Friday, December 31, 2010

UPDATE

 

Pilot Defends Exposing San Francisco International Airport Security On Youtube 

A pilot who posted YouTube videos criticizing security at San Francisco International Airport said Tuesday he is shocked at the national uproar they've created.


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FAA approves the iPad for pilots in-flight

The next time you're on an airplane, think about this story, and realize that technology is advancing so quickly, every day. Some pilots are using iPads while they're in the air. 

Pilot jeff curl has a one-and-a-half pound piece of cargo on board his lear jet that's helping change the face of aviation.   

"I knew it would come," he said. "Yeah, I saw it coming."   

A Tablet of titanium and technology that's putting pilots at ease. 

"I have the worldwide charts on the iPad right now. It's available with just a couple of finger swipes or touches."   

The FAA has approved the iPad's use, as long as it's strictly a secondary tool, along with the traditional paper charts.   

"I can see the route structure and decide what kind of route I want to file. I can also just pull up my radar, and see that I probably don't want to just go straight, 'cuz I've got a huge line of thunderstorms." 
 
Captain Curl says the technology will also help private and commercial airlines track maintenance problems on their fleets. it could eventually cut down on travel delays by saving pilots time.   

"It's collecting the information at the source, rather than in pen, and being mailed in, and having to be entered by someone else."   

But there are safety concerns that pilots say must be fully tested before the ipad could be considered a trusted resource. 

"Possible reports that some people have had issues with them overheating, and obviously that's a very big safety concern for us. I'm not going to jump on any technology that hasn't gone through thorough testing."  

That's why the closetful of paper charts aren't far away from captain curl's reach. but, he predicts the day is near.   

"This is what it's going to look like flying into
Aspen."

One aviation columnist says the iPad will eventually make it easier for pilots to keep track of information and ensure them the most up-to-date data.





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UPDATE




Crystal Harris does not plan children with Hugh Hefner

 
The Future of "Playboy" - Founder Hugh Hefner, Crystal Harris wants no children. "I've never been someone who wanted children," said the 24 - Year-old in an interview with "E! Online.

You have a lot of projects in which they work and that made her fun. These projects they will pursue.

Harris said the two would like to marry in the summer. There should be an event in a small circle, with "close friends and family." For a marriage contract, Harris would have nothing. "I have my music and other things that I do -
so if he wants it, go ahead. I know about such things anyway. And I do not care. "

The 84-year-old Hefner had in the past year by the Playmate Kimberly Conrad divorce, with whom he was married since 1989. They have two sons and lived together for eleven years already separated. The marriage to Harris would Hefner third marriage. Also originate from his first two children.



 
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Thousands of Australians fleeing flood

 

Thousands of Australians flee to the east of the continent from the worst floods in 50 years. Many residents of flooded towns were taken by air to safety. Relaxation is characterized not so far off: The authorities fear that the disaster will last for weeks.

The rainfall in the northeastern state of Queensland exceeds the usual rainfall for the four-fold. Queensland's Anna Bligh Governor spoke of a huge damage to homeowners, farmers and businessmen. Crops were destroyed, closed ports and coal mines flooded.

Overall, some 200,000 people affected by the floods. Thousands of people were brought to safety, many by helicopter. Some residents of the evacuated town of Condamine but also refused to leave their homes - they were afraid of looters wanted to or not leave their pets.

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard visited the worst affected village Bundaberg. There, at least 120 houses were flooded. The authorities have warned that food may be scarce. Also, could spread diseases, because the flooding water tank flooded.

"The rising waters have washed down the rivers so much debris that the water supply of cities has been blocked," said the director of utilities in the province, Smith Sound. The river water is often contaminated by inflows, at normal levels not reached in the water

Australian coal producers have warned their clients in Japan, South Korea and China already promised that their supplies will not arrive on time. Exports from Queensland to cover about half of global coke consumption. Experts expect therefore that the shortage is driven by the storms of the world market price of coke by 20 percent within three months upwards.




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UPDATE





Apple May Face More Privacy Lawsuits 

 

Without definitive laws defining data privacy rights, Apple and other companies involved in developing mobile applications are likely to be targeted by consumers turning to the courts for protection

Apple and several application developers sued for allegedly misusing the personal data of iPhone and iPad users are likely to face more lawsuits in the future as consumers turn to the courts for privacy protection.

Apple and the creators of Backflip, Dictionary.com, Pandora, The Weather Channel, and other applications were named in two class action lawsuits filed last week in U.S. District Court in San Jose, Calif., The Washington Post reported. The suits seek to prevent the applications from sharing personal data found on iPhones and iPads, including ages, gender, location, and a unique device identifying number that Apple assigns to each of its mobile devices.
The lawsuits come as federal officials debate over what actions government should take to protect privacy as companies look to profit from ad-supported application services on smartphones and other mobile devices. The Federal Trade Commission recommended this month that consumers be offered a no-tracking option before signing up for services, while the Commerce Department favors establishing a code of conduct that businesses could voluntarily agree to follow. Once the commitment is made, businesses would be monitored to ensure the rules are followed.
While privacy is being debated in government, the latest suits are an indication that consumers are turning to the courts for protection and that trend is likely to continue. "I would not be surprise if there were more lawsuits," Kevin D. Pomfret, a lawyer who advises businesses on privacy issues for the national law firm LeClairRyan, told InformationWeek Wednesday. "This is an area where the law is unclear."
Apple did not respond to a request for comment.
One of the lawsuits was filed by the firm KamberLaw on behalf of Jonathan Lalo of Los Angeles County. KamberLaw specializes in digital privacy cases. The second suit was filed by Dallas lawyer Majed Nachawati of Fears and Nachawati, which is looking to represent Texas and California iPhone and iPad users in the class-action complaint. Both lawsuits accuse the companies of violating federal computer fraud and privacy laws.
To avoid being named in a privacy suit, Pomfret is advising companies to consider carefully why they need user data and be sure to use it only for the purposes approved in advance by the owners of that data. In addition, companies need to be sure that data shared with other companies is not used for other purposes without prior approval. "Unfortunately, there's no clear-cut answer right now, because of the uncertainty," he says.




