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Friday, January 23, 2009

The Mustang GT has been transformed apparently

Ford Motor Co.
There's many reasons to wax poetic about the 2010 Ford Mustang GT. Take, for example, the special acoustic piping connecting cabin to the engine compartment, the better to hear the 4.6-liter, 315-hp V8’s snotty cackle. Or the taller, slightly more elastic 50-series Pirelli tires.

2010 Ford Mustang GT: Embracing the spirit of change

2010 Ford Mustang GT
Ford Motor Co.
There's many reasons to wax poetic about the 2010 Ford Mustang GT. Take, for example, the special acoustic piping connecting cabin to the engine compartment, the better to hear the 4.6-liter, 315-hp V8’s snotty cackle. Or the taller, slightly more elastic 50-series Pirelli tires.
If Ford can reform a chintzy, gimpy, flubbery, moronic mess that was the Mustang, anything is possible.
January 23, 2009
What interests me about the 2010 Ford Mustang might not interest you. I could stay up all night reading about taller tire sidewalls and their effect on suspension settings. You? Maybe not so much. I'm positively Nelly over the car's stiffer chassis -- hubbah! -- and cold air induction. You, on the other hand, might have more important things to think about. Maybe your dog has a kidney stone. Maybe feral parrots have taken up residence in your hair. Look, I'm no mind reader.

Maybe you're a wee bit distracted on account of the economy tiptoeing on the bubbling brimstone edge of ruin. Ah, well, that brings us back to the Mustang, doesn't it? If Ford can reform a chintzy, gimpy, flubbery, moronic mess that was the Mustang, anything is possible.

Only two years ago, I couldn't have hated the Mustang more if one had run over my tongue. The car was cheap and plasticky inside, unsorted underneath and uncouth all around, a car that seemed custom-built for the receptionist at an Alabama nail salon.

The 2010 Mustang -- while still far from perfect -- is summarily a more serious and charismatic car, with vastly better interior fittings and brass work, a keen updating of the boomer-centric sheet metal and (most important for me) a masterful revision of the ride-and-handling characteristics. These cars used to pitch, roll, over-rotate and flop around like a slain-in-the-spirit Pentecostal. The new car is the first decent-handling Mustang I've ever driven. Oh yeah, I said it. That just happened.

Here's the deal: Even if you care nothing about cars, you should take heart in the fact that Ford -- big, old, thick with vested privilege -- has managed so much reform in so short a time. As we ponder the depressing macrocosm and consider sticking our collective head in the oven, the Mustang's take-away message might be: Yes we can.

A bit of Mustang-ography: Born in 1964 from the loins of Lee Iacocca (as for the visual, you're welcome), Mustang is the second-longest-running sports car nameplate in the U.S., after Corvette (1953). For cost reasons, the original Mustang was built off the old Falcon platform, and somehow the tradition of sticking this supposedly sporty car onto the shoddiest, most obsolete rear-drive platform in Ford's larder lasted for decades. My family owned an early-'80s Fox-chassis Mustang. If mediocrity were a bright light, I would now have no retinas.

The current generation of Mustang came out in 2004, wearing the high-gloss, design-schooled "retro-futurist" sheet metal penned by Sid Ramnarace. The car looked super-cool. Alas, the same historical problem plagued it: a badly compromised chassis. Long after the market abandoned live-rear-axle geometry -- except in trucks -- the Mustang kept it because it was cheap, beefy and compact. And, for most buyers of the base V6-powered car, the live axle was a nonissue because those toupee-wearing wannabes weren't taxing the car very much.

However, when inevitably Ford developed its GT500 and GT500KR versions -- supercharged cars with 500+hp -- things got messy real quick. The power and torque of these engines overwhelmed the chassis. In December 2006, I called the Shelby GT500 "one of the creepiest handling modern muscle cars it's ever been my terrifying pleasure to drive." I was being kind.

Ideally, Ford would have completely redesigned the Mustang for 2010. After all, this car is going up against a very respectable Dodge Challenger and the new Chevrolet Camaro. I imagine when the program costs were laid out in front of Ford execs -- half a billion dollars or so for a clean-screen redesign vs. $100 million for a heavy revision -- the decision was made for them.

What we have here, then, is a small masterpiece of fixing only what needs fixing. First, the saddle work: Lots of new, rich-feeling materials have been poured into the cabin, including -- on the GT I drove -- great stitch-pleated leather seats and door gussets. The instrument panel has been remodeled -- now with two Crisco can-size apertures for the white-faced speedo and tach -- and a textured aluminum fascia pulls together the whole dash.

Meanwhile, the between-the-seat console has been cleaned up and the hand brake gets a proper leather-like boot. In up-level models, Mustang can be ordered with a huge, 8-inch navigation screen in the center stack.

The exterior re-skin, meanwhile, seems to pour a bottle of hot-and-ornery on Ramnarace's design. The lines are sharper, the contours sleeker and more contemporary.

The hood bulges with the effort to contain the engine. A signature design bit is the new, sequentially firing three-bar LED tail lamps, reminiscent of Aquarian-era Thunderbirds.

