Thursday, April 14, 2011

Actress's mysterious red-carpet message

Shenae Grimes (Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)   

Shenae Grimes appears with a heart-shaped temporary tattoo on her cheek at the "Scream" premiere.

Shenae Grimes Spreads Her Heart

Shenae Grimes Jordan Strauss/ Some people wear their hearts on their sleeves. Shenae Grimes of "90210" wears hers on her cheek.
At the premiere for “Scream 4”, the actress was spotted with a small black heart on her right cheek. The mark inspired many to wonder if the design is an actual tattoo or something temporary.
According to gossip blog SugerScape, the small mark isn't permanent. Grimes has been wearing it for the past several weeks in honor of the victims of the Japanese earthquake and tsunami.
Grimes is part of a cause, called the Spread the Heart Movement. On a video on her official site, Grimes encourages her fans to take the extra dollars they usually spend on nonessential items and instead donate it to help the victims via the Yoshiki Foundation. Grimes says that she normally spends a few bucks on film for her camera, but that she’s donating to help Japan. “Where are your extra dollars going?” she asks. “Spread your heart and let it be Japan.” The Foundation describes itself as "a California non-profit, public benefit corporation founded in 2010 by Japanese musician Yoshiki of the multi-million-selling rock band X Japan."
At the College Television Awards Frederick M. Brown While Grimes's dedication to a cause is certainly admirable, most Web searchers can't seem to get past the heart on her cheek. Over the past several weeks, online interest in "shenae grimes tattoo" and "does shenae grimes have a real tattoo" have both soared. Hopefully people can relax now--it isn't permanent. 

Kardashian sisters' red carpet fashion flubs

(L-R) Kourtney, Kim and Khloe Kardashian (Michael Tran/FilmMagic) 

Kourtney, Kim, and Khloe each miss the mark in their own, unique way while appearing together.

The Kardashian Family's Fashion Miss

 To celebrate their Redbook cover, the Kardashian fam stepped out wearing some interesting outfits! What do you think of their ensembles and who is the best dressed of the bunch? Plus, Lady Gaga reveals that she

Is your home making you overweight?

Concept restrictions in food (Photo by Thinkstock)  

Slow eaters can consume 200 fewer calories a day, so sit down and make meals last.

Is Your House Making You Fat?

These 8 tips could help make your home environment more thinning
Your house may be a threat to your figure. Add it to the list, cushioned between those extra slices of pizza and forgetting to work out—because experts say the way you design and maintain your home could play a role in whether you pack on the pounds or keep them off. "You can make your environment work for you

Fighter was pregnant during pro MMA bout

Cindy Dandois (Photo courtesy Perfect Team MMA)  


Cindy Dandois had trouble reaching her fighting weight, but she didn't know what was causing it.

Pregnant woman wins fight, but now out of the mix for Carano match

Female fighters bring some unique differences to the table versus their male counterparts. They face different challenges when cutting weight, but that's nothing compared to the reason Cindy Dandois just dropped out of the mix for a June fight against Strikeforce star Gina Carano.
Dandois is three months pregnant, and fought in mid-March, when she was just over two months into her pregnancy. She beat Jorina Baars on a fight card in Belgium. Dandois confirmed to Cagewriter that she is pregnant and was for her last fight, but didn't know it at the time.
"I did tests before because my weight was more difficult to reach, but they were all negative so I didn't realize it," Dandois said in an email to Cagewriter. She even took a test at a hospital before getting an X-ray, and that came up negative.
This all begs the question -- do all state commissions that control fights need to start administering a pregnancy test along with tests for PEDs before females step into the cage? Nevada State Athletic Commission does require pregnancy testing, though that would not have changed anything for Dandois as her pregnancy tests came up negative.

Bonds guilty of obstruction in mixed verdict

Barry Bonds (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)  

A federal jury convicts the slugger for obstruction of justice, but deadlocks on three counts of perjury.

Barry Bonds found guilty of obstruction

Barry Bonds was convicted by a federal jury of obstruction of justice Wednesday, ending a trial that clawed at the rawness of baseball’s recent past, and in some ways sought to determine Bonds’ proper place in it.
On that count, 12 of the all-time home run leader’s peers found instead for ambivalence, which seems about right.
On three charges that Bonds perjured himself before a grand jury investigating the BALCO scandal eight years ago, the jury could not agree. What remains is a conviction on the technicality of evasiveness, a mistrial, a possible sentencing and an appeal, all leaking from the words and misdeeds of Bonds and a game he once dominated.
The jury found little common ground, but to a generation of baseball fans it would declare that Bonds was at least evasive when he grew several uniform sizes, when he thrust his arms over his head as he surpassed Hank Aaron in career home runs on a cool night by the San Francisco Bay, and when he scowled at those who dared doubt his historical displays of power and competence and innocence.
Bonds, the biggest fish in the big, scummy pond of baseball’s steroid era, could be sentenced to prison, but likely won’t be, because he’s still Barry Bonds – and to many, the federal government’s case was as much about disgracing him as it was some technicality of truthfulness.
Beyond descriptions of cranial growth and testicular shrinkage, the Bonds trial cast little new light on a man accused of cheating the game, who apparently hoped to project himself as a victim of ambitious friends and scientists, and who under oath eight years ago testified that he hadn’t intentionally used performance-enhancing drugs. And it revealed nothing new about the game or its recent past.
Barry Bonds/AP Photo

According to witnesses, Bonds and his family sat without expression during the reading of the verdict. This was, by his attitude and testimony, beneath him.
He did not take the stand during the trial, for which two dozen witnesses were called. His personal trainer and long-time friend – Greg Anderson – was imprisoned for refusing to testify. Bonds’ former personal shopper – Kathy Hoskins – told the jury she saw Anderson inject Bonds, who previously admitted to taking undetectable synthetic drugs provided by BALCO, but not by injection, and only after being told they were flaxseed oil and an arthritic balm. It was Hoskins’ testimony that appeared to most sway the jury, though even her accounts could not bring a perjury conviction.
The single charge that stuck comes at a time when baseball finds the strays of its darkest phase being swept into a single pile. Because Bonds hit 762 home runs in a 22-year career and a record 73 in 2001, and because his swollen body and tape-measure home runs divided a nation curious as to the legitimacy of both, his case – before U.S. District Court Judge Susan Illston – was poignant for its impact on the game.

