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Monday, August 9, 2010

US judge: 'I sentence you to go and play poker'

By Isabel de Bertodano


A man convicted of fraud will attempt to pay back almost $500,000 (£310,000) to his victims using money he has won playing poker. A judge in Albuquerque, New Mexico, this week agreed to allow Samuel McMaster Jr to travel to poker tournaments across the US to try to win back the money he stole.

McMaster, a former insurance agent, who lists his current occupation as professional poker player, could have his sentence reduced if he is able to prove he can repay the money. He pleaded guilty last week to 26 charges, including securities fraud. He admitted stealing $444,000 (£278,000) by posing as a securities agent and offering high returns on credit defaults and promissory notes (or IOUs) to elderly investors in New Mexico.

Prosecuting lawyer Phyllis Bowman said McMaster had used the money entrusted to him for his own interests, including gambling. McMaster will not be sentenced until next year. He is required to pay at least $7,500 a month in compensation to his victims. If he falls behind by two payments he will be sentenced immediately and will face 12 years in jail.

Teala Kail, a spokeswoman for the New Mexico Regulation and Licensing Department, which brought the case against McMaster, said that poker playing was recognised as a profession by the Internal Revenue Service and was therefore accepted by the judge as a legitimate way for McMaster to repay the money he stole.

Iranians Protest Ayatollahs With Pink Floyd

Iranians Protest Ayatollahs With Pink Floyd

Canada-based Iranian rock band Blurred Vision has updated the famous Pink Floyd protest anthem "Another Brick in the Wall" to target the theocratic government of Iran. Their otherwise faithful cover changes the song's famous chant to "Hey Ayatollah, leave those kids alone." With the help of Iranian filmmaker Babak Payami, Blurred Vision also produced a music video to channel the song's anti-authoritarian anger against the oppressive Iranian regime. The video, interspliced with footage from the recent "green movement" protests, shows an Iranian woman fleeing security forces and a robed, bearded ayatollah.

The band members, who are brothers, say they wrote the song for those who still are still struggling for freedom in Iran. The U.K. Independent's Jerome Taylor reports:
In a central London café, the brothers explained how their song has captured the imaginations of young Iranians in a country where rock music is banned. "We've been getting messages from so many Iranians saying they are using the song as a way to voice their protests," said Sohl who, at 35, is the older of the two brothers.

Sepp, 28, added: "A message came through to us last week and when Sohl translated it he had tears running down his cheeks. It was from a fan in Iran and he just kept saying over and over again: 'Keep our voice alive. If you don't then no one will hear us.'"

The brothers are also keen to encourage activists inside Iran to use a piece of software called Haystack, an ingenious encryption device which circumvents the government's internet controls. "It was invented by this 24-year-old guy from California who was so outraged at what was happening in Iran he decided to build some software," explained Sepp. "It works so well that it would take supercomputers hundreds of years to hack in and stop it. He wasn't even Iranian, he just wanted to help.
The young musicians say they sought—and received—the approval of Pink Floyd's Roger Waters to cover the song. "From here on in, that version of the song is yours," he told them. Though Waters probably never intended his song to be about Iran, he may have had the country in the back of his mind when he wrote it— "Another Brick in the Wall" was released November 30 1979, eight months after the Iranian revolution and only three weeks after the U.S. embassy hostage crisis began.

Tim Tebow Friar Rookie Haircut


Capt. Gridiron

Looks like Denver Broncos rookie Tim Tebow received a ridiculous haircut as part of his rookie hazing, courtesy his veteran teammates, this week at training camp.

Running back LenDale White shot this image of Friar Tebow across the Twitterverse for us all to enjoy. Hat Tip to CBSSports for the pic

Tim Tebow Friar Haircut

Tim Tebow Friar Haircut

Update: Another great pic of Tim Tebow’s haircut is out. This time the Friar Tebow is warming up in Broncos gear for practice. It’s a good look for him. Hope he keeps it.

Tim Tebow Haircut

Tim Tebow Haircut

Las Vegas Considers Hula-Hoop Ban

Steve Friess
Steve Friess
LAS VEGAS (Aug. 8) -- This is a city where tourists are welcome to wander certain streets with open bottles of alcohol, where the phone books contain hundreds of color page ads for "escorts" and where gambling is so ubiquitous that slot machines appear in most 7-Elevens.

