Sunday, April 29, 2012

Rape in Haiti

Seeking justice for Haiti's rape victims

Port-au-Prince, Haiti (CNN) -- Three days after a massive earthquake threw Haiti into chaos, Alvana was homeless, along with her two children.

But her nightmare was just beginning.

"I was gang-raped while I was sleeping in the middle of the street," she said. "And I got pregnant."

Alvana did not know her attackers. Depressed and unsure of what to do next, she was directed by a friend to a clinic run by KOFAVIV, a Creole acronym that translates into the Commission of Women Victims for Victims.

"By the time I got to them, my belly was already big," she said. "But they took care of me."

Alvana was given food, water, housing and prenatal care. She decided to keep her daughter, even though the psychological pain could be difficult -- and still is, two years later.

"It's terrible," said Alvana, 33. "I love my daughter ... (but) I look at myself and see that I have a child that is a product of a gang rape."
Malya Villard-Appolon, right, knows what it\'s like to be a victim of sexual violence. She has been raped twice.
Malya Villard-Appolon, right, knows what it's like to be a victim of sexual violence. She has been raped twice.

Her story is, unfortunately, all too common in Haiti, said Malya Villard-Appolon, one of KOFAVIV's co-founders.

"After (the earthquake), the situation was inhumane and degrading," Villard-Appolon said. "There was no security in the (displacement) camps. There was no food; there was no work. And now there is a rampant problem."

Accurate numbers are difficult, if not impossible, to find in the aftermath of such devastation, but KOFAVIV and other groups say they have seen a definite increase in rape cases after the January 2010 earthquake.

"Victims became more vulnerable due to a range of things," said Brian Concannon Jr., director of the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti. "They lost their houses; there were no locked doors anymore. People lost family members who were a source of protection."

Terrible living conditions, including a shortage of food and water, contribute to the problem as well, said Charity Tooze, a senior communications officer with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees' Washington office.
Culture of rape in Haiti

"The conditions are so dehumanizing," Tooze said. "Over months and months, it increases all forms of violence, including sexual violence."

There has also been a lack of prosecution in the country. In the first two years after the quake, not one person in Haiti has been convicted of rape, according to the UNHCR.

"The big problem is, you can't find justice," said Villard-Appolon, 52.

Even before the quake, she says, rape was an issue in Haiti, historically underreported because of social stigma, retaliation from perpetrators and a lack of legal support. That is what led her and Marie Eramithe Delva to start KOFAVIV in 2004. Since the group's inception, it has helped more than 4,000 rape survivors find safety, psychological support and/or legal aid.

"We tell people to come out of silence," she said. "Do not be afraid to say that you have been victimized."

Villard-Appolon knows what it's like to be a victim of sexual violence. She has been raped twice, and her husband died as a result of beatings he endured trying to save her from being raped. In 2010, her 14-year-old daughter was raped in a displacement camp.

"I can't describe to you how I felt when I heard about that, because I was a victim," she said. "I started asking myself what kind of generation I came from. Am I cursed?"

Do you know a hero? Nominations are open for 2012 CNN Heroes

She escorted her daughter to two police stations and received no assistance, she said, just a lot of talk. One police officer told her that "girls are so promiscuous" and indicated that many young girls are asking for sex.

But she carries on, "fighting with hope that I know there will be a change," she said. Internationally, she has testified before the United Nations Human Rights Council, calling for increased security within the displacement camps and asking that women's groups be included in decision-making processes.

"I was a victim, and I did not find justice. But know I will get it for other women," she told CNN.

When the earthquake hit Haiti, KOFAVIV's founders watched their clinic and their offices collapse along with their homes.

Villard-Appolon lived in the dangerous Champ de Mars displacement camp for half a year. There, she said, she watched as conditions deteriorated.

"It was all kinds of people who ended up in one area," she said. "The jails were not destroyed, but their doors were opened, and all prisoners went free. Many of them ... were armed, and they were notorious murderers."

One criminal held Villard-Appolon at gunpoint, demanding money. The police never showed up, she said, but she managed to escape after a group of supporters arrived to fight.

Villard-Appolon said many single women had to leave their children with strangers in order to search for food, water or work. In some cases, the children were raped. The youngest victim, she says, was a 17-month-old.

"I spent six months witnessing it," she said. "Babies are not spared; adults are not spared; mothers are not spared; sisters are not spared."

Despite the escalating violence and the loss of its clinic, KOFAVIV regrouped to help victims in Haiti's "tent city" camps, where about 500,000 people still live today. The group has 66 female outreach agents and 25 male security guards who work within the camps, organizing nighttime community watch groups and providing whistles and flashlights to women. All of them have been affected by gender-based violence, whether personally or through a family member or loved one, Villard-Appolon said.

KOFAVIV also relies on more than 1,000 members to help share their stories, support the victims and urge them to come forward and fight for justice.

It usually starts by accompanying the victims to the hospital within 72 hours of being raped. Once they undergo a test, they receive the medical certificate they must have to begin legal proceedings.

"After that, we assign a lawyer to her," Villard-Appolon said. There is no cost to the victims, and they receive support from KOFAVIV through the trial.

Villard-Appolon says she is determined to keep fighting for a brighter future, even though justice has been elusive.

"My dream is that we will get to a place where we stop talking about the number of rape cases," she said. "We will stop talking about Haiti as a country where people are committing violence against others. One day, we have to be able to say that we have a country with people who respect each other."

more @ http://www.cnn.com/2012/04/26/world/americas/cnnheroes-villard-appolon-haiti-rape/index.html?hpt=hp_t2

Judges $10,000 allowance

Judges gobble up iPads, iPhones and computers using taxpayer cash

‘Pad’ding expense accounts with ‘Apples’

It’s an order from the court — send me an iPad!

New York City judges are gobbling up Apple iPads, iPhones and computers with taxpayer cash.

The Apple gadgets were the favorite purchases of judges who enjoy a $10,000-a-year allowance, according to a review of 2011 reimbursement records obtained by The Post.

Judges also used the money for Internet service at their homes — and sometimes vacation homes, for newspaper deliveries, cellphone costs and travel to conferences as far away as California and Puerto Rico. They bought GPS navigation systems, judicial license plates and water coolers and refrigerators for their chambers and charged it to taxpayers.

