Zazzle Shop

Screen printing

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Obama tells Muslim world: 'Americans are not your enemy'



Obama's first formal interview on Al-Arabiya TV
Play Video AP – Obama's first formal interview on Al-Arabiya TV

President Barack Obama presented a humble and conciliatory face of America to the Islamic world Monday in the first formal interview since he assumed office, stressing his own Muslim ties and hopes for a Palestinian state, and avoiding a belligerent tone — even when asked if America could "live with" an Iranian nuclear weapon.

The interview with the Dubai-based Al-Arabiya Network was a dramatic piece of public diplomacy aimed at capitalizing on the new American president's international popularity, though it balanced America's traditional commitment to Israel, whose security Obama called "paramount.'

"I have Muslim members of my family. I have lived in Muslim countries," Obama said, according to a White House transcript. "My job to the Muslim world is to communicate that the Americans are not your enemy."

The Al Arabiya interview, directed squarely at Muslims around the world, revived a vision of personal, symbolic international change that was in the air when Obama - with his far-flung family members, and complicated story - launched his campaign. It was a vision, and an aspect of his story, that the candidate buried when, in 2007, was forced to combat whispering campaigns about his own faith.

But by giving his first interview to the Arabic network, Obama signaled his continuing belief in his personal power as a symbol of America against the temptations of Islamic militancy. He even dismissed "bankrupt" ideas and policies that don't improve children's health care, jabbing at "nervous" Al Qaeda leaders in language that echoed his campaign against George W. Bush.

The occasion for this interview was the departure of Obama's special envoy, George Mitchell, to the Middle East, and a more aggressive and optimistic approach to that conflict than some argued that the circumstances dictated. The president offered no timeline for peace, but a firm view that a Palestinian state remains within reach.

Obama says Mideast peace talks should resume Reuters – U.S. President Barack Obama speaks in the East Room of the White House in Washington, January 26, 2009. …


"What I told him is start by listening, because all too often the United States starts by dictating — in the past on some of these issues — and we don't always know all the factors that are involved," Obama said. "What we want to do is to listen, set aside some of the preconceptions that have existed and have built up over the last several years. And I think if we do that, then there's a possibility at least of achieving some breakthroughs."

Obama's interview was marked by attempts to sympathize with the concerns of ordinary Muslims, particularly on the question of living conditions in the West Bank. But he sought a conciliatory tone throughout the interview, at one point avoiding even restating American policy, and his own platform, than an Iranian nuclear weapon is plainly unacceptable.

"Will the United States ever live with a nuclear Iran? And if not, how far are you going in the direction of preventing it?" asked the interviewer, Al Arabiya Washington Bureau Chief Hisham Melhem.

Obama responded only generally, expressing disapproval of an Iranian bomb but not the flat condemnation that is standard from American officials.

"You know, I said during the campaign that it is very important for us to make sure that we are using all the tools of U.S. power, including diplomacy, in our relationship with Iran," he said. "Now, the Iranian people are a great people, and Persian civilization is a great civilization. Iran has acted in ways that's not conducive to peace and prosperity in the region: their threats against Israel; their pursuit of a nuclear weapon which could potentially set off an arms race in the region that would make everybody less safe; their support of terrorist organizations in the past -- none of these things have been helpful."

During the campaign and transition periods, Obama's condemnations of an Iranian nuclear weapon were more direct: "[T]heir development of nuclear weapons would be unacceptable," Obama said on Meet the Press on December 7.

A senior Obama aide said Monday night that Obama had not changed his views on Iran.

Obama also signaled a move away from President Bush's confrontational, generalizing language. Melhem noted to Obama that "President Bush framed the war on terror conceptually in a way that was very broad, 'war on terror,' and used sometimes certain terminology that the many people -- Islamic fascism. You've always framed it in a different way, specifically against one group called al Qaeda and their collaborators."

"I think that you're making a very important point. And that is that the language we use matters," Obama replied. "[W]hat we need to understand is, is that there are extremist organizations -- whether Muslim or any other faith in the past -- that will use faith as a justification for violence. We cannot paint with a broad brush a faith as a consequence of the violence that is done in that faith's name.

"And so you will I think see our administration be very clear in distinguishing between organizations like al Qaeda -- that espouse violence, espouse terror and act on it -- and people who may disagree with my administration and certain actions, or may have a particular viewpoint in terms of how their countries should develop," he said. "We can have legitimate disagreements but still be respectful. I cannot respect terrorist organizations that would kill innocent civilians and we will hunt them down."

Obama's shift Monday was one of tone, not of policy, and he also affirmed America's support for Israel.

"Israel is a strong ally of the United States. They will not stop being a strong ally of the United States. And I will continue to believe that Israel's security is paramount," he said. "But I also believe that there are Israelis who recognize that it is important to achieve peace. They will be willing to make sacrifices if the time is appropriate and if there is serious partnership on the other side."

Obama's interview plan was made public only Monday afternoon, and the interview, which concluded just after 6:00 p.m., was distributed to reporters in the evening and embargoed for release at 11:00 p.m.

Asked why Al Arabiya had been granted the president's first interview, and aide said: "We want to communicate directly to the entire world America's new foreign policy."

Jonathan Martin contributed to this story.

Sun Harbour Apartments: 60 Days Notice Required Before Dying

When Consumerist reader Eric Zissen's brother died in his Florida apartment, he made a big mistake. He failed to give the landlord 60 days advance notice he was going to die.

