Saturday, November 29, 2008

FDIC Says 171 Banks on Watch List

WASHINGTON - The number of problem U.S. banks and thrifts jumped in the third quarter to 171, from 117 at the end of the prior quarter, marking the highest level since the end of 1995 and adding to expectations that more banks will fail, regulators said on Tuesday.

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp said the industry-funded reserve to back deposits was $34.6 bln as of September 30, a 23.5 percent decrease from the previous quarter.

The FDIC also reported that bank industry income fell 94 percent from the previous year to $1.7 billion in the third quarter.

Whitney Houston Shoots Down Rumors of a Bobby Brown Reunion

Whitney Houston has issued a statement denying the rumors of a reunion with Bobby Brown.

Acting on behalf of Houston, the singer's publicist Nancy Seltzer calls speculation that the exes are getting back together "a complete fabrication."

Seltzer pinpoints the rumors to a report in Wednesday's Chicago Sun-Times that said Houston and Brown had been spotted out and about in Georgia looking romantic.

Houston and Brown divorced in April 2007 after 14 years of marriage. During their tumultuous union, Brown was arrested on drug and alcohol charges, and Houston twice entered drug rehabilitation programs. Houston has custody of their teenage daughter, Bobbi Kristina.

Goldman Sachs Closer to Becoming Bank

NEW YORK - Goldman Sachs Group Inc. on Friday won a charter from New York State's banking department, a key step in the Wall Street bank's effort to change its investment banking model and gather deposits.

The new bank will be called Goldman Sachs Bank USA, and include Goldman Sachs Capital Markets LP, Goldman Sachs Credit Partners LP and Goldman Sachs Mortgage Co, the banking department said. Goldman will merge its Utah-based industrial loan company into its New York-chartered trust company. Goldman Sachs Bank will be based in New York City.

A Goldman spokeswoman declined to comment.

The approval came two months after the Federal Reserve designated Goldman and rival Morgan Stanley as bank holding companies. That change gives them access to more low-cost funding and the $700 billion federal bank bailout, but requires greater regulatory scrutiny and reduced risk.

In seeking a state charter, Goldman diverged from Morgan Stanley and other lenders that have sought national charters, which would make it easier to expand into many states. JPMorgan Chase & Co Citigroup Inc and Bank of America Corp also have national charters.

Goldman's pursuit of a state charter suggests the company will continue to focus on investment banking, trading and wealthier clients, and not soon build a nationwide retail banking business. Morgan Stanley, in contrast, has said it will pursue "opportunistic" bank acquisitions.

A state charter nevertheless permits Goldman to open branches in states with "reciprocal" agreements, an arrangement now spanning roughly 25 states. New York-chartered banks may also operate branches in neighboring Connecticut, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, while remaining subject to New York laws.

Other lenders with New York charters include Bank of New York Mellon Corp and M&T Bank Corp.

Goldman's decision to seek a state banking charter "reflects confidence in New York as a financial center and in its banking department as an effective regulator," State Banking Superintendent Richard Neiman said in a statement.

Goldman and Morgan Stanley changed their banking model following the collapses of Bear Stearns Cos and Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc and Merrill Lynch & Co's agreement to be acquired by Bank of America.

Many investors worried about the sustainability of the Wall Street banking model, especially if customers or trading partners were to flee to lenders with more stable funding.

Goldman in September won a $5 billion infusion from Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Inc., four days after Goldman obtained bank holding company status.

Shares of Goldman closed Friday up $2.49 at $78.99. They have fallen 63 percent this year.

(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel; editing by Carol Bishopric)
Copyright 2008, Reuters

Raul Castro attends first beatification in Cuba

By ANDREA RODRIGUEZ- Thousands of Roman Catholic faithful and even President Raul Castro gathered Saturday for the beatification of a monk known as the "father of the poor" - the first ceremony of its kind on Cuban soil.

The act brings Friar Jose Olallo Valdes, a member of the Hospitaller Order of St. John of God, one step closer to sainthood.

Olallo was born in 1820 and abandoned at a Havana orphanage. He came to the central city of Camaguey to take his religious vows at 15 and stayed the rest of his life, earning his nickname by caring for the needy and chronically ill. He died in 1889 at age 69.

Beatification declares a departed person's ability to intercede on the part of the faithful who pray to him and is the last step to possible sainthood. Olallo is credited with a miracle in 1999, when a 3-year-old girl with an abdominal tumor made an unlikely recovery after her family prayed to him for help.

Authorities erected a large, open-air cathedral in Camaguey's Plaza de la Caridad and Cuba's 77-year-old president made a previously unannounced appearance, wearing a gray suit and taking a seat in the front row.

"In the face of a materialist culture that we see imposing itself everywhere and that pushes aside the weak and the poor, we learn from Olallo the virtues of the wisdom of God and how to love thy neighbor universally," said Jose Saraiva, prefect emeritus of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, the Vatican's saint-making office, who traveled to Cuba from Rome for the ceremony.

To commemorate the occasion, officials released a collection of doves and rang church bells. There was also a 2-kilometer (1-mile) pilgrimage.

The Cuban Roman Catholic Church started the process of beatifying Olallo in 1989, the 100th anniversary of his death. His is the first beatification in Cuba, but he is not the first Cuban to be beatified.

Cuban-born, Augustinian deacon Jose Lopez Piteira was beatified in Rome last year. He did most of his work in Spain, where he was shot in 1936 during the civil war.

Pope Benedict XVI released a statement saying he hoped Olvallo's beatification will "give renewed apostolic vitality" to religious Cubans.

"We give thanks to the pope who, in Rome, watches us from a window in his heart," Camaguey Archbishop Juan Garcia said Saturday.

The beatification and Raul Castro's attendance could help further improve the once icy relationship between the church and Cuba's communist government. The ceremony was widely announced in state-controlled news media, unusual in a country where official news outlets often ignore religious matters.

The single-party, communist government never outlawed religion, but expelled priests and closed religious schools when Fidel Castro took power in January 1959.

Tensions eased in the early 1990s when the government removed references to atheism in the constitution and let believers of all faiths join the Communist Party. They warmed more when Pope John Paul II visited in 1998.

