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Wednesday, April 30, 2014

MIT Students To Get Free Bitcoins This Fall

MIT Students To Get Free Bitcoins This Fall


MIT Students To Get Free Bitcoins This Fall

Posted: 30 Apr 2014 11:38 AM PDT

Next year, MIT undergrads will pay $43,498 in tuition year, but hey, at least they’re getting 1oo free Bitcoins.

MIT’s Bitcoin Club arranged the giveaway in hopes of turning the cryptocurrency into a viable payment model.

The Bitcoin Club raised $500,000, most of it coming from a wealthy MIT alumnus, to make the project a reality.

Few stores in the Cambridge area currently accept the currency, but with 4,528 undergrads having 100 Bitcoins burning a hole in their digital pocket, that could yet change.

Iraqis Defy Security Concerns To Vote in First National Elections Since U.S. Exit

Posted: 30 Apr 2014 11:34 AM PDT

Iraqis went to the polls Wednesday amid a massive security effort, for the first national elections since the exit of U.S. forces in 2011.

Two bombings highlighted the security risks in the country, where sectarian violence has spiked in the last year. One roadside bomb killed two women walking to a polling station in the northern town of Dibis, and another bomb in the area injured five soldiers on an army poll, the Associated Press reports.

Hundreds of thousands of troops and police—many of whom were allowed to vote Monday so they could provide security on Wednesday—were safeguarding polling stations as Iraqis voted, according to the AP. Iraqi authorities closed the nation's airspace and banned vehicles to limit the threat of car bombings.

Roughly 22 million people were registered to vote in the parliamentary elections, with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's Shiite part expected to win the most seats but come short of a majority. The final results will not be available for several weeks.

In central Baghdad, checkpoints were set up roughly every 500 yards. Streets were largely deserted, and most stores were closed, the AP reports. Buses were used to ferry voters to the polls in parts of the city.

A surge in attacks last year led to the highest death toll since 2007, when President George W. Bush announced a surge of U.S. troops to quell worsening violence in Iraq.

[Associated Press]

Will Donald Sterling Give Up Clippers Or Fight?

Posted: 30 Apr 2014 11:29 AM PDT

Now that NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has dropped the hammer on Clippers owner Don Sterling for his racist comments, what happens next? Silver fined Sterling $2.5 million, banned Sterling for life and is putting pressure on him to sell the franchise, but Sterling might not go quietly. The league could force a sale if enough owners vote to do so, but Sterling could put up a fight and a heated legal battle could ensue.

In the The Los Angeles Times, Notre Dame sports economics professor Richard Sheehan said "If he truly doesn't want to sell, I'm going to guess he could tie this up for the rest of his life. It would be an absolute disaster."

General Motors Bailout Cost Taxpayers $11.2 Billion

Posted: 30 Apr 2014 11:24 AM PDT

U.S. taxpayers lost more than $11.2 billion as a result of the federal bailout of General Motors, according to a government report released Wednesday.

The $11.2-billion loss includes a $826-million write-off in March from government investments in the “Old GM” before the company’s 2009 bankruptcy, the report said. The U.S. government spent $49.5 billion to bail out GM, and after the company’s bankruptcy in 2009, the government’s investment was converted to a 61 percent equity stake in the company. The Treasury gradually sold off its stock in GM, selling its last shares in December 2013.

The Center for Automative Research said last year that the taxpayer bailout of GM saved 1.2 million jobs and avoided the loss of $129.2 billion in personal income in 2009 and 2010. Of the $78.2 billion the U.S. Treasury spent bailing out the auto industry through its Troubled Asset Relief Program, $58.0 billion was repaid, according to the report.

GM is currently being investigated by the Justice Department and regulators for its handling of a defect in an ignition switch that led to more than 10 deaths.

How a Smartphone Device Aims to Detect Oral Cancer

Posted: 30 Apr 2014 11:16 AM PDT

While oral cancer is relatively straightforward for dentists to diagnose, there is a smartphone device that is supposed to be a low-cost solution for detecting cancerous oral lesions in parts of the world where access to dentists is extremely limited.

Scientific American just profiled a team led by Dr. Manu Prakash at Stanford University that has developed an easy-to-use screening device called OScan, which attaches to a smartphone or digital camera so health workers can take photos of a patient's mouth and digitally send them to an offsite expert for analysis—expediting diagnoses to help saving lives.

The device is being tested in India, where in most rural parts of the country there's statistically one dentist per 250,000 people—oral cancer goes unnoticed and therefore untreated. The incidence of oral cancer is 12.6 cases per 100,000 people, an unusually high rate. In south-central Asia, oral cavity cancer ranks in the three most common cancers in the population.

Worldwide statistics on oropharyngeal cancer are grim, particularly in developing countries (which consume fully 71% of the world's tobacco). The World Health Organization reports that "sharp increases in the incidence rates of oral/pharyngeal cancers have been reported for several countries and regions such as Denmark, France, Germany, Scotland, central and eastern Europe and to a lesser extent Australia, Japan, New Zealand and the USA."

Heisman Winner Winston Suspended By Baseball Team

Posted: 30 Apr 2014 11:06 AM PDT

(TALLAHASSEE, Fla.) — The Florida State baseball team has indefinitely suspended Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston, who is a relief pitcher for the Seminoles.

Baseball coach Mike Martin said in a statement Wednesday that Winston was issued a citation the night before, but he did not give specifics. The Leon County Sheriff’s Office has declined comment.

The 20-year-old Winston was investigated last year when a fellow Florida State student reported that he raped her. But prosecutors said there wasn’t enough evidence to charge him.

Winston led Florida State to the national championship last season as a freshman, starring in the undefeated Seminoles’ 34-31 victory over Auburn in the championship game.

He threw 40 touchdown passes on the season and ran for four more.

Football coach Jimbo Fisher says he supports Martin’s decision.

Watch a Baby Lamb Learn to Walk

Posted: 30 Apr 2014 10:52 AM PDT

When this baby lamb got an infection in his joints that prevented him from walking, his human created a bouncer out of a canvas shopping bag and a bungee cord to help him find his footing.

Watch here as the adorable little creature bounces around, building up strength in his limbs. Not baaaa-d at all. (Sorry.)

White House: Oklahoma Execution Not Done Humanely

Posted: 30 Apr 2014 10:49 AM PDT

(WASHINGTON) — The White House says a botched execution of a death row inmate in Oklahoma fell short of the humane standards required when the death penalty is carried out.

Officials halted Clayton Lockett’s execution Tuesday when he convulsed violently and tried to lift his head after a doctor declared him unconscious. He later died of an apparent heart attack.

White House spokesman Jay Carney says President Barack Obama believes evidence shows the death penalty doesn’t effectively deter crime. But he says Obama believes some crimes are so heinous that the death penalty is merited. He says the crimes in Lockett’s case are indisputably heinous.

But Carney says the U.S. has a fundamental standard that the death penalty must be carried out humanely. He says everyone would recognize that this case fell short.

First Lady Announcing Pledges for Vets, Families

Posted: 30 Apr 2014 10:47 AM PDT

(WASHINGTON) — First lady Michelle Obama announced pledges from foundations and corporations totaling more than $160 million Wednesday to help veterans and their families get the services they need as the country adjusts to a postwar footing.