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You want to play with my Playstation?


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Administrators rail against TV Autopsy of Michael Jackson 

 

The two administrators, Michael Jackson have asked the American Discovery Channel, dispensing with a planned show in which the autopsy of the corpse of the "King of Pop" is to be adjusted.

In a letter to the entertainment business they write, the planned show vehicles of "appalling bad taste and lack of consideration for the feelings of the Jackson- Family.

They accuse the company of exploiting the death of Michael Jackson, while trying cynically to make the public believe that the show had a medicinal value. Especially on the Internet published commercial for Michael Jackson's Autopsy "has angered them. The section in which a hand is seen in a glove, peering under a shroud it, it ill, wrote the executor.


Discovery sees the obvious as clever advertising. But in fact, played down such advertising to Jackson's death. She is poor, sick and insensitive, "says the letter. On behalf of the Jackson-
Family, the fans and of common sense and decency to ask for a cancellation of the show.




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 UPDATE
   



Danish Newspaper Plotter Has Close Ties to Former Gitmo Detainee, Both Were Arrested Carrying a Suicide Belt In Pakistan…

 One of the suspects arrested in connection with the recently foiled terrorist plot against Jyllands-Posten, a Danish newspaper that printed cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammed, has been arrested twice before.

Munir Awad was among the suspects arrested earlier this week for plotting to kill employees at the Danish newspaper, according to The Local, a Swedish publication. Awad had been arrested twice before because of his suspected ties to the terror network -- once by Ethiopian forces in Somalia and a second time in Pakistan.
On both of the previous occasions, Awad and his supporters claimed that he and his traveling companions were merely vacationing.

  Former Guantanamo detainee Mehdi Ghezali's Swedish passport. Ghezali was arrested in 2009 in Pakistan along with Munir Awad, the primary suspect in the most recently foiled Danish newspaper plot. Image from The Associated Press/Washington Times..

"Vacationing" in Somalia
In 2007, Awad and his girlfriend, the then 17-year-old Saifa Benaouda, were detained in Somalia. They were suspected of answering the call for jihad. New recruits were streaming into Somalia from around the world at the time.
But the worldwide press ran Benaouda's story that she and Awad were just a young couple mixed up in a foreign adventure. For instance, The New York Times published an account entitled, "Young Tourists Pick Somalia, and a 3-Nation Ordeal Begins." The Times described Benaouda as having a "blend of naiveté and a love of travel" and explained that she and Awad just happened upon Somalia while in pursuit of an "authentic" Muslim vacation.
Benaouda, according to the Times, "disavow[ed] any political or religious motive for her venture into Somalia, and says her boyfriend is also not political." The Times concluded its piece by assuring readers: "While there is no telling whether there are similar adventures in store for Ms. Benaouda as she exercises her wanderlust, her immediate future promises to be uneventful."
Benaouda's passport had supposedly been confiscated by American soldiers, according to the Times, and Ms. Benaouda's mother, who heads a prominent Muslim organization in Sweden, "had no intention of signing the parental consent form that a minor needed to get another one."

2009 arrests in northern Pakistan

In August 2009, Benaouda and Awad, along with their young son, were arrested again. This time they were traveling to northern Pakistan. A former Guantanamo detainee named Mehdi Ghezali was part of their traveling party and was arrested as well.
The Swedish press has reported that Ghezali had previously served 10 months in prison in Portugal because he was suspected of burglarizing tourists and stores. He was freed and attempted to study Islam in Saudi Arabia, but failed to do so. He traveled to London where he may have studied under Omar Bakri Muhammad, a notorious jihadist preacher.
Ghezali then made his way to Pakistan and Afghanistan, where he claims he stayed with family. Press reports indicate that he is suspected of staying in a notorious al Qaeda safehouse in Jalalabad instead. Ghezali was arrested in Pakistan in December 2001.
"Ghezali reportedly was part of a group of 156 suspected al-Qaida fighters caught while fleeing Afghanistan's Tora Bora mountains," according to the Associated Press.
Ghezali was sent to Guantanamo and his story became a cause for attorneys and activists in Sweden who portrayed him as a wrongly-detained innocent. In July 2004, Ghezali was transferred from Cuba to Sweden.
But the controversy surrounding Ghezali was not over. Five years after he left Gitmo, Ghezali, along with Awad, Benouada, and nine others, was detained in northern Pakistan. The group had traveled through Iran, and one member of the entourage was an Iranian.

Shortly thereafter, another Muslim Swede, Sahbi Zalouti, was arrested in the same area of Pakistan. Zalouti was also picked up this week in connection with the plot against Jyllands-Posten.

Through their attorneys, Benaouada, Awad, and Ghezali all professed their innocence, claiming they were simply on a pilgrimage to a "larger Pakistani city" in order to celebrate Ramadan.
Pakistani authorities claimed otherwise.
Expressen, a Swedish newspaper, reported that the group may have had the Danish embassy in Islamabad in its sights. A bomb belt, $10,000 in cash stuffed in diapers, maps, and other "detailed information" concerning Western embassies were reportedly found in the group's possession. If this is true, then it is possible the group had planned an operation similar to the plot against Jyllands-Posten, targeting the Danish embassy as retribution for the controversial cartoons.
The Local explains that the "Swedes were part of a group of foreigners thought by Pakistani police to be travelling in the company of a terror suspect who was bringing the group to the lawless region of northern Waziristan to meet Zahir Noor, a suspected Taliban leader."
According to yet another Swedish publication, Aftonbladet, "the group's 20-year-old Pakistani guide exposed the Swedes, and confessed to having had the task of taking them to a local leader with connections to al-Qaida."
And in an interview with the Associated Press after the arrests, Mohammad Rizwan, a Pakistani police chief, described Ghezali as "a very dangerous man."
"Mumbai-style" plot
Awad is one of three suspects arrested in Denmark on Wednesday. Zalouti was arrested in Sweden. European officials have concluded that the four intended to launch a "Mumbai-style" plot against Jyllands-Posten.
The three men who were brought before a Danish court "were accused of being in possession of a machine pistol, a 9-millimeter pistol, ammunition for both and a silencer," according to The New York Times. Quoting from a Danish charge sheet, the Times explains that the men picked up the weapons in Sweden and "then on Dec. 29, 2010, drove into Denmark from Sweden, where using the weapons, they intended to attack Jyllands-Posten and kill an unknown number of people."
Thus far, the press has not reported that Awad or his alleged co-conspirators really intended to vacation in Denmark.







