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 veryhotthread  Author  Topic: Stuff & Nonsense  (Read 47301 times)
WingsofCrystal
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« Reply #5385 on: Nov 1st, 2011, 08:54am »

LA Times

Investors place big bets on Buy Here Pay Here used-car dealers

Private equity firms are investing in chains of used-car lots, and auto loans are being packaged into securities much like subprime mortgages.
They're attracted by the industry's average profit of 38% for each car sold

By Ken Bensinger, Los Angeles Times
Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
November 1, 2011

Second of three parts (Link to part one after the jump, left side of page)

The J.D. Byrider used-car dealership in Visalia, Calif., sits amid a jumble of tow yards, hubcap vendors and vacant lots littered with empty beer cans. It may not look like much, but selling aging cars to waitresses, secretaries and farmworkers is a lucrative business. That's why private equity firm Altamont Capital Partners of Palo Alto bought the J.D. Byrider chain in May for a reported $50 million.

Altamont's offices, on the 10th floor of a luxury office tower overlooking Stanford University, are 200 miles and a world away from the Visalia lot.

On a recent morning, a dozen executives could be seen huddled in a glass-walled conference room, reviewing a slide presentation on plans to buy some franchised Byrider lots. It's part of a strategy to boost profit at the 135-lot chain, which had sales of $740 million last year.

Firms like Altamont pride themselves on being the smart money, identifying profitable opportunities ahead of the herd. Lately they and other investors are finding just such a windfall in a little-noticed niche of the used-car business known as Buy Here Pay Here.

These dealerships focus on people who need cars to get to work, but can't qualify for conventional loans. They sell aging, high-mileage vehicles at prices well above Kelley Blue Book value and provide their own financing. As lenders of last resort, they can charge interest at three times or more the going rate for regular used-car loans.

Many require customers to return to the lot to make their loan payments — that's why they're called Buy Here Pay Here dealerships.

If buyers default, as about 1 in 4 do, the dealer repossesses the cars and in many cases sells them again.

The dealerships make an average profit of 38% on each sale, according to the National Alliance of Buy Here Pay Here Dealers. That's more than double the profit margin of conventional retail car chains like AutoNation Inc.

"The amount of return from these loans you can't get on Wall Street. You can't get it anywhere," said Michael Diaz, national sales manager for Small Dealers Assistance Inc. in Atlanta, which buys loans originated by Buy Here Pay Here dealers. "It's the gift that keeps giving."

Investor money is pouring into the industry from several sources, helping Buy Here Pay Here dealers expand their reach and raise their profile.

In addition to private equity firms such as Altamont, several payday lending chains are moving into Buy Here Pay Here and have acquired dealerships.

Stock investors are snatching up shares in Buy Here Pay Here chains and other publicly traded companies in the business. Two of the biggest, America's Car-Mart Inc. and Credit Acceptance Corp., have seen big gains in their share prices this year, outpacing the market.

Buy Here Pay Here is also being boosted by one of the sophisticated financial strategies that drove the nation's recent housing boom and bust: securitization.

Loans on decade-old clunkers are being bundled into securities, just as subprime mortgages were a few years ago. In the last two years, investors have bought more than $15 billion in subprime auto securities.

Although they're backed mainly by installment contracts signed by people who can't even qualify for a credit card, most of these bonds have been rated investment grade. Many have received the highest rating: AAA.

That's because rating firms believe that with tens of thousands of loans lumped together, the securities are safe even if some of the loans prove worthless.

Some analysts worry that the rush to securitization could lead to careless lending by dealers eager to sell more loans, as happened with many mortgage-backed bonds.

"We think that investing in such companies is a ticking time bomb," said Joe Keefe, chief executive of Pax World Management, which steers its investments into businesses it deems socially and environmentally responsible. "It has ethical as well as systemic risk implications."

Others predict that investor scrutiny will shave a few of the sharper edges off a business notorious for high prices and interest rates, and for lightning-fast repossessions. "Investors are looking at the good operators, the ones that want to keep their customers in their cars," said John Nagy, a managing director at investment bank Stephens Inc. "We don't want to associate with the bad apples."

Dealers are using the flood of cash to move into new territories, add inventory and hire aggressively.

Buy Here Pay Here dealers last year founded a trade group, the Community Auto Finance Assn., to represent them before Congress and regulators. That has fueled concern among consumer advocates that the industry is building political muscle to ward off regulation.

"There hasn't been widespread public attention paid to Buy Here Pay Here because mortgages have been such a preoccupation," said Kathleen Keest, senior policy counsel for the nonprofit Center for Responsible Lending.

"It might be an attractive model to investors, but when it's designed to ruthlessly maximize profit, there's no way it can't hurt the consumer," Keest said.

Jeff Williams, chief financial officer of America's Car-Mart, one of the largest Buy Here Pay Here chains, said his company fills a pressing need for millions of Americans who can't qualify for conventional auto loans.

"Our customers live paycheck to paycheck, and we work with them," Williams said. "We consider ourselves to be the good guy of the industry."