Calling this a “pivotal moment for our military families and for our country” as the war in Afghanistan ends, the first lady said military families should never have to face the challenges associated with the transition to civilian life alone.

Appearing at a conference of philanthropic groups, Mrs. Obama warned that with fewer homecoming videos and welcome-home parades for returning troops likely in future years, “we cannot allow ourselves to forget their service to our country. … We’ve got to show our military families that our country is there for them not just while they’re in uniform but for the long haul.”

The first lady highlighted the launch of the Philanthropy-Joining Forces Impact Pledge, under which more than 30 organizations are making commitments to provide a range of services over the next five years, including $62 million in existing commitments and $102 million in new pledges over the next five years.

Paul Rieckhoff, CEO and founder of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, noted that the launch comes after reports that up to 40 patients at the Phoenix Veterans Affairs Health Care Center may have died because of care delays.

“The Phoenix tragedy, Fort Hood shooting and the latest Pentagon suicide numbers all sadly underscore the urgent need for a sustained, national effort to ensure all our vets get the care and support they deserve,” Rieckhoff said in a statement. “This challenge is much more than the government can handle alone. These leading foundations have made a bold, visionary commitment.”

Vikki Spruill, CEO of the Council on Foundations, said those making pledges would work in areas including homelessness, employment, training, education and community integration. The council also is creating an online Veterans Philanthropy Exchange to help charitable organizations share ideas and information on how to help military families.

Donald Cooke, the Robert R. McCormick Foundation’s senior vice president for philanthropy, said philanthropies are a key resource for veterans because of their presence in communities around the nation. He called foundations and corporations with a stake in their communities “the secret to how we’re going to help our veterans come home.”

The announcement is part of a series of events marking the third anniversary of Joining Forces, the initiative created by Mrs. Obama and Mrs. Biden to support military families and veterans.

Former Justice Stevens: Campaign Cash Isn’t Speech

Posted: 30 Apr 2014 10:45 AM PDT

(WASHINGTON) — Campaign donations pay for more than political ads and should not be protected as free speech, former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens told a Senate panel Wednesday in urging them to rein in the billions of dollars shaping elections.

The retired justice reminded lawmakers that political donations funded the burglary at the Watergate office complex under President Richard Nixon. That break-in at the Democratic National Committee is not speech, Stevens argued in a rare appearance of a former justice in the Senate.

“While money is used to finance speech, money is not speech. Speech is only one of the activities that are financed by campaign contributions and expenditures. Those financial activities should not receive precisely the same constitutional protections as speech itself,” Stevens said. “After all, campaign funds were used to finance the Watergate burglary, actions that clearly were not protected by the First Amendment.”

Stevens has been a critic of his former colleagues’ decisions that have opened the floodgates for unlimited donations and super PACs.

At issue are the millions of dollars that influence elections — if not determine their outcome — with various degrees of openness. Recent Supreme Court rulings have permitted individuals and corporations to write unlimited checks to independent political committees, while other groups can accept cash and disclose the donors’ identities months or years later, if ever.

“These tactics have no apparent purpose other than to conceal the sources of funds,” Federal Election Commission vice chairwoman Ann Ravel said.

Ravel was not testifying in her FEC role but in her capacity as a former chair of the California Fair Political Practices Commission, the state’s version of the FEC that leveled a record $1 million fine against the Center to Protect Patient Rights and Americans for Responsible Leadership. Their recipient, the Small Business Action Committee PAC, also had to return millions of dollars in donations from those groups.

“Using shell corporate entities, wire transfers and fund-swapping with no apparent purpose other than to hide the sources of funds, these national networks skirt disclosure rules with relative ease,” Ravel said, detailing the funding for a group that sought to influence the outcomes of two statewide ballot initiatives in 2012.

Democrats have been vocal in criticizing the new rules and those who take advantage of them, including some of their allies. Republicans, meanwhile, have embraced the system and used the rules to power well-funded groups such as Americans for Prosperity.

That group, for instance, operates under rules that allow it to keep donors’ identities secret, unlike those who give to groups like the Republican National Committee. The conservative billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch have backed Americans for Prosperity with millions, but understanding their impact in real time is impossible because they technically do not operate as political groups.

“Our democracy is at risk. That’s the problem here,” said Sen. Chuck Schumer, the New York Democrat who chairs the Senate Rules Committee that hosted the hearing.

But Republicans did not share that concern, especially as it relates to the Koch brothers.

“Let’s stop demonizing citizens who exercise their First Amendment rights,” said Sen. Pat Roberts of Kansas, the top Republican on the panel. “The First Amendment does not allow us to silence those who oppose us.”

Countered Democratic Sen. Tom Udall: “Money and speech are the same thing? This is tortured logic.”

The New Mexico lawmaker said elections should be protected and “they should not be for sale to the highest bidder.”

Schumer said the Senate this year would schedule a vote on Udall’s proposed constitutional amendment that would limit federal candidates’ ability to raise and spend money. The measure also would regulate and limit the ability of super PACs to impact elections.

Changes to the Constitution are incredibly difficult and the vote was more political than practical. The vote, however, would force Republicans to either defend unlimited money in campaigns or put them in the awkward position of condemning their allies.

Wednesday’s hearing by the Senate Rules Committee was the first since the Supreme Court’s ruling that lifted limits on how much total money individual donors can give to candidates. The court left in place a limit on how much individual candidates can take from each donor, but the justices cleared the way for donors to give the maximum amount to every candidate.

“I’m still looking for the word ‘money’ in the First Amendment,” said Norm Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute.

For instance, the Karl Rove-supported American Crossroads super PAC raised almost $5.2 million last month from three organizations and 21 individuals. The average donation was more than $218,000. The largest donation — $2 million — came from former Univision owner Jerry Perenchio. A trust tied to Oklahoma coal executive Joseph Craft III gave $500,000, as did Arkansas-based investment manager Warren Stephens and Kentucky-based self-storage mogul B. Wayne Hughes.

“It’s a thin line between what’s unseemly and what is a bribe,” said Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.

Despite their unrelenting criticism of the Kochs and Rove, Democrats are not bypassing the super PAC circuit.

Fred Eychaner, the founder of Chicago-based Newsweb Corp., wrote a $4 million check to the Senate Majority PAC, a Democratic group with ties to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. The group raised $11 million during the first three months of the year, including $2 million from James Simons, founder and chairman of investment firm Renaissance Technologies.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Federal Judge Strikes Down Wisconsin Voter ID Law

Federal Judge Strikes Down Wisconsin Voter ID Law


Federal Judge Strikes Down Wisconsin Voter ID Law

Posted: 29 Apr 2014 11:36 AM PDT

(MILWAUKEE) — A federal judge in Milwaukee has struck down Wisconsin’s voter Identification law, saying it unfairly burdens poor and minority voters.

U.S. District Judge Lynn Adelman issued his long-awaited decision Tuesday. It invalidates Wisconsin’s law.

Wisconsin’s law would have required voters to show a state-issued photo ID at the polls. Supporters said it would cut down on voter fraud and boost public confidence in the integrity of the election process.

But Adelman sided with opponents, who said it disproportionately excluded poor and minority voters because they’re less likely to have photo IDs or the documents needed to get them.

Wisconsin’s law was only in effect for a 2012 primary before a Dane County judge declared it unconstitutional.

