Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Zhang Ziyi

Disbelief over claims Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon actress was paid £70million to sleep with Chinese Communist officials

Astonishment as stunning actress, 33, is accused of sleeping with some of China's most powerful men including disgraced politician Bo Xilai

Extraordinary claims that Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon star Zhang Ziyi earned £70 million prostituting herself to disgraced politician Bo Xilai and other powerful communist officials have been met with stunned disbelief across the film industry.

The stunning 33-year-old, one of China’s highest-paid stars and a three times BAFTA nominee, has vehemently denied a string of shocking allegations which emerged in Chinese media.

According to the, as yet unsubstantiated, reports, Zhang slept with Bo, the former mayor of Chongqing, at least 10 times between 2007 and 2011 in exchange for 'huge' monetary gifts.

Chinese officials reportedly believe the pair were introduced by a close associate of Bo, a Chinese multi-millionaire businessman named Xu Ming.

Zhang who starred in Rush Hour 2, House of Flying Daggers and Memoirs of a Geisha - is alleged to have made millions more from similar deals with other rich and powerful figures, including more than £18 million from 41-year-old Xu alone.

The alleged trysts, all of which were said to have taken place in Beijing, netted the actress – whose latest film ironically is a new version of Dangerous Liaisons - around £1 million each time.

Ming has reportedly confessed to authorities that he paid Zhang £600,000 to have sex with him for the first time in 2007 and that he later negotiated a deal for a similar liaison with the married Bo.

Zhang is the most prominent name to date to be dragged into the scandal over Bo, ousted from China’s powerful politburo amid allegations he was involved in murdering Old Harrovian businessman Neil Heywood.

Investigators are also said to be looking into claims that Zhang’s illicit earnings escaped being taxed thanks to interventions by Xu and senior government officials.

Reports that the Chinese government has refused to allow Zhang to leave the country while it investigates the claims prompted speculation that it explained why she was absent from this year’s Cannes film festival to promote Dangerous Liaisons.

The actress who is currently filming in southern China denied the allegation through her publicist and wrote on her on internet blog that many people 'can take wind as rain' using their imaginations – a cryptic statement which fellow Chinese have taken as a denial.

Now living in Hong Kong, she was engaged from 2008 until 2010 to Vivi Nevo, the hugely rich Israeli-American venture capitalist who was romantically linked to Kate Moss.

Xu, estimated to be worth £444 million by Forbes magazine, is reportedly under investigation by the Beijing government over alleged corruption.

The Chinese media reported in April that Xu had introduced more than 100 women to Bo as sexual partners and that some of them were household-named celebrities.

Hong Kong lawyers Hadlanes have apparently contacted Apple Daily, stating the following: 'Your allegations concerning our client are completely untrue and constitute a grave libel upon her.

'In consequence of the publication of these statements, our client's reputation has been seriously damaged and she has suffered considerable distress and embarrassment.'

Their letter demands a complete retraction and an open apology by May 30, 2012 - and states that the star reserves the right to proceed with legal action or seek damages.

Miss Zhang's team also thanked those who have taken her side against what they say is unfounded slander.

'We just want to help her get rid of this disturbance and seek justice,' they said.

'Then she will be able to shoot her films in peace and quiet and present you, her fans, with more and better films in return.'

Read more:

Monday, May 28, 2012

Two Tibetans self-immolate outside Lhasa holy temple

Hong Kong (CNN) -- Two young men set themselves on fire in Lhasa Sunday outside the Jokhang Temple, the holiest site in the Tibetan capital and a popular tourist destination, Chinese state media reported Monday.

It's the first time anyone has self-immolated inside the Tibetan capital, and only the second time the act has been carried out inside the Tibetan Autonomous Region, according to the Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD).

"They seem to be young and one of them is believed to have died, because flames have consumed his whole body. We don't have any information about the status of the other person," said Tsering Tsomo, executive director of the TCHRD.

China's state news service named the two as Dargye, from Aba county in the Tibetan area of southwest China's Sichuan province, and Tobgye Tseten, from Xiahe county in a Tibetan community of the country's northwestern Gansu province.

Tobgye Tseten died and Dargye was seriously injured but in a stable condition and able to talk, according to Xinhua.

The news agency said that police on patrol put out the flames and took the men to hospital.
Dalai Lama: China belongs to the people

It's unclear how many Tibetans have set themselves alight in recent months. Some media reports claim there have been more than 20 since March 2011, others say the figure is more than 30.
India detains Tibetan protesters

Self-immolation is a common form of protest for Tibetans who want genuine autonomy from China and accuse Beijing of repression.
Tibetan hunger strikes ends

Beijing rejects accusations of oppression of Tibetans, saying that under its rule, living standards have greatly improved for the Tibetan people.
New realities for Tibetans in China

A senior official in Tibet condemned Sunday's self-immolations as separatist attempts, according to Xinhua.

"They were a continuation of the self-immolations in other Tibetan areas and these acts were all aimed at separating Tibet from China," said Hao Peng, secretary of the Commission for Political and Legal Affairs of the CPC Tibet Committee.

Xinhua reported that Lhasa's public security bureau had set up a special task force to investigate the incident.

Dalai Lama silent on self-immolations

One witness told Radio Free Asia that security forces arrived quickly on the scene and extinguished the flames before bundling the men into vehicles. The site was cleared in 15 minutes, the news agency reported.

"Lhasa city is now filled with police and para-military forces and the situation is very tense," a source told Radio Free Asia, citing contacts in the region.

Voice of America said that the two men were reportedly shouting slogans as they were engulfed in flames, although it was not clear what they were saying.

The VoA reported that telephone and internet connections were cut in an "immediate and widespread security clampdown" after the incident. Cameras and cell phones were searched in the vicinity of the protest site, and "numerous" people were detained the VoA said.

Opinion: The politics of Tibetan self-immolations

The latest self-immolations coincided with Saka Dawa, a month-long celebration to mark Buddha's birth, enlightenment and parinirvana (death).

Last week, authorities in the TAR issued a directive banning Chinese Communist Party members, cadres, government officials and students from participating in religious activities during the holy month, according to the TCHRD.

"All the party leaders should educate their family members to also restrain from attending any related events," the Tibet Daily reported.

The directive, said to have been issued by the Tibetan Autonomous Region Committee for Discipline Inspection and Supervision Department, warned that a failure to comply would constitute "serious violations of political discipline and stability work."
The US' practice of setting itself up as judge and jury of other countries' human rights conditions is both inappropriate and unacceptable.
China Daily

"We see a lot of paranoia and a lot of frustration on the part of the authorities because they have actually said in the notice that a lot of party members and standing government officials, cadres still believe in religion. And that is what authorities don't like," Tsomo said.

The TCHRD said that since the start of the year 19 officials in Tibet, both of Tibetan and Chinese descent, had been demoted or fired for failing to implement what it called "stability maintenance work."

Tsomo said that Saka Dawa was such a significant celebration for Tibetans that many would be celebrating the rituals despite the risk of repercussions.

"Even if they don't show it publicly in their homes they will be reciting their prayers, doing their religious activities. I'm sure they won't be very obvious. They'll try to keep it subtle and understated so that they don't attract any attention from the authorities," she said.

Last week, the most recent annual report from the U.S. on human rights abuses worldwide stated that Tibetans in the TAR and other Tibetan areas were subject to "severe repression of the freedoms of speech, religion, association, and movement."

"Authorities continued to commit serious human rights abuses, including extrajudicial killings, torture, arbitrary arrests, extrajudicial detentions, and house arrests," the report said.

The statement provoked a scathing editorial in the English-language China Daily, which accused "Uncle Sam" of hypocrisy and double standards.

"The U.S.' practice of setting itself up as judge and jury of other countries' human rights conditions is both inappropriate and unacceptable," the author said. "Preaching to the rest of the world in such a condescending manner only lays bare Uncle Sam's arrogance and disrespect for others."

In response to the U.S. "Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2011," China said that once again the reports were "full of over-critical remarks on the human rights situation in nearly 200 countries and regions, as well as distortions and accusations concerning the human rights cause in China."

China hits back on human rights

Its report, issued by the State Council Information Office, said that U.S. society "is chronically suffering from violent crimes, and its citizens' lives, properties and personal security are in lack of proper protection."

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Ryan Snider

Miami (CNN) -- A 24-year-old Canadian man will probably face federal charges after allegedly rushing to the front of an American Airlines aircraft after it landed in Miami on Friday, the FBI said.

Two passengers on Flight 320 from Montego Bay, Jamaica, helped subdue the man, identified by the FBI as Ryan Snider.

No one was injured and there was no damage to the plane, the FBI said.

Terrorism is not suspected, the agency said.

American Airlines spokesman Ed Martelle said the man appeared to be disoriented.

"He did not obey crewmember instructions to sit down and then moved toward the front of the aircraft where he was subdued," he said in a statement.

Passenger Ronald Webb told CNN affiliate WSVN that the incident was disconcerting.