Or so it would seem judging from the fact that the Sun Harbour apartment complex jacked his security deposit and charged his estate rent for the remaining three months of the lease contract.

Sun Harbour says they are "just following the letter of the lease."

Since the video was shot, the family took the case to court and won. But then the landlord appealed and now they're waiting for a decision from the judge in the appellate court. "A $2000 bill is now costing in court costs and lawyers fees 17k," says Eric. Luckily, the family was awarded attorney fees in the first case and if they win the appeal, they will go for attorney fees as well. The entire estate is on hold until the case is resolved.

McDonald's to open 1,000 stores

McDonalds branch in Chicago
McDonald's US sales were up 5% on the year before

US fast-food chain McDonald's says it plans to open 1,000 new restaurants this year.

The world's largest hamburger chain also said fourth-quarter net income fell 23% to $985.3m (£710m), from $1.27bn a year before.

Revenue fell to $5.57bn from $5.75bn, even though global same-store sales rose 7.2%, as the firm was hit by the strong dollar.

In the US, the firm raised the price of its Double Cheeseburger in November.

Announcing the results, chief executive Jim Skinner said: "For 2009 we plan to invest $2.1bn in capital to open about 1,000 new restaurants and reinvest in our existing locations."

Despite beef, cheese, and other ingredients rising in price, the company reported an 8% fall in total operating costs and expenses.

McDonald's has seen sales rise in the economic downturn, helped by its low prices and ubiquity of its outlets.

In the quarter, its same-store sales in the US rose 5% on the year before.

International same-store sales were also ahead, rising 7.6% in Europe and 10% in the Asia-Pacific, Middle East and Africa division.

Christian Hosoi Jump Ramp Contest

Grind For Life and Christian Hosoi got together at ASR in San Diego and put on a the first jump ramp contest in at least a decade!

Woman gives birth to octuplets in Southern California

A woman has given birth to octuplets at a Kaiser Permanente hospital in Bellflower, hospital officials confirmed today.

Updated at 5:10 p.m.: Two physicians who helped in the deliveries said they had planned in advance for the C-section deliveries but were expecting only seven babies. They got six boys and two girls.

“My eyes got to be the size of saucers,” Dr. Karen Maples said, when it became obvious there was an eighth child. “We just went on and delivered the babies.”

“The orchestrated delivery went off without a hitch,” added Dr. Harold Henry. “The babies are all doing well and the mom is also doing well. There were no complications from the surgery, to the best of my knowledge.”

Henry said that hospital physicians and their assistants practiced two dry runs ahead of time. “We planned well, and it was well executed,” he said.

Maples said 46 people were involved in the deliveries.

“It was exciting, a little anxious,” she said. “But we were prepared.” She said the mother should be released in a week but that the babies would probably remain in the hospital for at least two months.

The six boys and two girls were born between 10:43 a.m. and 10:48 a.m, the doctors said. The babies each weighed between 1 pound and 15 ounces to 3 pounds and 4 ounces, the physicians said.

Updated at 5:50 p.m.: Dr. Richard Paulson, director of the fertility program at the USC Medical School, called the event “unbelievably rare. When people use fertility drugs, 80% even then are single births. The vast majority of the others are twins.”

Still, fertility experts consider the birth of more than two kids with fertility medication to be not a medical triumph, but “a serious complication,” Paulson said. “We do not ever intend to give someone octuplets.”

Usually, he said, births of this kind are brought on by fertility medication, not in-vitro fertilization. Often, during the medication, several of the mother’s eggs are fertilized. In most cases, Paulson said, the mother chooses to reduce the number of fertile eggs to two, “to make sure the two remaining babies will have the best chance at having good health. To have all those babies, the mother would choose to have selective reduction. Apparently the mother made the decision to carry all the eight babies to viability.”

Updated at 7:20 p.m.:

At a Monday evening news conference, the team leaders -- Maples, Henry, and Dr. Mandhir Gupta -- beamed like new parents. “It was a truly, truly amazing delivery,” Maples said. “We have been talking about this delivery for weeks on end. That’s why when we discovered the eighth, we were so well prepared.” The doctors will do predawn interviews today with ABC’s “Good Morning America,” CBS’ “Morning Show,” NBC’s “Today” show and CNN. The doctors said the children, born nine weeks premature, were in incubators in stable condition, as was their mother. The two girls and six boys weighed between 1 pound, 8 ounces and 3 pounds, 4 ounces. Five of the infants are breathing on their own. One has needed some help breathing, while two are attached to respirators.

KCAL Channel 9 reported that the babies were born today and quoted a doctor as saying they were “doing quite well.”

In 1998, the first known set of octuplets was born in the United States. The six girls and two boys were born in Houston. One of the babies later died. The others survived and recently celebrated their 10th birthdays.

Read the full Times story about the octuplets.

-- Sam Quinones, Jeff Gottlieb and Carlos V. Lozano

Panhandlers making $110,000 per year in Edmonton, Canada

The City of Edmonton is moving forward on its crackdown on aggressive panhandlers, a group of about 20 or 30 people who police estimate were responsible for 90 per cent of the complaints they received last year.

"I know of one individual that lives in a high-rise downtown," Edmonton police Insp. Brian Nowlan said Monday. "He makes about $400 a day panhandling, so this is a way of making an income."

Nowlan appeared Monday before the city's community services committee to speak in favour of bylaw amendments that would make it easier for police to ticket aggressive panhandlers.