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Ring in New Years, Watch the lowering of the Queen Conch Shell at the stroke of midnight to ring in 2011.      
Live from the roof of Sloppy Joe's Bar at the corner of Greene and Duval in Key West.
 
You’re not in New York anymore, Toto.  As midnight approaches Friday, Dec. 31, Key West gets pretty bizarre.

Thousands of spectators gather for the annual gala, emceed by a rooftop host and featuring a countdown to midnight recorded on a huge clock. At midnight, the shell descends and cheers erupt. Live music on Sloppy Joe’s indoor stage is to round out the revelry.

Watch the crowd gather to ring in 2011 with our 18th Annual Dropping of the Conch Shell. Sloppy Joe's will lower the Queen Conch Shell at the stroke of midnight to ring in 2011.
Created by local artist Tobias McGregor the New Year's Eve event began in 1993. Then the Conch Shell only stood two feet high. The Conch Shell, as well as the gathering to watch the annual event has grown considerably.
The idea and implementation of the Conch Shell is that of McGregor. In 1993, McGregor approach Sloppy Joe's management about the New Year's Eve plan.
"Before the Dropping of the Conch Shell, everyone would just wander around Duval Street celebrating New Year when their watches read midnight. The crowd was just not in sync," said McGregor.
The initial Conch Shell was rigged on a frame, the shell was lowered manually, and timed by watch, or by looking across the street into a window and watching the count down in Times Square on someone's TV. Now the Conch Shell is a six-foot Queen Conch, proudly standing twenty feet atop the roof of Sloppy Joe's Bar. The Conch shell runs on a motorized track and is synchronized with the clock and lights. A rooftop host entertains the crowd as everyone in the streets dance, catch beads and waits for the count down clock to begin. As midnight strikes the Conch Shell will drop and confetti sprayed onto those gathered below.

WATCH LIVE
CLICK HERE           

http://www.sloppyjoes.com/conchshellevent.htm

 

 

 


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Playboy mansion? More like a squalid prison: Former Playmates tell of 'grubby' world inside Hugh Hefner's empire



The marriage proposal was apparently a rather romantic affair. On Christmas Eve, the couple watched a late-night movie together and then exchanged gifts: for him a framed photograph of their King Charles Spaniel, for her an engagement ring.
‘She burst into tears,’ he revealed on Twitter at the weekend. ‘This is the happiest Christmas in memory.’
‘The most memorable Christmas ever,’ she tweeted in agreement. ‘I love him.’
All of which might be rather more touching if the ­prospective groom was not Playboy tycoon Hugh Hefner who, at 84, is 60 years older than his fiancee, a platinum blond model named Crystal Harris.


 Match made in heaven?: Hugh Hefner has become engaged to Crystal Harris over Christmas - despite the 60 year age difference between the couple


That Hefner should choose to share details of this intimate moment with the world quite so soon after his proposal is typical of this flamboyant self-publicist.



His image as a fast-living Lothario has done much to make a success of the Playboy brand, and news of his impending nuptials to a woman young enough to be his great-granddaughter will further promote the idea of him as a lovable old rascal who has plenty of life in him yet. 
This is certainly the image Hefner likes to project to the celebrities drawn to his lavishly debauched ­parties at the Playboy Mansion in Los Angeles. The attractions there include a games house, with two guestrooms equipped with only a bed, a ceiling mirror and a phone.
Charlie Sheen, Leonardo DiCaprio and Colin Farrell are among the stars who have enjoyed romps at the Mansion, according to a kiss-and-tell ­memoir by Izabella St James, a former member of the ever-changing bevy of pneumatic blonds with whom Hefner shares his home. 
Stars just needed to ‘click their ­fingers’ to seduce women at these soirees, recalls St James.
These A-listers no doubt delight in their association with the legendary lover. But unfortunately for Hefner, some of his former ‘girlfriends’, as he calls them, have become disenchanted with life in his harem over the years.

Party time: Actor Charlie Sheen was photographed in a robe at the Playboy Mansion party in August 2010 along with two blonds and porn star Ron Jeremy

One by one they have revealed what life was like behind the glittering facade of the Playboy Mansion. According to them, it disguises a grubby world where some girls feel they are no ­better than prostitutes, paid pocket money by an octogenarian obsessive who funds plastic ­surgery to turn them into his physical ideal, and yet must still take huge amounts of Viagra to manage sex with them.
The portrait of Hefner painted by Izabella St James is deeply unappealing. A pretty blond law graduate, she was 26 when she met him in a Hollywood nightclub in 2002. Soon, he invited her to move in with him and seven other official ‘girlfriends’.


Hefner likes to have anywhere between three and 15 girlfriends at any one time. One of the group will be chosen to be Girlfriend No 1. She will share Hefner’s bedroom at all times, while the others are merely visitors. 