"We were a little bit worried because we didn't know what it was all about," he said.

Snider is expected to make an initial court appearance Tuesday in Miami, the FBI said.

"Consular officials in the United States have been informed of the detention of a Canadian citizen and have extended an offer of consular assistance. Canadian consular officials will remain in contact with local authorities and are prepared to provide consular assistance as needed," Chris Plunkett, spokesman for the Canadian Embassy in Washington, said in a statement.

Walking Dead Fans: First Official Image of Michonne

Danai Gurira is Michonne

Lady Gaga

Security concerns prompt Lady Gaga to cancel Indonesia concert

Jakarta, Indonesia (CNN) -- Lady Gaga canceled her concert in Indonesia, her management said Sunday, citing security concerns after Islamic hardliners denounced her costumes and dance moves as too risqué.

If the concert is held, there are concerns the singer, her crew and attendees may be in harm's way, said Minola Sebayang, the lawyer for the promoters.

"This is an advice from her security team. So the cancellation is purely based on the decision made by her management," Sebayang said.

Earlier this month, Jakarta police recommended that Lady Gaga's sold-out June 3 show not be issued a permit because of security concerns.

The pop diva appeared to acknowledge the incident in a post on Twitter on Saturday: "There is nothing Holy about hatred."

Islamists and conservative Muslims have decried Lady Gaga's upcoming concert, saying her revealing costumes and sensual dance moves are forbidden by Islamic law.

The chairman of the Islamic Defenders Front, Habib Rizieq, said his group could not guarantee security if the concert were held.

Indonesia has the largest Muslim population in the world.

In March, the pop star got a thumbs-down by the country's highest Islamic authority, according to The Jakarta Globe.

Indonesian Council of Ulema chairman Cholil Ridwan was urging Muslims not to attend the controversial singer's upcoming concert in Jakarta, the newspaper reported.

"(The concert is) intended to destroy the nation's morality," Ridwan told the Globe.

Ridwan is concerned that the singer's revealing outfits and sexy dance moves will set a bad example for Muslim youths.

Newspaper reports said more than 25,000 tickets were sold in the first two hours after the concert went on sale in March. Police said the promoter should not have started selling tickets before getting a permit.

This is not the first controversy surrounding the singer's "Born This Way" tour. Gaga also ran afoul of Christian groups in South Korea, prompting the government to ban kids under the age of 18 from attending her show.

Last week, Christian groups in the Philippines protested Lady Gaga's performances there Monday and Tuesday.

Adam Pickles

Regent’s International School Adam Pickles is fighting for his life in a Thai hospital after a stranger savagely attacked him with a metal bar. Adam Pickles has been in a coma after the brutal assault, which left him needing emergency brain surgery.

The 40-year-old had only just recovered from a horrific motorbike crash which also left him in a coma, missing the birth of his eight-month-old son Benjamin.

His parents Adele, 61, and Andrew, 62, have flown from their home in Thorner, Leeds, to be at his bedside while friends at home and abroad rally to raise the cost of his medical care.

His Wife said: “It breaks my heart, it really does. The days seem very long, just waiting, waiting, hoping he’ll come back to us. It’s any mum’s worst nightmare.

His Family and Friends are hoping he can make as full a recovery. We absolutely love him and he had so many plans for him. We really need him to come back to us for the sake of his little boy.

His wife, a former teacher at the Cathedral School, Wakefield, moved to Thailand seven years ago, where he lives in Pattaya and works at the Regent’s International School as head of English.

The former Bradford Grammar School and Humberside University student was attacked as he drove home alone from a bar in the Nong Prue district, where he plays pool, last Thursday.

On the way, he stopped and got out of his car, although it is not known why. He was then beaten over the head before his attacker – who is believed to be a Westerner – drove off, leaving him for dead.

Thai police are investigating but have not yet arrested anyone.

A passer-by found Mr Pickles and he was rushed to hospital, where he is in intensive care after emergency surgery to remove blood clots from his brain.

Mrs Pickles said: “They have said this week is the crucial time as to whether he makes it.”

Doctors say it could take up to a month for him to wake, and the brain damage may leave him with impaired speech and movement.

More than 4,000 people have joined a Facebook group set up to help pay for Mr Pickles’ medical treatment and bring him home.

Friends, relatives, former students and strangers have sent hundreds of messages of support to his parents and Benjamin’s mother Pafan. Between them they have pledged more than £10,000 in 48 hours.

Mrs Pickles said: “It is giving us so much comfort to know everyone loves him so much. He would just be overwhelmed by the response. People have been so generous and we are so grateful. We want to say thank you so much.”

The hospital charges more than £2,000 a day, and medical repatriation may cost at least £70,000.

Mr Pickles’ insurance will not cover the full bill, and his care after the motorbike crash cost family and friends more than £15,000.

His best friend Neil Clappison, of Leeds, said: “It feels completely unreal that this is happening to Adam after all he went through last year. It was horrendous for him to miss the birth of his beautiful son, so what is happening now seems almost unbelievable.

“We are doing everything we can to raise the money needed to ensure Adam survives and then to bring him home. The hospitals there are ruthless and if they don’t have the money on a per day basis, they may leave you to die. We won’t let this happen to somebody who really is one in a million.”

Danielle Nicholls, a former colleague at the Cathedral School where he worked from 2001 to 2005, said: “He’s one of those characters that everyone who meets him loves. He radiates positivity and makes everyone smile.

“We’re all very saddened by his situation and will do everything we can to support the fundraising campaign. We send all our love and sincere hopes for his full recovery to his family.”

To view the Facebook page visit

UK Teacher in A Coma After Brutal Assault

Regent’s International School Adam Pickles is fighting for his life in a Thai hospital after a stranger savagely attacked him with a metal bar. Adam Pickles has been in a coma after the brutal assault, which left him needing emergency brain surgery.

The 40-year-old had only just recovered from a horrific motorbike crash which also left him in a coma, missing the birth of his eight-month-old son Benjamin.

His parents Adele, 61, and Andrew, 62, have flown from their home in Thorner, Leeds, to be at his bedside while friends at home and abroad rally to raise the cost of his medical care.

His Wife said: “It breaks my heart, it really does. The days seem very long, just waiting, waiting, hoping he’ll come back to us. It’s any mum’s worst nightmare.

His Family and Friends are hoping he can make as full a recovery. We absolutely love him and he had so many plans for him. We really need him to come back to us for the sake of his little boy.

His wife, a former teacher at the Cathedral School, Wakefield, moved to Thailand seven years ago, where he lives in Pattaya and works at the Regent’s International School as head of English.

The former Bradford Grammar School and Humberside University student was attacked as he drove home alone from a bar in the Nong Prue district, where he plays pool, last Thursday.

On the way, he stopped and got out of his car, although it is not known why. He was then beaten over the head before his attacker – who is believed to be a Westerner – drove off, leaving him for dead.

Thai police are investigating but have not yet arrested anyone.

A passer-by found Mr Pickles and he was rushed to hospital, where he is in intensive care after emergency surgery to remove blood clots from his brain.

Mrs Pickles said: “They have said this week is the crucial time as to whether he makes it.”

Doctors say it could take up to a month for him to wake, and the brain damage may leave him with impaired speech and movement.

More than 4,000 people have joined a Facebook group set up to help pay for Mr Pickles’ medical treatment and bring him home.

Friends, relatives, former students and strangers have sent hundreds of messages of support to his parents and Benjamin’s mother Pafan. Between them they have pledged more than £10,000 in 48 hours.

Mrs Pickles said: “It is giving us so much comfort to know everyone loves him so much. He would just be overwhelmed by the response. People have been so generous and we are so grateful. We want to say thank you so much.”

The hospital charges more than £2,000 a day, and medical repatriation may cost at least £70,000.

Mr Pickles’ insurance will not cover the full bill, and his care after the motorbike crash cost family and friends more than £15,000.

His best friend Neil Clappison, of Leeds, said: “It feels completely unreal that this is happening to Adam after all he went through last year. It was horrendous for him to miss the birth of his beautiful son, so what is happening now seems almost unbelievable.

“We are doing everything we can to raise the money needed to ensure Adam survives and then to bring him home. The hospitals there are ruthless and if they don’t have the money on a per day basis, they may leave you to die. We won’t let this happen to somebody who really is one in a million.”

Danielle Nicholls, a former colleague at the Cathedral School where he worked from 2001 to 2005, said: “He’s one of those characters that everyone who meets him loves. He radiates positivity and makes everyone smile.

“We’re all very saddened by his situation and will do everything we can to support the fundraising campaign. We send all our love and sincere hopes for his full recovery to his family.”


(CNN) -- The Syrian government vehemently denied Sunday it was behind a massacre that left at least 85 people dead, and it accused world leaders of conspiring against the regime.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Jihad Makdissi said he addressed the media Sunday "to make a clear stance against the tsunami of lies."

"We deny that the Syrian armed forces were responsible of what took place in Houla," where the United Nations said at least 32 young children were slaughtered in an attack Friday, he said.

