Saturday, June 25, 2011

True Blood Is Back

Vampires, werewolves, maenads, shape-shifters, weird panther-type creatures and now witches — HBO's True Blood harbors all manner of supernatural beings in its menagerie of characters.

The great thing is that each of these otherworldly characters brings with them enough crazy drama to fill an entire season of Jersey Shore, so there's a lot to look forward to in Season 4 of the show, which revs up on HBO this Sunday. From mainstays like inexplicably-well-adjusted-considering-her-environment waitress Sookie Stackhouse (played by Anna Paquin) and mildly bipolar vampire Bill Compton (Stephen Moyer) to new bloods like Jesus (Kevin Alejandro), a whole lot of folks are in the mix.

To catch up on what brought the show to this point, watch the "True Blood in Under 5 Minutes" video above. To get a glimpse at the upcoming season, here's a handy list of what's to come.

Witches!

Sookie herself says it best: "Oh great, now I have to deal with witches?!" Yes, the big new thing this season will be the introduction of witches to the sleepy Louisiana burg of Bon Temps. The charge will, it seems, be lead by Lafayette (the consistently fantastic Nelsan Ellis), who — thanks to his new beau, Jesus — is finally getting his own supernatural plot line (about damn time).

Yes, after the shape-shifters, werewolves, maenads and panthers that have been introduced in previous seasons, True Blood is moving into slightly more Anne Rice-ian territory by including witches into its ever-diversifying mix of otherworldly creatures. At this rate, Sookie and the gang will be dealing gargoyles by Season 8.

Sookie's New Faerie-dom

When Sookie found out she was a faerie last season, she pronounced the situation "fucking lame." But in the first eight minutes of Season 4 (in the video above), it seems as though the faerie tale may not be as boring as it looked on the surface.

The fae have an evil dark side, and the ability to do that weird microwave-fingers thing that Sookie can magically do. This season should explore all the other tricks they have up their sleeves, or skirts or whatever.


Eric's Memory Loss

If this season's promos are to be believed, the new witches in Bon Temps have power over vampires, and apparently use those powers to brain-bleach Eric (Alexander Skarsgard), effectively sucking out all of his swag.

For those that like Eric all manipulative and cocky, this is a big bummer, but for those who remember him as being sexiest when he was shirtless and crying blood, the newly vulnerable Eric should be appealing. This appeal should also translate to characters inside the TV as well as out, namely Sookie. (See next panel.)

Eric and Sookie Hook Up

It's been a long time coming, but this season is slated to be the one where all that pent-up sexual tension between Sookie and Eric finally sees some release.

Sookie gave Bill the boot at the end of last season (see clip above), leaving the door wide open (literally and figuratively) for Eric to swoop in. And in case you were wondering, the guy who plays Bill — Stephen Moyer, Anna Paquin's real-life husband — is totally OK with this.

A New Gay Storyline

After ostensibly burying two of the show's main gays last season — Talbot (Theo Alexander) was reduced to an oozing pile of mutilated dildos by Eric and his partner, while Russell Edgington (Denis O'Hare) was literally dumped into a vat of cement after eviscerating a nightly news anchor (see video above) — True Blood will need to replenish its homosexual pool this season.

Luckily, a previously straight main character will reportedly have a gay romance


Jason Stackhouse Tied to a Bed

This little perk is pretty shallow. It's just to call attention to the fact that Bon Temps' resident lothario is shirtless, bleeding and strapped to a bed.

What happens next is actually more meaty. As we see in the clip above, the reason Jason (Ryan Kwanten) is so stricken is that his sometimes-panther girlfriend Crystal says he's becoming "one of us." Oh, really?

Something Interesting Might Happen With Tara

Tara (Rutina Wesley) has always been a badass. But in the world of True Blood, that's not always enough, what with all the vampires, werewolves, panthers and other crazy creatures running around.

That's always left her playing the victim — being possessed by whatever voodoo it was that Maryann Forrester did, getting imprisoned and raped by Franklin Mott, that sort of thing. At the end of last season she pulled a half-Britney, cutting off most of her hair and promising to skip town and not be a victim any more (see clip above).

With any luck, she won't be so milquetoast-y this season. She is, after all, Lafayette's cousin, and if this whole witch deal is genetic, then she may possess some sorcery of her own (sadly this'll come a little too late to have helped her with the aforementioned possession and imprisonment).


More Pam

With Eric newly infantlike, his vampire progeny Pam (Kristin Bauer) will have to step up to help him. Finally, more opportunities to see Pam do what she does best: Act like a total raging bossypants — something that's not easy when facing off with an honest-to-goodness witch.

Godric Returns!

Very little is known about what is going to come of it, but it's been reported that Eric's maker Godric (Allen Hyde), who flamed out in Season 2, is coming back. Honestly, it doesn't matter what he does. Remember how awesome he was and how much it sucked when he stood in the sun?

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Black Violin- "Triumph" (2011)

Showing Support, From one BGOL member to another....
















Showing Support, From one BGOL member to another....

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Dropbox Passwords

Dropbox passwords


NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- It's the security nightmare scenario: A website stuffed with sensitive documents leaves all of its customer data unprotected and exposed.
It happened this week to Dropbox, a cloud storage site used by 25 million customers to store documents, videos, photos and other files. For four hours on Sunday, a site glitch let visitors use any password to log in to customers' accounts.
Dropbox fessed up to the mistake in blog post on Monday. A code update gone awry introduced what the site delicately called an "authentication bug." The error was fixed five minutes after it was discovered, but for a four-hour stretch, the site's defenses were down.
"This should never have happened," Dropbox wrote in its blog.
But it did -- and as individuals and corporations move to storing sensitive information in online lockers, they could get burned.
"Any trust in the cloud is too much trust in the cloud -- it's as simple as that," says Dave Aitel, president and CEO of security firm Immunity Inc. "It's pretty much the standard among security professionals that you should put on the cloud only what you would be willing to give away."
Like many other consumer-focused cloud services, Dropbox essentially traded some security for ease of use. The company encrypts and decrypts data on its own servers -- which makes it easy for users to login with just a password, instead of a complex encryption key. But it also leaves a lot in Dropbox's hands.
"It's giving them all the keys to the castle," Aitel says. "When you're your own hosting provider, you're self-insured. But when you let someone else keep the encryption keys, it's like outsourcing or offshoring. You're giving up accountability."
5 data breaches: Embarrassing and deadly
It's a lesson that Lockheed Martin (LMT, Fortune 500) and other big firms learned earlier this year, when their SecurID tokens used to access sensitive corporate systems were compromised.
Back in March, RSA, a division of EMC Corp. (EMC, Fortune 500), disclosed that hackers had broken into its systems and made off with information about its SecurID products. Late last month, defense contractor Lockheed disclosed a "significant and tenacious" cyber attack on its IT systems.
RSA admitted that information obtained in the March hacking was used in the Lockheed Martin attack. RSA ended up offering to replace SecurID tokens for its customers, and a few including Bank of America (BAC, Fortune 500) and SAP (SAP) immediately accepted.
"The larger global picture is cost vs. security," Aitel says. "You make tradeoffs so it's cheaper month to month, but your chips are on the roulette wheel."
More chips are going on the wheel every day. The idea of cloud computing for everyone will get a major boost this fall when Apple (AAPL, Fortune 500) launches iCloud, its own "let us store everything" offering. An RBC Capital analyst predicted this week that iCloud could debut with 150 million subscribers right off the bat.
Meanwhile, Google (GOOG, Fortune 500) continues pushing the idea that all of our data should live online. The Chromebooks it launched this month do away with the hard drive entirely and rely entirely on GMail, Google Docs and other cloud services.
At the same time, a spate of high-profile security breaches are offering a daily reminder of the vulnerability of online information.
Sony (SNE) was subjected to major hacks in April and May, which affected several of its gaming systems and potentially compromising tens of millions of credit card numbers.
Last week, Citigroup (C, Fortune 500) revealed more details on a hack attack from last month, revealing that far more credit card accounts were accessed than originally reported: 360,000.
This week, hacking groups Lulz Security and Anonymous announced they have teamed up to target governments around the globe in what they're calling "Operation Anti-Security."
Aitel notes that hacking, security problems and data privacy concerns are nothing new. But he hopes the crop of recent high-profile issues will make users aware that the technology is fallible.
"This is certainly the way things have always been," Aitel says. "But people are coming to a global awareness about how things need to be."