Raul Castro's first diplomatic meeting as head of state was with Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the pope's secretary of state whose previously scheduled visit to the island coincided with Fidel's transferal of power.

© 2008 Miami Herald Media Company. All Rights Reserved.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

'Joe the Plumber' Lashes Out at Media

NEW YORK (Oct. 19) - "Joe the Plumber" is lashing out at the media for analyzing his personal life since he suddenly became a focal point of the presidential race last week.

Joe Wurzelbacher, a plumber from Holland, Ohio, told Mike Huckabee on his Fox News talk show Saturday that he is upset by the attention and has been unable to work with reporters crowded on his front lawn.



Embarrassing Celebrity Commercial from Yesteryear

"Celebrity mug shots, sex tapes, embarrassing ads from the lean years -- they all turn up eventually. Many of today's stars cut their teeth shilling for Madison Avenue, and they surely never expected to see their efforts resurface outside of the occasional "Before They Were Famous" TV special. But thanks to the wonders of the Internet, their tampon ads and "tubular" hairstyles are preserved forever.

"Pop a Zima, and take a look at our gallery of some of the more embarrassing celebrity ads from yesteryear. They'll make you glad you aren't famous..."


Saturday, October 18, 2008

How Oprah Viewers Are Saving

Viewers Are Rallying

" 'It feels like a big wake up call," Oprah Winfrey said on a recent show, which focused on how Americans are getting creative in cutting back on spending.

"Winfrey and Dylan Ratigan, a business journalist from CNBC, explained the source of the financial crisis. "We borrowed too much money, more money than we could afford to pay back," Ratigan said.

"To help turn the trend, Oprah viewers shared frugal finance tips..."



by Gary Todd

"A lot has been said about this fight; thus far. The weight issue, the reach, the height, the gloves. The age old argument of 'a good big man will always beat a good little man.' I'm from the old school, it's what you have inside. If you have heart and the will to win, then you have a chance.

"The first question you have to ask is, why is De la Hoya fighting Pacquiao. Easy. He thinks it's the best option of him winning, and beating the best pound for pound fighter in the world right now. De la Hoya has made a career out of fighting fighters he thought he could beat. Paez, Rafael Ruelas, Chavez, Whitaker, Coley, Castillejo, Vargas, Campas, Sturm, Mayorga and Forbes. As I said, he knows the business of boxing, and everything he does is calculated. He thinks he can beat Pacquiao..."



Monday, October 13, 2008

Man eats 45 Pizzas

AP NEW YORK (Oct. 13) - Chowdown champ Joey Chestnut has done it again — this time proving he's a pizza powerhouse.

He downed 45 slices in 10 minutes Sunday to win the first Famous Famiglia World Pizza Eating Championship in New York's Times Square.

The 24-year-old from San Jose, Calif., says he fasted for more than a day to prepare. He folded and squeezed the slices to make them easier to swallow.

The 24-year-old rocketed to competitive-eating celebrity when he won Coney Island's July Fourth hot-dog eating contest in 2007. He took the title again this summer by gulping down 59 dogs in 10 minutes.
He won a contest in Tennessee last month by wolfing down 93 Krystal hamburgers in 8 minutes.

James Baldwin & Barack Obama

By Colm Tóibín

"It seemed important, as both men set about making their marks on the world, for them to establish before anything else that their stories began when their fathers died and that they set out alone without a father's shadow or a father's permission. James Baldwin's Notes of a Native Son, published in 1951, begins: "On the 29th of July, in 1943, my father died." Baldwin was almost nineteen at the time. Barack Obama's Dreams from My Father, published in 1995, begins also with the death of his father: "A few months after my twenty-first birthday, a stranger called to give me the news."

"Both men quickly then established their own actual distance from their fathers, which made their grief sharper and more lonely, but also made clear to the reader that they had a right to speak with authority, to offer this version of themselves partly because they themselves, through force of will and a steely sense of character, had invented the voice they were now using, had not been trained by any other man to be the figure they had become.[1] "I had not known my father very well," Baldwin wrote.

"We got on badly, partly because we shared, in our different fashions, the vice of stubborn pride. When he was dead I realized that I had hardly ever spoken to him. When he had been dead a long time I began to wish I had.
Of his father, Barack Obama wrote:

"At the time of his death, my father remained a myth to me, both more and less than a man. He had left Hawaii back in 1963, when I was only two years old, so that as a child I knew him only through the stories that my mother and grandparents told..."

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Huge iPhone Security Flaw Puts All Private Information at Risk

“There's a huge security problem in the latest iPhone 2.0.2: if you have your JesusPhone password protected, using a very simple trick gives anyone full access to your cellphone private information in Mail, SMS, Contacts, and even Safari. The two-step trick is even simpler to the one used in the past to gain access to the phone to install unlocking cards or jailbreak. Fortunately, there's a way to avoid this obvious security breach until Apple fixes it.

“First, password protect your phone and lock it. Then slide to unlock and do this:

1. Tap emergency call.
2. Double tap the home button.

“Done. You are now in your favorites. This seems like a feature, because you may want to have emergency number in your favorites for quick dial. The security problem here is double. The first: anyone picking up your phone can make a call to anyone in your favorites. On top of that, this also opens access to your full Address Book, the dial keypad, and your voice mail.”


George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Pax And Maddox At Venice Film Festival

VENICE, Italy- George Clooney and Brad Pitt will make two appearances at the Venice Film Festival this week. They were slated to appear Tuesday night at a fund-raising event for their charity, Not On Our Watch. Then they were to return to the red carpet Wednesday when the Coen brothers film "Burn After Reading" opens the 65th edition of the festival, which runs through Sept. 6. Not On Our Watch has raised more than $7 million to help victims both of the humanitarian crisis in the Darfur region of Sudan and the cyclone in Myanmar, also known as Burma, according to executive director Alex Wagner.

FOR FULL ARTICLE: 2008/ 08/ 26/ george-clooney-and-brad-p_n_121433.html

The 5 Scientific Experiments Most Likely to End the World

By S Peter Davis

"Let's face it, we really trust science. In fact, studies suggest that the vast majority of people will murder another human being, if a guy in a lab coat tells them it's OK.

