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Sunday, April 12, 2009

Captain freed when snipers kill pirates

MSNBC.com


Swift rescue operation left three of the Somali captors dead

The Associated Press

MOMBASA, Kenya - U.S. Navy snipers opened fire and killed three pirates holding an American captain at gunpoint, delivering the skipper unharmed and ending a five-day high-seas hostage drama on Easter Sunday.

The pirates were pointing AK-47s at Capt. Richard Phillips and he was in "imminent danger" of being killed when the commander of the nearby USS Bainbridge made the split-second decision to order his men to shoot, Vice Adm. Bill Gortney said.

Phillips' crew, who said they had escaped the pirates after he offered himself as a hostage, erupted in cheers aboard their ship docked in Mombasa, Kenya. Some waved an American flag and fired flares in celebration. A lawn sign in the captain's hometown of Underhill, Vermont that read "Pray for Captain Phillips' release and safe return home" was changed to read, "Capt. Phillips rescued and safe."

Resting comfortably
The U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet said Phillips, 53, was resting comfortably after a medical exam on the San Diego-based USS Boxer in the Indian Ocean off the coast of Somalia. Gortney said the captain had been "tied up inside the lifeboat" over much of the ordeal.

"I'm just the byline. The real heroes are the Navy, the Seals, those who have brought me home," Phillips said by phone to Maersk Line Limited President and CEO John Reinhart, the company head told reporters. A photo released by the Navy showed Phillips unharmed and shaking hands with the commanding officer of the USS Bainbridge.

U.S. officials said a fourth pirate had surrendered and was in military custody. FBI spokesman John Miller said that would change as the situation became "more of a criminal issue."

The rescue was a dramatic blow to the pirates who have preyed on international shipping and hold more than a dozen ships with about 230 sailors from a variety of nations. But it also risked provoking retaliatory attacks.

"This could escalate violence in this part of the world, no question about it," said Gortney, the commander of U.S. Naval Forces Central Command.

Jamac Habeb, a 30-year-old self-proclaimed pirate, told The Associated Press from one of Somalia's piracy hubs, Eyl, that, "our friends should have done more to kill the captain before they were killed. This will be a good lesson for us."

"From now on, if we capture foreign ships and their respective countries try to attack us, we will kill them (the hostages)," he said. France and India have both taken deadly military action against pirates in recent months and seen no significant retaliation, however.

'A model for all Americans'

The Defense Department twice asked President Barack Obama for permission to use military force to rescue Phillips, most recently late Friday evening, U.S. officials said. On Saturday morning, Obama signed off on the Pentagon's request, as he had a day earlier, said the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.

"I share the country's admiration for the bravery of Capt. Phillips and his selfless concern for his crew," Obama said in his first comments on the situation. "His courage is a model for all Americans."

He added that the United States needs help from other countries to deal with the threat of piracy and to hold pirates accountable.

A spokeswoman for the Phillips family, Alison McColl, said Phillips and his wife, Andrea, spoke by phone shortly after he was freed.

"I think you can all imagine their joy and what a happy moment that was for them," McColl said outside of the Phillips home in Underhill. "They're all just so happy and relieved. Andrea wanted me to tell the nation that all of your prayers and good wishes have paid off because Capt. Phillips is safe."

The Navy said Phillips was freed at 7:19 p.m. local time.

When Phillips' crew heard the news aboard their ship in the port of Mombasa, they placed an American flag over the rail of the top of the Maersk Alabama and whistled and pumped their fists in the air. Crew fired two bright red flares into the sky from the ship.

"We made it!" said crewman ATM Reza, pumping his fist in the air.

"He managed to be in a 120-degree oven for days, it's amazing," said another of about a dozen crew members who came out to talk to reporters. He said the crew found out the captain was released because one of the sailors had been talking to his wife on the phone.

Surrendered himself to safeguard crew
Crew members said their ordeal had begun Wednesday with the Somali pirates hauling themselves up from a small boat bobbing on the surface of the Indian Ocean far below.

As the pirates shot in the air, Phillips told his crew to lock themselves in a cabin and surrendered himself to safeguard his men, crew members said.

Phillips was then held hostage in an enclosed lifeboat that was closely watched by U.S. warships and a helicopter in an increasingly tense standoff.

Capt. Joseph Murphy, the father of second-in-command Shane Murphy, thanked Phillips for his bravery.

"Our prayers have been answered on this Easter Sunday," Murphy said. "If not for his incredible personal sacrifice, this kidnapping and act of terror could have turned out much worse."

Murphy said both his family and Phillips' "can now celebrate a joyous Easter together."

Talks to free Phillips began Thursday with the captain of the Bainbridge talking to the pirates under instruction from FBI hostage negotiators on board the U.S. destroyer. The pirates had threatened to kill Phillips if attacked.

Escape attempt thrwarted
Phillips jumped out of the lifeboat Friday and tried to swim for his freedom but was recaptured when a pirate fired an automatic weapon at or near him, according to U.S. Defense Department officials speaking on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to talk about the unfolding operations.