The chain started with a single lot in 1981. And like its Bentonville, Ark., neighbor, Wal-Mart Stores Inc., it had grand ambitions. The company now has 111 locations in nine states, including three that opened in the last few weeks.

Car-Mart charges 14% interest on average — significantly less than many competitors. Most of the cars on its lots have about 100,000 miles on the odometer, Williams said.

Shares in the company have risen about 23% this year. By comparison, the better-known CarMax Inc. chain — which sells more expensive, late-model used cars and won't finance people with serious credit problems — has seen its shares fall about 6%.

Car-Mart's profit has nearly doubled over the last four years, to $28.2 million for its most recent fiscal year, while its loan portfolio has grown more than 30%.

Another major player, Credit Acceptance, was founded in the 1970s as one of the first Buy Here Pay Here chains. It eventually moved away from retail auto sales to focus on buying loans issued by other Buy Here Pay Here lots.

It was a shrewd move: Dealers proved eager to trade future revenue streams for cash upfront. Credit Acceptance tries to cherry-pick the highest-quality loans, which it buys at a discount.

In the second quarter of this year, nearly 3,000 dealers sold loans to Credit Acceptance. From 2007 to 2010, the Michigan company's revenue jumped 84% and profit more than tripled — to $170 million last year.

Credit Acceptance combines some of the loans into securities and sells them to investors. The buyers are usually insurance companies, banks, mutual funds and other institutional investors.

What they're buying, essentially, is the right to collect borrowers' loan payments, which are passed on by dealers and assorted intermediaries. If borrowers default, investors are stuck with the loss.

Some Buy Here Pay Here chains securitize their loan portfolios themselves.

DriveTime Automotive Group in Phoenix, a chain of 88 dealerships in 17 states has issued two offerings of bundled car loans this year totaling $461 million.

The securities consist of more than 52,000 loans with an average interest rate of 21%. The borrowers' average credit score was 518, according to rating firm DBRS.

That score, out of a possible 850, is known as "deep subprime." A prime score is anything above 720. More than $7 billion in subprime auto securities were sold by a dozen issuers through June 30, compared with $3 billion for the same period last year, according to Moody's Investors Service and Standard & Poor's Ratings Services.

Subprime auto loan issues now represent a larger percentage of all auto-loan securitizations than at any time since 2006, according to Moody's.

That means people who have never set foot on a Buy Here Pay Here lot, including retirement savers, own a small piece of the business.

OppenheimerFunds, which has more than $188 billion in assets and 11 million shareholders, holds DriveTime securities in at least six of its mutual funds, company reports show.

The returns on subprime auto-loan securities vary, but one offering sold late last year paid 3.5% annually on A-rated bonds maturing in three years — about six times the yield on comparable U.S. Treasury notes. On a $1-million investment, an investor would expect a return of $105,000, plus the principal, over the three years.

This spring, Moody's warned that the market for subprime auto-loan securities could get overheated. "New market entrants lured by profits and low-cost financing are susceptible to expanding 'too much too fast,'" the ratings firm wrote.

more after the jump
http://www.latimes.com/business/buy-here-pay-here/la-fi-buyhere-payhere-day-two-20111101,0,3779131.story

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« Reply #5386 on: Nov 1st, 2011, 11:26am »

Wired Danger Room

Danger Room What's Next in National Security New Afghan War Plan Concedes the Surge Fell Short

By Spencer Ackerman
November 1, 2011 | 12:17 pm
Categories: Af/Pak

As the Obama administration winds down its troop surge in Afghanistan, it’s adopted a new political strategy for ending the war. And that new strategy represents a tacit concession that the best the surge could accomplish was rescuing Afghanistan from from the brink of total failure.

What was the surge for, anyway? In one sense, as explained by President Obama, it was merely designed to stop the Afghanistan war from deteriorating. But Obama’s generals promised that it would do more — that it would whup the Taliban into suing for peace. And in the broadest sense of all, it would contribute to the Obama team’s ultimate objective for the region: to “disrupt, dismantle and defeat” al-Qaida.

Judged in the narrowest sense, then, the surge worked. Afghanistan is no longer spiraling into greater violence. But it’s failed to accomplish anything beyond that.

The Obama administration, as the Washington Post reports, is pursuing a new strategy to end the war, called “Fight, Talk, Build,” in Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s phrase. In essence, it means the U.S. will no longer outsource negotiations with insurgents to the Afghan government, and it hinges on getting the Pakistanis to bring its insurgent proxies to the table.

The problem is that the Obama team and the U.S. military still don’t know how to connect “Fight” to “Talk.” Under this new strategy, the connection isn’t any battlefield setbacks for the Taliban that bring them in from the cold, as the war’s last two commanders predicted. It’s a diplomatic effort, distinct from the surge, to persuade the Pakistanis to make the insurgents talk peace.

And that points to perhaps the central irony of the Afghanistan surge. Al-Qaida itself has indeed been degraded. But not because of the surge, since al-Qaida largely isn’t in Afghanistan anymore. It’s because of the raging drone war next door and the raid that killed Osama bin Laden. And those efforts may have pissed the Pakistanis off so much that peace talks to end the Afghanistan war are in trouble.

