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Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Nissan "Premium Factory" Replaces Infiniti Brand In Japan

Nissan Skyline 370GT

After two decades, North Americans seem okay with Nissan's decision to market premium vehicles under the Infiniti moniker - but that may not be the case in Japan. Such uncertainties are the reason why the automaker's launching a new brand for Japan, called the "Premium Factory".


Launched last Monday, the Premium Factory label will be applied to the Murano crossover, the Skyline coupe (aka Infiniti G37 here in the U.S.), the Fuga sedan, the Elgrand minivan, and the up-and-coming 370Z coupe. With that portfolio, Nissan says the Premium Factory brand will focus on "comfort, quality, and high performance."

Those three attributes are also hallmarks of the Infiniti brand, but Nissan has a good reason for the shift. Here, people will recognize both Nissan and Infiniti as automakers - in fact, if you're lucky, you'll catch someone who knows they're related. That's not the case in Japan. Consumers are extremely familiar with the Nissan brand, but as Automotive News puts it, the Infiniti moniker "draws blank stares."

Source: Automotive News

Ferrari Opens Up Personalization Program for 599GTB

2009 Ferrari 599 GTB Fiorano

If you're like us, the regular Ferrari 599 GTB Fiorano is just not, well, unique enough (yeah, right). For such a contingent of discerning buyers, Ferrari began offering its successful One to One Personalization program last March in Geneva to 612 Scaglietti customers. Now, in response to the requests of 599 GTB owners, Ferrari has opened the doors to a new bespoke optioning program specific to buyers of its most powerful, Enzo-engine sports car.

2009 Ferrari 599 GTB Fiorano

The One to One process is differentiated from the run-of-the-mill dealership customization service by the dedicated Ferrari consultants trained to assist buyers in the selection of available accessories and optional features. Buyers get the chance to travel to Maranello and directly work with the consultants at the brand's dedicated 599 GTB Atelier. Although there is no exact number of personalization selections, we've seen our share of pink-cabin, baby-blue-painted, late-model Ferraris and are guessing it's in the range of thousands of available options.

2009 Ferrari 599 GTB Fiorano


Ferrari maintains any options selected will not be allowed to impede the car's performance and safety benchmarks, even if the customer is willing to spend a heftier chunk of change. Accompanying the auto-show debut of the new California drop top at this week's Paris motor show will be a mock-up Atelier booth giving showgoers a preview of what can be expected at the Maranello One to One shop.

Check back with us for more Ferrari images and information direct from the Paris show in the coming days.

Source: Ferrari

2009 Ferrari 599 GTB Fiorano

2010 370Z Positioned as 911 Fighter

2010 Nissan 370Z

Last year, Nissan first took on high performance exotic cars considered almost untouchable with its surprisingly fast and technology packed GT-R, and now, according to a report by Automotive News, the Japanese automaker is looking once again to give makers of serious sports cars -- namely Porsche -- a run for their money with its upcoming all-new 2010 370Z coupe.

Although no details have been officially disclosed, rumor has it, that in order for Nissan to accomplish such a goal, its engineers have shed its 350Z predecessor's (shown below) weight and length. Our latest intel indicates four inches will be cut from car's wheelbase, effectively dropping overall length by five inches. The downsizing of the car works perfectly with the brand's mission to reduce weight throughout its lineup in order to increase fuel efficiency and performance.

Of course, helping it compete with higher segmented sports cars is Nissan's latest VQ37VHR engine used by the current Infiniti G37 that will likely make at least 330 horsepower. Expected transmissions include a close-ratio six-speed manual and all-new seven-speed automatic. With a decrease in size and a bump in power, the upcoming 370Z could prove to be the best Z yet, from a performance standpoint.

"When we launched the current Z in 2002, it was a symbol of Nissan's revival, a kind of brand symbol, plus driving performance," Nissan Japan marketing manager Tetsuo Shimada said. "This time with the 370Z, we are focusing more on the driving performance, as a pure driving sports car."

Shimada named the Porsche Cayman and Audi TT as the upcoming car's chief rivals when it hits Japanese dealerships this December. Nissan assures us that interested North American buyers will only have to wait a short time after its domestic market introduction. When exactly that means, Shimada did not elaborate.

Nissan will debut its 2010 370Z at next month's L.A. Auto Show.

2011 Chevy Cruze Interior Photos


Revealed: Lamborghini Estoque


Not content with building the world's most extraordinary two-seat supercars, Lamborghini now wants to make the planet's most uncompromisingly sporty four-door sedan. The new Estoque, which is to be unveiled at October's Paris auto show, previews a four-door four-seat Gallardo-priced (about $200,000) Lambo supersedan. If it is well received, and the credit crunch hasn't wiped out too many Lamborghini customers, it will go into production, "potentially in four years," says president and CEO Stephan Winkelmann. It would be Lamborghini's third model line, after the Murcielago and Gallardo, and its first four-door apart from the Rambo Lambo LM002 off-roader.

The Estoque, true to Lamborghini form, takes its name from bullfighting -- in this case a 3-ft-long rapier used by matadors. What's bad news for bulls is good news for those who fancy a 180-mph or so (no top speed is quoted) 500-hp-plus V-10 front-mid-engine sedan that goes and sounds like a Lamborghini but also has space for four adults and three sets of golf clubs.

"Lamborghini customers own many cars," says Winkelmann, a dapper 42-year-old German who was brought up in Rome and who, with his tight-fitting dark suits, sharp ties, and tan shoes, looks more Bolognese than Berliner. "They currently own other sports cars, maybe an SUV, and almost certainly a luxury sedan or two. We would like that luxury sedan to be made by Lamborghini rather than by a rival." Equally, there are many customers who find the current Lambo models a touch too extreme. The Estoque is a Lambo that can be used every day, that motoring contradiction: a sensible car (more or less) from Sant'Agata.

The Paris concept car is a production-feasible machine and a proper runner, so there's no doubting the company's intent. If the car hits the showroom, volumes would likely be 2000 to 3000 a year, according to Winkelmann. That's almost exactly double what the Fighting Bull brand sells now -- last year's total was 2406 cars -- and a huge boost on the average 250 cars a year that Lamborghini sold from inception (in 1962) until the Audi takeover 10 years ago.

The Estoque is a long, low, wide sedan: longer and wider than an S Class Benz, yet only a whisker higher than a Porsche 911. Power, at least in the Paris concept car, comes from a Gallardo LP560-4 5.2L V-10 engine, though in production it would be tuned to give slightly less power and more torque in keeping with its more sensible-shoes image. (Current Gallardo: 552 hp, 398 lb-ft)

The engine is front-midship-mounted -- so behind the front-axle line. The gearbox would be a DSG-style twin-clutch paddle-activated semi auto; if the owner wants to drive it in full automatic mode, then fine. As with all current Lamborghinis, it comes with four-wheel drive. Unlike the current two-seat sportsters, though, the Estoque gets an electronically controlled center diff that activates the front drive only when necessary -- such as during a loss of traction. Most of the time, you're in rear drive only. This helps all-around fuel economy, says engineering boss Maurizio Reggiani (this may be the first time a Lambo engineering boss has ever discussed fuel economy). On the other hand Reggiani will not discuss top speed or acceleration. It's too early. "Top speed could be anywhere from 250 to 320 km/h [155-200mph]." Lamborghini also happily discusses the possibility that the Estoque could use V-8 hybrid power or maybe even a turbodiesel.

The style is the work of Lamborghini's Centro Stile, headed by American Manfred Fitzgerald who describes the Estoque as "the most extreme sedan out there today." He decries the "lack of a true Italian sport sedan" -- has he not seen the delectable Maserati Quattroporte? -- and says he wanted "a limousine that was elegant and sporty, a four-door vehicle in line with our core values of uncompromising, extreme Italian cars."