NBA Bans Donald Sterling ‘For Life’ After Racist Rant

Posted: 29 Apr 2014 11:27 AM PDT

Donald Sterling, the Los Angeles Clippers owner who has been at the center of a national firestorm since a recording emerged last week depicting him making racist comments, was punished Tuesday with a lifetime ban from the NBA and a $2.5 million fine, the league said.

In his first major decision since assuming leadership of the league, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver handed down the unprecedented punishment of banning an owner from his own team. Silver said Sterling will be prohibited from attending games, practices, league owner meetings, or participating in team or league business in any way. Silver said he would ask the other owners to exercise their authority to force a sale of the team—a move that could set up a heated legal battle.

“I am banning Mr. Sterling for life,” Silver said at a news conference in New York. He said the lifetime ban was effective immediately and would remain so regardless of whether Sterling sells the team.

Sterling did not immediately comment Tuesday. The recording, which was first published by TMZ over the weekend, depicted him chastising his then-girlfriend for publicly associating with African-Americans, including NBA legend Magic Johnson, and telling her not to bring black people to Clippers games.

Silver said Sterling acknowledged during the league’s investigation into the recording that it was his voice on the tape. The league’s investigation, Sterling said, determined that “the man whose voice is heard on the recording… is Mr. Sterling, and that the hateful opinions voiced by that man are those of Mr. Sterling.

“The views expressed by Mr. Sterling are deeply offensive and harmful,” Silver added. “That they came from an NBA owner only heightens the damage and my personal outrage. Sentiments of this kind are contrary to the principles of inclusion and respect that form the basis our diverse, multicultural and multiethnic league.”

The ban comes in the midst of a playoff run by the team. The Clippers are tied at two games apiece in a first-round, best-of-seven series against the Golden State Warriors, with game 5 set for Tuesday night in Los Angeles. The distracted Clippers were crushed in game 4 after turning their warmup jerseys inside-out before the game as a show of protest. Silver said he’s hopeful both the team and the league can move past the controversy.

“My message to the Clippers fans is this league is bigger than any one owner,” he said.

Current and former players and coaches—including Johnson, Michael Jordan and Clippers Coach Doc Rivers—and even President Barack Obama had fiercely criticized Sterling’s comments in the days after their disclosure. Silver received quick praise Tuesday for his decision.

“Commissioner Silver showed great leadership in banning LA Clippers owner Donald Sterling for life,” Johnson, who is reportedly interested in buying the team, said on Twitter.

“I agree 100% with Commissioner Silvers findings and the actions taken against Donald Sterling,” Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said on Twitter.

Twenty-two of the league’s 30 owners would have to vote in favor of forcing a sale. Silver said he hadn’t polled the owners, but that “I spoke to several owners and I have their full support.” It remains unclear who will assume control of day-to-day operations of the team. Sterling purchased the Clippers for $12 million in 1981, and NBA franchise values are soaring: The small-market Milwaukee Bucks just sold for $550 million. A sale could also compel corporate sponsors that have abandoned the franchise, such as State Farm, Kia Motors, Red Bull, and Virgin America, to return.

Sterling has kept a low profile since His representatives have neither confirmed nor denied the authenticity of the recording. "Mr. Sterling is emphatic that what is reflected on that recording is not consistent with, nor does it reflect his views, beliefs or feelings," the team said in a statement over the weekend. "It is the antithesis of who he is, what he believes and how he has lived his life. He feels terrible that such sentiments are being attributed to him and apologizes to anyone who might have been hurt by them."

Silver was under intense pressure to take action. Star players around the league and other owners, including Michael Jordan of the Charlotte Bobcats and Paul Allen of the Portland Trail Blazers, had blasted Sterling, and President Barack Obama even weighed in while traveling in Asia over the weekend. “I have confidence that the NBA commissioner, Adam Silver, a good man, will
address this,” Obama said from Malaysia.

 

And the Most Popular Disney Princess Is…

Posted: 29 Apr 2014 11:24 AM PDT

In the wonderful (capitalist) world of Disney, the best way to determine a princess’ popularity is by measuring how much money she makes. Here’s how the Disney princesses rank in terms of the amount they’ve earned on eBay since May 2013, according to sellers’ analytic tool Terapeak as reported by Jezebel:

1. Elsa (Frozen): $3,397,816

2. Cinderella (Cinderella): $2,504,259

3. Snow White (Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs): $2,301,831

4. Anna (Frozen): $2,165,120

5. Ariel (The Little Mermaid): $1,483,384

6. Rapunzel (Tangled): $598,056

7. Aurora (Sleeping Beauty): $215,856

8. Merida (Brave): $282,188

9. Jasmine (Aladdin): $253,102

10. Tiana (The Princess and the Frog): $84,882

11. Belle (Beauty and the Beast): $6,867

It’s really no surprise that this year Elsa from Frozen is rolling in dough. Frozen became the number one animated film of all time March. The movie has topped $400 million at the domestic box office and $1 billion total.

Frozen toys were sold out everywhere at the beginning of March—four and a half months after the movie’s release. Limited-edition Anna and Elsa dolls go for as much as $1750 on eBay, and even the regular dolls were sold for hundreds of dollars (even though they retail at about $30 per doll), according to Jezebel.

What is surprising is that the top-selling doll is one who doesn’t end up with a prince at the end. Now that’s progress. In fact, Elsa and Merida are the only dolls even on the list who don’t have a love story.

But despite that victory, we still have a long way to go in our doll-purchasing habits. The blonde doll from Frozen unsurprisingly but sadly surpassed the brunette one. And the non-white princesses, Jasmine and Tiana, sat at the bottom of the list. (We’ll assume that Mulan didn’t make the cut because she’s not technically a princess, though she is a total badass.) Jasmine and Tiana only beat out Belle, the bookworm princess (who coincidentally was my favorite growing up as a bookworm myself).

WATCH: Weatherman Interrupts Live Broadcast to Evacuate Newsroom During Tornado

Posted: 29 Apr 2014 11:22 AM PDT

When a tornado touched down in his studio’s hometown of Tupelo, Mississippi, WTVA Chief Meteorologist Matt Laubhan stayed on his toes and led a newsroom evacuation in the middle of a live broadcast.

“This is a tornado ripping through the city of Tupelo as we speak, and this could be deadly,” Laubhan says in the clip. Then he points to an area off-camera and shouts, “Basement. Now.”

Shortly after the frantic newscast, the station tweeted, “We are safe here.”

Devastating storms have been ravaging the southern U.S. for the past three days. The violent weather has killed more than 30 people, destroyed homes and businesses and left thousands without power. Officials say 11 were killed in Mississippi on Monday alone.

With Status Quo On Its Side, Israel Happily Rejects Peace

Posted: 29 Apr 2014 11:16 AM PDT

During nine months of negotiations, Israeli officials have constantly questioned our ability to make peace. World leaders visiting Tel Aviv have been faced with rhetorical questions like "Shall we make peace with Gaza or the West Bank?" or statements like "Mahmoud Abbas does not represent all Palestinians." Last week, after we announced our national reconciliation agreement, Israel contradicted its own argument: suddenly peace was impossible due to Palestinian unity.