All of the expenses are sanctioned by the court system, which gives judges the yearly $10,000 taxable lump-sum payment they can spend however they please. Most judges take the cash, but some opt for a partial cash payment and then bill the court system for expenses. Others submit claims for the entire $10,000 allowance, which is then not taxable.

Some judges, like Manhattan Civil Court Judge Jennifer Schecter, spent every last penny. Schecter bought a $1,785.83 Apple laptop, a $106.95 printer from the Apple store and a $889.51 Apple iPad with a protection plan and case. She was reimbursed for just $517.51 of the iPad costs because she had exceeded the $10,000 limit.

Family Court Judge Gloria Sosa-Linter spent $2,284.20 for a computer at Tekserve. She also reached the $10,000 limit and got reimbursed for $1,649.

Housing Court Judge Maria Ressos bought an iPhone and an iPad, paying an identical $759.29 for each, she claimed in records. She was reimbursed for only $740 because she had maxed out her limit.

The court also pays for travel to educational conferences.

Kristin Booth Glen, a surrogate-court judge, spent $1,214.75 to attend the American Bar Association conference at the Fairmont Royal York Hotel in Toronto.

The allowances cost the courts about $12.6 million a year.

The money was meant to make up for the lack of a pay raise. Judges had not seen an increase in their salaries since 1999 but are getting hikes starting this month.

The annual salaries for state Supreme Court judges rose to $160,000 this month, from $136,700. Two additional hikes will bring salaries to $174,000 in 2014.

“The expenses accounts, if still needed, should probably be half of what they are now given they have received these raises,” said Dick Dadey, executive director of government watchdog Citizens Union.


Read more: http://www.nypost.com/p/news/local/free_spending_judges_are_ipigs_3yr1Pr6N1QV3HyaPPaOowL#ixzz1tQNJSzTF

Wife of Secret Service agent stands by her man

Wife of Secret Service agent stands by her man -- but they're dumping their house
Nearly two dozen Secret Service agents and U.S. military personnel were implicated in the humiliating scandal that erupted days before world leaders met in the sinful seaside city of Cartagena

The wife of the cheapskate Secret Service agent — whose refusal to fully pay a Colombian hooker rocked the Obama White House — has vowed to stay with her straying husband.

Her seemingly All-American life in tatters, Jolie Huntington has told relatives that she won’t abandon her disgraced spouse Arthur.

“Jolie has said she’s going to make the marriage work,” said Pastor Jose Rodriguez, a Rochester, N.Y., minister whose son is married to the woman’s sister.

Arthur Huntington has reportedly left the Secret Service in the wake of the sordid scandal.

He never seemed like the type of man to inflict suffering on his wife of nearly two decades, according to those who thought they knew him.

“He wouldn’t do that,” said a female relative who asked that her name not be used. “Not the Arthur that I know. He wouldn’t. They go to church every week.”

“It’s out of character — the Arthur I know, he’s very dedicated to the family, very loyal,” said Teresita Rodriguez, 65, who along with her husband Jose has known Huntington since he was a child.

Relatives said Huntington, 41, never used to date around. And he only had three passions: his wife, their two sons and his job.

While growing up in upstate New York, Huntington went to North Star Christian Academy and attended Roberts Wesleyan College to study criminal justice. He started out working as a security guard at Greater Rochester International Airport, relatives said, until he landed a job as a cop near Tampa, Fla.

Then he climbed even higher — by joining the Secret Service. His devotion to the agency was so great that he turned down a cushy job on former President George H.W. Bush’s private security team in order to keep his high-pressure position protecting the occupants of the White House.

“You could tell he loved it,” said Jose Rodriguez, 60. “There was a real commitment.”

Nearly two dozen Secret Service agents and U.S. military personnel were implicated in the humiliating scandal that erupted days before world leaders met in the sinful seaside city of Cartagena.

After a booze-filled night, the men brought more than 20 prostitutes back to their rooms. The following morning, Huntington allegedly paid hooker Dania Suarez only $28 of his $800 tab.

The embarrassing scandal prompted the Secret Service to issue hard new regulations, including a ban on visiting with foreigners and a crackdown on heavy drinking.

The fiasco has seemingly sent Huntington and his wife into hiding — they have put their two-story red brick home in Severna Park, Md., on the market.

The colonial tri-level house, which is listed for $465,000, features a neatly-manicured front lawn and an American flag hanging from the front porch. It sits in a tidy neighborhood that is home to many other government employees, including members of the Secret Service and CIA.

Jolie Huntington, 41, home-schooled the couple’s two sons, aged 12 and 15. She and her husband were active in their local parish, Granite Baptist Church, neighbors said.

“We hurt for them,” said Richard Lejeune, an assistant pastor. “We hope the best for them and that they are able to weather the storm.”

The dedicated mother hen also is a contributor to the crafting websites Creative Memories and Etsy. The latter site displays her favorite scrapbook pages, featuring soccer and patriotic designs.

Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/wife-secret-service-agent-stands-man-dumping-house-article-1.1069290#ixzz1tQLYdeQ8

Port-au-Prince, Hait

Seeking justice for Haiti's rape victims

Port-au-Prince, Haiti (CNN) -- Three days after a massive earthquake threw Haiti into chaos, Alvana was homeless, along with her two children.

But her nightmare was just beginning.

"I was gang-raped while I was sleeping in the middle of the street," she said. "And I got pregnant."

Alvana did not know her attackers. Depressed and unsure of what to do next, she was directed by a friend to a clinic run by KOFAVIV, a Creole acronym that translates into the Commission of Women Victims for Victims.

"By the time I got to them, my belly was already big," she said. "But they took care of me."

Alvana was given food, water, housing and prenatal care. She decided to keep her daughter, even though the psychological pain could be difficult -- and still is, two years later.

"It's terrible," said Alvana, 33. "I love my daughter ... (but) I look at myself and see that I have a child that is a product of a gang rape."
Malya Villard-Appolon, right, knows what it\'s like to be a victim of sexual violence. She has been raped twice.
Malya Villard-Appolon, right, knows what it's like to be a victim of sexual violence. She has been raped twice.

Her story is, unfortunately, all too common in Haiti, said Malya Villard-Appolon, one of KOFAVIV's co-founders.

"After (the earthquake), the situation was inhumane and degrading," Villard-Appolon said. "There was no security in the (displacement) camps. There was no food; there was no work. And now there is a rampant problem."