Why so few arrests from the financial crisis?

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner gestures while speaking at the small business conference in Washington, Tuesday, March 22, 2011. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)  

 Years after the banking disaster, not a single senior executive has been jailed.

In Financial Crisis, No Prosecutions of Top Figures

It is a question asked repeatedly across America: why, in the aftermath of a financial mess that generated hundreds of billions in losses, have no high-profile participants in the disaster been prosecuted?
Answering such a question — the equivalent of determining why a dog did not bark — is anything but simple. But a private meeting in mid-October 2008 between Timothy F. Geithner, then-president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, and Andrew M. Cuomo, New York’s attorney general at the time, illustrates the complexities of pursuing legal cases in a time of panic.
At the Fed, which oversees the nation’s largest banks, Mr. Geithner worked with the Treasury Department on a large bailout fund for the banks and led efforts to shore up the American International Group, the giant insurer. His focus: stabilizing world financial markets.
Mr. Cuomo, as a Wall Street enforcer, had been questioning banks and rating agencies aggressively for more than a year about their roles in the growing debacle, and also looking into bonuses at A.I.G.
Friendly since their days in the Clinton administration, the two met in Mr. Cuomo’s office in Lower Manhattan, steps from Wall Street and the New York Fed. According to three people briefed at the time about the meeting, Mr. Geithner expressed concern about the fragility of the financial system.
His worry, according to these people, sprang from a desire to calm markets, a goal that could be complicated by a hard-charging attorney general.
Asked whether the unusual meeting had altered his approach, a spokesman for Mr. Cuomo, now New York’s governor, said Wednesday evening that “Mr. Geithner never suggested that there be any lack of diligence or any slowdown.” Mr. Geithner, now the Treasury secretary, said through a spokesman that he had been focused on A.I.G. “to protect taxpayers.”
Whether prosecutors and regulators have been aggressive enough in pursuing wrongdoing is likely to long be a subject of debate. All say they have done the best they could under difficult circumstances.
But several years after the financial crisis, which was caused in large part by reckless lending and excessive risk taking by major financial institutions, no senior executives have been charged or imprisoned, and a collective government effort has not emerged. This stands in stark contrast to the failure of many savings and loan institutions in the late 1980s. In the wake of that debacle, special government task forces referred 1,100 cases to prosecutors, resulting in more than 800 bank officials going to jail. Among the best-known: Charles H. Keating Jr., of Lincoln Savings and Loan in Arizona, and David Paul, of Centrust Bank in Florida.
Former prosecutors, lawyers, bankers and mortgage employees say that investigators and regulators ignored past lessons about how to crack financial fraud.
As the crisis was starting to deepen in the spring of 2008, the Federal Bureau of Investigation scaled back a plan to assign more field agents to investigate mortgage fraud. That summer, the Justice Department also rejected calls to create a task force devoted to mortgage-related investigations, leaving these complex cases understaffed and poorly funded, and only much later established a more general financial crimes task force.
Leading up to the financial crisis, many officials said in interviews, regulators failed in their crucial duty to compile the information that traditionally has helped build criminal cases. In effect, the same dynamic that helped enable the crisis — weak regulation — also made it harder to pursue fraud in its aftermath.
A more aggressive mind-set could have spurred far more prosecutions this time, officials involved in the S.&L. cleanup said.
“This is not some evil conspiracy of two guys sitting in a room saying we should let people create crony capitalism and steal with impunity,” said William K. Black, a professor of law at University of Missouri, Kansas City, and the federal government’s director of litigation during the savings and loan crisis. “But their policies have created an exceptional criminogenic environment. There were no criminal referrals from the regulators. No fraud working groups. No national task force. There has been no effective punishment of the elites here.”
Even civil actions by the government have been limited. The Securities and Exchange Commission adopted a broad guideline in 2009 — distributed within the agency but never made public — to be cautious about pushing for hefty penalties from banks that had received bailout money. The agency was concerned about taxpayer money in effect being used to pay for settlements, according to four people briefed on the policy but who were not authorized to speak publicly about it.
To be sure, Wall Street’s role in the crisis is complex, and cases related to mortgage securities are immensely technical. Criminal intent in particular is difficult to prove, and banks defend their actions with documents they say show they operated properly.
But legal experts point to numerous questionable activities where criminal probes might have borne fruit and possibly still could.
Investigators, they argue, could look more deeply at the failure of executives to fully disclose the scope of the risks on their books during the mortgage mania, or the amounts of questionable loans they bundled into securities sold to investors that soured.
Prosecutors also could pursue evidence that executives knowingly awarded bonuses to themselves and colleagues based on overly optimistic valuations of mortgage assets — in effect, creating illusory profits that were wiped out by subsequent losses on the same assets. And they might also investigate whether executives cashed in shares based on inside information, or misled regulators and their own boards about looming problems.
Merrill Lynch, for example, understated its risky mortgage holdings by hundreds of billions of dollars. And public comments made by Angelo R. Mozilo, the chief executive of Countrywide Financial, praising his mortgage company’s practices were at odds with derisive statements he made privately in e-mails as he sold shares; the stock subsequently fell sharply as the company’s losses became known.
Executives at Lehman Brothers assured investors in the summer of 2008 that the company’s financial position was sound, even though they appeared to have counted as assets certain holdings pledged by Lehman to other companies, according to a person briefed on that case. At Bear Stearns, the first major Wall Street player to collapse, a private litigant says evidence shows that the firm’s executives may have pocketed revenues that should have gone to investors to offset losses when complex mortgage securities soured.
But the Justice Department has decided not to pursue some of these matters — including possible criminal cases against Mr. Mozilo of Countrywide and Joseph J. Cassano, head of Financial Products at A.I.G., the business at the epicenter of that company’s collapse. Mr. Cassano’s lawyers said that documents they had given to prosecutors refuted accusations that he had misled investors or the company’s board. Mr. Mozilo’s lawyers have said he denies any wrongdoing.
Among the few exceptions so far in civil action against senior bankers is a lawsuit filed last month against top executives of Washington Mutual, the failed bank now owned by JPMorgan Chase. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation sued Kerry K. Killinger, the company’s former chief executive, and two other officials, accusing them of piling on risky loans to grow faster and increase their compensation. The S.E.C. also extracted a $550 million settlement from Goldman Sachs for a mortgage security the bank built, though the S.E.C. did not name executives in that case.
Representatives at the Justice Department and the S.E.C. say they are still pursuing financial crisis cases, but legal experts warn that they become more difficult as time passes.
“If you look at the last couple of years and say, ‘This is the big-ticket prosecution that came out of the crisis,’ you realize we haven’t gotten very much,” said David A. Skeel, a law professor at the University of Pennsylvania. “It’s consistent with what many people were worried about during the crisis, that different rules would be applied to different players. It goes to the whole perception that Wall Street was taken care of, and Main Street was not.”