Clinton and other top-level officials saw that Pakistani intransigence last month. They visited Islamabad to press the Pakistani leadership to rein in the buck-wild Haqqani Network and commit the insurgents to an Afghanistan peace process. But the Pakistanis blew Team Obama off. Not only do the Haqqanis — Pakistan’s hedge against Indian influence in Afghanistan — party in major Pakistani cities, but the deputy commander of the war confessed last week that Pakistani troops help rocket U.S. forces along the border.

The insurgents don’t seem particularly interested in talking. They’ve instead pulled off audacious recent attacks in the heart of the Afghan capitol. Last year, the U.S. was fooled by an insurgent impostor, revealing that it doesn’t even know to whom it can talk.

To understand how things reached this point, it’s helpful to reach back to 2009, when Obama crafted his “Af-Pak” strategy. In March 2009, he announced that his national-security team would now treat both Afghanistan and Pakistan as components of a unitary strategy. The goal of that strategy was ultimately to “disrupt, dismantle and defeat al-Qaida in Pakistan and Afghanistan,” Obama said.

There was an unresolved tension at the heart of that strategy. Al-Qaida was in Pakistan; but the war was in Afghanistan — and it was deteriorating. Obama’s new commander, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, said he needed tens of thousands more troops to turn the war’s fortunes around and bring it to a successful conclusion.

Obama said yes to everything. He gave McChrystal his troops while upping the drone war in Pakistan to degrade al-Qaida, the main goal of the whole enterprise. In announcing the surge in December 2009, Obama set the bar low for what it would achieve. It would merely “break the Taliban’s momentum,” he said at West Point.

Almost immediately, McChrystal raised those expectations. Peace talks, McChrystal said, were “the inevitable outcome” of the surge. “[I]t is my job to help set conditions where people in the right positions can have options on the way forward,” McChrystal told the Financial Times in January 2010.

McChrystal’s successor, David Petraeus, periodically boasted to reporters that negotiations were right around the corner. “There are very high-level Taliban leaders who have sought to reach out to the highest levels of the Afghan government and, indeed, have done that,” Petraeus said in September 2010. “This is how you end these kinds of insurgencies.”

Judged by Obama’s standards, and not his commanders’, the surge has done its job. The Pentagon’s last report on Afghanistan, released Friday, found violence is down for the first time in five years — although recent United Nations reports reach the opposite conclusion. Achieving that took a massive amount of effort, including 5800 air strikes in a single year and the destruction of entire emptied villages along the Argandab River. McChrystal, Petraeus and all their troops can take pride in these accomplishments.

But McChrystal and Petraeus’ broader predictions about an “inevitable” peace deal, however, haven’t panned out. And that’s it for the surge. Troops have already started coming home. By next September, all 33,000 surge forces will be out, leaving behind “only” 68,000 troops, who will cede primary combat duties — whatever that really means — to their Afghan counterparts in 2014. Whatever fight remains on the ground, including in Afghanistan’s volatile eastern provinces, it won’t match the combat power of the past two years, and will rely on air power to make up the difference.

So when Clinton says that “under the circumstances, we must [fight and talk] at the same time,” there will in fact be less fighting. Nothing necessarily stops either the U.S. or the Taliban from talking while they fight. But the surge drawdown gives the Taliban a reasonable expectation that they can wait the U.S. out, so it makes little sense for them to come to the bargaining table. Only the Taliban’s Pakistani sponsors can provide additional inducements for the Taliban to negotiate, and they’ve yet to apply any such pressure.

And that’s where it actually gets worse. The Pakistanis have seen fit to quietly cooperate with the drone war, which (along with some well-timed special operations raids) has exceeded expectations, battering al-Qaida to the point where Obama officials predict that al-Qaida is just a few commanders away from irrelevance. But it’s come at a price — a price the Afghanistan war pays. The shock of the unilateral Navy SEAL raid that killed Osama bin Laden has made the Pakistanis vastly less likely to help the U.S. in Afghanistan. Pakistan won’t invade its tribal areas to crush insurgent safe havens, and it stiff-armed Clinton on bringing Afghanistan’s insurgents to the peace table.

One can almost hear Vice President Joe Biden grinding his teeth. During internal deliberations about the surge in 2009, Biden argued the real center of the Afghanistan war was in Pakistan, and so rather than send 33,000 troops to fight in southern Afghanistan, the U.S. should up the drone war (he won on that) and focus diplomatically on bringing Pakistan to the table.

Now the surge is ending, and the last strategy standing looks a lot like Biden’s. Only this time, what’s successful in Pakistan appears to be, at best, irrelevant to the surge in Afghanistan — and, at worst, detrimental to the U.S. effort to bring the Afghanistan war to a soft landing.