Accurate numbers are difficult, if not impossible, to find in the aftermath of such devastation, but KOFAVIV and other groups say they have seen a definite increase in rape cases after the January 2010 earthquake.

"Victims became more vulnerable due to a range of things," said Brian Concannon Jr., director of the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti. "They lost their houses; there were no locked doors anymore. People lost family members who were a source of protection."

Terrible living conditions, including a shortage of food and water, contribute to the problem as well, said Charity Tooze, a senior communications officer with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees' Washington office.
Culture of rape in Haiti

"The conditions are so dehumanizing," Tooze said. "Over months and months, it increases all forms of violence, including sexual violence."

There has also been a lack of prosecution in the country. In the first two years after the quake, not one person in Haiti has been convicted of rape, according to the UNHCR.

"The big problem is, you can't find justice," said Villard-Appolon, 52.

Even before the quake, she says, rape was an issue in Haiti, historically underreported because of social stigma, retaliation from perpetrators and a lack of legal support. That is what led her and Marie Eramithe Delva to start KOFAVIV in 2004. Since the group's inception, it has helped more than 4,000 rape survivors find safety, psychological support and/or legal aid.

"We tell people to come out of silence," she said. "Do not be afraid to say that you have been victimized."

Villard-Appolon knows what it's like to be a victim of sexual violence. She has been raped twice, and her husband died as a result of beatings he endured trying to save her from being raped. In 2010, her 14-year-old daughter was raped in a displacement camp.

"I can't describe to you how I felt when I heard about that, because I was a victim," she said. "I started asking myself what kind of generation I came from. Am I cursed?"

Do you know a hero? Nominations are open for 2012 CNN Heroes

She escorted her daughter to two police stations and received no assistance, she said, just a lot of talk. One police officer told her that "girls are so promiscuous" and indicated that many young girls are asking for sex.

But she carries on, "fighting with hope that I know there will be a change," she said. Internationally, she has testified before the United Nations Human Rights Council, calling for increased security within the displacement camps and asking that women's groups be included in decision-making processes.

"I was a victim, and I did not find justice. But know I will get it for other women," she told CNN.

When the earthquake hit Haiti, KOFAVIV's founders watched their clinic and their offices collapse along with their homes.

Villard-Appolon lived in the dangerous Champ de Mars displacement camp for half a year. There, she said, she watched as conditions deteriorated.

"It was all kinds of people who ended up in one area," she said. "The jails were not destroyed, but their doors were opened, and all prisoners went free. Many of them ... were armed, and they were notorious murderers."

One criminal held Villard-Appolon at gunpoint, demanding money. The police never showed up, she said, but she managed to escape after a group of supporters arrived to fight.

Villard-Appolon said many single women had to leave their children with strangers in order to search for food, water or work. In some cases, the children were raped. The youngest victim, she says, was a 17-month-old.

"I spent six months witnessing it," she said. "Babies are not spared; adults are not spared; mothers are not spared; sisters are not spared."

Despite the escalating violence and the loss of its clinic, KOFAVIV regrouped to help victims in Haiti's "tent city" camps, where about 500,000 people still live today. The group has 66 female outreach agents and 25 male security guards who work within the camps, organizing nighttime community watch groups and providing whistles and flashlights to women. All of them have been affected by gender-based violence, whether personally or through a family member or loved one, Villard-Appolon said.

KOFAVIV also relies on more than 1,000 members to help share their stories, support the victims and urge them to come forward and fight for justice.

It usually starts by accompanying the victims to the hospital within 72 hours of being raped. Once they undergo a test, they receive the medical certificate they must have to begin legal proceedings.

"After that, we assign a lawyer to her," Villard-Appolon said. There is no cost to the victims, and they receive support from KOFAVIV through the trial.

Villard-Appolon says she is determined to keep fighting for a brighter future, even though justice has been elusive.

"My dream is that we will get to a place where we stop talking about the number of rape cases," she said. "We will stop talking about Haiti as a country where people are committing violence against others. One day, we have to be able to say that we have a country with people who respect each other."

more @ http://www.cnn.com/2012/04/26/world/americas/cnnheroes-villard-appolon-haiti-rape/index.html?hpt=hp_t2

Saturday, April 28, 2012

The Secret Service

Washington (CNN) -- The Secret Service agent at the center of the Colombia prostitution scandal has been identified as Arthur Huntington, sources with knowledge of the investigation told CNN on Friday.

According to the sources, Huntington was the agent in a seventh-floor hotel room in Cartagena who had a dispute over pay with an escort.

CNN also learned that Huntington has left the Secret Service, but it was not clear under what circumstances, according to CNN's Drew Griffin.

According to sources, the alleged prostitutes -- the youngest of whom were in their early 20s -- signed in at Hotel Caribe.

One of these women, Dania Suarez, allegedly was later involved in a dispute about how much she was to be paid for the night, which brought the entire incident to light. Suarez, 24, through a statement credited to her attorney, said she was an escort, not a prostitute.
Secret Service scandal widens
Agents spend wild night at strip club?

At least three agents assigned to rooms on the seventh floor left Cartagena early, according to hotel records. Two agents have been cleared to return to work, according to sources with knowledge of the investigation.

Monday, a man who identified himself as Arthur Huntington declined comment to a CNN producer. Thursday, someone at his residence closed the door and made no comment. No one answered the door Friday or responded to phone calls. The residence was just listed for sale this week.

Huntington, 41, is married and the father of two boys, according to neighbors.

A woman who identified herself as a family friend called the situation "heartbreaking."

"I know him and his character," she said of Huntington. "I would question the allegations."

Also Friday, the Secret Service distributed new rules for its agents on assignment intended to prevent a repeat of such alleged misconduct, according to two government sources familiar with the resulting investigation.

White House misses Grassley deadline

Called Enhanced Standards of Conduct, the new guidelines given to all Secret Service personnel make clear that standards of behavior required in the United States apply on missions abroad, the sources said.

Effective immediately, the new standards require detailed briefings before each trip that will include safety precautions and any necessary designations of establishments and areas that are "off limits" for Secret Service personnel, the sources said.

Also in the new standards, foreigners are banned from Secret Service hotel rooms at all times, except for hotel staff and host nation law enforcement and government officials on official business, according to the officials, and all Secret Service personnel are prohibited from going to a "non-reputable establishment."

