Thursday, October 29, 2009

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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

DEA agents among 14 Americans dead in Afghanistan

U.S. military helicopter crashed Monday while returning from the scene of a firefight with suspected Taliban drug traffickers in western Afghanistan, killing 10 Americans including three DEA agents in a not-so-noticed war within a war.
Four more troops were killed when two helicopters collided over southern Afghanistan, making it the deadliest day for U.S. forces in this country in more than four years.
U.S. military officials insisted neither crash was believed a result of hostile fire, although the Taliban claimed they shot down a U.S. helicopter in the western province of Badghis. The U.S. did not say where in western Afghanistan its helicopter went down, and no other aircraft were reported missing.
The second crash took place when two U.S. Marine helicopters — a UH-1 and an AH-1 Cobra — collided in flight before sunrise over thesouthern province of Helmand, killing four American troops and wounding two more, Marine spokesman Maj. Bill Pelletier said.
The casualties marked the Drug Enforcement Administration's first deaths since it began operations here in 2005. Afghanistan is the world's largest producer of opium — the raw ingredient in heroin — and the illicit drug trade is a major source of funding for insurgent groups.
The U.S. has decided to target production and distribution networks after programs to destroy poppy fields did little except turn farmers against the American-led NATO mission.
In the past year, the DEA has launched an ambitious plan to increase its personnel in Afghanistan from about a dozen to nearly 80, greatly expanding its role.
NATO said the helicopter containing the DEA agents was returning from a joint operation that targeted a compound used by insurgents involved in "narcotics trafficking in western Afghanistan."
"During the operation, insurgent forces engaged the joint force and more than a dozen enemy fighters were killed in the ensuing firefight," a NATO statement said.
Eleven Americans, including another DEA agent, and 14 Afghan security troops were wounded in the crash, NATO said.
Military spokeswoman Elizabeth Mathias said hostile fire was unlikely because the troops were not receiving fire when the helicopter took off. She said troops had been rushed to the crash site to determine the cause.
The crash came less than a week after a U.N. report found that the drug trade is enabling the Taliban to make more money now than when they ruled Afghanistan before the U.S. invasion in 2001. The DEA sent more agents to Afghanistan this year to take part in military operations against insurgents who use drug smuggling to raise funds for their war against NATO and its Afghan allies.
It was the heaviest single-day loss of life since June 28, 2005, when 19 U.S. troops died, 16 of them aboard aSpecial Forces MH-47 Chinook helicopter that was shot down by insurgents.
U.S. forces also reported the deaths of two other American service members Sunday: one in a bomb attack in the east, and another who died of wounds sustained in an insurgent attack in the same region. The deaths bring to at least 47 the number of U.S. service members who have been killed in October.
This has been the deadliest year for international and U.S. forces since the 2001 invasion to oust the Taliban. Fighting spiked around the presidential vote in August, when 51 U.S. soldiers died that month — the deadliest for American forces in the eight-year war.
President Barack Obama mourned 14 Americans killed Monday and told a military audience he will not be hurried as he evaluates whether to alter U.S. strategy in the war.
"I will never rush the solemn decision of sending you into harm's way. I won't risk your lives unless it is absolutely necessary," Obama said during a visit to Naval Air Station Jacksonville in Florida.
Obama is debating whether to send tens of thousands more troops to the country to curb the burgeoning Taliban-led insurgency. Doubts about bolstering the U.S. force grew after widespread fraud marred the Aug. 20 presidential election, raising doubt whether the U.S. and its NATO allies had a reliable partner in the fight against the militants.
Afghan officials scheduled a runoff election Nov. 7 between President Hamid Karzai and challenger Abdullah Abdullah after U.N.-backed auditors threw out nearly a third of the incumbent's votes, dropping him below the 50 percent threshold required for a first-round win in the 36-candidate field.
Abdullah complained Monday that there were no assurances that the November vote would be fairer than the first balloting. He called for the head of the government's Karzai-appointed election commission chairman, Azizullah Lodin, to be replaced within five days, saying he has "no credibility."
Lodin has denied allegations of bias in favor of Karzai, and the election commission's spokesman has already said Lodin cannot be replaced by either side.
Another flawed election would cast doubt on the wisdom of sending in more U.S. troops.
With less than two weeks to go until the vote, disagreements have emerged between the U.N. and theAfghans on how to conduct the balloting.
Lodin said the commission hopes to open all 23,960 polling stations from the first round. The U.N. wants to open only 16,000 stations to cut down on the number of "ghost polling stations" that never opened but were used to stuff ballot boxes.
Meanwhile, security forces in Kabul fired automatic rifles into the air for a second day Monday to contain hundreds of stone-throwing university students angered over the alleged desecration of Islam's holy book, the Quran, by U.S. troops during an operation two weeks ago in Wardak province. Fire trucks were also brought in to push back protesters with water cannons. Police said several officers were injured in the mayhem.
U.S. and Afghan authorities have denied any such desecration and insist that the Taliban are spreading the rumor to stir up public anger. The rumor has sparked similar protests in Wardak and Khost provinces.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