For me, though, the main thing is the handling equation. I drove the '09 and '10 GTs back-to-back around a large auto-cross course, and the cars felt like they were from different planets.

The '09 was exactly as I remember: pitchy, floppy and roll-happy, with lots of nose push and a tendency to multiply rebound energy corner-to-corner until the car was utterly out of shape.

The stroke of genius in the '10 car is the taller, slightly more elastic 50-series Pirelli tires, which first appeared on the Bullitt Mustang last year.

This fraction of additional tire softness allowed the engineers to stiffen and batten down the rest of the suspension -- shocks, springs, anti-roll bars -- without making the car a miserable paint-shaker to drive. The result is recalibrated magic: great transitional manners, great turn-in, snubbed-down body control, a delicious competence. Axle tramp has gone buh-bye.

There's lots more to this car, like the special acoustic piping connecting cabin to the engine compartment, the better to hear the 4.6-liter, 315-hp V8's snotty cackle.

There's a three-stage stability control system -- AdvanceTrac -- which lets you slide the car around like mad before finally stepping in to save your keister. Like I said, stuff you might not be interested in.

What you might find fascinating, though, is that the all-American Mustang, a veritable icon of Motown, isn't quite as washed up as we've been led to believe.

To paraphrase Emily Dickenson: Hope is a thing with withers.

Top 6 Bizarre Body Modifications and Plastic Surgeries

Just as sitting through an episode of 24 or catching up on the day’s TechCrunch posts is no longer enough to win the battle against boredom for today’s multi-taskers, getting a lift here, or a tuck there, in turn, now fails to offer the world’s body-conscious individuals an ounce of peace or satisfaction.

Though no one ever said the reptile look was going to snag any dates, it’s just one of the six most bizarre ways people are altering their appearance for better or worse… I’d say for worse.

6. Perma-Four Eyes. I’ve never had glasses, but I imagine it would be convenient to never have to search for them, to have them always be right where you left them. So did James Sooy.

If you’re not bothered by facial piercings and you’re sick of misplacing your glasses or replacing your contacts, James will permanently attach your spectacles to your face via a piercing across the nose. I actually don’t see how this is any worse than laser eye surgery or lens replacement.

5. Pointy Ears. I don’t know what kind of Orland Bloom obsession people have developed, but I hate to break it to them, no degree of ear pointiness is going to help them win him over; not only is Legolas a fictional character, he sails off to that magical elf land at the end of the last Lord of the Rings, and he’s not coming back.

Reported to improve music listening, this elfification procedure involves plastic surgeons making a slit in the top rounded edge of your ear. You’ll be stitched and bandaged up immediately, but nymph and nymphet wannabes be forewarned, you’re going to want to give yourself plenty of time to heal before flitting off to any “ring to rule them all parties.” The cut will need bandaging for weeks.

4. Eyeball Bedazzling. I haven’t quite figured out why people would ever want to risk compromising the integrity of their eyesight, but apparently for some, the dwindling power of that little glint from a nose stud or eye shadow glitter to attract attention is reason enough to do so now.

These little jewels are implanted into the eyeball using a procedure similar to eye lens replacement surgery. A flap of the first translucent layer of the eye is pulled back. Once the jewel is situated on the eye, the flap is then laid back into place.

3. Getting Horny. I used to think there was only one way for a guy to show a girl he was in the mood, but I’ve been fooled before.

In what’s sometimes referred to as transdermal modification, body art specialists place implants just under the skin. The implants typically heal just like a body piercings.

2. Get Your Snake On. In many ways I could see how having a tongue that splits at the end could come in handy. Oh wait, no, I got that confused with being able to read minds or shoot lasers out of my eyes at people who talk too loudly on their cell phones in public.

In a process called tongue bifurcation or tongue splitting, tongues can either be split the professional way, by using a splitting a laser, or the old-fashioned, by binding the hole of your tongue piercing with a piece of tight string around the front end of your tongue like this guy.

1. Feline For Life. While this guy violates all laws of nature, he follows almost all of the body alteration procedures on the list.

With the addition of full facial tattoos to stripe his skin like some kind of a tiger, piercings that are used for attaching whiskers, and teeth filing so he can more easily eat a diet of raw meat (yeah, that’s right), Dennis Avner is about as close to being Catman as you can get. True story… he actually holds down an office job.

Alfa 8C Drop top- Good Lord!

Black Dynamite: Red Band Trailer

Pictures of Michael Jai White showed up on Splash this morning, which is as good a reason as any to bitch about something: how come this dude isn't a big star? He's awesome. He should at least be a Jason Statham/Jet Li level star. Luckily things seem to be picking up. He did a lot with a little in "Dark Knight", and now, as first reported on Film Drunk, his movie "Black Dynamite" has been picked up at Sundance by Sony. If you don’t know what "Black Dynamite" is (and be warned this trailer is NSFW due to language and awesome tits) it's a 70's black action movie starring Baltimore Colts All Star running back Feronte Jones, Ebony Fashion Fair model Tambullah Quatar, Little Tiny T, Junebug, Bo Willie Peeps and Caption Kangaroo. This movies got it all: karate, bitches, and oh baby, talk about action!
Photo Photo Photo Photo Photo

Gobi Desert

Toyota Warns of Unprecedented Job Cuts

MILAN (Reuters) - A warning of unprecedented staff cuts at Toyota, the world's biggest auto maker, and word of a possible first quarter loss by Volkswagen piled fresh pressure on struggling car manufacturers on Friday.