The nose is derivative Lambo -- note the vast nostrils devouring air for the benefit of the front brakes -- and the hips are wide and curved and almost a little U.S. musclecar-like in tone, embracing those big rear 23-in. (production-feasible) alloys. The wheelbase is a stately 118 in., the hood is long and wide, hinting at the substantial power that lies beneath. There are numerous ducts to help the beast to breathe, and the lights are typically Lamborghini reptilian, more slats than eyes. The front wheels are big 22-in. alloys.

The profile is long and low. If it is in most other respects sedan-normal -- there is little of the visual sweep or edginess associated with a Murcielago, not to mention an old Countach or Diablo -- that's because Lamborghini can't be too crazy with a sedan, says the pragmatic Fitzgerald. The doors open normally; scissor doors don't work when there are four of them, apparently.

Fitzgerald and his team at Lamborghini's Centro Stile did not look at great four-seaters from the company's past. So no pensive look at Marcello Gandini's Espada, one of the loveliest Lamborghinis of all and probably the most striking production four-seat car of its time. "We never look back," says Fitzgerald. "We only look forward."

The cabin is indeed futuristic, not least the Reventon-style fighter-jet-like LCD instrumentation. There are different presentation formats, from classical layout with circular instrumentation to full digital Top Gun display. Nappa leather is used inside and the four individual seats are multi-adjustable. DVD and hi-fi entertainment is available for those who tire of the fast-changing scenery and the V-10's engine note.

The floorpan is apparently "pure" Lamborghini, though, when you suggest that surely it makes sense to use some off-the-shelf Audi components for this sport sedan -- a breed of car at which owner Audi is a master -- then neither Winkelmann, Fitzgerald or Reggiani will demur. "Of course, we would use some group components but never that a customer would see or notice," says Winkelmann. Many of the sub-assemblies for this car may come from Audi or Audi suppliers, but final assembly would take place at Lamborghini's historic home in Sant'Agata, between Bologna and Modena, supercars' Silicon Valley.

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Done Deal- Bush Approves $25 Billion Auto Loan Program

WASHINGTON — Automakers are expected to accelerate their push to invest in new technologies to meet stringent new federal fuel economy standards, after President George W. Bush on Tuesday signed into law a spending bill that includes a $25 billion loan package to help the troubled industry.

The $25 billion loan package is the biggest federal subsidy for the auto industry since the 1980 bailout of Chrysler. The loan package was authorized — but not funded — in a 2007 energy law that requires automakers to improve the fuel efficiency of their vehicles by 40 percent by 2020.

The president's signature was the final step in the loan approval process and comes after a massive lobbying effort on the part of General Motors, Ford and Chrysler. On Monday, GM chairman and CEO Rick Wagoner took the unusual step of submitting to a videotaped interview on the corporate GM FastLane blog, pressuring the government to approve the loan package.

"Yeah, I have to admit I chuckle when people make this claim that the automakers are asking for help from Washington to get out of a difficult time," said Wagoner. "In fact, the Energy Security Bill of 2007, which was passed last year, included some big challenges for our industry, including us, which is to increase our fuel economy of our vehicles by 40 percent over the next decade or so."

Putting the onus on lawmakers, Wagoner added: "It was acknowledged that it would require huge investment."

The $25 billion in loans, he said, "from our perspective, it's fulfilling the other half of the deal." GM has said that the loans will help to speed the development of the electric 2011 Chevrolet Volt.

In a TV appearance on Conversations with Michael Eisner on Tuesday, Chrysler chairman and CEO Bob Nardelli said, "There is no one magic element in this recovery plan." Nardelli did not discuss the loan package, instead pointing out that "the product cadence at Chrysler is strong," with a new Chrysler 300, Dodge Charger and new Jeep due out in 2010.

Nardelli also discussed future technology innovations that the automaker is working on, such as a split-screen on the instrument panel that would allow the driver to consult the navigation system while the front passenger watches a movie.

What this means to you: The $25 billion loan package is only part of the solution, as the automakers in the Motor City are well aware.

Driving the Supercharged A6




It's not easy to get too excited by the 2009 Audi A6. Yes, some 234,000 examples of Audi's executive barge were sold around the world last year, more than either the BMW 5 Series or the Mercedes-Benz E-Class. But while the A6 sets the tone of Audi's styling look, it lacks the luxury chutzpah of the Audi A8 or the sporting finesse of the smaller Audi A4.

This car has always been eminently sensible, and so perhaps it's in keeping with the brand that this face-lift for the 2009 Audi A6 should be subtle. The aesthetic changes are so miniscule that if Audi's stylists were cosmetic surgeons, you'd be asking for your money back.

And yet the thing that has always held back the A6 has been under the hood, as the long-stroke Audi V6 lacks any trace of personality even as it goes about its duties with perfect composure. That's why the introduction of the new 2,995cc TFSI V6 could be really significant. This is a supercharged engine, and it's all about a bid to combine improved power and response with lower fuel consumption.

Back to the Future
The last time this car company dabbled with supercharging, it was known as Auto Union, and Professor Porsche's V12- and V16-powered midengine monsters were fighting Mercedes-Benz in titanic battles for grand prix supremacy during the 1930s.

Now there's the supercharged 2,995cc TFSI V6 for the 2009 Audi A6. (While the "T" should indicate turbocharging, the forced induction is provided by a supercharger, and even Audi is apologetic about this misnomer apparently forced upon it by some bright spark in the marketing department.) And like the Auto Union engines of the 1930s, it's actually meant to provide a wide, docile power band, not peak power.

Like the latest-generation superchargers we've seen lately, this compact Roots-type blower nestles inside the 90-degree Vee between the V6's cylinder banks, taking the place of the intake manifold. Two contra-rotating, four-vane shafts turn at up to 23,000 rpm, delivering maximum boost of 11.5 psi. Twin water-to-air intercoolers help improve charge density.

Audi's direct injection technology has been applied here, and a common-rail unit sends fuel into the combustion chambers at as much as 2,200 psi. The direct injection system also has packaging advantages, enabling the supercharger to be located behind the throttle in an area of low-density air. As a result, the supercharger is less of a mechanical drag on the engine. Plus the throttle response is good, because the location of the supercharger between the cylinder banks offers very short intake tracts.

The net result of all this technical trickery is an engine that delivers 286 horsepower from 4,850 rpm to 6,800 rpm, not to mention 310 pound-feet of torque from 2,500-4,850 rpm. Audi says the revised A6 will accelerate to 100 km/h (62 mph) in 5.9 seconds and then on to an electronically limited top speed of 155 mph.

Measured Against the Competition
The supercharged V6's power figures bear comparison with the 4.2-liter Audi V8, which musters 350 hp and 325 lb-ft of torque. The acceleration times of the V6- and V8-powered cars to 100 km/h are identical, yet the V8 uses substantially more fuel on the European driving cycle — 23.1 mpg for the V8 versus 25 mpg for the supercharged V6.

The new supercharged V6 also trounces the Mercedes-Benz E350's 3.5-liter V6 with its 268 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque, and can stand toe-to-toe with the BMW 535i's twin-turbo 3.0-liter inline-6 with its 300 hp and 300 lb-ft of torque.

The V6 even sounds good. The deep bass rumble of the V8 might be missing, but it's been replaced by a baritone voice of considerable clarity. Audi has clearly spent a lot of time tuning the exhaust and induction noises while dialing out the sound of the supercharger. Listen hard and you can make out a subtle whine, but it's hardly intrusive.