More @ http://money.cnn.com/2011/06/22/technology/dropbox_passwords/index.htm?iid=HP_River

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Africa: 100 things

100 things that you did not know about Africa


1. The human race is of African origin. The oldest known skeletal remains of anatomically modern humans (or homo sapiens) were excavated at sites in East Africa. Human remains were discovered at Omo in Ethiopia that were dated at 195,000 years old, the oldest known in the world.

2. Skeletons of pre-humans have been found in Africa that date back between 4 and 5 million years. The oldest known ancestral type of humanity is thought to have been the australopithecus ramidus, who lived at least 4.4 million years ago.

3. Africans were the first to organise fishing expeditions 90,000 years ago. At Katanda, a region in northeastern Zaïre (now Congo), was recovered a finely wrought series of harpoon points, all elaborately polished and barbed. Also uncovered was a tool, equally well crafted, believed to be a dagger. The discoveries suggested the existence of an early aquatic or fishing based culture.

4. Africans were the first to engage in mining 43,000 years ago. In 1964 a hematite mine was found in Swaziland at Bomvu Ridge in the Ngwenya mountain range. Ultimately 300,000 artefacts were recovered including thousands of stone-made mining tools. Adrian Boshier, one of the archaeologists on the site, dated the mine to a staggering 43,200 years old.

5. Africans pioneered basic arithmetic 25,000 years ago. The Ishango bone is a tool handle with notches carved into it found in the Ishango region of Zaïre (now called Congo) near Lake Edward. The bone tool was originally thought to have been over 8,000 years old, but a more sensitive recent dating has given dates of 25,000 years old. On the tool are 3 rows of notches. Row 1 shows three notches carved next to six, four carved next to eight, ten carved next to two fives and finally a seven. The 3 and 6, 4 and 8, and 10 and 5, represent the process of doubling. Row 2 shows eleven notches carved next to twenty-one notches, and nineteen notches carved next to nine notches. This represents 10 + 1, 20 + 1, 20 - 1 and 10 - 1. Finally, Row 3 shows eleven notches, thirteen notches, seventeen notches and nineteen notches. 11, 13, 17 and 19 are the prime numbers between 10 and 20.

6. Africans cultivated crops 12,000 years ago, the first known advances in agriculture. Professor Fred Wendorf discovered that people in Egypt’s Western Desert cultivated crops of barley, capers, chick-peas, dates, legumes, lentils and wheat. Their ancient tools were also recovered. There were grindstones, milling stones, cutting blades, hide scrapers, engraving burins, and mortars and pestles.

7. Africans mummified their dead 9,000 years ago. A mummified infant was found under the Uan Muhuggiag rock shelter in south western Libya. The infant was buried in the foetal position and was mummified using a very sophisticated technique that must have taken hundreds of years to evolve. The technique predates the earliest mummies known in Ancient Egypt by at least 1,000 years. Carbon dating is controversial but the mummy may date from 7438 (±220) BC.

8. Africans carved the world’s first colossal sculpture 7,000 or more years ago. The Great Sphinx of Giza was fashioned with the head of a man combined with the body of a lion. A key and important question raised by this monument was: How old is it? In October 1991 Professor Robert Schoch, a geologist from Boston University, demonstrated that the Sphinx was sculpted between 5000 BC and 7000 BC, dates that he considered conservative.

9. On the 1 March 1979, the New York Times carried an article on its front page also page sixteen that was entitled Nubian Monarchy called Oldest. In this article we were assured that: “Evidence of the oldest recognizable monarchy in human history, preceding the rise of the earliest Egyptian kings by several generations, has been discovered in artifacts from ancient Nubia” (i.e. the territory of the northern Sudan and the southern portion of modern Egypt.)

10. The ancient Egyptians had the same type of tropically adapted skeletal proportions as modern Black Africans. A 2003 paper appeared in American Journal of Physical Anthropology by Dr Sonia Zakrzewski entitled Variation in Ancient Egyptian Stature and Body Proportions where she states that: “The raw values in Table 6 suggest that Egyptians had the ‘super-Negroid’ body plan described by Robins (1983). The values for the brachial and crural indices show that the distal segments of each limb are longer relative to the proximal segments than in many ‘African’ populations.”

11. The ancient Egyptians had Afro combs. One writer tells us that the Egyptians “manufactured a very striking range of combs in ivory: the shape of these is distinctly African and is like the combs used even today by Africans and those of African descent.”

12. The Funerary Complex in the ancient Egyptian city of Saqqara is the oldest building that tourists regularly visit today. An outer wall, now mostly in ruins, surrounded the whole structure. Through the entrance are a series of columns, the first stone-built columns known to historians. The North House also has ornamental columns built into the walls that have papyrus-like capitals. Also inside the complex is the Ceremonial Court, made of limestone blocks that have been quarried and then shaped. In the centre of the complex is the Step Pyramid, the first of 90 Egyptian pyramids.

13. The first Great Pyramid of Giza, the most extraordinary building in history, was a staggering 481 feet tall - the equivalent of a 40-storey building. It was made of 2.3 million blocks of limestone and granite, some weighing 100 tons.

14. The ancient Egyptian city of Kahun was the world’s first planned city. Rectangular and walled, the city was divided into two parts. One part housed the wealthier inhabitants – the scribes, officials and foremen. The other part housed the ordinary people. The streets of the western section in particular, were straight, laid out on a grid, and crossed each other at right angles. A stone gutter, over half a metre wide, ran down the centre of every street.

15. Egyptian mansions were discovered in Kahun - each boasting 70 rooms, divided into four sections or quarters. There was a master’s quarter, quarters for women and servants, quarters for offices and finally, quarters for granaries, each facing a central courtyard. The master’s quarters had an open court with a stone water tank for bathing. Surrounding this was a colonnade.

16 The Labyrinth in the Egyptian city of Hawara with its massive layout, multiple courtyards, chambers and halls, was the very largest building in antiquity. Boasting three thousand rooms, 1,500 of them were above ground and the other 1,500 were underground.

17. Toilets and sewerage systems existed in ancient Egypt. One of the pharaohs built a city now known as Amarna. An American urban planner noted that: “Great importance was attached to cleanliness in Amarna as in other Egyptian cities. Toilets and sewers were in use to dispose waste. Soap was made for washing the body. Perfumes and essences were popular against body odour. A solution of natron was used to keep insects from houses . . . Amarna may have been the first planned ‘garden city’.”

18. Sudan has more pyramids than any other country on earth - even more than Egypt. There are at least 223 pyramids in the Sudanese cities of Al Kurru, Nuri, Gebel Barkal and Meroë. They are generally 20 to 30 metres high and steep sided.

19. The Sudanese city of Meroë is rich in surviving monuments. Becoming the capital of the Kushite Empire between 590 BC until AD 350, there are 84 pyramids in this city alone, many built with their own miniature temple. In addition, there are ruins of a bath house sharing affinities with those of the Romans. Its central feature is a large pool approached by a flight of steps with waterspouts decorated with lion heads.

20. Bling culture has a long and interesting history. Gold was used to decorate ancient Sudanese temples. One writer reported that: “Recent excavations at Meroe and Mussawwarat es-Sufra revealed temples with walls and statues covered with gold leaf”.

21. In around 300 BC, the Sudanese invented a writing script that had twenty-three letters of which four were vowels and there was also a word divider. Hundreds of ancient texts have survived that were in this script. Some are on display in the British Museum.