The bleak news came after a halt in dividend payments on Thursday by Italy's Fiat SpA, the first European car maker to report 2008 results, as it headed into what it called one of its worst years.

As the global auto sector reeled from economic recession, plunging demand and production cuts, UBS analysts said they expected France's PSA Peugeot Citroen and Renault to suspend dividends as well.

European commercial vehicle makers also shared the pain of economic downturn with industry data on Friday showing a 24.4 percent year-on-year drop in the market for December.

Toyota is considering cutting full-time employees in Britain and North America, a company source familiar with the matter told Reuters.

Despite its efforts to limit the damage of the crisis with production cuts at its factories, Toyota still faces its first operating loss in history for the year to March.

In Europe, although Volkswagen's 2008 results are expected to be higher than the prior year, its chief financial officer could not rule out running a loss in the first quarter of 2009.

Hans Dieter Poetsch said the global car market could shrink 15 percent this year, echoing a warning given by Chief Executive Martin Winterkorn recently of "critical times ahead."


The U.S. government has pledged billions of dollars to support its auto sector and European governments are working on plans to help crisis-hit car makers.

Others had differing views on state aid, however.

Despite its problems, British luxury car maker Jaguar Land Rover said it did not want the government to bail it out.

Speaking to Sky News, David Smith, chief executive of Jaguar Land Rover, a unit of India's Tata Motors, said he wanted credit to start flowing again, either from direct lending or state-backed loans.

And a U.S. Democratic senator urged President Barack Obama to require Chrysler LLC to repay the billions of dollars in loans it received from the government if Fiat should take a controlling stake in it.

Fiat announced a partnership with Chrysler on Tuesday in a move that is likely to push other car makers to seek more alliances to cut costs in the face of plunging sales in the worst crisis to hit the industry in decades.

One small, bright spot came out of China, where FAW Car Co, a unit of one of China's largest auto makers, posted a 90-120 percent net profit rise for 2009.

(Editing by David Cowell)

Best 25 Financial Blogs

It has been over a year since we published our feature "The 25 Best Financial Blogs." A great deal has changed. Some of the blogs on the list are gone or no longer have regular posts. Others have grown and become better.

This is a list of independent blogs. However, several major media outlets have excellent blog sections. David Gaffen at,'s Apple 2.0 blog,'s Fine On Media, and BloggingStocks at AOL (24/7 contributes content to this site). Obviously, these blogs have a level of financial support that independent blogs do not enjoy. Their writers are paid salaries. They have greater exposure due to their relationship with larger websites. They are excellent, but really should not be compared with websites operated by one person or a small group of individuals. Nevertheless, they should be recognized for their own commentary as well as the exposure that they give to independent blogs.

Financial information on blog sites is not readily available. Most financial blogs are much too small to bring in enough direct revenue to support their writers. Some have newsletters, but it is impossible to know what they yield. A number run Google AdSense links on their sites to generate ad revenue, but, based on data gathered from a few financial blogs, if a site is not in the top of its category as measured by audience tracking sites like Quantcast, Alexa and Compete, it is unlikely to have enough revenue to support even one or two people.

Financial blogs end up being either labors of love or ways to promote small money management or paid newsletter businesses. It would seem to be a tough way to make a living.

Over the last month 24/7 Wall St. has looked at more than 100 financial blog websites. The list came from those blogs mentioned at major media sites and the largest aggregators of financial blogs, SeekingAlpha and BloggingStocks. We also reviewed the lists of "blogrolls" —favorite blog lists—at long-established financial blogs like The Kirk Report and financial commentary sites like Minyanville.

After we narrowed the number of financial blogs down to about 50, we tracked posts for several weeks before picking the final twenty-five.

Original content was our most important measurement: specifically, content that was well-written, well-researched and crisp. Blogs that were mostly aggregations of content from mainstream media did not make the cut. This meant that the majority of the copy had to be directly written by the blog's author(s).

Blogs that used profanity were also excluded from the list. It is well recognized that traders are a notoriously bawdy bunch. And, unfortunately, a number of these blogs are incredibly insightful. However, our aim was to create a list that avoided offending any of our reader's delicate sensibilities.

Anonymous blogs also did not make the cut. It is too difficult to understand the agenda of a blog where readers cannot figure out the writer's identity and potential motivations.

The final major metric was frequency of posting. If a blog had very good content, but the author only posts once or twice a month, it becomes too hard to follow without referring back to the same story and waiting for weeks for it to change.

24/7 Wall St. also looked at how well read the blogs were based on the number of other blogs that linked to each websites on our list. These figures were provided by Technorati, the internet's leading blog search engine. (Because Technorati indexes more than 1.5 million new blog posts in real time, these numbers are subject to change.) This is the one audience or traffic metric that is universally available for all the websites on the list.

