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Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Dog, Cat, and Rat

This is a video of a homeless man in Santa Barbara and his pets. They work State Street every week for donations. The animals are pretty well fed and are mellow. They are a family. The man who owns them rigged up a harness for his cat so she wouldn't have to walk so much (like the dog and himself). At some juncture the rat came along, and as no one wanted to eat anyone else, the rat started riding with the cat and, often, on the cat!
The dog, will stand all day and let you talk to him and admire him for a few chin scratches. The Mayor of Santa Barbara filmed this clip and sent it out as a holiday card.
A great video .....

Apple updates iPhone with MicroCell files

By Zach Spear

Published: 01:00 PM EST
A recent carrier update delivered to U.S. iPhone users through iTunes contains two small files for use with AT&T's future MicroCell signal-patching device.

The update to the iPhone's carrier settings arrives on the heels of AppleInsider's report on AT&T's 3G solution to patch iPhone dead zones just last week.

Apple's Knowledge Base offers few details on carrier settings updates, saying only that patches contain small files with changes to the default APN (which is how the iPhone connects to the cellular data network), special dialing codes, and default settings for web apps like Stocks, Maps, Weather, and others.

However, MobileCrunch has explored the package contents of the latest update and discovered that it consists largely of two images named "Default_CARRIER_ATT M-Cell.PNG" and "FSO_CARRIER_ATT M-Cell.PNG".

iPhone Carrier update

The images are simply carrier logos to replace the default "AT&T" logo at the top of the iPhone's screen whenever connected to the MicroCell.

iPhone Carrier update

Additionally, commenters at TUAW point out that Apple has added carrier settings for Mobily (Saudi Arabia) and Etisalat (United Arab Emirates) as well. This seems to coincide with reports that the iPhone will be available on those networks before the close of the month.

iPhone 3G users stuck in an AT&T dead zone at home or at work will be able to purchase and plug in a MicroCell from the carrier that provides a strong local signal for up to 10 phones and four simultaneous voice or data connections via a connection to broadband Internet.

Early study shows AIDS-fighting gel promising

ATLANTA (AP) -- An experimental vaginal gel has shown some promise in preventing infection from the AIDS virus - the first study to offer hope that a microbicide may soon join the medical arsenal in the international battle against HIV, scientists announced Monday.

The results were not conclusive in this preliminary study, but they were welcome news considering the failure of other similar products. The multi-country study suggests a gel made by Massachusetts-based Indevus Pharmaceuticals Inc. cut HIV infection to a slight degree, a researcher said Monday at a medical conference.

Scientists have been trying to develop gels and other microbicides for women to use as protection in parts of the world where their partners may refuse to use condoms.

"This is the first study that now shows we have a promising candidate," said Salim Abdool Karim, the South African researcher who presented the results.

About 3,100 women participated in the study, which was designed mainly to test whether it was safe. The women were divided into four groups. One-quarter of them used the Indevus gel, which is supposed to block the AIDS virus from attaching to certain white blood cells.

Another quarter were put on a gel made by Baltimore-based ReProtect Inc. The rest were given a placebo gel, or no gel at all.

All the women were counseled to have their partners use condoms. The study was done in South Africa, Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe and the United States, and was funded by the U.S. National Institutes of Health.

Researchers found that women who used the Indevus-made gel had a 30 percent lower rate of HIV infection than the other women in the study. But the difference was not statistically significant, meaning the results could have occurred by chance.

Health officials say larger studies are needed to better assess effectiveness. Such a study of the Indevus gel, involving 9,400 African women, is to conclude in August.

The results were presented at a medical conference on retroviruses in Montreal.


On the Net:

The CROI conference:

This is not photoshopped

Disturbing picture of a horse that was trapped by the raging fires and lies dead at the side of the road near the community of Kinglake, Australia, February 9, 2009. Weary firefighters and rescuers pulled the remains of dozens of people from charred buildings on Monday as the death toll rose to 130 from southern Australia's deadliest bushfires.

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Tennis prodigy, four, coached by man who trained Venus and Serena Williams

A four-year-old tennis prodigy is attending a Florida academy to be trained by a man who has coached stars including Venus and Serena Williams.

Mia Lines: Tennis prodigy, four, coached by man who trained Venus and Serena Williams
Four year old Mia Lines from Wantirna South, Australia during a training session in Miami, Florida Photo: BARRY BLAND/BARCROFT MEDIA

Mia Lines picked up a racket at the age of only one and is now gaining from the enormous experience of renowned tennis coach Rick Macci at his academy.

Macci has coached a series of Grand Slam winners but said he has never seen a more impressive player at the age of four than Mia, who is from Australia.

"I have seen hundreds of kids come through my school in the 25 years I have been doing this and I have never seen a four year old with such god-given talent," he said.

Stunned by the precision of Mia's ability to read the court and also because she can hit the ball from baseline to baseline, Rick is cautiously guarded about her potential due to her age.

"It is difficult to compare Mia to players I have coached like Venus and Serena Williams, Andy Roddick and Maria Sharapova," the 54-year-old said. "Mia's technique is incredible and what she is doing is bringing foot-work you can't teach to the table.

"What I would say is ask me if she can go all the way in five years and I will be able to tell you then.

"In the meantime my opinion is that she can not be any better than she is at this age."

This is the second one month stint that Mia has done with Macci, a seven time national US coach of the year, the first having been in July of last year when she was still only three.

"Well I found out my child was going to be a girl I ran round telling everyone that she is going to be a tennis player," said Mia's father Glenn.

"From the moment that she was born I insisted on working with her hand eye co-ordination and then at the age of one I gave her a tennis racket."

Mr Lines had her practising indoors with soft balls, until he took her outside onto his parents own tennis court.

"I have always been a tennis fan so I knew of Rick Macci. As she progressed year on year I wondered whether I had a special child, so I got in contact with Rick.

"We eventually got her to his Florida camp last year and this year has just confirmed what we have all thought," said Mr Lines, from Melbourne.

"I know nothing about ballet, nothing about swimming, but I do know something about tennis and I am just trying to guide her as best as i can.

"If she is good enough and she wants to do it then that is up to her. She drives the bus."

For Mia it is the thought of being the next Sharapova that is most appealing.

"My favourite part of my tennis exercises is the breathing, when I have to breath in before I hit the ball and exhale when I hit it," she said.

"It makes me think that I am Sharapova."

Boston Bans Cigarette Sales In Drug Stores

CBS Evening News: Beantown Widens Its Effort To Get Its Residents To Kick The Habit; Now Taking Aim At Cigar Bars

Boston Toughens Smoking Ban

6 years after Boston, Mass. placed a citywide ban on smoking in workplaces, restaurants, and bars the city's public health commission has decided to outlaw all smoking bars. Randall Pinkston reports.

(CBS) Boston will become the nation’s second city to ban the sale of cigarettes by pharmacies on Monday, as new rules approved by the city’s public health commission take effect.

The regulations passed by the commission two months ago also ban colleges from selling tobacco products on campus and will force smoking bars to shut their doors within a decade, reports CBS News correspondent Randall Pinkston.

“In 10 years, all smoking bars in Boston should be gone,” Dr. Barbara Ferrer, the commission’s executive director, tells CBS News.

