Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Restaurant Industry: Things to know about getting auto insurance ...

So you've bought yourself a new car? Congratulations! That's certainly a purchase that matters a lot to most car owners. Whether it's your very first car or just another vehicle to add to your garage, buying a new car is always exciting. Each car certainly feels different on the road and you will always try to find the model that will make you feel comfortable both as a driver and as a passenger. But with a new car comes new responsibility, which always takes the form of insurance. And it's this small bit of responsibility that can sometimes spoil all the fun about buying a new car since it can be really expensive. So let's try to learn how to optimize insurance costs and not spoil the excitement of owning a new vehicle.

Looking at how you financed you purchase is the first thing to look at as it is really important. The most common option in our country is using auto loans since you can always get good rates and buy a car that you otherwise would have to save a lot of money for. But there's a downside to using auto loans from the insurance perspective since you will be obliged to purchase additional types of coverage with your policy in order to get the loan. Most lending companies require collision and comprehensive coverage to be purchased with the insurance policy and that can considerably increase auto insurance quotes for your car. So make sure to consider this effect when financing your car through a loan. Trying to avoid the mistake made by people that have bought cars this way is something you should consider if taking out a loan is your only choice. First of all, don't get the policy offer at the dealer's office or by the lending company. They usually have exclusive contracts with specific companies and offer higher rates than you would get from a third party provider. You're obliged to purchase additional coverage but they can't make you buy it from a particular insurer. So when you get your loan take the time to get auto insurance quotes from as many companies as possible in order to get the most competitive offer possible. You will be surprised to see that you can actually find affordable policies even with collision and comprehensive coverage included. That's the whole purpose of comparison shopping.

There are two key choices to look at if you are looking at spending your own money to finance you car. First, you can get the most stripped down policy carrying only third party liability that will automatically offer low auto insurance quotes right from the start. Of course, this means that the situations when your policy will apply will be quite limited. But instead you can save a lot of money on auto insurance. Yet, assuming that you can afford to buy a car without using credits, loans or any other forms of financing it's logic that you actually have enough money to buy decent coverage for your auto as well. And you would certainly like to buy more coverage options in order to protect your car adequately. After all, things like comprehensive coverage or uninsured motorist coverage really come in handy in a range of situations where a basic policy would simply make you pay out of own pocket. Once you have celebrated buying your new car this is something to think about.

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Georgianne Nienaber: Congo M23 Rebels Tell Their Story

Anti-aircraft guns pound a hillside on the edge of Virunga Park in eastern Congo. The blood-red tunic of the woman who is shouting into her cell phone is a stunning contrast to the drab fatigues of the Congolese (FARDC) soldiers and the dusty vegetation at her feet. The woman is a journalist for Al Jazeera and she is speaking with Colonel Vianney Kazarama who is at the receiving end of the antiaircraft fire. Kazarama is the spokesman for the M23 faction of the splintered Congolese army. The fighters defending their positions on the hilltop were once fighting beside the men in the heavily armored tanks. Kazarama's voice crackles over the cell phone speaker as he demands reconciliation with the government in Kinshasa -- a reconciliation that was promised by the March 23, 2009 Amani Leo peace agreement. But peace is elusive in Congo, and millions of innocent civilians are paying the price.

The Al Jazeera video is riveting and provides the first visuals of the renewed conflict in this beautiful region of eastern Congo. Soldiers of the regular Congolese army are lobbing shells into the hills near Rutshuru in an attempt to quell the defection of soldiers once forced under the command of renegade general Bosco (The Terminator) Ntaganda. The newly formed M23 faction that recently split from Ntaganda has been shrouded in mystery, rumor, innuendo and outright propaganda as media influenced by the Communication Ministry of Congo spun the narrative over the past few weeks. M23 has been successfully branded "mutineers." Why?

Give Al AJazeera credit for solid reporting. How did they get the story straight from M23? The reporter simply picked up a cell phone and dialed spokesperson Kazarama to learn more about the reasons behind the rebellion. Radio Okapi knew how to contact the rebels and published M23's press release last week. International media did not. Instead, media offered the Ministry story line of violent "mutineers" in cahoots with the warlord Ntaganda. Kazarama vehemently denies the warlord Ntaganda is leading M23, or that M23 is protecting him. In fact, MP3 accuses Kinshasa of sheltering Ntaganda.

The thirteenth press release from M23 came out yesterday, and the African press is beginning to report the narrative offered by M23.


The bottom line political reality is that M23 wants to tell its story, and it is an account that deserves international attention and investigation. All one has to do is ask. We received a copy of their thirteenth press release by email.

It is worth stressing that the mid-April 2012 withdrawal on the part of FARDC elements forming the M23 from their duty stations was carried out as a means to put pressure on the DRC government and push for the implementation of the 16th January 2009 agreement. It does not constitute, in any instances, a military offensive against the institutions of the Republic. It is extremely unfortunate that Government of the DRC has decided to engage in military combats instead of finding the right answers.

The narrative of the last three years is complicated, but here is a short summary.

In 2009 General Laurent Nkunda, leader of the rebel National Congress for the Defense of the People (CNDP), was ousted in a bloodless coup perpetrated by Bosco (The Terminator) Ntaganda, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes. Ntaganda was paid $250,000 by the governments of Rwanda and Congo to marginalize Nkunda, who now languishes in a no-man's land of detention without criminal charges in Rwanda.

The elevation of Ntaganda to General in the Congolese army coincided with the signing of a peace accord between the Congolese government and the CNDP that promised status as a political party. The agreement, Amani Leo, was never realized beyond signatures on a piece of paper. There are in effect two CNDP organizations; those who remained loyal to former commander Nkunda and those who accepted the military authority of Ntaganda. It is a significant and critical distinction.

Over the past three years, crimes against humanity, smuggling, rapes, murder and collusion with former genocide perpetrators from Rwanda has been the modus operandi of FARDC and Ntaganda. Human rights organizations and the United Nations have reams of white paper on the army criminals.