Elsewhere off the Somali coast Friday, the French navy freed a sailboat seized off Somalia by other pirates, but one of the five hostages was killed.

Three U.S. warships were within easy reach of the lifeboat and early Saturday, the pirates holding Phillips in the lifeboat fired a few shots at a small U.S. Navy vessel that had approached, a U.S. military official said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly.

The official said the U.S. sailors did not return fire, the Navy vessel turned away and no one was hurt. He said the vessel had not been attempting a rescue.

The district commissioner of the central Mudug region said talks on freeing Phillips had gone on all day Saturday, with clan elders from his area talking by satellite telephone and through a translator with Americans, but collapsed Saturday night.

Phillips' crew of 19 American sailors reached safe harbor in Kenya's northeast port of Mombasa about the same time under guard of U.S. Navy Seals.

'Good lesson for the pirates'
The U.S. Navy had assumed the pirates would try to get their hostage to shore, where they could have hidden him on Somalia's lawless soil and been in a stronger position to negotiate a ransom.

"The Somali government wanted the drama to end in a peaceful way, but any one who is involved in this latest case had the choice to use violence or other means," Abdulkhadir Walayo, the prime minister's spokesman, told the AP. "Any way, we see it will be a good lesson for the pirates or any one else involved in this dirty business."

Residents of Harardhere, another port and pirate stronghold, were gathering in the streets after news of the captain's release, saying they fear pirates may now retaliate against some of the 200 hostages they still hold.

"We fear more that any revenge taken by the pirates against foreign nationals could bring more attacks from the foreign navies, perhaps on our villages," Abdullahi Haji Jama, who owns a clothes store in Harardhere, told the AP by telephone.

Pirates are holding about a dozen ships with more than 200 crew members, according to the Malaysia-based piracy watchdog International Maritime Bureau. Hostages are from Bulgaria, China, Germany, Indonesia, Italy, the Philippines, Russia, Taiwan, Tuvalu and Ukraine, among other countries.

A spokesman for the German anti-piracy operation told the AP that the U.S. did not give any clue as to its plans in regard to the ship captain.

He had no details on the fate of the German freighter Hansa Stavanger, which was captured earlier this month or on the fate of its 24 crew of five Germans, three Russians, two Ukrainians, two Filipinos and 12 Tuvalu residents.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.

Kill your cable bill: Make your computer a TV

Thanks to services like Netflix, iTunes and Amazon On Demand, consumers can simply stream or download movies or previous seasons of TV shows directly from the Web any time they want. And for those viewers looking for current seasons of TV shows, they can turn to Web sites such as Hulu.com or TV.com.......

Click here for the whole article.... | digg story

Amazing Perf by 47YO on Britain's Got Talent



47 Year old Susan Boyle wows the judges with her performance in the auditions for Britains Got Talent, singing I dreamed a dream from Les Miserables

How Medical Marijuana Works

Introduction to How Medical Marijuana Works.. A complete walkthrough of the whole process....very interesting...

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Carlos Santana: Legalize pot, get back to spirit

By Denise Quan

LOS ANGELES, California (CNN) -- Whenever you speak with Carlos Santana, you pretty much know what you're going to get: lots of talk about love and light. spiritual analogies, name-dropping of people like Marvin Gaye and Mother Teresa.

Carlos Santana will start a 72-show residency in Las Vegas in May at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino.

Carlos Santana will start a 72-show residency in Las Vegas in May at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino.

It may take a moment to enter the humble headspace of the 61-year-old guitarist legend, but once you're there, you realize that this is a man who acts with his heart instead of his head.

Somehow, he's managing to live out his 1960s ideals in 2009 -- and he wants fans to experience a piece of that with his new Las Vegas, Nevada, show, "Supernatural Santana: A Trip Through the Hits." The 72-show residency at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino launches May 27, with 36 concerts this year and 36 in 2010.

As with all his events, a portion of the cost of each ticket will be donated to the Milagro Foundation, the charitable organization founded by Santana and his family to benefit children around the world. Video Watch Santana get into the groove »

Santana talked to CNN about the Vegas show and his beliefs. The following is an edited version of that interview.

CNN: Your Vegas show sounds like it's your greatest hits mixed with a little bit of Carlos Santana spirituality.

Carlos Santana: They're inseparable at this point. We're very different than a lot of bands. A lot of bands concentrate on show business and entertainment. We focus on light and touching people's hearts.

We really believe that by coming to Las Vegas, it gives us an opportunity to take ourselves and the people who come to listen to us into a place where people are free from thinking they're sinners or unworthy. There's something really wonderful about music when music makes men and women dance, laugh and cry at the same time, because they're receiving like a Holy Ghost thing.

CNN: Ticket prices range from $79 up to $299 -- which is a lot of money for some people in this economy.