Makdissi also accused some U.N. countries of "openly working against Syria" and refuted the notion of an armed opposition in the country.

"There is no armed opposition in Syria. There is either an intellectual opposition, and we welcome their participation in national dialogue, or there are armed terrorist gangs that refuse the political resolution," Makdissi said.

But opposition activists and many world leaders say President Bashar al-Assad's regime has been lethally cracking down on dissidents seeking an end to the al-Assad family's 42-year rule.

U.N.-Arab League special envoy Kofi Annan is scheduled to visit Syria on Monday, Makdissi said. Annan's spokesman was not immediately available for comment.

Annan brokered a six-point peace plan two months ago and both sides agreed to it. But members of the rebel Free Syrian Army said the Annan plan is "dead," with some rebels vowing to retaliate against government forces after Friday's massacre.

"After such a long wait, a test of patience and steadfastness, the joint command of the FSA inside Syria announces that it is no longer possible to abide by the peace plan brokered by Kofi Annan, (which) the regime is taking advantage of in order to commit more massacres against our unarmed civilians," Free Syrian Army spokesman Col. Qasim Saad Eddine said in a video posted Saturday.

A cessation of violence is a key point of the peace plan. But since the Syrian regime and opposition members accepted the plan in March, at least 1,635 people have been killed, the opposition Local Coordination Committees of Syria said Saturday.

International outrage grew amid new details on the attack in Houla, where at least 32 children younger than 10 were killed on Friday, said Maj. Gen. Robert Mood, head of the U.N. Supervision Mission in Syria. He said observers counted a total of at least 85 bodies.

Opposition activists said entire families were slaughtered by government forces in Houla, as the regime's 14-month crackdown on dissidents continues unabated.

"This is a clear evidence that Kofi Annan's plan is dead and a clear indication that Bashar Assad and his criminal gang do not understand anything but the language of force and violence," Eddine said. He urged the U.N. Security Council to "issue urgent and swift resolutions to save Syria, its people and the entire region by forming an international coalition mandated by the UNSC to launch airstrikes" against regime forces and their strategic points.

While opposition activists put the blame squarely on al-Assad's regime, the Syrian government blamed regional and Western "enemies" for the Houla massacre.
Syria activists report a massacre

"The Houla massacres are an integral part of the so-called intelligence war -- or the psychological warfare -- against Syria," said Jamal al-Mahmoud of the state-run Department of Political Science at Damascus University, according to the state-run Tishreen newspaper. "It is a policy carried out the enemies of Syria such as the United States, Qatar, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and France to stage acts of revenge and to create chaos instead of restoring the security and the stability that the Syrian citizen needs."

Sunday, Syrian state-run TV said residents in Houla reported "terrorists from al Qaeda" carried out the violence in Houla. The Syrian regime has accused Western countries and Arab oil-rich Gulf states of conspiring with al Qaeda to attack Syria.
Can violence in Syria be stopped?

Several world leaders -- including Mood, Annan and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon -- have denounced the killings in Houla, a suburb not far from the anti-Assad bastion of Homs.
U.N.: No 'Plan B' for Syria

But to many, words have no effect.
Concerns about al Qaeda in Syria rising

"No more initiatives, no more proposals, no more political resolutions after today," said Eddine, the Free Syrian Army spokesman.

"We call on our fighters, the soldiers and the revolutionaries, to conduct organized and planned military strikes against Assad battalions and regime members," Brig. Gen. Mustafa Al-Sheikh, a top leader in the rebel group, said in a video statement posted on YouTube.

A graphic video posted on YouTube purports to show the lifeless bodies of small children killed in Houla. They are spread on the floor amid blankets, caked in blood. One child is turned to reveal a head wound.
Can Annan's Syria plan be salvaged?

CNN could not independently confirm the authenticity of the video, nor can it confirm reports from within the country because the government strictly limits access by foreign journalists.

Turkey's President on Egypt, Syria and Israel

Lt. Bassim al-Khaled, a spokesman of the rebel Free Syrian Movement, said more bloodshed is coming. The al-Assad government is using the cease-fire and peace plan "to kill more people and is trying to crush the uprising," al-Khaled said.

"So the only language this regime is going to understand is the language of the gun," al-Khaled said. "Wait and see, we will make them pay for each drop of blood which was shed."

U.N. officials say more than 9,000 people, mostly civilians, have died and tens of thousands have been uprooted since the uprising began in March 2011. Opposition groups report a death toll of more than 11,000 people.

CNN's Saad Abedine, Holly Yan, Mohammed Jamjoom, Omar Al Muqdad, Richard Roth and Yousuf Basil contributed to this report.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Easter Island

The Easter Island heads also have BODIES

The enduring image in the public's mind of the mysterious heads on Easter Island is simply that - heads.

So it comes as quite a shock to see the heads from another angle - and discover that they have full bodies, extending down many, many feet into the ground of the island.

The Easter Island Statue Project has been carefully excavating two of 1,000-plus statues on the islands - doing their best to uncover the secrets of the mysterious stones, and the people who built them, as best they can.

Project director Jo Anne Van Tilburg said: 'Our EISP excavations recently exposed the torsos of two 7 m tall statues.

'Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of visitors to the island have been astonished to see that, indeed, Easter Island statues have bodies!

'More important, however, we discovered a great deal about the Rapa Nui techniques of ancient engineering.'

Among their discoveries, the team have discovered:

The dirt and detritus partially burying the statues was washed down from above and not deliberately placed there to bury, protect, or support the statues
The statues were erected in place and stand on stone pavements
Post holes were cut into bedrock to support upright tree trunks
Rope guides were cut into bedrock around the post holes
Posts, ropes, stones, and different types of stone tools were all used to carve and raise the statues upright

The remote island - one of the remotest in the world, tucked away in the South Pacific Ocean - was once home to a Polynesian population, whose history remains mysterious.

They likely sailed to the islands in canoes - a 1,500-mile journey over the open waters, and then, once they landed, they began relentessly carving the stone statues.

This led to their own downfall: By the time Europeans discovered the island in the 1700s, the population had decimated nearly all the trees in the island to help with the statue construction, and the knock-on effect on the island's ecology led to their decline.

The team also discovered that ceremonies were certainly associated with the statues.

On the project website, Van Tilburg said: 'We found large quantities of red pigment, some of which may have been used to paint the statues.

'Finally, and perhaps most poignantly, we found in the pavement under one statue a single stone carved with a crescent symbol said to represent a canoe, or vaka.

'The backs of both statues are covered with petroglyphs, many of which are also vaka. A direct connection between the vaka symbol and the identity of the artist or group owning the statue is strongly suggested.'

Read more:


When skydiving goes very wrong: Pensioner, 80, left hanging by a thread in terrifying tumble after instructor pushes reluctant adrenalin junkie from plane

Laverne, 80, can be seen shouting 'no!' as she leaps out of the plane
Pensioner nearly falls out of her harness as it comes loose while hurtling towards ground at 125mph
Two people have died in similar incidents in the U.S., the British Parachute Association say

A sky-diving pensioner who refused to get out of the plane was left hanging precariously from her instructor as a tandem dive went dangerously wrong.

The 80-year-old desperately tried to cling onto the door after apparently deciding she no longer wanted to do the jump.

As her harness came loose the woman, named Laverne, was left dangling from her instructor as she hurtled towards the ground at 125mph.

In the dramatic video, the woman's tandem diver can be seen clinging onto her safety harness which had slipped down her legs during the jump in California.

As they plummet towards the ground, the woman's top flies up exposing her back to the high-speed winds.

The cameraman - a separate jumper filming the whole experience - comes over to help as the pair get into difficulties.

Read more:

Pimpin' Ain't Easy

Weeping pimp slapped with prison term

He was hard on his ho’s — and now a brutal pimp will be doing some long, hard time.

A Brooklyn judge yesterday slapped Anthony McCord, a self-proclaimed expert in “pimpology,” with a 21-years-to-life sentence after the flesh peddler tearfully apologized for robbing two of his prostitutes and knocking around another.

“You referred to it as ‘The Game.’ You treated it as a game,” Justice Wayne Ozzi scolded McCord. “I’d like to say at this time, the game is over.”

McCord, 30, turned on the waterworks (right) before being sentenced for burglary and robbery, with tears spilling down his cheeks as he tried to disavow his life of crime.

“I was a failure as a pimp,” McCord blubbered. “I was a much better car salesman. I was a much better telemarketer. I was much better when I was selling mortgages by phone. I really wasn’t very good at it.”

His sob story was in marked contrast to his boastful performance last year at trial, when he claimed his actions toward his stable of working girls during the March 2010 incident were in line with “the code of conduct of pimps and ho’s.”

He even offered himself up as an expert on pimping — a request promptly swatted away by Ozzi during the trial.

Jurors cleared McCord of raping one of his hookers but convicted him of burglarizing the Brooklyn hotel where two of the women were waiting on johns and of robbing them.