The Countrywide Puzzle
As nonprosecutions go, perhaps none is more puzzling to legal experts than the case of Countrywide, the nation’s largest mortgage lender. Last month, the office of the United States attorney for Los Angeles dropped its investigation of Mr. Mozilo after the S.E.C. extracted a settlement from him in a civil fraud case. Mr. Mozilo paid $22.5 million in penalties, without admitting or denying the accusations.
White-collar crime lawyers contend that Countrywide exemplifies the difficulties of mounting a criminal case without assistance and documentation from regulators — the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, the Office of Thrift Supervision and the Fed, in Countrywide’s case.
“When regulators don’t believe in regulation and don’t get what is going on at the companies they oversee, there can be no major white-collar crime prosecutions,” said Henry N. Pontell, professor of criminology, law and society in the School of Social Ecology at the University of California, Irvine. “If they don’t understand what we call collective embezzlement, where people are literally looting their own firms, then it’s impossible to bring cases.”
Financial crisis cases can be brought by many parties. Since the big banks’ mortgage machinery involved loans on properties across the country, attorneys general in most states have broad criminal authority over most of these institutions. The Justice Department can bring civil or criminal cases, while the S.E.C. can file only civil lawsuits.
All of these enforcement agencies traditionally depend heavily on referrals from bank regulators, who are more savvy on complex financial matters.
But data supplied by the Justice Department and compiled by a group at Syracuse University show that over the last decade, regulators have referred substantially fewer cases to criminal investigators than previously.
The university’s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse indicates that in 1995, bank regulators referred 1,837 cases to the Justice Department. In 2006, that number had fallen to 75. In the four subsequent years, a period encompassing the worst of the crisis, an average of only 72 a year have been referred for criminal prosecution.
Law enforcement officials say financial case referrals began declining under President Clinton as his administration shifted its focus to health care fraud. The trend continued in the Bush administration, except for a spike in prosecutions for Enron, WorldCom, Tyco and others for accounting fraud.
The Office of Thrift Supervision was in a particularly good position to help guide possible prosecutions. From the summer of 2007 to the end of 2008, O.T.S.-overseen banks with $355 billion in assets failed.
The thrift supervisor, however, has not referred a single case to the Justice Department since 2000, the Syracuse data show. The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, a unit of the Treasury Department, has referred only three in the last decade.
The comptroller’s office declined to comment on its referrals. But a spokesman, Kevin Mukri, noted that bank regulators can and do bring their own civil enforcement actions. But most are against small banks and do not involve the stiff penalties that accompany criminal charges.
Historically, Countrywide’s bank subsidiary was overseen by the comptroller, while the Federal Reserve supervised its home loans unit. But in March 2007, Countrywide switched oversight of both units to the thrift supervisor. That agency was overseen at the time by John M. Reich, a former banker and Senate staff member appointed in 2005 by President George W. Bush.
Robert Gnaizda, former general counsel at the Greenlining Institute, a nonprofit consumer organization in Oakland, Calif., said he had spoken often with Mr. Reich about Countrywide’s reckless lending.
“We saw that people were getting bad loans,” Mr. Gnaizda recalled. “We focused on Countrywide because they were the largest originator in California and they were the ones with the most exotic mortgages.”
Mr. Gnaizda suggested many times that the thrift supervisor tighten its oversight of the company, he said. He said he advised Mr. Reich to set up a hot line for whistle-blowers inside Countrywide to communicate with regulators.
“I told John, ‘This is what any police chief does if he wants to solve a crime,’ ” Mr. Gnaizda said in an interview. “John was uninterested. He told me he was a good friend of Mozilo’s.”
In an e-mail message, Mr. Reich said he did not recall the conversation with Mr. Gnaizda, and his relationships with the chief executives of banks overseen by his agency were strictly professional. “I met with Mr. Mozilo only a few times, always in a business environment, and any insinuation of a personal friendship is simply false,” he wrote.
After the crisis had subsided, another opportunity to investigate Countrywide and its executives yielded little. The Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, created by Congress to investigate the origins of the disaster, decided not to make an in-depth examination of the company — though some staff members felt strongly that it should.
In a January 2010 memo, Brad Bondi and Martin Biegelman, two assistant directors of the commission, outlined their recommendations for investigative targets and hearings, according to Tom Krebs, another assistant director of the commission. Countrywide and Mr. Mozilo were specifically named; the memo noted that subprime mortgage executives like Mr. Mozilo received hundreds of millions of dollars in compensation even though their companies collapsed.
However, the two soon received a startling message: Countrywide was off limits. In a staff meeting, deputies to Phil Angelides, the commission’s chairman, said he had told them Countrywide should not be a target or featured at any hearing, said Mr. Krebs, who said he was briefed on that meeting by Mr. Bondi and Mr. Biegelman shortly after it occurred. His account has been confirmed by two other people with direct knowledge of the situation.
Mr. Angelides denied that he had said Countrywide or Mr. Mozilo were off limits. Chris Seefer, the F.C.I.C. official responsible for the Countrywide investigation, also said Countrywide had not been given a pass. Mr. Angelides said a full investigation was done on the company, including 40 interviews, and that a hearing was planned for the fall of 2010 to feature Mr. Mozilo. It was canceled because Republican members of the commission did not want any more hearings, he said.
“It got as full a scrub as A.I.G., Citi, anyone,” Mr. Angelides said of Countrywide. “If you look at the report, it’s extraordinarily condemnatory.”
An F.B.I. Investigation Fizzles
The Justice Department in Washington was abuzz in the spring of 2008. Bear Stearns had collapsed, and some law enforcement insiders were suggesting an in-depth search for fraud throughout the mortgage pipeline.
The F.B.I. had expressed concerns about mortgage improprieties as early as 2004. But it was not until four years later that its officials recommended closing several investigative programs to free agents for financial fraud cases, according to two people briefed on a study by the bureau.
The study identified about two dozen regions where mortgage fraud was believed rampant, and the bureau’s criminal division created a plan to investigate major banks and lenders. Robert S. Mueller III, the director of the F.B.I., approved the plan, which was described in a memo sent in spring 2008 to the bureau’s field offices.
“We were focused on the whole gamut: the individuals, the mortgage brokers and the top of the industry,” said Kenneth W. Kaiser, the former assistant director of the criminal investigations unit. “We were looking at the corporate level.”
Days after the memo was sent, however, prosecutors at some Justice Department offices began to complain that shifting agents to mortgage cases would hurt other investigations, he recalled. “We got told by the D.O.J. not to shift those resources,” he said. About a week later, he said, he was told to send another memo undoing many of the changes. Some of the extra agents were not deployed.
A spokesman for the F.B.I., Michael Kortan, said that a second memo was sent out that allowed field offices to try to opt out of some of the changes in the first memo. Mr. Kaiser’s account of pushback from the Justice Department was confirmed by two other people who were at the F.B.I. in 2008.
Around the same time, the Justice Department also considered setting up a financial fraud task force specifically to scrutinize the mortgage industry. Such task forces had been crucial to winning cases against Enron executives and those who looted savings and loans in the early 1990s.