Meanwhile, Audi's six-speed automatic is standard with this engine and it proves an ideal foil. It's been tweaked slightly and it disengages the torque convertor at a standstill in a bid to reduce fuel consumption. It automatically reengages when you lift off the brakes. It's a slick companion and it's good to see shift paddles fitted as standard equipment, because if Audi is serious about building sport sedans, then such details matter.

Driving While German
The A6 has always been a big car. At 194.4 inches in overall length, it's 3.3 inches longer than a 5 Series and 3.2 inches longer than an E-Class, largely a consequence of its all-wheel-drive powertrain. And at 79.9 inches across the beam, this is also a wide car. You're always conscious of the 2009 Audi A6's bulk; this is not a car that seems to shrink around you like a Jaguar XF.

The Quattro four-wheel-drive system has been reworked in tune with the rest of the Audi range so that 60 percent of the available torque is now sent to the rear wheels and 40 percent to the front. In theory, this should alter the handling characteristics to make the A6 feel more like a rear-wheel-drive car, but in practice the difference is miniscule. The A6 is still a car that responds best to measured, precise and subtle inputs, a trait not helped by steering that still feels disappointingly vague.

Audi's engineers have also been to work on the A6's suspension in a bid to improve its much-criticized ride quality, and larger-volume front dampers help offer improved action with more precise control. Meanwhile, every test car at our disposal had been fitted with the optional air suspension, which offers Comfort, Dynamic and Automatic settings. Dynamic is downright harsh, while even Comfort fails to offer the bump absorption of an E-Class or XF. In our view, calling a car a "sport sedan" is no excuse for an overly firm ride.

The Audi Look
You'll need to be a dedicated Audi spotter to tell the difference between the old A6 and the new. There are changes to the grille, foglights and air intakes at the front, but you'd be hard-pressed to notice. The only obvious change is the introduction of six LED daytime driving lights in each headlight, an optional feature.

At the rear, the changes are more significant. You get distinctive, angular LED-type rear lamps, a more pronounced spoiler on the trunk and an aero diffuser beneath the bumper. The latter, one suspects, has more to do with the need to look different than significantly improved aerodynamic efficiency.

Within the cabin, you'll find some new materials, a bit more chrome and a reworked Multi Media Interface (MMI) that still sets the standard for these automotive joysticks, although it's now becoming a bit too complicated as more features are added.

The 2009 Audi A6 remains a very spacious, comfortable car that's beautifully built, but it can also seem somewhat stark and uninviting depending on the way it's equipped. There are too many blank buttons for a car in this price range and it lacks the cozy, accommodating feel of the Jaguar.

Updated but Maybe Not Improved
Let's get to the point. The new engine is a treat that should soon be successfully employed in the rest of the Audi range. (An Audi TT with this engine would be something to behold.)

The new motor is certainly well employed in the 2009 Audi A6. Audi's executive transport remains a finely crafted machine that scores highly for space and quality. The face-lift plays to the A6's strengths, but it fails to significantly address its key failings — namely an overly firm ride and a cabin that's still not as enticing as a car at this price level needs to be.

The 2009 Audi A6 continues to be exactly the right sort of package for the U.S.: spacious, easy to drive and sure-footed in every kind of weather. And yet just 12,000 examples hit the road in America last year. Clearly this car lacks some kind of magic, and we're not sure it's found it with this makeover.

Amazing Dolphin Vid..wtf


It's only a matter of time before those dolphins learn how to weaponize bubbles.

Top Draw Generates Eye-Catching Wallpaper

Mac OS X only: Today Google releases Top Draw, a nifty image generation application that rotates its creations on your desktop. Top Draw uses scripts to create colorful psychedelic images, and sets them as your desktop wallpaper with an option to automatically refresh at an interval you set. A Google Mac developer writes:

The Top Draw scripting language leverages Apple's Quartz and CoreImage rendering engines for graphical muscle. In addition to the drawing commands that are supported by the HTML canvas tag, there is support for particle systems, plasma clouds, random noise, multi-layer compositing and much more.

After just a few minutes, Top Draw's given me some beautiful images. Top Draw is a free download for Mac only.

Do We Live in a Giant Cosmic Bubble?

By Clara Moskowitz, Staff Writer

If the notion of dark energy sounds improbable, get ready for an even more outlandish suggestion.

Earth may be trapped in an abnormal bubble of space-time that is particularly void of matter. Scientists say this condition could account for the apparent acceleration of the universe's expansion, for which dark energy currently is the leading explanation.

Dark energy is the name given to the hypothetical force that could be drawing all the stuff in the universe outward at an ever-increasing rate. Current thinking is that 74 percent of the universe could be made up of this exotic dark energy, with another 21 percent being dark matter, and normal matter comprising the remaining 5 percent.

Until now, there has been no good way to choose between dark energy or the void explanation, but a new study outlines a potential test of the bubble scenario.

If we were in an unusually sparse area of the universe, then things could look farther away than they really are and there would be no need to rely on dark energy as an explanation for certain astronomical observations.

"If we lived in a very large under-density, then the space-time itself wouldn't be accelerating," said researcher Timothy Clifton of Oxford University in England. "It would just be that the observations, if interpreted in the usual way, would look like they were."

Scientists first detected the acceleration by noting that distant supernovae seemed to be moving away from us faster than they should be. One type of supernova (called Type Ia) is a useful distance indicator, because the explosions always have the same intrinsic brightness. Since light gets dimmer the farther it travels, that means that when the supernovae appear faint to us, they are far away, and when they appear bright, they are closer in.

But if we happened to be in a portion of the universe with less matter in it than normal, then the space-time around us would be different than it is outside, because matter warps space-time. Light travelling from supernovae outside our bubble would appear dimmer, because the light would diverge more than we would expect once it got inside our void.

One problem with the void idea, though, is that it negates a principle that has reined in astronomy for more than 450 years: namely, that our place in the universe isn't special. When Nicholas Copernicus argued that it made much more sense for the Earth to be revolving around the sun than vice versa, it revolutionized science. Since then, most theories have to pass the Copernican test. If they require our planet to be unique, or our position to be exalted, the ideas often seem unlikely.

"This idea that we live in a void would really be a statement that we live in a special place," Clifton told SPACE.com. "The regular cosmological model is based on the idea that where we live is a typical place in the universe. This would be a contradiction to the Copernican principle."

Clifton, along with Oxford researchers Pedro G. Ferreira and Kate Land, say that in coming years we may be able to distinguish between dark energy and the void. They point to the upcoming Joint Dark Energy Mission, planned by NASA and the U.S. Department of Energy to launch in 2014 or 2015. The satellite aims to measure the expansion of the universe precisely by observing about 2,300 supernovae.

The scientists suggest that by looking at a large number of supernovae in a certain region of the universe, they should be able to tell whether the objects are really accelerating away, or if their light is merely being distorted in a void.

The new study will be detailed in an upcoming issue of the journal Physical Review Letters.

Scary

No, I'm not refering to Putin.





What's next for Tina Fey?


Step aside, Oprah, TV's got a new queen. With Winfrey, Alec Baldwin, Lorne Michaels and American Express, not to mention members of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences leading the Fey fan club, it's clear that Tina's moment has arrived........

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Meat-eating dinosaur from Argentina had bird-like breathing system

ANN ARBOR, Mich.—The remains of a 30-foot-long predatory dinosaur discovered along the banks of Argentina's Rio Colorado is helping to unravel how birds evolved their unusual breathing system.

University of Michigan paleontologist Jeffrey Wilson was part of the team that made the discovery, to be published Sept. 29 in the online journal Public Library of Science ONE and announced at a news conference in Mendoza, Argentina.

The discovery of this dinosaur builds on decades of paleontological research indicating that birds evolved from dinosaurs.