“They’re not entitled to be treated in that manner, regardless of whatever they do to earn money,” said Ozzi, noting McCord had treated the women like the cars and cellphones he once sold.

“I see nothing here that tells me you’re not going to go back into that lifestyle,” the judge said.

Read more:

Thursday, May 24, 2012

What is a rollover?

What is a rollover?

A rollover is the process of moving your retirement savings from your retirement plan at work (401(k), profit-sharing plan, etc.) into an Individual Retirement Account (IRA). Rolling over to an IRA allows you to keep your savings tax-deferred and typically gives you a broader choice of investments.

Do I need to report a rollover on my tax return?

Yes. You will receive two tax forms — an IRS Form 1099R reporting that you took a distribution from your former employer's plan and an IRS Form 5498 reporting that you made a rollover contribution to your IRA. Even if no portion of your rollover is taxable, you must report it on your tax return.

Will I owe taxes on my rollover?

Typically no, if you roll over your money directly from your company plan into an IRA. This means that your company plan makes the check payable to your IRA's custodian and that check is deposited to your IRA.

Can I take the money out of my plan and then decide what to do?
You can, but it's a good idea to consider the impacts of each option to make a decision before taking any money out of the plan.

When you take money out of the plan in a check payable directly to you, 20% of the original balance will be withheld for federal income taxes before you get the check, so you won't have the full amount to roll over.
You can still deposit the money into an IRA or your new company plan, but you must do this within 60 days.
If you don't deposit the withheld amount to the new IRA or company plan, it will be added to your ordinary income (which may be taxable) and may also be subject to IRS penalties.
The 20% that is withheld for taxes is considered normal income tax withholding — just like what happens with your paychecks. If you overpay taxes for the year, you may get some of it back in a refund when you file your tax return.

Can I combine my rollover and annual contributions in one IRA?

Yes, you can combine rollovers and contributions in the same account. However, you are required to keep Traditional IRA and Roth IRA money in separate accounts.


Here comes Yahoo's own Web browser -- Axis

Yahoo's search group attempts to take control of its destiny by launching its own browser. Surprise: It's good.

Yahoo is announcing tonight that it's getting into the browser business with its new Axis browser. There are versions for iPad and iPhone, and plug-ins for the desktop browsers Chrome, Firefox, IE, and Safari.

The design goal, according to Ethan Batraski, head of product for the Search Innovation Group at Yahoo, is to eliminate the middle step in the usual Web search process: Enter a query, see the results, go to a page. With Axis, you're supposed to be able to go directly from query to page, skipping the step of surfing a sea of links.

The implication that Axis entirely bypasses the need to pick from search results is false, but Axis does nonetheless have a much better way of getting you from searching to visiting a Web page. The browser works well. This is an aggressive product for the struggling Yahoo to launch out of its search group.

Here's why: Yahoo, which still generates more than a billion dollars a year in revenue from its search division, makes a lot of that money from that second step in the search process. It runs ads on search result pages.

On Axis, there are no search result pages.

Instead, what you get when you search, at least 80 percent of the time, Batraski says, is a horizontal display of Web page thumbnails. (The other 20 percent of the time you get text boxes with results in them.) It's easy to see if one of the pages is what you're looking for, and then you can go there directly. To see the tiles again and go to other results, you just pull down the page from the top. To move forward or backward in the list of results directly from a page you're on, you drag your finger from the right or left. bypassing the results list entirely.

So, to be clear, there actually is a list of search results. It just looks a lot better because it's integrated into the browser. Ads will get inserted into the list of search tiles eventually, assuming the product is a success with users. But for the time being, the more successful Axis is, the more it will drive Yahoo traffic away from search revenues -- which only this last quarter began to recover after years of sliding.

As a tactic for launching the browser, focusing on the user experience above all and forgoing search revenues is probably very wise, since it may be difficult for the browser to make a dent in the market. I asked Batraski about other alterna-browsers that struggled to win major market share, and mostly failed: Flock, Rockmelt, Opera, AT&T's Pogo, and others. Why does Yahoo think it can pull a Chrome with its product?

Distribution, says Batraski. There are 700 million people using Yahoo, and they can all be marketed to. Also, Yahoo distributes browsers (mostly IE with the Yahoo embedded toolbar) to 80 million people a year. The company knows how to get browsers out there, at least on desktop operating systems. But Axis on the desktop is actually not its own browser, but rather a plug-in that works with the browser a user already has. If you use the plug-in's URL and search box in the lower-left of your browser, you'll get Yahoo's results. If you forget it's there and use the browser's standard URL/search box, you get whatever you've already been getting.

One gets the feeling that the desktop versions of Axis exist primarily as accessories to the mobile versions, so users can move between platforms and keep their open tabs and histories intact. When you're logged in, Axis knows what you do on each device and makes it easy to pick up on one where you left off on another.

Mobile is where the action is, so it makes sense that Yahoo threw the bulk of its development love into the tablet and smartphone versions. On the iPad, Axis is simply a great browser. The integrated search feature is intuitive, and being able to move through search results without having to go back to search makes sense. After only a few minutes using it I thought, Why hasn't Google done this yet? It's that good.

Although mobile devices like the iPad come with embedded browsers, Batraski says the product has Apple's blessing. He also said that Apple reps have told him they're not throwing many resources into Apple's own iOS browser, Safari. Axis takes the best that Safari has to offer -- its core rendering engine, Webkit -- and really does make it better. But no matter what Apple says, it's not yet fully behind alternative browsers like Axis: On iOS, you can't change your default browser (unless you jailbreak your device). Click a link in an e-mail message or another app, and your device will open it up in Safari, no matter how in love with Axis you are.

Batraski is convinced this will change eventually, and that if it doesn't, Apple will have a Microsoft-scale antitrust issue on its hands.

What about Android? The Android version of Axis is still in development, and while it's much easier for a user to get an alternative browser installed and embedded in an Android product, it's a pretty safe bet that Google isn't exactly going to roll out the welcome mat for Yahoo's browser. Google already has two of its own browsers for mobile, the Android browser and the still-in-beta Android version of Chrome. And those drive traffic to Google's ads, not Yahoo's. (Firefox, by the way, defaults to using Google for search, so even when people use it instead of Chrome, Google still wins.)

The Axis browser may not conquer the world, but it is a very strong mobile product with an important new design concept for search. It's also a gutsy business move from Yahoo. It's rather refreshing.

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Average Facebook employee has lost $844K since IPO

Facebook’s outside investors aren’t the only ones feeling cheated.

In Silicon Valley, where tech workers are lured with piles of stock and promises of instant riches, the social network’s employees are sitting on sinking shares that they can’t cash in for several months.

Since Facebook sold shares to the public at $38 a pop last Friday, the average employee has lost an estimated $844,000, based on yesterday’s closing price of $32. Shares rose 3.2 percent yesterday, their first daily gain.

“It’s obviously disappointing for Facebook’s employees who still need to work there, engineering the site and selling ads,” said Sam Hamadeh, the head of research firm PrivCo, who estimated the losses in employees’ stock. “These distractions must be affecting them.”

Facebook’s cool-company status is in jeopardy if the stock-price erosion continues, sapping the super-sized growth that attracted workers in the first place, recruiters said.

The stakes of losing that status couldn’t be higher in Silicon Valley, where other tech titans compete for talented engineers. In contrast, Google and Apple have seen their shares soar, rewarding employees who stuck with them.

“At Google, you count on that money every year because the stock has been relatively stable and growing,” said Robert Greene, the head of GreeneSearch, a tech recruiting firm. “At Apple, you count on that money. At Facebook, we don’t know yet.”

One recruiter pointed to Zynga as a place where employees are losing faith along with the share price. Zynga closed at $7.07 yesterday after the social-gaming company went public at $10 in December. Insiders traded shares on private markets as high as $17 last year.

One consolation for Facebook employees is that most have stock awards instead of options. Since 2007, Facebook has given out restricted stock units that won’t be “underwater” if the stock falls below a certain price.

Those units have only lost value in the company’s first day as a public company, going from about a $20 billion prize pool to $16.5 billion, according to PrivCo’s Hamadeh.

Meanwhile, employees are resigned to a wait-and-see approach until their lockup ends and they can sell their shares. The first lockup for insiders expires after 91 days.

“They need to be focused on what you believe the price will be when you’re eligible to sell shares. That’s the only price that matters,” said Kevin Rosenberg, managing partner at recruiting firm BridgeGate.

Still, the bad headlines from the botched IPO continue to weigh on the company. Facebook shareholders yesterday sued the company and its bankers, accusing them of failing to disclose slowing revenue growth before the stock launch.

Read more:

Alex Kenjeev

Law school grad pays off $114,000 student loan in CASH... and brags about it by posting the receipt on Facebook

A Canadian law school graduate paid off his six-figure student loan in cash before posting the receipt on the internet for all the world to see.