As international pressure mounted this year to put a stop to Ntaganda, Congolese president Joseph Kabila finally ordered the arrest of Ntaganda in April and suspended the Amani Leo peace accord. Ntaganda had defected after his former commander, Thomas Lubanga, was convicted by the ICC for war crimes.

The suspension of Amani Leo was the impetus for soldiers fed up with Ntaganda and loyal to their former commander, Laurent Nkunda, to renounce both Ntaganda and corrupt elements of FARDC. Meanwhile, according to a report by Human Rights Watch, Ntaganda has forcibly recruited at least 149 boys into his forces since April 19. On May 14 the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Luis Moreno Ocampo, requested that judges add charges of murder, persecution and sexual slavery to Ntaganda's outstanding warrant.

The formation of the M23 faction under former FARDC/CNDP colonel Sultani Makenga, has led to speculation, rumor and outright lies about collusion with the FDLR genocidaires. The Congolese communication ministry and to some extent the United Nations Mission in Congo (MONUSCO), has fanned flames of rumors spreading like wildfire.

The demands of M23 are straightforward. They say they do not want to fight and realize they stand to lose the war of weaponry. M23 would like to see a return to the Amani Leo accord and would also like the soldiers to be paid and fed. M23 makes it very clear that they are rejecting any and all affiliation, forced or otherwise, with the warlord Ntaganda.

Is the Congolese government of Joseph Kabila using the international press to wage a propaganda war against the new rebel fighters in eastern Congo? This is possible and probable given the amount of disinformation disseminated by the foreign press in recent days. Check these stories by Reuters and the BBC and draw your own conclusions.

In other unproven accusations the Governor of North Kivu province, Julien Paluku, and the Congo's Minister of Communications suggested to the international press that M23 was in an alliance with the FDLR (remnants of the Rwandan genocidaires). Those without an understanding of the history of the war in this region are reporting this accusation as "fact." It is improbable that Tutsi fighters would align themselves with Hutu genocidaires.

M23 responded, but the response has not been widely reported.

The M23 whose political struggle is aimed and first securing the Congolese people against these genocidal forces cannot, in any way, cooperate with them or make peace with them. M23 does not intend to end its struggle before FDLR are properly brought to account for the acts and exactions committed by them against the Congolese civilian population. The Congolese Government is aware of this.

The international press, instead of speculation, may want to contact M23 directly. Their phone number is on the last of the thirteen communiqu?s M23 has offered to a disinterested press.

You can hear them now.




Follow Georgianne Nienaber on Twitter: www.twitter.com/nienaber

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Monday, May 28, 2012

Police hunt Bangor church lead thieves

THE hunt is on for thieves who stole lead damaged slate roof tiles?at a Bangor church.

North Wales Police are appealing for information on thefts at Maesgeirchen Church over the?past month.

PC Joanne Clark said ?We have questioned? one youth but believe more are involved and the incidents have continued.?

"We?d like to hear from any person who may have information and to report any suspicious activity in and around the church??

Anyone with information on the thefts should call North Wales Police on 101, or call Crimestoppers anonymously on? 0800 555 111.

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From the movie Things I Don't Understand - A grad student forms a cathartic relationship with a local bartender hiding his own secrets and a terminally ill hospice patient she?s interviewing for her thesis on what happens after we die.
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Former CIA spy spills secrets on Twitter; Also, Google's self-driving car takes a legally blind man to Taco Bell; Finally, an 86-year old gymnast wows the crowd in Germany. "CBS This Morning" co-hosts Erica Hill and Gayle King report on some of the hot stories working their way around the web.
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Gaiam Personal Development Season: 1 Based on the best-selling book The Third Jesus, Secrets of Enlightenment reveals the power to transform your world view, bringing insight and a true connection with the universe. With Deepak Chopra.
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Sunday, May 27, 2012

China, Israel Pledge Closer Military Ties

China and Israel are taking steps to thaw a frosty relationship with a visit between the two countries? chiefs of staff. From the Washington Post:

The improved ties have been highlighted by this week?s visit to Beijing by Israel?s military chief and a training mission to Israel by the Chinese paramilitary force that, among other things, polices the restive Tibetan and Muslim Uighur regions. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is expected to travel to China in the coming weeks.

[...] Chen told the official China Daily that China ?attaches importance to the ties with the Israeli military and is willing to make concerted efforts with the Israeli side to deepen pragmatic cooperation.?

In a statement released by the Israeli military, Gantz mentioned a commitment to developing the relationship, including ?joint courses that are scheduled to take place.? It did not elaborate.

Such comments are a remarkable turnaround from just a few years ago, when ties deteriorated after the failed arms deals.

In recent years, China has often found itself in the middle of tensions between Israel and Iran, which has bought Chinese military technology despite objections from the U.S. and other countries. For more on this, see a previous CDT post, ?Beijing Steers ?Tricky Path? With Iran.? Read more about Chinese relations with Israel via CDT.

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Saturday, May 26, 2012

Video: From the Archives: The search for Etan Patz

July 29, 1979: NBC's Jessica Savitch introduces the lead detective in the search for Etan Patz.??William Butler retraces the steps the boy took the day he disappeared and describes his search.??

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Business Networking Tips

Business Networking, at its core, is nothing but relationship-building. You?re making a mutually valuable connection with somebody, for business factors. Sounds similar to selling, right? Skills you?ll want to build and maintain a network are identical skills you already use to promote your products or service. So, together with networking other benefits, it is a fantastic chance to enhance your sales expertise. Listed below are few businesses networking tips that you can find useful in finding and building a good relationship with your clients as well as to build a sustainable business.

? Remember that networking is all about being legitimate and genuine, creating trust and relationships, and experiencing the best way to help others.