Santana: I have no clue about that. I'm more with, "This finger goes onto this note and it makes juicy sounds, and I'm going to make people dance and laugh." It's not like I don't care or I'm ignorant. It's just that I'm not wired to have that insignificance on me other than what I'm going to get to give back to other people.

And other than that, I trust that the people around me -- which is my sister and my brother-in-law -- will take care of all of those dimensions. We don't like to gouge people, but we do like to be realistic that you do need to pay the rent ... and stuff like that. But other than that, since I was a child, I really don't put that much focus or significance into it.

CNN: You're well-loved by mainstream audiences, and the Latino audience has been really supportive, too. Do you think this is opening up the door to perhaps invite the Latino audience to Vegas?

Santana: They're already there. They're washing dishes and folding sheets -- I'm serious. The Latin community is there. It's just that we don't see them. ...

I don't belong to just Latinos just because I speak Spanish. We go to Ireland, and if we go to Pakistan, or Istanbul or Malaysia, we're part of the family. We just did a tour in South America, and I have never seen so many children come to our concerts in my life -- and I've been doing this since '67.

CNN: You were born in Mexico, and President Obama will be heading there to talk about the war on drugs. [Secretary of State] Hillary Clinton recently made some remarks that United States drug consumption is partially to blame for this problem. Do you agree with that?

Santana: Totally. I think that the solution to all of this stuff would be to legalize it, decriminalize it, reinvest all that money into teachers in schools. ...

If we would teach in schools the incredible sensation of climax that it feels to be of service to other people -- like Mother Teresa, or Desmond Tutu or the Dalai Lama -- smoking pot, and drinking tequila, and watching porno or whatever people do, it pales in comparison when you actually wake up to be of service to people.

To go back to the question -- I think we should legalize marijuana. I think Barack Obama should bring the brothers and sisters home -- the soldiers. If I was to see him, I would go, "Listen to Marvin Gaye's 'What's Going On' and John Coltrane, and bring the boys home from the war now, like we did with Vietnam." They're not going to come here. People in Vietnam did not come here to attack us after we left them alone. So let's get rid of that fear, that fantasy, that stuff. Let's get rid of the bogeyman, because the bogeyman is us looking in the mirror of each other.

CNN: What about when people don't get it, Carlos? What if they're listening to you and thinking, "He sounds like one of those New Age Californians, and I really don't get what they're doing out there."

Santana: Well, they don't get it because they're stuck in something that is not working. Like, for example, a lot of people are stuck with certain parts of the Bible, believing that God is vengeful and jealous. That's Godzilla! I'm not stuck with a God like that. I'm stuck with a God that's all love, all compassion, all light, and he only sees you with purity and innocence, like the brand-new eyes of a child that's just been born. ...

A lot about Las Vegas is illusion. It's entertainment and show business. We don't know none of that. We only know to go into your heart and help you remember that it's there. I know a lot of rich millionaires who are not happy, and you're only happy when you're doing something.

CNN: Are you happy?

Santana: I'm very, very happy because I'm grateful. My priorities finally have been crystallized. I started washing dishes, and now I do this. And this is a lot of fun.

Woman rubs chilli pepper seeds in her eyes after setting new world record

A 28-year-old Indian woman smeared chilli pepper seeds on her eyes after gobbling up 51 of the world's hottest chillies to earn a place in the Guinness Book of Records.

Chilli-eating world record
Gordon Ramsay watched the young Indian woman in India's northeastern Assam state Photo: EUROPICS

Anadita Dutta Tamuly completed her eye watering challenge in just two minutes on Friday under the watchful eye of chef Gordon Ramsay, who was monitoring her record attempt.

She then shocked onlookers by smearing handfuls of seeds from the "ghost chillies", or bhut jolokia, into her eyes.

The Guinness Book of Records first recognised the bhut jolokia as the world's hottest chilli in 2007.

The ghost chilli has more than 1 million Scoville units, the scientific measurement of a chilli's spiciness while jalapeño peppers measure between 2,500 and 8,000. Classic Tabasco sauce ranges from 2,500 to 5,000 Scoville units.

Ramsay, who was filming in India for a Channel 4 programme, could manage only one of the chillies before calling for water and screaming: "It's too much."

Despite the formidable reputation of ghost chillies, Mrs Tamuly dismissed her achievement.

She said: "I have been eating bhut jolokia since my childhood and never felt the hotness in my mouth.

"When I was five I had a sore tongue and my mother applied a chilli paste to cure the infection. Since then I developed a penchant for chillies.

"After that I found eating chillies was a great way to stay healthy. Every time I have a cold or flu I just munch on some chillies and I feel better.

"To be honest, I barely notice them now."

She added she was disappointed not to have managed even more having swallowed 60 chillies in practice sessions before the record attempt in the Assam region of India where Mrs Tamuly lives.

The previous record was held by a South African woman who ate eight jalapeños in one minute in 2002.

In September last year an aspiring chef died after eating a chilli sauce as part of an endurance competition with a friend.