There are only 11 left, and the city vows not to license any more. Health officials are especially perturbed at the emergence of half a dozen of hookah bars, which cater to college students and young adults.

“Once you get started, quitting is very hard,” Hallet says. “We still have a half a million deaths a year in the country every year that are attributable to the use of tobacco.”

The direct financial impact on pharmacies is expected to be small, as cigarettes account for just one-to-three percent of sales.

At Sullivan's Pharmacy, a family-owned drug store in Boston, owner Gregory Laham worries about diminished foot traffic, but will remove cigarettes from the shelves without protest.

"We know the dangers of smoking, and I support the ban,” Laham, tells CBS News. "As a pharmacist, it's obvious; we shouldn't be selling cigarettes."

The largest number of pharmacies in Boston belong to CVS and Walgreens, and both chains say they will comply with the new rules and are working on new merchandise displays.

San Francisco last year imposed the first municpal ban on cigarette sales by pharmacies, and the Berkeley-based Americans for Non-Smokers Rights foundation hopes a trend is underway.

You shouldn’t be able to buy tobacco products from your health service provider.

Cynthia Hallet, Executive Director of Americans for Non-Smokers Rights
“We’re bound to see other cities follow suit, the foundation's executive director, Cynthia Hallet, tells CBS News.“You shouldn’t be able to buy tobacco products from your health service provider.”

More controversial is the limit on cigar bars.

“Our goal is one of promoting health and safety for workers and for residents,” says Ferrer. “What we are saying is that if you personally smoke, we should reduce the exposure your smoking habit may have on somebody else, in particular on workers.”

But cigar bars bristle at the notion that their employees object to second-hand smoke.

“There is second-hand smoke, but we have state of the art humidifiers and smoke eaters," George Gilio, the general manager of Cigar Masters in Boston, says. During our visit, we noticed one bartender there lighting up.

“We have ten years to prove them wrong, and I think we’ll do it,” Gilio says.

“All the people that come to work for me come to work for me because they embrace the lifestyle. They enjoy this business. They’re all smokers," Barry Macdonald, whose family took over Churcill's Lounge in the early 1970s says.

“My position is - it’s legal, if you’re an adult, you can make a rational decision about it,” Macdonald says.

Which echoes the feelings of the bars' clientele.

"It should be a choice," said a Swedish woman visiting Cigar Masters who would only give her first name, Nillo. "Do I want to eat a hamburger today or do I want to eat fish today? Do I want to have a cigarette or do I not want to have a cigarette? And as a human being, am I willing to work in a smoking environment or am I not willing to work in a smoking environment?”

“We’re adults. We have the right to choose. I choose to come into this place,” says Alan Dines, a regular at Cigar Masters. “These are legal products. These are not banned products, and they’re trying to regulate items that are not banned."

The original draft of Boston's new regulation would have withdrawn the cigar bar licenses within five years, but amidst the worsening receccsion, the owners prevailed for a longer reprieve.

“I think it will hurt a very fragile economy,” says Robert Shick, another Cigar Masters patron.

Still, smoke-free laws are becoming commonplace across the country. Already 27 states ban smoking in restaruants, while 22 do so in the workplace, according to Americans for NonSmokers' Rights. Hundreds of colleges have restricted smoking in housing and on campus.

“Smoke-free laws protect people from exposure to a known carcinogen, and this is a way to protect the public health,” sast Hallet.

The Boston health commission points to a study Massachusetts conducted with Harvard University which estimated there were 577 fewer than expected heart attack deaths every year since the state imposed its smoke-free workplace law four years ago.

“If I had my druthers, the tobacco industry would not be able to spend over a billion dollars every year advertising a lethal product,” commission head Ferrer says. “Tobacco kills more people every year than alcohol deaths and murder and suicide combined.”

But it's not that simple for the cigar bar owners facing extinction.

“This is my livelihood. This is what I do. You know, I have two children, a wife, a mortgage, like a lot of other people," Macdonald says. "It wouldn’t be good.”

Mac clone maker wins legal round against Apple

Psystar can argue Apple abused copyright laws, judge rules
Gregg Keizer

February 8, 2009 (Computerworld) A federal judge last week ruled that Psystar Corp. can continue its countersuit against Apple Inc., giving the Mac clone maker a rare win in its seven-month-old battle with Apple.

He also hinted that if Psystar proves its allegations, others may then be free to sell computers with Mac OS X already installed.

In an order signed on Friday, U.S. District Court Judge William Alsup gave Psystar the go-ahead to amend its lawsuit against Apple. According to Alsup, Psystar may change that countersuit, which originally accused Apple of breaking antitrust laws, to instead ague that Apple has stretched copyright laws by tying the Mac operating system to its hardware.

Alsup had tossed Psystar's antitrust charges in November 2008 but left the door open to a modified complaint. Psystar took advantage of the opportunity and filed a revised lawsuit in mid-December. Apple, however, had hoped to quash Psystar's revision, saying that the Miami-based company "attempts to repackage its dismissed antitrust allegations under the guise of copyright misuse."

On Friday, Alsup said that Psystar could continue to press its once-dismissed case. "Psystar may well have a legitimate interest in establishing misuse [of copyright] independent of Apple's claims against it -- for example, to clarify the risks it confronts by marketing the products at issue in this case or others it may wish to develop," Alsup said in his ruling.

Apple started the legal wrangling in July when it said Psystar broke copyright and software-licensing laws by selling Intel-based computers with Mac OS X 10.5 preinstalled. Psystar has been selling machines equipped with Apple's operating system since April 2008.

Alsup also said that if Psystar proves that Apple abused copyright laws, some of Apple's charges against the company would be moot. He also seemed to say that that others would then be free to follow in Psystar's footsteps. "Moreover, if established, misuse would bar enforcement (for the period of misuse) not only as to defendants who are actually party to the challenged license but also as to potential defendants not themselves injured by the misuse who may have similar interests," said Alsup in his ruling.

The judge did not name the "potential defendants," but in previous filings, Apple has claimed that Psystar was not acting alone. "Persons other than Psystar are involved in Psystar's unlawful and improper activities described in this amended complaint," said Apple in a November filing. At the time, Apple only referred to those individuals or corporations as John Does 1 through 10.

Apple said it would reveal the names when it uncovered them.

Alsup also acknowledged Apple's argument that it had the right to decide how its software was licensed and used, but said that that would have to be decided as the case plays out. He did reject Psystar's attempt to include state unfair-competition charges in its countersuit, however.

Psystar has a week to submit its altered counterclaims, after which Apple must answer within 20 days. Alsup also told the two parties to get to work. "Both sides should be taking discovery and preparing themselves for trial and/or summary judgment," the judge concluded.

The case is currently scheduled to begin trial on Nov. 9.

Grammy - Winners (2009)

Alison Krauss and Robert Plant cleaned up at the 51st Grammys, winning Album of the Year, Record of the Year and 2 others. Radiohead won Best Alternative Album, Lil Wayne won Best Rap Album, and Coldplay won 3 Grammys, including for Best Rock Album and Best Song.

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Top 18 Sexy Celebrity Music Video Cameos

Sex sells – everyone knows that. So if you want to sell more records or get more airplay, it’s hardly rocket science to suggest that putting a sexy celebrity in your video is going to increase your chances of success tenfold. It's a winning formula.