Alex Kenjeev, from Montreal, came up with the plan to withdraw the $114,000 he still owed the University of Toronto for his law degree in dollar bills to get 'a few laughs'.

But the Royal Bank of Canada didn't think it was very funny, initially rejecting his bizarre request before telling him he'd have to pay for an armored truck to lug the small fortune around town.

'It was stressful enough to carry such a big debt load,' he told Business Insider.

'I thought it would be worth getting a few laughs out of it,' he said. 'Neither bank thought it was as funny as I thought it was.'

Mr Kenjeev, who graduated in 2009, managed to dodge the fee in the end and within a few days he was able to pick up the wads of cash, shove them in a canvas bag and walk the two blocks to Scotiabank where his student loan was held.

'I just plopped the bag down (on the counter),' he said.'They also didn't know how to handle it. At first the manager didn't want to accept the money.'

The teller made a few calls while Mr Kenjeev waited anxiously.

But his RBC withdrawal slip was then reviewed and staff went to work counting the bills by hand.

Mr Kenjeev, who works for venture capitalist firm O'Leary Ventures, said he had already paid off $76,000 in loans he took out during school but had been dragging out his payments while pouring most of his earnings into a start-up.

He insists he wasn't trying to show off by paying his balance in cash, but that he genuinely thought it would be funny.

'I was pretty naive,' Mr Kenjeev said. 'I didn't really realize how much of a hassle I'd cause for everybody. You just look at things and you figure cash is simpler than anything else.'

When the transaction was complete, he shook hands with the bank manager and walked out two-and-a-half hours later completely debt-free.

He then took a photo of his receipt and posted it on Facebook, but he still doesn't know who posted it on Reddit, where it received a raft of mostly negative comments. Many queried where the man was able to muster so much money.

'I was feeling very good about finally being debt-free,' Mr Kenjeev said. 'Some people have taken it pretty offensively. I actually think they have a point. It hadn't really occurred to me.

Read more:


Meet the tireless entrepreneur who squatted at AOL

For two months last fall, Eric Simons secretly took up residence inside the Internet giant's Palo Alto, Calif., campus, eating free food, enjoying gym access, and building a startup in the process.

It was 6 a.m. when Eric Simons was jolted awake by the yelling.

After working until 4 a.m, the 19-year-old entrepreneur had finally passed out. A few hours of sleep would help with the day ahead.

But unlike most people working at AOL's Palo Alto, Calif., campus who were surely still hours from showing up at the sprawling complex, Simons was already there. He'd been living there for two months, hiding out at night on couches, eating the company's food, and exercising and showering in its gym. And now, with an angry security guard bellowing at him, it was all over.

The story of how Simons, just two years removed from a Chicago high school, came to be living in AOL's Palo Alto campus could well become part of Silicon Valley lore, especially because it highlights the lengths some entrepreneurs will go to make their dreams a reality. And though stories abound these days of startup founders barely old enough to drink swimming in venture capital, far more have to get by on packaged noodles and the good will of friends with extra couches.

You hear it all the time, but Simons, now 20, was a mediocre student with little interest in school. That changed one day when his high school chemistry teacher confronted him and demanded to know what she could do to get him interested.

"I was stumped," Simons writes on the About Us page of his startup, ClassConnect. "She didn't ask me to try harder, she didn't ask me to stay after for help or study more -- she asked me to figure out how she could grab my interest. No one had ever bothered to ask me that before. A few moments later I replied, 'let's get everyone working together on computers -- I'll even build the software for us to use.'" His life as an entrepreneur had begun.

He wanted to get straight into the thick of it, so after high school, and a short period crashing on couches with friends at the University of Illinois, Simons accepted a slot in the inaugural class of Imagine K12, a new Silicon Valley incubator focused entirely on education. His plan? Start a company that builds tools allowing teachers to create and discover lesson plans, and share them with students and teachers.

"Teachers around the U.S. and the world are asked to teach from a checklist," Simons said. "They're asked to teach the exact same thing...and they're all going and creating their own lessons. What we've built is almost a GitHub for teacher lessons. They can fork someone else's lesson plan and use that as a springboard."

Is it ironic that a bad student ended up launching a company that aims to revolutionize education? Simons doesn't think so. "It wasn't that I didn't like school," he said. "I didn't like [the way it was done]. I said, I'm going to take a crack at this. I'm young enough that I can take a crack at some crazy stuff. Ten years from now, maybe I can't be sleeping on people's couches."

Living at AOL
For Simons, "crazy stuff" meant moving to Silicon Valley and trying to get his fledgling company off the ground. But his initial idea wasn't quite working. Imagine K12 was a great place to get mentorship and learn how startups are built, but he and his ClassConnect partners had been given just $20,000 by the incubator, and after the four-month program ended, the money was gone. When his friends left to go back to college, Simons needed another solution.

Imagine K12 is hosted at AOL's Palo Alto campus, and everyone involved gets a building badge. As it turns out, Simons told CNET, the badges kept working, even after the program ended, giving him ongoing access, along with a face that had become familiar to others who worked there.

"I couldn't afford to live anywhere," Simons recalled. "I started living out of AOL's headquarters."

Contacted for comment, David Temkin, senior vice president of Mail and Mobile for AOL, told CNET, "It was always our intention to facilitate entrepreneurialism in the Palo Alto office -- we just didn't expect it to work so well."

For someone with neither money nor an aversion to sleeping on others' couches, the AOL building had plenty of allure. "They had a gym there with showers," Simons said. "I'd take a shower after work. I was like, 'I could totally work here...They have food upstairs, they have every drink on tap. This would be a sweet place to live.'"

Note that Simons said he would work there. After his four months in the incubator, he was used to toiling away at ClassConnect inside the building, and with other programs, from the Stanford-focused incubator StartX to AOL's own First Floor Labs also taking up space there, there was no shortage of non-AOL employees shuffling in and out all the time. But Simons was intent on launching his startup, so why not find a desk and pound away for 12 to 16 hours a day?

"There were so many people going in and out each day," he said. "They'd say, 'Oh, he just works, here, he's working late every night. Wow, what a hard worker.'"

$30 a month
Having spent several months legitimately working in the building, often quite late, Simons had noticed that although there were security guards with nightly rounds, there were at least three couches that seemed outside those patrols. Plus, they looked fairly comfortable. He claimed them.

This was his routine: He'd work until midnight or later, and then fall asleep around 2 a.m. on one of the couches. At 7 a.m. -- and no later than 8 a.m. so he'd be safely out of his field bed before anyone else arrived -- he'd wake up, go down to the gym for a workout and a shower, and then go back upstairs and scarf a breakfast of cereal and water or Coke. Then he'd work all day, finally waiting until everyone else in the building had gone home before returning to one of his three favored couches.

"I got a really good work ethic," he said, "and I got in shape, since I had to work out every morning."

But the real point was that he was spending next to nothing. The first month, he spent just $30, mainly on the occasional trip to McDonald's or for "random food expenditures when I got sick of eating ramen and cereal. I could have not spent a dollar, but I was going crazy."

Then, of course, there was Thanksgiving. That Thursday, to splurge, he grabbed dinner at a local Boston Market.

"It was a game I was playing," he said. "What is the minimum amount of money I can spend each day to stay alive. You do some crazy things."

Some of those crazy things included getting by with the barest of wardrobes. But because he had access to the building gym, he kept everything other than the clothes on his back and his computer there. "I only had maybe five to ten T-shirts, a pair of jeans, and a pair of shorts," he said, "so it all fit in one locker. [Plus] they had their own laundromat there, so I'd wash my clothes there."

Simons could probably have crashed elsewhere, but he wanted to see how long he could make the AOL squatting work. Some friends knew what he was doing, and they thought it was funny. But no one helped him, other than a couple buddies who discussed strategies with him on how to evade security.

"Honestly (though), I didn't think they were going to catch on," Simons said. "I had no indicators that they even cared about that...After the first month, I was like, 'This has worked so far, but this probably isn't sustainable,' so I made sure my friends were OK with" me eventually crashing on their couches.

And then came that fateful morning with the 6 a.m. yelling. "One of the guys who manages the building came in at like 5 or 6 in the morning," Simons lamented, "and he scoured the entire place to find me. And he ripped me a new one. He was pissed that I was treating it like a dorm. Which was reasonable."

Ever the entrepreneur
Though the security guard was angry, he knew that Simons was part of Imagine K12. So no one called the police. He lost his badge, but he still had access to the incubator, and continues to go to the AOL building for meetings to this day. But he treads carefully. "When I'm there, I beeline for the Imagine K12 office," he said, "and when I'm done, I beeline straight for the door."

After moving out of the AOL building, things began looking up financially. Based on the strength of what he'd built for ClassConnect, especially after pivoting and focusing solely on letting teachers share lesson plans, Simons said he was able to score $50,000 in seed funding from Ulu Ventures and Silicon Valley VC Paul Sherer.