22. In central Nigeria, West Africa’s oldest civilisation flourished between 1000 BC and 300 BC. Discovered in 1928, the ancient culture was called the Nok Civilisation, named after the village in which the early artefacts were discovered. Two modern scholars, declare that “[a]fter calibration, the period of Nok art spans from 1000 BC until 300 BC”. The site itself is much older going back as early as 4580 or 4290 BC.

23. West Africans built in stone by 1100 BC. In the Tichitt-Walata region of Mauritania, archaeologists have found “large stone masonry villages” that date back to 1100 BC. The villages consisted of roughly circular compounds connected by “well-defined streets”.

24. By 250 BC, the foundations of West Africa’s oldest cities were established such as Old Djenné in Mali.

25. Kumbi Saleh, the capital of Ancient Ghana, flourished from 300 to 1240 AD. Located in modern day Mauritania, archaeological excavations have revealed houses, almost habitable today, for want of renovation and several storeys high. They had underground rooms, staircases and connecting halls. Some had nine rooms. One part of the city alone is estimated to have housed 30,000 people.
26. West Africa had walled towns and cities in the pre-colonial period. Winwood Reade, an English historian visited West Africa in the nineteenth century and commented that: “There are . . . thousands of large walled cities resembling those of Europe in the Middle Ages, or of ancient Greece.”

27. Lord Lugard, an English official, estimated in 1904 that there were 170 walled towns still in existence in the whole of just the Kano province of northern Nigeria.

28. Cheques are not quite as new an invention as we were led to believe. In the tenth century, an Arab geographer, Ibn Haukal, visited a fringe region of Ancient Ghana. Writing in 951 AD, he told of a cheque for 42,000 golden dinars written to a merchant in the city of Audoghast by his partner in Sidjilmessa.

29. Ibn Haukal, writing in 951 AD, informs us that the King of Ghana was “the richest king on the face of the earth” whose pre-eminence was due to the quantity of gold nuggets that had been amassed by the himself and by his predecessors.

30. The Nigerian city of Ile-Ife was paved in 1000 AD on the orders of a female ruler with decorations that originated in Ancient America. Naturally, no-one wants to explain how this took place approximately 500 years before the time of Christopher Columbus!

31. West Africa had bling culture in 1067 AD. One source mentions that when the Emperor of Ghana gives audience to his people: “he sits in a pavilion around which stand his horses caparisoned in cloth of gold: behind him stand ten pages holding shields and gold-mounted swords: and on his right hand are the sons of the princes of his empire, splendidly clad and with gold plaited into their hair . . . The gate of the chamber is guarded by dogs of an excellent breed . . . they wear collars of gold and silver.”

32. Glass windows existed at that time. The residence of the Ghanaian Emperor in 1116 AD was: “A well-built castle, thoroughly fortified, decorated inside with sculptures and pictures, and having glass windows.”

33. The Grand Mosque in the Malian city of Djenné, described as “the largest adobe [clay] building in the world”, was first raised in 1204 AD. It was built on a square plan where each side is 56 metres in length. It has three large towers on one side, each with projecting wooden buttresses.

34. One of the great achievements of the Yoruba was their urban culture. “By the year A.D. 1300,” says a modern scholar, “the Yoruba people built numerous walled cities surrounded by farms”. The cities were Owu, Oyo, Ijebu, Ijesa, Ketu, Popo, Egba, Sabe, Dassa, Egbado, Igbomina, the sixteen Ekiti principalities, Owo and Ondo.

35. Yoruba metal art of the mediaeval period was of world class. One scholar wrote that Yoruba art “would stand comparison with anything which Ancient Egypt, Classical Greece and Rome, or Renaissance Europe had to offer.”

36. In the Malian city of Gao stands the Mausoleum of Askia the Great, a weird sixteenth century edifice that resembles a step pyramid.

37. Thousands of mediaeval tumuli have been found across West Africa. Nearly 7,000 were discovered in north-west Senegal alone spread over nearly 1,500 sites. They were probably built between 1000 and 1300 AD.

38. Excavations at the Malian city of Gao carried out by Cambridge University revealed glass windows. One of the finds was entitled: “Fragments of alabaster window surrounds and a piece of pink window glass, Gao 10th – 14th century.”

39. In 1999 the BBC produced a television series entitled Millennium. The programme devoted to the fourteenth century opens with the following disclosure: “In the fourteenth century, the century of the scythe, natural disasters threatened civilisations with extinction. The Black Death kills more people in Europe, Asia and North Africa than any catastrophe has before. Civilisations which avoid the plague thrive. In West Africa the Empire of Mali becomes the richest in the world.”

40. Malian sailors got to America in 1311 AD, 181 years before Columbus. An Egyptian scholar, Ibn Fadl Al-Umari, published on this sometime around 1342. In the tenth chapter of his book, there is an account of two large maritime voyages ordered by the predecessor of Mansa Musa, a king who inherited the Malian throne in 1312. This mariner king is not named by Al-Umari, but modern writers identify him as Mansa Abubakari II.

41. On a pilgrimage to Mecca in 1324 AD, a Malian ruler, Mansa Musa, brought so much money with him that his visit resulted in the collapse of gold prices in Egypt and Arabia. It took twelve years for the economies of the region to normalise.

42. West African gold mining took place on a vast scale. One modern writer said that: “It is estimated that the total amount of gold mined in West Africa up to 1500 was 3,500 tons, worth more than $****30 billion in today’s market.”

43. The old Malian capital of Niani had a 14th century building called the Hall of Audience. It was an surmounted by a dome, adorned with arabesques of striking colours. The windows of an upper floor were plated with wood and framed in silver; those of a lower floor were plated with wood, framed in gold.

44. Mali in the 14th century was highly urbanised. Sergio Domian, an Italian art and architecture scholar, wrote the following about this period: “Thus was laid the foundation of an urban civilisation. At the height of its power, Mali had at least 400 cities, and the interior of the Niger Delta was very densely populated”.

45. The Malian city of Timbuktu had a 14th century population of 115,000 - 5 times larger than mediaeval London. Mansa Musa, built the Djinguerebere Mosque in the fourteenth century. There was the University Mosque in which 25,000 students studied and the Oratory of Sidi Yayia. There were over 150 Koran schools in which 20,000 children were instructed. London, by contrast, had a total 14th century population of 20,000 people.

46. National Geographic recently described Timbuktu as the Paris of the mediaeval world, on account of its intellectual culture. According to Professor Henry Louis Gates, 25,000 university students studied there.

47. Many old West African families have private library collections that go back hundreds of years. The Mauritanian cities of Chinguetti and Oudane have a total of 3,450 hand written mediaeval books. There may be another 6,000 books still surviving in the other city of Walata. Some date back to the 8th century AD. There are 11,000 books in private collections in Niger. Finally, in Timbuktu, Mali, there are about 700,000 surviving books.

48. A collection of one thousand six hundred books was considered a small library for a West African scholar of the 16th century. Professor Ahmed Baba of Timbuktu is recorded as saying that he had the smallest library of any of his friends - he had only 1600 volumes.

49. Concerning these old manuscripts, Michael Palin, in his TV series Sahara, said the imam of Timbuktu “has a collection of scientific texts that clearly show the planets circling the sun. They date back hundreds of years . . . Its convincing evidence that the scholars of Timbuktu knew a lot more than their counterparts in Europe. In the fifteenth century in Timbuktu the mathematicians knew about the rotation of the planets, knew about the details of the eclipse, they knew things which we had to wait for 150 almost 200 years to know in Europe when Galileo and Copernicus came up with these same calculations and were given a very hard time for it.”

50. The Songhai Empire of 16th century West Africa had a government position called Minister for Etiquette and Protocol.
51. The mediaeval Nigerian city of Benin was built to “a scale comparable with the Great Wall of China”. There was a vast system of defensive walling totalling 10,000 miles in all. Even before the full extent of the city walling had become apparent the Guinness Book of Records carried an entry in the 1974 edition that described the city as: “The largest earthworks in the world carried out prior to the mechanical era.”