For Izabella, the Playboy Mansion was far from the glamorous pleasure palace she had imagined. ‘Each ­bedroom had mismatched, random pieces of furniture,’ she recalls in her autobiography Bunny Tales. ‘It was as if someone had gone to a charity shop and bought the basics for each room.
‘Although we all did our best to decorate our rooms and make them homely, the mattresses on our beds were ­disgusting — old, worn and stained. The sheets were past their best, too.
Kiss and tell: Izabella St James, a former member of the bevy of beauties, wrote a tell all book about her time in the Playboy mansion

‘Eventually I persuaded Hef to pay for a new mattress and bed linen — but I had to turn in every single receipt before I was reimbursed.
‘Hef also eventually permitted us to have the rooms painted and re-carpeted. But for some reason he insisted on creamy, white-colored carpets. He liked the girlfriends’ rooms to look very girly, all white carpet and pink walls. 
‘It looked great at first, but with two dogs (most of the girlfriends had pets that lived in their rooms — I had two pugs), butlers delivering food, dirty shoes and occasional spillages, the carpet was Grey and stained in a matter of months.’
She adds: ‘But then Hef was used to dirty carpets. The one in his bedroom had not been changed for years, and things became significantly worse when Holly Madison moved into his room with him as Girlfriend No. 1 soon after I moved in, bringing her two dogs.
‘They weren’t house-trained and would just do their business on the bedroom carpet. Late at night, or in the early hours of the morning — if any of us visited Hef’s bedroom — we’d almost always end up standing in dog mess. 
‘Everything in the Mansion felt old and stale, and Archie the house dog would regularly relieve himself on the hallway curtains, adding a powerful whiff of urine to the general scent of decay.’
Many girls, it seems, endured these living conditions for the chance of becoming a centerfold in Playboy ­magazine — an invaluable career boost for any glamor model.
Others admitted that they stayed only for the ­cosmetic surgery to which Hefner treated them as a birthday presents, keeping a running account with a Beverly Hills plastic surgeon.

But St James — with big university debts — was more interested in the weekly pocket money which Hefner paid all his girlfriends. ‘Every Friday morning we had to go to Hef’s room, wait while he picked up all the dog poo off the carpet — and then ask for our allowance: a thousand dollars counted out in crisp hundred-dollar bills from a safe in one of his bookcases,’ she says. 
‘We all hated this process. Hef would always use the occasion to bring up anything he wasn’t happy about in the relationship. Most of the complaints were about the lack of harmony among the girlfriends — or your lack of sexual participation in the “parties” he held in his bedroom.
‘If we’d been out of town for any reason and missed one of the official “going out” nights [When Hefner liked to parade his girls at nightclubs] he wouldn’t want to give us the allowance. He used it as a weapon.’
The allowance was also withdrawn if there was any infringement of the strict rules imposed by Hefner on all his girlfriends.
‘Little did I realize that by moving into the mansion I was losing all the freedom I associated with the Playboy lifestyle,’ says St James. 
‘Strictest of all was the curfew. Everyone had to be on the Mansion grounds by 9pm every night — unless we were out with Hef at a club or a function. People honestly did not believe us when we told them we had a curfew at the wild and crazy Playboy Mansion.’
Another young woman, model Kendra Wilkinson, now 25, met ­Hefner in 2004 when she was hired as a living statue at one of his ­parties, posing naked except for painted-on accessories. She moved into the Playboy Mansion soon afterwards and lived there until 2009.
She has since described how his staff noted every time one of the girls left or arrived back at the ­Mansion. Hefner would pore over the logs every morning, which, Wilkinson said, drove her ‘insane’.
‘It was way more strict than my parents had ever been,’ she says.
Freedom of a kind came on Wednesdays and Fridays, the official nights out, which were the prelude to the twice-weekly sex parties in Hefner’s bedroom.
The girls traveled with Hefner in a white limousine which had a ­leopard-skin interior, with Playboy bunny logos sewn onto the seats. As they left the mansion, they drank Dom Perignon champagne and downed Qualudes, a prescription-only sedative drug popularized in the Seventies and now handed out by Hefner.
‘Qualudes were supposed to give you a nice buzz,’ says Izabella St James. ‘Hef told me once that they were meant to put girls in the mood for sex.’
The thrill of being out after curfew was tempered by Hefner’s wearying habit of going out to the same few clubs, night after night. And his ever-present security guards ensured that no other men were allowed to pay the girls any attention.
At around midnight, according to St James, Hef would take his Viagra. ‘After that, he would constantly check his watch to make sure we left at the right time because if we didn’t, or the timing got messed up, he wouldn’t be able to perform later.
‘We had to line up like geese and follow each other out of the club.’
As with so much else in their time with Hefner, the girls followed strict rules before entering his bedroom for the sex parties.One of those who witnessed these preparations was Jill Ann Spaulding, an aspiring model who wrote to ­Hefner in 2002 asking to be a Playboy centerfold. 
Though 20-year-old Spaulding had enclosed a naked photo of herself, she claims to have been unprepared for what happened when she was invited to stay at the Playboy ­Mansion for a few days, and was asked to one of these private parties.
Beforehand, all the girls were told to take a bath. ‘I got in, then another girl appeared from nowhere and jumped in with me,’ recalls Spaulding. ‘Then Hef stepped around the corner and took a photo of us naked in the bath together before disappearing. It was all very strange.
‘Another girl led me into Hef’s master bedroom. The only light was coming from two TVs on which adult films were showing. All the other girls were there, dressed like me in pink pajamas. 
‘If you kept your pajama bottoms on, that was a sign that you didn’t want to have contact that night.’ According to Spaulding there were 12 girls there on that first night, and only she and another girl declined the offer to have sex with Hefner, who did not use a condom.


Girls next door: Hefner poses with three models, including Holly Madison and Kendra Wilkinson outside his mansion in Los Angeles, California

There was no protection and no testing for sexually transmitted ­diseases,’ she says.
Izabella St James, it seems, was much more open about having a physical relationship with him.
‘I wanted to see if this experienced King of Sexdom knew anything the rest of us did not,’ she recalls. ‘But he just lay there like a dead fish.
‘We often wondered why he did it at all. He must know deep down that it is just a show. But he is trying to live out this fantasy he has been selling to people since 1954. He wants to live up to the Playboy image he created and the expectations people have of him.’