"This bylaw is aimed at that core group — hardcore professional panhandlers, people that make a living off this," Nowlan said.

On Monday, the city's community services committee recommended sending those amendments to council for consideration.

The amendments come as police look for ways to crack down on aggressive panhandling, a problem they said has gotten worse in the past year.

In 2008, police received 181 complaints about aggressive panhandling, a 118 per cent increase from 2007.

However, under the current bylaws, police have to prove a panhandler is obstructing pedestrian traffic in order to issue a ticket.

Criminal laws called ineffective

Criminal laws don't work well either, Nowlan said.

"They're very difficult to prosecute in the absence of actually witnessing it. The bylaw is the answer," he said.

The amendments would make it illegal for anyone to panhandle in an aggressive manner, including making continual requests or insulting, threatening, coercing, obstructing passage or making physical contact with another person.

Police are proposing a fine of $250, but have suggested the city look at options for people who can't afford to pay it.

"There's ways to make a living in this city and there's ways not to make a living and hopefully this bylaw will deal with those people who are not obeying the law," Mayor Stephen Mandel said.

The committee has also suggested a public education program accompany the bylaw. Members also asked city administration to complete a report on alternative methods of dealing with people who panhandle by April.

Nowlan thinks a fine will be effective, particularly for the $400-a-day downtown panhandler.

"You betcha he's going to be impacted when he gets a $250 summons," Nowlan said. "He'll either relocate or try to get a job."

San Francisco Approves Marijuana Club Applications

"Sativa Steve"  shows off one of dozens of varieties of pot in a medicinal cannabis shop in San Francisco on June 7, 2005. People with a doctor's recommendation and a card from the California Department of Public Health can purchase from the store.The Supreme Court dealt a blow to the medical marijuana movement 6/6, ruling that the federal government can still ban possession of the drug in states.   (UPI Photo/Terry Schmitt)
"Sativa Steve" shows off one of dozens of varieties of pot in a medicinal cannabis shop in San Francisco on June 7, 2005. People with a doctor's recommendation and a card from the California Department of Public Health can purchase from the store.The Supreme Court dealt a blow to the medical marijuana movement 6/6, ruling that the federal government can still ban possession of the drug in states. (UPI Photo/Terry Schmitt)


SAN FRANCISCO, Jan. 26 (UPI) -- Efforts to regulate San Francisco's Cannabis Clubs have gotten off to a slow start, officials and club operators say.

The San Francisco Chronicle reported Monday that although the city's Board of Supervisors approved legislation requiring medical cannabis clubs to get city permits in late 2005, few permits have been issued.

The newspaper said the city has issued 10 permits to cannabis clubs, with 13 more in progress. Officials said there are currently 23 pot clubs in the city, compared with more than 40 when the regulatory process began in 2005.

While five applications have been denied, many medical Marijuana dispensaries apparently closed on their own, the Chronicle reported.

"The process is difficult -- that's why less than half of the clubs have completed it," said Charlie Pappas, who owns Health and Wellness Alternatives. "But I really give city officials and staff credit for trying to make it work and not dragging their feet."

An employee prepares a "joint" for sale in a medicinal cannabis shop in San Francisco on June 7, 2005. People with a doctor's recommendation and a card from the California Department of Public Health can purchase from the store.The Supreme Court dealt a blow to the medical marijuana movement 6/6, ruling that the federal government can still ban possession of the drug in states.   (UPI Photo/Terry Schmitt)
An employee prepares a "joint" for sale in a medicinal cannabis shop in San Francisco on June 7, 2005. People with a doctor's recommendation and a card from the California Department of Public Health can purchase from the store.The Supreme Court dealt a blow to the medical marijuana movement 6/6, ruling that the federal government can still ban possession of the drug in states. (UPI Photo/Terry Schmitt)

Sativa Steve (R) smells a marijuana bud as he waits on a customer in a medicinal cannabis shop in San Francisco on June 7, 2005. People with a doctor's recommendation and a card from the California Department of Public Health can purchase from the store.The Supreme Court dealt a blow to the medical marijuana movement 6/6, ruling that the federal government can still ban possession of the drug in states.   (UPI Photo/Terry Schmitt)
Sativa Steve (R) smells a marijuana bud as he waits on a customer in a medicinal cannabis shop in San Francisco on June 7, 2005. People with a doctor's recommendation and a card from the California Department of Public Health can purchase from the store.The Supreme Court dealt a blow to the medical marijuana movement 6/6, ruling that the federal government can still ban possession of the drug in states. (UPI Photo/Terry Schmitt)

"Sativa Steve" waits on a customer in a medicinal cannabis shop in San Francisco on June 7, 2005. People with a doctor's recommendation and a card from the California Department of Public Health can purchase from the store.The Supreme Court dealt a blow to the medical marijuana movement 6/6, ruling that the federal government can still ban possession of the drug in states.   (UPI Photo/Terry Schmitt)
"Sativa Steve" waits on a customer in a medicinal cannabis shop in San Francisco on June 7, 2005. People with a doctor's recommendation and a card from the California Department of Public Health can purchase from the store.The Supreme Court dealt a blow to the medical marijuana movement 6/6, ruling that the federal government can still ban possession of the drug in states. (UPI Photo/Terry Schmitt)