52. Benin art of the Middle Ages was of the highest quality. An official of the Berlin Museum für Völkerkunde once stated that: “These works from Benin are equal to the very finest examples of European casting technique. Benvenuto Cellini could not have cast them better, nor could anyone else before or after him . . . Technically, these bronzes represent the very highest possible achievement.”

53. Winwood Reade described his visit to the Ashanti Royal Palace of Kumasi in 1874: “We went to the king’s palace, which consists of many courtyards, each surrounded with alcoves and verandahs, and having two gates or doors, so that each yard was a thoroughfare . . . But the part of the palace fronting the street was a stone house, Moorish in its style . . . with a flat roof and a parapet, and suites of apartments on the first floor. It was built by Fanti masons many years ago. The rooms upstairs remind me of Wardour Street. Each was a perfect Old Curiosity Shop. Books in many languages, Bohemian glass, clocks, silver plate, old furniture, Persian rugs, Kidderminster carpets, pictures and engravings, numberless chests and coffers. A sword bearing the inscription From Queen Victoria to the King of Ashantee. A copy of the Times, 17 October 1843. With these were many specimens of Moorish and Ashanti handicraft.”

54. In the mid-nineteenth century, William Clarke, an English visitor to Nigeria, remarked that: “As good an article of cloth can be woven by the Yoruba weavers as by any people . . . in durability, their cloths far excel the prints and home-spuns of Manchester.”

55. The recently discovered 9th century Nigerian city of Eredo was found to be surrounded by a wall that was 100 miles long and seventy feet high in places. The internal area was a staggering 400 square miles.

56. On the subject of cloth, Kongolese textiles were also distinguished. Various European writers of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries wrote of the delicate crafts of the peoples living in eastern Kongo and adjacent regions who manufactured damasks, sarcenets, satins, taffeta, cloth of tissue and velvet. Professor DeGraft-Johnson made the curious observation that: “Their brocades, both high and low, were far more valuable than the Italian.”

57. On Kongolese metallurgy of the Middle Ages, one modern scholar wrote that: “There is no doubting . . . the existence of an expert metallurgical art in the ancient Kongo . . . The Bakongo were aware of the toxicity of lead vapours. They devised preventative and curative methods, both pharmacological (massive doses of pawpaw and palm oil) and mechanical (exerting of pressure to free the digestive tract), for combating lead poisoning.”

58. In Nigeria, the royal palace in the city of Kano dates back to the fifteenth century. Begun by Muhammad Rumfa (ruled 1463-99) it has gradually evolved over generations into a very imposing complex. A colonial report of the city from 1902, described it as “a network of buildings covering an area of 33 acres and surrounded by a wall 20 to 30 feet high outside and 15 feet inside . . . in itself no mean citadel”.

59. A sixteenth century traveller visited the central African civilisation of Kanem-Borno and commented that the emperor’s cavalry had golden “stirrups, spurs, bits and buckles.” Even the ruler’s dogs had “chains of the finest gold”.

60. One of the government positions in mediaeval Kanem-Borno was Astronomer Royal.

61. Ngazargamu, the capital city of Kanem-Borno, became one of the largest cities in the seventeenth century world. By 1658 AD, the metropolis, according to an architectural scholar housed “about quarter of a million people”. It had 660 streets. Many were wide and unbending, reflective of town planning.

62. The Nigerian city of Surame flourished in the sixteenth century. Even in ruin it was an impressive sight, built on a horizontal vertical grid. A modern scholar describes it thus: “The walls of Surame are about 10 miles in circumference and include many large bastions or walled suburbs running out at right angles to the main wall. The large compound at Kanta is still visible in the centre, with ruins of many buildings, one of which is said to have been two-storied. The striking feature of the walls and whole ruins is the extensive use of stone and tsokuwa (laterite gravel) or very hard red building mud, evidently brought from a distance. There is a big mound of this near the north gate about 8 feet in height. The walls show regular courses of masonry to a height of 20 feet and more in several places. The best preserved portion is that known as sirati (the bridge) a little north of the eastern gate . . . The main city walls here appear to have provided a very strongly guarded entrance about 30 feet wide.”

63. The Nigerian city of Kano in 1851 produced an estimated 10 million pairs of sandals and 5 million hides each year for export.

64. In 1246 AD Dunama II of Kanem-Borno exchanged embassies with Al-Mustansir, the king of Tunis. He sent the North African court a costly present, which apparently included a giraffe. An old chronicle noted that the rare animal “created a sensation in Tunis”.

65. By the third century BC the city of Carthage on the coast of Tunisia was opulent and impressive. It had a population of 700,000 and may even have approached a million. Lining both sides of three streets were rows of tall houses six storeys high.

66. The Ethiopian city of Axum has a series of 7 giant obelisks that date from perhaps 300 BC to 300 AD. They have details carved into them that represent windows and doorways of several storeys. The largest obelisk, now fallen, is in fact “the largest monolith ever made anywhere in the world”. It is 108 feet long, weighs a staggering 500 tons, and represents a thirteen-storey building.

67. Ethiopia minted its own coins over 1,500 years ago. One scholar wrote that: “Almost no other contemporary state anywhere in the world could issue in gold, a statement of sovereignty achieved only by Rome, Persia, and the Kushan kingdom in northern India at the time.”

68. The Ethiopian script of the 4th century AD influenced the writing script of Armenia. A Russian historian noted that: “Soon after its creation, the Ethiopic vocalised script began to influence the scripts of Armenia and Georgia. D. A. Olderogge suggested that Mesrop Mashtotz used the vocalised Ethiopic script when he invented the Armenian alphabet.”

69. “In the first half of the first millennium CE,” says a modern scholar, Ethiopia “was ranked as one of the world’s greatest empires”. A Persian cleric of the third century AD identified it as the third most important state in the world after Persia and Rome.

70. Ethiopia has 11 underground mediaeval churches built by being carved out of the ground. In the twelfth and thirteenth centuries AD, Roha became the new capital of the Ethiopians. Conceived as a New Jerusalem by its founder, Emperor Lalibela (c.1150-1230), it contains 11 churches, all carved out of the rock of the mountains by hammer and chisel. All of the temples were carved to a depth of 11 metres or so below ground level. The largest is the House of the Redeemer, a staggering 33.7 metres long, 23.7 metres wide and 11.5 metres deep.

71. Lalibela is not the only place in Ethiopia to have such wonders. A cotemporary archaeologist reports research that was conducted in the region in the early 1970’s when: “startling numbers of churches built in caves or partially or completely cut from the living rock were revealed not only in Tigre and Lalibela but as far south as Addis Ababa. Soon at least 1,500 were known. At least as many more probably await revelation.”

72. In 1209 AD Emperor Lalibela of Ethiopia sent an embassy to Cairo bringing the sultan unusual gifts including an elephant, a hyena, a zebra, and a giraffe.

73. In Southern Africa, there are at least 600 stone built ruins in the regions of Zimbabwe, Mozambique and South Africa. These ruins are called Mazimbabwe in Shona, the Bantu language of the builders, and means great revered house and “signifies court”.

74. The Great Zimbabwe was the largest of these ruins. It consists of 12 clusters of buildings, spread over 3 square miles. Its outer walls were made from 100,000 tons of granite bricks. In the fourteenth century, the city housed 18,000 people, comparable in size to that of London of the same period.

75. Bling culture existed in this region. At the time of our last visit, the Horniman Museum in London had exhibits of headrests with the caption: “Headrests have been used in Africa since the time of the Egyptian pharaohs. Remains of some headrests, once covered in gold foil, have been found in the ruins of Great Zimbabwe and burial sites like Mapungubwe dating to the twelfth century after Christ.”

76. Dr Albert Churchward, author of Signs and Symbols of Primordial Man, pointed out that writing was found in one of the stone built ruins: “Lt.-Col. E. L. de Cordes . . . who was in South Africa for three years, informed the writer that in one of the ‘Ruins’ there is a ‘stone-chamber,’ with a vast quantity of Papyri, covered with old Egyptian hieroglyphics. A Boer hunter discovered this, and a large quantity was used to light a fire with, and yet still a larger quantity remained there now.”