Birds have a breathing system that is unique among land animals. Instead of lungs that expand, birds have a system of bellows, or air sacs, which help pump air through the lungs. This novel feature is the reason birds can fly higher and faster than bats, which, like all mammals, expand their lungs in a less efficient breathing process.

Wilson was a University of Chicago graduate student working with noted dinosaur authority Paul Sereno on the 1996 expedition during which the dinosaur, named Aerosteon riocoloradensis ("air bones from the Rio Colorado") was found. Although the researchers were excited to find such a complete skeleton, it took on even more importance as they began to understand that its bones preserved hallmark features of a bird-like respiratory system.

Arriving at that understanding took some time. Laboratory technicians spent years cleaning and CT-scanning the bones, which were embedded in hard rock, to finally reveal the evidence of air sacs within Aerosteon's body cavity. Previously, paleontologists had found only tantalizing evidence in the backbone, outside the cavity with the lungs.

Wilson worked with Sereno and the rest of the team to scientifically describe and interpret the find. The vertebrae, clavicles, and hip bones bear small openings that lead into large, hollow spaces that would have been lined with a thin layer of soft tissue and filled with air in life. These chambers result from a process called pneumatization, in which outpocketings of the lungs (air sacs) invade the bones. Air-filled bones are the hallmark of the bellows system of breathing in birds and also are found in sauropods, the long-necked, long-tailed, plant-eating dinosaurs that Wilson studies.

"In sauropods, pneumaticity was key to the evolution of large body size and long necks; in birds it was key to the evolution of a light skeleton and flight," Wilson said. "The ancient history and evolutionary path of this feature is full of surprising turns, the explanations for which must account for their presence in a huge predator like Aerosteon and herbivores like Diplodocus, as well as in a chicken."

In the PLoS ONE paper, the team proposes three possible explanations for the evolution of air sacs in dinosaurs: development of a more efficient lung; reduction of upper body mass in tipsy two-legged runners; and release of excess body heat.

Sereno, a National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence, said he is especially intrigued by heat loss, given that Aerosteon was likely a high-energy predator with feathers but without the sweat glands that birds possess. At approximately 30 feet in length and weighing as much as an elephant, Aerosteon might well have used an air system under the skin to rid itself of unwanted heat.

In addition to Sereno and Wilson, coauthors of the PLoS ONE article include Ricardo Martinez and Oscar Alcober of the Universidad Nacional de San Juan, Argentina, David Varricchio of Montana State University and Hans Larsson of McGill University. The expedition that led to the discovery was supported by the National Geographic Society and The David and Lucille Packard Foundation.

Contact: Nancy Ross-Flanigan

Phone: (734) 647-1853

YouTube Bumps Video Clip Upload Size to 1GB

YouTube is testing a new video upload tool that lets you edit your clip's metadata while the upload happens, and they're bumping the upload size limit from 100MB to 1GB. (Nice!) Here's the tester link to the new uploader. While you're all up in the 'tube, check out our top 10 YouTube hacks. [via]

Great College Pranks


A gallery of famous collegiate capers. You have to love college spirit, ambition, and creativity (all while, usually, not hurting anyone).

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New Spirit Trailer Is Tiny Beacon Of Light In A Sin City World





Frank Miller's The Spirit has a new trailer out - And it's mountains better than the previous acid-trip take. We've talked enough about how this is a bad Sin City remake of The Spirit, but for the first time, in this trailer Miller is presenting a vision of the movie that straddles both the campy and the dark without leaning too heavy on either side. Should there should be this much drama in a movie about The Spirit? Probably not but, at least from this point of view, it looks palatable. Still, I'm really on the fence if whacking someone in the nuts with a big wrench justifies all the dark green screen and scary movie-esque music.

I have a feeling that The Spirit is going to be loaded with lots of successful "Is every damn woman in this damn hell hold out of her damn mind," followed by experimental fail "Do I look like a good girl," but what you can say without a shred of a doubt is that this is A Frank Miller Movie. Does that mean that I want it to be Millerized? I really don't think so, but I'm sure that it's going to have lots of references for fans that will be pleasing and moments that will be cringe-worthy.

That being said, I enjoyed The Spirit's "I'm going to kill you all kinds of dead," Well, minus the Batman-esque whispering. Do I have more hope for this film after watching this trailer, yes., but do I still think that "toilets are always funny?" No.

What do you guys think: Is the new trailer a beacon of hope for this flick?

Optical Illusions Extravaganza



Fake 3D Perspectives

click here for more pics | digg story

Woman goes raw, loses more than half herself

Angela Stokes

Angela Stokes, 30, lost 160 pounds in two years after she adopted a raw-vegan diet. She now weighs 138 pounds.


By Jackie Adams
CNN

(CNN) -- Angela Stokes had never been overweight as a child.

But she steadily started gaining weight as a teenager because of an under-active thyroid gland. By the time she graduated from college her weight had ballooned and she wore a U.K. dress size 26-28.

"I was 300 pounds, very unwell, very miserable," recalls Stokes. "I ate junk food all the time. I was very closed down emotionally. I had no interest in dieting; I just wanted to eat all the time ... that was like my comfort in life."

At the time, she says she was so "emotionally shut down" she refused to talk to anyone about what was happening. The weight was also taking a physical toll on her health and she frequently battled infections and illness.

Stokes says living her everyday life became a challenge.

"My mobility was quite restricted ... I was unwilling to participate in things from cutting my toenails to going on a walk with my friends," remembered Stokes. "I tried to give this impression that I felt fine about everything, but inside I was in a lot of pain a lot of the time."

Two summers after she reached her heaviest weight, Stokes was working at a greenhouse in Iceland, when a friend lent her a copy of a book about the health benefits of eating raw foods. Stokes, who had never been interested in diets, says she was completely "absorbed" by the approach.

She started eating raw the very next day.

"Everything in my life completely shifted. It was like a light bulb moment to be like ... 'this is what I was waiting for to reclaim my health,' " said Stokes.

VideoWatch CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta report on Angela Stokes' raw diet »

She went cold turkey or "cold cucumber," as Stokes often jokes. She stopped eating meat, animal products and processed foods and instead switched to a diet that consisted of uncooked and unprocessed vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds.

"To me, the thing with raw food is that it just makes sense. It's simple and natural, eating food straight from the earth. There's no rocket science, no mystery," said Stokes. "Once you understand the simple principle that no other animal in the wild eats cooked or processed foods. That's it."

The raw food diet completely transformed her life, she says. Within the first month of going raw, she had her first boyfriend in more than five years. In just two years, she had lost 160 pounds and has experienced dramatic improvements emotionally, physically and socially and is "happier than I've ever been."

Andrea Giancoli, a registered dietitian and spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association, says everyone could stand to eat more fruits and vegetables.

"We all need to be moving towards a more plant-based diet," Giancoli said. "There are more pitfalls to a typical American diet with all of the processed foods and focus on meat than there are to a plant-based diet."

Is it healthier to eat uncooked vegetables? Not necessarily.

Angela Stokes
Stokes advises people to start slow by eating more raw, fresh foods they enjoy such as peaches, plums or spinach

"The raw diet, specifically, the philosophy behind it is scientifically incorrect," Giancoli said. "Raw foodists believe that cooking food destroys enzymes that are essential for the body. While that's true, so does the gastric acid or juice in your stomach.

"So those enzymes are broken down anyway in your gastro-intestinal tract."

Giancoli believes there's a nutritional downside to a vegetarian diet. People who eat no animal foods run the risk of nutritional deficiencies such as a lack of vitamin B-12, iron and zinc and the powerful Omega-3 fatty acids found in fish, she said.

Giancoli recommends people meet with a dietitian to develop a balanced eating plan before they embark on a raw food diet.