? Ask yourself what your goals are typically when you involve in networking conferences, so that you can pick groups that may help you get what you?re searching for. Some group meetings are based more about learning, and generating contacts, volunteering instead of about building business relationships.

? Hold volunteer opportunities in organizations. This can be a fantastic way for people to notice and provide back to groups who have helped you. Volunteering is one of the crucial business networking tips or strategies carried out by many people.

? Visit as many groups as you can that ignite your interest. Spot the tone and mindset of the group. Do the people seem to encourage to one another? Does the leadership sound proficient? A lot of groups will let you visit twice before joining.

? Ask open-ended questions in networking discussions. This implies, queries that ask what, when, who, where and how rather than the ones that can be responded with a very simple yes or no. This type of questioning uncovers the conversation and shows the audience that you?re serious about them.

? Become a potent resource, for other people. When you?re known as a powerful resource, people make sure to consider you for strategies, suggestions, names of other people, and so on. This will keep you noticeable to them. This is another vital business networking tips that will enhance your credibility among the people.

? Have a transparent knowledge of whatever you do and why, to whom.

? Being able to articulate what you really are seeking and the way others can help you. Many times, people in discussions ask, ?How can I help you?? but no instantaneous response pops into the head.

? Follow through efficiently and quickly on referrals you?re given. When individuals provide you with recommendations, try to follow them up as fast as you can. This is one of the important aspects in business networking tips.

? Expressing experiences can also be a part of the game. Simply speaking with people about their activities and experiences, and their goals, their challenges will induce plenty of completely new concepts and open up your mind to new options. Instantly you will have a fresh, new strategy to doing something or perhaps a new start up business venture that you might never have considered.

Business Networking is truly a priceless approach to broaden your knowledge, learn from the achievements of other people, obtain new clients and convey to other people about your business. Building a powerful network derives from mastering focused networking techniques. Why wait, follow the above mentioned business marketing tips and boost your clientele count as well as to expand your business globally.

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sophistishe.org | Experience Excellent Medical Attention With ...

Most people within the creamy layer and also upper salary group tend to be minimally pinched having expensive rates payouts in case the stake entails accessing good and terrific hospitality system and medical therapy. If you are members of this number of the interpersonal strata after that perhaps private helath insurance plan is what you may may require for your personal insurance needs. In ?09, almost 35,000 health tourists choose to go for Professional medical Travel around Costa Rica.

BenQ Hospital Marshall Reddick at Not any. These proper care providers are actually fully staffed to be able to where they?ll handle many urgent proper care services at any moment. This great multidisciplinary hospital around 1500 plant beds is connected with Nanjing Medical related University. If you will have a worry in relation to insurance comments, you can easily trust that your choice of local immediate need care provider accepts any specific health insurance in order to help a lot more people.

If a patient?s neck muscles is obstructed or affected, it needs to be opened permitting adequate air movement, so the brain is not really further broken by air deprivation.

"Accurate diagnosis of your real grounds for your problems helps most of these doctors consider the a lot of apt treatment method," advised fabulous noted speaker Leticia Klein.

Bahrami Marshall Reddick Hospital was create in 1957. The facility offers heated surgery session, pediatric discussion, ENT surgical procedure, obstetrics together with gynecology, internal medical science, dental testimonials, X-ray businesses, laboratory assistance, ECG establishments and ultrasound. Even if you?re healthy, it might possibly be advisable to get a medical cover designed to cover Marshall Reddick illness or simply emergency. As you obtain older chance of growing various sicknesses increases incase your health care insurance does not give adequate protect, it can lead to high fee of treatment solution.

There happen to be exceptions to become considered during either situation, and it?s wise to make contact with a trained Iowa insolvency lawyer and discover what possible choices are on hand in your unique case.

The words medical tourism was minted by means of travel agencies because practice of visting international countries so that you can receive the ideal desired health care bills and health reform abroad. Traveling for treatments offers different types of healthcare which includes dental succeeds, alternative medical science, orthopedics, and psychiatry. Furthermore, a medical related service is more often than not handling just about every call since you yourself would definitely handle them. The Medical is little and that comes with the 5th Ground of Lawn Tower, Garden Accommodation in Guangzhou. The Infirmary provides speEDed primary care while offering a full collection of professional clinical services. The services within the hospital comprise of Family Drugs, Woman?s Health and fitness Services, Child Overall health Services, Immunization in addition to Travel Recommendation, Psychological Therapy, Annual Medical related Check-up, Minor Outpatient Surgery as well as a Dental Facility.

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Memorial Day Weekend: Trot With the Troops on May 26

Our vets went the extra distance so we didn't have to.? Sign up today for Trot with the troops on May 26th! Money raised goes to charities helping Vets in need!!? We hope to see you all there!!

About the Trot - 5K

Trot w/ Troops was organized to support military personnel as they transition back into society. There will be 2 laps along Erie Street along the marina. The first lap will be a Military March followed directly into a full-blown double-time Trot. Both will be lead by U.S. Military personnel calling out cadence. LOUD & PROUD is the theme so be ready to make noise! The route is approximately 3.2 miles ? a little more than 5K. Our troops ALWAYS go the extra distance!

Prior Service / Veterans

If you're prior service, wear your military fatigues, PT uniform (or any other military uniform you wish to trot in) and join your branch at the front of the pack. Registration is not required.

March vs Trot

Choosing to March (walk) or Trot (run) is simply for staging purposes. There is no extra fee to participate in both. The first lap will be the "March" with the second lap going right into the "Trot". Marchers will line up at the back of the pack with Trotters lined up in the front. Once we break into the double-time "Trot", the Trotters will pull away from the Marchers. This is for safety and traffic purposes so that the marchers will not hold up the trotters.


We ask that all participants line up in formation with our Troops. PLEASE do not break formation or pass the person lined up in front of you. If you feel you need to rest, we ask that you step off the course and fall back in at the end of the pack. Please do not enter back into the formation until all participants pass you.