New Stephen King e-book delayed

The latest weapon in the publishing price wars: Stephen King.
Scribner announced Wednesday that the digital edition of King's "Under the Dome," a 1,000-plus page novel, would not be released until Dec. 24, virtually the end of the holiday season and a month after the hardcover.
E-books have already been delayed for Sen. Edward Kennedy's "True Compass" and Sarah Palin's "Going Rogue" as publishers try to prevent the cheaper digital editions from taking sales from hardcovers, which, until recently, cost more.
"Given the current state of the marketplace and trends in digital book pricing, we believe that this is the most appropriate publishing sequence for this particular 1088 page work of fiction," said spokesman Adam Rothberg of Scribner's parent company, Simon & Schuster.
Thanks to an online price war among, Amazon and, the hardcover for "Under the Dome," "Going Rogue" and other popular November releases can be pre-ordered for $9 or less, a strong source of concern among publishers and independent booksellers, who cannot afford to charge so little.
"Under the Dome" will have the same list price as the hardcover, $35. and other online retailers have been offering best-selling e-editions for $9.99, which publishers worry is unrealistically low.
King, ironically, is a pioneer and champion of e-books. In 2000, his e-novella "Riding the Bullet" was initially offered for free and became an online sensation, downloaded so many times that Internet sites offering the book were overwhelmed.
In February 2009, when announced a new edition of its Kindle e-reader, King's novella "Ur" was offered exclusively through the device and incorporated the Kindle into the narrative.

Polanski lawyers split on possible surrender to US

Lawyers for Roman Polanski split on strategies Wednesday, with one suggesting for the first time that Polanski might voluntarily return to the U.S. to face justice in California for having sex with a 13-year-old girl.
Until now the position had been that the Oscar-winning director, who has been a fugitive for 31 years, would not surrender to U.S. authorities.
The new approach emerged a day after a Swiss court dealt the 76-year-old filmmaker a major setback by rejecting his release from jail because of the high risk he would flee again. Polanski, who has until Oct. 29 to appeal the decision, faces lengthy detention if he is unsuccessful in the bail bid and continues to fight extradition.
"If the proceedings drag on, it's not completely impossible that Roman Polanski might decide to go explain himself in the United States, where there are arguments in his favor," one of his lawyers, Georges Kiejman, told Europe 1 radio.
Kiejman could not be reached afterward to elaborate, but fellow Polanski attorney Herve Temime rejected the idea that the director's legal team was now considering waiving extradition. Both lawyers are based in Paris.
Polanski has not set foot in the United States since fleeing sentencing in 1978. He did not even return when he won the Academy Award in 2003 for directing "The Pianist."
"We continue to fight extradition, and for him to be free," Temime told The Associated Press in a telephone interview. "There is absolutely no change of strategy."