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Curt Schilling: Name all 104 positives not just A-Rod

NEW YORK -- A day after Alex Rodriguez was linked to steroids, another All-Star offered this suggestion: Make public the entire list of players who failed drug tests in 2003. "I'd be all for the 104 positives being named, and the game moving on if that is at all possible," former Boston ace Curt Schilling wrote on his blog Sunday, referring to the number of players who were tested but assured confidentiality. "In my opinion, if you don't do that, then the other 600-700 players are going to be guilty by association, forever," he wrote. "It appears that not only was it 104, but three of the greatest of our, or any, generation appear to be on top of this list."

Yankees teammate Derek Jeter, speaking from the club's spring training site in Tampa, Fla., on Monday, said Rodriguez should be given "the benefit of the doubt."

"My intitial reaction is let him respond" to the report, Jeter said, according to Newsday. "Give him the respect to respond to it before you pass judgment."

Rodriguez joined Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens on an ever-growing list of stars tainted by the steroids era scandal. Sports Illustrated reported Saturday the Yankees slugger, already dubbed "A-Roid" in the tabloids, tested positive for two steroids in 2003, when he played for the Texas Rangers.

Sources confirmed to ESPN that Rodriguez, now with the New York Yankees, was aware he tested positive. Rodriguez, the players' union and Major League Baseball were mum Sunday. "Alex has been out of the country. I expect him back later today and want to confer with my client before saying anything," agent Scott Boras said. One recently retired player wanted to know how Rodriguez's name got out. Sean Casey, who spent last season with the Red Sox, said he felt violated by the leak. "A little bit, because it was supposed to be a survey test and those results were supposed to be confidential," he said. "The only reason we opened up the collective bargaining agreement was on those terms." The list was compiled from 2003 tests, conducted by baseball to see whether the sport had a problem with drugs. No penalties were to be imposed for a positive test, and the results were supposed to remain anonymous. Many players seemed to believe the samples would be destroyed. Casey said he wouldn't be surprised if more names were revealed, "especially because of the witch hunt with Bonds and Clemens." Bob DuPuy, baseball's chief operating officer, said the purported disclosure shouldn't cause a loss of confidence in the program's confidentiality. "2003 tests were supposed to be confidential. For whatever reason test results were not destroyed as they were supposed to have," he said in an e-mail to The Associated Press. "Since then, positives have been identified. I am comfortable [the] program is operated currently as it should be." Baseball began suspensions for players who test positive for steroids for the first time in 2005. Players who test positive for amphetamines at least twice have been suspended since 2006. Rodriguez has always denied using performance-enhancing drugs. When he was approached by SI last week about the allegations, he said, "You'll have to talk to the union." Union head Donald Fehr declined comment Sunday. The Major League Baseball Players Association issued a statement Saturday afternoon: "Information and documents relating to the results of the 2003 MLB testing program are both confidential and under seal by court orders. We are prohibited from confirming or denying any allegation about the test results of any particular player[s] by the collective bargaining agreement and by court orders. Anyone with knowledge of such documents who discloses their contents may be in violation of those court orders."
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Alex Rodriguez
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty ImagesAlex Rodriguez, shown here in June 2003, finished that season first in the American League in home runs (47), runs (124) and slugging percentage (.600).
Major League Baseball said it was "disturbed" by the report, but did not elaborate because of player confidentiality. "Because the survey testing that took place in 2003 was intended to be nondisciplinary and anonymous, we cannot make any comment on the accuracy of this report as it pertains to the player named," MLB executive vice president Rob Manfred said. For a list that was to remain confidential, quite a few people have had access to the players' names, including 17 federal judges and dozens of lawyers, federal prosecutors and investigators. Federal investigators looking for data on 10 players connected to the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative first seized the list of 104 names in April 2004 during a raid on a private laboratory. Since then, three federal trial court judges and their staffs reviewed the lists in considering related legal actions filed by the players' union, which argued the 104 names were improperly seized because the original search warrant sought only the names of 10 players in the BALCO investigation. After those judges ruled in favor of the union, government lawyers successfully appealed their case to a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which said prosecutors had the right to the records of all players who tested positive. A full 11-judge panel of the 9th Circuit threw out the initial appellate decision that favored the government. The full panel heard the case in December and hasn't ruled. Spring training starts this week, now sure to open under a cloud of suspicion. Bonds is set for trial March 2, accused of lying to a grand jury when he said he never knowingly took performance-enhancing drugs, and a grand jury is investigating whether Clemens lied when he told a congressional committee under oath last year that he never knowingly used steroids or human growth hormone. Rodriguez is a three-time AL MVP and the highest-paid player in the majors. With 553 home runs at age 33, the New York third baseman is considered the most likely successor to Bonds' career homer record of 762. Many in baseball had hoped a "clean" Rodriguez would help push the steroids era further into the past by surpassing Bonds. Instead, Rodriguez finds himself swept up in the drug scandal. Fans were left to wonder: Would the allegations hurt Rodriguez's Hall of Fame chances, the same way they damaged Mark McGwire? "We can't be shocked by any names, any more," Schilling said in his blog. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

Surfer rides monster wave caused by British storm front

This dramatic photograph shows a surfer tackling one of the biggest waves ever ridden in Europe, caused by the weather front which is bringing winter storms to Britain.

Surfer rides monster wave caused by British storm front
Benjamin Sanchis surfs the wave at Belharra situated on the border of France and Spain Photo: 'Stephane Salerno /

Benjamin Sanchis looks like an ant on the face of the 60ft wave at Belharra in the Bay of Biscay.

Frozen in time, the picture shows the lip of the wave lurching forward threatening to crush the Frenchman with hundreds of tons of water.

But the 29-year-old professional surfer managed to avoid wiping-out and could earn a place in the history books for the ride.

The photo has won him a nomination for this year's Billabong XXL Global Big Wave Awards - a contest normally dominated by locations in the Pacific Ocean.

The wave, which breaks over an offshore reef near the border of France and Spain in the Basque Country, only picks up during huge swells.

However, the Atlantic has been host to several gigantic swells this winter, which have caused weather chaos in the UK.

The wave Mr Sanchis rode on January 18 was created by one of the deepest depression in recent years, which brought gale force winds and giant waves to Britain.

And forecasters are predicting more large swells in the Atlantic during the coming weeks.

A spokesman for surf forecasters, Surfline, said: "The North Atlantic has been in a very active pattern over the past few weeks producing a series of large swells.

"We continue to remain in a very active pattern with plenty of solid swell due for the region over the coming days.

"The North Atlantic storm track is expected to remain fairly active over the next couple of weeks which means potential for even more extra, extra, large swell."

Meanwhile, big wave surfers in Hawaii and the west coast of the US, areas which usually see high seas at this time of year, have been "starved for waves" during recent weeks, Surfline said.

The spokesman added: "The Atlantic Ocean has produced a bounty of massive storms and swells, becoming a key focus of the 2009 Billabong XXL Global Big Wave Awards."

An spokesman for the awards said: "While some of the Atlantic storms lashing the European coastline have arrived with unfavourable weather, there have been many days where the conditions have come together for the surfers who have been on the prowl for the right window of opportunity."

