr. Botín’s defenders argue.

“I’m convinced that the Botíns are not motivated by money, they are motivated by love of banking,” said Mauro F. Guillén, a management professor at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania and author of a book on Santander’s rise to prominence. “If they were interested in maximizing their own wealth, they would have diversified out of Santander.”

Luis Arenzana, a portfolio manager in Madrid who worked at Santander as an investment banker in the early 1990s, said: “Some of what Santander has done was borderline ‘alegal’ rather than illegal. But then to be investigated occasionally for possible misconduct is the normal state of affairs for any large bank — anybody who succeeds in Spain is always suspected of wrongdoing.”

And a success it has been.

After taking over at the bank from his father in 1986, Mr. Botín caught domestic rivals flat-footed by raising the interest paid on deposits, by hugely increasing the market share of what had been a middle-of-the-pack bank with a minimal international presence.

Then, in a spate of deal making, Mr. Botín went from one takeover to the next. Besides Spain, Santander now has a dominant commercial banking presence in Brazil and Britain as well as a growing one in the United States through its majority stake in Sovereign Bank, based in Boston.

This ability to merge and grow made Santander the envy of banks worldwide. One of its competitors, Barclays, even went so far as to commission McKinsey to study how the bank did it, according to a person with knowledge of the consultancy project.

Now, instead of celebrating his extraordinary feat of transforming a regional bank into a global financial colossus, the billionaire patriarch is facing a set of challenges that could even jeopardize more than a century of family control of the bank.

In many respects, the financial crisis has done the most damage: Santander’s once high-flying stock is down almost 40 percent over the last year. And while the bulk of the bank’s profits come from Latin America and Britain, 35 percent of its loan book remains vulnerable to unemployment-ravaged Spain and bailed-out Portugal.

Spain’s main newspapers have left Mr. Botín’s tax problems mostly untouched after a flurry of stories in June when the criminal investigation was announced.

To a large extent that may be because of the widely held presumption that nothing more will come of the case. But some Spanish journalists also concede that they have not been aggressively digging.

“Santander spends massively on advertising and this influences the news treatment that they receive,” said Salvador Arancibia, a business journalist in Madrid who has covered Santander since 1980 and who has also worked for the bank. “Especially at a time when the media is in such a delicate financial situation.”

One of the few places in Spain where Mr. Botín is openly criticized is Puerta del Sol, the public square that since May has been home to the antiestablishment protests of Spain’s “indignados,” or “angry ones.” Beyond the slogans and puns disparaging the family name (Botín means loot or booty in English), a broader displeasure was on display.

“Botín is the symbol of the powerful banker,” said Luis De Miguel Sanz, a secondary school teacher. “So he can’t expect to be admired when his money is under investigation.”


http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/21/business/global/spain-examines-emilio-botins-hidden-swiss-account.html?_r=1&hp

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« Reply #5086 on: Sep 21st, 2011, 08:39am »

Anorak News

LOCAL News Story of The Day takes us to the Norther Territories in Australia. There a local man is “shaken after an encounter with a UFO south of Tennant Creek“.

Says the man who wants to be known a Aiden:

“About an hour after I had set off I looked in my side mirror and noticed a light behind me. I thought ‘geez, they must be driving fast’ as I was doing 120km/hour. When I looked again after a few minutes the light was really bright but it was in the bloody sky.”

He freaks out.

“I put the foot down a bit more. Then I looked back again and this time the light was huge and the most brightest light I had ever seen. But the strange thing is that the light had like an orange colour to it, but was white at the same time.

“It was about the size of a large car and stayed with me for about 20 or 30 minutes. I said to myself: ‘no, no, no, not me, go and take someone else, I am not interested.”

A UFO as big as a large car.

He lived to tell the tale…

Posted: 20th, September 2011 | In: Strange But True


http://www.anorak.co.uk/293856/strange-but-true/ufo-as-big-as-a-car-hunts-down-australian-driver.html/

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« Reply #5087 on: Sep 21st, 2011, 08:40am »

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« Reply #5088 on: Sep 21st, 2011, 12:50pm »

Science Daily

NASA's WISE Mission Captures Black Hole's Wildly Flaring Jet

ScienceDaily (Sep. 20, 2011)

Astronomers using NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) have captured rare data of a flaring black hole,
revealing new details about these powerful objects and their blazing jets.