But surely in their insatiable curiosity and desire to put knowledge above all things, science would never, say, inadvertently set off a chain of events that lead to some sort of disaster that ended the world. Right?

Well, here's five experiments that may prove us wrong.

#5. Recreating the Big Bang

Scientists are kind of pissed that they weren't around when the Big Bang happened. Here we had an event that holds all of the secrets to reality, and we missed it because we were lazy enough not to evolve for another 13 billion years.

The solution, science says, is to make it happen again. They assure us that they can stage a new Big Bang if they smash some protons together really, really fucking hard. In fact, they can make a million of them per second, which is 999,999 more than God managed."


Hands Free Cigarettes?

Maybe it's just because we had a rough weekend, but we've yet to piece together what the purpose of this device is. Officially, it's a novelty cigarette pack-shaped earphone headset for Nokia / Samsung / Sony Ericsson mobiles. That's to say it enables you to just talk into the pack rather than into your phone. At just $6.79, we'd love to say this would at least make a good gag gift, but honestly, we can't figure out what's to "get."


Monday, August 25, 2008

Tensions Boil in Obama, Clinton Camps

DENVER (Aug. 25) - As Democrats arrived here Sunday for a convention intended to promote party unity, mistrust and resentments continued to boil among top associates of presumptive nominee Barack Obama and his defeated rival, Hillary Rodham Clinton.

One flashpoint is the assigned speech topic for former president Bill Clinton, who is scheduled to speak Wednesday night, when the convention theme is “Securing America’s Future.” The night’s speakers will argue that Obama would be a more effective commander in chief than his Republican rival, Sen. John McCain (Ariz.).

The former president is disappointed, associates said, because he is eager to speak about the economy and more broadly about Democratic ideas — emphasizing the contrast between the Bush years and his own record in the 1990s.

This is an especially sore point for Bill Clinton, people close to him say, because among many grievances he has about the campaign Obama waged against his wife is a belief that the candidate poor-mouthed the political and policy successes of his two terms.

Some senior Democrats close to Obama, meanwhile, made clear in not-for-attribution comments that they were equally irked at the Clinton operation. Nearly three months after Hillary Clinton conceded defeat in the nomination contest, these Obama partisans complained, her team continues to act like she and Bill Clinton hold leverage.

After a period earlier this month when the two sides were working collegially over strategy, scheduling, and other convention logistics, things turned scratchy again in recent days.

Some senior Obama supporters are irritated at how they perceive the Clintons fanned — or at a minimum failed to douse — stories that she was not even vetted as a possible vice presidential nominee. This is because she told Obama she preferred not to go through the rigorous process of document production unless she was really a serious contender, an Obama associate noted.

One senior Obama supporter said the Clinton associates negotiating on her behalf act like “Japanese soldiers in the South Pacific still fighting after the war is over.”

A prominent Obama backer said some of Clinton’s lieutentants negotiating with the Obama team are “bitter enders” who presume that, rather than the Clintons reconciling themselves to Obama’s victory, it is up to Obama to accommodate them.

In fact, some senior veterans of Clinton’s presidential campaign do believe this.

“He has not fully reconciled,” said one political operative close to the Clintons, “and he has not demonstrated that he accepts the Clintons and the Clinton wing of the party.”

While the Clintons have a relatively easy job in Denver — to deliver gracious speeches and accept what are likely to be loud cheers from their supporters — it is “Obama who has the heavy lifting” this week, this aide said.

This is because large numbers of Clinton backers — 30 percent in a recent ABC/Washington Post poll — are still not backing Obama over McCain.

The peevishness on both sides and the volume of behind-the-scenes catcalls are noteworthy because both the Clinton and Obama teams had resolved in pre-convention talks that it was overwhelmingly in the interests of both sides to get along.

Obama spokesman Bill Burton dimissed the chatter about Bill Clinton’s speech time and subject as meaningless scuttlebutt.

"This is the sort of story cooked up just to feed cable producers. Not an issue,” Burton said. But it is an issue to some people in the Clinton orbit — precisely because they know how closely every public word from either Bill Clinton or Hillary Clinton will be scrutinized.

Matt McKenna, a spokesman for Bill Clinton, said his boss "looks forward to making the case that Barack Obama is the best candidate to restore America's standing in the world."

While Bill Clinton remains angry about how he and his wife were treated by both Obama backers and the news media — and he is particularly resentful at what he sees as unfair allegations that he tried to exploit racial divisions for political advantage — he has made the decision that he will put forward a positive face for Obama’s benefit at Denver.

It is harder to do that when the topic is foreign policy and national security, which lends itself to restrained, rather than boisterous, partisan rhetoric.

“That puts him in a terrible bind, because you can’t give a ringing endorsement when you’re talking about foreign policy,” a longtime Clinton adviser said. “Obviously, the hard thing to talk about with Obama is commander in chief, of all his many talents.

“You don’t rah-rah about commander in chief. You rah-rah about hope and change and a new party and all that. So no matter what he does, somebody will find fault with it.”

Hillary Clinton, who associates said seems more at peace with the results of the nomination battle than her husband, is treating her speech preparation as an all-hands-on-deck exercise, bringing back longtime aides who worked with her during the White House years and in her Senate office.

Jim Kennedy, a veteran Clinton press hand and now an executive at Sony studios, was recalled to work on a speech draft, as was former White House speechwriter Lissa Muscatine, according to Clinton associates.
Many of Hillary Clinton’s negotiations with the Obama team, aides said, have been led by former White House lawyer Cheryl Mills — a fiercely loyal associate of the Clintons who is known for her relentless and sometimes combative advocacy on their behalf.

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Another longtime associate, former White House chief of staff John Podesta, said he has little doubt that Hillary Clinton will easily meet her political challenge in Denver. He predicted that her supporters will “blow the roof” off the convention center with cheers for her, and that she will in turn make a rousing appeal for Obama.

Podesta, the founder of the liberal Center for American Progress think tank, said Bill Clinton’s challenge is harder. “I think he’s got a high bar because he needs to show enthusiasm, and the press will be looking for any stray remark as a sign that he doesn’t fully support” the Obama campaign, Podesta said, adding, “It’s a bar he’ll get over.”