During the early 1980s, Israel's excuse was the Palestinian Liberation Organization's refusal to recognize Israel. In 1988, we recognized Israel on 78% of historical Palestine, a deeply difficult and historic concession. Twenty-six years later, the number of Israeli settlers within the remaining 22% has tripled. Next, Israel's excuse was lack of Arab recognition. In 2002, the Arab League introduced the Arab Peace Initiative, offering recognition from 57 Arab- and Muslim-majority countries in exchange for Israel's respect for UN resolutions. Israel's response? More settlements. Most recently, the Israeli government came up with a further qualification–that we should recognize Israel as a Jewish state, safe in the knowledge that this could not be accepted. Rather than being afraid of not being recognized, it seems Israel is afraid of recognition.

Today, Netanyahu and those representing him, including Lapid, Ya'alon, Lieberman, Bennett and Ariel, are creating a new excuse to avoid the necessary decisions for peace. This Israeli government, which continues its settlement activities all over Palestine, is trying to blame national reconciliation for its own failure to choose peace over apartheid.

MORE: Yair Lapid: Why I Voted in Favor of Suspending Peace Negotiations With the Palestinians

First and foremost, reconciliation is an internal affair. Not a single party in Netanyahu's government has recognized Palestine. Nor have we asked them to. Political parties do not recognize states. Governments do.

Secondly, reconciliation and negotiations are not mutually exclusive. Reconciliation is a mandatory step in order to reach a just and lasting peace. The agreement ratifies the PLO's legitimacy to negotiate with Israel, honors all Palestinian commitments and obligations towards international law and previous agreements and calls for the formation of a national consensus government comprising independent professionals. This government is not going to negotiate with Israel: its sole mandate will be to prepare for elections, provide services and build institutions.

Palestinian reconciliation can be rejected only by those who aim to perpetuate the status quo. This is precisely what the government of Israel has been doing during nine months of negotiations: killing 61 Palestinians, advancing more than 13,000 units in Israeli settlements, conducting almost 4,500 military operations on Palestinian land, demolishing 196 Palestinian homes and allowing more than 660 settler terror attacks against Palestinians.

Being consistent with its policies on the ground, Netanyahu's government has refused to recognize the 1967 border or even put a map on the table proposing Israel's idea of its final borders. Netanyahu has ensured that he is unable to do this by surrounding himself with the most extremist sectors in Israel, including the settler movement, from which he selected his foreign minister, housing minister and the Knesset speaker. In fact, 28 out of 68 members of his government reject the two-state solution entirely, while others "accept it with reservations," meaning something very different to two states as stipulated under international law. Israel's claim that negotiations have been halted due to Palestinian reconciliation is completely disingenuous.

Frankly, it is difficult to understand how anyone could expect us to negotiate with such a government. And yet we have, in good faith, offering concession after concession for the sake of peace. Once again, we have held up our end of the bargain. Once again, the Israeli government has not. The truth is simple: Israel refuses to negotiate sincerely because, as long as the status quo is so beneficial to it, Israel has no interest in a solution. Without firm signals from the international community, Netanyahu's occupation and colonization policies are incentivized.

With Palestine's new international status, we will continue shaping our country as a peace-loving nation that respects human rights and international law, a commitment already assumed during the announcement of national reconciliation. This includes our right to make use of international forums in order to end Israeli violations and achieve the fulfillment of our long overdue rights.

Meanwhile, the ruling coalition of Israel should stop wasting its energy on excuses and start realizing that apartheid is not a sustainable option. Israel's rejection of Palestinian national unity has little to do with Hamas and a lot to do with its own unwillingness to do what is needed for a just and lasting peace.

Dr. Saeb Erekat is a member of the Palestinian Liberation Organization Executive Committee and Head of the Palestinian Negotiations Team.

Watch a Man Play Mario 64 While Blindfolded

Posted: 29 Apr 2014 11:00 AM PDT

The Nintendo 64 masterpiece Super Mario 64 was the bane of my youth. It was one of the first three-dimensional platforming video games, and beyond tricky jump sequences, the game also had hundreds of puzzles to solve. But what would make a hard game even harder? Playing it blindfolded.

That's exactly what the two guys of 62bitgaming attempted—and they succeeded. Last night the duo completed the game and beat Bowser. The player manning the controller covered his eyes with a standard-issue sleeping mask while the other shouted directions in his ear. Left! Right! Attack!

Beating Bowser (seen in the video here) while blind is a huge accomplishment, but the entire game is tough, from getting the first star to navigating the castle. Here's the entire game from start to finish, over six hours of groping.

What's next for the duo? Since it's in 3D and slower than its predecessors, Mario 64 might actually be one of the easier Mario games to beat blindfolded. Call us when you've finished the high-speed last levels of the original Mario Bros.

Man Arrested for Allegedly Killing Infant Daughter With Punch to Face

Posted: 29 Apr 2014 10:59 AM PDT

A Cincinnati man is in custody after allegedly killing his three-month-old daughter by punching her in the face.

Police say 24-year-old Shavale Johnson struck his daughter Asia Cathey "in a fit of frustration" Monday evening because she would not stop crying, Cincinatti.com reports. Sgt. Mike Miller said authorities are continuing to investigate the death.

Johnson is charged with endangering a child, but prosecutors say he will likely face more severe charges, including murder, once coroners determine how the child died. The baby was rushed to the hospital after her mother called 911 and was declared dead early Tuesday.

Police say Johnson confessed to punching the baby, but his sister Caress Johnson says her brother suffers from ADHD and "would say yes to anything."

Johnson was arrested last year for an assault charge that was later dropped.

[Cincinnati.com]

As Hated Airline Fees Spread, the Original Fee-Crazed Carrier Changes Course

Posted: 29 Apr 2014 10:35 AM PDT

Frontier Airlines is following the low-fare, fee-heavy “charge for everything” lead set by Spirit Airlines. Is it inevitable more airlines will do the same?

On Monday, Denver-based Frontier Airlines announced that it would start charging for carry-on bags, with a new fee structure calling for $20 to $50 per bag that passengers who’d like to enjoy the privilege of using the overhead bin. The new fee is part of a broader push to follow the ultra low-fare (and ultra profitable) model established by Spirit Airlines, which also charges for carry-on bags, among many, many other things.

“We are basically reducing the fare and then will charge for everything else the customer may want a la carte,” said Frontier CEO David Siegel, via the Denver Post. “We say Spirit is the dollar store and they aspire to be Walmart. We say we are Target, offering really good value for your money.”

It’s not just Frontier that likens Spirit Airlines to a dollar store. Spirit itself has embraced the “dollar store of the sky” as a nickname.

Another nickname adopted by Spirit has been the “Ryanair of the U.S.” Spirit executives have admitted they “flat-out copied” the fees and policies employed over the years by Ryanair, the largest low-fare carrier in Europe.

If there’s anything Ryanair is known for more than low fares, however, it’s the ruthless nickel-and-diming of its customers, combined with abrasive, headline-grabbing sound bites regularly offered to the media by CEO Michael O’Leary. This is a man who has threatened to install pay toilets on planes, and who called passengers “idiots” if they don’t take steps in advance to avoid Ryanair’s most egregious fees.

What’s scary to travelers who loathe the nasty, nickel-and-dime model is that this approach is clearly spreading. Ryanair was copied by Spirit, which in turn has been copied by carriers such as Allegiant Air (which added carry-on fees in 2012) and, now, Frontier Airlines. Meanwhile, it’s become standard across the industry to charge for basic “services” like ensuring you’ll be able to sit next to your child or spouse on the plane.