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This artist's concept illustrates what the flaring black hole called GX 339-4 might look like.
Infrared observations from NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) reveal the best information yet on the chaotic and extreme environments of this black hole's jets.
(Credit: NASA)



Scientists study jets to learn more about the extreme environments around black holes. Much has been learned about the material feeding black holes, called accretion disks, and the jets themselves, through studies using X-rays, gamma rays and radio waves. But key measurements of the brightest part of the jets, located at their bases, have been difficult despite decades of work. WISE is offering a new window into this missing link through its infrared observations.

"Imagine what it would be like if our sun were to undergo sudden, random bursts, becoming three times brighter in a matter of hours and then fading back again. That's the kind of fury we observed in this jet," said Poshak Gandhi, a scientist with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA). He is the lead author of a new study on the results appearing in the Astrophysical Journal Letters. "With WISE's infrared vision, we were able to zoom in on the inner regions near the base of the stellar-mass black hole's jet for the first time and the physics of jets in action."

The black hole, called GX 339-4, had been observed previously. It lies more than 20,000 light-years away from Earth near the center of our galaxy. It has a mass at least six times greater than the sun. Like other black holes, it is an ultra-dense collection of matter, with gravity that is so great even light cannot escape. In this case, the black hole is orbited by a companion star that feeds it. Most of the material from the companion star is pulled into the black hole, but some of it is blasted away as a jet flowing at nearly the speed of light.

"To see bright flaring activity from a black hole, you need to be looking at the right place at the right time," said Peter Eisenhardt, the project scientist for WISE at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. "WISE snapped sensitive infrared pictures every 11 seconds for a year, covering the whole sky, allowing it to catch this rare event."

Observing the jet's variability was possible because of images taken of the same patch of sky over time, a feature of NEOWISE, the asteroid-hunting portion of the WISE mission. WISE data enabled the team to zoom in on the very compact region around the base of the jet streaming from the black hole. The size of the region is equivalent to the width of a dime seen at the distance of our sun.

The results surprised the team, showing huge and erratic fluctuations in the jet activity on timescales ranging from 11 seconds to a few hours. The observations are like a dance of infrared colors and show that the size of the jet's base varies. Its radius is approximately 15,000 miles (24,140 kilometers), with dramatic changes by as large as a factor of 10 or more.

"If you think of the black hole's jet as a firehose, then it's as if we've discovered the flow is intermittent and the hose itself is varying wildly in size," Poshak said.

The new data also allowed astronomers to make the best measurements yet of the black hole's magnetic field, which is 30,000 times more powerful than the one generated by Earth at its surface. Such a strong field is required for accelerating and channeling the flow of matter into a narrow jet. The WISE data are bringing astronomers closer than ever to understanding how this exotic phenomenon works.

A video showing variations of the black hole jet, as seen via WISE observations, is online at http://www.astro.isas.jaxa.jp/~pgandhi/wise_gx339/wise_blackhole_anim.html .

Poshak Gandhi is supported by the JAXA International Top Young Fellowship program. Other authors of the paper include: A.W. Blain of the University of Leicester, United Kingdom; D.M. Russell and S. Markoff of the University of Amsterdam; P. Casella of the University of Southampton, United Kingdom; J. Malzac of Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique and Université de Toulouse, France; S. Corbel of Université Paris Diderot and Commissariat à l'énergie atomique Saclay, France; P. D'Avanzo of Istituto Nazionale di Astrofisica, Italy; F.W. Lewis of Faulkes Telescope Project, Wales; M. Cadolle Bel of the European Space Astronomy Centre, Spain; P. Goldoni of Laboratoire Astroparticule et Cosmologie, France and Commissariat à l'énergie atomique Saclay, France; S. Wachter of the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, Calif.; D. Khangulyan of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency; and A. Mainzer of JPL.

JPL manages and operated WISE for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. The spacecraft was put into hibernation mode after it scanned the sky twice, completing its main objectives. The mission was selected under NASA's Explorers Program, which is managed by the agency's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. The science instrument was built by the Space Dynamics Laboratory in Logan, Utah; and the spacecraft was built by Ball Aerospace and Technologies Corp., in Boulder, Colo. Science operations and data processing take place at the Infrared Processing and Analysis Center at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. More information is online at http://www.nasa.gov/wise and http://wise.astro.ucla.edu and http://jpl.nasa.gov/wise .