The new standards specify that U.S. laws apply to Secret Service personnel when traveling, rendering invalid the excuse that specific activity is legal in the foreign country, the officials said.

In addition, the new guidelines allow moderate alcohol consumption when off duty, but prohibit alcohol consumption within 10 hours of reporting for duty or at any time when at the hotel where the protected official is staying, the officials explained.

An additional supervisor from the Office of Professional Responsibility will now accompany the "jump teams" that bring vehicles for motorcades and other transportation, the officials said. Agents involved in the Colombia incident were part of such a jump team.

First word of the new regulations came Thursday night, when Democratic Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas outlined them on CNN's "Erin Burnett OutFront" after meeting with Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan about the scandal that has embarrassed the 147-year-old agency and raised questions about possible security breaches.

Allegations of further transgressions by agents have emerged after the initial reports of heavy drinking and consorting with prostitutes this month before President Barack Obama arrived in Cartagena for the Summit of the Americas.
Napolitano discusses prostitute scandal
Former agent: Harsh punishment coming
Grassley questions Secret Service

New claims include an account from El Salvador described by CNN affiliate Seattle TV station KIRO as very similar to the Colombia scandal, involving members of the Secret Service and other government agencies.

A U.S. government official, speaking on condition of not being identified, acknowledged there had been missteps among Secret Service members. Such problems are to be expected over the agency's long history and don't necessarily reflect a systemic or cultural issue, the official said.

"We have had employees that have engaged in misconduct," the official said. "People make mistakes."

Meanwhile, a congressional source said Thursday that reports of other incidents involving members of the agency, which is charged with protecting the president and other top officials as well as investigating criminal activity, have been brought to the attention of Congress.

That includes the alleged incident in El Salvador, which the Secret Service has told Congress it is looking into as well, according to the congressional source.

The KIRO report cited an unnamed U.S. government contractor who worked extensively with the Secret Service advance team in San Salvador before Obama's trip there in March 2011.

The source said he was with about a dozen Secret Service agents and a few U.S. military specialists at a strip club in the city a few days before Obama arrived. The men drank heavily at the club, and most of them paid extra for access to a VIP section where they were provided sexual favors in return for cash, the source told the station.

The station reported that the strip club's owner corroborated the allegations. The owner confirmed that a large number of agents, and some military escorts, "descended on his club" that week and were there at least three nights in a row, KIRO reported.

The owner said his club routinely takes care of high-ranking employees of the U.S. Embassy in San Salvador as well as visiting agents from the FBI and U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, KIRO said.

The government contractor source said he told the agents it was a "really bad idea" to take the strippers back to their hotel rooms, but several agents bragged that they "did this all the time" and "not to worry about it," KIRO reported.

KIRO investigative reporter Chris Halsne told the CBS show "This Morning" on Thursday that he considers his source very credible, and he later told CNN that he had checked billing records, receipts, credentials and other information to confirm the contractor was with the Secret Service in Central America at the time of the incident.

Brazilian ex-prostitute plans to sue U.S. Embassy

The source told him about the alleged scandal last year, while Halsne was in El Salvador on a different story. Halsne said he pressed for details at that time, but the man didn't want any information from him to be used then in a news story.

After the allegations involving Secret Service agents in Colombia surfaced, Halsne again pressed his source, who this time agreed to the use of his account in the KIRO report.

Sonia Ertel, manager of Lips club and restaurant, said Friday that she cannot be certain Secret Service agents were there.

Ertel said: "It is not ethical for any of our security or for me as a person to be in the entrance and question you: 'Excuse me, where are you from? What nationality do you have? What do you do as a profession? What kind of work do you do?'"

Responding to the KIRO report, Secret Service spokesman Edwin Donovan said, "The recent investigation in Cartagena has generated several news stories that contain allegations by mostly unnamed sources. Any information brought to our attention that can be assessed as credible will be followed up on in an appropriate manner."

CNN cannot independently confirm the allegations.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Thursday that his department is not investigating any of its troops over the reported incident in El Salvador. But the State Department is questioning its embassy staff in El Salvador about the allegations, spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Thursday.

The Drug Enforcement Administration also is prepared to look into, "in an appropriate manner and immediately," allegations that it deems "credible" regarding its agents in El Salvador, agency spokesman Rusty Payne said. But he added that, while the DEA has seen news reports, "We are unaware of any allegations of misconduct."

Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa -- the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, which received a briefing on the Colombia scandal this week by Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano -- said the KIRO report "only reaffirms the need for independent investigations by the (Homeland Security Department's independent) inspector general."

Appearing on CNN on Friday, Grassley said he had yet to get a response from the White House to his request for further information.

Nine Secret Service members have resigned or are being forced out as a result of the scandal over the alleged events in Colombia. The military has launched its own investigation into 12 members who were in Colombia in advance of Obama's visit.

Nokia

5 Reasons Why Nokia Lost Its Handset Sales Lead and Got Downgraded to ‘Junk’

Samsung has surpassed Nokia in cellphone sales, effectively ending Nokia’s 14-year run as the world’s top handset maker, according to reports from IHS iSuppli and Strategy Analytics released late Thursday. Friday morning didn’t bring much better news for the former handset leader, either: Standard & Poor downgraded Nokia’s bonds to “junk” status with a grade of BB+/B.

According to IHS iSuppli’s numbers, Nokia shipped 83 million handsets in Q1 2012, while Samsung shipped 92 million handsets. Strategy Analytics’ numbers were only slightly different, reporting that Nokia shipped 82.7 million total handsets and Samsung shipped 93.5 million.

In the mobile industry, a 14-year lead is undoubtedly impressive. But Nokia’s lead has gradually declined in the past few years for a number of very specific reasons. Here’s what Nokia did wrong — or, alternatively, what Samsung did right — that led to one handset company’s rise over the other.
Nokia Moved Too Slowly

Nokia was a pioneer in the smartphone market, literally introducing consumers to the smartphone with its initial Symbian Series 60 devices in 2002. For the next five years, Symbian phones had little trouble maintaining a leadership position in the smartphone pack. ‪
‬”They didn’t make the leap of faith onto Windows Phone until 2011. Now they are suffering from their slow response.” — Wayne Lam‪

‬But in 2007, Apple introduced its iPhone. With its full touchscreen and app-based operating system, the iPhone changed the very definition of what a smartphone should be.