Is it inevitable that all airlines will continue down this path, so that we’ll all one day be flying on some “charge for everything” Spirit-Ryanair imitator? Maybe not.

In fact, even as more airlines seem to be using Ryanair as a model, Ryanair itself is desperately trying to combat its reputation for rip-offs and poor service. Ryanair’s O’Leary explained to the BBC in early April that it has been instituting a wide range of service improvements, including a supposedly quicker, easier-to-navigate website and more customer-friendly seat reservations and baggage policies and fees. The airline also recently started advertising on TV for the first time, with a series of commercials aimed at changing its image.

Surely, part of the motivation for Ryanair’s moves has been pushback from passengers. In a recent traveler survey, Ryanair didn’t even make it into the top five budget airlines serving the UK. Previously, Ryanair has been named by consumers as the worst brand in Europe across all industries, and participants in the survey described the airline’s service as “aggressive and hostile towards customers."

Like its forefather, Spirit Airlines is also routinely bashed by consumers. Last fall, a Consumer Reports study on U.S. airlines ranked Spirit dead last, and noted that Spirit doesn’t stand out merely as a bad airline. "Spirit Airlines received one of the lowest overall scores for any company we've ever rated," the report stated.

More recently, Spirit was named the “most complained about airline” in the world, displacing Ryanair as the year-in, year-out titleholder. The results of a poll at Airfare Watchdog also just indicated that Spirit has by far the rudest airline attendants in the U.S.

And this is the airline that many in the field are trying to imitate?

30-Second Tech Trick: Disable In-App Purchases on the iPhone or iPad

Posted: 29 Apr 2014 10:23 AM PDT

Noma’s Best Restaurant Win Tastes Pretty Sweet To Chef Rene Redzepi

Posted: 29 Apr 2014 10:20 AM PDT

As late as the afternoon of April 28, Rene Redzepi was warning his staff they would probably drop in the rankings of the World's 50 Best Restaurants, which were to be announced that evening, by making cryptic comments about Isaac Newton. "The rules for this competition were established over three hundred years ago," he said at lunch with his staff. "What goes up must come down."

But gravity, it seems, doesn't apply to restaurants. After losing the top ranking in 2013, his Copenhagen restaurant Noma last night regained the status it had held during the three years prior. When Redzepi and his team mounted the stage of London's Guildhall last night to claim the prize of best restaurant in the world, the joy was palpable. "It doesn't even compare," the 36-year-old chef said of his comeback, in an interview with TIME. "This is better than the three previous wins combined."

The victory gave Redzepi and his team a much-needed sense of redemption. But it also promised a return to the peculiar status and opportunities that come with being number one. Although the World's 50 Best list started twelve years ago as a lark—the founders of Restaurant magazine were, in one late-night brainstorming session, trying to come up with ways to attract attention to their publication—it has grown to become one of the most influential forces in modern gastronomy.

For the staff at Noma, returning to the top position has been especially rewarding after a difficult year. In February of 2013, the restaurant experienced an outbreak of norovirus that, although quickly controlled, prompted a deluge of gleeful reports in the media, as well as hate mail and death threats. Two months later, the restaurant lost its top ranking. And in the same period, its head chef and several sous chefs, all of whom had been with the restaurant for years, left to strike out on their own.

"For a while, it felt like there was only bad news out of Noma," Redzepi says.

But the hardships and criticism may have spurred the restaurant's crew to greater heights. For many chefs and critics who dined at Noma in the last year, it was their best meal ever at the restaurant. Their number includes David Chang, chef and owner of the Momofuku restaurants in New York, Toronto, and Sydney. "I knew right then that they were going to get number one again," he told TIME after dinner there in August. "You could taste the anger."

Unlike the Michelin guide, which relies on the assessment of professional inspectors to award its stars, the 50 Best list is decided by industry peers. Divided into 26 regional juries, more than 900 chefs, food writers, and gourmands vote for best restaurants in which they have dined over the previous 18 months. That structure makes the list particularly valuable to chefs, for it is flexible enough to respond quickly to changes in the dining scene (witness London's Clove Club, which opened exactly a year ago, enter at number 87 on the Top 100 list). But even more importantly, it provides a form of recognition from their peers that many chefs crave—and, once earned, want to maintain. "The list has become incredibly important to them," says Swedish food critic Mattias Kroon. "It's heroin for chefs."

There are also financial reasons for the addiction. At a breakfast the morning of the awards ceremony, Joan and Josep Roca, chef and sommelier of Spain's Celler de Can Roca, which won the title in 2013, talked about its impact. In the twelve months following their victory, they received 121,000 reservation requests, and more than 1200 journalists visited the restaurant to write stories about it. They received a sponsorship from Spain's BBVA bank that will allow them to close their restaurant in the Catalan city of Girona for a few months later this year, and re-open it as a pop-up in a series of Latin American cities.

Opportunities like that are beginning to bring around even France's chefs, who have typically disdained the list for its populism, and for rewarding trendiness rather than quality. (No French restaurants made this year's top 10, though Argentina-born Mauro Colagreco's restaurant Mirazur, on the French Mediterranean, came in at number 11.) "They still don't like it," says Alexandra Michot, a food writer who was until recently restaurant critic for Le Figaro. "But they're starting to see that a high-ranking fills seats." Further to the south, chef Quique Dacosta, whose eponymous restaurant in Denia, Spain came in at number 41, agrees. "You may or may not like everything about how the list works," he says. "But there's no denying how important it's become for getting diners, especially international ones."

In other words, the slight drop-off in reservation requests that Noma has experienced in the past few months has likely already been reversed by the time of this article's publication (the flood of visitors had already crashed the restaurant's website twice in the 12 hours after the announcement). And the victory will give added ballast to projects already underway, like the opening of a Noma pop-up in Tokyo in January and February of 2015 which, Redzepi believes, will now likely sell out.

Wielding its increasing clout, the organizers of this year's event refused to leak the results to journalists covering the event, which meant that, unlike in the past, neither they, nor the winning chefs they were seeking to interview on deadline, had any idea who would take the title. So Redzepi was truly surprised last night when, trembling with emotion, he led his crew to the stage. "Guys," he said, "We did it."

Monday, April 28, 2014

VIDEO: First Responder on Scene of South Korean Ferry Disaster Speaks

VIDEO: First Responder on Scene of South Korean Ferry Disaster Speaks


VIDEO: First Responder on Scene of South Korean Ferry Disaster Speaks

Posted: 28 Apr 2014 11:02 AM PDT

As captain of the first ship on the scene of the sinking South Korean ferry, Moon Ye-shik immediately sensed the enormity of the situation.

“The ship was listing (badly), 30 to 40 degrees,” he told CNN. “It was in such a bad condition, anyone would assume evacuation was well underway.”

Moon’s oil tanker, the Doola Ace, was only 200 meters away from the ferry Sewol when the distress call came, and was on the scene within minutes. But Moon saw few signs of the evacuation he expected.

Cell phone footage from the students onboard the ferry show the passengers had been told by authorities to stay put. “Please do not move from your location. Absolutely do not move,” were the instructions issued through the loudspeakers.

More than 300 people remain dead or missing, almost two weeks after the ferry sank on April 16.

Moon remains critical of the actions of the ferry crew, who are now in custody for negligence and failing to help the passengers. “They should have made the call for evacuation. So many lives would have been saved,” he told CNN.