Analyst's awkward words after MVP is hurt

Former New York Mets manager Bobby Valentine. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)   

 Bobby Valentine's evaluation of Josh Hamilton's controversial injury raises eyebrows.

Bobby V. talks himself into a weird corner after Hamilton injury

Talking and always making sense in front of a camera or on a radio show is tough. I've appeared on enough of both to know that once your brain goes down one wrong path, it's difficult for your mouth to recover and stagger back before saying something stupid. You just kind of hope the host saves you because he's a trained professional at these sorts of things.
Only it's usually always too late. Rock solid proof of this comes in what ESPN's Bobby Valentine had to say on Tuesday night about Josh Hamilton(notes) breaking his arm and landing on the DL for 6-8 weeks after trying to tag on a foul pop-up in Detroit.
Fisk this as you will.
Karl Ravech: What was stupid about the play?
Bobby Valentine: Well, it was the first inning and it was taking a chance with your best player and he did dive headfirst and it was a way of avoiding the slide and he knew that he shouldn't go and he did go, you know? And you know, there's indiscretion in this guy's life, he was stupid earlier and because of that, he can't take drugs now to help cure this injury and heal this injury. And that might have been dumb on everyone's part because, my gosh, it's the first inning, he's the MVP. They're scoring runs better than anybody in the league, you have to tag up on a fly ball in front of the dugout?
As a sports blogger, I am now contractually bound to link this clip from Billy Madison.
There's no question that Dave Anderson, the third base coach of the Texas Rangers, made a dumb decision to send Hamilton. The reigning AL MVP admitted as much when he said "I was thinking [that] 'I don't want to do this ... something is going to happen.' I listened to my coach."

FBI recruiting an NBA All-Star for work

An FBI building in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)  

Special agents recently dropped in on one team's practice, hoping to speak with a particular player.

Gerald Wallace gets recruited by the FBI

In a league of athletic fowards, Portland's Gerald Wallace(notes) is perhaps the most fearless. Despite a history of concussions and various injuries, Wallace continually sacrifices his body for rebounds, points and loose balls. He plays with reckless abandon, and it's earned him the fitting nickname of "Crash."
But perhaps Wallace's skills and commitment to the cause are better served in another area of life. Like, say, while working for the government. Because the FBI recruited him at a recent Blazers practice. From Andrea Flatley at KTPV FOX 12 (via Tickle the Wire and Shoals):

A jelly bean that looks like Kate Middleton

Kate Middleton arrives at City Hall on March 8, 2011 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. (Chris Jackson/Getty Images)  

 A couple finds the likeness of the future princess in a mango-flavored piece of candy.

Man finds jelly bean with striking resemblance to Kate Middleton

We may have reached an apex in Royal Wedding hysteria.
A 25-year-old accountant has found Kate Middleton's face in a jelly bean. Yep. Wesley Hosie and his girlfriend, Jessica White, noticed that a mango bean in the jar they had purchased from the Jelly Bean Factory featured an uncanny resemblance to Prince William's future bride, the Telegraph reports.
There's a jelly bean with Kate Middleton's face on it! (Chris Jackson, Getty Images/SWNS)
"As Jessica opened the jar, I saw her immediately. She was literally lying there staring back at me," Hosie said.
And the pair immediately saw an opportunity in their blessed jelly bean.
"Given that the royal wedding is only a few weeks away, we hope to make a few pounds out of it by selling it on the internet to a collector."

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Apes from new 'Planet' film revealed

PLANET OF THE APES, Roddy McDowall (left), Kim Hunter (right), 1968. (20th Century Fox Film Corp./Everett Collection)  

 A clip from "Rise of the Planet of the Apes" shows how the primates have been updated.