"Sativa Steve" (R)  works the counter in a medicinal cannabis shop in San Francisco on June 7, 2005. People with a doctor's recommendation and a card from the California Department of Public Health can purchase from the store.The Supreme Court dealt a blow to the medical marijuana movement 6/6, ruling that the federal government can still ban possession of the drug in states.   (UPI Photo/Terry Schmitt)
"Sativa Steve" (R) works the counter in a medicinal cannabis shop in San Francisco on June 7, 2005. People with a doctor's recommendation and a card from the California Department of Public Health can purchase from the store.The Supreme Court dealt a blow to the medical marijuana movement 6/6, ruling that the federal government can still ban possession of the drug in states. (UPI Photo/Terry Schmitt)

Sativa Steve (R) and Rachel work the counter in a medicinal cannabis shop in San Francisco on June 7, 2005.People with a doctor's recommendation and a card from the California Department of Public Health can purchase from the store. The Supreme Court dealt a blow to the medical marijuana movement 6/6, ruling that the federal government can still ban possession of the drug in states.   (UPI Photo/Terry Schmitt)
Sativa Steve (R) and Rachel work the counter in a medicinal cannabis shop in San Francisco on June 7, 2005.People with a doctor's recommendation and a card from the California Department of Public Health can purchase from the store. The Supreme Court dealt a blow to the medical marijuana movement 6/6, ruling that the federal government can still ban possession of the drug in states. (UPI Photo/Terry Schmitt)

Sativa Steve (L)  handles a transaction while Rachel gives a smell to a customer in a medicinal cannabis shop in San Francisco on June 7, 2005. People with a doctor's recommendation and a card from the California Department of Public Health can purchase from the store.The Supreme Court dealt a blow to the medical marijuana movement 6/6, ruling that the federal government can still ban possession of the drug in states.   (UPI Photo/Terry Schmitt)
Sativa Steve (L) handles a transaction while Rachel gives a smell to a customer in a medicinal cannabis shop in San Francisco on June 7, 2005. People with a doctor's recommendation and a card from the California Department of Public Health can purchase from the store.The Supreme Court dealt a blow to the medical marijuana movement 6/6, ruling that the federal government can still ban possession of the drug in states. (UPI Photo/Terry Schmitt)

"Sativa Steve" assists a customer as Rachel as Rachel weighs a purchase in a medicinal cannabis shop in San Francisco on June 7, 2005. People with a doctor's recommendation and card from the California Department of Public Health can purchase from the store. The Supreme Court dealt a blow to the medical marijuana movement 6/6, ruling that the federal government can still ban possession of the drug in states.   (UPI Photo/Terry Schmitt)
"Sativa Steve" assists a customer as Rachel as Rachel weighs a purchase in a medicinal cannabis shop in San Francisco on June 7, 2005. People with a doctor's recommendation and card from the California Department of Public Health can purchase from the store. The Supreme Court dealt a blow to the medical marijuana movement 6/6, ruling that the federal government can still ban possession of the drug in states. (UPI Photo/Terry Schmitt)

Apple's iLife '09 to ship Tuesday


Posted by Tom Krazit

iLife '09 includes a new version of GarageBand that lets you take music lessons.

(Credit: Apple)

The latest version of Apple's iLife--shown off at Macworld earlier this month--will ship Tuesday.

The new software comes with updates to iPhoto, iMovie, and GarageBand that Apple Senior Vice President Phil Schiller detailed during Macworld. For example, you will now be able to sort photos by the faces of your subjects in iPhoto and take $4.99 lessons from famous musicians in GarageBand.

iLife '09 will be bundled with all Macs starting Tuesday and will cost $79 if you're planning to upgrade from an earlier version. If you bought a Mac after the new version was announced on January 6, you can upgrade for just $9.95. Mac OS X Leopard and either an Intel or 867MHz or faster G4 Mac are required to run the software, according to Apple.

Jessica Simpson's a bigger star than ever as she shows off her new curvier figure

By Daily Mail Reporter

Four years ago, Jessica Simpson was one of the top bodies in Hollywood after embarking on a vigorous fitness regime to fit into her 'Daisy Duke' shorts.

But it seems the 5ft 3in star, who is attempting to carve out a new career as a country singer, has let go of her hard earned 36-24-36 figure.

The 28-year-old was showing off a distinctly curvier shape as she sangs tracks from her country album Do You Know at a gig in Florida over the weekend.

What a difference: A heavier Jessica Simpson performs on Saturday (l), compared to her toned shape in the Dukes of Hazzard movie in 2005 (r)

Prior to gaining weight, Jessica would regularly appear on Hollywood red carpets in eye-popping dresses which showed off her svelte figure to perfection.

The former Newlyweds: Nick & Jessica reality star famously slimmed down in a tiny pair of denim shorts, aka Daisy Duke, to play the denim's namesake in the 2005 big screen version of the Dukes of Hazzard.

She endured two-hour workouts six days a week with personal trainer Michael Alexander, who sculpted her physique with a combination of running, squats, lunges and weight-resistance exercises.

SIMPSON
Simpson

Battle of the bulge: It seems Jessica over-indulged a little over the festive season

She also followed a South Beach Diet-style low-carb, high-protein menu which featured grilled chicken, fish and green vegetables.

After filming the part, Jessica said: 'My body is definitely an accomplishment.'

But it seems her now more relaxed approach to fitness and a good dose of her family's Texan cuisine over the Christmas holidays have caught up with her.