There will be Military Squad Leaders calling out cadence. As part of the experience, Marchers & Trotters are strongly encouraged to participate by repeating the cadence. LOUD and PROUD is the theme so be prepared to use those vocal chords!

FREE T-Shirts

FREE t-shirt to the first 100 PAID registrants. Additional t-shirts may be available for sale at the event while supplies last.


The route begins at the Naval Park, heads to the end of the peninsula and back.

About Operation Patriot Foundation

Operation Patriot Foundation, Inc. is an all-volunteer organization that was founded for two reasons: to pay tribute to those who risk their lives to protect us - fire, police and military personnel, and to raise funds to support these heroes in their time of need. Operation Patriot Foundation is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization.


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Dow says wins $2.16 billion in Kuwait arbitration

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Turkmenistan signs gas sale pact with India, Pak

S Jaipal Reddy

NEW DELHI: Kicking-off work on the long discussed US-backed Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India gas pipeline, India and its new energy partners have signed agreements that will pave way for laying of the 1,680-km line.
Turkmenistan ? which holds more than 4 per cent of the world?s natural gas reserves ? signed agreements to sell gas to India and Pakistan through the USD 7.6 billion pipeline at the Caspian Sea resort of Avaza.
Describing signing of the Gas Sales and Purchase Agreement (GSPA) as ?no-ordinary event?, Oil Minister S Jaipal Reddy said the signing was ?a triumph of multilateralism, regional cooperation and economic integration?.
The 1,680-km TAPI pipeline will have a capacity to carry 90 million cubic meters a day (mmcmd) gas for a 30-year period and will be operational in 2018.
India and Pakistan would get 38 mmcmd each, while the remaining 14 mcmd will be supplied to Afghanistan.
Besides Reddy, the GSPA, signed by national oil companies of the four nations, was witnessed by Turkmenistan Oil Minister B Nedirov, Pakistan?s Petroleum Minister Asim Hussain and Afghanistan?s Minister of Mines Wahidullah Shahrani.

?Without a doubt, the economic benefits of the TAPI gas pipeline will be immense for our energy-starved economies.
The flow of natural gas will bring in industrial and economic development in our countries,? Reddy said.
Stating that in and inter-connected and globalizing world, economics shapes politics, he said: ?It is our belief that the TAPI gas pipeline will transform the politics of this region?.
?Hopefully, the spin-off benefits of this pipeline will encourage us to emphasize trade and investment issues over contentious political issues and enable us to build trust and confidence among ourselves as neighbors and partners in progress,? he said in apparent reference to the frosty ties India has had with its neighbor Pakistan.
The US is backing the TAPI pipeline as an alternative to the Iran-Pakistan-India line in its efforts to choke Tehran financially over its suspected nuclear weapon program.
While New Delhi had reached agreements on price and transit clauses for the IPI pipeline, TAPI will be the first transnational line for which it will be signing a GSPA.
Besides meeting its energy needs, TAPI would be test of peace between India and Pakistan. More importantly, it will test Islamabad?s resolve to normalize trade with its neighbor by allowing safe passage of the gas through the 800 km section of the pipeline passing through its territory.
Also, the 735-km leg through the Afghan provinces of Herat and Kandahar would present significant security challenges.
TAPI will carry gas from Turkmenistan?s Galkynysh field, better known by its previous name South Yoiotan Osman that holds gas reserves of 16 trillion cubic feet.
From the field, the pipeline will run to Herat and Kandahar province of Afghanistan, before entering Pakistan. In Pakistan, it will reach Multan via Quetta before ending at Fazilka (Punjab) in India.



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Thursday, May 24, 2012

Intel research hopes to give computers human smarts, appreciate our idiosyncrasies

Intel to launch research into technology that mimics the human brain, mimics the human brain

Intel's chief technology officer, Justin Rattner, doesn't own a smartphone. Well, not by his definition anyway. Talking in Tel Aviv, Rattner was evangelizing about the opportunities in machine learning, and outlining the goals of the firm's Collaborative Research Institute for Computational Intelligence. Working with Technion and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Intel plans to develop small, wearable computers that learn our behavioral patterns -- like where we left our keys -- and other things today's "smart" phones could never do. Intel's Israeli president, Mooly Eden, went on to claim that within five years, all five senses will be computerized, and in a decade, transistors per chip will outnumber neurons in the human brain. All that tech to stop you locking yourself out.

Intel research hopes to give computers human smarts, appreciate our idiosyncrasies originally appeared on Engadget on Thu, 24 May 2012 10:46:00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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SYNKOPY Formule 1 music review by Mellotron Storm

4 stars Another excellent EP from SYNKOPY. This one is similar to the previous EP "Xantipa" released a year earlier but maybe not quite as heavy. Still it's organ dominated with the vocals again in their native Czech language.

"Formule 1" has some nice bass as the vocals and organ join in. Guitar after 1 1/2 minutes. Cars can be heard whipping by later. "To Se Stava" opens with strummed guitar as organ, percussion and vocals come in. A nice relaxed sound here. The organ is great after 2 minutes on this my favourite track of the bunch. "Poselstva Detem" features organ and drums early before strings, vocals and piano take over. The organ is back 1 1/2 minutes in. "Kamen Mudrcu" opens with piano and a beat as the vocals join in. Catchy stuff. The organ rips it up late. "Touhy" is the over 13 minute closer. It opens with the sounds of wind and dogs barking before drums, guitar and keyboards take over around a minute. Vocal melodies then vocals follow. It settles 4 1/2 minutes in but the tempo continues to change.

Well i must admit that all three EPs i have from SYNKOPY do have a commercial flavour to them, but they are all just so darn good. Buyer beware though. As for me i'll treasure these as much as i do the two full length albums i have by them.

Mellotron Storm | 4/5 |

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'A Tale of Two Homes' ? Tornado: One Family's Personal Account of ...

