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 veryhotthread  Author  Topic: Stuff & Nonsense  (Read 44085 times)
WingsofCrystal
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« Reply #6105 on: Feb 3rd, 2012, 07:39am »

Hollywood Reporter

Thriller From J.J. Abrams, 'Supernatural' Creator Gets Pilot Order at NBC

The order gives the "Lost" creator two pilots this season and projects in various stages at four of the five broadcast networks.

4:46 PM PST 2/2/2012
by Lesley Goldberg

NBC has given pilot orders to Revolution, a dramatic thriller from J.J. Abrams and Supernatural creator Eric Kripke.

Described as an epic adventure thriller, the Warner Bros. Television project follows a group of characters struggling to survive and reunite with loved ones in a world where all forms of energy have mysteriously ceased to exist. The project puts him back in the NBC fold, where Undercovers, his short-lived CIA series starring Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Boris Kodjoe, aired for a few short months before getting the ax.

Kripke will pen the script with Abrams and Bryan Burk (Fringe) on board to exec produce via their Bad Robot shingle.

The project marks Abrams' second pilot order this season, coming just days after the CW ordered Shelter from the Lost creator and One Tree Hill creator Mark Schwahn. That project is is set at an historic New England summer resort where the new and returning staff attend to the practical, emotional and often comical needs of the guests while navigating friendships, rivalries and romances of their own.

The drama also gives Abrams projects in various stages at all of the broadcast networks except ABC: CBS has given a full-season order to rookie drama Person of Interest; and Fox's Alcatraz has been a solid performer on Mondays. Abrams' last NBC project, CIA drama Undercovers, failed to catch on with viewers last season.

http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/live-feed/thriller-jj-abrams-supernatural-nbc-pilot-286805

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« Reply #6106 on: Feb 3rd, 2012, 5:40pm »

.





Uploaded by TraavikInfo on Feb 1, 2012

a-ha's eternal pop evergreen performed by young accordeon players from Kum Song School, Pyongyang, North Korea. Part of multi-genre project THE PROMISED LAND by director and artist Morten Traavik, opening at the international arts and culture festival Barents Spektakel in Kirkenes, Norway February 8-12, 2012 (Juche 101). For more info please go to www.traavik.info and www.barentsspektakel.no

Category:
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~

When you're rockin', you're rockin'! grin

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« Reply #6107 on: Feb 3rd, 2012, 9:22pm »

LA Times

Ben Gazzara, 81, leaves a rich, gruff legacy in theater and film
February 3, 2012 | 6:10 pm

Ben Gazzara, who died Friday in New York at the age of 81, was an actor with a gruff voice and intense demeanor. His acting legacy, which included the films of John Cassavetes and originating the role of Brick in "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" on Broadway, was a catalog of masculinity in free-fall, self-doubt and sometimes willful self-glorification.

As with so many actors of his generation, Gazzara got his start in the theater, often returning to the stage throughout his film career. He brought the same level of artistic integrity and intensity to his theater roles as to his movie characters.


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Most recently, Gazzara appeared on Broadway in the Tony-winning 2006 revival of "Awake and Sing," by Clifford Odets. He played the role of Jacob, the grandfather of a New York family struggling through the Depression. Gazzara appeared on stage despite several years before having undergone treatment for oral cancer that affected his speech.

His most famous Broadway role by far was in "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof," by Tennessee Williams. Gazzara originated the central role of Brick, a former football player with broken bones. He also appeared in a production of Eugene O'Neill's "Hughie," which later had an L.A. run at the Huntington Hartford Theatre, now called the Ricardo Montalban Theatre.

He starred in a 1976 revival of Edward Albee's "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf," opposite Colleen Dewhurst. In his career, Gazzara received three Tony nominations, but never won.

In 1990, he appeared alongside Gena Rowlands -- his frequent movie costar -- in an L.A. stage version of "Love Letters," by A.R. Gurney.

Gazzara's acting style could be classified as Method. He studied with Lee Strasberg at the Actors Studio in New York. In his later years, Gazzara often spoke about foolishly turning down roles in lucrative and prestigious movie projects as a young, up-and-coming actor. "I was so pure," he once said in an interview.

Late in life, Gazzara continued to favor edgy directors, working with Spike Lee in "Summer of Sam" and Lars von Trier in "Dogville." He also appeared in the 1989 cult film "Road House."

A full obituary will appear later at: http://www.latimes.com/news/obituaries/

http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/culturemonster/2012/02/ben-gazzara-leaves-a-rich-gruff-theatrical-legacy.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+CultureMonster+%28Culture+Monster%29


r.i.p.

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« Reply #6108 on: Feb 4th, 2012, 07:37am »

New York Times

February 3, 2012
Waiting in the Wings, a Survivor of Three Decades of Syrian Politics
By RICK GLADSTONE

The diplomatic struggle over the Arab League’s peace proposal for Syria has nearly obscured an important detail of the plan: President Bashar al-Assad would be replaced in a transition by a loyal disciple.