Jellyfish, Jellyfish Everywhere... (PIC)



photography.nationalgeographic… — Waters boil with jellyfish in one of Palau's marine lakes. Surprises hide in each of some 80 such lakes in this Pacific archipelago. This photograph was taken on assignment for "Strange World of Palau's Salt Lakes" in the February 1982 National Geographic.

Dry Cleaners Offer Free Services For Unemployed

Free Dry Cleaner

This story may be an oldie, relatively speaking, but it's still a goodie -- and a viral one at that! Dry cleaners around the country are offering their services at no cost to unemployed customers who need their suit cleaned for an interview. It all began at Upper East Side dry cleaner First Professional Cleaners. A handwritten sign in their window reads, "If you are unemployed and need an outfit clean for an interview, we will clean it for free." According to the Daily News, it's owner Carlos Vasquez's way of giving a helping hand. "It's just something I do to give back to the community," explains Vasquez. "It's to thank them for the support that I get around here, for letting my business keep going by bringing me their clothes." And he's not alone.

High Point-based "A Cleaner World" cleaners made a similar announcement less than two weeks ago. ABC News' local affiliate in Durham reports that for unemployed job seekers, A Cleaner World "will clean a suit or a blazer and slacks, plus two shirts per week. Women can get a suit and two shirts or blouses or two regular dresses per week."

And Elite Cleaners in Minneapolis has also generously followed suit. Owner Don Chapman has donated his services to 2000 unemployed -- an offer he estimates will cost him $32,000.


click here for a video

Bill Gates Patents Plasma Injector, for Your Car


Bill Gates' vision is part of most home PCs, laptops, netbooks, and even cell phones with the Windows operating system. Now he wants to redesign how cars work.

Earlier today, a patent filed with the US Patent & Trademark Office was made available for public viewing, detailing an electromagnetic engine that could very well replace the traditional combustible engine, paving the way to energy efficient automobiles of the future. Among the ten inventors listed in the patent--as Searete LLC, part of Intellectual Ventures--is none other than Mr. Windows himself, William H. Gates, III, and Microsoft's former chief technology officer, Nathan Myhrvold. The group originally filed the patent back in October 2007.

As the patent states, the electromagnetic engine "converts mechanical energy of a piston to and from electrical energy during each piston cycle." However, the group also applied for two additional variants of the concept: free-piston and opposed-piston. While the free piston patent uses the same definition, the opposed piston electromagnetic engine is defined as an "engine [that] includes a cylinder having a two pistons slidably disposed therein, a port arranged to admit a reactant into the cylinder between the two pistons, and a converter operable with at least one piston to convert mechanical energy of the piston to electrical energy."

While the patent mentions a "reactant," that doesn't necessarily indicate fuel used today. The patent talks about a liquid reactant injector and a carburetor that would deliver the reactant mixture to the first port of the engine. Another interesting note was the patent's use of a "plasma injector," a terminology widely used in the Star Trek universe. This device--whether its in the form of a spark plug, catalyst, particle beam igniter (that's in there too), or the plasma injector-- is referred to as a reaction trigger, an electrical igniter configured to initiate a chemical reaction in a reactant disposed between the first piston and the closed end of the first cylinder; the reaction trigger is located at the top of the cylinder.

But how does this engine actually work? The electromagnetic engine apparently doesn't need alternating pistons, but rather a set of pistons fitted with electromagnets to speed up the recovery process. With magnets on both ends, the piston is pulled up and down the cylinder. Once the piston reaches the top and fires, it is immediately pulled back down into the cylinder by magnetic force, and then repeats the cycle. According to the patent, the pistons can use either electromagnets, permanent magnets, or a magnetically susceptible material such as an iron core. The energy generated from the reaction trigger could be stored in a battery, capacitor, or some other energy management system.

With that said, there's a good chance an automobile using this type of engine will run on electricity and utilize a rechargeable battery. If the engine is capable of storing energy as the patent suggests, the automobile may not even need an alternator. That may be incorrect of course, however, there's no mistaking that Bill Gates is once again trying to change how things work in everyday things: first with DOS, then Windows, and now with the electromagnetic combustion engine.

2009 New York Auto Show [Pics]


As the auto industry copes with the economic downturn, the 2009 New York International Auto Show provides an opportunity for manufacturers to put their best face forward.

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Look Closer. The Hidden Details We Miss In Movie Trailers

It all happens so fast. From X-Men Origins to G.I. Joe, it's easy to miss some of the important details. Here's a great look closer...

read more | digg story

Best Help Wanted Sign...times are tough!!!

Help Wanted 4


Mercedes-Benz to Bring 4-Cylinder Diesels to the U.S.?

Would a Mercedes-Benz luxury car that gets 44 miles a gallon interest you? Would your interest be tempered at all to know that car is powered by a 4-cylinder engine?

Those are the questions Mercedes-Benz would like to have answered before it decides whether to bring cars with that engine to North America. So, at the 2009 New York auto show, Mercedes is showing what it calls the Vision E250 BlueTEC concept.