George Clooney Is Engaged

Posted: 28 Apr 2014 11:01 AM PDT

Longtime Hollywood bachelor George Clooney is engaged to attorney Amal Alamuddin, according her law firm.

Doughty Street Chambers, a leading human-rights firm, said the 36-year-old U.K. barrister Amal Alamuddin will marry the two-time “Sexiest Man Alive,” the Associated Press reports.

“She brings a bright light to everything she is involved in and I am so delighted at her happy news,” Doughty Street chief executive Robin Jackson said Monday.

A spokesperson for Clooney declined to comment to the AP.

Alamuddin, who was born in Beirut and educated at Oxford University, has previously represented WikiLeaks creator Julian Assange and advised former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan about Syria.

Clooney, 52, was previously married to actress Talia Balsam from 1989 to 1993.

[AP]

Internet Explorer Security Flaw: 4 Ways to Protect Yourself

Posted: 28 Apr 2014 10:53 AM PDT

This is why we can’t have nice things. A security flaw affecting most versions of Microsoft’s Internet Explorer web browser is making the rounds. If you use IE, you’ll want to follow one or more of these four steps in order to keep yourself safe.

Use a Different Web Browser

This is the path of least resistance. Until Microsoft patches up this hole, using a browser such as Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox can keep you safe from this particular vulnerability.

Don’t Click On Suspicious Email or Chat Links

This is a rule for every day, not just today. This vulnerability only works if the bad guys can get you to click your way to a special infected page they’ve set up. These trick links might make their way to you via email messages or chat messages that seem legit. If someone forwards you an email or initiates a chat with a link in it, call them on the phone and ask them if they really sent it. This accomplishes two things: One, you can make sure you’re not being duped. Two, it’ll make that person think twice about forwarding you an email or trying to chat with you ever again. The less time you spend dealing with forwarded emails and mind-numbing chat conversations, the more time you’ll have to live your life as intended.

Download and Install This Microsoft Toolkit

I appreciate the irony of having just told you not to click on mysterious links, but click on this mysterious link and install this program. It’ll automatically protect Internet Explorer and “make the vulnerability harder to exploit,” according to Microsoft. Notice that Microsoft didn’t say it’d be impossible to exploit.

Ratchet Up Your Internet Explorer Security Settings

If you don’t want to use a different browser until this blows over, you can goose Internet Explorer’s security level instead. Take note that ramping up the security level could impact the performance on certain sites, especially those containing interactive elements. This should be a last resort, like if you’re using a work computer and your IT department won’t allow you to install a new browser. Seriously, try Chrome or Firefox first if you can. You might like them.

Here’s Microsoft’s how-to:

To raise the browsing security level in Internet Explorer, perform the following steps:

  1. On the Internet Explorer Tools menu, click Internet Options.
  2. In the Internet Options dialog box, click the Security tab, and then click Internet.
  3. Under Security level for this zone, move the slider to High. This sets the security level for all websites you visit to High.
  4. Click Local intranet.
  5. Under Security level for this zone, move the slider to High. This sets the security level for all websites you visit to High.
  6. Click OK to accept the changes and return to Internet Explorer.

Note If no slider is visible, click Default Level, and then move the slider to High.

One bonus tip: If you’re using Internet Explorer on Windows XP, the chances that this issue’s going to get fixed are pretty bleak. Microsoft finally dropped support for XP earlier this month, which means any security fix that’s issued for one of Microsoft’s newer operating systems won’t make its way to Windows XP. If you insist on using XP, your best bet would be to use a different browser like Chrome or Firefox for everything and cross your fingers that neither of those browsers suffers a serious setback such as this in the future. Microsoft details a few other tips here as well.

NAACP Revokes Donald Sterling’s Lifetime Achievement Award

Posted: 28 Apr 2014 10:34 AM PDT

A top civil rights organization formally rescinded a lifetime achievement award due to be given to Los Angles Clippers owner Donald Sterling on Monday, as outrage over his alleged racist comments continued to build.

Leon Jenkins, the president of the Los Angeles chapter of the NAACP, said the organization would also return donations from Sterling, and that it’s up to the NBA owner to demonstrate the words attributed to him “don't really reflect his heart.”

“There is a personal and economic price that Mr. Sterling must pay,” Jenkins said at a news conference.

The civil rights group’s move followed Saturday’s publication by TMZ of an audio recording that purportedly depicts Sterling criticizing his girlfriend for publicly associating with African-Americans, including NBA legend Magic Johnson. Johnson, NBA Heat star LeBron James, Hall of Famer Michael Jordan and even President Barack Obama have condemned the comments.

Sterling has neither confirmed nor denied the authenticity of the audio, but the team said in a statement that he’s “emphatic that what is reflected on that recording is not consistent with, nor does it reflect his views, beliefs or feelings.”

Sponsors began distancing themselves from the team on Monday. The NBA is investigating and is set to make an announcement Tuesday.

Stay Classy by Avoiding Ron Burgundy Syndrome

Posted: 28 Apr 2014 10:21 AM PDT

Many years ago, prior to joining LinkedIn, I attended an all-hands where a senior executive was addressing our team. The executive knew the company, was well-respected, and was an excellent public speaker — essentially all of the raw materials necessary to motivate the audience to take action.

On this particular day, the exec was rolling out a new way of thinking about the business. He detailed four new operating “pillars” for the company — all being added to several previously established operating priorities. Operators, in other words, now had to be focused on these additional dimensions when thinking about key initiatives. One of those new pillars was globalization. He wanted managers to develop products, services, and go-to market strategies with an international mindset from day one, and not as a reactive effort requiring expensive retrofits.

In theory, all of this was perfectly reasonable. The reality would prove otherwise.

About six months later, after little material progress had been made on our globalization efforts, the same executive asked me for candid feedback, wondering aloud why we had accomplished so little as an organization on this front despite the clarity of the message at that initial event. I responded with something akin to the following:

“We rolled out four new dimensions on top of seven previously communicated priorities, thus creating essentially 28 different initiatives. While the determination of the seven priorities was a highly collaborative effort, and subsequently well-received, none of the new dimensions and the implications of adding those to the priorities were previously socialized or vetted with the people responsible for executing them. There was no stack ranking of the pillars and their intersection with the priorities. There were no measurable objectives communicated that would enable us to track results. The overlay of the pillars created an entirely new set of inter-dependencies between teams, without any guidance on how to navigate those new relationships or time to create the right connective tissue. No additional process was put in place enabling us to report out on progress, identify blockers, and work together to resolve critical issues.

[Long pause, big smile]

What could possibly go wrong?”

In retrospect, I could have summarized the entire discussion by saying, “As a senior executive, just because you said it, doesn’t make it so.”

I have come back to this anecdote countless times since, not only sharing the experience with leaders on my team so that they can avoid similar outcomes, but constantly reminding myself of the same. It’s a hard lesson to learn. After all, as senior executives, most of us are wired to believe that if we say it, the team will just naturally execute it exactly as we had envisioned.

If management were only that simple.

We all need to be wary of avoiding the Ron Burgundy syndrome: On the surface, looking and sounding the part, but without providing the right discipline, focus, and ongoing context, appearing as nothing more than a talking head.