Under the proposal, Mr. Assad’s vice president and former foreign minister, Farouk al-Shara, who was a confidant of Mr. Assad’s father and has survived Syria’s backstabbing politics for three decades, would almost certainly be the temporary president of Syria.

Mr. Shara, 74, a fluent English speaker and member of Syria’s Sunni majority, is known for his calm demeanor, sense of authoritarian hierarchy and unquestioned loyalty to the Assad family, who are members of Syria’s powerful Alawite minority.

Rumors abounded last year that Mr. Shara had been shot because he might have questioned his boss’s judgment in crushing a protest in Mr. Shara’s birthplace, Dara, the combustible town where the uprising against Mr. Assad began in March. Those rumors, like many in Syria’s chaotic uprising, turned out to be false.

“He is a man of the regime, without any doubts,” said Nadim Shehadi, an associate fellow of the Middle East Program at Chatham House, a London-based research group. “The Dara roots do not mean in any way that he’s more likely to be a dissident or anything like that.”

It is by no means clear that Mr. Assad will agree to the Arab League proposal, currently under debate at the United Nations Security Council, where Russia — Mr. Assad’s strongest foreign ally — rejected a tentative plan on Friday to endorse it. Russia, however, held out the possibility of further negotiations.

Mr. Assad, who is 28 years younger than Mr. Shara, has repeatedly said he would never step down — because in his view, there is no crisis in Syria.

Nor does the Arab League proposal specify which of Syria’s two vice presidents would replace Mr. Bashar in a transition government. But Syria experts said the other vice president, Najah al-Attar, 79, a former culture minister and the only woman in the Syrian ruling inner circle, did not have the experience and gravitas of Mr. Shara, who would almost certainly get the job.

By selecting Mr. Shara as a transitional figure, the Arab League appears to have signaled it is less interested in promoting a transition to democracy than it is in restoring stability to Syria, analysts said. The transition portion of the Arab League proposal, experts said, reflects a reluctance to see an abrupt government change in Syria, where protesters have been emboldened by the downfalls of Arab autocrats in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya, but are riven by their own internal sectarian and class divisions and have no clear leader themselves.

Rather, political analysts said, the Arab League envisions a transition in Syria more akin to that of Yemen, where after numerous delays and false starts, the longtime president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, has handed power to a deputy pending elections later this month.

Mr. Shara’s own résumé suggests he may be well suited to navigate a national transition. As a Sunni, he is someone with whom a majority of Syrian citizens can identify. As a member of the ruling Baath Party and close associate of Mr. Assad, he could be a reassuring voice for the Alawites and residents of Damascus and Aleppo, the largest urban areas in Syria, who have largely remained loyal to the Assad family’s dominance of Syrian politics since the 1970s.

He is also a familiar, if not necessarily trusted, personality in Washington, where as foreign minister during the late 1980s and 1990s he was Syria’s representative in American-brokered peace talks with Israel. In 1995 he became the highest-ranking Syrian ever to grant an interview to Israeli television. But the peace talks faltered a year later and Mr. Shara bitterly blamed Israel and the United States.

In 2007, at the height of the American-led war in Iraq, when the Bush administration was accusing Mr. Assad’s government of allowing insurgents to use Syria as a staging base for attacks in Iraq, Mr. Shara, who was then a vice president, granted a rare American television interview and quietly rebutted the accusations. Mr. Shara argued that countering the insurgents was not just Syria’s problem, especially with 150,000 American troops deployed in Iraq.

“You ask Syria to stop insurgents — O.K., we will do what we can,” he said in the interview with CBS News. “But if the United States is unable to do more than Syria, this is its failure.”

Mr. Shara studied English at Damascus University in the 1960s, studied international law at the University of London in 1972 and had a long career as a manager of Syria’s national airline. He was appointed Syria’s ambassador to Italy in 1976 and rose to be appointed foreign minister in 1984 by President Hafez al-Assad, the father of the current president, with whom Mr. Shara had a close relationship.

Mr. Shara managed to avoid purges and reshuffles under both the father, who died in 2000, and son, which some historians attribute to his fealty and absence of any ambition for power.

“When you have a Kremlin-type arrangement like Syria, people in the higher echelons are always backstabbing each other. They’re held together by fear and blackmail,” said Mr. Shehadi at Chatham House. “The ones who have real power or some significance are the ones who eventually get knocked off. The ones who are not a threat end up surviving. I would say Farouk al-Shara falls into the second category.”

Others gave Mr. Shara more credit, saying he had a sophisticated understanding of Syria’s fractious society.

“Shara is the Sunni face of this Alawite family values regime,” said Joshua M. Landis, director of the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma. “Shara is a throwback to the old system. He’s cynical in that he has understood how the power is played.”

Although Mr. Landis, like others, expressed strong doubts that Mr. Assad would willingly relinquish power, he did not rule out the possibility that Mr. Shara could be an important part of Syria’s future.

“Should we get to the point where Assad is ready to leave the country, it could keep the country from falling into leaderlessness,” he said. “It’s like the Yemeni thing: you want to preserve the veneer of constitutional legality, because you don’t know how the opposition is going to play out.”