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/09/110920161546.htm

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« Reply #5089 on: Sep 21st, 2011, 12:53pm »

Deadline Hollywood

DONE: Bruce Helford Signs On To Write & Run Charlie Sheen’s ‘Anger Management’

By NELLIE ANDREEVA
Wednesday September 21, 2011 @ 10:00am PDT

It’s official: The Drew Carey Show creator Bruce Helford will guide Charlie Sheen in his return to series television with Anger Management. I’ve learned that Helford has closed his deal with Lionsgate TV to come on board the project as writer/executive producer/showrunner. Helford, who has created two successful sitcom starring vehicles in the past — ABC’s Drew Carey and George Lopez — was one of several veteran showrunners that Sheen met with and someone the actor connected with right away. Based on the 2003 Jack Nicholson-Adam Sandler movie about a mild-mannered man (Sandler) ordered to attend group anger-management sessions led by a volatile therapist (Nicholson), Anger Management will star Sheen as an updated version of Nicholson’s character. The project is being produced by Lionsgate TV, Joe Roth’s Revolution Studios and Sheen manager Mark Burg’s production company Evolution Management.

With Helford officially locked in and Sheen’s legal spat with Warner Bros. TV over his firing from Two and a Half Men heading to a settlement, Lionsgate and its subsidiary Debmar-Mercury, which is distributing the series, are expected to take out the show to potential buyers within the next week to take advantage of Sheen’s renewed popularity coming off his highly rated Comedy Central roast.

http://www.deadline.com/2011/09/done-bruce-helford-signs-on-to-write-run-charlie-sheens-anger-management/#more-174325

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« Reply #5090 on: Sep 21st, 2011, 1:18pm »

Wired Danger Room

U.S. Establishes New Drone Bases for African Shadow Wars
By David Axe
September 21, 2011 | 1:20 pm
Categories: Drones

Washington is quietly setting up at least two new East African drone bases, plus one on the Arabian Peninsula, to support the expanding U.S. shadow war against Islamic militants in Somalia and Yemen. An apparently new facility has been built in Ethiopia. In the island nation of Seychelles, a defunct airfield is being reactivated. A third base is being set up in or near Yemen.

The news, first reported by The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal, should come as no surprise to close observers of America’s shadow war on the borders of the Indian Ocean. But the base expansion could be met with outrage by the people most directly affected, especially Africans themselves. For years, Washington has insisted that it wouldn’t build new bases in Africa.

The new drone facilities are a small step for a Pentagon and CIA already heavily invested in the Indian Ocean region. While mercenaries and U.S. allies — “proxies” — do most of the fighting in Somalia and Yemen, American warships, aircraft and special operations forces also play an important role. U.S. Reaper or Predator drones have struck militants in Yemen at least six times total in 2010 and 2011. In Somalia, drones have attacked at least twice since 2007. U.S. forces have also hit Somalia’s al-Shabab Islamic group a total of six times, that we know of, using cruise missiles and Special Forces helicopters.

The American base in the tiny country of Djibouti, north of Somalia, provides food and fuel to the warships and serves as a launching pad for the unmanned vehicles and choppers. The Djibouti base has been around since 2001. U.S. Special Forces operated from a small base in Kenya beginning “a few years” prior to 2007, according to military consultant Tom Barnett. American commandos also launched attacks from an unspecified Ethiopian location in early 2007. The Seychelles drone base was open for business in 2009 and 2010 before temporarily shutting down.

Amid all this activity, Washington insisted it had no plans for new African bases. “I want to dispel the notion that all of a sudden America is, you know, bringing all kinds of military to Africa. It’s just simply not true,” then-President George W. Bush told reporters in Ghana in 2008. Bush was trying to reassure African audiences that the new U.S. Africa Command would not mean an expanded U.S. military presence in Africa. Africa Command kept its headquarters in Germany, but the U.S. presence expanded anyways — though many of the forces operate outside of Africa Command’s purview.