Here are Top 25 financial blogs, in no special order:

1. Mish's Global Economic Trend Analysis (7,903 links). Although Mish (aka Mike Shedlock) is not an economist by training, he adroitly gets into the thick of economic data. Mish uses observations made by those in major media, so-called experts and government officials and serves up analysis based on his impression of their relevance and validity. The author is not afraid to attack conventional wisdom.

2. (598 links). The blog's author, Michelle Leder, digs through SEC filings and comes up with some of the best insights about the "hidden" comments found in 8Ks, 10Qs, and other government filings that rarely get as careful a review. This is one of the oldest financial blogs, founded in 2003.

3. Bill Cara's Cara Community (389 links) analyzes the capital markets, stock movements, and the economy with an eye to technical guides including volatility, cash flows, trading volume, and price performance and is prolific almost beyond comparison.

4. Infectious Greed (3,822 links) Blogger, Paul Kedrosky, is considered one the preeminent financial market pundits. His site reflects the perspective of a former technology analyst, institutional money manager, and venture capitalist. Infectious greed provides a running commentary on global markets, economic trends, and emerging business trends.

5. Bespoke Invest, also known as "Think Big" (6,112 links), is the blog for a money management and research firm. The site provides a combination of technical analysis and commentary on macroeconomic trends, major sectors of the stock market, and currencies.

6. Angry Bear (2,447 links) is the product of a half dozen Ph.D economists, an historian, and financial professionals. The writers provide individual perspectives on broad sectors of the economy based on their unique training. They look at topics as varied as worldwide trade and industrial production and US government programs and regulations like Social Security.

7.The Big Picture by Barry Ritholtz (11,223 links) has recently moved to Ritholtz is one of the most well-respected market and economic pundits and bloggers who manages money as his day job. Multiple posts a day on subjects as diverse as criticisms of the business press, digital media, and key economic indicators. An excellent job of using relevant and interesting charts, tables, and graphs.

8. Naked Shorts (833 links) covers ETFs, hedge funds, monetary policy, and current events. Bangs on hedgies and the accounting profession and its practices. Not fond of the practices of many US government agencies.

9. A VC (2,777 links). Long-time venture capitalist Fred Wilson passes along his opinions on new technology and how it converges with emerging parts of the economy. Wilson talks in detail about where he is investing his venture capital money and why. His Union Square Ventures has taken positions in new ventures including, Feedburner, and Twitter.

10. SeekingAlpha (63,563 links), the grandfather of financial blog aggregation, also has its own editors and columnists. This is by far the largest collection of financial blog posts in the world. Readers who want to find articles from hundreds of sites get a one-stop-shop at SeekingAlpha. If it were not for this website, a large number of blogs would have almost no readers.

11. Clusterstock (1,613) links) follows and comments on business, the stock market, and economic news throughout the day. It has a staff of several outstanding writers lead by Henry Blodget. Articles by John Carney are particularly good. It is now combined with another strong site called Silicon Alley Insider.

12. 1440 Wall Street (1,216 link). Although the site is "intended for the institutional equities crowd," we won't hold it against them - it's still very good. Covers money markets, sell side, buy side, private equity, Wall St. research, and media. Strong analysis. Strong on multimedia.

13. The Kirk Reports (1,571 links). This is one of the oldest financial blogs and it has been consistently good. It has a number of articles which are simply links to other sites. Strong on stock analysis, market recommendations, and volume investing. Too bad some of the content requires being a "member."

14. Calculated Risk (11,057 links) is among the most thoughtful and thorough financial commentary on the internet. Period. Tears apart poor economic assumptions. Gets to the heart of the elements that move the economy and markets. Big focus on housing and economic analysis.

15. Abnormal Returns (1,009 links). Disregarding our own rules for what blogs should be on this list, this site is the only one that simply provides lists of links to other financial sites. However, there's a reason we're making an exception as these are carefully selected and come with good short intros. Links are regularly organized by subject.

16. Trader Feed (2,437 links). The author, Brett Steenbarger, is one of the most intelligent voices in the financial blog business. Strong on technical analysis, broad market commentary, and the psychology behind trading behavior.

17. Alpha Trends (1,046 links). Extremely strong technical analysis. Good video commentary which it claims is the highest subscription membership for financial videos on YouTube. Covers stocks, ETF, and index movement.

18. Econ Browser (6,597 links). Run by two professors, both with economic backgrounds. What readers would expect from academics looking at the markets. Indepth and often complex analysis of a broad range of topics from infrastructure to policy making to consumer spendings. More than any other site on this list, Econ Browser is not for sisses.

19. Peridot Capitalist (192 links). Written by a money manager, one of the oldest and better regarded financial blogs. Good corporate earnings analysis and looks at undervalued stocks.

20. Information Arbitrage (957 links) The author has been in the M&A and derivatives businesses for some time. Strong and rich commentary on current financial events, investment risks and rewards, and the current credit and economic crisis.

21. Maoxian (290 links). Strong pieces on day trading, technical trading, balance sheets, and ETFs. Strange graphics. Writer tries to be anonymous, but it hasn't worked.