Mercedes-Benz Vision E250 BlueTEC concept
Chris McGrath/Getty Images
Dianne Reeves sang as the Mercedes-Benz Vision E250 BlueTEC concept was introduced.

“This is the world’s cleanest and most fuel-efficient luxury sedan,” said Klaus Maier, the Mercedes-Benz executive vice president who introduced it. “It has fantastic fuel economy of up to 44 miles a gallon, and it would be ready to run in all 50 U.S. states.”

The 2.2-liter diesel gets a boost from a two-stage turbocharger and direct fuel injection and is clean enough to meet emissions standards that won’t be in effect until 2014.

“In Europe, the press calls it the ‘wonder diesel,’” said Dr. Maier. “Besides clean, efficient operation, it also offers 6-cylinderlike smoothness and power.”

And its fuel economy is almost double that of a V-6.

New York is an important market for Mercedes-Benz, and the auto show here, which annually announces attendance in excess of one million people, is a prime location for getting feedback.

“We would like to see if people would accept a 4-cylinder engine in a luxury car,” said Geoff Day, a spokesman for Mercedes-Benz U.S.A. “It doesn’t have to be in an E-Class, of course. A C-Class or a GLK could be more likely choices for America.”

If the response here is positive enough, the engine could be made available for United States certification quite quickly, Mr. Day added. Sales would not be far off.

Egg collected by Charles Darwin found at Cambridge University after 200 years

An egg collected by Charles Darwin on his HMS Beagle voyage and lost for nearly 200 years has been discovered by a volunteer at the University of Cambridge.

By Richard Alleyne, Science Correspondent
An egg collected by naturalist Charles Darwin on his HMS Beagle voyage which has been rediscovered at a museum.
An egg collected by naturalist Charles Darwin on his HMS Beagle voyage which has been rediscovered at a museum. Photo: PA

Researchers have known that the naturalist collected 16 bird eggs during his trip between 1831 and 1836 but all were thought to be lost.

But one sample – that of the Tinamou bird of Uruguay - has been discovered by a volunteer as she catalogued a collection at the Zoology Museum.

The records seem to indicate that Darwin himself was responsible for damage caused to the heavily cracked egg after packing it in too small a box during or following his famous voyage.

The chocolate brown egg – slightly smaller than a hen's egg – was among the museum's 10,000 strong collection from Darwin being partly catalogued by volunteer Liz Wetton.

She has spent half a day at the Museum each week for the past ten years where she faithfully sorts and reboxes the Museum's bird egg collection.

She merely commented that the specimen had C. Darwin written on it before moving to the next drawer.

It was only when Mathew Lowe, Collections Manager, was reviewing her work that he discovered no one knew about the existence of this specimen.

He said: "There are so many historical treasures in the collection, Liz did not realise this was a new discovery. To have rediscovered a Beagle specimen in the 200th year of Darwin's birth is special enough, but to have evidence that Darwin himself broke it is a wonderful twist."

After reading Liz's notes, Lowe and Curator of Ornithology Dr Mike Brooke, traced the specimen's origin in the notebook of Professor Alfred Newton, a friend of Darwin's and Professor of Zoology in the latter 19th Century.

Prof Newton had written: "One egg, received through Frank Darwin, having been sent to me by his father who said he got it at Maldonado (Uruguay) and that it belonged to the Common Tinamou of those parts.

"The great man put it into too small a box and hence its unhappy state."

Museum Director Professor Michael Akam said: "This find shows just how valuable the work of our loyal volunteers is to the Museum. Only Liz has examined each of the many thousands of eggs in our collection. Without her we would not have found this unique specimen."

Ms Wetton said: "It was an exhilarating experience. After working on the egg collections for ten years this was a tremendous thing to happen."

Drunk Dancing Red Sox Fan

Sports Videos, News, Blogs


Just another crazy drunk at Fenway Park slinging it to Billy idol's "Dancing With Myself"

Amazing Kansas Tornado Footage - Unedited



Unedited tornado footage from weather photographer Jim Reed. Tornado Chaser. Tornado photographer. Tornado lover.

Your Bra Size: The Truth May (Pleasantly) Surprise You


FIRST there was economic inflation. Then there was grade inflation. Now comes cup inflation.


Alison Seiffer

While clothes designers have whittled down dress sizes so that even a musclebound woman can wiggle into a size 2, brassiere makers are defying fashion convention by selling bras with bigger cup sizes. These days, many women — to their shock or glee — are finding that DD is becoming the new C.

At Wacoal America, one of the largest bra makers in the country, 36DD is on track to replace 36D as its most popular size in 2009. (Three years ago it was 36C.) Bare Necessities, an online lingerie retailer, said 34DD was its No. 10 best-selling size last year, up from No. 17 in 2002. And this fall Elle Macpherson Intimates will introduce its first collection for fuller-busted women, offering cup sizes from D to G.