Although still hoping to make Playboy centerfold, Jill Ann Spaulding was determined to resist becoming intimate with Hefner and quickly discovered the consequences when she returned to his room for another of the sex parties, keeping her pajama bottoms determinedly on. The other girls soon made it clear that she was expected to take them off.

‘I was terrified. They were all looking at me, including Hef from the bed — just staring straight at me. I said firmly that I couldn’t join in.
‘Hef looked absolutely furious, and one of the girls hissed at me that I was disappointing him. I didn’t care. Hef’s face was like thunder but I was left alone.’
Spaulding was quickly dismissed from the Playboy mansion and was later followed by Izabella St James, who left of her own accord.
Unsurprisingly both were soon replaced by a succession of blonds including, in January 2009, Crystal Harris. When she arrived, Hefner was seeing identical-twin glamor ­models Kristina and Karissa Shannon.
Since ending his relationship with the sisters, in January this year, he is said — in what must be one of the most suspect statements of the century — to have been monogamous. Unlikely as it seems, he is perhaps serious about making ­Harris his wife.
If so, she will be little envied by many of Hefner’s former girlfriends. For they know that, while life at the Playboy Mansion appears to offer all that an aspiring young celebrity might yearn for, she is committing herself to a life of squalid degradation in a cage which is far from gilded.
 


 
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Inaction and Delays by New York as Storm Bore Down