Paul Begala, a former operative who has spoken to both Clintons in recent weeks, agreed. He said the former president, whatever mixed feelings remain from the primaries, will work to elect Obama because, “It’s killing him to watch what has happened over the past eight years. It’s been torture to watch the slow unraveling of so much of what his administration achieved.”

Sunday, August 24, 2008

ANALYSIS: Biden seen as safe choice


Barack Obama chose safe rather than bold, experience rather than change.

With his long record, Delaware Sen. Joe Biden will help assure some voters nervous about Obama's lack of experience on foreign affairs, much as Dick Cheney did when he was chosen as the young George W. Bush's running mate.

And yet, Biden showed immediately he is willing to take on the traditional attack-dog role of a running mate, skewering John McCain as too rich to relate to the problems of average Americans.

''Biden can probably take apart anybody that McCain chooses, and do it with a sti-letto and a smile,'' said Sherry Bebitch Jeffe, a political scientist at the University of Southern California.
That remains to be seen.

One of the Senate's least well off, Biden could help Obama reach out to working-class voters who've been cool to the candidate in places such as Ohio and West Virginia.

And as a Roman Catholic, he could speak to that swing voting bloc in key states such as Florida, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

''For decades he has brought change to Washington, but Washington hasn't changed him,'' Obama told a crowd Saturday in Springfield, Ill., where he introduced his new running mate.
``He's an expert on foreign policy whose heart and values are firmly rooted in the middle class. He has stared down dictators and spoken out for American cops and firefighters.''

Overall, Biden looks familiar and safe as Obama's choice for vice president on the Democratic ticket. That may undercut Obama's message of bold new leadership.

But it also could help Obama look careful and deliberate at the very time Republicans want to cast him as a dangerous, radical neophyte.

''It's safe but not exciting,'' said Susan MacManus, a political scientist at the University of South Florida.

A bold choice, a real Washington outsider such as Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine or Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, would have put a punctuation mark behind Obama's promise to change Washington and American politics.

Biden? ''I don't think it helps the change message,'' said Steven Schier, a political scientist at Carleton College in Minnesota.

That may not be all bad, especially at a time when Russian tanks have been on the roll in Georgia and Pakistan is changing leaders.

Obama needs to assure voters that he can handle a crisis, the same concern that former Democratic rival Hillary Clinton raised when she aired an ad asking who voters want in the White House when a crisis erupts at 3 a.m.

A recent Zogby poll found, for example, that voters prefer McCain to handle those issues. Obama also wants to attract more support from Roman Catholics, a key swing group closely divided between McCain and Obama.

Catholics make up about one out of four voters nationwide, and a higher concentration in such political battleground states as Florida, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

And Biden -- son of blue-collar workers and a man whose net worth of less than $150,000 is well below that of many Senate members -- can speak to white, working-class voters in a way that Obama might not.

In their Illinois appearance, Obama emphasized Biden's dedication as a new senator to his two sons after their mother's death in a car accident 35 years ago.

''He never moved to Washington,'' Obama said. ''Instead, night after night, week after week, year after year, he returned home to Wilmington on a lonely Amtrak train when his Senate business was done. He raised his boys -- first as a single dad, then alongside his wonderful wife, Jill.'' The couple also have a grown daughter.

Beyond those niche appeals, Biden likely will do well in one of the key roles for a running mate -- attacking the other ticket.

In his joint appearance with Obama on Saturday, he went after McCain, a longtime personal friend, as having given ``into the right wing of his party and yielded to the very Swift Boat politics he once so deplored.''

He also said McCain would continue President Bush's policies. And he chided that McCain is so wealthy and insulated from average people's concerns that his version of making difficult kitchen-table decisions is that ``he'll have to figure out which of his seven kitchen tables to sit at.''

''He is a tough attack dog,'' said Sherry Bebitch Jeffe, the USC political scientist.

Biden does carry some risks.

First, of course, is his image as an insider. Second is a tendency to make off-the-cuff remarks that can appear impolitic, such as calling Obama the first ''clean'' black candidate for president or noting how Indians fill all the jobs at Dunkin' Donuts.

The Obama campaign could try to massage both flaws.

Already Saturday, for example, campaign aides were stressing how Biden rides the train home to Delaware from Washington every day to live with his family.

She suggested the campaign would also attempt to paint his tendency for blunt, sometimes embarrassing comments as a penchant for being candid and honest.

''That could position him as a maverick,'' Jeffe said. ``For the average voter, it could be a positive. It takes him out of the stereotype of the smooth, Washington insider.''

One that will be harder to counter is the record of criticisms Biden leveled at Obama during the primaries. In one, for example, Biden called Obama too inexperienced, a clip the McCain camp rushed into TV commercials by midday Saturday.

McClatchy correspondent Margaret Talev contributed to this report from Springfield, Ill.

POLITICS: The Year of the Political Blogger Has Arrived


WHEN Pam Spaulding heard from two contributors to her blog, Pam’s House Blend, that they couldn’t afford to attend the Democratic National Convention, she knew that historic times called for creative measures.

Getting convention credentials for her blog, a news site for the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community, was the easy part. As air fare, lodging and incidentals began piling up, paying for the trip to Denver became the bigger obstacle.

For Ms. Spaulding, 45, who works full time as an IT manager at Duke University Press in Durham, N.C., blogging is her passion, an unpaid hobby she pursues at nights and on weekends. So she called on her 5,500 daily readers to help raise funds: “Send the Blend to Denver” reads the ChipIn widget on her blog’s home page that tracks donations from readers; so far they have pledged more than $5,000 to transport Ms. Spaulding and three other bloggers to the convention.

Beginning Monday, hundreds of bloggers will descend on Denver to see Barack Obama accept his party’s nomination. Next week, hundreds more will travel to St. Paul to witness John McCain’s acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention. But now these online partisans, many of whom are self-financed, must contend with all the logistical and financial hurdles just to get there — not to mention the party politics happening behind the scenes.

This year, both parties understand the need to have greater numbers of bloggers attend. While many Americans may watch only prime-time television broadcasts of the convention speeches, party officials also recognize the ability of bloggers to deliver minute-by-minute coverage of each day’s events to a niche online audience.