Mr Sanchis, from Hossegor, has been surfing since the age of seven and made his historic ride just 11 days after his 29th birthday.

The picture was taken by surf photographer Stephane Salerno.

Michael Phelps' marijuana use puts focus on debate over the drug

Michael Phelps
Gail Burton / Associated Press
Michael Phelps heads toward reporters at Meadowbrook Aquatic Center in Baltimore to answer questions during a training session Friday.

The Olympic champion's use of pot is far from a novelty in the sports world and leads to a discussion of whether it is much ado about nothing.
By Chuck Culpepper
February 8, 2009
And so suddenly here's marijuana -- yep, marijuana -- hogging itself another heyday, bolting into the spotlight, all but sashaying back into dialogue and shouting, "Hey, I'm still here."

Shadowed in cycles through recent decades while other legal or illegal or performance-enhancing stimulants took turns getting all the hype, marijuana has just hollered in the case of merely the most-decorated Olympian in history, Michael Phelps. It has tried to yell from the recent past of the Super Bowl most valuable player, who alighted at Disney World only four months after a forgotten arrest.

It has appeared this week in the suitcase of an arrested college basketball point guard at an airport, and this winter in the possession of a former Dallas receiver, and a Seattle linebacker, and a Florida State receiver, and a retired NBA forward/center, and amid a Japanese sumo wrestling scandal if you can believe such, and in November with a New York Jets defensive end, and last spring in that bellwether moment on talk radio, when Dallas Mavericks forward Josh Howard readily said he enjoyed an inhale.

Marijuana? Who knew? Yeah, well, OK, pretty much everybody did.

"It has been constant in terms of it being the most popular of the illicit drugs," said Roger Roffman, a professor at the University of Washington, whose study of marijuana in culture dates clear back to the Vietnam War as a social worker for the Army. Even if its relative usage doesn't match its peak from the late 1970s, Roffman said its No. 1 ranking has remained impenetrable.

It's just that news coverage and human discourse run in cycles, as Roffman reminded, and seldom has any cycle known a louder clash than a 14-time gold medalist heralded as classic Americana ramming into a photo at a party with a bong. Such a noise far occludes even the fact that Santonio Holmes, NFL superhero and honored Disney guest, logged a one-game suspension in October after Pittsburgh police pulled him over, got a whiff of his SUV and asked if he'd been smoking, whereupon, according to their report, he said, "No, but yesterday I was."

Because sports permeates everything, those keen on the marijuana issue all along have seen the case of Phelps and his multitudinous corporate sponsors as a gauge of the American mood circa 2009.

Quiet ruled for days. Then Thursday, Kellogg's halted its sponsorship of Phelps, finding his behavior "not consistent with the image of Kellogg's," the 103-year-old Michigan cereal titan. Subway, another sponsor, opted for censure but not discontinuance. From a far different culture, the Swiss watchmaker Omega deemed it "a non-issue."

"I think there would have been a much stronger and larger fallout" for an American gold medalist 10 or 20 years ago, said Paul Armentano, deputy director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. In the Phelps brouhaha, Armentano has sensed a profound shift in national dialogue and in media questions, even if he does still chafe when incorrigible headline writers find double-entendres irresistible. In his view, a swift, toned, dominant athlete who "more than the average American is cognizant of what he puts in his body" simply "blows to smithereens" marijuana's images of slackerdom.

"Kellogg's is playing by the rules of 20 years ago," Armentano said. "Subway is playing by the rules of 1986 and the 'War on Drugs.' Those rules have changed."

This time around, in fact, some High Times website readers have called for a boycott of Kellogg's, while Roffman surmises that could lead to opponents calling for a boycott of the boycott of Kellogg's.

That's because as the debate has roiled on and Roffman has followed it, he has detected four sides, all of which, he said, don "blinders" when regarding the other three.

Group 1 emphasizes that most adults who smoke marijuana do so occasionally and "without really any harm," Roffman said, "and that's a very hard thing for us to publicly acknowledge." Group 2 stresses that "a substantial number of marijuana smokers get into real trouble" and "derail" from functionality.

Group 3 considers marijuana central to life on Earth and tends to live alternatively both culturally and politically, yet manages to function. And Group 4 entails medical users, whose approval in various states -- California in 1996 -- has helped soften the stigma over time.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, for example, trains on Group 2 and maintains in its policy statements, "Smoked marijuana has not withstood the rigors of science -- it is not medicine and it is not safe," and, "Legalization of marijuana, no matter how it begins, will come at the expense of our children and public safety." More personally, a Colorado mother of a 12-year-old swimmer said of Phelps on ABC News, "I am absolutely appalled. Honestly, absolutely appalled, sickened and saddened."

Epitomizing the dichotomy of views, 12 states have decriminalized certain amounts of marijuana possession but, Roffman said, "Would the rest of the states pass that? I have substantial doubts about that." In the athletic realm, there have been 1994 Heisman Trophy winner Rashaan Salaam, who said on the record that marijuana made him lazy and impeded his progress, and five-time Pro Bowl NFL lineman Mark Stepnoski, who said on the record it helped him sleep and alleviate pain without enduring painkillers or hangovers.

Had Roffman run Kellogg's, he said, he might have opted for a commodity rare in America: nuance. He might have suspended Phelps but said something akin to: We realize he's a role model. We don't believe children and adolescents should smoke marijuana. We also realize Phelps is an adult. We recognize that adults often smoke marijuana without being harmed. We also recognize that because he's a role model, we support his attempt not to repeat this.

That's too shaded for a zippy sound bite, of course, but that's hemp in 2009, when a 47-year-old statesman can admit he smoked during youth and become a decisively elected president, and a 23-year-old athlete can succumb to a South Carolina party photographer and a British tabloid and a ruckus, but with his sponsors reacting variously.

It's a marijuana era clearly new but still perplexing.

"There aren't many places Joe and Mary Public can turn for a balanced, up-to-date, accurate, rational debate about marijuana and all of its glitter and all of its warts," Roffman said. So even though the professor lacks a title just yet for his forthcoming memoir about 40 years following the bouncing dialogue, he does know that the title, for diverse reasons, will include the word "myth."

More from Geneva- Honda Accord Type S

GENEVA — Honda said it plans to unveil the Accord Type S sedan and wagon at the 2009 Geneva Auto Show in March. The new model will feature a more powerful diesel engine and a sportier appearance package.

The company's 2.2-liter i-DTEC four-cylinder diesel gets a revised turbocharger and cylinder head and a larger intercooler, resulting in an increase in output from 147 to 176 horsepower and a bump in torque from 258 to 280 pound-feet.

When the Accord Type S goes on sale later this year, it will get unique 18-inch alloy wheels, a front air dam, sill extensions, a dark-chrome grille and Type S badging.

Inside Line says: The European perspective — that you can take a diesel car and make it "sportier" — is refreshing. — Paul Lienert, Correspondent

Hyundai HED-6 to Bow at Geneva

GENEVA — Hyundai Motor said its HED-6 concept, which breaks cover next month at the 2009 Geneva Auto Show, was styled at its European Design headquarters in Ruesselsheim, Germany, and provides "a new look for compact SUVs."