22. 10Q Detective (277 links). Writer has been an equity analyst. Good at digging through government filings to find information for investors which is both helpful and sometimes amusing. Good place to read how public companies "game" the process of SEC reporting.

23. Ticker Sense (538 links). This site may be the most well known for its weekly poll of financial blogger sentiments about the market. Written by money management firm Birinyi Associates. Has excellent analysis of global economy and major sectors of the stock market. Use of tables and graphs is among the best.

24. Upside Trader (356 links) Good technical analysis which follows the market carefully. Strong charting on individual companies. Great place for day traders.

25. Carl Futia (133 links). One of the best financial forecasting blogs. Employs various technical analysis including some he has developed. Notable for his thoughtful and approachable writing. Posts very regularly.

2009 NBA All-Star Starters Revealed

By Art Garcia,

Upon learning about his selection as an All-Star Game starter, an appreciative Dwight Howard turned the attention back to his Orlando Magic brethren.

LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers
King James and the Cavs are undefeated at home and running away with the Central Division. LeBron (27.8 ppg, 7.2 rpg, 6.8 apg) is working on another season for the ages.
Kevin Garnett, Boston Celtics
KG and the Boston Three Party have rebounded nicely from their early-January hiccup. Garnett (16.1 ppg, 9.2 rpg) continues to deliver whatever it takes to win.
Dwight Howard, Orlando Magic
Superman never looked this good. The double-double factory is racking up stats (20.2 ppg, 14.1 rpg, 3.2 bpg) while Orlando piles up the wins.
Allen Iverson, Detroit Pistons
No longer a one-man show or half of a dynamic duo, AI (17.9 ppg, 5.4 apg) is blending his considerable skills into an ensemble cast that's used to winning big.
Dwyane Wade, Miami Heat
D-Wade is healthy and hungry and refocused. He's back among the league leaders in scoring (28.8 ppg) and Miami is back in the East playoff hunt.

"I truly want to thank the fans for voting for me," said Howard, the first player in balloting history to crack 3 million votes. "It's an honor to take part in All-Star Weekend. I hope to share the experience with my teammates as well.

"With the way we have played, Jameer Nelson [shown with Howard, above], Rashard Lewis and Hedo Turkoglu all deserve All-Star honors."

Let the lobbying begin.

The Superman cape-wearing Howard -- a second-time All-Star starter and the reigning slam dunk champ -- and the rest of the 2009 NBA All-Star Game starters were formally announced Thursday night on TNT. The Eastern and Western Conference starting fives were chosen from fans by voting at NBA arenas, and on wireless devices.

The East squad consists of Howard at center, forwards LeBron James (Cavaliers) and Kevin Garnett (Celtics) and guards Dwyane Wade (Heat) and Allen Iverson (Pistons). Lakers guard Kobe Bryant headlines the West team that includes fellow guard Chris Paul (Hornets), forwards Tim Duncan (Spurs) and Amar'e Stoudemire (Suns) and center Yao Ming (Rockets).

Phoenix is hosting the 58th All-Star Game on Sunday, Feb. 15. The midseason classic is being broadcast by TNT, ESPN Radio and in more than 200 countries and territories worldwide. The All-Star Game is returning to the Valley of the Sun for the first time since 1995.

Yao Ming, Houston Rockets
In Houston's first half of uncertainty, Yao (19.9 ppg, 9.6 rpg) has been a 7-foot-6 rock. Where would the Rockets be without him?
Amar'e Stoudemire, Phoenix Suns
Anyway you spell it, he's back. Phoenix's leading scorer (21.3 ppg) is bound to give the hometown fans a special treat come February.
Tim Duncan, San Antonio Spurs
If efficient is boring, winning must be too. San Antonio's anchor is putting together another stellar campaign (20.4 ppg, 10.2 rpg, 3.5 apg) without much fanfare.
Kobe Bryant, L.A. Lakers
His team is cruising in the West and Kobe (26.8 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 5.2 apg) is doing the same. Could No. 24 be headed to a second straight MVP?
Chris Paul, New Orleans Hornets
CP3 will have something to say in the MVP votes. The do-it-all quarterback leads the league in assists (11.0) and steals (2.7), while scoring 21.2 ppg.

For many of the starters, this is old hat. Garnett is an All-Star for the 12th time, while Bryant and Duncan are making their 11th trip each. Iverson is up to 10. Yao is a perfect seven for seven; seven years in the league and seven starting nods.

"Making the All-Star Team is a gift, a beautiful gift," said Garnett, who ranks second to Shaquille O'Neal's 14 selections among active players. "It is like riding a wave on a boogie board. You get a good wave and you just keep riding the enjoyment and fun as long as you can.

"It is also an honor to make the team as fans have recognized you for your hard work, team and individual play."

AI echoed those sentiments.

"It's always an honor to be named an All-Star and it's a blessing to be in this league," said Iverson, twice the Game's MVP. "Being named an All-Star makes it that much more special. The fact that the fans have voted me onto the team makes this a great honor and it's truly appreciated."