Yet the Las Vegas City Council is now zeroing in on halting a new public menace: Hula-Hoops.

OK, not all Hula-Hooping. Specifically, city leaders later this month may ban the use of the usually plastic, hip-gyrating equipment on a five-block pedestrian mall known as the Fremont Street Experience in the city's downtown core because, they argue, their use obstructs traffic flow and causes public disruptions.

A hula-hooper at the Fremont Street Experience on June 19, 2008 in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Ethan Miller, Getty Images
A visitor tries out a Hula-Hoop at the Fremont Street Experience.
"Apparently there are Hula-Hoop people," said Councilman Stavros Anthony, part of a two-councilman committee that reviewed the bill this week and voted to recommend its consideration by the full board on Aug. 18. "These aren't little Hula-Hoops. They're big Hula-Hoops."

The provision is actually a minor part of an ordinance, expected to come before the council later this month, that aims to restrict a litany of activities on the plaza, a tourist attraction where light shows occur hourly on the world's largest LED screen, which doubles as the underside of a metal canopy capping the five-block stretch.

This anti-Hula-Hooping effort, however, is a new wrinkle in a 15-year battle in which the city has attempted -- and failed -- to control what occurs on the mall, which is lined by several of the city's oldest casinos. It was built in 1995 as a collaborative effort by this cluster of gaming parlors to compete for tourist interest with the mammoth, fantastical resorts springing up on the Las Vegas Strip about four miles to the south.

The ordinance, beyond containing an outright ban on Hula-Hooping as well as juggling and the use of amplified bullhorns, strives to pen into one of two 1,200-square-foot "free expression zones" those entrepreneurs and entertainers who are not authorized by the Fremont Street Experience LLC, a nonprofit entity set up by the city to operate the attraction.

Yet federal courts have ruled that the mall is a public square and have struck down every prior effort to ban protesting, panhandling, leafleting, entertaining or conducting business on the mall as infringements of First Amendment rights. The plaza was built over a road, Fremont Street, and the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada has persuaded judge after judge that it cannot be regulated any more than activities in parks or on sidewalks can.

"The argument they use is that free speech is bad for business and we need to protect business," ACLU attorney Allen Lichtenstein told AOL News. "The courts have repeatedly said that while business is important, it cannot trump constitutional rights. I don't know how much clearer they can make it."

On any given night on the pedestrian mall, which is the width of about five lanes of traffic, thousands of people hopscotch from one casino to another, listen to live bands playing on three soundstages and browse numerous permanent kiosks where vendors hawk tchotchkes. In addition to those sanctioned attractions, there are artists rendering cartoon images of tourists, folks selling bottles of water, musicians strumming instruments for tips and celebrity impersonators posing for pictures.

And yes, occasionally folks will rent gigantic Hula-Hoops and perform with them, as numerous YouTube videos attest. City Attorney Brad Jerbic, who did not return a call for comment, showed the councilmen some of those as well as a clip of a Gene Simmons impersonator using a Taser on a tourist for some unexplained reason.

"We have the Fremont Street Experience that's trying to be a tourist and commercial enterprise where people are trying to have a nice commercial experience," Anthony told AOL News. "If we don't do that, anything can happen on Fremont Street, and it becomes chaos. You have to balance between free expression and order."

There were no Hula-Hoopers on the mall late Thursday, but there were several street artists and faux celebrities, including Elvis impersonator Ted Payne. He said he's made about $100 a night from tips at Fremont Street since he lost his job as a casino security guard this spring.

"They're a whole bunch of jerks," he said of the City Council, whose proposed ordinance would force him to perform in a free expression zone. "They just want to add on to the unemployment situation, I guess."

In more than an hour of interviews, AOL News failed to find a single tourist who complained about any of the Fremont Street enterprises. Most, like Drew Thompson of Greenville, S.C., laughed at the notion of a ban on Hula-Hoops and insisted that the activities the city wants to restrict are actually the reason he enjoys visiting the area.