Stokes, who now weighs 138 pounds, has kept the weight off for four years and authored several books on "raw foodism" lifestyle.

What tips does she have for people considering a raw vegan lifestyle? First, start slowly.

"I recommend people start out being at least 50 percent raw and go from there," advises Stokes. "Maybe it ends up at some point you are completely raw, maybe not. As long as the majority of the stuff or at least 50 percent is fresh raw food ... then you're tipping the balance in your favor."

Stokes also advises people to start eating things they like such as peaches, plums or spinach and then slowly incorporate more fresh raw foods. She admits the lifestyle can be socially challenging and she encourages people to connect with other "raw foodists."

"It's great to get support. If you look on the Internet and around you, you may find pot lucks," said Stokes. "Read books to inspire you to keep going on this journey."

Matt Sloane contributed to this report.

Girl who bleeds without being cut baffles doctors

Twinkle Dwivedi bleeds spontaneously
Twinkle Dwivedi has a rare condition where she bleeds spontaneously from any part of her body
Photo: BARCROFT MEDIA

Twinkle Dwivedi, 13, has a strange disorder which means she loses blood through her skin without being cut or scratched.

She has even undergone transfusions after pints of it seeped through her eyes, nose, hairline, neck and the soles of her feet.

Sometimes her condition is so bad she wakes up with her entire body covered in dried blood.

Villagers near her home in Uttar Pradesh, India, believe she must be cursed and shout cruel things in the street.

Her frantic family have sought help from numerous doctors as well as preachers from many different religions without success.

"I am desperate to help my daughter," said her mother Nandani Diwedi, 42.

"We are not superstitious people but we became so desperate.

"We've been to temples, mosques, churches and sufi saints, but nothing has cured her."

Indian medics now believe her condition is an extreme version of a rare blood platelet disorder for which they cannot find a cure.

However, a ray of hope has been offered by a British specialist, who believes Twinkle may have a different clotting disorder, for which treatment will be possible.

Twinkle Dwivedi bleeds spontaneously from her body Twinkle's symptoms began when she was 12

Last year, Twinkle was a normal 12-year-old who enjoyed school, painting and playing with her friends - but then she suddenly started bleeding between five and 20 times a day.

"I was so scared," she said.

"It didn't hurt. But it was scary and messy, and my friends thought it was disgusting.

"My school blouse went all red. No-one would come near me or play with me.

"I used to cry nearly every time it happened. But now I just keep quiet."

Twinkle was thrown out of one school and another refused to teach her because of her strange condition.

Now she studies at home and rarely sees other children.

Her mother said: "I am very worried about her. She is very weak and pale from the blood loss.

"She is very isolated and depressed. She wants to get better so she can go back to school.

"I now believe doctors in India are incompetent. I don't think they can help her."

The first time the bleeding happened from Twinkle's mouth in July 2007, her parents took her to a GP who suggested a common ulcer.

But then, a few weeks later, the bleeding also started from her nose, eyes, feet and hairline.

Twinkle's parents took her to see dozens of different doctors who could not find a reason for her blood loss.

Her dad Aditya Kumar Diewdi, 47, a railway worker, said: "They told us they had never seen a case like this before.

"One doctor even accused us of making it up. Why on earth would we do that?"

Finally doctors at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences in Delhi decided she has Type 2 Platelet Disorder, a rare condition where blood is dangerously low in clotting particles.

They say her blood is watery and has the colour of a light red wine - but they cannot find a treatment to make it thicker.

However, a blood specialist in Britain came up with a different diagnosis and believes there may be hope.

Consultant haematologist Dr Drew Provan, of Barts Hospital in London, said:

"She may have Type II von Willebrand disease and she should see a coagulation doctor for treatment."

He believes her condition is not related to the number of clotting particles, but something called the von Willebrand factor, which helps platelets stick to blood vessels and blood to clot.

But Twinkle's family is poor and unless an actual diagnosis can be found soon, she will continue growing weaker.

She has already undergone several blood transfusions and it is feared she may one day lose too much blood too quickly.

"When I bleed from the head, my head feels very heavy," says Twinkle.

"When my eyes bleed they go really red and sore. It also hurts when I wash it after bleeding."

Twinkle has thee older sisters who are also extremely concerned for her future.

Her eldest sister Parul, 21, who works in a Delhi call centre said: "We pray every day that the doctors will find a cure for my sister."

Her mum added: "My family will do anything we can to help her be healthy again."

Top Ten Paul Newman Films

Chismillionaire disappointed with placing of The Color of Money and the omission of Slapshot.



Top Ten Paul Newman Films

A loving look back at the late star's finest screen moments.

By Emily Rems

Paul Newman in Cool Hand Luke
Paul Newman in Cool Hand Luke
Courtesy of Warner Home Video

When Paul Newman lost his battle with cancer on September 26th, 2008, at the age of 83, Hollywood lost one of its most enduring legends, and the world lost a true humanitarian. In an acting career that spanned over 50 years, he delivered countless great performances that kept audiences riveted to the big screen — and those intense blue eyes. But from his impressive list of 65 film credits, ten rise to the top as the true measure of his Method acting mettle. Here are our favorites.

10. The Color of Money (1986)
Newman won his first and only Academy Award for this reprisal of his Hustler character Fast Eddie Felson in this tough-talking, pool hall sequel directed by Martin Scorsese. Taking a talented upstart played by Tom Cruise under his wing, Eddie goes on a journey of personal redemption that picks up 25 years after the original film left off. But ultimately, his character sees the cheating and trickery that have ruled his life for so long in a new light once his protege adopts these values as his own.

9. The Verdict (1982)
Always adept at playing sympathetic lowlifes, Newman sinks to the occasion here as a hard-drinking lawyer who's seen better days, until a seemingly simple medical malpractice suit offers him an opportunity to redeem himself in the eyes of his colleagues and clients. The role won Newman a Best Actor nomination, and marked his later-in-life shift from heartthrob to character actor.

Robert Redford and Paul Newman in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
Robert Redford and Paul Newman in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
Courtesy of 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

8. Absence of Malice (1981)
Following a tip from an unscrupulous FBI agent, an ambitious reporter played by Sally Field writes a story that threatens to ruin the life of its subject (played by Newman) in this unlikely dramatic romance. A modern day morality tale, Newman wields his trademark defiance in this portrayal of a reclusive businessman who must clear his name after being unfairly thrust into the criminal limelight.

7. The Long, Hot Summer (1958)
This film marked the first cinematic collaboration between Newman and Joanne Woodward, a young actress who won Newman's heart off-screen as well as on, and who remained by his side throughout the last 50 years. The electricity between the two leads in this first of 10 films they would make together, featuring Newman as a smoldering drifter and Woodward as a Mississippi schoolteacher unsure of his advances, was undeniable, and still crackles onscreen to this day.

6. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969)
Newman paired up with Robert Redford in this amiable heist movie that became the ultimate buddy flick of the '60s. As the idea man behind the thieving "Hole in the Wall Gang" in turn-of-the-century Wyoming, Newman's rendering of Butch Cassidy was iconic, and his trek towards Bolivia with the law on his trail was the stuff western legends are made of.

5. Somebody Up There Likes Me (1956)
Based on the autobiography of boxer Rocky Graziano, this sports biopic was slated to star James Dean, but when Dean was killed in a car accident before the screenplay was finished, Newman was brought in, and the role made him a star. Playing an ex con who turned his life around in the ring, it was a gritty role for Newman, who had just made his screen debut two years before in The Silver Chalice, proving he could take on any challenge Hollywood sent his way.