"I was aware" of Simons living at AOL, Clint Korver of Ulu Ventures told CNET. "Tenacity and commitment are key attributes of a great entrepreneur. Eric has these in spades as demonstrated by his willingness to do whatever it takes to get his company off the ground."

Now, Simons said, he's looking to raise an additional $500,000.

But one thing the initial $50,000 got for him is a rental house in Palo Alto. It's also made it possible for him to hire an engineer and a couple of interns for ClassConnect, all of whom will share the new pad.

But being the consummate entrepreneur, he decided to use the house to raise extra cash. One of the bedrooms has two bunk beds, so Simons turned the place into a hacker house by renting them out on Airbnb, and trying to make a couple grand a month to help with the rent.

So is Simons just a kid with a particularly honed entrepreneurial spirit?

"Yeah, save money whenever possible, and use all the resources you can," he said. "And don't die. That's basically my motto."


What pregnancy did to our bodies: Six brave mothers reveal the toll having a baby has taken on their figures

Barely a week goes by without yet another celebrity flaunting her enviable bikini body just weeks after having a baby. But few real women manage to snap back into shape so soon after childbirth. Femail asked six brave mothers to reveal the toll pregnancy has taken on their figures.

Natalie Edmonds, 26, is a holistic therapist from Weston-super-Mare, Somerset. She has an 18-month-old son, Elliott. She weighs 12st 3lb and is a size 14. She says her stretch marks were the worst her midwife had ever seen.

It was inevitable I’d get stretch marks. My mother had them when she was expecting me and I’d already developed them as my hips widened during puberty.

For the first three months of my pregnancy, I was so ill I threw up everything. But as the sickness went and I grew more tired I started comfort-eating sausage sandwiches and chocolate. The weight went on my thighs, breasts, face and, of course, stomach.

I noticed my first stretch mark at four months and after that a new one emerged virtually every week.

I told myself it didn’t matter as long as they remained below my belly button, so I could hide them under trousers and skirts. But Elliott was three weeks overdue and as my bump grew bigger, they crept towards my chest.

Even my midwife at Southmead Hospital in Bristol was shocked. She said they were the worst stretch marks she’d ever seen. I was angered by her rudeness but exasperated with my body nonetheless.

I lost the three stone I’d put on within just three weeks of Elliott’s birth in November 2010. I lost my appetite and was shocked by how quickly my weight plummeted.

My stomach had completely lost muscle definition. The sudden weight loss even gave me stretch marks on my breasts and arms.

I’m still breastfeeding, so my body hasn’t completely settled. Aside from a few spinning classes, I don’t have the motivation to exercise. Being a mum takes up all my energy.

After having me, my mother, who’s a size 8, spent decades dieting. She tells me I should do the same. But I don’t want to compete with her. She says my stretch marks are horrible, but I think they’re a mark of what I’ve been through.


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It might sound strange but I’m disappointed they’ve faded to silver and are less visible. I felt like a tiger mum when they were bright red.

I split up with my partner Clemence, 39, a psychiatric nurse, shortly after I fell pregnant. It’s not on my agenda to meet anyone else. I am generally happy with my body although I know my stomach will never look the same again.

Aimee Marshall, 22, is a hairdresser from Braintree, Essex. She has a nine-month-old daughter, Eadie. She weighs 9st and is a size 8-10. Aimee was devastated by the way her breasts looked after giving birth.
Once pert: Amiee hates her saggy bust

Once pert: Amiee hates her saggy bust

Pre-pregnancy, I was a size 6 with pert 32E breasts. I was so proud of them. I showed them off in low-cut tops and was full of confidence.

I’d only been with my boyfriend for eight weeks and was on the Pill when I found out I was expecting. I was shocked but soon grew excited. I only put on a stone and my bump didn’t become obvious until I was six months pregnant.

That’s not to say I didn’t look like a wreck. The beautiful blooming pregnancy body is a myth. Because of the hormones, I developed strange moles and psoriasis that spread down my forehead and cheeks.

Eadie was born by emergency C-section four weeks prematurely last August at Broomfield Hospital in Chelmsford. I had a condition called placenta abruption, in which my placenta developed a hole and Eadie’s heartbeat slowed.

She was rushed to the neo-natal unit and the midwives encouraged me to express milk for her. I ended up with excruciating mastitis. Both breasts tripled in size and developed a greenish hue.

They were so painful and lumpy I couldn’t sleep. I’d watch in floods of tears as the other new mums breastfed their babies. We left hospital five days later and I was given antibiotics. My breasts went back to a G-cup then six weeks later, when I stopped feeding Eadie, they started to shrink.

Although my bra size only went down to an F cup, the skin had stretched so much they looked like empty sacks — I was devastated.

It took three months for my stomach to go down and I am still self-conscious about the red C-section scar. I haven’t lost the stone I put on but the only thing that really bothers me is my cleavage. It feels as if I’ve lost part of my identity.

I went to see a surgeon last month about having my breasts lifted and implants inserted and I’m saving up for the £5,600 cost.

It has affected my confidence. Eadie’s dad and I split up when I was six months pregnant and I’m too embarrassed to even contemplate another physical relationship.

I haven’t been put off having more children but wish I’d been aware of the havoc it would cause my body. Mums-to-be should know that they will never look the same again.

Jessica Armstrong, 20, is a singer from Sheffield. She has a three-month-old daughter, Nevaya. She weighs 11st 7lb and is a size 12. She lost two stone during her pregnancy.
Changed ways: Jessica's slimmer than before having a baby because she wanted to eat healthily for the sake of her child

Changed ways: Jessica's slimmer than before having a baby because she wanted to eat healthily for the sake of her child

Before I became a mother, I had lumps and bumps on my hips, stomach and bottom. I weighed 13st 7lb and was a size 16, but for many years I wasn’t bothered enough by my size to sacrifice my beloved takeaways.

Then, exactly three days after I’d actually resolved to do something about my weight and started the Dukan diet, I discovered I was pregnant. I’d been with my partner for three years and we were delighted.

Suddenly, my desire for junk food disappeared. The only foods I craved were ones it wasn’t safe to eat because of the increased risk of food poisoning — prawns and smoked salmon were what I wanted most, but obviously I couldn’t eat them. So, after the first trimester I’d lost a stone.

My appetite never returned and I lost two stone in total. It was so different to how I’d anticipated pregnancy would be that I kept going back to my GP. But they told me it was no cause for concern.

Immediately after Nevaya was born this February at Chesterfield Hospital, Derbyshire, I was a size 14 and could see my collarbone for the first time. After two weeks, I shrunk to a size 12 and had to buy a whole new wardrobe.

The change in my body was quite disconcerting. My breasts swelled from a D to an E cup as I breastfed and for the first time in my life, I was slim with a large cleavage. I’m making a conscious effort to eat healthily so Navaya receives the right nutrients, so it’s perhaps not surprising that I’ve kept the weight off.

I know I’m lucky. But it’s still been a bit of a shock to change shape so dramatically.

Natalia Russell, 37, is a receptionist from Tunbridge Wells, Kent. She has a 15-month-old son, Rian, is a size 10–12 and weighs 8st 7lb. Her legs have got bigger and she’s developed cellulite.
Thigh's the limit: Natalia dislikes her wobbly thighs

Thigh's the limit: Natalia dislikes her wobbly thighs

Looking back at my body pre-pregnancy I think I was too thin, but my legs were much better than they are today. I weighed 8st, was a size 8 and went to the gym twice a week.

Both myself and my partner Mark, 29, a financial supervisor, were thrilled when I fell pregnant, even though I was sick every morning for the first trimester.

I put on two-and-a-half stone with most of the weight going on my bottom and my legs. I accepted it as a part of being pregnant.

Rian was born last February at Pembury Hospital in Tunbridge Wells. I didn’t feel the immediate bond I’d hoped for and for a few days afterwards I couldn’t stop crying. My stomach looked like jelly.

As it started to go down, my legs looked bigger in comparison. But I vowed to enjoy spending time with Rian rather than put pressure on myself to go to the gym and lose weight.

Being tired makes me eat more, as did breastfeeding. My appetite is bigger than it was pre-pregnancy. I need the energy to look after Rian and I think my stomach has probably stretched and got used to needing more food.

I’ve also developed cellulite. I bought a skin brush and expensive creams, but they haven’t made any difference.

In the end it was six months before I was back in size 12 jeans. I’m still 7lb heavier than I was, but don’t think I need to lose any more weight.I’d love my legs to be more toned. They are bigger and wobblier. But I don’t have time to go to the gym.

My tummy is also wobbly, whereas before it was naturally flat. If I’m not too exhausted, I do 30 sit-ups before I go to bed. I wear trousers more than skirts these days to cover my legs.

There’s not much opportunity for looking glamorous, but I’m proud of my body. As Mark says if I’m feeling low, my body may be bigger than it used to be, but it’s given us our son.