Yet Nokia failed to respond to the iPhone and the shifting consumer demand that came with it. As the years passed, the Symbian platform aged, and that age really showed when compared to iOS and, later, Android. Simultaneously, the smartphone market exploded — more and more consumers opted for pocket-sized mini-computers instead of “feature” phones with tedious WAP browsers.

“When Apple came out with the iPhone, it showed the industry how the smartphone could be done right,” Wayne Lam, IHS senior analyst, told Wired. “In hindsight, Nokia should have responded to the iPhone more quickly. They didn’t make the leap of faith onto Windows Phone until 2011. Now they are suffering from their slow response.”

Samsung, on the other hand, moved quickly into the smartphone market. Granted, Samsung had the advantage of working from the ground up, whereas Nokia had a relatively successful smartphone platform that it just didn’t want to give up. (The same can be said of RIM’s Blackberry OS.)

“If you look at Samsung a few years ago, they were nowhere to be found in the smartphone market, whereas Nokia and RIM were leaders in the smartphone market,” Alex Spektor, Strategy Analytics analyst, told Wired. “It’s a lot more difficult to be nimble and react to the changes in the market if you’re already a leading player.”
Android Paid Off (for Samsung) and Windows Phone Hasn’t … Yet (for Nokia)

Not only was Samsung speedy, it also bet on multiple platforms, including Android and Windows Phone — and it even had its own homegrown OS, Bada, just in case none of the others worked out. But in the end, Android paid off. And it paid off handsomely.

“Samsung chose Android at the right time, and it benefited from the maturation of that platform,” Spektor said. “Because Samsung has been the dominant player in the Android space, they’ve been able to ride the coattails of that platform.”

Nokia, on the other hand, spent its time focusing on Symbian until the company’s recent partnership with Microsoft. But Nokia’s flagship Lumia Windows Phones haven’t paid off yet, as evidenced by Nokia’s Q1 earnings.

“It was a good partnership on paper, but it was too late — over two years after the introduction of the iPhone and Android picked up market steam,” Lam said.
Hurting on Both Ends

Not only did Nokia move too slowly in the smartphone market, it didn’t anticipate competition in the lower end of the market, either. Other manufacturers like HTC, Huawei and ZTE have attacked Nokia from the low-end in developing markets like China.

“They were also squeezed at the bottom by microvendors, which individually are not very big, but when you add them up they pose a threat in the low-end of the market,” Spektor said.
Nokia Didn’t Have the Panache

The classic Nokia brick phone — and the Snake game on it — brings back a lot of nostalgia. But that’s a problem. Consumers, especially in developing markets, associate the Nokia name with a different era of technology. And in today’s world, having the newest and shiniest device is what matters.

“Nokia was sort of an older brand, there wasn’t a new panache to it. Samsung, as a marketed brand, was perceived as an innovator. Nokia has a legacy baggage — they are the traditional brick, candybar phone maker,” Lam said.

Nokia didn’t market itself as an innovator, and frankly, it hasn’t been doing much innovating anyway. At least not until it entered the Windows Phone space.
Execution Is Key

Where Samsung shines brighter than Nokia, and many other manufacturers, is execution. Samsung mirrored Apple’s gameplan by dazzling consumers with a high-end flagship line in its Galaxy S Android phones.

“If you look at what Apple’s done really well, it’s organizing its phones under the iPhone brand. It’s a memorable, recognizable brand that consumers wait for,” Spektor said. “Samsung has adopted a very similar approach with their flagship phone. Every year, consumers know that a new Galaxy S is coming. It helps to build up anticipation and drive consumer demand.”

But Samsung also has a broad portfolio of smartphone devices, several costing less than $200 without a contract, which appeals to customers who don’t want (or can’t afford) a high-end phone like the Galaxy S or the iPhone. The company also has the advantage in its hardware manufacturing process.

“Unlike other manufacturers, Samsung has the built-in efficiency of being a vertical company, making their own display, processors, and so on,” Lam said.

While Nokia’s execution has been shoddy in recent years, it doesn’t mean it can’t make a comeback with Windows Phone. “Nokia and Microsoft are no weaklings, they do have assets,” Lam said. “We believe that there is a good chemistry there with that partnership, and ultimately long-term Windows Phone will be successful.”

In the meantime, however, Nokia is going to go through some rough patches (this week’s rough patch included).

“They are in this financial bind, cutting a lot of expenditures, and really focusing on trying to reinvent in the company. In the short term Nokia will go through trying times,” Lam said.

more @ http://www.wired.com/gadgetlab/2012/04/5-reasons-why-nokia-lost-its-handset-sales-lead-and-got-downgraded-to-junk/

misc

video

video



Yankees!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Hulk Hogan's Ex-Wife Lied About Homosexual Allegations

Linda Hogan, who was once married to Hulk Hogan, made allegations in regards to her now ex-husband;s homosexual affair with fellow wrestler, Brutus Beefcake. In 2011, Linda wrote the allegations in her memoir titled Wrestling the Hulk: My Life Against the Ropes.

Linda appeared on the "The Wendy Williams Show" and had this to say:

"When you're mad and you're going through a divorce, you say things you just don't mean," She then says, "Hulkster, I'm sorry. I love and I will always love you."

The link to the segment can be found here.

Months ago, Hulk Hogan made an appearance on "The Wendy Williams Show" in order to plead his defense against the allegations. This is what he said in his defense:

"It's tough because a lot of my friends in normal life, a lot of my friends in the entertainment business, and a lot of my friends in the wrestling business are gay," he told Williams. "Just to say something spiteful and hurtful, I don’t get it...if it was true and I was gay, I’d embrace it, and I’d tell you guys about it and I’d celebrate it."

What will happen to the defamation lawsuit is anybody's guess. The most likely outcome would be for both parties to settle the suite in favor of the Hulkster.

In my opinion, I find it sad that Linda would try in any way to harm Hogan's image just because she was bitter from the divorce. To fabricate the tall-tales and pass it off as truth is really sickening. At the end of the day, the truth prevailed.


more @ http://bleacherreport.com/articles/1164225-hulk-hogans-ex-wife-lied-about-homosexual-allegations

Friday, April 27, 2012

10 Strategies Used by the Rich

How to Pay No Taxes: 10 Strategies Used by the Rich


If you have lots of money, Tuesday, April 17, was one of the best tax days since the early 1930s: Top tax rates on ordinary income, dividends, estates, and gifts remain at or near historically low levels. That’s thanks, in part, to legislation passed in December 2010 by the 111th Congress and signed by President Barack Obama. Starting next January, rates may be headed higher.