NYC councilman repeats charges of sanitation “snow slowdown”
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg on Wednesday with, from left, Jay H. Walder, M.T.A. chairman; Janette Sadik-Khan, transportation chief; Joseph F. Bruno, the city’s emergency manager, and John J. Doherty, the city’s sanitation commissioner.
At 3:58 a.m. on Christmas Day, the National Weather Service upgraded its alert about the snow headed to New York City, issuing a winter storm watch. By 3:55 p.m., it had declared a formal blizzard warning, a rare degree of alarm. But city officials opted not to declare a snow emergency — a significant mobilization that would have, among other things, aided initial snow plowing efforts.
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority entered the holiday weekend with modest concerns about the weather. On Friday, it issued its lowest-level warning to subway and bus workers. Indeed, it was not until late Sunday morning, hours after snow had begun to fall, that the agency went to a full alert, rushing to call in additional crew members and emergency workers. Over the next 48 hours, subways lost power on frozen tracks and hundreds of buses wound up stuck in snow-filled streets.
By 4 p.m. Sunday, several inches of snow had accumulated when Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg made a plea for help at his first news conference about the escalating storm: he asked people with heavy equipment and other kinds of towing machinery to call the city’s 311 line to register for work. A full day had gone by since the blizzard warning had been issued.
This week, as Mr. Bloomberg conceded that the city’s response to the blizzard had been inadequate, many theories, in both shouts and whispers, have been offered to explain the shortcomings: the Sanitation Department had undergone staffing cuts; the ferocity of the snowfall and the power of the accompanying winds had presented extraordinary challenges to the city’s snow plows; angry sanitation workers had sabotaged the efforts; city residents had ignored common sense and wound up stranding their cars in streets across the five boroughs.
On Wednesday, the mayor and his commissioners pledged to get at the truth. Once the streets have been cleared, they said, all aspects of the response will be analyzed, and changes, if necessary, will be made.
“I could stand here and list maybe 10 or 12 items and say this is what my problem was or that’s what my problem was,” John J. Doherty, the sanitation commissioner, said at a news conference with Mr. Bloomberg. “The mayor has pointed out there will be a postmortem on this storm. I’m not here to make excuses right now.”
Any post-mortem, then, seems destined to scrutinize the city’s decision not to declare a snow emergency, the transit agency’s delay in invoking a full-scale emergency plan, and the seemingly late and limited bid for outside help.
Emergency or Not?
The storm, if it exposed shortcomings in the city’s emergency response system, did not take it by surprise.
The National Weather Service began issuing its first hazardous-weather outlooks for the city on Tuesday, Dec. 21. The alarm was modest, the sense of certainty elusive.
But by Friday, the Weather Service was forecasting a 30 to 40 percent chance of six inches or more of snow, most likely north and east of the city, accompanied by wind gusts of up to 50 miles per hour, from Sunday afternoon into Monday.
“However,” it cautioned, “a storm track only about 100 miles west of the expected track could bring a significant wind-driven snowfall to the entire region.”
Over the next 24 hours, that likelihood grew, and an hour or so before dawn on Christmas, the Weather Service upgraded the notification to a winter storm watch, which called for six to eight inches of snow and strong, gusty winds for the city and the surrounding region.
City officials maintain that they were closely monitoring the updates. But the deputy mayor in charge of overseeing the snow response, Stephen Goldsmith, had left New York for the Washington area. A spokesman for Mr. Bloomberg insisted that Mr. Goldsmith was in regular communication with agency chiefs: Mr. Doherty, the sanitation commissioner; Janette Sadik-Khan, the transportation commissioner; and Joseph F. Bruno, the head of the Office of Emergency Management.
Those officials soon had more information about the storm, and a major decision to make.
At 3:55 p.m. on Saturday, the Weather Service issued a blizzard warning, forecasting 11 to 16 inches of snow, with higher amounts in some areas. It warned that strong winds would cause “considerable blowing and drifting of snow” that could take down power lines and tree limbs.
“Extremely dangerous travel conditions developing due to significant snow accumulations,” it said.
The city has long had a weapon in its arsenal to consider for such moments: the ability to declare a snow emergency.
Doing so allows the city to ban vehicles from parking on more than 300 designated “snow emergency streets.” Vehicles that remain after the declaration can be ticketed or towed. And any vehicles moving on those streets must use chains or snow tires.
The rationale is straightforward: clearing vehicles from those streets gives plows the best chance to move through them rapidly, keeping emergency services routes open and allowing the plows to move onto secondary streets.
Norman Steisel, who was at the forefront of snow removal in the city for a dozen years during the Koch and Dinkins administrations, said the declaration of an emergency from a mayor also helped clarify among the public the confusing array of forecasts often heard on television.
“It’s a very strong, powerful public message which has a certain effect,” Mr. Steisel said.
Jerome M. Hauer, who spent four years as the city’s emergency management commissioner under Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, said he advised the mayor on whether to declare a snow emergency based on forecasts from the Weather Service and other sources.
There were no hard and fast rules, Mr. Hauer said, but anything above six or seven inches would start “to create problems for the city, so it was clear you’d have to start thinking it was time to declare a snow emergency.”
Both current and former city officials had difficulty recalling how many times such an emergency had been declared. One current official said the last one had been declared in 2003.
Still, Mr. Hauer asserted, “if they said we were getting a blizzard, it was kind of a no-brainer.”
But the Bloomberg administration decided not to call a snow emergency. One city official briefed on the response to the storm said it was explicitly considered. But ultimately Mr. Doherty and Ms. Sadik-Khan decided against it, said Seth Solomonow, a spokesman for Ms. Sadik-Khan.
Mr. Solomonow said the forecast was not severe enough.
“As of about 5 p.m. on Christmas Day,” he said, “the forecast called for about a foot of accumulation, which is not uncommon and which is not a basis for a snow emergency declaration.”
Mr. Bloomberg, asked Tuesday why an emergency had not been declared, confused the issue by asserting that doing so would have put more cars on the roads, potentially creating more problems. But clearly, had he declared an emergency shortly after the Weather Service’s blizzard warning, there would have been ample time to move cars before the heavy snow began.
Mr. Hauer called the decision bewildering, and Mr. Bloomberg’s claims misleading.
“We’ve done snow emergencies in the city for decades, many decades, and people have always found a place to put their cars,” said Mr. Hauer, who has had many angry disagreements with Mr. Bloomberg over the years. “You’ve just got to give them enough time.”
The Transit Response
On Friday morning, top managers at New York City Transit gathered for a ritual that occurs every weekday from November through April: to make a decision, based on weather forecasts, about whether to put in place precautionary measures in the case of a winter storm.
The managers can choose from one of four plans, prescribed each year in a telephone-book-size manual that lays out, in 300 pages of excruciating detail, the exact process for keeping the nation’s largest public transportation system functioning in the event of inclement weather. Plan 1, the lowest level of preparation, takes effect when the temperature drops below 30 degrees; Plan 4, the full-press emergency response, is activated when at least five inches of snow is expected.
By that morning, the Weather Service had been warning of a significant winter storm starting on Sunday afternoon. But at 11 a.m., the managers issued a proclamation of Plan 1.
Officials, who had been tracking the storm since Wednesday, believed that the city would be spared the brunt of the storm.
The decision would have far-reaching consequences: because of a quirk in the transit agency’s system, the plan chosen on Friday stays in effect all weekend. And the agency would not officially make the switch to Plan 4 until 11 a.m. on Sunday, when snow was already building up on the streets.
Because the agency had opted for the modest response, several important aspects of rescue operations and disaster preparedness — diesel trains and other heavy machinery, like trains that blow snow off tracks or spray antifreeze on the third rail — were not automatically deployed.
As Christmas wore on, and forecasts became darker, Thomas F. Prendergast, the president of New York City Transit, began attending meetings with officials from the Bloomberg administration and the Office of Emergency Management. By the end of the day, he had ordered crews to start storing some trains underground for the night, a standard procedure to keep subway cars from freezing up.
But, officially, the transit agency was still operating under its less-than-urgent response mode. Many managers, faced with low staffing levels because of the holiday week, had not yet tried to round up additional crew members or emergency workers.
“Upgrading to Plan 4 would kick into operation the deployment of equipment, the deployment of personnel,” said one subway official, who asked for anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly about the response. “We would have had personnel on standby.”
By early Sunday, top transit officials were enmeshed in conference calls. Like the rest of the city, they were taken aback at the ferociousness of the snow and wind. At 11 a.m., the call came down: Go to Plan 4.
But even with the new urgency, the agency was facing hard choices. Hundreds of its buses were already coursing through the city, and many of its more vulnerable subway lines had passengers on them.
Jay H. Walder, the chairman of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the parent agency of New York City Transit, cut short a family trip and was at his desk by Sunday afternoon, trying to figure out a way forward: should the agency cut service and simply strand New Yorkers? Mr. Walder, in a memorandum he wrote later, said the agency tried to “find the right medium.”
By Monday morning, there were reports of hundreds of buses trapped in unplowed streets. Hundreds of passengers on subway trains that lost power were trapped for hours overnight. Entire swaths of subway lines were knocked out by huge snowdrifts — the exact lines that the winter planning manual warned were “most vulnerable to service disruptions” in a fierce storm.
Mr. Walder has pledged a full formal review. “In the coming weeks,” he wrote in the memorandum, “we will reflect and look to make improvements for the future.”
Outside Help
For years, an integral role in the city’s best blizzard response plans was filled not by municipal workers but by private contractors and construction crews, ready with front-end loaders, tow trucks, pickup trucks and Bobcat vehicles that can move snow from the tightest urban grids.
Yet as the blizzard approached, the first calls from city officials for help went out around 9 a.m. on Sunday — nearly 30 hours after the Weather Service had raised its warning to a winter storm watch, and more than 24 hours after Mr. Doherty, the veteran sanitation commissioner, sensed that a blizzard was well on its way, he said.
Roughly seven hours later, at about 3:45 p.m. on Sunday, Mr. Doherty was facing television cameras in a chilly sanitation garage in Lower Manhattan. Dusk was coming; the snow, falling since morning, was mounting; and the city was now openly pleading for help from private equipment operators.
“They can call 311 to find out where they can get registered and where to report,” Mr. Doherty said at that time.
Help did not arrive in adequate enough numbers or in nearly enough time. And the resulting failure to clear the city’s side streets, even 48 hours after the first significant accumulations, became the storm’s signature outrage.
“If we had the private industry and the front-end loaders early, come in, it would have been a big help, no question about it,” Mr. Doherty said in an interview on Wednesday. “It is a problem.”
The problem, he said, rested largely with him. He said he might have taken too long to make the first calls for private help. He said he had become too consumed with deploying thousands of his own workers.
“Why did we wait so long?” he asked. “Well, maybe that is something we have to look at, no questions about it.”
There are, though, an array of questions about the system for soliciting private assistance. The city’s list of reliable, proven, untainted businesses has shrunk. Any new volunteers have to be vetted; it can take 12 hours to get them rolling.
Unlike years ago, Mr. Doherty said, the private workers just do not seem “interested in the work anymore.”
“Are we paying enough?” he said. “It may be the reason.”
In fact, it seems that some of the more proven contractors had been signed up by the local airports before the city made its appeal.
By Tuesday night, the city had had some success recruiting help. The Sanitation Department had 59 pieces of hired equipment, including 29 front-end loaders, 19 tow trucks and 6 Bobcats and excavators.
Still, Harry Nespoli, president of the Uniformed Sanitationmen’s Association, said the problems late Sunday underscored how the city could not rely on outside contractors to help with snow removal and other jobs in such storms, particularly during a holiday weekend.
“You can never count on the privates, because they don’t have to show up,” he said. “What obligation do they have? The mayor can’t order them out. The commissioner can’t order them out.”
 