For Washington, the rationale for new bases is clear. “We do not know enough about the leaders of the Al Qaeda affiliates in Africa,” a senior U.S. official told The Wall Street Journal. “Is there a guy out there saying, ‘I am the future of Al Qaeda’? Who is the next Osama bin Laden?” If finding and killing the next bin Laden means breaking a promise over African bases, the U.S. seems content with going back on its word.

http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2011/09/new-drone-bases/

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« Reply #5091 on: Sep 22nd, 2011, 09:01am »

New York Times

September 21, 2011
Whitman at H.P.? The Idea Distresses the Tech World
By DAVID STREITFELD

SAN FRANCISCO — As speculation swirled Wednesday that Meg Whitman might be brought in to save the troubled Hewlett-Packard, the tech world rendered a verdict: You have got to be kidding.

“The notion that H.P. can be fixed by adding a celebrity chief executive is laughable,” said Roger McNamee, managing director of Elevation Partners, an investment firm.

Ms. Whitman would be “an unmitigated disaster,” said Charles House, a longtime H.P. engineer who is chancellor of Cogswell Polytechnical College in Silicon Valley. “Her style is so arrogant it gags.”

Against such critical backdrop, Jeffrey A. Sonnenfeld of the Yale School of Management ranks as a Whitman booster. “It’s not a ridiculous choice,” he said. “But they could have done better.”

As the H.P. board — a group that includes Ms. Whitman — was considering firing the current chief executive, Léo Apotheker, Wednesday afternoon, the former eBay executive and unsuccessful candidate for California governor was said to be the leading candidate to succeed him.

Mr. Apotheker will have lasted less than a year, apparently because the board deemed his efforts at reviving the company too radical. It was the latest bout of executive turmoil at the once-staid firm.

Ms. Whitman, 55, would bring a high profile to the job as well as some baggage. She is bit of a lightning rod in Silicon Valley, where founders are allowed to have outsize personalities but mere managers are not. She turned eBay into a rousing first generation dot-com success, but her venture into politics last year proved a costly debacle. Each vote she received cost her about $45. The Democratic candidate Jerry Brown, who spent little by comparison, handily won.

She is now a “strategic limited partner” at the venture firm of Kleiner, Perkins, Caulfield & Byers. Her role, whatever its exact dimensions, did not prompt a lot of news. She did not return a call for comment Wednesday.

After starting her career as a brand manager for Procter & Gamble, Ms. Whitman became a consultant, then had executive stints at Disney, Hasbro and Stride Rite. Her arrival at eBay in March 1998 was a sign that the first generation Internet companies were growing up and needed professional managers from outside the industry to prosper.

Over the next nine years, Ms. Whitman took the fledgling auction site from a few employees to 15,000. Revenue grew from less than $100 million to nearly $8 billion. She oversaw two major acquisitions — the online payment firm PayPal, which was a good idea, and the Internet telephone company Skype, which was not.

But eBay, like that other sensation in the first dot-com boom, Yahoo, seemed to stall in the middle of the last decade. Grand plans to extend the site’s dominance into local commerce went nowhere. Wall Street noticed; its stock has been flat for years. How much of this is Ms. Whitman’s fault is a matter of debate.

She left in 2007 with a fortune exceeding a billion dollars. She then decided to run for California governor, an unusual move for someone who was revealed during the campaign to have rarely bothered to vote. She won the Republican nomination but had a great deal of trouble articulating her vision for making the state solvent again.

The campaign was marred by mishaps, including the revelation by a Whitman housekeeper that she was undocumented, and that Ms. Whitman had known it.

“She was undone by her housekeeper,” said the tech analyst Rob Enderle. “H.P.’s biggest problem right now is leaks from one or more disloyal employees. If Whitman can’t contain a housekeeper, it is unlikely she’ll be able to address this problem.”

Mr. Enderle and other analysts said there was a difference between creating a consumer tech company like eBay and fixing a diversified and complicated firm like H.P., whose roots stretch deep into Silicon Valley history but where the morale is low after a string of scandals and the path to recovery is murky.

“Whitman took eBay and made it an intergalactic colossus, but built it rather than doing a turnaround,” Mr. Sonnenfeld said. “She’s untested.”

On the plus side, he said she had “magnificent communication skills and a laserlike focus.”

She will need all that and more if she wants to be the first H.P. chief executive in many years to survive the post.

Matt Richtel contributed reporting.