For the 400 U.S. taxpayers with the highest adjusted gross income, the effective federal income tax rate—what they actually pay—fell from almost 30 percent in 1995 to just over 18 percent in 2008, according to the Internal Revenue Service. And for the approximately 1.4 million people who make up the top 1 percent of taxpayers, the effective federal income tax rate dropped from 29 percent to 23 percent in 2008. It may seem too fantastic to be true, but the top 400 end up paying a lower rate than the next 1,399,600 or so.

That’s not just good luck. It’s often the result of hard work, as suggested by some of the strategies below. Much of the income among the top 400 derives from dividends and capital gains, generated by everything from appreciated real estate—yes, there is some left—to stocks and the sale of family businesses. As Warren Buffett likes to point out, since most of his income is from dividends, his tax rate is less than that of the people who clean his office.

The true effective rate for multimillionaires is actually far lower than that indicated by official government statistics. That’s because those figures fail to include the additional income that’s generated by many sophisticated tax-avoidance strategies. Several of those techniques involve some variation of complicated borrowings that never get repaid, netting the beneficiaries hundreds of millions in tax-free cash. From 2003 to 2008, for example, Los Angeles Dodgers owner and real estate developer Frank H. McCourt Jr. paid no federal or state regular income taxes, as stated in court records dug up by the Los Angeles Times. Developers such as McCourt, according to a declaration in his divorce proceeding, “typically fund their lifestyle through lines of credit and loan proceeds secured by their assets while paying little or no personal income taxes.” A spokesman for McCourt said he availed himself of a tax code provision at the time that permitted purchasers of sports franchises to defer income taxes.

For those who can afford a shrewd accountant or attorney, our era is rife with opportunities to avoid—or at least defer—tax bills, according to tax specialists and public records. It’s limited only by the boundaries of taste, creativity, and the ability to understand some very complex shelters. Here’s a look at some of them:

The ‘No Sale’ Sale
Cashing in on stocks without triggering capital-gains taxes

An executive has $200 million of company shares. He wants cash but doesn’t want to trigger $30 million or so in capital-gains taxes.

1. The executive borrows about $200 million from an investment bank, with the shares as collateral. Now he has cash.

2. To freeze the value of the collateral shares, he buys and sells “puts” and “calls.” These are options granting him the right to buy and sell them later at a fixed price, insuring against a crash.

3. He eventually can return the cash, or he can keep it. If he keeps it, he has to hand over the shares. The tax bill comes years after the initial borrowing. His money has been working for him all the while.

Seller beware: The IRS challenged versions of these deals used by billionaire Philip Anschutz and Clear Channel Communications (CCMO) co-founder Red McCombs. A U.S. Tax Court judge in 2010 ruled that Anschutz owed $94 million in taxes on transactions entered into in 2000 and 2001. He lost an appeal last December. McCombs settled his case in 2011. Despite the court cases, such strategies “are alive and well,” says Robert Willens, who runs an independent firm that advises investors on tax issues.

The Skyscraper Shuffle
Partnerships that let property owners liquidate without liability

Two people are 50-50 owners, through a partnership, of an office tower worth $100 million. One of the owners—let’s call him McDuck—wants to cash out, which would mean a $50 million gain and $7.5 million in capital-gains taxes.

1. McDuck needs to turn his ownership of the property into a loan. So the partnership borrows $50 million and puts it into a new subsidiary partnership, which contributes the cash to yet another new partnership.

2. The newest partnership lends that $50 million to a finance company for three years, in exchange for a three-year note. (The finance company takes the money and invests it or lends it out at a higher rate.)

3. The original partnership distributes its interest in the lower-tier subsidiary to McDuck. Now, McDuck owns a loan note worth $50 million instead of the property, effectively liquidating his 50 percent interest.

4. Three years later, the note is repaid. McDuck now owns 100 percent of a partnership sitting on a $50 million pile of cash—the amount McDuck would have received from selling his stake in the real estate—without triggering any capital-gains tax.

5. While this cash remains in the partnership, it can be invested or borrowed against. When McDuck dies, it can be passed along to heirs and liquidated or sold tax-free. The deferred tax liability disappears upon McDuck’s death, under a provision that eliminates such taxable gains for heirs.

The Estate Tax Eliminator
How to leave future stock earnings to the kids and escape the estate tax

A wealthy parent with millions invested in the stock market wants to leave future earnings to his kids while avoiding the estate tax on those earnings.

1. The parent sets up a Grantor Retained Annuity Trust, or GRAT, listing the kids as beneficiaries.

2. The parent contributes, say, $100 million to the GRAT. Under the terms of the GRAT, the amount contributed to the trust, plus interest, must be fully returned to the parent over a predetermined period.

3. Whatever return the money earns in excess of the interest rate—the IRS currently requires 3 percent—remains in the trust and gets passed on to the heirs, forever free of estate and gift taxes.

Executives Who Have Done It:
• GE (GE) Chief Executive Officer Jeffrey Immelt
• Nike (NKE) CEO Philip Knight
• Morgan Stanley (MS) CEO James Gorman

The Trust Freeze
“Freezing” the value of an estate, so taxes don’t eat up its future appreciation

A wealthy couple wants to leave a collection of income-producing assets, such as investment partnerships that own shares valued at as much as $150 million, to their children. So they “freeze” the value of the estate at that moment, maybe 20 years before their death, pushing any future appreciation out of the estate and avoiding what could be a $50 million federal estate tax bill.

1. The best approach is an “intentionally defective grantor trust.” The couple makes a gift of $10 million—the maximum amount exempt from the gift tax for the next two years—to the trust, which lists the children as beneficiaries.

2. The trust uses that cash as a down payment to buy the partnership from the parents through a note issued to the parents, but the partnership contains a restriction on the trust’s use of the assets, thus impairing the partnership’s value by, say, 33 percent. That enables the trust to buy the $150 million partnership for just $100 million.

3. The income produced by the investment partnership helps pay off the note. The tax bill on that income is borne by the parents, essentially allowing gifts exempt from the gift tax.