Michael Schwirtz contributed reporting from Moscow. Toby Lyles contributed research.


http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/04/world/middleeast/under-syria-plan-assad-loyalist-would-likely-lead-transition.html?_r=1&ref=world

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« Reply #6109 on: Feb 4th, 2012, 07:43am »

Columbia Daily Tribune (Columbia, Missouri)

UFO ‘non-gigglers’ are in good company
Columbia Daily Tribune
Saturday, February 4, 2012

Editor, the Tribune: During some 40 years of study and discussion of the UFO phenomenon, I have encountered numerous academicians, politicians, social activists, journalists and others who have seriously ridiculed any mention of the serious investigation of the problem. Such ridicule was frequently demonstrated by what UFO researchers call the “giggle factor,” including self-satisfying smirks, rolled eyes and occasional outright belly-laughs. On the other hand, non-gigglers, and their views on the matter, include:

•“Unknown objects are operating under intelligent control. … It is imperative that we learn where UFOs come from and what their purpose is.” — Adm. Roscoe Hillenkotter, former director of the CIA

•“The evidence points to the fact that Roswell was a real incident and that indeed an alien craft did crash, and that material was recovered from that site. We all know that UFOs are real.” — astronaut Edgar Mitchell

•“Of course it is possible that UFOs really do contain aliens as many people believe, and the government is covering it up.” — Professor Stephen Hawking

•“The possibility of reduced-time interstellar travel by advanced extraterrestrial civilizations at present, or ourselves in the future, is not fundamentally constrained by physical principles.” — physicist Harold Putoff

•“It is quite strange that while our best modern physics and astrophysics theories thus predict that we should be experiencing extraterrestrial visitation, any possible evidence of such in the form of a subset of UFO reports is ignored or ridiculed.” — astrophysicist Bernard Haisch

Bill Wickersham

http://www.columbiatribune.com/news/2012/feb/04/ufo-non-gigglers-are-in-good-company/

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« Reply #6110 on: Feb 4th, 2012, 07:46am »

LA Times

One dead, 2 severely injured in explosion at Marine housing complex
February 4, 2012 | 4:33 am
by Tony Perry in San Diego

One person was killed and two severely burned in an explosion Friday night at a family housing complex for Marines stationed at the Mountain Warfare Training Center at Bridgeport, in northern California.

Thirty-eight families had to be evacuated as the blast and fire ripped through the Lincoln Military Housing Neighborhood about 8:45 p.m., damaging seven homes.

The explosion was apparently caused by a propane leak, Marine officials said Saturday. Names of the dead and injured were not released.

The 111-unit housing complex is in Coleville, a Mono County community about 30 miles from the Bridegeport training facility.

Naval Criminal Investigative Service agents, as well as Marine Corps fire investigators, are assisting Cal-Fire and the Mono County authorities in assessing the damage and determining the cause of the explosion, which sent families fleeing into 15-degree weather.

The Bridgeport facility, which provides training in cold-weather and high-altitude combat techniques, sits on 46,000 acres of the Toiyabe National Forest, on the eastern slope of the Sierra Nevada mountains.

Marines and sailors preparing to deploy to Afghanistan are sent to Bridgeport for training. The facility is under the command of officials at the Marine base at Twentynine Palms.

http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/lanow/2012/02/one-person-was-killed-and-two-severely-burned-in-an-explosion-at-a-marine-corps-family-housing-complex-for-marines-stationed.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+lanowblog+%28L.A.+Now%29

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« Reply #6111 on: Feb 4th, 2012, 08:06am »

Scientific American

Virtual Reality Contact Lenses Could Be Available by 2014

The tiny full-color megapixel displays could be the ultimate computer interface for troops, fully transparent and fully hands-free

By Charles Q. Choi
February 2, 2012

Contact lenses that help enhance normal vision with megapixel 3D panoramic images are being designed by scientists using military funding.

For those who do not want to rely on contact lenses, future versions could involve lenses directly implanted within the eye, researchers added.

Over the decades, the video displays that everyone from fighter pilots to the general public use have grown increasingly complex. One possibility for advanced displays is a virtual reality (VR) system that replaces our view of the real world with computer-generated vistas. Another idea consists of augmented reality (AR) displays that overlay computer-generated images over real-world environments. However, these often require bulky apparatus such as oversized helmets.

"Unless the display industry can deliver transparent, high-performance and compact eyewear, developers of augmented reality and other compelling media applications will simply fail to create the excitement that consumers crave and the functionality that professional users absolutely need," said Steve Willey, chief executive officer of Bellevue, Wash.-based company Innovega.

Now Innovega researchers funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and the National Science Foundation are developing novel contact lenses that can help view tiny full-color megapixel displays.

"Over the past months, we have demonstrated contact lens-enabled eyewear for mobile devices, including smartphones, portable game devices and media players that deliver panoramic, high-resolution experiences for entertainment and planned augmented reality applications," Willey said.