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/22/technology/idea-of-whitman-at-hp-distresses-the-tech-world.html?_r=1&hp

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« Reply #5092 on: Sep 22nd, 2011, 09:08am »

LA Times

Stocks slides at open on recession fears

7:04 AM PDT, September 22, 2011
NEW YORK

Major U.S. stock indexes fell more than 3 percent on Thursday morning as a grim outlook from the U.S. Federal Reserve and downbeat data in Europe and China heightened fears about a global recession.

The Dow Jones industrial average dropped 371.83 points, or 3.34 percent, to 10,753.01. The S&P 500 fell 37.09 points, or 3.18 percent, to 1,129.67. The Nasdaq Composite lost 80.56 points, or 3.17 percent, to 2,457.63.

The U.S. Federal Reserve's tacit acknowledgment that America's economic slowdown is likely to persist for quite a while sent global stock markets skidding as investors brushed off the central bank's efforts to spur growth and focused instead on its gloomy assessment.

Oil tumbled too but the dollar held its own against the euro, which has been weighed down in recent weeks over concerns that Greece might go bankrupt. Hong Kong's Hang Seng led the retreat lower earlier during the Asian session with a near 5 percent dive.

The losses began Wednesday afternoon in the U.S. after the Fed announced a highly anticipated program to trade in $400 billion worth of short-term bonds for the same amount of longer-term bonds. The goal is to ensure low borrowing rates for a long period, thereby helping to stimulate the housing market and other economic activity.

The program — known as Operation Twist — was bigger than expected, but that seemed to work against the Fed's purposes: Investors took it as a signal that the central bank was growing more concerned about the economy. In its statement, the Fed noted "significant downside risks to the economic outlook, including strains in global financial markets."

"Confidence was already shaky, at best, and the Fed's words only heightened worries about the outlook," said Benjamin Reitzes, an analyst at BMO Capital Markets.

In mid-afternoon trading in Europe, France's CAC-40 was down a hefty 5.4 percent at 5,186 while Germany's DAX slid 4.6 percent to 5,185. The FTSE index of Britain's leading shares was down 4.9 percent at 5,027.

Wall Street was also set for big losses at the open soon — Dow futures were 2.3 percent lower at 10,752 while the broader Standard & Poor's 500 index futures fell 2.6 percent to 1,126.

The euro was also under severe pressure, trading 1.2 percent lower at $1.34 as the dollar garnered support through its widely-percieved status as a a safe haven in times of financial turbulence.

Europe's single currency, which is used by 17 countries, is also being dragged down by concerns over Greece, which is currently in talks with its creditors about whether it has done enough to get the next slice of its bailout. If Athens doesn't get the (euro) 8 billion ($11 billion) by mid-October, it will run out of money.

A Greek default would be disastrous for an already suffering eurozone.

Concerns about Greece have hit European banks, especially those in France, hard in recent weeks since the institutions hold a substantial amount of Greek debt.

On Thursday, the CEO of BNP Paribas was the latest to try to calm markets by declaring that his bank had a sufficient cushion of cash on hand. There had been reports that the bank was shopping around for investors in the Middle East.

"I formally deny it. We have no specific contact because we have no need for a capital increase," Baudouin Prot told BFM Business television. "With BNP Paribas, there is no particular problem. It's at the eurozone level that the concern rests and it's at that level that it needs to be solved."

The day also brought more bad news about the state of the eurozone economy there, with a closely watched survey from financial information company Markit indicating potential recessionary conditions.

Markit's monthly purchasing managers index — a gauge of business activity — fell to 49.2 in September, its lowest level since July 2009, from 50.7 the previous month.

"The fall in the eurozone composite PMI below the theoretical 50 'no-change' barrier provides the strongest sign yet that the region is on the cusp of a recession," said Ben May of Capital Economics.

A recession will only make it harder for Europe's heavily indebted countries to pay down their debts since it effectively means their governments are taking in less income.

Fears of a recession have driven down oil prices, which typically rise when economies are humming and their energy demands are increasing.

Benchmark oil fell a whopping $4.66 in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange to $81.26. Brent crude was down $2.75 to $107.61.

Earlier in Asia, stocks also fell. Japan's Nikkei 225 dropped 2.1 percent to close at 8,560.26. South Korea's Kospi slid 2.9 percent to 1,800.55. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 was 2.6 percent down at 3,964.90.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng saw the biggest fall, diving over 900 points, or 4.9 percent, to close at 17,911.90.