The realest talk of all: after a decade, there may not be a better strategy left for the Obama administration to pursue than “Fight, Talk, Build.” Tens of billions of aid dollars to both the Afghanistan and Pakistan governments for a decade haven’t purchased reliable allies in either country. The silver lining is that terrorism has indeed become a diminishing threat to U.S. security. But if the best the U.S. can do in Afghanistan is attempt negotiations with its enemies while preparing Afghan forces for its departure, that’s a tacit eulogy for a misguided surge.

http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2011/11/obama-afghanistan-surge-meh/#more-61818

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« Reply #5387 on: Nov 1st, 2011, 11:32am »

PR Inside

Mass UFO Contact in Los Angeles

2011-11-01 08:22:17

Many were contacted by “aliens” and “UFO” during an experiment conducted by the OOBE Research Center.

It was the first experiment to ever prove that close encounters with UFOs and extraterrestrials are a product of the human mind.

20 volunteers assembled at the OOBE Research Center on October 7th, 2011. They were instructed to perform a specific procedure upon overnight and early-morning awakenings over the next few days. More than half of the volunteers experienced at least one full or partial out-of-body experience as a result. 7 of them reported making visual contact with UFOs or extraterrestrials. Meanwhile, the sensations they described were identical to those of accounts by “alien abduction survivors”. By some estimates, up to one million Americans experience such encounters every year.

According to the researchers, the term “out-of-body experience” is used to refer to the sensation of having left the body, and not a real exit of some essence from the physical body - although this is just the impression often had by test subjects.

The fact that UFOs and extraterrestrials may be deliberately encountered in a controlled manner and within a few days proves that such experiences are a product of the human brain. Experiment author Michael Raduga explained, "We tried to right a common misconception with this experiment - the issue at hand isn't extraterrestrials, but hidden human abilities. If you've encountered UFOs or aliens after sitting or lying down, it can now be unequivocally stated that you've had a spontaneous out-of-body experience. We have proven this."

It has long been theorized that encounters with extraterrestrials are nearly always the result of spontaneous out-of-body experience. However, scientific proof would have to wait until the discovery of methods for inducing the out-of-body state. In September 2007, the OOBE Research Center started to conduct hundreds of experiments on thousands of people in 5 countries. That work resulted in the development of a procedure allowing anyone to have an out-of-body experience within the first several attempts. This procedure in turn allowed for the OOBE theory of extraterrestrial encounters to be tested and proven correct. The experiment was led by Michael Raduga, founder and head of the OOBE Research Center, as well as the author of 10 published books, the best-known of which is School of Out-of-Body Travel. A Practical Guidebook, freely available online.

A full report: http://research.obe4u.com/ufo-experiment/


Press Information:
OOBE Research Center

Los Angeles, CA

Contact Person:
Michael Raduga
SEO
Phone: 818-484-1636
email: email

Web: www.obe4u.com

http://www.pr-inside.com/mass-ufo-contact-in-los-angeles-r2883501.htm

Crystal

edit to add: I don't necessarily agree with this article. I have no idea what is going on since I have no personal experience in the area.
« Last Edit: Nov 1st, 2011, 11:39am by WingsofCrystal » User IP Logged

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« Reply #5388 on: Nov 1st, 2011, 11:37am »

Deadline Hollywood

Charter Creates Online Directory For Netflix, Amazon, And Hulu Content

By DAVID LIEBERMAN, Executive Editor
Tuesday November 1, 2011 @ 10:49am EDT
Tags: Amazon, Charter Communications, Hulu, Netflix

ST. LOUIS, Nov. 1, 2011

— Charter Communications, Inc. (NASDAQ: CHTR) is expanding choice and increasing convenience for its Internet customers by organizing online content from Netflix, Amazon Instant Video and Hulu into a single online directory on Charter.net. Leveraging its robust broadband network, Charter is in a unique position to provide additional value through a comprehensive search and discovery experience, including entitled cable content and over the top content, not available from any other multichannel video programming distributor.
Charter’s Internet customers already have access to a variety of movies, shows and sports coverage on Charter.net, and the choices will continue to grow at a rapid pace over the course of the next year. Initially available online, the enhanced functionality will be available on tablets and mobile devices next year.

Pointers to content offered by Netflix, Amazon Instant Video and Hulu will be integrated with links to content already available on Charter.net through a unified search and discovery experience. Customers will have the ability to search the full library of content available from a variety of distributors, and choose the source of the content with just a few quick clicks.

“Consumers are watching streaming video from a variety of content providers on multiple devices at an increasing rate,” said Rich DiGeronimo, Charter’s Senior Vice President, Product and Strategy. “Charter is embracing this change in landscape, and making the search and discovery for all types of content easier and more convenient for consumers by integrating content from numerous sources into a single online directory. We’re starting by expanding our online functionality, but this is just the beginning of our aspiration to deliver the best customer experience with all video content on all devices, everywhere our customers go – over the most robust network.”

Charter is providing access for its customers to search the additional content for free. Customers must have appropriate rights to view the movies and shows by maintaining relationships directly with Netflix, Hulu or Amazon Instant Video in accordance with each services member agreements.