The new system consists of advanced contact lenses working in conjunction with lightweight eyewear. Normally, the human eye is limited in its ability to focus on objects placed very near it. The contact lenses contain optics that focus images displayed on the eyewear onto the light-sensing retina in the back of the eye, allowing the wearer to see them properly.

Conventional mobile device screens are often too small to read comfortably "and certainly too small to enjoy," Willey said. In contrast, Innovega's contact lenses could effectively generate displays with a screen size "equivalent to a 240-inch television, viewed at a distance of 10 feet."

Moreover, by projecting slightly different pictures to each eye, the display can generate the illusion of 3D. "You get full 3D, full HD, fully panoramic images," Willey said.

Although some might balk at using contact lenses, "100 million people already do, including 20 percent of the key target group of 18- to 34-year-olds, those involved in gaming and using smartphones," Willey told InnovationNewsDaily. "So we already have a built-in market. We envision that people who pick up their lenses every six months or so might switch to these lenses, picking them up from the same vendor they already do."

Potential consumer applications include immersive video, 3D gaming, mobile device interfaces and augmented reality applications. When it comes to potential military applications, "this could be the ultimate computer interface for the troops, something that's fully transparent and fully hands-free," Willey said.

"Think of individuals who pilot drones, the ones that fly or the ones for bomb disposal," Willey added. "Or think of medics, who can get information very quickly from the soldier and from headquarters and relay it back. Or think of soldiers who need a display who have a gun in their hands and can't have something obstructing their vision for safety and mobility issues, but need access to incredibly rich data such as maps that require full color and detail."

Potential medical applications include helping those with vision problems, including macular degeneration. "About 10 million people in the U.S. have macular degeneration, where the retina in their eyes is less able to discern detail," Willey said. One can imagine including a tiny camera on the bridge of the nose of the eyewear to allow wearers to zoom in on text on a screen or on a soup can, he explained.

Scientists at the University of Washington have conducted research into contact lenses that have displays within them. "However, all we saw reported there was maybe one or two pixels — they had LEDs encapsulated inside a lens, and somehow got power to it for a very short period of time," Willey said. "But they would have to deal with batteries and heating, and we already have megapixel displays. I think that research is more to develop an indicator rather than a display — maybe to give an idea of blood sugar level, for instance."

Innovega plans to deliver prototype devices over the course of 2012 and 2013. "In 2012, we're also aiming to get FDA approval for the contact lenses," Willey said. In 2014, Innovega plans to begin low-volume production for the defense community and possibly those with vision problems. The company also aims for a commercial launch of their product in 2014 or 2015, depending on whether deals can be reached with commercial partners such as gaming companies.

In addition to contact lenses, Innovega's patents also cover lenses implanted within the eye. "There are 900,000 cataract operations a year that replace some portion of the lens," Willey said. "You can imagine giving them a lens that not only helps with real-world vision, but also virtual reality, or access to the Internet."

Also, when it comes to the military, "special operations might really like the features involved with our system, but the last thing they want to worry about are contact lenses behind enemy lines," Willey said. "You might think of hardwiring these in to have them permanently."

Innovega exhibited its work Jan. 8 at the annual International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.


http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=virtual-reality-contact-l

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« Reply #6112 on: Feb 5th, 2012, 08:27am »

New York Times

February 4, 2012
A Mortgage Tornado Warning, Unheeded
By GRETCHEN MORGENSON

YEARS before the housing bust — before all those home loans turned sour and millions of Americans faced foreclosure — a wealthy businessman in Florida set out to blow the whistle on the mortgage game.

His name is Nye Lavalle, and he first came to attention not in finance but in sports and advertising. He turned heads in marketing circles by correctly predicting that Nascar and figure skating would draw huge followings in the 1990s.

But after losing a family home to foreclosure, under what he thought were fishy circumstances, Mr. Lavalle, founder of a consulting firm called the Sports Marketing Group, began a new life as a mortgage sleuth. In 2003, when home prices were flying high, he compiled a dossier of improprieties on one of the giants of the business, Fannie Mae.

In hindsight, what he found looks like a blueprint of today’s foreclosure crisis. Even then, Mr. Lavalle discovered, some loan-servicing companies that worked for Fannie Mae routinely filed false foreclosure documents, not unlike the fraudulent paperwork that has since made “robo-signing” a household term. Even then, he found, the nation’s electronic mortgage registry was playing fast and loose with the law — something that courts have belatedly recognized, too.

You might wonder why Mr. Lavalle didn’t speak up. But he did. For two years, he corresponded with Fannie executives and lawyers. Fannie later hired a Washington law firm to investigate his claims. In May 2006, that firm, using some of Mr. Lavalle’s research, issued a confidential, 147-page report corroborating many of his findings.

And there, apparently, is where it ended. There is little evidence that Fannie Mae’s management or board ever took serious action. Known internally as O.C.J. Case No. 5595, in reference to the company’s Office of Corporate Justice, this 2006 report suggests just how deep, and how far back, our mortgage and foreclosure problems really go.