The Harrison Family leave their safe room following the 4/27/11 Alabama tornadoes.Today, we launched the latest in our successful educational Tale of Two Homes video series: A Tale of Two Homes ? Tornado. ?The video tells the remarkable story of the Harrison family of Athens, AL, who survived an EF-4 tornado that completely destroyed their home and most others in their neighborhood.? The Harrison?s and their two children emerged unscathed from their tornado safe room shortly after the tornado passed.? As a result, they have chosen to share their story of survival to further spread the message ? safe rooms save lives.

A Father?s Decision to Build a Safe Room Saves His Family

Kevin and Sarabeth Harrison are convinced that they and their two young children are alive today thanks to the safe room they consciously decided to build into the corner of their garage. ?Made of reinforced concrete block, the family took refuge as a tornado devastated their neighborhood and surrounding areas ? killing 250 people in its path. ?The Harrisons are still shocked to recall how 30 seconds of roaring winds forever altered the lives and landscape of their community. ??The tornado ran right on top of us,? Kevin Harrison said.

Tornado safe rooms save lives. The Harrison family?s experience is a perfect example. Their decision to take their safety into their own hands and build a safe room undoubtedly protected them from serious injury and possible death when the tornado hit Athens April 27, 2011. ?Their willingness to share their story to encourage other families to build safe rooms makes them true heroes of the disaster safety movement

Give an Ordinary Room an Extraordinary Purpose

A safe room can provide ultimate life safety protection from the dangerous forces of severe winds and tornadoes. ?Homeowners can build or retrofit the interior spaces of ?their homes to safe-room standards or choose to purchase pre-fabricated safe rooms designed to withstand tornado-force winds. ?Closets, bathrooms, laundry rooms and outdoor rooms like garden sheds and pool houses can be enhanced to serve as safe rooms.

A properly built safe room not only protects families from high-wind events, it also creates a multi-use space in the home that adds to its value.? Tornado safe rooms increase the sale price of a home by 3.5 percent or an average of $4,200.? For example, anyone who installs a tornado safe room in their home is able to recoup almost all of their investment when they sell. The price of a safe room can start around $3,500 to $4,000 depending on its size and built-in amenities. A $5,000 tornado safe room will provide an 84 percent return on investment.

Visit www.flash.org to see ?A Tale of Two Homes ? Tornado.?

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Exclusive: Massachusetts subpoenas Morgan Stanley for Facebook

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Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Risks of Launching a New Services Business ? Branding ...

Freemium : payer plus pour des services et fon...

Freemium : payer plus pour des services et fonctionnalit?s suppl?mentaires (Photo credit: louisvolant)

Two weeks ago, we learned of the Fall 2012 launch of PeerJ, a new proposition in the open access (OA) publishing space. Instead of per-article charges as part of an OA business model, PeerJ is proposing to allow researchers to publish as much as they want, all for the low, low price of one $99 lifetime membership.

After scooping my brain back into my skull once I?d absorbed this apparently foolhardy approach to cash flow and sustainability (a topic I?ll return to momentarily), it began to dawn on me that perhaps what PeerJ is headed toward is more akin to a freemium model, like WordPress, where you can publish for free if you accept limited functionality and some Google ads, or you can pay premium fees to get rid of the ads and get more robust functionality. Automattic, the parent company of WordPress, recently announced it expects to make $45 million this year with a robust version of this model. (WordPress also sells an enterprise version and many services that can be purchased separately.) PeerJ is hoping to collect cash up-front with its $99 lifetime membership fee. On the face of it, scalability would seem to be their main challenge.

Of course, this is all speculation, and my attempt to get Peter Binfield to tell me more about the PeerJ business model before I wrote this post was kindly rebuffed, with Binfield stating that things aren?t final or ready for primetime yet. There is already some skepticism that PeerJ, taken at face value, can work. And there are two interesting hedges in PeerJ?s admittedly scant description of its business model:

Researchers will be able to purchase Lifetime Memberships, starting at just $99, giving them the rights to publish their articles in our peer reviewed journal.

The first hedge is ?starting at,? a classic indication that up-charges are headed your way. The second hedge is that the Lifetime Membership grants researchers ?rights to publish,? but nothing more.

So what could come after the ?starting at just $99? price? I could imagine peer-review fees, formatting fees, search engine optimization fees, press release fees, data storage and hosting charges, syndication fees, and so forth. The list could be impressive, and the ala carte final charge could be significant and recurring.

As Chris Anderson outlined in 2009, freemium is usually enabled by restrictions:

  • Feature limited
  • Time limited
  • Capacity limited
  • Seat limited
  • Customer class limited

The freemium model only works as well as the balance of free and premium services works. That is, you have to offer enough initially to hook the customer, then hold back enough things ? service omission or the prospect of service provision ? so that the customer is compelled to pay for more. If I had to bet, I?d wager on PeerJ adopting feature, capacity, or customer class limits in the freemium model I?m imagining.

For this blog, we pay every year to rid the site of ads, have a custom domain, and have advanced CSS editing capabilities. Certainly, WordPress could provide all this for free, but they have struck a reasonable balance for their freemium model, one I have a hard time complaining about. We could blog here without all those extra features. What we pay for are ?nice to haves,? not ?need to haves.?

Also, notice that I said that ?we pay every year? ? that?s an important part of the freemium model, and crucial to the cash flows of an organization. Without predictable cash flows, an organization risks problems with payroll, health insurance premiums, lights, heat, and all those other regular payments that underpin its infrastructure. However, PeerJ has stated that it will not stoop to subscriptions:

Subscription fees made sense in a pre-Internet world, but now they just slow the progress of science.

Yet, continuing the freemium assumption and the comparison to Automattic, if I want to keep this blog free of ads, the domain linked to SSP, and the CSS customizable, I have to pay every year. Automattic even allows the much-vaunted ?auto-renew? feature, so my credit card is just charged, saving me the annoyance of a renewal notice. Automattic also refers to service continuity as a ?subscription? once renewal time comes. There is no shame there about the subscription model.