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Governor Imposes State of Emergency in Istanbul University

Upon request by local police court grants the Istanbul police a one-year search warrant. The decision authorizes the police search any student at the campus and in its surroundings. Students and academics react against the decision. He is not informed of the decision says rector Prof. Söylet.
Upon a local court decision  requested by the Fatih District Security Directorate after an application by the Presidency of Istanbul University to the prosecutor's office, police will be able to carry out searches at the university's buildings in the Fatih region and their surroundings.
According to the decision  police will be able to search people's bags, parcels, nylon bags, vehicles and private papers between 1 December 2010-30 November 2011.
Police will also be able to carry out searches at the entrances of the faculty, university and administrative buildings and their surroundings within the borders of the Fatih district. Police will also be able to search inside the buildings if the university presidency places a request.
According to a report by Umay Aktaş Salman from the daily Radikal, notices that read, "Preventive Search Decision" have been placed at the entrances of some faculties of the Istanbul University.

 

Students appeal the decision

Eren Can, a senior at the Law Faculty has applied to an Istanbul court objecting to the decision:
"The decision violates many things, from autonomy of universities to privacy. According to Penal Law, no decision with a general characteristic can be taken. Only specific decisions can be taken. However, police will be able to carry out a search whenever it wants. This only exists in fascism."

Education and Science Workers' Union: The official face of the regime

Ahmet Bekmen, a senior official from the Education and Science Workers' Union and a university employee, defined the decision as the official face of the regime that is being implemented at the university for a long time now: "Private security officers are acting like police officers anyway. There are security cameras everywhere."
University President Prof. Dr. Yunus Söylet stated that he is aware of the decision but has not yet seen it because he is abroad; "I will make a statement when I return," he said.

Academics: One year long search- warrant is not lawful

Prof. Dr. İbrahim Kaboğlu, a teacher at the Law Faculty of Marmara University: I don't know the dimensions of granting a general search warrant for a year. The reasons behind it need to be convincing. If there are activities at universities that threaten security, then why is the warrant limited to Fatih and the Istanbul University? Does this decision serve the purpose?
Ümit Kocasakal, Head of Istanbul Bar: Scandal. Such a decision is against the essence of search. A search warrant is given when there is an attempt to find something. It has to be a limited decision since it is about people's privacy. No search warrant can be this general, over such a long period of time and about unidentified people. No such decision can be taken in a state of law.
Prof. Dr. Ersan Şen, a teacher of Legal Science at the Public Administration Department of the Political Sciences Faculty of Istanbul Univerity: Police may carry out preventive search at universities according to the Law of Police Powers. There is no specific person in a preventive search. But there is a problem with the time. A period of one year is not reasonable. 

(BB)

 

 

 


 

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Students Protest Ends in Riot

The police violently intervened against students who had gathered to protest the Higher Education Council (YÖK) during PM Erdoğan's meeting with university rectors. The students were exposed to tear gas and beating. 40 of them were taken into custody but released later on.
The police intervened with tear gas and beating against students who were going to protest Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the Higher Education Council (YÖK) on Sunday (5 December). The students had gathered in front of Dolmabahçe Palace on the European banks of the Bosporus where PM Erdoğan was having a meeting with university rectors.
Hüseyin Çelik, Deputy Chairman of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) commented afterwards, "The youth are our heart and soul".
As reported by the Turkish news channel CNN Türk, members of the Students Youth Union (Genç-Sen) encountered a brutal intervention by the police when they tried to walk towards the Prime Minister's office. Last week, Genç-Sen members had already protested Erdoğan by throwing eggs at him.
About 150 students came by bus from Eskişehir (central Anatolia) and Ankara to join the protest. However, they were stopped on the Asian side of Istanbul and were not allowed to enter the area.
Students who gave a break at a service station in Kurtköy (Asian side of Istanbul) encountered a police intervention with tear gas.
A riot emerged after the police intervention. 40 students were taken into custody, 37 of whom were released later on after they had given their statements. Students Emre Ö., Aziz G.Didem A. were taken to court because of "resistance to the police" and were then released by the Beyoğlu (Istanbul) 1st Magistrate Court on duty. and a19-year-old woman lost her unborn baby as a result of beating. Gülüzar Tuncer, joint attorney of the Human Rights Association (İHD) Istanbul Branch, told bianet that the young women applied to the Turkish Human Rights Foundation (TİHV) and is currently trying to overcome the trauma she experienced.
In a statement made to journalists the woman said, "Even though I told the police 'Don't beat me, I am pregnant', they kicked my stomach and hit me with batons".