“It is axiomatic that the practice of submitting false pleadings and affidavits is unlawful,” said the report, a copy of which was obtained by The New York Times. “With his complaint, Mr. Lavalle has identified an issue that Fannie Mae needs to address promptly.”

What Fannie Mae knew about abusive foreclosure practices, and when it knew it, are crucial questions as Congress and the Obama administration weigh the future of the company and its cousin, Freddie Mac. These giants eventually blew themselves apart and, so far, they have cost taxpayers $150 billion. But before that, their size and reach — not only through their own businesses, but also through the vast amount of work they farm out to law firms and loan servicers — meant that Fannie and Freddie shaped the standards for the entire mortgage industry.

Almost all of the abuses that Mr. Lavalle began identifying in 2003 have since come to widespread attention. The revelations have roiled the mortgage industry and left Fannie, Freddie and big banks with potentially enormous legal liabilities. More worrying is that the kinds of problems that Mr. Lavalle flagged so long ago, and that Fannie apparently ignored, have evicted people from their homes through improper or fraudulent foreclosures.

Until a few weeks ago, Mr. Lavalle, 54, had never seen O.C.J. 5595. He had hoped to get a copy after helping Fannie’s lawyers, at Baker & Hostetler in Washington, complete it. He didn’t.

But after learning about its findings from a reporter for The Times, Mr. Lavalle said, “Fannie Mae, its directors, servicers and lawyers appeared to have an institutional policy of turning a willful blind eye to evidence of mortgage origination and servicing fraud.”

He went on: “When confronted directly with this evidence, Fannie not only failed to correct and remedy the abuses, it assisted in continuing the frauds via institutional practices that concealed fraudulent foreclosures.”

A spokesman for Fannie Mae said in a statement last week that the company quickly addressed several issues that were raised in the 2006 report and that it took action on other issues associated with foreclosures in 2010. “We want to prevent foreclosure whenever possible, but when foreclosures cannot be avoided they must move forward in a timely, appropriate fashion,” he said.

Fannie Mae would not say whether it had shared O.J.C. 5595 with its board of directors or its regulator, then known as the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight. James B. Lockhart III, who headed that regulator in 2006, said he did not recall reading the report. “I probably did not see it as back then foreclosures were not a very big deal,” he said.

But another report published last fall by the inspector general of the Federal Housing Finance Agency, the current regulator, briefly mentioned some of the problems that Mr. Lavalle had raised. (It didn’t mention him by name.) It also faulted Fannie Mae, saying it failed to address foreclosure improprieties that had surfaced years before.

LIKE most people, Nye Lavalle had little interest in the mortgage industry until things got personal. Raised in comfortable surroundings in Grosse Pointe, Mich., just outside Detroit, he began his business career in the 1970s, managing professional tennis players. In the 1980s, he ran SMG, a thriving consulting and research firm.

Then he tried to pay off a loan on a home his family had bought in Dallas in 1988. The balance was roughly $100,000, and the property was valued at about $175,000, Mr. Lavalle said. But when he combed through figures provided by his lender, Savings of America, he found substantial discrepancies in the accounting that had inflated his bill by $18,000. The loan servicer had repeatedly charged him late fees for payments he had made on time, as well as for unnecessary appraisals and force-placed hazard insurance, he said.

Mr. Lavalle refused to pay. The bank refused to bend. The balance rose as the bank tacked on lawyers’ fees and the loan was deemed delinquent. The fight continued after his mortgage was allegedly sold to EMC, a Bear Stearns unit.

Unlike most people, Mr. Lavalle had the time and money to fight. He persuaded his family to help him pay for a lawsuit against EMC and Bear Stearns. Seven years and a small fortune later, they lost the house in Dallas. Back then, judges weren’t as interested in mortgage practices as some are now, he said.

The experience lit a fire. Mr. Lavalle set out to learn everything he could about the mortgage industry. In a five-hour interview in Naples, Fla., last month, he described his travels nationwide. He dove into mortgage arcana, land records and court filings. By 1996, he had identified what appeared to be forged signatures on foreclosure documents, foreshadowing troubles to come. He took his findings to big players in the industry: Banc One, Bear Stearns, Countrywide Financial, Freddie Mac, JPMorgan, Washington Mutual and others. A few responded but later said his claims were not valid, he said.

Now he splits his time between Orlando and Boca Raton, advising lawyers as an expert witness. “From my own personal experience and 20 years of research and investigation, nothing — and I mean nothing — that a bank, lender, loan servicer or their lawyer says or puts on paper can be trusted and accepted as true,” Mr. Lavalle said.

FANNIE MAE, now in government hands, has acknowledged how abusive foreclosure practices can hurt its own business. “The failure of our servicers or a law firm to apply prudent and effective process controls and to comply with legal and other requirements in the foreclosure process poses operational, reputational and legal risks for us,” it said in a 2010 filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Five years earlier, Fannie seemed to have taken a different view. That was when Mr. Lavalle pointed out legal lapses by some of its representatives. Among them was the law offices of David J. Stern, in Plantation, Fla., which was handling an astonishing 75,000 foreclosure cases a year — more than 200 a day. In 2005, Mr. Lavalle warned Fannie Mae that some judges had ruled that the Stern firm was submitting “sham pleadings.” Nonetheless, Fannie continued to do business with the firm until it closed its doors last year, after evidence emerged of rampant forgeries and fraudulent filings.