Get Ready to Be Creeped Out for Five Seconds by the 'Rise of the Planet of the Apes' Ape

Somebody's grumpy... 20th Century Fox/Weta Digital Of all the reboots, prequels and origin stories going on in Hollywood franchises right now, there hasn't been as much talk about this August's "Rise of the Planet of the Apes," which takes place in modern-day San Francisco and sets into motion the simian revolution that knocks humanity off its perch as masters of Earth. When the original "Planet of the Apes" with Charlton Heston came out in 1968, one of the things that made it a classic (beyond its awesomely campy dialogue) was its cutting-edge ape makeup. Forty-three years later, the prequel has just unveiled a short clip of what the apes will look like this time. It's pretty lifelike -- and kinda creepy.
The apes will be all CGI for the new film, which is directed by relative unknown Rupert Wyatt (he previously did the British prison-break movie "The Escapist"). The effects work was done by director Peter Jackson's Weta Digital, which handled his "Lord of the Rings" trilogy and "King Kong," so they've got some experience making monkeys seem human. But they've topped themselves with this footage, although we do have to remind everyone that it's all of five seconds long.
An original Planet of the Apes ape, circa 1968. 20th Century Fox What can you see in five seconds? Well, it's a simple shot of an ape who slowly moves his eyes to the right in a pretty natural, human way, underscored by some low, ominous music in the background. The impression this clip is supposed to make is pretty obvious: (1) Man, that monkey looks real; and (2) Uh oh, something bad is about ready to go down.

Ten best states for making a living

Photo of Chicago (Corbis)   

These places offer the highest incomes—after accounting for local taxes and expenses.

10 Best and Worst States to Make a Living

The job market is finally picking up some steam, providing hope to long-suffering job seekers everywhere. But if you're among the applying masses, you probably want to do more than just get a job.

If you want to make a living -- in other words, make enough after tax and fixed expenses to prosper -- your chances of getting a job that pays enough to live in comfort varies dramatically based on the state where you live and work. pulled unemployment rates, average wages, tax rates and cost of living from all 50 states and found that the best places to find a job were not necessarily the best places to make a living.
The unemployment rate is only 3.7% in North Dakota versus 11% in Michigan, for example. But Michigan is a much better place to make a living, with "adjusted average income" of $37,427 versus $35,365 in North Dakota, according to MoneyRates. MoneyRates rankings are based on their analysis of what you have left to spend, after adjusting for paying your state taxes and dealing with the comparative cost of buying groceries and keeping a roof over your head, among other things.

Golf hole may be world's most dangerous

Sharks in water (MrWaggy76,  

If you lose your ball in this Australian water hazard, you'll probably want to leave it there.

The most hazardous water hazard ever: a shark

--For more golf coverage, follow Devil Ball Golf on Facebook right here and on Twitter right here at @jaybusbee.--
Think golf's too boring a game? Then get down to Australia, slick, and play the Carbrook Golf Club in Queensland. The water hazard there features up to 30 real live sharks. Behold:

We're gonna need a bigger cart.




Yeah, that's a mean-looking shark and all, but I'd probably chance it if I put one of my Pro-V1s in there. Those things ain't cheap, you know.
The sharks were thought to be a myth for many years, but as you can see, that's no myth. Club officials speculate that the bull sharks, some of which are estimated at up to 10 feet long, washed into the lake during a flood in the early 1990s.

The best-paying college majors

Woman chemical engineer (Thinkstock)   

 Grads specializing in one field dominate a new ranking of starting salaries.

Best-Paying College Major: Engineering

Engineering majors continue to boast fatter salary offers than their peers, according to the most recent survey from the National Association of Colleges and Employers.

Majors in the engineering field dominated the association's list of top-paying degrees for the class of 2011, with four of the top five spots going to engineering majors. Each of these majors receive average starting salary offers of more than $60,000.
The only non-engineering major among the top five was computer science, which earned graduating students average starting salary offers of $63,017.
"The entire top-10 list underscores the interest employers have in hiring technical majors," said Marilyn Mackes, NACE executive director.
And the interest in these majors isn't new. Engineering majors in last year's graduating class were also promised the most attractive salaries.

Gadget aims to mop your house for you

Scooba 230 (IRobot)  

The tiny Scooba 230 scours floors and squeezes into hard-to-reach spots, like behind the toilet.

The Little Robot Made to Clean the Icky Spots

Thanks to robots, there's no excuse for a dirty floor.
This week, I took a break from my normal product testing to run a robot through the paces of washing, scrubbing and squeegeeing my tile and hardwood floors. The Scooba 230 ( is the latest model in iRobot Corp.'s large family of household-helping gadgets, which includes the popular Roomba robotic vacuum, introduced in 2002.
Sold in a $300 package with accessories, the Scooba 230 is the least expensive Scooba from iRobot; the earlier Scooba 350 and Scooba 380 cost $400 and $500, respectively. It's less than half the size and weight of its larger and pricier predecessors, giving it the ability to scoot into tough-to-reach spots, like behind most bathroom toilets, where nobody wants to clean.
I like a lot of things about this robot, especially that it's smart enough to separate clean water from dirty water as it goes—instead of just regurgitating the same water and pushing it across the floor, like a mop. Loading the robot with water and cleaning solution takes just a minute, robbing even the laziest people of an excuse for not cleaning. And its compact size makes it easy to store.
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But to keep its price down, iRobot took away this Scooba's ability to vacuum as it scrubs the floors like previous Scooba models, so users will have to sweep or vacuum before they place it down and hit the power button. This defeats the idea of letting the robot do all the work. And unlike Roomba, which automatically returns to its recharging base after vacuuming so it can charge itself, Scooba stays where it finishes the job. An iRobot spokeswoman said this design is deliberate because it forces people to empty Scooba's bladder full of dirty water, rather than forgetting about it.

$2 bills are not as rare as you might think

The $2 bill (Who Knew)  

The oft-forgotten currency with Thomas Jefferson's image isn't fake — and it's not worth collecting.