Here are a few of the lessons I’ve learned to help prevent myself from falling into this all too familiar trap:

Repetition, repetition, repetition

As an adviser to four different Presidents of both parties, including Reagan and Clinton, David Gergen is widely recognized as a world-renown expert on the subject of effectively communicating key messages. In his book “Eyewitness to Power,” in which he chronicles his time spent in the White house, he wrote, “History teaches that almost nothing a leader says is heard if spoken only once.”

A former colleague of mine described it this way: In order to effectively communicate to an audience, you need to repeat yourself so often that you grow sick of hearing yourself say it, and only then will people begin to internalize the message. It was an extremely valuable insight and one I’ve employed countless times since (repeating it so often, I now simply refer to the dynamic as “David Gergening” the message.)

Simplify the narrative

Simply put, we are the stories that we tell. When communicating important new messages, try thinking of it as introducing a new narrative. The simpler, more relevant, and more inspirational, the more likely it is to resonate with its intended audience.

Also, be aware of the number of objectives, priorities, themes, etc. that you’ve been communicating over time. With greater success comes greater scope and complexity. This will inevitably lead to a larger number of important narratives that need to be shared with the team. Yet, people can only grok so many things at once. Try consolidating. Even more importantly, periodically and systematically try taking things off the list (note, this is much easier said then done).

The fewer things you need to communicate, the more likely people will be to internalize the message, align themselves accordingly, and achieve success.

Explain the why

Regardless of how senior you are, and how much authority you wield, just saying it won’t magically make it happen. Your audience is busy (if not overwhelmed) by their own work. In order to get them to take notice, and far more importantly, change behavior, it’s essential you provide the context behind your message: Why is this particular initiative so important? Why is it a higher priority than what the team is currently working on? Why is it a better strategy than the one already in place?

After explaining, it’s equally critical that the team feels heard on the subject, particularly if they disagree. Seek to understand. By virtue of how close they are to the work, more often than not they’ll have a unique perspective that helps shape your own. The resulting conclusion will be that much more effective because you developed it together.

Eliminate the Rashomon Effect

Have you ever been in a meeting with four other people, thought you reached a shared conclusion and set of next steps, only to find later that all five of you left with a completely different understanding of what transpired? If so, you are not alone. Legendary filmmaker Akira Kurosawa popularized the concept in his film “Rashomon,” which told the story of a tragic event seen through the unique perspective of four different participants (the same film technique would later be used in countless other films and television shows).

The film captured a simple yet powerful tenet of human nature: We all have our own unique way of interpreting the events taking place around us. Understanding this dynamic is critical to ensuring the team is on the same page following important discussions. Specifically, after making an important point or communicating a key action item, try asking attendees to play back what they heard. If you’re not on the same page, make sure to course correct in real-time.

Also, ask someone to take notes at the meeting. The goal is not to capture every word, but rather to summarize, codify, and distribute key conclusions to ensure everyone in attendance (and ultimately those that didn’t attend but who are reliant on the information discussed) has a shared understanding of what was discussed and what’s expected going forward.

Make the team’s priority your own

We’re all familiar with the adage, “If you want something done you need to do it yourself.” While easy to pejoratively interpret as a rallying cry for micro-managers, it can also be positively applied to prioritizing the work yourself and leading from the front. Said another way, “If you want something done, you need to make it your own priority first.” When the team hears a particular initiative is important to you, and sees you spending the resources and managerial cycles to make it successful, more often than not they’ll follow your example.

Beware the last page of the power point deck

Be wary when that key theme you thought you had clearly prioritized repeatedly shows up as the last page of the power point deck. More often than not, it’s there to check a box and appease the person who asked for it, and not because the author believes it’s important. Same thing applies when asking for a specific date on a critical action item only to hear there is no set date, but “It’s on the road map.” These are tell-tale signs that you and the team are not on the same page regarding prioritization.

If you find yourself on the receiving end of these responses, rather than mistakenly assume the work is getting done, take the time to ask questions about where the disconnect is arising, re-align efforts, and ensure everyone is on the same page. If all goes well, six months later, you and the team will be celebrating a needle-moving win rather than trying to figure out what went wrong.

This post originally appeared on LinkedIn. Follow Jeff Weiner's Influencer posts.

Sponsors Cut Ties to Clippers Following Owner’s Alleged Racist Remarks

Posted: 28 Apr 2014 09:52 AM PDT

The fallout from Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling’s alleged racist remarks started to hit the team’s bottom line on Monday, as at least two sponsors said they were jumping ship.

Used car retailer CarMax said it was ending its relationship with the Clippers after nine years. "CarMax finds the statements attributed to the Clippers' owner completely unacceptable," the company said in a statement Monday. "These views directly conflict with CarMax's culture of respect for all individuals. While we have been a proud Clippers sponsor for 9 years and support the team, fans and community, these statements necessitate that CarMax end its sponsorship."

Insurance company State Farm is also severing ties with the Clippers, though the company said the decision isn't necessarily permanent. "The remarks attributed to the Clippers' owner are offensive," State Farm said in an emailed statement. "While those involved sort out the facts, we will be taking a pause in our relationship with the organization. We are monitoring the situation and we'll continually assess our options."

State Farm's decision will not affect the "Born to Assist" advertising campaign, which features Clippers point guard Chris Paul portraying a nerdier twin brother, Cliff Paul.

Sterling has been under fire since a recording published over the weekend by TMZ purportedly depicted him criticizing his girlfriend for associating with black people in public, including Magic Johnson. President Barack Obama, Miami Heat star LeBron James and Charlotte Bobcats owner Michael Jordan have all spoken out publicly against the comments, and Clippers players staged their own mild protest against Sterling before their playoff game versus the Golden State Warriors on Sunday by wearing their warmup shirts inside out.

Sterling’s representatives have neither confirmed nor denied the authenticity of the audio. The NBA quickly said it would investigate, and the league is set to hold a news conference on Tuesday to make an announcement about its investigation.

“Mr. Sterling is emphatic that what is reflected on that recording is not consistent with, nor does it reflect his views, beliefs or feelings,” the team said in a statement. “It is the antithesis of who he is, what he believes and how he has lived his life. He feels terrible that such sentiments are being attributed to him and apologizes to anyone who might have been hurt by them.”

Bank of America Suspends Plans To Raise Dividend, Buy Shares

Posted: 28 Apr 2014 09:43 AM PDT

(NEW YORK) — Bank of America is suspending a long-awaited dividend increase and stock buyback program after the bank discovered an error in a financial report it gave to the Federal Reserve.

The bank said in statement Monday that the error was related to how it valued securities obtained in its acquisition of Merrill Lynch during the financial crisis in 2009.

As a result, the bank slightly overstated the amount of capital it held and other financial ratios it reported last month as part of its earnings release and its annual financial checkup with the Federal Reserve, the bank’s regulator.

Those ratios are a crucial measure of a bank’s health and help investors and regulators determine how much of a financial cushion it has to help it survive another financial crisis.

The error didn’t affect BofA’s earnings, according to the bank’s statement.

The news hit the bank’s stock in early trading Monday. BofA slumped 69 cents, or 4.4 percent, to $15.26.

The Charlotte, N.C.-based bank, said it has already notified the Federal Reserve about the needed revisions. It was only last month that the Fed cleared BofA’s proposal to raise its dividend for the first time since the financial crisis when the bank passed its “stress test,” an annual check-up the Fed conducts on the country’s biggest financial institutions.