O.C.J. Case No. 5595 found that Stern wasn’t the only firm working for Fannie that seemed to be cutting corners. It also found that lawyers operating in seven other states — Connecticut, Georgia, New York, Illinois, Louisiana, Kentucky and Ohio — had made false filings in connection with work for Fannie Mae or the Mortgage Electronic Registration System, or MERS, a private mortgage registry Fannie helped establish in 1995.

“While Fannie Mae officials do not have a single opinion, some officials believe foreclosure counsel are sacrificing accuracy for speed,” the report said.

The lawyers at Baker & Hostetler did not agree with everything Mr. Lavalle said. Mark A. Cymrot, a partner who led the investigation, discounted Mr. Lavalle’s fear that Fannie could lose billions if large numbers of foreclosures had to be unwound as a result of misconduct by its lawyers and servicers.

Even so, the report didn’t conclude that Mr. Lavalle was wrong on the legal issues. It simply said that few people would have the financial resources to challenge foreclosures. In other words, few people would be like Mr. Lavalle.

more after the jump
http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/05/business/mortgage-tornado-warning-unheeded.html?_r=1&hp

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« Reply #6113 on: Feb 5th, 2012, 08:39am »

LA Times


American fried chicken comes to the Palestinian territories
February 4, 2012 | 1:34 pm
by Maher Abukhater

REPORTING FROM RAMALLAH, WEST BANK -– People lined up on a chilly Saturday outside the new KFC outlet in Ramallah, the first of the U.S. fast-food chains to open in the Palestinian territories.

Previous attempts after the establishment of the Palestinian Authority in 1994 to get franchise rights for KFC and other American fast-food chains such as McDonald's had failed.

Palestinians said Israeli franchise owners had demanded that Palestinians who wanted to open branch restaurants in the West Bank should get them through the Israeli company and not get their own franchise.

But Palestinian Authority laws say Palestinians who want to start local outlets of international companies should get the franchise rights directly from the company, and not through Israelis.

Palestinian entrepreneur Adeeb Bakri, owner of two department stores and three radio stations in Ramallah, among other businesses, said he had no problem getting the franchise, which will soon include a Pizza Hut.

"I went straight to the mother company ... and I said, 'I want the franchise,' and they gave it to me," he said.

He said he wasn't deterred by calls by some leftist Palestinian organizations to boycott American products because of U.S. backing of Israel.

"Why should people boycott our restaurant?" he said. "Everything we use here is 100% Palestinian; the chicken is bought at a West Bank farm, and so is the bread, and the employees are all Palestinian and almost everything else we use in the restaurant, except the recipe, which comes straight from the U.S."

When the restaurant opened its doors, workers took orders from hungry customers at the six cash registers, including families ordering buckets of chicken.

"I had KFC in the Emirates," said one patron, who waited with his wife and two children outside the restaurant for it to open. "When I heard one is opening in Ramallah, I decided to come and eat here."

http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/world_now/2012/02/kfc-pizza-hut-in-the-palestinian-territories.html

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« Reply #6114 on: Feb 5th, 2012, 08:42am »

Reuters

Romney sails to easy win in Nevada
By John Whitesides
LAS VEGAS
Sun Feb 5, 2012 1:23am EST

LAS VEGAS (Reuters) - Republican front-runner Mitt Romney cruised to an easy victory in Nevada on Saturday, crushing his three remaining rivals and taking firm command of the party's volatile presidential nominating race.

With support from a broad cross-section of Republicans, Romney won by a big double-digit margin over former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Representative Ron Paul and former Senator Rick Santorum.

The victory was Romney's second in a row and his third in the first five contests in the state-by-state battle to find a Republican challenger to President Barack Obama in November's general election.

It propels Romney into the next contests - in Minnesota, Colorado and Missouri on Tuesday - on a growing wave of momentum.

Gingrich held a news conference after the results to head off speculation that he might put an early end to his campaign.

"I'm not going to withdraw," Gingrich told reporters, repeating his frequent vow to continue all the way to the Republican nominating convention in Florida in August. "I'm actually pretty happy with where we are."

Romney, a former Massachusetts governor, took control of the Nevada contest early after recapturing his front-runner status with a convincing win over Gingrich in Florida last Tuesday.

He benefited from a huge financial and organizational edge in Nevada, which he won with 51 percent of the vote during his failed 2008 presidential bid. A faltering economy and a big bloc of Mormon voters made Nevada friendly terrain for Romney, a Mormon and former head of a private equity firm.

Romney stressed his business background as a cure for the state's ailing economy, which suffers from the country's highest unemployment rate, 12.6 percent in December, and the highest home foreclosure rate.

Entrance polls in Nevada showed that was a persuasive argument, with the economy ranking as the top issue and Romney winning nearly two-thirds of the voters who listed it as their biggest concern.