Pro golfer's bad luck strikes again

Rory McIlroy  (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)  

Rory McIlroy runs into an annoying problem just days after falling apart at the Masters.

McIlroy’s terrible, horrible luck continues: airline loses his clubs

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When your luck goes south, it goes south in a hurry. As you probably know by now, Rory McIlroy coughed up a three-day, nine-hole lead at the Masters in grand style, going 6-over par in just three holes to torpedo any chance he had of winning the green jacket.
Oh, but the bad news for McIlroy didn't end there. He had to share a plane with Charl Schwartzel and the new apparel Schwartzel picked up in Augusta as the two flew to Malaysia for their next tournament. At least McIlroy was a good sport about it, making the best of an awkward situation on Twitter.
But after 25 hours in flight, when he arrived in Kuala Lumpur for the Malaysian Open, he found himself in the shoes of so many other travelers: His luggage didn't show up. But unlike many other travelers who need to pick up a new outfit or two, McIlroy's luggage -- i.e. his clubs -- is rather important for his career.
"It's one of those things," McIlroy said, and you have to guess that it was with a Charlie Brown-esque sigh. "Going through so many time zones and so many connecting flights your bags are going to get lost sometimes."
Talking to the BBC, McIlroy conceded that the only shot he'd like back from Augusta is the tee shot on 10, the one he put so far off the fairway that he had to walk among the houses that run alongside the 10th.

HS player overcomes nightmarish gaffe

Player overcomes Chris Webber gaffe   

Townspeople help ease a boy's pain after a mistake likely costs his team a state title.


Player gets support after Chris Webber-like title game gaffe

It was just one play from arguably the most competitive and entertaining boys basketball state title game in Wisconsin history, yet it will almost certainly be the one that remains as the lasting legacy of De Pere (Wisc.) High point guard Reece Zoelle. With fewer than 10 seconds remaining in overtime in De Pere's Wisconsin Division I title game tilt with Madison (Wisc.) Memorial High, Zoelle wrapped up a turnover near the baseline that should have been a game clincher. His problem began when he slipped to the floor, with the ball slipping out of his hands and the De Pere senior scrambling to recover it.
Zoelle pulled the ball back in and did what any player would do in those circumstances: He called a timeout. The problem was that his team didn't have any timeouts remaining.
What unfolded thereafter bore disturbing similarities to Chris Webber's famous end-of-game gaffe in the 1993 NCAA championship game against North Carolina. Zoelle was handed a technical foul for calling a timeout that his team didn't have, Madison Memorial's best free-throw shooter went to the line and calmly hit both attempts, and the game went into a second overtime. Eventually, Memorial emerged with an 80-78 victory, with Zoelle's technical standing as the moment that cost De Pere its first basketball state title since 1934. You can actually see the entire episode unfold in excruciating real time at the 2:10 mark of the video above.
"Trust me, I've thought about it so, so many times," Zoelle told the Green Bay Press-Gazette. "I know that if I wouldn't have called that timeout, we would have come away with the gold ball."
As hard as it may be, Zoelle is moving on from the heartbreak associated with his final high school game, thanks in large part to a personal support group that has been spearheaded by his cousin and best friend, fellow Wisconsin prep star Calahan Skogman.

Web charmed by dolphins befriending cat

Cat and dolphin. (YouTube/Screengrab)   

These merry mammals pop up out of the water to get close to their new feline buddy.

Cat's amazingly cute encounter with dolphins becomes Internet sensation

Recently-posted video footage showing a cat's incredibly cute encounter with dolphins at a marine park in Islamorada, Fla., is touching the hearts of viewers from around the world. The playful bonding between a cat named Arthur and dolphins named Thunder and Shiloh occurred in the late 1990s at Theater of the Sea, during the facility's swim-with-dolphins program. The footage, showing Arthur rubbing his head against and lovingly pawing the slender snouts of the sleek mammals, has gone viral since being uploaded to the Internet last month.

How Obama plans to slash $4 tril from debt

President Barack Obama (AP)  

The president's 12-year strategy offers a tricky mix of tax increases, steep cuts, and a "debt failsafe."

Key from the speech: What’s in Obama’s deficit reduction plan?

After largely staying on the sidelines during the fight over the deficit, President Obama today jumped headfirst into the fray, laying out a broad framework to reduce the federal budget gap by $4 trillion over the next 12 years.
In a speech at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., Obama proposed what he called a "balanced approach," a mix of spending cuts and tax increases "that puts every kind of spending on the table, but [...] protects the middle class, our promise to seniors, and our investments in the future." he said.
The plan contrasts with one released last week by Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, the Republican point man on budget issues. Obama derided Ryan's approach as "less about reducing the deficit than it is about changing the basic social compact in America."

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Nuclear incident as bad as Chernobyl

In this Sunday, April 10, 2011 photo released on Monday, April 11, 2011 by Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), workers in protective suits watch monitors as they operate remote-controlled rubble removing equipment to clear debris in the compound of the tsunami-crippled Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant in Okuma town, Fukushima Prefecture, northeastern Japan. (AP Photo/Tokyo Electric Power Co.)  

Japan raises severity level at the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant, matching history's worst.

Japan equates nuclear crisis severity to Chernobyl

TOKYO – Japan ranked its nuclear crisis at the highest possible severity on an international scale — the same level as the 1986 Chernobyl disaster — even as it insisted Tuesday that radiation leaks are declining at its tsunami-crippled nuclear plant.
The higher rating is an open acknowledgement of what was widely understood already: The nuclear accident at the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant is the second-worst in history. It does not signal a worsening of the plant's status in recent days or any new health dangers.
Still, people living nearby who have endured a month of spewing radiation and frequent earthquakes said the change in status added to their unease despite government efforts to play down any notion that the crisis poses immediate health risks.
Miyuki Ichisawa closed her coffee shop this week when the government added her community, Iitate village, and four others to places people should leave to avoid long-term radiation exposure. The additions expanded the 12-mile (20-kilometer) zone where people had already been ordered to evacuate soon after the March 11 tsunami swamped the plant.
"And now the government is officially telling us this accident is at the same level of Chernobyl," Ichisawa said. "It's very shocking to me."
Japanese nuclear regulators said the severity rating was raised from 5 to 7 on an international scale overseen by the International Atomic Energy Agency due to new assessments of the overall radiation leaks from the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant.
According to the Vienna-based atomic energy agency, the new ranking signifies a major accident that includes widespread effects on the environment and people's health. The scale, designed by experts convened by the IAEA and other groups in 1989, is meant to help the public, the technical community and the media understand the public safety implications of nuclear events.
The International Atomic Energy Agency said Japan's decision did not mean the disaster had been downplayed previously.