Perhaps feeling self-conscious about her expanding waistline, Jessica opted for some high-waisted baggy jeans and a slimming black vest as she performed at the Kiss Country Chili Cookout in Pembroke Pines.

Fuller figure: Jessica opted for an unflattering pair of high-waisted jeans

As well as singing tracks from her new album, Jessica also belted out a rendition of her cover of Nancy Sinatra's These Boots Are Made For Walkin', which she sang for the Dukes of Hazzard soundtrack.

In a 2007 interview with Harper's Bazaar magazine, she admitted she preferred being curvy to her skinnier frame.

She said: 'Curves are better. I don't get the whole rail thing. It's not good for your heart, it's not good for your mind; it's emotionally destructive, it really is.'

Jessica recently denied reports she was engaged to her American football player boyfriend Tony Romo.

She said: 'It's funny to me that people are saying that Tony and me are out shopping for diamonds. Trust me, we're not out shopping for diamonds - if anything we are out going to buy DVDs.

January 25, 2009: Jessica Simpson performs at the

Piling on the pounds: Jessica looked noticeably bigger as she arrived on stage

'That's pretty much it. We have movie nights and cooking and ordering in, but there has not been any diamonds in this relationship.'

Jessica is taking things slowly with the Dallas Cowboys player after divorcing ex-husband Nick Lachey when she just 25 after three years of marriage.

The couple exposed their marriage to the public during their hugely-successful MTV reality show Newlyweds: Nick & Jessica.

Meanwhile, her younger sister Ashlee recently gave birth to a baby boy called Bronx Mowgli with musician husband Pete Wentz, who she married in May last year.

Jessica Simpson and her husband, Nick Lachey arrive for the MTV Movie Awards Saturday, June 4, 2005

Strained: Jessica at her skinniest at the MTV Movie Awards in June 2005, pictured with her ex-husband Nick Lachey, who she split from five months later

Gorgeous Shot of a Jaguar in Brazilian Rain Forest

environment.nationalgeographic… — Endangered species. Wallpaper pic.

Photo: Jaguar in a rain forest
Third largest in the feline family after tigers and lions, jaguars, such as this one in the undergrowth of the Brazilian rain forest, are found only in the New World. This elusive, endangered predator roams forests and swamps from Argentina to northern Mexico.
Photograph by Claus Meyer/Minden Pictures

Smokin’! U.S. pot industry booms

msnbc.msn.com — Interesting video about the booming marijuana industry in the US.


Road to Super Bowl XLIII flanked by 43 strip clubs

Cars are parked outside an adult entertainment establishment in Tampa, Fla. on AP – Cars are parked outside an adult entertainment establishment in Tampa, Fla. on Thursday, Jan. 22, 2009. …

TAMPA, Fla. – There's Lip Stixx and Centerfolds and the Bliss Cabaret.

There's Diamond Dolls and Bare Assets and the Wild Gentlemen's Club. In fact, there are, by one count, 43 strip clubs in the Tampa metropolitan area — one for each Super Bowl. And the week of Super Bowl XLIII is to Tampa's naughty nightlife what Black Friday is to America's shopping malls.

All the exotic dancing joints have earned Tampa a bawdy reputation — the lads' magazine Maxim even put it on its top 10 list of best U.S. party cities a couple years ago, based mostly on the two score and more night spots to see naked or nearly naked women.

Now, with at least one spot planning to have a tent in the parking lot to handle the overflow of free-spending tourists, locals expect to profit mightily through kickoff Sunday evening.

"Based on what we did last Super Bowl (in 2001), the numbers will quadruple during that weekend," says Nick Polefrone, general manager of 2001 Odyssey, a landmark club known for the spaceship-shaped VIP room rising from the top of the building.

Across the street is Mons Venus, a joint that is listed among the best strip clubs in the world by users of a Web site called The Ultimate Strip Club List. The two upscale clubs — walking distance from Raymond James Stadium, where the Arizona Cardinals will play the Pittsburgh Steelers — have been fixtures for decades. Polefrone figures Tampa's naughty national image grew out from there.

"Tampa has a reputation for having the most strip clubs and the most girls who are a lot of fun," says a 25-year-old exotic dancer named Claudia, who left her usual gig in Las Vegas to work the Super Bowl week here. (She asked that her last name not be used to save her family any embarrassment.)

Claudia says she's worked four previous Super Bowls and expects to make as much as $2,000 a day performing at 2001 Odyssey. Most clubs treat the dancers as independent contractors who pay a flat fee to the house and keep the rest.

"It's so crazy, everybody is in a such a party mood," she says. "It's a whole new level of everything."

The clubs have been busy auditioning more dancers and upgrading their interiors. Some will stay open 24 hours.

The Tampa Tribune helpfully added a feature to its Web site listing the 43 strip clubs and allowing Super Bowl visitors to search for such information as the cover charge and dress code.

Tired of Tampa's sleazy reputation, local lawmakers passed an anti-lap-dance ordinance before the last Super Bowl here in 2001, making it a misdemeanor offense for dancers to come within six feet of patrons. The measure got a lot of publicity, but police didn't arrest anybody during Super Bowl week.

Police spokeswoman Andrea Davis says officers won't be patrolling the clubs looking for dancers who get too close this time, but they'll be obliged to investigate if someone calls in a complaint.

"Our primary focus during the Super Bowl is going to be public safety," she says.