Beyond challenging the court's Oct. 19 bail denial, his legal team can submit a new proposal, possibly substituting a massive cash guarantee instead of his Gstaad chalet as security. They have also unsuccessfully proposed some form of house arrest and electronic monitoring as further conditions for his release.
The director of such film classics as "Rosemary's Baby" and "Chinatown" was accused of raping the 13-year-old girl, after plying her with champagne and part of a Quaalude pill during a modeling shoot in 1977. He was initially indicted on six felony counts, including rape by use of drugs, child molesting and sodomy.
Polanski pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of unlawful sexual intercourse. In exchange, the judge agreed to drop the remaining charges and sentence him to prison for a 90-day psychiatric evaluation. However, he was released after 42 days by an evaluator who deemed him mentally sound and unlikely to offend again.
The judge responded by saying he was going to send Polanski back to jail for the remainder of the 90 days after which he would seek "voluntary deportation." Polanski then fled the country on Feb. 1, 1978, the day he was scheduled to be sentenced to the additional time.
Polanski, a French native who moved to Poland as a child, has lived in France since fleeing the U.S. He was arrested on Sept. 26 as he arrived in Zurich to receive a lifetime achievement award from a film festival.
Swiss officials tipped the United States about Polanski's visit and set in motion his apprehension, according to documents obtained by the AP. On Wednesday, a top Swiss official defended the move.
Justice Ministry spokesman Folco Galli said the e-mails — obtained in Los Angeles by the AP under a U.S. public records request — showed that Swiss officials followed proper police procedure when a wanted individual is expected in Switzerland.
"An arrest is a big operation," Galli told the AP. "If we know a wanted individual is coming, we always ask if the arrest warrant is valid."
According to the e-mails, the Swiss ministry sent an urgent fax to the U.S. Office of International Affairs on Sept. 22 stating Polanski was traveling to Zurich. The director was to be feted at a film festival, and Swiss officials wanted to know if the U.S. would be submitting a request for his arrest since he was the subject of aninternational law enforcement "Red Notice."
"The Americans immediately confirmed that was the case," Galli said.

Kidman: Hollywood probably contributes to violence

Nicole Kidman conceded Wednesday that Hollywoodhas probably contributed to violence against women by portraying them as weak sex objects.
The Oscar-winning actress said she is not interested in those kinds of demeaning roles, adding that the movie industry also has made an effort to contribute to solutions for ending the violence.
Kidman testified before a House Foreign Affairs subcommittee that is considering legislation to address violence against women overseas through humanitarian relief efforts and grants to local organizations working on the problem.
Asked by Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif., if the movie industry has "played a bad role," Kidman said "probably," but quickly added that she herself doesn't.
"I can't be responsible for all of Hollywood but I can certainly be responsible for my own career," she said.
Kidman appeared before the committee in her role as a goodwill ambassador for the U.N. Development Fund for Women, known as UNIFEM, to promote the International Violence Against Women Act.
"In the real world, the laws go unenforced and impunity is the norm," she said.
The legislation has stalled in the past, but a sponsor, Rep. Bill Delahunt, D-Mass., said he and others plan to reintroduce it soon.
The Australian star told Congress that the U.N. women's fund needs more resources. "We need the money," she said.
Before the hearing began, a crowd of people lined the hall and around the corner to hear her speak.