"We love just wandering around, seeing what everybody's up to. You never know what you'll find or see," said Thompson, who was in town for his bachelor party. "I don't understand what the problem is."

Nearby business owners, however, sympathized. Michael Cornthwaite, who owns the Downtown Cocktail Room bar and the Beat coffeehouse within walking distance from Fremont Street, was torn.

"I have a strong opinion about people's personal rights and all the rest, but knowing some of the things that go on and some of the people who will set up shop and selling bottles of water, I do understand the need to keep things under control," he said.

"But," he added, "there are 50 [authorized] kiosks in the middle of the mall, and they're obstructing traffic as well. But it's a revenue steam for Fremont Street Experience and a tax stream for Las Vegas and the state. ... The traffic issue is not caused by someone with a Hula-Hoop."

Lichtenstein promised litigation if the council passes the ordinance. He said there are already laws that prohibit Hula-Hoopers -- or jugglers, another group referenced in the ordinance -- from obstructing the traffic flow. Likewise, he said, celebrity impersonators who solicit aggressively can be arrested, and vendors who don't have business licenses can be fined.

Santa Monica, Calif., has created free expression zones that have been upheld by courts, Jerbic told the councilmen. Lichtenstein countered that in Santa Monica, officials segregated all commercial enterprises to those areas and did not favor one set of entrepreneurs over others.

"This is the same old stuff in not very new packaging," Lichtenstein said. "Why they are attempting yet again to turn the pedestrian mall into their own little fiefdom outside the Constitution is a puzzlement to me."

4:20 Girl of the Day: August 9, 2010

Do You See What I See? Amazing Typographic Art

Beauty isn’t the only thing in the eye of the beholder. In the case of this clever art installation from graphic-design students Joseph Egan and Hunter Thomson, legibility is too, depending on where the beholder stands. The piece consists of three typographic paintings with letters stretching down corridors, into fire escapes, and wrapped around corners at the Chelsea College of Art and Design, in London. The paintings are statements on the nature of perception and feature phrases like “It’s a point of view.” The witty sum of their distorted parts can only be appreciated from one viewing sweet spot. Much like the Cheshire Cat in Wonderland, the sentences seem to hover in front of their backdrop as if on a separate two-dimensional plane. Now I know how Alice must’ve felt.

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'Lost' epilogue leaked online. And it explains everything! Sort of.

The 12-minute epilogue to "Lost," which is included in the DVD box set that releases Aug. 24, leaked online this afternoon. And honestly, it's like the good, 'ol days again, when we all pored through pages of Lostpedia and tried to figure out if obscure references made by Benjamin Linus actually contained meaningful anagrams.

The epilogue, in which Mr. Linus plays a prominent role, may not explain everything. But it does cover the following much-debated topics: the island's pregnancy issues, the presence of polar bears, Walt's specialness, the relevance of Room 23 and the Hurley bird.

UPDATED: YouTube's full clip, which we originally posted here, was pulled down. And so was the Jezebel link we provided earlier. So here's an official, partial clip, provided by Disney. You can't see all 12 minutes of the epilogue here but at least the video won't get yanked.

By Jen Chaney

P.S... ...

Seat Savers

So you’re at a baseball game or the park and you want to ensure that when you return you’ll still have your coveted seat…the answer is simple. Just throw one of these guys in your derrière place and you’ll find the seat still available upon return from the loo or your run to the ice cream truck.

…and if you think this is a good idea, I believe you will agree with this one too.

Do Lions, Tigers, and the Like Get High From Catnip?


Catnip a member of the mint family popular for getting cats high, much like medical marijuana is often confused with marijuana. Big Cat Rescue, a non profit has recently released a video which shows how Tigers, Lions and the like respond to catnip.

Catnip reaction consists primarily of a unique combination of body rolling and face rubbing and is found to be independent of sex. Cats are usually found to return to the source of catnip about once every two hours to get a new dose. While not every cat reacts, interestingly reacting cats show an increase in attention paid to catnip while showing a decrease to rats. Research has shown that the chemosensory stimulus evoking the catnip reaction is mediated through the main olfactory system. Catnip activates behavioral elements associated with several species-specific behaviors, including sniffing and chewing as associated with oral appetitive behavior, rolling and rubbing characteristic of female sexual behavior, batting the catnip source characteristic of play behavior, and a type of kicking associated with predatory behavior. These behavioral reactions have been said to occur randomly and intermittently.