The youth is our heart and soul

AKP politician Çelik provided the press with information on the meeting. He said that a "Dolmabahçe Meeting" was scheduled with representatives from youth organizations for January 2011. Regarding the question whether the young people who joined the protest would be invited as well he replied:
"We do not discriminate between supporters and dissidents when we invite the young people, the students. Our invitations to the youth do not have anything to do with the protestors. No matter if they protest or not, they are our youth, they are our heart and soul. We love our youth, our country and our people".

"We only wanted to submit a file"

Student Işıl Kurt from the Eskişehir Osmangazi University told Milliyet newspaper about her experiences in the course of the police intervention.
"The riot forces police pressed down my calves and made me lay down on the ground. They beat me on my chest, my face and my back. They were cursing while they beat me. I remember shouting 'We only wanted to submit a folder' when they dragged me to the police bus. Then I passed out".
Çağlar Kara from Istanbul University, one of the students who were taken into custody, recalled, "They sprayed gas without warning. Two policemen tried to squeeze me into a crowd of about a hundred policemen. They only stopped when they saw the reporters. I can say that the journalists saved me. We are anyways exposed to harassment, insult and beating when the journalists are not there".
Student İlke Acar from Marmara University (Istanbul) said that they were not given anything to eat or drink during the whole time they were kept in custody.

Parliamentary Human Rights Investigation Commission

Akın Birdal, Member of Parliament for the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), urged the Parliamentary Human Rights Investigation Commission to convene as soon as possible in order to investigate who was responsible for the police violence against the students.
Commission member Birdal submitted a petition reading, "The right to democratic criticism and demonstrations are considered fundamental human rights in international human rights documents and agreements. It is one of the Commissions prime duties and responsibilities to investigate this disproportional use of force against students who joined the protest by using their rights".

"Is protest a crime?"

Democratic Left Party (DSP) Member of Parliament Süleyman Yağız submitted a resolution of questions addressing PM Erdoğan.
Yagız wrote, "The police never ever allow any kind of protest. They are very careful on this subject and they do not give any respite to the protestors. So, even without resorting to violence, is protesting a crime for you, is it forbidden? Is there any related provision in our laws that is not known by the public? In which other democratic country can we see such applications?"


(EÖ/BT/EÜ/VK)

 

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Julian Assange Threatens To Name Arab Leaders With CIA Ties



Julian Assange has set the ultimate dead man's switch: Arrest or kill him and thousands of files will be automatically released, including documents that out CIA-backed Arabs.
The Wikileaks leader had previously claimed to have files on auto-release. That he had info on CIA ties was first-mentioned in an interview yesterday with Al-Jazeera.
This is exactly the type of information that lead people to condemn Wikileaks as dangerous. If released it would certainly endanger many American operatives and cause a massive political disruption.


DOHA: Top officials in several Arab countries have close links with the CIA, and many officials keep visiting US embassies in their respective countries voluntarily to establish links with this key US intelligence agency, says Julian Assange, founder of the whistle-blowing website, WikiLeaks.
“These officials are spies for the US in their countries,” Assange told Al Jazeera Arabic channel in an interview yesterday.
The interviewer, Ahmed Mansour, said at the start of the interview which was a continuation of last week’s interface, that Assange had even shown him the files that contained the names of some top Arab officials with alleged links with the CIA.
Assange or Mansour, however, didn’t disclose the names of these officials. The WikiLeaks founder said he feared he could be killed but added that there were 2,000 websites that were ready to publish the remaining files that are in possession of WikiLeaks after “he has been done away with”.
“If I am killed or detained for a long time, there are 2,000 websites ready to publish the remaining files. We have protected these websites through very safe passwords,” said Assange.
Currently, his whistle-blowing website is exposing files in a ‘responsible’ manner, he claimed. “But if I am forced we could go to the extreme and expose each and every file that we have access to,” thundered the WikiLeaks founder. “We must protect our sources at whatever cost. This is our sincere concern.”
Some Arab countries even have torture houses where Washington regularly sends ‘suspects’ for ‘interrogation and torture’, he said.
WikiLeaks is receiving sensitive files from Afghanistan, Kenya, Russia and China, among other countries. For nine years the US and Nato forces have failed to silence people in Afghanistan because the people there are loyal and truthful. The US marines fighting in Afghanistan are not happy being there and don’t really know why they are there and fighting for what, said Assange.The US is trying to use latest technology to disrupt his website but in vain.
“Washington is also projecting me as a terrorist and wants to convince the world that I am another Osama bin Laden,” he said. According to Assange, he will be put on a trial for his various expose in a special court in London from January 11, 2011 and this court deals with terror-related cases.
“If the UK (where I am based right now) decides to hand me over to Sweden for alleged cases of sexual abuse, they (Stockholm) would hand me over to the US,” he said. Assange said he feared that the US might slap laws declaring him as a spy who had been acting against Washington. The Pentagon has set up a ‘war room’ manned by 120 officials and their job is just to disrupt and destroy WikiLeaks, he said.
“We have more files dealing with defense issues of Central Europe, but I or my staff didn’t have the time to go through all of them.” What is being published by the five media partners of WikiLeaks are publishing only those details which they think are interesting for their readers. There are some Arab officials who are ‘stealing’ oil of their countries.
“We need these media partners to focus more on this issue,” Assange said in this extensive, interesting and last version of his interface with Doha-based Aljazeera. US embassies around the world are very anxious about Israel, Iran, Labour unions, arms dealings (mainly selling of American arms), and spying through high-tech devices.


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