“The goal is to bring down the walls of the convention and invite in an audience that’s as large as possible,” said Aaron Myers, the director of online communications for the Democratic National Convention Committee. “Credentialing more bloggers opens up all sorts of new audiences.”

But some bloggers see the procurement of credentials as less of a privilege and more of a right, in recognition of their grass-roots influence. “This is stuff we deserve — we helped the party get people elected,” said Matt Stoller, a political consultant and a contributor to the blog Open Left, who worked as the volunteer in charge of getting credentials for bloggers at the Democratic convention four years ago. “Maybe in 2004 it was about being accommodating and innovative — but this time around there’s a real fight for power in the party.” The major political parties first gave credentials to bloggers in 2004. The Republicans allowed a dozen bloggers to attend their convention in New York, while the Democrats gave bloggers 35 seats in the nosebleed section of the Fleet Center in Boston.

This year, the R.N.C. gave credentials to 200 bloggers as a means to “get Senator McCain’s message out to more people,” said Joanna Burgos, the press secretary of the convention.
For bloggers attending the Democratic convention at the Pepsi Center in Denver, two types of credentials are offered. The first is a national credential, which offers the same access granted to members of traditional news media organizations.

The second, more coveted credential is the state blogger credential. It allows one blogger per state to cover the convention alongside its state delegation, with unlimited floor access. Inspired by the strategy of Howard Dean, the D.N.C. chairman, to organize in all 50 states, the state-blogging credential was highly sought after, with as many as 14 blogs vying to represent a single state.

D.N.C. organizers said the recipients of these credentials were chosen by looking at the posts and mission statements of the competing blogs, and at the traffic these sites generated. But controversy soon arose in the blogosphere about whether political favoritism played a role.
“It’s a recognition from the D.N.C. of the work that you’ve done, of your import, your significance,” said Phillip Anderson, 38, whose blog, the Albany Project, has covered New York State politics since 2006. “We were the site the D.N.C. was talking about — we just assumed we would get it,” said Mr. Anderson, who received a national credential instead of the state honor.
Mr. Myers of the Democratic National Convention Committee conceded that tough calls had to be made. “Nobody here, certainly not I, believes there’s only one good blog in every state,” he said. “It’s just not true.” In the last week, the D.N.C. released an additional 100 credentials that will allow multiple contributors from the same blog to cover the convention in tandem.
But the last-minute disbursement of credentials has only exacerbated many bloggers’ frustrations.

“It’s unprecedented access for bloggers, yes, but it’s certainly not equal access,” said Ms. Spaulding, who learned last week that Pam’s House Blend would receive two extra credentials. “What, pray tell, is the big secret?”

The annoyance felt by many bloggers is familiar to those who previously attended conventions as correspondents for smaller print publications. “This is very reminiscent of being at the low end of the totem pole,” said Micah Sifry, the co-founder of the group blog, who formerly wrote for The Nation magazine and attended his first convention in 1984. “They can’t buy a sky box, they’re scrambling.”

One perk that bloggers will have access to in Denver is the Big Tent, an 8,000-square-foot two-story structure adjacent to where the convention is being held. For a $100 entrance fee, 400 credentialed bloggers will be allowed to enter the air-conditioned space, hosted by a coalition of progressive blogs and organizations and sponsored by the Web sites Google and Digg, where they can eat meals and find work spaces with Wi-Fi.

“I’m telling everyone to meet me at the Big Tent,” said Fred Gooltz, 30, an online strategist with Advomatic, a Web development and strategy firm. “That’s where I’ll be meeting everyone else who’s like me, folks that I’ve only met online or blogged and e-mailed with.” Mr. Gooltz sees the $100 fee as a bargain, especially since he would rather network “with movementarians, who see themselves as a progressive movement, separate from the Democratic Party hierarchy.”

Markos Moulitsas, whose Web site, the Daily Kos, is one of the Big Tent’s organizers, said he would probably remain in the tent for much, if not all, of the convention. “I have no interest in going to the convention hall and chances are I will not,” he said. “There’s nothing happening in the convention hall that would justify braving the long security lines and crowds.”

For bloggers who do not wield as much influence as Mr. Moulitsas, paying for the trip to Denver meant appealing directly to their readers for contributions — an uneasy bargain for many writers who value their independence.

This summer marked the first time that Mr. Anderson of the Albany Project asked readers for donations on his own behalf. “I would never go to my readers and say, I really need a vacation,” said Mr. Anderson, who makes his living as a consultant, and earns a few thousand dollars a year from the advertising revenue his blog generates. “It’s kind of humbling that people value what we’re doing to the point where they’re willing to give us $20.”

Through contributions as small as $5 or $10, Mr. Anderson said, he was able to raise about $1,500 for his Denver trip.

John Odum, 40, the lead author of the political blog Green Mountain Daily, felt similarly conflicted. Though his readers did supply him with a new laptop computer on his 40th birthday, Mr. Odum, who lives in Montpelier, Vt., and works for a local environmental nonprofit, was reluctant to ask them for further acts of generosity. In an election year, he said, “People ought to be giving it to a candidate, not giving me their spare money.”

Now a yellow “donate” icon on his site links to a separate PayPal account, where readers can contribute toward Mr. Odum’s estimated $1,000 travel costs. He said he had received enough support to pay for the $400 air fare.

“It takes me back to my hippie-ish youth, thrown in a situation with very little to fall back on and not 100 percent certain where I’ll be sleeping,” Mr. Odum said. He said he might have to unfurl his sleeping bag on someone’s hotel room floor if the housing space he reserved on Craigslist does not pan out.

Among the devoted readers who believe Mr. Odum deserves their donations is Nate Freeman, one of two Democratic candidates for lieutenant governor of Vermont. Mr. Freeman, 40, gave about $100 to Mr. Odum’s laptop fund, and said he would contribute $50 for Mr. Odum’s convention trip.

“Barack doesn’t need my 50 bucks,” Mr. Freeman said, “but John does.”