Cash flow drives a lot of behaviors in businesses.

For example, when PLoS first emerged, it focused on two high-quality journals possessing familiar peer-review and publication practices ? an editor at the helm of each, small issues, selective editorial control, and monthly publication. However, this model didn?t provide sufficient cash flows using OA publication fees, so PLoS created PLoS ONE, a high-volume mega-journal that allowed the organization to publish more papers without singular editorial oversight or a filter that added novelty or interest criteria, allowing the publication to settle for methodological soundness.

Around the same time, BioMed Central fully embraced article-processing charges and began launching dozens of OA journals, creating a high-throughput article publication environment but parceling it out through multiple titles rather than one main mega-journal.

Since then, ?predatory? OA publishers have emerged time and again, with a common thread linking them ? namely, every one seems to launch dozens or hundreds of journals simultaneously.

There is a reason for OA publishing taking on this high-throughput aspect ? namely, cash flow.

OA publishing?s model differs significantly from traditional subscription publishers? in that every paper has a single payment event associated with it ? paid upon publication. This is essentially the only financial transaction the OA publisher can rely upon, since Creative Commons licenses are typically non-commercial in nature, the authors retain copyright, and advertising is at best a small secondary business. For the OA publisher, each article is sold once and only once.

This places significant cash flow restrictions on the OA publisher. For the (dare I say it) traditional OA publisher, the obvious answer to the question of how to increase cash flow and revenues has been and will continue to be, publish more articles more frequently. There is no clear alternative, even with supplemental revenues from institutional memberships and other secondary revenue streams, like ads. The main thrust of the OA model dictates this financial reality.

The side-effects of this simple financial model are legion ? the lowering of standards to accommodate bulk publishing practices; an emphasis that publishing is just a technology business in order to strip away the costs of legal, editorial, and custodial work; and advocacy to make OA publishing as prevalent as possible to further increase throughput.

At some level, it?s all about cash flow.

Other aspects of the OA business model smack of this same cash flow mechanism. After all, the best cash flow is the most predictable cash flow. The subscription model is a masterpiece of predictable cash flows, which is why it?s been embraced by DVD rental companies, cable companies, and contact lens mail-order companies. It?s also why OA publishers have been trying to find a way to incorporate the subscription model or something quite similar to it. They?ve done this through institutional and corporate ?memberships? which provide discounts to published authors or other benefits.

PeerJ has an intriguing proposition to steal customers from PLoS and BMC using a potentially novel business model ? a low initial ?lifetime membership? PeerJ can then upsell. By getting initial commitment from researchers, PeerJ creates a small but real switching cost if member researchers decide to try publishing at PLoS or BMC. PeerJ also gets some fast cash in the door. And if PeerJ adopts a freemium model ? which I believe they will scrupulously avoid calling a subscription model ? cash flow will be their main motivator, and many of their services will likely have renewal elements.

Should PeerJ adopt a freemium model, it will be a new variant of OA publishing, and possibly one that could be more selective than traditional OA ? that is, if the services and inherent subscriptions around ongoing publication services take hold, PeerJ may not have to publish more papers to thrive, just provide better service over time.

There is a major risk to starting a services company in the freemium mode. Service companies ? and I?m putting most OA publishers in this camp ? run the risk of having a fairly transparent and reproducible set of value propositions on the market, with little to no protection. Hence, the publisher of PLoS can leave PLoS and take the same service to market at a much lower price point. There is nothing PLoS can do about it. (Because PLoS doesn?t protect its content, I?m wondering why PeerJ doesn?t also take all the PLoS content, but that?s a more nefarious plot by a long shot ? and the fact that it would create no real value for PeerJ underscores that OA publishers are services businesses, not product businesses.)

In any event, PeerJ is essentially ?service replication at a lower price,? which reveals the fatal flaw of any service business ? if someone can do essentially the same thing more cheaply or scalably, you?re dead.

Of course, one service a publisher arguably provides is branding ? by building, sustaining, and extending a brand wisely over time, a company can lend brand equity to affiliated parties, be they authors or readers in the case of publishers. Perhaps the brand is a journal brand, an author?s name, or a book series.

The PeerJ branding start isn?t promising, I have to say. I started thinking about this when I came across this link on their Twitter stream ? a link to an article wishing there were more prestige associated with OA publishing, but sent from an OA publisher that currently has a blue monkey as its branding element and a name I don?t quite know how to pronounce. (Apparently, the blue monkey?s days are numbered, but this is what we have today.)

I?ve long worried about the branding of PLoS, which has veered from ?you say you want a revolution? audacity before any journals appeared, to fairly staid branding with PLoS Medicine and PLoS Biology, to a weed-choked brand now with PLoS standing for . . . well, it?s unclear. PLoS ONE doesn?t quite match up with the others, the umbrella PLoS brand is disassociated and free-floating, and the other PLoS brands don?t mesh well.

Such branding problems are not unique to PLoS. Nature is a brand that has struggled to pull off the ?brand the house? approach. Outside of publishing, Infiniti is an auto brand that is often tagged with being vague in what it?s trying to convey ? sport, luxury, power, style, entry-level luxury, high-end Nissan? Compared to its competitors (Lexus, Mercedes-Benz, BMW, and Acura), the Infiniti brand is murky and pliable.

But these are relatively subtle branding issues. The problems with the PeerJ brand are obvious and easily fixed. Here?s the prescription:

  • No silly blue monkeys.
  • Teach us how to pronounce the name, and exactly what it?s intended to convey. Is it ?Peer-juh? or ?Peer-jay?? (Scribd has/had the same problem with pronunciation ? Is it ?scribed? or ?scrib-duh? or ?scrib-dee??)
  • Tell us what the ?J? means? I?ve seen some indication that ?PeerJ? stands for ?Peer Journal,? but nothing definitive. Have I missed something? Or did you mean it to be a smiley and your email client botched it for you?