4. The Hustler (1961)
As pool shark Fast Eddie Felson, Newman was the definition of early '60s cool, arrogantly taking lesser men for their dough in shady halls until his pride led him to bite off more than he could chew. Another in Newman's pantheon of damaged tough guys done in by hubris, Fast Eddie's re-emergence in 1986's The Color Of Money cemented him as one of the most memorable characters in Hollywood history.

Paul Newman and Elizabeth Taylor in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof
Paul Newman and Elizabeth Taylor in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof
Courtesy of Warner Home Video

3. Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958)
Arguably the best movie adaptation of Tennessee Williams' greatest play, Cat featured Newman in a brave and unflinching performance as Brick, an alcoholic ex-football star immune to the charms of his sexpot wife, played by a scantily clad Elizabeth Taylor. This role would earn Newman his first Academy Award nomination for Best Actor, and establish him as a nationwide sex symbol.

2. Cool Hand Luke (1967)
Taking up the mantle of bad boy actors like Marlon Brando and James Dean who charmed audiences with their irreverent portrayals of rogues and outsiders, Newman took his role as a rebellious convict in Cool Hand Luke and made it an eternal symbol of masculine defiance. Jailed for cutting the tops off parking meters, Luke's constant bucking of the prison system incites a battle of wills that tests the limits of his indomitable spirit.

1. Hud (1963)
Publicized with the tagline "The man with the barbed wire soul!" Hud proved that Newman was irresistible even when he was playing a selfish bastard. A ruthless cad known primarily for drinking, fighting, joyriding, and womanizing when not working on his elderly father's ranch, Newman's title character was rotten to the core. Whether trying to unload diseased cattle onto unsuspecting buyers or sexually harassing the housekeeper, he was always up to no good, and audiences loved every minute of it.

Honorable Mentions: The Sting (1973), Exodus (1960), Nobody's Fool (1994)

What's your favorite Paul Newman movie?

5th Grade Basketball Prodigy: Literally a Freak

This kid is amazing. Don't play make-it-take-it against him and don't race him in the mile. He literally has a physiological advantage that doctors claim is off the charts.


11 year-old baller. Kids in 5th grade and he does stuff serious 12th graders would have trouble with. His mile is ridiculous too, 4:50. What a little beast, I hope to see this kid in the NBA, he's got the work-ethic, as long as he stays healthy. Also, I apologize on behalf of the most annoying news anchor and reporter ever.

Camera sold on eBay contained MI6 files

The eBay sale of digital camera said to have contained MI6 images of terror suspects is being investigated by police.

A bidder, who bought the camera for £17 on the auction website, discovered photos of terror suspects, their names and fingerprints and even images of rocket launchers and missiles.

The 28-year-old from Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire, only found the secret images when he downloaded his own holiday snaps from the Nikon Cool Pix device.

He told local police about the find and was shocked when Special Branch officers arrived at his home days later to seize his new purchase.

Officers have made five visits to his home in the last week to quiz him and his family, The Sun newspaper reported.

A Foreign Office spokeswoman confirmed that the police were investigating but said she could not confirm or deny the intelligence service’s involvement in the probe.

She refused to comment on reports that the camera was sold by an MI6 agent.

Among the images which are reported to have been found on the camera is a document, marked “top secret”, which gives details of the encrypted computer system used by MI6’s agents in the field.

The material found on the camera is reported to be related to 46-year-old Abdul al-Hadi al-Iraqi, a high-ranking al-Qaeda officer, who was captured by the CIA in 2007.

Neil Doyle, author of Terror Base UK, said: “These are MI6 documents relating to an operation against al-Qaeda insurgents in Iraq.

“It’s jaw-dropping that they got into the public domain.

“Not only do they divulge secrets about operations, operating systems and previously unheard-of MI6 departments, but they could put lives at risk.”

Grocery list...Great Advert!!

First Greenfreeze Climate-Safe Freezer Launches in the United States

greenfreeze

Ice cream lovers of the United States, rejoice. Greenpeace and Ben & Jerry’s have teamed up to bring the first climate-safe ice cream freezer to the USA. The Greenfreeze refrigerator eliminates the use of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), an extremely potent greenhouse gas that has 1,400 times the global warming impact of CO2.

Greenfreeze technology has been around since 1992 and is installed in over 300 million refrigerators worldwide. But it wasn’t allowed into the United States until earlier this year when the Environmental Protection Agency gave Ben & Jerry’s the go-ahead to test 2,000 Greenfreeze units.

HFCs and other fluorinated gases are the most dangerous greenhouse gases that you’ve probably never heard of. Together, they are responsible for 17 percent of global warming pollution in the atmosphere.

It’s sad that the USA has had to wait 16 years to receive such a widely-used technology, especially since Greenfreeze refrigerators make up 40 percent of all refrigerators produced worldwide each year. But with the US on board, perhaps that number will jump even higher.

La Flor Dominicana Factory Press

A small group of cigar enthusiasts were among the first to taste La Flor Dominicana’s Factory Press III cigar at the pre-release dinner Tuesday evening. The event was hosted by Smoke Signals Tobacconist, and held at Pace’s Steak House, both in the seaside town of Port Jefferson on Long Island, New York.

The dinner included a course-by-course tasting of La Flor Dominicana cigars and concluded with the unveiling of the Factory Press III, a large, sharply trunk-pressed 6 1/4 inch by 58 ring gauge cigar covered in a dark, oily Connecticut-broadleaf wrapper. In addition to the broadleaf wrapper, the new release also distinguishes itself with its Nicaraguan binder. (Previous releases of Factory Press were made with Dominican binders.) The Nicaraguan tobacco was introduced to give the cigar a new strength and to vary the tasting profile from the last release. The filler tobacco comes from Gomez’s La Canela farm in the Dominican Republic. The Factory Press I debuted in 2005 as an ultra-hefty 6 1/2 by 60 squared-off cigar. When customer feedback requested the same concept in a smaller size, brand creator Litto Gomez released the Factory Press II, scaling it down to 6 1/4 by 54. But this generated a new clamor to restore the cigar to its original size, so Gomez compromised, making Factory Press III larger than its predecessor, but slightly smaller than the original. Factory Press III will start shipping to cigar shops in October carrying a suggested retail price of $12.50 per stick. It will come in large cabinets of 120, each containing 10 slotted trays of 12 trunk-pressed cigars. Only 300 boxes of the Factory Press III were made.

Places to Smoke a Stogie and Watch the Game

Anaheim

Yes, they're STILL called the "Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim," and they are easily the class of the regular season in the junior circuit, but Anaheim, in Orange County, is not Los Angeles, and Anaheim itself STILL has no cigar lounges. That said, there is a new wine bar about a three-minute drive from the stadium that offers the opportunity to smoke on its patio. It’s called Pop the Cork, its open late and there is a cigar kiosk nearby as well if you need to buy a smoke. It’s also very close to Disneyland. Whatever. Red Cloud Cigars Martini Red & Billiards, about 12 miles away in Fullerton, is a private club that charges $250 for a membership, though you might wangle your way in if they’re not real busy or if a member shows some mercy. Also in Fullerton is 2J's Cocktail Lounge, which offers a patio on which to enjoy a cigar and big-screen TVs for the true sports fan.

Pop the Cork
Katella Avenue No. 305
Anaheim, CA
714-635-4321

Red Cloud Cigars Martini Bar & Billiards (private)
118 Wilshire Avenue
Fullerton, CA
714-680-6200

2J's Cocktail Lounge
120 West Houston Avenue
Fullerton, CA
714-871-9665

Boston

I know, it’s a little bit lazy on my part, but basically there’s not much reason to change what I wrote last year about where to smoke in Boston since little has changed on the cigar scene there. My best recommendation for a pre-game smoke continues to be Cigar Masters. It's relatively close to Fenway Park or on the way from downtown. It's on the Green Line of the "T," Boston's light rail and subway system. (Click here to read more about cigars in Boston.) You can also check out Churchill's Lounge at David P. Ehrlich's and, in the North End, Boston's Italian neighborhood, there's Stanza dei Sigari.