Earlier this year, Charter launched online content from a number of popular premium and sports content providers. Integrating content from Netflix, Amazon Instant Video and Hulu is the next step in providing a robust library of content to enjoy online, from anywhere in the country, and over time, on tablets and mobile devices.

http://www.deadline.com/2011/11/charter-creates-online-directory-for-netflix-amazon-and-hulu-content/#more-189518

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« Reply #5389 on: Nov 1st, 2011, 4:05pm »

Aol.news

UFO At NFL Game: TV Camera Captures Strange Object In Flight During Broadcast


Lee Speigel
Posted 11/1/11 08:34 AM ET
Updated: 11/1/11 12:09 PM ET

For many football fans who watched the New Orleans Saints rout the Indianapolis Colts on Oct. 23, the most unusual thing about the game was the lopsided final score of 62-7.

But for UFO aficionados and paranormal experts who tuned in, they may have seen something in the sky that was even more out-of-the-ordinary than the tossing of more touchdowns vs. incompletions.

As NBC's cameras returned from a commercial break and focused on the historic, triple-steepled St. Louis Cathedral in the city nicknamed the Big Easy, a couple of lit objects seemed to streak across the darkening sky -- and they've yet to be definitively identified.

Viewed in real-time, it's hard to see much more than something flashing across the screen. But a frame-by-frame scrutiny of the video reveals a rod-shaped object topped with brightly lit dots.

SEEING IS BELIEVING, RIGHT? HERE'S THE NEW ORLEANS UFO VIDEO:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j0jcqw6-nZA&feature=player_embedded


Skeptics maintain there's nothing extraordinary about all of this -- the objects, they say, are merely insects flying very close to the camera lens.

"I think these are insects that got caught in that interlaced video as they're flying through with a wing beat frequency, and the frames are being captured at a frequency... that causes that look," insisted Marc Dantonio, chief photo and video analyst for the Mutual UFO Network.

Dantonio owns FX Models -- a Connecticut company that creates special effects and models for the government. He's one of many investigators who insist that when an object -- moving very fast, like a flying insect -- gets close enough to a camera lens with a slow enough shutter speed, it produces an effect called motion blur, making the insect's wings appear elongated, or rod-shaped.

"They're fascinating, but they're actually quite down to earth," Dantonio said.

But one little frame of the video may be the one little problem that could rule out the insect theory. Amazingly, the frame reveals the mystery object is moving behind one of the cathedral towers. But how could that be if it was only an insect?

"The object is not going behind the cathedral -- it's actually in front of it," Dantonio said. "But because of the saturated CCD [charge-coupled device used in digital imaging], it looks like it's going behind. And when you see those three dots or lights [on the object], I think they're wing beats."

But when Dantonio took a closer look at the single video frame in question, he began to bend a little.

"Yeah, that sure does look weird. I won't say it's not interesting, but I'll tell you right now: I'm sure that there's a conventional explanation and I believe firmly that this is something very close to the camera."

http://www.aol.com/2011/11/01/ufo-nfl-game_n_1069148.html?test=latestnews

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« Reply #5390 on: Nov 1st, 2011, 7:03pm »

on Nov 1st, 2011, 4:05pm, Swamprat wrote:
Aol.news

UFO At NFL Game: TV Camera Captures Strange Object In Flight During Broadcast


Lee Speigel
Posted 11/1/11 08:34 AM ET
Updated: 11/1/11 12:09 PM ET

For many football fans who watched the New Orleans Saints rout the Indianapolis Colts on Oct. 23, the most unusual thing about the game was the lopsided final score of 62-7.

But for UFO aficionados and paranormal experts who tuned in, they may have seen something in the sky that was even more out-of-the-ordinary than the tossing of more touchdowns vs. incompletions.

As NBC's cameras returned from a commercial break and focused on the historic, triple-steepled St. Louis Cathedral in the city nicknamed the Big Easy, a couple of lit objects seemed to streak across the darkening sky -- and they've yet to be definitively identified.

Viewed in real-time, it's hard to see much more than something flashing across the screen. But a frame-by-frame scrutiny of the video reveals a rod-shaped object topped with brightly lit dots.

SEEING IS BELIEVING, RIGHT? HERE'S THE NEW ORLEANS UFO VIDEO:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j0jcqw6-nZA&feature=player_embedded


http://www.aol.com/2011/11/01/ufo-nfl-game_n_1069148.html?test=latestnews



Hey Swamp! cheesy

I don't know what it was but it didn't look like bugs. N'Awlins is a fantastical place but even they don't have critters that look like that.

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« Reply #5391 on: Nov 1st, 2011, 7:39pm »

And the "rods" appear again!My,aren't they the slick 'lil bastards!
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« Reply #5392 on: Nov 1st, 2011, 7:54pm »

on Nov 1st, 2011, 7:39pm, journryman57 wrote:
And the "rods" appear again!My,aren't they the slick 'lil bastards!