“It’s the ascendancy of the DDs,” said Noah Wrubel, the chief executive of Bare Necessities. “The bras that women are wearing these days are not their mothers’ bras.”

Theories abound as to why women’s cups seem to be (forgive the pun) spilling over. Some ascribe the difference to a confluence of health and beauty trends that have accelerated over time. A 2007 study of adult women by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed that the prevalence of obesity — someone having a body mass index of 30 or more — has increased 2.1 percent since 2004, to 35.3 percent. Breast augmentation, too, is still a popular procedure, despite the recession. And age and hormones play havoc with baby boomers’ bust sizes, as well. But most manufacturers and lingerie shop owners say the phenomenon is due to the fact that more women are being fitted correctly. They call it the Oprah effect. Since 2005, when Oprah Winfrey devoted a show to how to buy the right size bra, the number of women seeking bra fittings has soared.

“It was a turning point,” said Liz Smith, director of retail service at Wacoal America, which is considering adding an H cup to its line. “You just need her to say it once.”

About 8 in 10 women wear the wrong size, experts say. Most often the problem is that the stretchy fabric band around the rib cage is worn too loosely for smaller frames. A more snug band size — going from, say, a 34 to a 32 — increases the width and depth of the cup. Simply put, a woman who wears a 36A is also likely to fit into a 34B or a 32C.

But while some women find pride in their newly discovered abundance, others have mixed feelings. “Most women are in bra denial,” said Rebecca Apsan, the owner of La Petite Coquette in Manhattan whose biggest sellers last year were 32D and 32DD. “They think there is some mistake. That’s why I never tell them what size I am putting them in. They don’t want to believe it.”

Susie Essman, the actress who plays Susie Greene on the HBO comedy “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” can relate. In 2005 HBO showed an episode in which Larry David goes shopping for a bra for his housekeeper and is shocked at the size of Ms. Greene’s bra. In a case of art imitating life, Ms. Essman was surprised last year when she was fitted for a 32DD bra after wearing a 34D for decades. She liked the fit, she said, but was forced to grapple with stereotypes she associated with women who filled a DD cup. Among them? Anna Nicole Smith was reported to have worn that size.

“I haven’t had surgery,” Ms. Essman said. “I don’t walk around with a lot of cleavage. I’m in a DD, and I’m a regular-sized person.”

Unlike with dress sizes, there is no standard among foreign or domestic brands, adding to the confusion. British brands can range from A to K. Most Americans can find bras with cup sizes ranging from A to G, although some brands go as high as L.

“It is extremely subjective,” said Steven Teitelbaum, a cosmetic surgeon based in Santa Monica, Calif., who specializes in breast augmentation. “I wish they would get their act together and get their sizes straight.”

Recently, Danny Koch, an owner of the Town Shop, a lingerie store in Manhattan, was examining bras by the bra maker Fayreform at its Midtown Manhattan showroom. Fayreform, which specializes in bras with cup sizes from D to G, also makes bras for Elle Macpherson Intimates. Mr. Koch was there to see their new full-busted offerings, some of which he hoped to sell in his store.

“See this?” he said, stretching the strap of one. “This is not going to hold someone up.” Of the more than 14 new bras he was shown, he was impressed with only one. He does not believe that the changes are due to vanity sizing — “You, too, can be bigger without surgery!” he joked — which is supposed to make a woman feel better. “There is a reason women are wearing these things,” he said. “It is an attempt to defy gravity as long as possible.”

Still, a larger cup can come with bragging rights particularly in figure-conscious Los Angeles. “Many girls say, ‘Wait until my husband finds out I’m not a 34B, I’m a 32X!’ ” said Lisa Frank, the owner of Footsie in Santa Monica.

Consider Lee Michel. She bought her 36A bras at a department store. She never cared about size. But recently she went for her first fitting at Footsie and walked out with a couple of La Perla 34C-size bras. She was more than pleased.

“I think it’s a little psychological,” she said, of the smaller band size. “It makes me feel a little thinner.” And did she tell her husband about her new bust size? “No,” she said, laughing. “He really doesn’t care what size my breasts are. He just likes them. He liked them before I got pregnant. He liked them after. What can I say? He just likes them.”

CompUSA Comes Back From the Dead

By Priya Ganapati Email

Compusa1

About three months ago, Loretta Alkalay, a retired Florida resident, wanted to get a new HDTV. So she decided to give the CompUSA near her home a try.

Yes, CompUSA. The once-bankrupt electronics retailer is making a comeback, with about 30 new CompUSA stores nationwide and a new strategy that includes aggressive prices, remodeled stores, improved lighting and in-store web access for comparison shopping.

"We have invented this idea of retail 2.0," says Gilbert Fiorentino, chief executive of the Technology Products Group at Systemax, now parent company of CompUSA. Fiorentino is also the founder of Tiger Direct, a web only electronics retailer and another subsidiary of Systemax. "Every screen in every CompUSA store is now connected to the internet and making buying a richer experience for customers," he says.