While it has been documented at several sources that most members of the cat family react to catnip, this is the first time there is a single video (embedded below) which shows the reaction of several members of the cat family reacting to catnip.

Also embedded below is a video from Weird Nature (a BBC/DISCOVERY series) which describes in detail about cats reactions to catnip.

Photo Credit: Flickr

Worlds Farthest Basketball Shot [VIDEO]

Evan Sellers from The Legendary Shots throws a ball from the top of the Vulcan monument in Birmingham, Alabama. To our knowledge, this is the farthest shot (direct distance from shooter to goal) ever made. Whether it's also the longest (horizontal distance) is debatable

'Lost' Auction Offers Everything But Book of Answers

By Drew Kearse

ben lost passport

Previously on "Lost": A lot of sh** happened. And now that its run is over, we still have a lot of questions. Luckily, there will be one question answered for us: Who will spend the most money on props from the show? That's right, "Lost'"s creators are auctioning off pieces of the set August 21-22 in Los Angeles.

We combed through a preview of the items up for sale and, without further ado, here are our favorite 10 items, which we hope our sugar mamas will be bidding on:

10. Ben's Canadian and Swiss Passports

As soon as Ben revealed the secret closet behind his bookcase, we knew he was a badass. But then we saw his foreign passports and currency. Yeah, Napoleon can kiss his evil, manipulative ass.

9. Collection of 32 Dharma Beer Cans (Various Conditions)
Man, this takes us back ... Jin learning English ... so many memories.

8. Desmond's Photograph of Himself and Penny
Everyone's favorite Scotsman. A true hero. A true lover. And now we can own the only thing that gave him hope.
7. Eko's Staff (Complete With Bible Carvings)
Oh, Eko. So deep, yet so misunderstood. Your time with us was short, but the memories will last forever -- especially if we buy this staff.
6. Hurley's Lotto Ticket
Luck, good and bad, follows our portly friend, and here is quintessential totem of that fact.
5. Jin's Wedding Ring
You had us at "Others, Michael!" You had us at "Others!"
4. Dharma Films and Projector
No stag party is complete without some vintage Dharma porn on an old-school projector.
3. Sawyer's Letter of Inner Demons
It's definitely a little creepy to carry this paper around, but you're already bidding on items at a "Lost" auction, so whatever.
2. Locke's Knife
We would not want to be on the bad end of one of Locke's wheel-by knifings in the outback.
1. Sweet Package of Sayid
So, this is the only Sayid thing the preview mentions, but we're all hoping for the audio cassette of "How to Speak Like Sayid, Torture People and Bang Chicks."

The preview offered us just a little taste of what's out there. Of course, if it's anything like the show itself, they'll probably keep most of it for themselves.

It's Official: Tom Cruise Making Les Grossman Film

By PopEater Staff
Tom Cruise Making Les Grossman Film
After stealing every scene he shot in 'Tropic Thunder' and then bringing the house down at Sunday night's MTV Movie Awards, Tom Cruise will be reprising his character Les Grossman for a full-length feature film, EW reports.

Paramount and MTV films announced this afternoon they are developing a movie based on Grossman. Cruise will star and produce alongside 'Tropic Thunder' co-star and director Ben Stiller and Stuart Cornfeld of Red Hour Films. Michael Bacall has been tapped to write the screenplay.

Keeping with the comedic tone of the planned film, both Stiller and Paramount released statements regarding Grossman.

Stiller's said, "Les Grossman's life story is an inspiring tale of the human class struggle to achieve greatness against all odds. He has assured me he plans to quote 'F**king kill the s**t out of this movie and make Citizen f**king Kane look like a piece of crap home movie by the time we are done.' I am honored to be working with him."

Paramount Film Group president, Adam Goodman, also played along, saying, "Everything I learned in this business, I've learned from Les. I started out as his assistant, and from the first day he threw his desk at me when I got his lunch order wrong, I have loved him like a father."