Among the young guard, two-time All-Star Game MVP James and Wade are up to five appearances each. Paul is on the team for the second time and first as a starter. The fourth berth is especially sweet for Stoudemire because it's coming in front of his hometown fans.

Everyone, though, appreciates the gift from the NBA's fans.

Top 10 single-season All-Star vote-getters
Rank Player (Team) Year Votes
1. Dwight Howard (Magic) 2009 3,150,181
2. LeBron James (Cavaliers) 2009 2,940,823
3. Kobe Bryant (Lakers) 2009 2,805,397
4. Dwyane Wade (Heat) 2009 2,741,413
5. Tim Duncan (Spurs) 2009 2,578,168
6. Yao Ming (Rockets) 2005 2,558,278
7. Yao Ming (Rockets) 2009 2,532,958
8. LeBron James (Cavaliers) 2007 2,516,049
9. Yao Ming (Rockets) 2007 2,451,718
10. Michael Jordan (Bulls) 1997 2,451,136

"It's awesome to be a starter in the All-Star game," said James, the MVP in 2006 and '08. "A lot of fans respect the way I play the game of basketball and the way I approach the game every night. Much respect and much love for the fans out there who voted me again as a starter."

Howard has a week to find out if any of his teammates from the Southeast Division-leading Magic are also making the trip to Phoenix. The remaining spots on the two 12-man All-Star teams are chosen from a vote of conference coaches, with TNT announcing the reserves Jan. 29.

One coach already has been decided, with Lakers' skipper Phil Jackson earning the West nod. Coaches are based on teams with the best winning percentage as of Feb. 1. Spurs coach Gregg Popovich could conceivably catch Jackson by the deadline, but the Zen Master wins a tiebreaker since Pop coached an All-Star Game most recently.

Stan Van Gundy (Magic) and Mike Brown (Cavs) are the leading candidates to coach the East. Last year's All-Star coaches -- Boston's Doc Rivers and New Orleans' Byron Scott -- are not eligible to coach this year.

Lie of Omission

Far side of the moon 'could have been visible from earth'

The far side of the moon could have been visible from earth billions of years ago, a new study suggests.

The Moon: Far side of the moon 'could have been visible from earth'
The Moon: Scientists believe that the impact of a large asteroid hitting it could have flipped it around, turning a different side that we now see towards earth Photo: PA

The relative rotations of the moon and the earth mean that only the one side is ever visible.

However, scientists believe that the impact of a large asteroid hitting the moon could have flipped it around, turning a different side that we now see towards earth.

A study of craters on the far side of the moon suggests that it was hit by a large object around 3.9 billion years ago.

More craters should have been found on the western hemisphere than the eastern side, scientists speculated, because of the way that debris from space currently hits the satellite.

But a study by Mark Wieczorek and Matthieu Le Feuvrem, from the Paris Institute of Earth Physics in France, found the opposite to be true.

The research into the age and location of 46 craters found that there were more older craters on the eastern side.

The findings, reported in New Scientist magazine, suggest that the eastern hemisphere once faced more impact from asteroids than the western side, only possible if the moon faced the other way.

The scientists believe that this could have happened if a large asteroid had caused the moon to begin to turn very slowly for tens of thousands of years until it stopped in the position it is now.

Chrysler Uses Bailout Cash For "Terminator Salvation" Cameo

DETROIT, Jan 20 (Reuters) - Just as Chrysler LLC announced a sequel to its ownership saga, the struggling automaker also unveiled plans to help underwrite the fourth installment of the "Terminator" movie series.

Chrysler, which has received $4 billion in emergency aid from the U.S. government, has a deal to place its vehicles in cameo roles in "Terminator Salvation," scheduled for release later this year and starring Christian Bale, executives said on Tuesday.

Financial terms of the sponsorship deal were not disclosed.

"This spring, Terminator 4 comes out and we will be one of the sponsors," Chrysler director of media Susan Thomson said in a presentation at the Automotive News World Congress. "We have a following with the Terminator movies and we are going to continue with that."

First released in 1984, "The Terminator" starred now-California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger as a cyborg sent from the future to kill a woman whose son would lead a resistance to a worldwide takeover by machines.

The film led to two sequels and a television series.

Under private ownership, Chrysler has cut 36 percent of its employees, taking its combined blue-collar and white-collar staffing to the lowest level since 1934.

Under the terms of its federal bailout, the automaker must submit a restructuring plan next month and demonstrate it can be made viable by the end of March. It has said it will seek another $3 billion in U.S. government loans. (Reporting by David Bailey, editing by Leslie Gevirtz)

US approves 1st stem cell study for spinal injury

In a July 11, 2001, file photo Geron Corporation president and chief executive
AP – In a July 11, 2001, file photo Geron Corporation president and chief executive officer Dr. Tom Okarma …

NEW YORK – A U.S. biotech company says it plans to start this summer the world's first study of a treatment based on human embryonic stem cells — a long-awaited project aimed at spinal cord injury.

The company gained federal permission this week to inject eight to 10 patients with cells derived from embryonic cells, said Dr. Thomas Okarma, president and CEO of Geron Corp. of Menlo Park, Calif.

The patients will be paraplegics, who can use their arms but can't walk. They will receive a single injection within two weeks of their injury.