77. On bling culture, one seventeenth century visitor to southern African empire of Monomotapa, that ruled over this vast region, wrote that: “The people dress in various ways: at court of the Kings their grandees wear cloths of rich silk, damask, satin, gold and silk cloth; these are three widths of satin, each width four covados [2.64m], each sewn to the next, sometimes with gold lace in between, trimmed on two sides, like a carpet, with a gold and silk fringe, sewn in place with a two fingers’ wide ribbon, woven with gold roses on silk.”

78. Southern Africans mined gold on an epic scale. One modern writer tells us that: “The estimated amount of gold ore mined from the entire region by the ancients was staggering, exceeding 43 million tons. The ore yielded nearly 700 tons of pure gold which today would be valued at over $******7.5 billion.”

79. Apparently the Monomotapan royal palace at Mount Fura had chandeliers hanging from the ceiling. An eighteenth century geography book provided the following data: “The inside consists of a great variety of sumptuous apartments, spacious and lofty halls, all adorned with a magnificent cotton tapestry, the manufacture of the country. The floors, cielings [sic], beams and rafters are all either gilt or plated with gold curiously wrought, as are also the chairs of state, tables, benches &c. The candle-sticks and branches are made of ivory inlaid with gold, and hang from the cieling by chains of the same metal, or of silver gilt.”

80. Monomotapa had a social welfare system. Antonio Bocarro, a Portuguese contemporary, informs us that the Emperor: “shows great charity to the blind and maimed, for these are called the king’s poor, and have land and revenues for their subsistence, and when they wish to pass through the kingdoms, wherever they come food and drinks are given to them at the public cost as long as they remain there, and when they leave that place to go to another they are provided with what is necessary for their journey, and a guide, and some one to carry their wallet to the next village. In every place where they come there is the same obligation.”

81. Many southern Africans have indigenous and pre-colonial words for ‘gun’. Scholars have generally been reluctant to investigate or explain this fact.

82. Evidence discovered in 1978 showed that East Africans were making steel for more than 1,500 years: “Assistant Professor of Anthropology Peter Schmidt and Professor of Engineering Donald H. Avery have found as long as 2,000 years ago Africans living on the western shores of Lake Victoria had produced carbon steel in preheated forced draft furnaces, a method that was technologically more sophisticated than any developed in Europe until the mid-nineteenth century.”

83. Ruins of a 300 BC astronomical observatory was found at Namoratunga in Kenya. Africans were mapping the movements of stars such as Triangulum, Aldebaran, Bellatrix, Central Orion, etcetera, as well as the moon, in order to create a lunar calendar of 354 days.

84. Autopsies and caesarean operations were routinely and effectively carried out by surgeons in pre-colonial Uganda. The surgeons routinely used antiseptics, anaesthetics and cautery iron. Commenting on a Ugandan caesarean operation that appeared in the Edinburgh Medical Journal in 1884, one author wrote: “The whole conduct of the operation . . . suggests a skilled long-practiced surgical team at work conducting a well-tried and familiar operation with smooth efficiency.”

85. Sudan in the mediaeval period had churches, cathedrals, monasteries and castles. Their ruins still exist today.

86. The mediaeval Nubian Kingdoms kept archives. From the site of Qasr Ibrim legal texts, documents and correspondence were discovered. An archaeologist informs us that: “On the site are preserved thousands of documents in Meroitic, Latin, Greek, Coptic, Old Nubian, Arabic and Turkish.”

87. Glass windows existed in mediaeval Sudan. Archaeologists found evidence of window glass at the Sudanese cities of Old Dongola and Hambukol.

88. Bling culture existed in the mediaeval Sudan. Archaeologists found an individual buried at the Monastery of the Holy Trinity in the city of Old Dongola. He was clad in an extremely elaborate garb consisting of costly textiles of various fabrics including gold thread. At the city of Soba East, there were individuals buried in fine clothing, including items with golden thread.

89. Style and fashion existed in mediaeval Sudan. A dignitary at Jebel Adda in the late thirteenth century AD was interned with a long coat of red and yellow patterned damask folded over his body. Underneath, he wore plain cotton trousers of long and baggy cut. A pair of red leather slippers with turned up toes lay at the foot of the coffin. The body was wrapped in enormous pieces of gold brocaded striped silk.

90. Sudan in the ninth century AD had housing complexes with bath rooms and piped water. An archaeologist wrote that Old Dongola, the capital of Makuria, had: “a[n] . . . eighth to . . . ninth century housing complex. The houses discovered here differ in their hitherto unencountered spatial layout as well as their functional programme (water supply installation, bathroom with heating system) and interiors decorated with murals.”

91. In 619 AD, the Nubians sent a gift of a giraffe to the Persians.

92. The East Coast, from Somalia to Mozambique, has ruins of well over 50 towns and cities. They flourished from the ninth to the sixteenth centuries AD.

93. Chinese records of the fifteenth century AD note that Mogadishu had houses of “four or five storeys high”.

94. Gedi, near the coast of Kenya, is one of the East African ghost towns. Its ruins, dating from the fourteenth or fifteenth centuries, include the city walls, the palace, private houses, the Great Mosque, seven smaller mosques, and three pillar tombs.

95. The ruined mosque in the Kenyan city of Gedi had a water purifier made of limestone for recycling water.

96. The palace in the Kenyan city of Gedi contains evidence of piped water controlled by taps. In addition it had bathrooms and indoor toilets.

97. A visitor in 1331 AD considered the Tanzanian city of Kilwa to be of world class. He wrote that it was the “principal city on the coast the greater part of whose inhabitants are Zanj of very black complexion.” Later on he says that: “Kilwa is one of the most beautiful and well-constructed cities in the world. The whole of it is elegantly built.”

98. Bling culture existed in early Tanzania. A Portuguese chronicler of the sixteenth century wrote that: “[T]hey are finely clad in many rich garments of gold and silk and cotton, and the women as well; also with much gold and silver chains and bracelets, which they wear on their legs and arms, and many jewelled earrings in their ears”.

99. In 1961 a British archaeologist, found the ruins of Husuni Kubwa, the royal palace of the Tanzanian city of Kilwa. It had over a hundred rooms, including a reception hall, galleries, courtyards, terraces and an octagonal swimming pool.

100. In 1414 the Kenyan city of Malindi sent ambassadors to China carrying a gift that created a sensation at the Imperial Court. It was, of course, a giraffe.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

YouTube stars who made over $100,000

Youtube

YouTube stars who made over $100,000

Provided by the Business Insider, August 19, 2010:

There are 10 independent YouTube stars who made over $100,000 in the past year, according to a study done by analytics and advertising company TubeMogul.

From July 2009 to July 2010, TubeMogul used their viewership data to estimate the annual income for independent YouTube partners, which they define as anyone who is not part of a media company or brand.

Here's how they got their estimates:

* Revenue only comes from banner ads served near content (we ignored pre-roll or overlay since we can't easily isolate by publisher).
* Since YouTube banner ads have a two-second load delay, we estimate 2.59% of viewers click away before an ad loads based on separate research.
* Ads were served near all videos that loaded (since there are partners, this is generally true).
* CPM for the banner ads was $1.50 (Google auctions a lot of this inventory off; we rounded this 2009 estimate down to be conservative).
* YouTube is splitting ad revenue with partners 50-50.

Basically, take their views from the past year, assume a few don't stick around long enough for an ad to load, divide that number by 1,000, multiply by $1.50 and divide that number in half.

Conservative estimates? Sure. But with that math, you get a pretty decent estimate of how much these YouTube celebrities are making from just the banner ads on their channel. So, without further ado, here are the highest earning YouTube stars!


1. Shane Dawson – $315,000

Shane Dawson is so popular that he is three different YouTube channels. His most popular channel consists of his comedy skits and music video parodies. Dawson created a second channel as a vlog and for a separate series called "Ask Shane," and his third channel only has videos taken from his iPhone.