Hi Journryman57,

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« Reply #5393 on: Nov 1st, 2011, 8:33pm »

on Nov 1st, 2011, 7:54pm, WingsofCrystal wrote:
Hi Journryman57,

Crystal


Surely I'm not the only one to notice there are two distinct and quite different paths of this "rod"? Look again, and pay attention to where the object first crosses the steeples, then look at the slo-mo again.

I smell monkey bidness.

Edit: Actually, the monkey bidness does not begin till about 1:12 when the camera zooms in on a part of the towers where the bug did not really appear. The places where the path of the bug crossed the image of the towers are now out of the frame. In the actual video, it looks like the frames happened to be timed so that the bug only appears between structures. It was easy enough for someone to move the weird image down and make it look like it passes behind the steeples. Or maybe they just moved the images of the steeples over the path of the "rod". Whatever, it's a clever bit of sleight-of-hand, with stop motion only used after the zoom.

Damn. That was looking good for a few minutes...
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« Reply #5394 on: Nov 2nd, 2011, 09:01am »

on Nov 1st, 2011, 8:33pm, Double Nought Spy wrote:
Surely I'm not the only one to notice there are two distinct and quite different paths of this "rod"? Look again, and pay attention to where the object first crosses the steeples, then look at the slo-mo again.

I smell monkey bidness.

Edit: Actually, the monkey bidness does not begin till about 1:12 when the camera zooms in on a part of the towers where the bug did not really appear. The places where the path of the bug crossed the image of the towers are now out of the frame. In the actual video, it looks like the frames happened to be timed so that the bug only appears between structures. It was easy enough for someone to move the weird image down and make it look like it passes behind the steeples. Or maybe they just moved the images of the steeples over the path of the "rod". Whatever, it's a clever bit of sleight-of-hand, with stop motion only used after the zoom.

Damn. That was looking good for a few minutes...


Good morning Double Nought Spy,

It seems as though the number one hobby of videographers is faking UFO's. I wish they would cut it out!

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« Reply #5395 on: Nov 2nd, 2011, 09:05am »

New York Times

November 1, 2011

Euphoria Turns to Discontent as Egypt’s Revolution Stalls

By NEIL MacFARQUHAR

GIZA, Egypt — Lurching around the Great Pyramids on a camel was part of the trip-of-a-lifetime experience that Farag Abu Ghaneima once touted dozens of times a day, but he recently sold three of his five camels to the butcher.

Tourists who flocked here by the millions annually now dribble through so sporadically that his two horse buggies sit unused many days and only 3 of 15 employees remain around the family stable and perfume shop.

“We can barely earn enough to feed ourselves, much less the horses and camels,” said Mr. Abu Ghaneima, pointing out the articulated rib cages and jutting hip bones of animals idling around a pretty little green square in his village, a stone’s throw from the Sphinx. “The revolution was beautiful, but nobody imagined the consequences.”

More than eight months after President Hosni Mubarak was toppled, the euphoria of Egypt’s political spring has surrendered to a season of discontent. There is widespread gloom that Egypt is again stagnating, its economy heading toward a cliff, while the caretaker government refuses or fails to act.

Tourism, a buttress of the economy upon which an estimated 15 million people depend, remains in a tailspin. Frequent strikes over pay and worker rights further erode long-battered government services from transportation to hospitals.

Mass demonstrations that have descended into sectarian riots, like the one on Oct. 9 that ended with 27 people dead after a harsh military response, have left the public uneasy that anarchy lurks.

Parliamentary elections, scheduled to start Nov. 28 and entailing three rounds ending Jan. 10, were meant to bring a sense of achievement and distill the uprising into a fairer, less corrupt political and economic system. But as campaigning begins in earnest this week, the proliferation of more than 55 parties and about 6,600 candidates for 498 seats in the People’s Assembly inspires mostly confusion.

“The picture has become so muddled that we don’t know where we’re going — this is the problem,” said Rami Essam, the young heartthrob bard of the revolution, answering questions between guitar songs in Tahrir Square, where lackluster demonstrations still come together on most Fridays.

“Freedom!” he sang about the unrealized demands of the revolution.

“Ignored,” the crowd responded in Arabic.

“Civilian rule! — Ignored! — Counterrevolutionaries! — Ignored!”

Arrested on the square last March, Mr. Essam posted pictures online of the heavy gashes and bruises he said had been inflicted by soldiers who detained him.

He tweaks protest anthems that targeted the Mubarak government to denounce the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces. “We have not realized any of our demands, and all of our dreams are gone,” he said.

On the economic front, Egypt’s most important sources of income remain steady, with tourism the notable exception. The other pillars of the economy — gas and oil sales; Suez Canal revenues and remittances from workers abroad — are either stable or growing, according to Central Bank figures.

But those sources of income have accomplished little more than propping up an ailing economy. Over all, economic activity came to a standstill for months, with growth expected to tumble to under 2 percent this year from a robust 7 percent in 2010. Official unemployment rates rose to at least 12 percent from 9 percent. Foreign investment is negligible.