According to European media reports, the HED-6 will morph into a new production model called the ix35, which will replace the Hyundai Tucson in Europe in late 2009. The ix35 will be assembled at the Kia plant in Zilina, Slovakia, according to Automotive News.

Among the concept's features is a 175-horsepower turbocharged 1.6-liter gasoline direct-injection engine that may be used in several other models.

Inside Line says: It's still not clear whether Hyundai will keep the Tucson name in North America when the new model arrives over here, probably in 2010. — Anita Lienert, Correspondent

Heads or Tails?

Saudi judge refuses to annul marriage of girl, 8

From Mohammed Jamjoom and Saad Abedine

(CNN) -- A Saudi judge recently refused to annul a marriage between an 8-year-old girl and a 47-year-old man -- a union apparently arranged by the girl's father to settle his debts -- a lawyer in the case told CNN.

On Saturday, the judge, Sheikh Habib Abdallah al-Habib, dismissed a petition brought by the girl's mother because she "is not the legal guardian of the girl," the woman's lawyer Abdullah al-Jutaili said.

"Therefore, she cannot represent her daughter in these proceedings," al-Jutaili said.

Her parents are separated, he said.

According to the lawyer, the girl's father arranged the marriage in order to settle his debts with the man, who is "a close friend" of his.

The judge did ask for a pledge from the husband, who was in court, not to consummate the marriage until the girl reaches puberty, according to al-Jutaili.

The judge ruled that when the girl reaches puberty, she will have the right to request a divorce by filing a petition with the court, the lawyer said.

Christoph Wilcke, a Saudi Arabia researcher for Human Rights Watch, said his organization has heard many other cases of child marriages.

"We've been hearing about these types of cases once every four or five months because the Saudi public is now able to express this kind of anger, especially so when girls are traded off to older men," Wilcke said.

Zuhair al-Harithi, a spokesman for the Human Rights Commission, a Saudi government-run human rights group, said his organization is fighting against child marriages.

"The Human Rights Commission opposes child marriages in Saudi Arabia," al-Harithi said. "Child marriages violate international agreements that have been signed by Saudi Arabia and should not be allowed."

The spokesman said he did not have specific details about this case but his organization has been able to stop at least one other child marriage.

First US Face Transplant Patient Leaves Hospital

First US face transplant patient leaves Cleveland hospital, can now smile, eat solid food


The Associated Press

Face transplant
Doctors at the Cleveland Clinic said the nation's first-ever face transplant surgery took 22 hours from start to finish. The identity of the recipient of the donor face remains a mystery.
(Getty/ABC News)

She can eat pizza. And hamburgers. She can smell perfume, drink coffee from a cup, and purse her lips as if to blow a kiss. Except that one lip is hers, and the other is from a dead woman. She is the nation's first face transplant patient, and on Thursday night, she went home from a Cleveland hospital. "I'm happy about myself," she told her doctors.

"She accepted her new face," said Dr. Maria Siemionow, the Cleveland Clinic reconstructive surgeon who led the historic operation in early December.

The woman's identity has not been revealed, and hospital officials won't say where she went. She and her family have declined requests for an interview.

She suffered a traumatic injury several years ago, the details of which doctors also won't reveal. But it left the woman with no nose, palate, or way to eat or breathe normally. In a 22-hour procedure, 80 percent of her face was replaced with bone, muscles, nerves, skin and blood vessels from another woman who had just died.

It was the fourth partial face transplant in the world, though the others were not as extensive.

The patient's recovery has been astonishing, Siemionow said. She shows no signs of rejecting her new face, is doing well on standard immune-suppressing drugs, and can breathe normally instead of through a hole in her windpipe.

A couple weeks ago, she ate pizza for the first time in years.

"She can actually feel the new face, and she does not feel the difference between her old face and her new face," Siemionow said.

"Before surgery, she couldn't smell at all," the surgeon said. Now, "she can recognize perfumes, she can eat and smell her hamburger ... she can drink her coffee from the cup."

Most surprising to doctors, who thought a transplanted face would never be able to do this: "She can wink her eye," Siemionow said.

Her face appears so normal, that she could probably even could go out in public and not be recognized as someone who had a face transplant, Siemionow said.

"The scars are nicely hidden because it's such a large transplant," she said. "We are really pleased with the outcome."

The woman must return a couple of times a week for follow-up care. She still needs restorative dental work. Doctors are working on a dental prosthesis to help fill the massive defect she suffered from her injury and to hold upper false teeth. Her lower teeth and lip are her own.

Already, the improvement in her quality of life is dramatic, and she is enjoying small pleasures "that we take for granted," Siemionow said.

"She enjoys cookies with her coffee," but could not drink from a cup before the transplant. "She loves hamburgers. For years, she could not eat chicken," and longed for its taste, the surgeon said.

The woman suffered emotionally from being called names and frightening children who ran away when they saw her, Siemionow said in a December news conference when the transplant was announced. Now, she has found inner happiness and confidence with the new face.

"It's something that will give a lot of hope to other patients," Siemionow said.

Such operations have been controversial because unlike transplants of vital organs like hearts and livers, face transplants are done to improve quality of life — not extend it. Recipients run the risk of deadly complications and must take immune-suppressing drugs for the rest of their lives to prevent organ rejection, raising their odds of cancer and infections.

However, leading physician groups and bioethicists praised the Cleveland case and have warmed to the idea for carefully selected patients who have exhausted other reconstructive surgery options.

The Cleveland Clinic has received a military grant to investigate face transplants for injured soldiers, and Siemionow visited Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio a few months ago to consider potential candidates.

The clinic hopes to offer more such operations, but "we'll give our results a little time" and make sure this patient does well, she said.

The world's first partial face transplant was performed in France in 2005 on a 38-year-old woman who had been mauled by her dog. Isabelle Dinoire received a new nose, chin and lips from a brain-dead donor. Apart from some rejection episodes, she has done well.

Two others have received partial face transplants since then — a Chinese farmer attacked by a bear and a European man disfigured by a genetic condition.


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$15,000 for Homebuyers

NEW YORK ( -- If you're thinking of buying a home, there could be a big bonus for you in the economic stimulus bill that's now before Congress.

The Senate's version of the plan sweetened the $7,500 homebuyer tax credit provision proposed by the House, doubling it to $15,000 or 10% of the home's purchase price (whichever is lower). What's more, the credit applies to all buyers - not just those purchasing their first homes.

The Senate credit also has no income limits. The House version, in comparison, allows only those with incomes up to $75,000 for singles and $150,000 for couples to qualify for the full amount. (In that bill, those earning up to $95,000 and $170,000, respectively, can qualify for a partial credit.)

Also, unlike the tax credit passed last summer as part of the Housing Recovery Act, this one does not have to be repaid. The old credit acted more like a no-interest loan than a true credit and, as a result, had little impact on home sales.

"This will bring pent-up demand back into the marketplace," said Jerry Howard, president of the National Association of Homebuilders. "We believe you can't effectively stimulate the economy until you find a way to stop the downward movement of home values."

The National Association of Realtors estimated the Senate measure will attract an additional one million buyers who would otherwise have remained on the sidelines. "Consumers will view the tax credit as they do lower home prices," said Lawrence Yun, NAR's chief economist. "And more people will qualify [for buying homes]."