Rachel Barker, 30, is a full-time mum from Colchester, Essex. She has three children, Kaden, five, Mason, three and Deacon, one. Rachel weighs 10st and is size 12–14. She says three births, including two C-sections, have taken their toll on her stomach.
Baby weight: Rachel loathes her 'jelly belly'

Baby weight: Rachel loathes her 'jelly belly'

I’ve lost a lot of confidence in the way I look since became a mother. It didn’t happen straight away. After Kaden was born in June 2006, I ended up a stone heavier. But during my second pregnancy, I craved cakes and biscuits and put on two stone. I loved the excuse pregnancy gave me not to worry about my weight.

When I went into labour with Mason he was in breech position so I had to have an elective Caesarean section. I was upset as I’d wanted another natural birth.

Afterwards, I was confined to bed for four days. I was shocked by the four-inch scar just below the top of my knicker line. I’d given birth to Kaden and Mason in a hospital in Alicante, Spain, as my husband Kevin, who is an engineer, and I were living there at the time.

I’m not convinced the surgeon did a good job. The skin around the scar was purple and bruised. It was painful to shower. I couldn’t pick up my children for the first week and couldn’t do much else for several weeks after that. My immobility made it harder to lose weight.

Even after a year, I struggled to lose the final half stone and get back into my size 12 jeans. I couldn’t bring myself to throw them out, so they stayed at the back of my wardrobe, upsetting me.

My third pregnancy was even harder. I craved crisps as well as sweet food. I still only put on two stone, but felt bigger, as if the cumulative effect of three pregnancies had taken their toll on my body.

Five months in, I discovered I had a complication called anti-E, which meant antibodies in my blood were attacking that of my unborn child. It increased the risks of a natural birth, so I had to have another C-section.

We’d moved back to Britain in December 2009 and Deacon was born in Southend Hospital in Essex last May. This time the incision — made in the same place — was neater and less painful.

But my scar is still red and I’ve got a massive flabby tummy. The tops of my legs are fatter and my bottom is bigger.

The only body parts I am happy with are my 32D breasts.

I’m a stone heavier than I was before I became a mum. I feel more womanly because of what my body has done, but less attractive.

Kevin says I’m still beautiful but it has affected our marriage — I always wear pyjamas in bed. I’ve accepted I’m going to remain this size and I’m learning to live with it.

Aoife Johns, 27, is a stay-at-home mum from Harrow, London. Her son Cian is 22 months old. She weighs 8st 9lb and is a size 8-10. She thought the changes to her body after childbirth would be far worse than they were.
Pleasantly surprised: Aoife hasn't changed a bit

Pleasantly surprised: Aoife hasn't changed a bit

I was pleasantly surprised by my post-pregnancy body. I’ve never liked my wobbly tummy and worried that after I gave birth the skin on my stomach would hang down round my ankles, but although it is a bit loose it doesn’t bother me.

I carried on with my normal diet and excitedly awaited my bump. I used to stand in front of the mirror pushing my tummy out and willing it to happen.

Out of fear of something going wrong, my boyfriend of four years, Ted, 27, a builder, and I didn’t tell anyone we were having a baby until I was six months pregnant. I hid under baggy clothes and nobody noticed.

I put on two stone in total. Cian was born in Northwick Park Hospital in July 2010. Shortly after he arrived, I had a shower and looked in the hospital mirror. I was shocked by my wrinkly stomach but I’d expected to look far worse.

After labour, I developed sciatica, caused by a trapped nerve. It was more painful than the labour itself. I could barely pick Cian up and felt really down. My doctor told me I had post-natal depression at my six-week check-up but I think I was just overwhelmed. Ted was endlessly supportive.

Being fit enough to go for walks with Cian after eight weeks was a huge boost but I didn’t get back to my pre-pregnancy weight until he was six months.

I realised I’d done it as I managed to pull on a favourite red dress for Cian’s Christening. It was a brilliant feeling and all the better knowing I’d done it by just eating sensibly.

I do yoga once a week, walk three miles every other day and have just joined a jogging club.

I don’t have much muscle tone and I’m not going to be flashing much flesh in the near future. But all in all, I don’t think I look much different.

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Monday, May 21, 2012


5 Stocks Ready to Boost Dividends

Here’s some food for thought: According to research from Wharton Professor Jeremy Siegel, reinvested dividends account for 97 percent of total market performance. So it shouldn’t be a big surprise that finding dividend increasers is a big priority for investors hard pressed to find gains in May.

And when it comes to dividends, food stocks sport yields and rate hikes that would make any income investor salivate right now. That’s why we’re focusing on dividends in five food-related stocks today.

But we’re not waiting for food firms to announce dividend hikes. Instead, we’re focusing on the future, taking a look at five companies that are likely to boost their dividend payouts in the next quarter.

For our purposes, that “crystal ball” is composed of a few factors: namely a solid balance sheet, a low payout ratio, and a history of dividend hikes. While those items don’t guarantee dividend announcements in the next month or two, they do dramatically increase the odds that management will hike their cash payouts, especially as investors start to get antsy about stock performance in 2012.

Without further ado, here’s a look at five food stocks that could be about to increase their dividend payments in the next quarter.

1. Kellogg

First up this week is cereal giant Kellogg [K 50.37 --- UNCH ]. This $18 billion firm owns some of the best-selling cereal brands in Americans’ pantries — and at the same time, it has built up its convenience food brand portfolio to include household names such as Keebler, Ego, and Morningstar Farms. Embracing convenience food trends and international growth should lead to increased shareholder returns for Kellogg in 2012.

Kellogg has done a good job of innovating in the last few years, digging an economic moat around brands like Special K, and developing new non-cereal offerings that increase the revenues that the firm collects from its best customers. The firm’s decision to acquire the Pringles brand should do a good job of diversifying Kellogg’s offerings into the chip aisle of grocery stores.

At the same time, Kellogg has slowly been making more traditional inroads into emerging markets. At present, the firm generates around a third of its sales overseas, leaving plenty of room for that number to grow in the long-term. While neglected emerging market tastes has been a conspicuous shortfall on Kellogg’s top line, the firm is putting more efforts into selling its wares in growth economies this year.

Kellogg has paid out a quarterly 43 cent per share dividend for the past three quarters — that’s a 3.4 percent yield at current levels. With a payout ratio that’s lagging Kellogg’s cash generation, investors should be in store for a dividend hike.

2.H.J. Heinz

HJ. Heinz [HNZ 53.97 -0.13 (-0.24%) ] is another firm that’s focusing on emerging market growth in 2012. The condiment giant may be best known for its namesake ketchup brand, but it also produces everything from soup and baby food to Ore-Ida frozen French fries.

Still, the Heinz brand adds some serious power to the firm’s top line — alone, it’s around 40 percent of sales. All of those little free ketchup packets at fast food restaurants make up a whopping 15 percent of Heinz’s $10 billion in annual revenue.

This firm is significantly less U.S.-centric than Kellogg — right now, more than 60 percent of Heinz’s sales come from abroad. Of that, 20 percent is earned in emerging markets. That entrenchment in growth markets is especially attractive as consumers start earning more, after all, food is generally the first thing that gets upgraded as people move up into the middle class.

Like other food producers, Heinz has been pressured by increasing input costs as inflation [cnbc explains] worked its way into cost of goods sold on the income statement. Still, the earnings impact of those rising costs has been a lot less than Wall Street’s expectations — and with commodity prices cooling off in 2012, a major margin squeeze isn’t a huge concern.

Heinz pays out a quarterly 48 cent per share dividend, a payout that currently yields 3.51 percent. Heinz has been paying out that same dividend for the last four quarters — now I think investors should be anticipating a modest hike in the payout. We’ll see if I’m right when the firm announces its earnings on May 24.

3. J.M. Smucker

Acquisitions have been J.M. Smucker [SJM 76.58 0.27 (+0.35%) ] path to growth for the past few years — the peanut butter and jelly firm made a major buy when it acquired the Folgers brand in 2008, transforming its operations to absorb the coffee giant. And now, in 2012, Smucker is dipping its toe in the Chinese market with an investment in an oat manufactuerer in the People's Republic. While the company’s foray into China isn’t material yet, it’s an important first step toward bringing over the firm’s massive portfolio of brands to the Chinese market.

Smucker’s market share dominance means that the firm is able to command the best positioning in its categories on grocery shelves, and it can also command favorable terms when it works out pricing with those grocers. The result is net margins that typically ring in just shy of double-digits and plenty of cash generation.

Because of the company’s hefty exposure to coffee, which trades directly in the commodity pits, the firm suffers when commodity prices are strong. With coffee’s sharp pullback from early 2012 highs, Smucker’s should get some extra room in its bottom line.

After four quarters with its quarterly dividend payout at 48 cents per share, Smucker’s shareholders are due for a rate hike. After all, the company targets a payout ratio of 40 percent. That should increase the 2.48 percent yield that investors are currently earning on shares.

4. Darden Restaurants

It’s been a good year for shares of Darden Restaurants [DRI 52.15 1.02 (+1.99%) ]; the $6.7 billion dining stock has seen its shares rally by more than 13.5 percent since the first trading day in January. Now, a possible dividend hike could add a heftier cash payout onto those capital gains.