Cigar Masters
745 Boylston Street
Boston, MA
617-266-4400

Churchill's Lounge
40 North Street
Boston, MA
617-227-0750

Stanza dei Sigari
292 Hanover Street
Boston, MA
617-227-0295

Chicago (South Side)
South Side or North? It doesn’t matter when it comes to enjoying a cigar. Illinois has a strict anti-smoking law — remember that the Big Smoke in Chicago was cancelled this year — and that has pretty much limited opportunities to some museum-quality tobacco stores.

Jack Schwartz Importer (south and west of the Loop; home of the free matches)
141 West Jackson Boulevard
Chicago, IL
312-782-7898

Up Down Cigar (Old Town, closest to Wrigley)
1550 North Wells Street
Chicago, IL 60610
800-587-3696

Iwan Ries (Loop)
19 South Wabash Avenue 2nd Floor
Chicago, IL
800-621-1457

Minnesota
In Minneapolis, there’s only one recommendation. Golden Leaf is about four miles from the ballpark and has some seats and a TV. Great selection. They just opened in Saint Paul also where, I must mention, you can also find Stogies on Grand, the only Davidoff distributor in the state. Probably about eight miles from the Metrodome.

Golden Leaf Ltd.
3032 Hennepin Ave South
Minneapolis, MN
612-824-1867

Stogies on Grand
961 Grand Avenue
Saint Paul, MN
651-222-8700

Tampa Bay
Cuesta-Rey Cigar Bar

Tropicana Field offers the “only cigar bar at a major league ballpark.” It’s a comfy little — 1,500 square feet — lounge where you can puff your favorite cigar and watch the game on the tube. The lounge is located on the upper level of Centerfield Street just across from the Batter’s Eye Restaurant. If you want to hit a real party bar, try out Gaspar’s Grotto in historic cigar center Ybor City in Tampa. They’ll let you smoke cigars inside if it’s not packed and they have great rums that tie into its hokey pirate theme.

Cuesta-Rey Cigar Bar
Tropicana Field
One Tropicana Drive
St. Petersburg, FL
727-825-3378

Gaspar’s Grotto
1805 East 7th Avenue
Tampa, FL 33605
813-248-5900

NATIONAL LEAGUE PLAYOFF CITIES


Chicago (North Side)

Yeah, yeah, the Baby Bears are in again. Great. 100 years. Billy Goat. Lots of fun. The bad news is that since last year, Illinois enacted an anti-smoking law that has reduced this once-great cigar city to a great place to eat and drink and watch baseball. OK, not too bad really, but no more puffing at Ditka’s or Gibson’s. Chicago, to its credit, still boasts some of the best cigar shops in the nation in which to enjoy a cigar and some of the most knowledgeable tobacconists anywhere. Which one you go to depends on where you are in the city, though Chicago offers the best train service to its ballparks of any of the places in the postseason. One thing, they’re not open late. I’m sure you’ll be able to find a patio or sidewalk spot outside your favorite bar on Rush Street after the game. My three favorites are:

Jack Schwartz Importer (south and west of the Loop; home of the free matches)
141 West Jackson Boulevard
Chicago, IL
312-782-7898

Up Down Cigar (Old Town, closest to Wrigley)
1550 North Wells Street
Chicago, IL 60610
800-587-3696

Iwan Ries (Loop)
19 South Wabash Avenue 2nd Floor
Chicago, IL
800-621-1457

Los Angeles

The interior of Ceniza Cigar Lounge.
L.A. and much of Southern California are actually much more cigar-friendly than reputation would indicate. I live here and so, without adieu, my geographically diverse, Dodger Stadium triangulating recommendations, all reviewed at cigaraficionado.com's Cigar Bar Central:

Buena Vista Cigar Club & Lounge
9715 South Santa Monica Boulevard
Beverly Hills, CA
310-273-8100

Ceniza Cigar Lounge
260 East Colorado Boulevard
Pasadena, CA
626-795-4664

J Restaurant & Lounge
1119 South Olive Street
Los Angeles, CA
213-746-7746

Milwaukee
It’s not that I was especially cheering for the Brewers to win the wild card — yeah, actually, I was, because I wanted to see the Cubs play the Dodgers — but since they did, take advantage of visiting John Hawk’s Pub. Start with a brat and a beer. Followed by a brat and a beer. Then have a cigar. Hawk’s has a basic bunch they sell there. The pub is about five miles from Miller Park at the bottom of the Wells Fargo Building on the Riverwalk in downtow. If you want to dress it up a little — and why the hell not? — head three blocks over to the Pfister Hotel (one of my favorites anywhere) and sit yourself down at Blu and take in spectacular views of downtown and Lake Michigan. They have cigars to sell you, but as always, take your own to make sure you’re smoking what you want.

John Hawk’s Pub
100 East Wisconsin Avenue
Milwaukee, WI
414-272-3199

The Pfister Hotel
424 East Wisconsin Avenue
414-298-3196

Philadelphia
The Phillies are in again and will not run into the Colorado juggernaut this year. It’s another chance to enjoy a cigar at Mahogany on Walnut. It’s really the only place, still. Buy a cigar downstairs at Holt’s Tobacco, one of the best shops in America, and get comfortable. (See my January 2006 review at Cigar Bar Central.)

Mahogany on Walnut
1524 Walnut Street, 2nd Floor
Philadelphia, PA
215-732-3982

U.S. Weighs Increase in Deposit Insurance

WASHINGTON -- Congress and the Bush administration are hashing out an agreement to raise the level of consumers' bank deposits guaranteed by the government, an idea they hope might bring enough support to revive President George W. Bush's planned rescue of financial markets.

Bush: Financial Security Is at Stake

1:05

President Bush argues the need for quick congressional action on a rescue plan. If action is not taken, he says, the "economic damage will be painful and lasting." Video courtesy of Fox News. (Sept. 30)

The Senate will vote on a new version of the rescue bill Wednesday if a compromise can be reached on this and other issues. Congressional leaders expect the vote could build momentum for passage of the bill in the House, which stunned Washington Monday by rejecting the $700 billion banking-rescue package.

Congressional leaders were also considering changing an accounting rule known as "mark to market" that some lawmakers blame for the financial system's volatility. The legislation would back up the Securities and Exchange Commission, which Tuesday gave companies more leeway to figure out the value of assets for which there are no buyers. Other possible additions: jobless benefits and homeowner tax breaks.

The move to boost deposit-insurance limits, which the White House has raised with industry players, received a boost Tuesday when presidential candidates Sens. John McCain and Barack Obama endorsed the idea. Both candidates planned to return to Washington Wednesday for the possible Senate vote. Sheila Bair, chairwoman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., which oversees the program, said she would support temporarily raising the coverage.

[Another Wild Ride]

"I'm willing to do this given the exigencies we're looking at," said Sen. Christopher Dodd, a Connecticut Democrat and chairman of the Senate Banking Committee. "This is a matter I normally want to give a lot more consideration to than 24 hours." Mr. Dodd said the Senate would vote on raising the FDIC limit to $250,000 from $100,000 for one year. Final details were still being worked out and could change.

These seemingly minor moves are part of an effort by White House and congressional leaders to rescue the president's proposal by giving it a running start in the Senate. Mr. Bush has said the plan is vital to ensure the proper functioning of the financial system. The proposal was defeated Monday in a stunning revolt by rank-and-file lawmakers, sending global stock markets reeling.