That, combined with low mortgage rates, could help reverse the sentiment of many potential homebuyers who are waiting for prices to fall further before they act.

"Consumers are saying, 'Why buy now?' With money on the table, more would jump at the opportunity," said Yun.

The differences

The Senate tax credit, unlike the House proposal, is also non-refundable. That means, if your tax obligation is less than the credit, you only receive an amount equal to your tax bill, no more. The average taxpayer pays considerably less than $15,000 a year in federal income taxes and so would not qualify for the entire credit. For example, if your total tax bill is $8,000, your debt would be zeroed out, but you wouldn't receive the remaining $7,000 as a refund.

But homebuyers can take the credit spread out over two tax years. So in the above example, the taxpayer could claim the remaining $7,000 on next year's taxes.

Another difference is that the Senate credit is good for one year following its enactment and is not retroactive. Homebuyers who make purchases before the credit takes effect cannot claim it; under the House bill, they can because the credit is retroactive to the start of 2009 and expires at the end of June. In both bills, buyers must live in the home for two years or forfeit the credit.

Limited stimulus

Still, many critics doubt that the credit will have as deep of an impact as Yun and Howard predict - and some have been scathing in their critiques. "This is the biggest, most hare-brained scheme," said Dean Baker, the co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research. "If this passes, I'll be amazed."

One major objection is that the credit is available to existing homeowners, who would essentially be selling house A to buy house B and thus have no stimulus impact on the economy. Baker called it a "house-flipping subsidy."

Plus, he added, it gives a credit to others who would buy anyway.

"I actually like this bill," Baker said sarcastically, "because, with home prices in Washington plummeting, I'm considering buying a house."

He also raised the possibility that it could be gamed: What's to prevent two people from selling their houses to each other, in name only, just to claim the $15,000 each?

The Tax Policy Center gave the credit a mediocre C+ grade in its Tax Stimulus Report Card.

TPC spokesman Bob Williams agrees that the credit is poorly targeted and does nothing to address the issue that's holding most buyers back: suspicion that prices will keep falling.

"As long as people are uncertain about what markets are going to do, this won't help much," he said. "It's not enough to change that."

If approved, applying for the credit will be easy - or at least as easy as doing your income taxes. Just claim it on your return. No other forms or papers have to be filed. It can be claimed on 2008 returns; taxpayers who have already completed their returns can file amended returns for 2008 that claim the credit.

Once the Senate passes its stimulus bill, which is expected to happen on Tuesday, a committee will meet with House members to reconcile the differences between the two bills.

Jaret Seiberg, who has been analyzing the stimulus package for the Stanford Group, said the odds favor the Senate provisions because they enjoy broad support among lenders, home builders and lawmakers.

"You have to have something in the stimulus bill to help housing, and there's very little else in there that's on point," said Seiberg.

First Drive: 2009 Porsche 911 Carrera / Carrera S

2009 Porsche 911 (© Porsche Cars North America)

The new Porsche 911 Carrera and Carrera S feature a pair of powerful new engines, an all-new twin-clutch automated manual transmission and even better handling.

Since the first 911 rolled off the assembly line in 1965, Porsche has been on a singular mission to make it the world's best sports car. And it's done a great job. Even though the basic structure has remained essentially the same throughout the years, the 911 can never be called stodgy or behind the times. It's a classic that keeps getting better and more refined with age.

While the 2009 911 Carrera and Carrera S might look like the outgoing models, looks can be deceiving. Suspension, brakes, lighting, interior and exterior styling — all were massaged for the new model year. Plus, the Stuttgart-based automaker added a pair of new powerful and economical engines, as well as an optional, twin-clutch, seven-speed automated manual transmission that's simply spectacular. Is it the best sports car in the world? That's debatable. But one thing is for sure: It is the best 911 yet.

Model Lineup
Porsche offers the 2009 911 Carrera as a two-door coupe or convertible (called Cabriolet), both in base or S trim. All offer 2+2 seating with small rear seats, and the Cabriolet has a power-folding soft-top. Also offered are the all-wheel-drive 911 Carrera 4 and Carrera 4S, as well as the 911 Turbo. The 911 GT3 goes on hiatus for 2009. This review covers only the 911 Carrera and 911 Carrera S.

Base versions are equipped with leather upholstery, automatic climate control, tilt/telescoping steering wheel, bi-xenon headlights, 235-watt AM/FM/CD stereo, cruise control, universal garage door opener, onboard computer, and staggered Z-rated 18-inch tires on alloy wheels. The S trims add Porsche's Active Suspension Managements system (PASM), a sunroof (coupe) and staggered 19-inch tires.

Mechanical options include Porsche's new seven-speed Porsche Doppelkupplung (PDK) automated manual transmission, PASM, a limited-slip rear differential lock, the Sport Chrono Package Plus, and Porsche's Ceramic Composite Brakes. Interior options consist of heated seats, ventilated seats, a heated steering wheel, a Bluetooth wireless cell phone link, XM Satellite Radio, a universal audio interface and a Bose sound system.

2009 Porsche 911 (© Porsche Cars North America) Click picture to enlarge

Larger front air intakes, LED daytime driving lights and new dual-arm side mirrors highlight the exterior mods.

All 2009 Porsche 911 Carreras have dual front airbags and the Porsche Side Impact Protection system with dual front torso airbags that deploy from the seats, and dual front head airbags that deploy upward from the door panels. Other safety features include a tire-pressure monitor, anti-lock brakes with brake assist, traction control and electronic stability control. Cabriolets also have an auto-deploying roll bar system. Available as an option are dynamic cornering headlights that point in the direction the car is turning so drivers can see where they are going.

Under the Hood
The 2009 Porsche 911 Carrera offers two all-new boxer six-cylinder engines. Engineers have simplified the design with 40 percent fewer moving parts, which should translate to better reliability. Porsche's VarioPro variable valve timing returns, but both engines now have direct fuel injection, which helps increase power and fuel economy and reduce emissions.

Base trims have a 3.6-liter flat six that produces 345 horsepower at 6500 rpm and 288 lb-ft of torque at 4400 rpm — up from 325 horsepower and 273 lb-ft of torque in 2008. It is offered with a standard six-speed manual transmission or the new optional seven-speed PDK automated manual transmission. EPA fuel economy numbers are up 7 percent for the manual transmission at 18/25 mpg (city/highway) and up 15 percent for the PDK (compared to last year's Tiptronic five-speed automatic) at 19/27 mpg.

For 2009, the 3.8-liter flat six in the Carrera S produces 385 horsepower at 6500 rpm and 310 lb-ft of torque at 4400 rpm — up from 355 horses and 295 lb-ft of torque. Its fuel economy numbers are 18/25 mpg (city/highway) with the manual and 19/26 mpg with the PDK.

Inner Space
Traditionally, the 911 isn't known for its stellar interior. Even so, Porsche still tries to provide a pleasant environment for driver and passenger. The upholstery is leather, the headliner is suede-like Alcantara and the dashboard, door panels and center console use weighty soft-touch materials that have a quality look and feel. It's all very nice, but it doesn't have the attractive design or premium quality of, say, an Audi interior.