It was price that brought Alkalay the store. She wound up buying a 32-inch flat panel TV for $200 -- a real steal, she says.

"I had never heard of the brand. But given the price and size, I thought this is a great bargain," says Alkalay.

Once part of the big three electronics retail stores in the country, CompUSA filed for bankruptcy two years ago. It was not alone: High overheads and the inability to compete with low online prices forced companies such as Circuit City and Ritz Camera into bankruptcy, too. Meanwhile, online players such as Amazon, Buy.com and NewEgg have been growing.

But after a reorganization and a buyout in January last year by Systemax, a major electronics retailer, CompUSA is back in business.

The in-store web access may be the biggest gamble, since it raises the possibility that you might use a CompUSA floor model to find a better deal on Amazon.com for the very computer you're using to get that information.

Say you are in a CompUSA store trying to decide if that big plasma TV is the one you want. Just tap the keyboard in front of the screen and go online to check out the specs and reviews an even the recommended mounting brackets. There's also custom information for that particular store, such as how many are in stock.

"We do the same thing with laptops, desktops and monitors," says Fiorentino. "We are using tech to change the retail experience for the customer and giving them access to all the information on the internet anytime they want during the buying process." And there are no restrictions. Users can surf the internet, check their Facebook or even Twitter if they want, says Fiorentino.

It may sound like a small change but it is quite different from how Best Buy, Office Depot or other brick-and-mortar stores display information to their customers, says Doug Fleener, president of retail consulting firm Dynamic Experiences and former director of retail for Bose.

“It’s an untested concept,” says Fleener. “We will have to see if customers like to spend their time gathering information while shopping rather than doing it at home.”

Systemax's Tiger Direct online shopping site has benefited first hand from the online shopping trend. But Fiorentino says customers still want to go stores to buy electronics.

Compusa2 And Fiorentino says CompUSA can keep its prices low despite the additional overhead costs associated with a physical store. CompUSA's inventory now ties into Tiger Direct and the company offers the same prices whether consumers buy a product online or in a store.

Customers such as Robert Oschler, a New York resident who runs a site for robotics enthusiasts, are seeing the difference.

About a month ago Oschler found a CompUSA store near him running offering 48-hour special deals. "They seem to be doing a lot of that," he says. Oschler bought a Novint Falcon gaming mouse for $99 that otherwise retails for $180.

He says he's also noticed the changes in the store’s layout, “They seem more organized,” says Oschler. “Earlier, their aisles used to cluttered, almost supermarket-like, where they wanted to shove as much stuff as possible in your face as you walked by. But now there are more categories and better displays.”

Still, the revived CompUSA is a shadow of its former self. At its peak about three years ago, CompUSA posted about $5 billion a year in sales and had more than 216 stores nationwide. Now it posts a fraction of that in sales and has just about a tenth of its former reach.

If CompUSA can survive through the recession and manage its costs—rent, salaries, inventory--the chain can hope for a future, says Fleener. As other big box retailers disappear, consumers are looking for alternative places to go to and the thrill of walking into a store and looking at products is not easily replaceable for shoppers.

“Stores like Circuit City going out does leave an opportunity in the market,” says Fleener. “With less brick and mortar competition around, people will give CompUSA a chance.”

Photos: The new CompUSA stores/Systemax

A Night Out In Cardiff, Wales


Cardiff, the epicentre of the European avant-garde, like this bunch of dreamers, poets, artists & philosophers, to the untrained eye they look like degenerate binge drinkers wading through their own bodily fluids, but these are the cultural elite!

click here for the pics..... | digg story

Police: For 30 Years, Teacher Secretly Recorded Teens Having Sex

Nashville Teacher Allegedly Gave Teens Drugs, Secretly Recorded Sex

April 9, 2009 —

Over the last 30 years, a Nashville, Tenn., teacher invited teenagers over to his house, gave them drugs and alcohol and secretly recorded them having sex, according to local police and federal prosecutors.

Investigators say Tenn. teacher secretly taped minors having sex at his home.

Louis J. Levine, 52, who taught in several Nashville-area schools and had worked at youth camps and a local science museum, was arrested Tuesday on child pornography charges and allegedly admitted to at least one incident of recording a teen performing a sex act.

Police and federal prosecutors say they continue to investigate Levine, who allegedly invited students over to drink and do drugs and then allowed them to use a small building behind his house known as the "Little House" to have sex, which he secretly recorded.

Levine also recorded sexual activity in a room inside the house called the "Isolation Chamber," which contained a water bed covered with a wooden box, according to a statement released by Nashville police.

Levine was charged in federal court with producing child pornography. He faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted. He is scheduled to have a preliminary hearing Friday morning. Police say they also expect to file state charges against Levine.

Levine has not entered a formal plea and has been held in police custody since his arrest.

"He hasn't been indicted, much less convicted, and our office looks forward to defending him against these charges," said Levine's defense lawyer, Hugh Mundy, who added he will ask a judge to release Levine on bail at Friday's hearing. "All we have are accusations right now."