4. When the note is paid off, the trust owns that $150 million worth of assets, minus the $90 million note and interest—plus any appreciation in the meantime. The trust has swept up a $150 million income-producing concern without triggering the federal estate tax.

The Option Option
Stock options allow executives to calibrate the taxes on their compensation in a big way

An executive is negotiating his employment contract for the coming five years. The company might offer millions in shares. But who wants to pay taxes on millions in shares?

Better to take options. The executive owns the right to buy the shares at a time of his choosing; he’s been compensated, but he hasn’t paid any taxes. Gains from nonqualified stock options, the most common form, aren’t taxed until the holder exercises them. That means the executive controls when and if the tax bill comes. It isn’t just icing, either. Often it’s the cake.

Executives Who Have Done It (CEOs or co-CEOs as of 2010):
• Lawrence Ellison, Oracle (ORCL)
• Philippe Dauman, Viacom (VIA)
• Michael White, DirecTV (DTV)
• Andrew Gould, Schlumberger (SLB)
• Dave Cote, Honeywell (HON)
• David Pyott, Allergan (AGN)
• Marc Benioff, Salesforce.com (CRM)
• Sanjay Jha, Motorola Mobility (MMI)
• Richard Fairbank, Capital One (COF)
• Howard Schultz, Starbucks (SBUX)
• Jay Johnson, General Dynamics (GD)
• Larry Nichols, Devon Energy (DVN)
• Muhtar Kent, Coca-Cola (KO)
• Paul Jacobs, Qualcomm (QCOM)
• James Rohr, PNC Financial (PNC)
• Louis Chênevert, United Technologies (UTX)
• Fred Smith, FedEx (FDX)
• Bob Kelly, Bank of New York Mellon (BK)
• William Weldon, Johnson & Johnson (JNJ)
• Clarence Cazalot Jr., Marathon Oil (MRO)
• Ed Breen, Tyco (TYC)
• David Speer, Illinois Tool Works (ITW)
• Bob Iger, Disney (DIS)
• Sam Allen, Deere (DE)
• John Hess, Hess (HES)
• Klaus Kleinfeld, Alcoa (AA)
• Bob Stevens, Lockheed Martin (LMT)
• Rich Meelia, Covidien (COV)
• Dean Scarborough, Avery Dennison (AVY)
• George Buckley, 3M (MMM)
• Daniel DiMicco, Nucor (NUE)
• John Donahoe, EBay (EBAY)
• Michael Strianese, L-3 Communications (LLL)
• Ellen Kullman, DuPont (DD)
• Ronald Hermance, Hudson City Bancorp (HCBK)
• Rich Templeton, Texas Instruments (TXN)
• Alan Boeckmann, Fluor (FLR)
• Jen-Hsun Huang, Nvidia (NVDA)
• William Sullivan, Agilent Technologies (A)
• Greg Brown, Motorola Solutions (MSI)
• Jim McNerney, Boeing (BA)
• Michael McGavick, XL Group (XL)
• Scott McGregor, Broadcom (BRCM)
• Frederick Waddell, Northern Trust (NTRS)
• David Mackay, Kellogg (K)
• John Brock, Coca-Cola Enterprises (CCE)
• George Paz, Express Scripts (ESRX)
• Robert Parkinson, Baxter International (BAX)
• Shantanu Narayen, Adobe (ADBE)
• Charles Davidson, Noble Energy (NBL)
• John Pinkerton, Range Resources (RRC)
• Gregory Boyce, Peabody Energy (BTU)
• Kevin Mansell, Kohl’s (KSS)
• Richard Davis, U.S. Bancorp (USB)
• Michael McCallister, Humana (HUM)
• Timothy Ring, C.R. Bard (BCR)
• John Strangfeld, Prudential (PRU)
• Eric Wiseman, VF (VFC)
• Theodore Craver, Edison International (EIX)
• David Cordani, Cigna (CI)
• Chad Deaton, Baker Hughes (BHI)
• John Surma, United States Steel (X)
• Charles Moorman, Norfolk Southern (NSC)

The Bountiful Loss
Using, but not unloading, underwater stock shares to adjust your tax bill

An investor has capital-gains income from a sold-off stock position. Separately, the investor has other shares that are down an equal amount; if he were to sell them, he’d realize a loss to offset the gains and pay no taxes. But no one likes to sell low. So he wants to use that loss without actually selling the shares. IRS rules prohibit investors from taking a loss against a gain and then buying the shares back within 30 days.

1. At least 31 days before the planned sale, the investor buys an equal value of additional shares of the underwater stock.

2. The investor buys a “put” option on the new shares at their current price and sells a “call” option. Now he’s protected from the downside on that second purchase.

3. At least 31 days later, the investor sells the first block of underwater shares. He now has his tax loss, without having taken any additional downside risk from the purchase of the second block of shares.

The Friendly Partner
With this deal, an investor can sell property without actually selling—or incurring taxes

An investor owns a piece of income-producing real estate worth $100 million. It’s fully depreciated, so the tax basis is zero. That means a potential (and unacceptable) $15 million capital-gains tax.

1. Instead of an outright sale, the owner forms a partnership with a buyer.

2. The owner contributes the real estate to the partnership. The buyer contributes cash or other property.

3. The partnership borrows $95 million from a bank, using the property as collateral. (The seller must retain some interest in the partnership, hence the extra $5 million.)

4. The partnership distributes the $95 million in cash to the seller.

Note: The $95 million is viewed as a loan secured by the property contributed by the seller instead of proceeds from a sale. For tax purposes, the seller is not technically a seller, so any potential tax bill is deferred.

The Big Payback
So-called permanent life insurance policies are loaded with tax-avoiding benefits

A billionaire wants to invest but doesn’t need the returns any time soon and wants to avoid the tax on the profits.

A world of tax-beating products is available through the insurance industry. Many types of so-called permanent life insurance—including whole life, universal life, and variable universal life insurance—combine a death benefit with an investment vehicle. The returns and the death benefit are free of income tax. If the policy is owned by a certain type of trust, the estate tax can be avoided as well. “It is a crucial piece of any high-net-worth tax planning in my experience,” says Michael D. Weinberg, president of an insurance firm that specializes in planning for high-net-worth individuals.