The revolutionary tumult hit tourism hardest. Nearly 15 million tourists visited Egypt in 2010, a record, but numbers were off by 42 percent through September of this year, said Amr Elezabi, the chairman of the Egyptian Tourism Authority, with about $3 billion lost. Whenever the numbers of tourists begin to edge up, they inevitably collapse again after periodic riots.

Desperate to reverse the trend, the tourism authority even test-marketed the uprising. “People were happy for us about what happened, but they said, ‘Don’t talk to us about the revolution,’ ” Mr. Elezabi said. “You cannot sell Egypt through Tahrir Square.”

Part of the blame for Egypt’s economic malaise, though, rests with the caretaker cabinet, which reports to the ruling military council. The ministers, mindful that several businessmen who served in the Mubarak government sit in jail on corruption convictions, are reluctant to sign off on new projects.

“The normal red tape got redder,” said Hisham A. Fahmy, the chief executive of the American Chamber of Commerce in Egypt, which groups elite multinational and Egyptian companies.

Nearly every conversation navigates into politics, with the basic theme being why there has been so little concrete change in Egypt, especially when compared with the tectonic shifts right next door in Libya and Tunisia, where uprisings also ousted long-serving dictators. The answers run along two main tacks.

The ruling generals and their supporters argue that repeated demonstrations and strikes by unrepresentative activists are undermining all attempts to restore stability and the economy. State television even commissioned a tune about it. The key lyric translates roughly as, “Even if you have demands, put the interests of the country first.”

Activists accuse the generals of resurrecting the Mubarak playbook to stay in power. The military deploys draconian measures to silence critics, they say, banning strikes and singling out individual critics like Alaa Abdel Fattah, a renowned blogger jailed by a military prosecutor this week for a 15-day sentence on incitement charges.

The surprise appearance recently of posters of the military’s top officer, Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, and the slogan “Egypt Above All” fueled widespread suspicions that the generals want him to be the fifth military president in a row since the armed forces seized Egypt’s government in 1952. Presidential elections are likely to be at least a year away.

The generals denied any connection to the campaign, but activists recognize that toppling Mr. Mubarak turned out to be the easy part and that they should have pushed harder for sweeping change while they had momentum.

“Most of those who took part in the revolution were satisfied with the fall of Mubarak,” said Dr. Mona Mina, a soft-spoken Coptic pediatrician who helped lead physicians nationwide in a work stoppage over deteriorating medical services. “They celebrated and left Tahrir before they had established an authority from among them to monitor the transformations demanded by the revolution.”

The revolutionary spirit lives, but resonates less.

“We are ready to live on dates and water for our freedom!” proclaimed Mohamed Sabr, a 30-year-old engineer protesting in Tahrir Square last Friday.

“If you want water and dates, fine, eat that yourself,” rejoined Tareq Ali, 36, an export manager for a cheese company.

“Feloul!” shot back Mr. Sabr, a popular slur basically meaning “counterrevolutionary remnant.”

Heba Afify contributed reporting.

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/02/world/middleeast/egypts-tourism-suffers-as-its-revolution-stalls.html?ref=world

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« Reply #5396 on: Nov 2nd, 2011, 09:10am »

FOX 5 Las Vegas

Nevada UFO town cashes in on 'geocaching' game
Posted: Oct 28, 2011 3:58 PM PDT
Updated: Nov 01, 2011 8:07 AM PDT
Posted By Doug Johnson, Reporter

Rachel, NV (FOX5) - About two hours north of Las Vegas is State Highway 375, also known as the Extraterrestrial Highway.

The only town on the road is Rachel, Nevada.

For the past twenty years Pat Travis and now her daughter Connie West have been running the only business there, the Little A'Le'Inn.

"The UFO activity started within the first year that we were here," Travis told FOX5.

As popular culture's interest in UFOs faded so did visitors to the area.

But now a different type of visitor is coming.

"There not coming out here because of UFOs or Area 51 or the Little A'Le'Inn," said West.

Instead tourists have returned to Rachel to probe for something else, which has them looking at the ground, not the sky.

"Geocaching is our primary venture, what we came out here to do," said Scott Fee, a geocacher from Alabama.

Geocaching is a type of online scavenger hunt, where participants use GPS devices to find containers called "caches".

"Inside the film can is the log sheet showing everyone's been here, someone even had an alien stamp on that one," said Fee.

Every cache in the world is listed on the Geocaching web site, and geocachers, as they're called, can log every find they make.

With about 1500 caches up and down Highway 375, this stretch of road has the most caches per mile in the world.

"This has become what some call the power trial of the gods!" said Fee.

When it first started in spring of 2010, the geocaching community flocked to Rachel

Many visitors came who otherwise may not have.

"I never knew Rachel, Nevada existed except for geocaching," Steven O'Gara, a geocacher from Los Angeles, told FOX5.

Business for the Little A'Le'Inn had never been better.

"From that moment on our rooms were booked, business is great!" said West.

"I had more rooms rented in the month of November than I've ever had in twenty four years," said Travis.

Visitors came from all over the country and the world.