Branding, cash flow, service distinctiveness, and competition ? with all these elements in play, it seems like PeerJ has a hill to climb. It will be interesting to see how their initial business model, offerings, and market stance contend with vital elements that will determine their fate.

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Skyfall Trailer: James Bond Returns For Explosive 23rd Movie

The first trailer for James Bond's 23rd movie has just been released, with Daniel Craig looking badass as ever as the legendary secret Agent 007.

Skyfall, due in U.S. theaters November 9, also stars Javier Bardem and French actress Berenice Marlohe as the newest Bond Girl, named Severine.

In the 90-second clip below, which is technically a teaser for the full-length theatrical trailer to come, Bond is seen in explosive, international glory:

In Skyfall, Bond's loyalty to M (Dame Judi Dench, in what may be her final role in a James Bond film) is tested as her past comes back to haunt her.

"As MI6 comes under attack," says an official release for the film, "Bond must track down and destroy the threat, no matter how personal the cost."

The production and release of Skyfall had been placed on hold when its studio, MGM, encountered financing problems, but is now a go for November.

What do you think of the Skyfall trailer? Will you see the movie?

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Commercial Real Estate: Property as a Hedge Against Inflation ...

By Anthony Harrington via?QFinance

One of the more frequently cited arguments for investing in property is that "real" assets like property and say, agriculture commodities, hold their value better than paper assets once paper assets start to have their value eroded away by inflation. Commenting on the reasons why commercial property continues to attract investors in 2012 despite falling commercial property values in some major advanced markets, including the UK, property experts Jones Lang LaSalle points out that at present the attraction of fixed assets is being boosted by expectations that global inflation is going to rise over time.

The expectation is that all the quantitative easing that central banks have gone in for in the UK, the US and Japan is "bound" to lead to inflation and to the steady erosion of the buying power of major currencies. The picture, however, is more complicated than simply assuming that all property prices will rise if inflation rises. The gap between property values in the major cities of the world (London, New York) and property in "secondary" and "tertiary" cities is widening all the time as investors, anxious about more financial stress in markets, look for "safe havens".

It is also important to realise that inflation is no friend to the revenue streams that commercial property generates, and which is one of its most outstanding merits in the eyes of investors. As inflation erodes the purchasing power of money it simultaneously erodes the value of the rent that investors receive from property. So there are two factors that work against property rental income in an inflationary environment. There may well be nominal capital growth through periods of high inflation, but what that translates into in terms of real growth is an open question. Writing in FT.Com, Daniel Thomas warned back in June 2011, when fears of deflation had faded and rising commodity prices, particularly in food and oil, were generating rising inflation around the world, that property bulls were getting carried away.

"Investors need to be wary about relying on real estate as the pure inflation hedge that it is sometimes portrayed as," he counselled.

Part of the problem is that when institutional investors in particular are worried about inflation and start selling out of government bonds and fixed interest investments ? areas where inflation is obviously going to destroy returns - they generally look at retail property like shopping malls and at commercial property, with prime office blocks having pride of place in their thinking. In point of fact, as Thomas notes, industrial property such as warehouses and factory premises have historically provided the strongest hedge against inflation, rather than either retail or office space. It is the property class that has the strongest performance correlation with inflation.

Part of the problem, as we have already noted, is that inflation hammers rental income and rents make up an important part of the total returns delivered by property as an asset class. Thomas points out that City of London rents can move between ?40 per square foot to ?70 per square foot, depending on whether the economic cycle is in a boom or a bust phase. He cites analysis from HSBC Bank which finds that there is "little evidence to show that rental income outperforms or matches inflation."

Capital values too, are not linked in any hard sense to the onward march of inflation. Instead they are much more subject to at least two other factors, one being the readiness of banks to lend to potential purchasers and the other having to do with people's expectations regarding interest rates.

There is no argument against the obvious truth that low interest rates are a boon to the entire property sector, but low rates have to be set within the appropriate economic context to be understood. The "fog" in the market that has prevailed through 2011 and the start of 2012 has made companies reluctant to undertake major projects. This includes a marked reluctance to upgrade their head office. Companies are sitting tight. Those that are seeing their current leases coming to a natural end or to an agreed break point are much more tempted to seek a short term renewal of a year or two on their current lease rather than to commit to a major new office purchase or rental.

With landlords struggling to find quality tenants, companies with a good track record can almost write their own ticket with landlords, so short lease renewal terms tend not to be too onerous, which again, reinforces the lack of momentum in the market. As well as removing demand, this trend also shows just how illiquid and difficult investment in real estate can be.

On the plus side, once economies move into an inflationary period, it becomes very much easier for commercial landlords to build automatic inflation linked rate increases into their agreements with tenants. A article by Standard Life, in the February edition of Pensions Age, designed to highlight the attractions of commercial property allocation strategies for pension funds points out that ?upward only? rent review clauses in UK commercial property contracts, and index-linked property leases in Europe, have done a lot to protect and enhance rental income for investors.

One of the stronger arguments cautioning against the idea that property is a reliable hedge against inflation is the performance of the US housing market. Granted, the US housing market is having a torrid time at present and is still in the process of bottoming after the US sub-prime crash. But putting that aside it is worth thinking about a few basic facts. One of the most followed indicators of US residential property values in the US is the Case-Shiller indices for various US cities. Elliott Gue, writing for Investing Daily, cites the Case-Shiller 10-City Home Price Index to show that had home prices in the US kept pace with inflation, they would have had to at least double in the 23 years from 1987, In fact they have gone up by only 150%. That might sound like a lot, but the average annual rate of inflation in the US since 1932 is 3.4% according to the specialist inflation site, Inflationdata.com[1].