"America needs a president who can fix the economy because he understands the economy, and I do and I will," Romney told cheering supporters at a Las Vegas casino hotel, aiming his criticism at Obama and ignoring his Republican rivals.

The entrance polls showed Romney won a broad swath of voters, including moderates, conservatives, men, women, the elderly, Tea Party supporters and those who believed the most important quality in a candidate was the ability to beat Obama.

'WINNING STREAK'

Romney hopes Nevada will kick off a February winning streak that could position him for a knockout blow to Gingrich during the 10 "Super Tuesday" contests on March 6 - or sooner.

In addition to Tuesday's contests, Maine will wrap up its weeklong caucuses next Saturday, while Arizona and Michigan hold their contests on February 28.

Romney won Colorado, Minnesota, Maine and Michigan in 2008. He came in second in Arizona to native son and eventual nominee John McCain, an Arizona senator. He finished third in Missouri.

Gingrich hopes to hang in the race until March, when there will be contests in several southern states where the former Georgia congressman believes he can do well. He said his goal was to pull even with Romney in delegates after the Texas contest in early April.

Gingrich campaigned in Nevada but did not spend any money on advertising in the state. Paul, who is focusing on Nevada and other caucus states, spent on advertising and voter turnout efforts in the state.

Santorum, who finished a distant fourth in Nevada, skipped the state entirely. He said the race would begin to shift as it moved past the first five states, where Romney had an organizational advantage.

"We think this is an opportunity for us to begin to turn this race," he told CNN. "The more this race goes on, the more people see we present the best chance to win this."

At least 1,144 delegates are needed to secure the nomination in August. Nevada will award 28 delegates and split them proportionally based on the vote total

Nevada's caucuses were held at 125 sites around the state, with voters breaking up into small groups by precinct to tout their candidates and debate their choices. Several Romney supporters said they backed him because he could win in November.

"I think he's the only one who can beat Obama," said George Peterson, a retired Air Force veteran who attended a caucus at Chaparral High School in Las Vegas.

Gayle Darin, an executive assistant at the Bellagio hotel, said she thought it was time for Republicans to pick a candidate and begin to focus on Obama.

"A lot of people have rallied behind Romney now," she said. "We've got to step up and get Obama out of office."

Romney and Gingrich both plan to take a day off the campaign trail on Sunday.

http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/02/05/us-usa-campaign-idUSTRE80Q2AQ20120205

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« Reply #6115 on: Feb 5th, 2012, 08:47am »

Wired

Sugar May Be Bad, But Is the Alternative Worse?
By Brandon Keim
February 3, 2012 | 7:15 pm
Categories: Biology, Food, Health

A controversial proposal would regulate sugar as a toxic substance, and not simply because it’s a calorie-rich enabler of obesity. Some researchers say it’s intrinsically dangerous, not unlike alcohol or tobacco, with unique properties that set off a hormonal cascade ending in higher risks of heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes.

It’s not a scientifically certain proposition, though a growing body of research suggests it may very well be true, and the implications are thorny. Even people sympathetic to public health-based regulations may balk at treating pastries as cigarettes, as University of California, San Francisco nutritionists suggested in a Feb. 2 Nature paper.

But to anyone looking to artificial sweeteners as an alternative, as pastel-packaged reassurances that regulators won’t ever need to pry donuts from their cold, dead and pudgy hands, science offers only more uncertainty. Some studies even suggest that fake sugar may cause the same problems as real sugar.

“That’s the $64,000 question,” said Susan Swithers of the Ingestive Behavior Research Center at Purdue University. “There are several epidemiological studies showing increased risk of metabolic syndrome in coincidence with the consumption of diet sodas” — a rich source of sweeteners. “But how they should be interpreted is not really clear right now. Because they’re correlational studies, they don’t tell us what caused what.”

Artificial sweeteners are a fast-growing, multi-billion dollar product, present in thousands of foodstuffs and synthesized by chemists as zealously as drug researchers pursue blockbuster drugs. But as described in a massive 2008 American Journal of Clinical Nutrition Review, the seemingly obvious health benefits expected of low-calorie sugar replacements have failed to materialize.

Even as Americans consumed more sweeteners, waistlines continued to expand. Cause and effect was ambiguous: Sweeteners might lead to weight gain, but maybe people most prone to gaining weight consume the most sweeteners. “This association may be coincidental or causal, and either mode of directionality is plausible,” concluded that study’s authors.

Other researchers, however, are more suspicious. When University of Texas Health Science Center epidemiologists conducted a 9-year-long study of 5,158 adult residents of San Antonio, Texas, they found a link between sweeteners and obesity. It persisted even after statistically accounting for gender, ethnicity, diet and beginning-of-diet body mass index. “These findings raise the question whether artificial sweetener use might be fueling — rather than fighting — our escalating obesity epidemic,” they wrote.

Another study of 6,184 adult Americans linked diet soda consumption with higher rates of metabolic syndrome, the umbrella term for a physiological disruption that leads to heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes. Once again, the link survived statistical adjustment for demographics, lifestyle and diet.