It's not clear if the measures will be enough to reverse Monday's defeat, although initial indications suggest they will attract lawmakers to the legislation. The moves wouldn't fundamentally change Treasury's proposal to buy troubled assets, but would add a populist tinge at a time when voters appear enraged at what many see as a bailout of Wall Street, not Main Street.

Federal law generally insures depositors up to $100,000 when banks fail. The limit hasn't been increased in more than two decades. Proponents of raising the limit say runs on deposits, fueled by consumer fears about the economy, have contributed to recent financial turmoil, and played a part in the collapse of IndyMac and Washington Mutual Inc. They say higher limits will restore confidence in the banking system by comforting consumers who might otherwise take their money out.

[Bair, Sheila]

Sheila Bair

Building Support

Congressional aides said a new proposal could build support among centrist Democrats and Republicans by addressing concerns that the Bush-backed bill needs more protections for Main Street.

Such a measure would also win the backing of community bankers, who have lobbied heavily on its behalf. The U.S. government recently began insuring money-market mutual funds temporarily. Bankers argue that takes away one of their advantages over those funds, which offer better yields than bank deposit accounts. The community banking industry is a powerful force behind the scenes in Congress and its clout could sway some lawmakers to support the bill.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average, buoyed by general comments from lawmakers suggesting a new deal could be reached this week, rebounded Tuesday after Monday's record 777-point plunge. The blue-chip measure soared 485.21 points higher, or 4.7%, to close at 10850.66, off 4.4% for the quarter. The new proposals also came as Ireland moved to buttress its banking system, and three European nations bailed out another major lender this week.

See a Photo Slideshow

Getty Images

A stockbroker looked at her screen in Frankfurt.

Adding to the pressure on Congress to act were some of the nation's biggest corporations, including Verizon Communications Inc., Microsoft Corp. and General Electric Co. GE Chief Executive Jeffrey Immelt is actively lobbying politicians and finance officials in Washington to complete the financial-rescue bill, said a company spokesman. To back up his message, Mr. Immelt directed his staff to compile evidence of the "negative ripple effects" throughout America from the crisis on Wall Street, including information on what is happening to customers and employees in all 50 states.

The unexpected failure of the $700 billion bill in the House exposed deep skepticism in both parties with the planned rescue and sparked a bitter round of finger-pointing over which party was to blame for the collapse.

In the aftermath Tuesday, the nation's political leadership at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue offered renewed pledges of cooperation. At the White House, Mr. Bush vowed to "work closely with leaders of both parties," a commitment echoed by Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.)

Congressional leaders are focusing on improving the bill that failed Monday in hopes of enticing enough lawmakers to change their votes -- 12 would need to switch, assuming all other votes stayed the same. In a series of private discussions Tuesday, the biggest focus was adding an amendment that would raise deposit-insurance limits for banks.

It's not clear why the idea of raising deposit insurance was left out of the original bill that failed. Republicans say they pushed it, only to be rejected. Democrats counter that it wasn't floated during the last round of negotiations over the weekend.

One problem: Raising the deposit-insurance limits could require that the FDIC levy higher fees to fund the program, which might have to come from the struggling banking industry. An alternative would be to temporarily waive the premiums that banks pay to the FDIC and have the Treasury be liable for covering losses.

The FDIC's deposit-insurance fund is already at a historically low level, with roughly $1 backing every $100 of insured deposits. One concern among several government officials skeptical of the idea is that it could be politically impossible to reduce the insurance ceiling after the crisis subsides.

The FDIC insured roughly $4.5 trillion in deposits as of the second quarter, and had $45 billion in the actual fund.

In supporting the move, the FDIC's Ms. Bair said it "would provide the dual benefits of providing additional liquidity to banks for lending as well as provide some additional reassurance to depositors above the current limits." She raised the idea of "potential borrowings from Treasury" to set up such a program, which would eventually be paid back through fees charged to the banking industry.

In the days after Hurricane Katrina, small banks along the Gulf Coast endured deposit runs, prompting calls by bankers in the region for a temporary increase in deposit-insurance limits. Depositor fears subsided, and the bankers backed off of their request. Amid the current market turmoil, similar runs have created problems for regulators and bank managers.

[Reid, Harry]

Harry Reid

"What we're seeing, in general terms, is almost irrational behavior on behalf of some consumers who are panicking," said Scott Polakoff, the senior deputy director at the Office of Thrift Supervision, which regulates savings and loans.

Building Consensus

The House and Senate, in observance of the Jewish New Year, did not meet Tuesday for formal business. With Capitol Hill largely emptied, senior lawmakers and their staff found much-needed breathing room to begin discussions of how best to build consensus for Mr. Bush's plan. That plan envisions spending $700 billion to buy up the tainted mortgages, securities and financial assets that are undermining market confidence and threatening to tilt the U.S. into recession.

Congressional leaders have other options, in addition to the FDIC concept. Among Democrats, for example, there was interest in adding new assistance for unemployed workers, as well as a new $1,000 tax deduction for homeowners who don't itemize deductions, a move that could help address concerns the original bill wasn't focused on helping "average Americans."

[Pelosi, Nancy]

Nancy Pelosi

Late Tuesday, the Senate leadership signaled its intention to fold into the market-rescue bill a package of business and individual tax proposals, including a measure to ease the bite of the so-called alternative minimum tax on middle-class families. House Minority Leader John Boehner (R., Ohio) "gave the green light" to the idea, believing the tax package will appeal to House Republicans, a Boehner spokesman said. But the move carries risks, since such tax proposals have been unpopular among moderate Democrats in the House.

'Reason to Vote'

Rep. Steve Cohen (D., Tenn.), who voted for the original bill, said adding a deposit-insurance increase might help pick up some conservative Democrats and Republicans. "I think you're going to find Republicans looking for a reason to vote for something that is a little bit different," he said.

Camden Fine, chief executive officer of the Independent Community Bankers of America, a trade group representing local banks, noted that the federal government bailed out two major banks -- Wachovia Corp. and Washington Mutual -- moves that effectively protected all funds held by depositors. That worries smaller banks, that fear consumers may leave them for larger institutions. Thirteen banks have failed this year, the most since the end of the savings-and-loan crisis in the 1990s.

On the question of the SEC's mark-to-market accounting rule, the agency issued guidance Tuesday that could give management more flexibility in valuing securities when there isn't a regular market for them.

Over the past year, some financial firms have had to write down the value of assets; under the accounting rule, if there is no active market, an asset's value would have to be cut substantially, even if it might be worth something in the future. That has eroded firms' capital base, making them more vulnerable to downturns in the market and reducing confidence among investors.

The SEC said on Tuesday that in some circumstances it might make more sense to judge assets not on what the market will bear, but on their intrinsic value -- for example, if they're from a highly respected company that is unlikely to default.

The move is less expansive than that desired by some business groups, which wanted the rule suspended altogether. But its implications are nonetheless significant, potentially giving financial firms a way to revive the value of assets that were previously considered worthless. Critics have charged that such a move would paper over problems and make opaque markets even harder to judge.

House Democrats who voted against the bill received thousands of calls yesterday from constituents. Most members' staffs said the callers agreed with them. Rep. Tom Udall of New Mexico, a five-term Democrat, received 831 emails in the 24 hours after the vote, as well as 300 calls to his New Mexico offices and 100 calls in D.C. "Both calls and emails are two-thirds to 75% opposed to the bailout bill as it stood yesterday," said Mr. Udall's spokesman Sam Simon.

White House spokesman Tony Fratto declined to discuss specifics, but suggested the president is flexible.

"There's no single silver bullet here," he said. "There are lots of good ideas that can help the financial-services industry and our financial markets, and we're going to look at all of those ideas."

[Banks That Went Bust]

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