Bob Buckhorn, a former city councilman who pushed the six-foot ordinance, laments that the adult entertainment industry is "ingrained in the fabric of this community." The point of the law, he says, was to attack prostitution and prevent other crime by trying to keep guys away from those places. He wishes it was more aggressively enforced today.

"It's like cockroaches," Buckhorn says. "If you don't stay on top of it, it will infect and run you over. And that's exactly what's happened."

To the city's promoters, Tampa's image as the Lap Dance Capital of America is not exactly something to tout in the glossy brochures. Travis Claytor, spokesman for Tampa Bay & Co., the tourism bureau, would rather point out other attractions, such as:

• Beaches. Some of the best white-sand beaches anywhere are a half-hour or so from downtown. Two of them — Fort DeSoto Park and Caladesi Island — have topped the list from Stephen P. Leatherman, a Florida International University professor dubbed "Dr. Beach" for his annual rankings of the nation's best coastlines.

• Ybor City. The historic former Latin quarter east of downtown is a thriving entertainment district whose nightclubs will host some of the glitziest, celebrity-heavy Super Bowl parties. (There's a strip club there, too, of course.)

• Cigars. In the early 20th century, more cigars were made in Tampa than anywhere in the world, by Cuban immigrants. The city retains a rich cigar heritage, and some shops are still rolling them right on the premises.

But in the end, a lot of visitors will still be packing the clubs at night.

"It's not necessarily a negative thing, it's just one aspect of this destination," the judicious Claytor says. "There is so much more to our area than that particular industry."

Michael Jackson's "Thriller" to become musical show



Photo

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Michael Jackson will help develop his ground-breaking "Thriller" video into a musical theater production, producers said on Monday.

Jackson's 1982 "Thriller" album is the world's biggest selling album and the theater production will recreate the tale of the 14-minute horror film spoof based on the title song. In the video, a young couple are on a date when the boy -- played by Jackson in the video -- becomes a werewolf.

"This musical will be the exclusive Michael Jackson authorized version of 'Thriller' and Jackson will participate in every aspect of the creative process," said the Nederland Organization, which has acquired the rights to the musical.

"Thriller The Musical" will include songs from "Thriller" and Jackson's 1979 album "Off The Wall."

The "Thriller" video, featuring dancing zombies and horror film star Vincent Price, was first aired in 1983 and became a staple of MTV. It was directed by filmmaker John Landis, who said it cost $500,000 -- about 10 times the cost of the standard music video of the time.

Jackson's spokesman, Dr. Tohme Tohme, said in the Nederland Organization statement: "The Nederlanders and Michael Jackson represent live theater and musical excellence, so let the music begin."

Jackson, 50, is one of the best-selling recording artists of all time and began his musical career with his siblings in the Motown group the Jackson 5 before starting a solo career.

But the singer has been dogged since the 1990s by scandal and revelations about his eccentric lifestyle. He was tried and acquitted of child sex abuse charges in 2005.

Jackson also has been plagued with financial troubles in the past few years and narrowly averted a foreclosure sale of his Neverland Ranch in May. In November, he handed over the title of Neverland to a company made up of himself and the firm that holds the $24 million loan on the property.

He has no permanent home currently.

(Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Bill Trott)

THE 10 SEXIEST FEMALE CELEBRITY LIPS

FLAMING LIPS

Research has shown that the more estrogen a girl has, the fuller her lips are. Research has also shown that estrogen makes women crazy, so that means these ten women are incredibly insane and incredibly hot. In honor of Netflix's new "Greatest Kiss Challenge," we decided it was time to pay tribute to the most kissable lips in Hollywood. So sit back and enjoy these celebrity hotties and their amazing estrogen lips.

#10 Nina Moric - The former Miss Croatia has unbelievable kissers with most of the the credit going to her thick upper lip. You know, like the AC/DC song.

#9 Jessica Alba - Since Jessica isn't really do anything right now but her random YouTube videos, we think a video where she tries out new liptsticks in front of a webcam for an hour wouldn't be such a bad idea.




#8 Eva Mendes - The best thing about Eva's luscious lips is that they always look like they're in the kissing position.



#7 Christina Aguilera - If her lips continue to grow at the same rate as her chest, we're all in for a big treat.



#6 Scarlett Johansson - Scarlett's lips have always given us Scarlett fever. You know, because her name is Scarlett and fevers make you hot.




#5 Rachel Bilson - See the thing about Rachel is she's ... the reason we love Rachel so much is because ... she's just so damn hot.


#4 Rihanna - Her lips must be what makes her singing voice so good. Or what got her a singing career in the first place.


#3 Jessica Biel - Is there a Jessica Biel body part that isn't perfect? I think it's time to consider the possibility that she might be a cyborg.






#2 Megan Fox - It was tough not to put Megan #1, but for all of her hotness, she just couldn't dethrone the greatest lips in the history of mankind. Tell you what Megan, kindly have those lame tattoos removed from your body and maybe we'll consider you for the crown next year.


#1 Angelina Jolie - Angelina's unbelievable lips are responsible for so many things. Her career, global warming and ruining Jennifer Aniston's life.





Playboy Shows Signs of Withdrawal

playboy

Who knew sex was a bad business to be in? That's probably what they're thinking over at Playboy's New York City offices, which are to be closed and its staff either laid off or offered a position at the magazine's headquarters in Chicago.