July 2009 - 2010 Views: 431,787,450


2. The Annoying Orange – $288,000

The Annoying Orange is a comedy web series that takes place in a kitchen and is about talking fruit. Dane Boedigheimer is the mastermind behind the series and is also the voice of Orange.

July 2009 - 2010 Views: 349,753,047


3. Philip DeFranco – $181,000

Philip DeFranco uploads a new video onto YouTube every Monday to Thursday for his show – The Philip DeFranco Show. His video blogging topics range from politics to pop culture.

July 2009 - 2010 Views: 248,735,032


4. Ryan Higa – $151,000

Ryan Higa makes comedy skits and is a video blogger who turned into a viral star with his "How to be Gangster" and "How to be Ninja" videos. Even though he doesn't upload as many videos as his fellow YouTube celebrities, Higa is still the top dog at YouTube with over 2.6 million subscribers.

July 2009 - 2010 Views: 206,979,909


5. Fred – $146,000

Lucas Cruikshank plays "a lonely six year old named Fred" who uses his mom's video camera and posts videos on a YouTube channel. As the second most subscribed to YouTube channel, Lucas Cruikshank's immensely popular Fred character even has a movie coming out backed by Nickelodeon.

July 2009 - 2010 Views: 200,656,150


6. Shay Carl – $140,000

As a radio DJ, Shay Carl started making comedy skits and put them on YouTube for the world to see. He claims to have held 20 different jobs before settling down with his DJ and YouTube gigs.

July 2009 - 2010 Views: 192,309,247


7. Mediocre Films – $116,000

Greg Benson created Mediocre Films initially for a sketchy comedy TV series called "Skip TV." The show lasted for one season, and now Benson makes low budget comedy videos for the web.

July 2009 - 2010 Views: 159,030,703


8. Smosh – $113,000

Smosh is the comedy duo of Ian Hecox and Anthony Padilla, and with over 1.7 million subscribers, they make up the 5th most popular channel on YouTube. They first shot to viral fame with their "Pokemon Theme Music Video" which became YouTube's most viewed video in Spring 2006. However, due to copyright reasons, the original video was removed from YouTube.

July 2009 - 2010 Views: 154,936,876


9. The Young Turks – $112,000

The Young Turks is a political talk show that also airs on Sirius Satellite Radio. Founded and hosted by Cenk Uygur, The Young Turks talk show and their vast viewership has proven that the Internet can be a viable broadcast platform.
July 2009 - 2010 Views: 153,807,362


10. Natalie Tran– $101,000

Under the user name of communitychannel, Natalie Tran is the most subscribed to YouTube user in Australia. Like most others on this list, she is a video blogger and occasionally uploads comedy skits.

July 2009 - 2010 Views: 138,871,829


More @ http://finance.yahoo.com/tech-ticker/meet-the-youtube-stars-making-100000-plus-per-year-535349.html?tickers=goog,^ixic,qqqq

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Sunday, June 5, 2011

Bankruptcy Filings

Bankruptcy



Bankruptcy filings are nearing the record 2 million of 2005, when a new law took effect that was aimed at curbing abuse of the system. Filings could reach 1.7 million this year, says law professor Robert Lawless, but few experts believe that debtors are now gaming the system.

Instead, concern exists about a growing number of Americans who need bankruptcy protection but cannot get any benefit from it or simply cannot afford to file. As their financial problems worsen, that hurts everyone because it can hinder the economic turnaround.

"It's shocking that we are back to the 2005 level," says Katherine Porter, associate professor of law at the University of Iowa. "And the filing rate doesn't even begin to count the depth of the financial pain."

"It's shocking that we are back to the 2005 level," says Katherine Porter, associate professor of law at the University of Iowa. "And the filing rate doesn't even begin to count the depth of the financial pain."

Bankruptcy laws changed in 2005 because filings skyrocketed and credit card companies and banks wanted to weed out deadbeat borrowers. The law made it harder — more expensive and more restrictive — for individuals to file Chapter 7 bankruptcy, which erases most debts.

Instead of seeking protection from bankruptcy, a number of debt-laden Americans have gone into a "shadow economy," or informal bankruptcy, according to some experts.
The signs are there: Student loan defaults and home foreclosures are rising, and bank card loan defaults have increased from 7.7% in March to 9.1% in April, according to S&P/Experian Consumer Credit Default Indices. But during the same two months, bankruptcy filings fell by 4%.

Bankruptcy is supposed to provide a fresh start to people who are in serious financial distress. But only a fraction are filing, Porter says.

'My future is gone'

Carmen Gardiner, 25, a 2007 graduate of Louisiana State University, is weighed down by her private student loans. Her debt is now about $80,000, and her monthly payments are more than $600. Gardiner's undergraduate degree is in psychology. She lives with her husband, who is still in college, and earns $13 an hour at a call center in Atlanta. They have a 6-month-old daughter.

She hasn't defaulted on her student loan. But she doesn't see much hope. Bankruptcy would not discharge her debt.

"I'm completely sour about the whole idea of going to college," she says. "My future is gone before I have a chance to make one. But if I could discharge this using bankruptcy, it would be better than winning the lottery."

There is little information about unregulated private student loan debt. But during an investor meeting, Sallie Mae, the USA's largest private student lender, recently projected that 40% of $6 billion in subprime private student loans will default, according to Student Lending Analytics, an independent research company. That means 360,000 to 540,000 borrowers are likely to default on their loans, SLA said.

The only way that people with private student loans can get help in bankruptcy is if they can prove undue hardship. And to do that they have to go through a separate trial, which is an extra cost, involves witnesses, legal assistance and extra expertise, says Deanne Loonin, staff attorney at the National Consumer Law Center.

It is a huge barrier.

But in April, both the Senate and House introduced legislation to allow for private student loans to be dischargeable in bankruptcy. Before the bankruptcy law changed in 2005, only government-issued-or-guaranteed student loans were protected during bankruptcy.

"The high interest rates on private student loans have made them incredibly profitable for loan companies and saddled students with crushing debt," said Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., who first introduced this legislation in June 2007.

Filers pay now or pay later

Only a fraction of those in serious financial distress are filing for bankruptcy, Porter says. In January, she and Ronald Mann, a professor of law at Columbia University, released a paper, "Saving up for Bankruptcy," that probed why that is happening.

For starters, it's simply expensive to file. Attorney and filing fees have risen, and under the new law additional forms, paperwork and attorney liability have added to the cost, Porter says. In the first two years after the law changed, the attorney fees for filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy rose from $712 to $1,078, according to a study by the U.S. Government Accountability Office. And the filing fees increased from $209 to $299.

Many debtors have no choice but to delay filing for bankruptcy. Some wait until they receive a tax refund, and others cash out their retirement savings to pay for a lawyer.

But postponing filing is not good for debtors. It's similar to delaying going to the doctor, because you'll just end up with more problems, says Lawless, professor of law at University of Illinois.

The system is not just more costly, it is more complex. It requires pre-bankruptcy credit counseling. It requires six months of income information and two years of tax returns. And if the debtor holds off filing, a lawyer has to continue to gather new information.

"The paper chase gets greater, and then the fee goes up," says William Brewer, a bankruptcy lawyer in Raleigh, N.C.
Hanging onto their homes
Another reason: Many Americans who are trying to save their homes do not file for bankruptcy. Under the bankruptcy law, filers can protect their summer home and yacht, but they can't protect their primary residence, says John Taylor, president of the National Community Reinvestment Coalition, a non-profit organization.

That wasn't such a big issue when home values were rising. But during the recession, many homeowners are seeing values plummeting and their mortgage payments rising.

Home foreclosure filings have outstripped bankruptcy filings, Porter says. And foreclosure shows no sign of slowing down. In the first quarter of the year, foreclosure filings were 16% higher than the same quarter in 2009, according to RealtyTrac. And March was the highest month since RealtyTrac began issuing reports.
Cordell Brooks, 47, who lives in Temple Hills, Md., may soon lose his home to foreclosure. During the recession he was laid off from his job as a graphics designer. Since then, he has worked as a substitute teacher and now is a contractor with Prince George's County Housing.