BofA planned to buy $4 billion of its own stock and raise its dividend from a penny per share to 5 cents per share

The decision to scuttle that plan came about at the Fed’s request, according to the bank’s statement.

Bank of America said it will submit a new application to the Federal Reserve to increase its dividend and buy back its own stock. The bank warned that its plans for returning capital to shareholders will likely be smaller than previously planned.

The Fed oversees banks’ plans for managing their capital to make sure they have enough money in reserve to keep loans flowing even in during an economic downturn. The Fed has conducted annual tests of the largest U.S. banks every year since 2009, the year after the financial crisis plunged the country into the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression of the 1930s.

Growing Number of Women Filling Sommelier Ranks

Posted: 28 Apr 2014 09:40 AM PDT

This Mother’s Day, sommeliers will be on hand to help you select just the right wine to go with that special meal out. And some of those somms will be moms.

Though it’s still very much a man’s world, more women are moving up the wine ranks, says Dorothy Cann Hamilton, founder and CEO of the International Culinary Center which has branches in New York and California. For the 2012 and 2013 school years, 60 percent of the 251 graduates in the schools’ sommelier programs were women.

And at the California branch of The Culinary Institute of America (CIA, Greystone), the Accelerated Wine & Beverage Program, designed to train future sommeliers and wine industry leaders, has enrolled more women than men, looking at overall numbers for the four years the course has been offered.

It comes down to simple economics, says Cann Hamilton. Women already work in front-of-house positions such as waitress and hostess, and when they realize that sommeliers tend to make more money, it makes sense to get the training.

Crystl Faye Horton-Friedman, a certified sommelier working at Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steak House in Manhattan, started out as a bartender working to support her acting ambitions. But it wasn’t long before she realized that sommelier was the role she wanted to play since she loved wine and enjoyed interacting with customers.

“I didn’t really know at first that it was so male-dominated,” she says. “You very quickly understood that it was.”

Back when she started, she’d sometimes get customers who wanted to know, “Where’s the wine guy?” It made her a little her nervous. But “I started saying to people, ‘Well, now you got the wine babe. How about that?’ I just kept going to school and learning more things and I knew that anything people could throw at me, I could back up with facts and knowledge.”

These days there are four “wine babes” at Del Frisco’s, including fellow sommelier Kristin Beckler.

“Getting someone to trust you is the biggest obstacle to overcome because they are expecting a man to talk to them about wine,” says Beckler. “Once you can win their trust, then they become these really loyal guests.”

Beckler has a 4-year-old son and Horton-Friedman has a 6-year-old and 13-month-old. Like other mothers, they juggle their responsibilities. Both enjoy being able to spend days with their young children since they generally work at night, though the flip side to that is things get tougher when the kids go to school. “Right now, it’s been the best thing,” says Beckler.

On the job, neither woman tries to overawe customers with their wine knowledge. “You take your ego right out of it,” says Horton-Friedman.

When dealing with a somm of either gender, Horton-Friedman has an important piece of advice: Tell them what you want. “Don’t be afraid of the sommelier,” she says. If you want a certain price range say so, and if you end up not liking the somm’s suggestion, don’t be too intimidated to say so.

“Wine is fun,” says Horton-Friedman. “It’s not supposed to be stressful or confusing.”

In California, Lisa Redwine, a certified advanced sommelier, is taking things to the next level, studying for the title of master sommelier, the highest and most rigorous level of certification.

Redwine, who is director of restaurants and beverage operations for The Marine Room, The Shores Restaurant and the La Jolla Beach and Tennis Club in San Diego, Calif., has been working as a sommelier for the last 15 years ago, a job she was drawn to while working at a restaurant where she noticed “the somms looked like they were having so much fun.”

As a mom to two boys, ages 5 and 10, she has tried to balance work and family, with family taking precedence some of the time and work other times.

She hasn’t found working restaurant hours a hindrance, though she has had to make some adjustments. Thanksgiving is celebrated, together as a family, but the Sunday before. And at Christmas, no need for the kids to wait impatiently until their parents awake. She has them up at 5 a.m. to make sure she won’t miss present-opening before going to work.

“I don’t think they know any different, so for them it’s fine,” she says.

And about her last name — it is perfect for her job, though she wasn’t born with it. Redwine is her husband’s last name. “It shows I have exceptional taste in dating,” she jokes.

Her advice for young women considering a career as a sommelier?

“Go! Run, don’t walk,” she says. “It’s an amazing career.”

Magic Johnson Reportedly Wants to Buy the Clippers

Posted: 28 Apr 2014 09:39 AM PDT

Magic Johnson is reportedly eager to purchase the Los Angeles Clippers, as the controversy deepens over an audio recording which purports to show current owner Donald Sterling making racist remarks to his girlfriend.

Yahoo Sports, citing anonymous sources, reported that Johnson and his investment backers the Guggenheim Partners are interested in purchasing the team. Johnson already co-owns the Los Angeles Dodgers with Mark Walter of the Guggenheim Partners. The group also purchased the WNBA team the Los Angeles Sparks in February when it was about to fold—possibly to win themselves favor with the NBA.

“This is 100 percent Magic’s plan,” an anonymous league official involved with the buying and selling of franchises told Yahoo Sports.

Johnson was directly referenced in the audio clip leaked by TMZ over the weekend. In the recording the man identified as Sterling admonishes his girlfriend for posting a photo of herself with the basketball legend to Instagram, saying she shouldn’t be promoting her associations with black people. On Sunday, Johnson said on TV that Sterling ought to lose his NBA team.

Johnson played 13 seasons with Los Angeles’ more storied basketball franchise, the Los Angeles Lakers. But a championship-winning coach in Doc Rivers and a run in the playoffs could sway Johnson to take on the Clippers.

[Yahoo Sports]

NC University on Lockdown After Report Of Gunman

Posted: 28 Apr 2014 09:36 AM PDT

(GREENSBORO, N.C.) — North Carolina A&T State University evacuated several buildings and advised other students to take shelter Monday after a report of a man with a rifle on campus.

Campus police received a report of a gunman in the General Classroom Building at 9:57 a.m., university spokeswoman Samantha Hargrove told The Associated Press. There had not been any verification of that initial call to police or reports of shots being fired, she said. There were no reports of injuries.

Messages issued by the campus alert system and the university’s Twitter feed advised students to “shelter in place.”

“If you are off campus do not come to campus,” the message said. The university also canceled classes until 2 p.m., according to its Twitter account.

Campus police were sweeping and evacuating four buildings clustered on the north side of the campus, Hargrove said.

The News & Record of Greensboro reported that students cleared from the area on lockdown packed the Student Union building as an alarm blared across the campus. Some students were seen leaving campus in their cars while others walked around despite the warnings.

N.C. A&T is a historically black university with a nearly 200-acre central campus east of downtown Greensboro. The school’s athletics teams are known as the Aggies.

Junior Elizabeth Robinson was one of the students to be evacuated from the general classroom building. “We were in class as usual,” Robinson told The News & Record. “Then we got a fire alarm. I thought it was a fire until we got the Aggie alert.”

The university campus also includes two public high schools, the Middle College at A&T and the STEM Early College at A&T, which were also placed on lockdown, according to the Guilford County Schools. Phone messages about the lockdowns were sent to parents.