For the most part, form follows function. The instrument panel features the tachometer front and center, making it easy to see when the engine is operating in its ideal performance range (around 6500 rpm). Reading the offset and sparsely marked speedometer, however, can be tough, especially with the hammer down. The standard tilt/telescoping steering wheel combines with an array of seat controls to allow most drivers to find a comfortable driving position. Headroom and legroom up front are ample. The front seats have enough side bolstering to keep occupants in place during aggressive cornering, but it's not so deep that short drivers will knock their arms against the bolsters when shifting.

A coupe body design can often suffer from poor rearward visibility, but not the 911. The classic design has thin rear pillars that don't block the view and the rear window is big. Sight lines to the sides and rear are also aided by 2009's larger exterior mirrors. This is a user-friendly, driver-focused cabin.

With that said, the rear seat isn't so user-friendly. It's only good for very small children. Alternately, its 7.24 cubic feet of volume is a good place to put packages. That's important because the trunk is up front has only 4.42 cubic feet of cargo room, which is about enough for two overhead-sized suitcases.

On the Road (and Track)
To give journalists a feel for the new 911's handling prowess, Porsche let us play on the 24-turn, 4.5-mile Miller Motorsports Park road course just outside of Salt Lake City, Utah. On the track, the new model is incredible.

The 911's fantastic road feel and quick, direct steering remains unchanged. Balance, however, is improved immensely. The inherent problem with a rear-engine design like the 911's is oversteer, a propensity for the rear end to come around during aggressive cornering. The new 911 is so supremely balanced, however, that the rear end stays put. Part of the reason is the pair of new engines. Both are shorter, lighter and sit lower than the previous engines, improving the 911's center of gravity.

2009 Porsche 911 (© Porsche Cars North America) Click picture to enlarge

Porsche 911 Carrera S versions have quad exhaust pipes, while the base trim has dual exhaust. The louvered Porsche "whale tail" rear spoiler pops up at 75 mph and comes back down at 50 mph.

The engines are also more powerful than their predecessors. Each provides smooth, linear acceleration that doesn't knock drivers back into their seats but instead just keeps pulling. Zero to 60 mph comes faster than it feels — 4.7 seconds in the coupe with the base 3.6-liter boxer six and the smooth-shifting six-speed manual transmission.

Performance is even better with the new PDK automated manual transmission, making it a fine choice for both weekend racers and those who don't want to row their own gears. The PDK, a pricey $4,030 option, can shift faster than a human can shift a manual and, unlike some previous attempts at automated manuals (BMW's Sequential Manual Transmission comes to mind), power to the wheels is never interrupted. Those shifts happen quicker with the S version's Sport Chrono system in Sport mode, and the PDK enters full race mode with the optional Sport Chrono Plus package's Sport Plus mode. Note that the shifts can feel harsh in Sport Plus, and they come at redline, so it's not for use on the street.

2009 Porsche 911 (© Porsche Cars North America) Click picture to enlarge

The PDK can operate like an automatic or be shifted manually by pushing the gearshift forward and back, or tapping the standard steering wheel paddles.

Zero-to-60-mph times vary for the S trim. With the manual, Porsche says 0 to 60 mph takes 4.5 seconds. With the PDK, it's 4.3 seconds. And if the Launch Control feature that comes with the PDK is employed, the sprint is only 4.1 seconds. To activate Launch Control, press the Sport Plus button, step on the brake, jab the throttle and rev the engine to 6500 rpm, then let go of the brake. The 911 leaps to life with little if any tire spin. All times are two-tenths of a second slower for the Cabriolet.

The 2009 911 Carrera also stops short and quick. The base version gains last year's S brakes, meaning 13-inch diameter brake rotors are now found at each corner in all models. In a full-day on a long racetrack, we never experienced any brake fade. The pedal may have softened a bit, but there was never any hint that the brakes wouldn't bring us down from speeds in excess of 130 mph. With that kind of racetrack performance, drivers can be confident that the brakes will do the job on the street.

Track prowess aside, the 911 does have some drawbacks on the street. The price for excellent road feel is ride quality that can feel too harsh, especially when the PASM system's Sport mode is engaged. Both engines also emit Porsche's signature guttural blat. It can be music to the ears to some, but others might find it annoying, especially on long trips. Occupants also have to deal with copious road noise from the 911's wide performance tires.

Right for You?
The Porsche 911 Carrera is for anyone who loves to drive, but not for those who want to be fiscally responsible. With limited cargo capacity and room — realistically — for two, the 911 is a great sunny day cruiser. It's also chock full of amazing engineering and sturdy performance parts that make it a great choice for weekend warriors who get the occasional chance to drive on a racetrack. For toting the family around, look elsewhere.

Pretty Grim for the Banking Industry

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TARP Revised: On Verge of a New Bailout

NEW YORK ( -- The Obama administration's long-anticipated overhaul of the banking bailout is finally near.

Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner is scheduled to detail a financial system rescue plan on Tuesday in an 11 a.m. speech in Washington, D.C.

"This is a challenge more complex than any our financial system has ever faced, requiring new systems and persistent attention to solve," Geithner is expected to say Tuesday, according to excerpts of prepared remarks released by the Treasury Department. "But the president, the Treasury and the entire administration are committed to see it through because we know how directly the future of our economy depends on it."

Details are still not certain. But in a press conference Monday night, President Obama promised that Geithner would provide "very clear and specific plans" for loosening up credit markets.

According to prepared remarks, Geithner plans to say the new plan will "cost money, involve risk, and take time," but will be "guided by the principles of transparency and accountability."

"We have to both jumpstart job creation and private investment, and we must get credit flowing again to businesses and families."

The Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP, was created last fall to shore up the deteriorating finances of the nation's banks.

The President added that some funds would be directed toward helping homeowners facing foreclosure, and that there would be conditions on banks that receive bailout money - though Obama declined to say whether there would be lending requirements.

These principles would restore market confidence, the President said, and attract private investment, an important element that will determine if the government will need to allocate more money to TARP.

So far, the government has used the first half of $700 billion in TARP funds to inject capital into more than 300 banks, to make additional large investments in AIG (AIG, Fortune 500), Bank of America (BAC, Fortune 500), Citigroup (C, Fortune 500), and to lend money to General Motors (GM, Fortune 500) and Chrysler.

Now Geithner needs a plan for the second slice of $350 billion.

The strategy thus far has come under attack for a number of reasons.

It is not clear how the Treasury Department decides which banks get loans. Banks are hoarding their new funds, rather than making loans. Direct investments and loans do not address the core problem of establishing transparent pricing for the so-called toxic assets rotting on bank balance sheets. And there has not been enough attention given to stemming the tide of foreclosures, a key mandate of the TARP legislation.

"The actions we took were absolutely essential, but they were inadequate," Geithner is expected to say. "The force of government support was not comprehensive or quick enough to withstand the deepening pressure brought on by the financial crisis."

Though it was not yet certain what alternatives Geithner would pursue, these are the options under review.

'Bad Bank': The prospects for the creation of a so-called "bad bank" have gone back and forth in recent days. A government-funded "bad bank" would buy toxic assets from bank balance sheets. But there are many hurdles.

For example, how much would the government pay for those assets -- pay too much, the taxpayer takes a hit; pay too little, and the banks do. Plus, many analysts believe that to be truly effective, a "bad bank" would need far more money than is available.