Creepy and abandoned mansions

Mudhouse mansion (Robert Batina)  

Ghastly rumors and notorious former owners haunt these empty, once-regal U.S. estates.

 Creepy Abandoned Mansions 

By the time Thomas Brennan and Mary Alice Shallow bought their 5,000-square-foot farmhouse from Union State Bank, it had sat abandoned for nine months. At a paltry going price of $275,000, the Putnam County, N.Y. abode was nearly 60% cheaper than the other neighborhood homes, thanks to a foreclosure discount and years of neglect.
The property needed repairs, with some the worst damage having been inflicted by squatters, looters and vandals in the nine months leading up to Brennan and Shallow's purchase.
"The copper plumbing had been stolen out of the house, the windows were busted, the front door broken down," says Brennan. "Kids were inside vandalizing the house, and other people were stealing the antique furniture."
In Pictures: Nine Creepy Abandoned MansionsIn Pictures: Kate Middleton's Home
Homes across the U.S. sit abandoned, empty and vulnerable to vandalism, due in large part to the ongoing housing crisis. The U.S. Census Bureau reported that the national homeowner vacancy rate for the fourth quarter of 2010 was 2.7%. That represents more than 2 million empty homes--including some mansions.
A quick search on real estate listing sites like and shows thousands of palatial estates deserted and patiently awaiting sale, as pools turn green and dust settles on granite countertops. Some of these abodes belong to owners who have listed the properties and relocated. Many more face foreclosure or are already bank-owned.
"What's different about this foreclosure cycle is it has taken houses out of every aspect of the housing market," explains Rick Sharga, senior vice president at RealtyTrac, an Irvine, Calif., foreclosure listing site. "You rarely saw mansions in foreclosure [until recently], and now you are seeing much more expensive types of properties in foreclosure."
RealtyTrac has seen an unprecedented level of default activity in some of America's ritziest neighborhoods. For example, Beverly Hills, the sixth-most-expensive ZIP code in the country, had a 700% increase in foreclosures of homes $2 million and up over the last three years.
We compiled a list of creepy abandoned mansions. They've all been empty for years. In a few cases, the homes have recently been sold to buyers willing restore them. Some are foreclosures; some the targets of longstanding legal battles; some are still actively owned from afar.
What do we mean by creepy? We confined our search to homes decaying into the ground, boasting spooky legends or tragic murders, or serving as sites for sordid illegal activities. Many of them are for sale: Boxer Mike Tyson's deserted former Southington, Ohio, manor is listed for $1.3 million, and the allegedly haunted New Hampshire castle once inhabited by railroad tycoon Benjamin Ames Kimball can be had for a steeply discounted $880,000.
Unfortunately there is no easy answer for what to do with empty structures, whether they're mansions, more typical single-family residences or unfinished developments.
Here are five of the creepiest, abandoned mansions:
Mudhouse Mansion
4730 Mudhouse Rd., Lancaster, OH
Across the U.S. sprawling estates sit empty and abandoned. Fairfield County’s Mudhouse Mansion is one eerie example. This 19th-century red brick building has not housed a regular occupant since the 1930s, despite having an owner who still pays the property taxes. The once regal structure has fallen victim to fires, vandalism and rumors of ghastly hauntings.
Mudhouse Mansion in Lancaster, OH
Photo: Robert Batina

Vacant Mansion
3737 State Route 534, Southington, OH
The vacant manse was home to boxer Mike Tyson in the 1990s. The current asking price is $1.3 million, despite overgrown lawns and a moss-colored pool.

BYU asks star to quit attending classes

Jimmer Fredette #32 of the Brigham Young Cougars (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)  

 Jimmer Fredette, college basketball's player of the year, is doing all of his coursework online.

Why BYU has asked Jimmer Fredette to stop attending classes

Whereas other NBA prospects often drop out of school during spring semester in order to focus all their attention on preparing for the upcoming draft, Jimmer Fredette has stopped attending classes for a different reason.
BYU actually requested it.
College basketball's consensus national player of the year is doing all his schoolwork online this semester because his presence had become a distraction in class. Al Fredette told the Glens Falls Post-Star that starstruck students were approaching his son during lectures for autographs and photographs.

Photos capture little-seen side of Civil War

Soldier's family in Civil War camp. (Apic – Getty Images)  

Rare glimpses of life between battles offer surprising — and sometimes unsettling — revelations.

Rare Civil War photos document life between battles

America's Civil War, whose 150th anniversary is marked on Tuesday, is so often described in battles — the Battle of Gettysburg, the Battle of Bull Run, the Battle of Fort Sumter — that it may be easy to forget that the soldiers who fought in the four-year war had a lot of time between fighting. The rare photos seen below document just that — the time soldiers spent waiting, preparing, recovering or just living.
Click image to view rare Civil War photos
Apic — Getty Images
"We wanted to show more of the daily life of these people and remind people that they were living their lives in the middle of this horrible war and there was a lot of daily living going on," says Kelly Knauer, editor of "TIME The Civil War: An Illustrated History."

Monday, April 11, 2011

New 'ghost towns' rise across the U.S.

Empty businesses. (Rick Barrentine/Corbis)  

 The economic downturn is pushing the vacancy rate above 50 percent in some communities.