"I've gone from earning $40 an hour to $17.50," he says.
Brooks, who has owned his home since 1989, applied for a federal program known as Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP) but was turned down. He has few options. He doesn't want to file for bankruptcy. But even if he did, it wouldn't help him save his home.

"Bankruptcy is not very useful at solving this particular type of financial distress," Porter says.

Homeowners who applied for loan modifications could have been turned down if they also have filed for bankruptcy. But as of this month, a debtor who requests loan modification cannot be discriminated against because they have filed for bankruptcy, says John Rao, an attorney at the National Consumer Law Center, which specializes in consumer credit and bankruptcy issues. And that will help homeowners who are also overwhelmed by other debt.

Is it time for a change?

When the bankruptcy law changed in 2005, barriers were erected to prevent abuse. But it seems that many honest Americans who are in financial crisis are now running into obstacles. That raises questions about what can be done to prevent debtors from falling through the cracks.

Congress is considering legislation to help college graduates weighed down by private student loan debt. If passed, the legislation could roll back the bankruptcy law so that private student loans can be discharged.
The Treasury Department has agreed to revise the federal mortgage modification program so that people can't be turned down for HAMP just because they have filed for bankruptcy. But some say that this is just a Band-Aid. And now few homeowners are getting permanent mortgage modification.

The 2005 bankruptcy reform did not change mortgage debt. "Debt secured by a principal residence has not been dischargeable since 1978," says Philip Corwin, an outside bankruptcy counsel for the American Bankers Association.
Recent efforts to introduce legislation to allow bankruptcy judges to modify home mortgages have failed. "If Congress had had the wisdom to pass that three years ago we would have forced all the parties to the table to work out reasonable solutions," Taylor says.

The financial industry says that the bankruptcy law is not causing the shadow economy. People can still file for it, and if they can't afford the fees at least the court filing fees can be waived, says Scott Talbott, senior vice president of the Financial Services Roundtable. And people with student loans who have undue hardship are able to get financial relief.

But undue hardship is extremely hard and costly to navigate, says Lauren Asher, associate director of Project on Student Debt. There is no definition in the bankruptcy code of undue hardship, and the court decisions on it have been harsh, Corwin says.

Free legal services have been cut back during the recession and are not available for many debtors. It would help to roll back some of the changes that have increased legal paperwork and risk of personal liability, Lawless says.

The bankruptcy problems are not likely to go away anytime soon. If Gardiner's career is stymied because she can't afford to go on to graduate school and is burdened with student loan debt, doors may be closed to her.

"Not going on with her career and being stuck in a low-wage job hurts everyone and drags down the economy," Porter says. "It is not surprising that the bankruptcy code is not a fit for the problems of today. The 2005 amendment was a move in the wrong direction, and I think it's time to think about redesigning bankruptcy."

More @ http://www.usatoday.com/money/economy/2010-06-09-bankruptcy09_CV_N.htm


CONSIDERING BANKRUPTCY? Things you need to know: http://www.bankrate.com/finance/debt/chapter-5-considering-bankruptcy.aspx

Friday, June 3, 2011

Data Security Reforms Move Forward

Perhaps there’s a silver lining in the aftermath of the recent cyberattacks on Sony’s PlayStation Network and online marketing firm Epsilon in that lawmakers are working toward data security reform.

Executives from both companies told lawmakers at a Congressional hearing on data security Thursday that they support proposed federal legislation that would require companies to promptly notify consumers if their personal information is stolen or exposed by a data breach.

Previously, Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) had criticized Sony executives in published reports for the "egregious inadequacy" of their efforts to notify customers about the April data breaches.

"When a data breach occurs, it’s essential that customers be immediately notified about whether and to what extent their personal and financial information has been compromised."

Recent studies have shown that organizations that are subject to PCI, HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) or HITECH (Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health) Act requirements generally have many data protection measures in place.

Big Breaches

Sony's breaches last month as well as one on email marketing powerhouse Epsilon in March jeopardized millions of customers’ personal information, e-mail addresses and passwords.


According to The Huffington Post, hackers have repeatedly targeted Sony over the past several weeks, compromising the personal information of more than 100 million users in what is likely the largest attack of its kind. And even as Sony has attempted to reassure its users and encourage people to return to its services, the company's executives had admitted that risks remain.

"It's a realization that we all had, that no system is 100 percent safe," said Kazuo Hirai, chairman of the board of directors. "This requires constant monitoring and constant vigilance."

Mike Prusinski, Senior Vice President of Corporate Communications for LifeLock identity theft protection, said the issue is much bigger than Sony.

"There have been more than 230 data breaches (in the United States) so far this year," he said. "For every one of Sony, there are probably 10 to 20 others that never get reported at all. Consumers need to understand that information could already be compromised and they would never know about it."

Reducing Your Risk

The following steps have been recommended for Sony victims and can reduce the risk of information being compromised further:

* Change your passwords and secret answers. If you're like most people, you probably use the same password across multiple services. If you’re a victim of the Sony breach and you had the same username and/or password as is on other online accounts, those could be hacked as well.
* Check your online accounts. Login to your other online accounts to check for any suspicious activity.
* Track your financial accounts closely. Watch for mysterious bank or credit card transfers and purchases in the coming weeks. Officials have also recommended canceling the credit card used with the Sony PlayStation service. It’s also a good idea to report the hack to your credit card companies.
* Get a credit report check. The Wall Street Journal explains, "With the sort of data compromised it is possible for criminals to commit identity theft and use your details to open bank accounts, take out mobile phone contracts, and even re-direct your mail." Sony notes that U.S. residents can get a free credit report at www.annualcreditreport.com or call toll-free (877) 322-8228.
* Keep an eye out for scammers. Spammers might hit Facebook, Twitter and email inboxes with phishing and other scams.
* Consider identity theft protection software. Should anyone try to use compromised information, identity theft protection software such as LifeLock can prevent it. LifeLock uses proactive technology and peer-to-peer networks to determine if personal information is being used online, alerts you to the activity and has systems in place to help deal with the aftermath of identity theft should it occur


More @ http://aolproductcentral.aol.com/article/11020?icid=maing-grid7|main5|dl14|sec1_lnk2|67770

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Spyware on smart phones

Beware your smartphone
Beware your smart phone



Forget what's in your wallet -- beware your smartphone. It's becoming one of your most dangerous possessions.

If your phone was stolen a few years ago, the thief could make prank calls and read your text messages. Today, that person can destroy your social life -- you said what on Facebook?! -- and wreak havoc on your finances.

Now that smartphones double as wallets and bank accounts -- allowing users to manage their finances, transfer money, make payments, deposit checks and swipe their phones as credit cards -- they are very lucrative scores for thieves. And with 30% of phone subscribers owning iPhones, BlackBerrys and Droids, there are a lot of people at risk.

"It's crazy the amount of information on that phone -- it's like carrying a mini-computer around with you, except that more people know the settings on their computer than they do on their phones at this point," said Nikki Junker, social media coordinator and victim advisor at Identity Theft Resource Center. "People are incredibly at risk as technology improves."

And mobile banking use is expected to soar by nearly 55% next year, according to recent data compiled by TowerGroup, a research firm for the financial services industry.

They found that while 17.8 million consumers used mobile banking last year, 27.4 million are expected to use it this year, and 53.1 million consumers are forecast to adopt it by 2013.

"We're now past the early adopters and starting to hit the early maturity phase," said George Peabody, director of emerging technologies at Mercator Advisory Group. "So much of our screen time is shifting from PCs to smartphones, and the banks want to be there and know they have to be there."
Google to power your mobile wallet?

In addition, the volume of mobile payments -- buying boots via Zappos iPhone app, for example, or paying bills -- is expected to climb to $214 billion by 2015, up from $16 billion in 2010, according to Aite Group, another financial services research firm.

And pay-by-phone is only going to get easier as our devices come embedded with Near Field Communication (NFC) devices that allow you to pay for your morning latte by waving your phone at the cash register.