Senator Joe Biden for Vice President

Sen. Barack Obama's choice of Sen. Joe Biden as his running mate raises the question of whether Obama can carry off his message of change with a seasoned Washington politician by his side.
Biden brings to the table his ability to speak knowledgeably about issues ranging from foreign policy to to the country's domestic agenda.

The Delaware senator has held two of the most important jobs in Washington -- chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. That could be reassuring to voters who worry about Obama's inexperience in national and world affairs.

Biden also has been an early and vociferous critic of President Bush's foreign policies -- most notably regarding the war in Iraq.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Britney Spears Wants 'Normal Childhood' for Sons

(Aug. 13) -- With all signs pointing to a potentially massive comeback, Britney Spears is doing something she hasn't done in quite some time -- giving interviews.

In the new issue of OK!, Spears opens up about everything from her two sons to her upcoming album, which she says is her "best work ever."

On Her New Album: "I think it is more urban. I'm working with producers who are just amazing. There is this fresh new energy."

On When It's Coming Out: "In the next six to nine months."

On Becoming an Aunt: "That was special, but it was also strange because she's (sister Jamie Lynn) always been the baby, and now the baby was having a baby. It was mind-boggling. I was shocked a little bit. But it was really cool, and she was happy. When she got to the hospital, we all thought it was going to be an all-day thing, and instead, the baby just sort of popped out. Okay, we're happy now!"


TECHNOLOGY: What is worse than reusing passwords?

Do you use the same password all over the place? Yes, you probably do – whether you know it or not. The fact is, while some people still casually use the same password for many sites, almost all of us reuse what we may think of as “meta passwords” – the information used to reset passwords. That, I argue, is worse than reusing passwords - but harder to avoid!

When you have forgotten your password, some sites send you an email with a link for you to click. Phishers who have stolen access to your email account can do that, too. Other sites will ask you for your mother’s maiden name, the name of your best friend, what city you grew up in, or what brand your first car was. Did you know that phishers can answer those questions, too?

Like the city you grew up in, your mother’s maiden name can be derived from public records – from birth certificates and marriage certificates to be specific. (Download PDF for details.)

Facebook might unwittingly tell the name of your best friend. And,until quite recently, Ford with its 25% market share had a pretty good chance of being the brand of your first car!


Woman May Hold Secret to AIDS Vaccine

WASHINGTON (Aug. 12) - A woman who has never shown symptoms of infection with the AIDS virus may hold the secret to defeating the virus, U.S. researchers said on Tuesday.

Infected at least 10 years ago by her husband, the woman is able somehow to naturally control the deadly and incurable virus -- even though her husband must take cocktails of strong HIV drugs to control his.

She is a so-called "elite suppressor," and studies of her immune cells have begun to offer clues to how her body does it, the team at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore said.

"This is the best evidence to date that elite suppressors can have fully pathogenic virus," said Dr. Joel Blankson, who led the study.

"The feeling was initially that they had defective virus," Blankson added in a telephone interview.

Martha Stewart to benefit from some Hollywood nepotism

"Is this Martha Stewart's new retirement contingency plan: making her daughter into a star so she can take care of her in her old age? Alexis Stewart is going to be the host of a new show on Fine Living that skewers her mother, nicely one can assume, since it appears that the Stewart matriarch has had a chance to preview a dozen episodes of Whatever, Martha!

and approved them.

"The new show, which debuts Sept. 16, got off to a good start with a gentle write-up in the New York Times, just the kind of free press that a venture like this needs. As described by the Times, it is a send-up akin to Mystery Science Theater 3000, where the hosts critique old episodes of Martha's show from the 1990s, pre-scandal. "


Tuesday, August 12, 2008

7 Lessons Olympians Can Teach Internet Entrepreneurs

"What qualities would you come up with if you were asked to describe an Olympian? Perseverance? Determination? Fearlessness? Quick Wits? Teamwork? You could probably come up with a long list of admirable qualities.

"Now how about if you were asked to describe an entrepreneur? Don’t all of those terms apply to the most dedicated of entrepreneurs? Don’t the successful ones share the fearlessness and dedication that Olympians exhibit? Although a professional cyclist may be different in many ways to the founder of an Internet startup, many of the traits and qualities of a successful cyclist are the same for successful entrepreneurs. So while we celebrate the greatest of all sporting events, let’s learn a few lessons from these amazing individuals.

"Here are seven lessons you can take from the hard work and struggles of Olympians..."


The 10 Non-Cult Movies Most Worthy of Rabid Cult Fanbases

"Standing on the fringes of mainstream cinema, cult films transport viewers into terrains rarely explored by typical Hollywood efforts.

"Although the question of what exactly constitutes a cult film is open to debate, each of these movies connects with people on a visceral level. Sure, such excellent flicks as The Big Lebowski, Donnie Darko and The Rocky Horror Picture Show have rightfully earned their devoted followings, but there's still a plethora of would-be cult movies that are deserving of your extreme fanaticism. Misguided, hard-to-find or simply underrated, the films on this list are flowers in a hailstorm trying to bloom. Here's a breakdown of 10 neglected gems that are waiting for your love."

2008 OLYMPICS: Warren Suffers Devastating Loss

BEIJING (Aug. 12) - While Lee Ok-sung got his glove fixed with 35 seconds left, Rau'Shee Warren turned in his neutral corner and searched for a clear voice in the cacophony of shouted advice.
Warren swore he heard somebody in the stands yelling "Move! Move!", meaning the world champion flyweight had the lead and should simply avoid getting punched to win. His coaches were screaming the opposite message from their ringside seats, because Warren actually trailed 9-8 and needed to attack.
In a painfully perfect illustration of what might be the U.S. boxing team's biggest problem, Warren listened to what he thought his friends, family or teammates were telling him. It cost him a chance at the medal he waited four years to hang around his mother's neck.
Warren spent the final moments of his second Olympics with his gloves at his waist Tuesday night, dancing in a pointless circle around the South Korean former world champion.
The stunning loss - and the head-scratching way it ended - crushed the first two-time American boxing Olympian in 30 years.
"It doesn't feel real," Warren said, pulling up his red tank top to dry his tears. "I didn't feel like I lost the fight, because I was fighting hard, doing everything the coaches were telling me. To get this far and then lose, I don't even know what happened."
After losing his first fight in Athens as a raw 17-year-old light flyweight, Warren declined pro boxing's riches and stuck around the amateur game solely for a trip to Beijing and his desire to present gold to his mother, Paulette. Instead, he got eight minutes of action capped by 35 seconds of awful confusion.
Warren didn't even know he had lost until he heard the news from U.S. coach Dan Campbell. He threw his headgear in disgust before the tears rolled, though he later apologized for being "unsportsmanlike."