Jackie Chan, Andy Lau to star in new Shaolin movie

The king of kung fu cinema is set to star in a new movie about China's famed shrine of martial arts, the Shaolin Temple.
Jackie Chan will star in the $29 million production, "Shaolin," the latest screen portrayal of the 1,500-year old temple in central China whose famous fighting monks have featured in films by stars such as Bruce Lee and Jet Li, and in the 1970s TV series "Kung Fu" with David Carradine.
Chan's Chinese-language film will co-star veteran Hong Kong actorAndy Lau, actor-singer Nicholas Tse and Chinese actress Fan Bingbing.
The production, said to boast 1,000 real fighting monks and a grand scene in which the temple burns down, will start shooting later this year for release in late 2010. It was announced in a joint statement Thursday by four Chinese film studios: the state-run China Film Group Corp., Emperor Motion Pictures, Huayi Brothers Media Corp. and Beijing Silver Moon Productions Ltd.
Hong Kong filmmaker Benny Chan, who worked with Chan on "New Police Story" and "Rob-B-Hood," will direct and Cory Yuen will serve as action co-ordinator. Yuen's credits include "Lethal Weapon 4" and "X-Men."
"Shaolin" will be an updated version of a 1982 movie, "The Shaolin Temple," in which former Chinese kung fu champion Li made his screen debut, playing a boy adopted and trained by Shaolin monks who seeks to avenge the death of his father.
The new project could draw more heat for Shaolin Temple abbot Shi Yongxin, who has been accused of high living and seeking publicity for the famed shrine in the Songshan Mountains of central Henan province. He has also faced criticism for upgrading facilities at the once-austere temple.
Shi has agressively promoted the Shaolin brand, and has threatened to sue companies that use the temple's name or image without permission, but the abbot is clearly on board for Chan's project.
"It's worth cheering that we are now working with the most outstanding production team," Shi was quoted as saying in the statement Thursday.
Chan has most recently been shooting a remake of "The Karate Kid" in China with Will Smith's son, Jaden.


Judge orders retrial in Travolta extortion case

 The trial of two people accused of trying to extort John Travolta following the death of his son in the Bahamas has ended in a mistrial after a lawmaker suggested the still-deliberating jury had acquitted one of the defendants.
Senior Justice Anita Allen said she was reluctantly ordering a new trial "in the interest of justice" because the politician's statement, in a speech broadcast on television and radio, gave the appearance of an improper leak from the jury room.
"The dilemma that we face is great," Allen told the court. "I am erring on the side of caution. Justice must be transparent."
Ambulance driver Tarino Lightbourne and his attorney, politician Pleasant Bridgewater, were accused of threatening to release private information about the January death of Travolta's 16-year-old son Jett at the family vacation home in Grand Bahama.
Lightbourne, who was among the medics who treated Jett, allegedly sought $25 million from the actor with the assistance of Bridgewater, who resigned her seat in the Bahamas Senate after she was charged in the case.
Jurors were still deliberating when lawmaker Picewell Forbes told an audience at a Progressive Liberal Party convention that Bridgewater was "a free woman." He did not go into details.
Immediately afterward, Alex Storr, the party's deputy chairman-elect, said Forbes had misspoken. He said the information was incorrect and no verdict had been issued. He apologized on behalf of the party.
But the judge said that Forbes' comment gave her no choice but to dismiss the jurors. She did not set a new trial date.
The jury, which deliberated about nine hours, had spent a month listening to testimony including from Travolta, who flew to the Bahamas to take the stand. Michael Ossi, one of the actor's attorneys, said his client would cooperate in any way possible and testify again if necessary.
"We are committed to seeing this through, and we are committed to seeing justice served," Ossi said. "And whatever the prosecution asks us to do is exactly what we will do."
Howard Butler, a Florida-based lawyer for Travolta, referred further questions to a publicist who did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
In closing statements, lawyers for the defendants, who denied the allegations, told the nine-member jury that their clients were set up by lawyers for Travolta. They also said authorities misinterpreted their actions.
The alleged plot centered on a document that would have released emergency responders from liability if the family refused an ambulance ride to the hospital for Jett, who suffered a deadly seizure at a family vacation home on Grand Bahama island on Jan. 2.
Travolta said he signed the waiver because he initially wanted his autistic son flown directly to Florida for treatment. But he later changed his mind, and the document did not come into play.
The actor testified that Lightbourne threatened to sell stories to the media suggesting that he was at fault in his son's death.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Newspaper column sparks Twitter rage, complaints