Feminists and social conservatives might not want to uncork the champagne just yet, however. It turns out this decision is more about real estate than the public appetite for nekkid women. It's much more difficult to find paying occupants for unwanted office space in Chicago than it is in New York City, so the 54-year-old magazine is moving back to its home base. The company opened its New York City offices on Fifth Avenue in the early 1990s and didn't move editorial functions there until 2002. (See pictures of Hugh Hefner.)

The closure is part of a wider restructuring of the magazine, which is to be headed by former Maxim editor Jimmy Jellinek, who was previously in charge of Playboy's website. Playboy.com will be relaunched in February with an emphasis on "sight, sound and motion," including instructional videos, says Jellinek. (Yes, some of the instructional videos will be about sex. No, they will not be explicit.) The editors who remain at the magazine will be expected to devise stories for the website as well.

More worrying for those who still get a thrill out of the bunny ears is that Playboy's Super Bowl party has been canceled. The gala was widely regarded as football's equivalent of the Vanity Fair Oscar party. Last year's bash — for which tickets cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $2,000 — was hosted by Grammy-winning hip-hop artist Common and featured a drop-in by Hugh Marston Hefner himself, along with his three obliging companions from E!'s The Girls Next Door and a herd of other Playmates. For those who preferred women with fewer opinions, there was a life-size Femlin model (note to Hef novitiates: Femlins are a hybrid of females and gremlins) atop a martini glass. There were drinks, celebs, giveaways — all in all, a classic one-two punch of nostalgia and naughtiness. (Read "10 Questions for Hugh Hefner.")

This duality is the strength and weakness of the magazine, which back in the '70s sold up to 7 million copies a month but has been losing money for years. In the third quarter of 2008 alone, the publishing sector of Playboy Enterprises Inc. lost $1.3 million. While Playboy is still the best-selling men's magazine (circ. 2.6 million), its market share has been eaten away by lad mags like FHM and Maxim. The publication is kept alive because apart from its historical importance to the Playboy brand, it is said to be much beloved by Hefner, who is still its editor in chief. But longtime Playboy Enterprises Inc. CEO and even longer time Hef daughter Christie Hefner will step down at the end of January, so change is inevitable. And Playboy Enterprises Inc. stock has been vulgar, dropping 90% in a year. The company has an entertainment arm in Los Angeles and licenses its name and bunny logo to anyone who'll pay, including a wine company in 2008, but is said to make most of its money from its less well-known, more hard-core enterprises such as Spice TV and Clubjenna.com, named for porn star Jenna Jameson. (See the top 10 magazine covers of 2008.)

The soon-to-be-defunct address on Manhattan's Fifth Avenue was perfect for the tone of classy depravity that the magazine tries to project and that made it acceptable to a more sophisticated type of reader who might otherwise be embarrassed to be associated with porn. This is not about the objectification of women, it said, it's about harmless fun. And some good journalism. But with the anonymity and impermanence of the Internet (no more telltale boxes of magazines under the bed), there's less appetite for Playboy's now almost coy-seeming nudity. A girlie magazine located on the strip of real estate once known as Ladies' Mile stopped being funny and became an anachronism that couldn't be sustained.

In one hopeful note, Los Angeles' Playboy Mansion, Shangri-la for so many 22-year-old males, seems safe for now. As one staffer puts it, "I can't imagine a scenario in which the mansion does not survive."

See pictures of pinup queen Bettie Page.

Banks you Bank On

What kinds of businesses are still growing as the economy sinks deep into recession?

Banks, for one. I kid you not.

Big banks are generating disaster headlines and debate about nationalizing the country's leading institutions. But no one is talking about nationalizing Brookline Bancorp, Hingham Institution for Savings, or other small banks that are reporting significant business growth in the fourth quarter.

Access to ultracheap money and fading competition from mortgage companies are proving to be powerful advantages for many smaller banks. "Things are going well, particularly in the context of the economy," says Brookline Bancorp's chief executive, Richard Chapman.

Smaller banks are earning an unusually wide spread between the cost of money to them and the rate at which they lend to customers. They can borrow money from the Federal Home Loan Bank of Boston at rates in the range of 2 percent and use it to fund loans earning as much as 4 percent or even 4.5 percent more.

"The government's being pretty good to you because you're not paying much for the money coming in and you're making a reasonably good spread," says Hingham's chief executive, Robert Gaughen Jr.

"Reasonably good" is one way to describe it. I would say those kind of interest rate spreads are huge by historical comparisons and absolutely gigantic when measured against the marginally profitable standards of recent years.

That broad interest-rate advantage is the leading reason smaller banks are in a position to do better. But most have also been able to grow their loan portfolios with less competition from mortgage companies and, in some cases, bigger banks.

Brookline Bancorp grew its loan portfolio by about $200 million, or 11 percent last year. Hingham Institution for Savings added $54 million of loans to its portfolio, an increase of about 9 percent. Independent Bank Corp., the parent of Rockland Trust, yesterday reported loan growth of $146 million, or about 7 percent, excluding other loans acquired in a bank acquisition.

"For those of us who have the capital and capacity to lend, there is opportunity," Chapman says.

Of course, there are a number of catches. The community-oriented banks doing well are small and don't count as important economic engines by themselves. Most of them would struggle to make enough money in a month to cover John Thain's office-renovation budget.

And some of them had write-off problems just like the much bigger banks in 2008. Most of the smaller banks that ran into trouble lost money on investments that had been considered relatively safe, like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac preferred shares. But they still lost.