In mainland China, the Shanghai Composite Index closed down 2.8 percent at 2,443.06.

http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fiw-markets-20110922,0,6254504.story

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« Reply #5093 on: Sep 22nd, 2011, 09:13am »

Wired

WikiLeaks Founder Loses Control of His Memoir
By Kim Zetter
September 21, 2011 | 2:34 pm
Categories: WikiLeaks

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has lost control of more than just the U.S. State Department cables he possessed. He has also lost control of a memoir he had planned to publish.

Assange’s British publisher, Canongate Books, announced on Wednesday that it would release an unauthorized memoir about Assange on Thursday, despite his objections to the project and attempts to pull out of a previous agreement with the publisher.

The now-unauthorized authorized autobiography is said for the first time to address the events between Assange and two women in Sweden that led to sex-crimes allegations against him and a costly legal battle to fight his extradition from the United Kingdom to Sweden.

Assange had signed much ballyhooed agreements last December with Canongate in Britain and with Alfred A. Knopf in the United States to tell his story. The deal was reportedly worth around $1.3 million, though Canongate spokeswoman Liz Sich has called that number “totally inaccurate,” while declining to provide an accurate number.

The book was intended to be part-memoir and part-manifesto, the latter focusing on the WikiLeaks operation and its fight for transparency. Assange predicted at the time that his book would become “one of the unifying documents of our generation.”

But after spending 50 hours meeting with a ghost writer at Ellingham Hall — the country estate in the UK where Assange is under house arrest while awaiting a ruling on his extradition case — Assange grew uncomfortable with the project. According to a statement on the publisher’s web site, the project proved to be “too personal” for the transparency guru, who suddenly decided in March after reviewing the first draft of the manuscript that “all memoir is prostitution.” Sources told The Independent that Assange felt the book was too heavy on personal details and too light on manifesto.

Although 38 other publishers around the world had already sub-contracted with Canongate to release the book, Assange formally moved to withdraw from the Canongate contract in June. But according to the publisher, he had by then already tied up the advance money he had received for the project and therefore could not pay it back. The Independent reports that the money may have been put into escrow to pay Assange’s legal bills for fighting the sex-crimes case.

Knopf said in a statement that it did cancel its separate contract with Assange, telling the Associated Press, “The author did not complete his work on the manuscript or deliver a book to us in accordance with our agreement. We will not be moving forward with our publication.”

But Canongate decided to go forward with its publication of the book, despite Assange’s objections. The publisher reportedly gave Assange opportunity to revise the book, but he failed to deliver any changes. The publisher also gave him a “twelve day window to seek an injunction” against the project, but that expired on Monday with no action on Assange’s part, according to The Independent.

Scottish novelist Andrew O’Hagan, who was the ghostwriter on the book, delivered the draft to Canongate last March. But he subsequently asked for his name to be removed from the book.

Canongate is calling the book “the unauthorised first draft” of Assange’s story.

“It is passionate, provocative and opinionated – like its author,” Canongate said about the book in its statement. “It fulfils the promise of the original proposal and we are proud to publish it.”

The book, which the British newspaper The Independent plans to begin excerpting Thursday, contains a chapter devoted to the sex-crimes allegations in Sweden, in which Assange repeats the much-criticized claim that he had been warned by a source in an unnamed intelligence agency that the US government had planned to set him up. According to The Independent, Assange admits to sleeping with the two women – referred to as A and W in the book – but asserts that their allegations that some of their sexual encounters were not consensual are simply motivated by his failure to return their calls or are part of a conspiracy to get him.

“The international situation had me in its grip, and although I had spent time with these women, I wasn’t paying enough attention to them, or ringing them back, or able to step out of the zone that came down with all these threats and statements against me in America,” Assange states in the book, according to The Independent. “One of my mistakes was to expect them to understand this? I wasn’t a reliable boyfriend, or even a very courteous sleeping partner, and this began to figure. Unless, of course, the agenda had been rigged from the start.”

Assange’s previous claim that the CIA was behind the women’s allegations against him caused a rift between him and other members of WikiLeaks who criticized him for making allegations he couldn’t back and for getting WikiLeaks’s business and reputation entangled in his personal affairs.