Nashville police refused to comment on the charges or the investigation outside of the press release.

Allegedly Admits Secretly Recording Teen Sex

On some occasions, Levine allegedly gave the teens drugs, including marijuana and ecstasy, according to a criminal complaint filed in the case.

The alleged incidents are believed to have occurred over a period of three decades, and several adults who were teenagers during the 1970s and '80s told police similar stories of drugs and sex at Levine's home, according to the police.

When confronted by detectives, Levine allegedly admitted to secretly taping a boy masturbating and then climbing into bed with the boy.

"Society looks at this differently than I do," Levine allegedly said, according to the complaint.

Police say that when they searched Levine's house, they found more than 400 homemade tapes. According to an affidavit from a Nashville police detective, a tape found in Levine's camcorder had footage of people who appeared to be teenagers engaged in sex acts.

Teacher Allegedly Gave Teens Drugs, Recorded Them Having Sex

Nashville Police began investigating Levine March 25 after receiving a call from a parent of one of the alleged victims.

Levine was most recently working full time in the Murfreesboro School System, where he taught science. The school system placed Levine on administrative leave April 1, when administrators learned of the investigation, and have moved to fire him. The director of schools did not return a call for comment.

Levine also worked as a substitute teacher for Metropolitan Nashville Schools since 2002. He worked two full days and a half day during the most recent school year and has been removed from the substitute teachers list, a school spokeswoman said.

World's Best Hotel Beds

by Josey Miller

Reading, studying, working, robotically flicking through late-night television programming... If you've completely forgotten what beds are really for, a great hotel bed can be an excellent refresher course. There's something so exhilarating about hotel beds: They feel foreign, even risqué—and lying in them feels like trespassing. It would be a sin to spend all of your time in a hotel bed doing only the ordinary: You can do better than catch up on Will and Grace reruns, can't you?

Yes, yes, yes! In fact, without so much as lifting your head off your pillow, you can sightsee. You can stargaze. You can play Superman. You can relive legendary moments in musical history—and we're just getting started.

In these fantasy hotel beds, you'll kick up your feet, rest your travel-weary self, and stare at much more than just the ceiling. These beds think outside the box springs—and they're what dreams are really made of.

Published April 2009. Pictured: Loisaba Wilderness, Kenya


Click here for all the beds

Italy to build the world's largest suspension bridge between Calabria and Sicily

Italy will forge ahead with a controversial plan to build the world's largest suspension bridge, a massive structure which will arch between the mainland and Sicily, the government said on Wednesday.
Italy to build the world's largest suspension bridge between Calabria and Sicily
Photo simulation of suspention bridge, connecting mainland Italy to Sicily. Photo: AP

Critics say that at six billion euros (£5.4bn), the cost of the two-and-a-half mile bridge across the Strait of Messina is far too high and have questioned the wisdom of building such a giant span in a region which is prone to earthquakes.

Some engineers have given warning that the area's huge pylons would be vulnerable to high winds.

"It's true that it costs six billion euros but this is the project and we're not going back on it," Altero Matteoli, the public works minister, told Italian radio.

He acknowledged that it would be essential to improve the ramshackle roads and railways on either side of the bridge, in Sicily and the mainland region of Calabria.

"The bridge will oblige us to improve railway and motorway infrastructure as well as the ports. It's an enormous amount of work that will also increase tourism."

The project, which Mr Matteoli said could get underway this year, was first envisioned by Silvio Berlusconi, the prime minister, when he was in office in 2001-2006, but then ditched by his centre-left successor, Romano Prodi, amid concerns that it would mostly benefit construction firms run by the mafia.

Mr Prodi's administration labelled it a vanity project and "the most useless and harmful plan of the past 100 years."

Mr Berlusconi was re-elected prime minister last year and put the project back on track.

He insists that it will create thousands of jobs, boost tourism and improve transport links between the 'toe' of the Italian mainland and Sicily, replacing ferry services.

The bridge would be able to handle nearly 5,000 cars an hour as well as high-speed trains.

The dream of building a bridge across the narrow strait was first envisioned by the Romans and later considered by Sicily's Norman rulers.

Utah's red-rock country

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Travel photography: Moab



TRAVEL PHOTOGRAPHY | latimes.com/travelpics

The bluffs and hills of Moab, a mountain biking hub and home to Arches National Park, are as red as sunburn and barren — save for a few juniper trees and clumps of rabbit brush, according to L.A. Times staff writer Hugo Martin. The 2,000 sandstone arches of the namesake park are the stars of any trip to Moab. L.A. Times staff photographer Mark Boster took these images. For more photo galleries, visit our photography page.


Balanced Rock


Broken Arch


La Salle Mountains provide a backdrop to Arches National Park


Moon rise at the national park


North Window at Arches


Landscape Arch


Delicate Arch, the park's most iconic feature


Devil's Garden area of Arches


Delicate Arch

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