However, it now appears that Treasury may use private sector money for the bulk of the financing. Speaking on "Fox News Sunday," top White House economic aide Larry Summers said Geithner believes he can bring "substantial private capital" to the plan.

Insuring assets: The Treasury Department has already done this for Citigroup and Bank of America. Here's how the Citi arrangement -- announced last fall -- works, for example: Citi is on the hook for the first $29 billion in losses on the covered assets, which includes mostly loans backed by residential and commercial mortgages. Citi covers 10% of losses above that amount, with the government shouldering the rest.

In a bailout scheme announced last month, the United Kingdom used the same approach.

Such a plan helps ease the pain on banks, but will not force the banks to fully recognize the extent to which assets their holding have lost value -- an important step in the recovery process.

Fed financing for private investors: Though government assistance is needed, few think the government should take the lead in pricing assets and controlling banks. That's a job best done by private investors, such as hedge funds. But with credit markets frozen, these investors can't get financing to buy toxic assets -- this is where the Federal Reserve may step in.

The Fed announced the Term Asset-Backed Securities Loan Facility (TALF) last fall as a vehicle to lend money for the purchase of an array of securities backed by consumer loans like credit-cards and student loans. The Fed could expand the TALF to jumpstart the private market for bad real estate loans.

One question mark hanging over this concept is how willing the banks will be to sell toxic assets at the market prices. If the newly established market prices are below the prices at which the banks have marked the assets on their balance sheets, the banks could face more writedowns -- which could force the government to pour in even more capital.

Debt/equity swaps: Geithner could also require that debt holders in banks needing assistance "swap" their stake for stock. Existing shareholders would be wiped out and current creditors would give up some of their debt claims in exchange for ownership of the restructured firm. In addition to being fairer, swapping debt for equity would reduce the amount of debt weighing on the economy.

More bank injections: This idea isn't dead yet. Banks still need capital, and the TARP fund still has some cash. Treasury may make more direct investments, though they would surely come with more strings attached, such as a requirement that banks boost lending, for example.

Stemming foreclosures: President Obama has said he wants to set aside between $50 billion and $100 billion to address the foreclosure crisis. How the money will be spent is unclear. FDIC chair Sheila Bair has advocated a plan that would capping monthly payments at 31% of the borrowers' gross income, and have the government share losses with lenders should homeowners that get help end up re-defaulting.

In an interview with CNN this weekend, Obama's housing secretary, Shaun Donovan, stressed that limiting foreclosures will be key to solving the crisis in the housing market and broader economy. To top of page

Private Capital: The Bailout Wildcard

NEW YORK (Fortune) -- Fixing the banks is only the start.

Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner is scheduled to announce his financial sector stabilization plan in a speech Tuesday morning. Geithner is expected to announce multiple programs, including government guarantees of losses on some assets and greater assistance for troubled homeowners.

But with legislators up in arms about the cost of the fiscal stimulus bill, stabilizing the banks is no simple matter. Geithner will have to try to restore the functioning of troubled credit markets - while holding down the cost for taxpayers.

"We want to get the private sector to take responsibility for a situation that in many ways was created in the private sector," said Larry Summers, a top economic aide to President Obama, in an interview on CNN Monday.

"If the government is going to be putting money at risk, we want to make sure somebody in the private sector is willing to take the same risk the taxpayers are being asked to take," Summers added.

With banks still struggling under the weight of toxic assets, markets for mortgage-related securities still locked up and U.S. house prices in free fall, luring back private funds will require a deft touch.

"The administration is having to juggle three different chain saws," said Brian Olasov, a managing director at McKenna Long & Aldrige, a law firm in Atlanta. "The key question is, does the plan make it attractive for the private sector to participate?"

For that to happen, Geithner must show support for a greater flow of investor funds into key areas such as the markets for mortgage-backed securities, auto loans and asset-backed bonds.

Need to jump-start securitization

Olasov says plans like the Federal Reserve's Term Asset-Backed Lending Facility, or TALF hold great promise for restarting private credit flows. Under the TALF program, buyers of triple-A rated securities backed by credit cards, student loans and other assets can swap those bonds for Treasury securities that they can use to get new financing.

According to several reports, federal officials are considering expanding the types of securities eligible for the TALF as well as related plans to include residential and commercial mortgage securities.

"I'm very hopeful that we'll see some new efforts to restart the market for mortgage-related assets," said Ed Gainor, a lawyer in the finance practice at McKee Nelson in Washington. "The policymakers are beginning to appreciate the bulk of loans weren't made on balance sheet, which is why you have to do something for the securitization markets."

The decline of securitization -- the process by which loans are bundled on Wall Street and resold as bonds to investors around the world -- has so far gotten less attention from the Treasury Department and on Capitol Hill than the problems at big banks such as Citigroup (C, Fortune 500) and Bank of America (BAC, Fortune 500).

Yet in the earlier part of this decade, much more credit was created in these markets than by banks simply originating loans and holding them on their balance sheet.

By 2006, the securitization process was responsible for more than twice the volume of loans being made through more conventional lending, said Mark Sunshine, the president of middle-market lender First Capital in Boca Raton, Fla.

In a speech last year, Geithner -- then the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York -- said that by early 2007, assets in the so-called shadow financial system of hedge funds, investment banks and so-called conduits such as structured investment vehicles outstripped those in the traditional banking system.

Since then, the process has gone into reverse with the collapse of asset values. Banks have been tightening their lending standards, resulting in a sharp slowdown in loan production. And an even bigger fall in volume has come in the securitization markets that had been providing much of the financing for buyers of houses, cars and other goods.

Sunshine points out that between the first quarter of 2007 and the third quarter of 2008, bond issuance fell 93% in asset-backed markets, 73% in corporate debt markets and 47% in mortgage-related areas.

"Issuance has just fallen off the cliff," said Sunshine. "The reality is that the banks don't have the infrastructure or the capital to lend in the kind of volume to make up for the collapse of the credit markets."

Creating new bond insurers to get the job done right

Of course, merely recognizing that fact doesn't make it easier to fix the problem. While players in the securitization markets hold out much hope for TALF and programs like it, they also note that the Fed and Treasury have already tried various remedies that haven't had the desired effect.

Still, alphabet soup-sounding plans aren't the only possible answer. Sunshine said he believes the government should start new bond insurance companies that would provide, for a small fee, guarantees on the value of newly securitized assets.

He said these companies would do the work of researching and monitoring the credit of bond issuers, giving the would-be buyers of these assets -- such as pension funds, for instance -- assurance that they aren't taking on too much risk.

Sunshine said it makes little sense for the government to turn its funding toward existing bond insurers. The problems at Ambac (ABK) and MBIA (MBI), which have lost huge sums of money over the past 18 months and suffered huge declines in market value, suggest that the companies at the very least have failed to do what the bond market expected of them.

Another much-discussed plan calls for the government, perhaps in conjunction with private funds, to create a so-called bad bank that would absorb some troubled assets from banks.

How Geithner might implement this plan remains unclear, though Olasov said he believes it's imperative that officials try to put such a bank in place -- even if they need to make changes later.

"The market badly needs price discovery," Olasov said. "The values are so hard to judge that you're not going to be able to get out of this situation without a range of values being made available." To top of page