The study is aimed at testing the safety of the procedure, but doctors will also look for signs of improvement like return of sensation or movement in the legs, Okarma said.

Whatever its outcome, the study will mark a new chapter in the contentious history of embryonic stem cell research in the United States — a field where debate spilled out of the laboratory long ago and into national politics.

While some overseas doctors claim to use human embryonic stem cells in their clinics, stem cell experts said they knew of no previous human studies that use such cells.

"It's a milestone and it's a breakthrough for the field" because Geron passed the safety hurdles for getting federal clearance to launch the study, said Ed Baetge, chief scientific officer of Novocell Inc. His company hopes to begin a similar human study for treating diabetes in a few years.

In addition, said spinal cord injury researcher Dr. Wise Young of Rutgers University, "a lot of hope of the spinal cord injury community is riding on this trial."

Embryonic stem cells can develop into any cell of the body, and scientists have long hoped to harness them for creating replacement tissues to treat a variety of diseases. But research has been controversial because embryos must be destroyed to obtain them.

President Barack Obama has promised to relax the Bush administration's restrictions on federal financing for such research. But Obama's ascent to the White House had nothing to do with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's granting permission for the new study, Okarma said in a telephone interview Thursday.

In fact, the company says, the project involves stem cells that were eligible for federal funding under Bush, although no federal money was used to develop the experimental treatment or to pay for the human study.

Other human cells, called adult stem cells, have been tested before in people to treat heart problems, for example.

In the Geron study, the injections will be made in the spine at the site of damage. The work will be done in four to seven medical centers around the country, Okarma said.

Animal studies suggest that once injected, the cells will mature and repair what is essentially a lack of insulation around damaged nerves, and also pump out substances that nerves need to function and grow.

Apart from assessing safety, investigators will hope to see some signs of improvement in the patient, Okarma said. The idea is "not to make somebody ... get up and dance the next day," he said, but rather to provide some level of ability that can be improved by physical therapy.

Each patient will receive a low dose of anti-rejection drugs for about two months, because after that time the medications shouldn't be needed, Okarma said. The study will follow each patient for at least a year.

Okarma said he can't estimate how much such a therapy would cost if it proves effective, but that "this is not going to be a $500,000 price tag. It will be remarkably affordable ... in the context of the value it provides."

Evan Snyder, a stem cell researcher at the Burnham Institute for Medical Research in La Jolla, Calif., said scientists in the field will focus chiefly on the study's results about safety.

"The one hope that everybody has is that nothing bad happens," he said.

Geron Corp. has spent at least $100 million on human embryonic stem cell research. Founded in 1992, it does not have any therapies on the market.

However, the company is considered the world's leading embryonic stem cell developer thanks to its claims on several key stem cell technologies. Geron helped finance researchers at the University of Wisconsin who first isolated human embryonic stem cells in 1998. The company has retained exclusive rights on several of those cell types.


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Mexico fires up $550 million wind farm

A $550 million wind farm project was inaugurated on Thursday in La Ventosa, Mexico, on the narrow isthmus between the Gulf of Mexico and the Pacific Ocean.
By Luis Cruz Hernandez, AP
A $550 million wind farm project was inaugurated on Thursday in La Ventosa, Mexico, on the narrow isthmus between the Gulf of Mexico and the Pacific Ocean.

LA VENTOSA, Mexico — Mexico inaugurated one of the world's largest wind farm projects Thursday as the nation looks for alternative energy, in part to compensate for falling oil production.

Mexico is trying to exploit its rich wind and solar potential after relying almost exclusively on petroleum for decades. With oil production down by 9.2% in 2008, Mexico now is turning to foreign companies, mainly Spanish, to tap its renewable riches.

"If we don't do something about this problem of climate change it probably could become — I'm sure it already is — one of the biggest threats to humanity," said President Felipe Calderon at the inaugural ceremony attended by about 1,000 residents, many of whom held on to their cowboy hats on this wind-swept day.

The new, $550 million project is in a region so breezy that the main town is named La Ventosa, or "Windy." It's on the narrow isthmus between the Gulf of Mexico and the Pacific Ocean, where winds blow at 15 mph to 22 mph, a near-ideal rate for turbines. Gusts have been known to topple tractor trailers.

Spanish energy company Acciona Energia says the 6,180-acre farm should generate 250 megawatts of electricity with 167 turbines, 25 of which are already operating. The rest should be on line by the end of the year, making the project the largest of its kind in Latin America.

It will produce enough energy to power a city of 500,000 people, while reducing carbon monoxide emissions by 600,000 metric tons each year, according to the company.

Esteban Morras, Acciona board member, said the project could be just the start for Mexico.

"This country has great potential for wind development and should take advantage," he said.

The project is also a joint venture with Cemex Inc. and will provide 25% of the Mexican cement giant's energy needs, fulfilling the company's goal of using alternative fuels.

Mexico hopes to boost the nation's wind energy capacity, mainly at La Ventosa, to 5,000 megawatts — about 10 times its current output. Wind energy now accounts for less than 2% of electricity production.