Brookline Bancorp grew earnings by about 27 percent during the last three months of the year, when interest-rate spreads were most advantageous. But the bank still reported full-year profits down about 15 percent, because it had to write down the value of preferred stock it owned.

Independent Bank Corp. made money while business grew in the last three months of the year, but only about half as much as it did over the same period in 2007. Once gain, write-downs on preferred shares were to blame.

Smaller community banks may also face new problems of their own in the year ahead. Most banking industry disasters over the past year have been directly connected to the bursting housing bubble and its devastating effect on the value of many debt securities.

But bank loan portfolios generally go downhill as a recession runs its course. Borrowers lose jobs or run into other financial problems. Loan collateral declines in value. Everyone loses, including banks.

No one knows how that will play out this year and beyond. But banks have a big business advantage with incredibly low interest rates, and that's not going to change anytime soon.

The Red Herring
Any merger in the drug and biotech industries has one sure effect: Biogen Idec Inc. shares will jump. Sure enough, Pfizer Inc. agreed yesterday to buy Wyeth, and Biogen stock climbed $1.09, to $48.51. Biogen is routinely mentioned in speculation about drug industry mergers, though there's no evidence of any activity. The Cambridge company fought off the advances of activist investor Carl Icahn in a proxy fight last year.

Building Safer Superior Stents


Stent profiling: The image above is taken from a computer model that simulates the flow of drugs from stents--metal meshes that keep arteries open. Inside the arterial wall of this 3-D image (blood flow is from left to right), the stent is releasing the drugs at a uniform concentration, but the cells closest to the upstream region of the arterial vessel receive less of the drugs than other areas do. Red represents the highest concentration of drug release, blue the lowest. This kind of differential drug-distribution pattern can sometimes contribute to blood clots.
Credit: Vijaya Kolachalama, MIT
Multimedia
video Watch a demonstration of the stent computer model.

Millions of drug-eluting stents are implanted in coronary arteries worldwide, yet little is understood about how the drugs are actually distributed to the surrounding tissue. The drug coatings can cause the formation of blood clots in the arteries--an often fatal condition. Now researchers at MIT have built a computer model to predict the performance of different types of stents under a variety of conditions.

"The model allows us to change the stent--the design, dimensions, materials, drug, and the way it is released," says Elazer Edelman, a professor of Health Science and Technology (HST) at MIT and the principal investigator of the project. "Then we can place the stent, alone or adjacent to other stents, in arteries with different diseases or in different natural states. By rapidly considering thousands of different design features, the model can do things that can otherwise not be done."

Kinam Park, a professor of biomedical engineering at Purdue University, in West Lafayette, IN, says that Edelman is a "pioneer" in modeling drug-eluting stents--metal meshes coated with drugs, such as anti-scarring or anti-inflammatory medication. In addition to releasing drugs, the stents act as physical supports to help keep an artery open. The drugs tend to diffuse into the bloodstream at an unpredictable rate, despite many efforts to build polymer compounds to control drug release. "There are some areas with too much drug, and areas where there are no drugs," says Park. "Tissue can be damaged, and patients can die. The model is the first to test the drug-releasing profiles of stents and is critical for the design and development of new, better stents."

The computer model simulates the dynamics of blood flowing around a stent in order to evaluate how the drug is released from the stent and dispersed in the arterial wall. The researchers started with a two-dimensional stent and vessel design and created an algorithm that solves the fluid-flow and drug-delivery equations for each tiny segment of the domain. Now, they can do 3-D simulations to better show the stent's drug-eluting profile.

"The model can show exactly what the drug distribution is as a function of time," says Park. So researchers can model the different states of the arteries, visualizing where the drug will be deposited and what will happen.


Drug-release patterns: This image, taken from MIT’s computer-modeling software, shows the arterial drug distribution patterns for different scenarios of drug release for the same stent. Blood flow in these 3-D arterial vessels is from left to right. Red represents the highest concentration of drug release, blue the lowest. The model should help researchers design better drug-eluting stents.
Credit: Vijaya Kolachalama, MIT

The mathematical model allows the researchers to change the parameters of the program, such as the stent configurations, the materials, the shape of the blood-vessel wall, and the drug-flow properties, so that they can test different experimental conditions. "We created an automatic algorithm so that we have the flexibility to visualize different elements without having to start from scratch," says Vijaya Kolachalama, a postdoctoral associate at HST working on the program. (There are currently only four drug-eluting stent designs that are approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.)

A simulation yielding optimal drug-releasing properties could let researchers know what drug to discharge and in what fashion, says Park. "It's a model for building next-generation stents."

The model has been "eye opening," says Edelman. "It is surprising how often the drugs don't penetrate or deposit where expected." He compares the blood flow across a stent to white-water rapids flowing over a rock: some of the water strikes the base, flies up in the air, and comes back down, instead of flowing over the rock. So the water continuously recirculates in the same area, making the design of a stent "critically important."

Parts of the computational findings have been validated by animal and in vitro models. The work was recently published in the Journal of Controlled Release and is funded by the National Institute of Health.

As stents become more sophisticated, Edelman says, there is a huge gap between how researchers think the devices work and how they actually behave in animal models and humans. Trials in live subjects can be costly and time consuming, and in some cases they even result in death.

The MIT researchers are pushing to make computer modeling part of the FDA regulatory process and have made their algorithms available to others so that the software can evolve.

FeedM8 - Go Mobile