"You're getting tons of people from Czechoslovakia region, from Germany, we had some people from Switzerland, Sweden," said O'Gara.

"Idaho, there's New Hampshire, Florida, California, Washington," West said reading out of her registry.

But in February, the Nevada Department of Transportation changed everything.

"I had some people from Ireland that had actually come out here to do the cache and they informed me that there were only 25 caches left on the highway," West said.

NDOT removed the caches, saying they caused safety concerns.

"But what was worse is they were being put in blind spots... so what we did is the ones that were in our right of way we pulled them out, whenever we saw them and they were in our way and in our work we pulled them out," said NDOT spokesperson Michelle Booth.

Then the Geocaching web site pulled the GPS coordinates off its site.

Business at the Little A'Le'Inn came to a standstill.

"Every one of my rooms were booked for the winter and then all of a sudden within 24 hours every one of my rooms were vacant," said West.

Furious with NDOT, West wrote everyone from Lincoln County Commissioners to the Attorney General to get the Geocaches back.

"But we ended up having to lay people off when they shut it down, because we had no business," West said.

West says businesses in Tonopah, Alamo, Caliente, Panaca and Pioche were also impacted, and some of her guest said they were even canceling their rooms in Las Vegas.

After five months on hiatus a compromise was reached.

"So we've worked with them and we've gone over safety policies where to put them where not to put them what we recommend and what we don't recommend," Booth said.

The caches were moved well off the highway and re-activated on the web site in August, and geocachers again flocked to Rachel.

"It's probably the best thing that ever happened, other than the alien technology that we have been blessed with," said Travis.

Now even more caches have been added, two different groups making the shape of a spaceship and an alien head when you log them on your map.

The Little A'Le'Inn now has anywhere from 50 to 500 visitors a day, the majority of whom are geocachers.

Without them, the Little A'Le'Inn might have closed its doors.

"My mom and I would have been out of business, I already know that," West says.

The only place you won't find geocaches around Rachel is where the Nellis Bombing Range boarder begins, the rumored home of Area 51.

To say you've gone geocaching here means major bragging rights, especially since you don't know who or what you might see.

"Area 51 just adds to the mystic of it all," said Fee.


Video after the jump
http://www.fox5vegas.com/story/15902301/rachel-nevada-cashing-in-on-geocaching

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« Reply #5397 on: Nov 2nd, 2011, 09:10am »

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« Reply #5398 on: Nov 2nd, 2011, 09:23am »

Wired

Nov. 2, 1947: Spruce Goose … Or an Expensive Turkey?
By Tony Long
November 2, 2011 | 6:30 am
Categories: 20th century, Transportation, Warfare and Military

1947: The Spruce Goose, with Hollywood producer-aviator-tycoon Howard Hughes at the controls, makes its first — and only — flight, skimming the waters of Long Beach Harbor in California for roughly one minute.

That short hop, made mostly for the benefit of the press and newsreel cameras, was the climax of a story that began more than five years earlier, at the height of World War II.

Appalled at the heavy toll being taken on Allied shipping by the German U-boats, Henry J. Kaiser, builder of the Liberty ships, proposed a fleet of gigantic flying transports to move men and material across the Atlantic. After Kaiser enlisted Hughes’ support, the two men sold their idea to the government and walked away with an $18 million contract (about $250 million in today’s money) to build three flying boats.



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Hughes, who had attracted Kaiser’s interest because of his reputation as an aircraft designer, set to work with his engineers. They came up with the Hughes H-4 “Hercules,” an eight-engined behemoth with a wingspan of 320 feet, wider than the length of a football field. The plane was to be capable of carrying 750 troops.

Because of restrictions on the use of materials deemed critical to the war effort, Hughes built the prototype, HK-1, not out of steel or aluminum but of wood. And while the seaplane would become known worldwide as the Spruce Goose (a name Hughes despised), it was made largely of birch, not spruce.

Hughes used a process called Duramoid, a fluid-pressure method of molding plywood, to create a material generally agreed to be both lighter and stronger than aluminum.

Despite the innovation, the project bogged down in cost overruns and red tape. Kaiser withdrew in 1944, but Hughes had the bit between his teeth and assumed sole responsibility for continuing. When the government cut off funding and began investigating Hughes for misappropriation of funds involving this and another project, he plowed $7 million of his own into the H-4.

Hughes was determined to get his plane off the ground (or, more accurately, off the water) and on Nov. 2, 1947, he did.

Following its short flight, Hughes had the Spruce Goose stored in a custom-built hangar and maintained in a state of flight readiness. After Hughes’ death in 1976, the plane passed through a succession of owners, was put on public display in Long Beach Harbor, and was finally relocated to Oregon, where it now serves as the centerpiece of the Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum.

Source: Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum

http://www.wired.com/thisdayintech/2011/11/1102howard-hughes-spruce-goose/

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« Reply #5399 on: Nov 2nd, 2011, 09:26am »

on Nov 2nd, 2011, 09:10am, cld2011 wrote:
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Thank you. Beautiful! And a good morning to you cld2011.

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