American Ghost Towns of the 21st Century

There are several counties in America, each with more than 10,000 homes, which have vacancy rates above 55%. The rate is above 60% in several.
Most people who follow unemployment and the housing crisis would expect high vacancy rates in hard-hit states including Nevada, Florida and Arizona. They were among the fastest growing areas from 2000 to 2010. Disaster struck once economic growth ended.
Palm Coast, Fla., Las Vegas and Cape Coral, Fla., were all among the former high fliers. Many large counties which have 20% or higher occupancy rates are in these same regions. Lee County, Fla., Yuma County, Ariz., Mohave County, Ariz., and Osceola, Fla., each had a precipitous drop in home prices and increases in vacancy rates as homebuyers disappeared when the economy went south.
Data from states and large metropolitan areas do not tell the story of how much the real estate disaster has turned certain areas in the country into ghost towns. Some of the affected regions are tourist destinations, but much of that traffic has disappeared as the recession has caused people to sell or desert vacation homes and delay trips for leisure. This makes these areas particularly desolate when tourists are not around.
The future of these areas is grim. Our research showed that many have sharply declining tax bases which have caused budget cuts. Forecasts are calling for the fiscal noose to tighten on them even tighter.
These are the American Ghost Towns of the 21st century. Each has a population of more than 10,000 along with vacancy rates of more than 55%, according to the 2010 U.S. Census.

1. Lake County, Mich.
Number of homes: 14,966
Vacancy rate: 66%
Population: 11,014
Lake County is located in central Michigan, a few hour's drive from the industrial cities of Flint, Pontiac and Detroit. It is in the heart of the state's fishing district and has been a vacation destination since the early years of the car industry. Many of those second home owners are now gone. This has helped drive nearly 20% of the residents below the poverty level and the median household income to under $27,000 a year.

2. Vilas County, Wis.
Number of homes: 25,116
Vacancy rate: 62%
Population: 21,919
Vilas County is located at the uppermost part of Wisconsin, near the border of the Northern Peninsula of Michigan. The county is plagued by two things. The first is that it has been a tourist area for Wisconsin residents. The second is that a significant part of the county's economy depends on the logging, forestry and construction industries, each of which struggled during the recession.

3. Summit County, Colo.
Number of homes: 29,842
Vacancy rate: 61%
Population: 26,843
Summit County sits northwest of the Pike National Forest and due west of Denver. The area is near to several major ski resorts. The local paper reports on revenue "The decrease isn't linked to the dramatic dip in assessed property values in Summit County, expected to be near 20 percent lower than in the previous valuation period. Those changes will show up in property tax bills starting in 2011."

4. Worcester County, Md.
Number of homes: 55,749
Vacancy rate: 60%
Population: 49,274
The Maryland State Department of Assessments and Taxation recently estimated that the county would have a sharp drop in its tax base in fiscal year 2012 and "another, more drastic, revenue decrease" for the fiscal year that follows. The twin engines of county's economy are tourism and agriculture. Experts believe the tourism business in Maryland's Eastern Shore could stay crippled for years.

5. Mono County, Calif.
Number of homes: 13,912
Vacancy rate: 59%
Population: 12,774
Mono County sits near the Sierra Nevada and Yosemite National Parks. Ironically, Bodie, the official state gold rush ghost town, is in Mono County. Finance Director Brian Muir recently said he expected another property drop in property tax receipts. Like most of the other counties on this list, tourism is a major source of revenue for its economy.

6. Dare County, N.C.
Number of homes: 33,492
Vacancy rate: 57%
Population: 95,828
Dare County includes the northern-most parts of North Carolina's Outer Banks. The situation in the vacation area is so severe that the "Outer Banks Voice" recently wrote, "If Dare County Manager Bobby Outten was intending to sound an alarm by suggesting that the EMS helicopter and school nurses were expendable in the next budget, he probably succeeded." His comments are unlikely to be terribly different from those of other executives of counties on the list. Vacant homes and homes which lose double-digit amounts of their value each year irreparably undermine the tax base. And, as services fall, fewer potential homeowners will consider investing in the area.

7. Dukes County, Mass.
Number of homes: 17,188
Vacancy rate: 57%
Population: 15,527
Dukes County encompasses the island of Martha's Vineyard in Massachusetts. The enemy of the local budget is, as is true for most of the counties on this list, falling property values. Vacationers still flock to the resort island in the summer as do seasonal workers. The county is close to deserted when the weather turns cold.

 8. Sawyer County, Wis.
Number of homes: 15,975
Vacancy rate: 56%
Population: 17,117
The Sawyer County website has a link, prominently placed on the homepage, which goes to a list of foreclosed homes for sales by the sheriff's department. There are not many new homebuyers. The number of people who live in the county was flat from 2000 to 2010. The Hayward Community School District, located in Sawyer, will probably close one of its elementary schools. Sawyer is a fishing and biking destination, and has suffered from a drop in travelers from the southern part of the state.

9. Burnett County, Wis.
Number of homes: 15,278
Vacancy rate: 55%
Population: 16,196
Burnett County is at the western most part of Wisconsin near Minneapolis. The county's population fell from 2000 to 2010. County Administrator Candace Fitzgerald recently said that proposed budget cuts "could prove to be devastating and very hard to recover from." The county's attractiveness as a tourist destination has faltered. Home values have fallen for three consecutive years. Cuts in the Wisconsin State budget will lower state aid. People are more likely to default and abandon vacation homes than their primary residences. This has probably been an important reason vacancy rates in rural tourist areas in Wisconsin are so high.

10. Aitkin County, Minn.
Number of homes: 16,029
Vacancy rate: 54%
Population: 15,736
Aitkin County offers visitors two seasons for recreation. The first is in the summer when fishing is popular. The second is winter when snowmobilers come north. Aitkin is the last of the counties on the 24/7 Wall St. list demonstrating that rural regions which rely on tourists are especially exposed to economic hardship in a recession. They may take longer to recover than some industrialized cities do.

 News Source: YAHOO