Darden owns full-service restaurant chains like Red Lobster, Olive Garden, and LongHorn Steakhouse — more than 1,800 North American locations in all. It’s the sole name on this list of food-centric stocks that isn’t a manufacturer — and the casual dining firm that’s best been able to succeed in this challenging economic environment.

One key to Darden’s success has been its willingness to step into new dining concepts; the acquisition of higher-end Capital Grille and the new healthier Seasons 52 brand are two examples of how Darden isn’t just diversifying cuisine to achieve growth. And in spite of the consumer spending crunch that hamstrung rivals during the recession [cnbc explains] , top-line growth is exactly what Darden turned out.

Currently, Darden pays a 43 cent dividend each quarter — a 3.32 percent yield at current levels. I’m expecting that number to increase in the next quarter.

5. Molson Coors Brewing

Last up is Molson Coors Brewing, not a food stock per se, no matter what beer enthusiasts may say about the firm’s Granville Killarney Stout. But Molson ebbs and flows from the same forces that impact food processing names, and it’s another firm that I see hiking its dividend payout in the next quarter. Currently, Molson yields 3.2 percent.

Molson is one of the largest beer brewers in the world, with brands that include the eponymous Molson and Coors, as well as Blue Moon, Keystone, and Miller Lite (the latter through a joint venture with SABMiller here in the U.S.). While the firm has had some issues with currency translation costs (it earns significant revenues abroad, which have to be converted to dollars for financial reporting), a weaker dollar scenario in the future points to higher quality earnings for Molson.

Investors should anticipate hearing the next word on dividends from Molson by the firm’s second-quarter earnings call on Aug. 7. That’s when I expect they’ll hike their 32-cent quarterly payout.

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Sunday, May 20, 2012

Woman viciously attacked

Do-gooders beware! Woman viciously attacked after returning lost iPhone to its rightful owners

A Fredericksburg, Virginia, resident thought she was doing the right thing when she returned a lost iPhone to its owners, but what she did not know is that it is going to end in her beating.

The 53-year-old victim told police that she spotted an iPhone outside a 7-Eleven store on Lafayette Boulevard while shopping on Wednesday evening.

The woman was able to reach the owner, and they arranged a meeting so that she could give the iPhone back, NBC Washington has reported.

Officials said the owner of the phone even offered a small reward in exchange for the return of the phone.

The unidentified victim met the owner and his female companion near Mr Dee’s Restaurant on Lafayette Boulevard, according to police.

Once the phone exchanged hands, the Good Samaritan was given a small amount of money in return, but that is when things started to go wrong.

The victim told police that she was walking away when the man grabbed her from behind and hurled her to the ground.

The assailant took the cash back and kicked the woman while she was still sprawled on the ground, officials said.

The iPhone owners were last seen driving away in a gold-colored Honda Accord.

The condition of the 53-year-old woman remains unknown.

Read more:

Mad Asian

Saturday, May 19, 2012

It's coming! Apple registers as sources reveal next phone will be the last model designed by Steve Jobs

Apple has registered domain name, amid rumours that the next model of the mould-breaking smartphone will be the final model designed by late founder Steve Jobs.

The tech giant filed a case with the World Intellectual Property Organisation to wrest control of the internet address, which had been used by a Apple fan forum site.

The move comes ahead of rumours that Apple is gearing up to release the next incarnation of the iPhone this autumn, with a major overhaul of its design over seen by Mr Jobs prior to his death.

Bloomberg cited a source 'with knowledge of the plans' surrounding the new iPhone who claimed that Mr Jobs played a key role in the development of the device, even while on medical leave from his company.

The company has since placed orders for bigger screens that the 3.5in size the phone currently boasts as it tries to catch up with rivals like Samsung.

In the first quarter of this year Samsung overtook Apple as the world's biggest smartphone manufacturer, with a range of products using screens of various sizes.

The new iPhone screens will measure 4 inches from corner to corner, one source said. That would represent a roughly 30 per cent increase in viewing area, assuming Apple kept other dimensions proportional.

Apple has used a 3.5-inch screen since introducing the iPhone in 2007.

Early production of the new screens has begun at three suppliers: Korea's LG Display Co Ltd, Sharp Corp and Japan Display Inc, a Japanese government-brokered merger combining the screen production of three companies.

It is likely all three of the screen suppliers will get production orders from Apple, which could begin as soon as June.

That would allow the new iPhone to go into production as soon as August, if the company follows its own precedent in moving from orders for prototypes for key components to launch.

Apple's decision to equip the next iPhone with a larger screen represents part of a competitive response to Samsung, which unveiled its top-of-the line Galaxy smartphone with a 4.8-inch touch-screen and a faster processor earlier this month.

With consumers becoming more and more comfortable using smartphones for tasks they once performed on laptops, like watching video, other smartphone manufacturers have also moved toward bigger displays.

A likely shakeup in the design of a larger-screen iPhone could go a long way in boosting its 'wow' factor, convincing fans to trade in their old iPhones for new ones, said Shaw Wu, an analyst at Sterne Agee.

'Not only do users pay for features, but they also pay for aesthetics and design. That's as important, or more important, than features,' Mr Wu said.

'People love the current design — but it's 18 months old.'

The latest iPhone 4S was introduced in October of last year and essentially has the same form factor as the iPhone 4, launched in 2010.

Samsung, which this year became the world's largest mobile phone maker, sold 45million smartphones in the first quarter, and sales of the Galaxy phones outstripped the iPhone.

In addition to being Apple's rival, Samsung is also a major components supplier to the U.S. computer, tablet and phone manufacturer.

The share of the production of new screens that go to each of the three manufacturers working with Apple has not been determined, one source said.

Sales of the touchscreen iPhone now account for about one-half of Apple's total sales, and the phone has been a key source of growth for the company in Asia.

A report in March by a South Korea business newspaper said Apple would use a 'retina' display on the next iPhone, the same technology in its latest iPad that enhance image quality.

With the hotly expected iPhone release winding the internet rumour mill up to full speed, one of the more unusual pieces of Apple related gossip claims that Mr Jobs was very interested in designing a car towards the end of his life.

Mickey Drexler, the CEO of J.Crew and a member of Apple’s board, told Business Insider this week that Mr Jobs's 'dream' shortly prior to his death was to design an 'iCar'.

Mr Drexler goes on to claim that if Mr Jobs had got around to designing such an automobile, it would have been likely to take 50 per cent of the market.

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Man Who Fathered 30 Kids Says He Needs A Break—on Child Support

Man who fathered THIRTY kids with 11 different women says he needs a break - from child support

A man who has fathered 30 children by 11 different women is asking the courts to give him a break from paying child-support.

Desmond Hatchett, 33, of Knoxville, Tennessee, has reportedly set a Knox County record for the number of children he has managed to reproduce with individual women, including one who worked for Victoria's Secret.

However, Hatchett is claiming to be a victim of his own success with the ladies, as he has become unable to make child-support payments and was back in court again this month asking for help.

Only bringing in a minimum wage salary, Hatchett legally has half of his pay check taken from him by the state every month which is divided among his 30 children.

In theory, Hatchett's obligations to his children would have him paying anywhere from $25 to $309 to the mothers of his enormous brood.

In reality, after half his pay is deducted, the virile dad is only able to provide the mother's of his children the paltry sum of $1.49 a month.

The child support payments are based in part on the ages and needs of the children that Hatchett has produced and the 33-year-old's oldest child is 14-years-old.

Desmond explained to how it all snowballed out of control financially for him: 'I had four kids in the same year. Twice.'

Asked in a TV interview whether he can 'keep up with it all', the 33-year-old said he knows all their names, ages and birth dates.

In 2009 when he first appeared in court on charges that most of the mothers were not receiving child support, he had 21 children.

At the time, he said he was not going to father any more kids, but he ended up having nine more in the past three years.

He said: 'I didn't intend to have this many, it just happened.'

When asked about the state of affairs with Hatchett, the Knox County child support clerk's office assumed a resigned air.

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Friday, May 18, 2012

Will Smith ATTACKS Kissy Reporter

Will Smith just slapped a Ukrainian reporter across the face at the Moscow premiere of "Men in Black 3" -- and it was all caught on tape.

The Ukrainian reporter tries to kiss Will on the lips on the red carpet and the actor angrily pushes him away and then backhands him across the face.

You can clearly see that Will is incredibly pissed that the guy showed overt affection toward him.

After Will slaps the guy, Will says, "He's lucky I didn't sucker punch him."

We're told the dude who kissed Will is a television reporter who often kisses celebrities -- it's his schtick.

For the record, Will just came out in support of gay marriage.

A source on scene tells TMZ, the reporter's mouth brushed up against Will's and that's why the actor reacted so violently. Despite the incident, Will stayed positive ... and happily continued to sign autographs for fans and do red carpet interviews.