Companies like Blaze Mobile and Bling Nation already let you pay major retailers by swiping your smartphone thanks to a sticker adhered to the outside of your phone. Meanwhile, an app created by mFoundry brings up an image of your Starbucks prepaid card barcode and lets you scan it in lieu of a credit card.

"A lot of players are now pushing to drive the contactless technology," said Gwenn Bezard, research director at Aite Group specializing in banking and payments. "While you're not going to wake up tomorrow and everyone is going to be using mobile payments, it's going to grow over the next years -- and from a very low base."

Watch your phone! Security attacks on smartphones climbed to an all-time high in 2010, according to AdaptiveMobile, an international mobile security firm. Specifically, attacks on Google's Android smartphones quadrupled, and smartphones running Java-based applications jumped 45%.

"Bad guys are following where the people are going -- and people are going to smartphones," said Peabody. "As smartphone prices continue to decline and even more people get them, that's definitely the new place for bad guys to go."

While storing a password and keeping your phone locked is a good start, it's not going to protect you from professional fraudsters.

"Don't think that having an initial password set on your phone can stop people from getting in there," said Junker. "It's a very low level of protection -- you can even find 30-second videos on how to crack smartphone passwords on YouTube."

If you use mobile banking or make online payments frequently, you should invest in anti-virus protection and check with your bank about any security or identity theft protection features that you can enable.

Most smartphones also offer remote wipe-out services -- like MobileMe for the iPhone -- that automatically erase the information on your phone if you claim it as lost or stolen.

If you bank with your phone by accessing its website rather than opening an app, be extra careful when typing in the address. Some identity thefts create domains with the same address as major banks with two letters switched in hopes a consumer will accidentally land on the site and enter their username and password, said Junker.

And make sure you immediately log out of any bank apps or sites where your financial information is stored as soon as you're finished. While your identity is still at risk if your phone is stolen, this will buy you time to wipe out your information as soon as you realize it's gone.

Social Security

Social Security

Forget for the moment whether there’s the political will to tackle the financial problems affecting Social Security and Medicare as outlined in the respective trustees’ reports. There’s a more practical issue at hand, especially for those for whom Social Security and Medicare represent a part, big or small, of their retirement security plan.

Given that Medicare is expected to be exhausted in 2024 and Social Security’s reserves will be exhausted in 2036, what should current and future Social Security beneficiaries do to maximize or protect their benefits? (We’ll tackle what current and future Medicare beneficiaries should do in a future column.)
Don’t act rashly

First and foremost, don’t let media coverage scare you into rash action, said Andy Landis, a principal with Thinking Retirement and the author of “Social Security: The Inside Story.” “I’ve spoken with some pre-retirees who say something like, ‘I’d better sign up for Social Security now, before they reduce the payments. They can’t reduce mine once I sign up.’ That’s not sound planning.”

First, Social Security typically changes very slowly, with reforms announced for years and then phased in over more years, said Landis. For example, today’s talk of possible Social Security cuts is generally aimed at those under 50 or 55. Second, by taking Social Security too early you’re guaranteeing yourself a pay cut for life. Stick with the plan, especially if you planned to wait for higher payments at a higher age.

Others share that point of view. The good news, at least for current beneficiaries, is that current beneficiaries would not be affected by any changes. “The changes will most likely be prospective,” said Craig Copeland, Ph.D., a senior research associate at the Employee Benefit Research Institute.
And don’t worry too much, either

Landis also advised against buying into any media-created Social Security ‘crisis.’ “Social Security is solvent for decades to come, and the glass is 3/4 full even after that,” Landis said. “How many programs, public or private, can say that with confidence? Can you name one private company that can say the same?”

Others are in that very same camp. “I do not think the trustees report is of particular importance,” said Matthew Greenwald, president of Matthew Greenwald & Associates. “The Social Security system has some financial pressures that are not that difficult to address. It could be some affluent retirees will get less and/or that affluent workers will pay more, but these will be at the margins. Overall, I think people can and should count on Social Security system acting basically as it does under currently enacted law.”

And, Nancy Altman, co-chair of the Strengthen Social Security Campaign and chair of the Pension Rights Center, said this: “With respect to whether the benefits will be there, it is important to understand that Social Security is currently in surplus and is projected to remain so for more than another decade, even with no Congressional action whatsoever. Its projected shortfall over its conservative 75-year valuation period is a manageable 0.6% of GDP … The question of how large the benefits should be and how to finance them are political questions, not economic ones. All past Congresses have ensured that benefits were always paid on time, and there is no reason to think future Congresses will be less responsible.”

Sure, Social Security faces long-term shortfalls, Landis said. “But the numbers we’re seeing now have been expected since the mid-1980s,” Landis said. “It was always expected that Social Security financing, overhauled in 1983, would get us part way through Baby Boomer retirements in the 2030s. Later generations would decide how to steer Social Security after that. It’s sort of like your next birthday — it’s hardly a surprise because you could see it coming.”
Then again, face the facts

It is a reasonably safe bet that the Social Security program will be with us for a long time to come, however federal budgetary conditions may ultimately require some downward adjustments in benefits for high earners and/or increases in the retirement age, said Eric Todder, co-director, Tax Policy Center, Urban Institute.

Given that, future beneficiaries who will likely face some sort of reform should consider if nothing else how to maximize their benefits under the current law of the land: The most effective method for maximizing benefits is to continue to work as long as possible, said Copeland. “Given the actuarial adjustment of delaying retirement past age 62 and the normal retirement age, continuing to work and delaying benefit claiming would do the most to maximize one’s benefit.

Others, including Kent Smetters, an associate professor at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania and the founder of Veritat Advisors, said Americans should work at least to their full retirement age, if not to age 70.

And, Dallas Salisbury, president and CEO of the Employee Benefit Research Institute, had this to say: “I would tell anyone who can wait to take Social Security until 70 to do so. I tell people to assume they will get between 75% and 100% of the promised benefit. To try to build a plan that works with the 75% and view any more as gravy.”

More @ http://www.marketwatch.com/story/get-ready-for-social-security-medicare-meltdowns-2011-05-19?siteid=nwhpf

Investing

The road to retirement is littered with distractions. In the hurly-burly of life, so many things compete for your attention that you can lose sight of what really matters most.

That's where MONEY's checklist comes in. We've created to-do lists for each of the main stages of retirement planning. Think of them as basic reminders you can set aside and refer to on occasion -- say, every year or so -- to make sure you're on the right track.

It needn't be a complicated list. Says Charles Farrell, a financial adviser and author of Your Money Ratios: "Simpler is better. Focus on a few key goals and you won't miss the forest for the trees."


TO DO: Mid-30s to early 40s

Goal: Develop the habit of saving.
Savings: 1.5 times your annual salary by age 35.
7 secrets to a richer retirement

* Take full advantage of my 401(k) match. Your employer-sponsored retirement plan is the easiest way to put your savings on autopilot. And if you take full advantage of your company match, you could earn 50% to 100% on your money before taking on any market risk.

* Boost my 401(k) contribution. As your paycheck grows, your savings rate should too. Sign up for "auto escalation" to boost your contributions by a percentage point or so a year. If your 401(k) doesn't offer this feature, sock away half or more of each raise.

* Find other tax-advantaged ways to save. Already maxing out on your 401(k)? If you make less than $120,000 -- or $177,000 for married couples filing jointly -- check out a Roth IRA. Already hitting the $5,000 annual IRA limit? Move on to investment options such as index funds that don't expose you to stiff tax bills.

* Cover six months of expenses. Make sure you've got an emergency stash, so if you get laid off you won't be forced to dip into your 401(k) and IRAs. Put this money in a safe place like an FDIC-insured bank account or CD, or a high-quality money-market fund.

* Invest for growth. You may feel skittish about stocks, given the recent market turmoil. But with retirement still two to three decades away, your best shot at building an adequate portfolio is to put most of your retirement savings -- 80% or so in your thirties -- in stocks and ride o
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