The Insane True Stories Behind 6 Cursed Movies

"They say nobody believes in curses until they wind up living under one. Just ask the cast and crew of the following movies that have gone down in Hollywood lore as "cursed" productions. Of course you can't ask some of them, since they're now dead. From the curse.

"Or maybe it's all just bad luck. You be the judge.

"The Curse:

"Everyone who appeared in the poltergeist trilogy is now dead, says an extreme and entirely untrue version of the poltergeist curse. Indeed, Nancy Allen, (Robocop's sidekick), is very much still alive. It's just her career that's dead. What is true is that four of the trilogy's actors all died within 6 years of the first movie, giving rise to talk of The Poltergeist Curse."


Mark Twain’s Thoughts on 3 Topics You’d Rather Not Discuss

"What’s an inherent trait that we all cherish in our lives? It’s our freedom of expression. Our life trajectory is guided by our innate desire to speak what lies deep in our heart. Our actions are fueled by the righteous causes that inspire us to seek freedom and justice for all that we do.

"Have you ever crucified your inner voice that intrigued your mind to write about topics that most of us fear the most? Have you ever felt the skirmish between your passionate mind and the shrill sound of opposition from your heart when you tried to speak about politics with friends with whom you share most other things about life? We all have.

"The stigma of an outward freedom of expression for topics that impact our lives comes from our feeble reasoning to remain likable to those who may oppose our views. We constantly engage ourselves in a mental chatter to abstain from topics that we love to speak about at length with our alter ego — politics, religion, our principles and our happiness - yet remain silent once we step out of our house."


TECHNOLOGY: Linux myths Busted!

"One of the main reasons that most people are afraid to try Linux is because they have this preconceived notion about linux being too hard to use and difficult to maintain; or that they have to do something drastically differ ant and there is a steep learning curve to using linux. After reading most of the comment on this post of mine and other popular forums for new linux users, it only solidified my belief that most non-linux users are very ignorant about linux. So here is an attempt to dispel some of the myths surrounding Linux:

"Myth# 1: Linux Installation is difficult.

"This is fairly popular Linux myth. Maybe 5 years ago; I would have agreed with you, it’s simply not true anymore. Let’s talk about the most popular linux distro at the moment, Ubuntu. On a brand spanking new computer, if you were to install Ubuntu from scratch, you would basically have to follow that same configuration options like selecting language, keyboard type and username/password, as you would do in a new vista installation. On the upside, there is every reasons to believe that your linux installation will be finished a lot sooner than a windows installation; and there will be less restart, if any."


Man says he's porn inspector, demands free videos

A man claiming to be a police detective tried to get an adult novelty shop to give him free X-rated videos, saying he wanted to make sure the performers weren't underage, authorities said. He made three tries within nine days last month and was turned down each time. The store manager called police after the third try.

Authorities said Monday that the man showed a badge and left a business card from the Longmont police "age verification unit." Cmdr. Tim Lewis said there is no such unit. "It was inventive on his part, I'll give him that," Lewis said. The business card didn't have anyone's name on it, but the store gave officers surveillance video of the man. Police are looking for him.

POLITICS: The Hillary Clinton Memos

"If you've ever scratched your head and wondered how on Earth Hillary Clinton lost the Democratic presidential nomination to Barack Obama, you need look no further than Josh Green's exhaustive post-mortem published in this week's edition of The Atlantic (read it here). What distinguishes this "What went wrong" piece from all the others before it is that Green bases it upon internal memos and e-mails that he obtained from key players within Clinton's campaign.

"What is revealed is a frenetic, bee-hive full of conflict and in-fighting, and a queen unable to take charge and set a course for the colony. Not exactly the qualities one would hope for from a commander-in-chief..."

Endorsement From Winfrey Quantified: A Million Votes

"Presidential candidates make the most of celebrity supporters, showing them off in television ads and propping them on podiums to stand and wave. No doubt Mike Huckabee’s aborted campaign for the Republican nomination got some sort of bump from those commercials of him with Chuck Norris, right?

"Or maybe not. Politicians and pundits routinely claim that celebrity endorsements have little sway on voters, and two economists set out recently to test the premise. What they found was that at least one celebrity does hold influence in the voting booth: Oprah Winfrey."


2008 OLYMPICS: Men's gymnastics takes Bronze

BEIJING (Aug. 12) - China has the Olympic title it has long craved and everyone else expected. The Americans, meanwhile, won the bronze with a roster patched together at the last minute when not one, but both Hamm brothers were knocked out with injuries.

"They told me, `We succeeded. We are the world champions.' I told them we reached our target," coach Huang Yubin said. "Other teams were good, but we were better. We performed perfect today. Everyone was excellent."

The Chinese began celebrating even before their last event, high bar, was finished. When little Zou Kai's feet hit the mat with a thud, his teammates jumped up and down.


POLITICS: Obama turns celebrity title on McCain

HONOLULU (Aug. 11) -- Barack Obama is out to show that two can play the "celebrity game" with a new ad Monday labeling his Republican opponent John McCain as Washington's biggest celebrity.

The Democratic presidential candidate, vacationing in Hawaii, released an ad, titled "Embrace," that paints McCain as both a regular on the TV talk show circuit and a consummate political insider, chummy with President Bush and lobbyists alike.

"For decades, he's been Washington's biggest celebrity," the announcer says, cutting to a "Saturday Night Live" introduction of the McCain during an appearance on the show.

The ad shows McCain on ABC's "The View" and NBC's "The Tonight Show" with Jay Leno. And it shows Bush -- hugging McCain, being hugged by McCain and kissing McCain on the forehead.