Britain's press watchdog said Monday it had received a record 21,000 complaints about a newspaper column on the death of Boyzone singer Stephen Gately after critics used Twitter to brand the article homophobic and insensitive.
Gately died Oct. 10, aged 33, while vacationing on the Spanish island of Mallorca. An autopsy found he had died of natural causes from pulmonary edema, or fluid in the lungs.
Daily Mail columnist Jan Moir wrote in a column Friday that Gately's death was "not, by any yardstick, a natural one" and said he died in "sleazy" circumstances, She noted that Gately, who came out publicly as gay in 1999, had been to a bar and invited a young Bulgarian man back to his apartment the night before he died.
Moir concluded that "under the carapace of glittering, hedonistic celebrity, the ooze of a very different and more dangerous lifestyle has seeped out for all to see."
Anger at the column swept social networking site Twitter soon after Moir's piece appeared on the paper's Web site. Actor Stephen Fry urged his 860,000 Twitter followers to contact the Press Complaints Commission. Other prominent Tweeters followed suit, and provided links to the commission's Web site.
Advertisers including retail chain Marks and Spencer asked to have their ads removed from the Mail Web page carrying Moir's column.
In a blog post Monday, Fry called Moir's column an "epically ill-judged piece of gutter journalism."
Moir defended her article, claiming suggestions of homophobia were "mischievous" and suggesting the backlash was a "heavily orchestrated Internet campaign."
The commission said Monday it had received "by far the highest number of complaints ever" about a single article. It said it would write to the newspaper seeking a response before deciding whether to take further action.
Irish boy band Boyzone sold millions of albums in the 1990s and had six British No. 1 singles, including "All That I Need" and a cover of the Bee Gees' "Words."
Under the British media's self-regulatory system, newspapers are bound to adhere to the commission's code of practice, which includes commitments to accuracy, respect for privacy and avoiding "pejorative reference" to an individual's race, color, religion or disability.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Most Emailed Photos

In this undated photo released by showing a dog modeling of the Halloween costumes advertised on their costume website. Ten years ago, it was hard to find a Halloween costume for a cat, dog or duck. Today they are everywhere from the dollar stores to Beverly Hills boutiques. Offline or on, there are costumes galore.

A model presents a creation by British fashion designer Alexander McQueen for his Ready to Wear Spring Summer 2010 fashion collection, presented in Paris, Tuesday Oct. 6, 2009

Obama praises Senate committee's health care vote

President Barack Obama pushed back against critics of his health care plan on Saturday with a stern warning that absent reform, costs will continue to rise and eventually devastate the U.S. economy.
The administration is trying to build momentum for the effort following a 14-9 vote this week by the Senate Finance Committee for legislation that would extend health care to millions of people.
Democrats hailed the vote as a victory, in part because the bill was supported by a Republican, Maine Sen. Olympia Snowe. But the legislation faces considerable opposition with the health insurance industrylabor unions and large business organizations lining up against it.
"The history is clear: For decades rising health care costs have unleashed havoc on families, businesses and the economy," the president said Saturday in his weekly radio and Internet address. "And for decades, whenever we have tried to reform the system, theinsurance companies have done everything in their considerable power to stop us."
Earlier this week, the health insurance industry released a study concluding that the Finance Committee bill — one of five competing House and Senate health care measures — would raise premiums significantly for millions of people who already have health coverage. The report drew intense criticism from the White House, Democrats in Congress and other advocates of the bill.

How to convert iTunes rented movie

HD movies are pretty hefty—about 2-3x bigger than standard def, running between three and four gigs, and then you get a bonus file on top of that, the iPod- and iPhone-compatible standard-def version—so I hope you've got some sick NAS storage for these whoppers.

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Thursday, October 15, 2009

Avril Lavigne files for divorce

Court records show Avril Lavigne has filed for divorce from her musician husband after three years of marriage.
Lavigne filed for divorce from Sum 41 singer Deryck Jason Whibley on Friday in Los Angeles.
The couple were married in July 2006 and have no children together. Lavigne cited "irreconcilable differences."
The 25-year-old punk-pop singer burst to fame with her 2002 debut album "Let's Go."
Lavigne is asking a ruling to block Whibley from receiving spousal support.
Court records show Whibley was granted a request to add Lavigne's last name to his name in December 2007.