Energy Secretary Georgina Kessel said the government is planning a series of wind projects that by 2012 should generate 2,500 megawatts of electricity.

"The intensity of wind in various parts of the country can make our plants among the most efficient in the world," she said.

But the project hasn't been welcomed by local residents, who say they see few benefits and aren't being paid enough for use of their lands.

Several hundred protesters blocked a road leading to the site, holding a banner reading "no to the project."

The mayor of Juchitan, the municipality where La Ventosa is located, attended the ceremony but called for more benefits for the local community.

"We want to be part of a project that does not consider us just cheap labor but property owners and partners," Mariano Santana Lopez said.

Critics argue that foreign companies build the turbines, rent the land, run the project and produce the power for companies like U.S.-owned retailer Wal-Mart.

"They promise progress and jobs, and talk about millions in investment in clean energy from the winds that blow through our region," a leftist farm group known as the Assembly in Defense of the Land said in a statement. "But the investments will only benefit businessmen, all the technology will be imported ... and the power won't be for local inhabitants."

The group is calling on supporters to "defend the land we inherited from our ancestors." But so far it hasn't been able to stop the project.

Acciona, for its part, says the construction of the project created 850 jobs.

Local residents, largely Zapotec Indians, are accustomed to foreigners' coveting their land. The United States demanded rights to transport goods over the isthmus in the 1850s, and foreigners tried to build a railway alternative to the Panama Canal there.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Staff Finds White House in the Technological Dark Ages

By Anne E. Kornblut

Washington Post Staff Writer

President Obama, with Vice President Biden, finishes signing one of his executive orders on his first full day in office.

President Obama, with Vice President Biden, finishes signing one of his executive orders on his first full day in office. (By Gerald Martineau -- The Washington Post)

If the Obama campaign represented a sleek, new iPhone kind of future, the first day of the Obama administration looked more like the rotary-dial past.

Two years after launching the most technologically savvy presidential campaign in history, Obama officials ran smack into the constraints of the federal bureaucracy yesterday, encountering a jumble of disconnected phone lines, old computer software, and security regulations forbidding outside e-mail accounts.

What does that mean in 21st-century terms? No Facebook to communicate with supporters. No outside e-mail log-ins. No instant messaging. Hard adjustments for a staff that helped sweep Obama to power through, among other things, relentless online social networking.

"It is kind of like going from an Xbox to an Atari," Obama spokesman Bill Burton said of his new digs.

In many ways, the move into the White House resembled a first day at school: Advisers wandered the halls, looking for their offices. Aides spent hours in orientation, learning such things as government ethics rules as well as how their paychecks will be delivered. And everyone filled out a seemingly endless pile of paperwork.

There were plenty of first-day glitches, too, as calls to many lines in the West Wing were met with a busy signal all morning and those to the main White House switchboard were greeted by a recording, redirecting callers to the presidential Web site. A number of reporters were also shut out of the White House because of lost security clearance lists.

By late evening, the vaunted new White House Web site did not offer any updated posts about President Obama's busy first day on the job, which included an inaugural prayer service, an open house with the public, and meetings with his economic and national security teams.

Nor did the site reflect the transparency Obama promised to deliver. "The President has not yet issued any executive orders," it stated hours after Obama issued executive orders to tighten ethics rules, enhance Freedom of Information Act rules and freeze the salaries of White House officials who earn more than $100,000.

The site was updated for the first time last night, when information on the executive orders was added. But there were still no pool reports or blog entries.

No one could quite explain the problem -- but they swore it would be fixed.

One member of the White House new-media team came to work on Tuesday, right after the swearing-in ceremony, only to discover that it was impossible to know which programs could be updated, or even which computers could be used for which purposes. The team members, accustomed to working on Macintoshes, found computers outfitted with six-year-old versions of Microsoft software. Laptops were scarce, assigned to only a few people in the West Wing. The team was left struggling to put closed captions on online videos.

Senior advisers chafed at the new arrangements, which severely limit mobility -- partly by tradition but also for security reasons and to ensure that all official work is preserved under the Presidential Records Act.

"It is what it is," said a White House staff member, speaking on the condition of anonymity. "Nobody is being a blockade right now. It's just the system we need to go through."

The system has daunted past White House employees. David Almacy, who became President George W. Bush's Internet director in 2005, recalled having a week-long delay between his arrival at the White House and getting set up with a computer and a BlackBerry.

"The White House itself is an institution that transitions regardless of who the president is," he said. "The White House is not starting from scratch. Processes are already in place."

One White House official, who arrived breathless yesterday after being held up at the exterior gate, found he had no computer or telephone number. Recently called back from overseas duty, he ended up using his foreign cellphone.

Another White House official whose transition cellphone was disconnected left a message temporarily referring callers to his wife's phone.

Several people tried to route their e-mails through personal accounts.

But there were no missing letters from the computer keyboards, as Bush officials had complained of during their transition in 2001.

And officials in the press office were prepared: In addition to having their own cellphones, they set up Gmail accounts, with approval from the White House counsel, so they could send information in more than one way.

Staff writers Jose Antonio Vargas and Karen DeYoung contributed to this report.