When big chains go bankrupt, their franchises can be left in the lurch... or continue to profit. Of course, when corporate-owned locations close, those franchisees still operating independently have less power to negotiate discounts with suppliers. And the bad press that comes with a bankruptcy can be a blow even to franchisees with healthy businesses. Here's a look at 11 big brands that went bankrupt, and what happened next.


Monday, August 11, 2008

President Bush NOT so good with American flag


MOVIES AND TECHNOLOGY: Movies that need to be games

"For the most part licensed movie games suck to the third power. Strict deadlines results in games that look like their respective flicks but play like ass. However, games like Stranglehold, The Godfather, and The Warriors that have been released significantly after their films have been pretty well done. The games' developers didn't have to worry about releasing them on time with their respective movie. No matter what the cost was, they had the time to let the movie's essence marinate. Here's just the short list of pre-released movies that should be translated into videogame form."


Google Redesigned Facelifts Gmail and GCal

All platforms with Firefox: Globex Designs, makers of the popular Gmail Redesigned skin, have released a standalone Firefox extension which applies the style without Stylish (or Better Gmail and/or Better GCal). Download the extension to completely redesign your Gmail and Google Calendar with the latest and greatest style from Globex.


1936 Nazi Color Film-Berlin in the Year of the Olympic Games

Charles Darwin investigated whether blondes have more fun

"He was the father of one of the most important scientific theories of all time, but Charles Darwin also turned his formidable intellect to a less weighty question – do blondes have more fun?

Letters uncovered as part of a major project to compile Darwin's correspondence have revealed that the great Victorian naturalist devoted part of his time to examining whether hair colour affects a woman's ability to find a mate.

He set out to investigate a theory that the prevalence of dark hair in the general population was increasing because brunettes were more likely to get married and have dark-haired offspring, while blondes tended to stay single and childless.

To further his research, he asked a doctor at Bristol Royal Infirmary to compile and send him data on the hair colour of married and single female patients at the hospital.

The investigation took place a decade after the publication of The Origin of Species, Darwin's tome of 1859 which led to the theory of evolution."


Sunday, August 10, 2008

Radical Right Warns McCain: No Moderates For VP... Or Else

"This week there have been a flurry of rumors about McCain picking a moderate as his running mate. Florida's closeted gay governor, Charlie Crist (recently engaged to his beard) is so interested in being VP that he abandoned his "live-and-let-live" approach that has endeared him to moderate Floridians and come out in favor of the homophobic Amendment 2. Right-wing poobahs went nuts a few days ago when it was rumored that McCain was considering former Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge. But both those "trial balloons"-- like Obama's dangling of Tom Kaine and Evan Bayh-- are just to titillate the starving, ravenous media-- and please local voters.
"Still, in the midst of the body slam McCain took today from the Greed and Selfishness portion of the party (see below), the GOP extremists who control much of the party's actual base have quietly told him that if he picks a moderate he can kiss the base bye-bye..."


Friday, August 8, 2008

NEWS: John Edwards Admits to Cheating on Sick Wife

WASHINGTON Aug. 8) -- Former presidential candidate John Edwards, who won nationwide praise and sympathy as he campaigned side-by-side with his cancer-stricken wife, Elizabeth, admitted in shame Friday he had had an extramarital affair with a woman who produced videos for his campaign.

Acknowledging a sex scandal he had dismissed as "tabloid trash" only last month, Edwards said he had told his wife and family long ago but "I had hoped that it would never become public."

He denied fathering a daughter, born to the woman with whom he had the affair, and offered to be tested to prove it. A former Edwards campaign staff member professes to be the father.


NEWS: China Celebrates Might as Games Begin


"BEIJING (Aug. 8) - Once-reclusive China commandeered the world stage Friday, celebrating its first-time role as Olympic host with a stunning display of pageantry and pyrotechnics to open a Summer Games unrivaled for its mix of problems and promise.

"Now ascendant as a global power, China welcomed scores of world leaders to an opening ceremony watched by 91,000 people at the eye-catching National Stadium and a potential audience of 4 billion worldwide. It was depicted as the largest, costliest extravaganza in Olympic history, bookended by barrages of some 30,000 fireworks."


NEWS: All of US Could Be Overweight by 2048

NEW YORK (Aug. 7) - "If the trends of the past three decades continue, it's possible that every American adult could be overweight 40 years from now, a government-funded study projects.

The figure might sound alarming, or impossible, but researchers say that even if the actual rate never reaches the 100-percent mark, any upward movement is worrying; two-thirds of the population is already overweight."


So how about showing your pride in being a politically incorrect Bonker, or just want to show off a nice t-shirt with a message?

Why not? Might as well start the weekend correctly. I mean, if Joel Osteen's wife can be sued for allegedly assaulting a flight attendant or if Oprah Winfrey can go on vacation with another man-- you can also be as bad as you want to be-- at least for a day.

We found the perfect place for you:

Movies opening this weekend

Pineapple Express
A stoner and his dealer are forced to go on the run from the police after the pothead witnesses a cop commit a murder.

The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2
Four young women continue the journey toward adulthood. Now three years later, these lifelong friends embark on separate paths for their first year of college and the summer beyond, but remain in touch by sharing their experiences with each other as they always have-with honesty and humor.

Elegy (Limited)
Cultural critic David Kepesh finds his life -- which he indicates is a state of "emancipated manhood" -- thrown into tragic disarray by Consuela Castillo, a well-mannered student who awakens a sense of sexual possessiveness in her teacher.

Bottle Shock (Limited)
The story of the early days of California wine making featuring the now infamous, blind Paris wine tasting of 1976 that has come to be known as "Judgment of Paris".

Beer For My Horses (Limited)
"Beer for My Horses" tells the story of two best friends that work together as deputies in a small town. The two defy the Sheriff and head off on an outrageous road trip to save the protagonist's girlfriend from drug lord kidnappers.

Hell Ride (Limited)
The story deals with the characters Pistolero, the Gent and Comanche and the deadly, unfinished business among them.

Henry Poole Is Here
Henry Poole abandons his fiancée and family business to spend what he believes are his remaining days alone. The discovery of a "miracle" by a nosy neighbor ruptures his solitude and restores his faith in life.

An ex-cop and his family are the target of an evil force that is using mirrors as a gateway into their home.