Canongate Books has reportedly printed and distributed thousands of copies of the memoir under tight security, in order to prevent Assange from stopping its publication.

The book will go on sale in stores and online on Thursday.

Assange will receive royalties from the book he now claims he doesn’t want published, after the advance is paid back in sales, according to Canongate spokeswoman Sich.

It’s not the first time that Assange has lost control over the publication of material. Last month, he lost control of a WikiLeaks database containing more than 250,000 U.S. State Department cables after a German newspaper reported that supporters of the organization had inadvertently published a full copy of the database online. Although the file was password protected, the password had been revealed in a book that the Guardian newspaper had published about WikiLeaks, making it possible for anyone to grab the file and unlock the unredacted cables.

http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2011/09/assange-memoir/

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« Reply #5094 on: Sep 22nd, 2011, 09:16am »

That's the creep who took one of the coolest innovations of the dot com era, eBay, and turned it into yet another bloated corporate pig. I'm sure she'll make HP into something even less desirable for civilization than it is at the moment. HP is a joke. It used to make great equipment; now it just makes money by whatever means it can, which these days means selling mountains of crap.

on Sep 22nd, 2011, 09:01am, WingsofCrystal wrote:
New York Times

September 21, 2011
Whitman at H.P.? The Idea Distresses the Tech World
By DAVID STREITFELD

SAN FRANCISCO — As speculation swirled Wednesday that Meg Whitman might be brought in to save the troubled Hewlett-Packard, the tech world rendered a verdict: You have got to be kidding.

“The notion that H.P. can be fixed by adding a celebrity chief executive is laughable,” said Roger McNamee, managing director of Elevation Partners, an investment firm.

Ms. Whitman would be “an unmitigated disaster,” said Charles House, a longtime H.P. engineer who is chancellor of Cogswell Polytechnical College in Silicon Valley. “Her style is so arrogant it gags.”

Against such critical backdrop, Jeffrey A. Sonnenfeld of the Yale School of Management ranks as a Whitman booster. “It’s not a ridiculous choice,” he said. “But they could have done better.”

As the H.P. board — a group that includes Ms. Whitman — was considering firing the current chief executive, Léo Apotheker, Wednesday afternoon, the former eBay executive and unsuccessful candidate for California governor was said to be the leading candidate to succeed him.

Mr. Apotheker will have lasted less than a year, apparently because the board deemed his efforts at reviving the company too radical. It was the latest bout of executive turmoil at the once-staid firm.

Ms. Whitman, 55, would bring a high profile to the job as well as some baggage. She is bit of a lightning rod in Silicon Valley, where founders are allowed to have outsize personalities but mere managers are not. She turned eBay into a rousing first generation dot-com success, but her venture into politics last year proved a costly debacle. Each vote she received cost her about $45. The Democratic candidate Jerry Brown, who spent little by comparison, handily won.

She is now a “strategic limited partner” at the venture firm of Kleiner, Perkins, Caulfield & Byers. Her role, whatever its exact dimensions, did not prompt a lot of news. She did not return a call for comment Wednesday.

After starting her career as a brand manager for Procter & Gamble, Ms. Whitman became a consultant, then had executive stints at Disney, Hasbro and Stride Rite. Her arrival at eBay in March 1998 was a sign that the first generation Internet companies were growing up and needed professional managers from outside the industry to prosper.

Over the next nine years, Ms. Whitman took the fledgling auction site from a few employees to 15,000. Revenue grew from less than $100 million to nearly $8 billion. She oversaw two major acquisitions — the online payment firm PayPal, which was a good idea, and the Internet telephone company Skype, which was not.

But eBay, like that other sensation in the first dot-com boom, Yahoo, seemed to stall in the middle of the last decade. Grand plans to extend the site’s dominance into local commerce went nowhere. Wall Street noticed; its stock has been flat for years. How much of this is Ms. Whitman’s fault is a matter of debate.

She left in 2007 with a fortune exceeding a billion dollars. She then decided to run for California governor, an unusual move for someone who was revealed during the campaign to have rarely bothered to vote. She won the Republican nomination but had a great deal of trouble articulating her vision for making the state solvent again.

The campaign was marred by mishaps, including the revelation by a Whitman housekeeper that she was undocumented, and that Ms. Whitman had known it.