IRA Monte Carlo
Tax advisers recommend converting traditional IRAs to Roth IRAs—soon

High-income taxpayers can now convert traditional IRAs—which allow contributions to be deducted from taxes but incur taxes on distributions—into Roth IRAs, in which contributions are taxed but the distributions are tax-free. The conversion triggers a one-time tax bill, based on the value of the newly converted Roth IRA. As one might expect, tax experts are recommending that high-net-worth individuals convert their traditional IRAs to Roth IRAs before 2013, when ordinary income rates are likely to go up.

1. Let’s say an investor has one traditional IRA with a value of $4 million.

2. The traditional IRA is split up into four traditional IRAs, each worth $1 million.

3. The investor converts all four to Roth IRAs at the beginning of the year.

4. The IRS effectively allows taxpayers to undo the conversion for up to 21 months. So in 21 months, the investor looks at the performance of the IRAs. Say two of them go up, from $1 million to $2 million, and two drop, from $1 million to zero. Because the IRAs were split into four, the investor can change her mind on the two that went down and revert those back to traditional IRAs. Thus, she owes taxes on only the two contributions that went up in value, and nothing on the two that went down, cutting her tax bill in half. This lops 21 months of risk off the bet that paying taxes now will be paid off with tax-free appreciation later.

The Venti
Putting a chunk of pay in a deferred-compensation plan can mean decades of tax-free growth

Executives want generous pay but don’t want immediate tax bills from salaries or cash bonuses.

Instead, they elect to set aside a portion of their pay into a deferred-compensation plan. Such plans allow the compensation, plus earnings, to grow tax-deferred, potentially for decades.

Executives Who Have Done It:
• Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz
• Verizon Communications (VZ) CEO Ivan G. Seidenberg



more @ http://www.businessweek.com/printer/articles/20234-how-to-pay-no-taxes-10-strategies-used-by-the-rich

Seven

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.

iPhone

A look behind Apple's App Store curtain

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- A funny thing happened to startup SwayMarkets after CNNMoney ran a story about its CarrierCompare app two weeks ago: The app got yanked from Apple's iTunes App Store.

CarrierCompare, which allows you to see which cell phone company offers the best service for your iPhone in any given location, vaulted into the venerable "Top 25" list on April 13, the day the story was published. CarrierCompare became the most-downloaded app in the utility category that day, beating out perennial top utilities like the top flashlight app and "Find My iPhone."

Then, the story took an unexpected turn, revealing the murky and seemingly haphazard system Apple has put in place to control its App Store.

Apple (AAPL, Fortune 500) notified the SwayMarkets team on the afternoon of April 13 that it had pulled CarrierCompare as well as the company's NetSnaps app, which was released in December.

A representative from Apple's app review board called the startup, explaining that the apps broke one of Apple's golden rules: They used an application programming interface -- essentially a way for the app software to talk to the iPhone's operating system -- that Apple hadn't approved.

The API allowed CarrierCompare and its sister app to collect signal strength data from iPhones. Gathering that information isn't a cut-and-dry no-no per se, but since the code hadn't received Apple's thumbs up, it was a no-go.

The removal of the apps surprised SwayMarkets, which had been led to believe that the API was okay to use.

The SwayMarkets team found the code on a developer forum, and SwayMarkets used it successfully in its NetSnaps app for five months before Apple took issue with it.

The company was even more convinced that the API was kosher due to a separate snafu in December. At first, Apple did not approve the NetSnaps app because SwayMarkets made use of a different unapproved API. When SwayMarkets removed that API, which displayed results using the phone's screenshot function, Apple approved the app without saying anything about the signal strength API.

Then, two weeks ago, CarrierCompare got Apple's seal of approval.

So what changed in the hours after CarrierCompare hit the app store? No one can be entirely sure, because Apple doesn't provide a lot of details about its approval process, even to developers. Apple declined to comment on its review system or CarrierCompare for this story.

But an interview, SwayMarkets founder Amos Epstein said many developers have reported similar circumstances: An app is approved, goes viral, hits the Top 25, and then gets removed for some previously unforeseen coding goof that Apple later discovered.
Related story: Your cell phone is out of your control

That has led the general developer community and Epstein to believe that overworked Apple reviewers, with thousands of apps waiting in the approval queue, likely don't test apps too thoroughly at first. But once they gain popularity, the Apple team gives them a closer look.

"When we hit the Top 25, we expected to receive a little bit more scrutiny from Apple, but we didn't know it would hit us like this," said Epstein.

The one saving grace was that Apple never removed the free version of CarrierCompare, even though the company said it would. The paid version was taken down, as was NetSnaps, but Epstein believes the decision to keep the free version up represented an act of good will on the part of Apple.

Still, eager to get the paid version back into the store, SwayMarkets engaged in some speedy coding to get the app up to Apple's standards. Two hours after Apple called, the SwayMarkets team was able to replace the signal strength indicator with a grayed-out shadow that said "coming soon."

They then waited two days for Apple to respond. Apple rejected that solution because it doesn't allow "coming soon" language for functions that may never become available. SwayMarkets then removed the signal strength indicator altogether, and Apple finally approved that solution this week.

The CarrierCompare story provides a rare glimpse behind the curtain of Apple's closed-door approval process. Most developers are unwilling to share this kind of information for fear of reproach from Apple. For his part, Epstein said the process left him a bit dismayed, but he understands where Apple is coming from.

"We've been very cooperative and thankful that Apple kept the free version of the app in the store," said Epstein. "It's been difficult as a developer to not feel supported in trying to help both Apple and consumers. However, I recognize Apple is running a very successful business. It's a momentary hurdle."

SwayMarkets argues that signal strength was the least-important metric its app collected, but it still is working on a solution. The team reached out to Apple in the hopes that it would approve the signal strength API for future use, but they haven't heard back yet.

Meanwhile, the startup continues to develop a workaround with an unusual method: building an Android app. Google's (GOOG, Fortune 500) Android marketplace, now known as Google Play, not only allows signal strength data to be collected, but it also allows more robust data to be gathered, such as whether a 4G connection is available.

Since Apple only took issue with collecting signal strength data -- but not displaying that information -- SwayMarkets intends to use the Android data to inform iPhone users of the signal strength data that Apple won't let it collect.

It will be interesting to see whether or not Apple nixes that idea as well. If the CarrierCompare story makes one thing clear, it's that in its relationship with developers, Apple holds all the cards.


more @ http://money.cnn.com/2012/04/27/technology/carriercompare-apple/index.htm?iid=HP_LN