That’s precisely what’s expected from eating too much sugar, which at least in rats is converted in the liver to fat. That in turn provokes, via as-yet-unidentified mechanisms, resistance to insulin, a hormone used by cells to process glucose, better known as blood sugar. When insulin’s signals are ignored, blood sugar levels rise. Metabolic syndrome follows. But why should this happen when eating fake sugar, not real?

Swithers thinks she knows. In 2008, she and fellow Purdue researcher Terry Davidson fed rats a yogurt supplement sweetened either with glucose, a simple sugar, or zero-calorie saccharin. Apart from the supplement, both groups ate standard rat fare. Those that ate saccharin packed on more fat, gained more weight and consumed extra calories. A follow-up 2009 study reinforced the findings, and found that unusual weight gain persisted even when rats stopped eating sweeteners.

According to Swithers, two mechanisms may be responsible. When the rats’ bodies learned that sweetness didn’t predict an imminent caloric rush, as would naturally be produced by sugar-rich foods, their bodies may have automatically shifted into calorie-saving mode. At the same time, metabolic acceleration that normally occurs when eating high-calorie foods, and helps to process them, may have been slowed.

“All of our work has been in rats. We think similar processes happen in humans, but we haven’t tested them,” Swithers said.

http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2012/02/artificial-sweeteners/

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« Reply #6116 on: Feb 5th, 2012, 08:57am »

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Published on Feb 5, 2012 by itnnews

The big freeze has reached London, with the capital being covered in a blanket of snow overnight.
Report by Sophie Foster. Like us on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/itn
and follow us on Twitter at http://twitter.com/itn

Category:
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« Reply #6117 on: Feb 5th, 2012, 11:07am »

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Uploaded by TheDmel on Jan 31, 2012

Experiments performed with a team of nano quadrotors at the GRASP Lab, University of Pennsylvania.
Vehicles developed by KMel Robotics. Special thanks to Professor Daniel Lee for his support.

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« Reply #6118 on: Feb 5th, 2012, 8:16pm »

Chevy Super Bowl Ad & Mayan Apocalypse
tongue

By Peter Valdes-Dapena
February 5, 2012

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- General Motors ignored a request from Ford Motor Co. and ran a humorous Chevrolet truck ad during the Super Bowl that takes a slap at Ford.

The ad shows a group of men who have survived an world-destroying apocalypse, as supposedly predicted by an ancient Mayan calendar, because they all owned Chevrolet Silverado trucks. One asks about the fate of a friend.

"Dave didn't own the longest lasting, most dependable truck on the road," another man tells him. "Dave bought a Ford."

Ford objects to the implication that the Chevrolet Silverado is "the longest lasting, most dependable truck on the road."

"What's important is that Ford is proud to be the best-selling truck in America for 35 years, the best-selling vehicle for 30 years and the only brand with more trucks on the road with more than 250,000 miles -- demonstrating just how durable our trucks are in the real world," Ford said in a statement.
For its part, GM isn't backing down.

"We stand by our claims in the commercial, that the Silverado is the most dependable, longest lasting full-size pickup on the road," said Joel Ewanick, GM Global Chief Marketing Officer in a statement.

"In the meantime, people who are really worried about the Mayan calendar coming true should buy a Silverado right away." Ewanick added.

http://money.cnn.com/2012/02/05/autos/gm_ford_superbowl/index.htm?hpt=hp_c2
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« Reply #6119 on: Feb 6th, 2012, 07:48am »

on Feb 5th, 2012, 8:16pm, Swamprat wrote:
Chevy Super Bowl Ad & Mayan Apocalypse
tongue

By Peter Valdes-Dapena
February 5, 2012

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- General Motors ignored a request from Ford Motor Co. and ran a humorous Chevrolet truck ad during the Super Bowl that takes a slap at Ford.

The ad shows a group of men who have survived an world-destroying apocalypse, as supposedly predicted by an ancient Mayan calendar, because they all owned Chevrolet Silverado trucks. One asks about the fate of a friend.

"Dave didn't own the longest lasting, most dependable truck on the road," another man tells him. "Dave bought a Ford."

Ford objects to the implication that the Chevrolet Silverado is "the longest lasting, most dependable truck on the road."

"What's important is that Ford is proud to be the best-selling truck in America for 35 years, the best-selling vehicle for 30 years and the only brand with more trucks on the road with more than 250,000 miles -- demonstrating just how durable our trucks are in the real world," Ford said in a statement.
For its part, GM isn't backing down.

"We stand by our claims in the commercial, that the Silverado is the most dependable, longest lasting full-size pickup on the road," said Joel Ewanick, GM Global Chief Marketing Officer in a statement.

"In the meantime, people who are really worried about the Mayan calendar coming true should buy a Silverado right away." Ewanick added.

http://money.cnn.com/2012/02/05/autos/gm_ford_superbowl/index.htm?hpt=hp_c2


Good morning Swamprat,

rolleyes

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