Digitally altered model speaks on firing

Last week Ralph Lauren came under fire for (what looked to be) an extremely altered photo of a model in one of its ads. Bloggers at the website posted the image online, and lawyers for Ralph Lauren attempted to sue them for copyright infringement. Unfortunately for Ralph Lauren, this only furthered public interest and outrage over the dangerously thin looking model and, eventually, the clothing company released this apology:

"For over 42 years we have built a brand based on quality and integrity. After further investigation, we have learned that we are responsible for the poor imaging and retouching that resulted in a very distorted image of a woman's body. We have addressed the problem and going forward will take every precaution to ensure that the caliber of our artwork represents our brand appropriately."

Unfortunately,"addressing the problem" may have included firing the model, 23-year-old Filippa Hamilton. She is 5'10" and weighs 120 pounds--clearly more full-bodied than the photoshopped girl we see in the advertisement. Though Hamilton has modeled for Ralph Lauren since she was 15, the company let her go "as a result of her inability to meet the obligations under her contract with us." But the story gets worse: Hamilton says she was let go because she'd become too fat to model for them. "They fired me because they said I was overweight and I couldn't fit in their clothes anymore," she explained. "I was shocked to see that super skinny girl with my face...It's very sad, I think, that Ralph Lauren could do something like that."

Filippa Hamilton in a past Ralph Lauren ad
Filippa Hamilton in a past Ralph Lauren ad
Most of us know that a tall, young woman who weighs 120 pounds is not overweight. But Hamilton claims Ralph Lauren was dissatisfied with her body, and therefore fired her six months ago. However, the company continued to use her image, whittling down her arms, waist, thighs, and possibly several other body parts in the above ad. If they were so unhappy with how she looked, why not get another model for the campaign? Why use the photos and alter and distort them?

Today, Ralph Lauren himself is distancing himself from the ad, claiming, "The image in question was mistakenly released and used in a department store in Japan and was not the approved image which ran in the U.S." So we're confused. They say the photoshopping was an error, that Hamilton is "beautiful and healthy," yet they allegedly fired her for her size? With all these apologies and statements it sounds like the brand still has yet to accept responsibility for their actions.

Hamilton in Italian Elle
Hamilton in Italian Elle
Hamilton in French Vogue
Hamilton in French Vogue
When I searched for more images of Filippa Hamilton, I instantly remembered her—she was the face of Ralph Lauren's fragrance, Romance, has been featured on the cover of international editions of Vogue and Elle, and has appeared in many ads. She's a gorgeous woman. "I think they [Ralph Lauren] owe American women an apology, a big apology," says Hamilton. "I'm very proud of what I look like, and I think a role model should look healthy."

The truth is, models get fired or overlooked all the time for being what the industry considers overweight, we just rarely see or hear about it. Eating disorders are not only common among models, but they're also common among the women and young girls who emulate them. We're happy to see that Hamilton has come forward, and wish more models and celebrities would do the same. It's awesome and empowering when stars admit they've been photoshopped for an ad or movie poster and say how dissatisfied they are about it. With foreign countries banning underweight models from their fashion weeks, and the increasing presence of "plus size" models in women's magazines, we wish the unhealthy representation and falsified depiction of models—and women—would come to an end entirely. Do you think the day will ever come?

How Krispy Kreme lost its way

There's a truism among investors that you should invest in what you know, understand, and like. It's a common sense strategy: You spot something new. It's special. It's useful or innovative. It's cool and affordable. Let me buy some of that!

The response to that can be summed up in just two words: Krispy Kreme (KKD).

Krispy Kreme had been a popular doughnut chain in the South since 1937, but remained unknown to the rest of us until about 1996. That's when the first Krispy Kreme popped up in New York City, on West 23rd Street.

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