An investment of $100,000 in 1932, compounded at that rate would have to achieve ?230,000, or better than 230% growth just in order to keep pace with inflation. Of itself the shortfall between the 150% gains actually achieved by US housing and the 230% required to match inflation over the 23 year period, suggests that property can be considerably less than perfect as an inflation-hedge.

However, the picture for the UK is rather more encouraging. The property specialist Grosvenor, in its Global Outlook: September 2009, noted that the UK IPD All Property Returns (the most followed index on property values) averaged 11.7% a year since 1997, while inflation has averaged 6.8% over that time. While this might seem on the face of it to add credence to the view that property is a good hedge against inflation, Grosvenor adds a cautionary note. There are two kinds of inflation, expected inflation, during periods of low inflation where the general expectation is for inflation to be around 2% to 3%, and unexpected inflation, which occurs when some external shock, such as an oil price crisis, causes a sudden spike in inflation.

Grosvenor argues that property provides a partial hedge against expected inflation, but shows very little resilience in the face of unexpected inflation. In fact property values can crash badly if economies become destabilised by external shocks, as we saw through the 2008/2009 crash, when London property prices fell sharply. From the end of 2003 to the peak of the UK property market in mid-2007, average commercial property prices rose by 43%. This was wiped off almost completely by the end of 2009. Property, as has been demonstrated many times, is vulnerable to cycles of boom and bust, so talk of it as a "hedge" needs to be treated with caution.

[1] Inflationdata.com

Courtesy??Anthony Harrington?via?QFINANCE?(EconMatters author archive?here)

Read the first two of this 3-part series on commercial real estate:
Commercial Real Estate Heading for a Deep Freeze?
Commercial Real Estate: A Two-Speed Market

The views and opinions expressed herein are?the author's own, and do not necessarily reflect those of?EconMatters.

? EconMatters All Rights Reserved | Facebook | Twitter | Post Alert | Kindle

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Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Brady, Gisele expecting another baby

Benji Brady, 2 1/2, needs a sibling. Mission accomplished? Word out of Brazil is that Tom Brady and Gisele Bundchen are expecting a bundle of joy, by which we mean a baby. That would be the second child for the couple, and third for Brady: hey, that?s a large mansion and they have to fill it up. Boston Herald:

The Sao Paulo fashion media has been abuzz that Gi, who was in her home country over the past few days to show off her new HOPE lingerie line, is two months along.

At the undies parade at a chi-chi department store, Mrs. Tom Brady [stats] wore a blue bra with a black lacy shirt and black pencil skirt that didn?t appear to reveal much in the way of a bump.

But sources told globo.com and Fabio Lage, who writes the ?House of Models? column for ig.com.br, that Bundchen has told people about the pregnancy, including Givenchy guru Ricardo Tisci, who dressed the supermodel mommy for the Met Costume Gala in NYC on May 7.

Any thoughts on names? For a girl, I?d go with Marcia. A boy? I think Brady Brady has a nice ring to it.

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Medical related Billing : Protected Health and fitness Information ...

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Italy police close in on school bombing suspect

MESAGNE, Italy (Reuters) - Police investigating the school bomb attack in the southern Italian city of Brindisi have closed in on a suspect they believe set off the device that killed a 16-year-old girl, sources close to the investigation said on Monday.

Prosecutors believe they know the identity of a man shown in surveillance video footage apparently activating a remote control that set off a bomb rigged up from gas canisters as students were arriving for lessons on Saturday.

He had disappeared but officials said police questioned seven people, including the man's brother, after a raid in the Sant'Elia district of Brindisi, not far from the Francesca Morvillo Falcone school where the attack took place.

However Cataldo Motta, head of the anti-mafia unit in Lecce, which is working on the investigation, denied local media reports that the suspect had been arrested.

Fuzzy pictures of the middle-aged man, wearing a dark coat, light colored trousers and fashionable-looking shoes, were printed in local Brindisi newspapers on Monday.

The move forward in the investigation came on the day the funeral of Melissa Bassi was held in her home town of Mesagne, just outside Brindisi.

Prime Minister Mario Monti cut short a visit to a NATO summit in the United States to attend the funeral, which comes as Italy has been shaken by a series of attacks on state institutions including the main tax collection agency.

The teenager was killed and 10 others were hurt when the bomb exploded just outside the vocational institute in the Adriatic port city.

Initial suspicions focused on organized crime, largely because the school was named after the wife of the murdered anti-mafia judge Giovanni Falcone, but investigators now think it was probably carried out by a lone bomber.


"People should not be afraid. The fate of the bastard who did this is sealed," the mayor of Brindisi, Mimmo Consales told reporters after the service. "It is only a question of hours."

"I'm not very interested in his name. I want to know why he did it," he said.

In a sign of tension in the city, after the funeral police had to stop youths from attacking a man they mistakenly believed had something to do with the bombing.

Although no motive for the Brindisi school attack has been established, Monti's presence, alongside a number of other senior political leaders, underscored the wider resonance of a crime that horrified Italy.

With the country already mired in recession and grappling with a deep economic crisis and a loss of confidence in most of its political institutions, the attack on a school was a sickening shock, made worse by a deadly earthquake which hit northern Italy on Sunday.

In hot sunshine, thousands of people filled a square and surrounding streets in Mesagne, where a giant video screen relayed the service in the church.

Most of those injured in the blast suffered burns from the gas explosion and one other girl, 15-year-old Veronica Capodieci, is still in serious condition in hospital.

Although there appears to be no link with recent attacks on tax agency Equitalia or with the shooting of the head of engineering group Ansaldo Nucleare, claimed by an anarchist group, the Brindisi bombing has added to fears of a possible return of political violence in Italy.

Interior Minister Anna Maria Cancellieri met local officials to discuss a security crackdown involving hundreds of police drafted from outside the region in an operation coordinated with anti-mafia and anti-terrorism services.

(Additional reporting by Daniele Mari, Writing by James Mackenzie; Editing by Michael Roddy)

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