“She was undone by her housekeeper,” said the tech analyst Rob Enderle. “H.P.’s biggest problem right now is leaks from one or more disloyal employees. If Whitman can’t contain a housekeeper, it is unlikely she’ll be able to address this problem.”

Mr. Enderle and other analysts said there was a difference between creating a consumer tech company like eBay and fixing a diversified and complicated firm like H.P., whose roots stretch deep into Silicon Valley history but where the morale is low after a string of scandals and the path to recovery is murky.

“Whitman took eBay and made it an intergalactic colossus, but built it rather than doing a turnaround,” Mr. Sonnenfeld said. “She’s untested.”

On the plus side, he said she had “magnificent communication skills and a laserlike focus.”

She will need all that and more if she wants to be the first H.P. chief executive in many years to survive the post.

Matt Richtel contributed reporting.

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/22/technology/idea-of-whitman-at-hp-distresses-the-tech-world.html?_r=1&hp

Crystal
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« Reply #5095 on: Sep 22nd, 2011, 09:25am »

Hollywood Reporter

Charlie's Angels: TV Review
5:00 AM PDT 9/22/2011
by Tim Goodman

ABC's new drama -- which stars Minka Kelly, Annie Ilonzeh, Rachael Taylor and Ramon Rodriguez -- is like a spoof that suddenly took itself seriously, writes THR's chief TV critic Tim Goodman.

Nostalgia is a tricky business, particularly put into the hands of people who don’t really know how to handle the nuance of it.

ABC's new drama Charlie’s Angels seem to want to go back to the '70s to rustle up some girl power, but it fails miserably and offensively.

The series is a remake of the jiggle show that seems to be remade so many times it’s like Equus. After the movie franchise, what can possibly be said about “angels” who save people in distress and kick ass in the process?

Well, this much can be said about the new television version: It’s beyond heinous. It contains some of the worst acting of the last decade on network television, much of it by Minka Kelly.

The writing is atrocious. It’s like a spoof that suddenly took itself seriously. That ABC could have made this on the drama side and the yet-to-air “Work It” on the comedy side – far and away the two worst shows of this new season – says a lot about what it takes to get fired in this town.

Listen, to go on any more about Charlie’s Angels – even to the point of talking about who’s in it or who wrote it (why embarrass them any more than necessary?) gives the show more validation than it deserves. Don’t watch this show thinking it’s so awful it could be brilliant. Or that you could make a fantastic drinking game out of it.

No, there are series that will fill those needs. Charlie’s Angels is offensive to every actor and writer currently out of work. It makes Jersey Shore look like Shakespeare. And it sets the standards of television back to, well, the lesser efforts of the 1970s. And that’s nostalgia nobody needs to relive.

http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/review/charlies-angels-tv-review-238843

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« Reply #5096 on: Sep 22nd, 2011, 09:29am »

on Sep 22nd, 2011, 09:16am, Double Nought Spy wrote:
That's the creep who took one of the coolest innovations of the dot com era, eBay, and turned it into yet another bloated corporate pig. I'm sure she'll make HP into something even less desirable for civilization than it is at the moment. HP is a joke. It used to make great equipment; now it just makes money by whatever means it can, which these days means selling mountains of crap.



Good morning Double Nought Spy,

I agree. I loved EBay when it was little and had individual people selling anything they dug out of their attics. It was so much fun. The Meg got into it and now it's an ugly WalMart on the internet. She is abrasive in the extreme and I've only seen her clips when she was running for office. I can't imagine what it would be like having to work for her. tongue

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« Reply #5097 on: Sep 22nd, 2011, 09:36am »

.

Please be an angel




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« Reply #5098 on: Sep 22nd, 2011, 1:56pm »

NASA

Crew Earth Observations Videos

The following videos have been created by the Crew Earth Observations team at Johnson Space Center from a series of still images taken onboard the International Space Station.

http://eol.jsc.nasa.gov/Videos/CrewEarthObservationsVideos/

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« Reply #5099 on: Sep 22nd, 2011, 2:17pm »

Speaking of NASA, this is an interesting thread:

http://ufocasebook.conforums.com/index.cgi?board=general&num=1316460174&action=display&start=0

Topic: If USA talks to Aliens why spend billions on Nasa


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